Aug 31, 2010

Trying the Conduit Method

I figured it was time to start putting these Amazon affiliations and Adsense ads to work for me for a change.  I got an email about something called "The Conduit Method," and after stewing over it all day, decided it was worth a shot.

I am not interested in "get rich quick" schemes, but I am always interested when something comes along that seems pretty straight-forward.  I figure if other folks are looking for ways to make affiliate sales, why not share? 

Basically, from the way I understand it, the system works by letting you focus on certain products, offers, etc.  I don't know exactly how yet, since I am just starting it, but I plan on posting my ups, downs, hits and misses.  Is this the best system? I have no idea. But, I'll let you know if it works for me - or if it doesn't!

(There is no guarantee of success.  Every venture involves some risk, and you are free to make up your own mind about the risks involved with this system.  Please note that your use of the information found on this page, or any other page online, is totally up to you and that I am not liable for any gains, losses, or damages - real or imagined - you receive as a result of your use of this or any other program or system.  Basically, I'm on my own and so are you)

Aug 29, 2010

Just one of many reasons STEAM is a bad idea

STEAM, for those not familiar with the system, is a software distribution system where users can download software directly online without the "need" for physical media like CDs or DVDs.  Many of the programs you can buy at the store have STEAM as the backend registration system.

Those that subscribe to the program say the system is needed to help prevent piracy.  I can understand that. I don't like it, and I don't agree with it, but I do understand.  Frankly, I think it is ludicrous that someone buys a game at the store (PAYS for it) and then MUST have an internet connection in order to register the game before they can even play the game. But that is another issue.

In the "old" days, once I got done playing a game, I could give the disc to a friend or relative and they could play the game.  I would remove it from my computer.  This was no different than giving someone a cassette or music CD once I was done with it.  And this brings me to my point.

My father passed away in 2007.  I have many of his games and wanted to try out a "classic" called "Red Orchestra."  During the install, the game prompted to enter the CD Key.  No problem.  The STEAM system responded that the key was already registered to another STEAM account.  DUH.

I contact tech support, letting them know that my father had passed away in 2007 and that I wanted to install the game.  This was their response:
Hello David, Thank you for contacting Steam Support. Steam game subscriptions and CD keys are non-transferable and cannot be reset or moved between Steam accounts. We will be unable to transfer this game to another account. You must be logged in to the original account it was registered to in order to play the game. If you have any further questions, please let us know.
"Cannot be transferred" and "Logged in to the original account."  Are you kidding me!?  So, I basically have to throw the game away simply because my father passed away and I have no idea what his STEAM account was!?  I find that ridiculous.

Ah, I know, some of you are saying, "If you want to play it that bad, just buy it." The problem? You CANT buy it anymore.  So, off to the landfill it goes.  What a waste.
Did I mention that I am *NOT* a fan of the STEAM distribution system?  Well, I'm not.

BTW, here is my response to their email. I'll keep you posted:
So, since I already have the CDs in my possession, and since this game is nearly a decade old, is it possible for you to issue a NEW key to me to use?  Would it be possible to buy a new code for the game?  If so, what will that cost?

I will interject here that this is one of many reasons I am not a fan of the whole STEAM distribution method.  I do understand some of the reasons behind it and I have read where others got all their games back after a full re-install of Windows.  But, I *do* keep my discs (and now have my father's collection since his passing).  I find the system controlling and overbearing.  But, since it is obviously something I have work with, I am at least willing to play by the rules.

Aug 28, 2010

Appearance - October Gathering of Authors

I have been invited (and will be participating in) the Fall Gathering of Authors to benefit St. Jude hospital!  The event takes place on October 23, 2010, from 2p-8p at the Four States Fairgrounds in Texarkana, TX.  There will be several area authors there to sell/sign books, read selected passages, and meet-n-greet!

More information about the event can be found here:

If you're in the area, come have some free food, hear some great authors, contribute to a great cause!

Aug 21, 2010

First take: Pesto-crusted Grilled Cheese

I found a recipe for pesto-crusted grilled cheese online (see below).  Emily helped me make the sandwiches and we altered the recipe a little from the original, though we stuck to suggestions offered up by the originator (explained soon).  I think in the future, I may try adding something different to the layer between the cheeses.  We'll see.

The recipe *we* followed goes like this:

Prep: 15 min., Cook: 6 min. per batch.

