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Mac

Tornado Outbreak: Suffolk Devastation & Colonial Heights Déjà Vu

By news, Uncategorized, weather

Fifteen years ago, in 1993, a strong F4 (winds of up to 260 MPH) tornado touched down in Colonial Heights, destroying the Wal-Mart store and killing three people, before tearing through Petersburg’s historic district. Well today, history seems to have repeated itself. A moderate tornado touched down in the exact same shopping center (Dimmock Square, near Southpark Mall). Is that eerie or what? I was only five years old the first time it happened, but (strangely) vaguely remember seeing it on TV. The Dress Barn and Target stores suffered blown out windows and minor roof damage, but for the most part there was no extreme structural damage.

It was a different story in Suffolk this evening. The same line of storms marched eastward (and strengthened considerably as they did so) and proceeded to completely flatten a portion Suffolk’s historic district, then went through a golf course community and completely wiped large, substantial homes clean off their foundations to the point where all that was left was a concrete slab beneath. This part was especially eerie to me because the neighborhood looked very similar to mine (Wyndham) from the aerial shot.

Suffolk is completely devastated. It looks like an atomic bomb went off the way the homes literally exploded with the extreme winds. At the time I’m writing this, there has only been one person confirmed dead, but unfortunately, it would be miraculous if the death toll didn’t rise, by the looks of the flattened neighborhoods. Hopefully it won’t, though. Virginia is no stranger to tornadoes, but usually experiences much weaker ones than this. This was extremely rare. Keep your thoughts and prayers with the Hampton Roads community during the aftermath of this immense, widespread natural disaster.

I find all of this very interesting since most of you know how much I like weather and storms. I flipped through the local news channels and hooked up my Comcast digital box to my Mac to record everything as it happened. Here are some screenshots from the live broadcasts I recorded from NBC 12 (WWBT), 8 NEWS (WRIC), CBS 6 (WTVR), and WAVY 10 (WAVY) (NBC affiliate in Norfolk, via live streaming on-air web simulcast).

1993 archive video footage of the destruction of the Southpark Wal-Mart (WRIC)

Meteorologist Jim Duncan advises citizens to take shelter during a tornado warning (WWBT)

Aerial image of Dimmock Square Shopping Center (perimeter highlighted in yellow) and the adjacent Wal-Mart store (now a Sam’s Club) that were both hit by tornadoes that followed the exact same paths in 1993 and 2008 (Blackwood Development Corporation)

Cars were tossed like toys in the Dimmock Square Shopping Center parking lot, in front of Target (WWBT)

A house suffers extreme damage in Suffolk (WTVR)

A Suffolk antiques shop is cut in half with almost no visible damage from the front or rear façades, but obviously the historic building is a complete loss (WAVY)

 The owner of a car dealership snaps a picture through the front windows of his business as a huge tornado barrels through Suffolk (WAVY)

Facebook Chat: Feeding The Addiction

By business, opinion, sarcasm, technology

So the release of Facebook Chat is all the buzz this morning, at least from what I can judge by the status updates of my friends. Apparently no one saw it coming. I’ve known about it for a couple of weeks, but didn’t think it would be released for a while.

This is bad news for people like me who are already borderline addicted to Facebook. It’s just like putting a six pack in front of an alcoholic. The temptation is just too great. The interesting thing to note, though, is that Facebook sees this as an AIM-killer. They think that by integrating a chat system into their already intricate social network, users will see it as a one-stop shop for social networking and instant messaging, putting AOL Instant Messenger on the back burner. I don’t know about that.

Personally, I’ve had an AIM screen name for almost ten years. Most people I know have had theirs for years and years, too. I don’t think you’re going to see an abandonment of any grand scale anytime soon, if ever. It’s not so much that people are loyal to products like AIM, it’s their familiarity factor and the average computer user’s resistance to dramatic change in the technology realm that will ultimately save AIM’s bottom line.

