Liam’s Backyard Birthday Bash

The weather was perfect.   Cake was plentiful.   The jumper was, well, jumping.   Kids were squealing.   The gifts were endless!   Did I mention that the cake was plentiful?

Our "Backyard Birthday Bash" in honor of Liam’s 3rd birthday was a huge success!

Liam eating cake
Click the photo for more pictures from Liam’s 3rd Birthday party.

We were a little nervous about the setup of the new jumper, but it turned out to be super easy, taking less than 10 minutes from cardboard box to inflated fun!   And that was even with Rob taking the time to — brace yourselves — read the instructions!

Big thanks go out to the everyone who came to the party.   And we’re especially appreciative for all of the wonderful gifts, several of which came from some of our great friends and family who weren’t even able to attend.   Also, a big thanks to Clems, Toby, & Brad S. for helping out with the photos & video!

Celebrating Earth Day

Liam got gussied up for his 2nd Earth Day in a spiffy new t-shirt:

Liam on Earth Day 2009

It seemed sorta fitting that we did our first lawn mowing of the year on Earth Day.   Liam has been not-so-patiently waiting for the grass to green back up since last Fall.   The yard is still a bit brownish, but there was just enough growth to warrant a quick trim.   Little does Liam know that this is also in preparation for his big 3rd birthday party that’s coming up on Saturday…

This also gave me a chance to test out my new Creative Vado HD pocket video camcorder.   This thing rocks!   I put the following video together with little effort.

Click the HD button at the bottom after the video starts for best quality!
Click here if the embedded video above doesn’t play properly in your browser.


Texas Road Etiquette

For Texans, there’s a set of unwritten, yet fully understood rules of etiquette that apply when driving on highways.   If you’re the slower-moving vehicle on one of the hundreds (thousands?) of two-lane highways that weave throughout the state and a faster one approaches behind, it’s simply expected that you’ll ease over onto the shoulder and let the faster driver pass without having to occupy the oncoming lane.   And accordingly, if you’re the faster driver who’s just been afforded this courtesy, it’s expected that you’ll give a little wave as you pass and/or after that slower car has moved back into the lane after you’ve gone by.

If you’ve never been a part of this graceful driver’s version of the Texas Two-Step, it may sound a little complicated, but it’s not — it happens so frequently throughout any trip within the Lone Star State, it’s instinctual.

trucks passing on a Texas two-lane highway

Over the Easter holiday, we found ourselves on many of these two-lane roads and noticed how this Texas road courtesy is becoming a thing of the past.   Out of about 6 hours of driving on two-lane roads on that trip, there were very few drivers who would move over and allow us to pass.   Also, I noticed that when I pulled over to let people pass me, not a single person on this trip gave me the customary “wave” to say thank you.

All of this really bothers me a lot.   I’m saddened that people aren’t teaching their children the common driving courtesies that my parent’s did.   It seems that it’s mostly my generation that has done this.   What happened?   Have we become so impatient & self-absorbed that we’ve completely done away with common courtesy?

Glad For Gladwell

I’ve been a huge Malcolm Gladwell fan for years and had the distinct pleasure last Tuesday of getting to hear him in person for the first time, thanks to UTPB’s Shepperd Distinguished Lecturer Series (which was previously responsible for bringing the former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev here to speak).

Gladwell has a real gift for unearthing, dissecting, & interpreting social concepts & emerging trends and making them digestible & entertaining for the common person. Frankly, I’m amazed that we somehow lured an author & speaker of this magnitude to our little corner of Texas—much less that the lecture was free!

I had to coax Dede to attend, but she was pleasantly surprised to discover just how engaging & thought-provoking a speaker the author is. His lecture centered around one of the topics, capitalization, that’s focused upon in his most recent book Outliers: The Story of Success. Capitalization is the ability to take advantage of peoples’ untapped potential for achievement & success. Gladwell examined several of the factors that limit success and discussed some solutions to overcome & eliminate those. Afterward, he graciously autographed each his 3 books that I had with me, including the copy of “Outliers,” which I’d just bought that evening.