Yield: Makes 4 servings


1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons jarred pesto sauce
8 sourdough bread slices
8 small/medium provalone cheese slices
3 tablespoons roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped and dabbed with paper towel
8 small/medium Cheddar cheese slices

1. Stir together mayonnaise and pesto sauce. Spread evenly on 1 side of each sourdough bread slice. Place 4 of the bread slices, pesto sides down, on wax paper.

2. Layer 4 bread slices on wax paper each with 2 provalone cheese slices (side-by-side to cover bread slice), bell peppers, and 2 Cheddar cheese slices (again, side-by-side to cover full bread slice); top with remaining 4 bread slices, pesto sides up.

3. Cook sandwiches, in batches, on a hot griddle or in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, gently pressing with a spatula, 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cheese melts.  NOTE: Our griddle has actual temps. I used 300-degrees F.  I should have used the "normal" setting for sandwiches (350-degrees F).  I think they would have been more "crusted" that way.

Emily helped me mix the pesto and mayo.  Then she scooped out about a tablespoon or so of the mix onto the bread. I used a rubber spatula to evenly spread the mixture.  I spread it all the way to the edges.  We are *not* big fans of peppers, which is why we cut the recipe down from a full 12 oz jar to a few tablespoons.  Believe me, it was plenty (for us) to spread around on each sandwich. 

When cooking, the first three minutes allows time for some cleanup, rinsing cups/bowls used for mixing, etc.  Then, flip them at the 3-minute mark and finish the cleanup of everything but the griddle.  Makes life easy-peasy!  I think the original recipe makes two sandwiches at a time, because it called for 12 minutes of cook time (6 per "batch").  Ours was big enough to hold all four sandwiches.

This was my first time to try something like this, and being the GUY that I am, I opted to do a flavored-up grilled cheese. Go figure, right?  Well, I have to say (and Shan agrees!) these were GREAT!  Oh man, just smelling the pesto cooking on the griddle and watching the cheese melt... But, to put that bite into your mouth... Oh, I gotta tell ya... You get the wonderful taste of the pesto with a hint of the mayo flavor. Then, this melty, cheesy goodness like in a commercial - the cheese really does "string-out" when you take a bite!  Since we use just a few peppers, it made for a nice little "zing" in every other bite or so that just made me want to keep eating.

I like to have some CRUNCH with mine, so I added ridged potato chips.  Shan just ate hers the way they came off the griddle. Well, okay, I sliced each sandwich in half.

These were SUPER creations, and I cannot thank Melissa Q enough for sharing this on!  I ended up eating an additional half sandwich (Emily decided she wasn't too hip on eating them, just making them) and for me, that was about 1/4 a sandwich too much.  So, eat just one and leave yourself wanting to make it again another time!  This would be a great cold weather treat with some soup along side, too!
Melissa QuiƱones, Eustis, Florida, Southern Living, JANUARY 2007

The original recipe resides here:

Know more than 98% of the population?

I recently read an article that outlined tips for becoming successful, or more specifically for becoming famous.  Many were the run-of-the-mill things like "always be selling" or "concentrate all your efforts for 9-36 months and do NOT give up during the lulls."  Those are the kinds of tidbits you can find in almost any motivational article no matter what it is you are trying to accomplish (in this case, authoring and selling freelance articles while getting famous at it).

One piece of advice in the article (it's an email newsletter, actually) stated that one should "Know or learn more about the topic than 98% of the population."  Seriously?  How does one even gauge such a thing?  On top of that, I would venture that 98% of the population doesn't believe they know something (ANYTHING) more than 98% of the population.

Of course, "the population" is a loose enough term (as is "famous") that this bit of advice almost reads like a horoscope or fortune from a fortune cookie.  I am by no means "famous."  Or am I?  What is "fame" and what do I know that 98% of the people in my circle of "fame" don't?  This is where the words begin to play tricks on you.  In my mind, "famous" is Stephen King, George Lucas, Bill Gates, Vlad Mazek, Ben Henry, Ree Drummond and the likes.  Oh, I know you're thinking, "who are some of those people?"  And that is my point.  The first three are generally uber-famous in American culture.  The next ones are "famous" in certain circles.  Vlad is famous for his knowledge of the Microsoft partnership program and his various back office applications.  Ben is famous in card-collecting circles (namely baseball cards).  Ree is famous for being a city girl who married "the Marlboro Man (as she calls her husband)" and started writing about it.

So, do *they* know more about their respective topics than 98% of the population?  As a whole in the world at large? Maybe, maybe not.  But, what about among those that follow them?  Probably so. 