Then again, I don’t use the AIM client itself, but rather a Mac program called Adium. I’ve always been surprised that AIM allows other programs to use its network, because by doing so there’s no banner ad or anything like there is on the actual AIM program and consequently no money in the pockets of AOL. But of course I applaud them for having such an open source platform of sorts.

At any rate, it’s a nice new feature, but Facebook’s claim that it’ll take over AIM is about as threatening as Microsoft’s claim two years ago that the Zune would be an iPod killer. And we all know how that one turned out. I’m still laughing at you two years later, Bill Gates.

Flock – The Social Web Browser

By technology

I heard about a relatively new web browser today designed for today’s increasingly interactive interweb (screenshot from my computer above). The advent of Web 2.0 has brought a new meaning to the web. There’s an increasing amount of interconnectivity between different Web 2.0-based social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, and Twitter. This browser, Flock, connects them all together into one easy-to-use browser. Once you set up your accounts, there are tabs in a sidebar that allow you to simultaneously access each of the aforementioned social networking sites.

Friends’ updates appear instantly, and you can click “media” next to their status updates to see their photos in the media bar (the dark area with photos at the top of the browser in the screenshot). There’s even one-click access to create a new blog post in your blog once you set it up. I tried using that for my blog, and although it worked, it lacked the functionality I need to add formatting and other elements such as pictures to my posts. Their blog editor is very basic.

I use Safari currently, but thought I’d give Flock a try. I’m impressed by the interconnectivity and this is a great idea for people such as myself who are [way too] connected to Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube and find themselves multitasking multiple social networking sites at once. I’m not sure if I’ll keep using it or just stick with Safari, mainly because I already have Safari set up just how I like it, but we’ll see. It’s a very cool concept and has Firefox-like theme and extension features. It’s available for download on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Give it a try, eh?

No More “iPosts”

By technology

So I managed to screw up my MacBook Pro this past weekend, but after tearing it down (literally, in like fifteen pieces) and rebuilding it, it’s working just fine. I just wanted to apologize for the low quality posts while my Mac was down. I had been posting from my iPhone via Utterz. The service needs some work (although the concept is really cool) and I didn’t ever have the audacity to type up something longer and more meaningful on a small touch-screen keyboard, anyway. Well, I’m back and I’ve got a lot to write about. Stay tuned.

P.S. – I never realized just how much I take my computer for granted.

The 2008 Deep Run Marathon Dance Raises $105,931.81 For Local Organizations!

By Uncategorized

I still can’t believe just how much money was raised at this year’s Deep Run Marathon Dance. $105,931.81! I headed up the Film Crew this year and had so much fun filming throughout the duration of the 27 hour dance. I’ll talk more about how that went in a moment. But I made an opening video to get everyone pumped, including a pep talk from the movie Miracle, that was shown before the dance started, then had a closing video at the end that included interviews with leaders from all ten of the benefiting organizations, video footage from the dance, and a dramatic grand total at the end.

I was kind of on the edge of my seat at the closing ceremony because it had taken me eight hours to compile and edit the closing video and I didn’t even have time to render a DVD. So I basically just played an AVI that I exported to my computer and held my breath hoping my Mac wouldn’t freeze while playing it. It was a huge 2.5 GB file, so I had plenty reason to worry. Fortunately it didn’t freeze and I think it turned out pretty good. I had been up for just about 40 hours straight by the time I finished it, so I also wondered if I had made any big editing mistakes based on the fact that I was so mentally tired I didn’t know what I was doing. No one had even seen the video but me until I presented it to hundreds and hundreds of people at the closing ceremony. But there again, it turned out pretty good I think. Both videos will be posted later today and will be accessible here, on my YouTube page, and Facebook.

I was on the fence about whether to do this on an annual basis, but after doing this for my second year in a row and seeing the energy, enthusiasm, and huge benefit of this dance, there’s no question that I’ll do this again every year. It was so liberating to be able to head up my own video project and manage five other people who filmed the dance this year. I usually work under other people and have less creative control. It was great for once to be able to have the final say in what was produced and call all the shots, with no one to tell me otherwise. Because of that, I was a lot less frustrated and more motivated to produce a great end result. It was an amazing feeling (and that’s not a knock on anyone I normally work with, because they do great work; it was just a big thing for me personally). It was also cool to be recognized for once and I was honored to be so warmly received at the end.