Malcolm Gladwell   Autographed copy of "Outliers"
Click the above images for larger versions

Want to hear some of the author’s thoughts yourself? Check out his Human Nature lecture where he explores why we often can’t trust people’s opinions, using examples of New Coke & Herman-Miller’s Aeron chair—neither of which performed in the marketplace even remotely similar to how research suggested they would.

I also recommend you check out my Jumbo Shrimp & SUV Safety post where I cite some of Gladwell’s points on consumers’ flawed rationale behind chosing SUVs for safety.

And you’ll certainly want to watch the following TED talk where Malcolm talks about what spaghetti sauce can teach us about innovation:

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bucket

We took Liam to our company Easter Egg Hunt and he made a new friend…   the Easter Bunny!   Each time the bunny came around, Liam wanted to go to him, give him big hugs, and attempt to hold deep, meaningful conversations with his new friend.   I’m pretty sure that the poor girl in the bunny suit was thinking "Oh no, it’s that same kid again!" by the time we left the park.

There was a big difference between the Easter egg hunt this year versus last year with Liam’s hunting & gathering skills.   Last year, Rob mostly picked them up for him and Liam kept busy dumping them back out of the bucket.   Not this year!   He rushed right out when the whistle blew and filled his large bucket to capacity very quickly.   Next year we may need a bigger bucket!

Here’s a picture of Liam giving the Easter Bunny one last hug before we left.

Liam gives the Easter Bunny a hug
Click the photo for more shots from Liam’s Easter Egg hunt.


Scroll With It, Baby!

This may seem a bit fundamental, but sometimes a little remedial computer skills review can offer useful new insights to even the most experienced users.

The first commercially-available scroll wheel-equipped mouse was the Genius EasyScroll mouse, released in 1995.   Mainstream adoption of the scroll wheel mouse didn’t occur, however, until Microsoft released the IntelliMouse in 1996 and subsequently began supporting the feature in the Office suite & mouse scroll wheel photoInternet Explorer browser the following year.

The mouse scroll wheel is a hybrid of sorts, acting as both a rolling input and as an additional button, activated by pressing the wheel downwards (a.k.a. "wheel-click").   Recently, a new form of scroll wheel — the tilt-wheel — has been gaining acceptance as a standard mouse feature.   The tilt-wheel is like a conventional scroll wheel but can also tilt right & left for horizontal scrolling.

So odds are, if you’re using a mouse with your computer, it has a scroll wheel.   But while this ubiquitous feature has been right there under your nose all this time, there’s probably much more to it than you know.

That humble little scroll wheel has the potential to dramatically change the way you use your computer! Especially since so much of our computer use is browser-driven these days, here are a few tricks (for Windows users) that can make a world of difference and take your mouse far beyond simple scrolling:

  1. Open hyperlinks in a new browser tab!
    Want to follow a link without losing your place on the current webpage?   Just click on the link with the scroll wheel to open it in a new browser tab!   In Firefox, you can even wheel-click items from the Bookmarks menu to open them in a new tab.   (You are using a tabbed browser, right?)   And if you Shift+wheel-click a link, it’ll open in a new tab and automatically switch to that tab.
  2. Close browser tabs!
    Just place your mouse cursor over a browser tab and wheel-click to close it quickly.
  3. "Zoom" a web page!
    Enlarge or shrink the contents of a web page by holding the Ctrl key and rotate the scroll wheel back or forth, respectively.
  4. Go forward or back on web pages:
    Instead of using the Back/Forward buttons on the toolbar, press Shift and rotate the wheel back to see the previous page or forward to go to the next page.
  5. Scroll faster:
    Press & hold the scroll wheel while moving the entire mouse forward or back to scroll very quickly up or down a page.

Know of any mouse scroll wheel tricks that I missed?   Post a comment and let me know!

Trivia:   The computer mouse recently celebrated its 40th birthday!   Although development began 5 years earlier, the mouse was first publicly demoed at the Fall Joint Computer Conference on Dec. 9th, 1968.   That first mouse, a clunky wooden box that’d forever change computer input, was built by Stanford Research Institute’s (at that time) chief engineer Bill English, based upon the design of Douglas Engelbart.