How does this translate to our everyday world?  First of all, I will be the first to tell anyone that I am a "jack-of-all-trades, master of none."  I know about 2% of any given topic, if that much.  I would guess that many of us feel that way about anything (or maybe everything) we know.  We are the 98% that others know more about a topic than we do.  In a given area.  So, the "trick" (as it were) is to figure out where those percentages are reversed and then figure out how to make the most of those areas.

Do I know more than 98% of the population about blogging? Heck no. Not even in my ever-growing circle of friends, family and acquaintances! Computers (troubleshooting and repair)? Nope.  In my circle, I am probably at the 50/50 mark.  Okay, how about self-publishing?  Maybe, but probably not 98%. Maybe 60-75% at most.  How about self-publishing with  I'd say yes.  Now, do I know more than 98% of the people in the world about that? No way. One look around the forums on that site, and I quickly find myself in the 98% who ask the questions.  But, among my peers, friends and family?  I'd say 98% is a safe number.  Off the top of my head, I can think of fewer than a handful of folks that have used the service (I hope to convince people to change that though!).

Now, am I "famous" for it? Heck no.  Or at least I don't see myself that way.  The key, though, is to keep at it and to keep learning and sharing what I learn.  Same holds true for anyone in any field.  I think everyone knows something that 98% of the people they talk to, work with, or live with DON'T know, or know very little about.  So, we must find that thing (or those things) we know and then SHARE what we know.

How do we find that thing?  The easy way would be to stop and think about the thing(s) that people ask you about - teaching, gardening, computers, publishing, engines, baseball cards, grant writing, whatever.  Now, once you figure that out (a lot easier said than done for most of us, I think), the next step is to start writing about it.  And *that* is the scary part.  After all, what if another one of the 2% who knows something about your topic finds your posts and points out mistakes!? I have learned what to do when this happens:  Thank them and fix it.

Seriously. That's it. Figure out what you enjoy and what people generally come to you about advice.  Start a blog and begin writing about it.  When someone questions you on something you've written, get the facts and if you need to fix it, then thank the person for pointing it out and fix it.  You'll be amazed at how many people will still read along, and who appreciate your willingness to admit when things aren't right.  I run into that with my Indians baseball card posts all the time.  At first, I was embarrassed and nearly quit posting because I *know* I am not "the expert" about the topic. But, you know what? I am the "expert" of my own love for the team and of my own collection of cards.

What about my writing?  I am not a writing expert by any stretch. I am not a "" expert.  I am an expert in my *own* journey as a writer and self-publisher and I can (and do) share that.  I am not an expert in all the technology-related things I know, but I am the expert in *my own* experience with those things.  If I can share my experiences and my insights with someone (anyone) that benefits, then I'm ecstatic.  Am I "famous" for the things I know and share?  I suppose in a way, I am among the folks I know.  And, once you start writing about what you know, you will be too.  Just remember: Fame is fleeting, Never let any kind of fame go to your head, and Fame does not necessarily equal monetary rewards.  Be okay with those, and you'll do fine.

And, if you do start working on building your fame (or just start writing about what you know regarding a particular topic), let me know. I'd like to come along for the ride.  After all, this blog started because I wanted a place to post my notes on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and a list of commands for an old Commodore 64 program (Little Computer People). Who knows what'll come up if you start jotting down the things that pop into your own head!

*footnote:  "among the folks I know" is the key phrase.  True "fame" comes when people know who you are whether or not you know them by name.  In the respect of "true fame," I do not even pretend to be famous. INfamous, perhaps.

Aug 18, 2010

A Parody - Welcome to the Timeline

Tonight brings another Plurkish Parody, to the tune of "Welcome to the Jungle"

Welcome to your timeline
We post fun 'n' games
You'll find anything you want
Honey you'll learn screenames
We are the plurkers that can find
Whatever link you need
It don't take any money honey
It's like a disease

Oh, the timeline
Welcome to your timeline
Karma brings you to your shun n,n,n,n,,n,n,,n,n,n,,n,n,,n knees, knees
I wanna post and read

Welcome to your timeline
We plurk it day by day
If you post it they're gonna read
But it's the price you pay
And you can like a favorite URL ("earl")
That you can then re-read
You can find some bright minds
And they'll share their thoughts for free
On the timeline
Welcome to the timeline
Check my, my, my fans-of-me
I, I wanna see your theme

Welcome to the timeline
We get plurks here everyday
Ya learn ta post like an animal
Keep your karma up to stay
If you got a hunger for what you read
You'll reply eventually
You can share anything you want
And you can even replurk from me

Oh, the timeline
Welcome to your timeline
Karma brings you to your shun n,n,n,n,,n,n,,n,n,n,,n,n,,n knees, knees
I wanna post and read

And when karma's high you never
Ever want-it to come down, so down, so down, so down YEAH!