Some have said that I should focus even more time on other video production efforts instead of doing this, but I would argue that it’s something that I’m really proud to be a part of and have so much fun doing it because of the role I’m given to creatively produce something really exciting and unique. Plus the end result is amazing. An event that raises almost $106,000 for charity is something really spectacular to be a part of. I may even consider taking on other projects and helping out other charitable causes around the area at their respective events because I found working with the Deep Run Marathon Dance to be very impacting and rewarding. It was just incredible.

Exciting Things

By Uncategorized

Well, today’s a day of meetings of all sorts. I’ve been to two, got one more this afternoon. Some good things resulted from these meetings, and things are finally getting back on track it seems. First off, I just got a great job offer today that I’m taking with a local computer company, where I’ll be able to repair Macs (I’m even going to become an Apple Certified Repair Technician just like the people that work at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store) and might even get to set my own hours. I tentatively start the second week of March. I’ll say more about what company it is and everything once all the details are hammered out.

In other news, Virginia Credit Union asked me to be in a TV commercial with a few other members to talk about our experiences with them. They’re filming it near VCU next to the new business building the first week of March. It should be fun; I’m looking forward to it.

I’m meeting later this afternoon with members of the Richmond Outreach Center (ROC) at Deep Run to film a segment about the work they do to for people who would otherwise not come to Christ. They’re the last of ten organizations to be filmed that are benefiting from funds raised at the 2008 Deep Run Marathon Dance. I’m producing a DVD of the event again this year, and I’m looking forward to the event. It’s a great experience.

Things are looking up!

False Alarm

By Uncategorized

So I didn’t send my computer in after all. I’m realizing there’s really no 7-10 day period (amount of time Apple says it would take for my repair to be completed) that I can be without my computer because of exams, note taking, special projects, church work, etc. I guess I’ll send it in sometime this summer. Anyway, big update on some projects I’m working on now, speaking of which.

Shipping Out

By Uncategorized

Well, I’m shipping out my MacBook Pro to Apple’s repair headquarters in Texas today to get fixed (I’m taking it to the Apple Store and they’re taking care of the shipping). Ever since I’ve had it (last June) it’s never gone to sleep right. When you close a Mac, it’s supposed to go into sleep mode and keep all your applications running and ready to go when you open the lid again, but my computer was born a rebel and decided against going with the status quo. Whenever I close it, the screen goes to sleep, but the computer keeps running and overheats, in turn draining the battery. This is especially fun when I’m at VCU and it starts burning up in my backpack and, here’s the best part of all, the battery is dead by the time I need to use it again because it decided to keep running. The thing has a personality of its own, I’m telling you.

I also dropped it on a video shoot recently where it was used as a prop (I was the one that dropped it, everyone calm down; despite what it may have inadvertently sounded like in one of my previous posts, no one from the church video team is to blame for anything). The case was dented in the corner and the slot-loading disc drive is hard to load now, so I’m most likely getting the entire aluminum case replaced, depending on the cost. The sleep issue is covered by the AppleCare three year extended warranty I bought, but accidental damage such as my casing is most likely not covered by the plan.

I’ve backed everything up via Mac OS X Leopard’s Time Machine feature onto my 1TB hard drive, and post-dated all of my blog entries to automatically show up on my blog on the day specified (I didn’t know you could even do this until recently; pretty cool). I’ve posted a few new entries (albeit smaller and simpler) for the upcoming week and will post a few more throughout the week via Utterz and/or my iPhone. Hey, I’m in Blog 365, I’ve gotta do it! My Mac should be back by next weekend.

Time Management

By Uncategorized

Pastor Rick gave what I thought to be one of his most inspiring messages ever today. It was all about time management. He’s done some great messages in the past and is probably the most impacting and inspirational speaker I’ve ever heard, but today his message really hit home.