You know where you are?
You're on the timeline baby
You're gonna ride
On the timeline
Welcome to your timeline
Karma brings you to your shu n,n,n,,n,n,,n,n,n,,n,n,,n,n,,n knees, knees
On the timeline
Welcome to your timeline
Check my, my, my fans-of-me
Welcome to the timeline
Watch it bring you to your shun n,n,n,n,,n,n,,n,n,,n,n,,n.n, knees, knees
On the timeline
Welcome to the timeline
Watch karma bring you to your
It's gonna bring you friends!

Aug 15, 2010

Movin' on Up

The past few days have been CRAZY busy as we moved our offices at work from the current location to our new facilities.  We began moving technology on Thursday afternoon.  At 4pm, I shut down the servers and the router and dismantled the wiring that connected it all together.  My original plan was to pull each of the servers out of the rack and move them independently of the rack itself.  A couple of guys, who move vending machines etc, said they could move the rack in tact.  So, at 5pm, they loaded the rack on to their very cool, motorized dolly.  It was a test in skill and patience.  The rack is VERY heavy.  In addition to that, it barely fit through the door when it was first brought in.  The cool thing about the dolly is that the movers could get the rack as low as they needed, and sure enough, they cleared the door and overhangs outside.  The trip to the new location went smoothly.  And then the fun started.

The floor cleaners were in the middle of stripping and waxing, so we could not walk on the floor.  We had to bring the server rack up the outside stairwell.  This was a slow, laborious, tedious process.  Since the servers were going to the second floor (yes, in retrospect, I would have fought to have the servers on the first floor even if that meant waiting another day to get them installed), the outside stairwell has a flight of steps, a landing, then another flight.

There were two guys (the movers) working the top of the rack (which is basically the size of a vending machine turned sideways) and Floyd and I working the bottom.  They pulled and adjusted the wheels and carriage while Floyd and I pushed and lifted.  The first flight was tough.  Our main problem was getting our rhythm down.  About halfway up, we figured it out and we moving along nicely.  At the landing, there was something of a communication breakdown (as in none), and the Floyd and I suddenly saw the rack tilting straight for us!  The whole thing landed upright, but VERY hard!  It sounded like someone taking  a stack of computers and dropping them from about waist high.  I truly feared the worst.

The second flight of stairs went quickly and soon, we had the servers in the server room! I did not hook up the servers. I wanted to sleep on things, and prepare for the worst should the "drop" have crashed a server or six.

On Friday, my son Tyler joined the workforce, and he and I grabbed what we needed and headed off to the servers.  Unfortunately, yet another breakdown in communication means I have to wait until Monday to completely connect power to the servers.  Turns out the UPS we use has a special 30-amp plug. I discussed that with our architect way back when, but evidently it was lost in the shuffle.

Tyler and I moved enough power cords around to get the servers ready for power.  One by one, I fired up the servers.  They each came back online!  I had an issue with our mailer server, but I believe that was due to the order of booting things up.  The mail server came up faster than the SQL server, and since the mail server could not 'see' the database, it decided we weren't going to have email.  I "showed" it where things were (and *HOW* things were) and within minutes, we were hopping.

I worked Tyler to the bone on Friday.  We had a lot of technology to dismantle at the old building, and I took full advantage of having a younger person with me.  At one point, I said, "I know when you and your sister come to work with me, I am usually doing things at my desk.  But THIS is the kind of thing I help schools do.  Now, I am getting to do it for the co-op.  My job is not just about sitting at the computer all day, it's about keeping things running.  When things are running smoothly, I mostly work from my desk.  But when things go wrong, I have to kick it into gear."  He nodded with wide, knowing eyes, having just put in a day of "working with Dad."  (Aside: When the kids come to work with me, I usually make it a day where I have a good idea that I won't be out at a school, etc. I'd rather not have to worry about them while I'm working on something else, even though they are great kids. My worry is more about something happening *to* them than *because* of them.)

We started at 8am and finished at 5pm on Friday.  Several folks stayed MUCH later than that then had to be there at 7am on Saturday!

Tyler decided he wanted to go to the water park in Dallas with the church youth rather than spend another hit day moving stuff with me. Who could blame him? When I told folks where he went, they would say, "I'm going with him!"  We wished we could!

Saturday found a lot of people working at both sites, moving, packing, storing, you name it.  While Terry and I took apart the equipment in the conference room, Trish worked in the new building to set up the distance learning lab.  It was great not having to mess with that part of things so I could concentrate on the dismantling/moving side of things. 

Terry, Leslie and I crawled up and down ladders in the old conference room chasing wiring in the ceiling grid.  It was a nasty, tangled mess, and I could not have done it alone.  I'm glad I work with folks that are not afraid to get in there, get dirty, and get the job done!  We also took apart what was left of the computer lab and distance learning lab.  The early childhood women came en force and packed up several cabinets in the technology center.  It was amazing how quickly they could get things packed! WOW!

At one point, a bunch of guys were loading bookcases from the technology area.  I was working with Phoebe's mom to stack and move the shelves that go in the bookcases.  We had a hydraulic lift dolly and we loaded the shelving onto it.  Not until we had loaded every single shelf (maybe 20 shelves or so) did we realize that they were loaded SIDEWAYS.  They wouldn't fit through the door.  Yeah, neither one of us saw this coming.  All we could do was laugh, unload the shelves and shake our heads at ourselves.  Good times.  Good times.  We moved the shelves by hand.

At 3pm, everyone met in the lobby of the new building. We had prayer and dismissed.  I stayed (as well as Phoebe and a couple others) behind.  I worked with our phone system installer (whose name I forgot, but will be sure to find out!) as he did some troubleshooting and set up.  Our upgraded phone system has a cool web-based user interface to programming the phones, so that should help make things easier to manage.  Not that it was a chose to manage before, but I will feel much more comfortable "playing" with different settings, features, etc.  I installed one of the security cameras, moved wiring etc to where I would need it on Sunday and at 7pm, I called it quits. My brain wasn't thinking straight and I was spending more time THINKING about problems/solutions than actually solving them.  Yeah, it was time to go.

That reminds me, I need to create a new venue in FourSquare... :-)

Aug 11, 2010

A couple new things to check out

I've got a couple new things going on to help folks navigate the randomness that is my brain.

First, I've created a space specifically for my author-related information: That site will serve as my "official" place to post updates regarding new books, signings, etc.  Oh yes, there will be signings.

Second, as the result of a meeting and discussion among state technology coordinators, I have created a place to keep up with my daily work log.  I know I have posted some thoughts and insights about my workday on here, but nothing that could be construed as a "journal" of my daily activities.  The fact is that we state-level techs are feeling pretty lucky to still have our jobs after last year's round of budget cuts.  Our jobs are completely at the mercy of the State Legislature.  If this journal helps shed some light on what it takes to serve the schools in my area, then it is more than worth it.  Though a "public" journal was not necessarily part of the discussion, I opted to go that route because of two reasons: 1) I love the blogging format for this type of thing, and 2) since I work for the public sector, why not provide a public venue in which to report my daily activities?  I see it as win-win.

The site for my daily working journal is: 

By creating those other two sites, I free up *this* one for the truly random things that, well, Popped In My Head.

Aug 6, 2010

It's Africa Hot

Living in L-A (that's Lower-Arkansas) has its distinct disadvantages lately.  Topping that list: HEAT.  We've had 100+ temps for at least two weeks in a row, if not more (and sure, I could look that up, but you can just take my word for it).  During the summer, we've had more 100+ days this year (so far) than any other point in the past - I saw that on the news.

I got into my car yesterday after work, and the temperature gauge read... 115F! Now, I know that is "sitting in the sun all day" heat, but even after I got the car moving, it "chilled" to 107 and was 104 by the time I got home.

We had a teaser last night, though.  Thunder and clouds moved around us, holding out the promise of a downpour.  Instead, as if there were some kind of dome over our little neck of the woods, the clouds seemed to part when they close.  As I said to my PLN - I feel like Yukon Corneilus - Nothin'!

As they say in the movies... It's Hot. It's Africa Hot.

Aug 1, 2010

Summer Breaks and All This Digging now available direct!

If you are interested in buying a copy of "Summer Breaks: a novel" and/or "All This Digging - collection of short stories" but don't want to go through to do it, drop me an email, contact me on Facebook, or leave a comment to this post at

I will send out either book for $15 (includes shipping and I'll autograph if you'd like) or you can get both (shipped and signed) for $24.

Thanks to EVERYONE for your continued support and encouragement!