In the service today, Pastor Rick gave a lot of great advice and wisdom about how to manage your time:

Evaluate your time priorities. This can be done (as I’m going to do) by keeping track of how you spend your time over the course of two weeks.

Busyness does not equal productivity. I am always busy with something or another. The whole week it seems I’m never free. But I’m finding that a lot of the time I’m not doing much of anything of any real worth or significance.

Establish time systems. This could mean many things. One example Pastor Rick gave was his own schedule. Every day, he gets up early in the morning and spends time in solitude praying and having study/research time to plan his messages. He’s also at home every night at 6:00 PM for dinner with his family. These two recurring events are set in stone in his weekly schedule, and are obviously very important to him. I need to figure out which things are the most important for me to do, and plan everything else around them on a recurring basis like he has done. Having set things to do at set times and days also makes it easier to say no to people when they ask you to do something, and that’s a big thing for me. I find it hard to tell people no when they ask me to help with or commit to doing something.

Eliminate time wasters. As you’ll read below, I’ve already gotten rid of a lot of my time wasters, but this is something I really need to work on more. Pastor Rick spoke about how you should delegate what’s important and find new ways to use wasted time, such as reading or catching up on something that needs completing when you’re waiting (for example at a doctor’s office).

I have some of the worst skills when it comes to time management out of anyone I know. I always have really good intentions of getting lots done, being productive, and accomplishing everything I need to do. In fact, despite my lack of priority-based planning, I have one of the most immaculately-organized iCal calendars ever (that picture is a screenshot of how my iCal looks on a weekly basis). It’s broken up into sub-calendars, the main ones being home, school, and church. I have everything from my classes at VCU to my weekly breakfast with Tori and dinner with Jen. From the looks of it, you’d think I was one of the most organized people ever, right? Not so much.

So why doesn’t it all work out in the nice, structured way it seems to by looking at my iCal? There are a couple of reasons. First off, I don’t seem to be able to stick to what should be my top priorities. It’s sometimes out of stress, lack of will power, tiredness, or sheer laziness. Other times it’s because something fun comes up and I end up going out with friends. All I know is I need to increase the amount of time I spend doing some things, reduce others, and maybe even completely eliminate a few. Most things are fine in moderation, I just need to find the right balance.

Sometimes the time I allot to certain tasks ends up getting wasted because I’m multitasking while I should be focused on a singular goal. I also get distracted (and spend too much time on) my Mac and iPhone. The biggest distraction involving both devices? Facebook. Up until today, I had a ridiculous connection to Facebook. On my computer, there’s a desktop program that flashes a little box in the upper right hand corner of my screen notifying me when someone writes on my wall or does some other action on my profile, I get an email with the same information, and then a text on my phone. Sometimes the Facebook email also goes to my phone. Now before you send out the “whitecoats” to haul me off to the nut farm, please understand that some of these notifications were in place from the time I first registered my Facebook account (almost two years ago), for example the emails. I just added one thing at a time and now I’m at this ludicrous level. I’m happy to say that as of today, I’ve completely eliminated all of my Facebook notifications on both my Mac and iPhone, turned off incoming email to my phone, and turned off the new mail notification sound on my computer so I don’t automatically open my email client and read it as it comes in.

In summary, here’s what I plan on changing with my schedule starting this week:

  • Allot more time to studying, working productively at church, and exercising
  • Spend less time on the computer, doing less-than-productive things, eating out, and not necessarily hang out with friends every night
  • Come up with the best balance of school, work, volunteering, and fun

I’m excited about finally getting a handle on my life and make time for the things I need to do and be able to accomplish so much more.

Mac Blatently Makes Fun Of Windows In Leopard

By Uncategorized

So I was trying to connect to a Windows server today when I noticed the icon for Windows computers. It’s the blue screen of death that comes up when Windows isn’t working right. Funny, no? And I always thought Macs liked Windows even though it doesn’t go the other way around. You probably have to be a geek to find the humor in this. Just take a look at the screenshot: