Here's my "good deed" for the day.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!With the blizzard-like conditions out side, I figured it was an easy day to do a "good deed" with so much sleet and snow out there. After making my way out to get coffee and breakfast for the kids, supplies at the store (in case we got snowed-in) and then a few errands around town, I slowly made my way home. The truck is just great in this weather, and I rarely have any trouble.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!I made the left-turn onto our street and noticed a guy stuck -- even though it was a Subaru AWD. I saw his neighbor using his snow-blower to clean his own driveway for his McMansion with complete disregard for this guy who was stuck in a really bad way. These kinds of people really piss me off. Luckily I was driving slow enough to stop safely and ask if the older fellow with the Subaru needed help, and he immediately said YES! This was an opportunity for a "random act of kindness" on my part, so I pulled over...

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!I introduced myself, and he did as well. He's been there 10 years and we've been here for eight — so we both know that there are two basic types of people who live in town. Pierre and I seem to be similar enough for me to want to help him.

I had a shovel in the truck and in about 20 minutes, I had helped him clear a big four foot snow-bank of heavy wet packed snow so he might be able to get out of his driveway.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!I didn't realize that before I stopped to help him he had wedged the front wheel of his Subaru about 8 inches deep into his lawn while also getting it precariously stuck on top of an icy snow-pack — his All Wheel Drive was useless because the wheels that could turn just spun and the others did nothing.

I suggested that we continue to dig as much as possible, and then let the engine idle and maybe the heat would melt some of the iceberg beneath his SUV. It was frustrating, but he's not getting out until the snow bank melts a bit in a day or so.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!Anyway we shook hands and I was off to bring the coffee and breakfast, and all the other things in the house and then shovel my own driveway. What I didn't realize was I had missed most of the first half of the Patriots vs. Jets game by the time I had shoveled my walkway and as much as I could of the driveway. Bummer.

New England Patriots »I made the kids brunch and some hot chocolate with the game in the background. The Patriots were winning but it wasn't the type of "blowout" that folks predicted. The weather definitely had something to do with the game's outcome. The Jets gave 'em a busy day, but the Pats won which makes them 14-0 for the season. They may go all the way this year, which is basically what I said in August.


Neither rain nor sleet nor... huh?

Wow! I guess the old adage, "better late than never" really is true! I'm a big fan of the USPS, but check out this timely little nugget from Yahoo! News...

Christmas Card Arrives 93 Years Late.
Fri Dec 14, 4:13 PM ET
OBERLIN, Kan. - A postcard featuring a color drawing of Santa Claus and a young girl was mailed in 1914, but its journey was slower than Christmas. It just arrived in northwest Kansas.

The Christmas card was dated Dec. 23, 1914, and mailed to Ethel Martin of Oberlin, apparently from her cousins in Alma, Neb.

It's a mystery where it spent most of the last century, Oberlin Postmaster Steve Schultz said. "It's surprising that it never got thrown away," he said. "How someone found it, I don't know."

Ethel Martin is deceased, but Schultz said the post office wanted to get the card to a relative.

That's how the 93-year-old relic ended up with Bernice Martin, Ethel's sister-in-law. She said she believed the card had been found somewhere in Illinois.

Read the full story »

Cool Tool: VectorMagic

» Go to VectorMagic
A few weeks ago, my co-worker DH sent me an IM "Have you seen this?" with the URL for Stanford's Vector Magic Online Bitmap to Vector Project. I was busy when he sent it and only just gave the site a quick visit, a bookmark and figured I'd visit again and blog it when I had more time.

Check out my Vector Pocket Protector!Wow, this is an extremely cool tool! In a nutshell, The site converts bitmap images to vector art for you. It's an "online auto-tracer" built using Adobe's Flex2. To use it, just upload your image or photo, and the tool will create vectors for you. You can then save your vector art to EPS, SVG, or PNG format. You can use VectorMagic to process your image and then tweak the results as needed as well, this keeps all the heavy processing on their end, and you can focus on the fun stuff! Vectors are scalable because they are "geometric primitives" made-up of points, lines, curves and polygons — whereas raster graphics are a "map of pixels" (hence the name "Bit Map", or BMP). Vector files are also smaller in file size, and they can be scaled without a loss of quality. Find out more info on vector graphics on Wikipedia.

Here's an example of my first VectorMagic output. I took my avatar and ran it through their tool and got great results. Then I was able to play around with the SVG output to size my avatar as needed. I have the original Photoshop file so I can do that anyway, but this machine is getting old and slow, so it's nice to have a backup option. They also make it really easy to share your results to help spread the good word (you can play with my vectors made by VectorMagic, but my artwork is ©2006ptamaro so don't use it for your own purposes).

View the full size results at 1280x1024Also, if you don't have the original artwork in a vector format you won't be able to get good results if you need to change any of the elements, colors or size. In this case, you can vectorize the rastered artwork and then use the vectors to make the changes you need. Have fun, and let me know what you think of it!

    » Visit VectorMagic

You Got Words? Play M-W's Online Crossword Puzzle!

Zoom-inIf you like puzzles, you should check out Merriam Webster's Online Daily Crossword Puzzle! It's really cool, and definitely challenging and fun. The interface is intuitive and it's interactive — you can reveal and/or check letters, words or even the entire puzzle as you work through it — and it has a timer (which you can pause when necessary).

[A][R][T] » Click to play!It has the ability to save your progress as well. I started a puzzle earlier today, and before I began to write this post I went back and it brought me to the game I had already started. Really nice feature. Get your brain ready, the timer is ready to start ticking... Be forewarned, it can be addictive and it's easy to while away the hours playing.

You'll need Flash 6+ to play (it's ubiquitous these days, except on Linux).

» Online Crossword Puzzle
    Be sure to bring your brain!

» Home Page
    Dictionary and much more...

Cool Tool: Diagram Designer

MeeSoft &raquo get more information and download!I recently needed a free “Visio-like tool” to do some diagrams for our latest project at work, but I don't have Visio, and I don't love using it either. Like most Microsoft tools, Visio's got way too many unnecessary bells and whistles which force you to learn the tool rather than get the task at hand done quickly. I like Graffle, but someone's "borrowing" the iMac I had on my desk so that wasn't an option either.

I did some quick searching and found this little gem, Diagram Designer 1.19 by MeeSoft, on (TuCows Diagram Designer product review/download).

Seek and find. This is a great freeware tool to "create flowcharts, diagrams and slide shows", and other vector stuff. It's light weight at 1.28 Mb, simple and easy to use -- and makes quick work of day-to-day grunt stuff.

The downside is it's Windows only (98 / NT / 2k / Me / XP / 2003 / Vista) no Mac or Linux. Also it saves the vectors in it's ".ddd" file format which I haven't seen before. But, you can import/export your work to other formats like: WMF, EMF, BMP, JPEG, PNG, MNG, ICO, GIF and PCX. It even has user submitted template palettes. Also, Mr. Vinther has released a previous version to Open Source.


MeeSoft &raquo get more information and download!I got great results -- and I got the job done quickly, so I figured it makes sense to share it. Let me know what you think.

Now if I could only remember where I left my cup of coffee...


Cool Tool: Ping-O-Matic!

Got a blog? Want to let the community know when you've updated it? Problem solved in just a few clicks and you're done in seconds if you use Ping-O-Matic!

Just drop your blog title, URL, and RSS feed into their form, check the services you want to ping and off it goes. What are they up to and why is it free?
"Why go to all the trouble of setting up a free system that sends out over a hundred thousand pings a day? To play with all the data of course!"

Cool, huh? It's fast and FREE, so give it a try.

DIY: Instructables Makes "Making It" Fun!

I'm finally getting around to blogging the instructables web site even though I've been visiting the site for some time now. It's an amazing resource of fun, interesting and resourceful projects you can do at home with your family. The DIY trend (Do It Yourself) is only going to become more popular as product prices and the overall cost of living continues to rise... Even the evening news has started to mention "inflation", so it's either on it's way for sure or it's already here.

At instructables you can delve into projects like making your own top-down blinds, or if you're courageous enough, you can even build a Mongolian Yurt! Categories include: Art, Craft, Food, Games, Home, Life, Ride, Offbeat, and Tech. They also have slideshows, videos, forums and groups so you can meet other "makers" as well. If you are looking to solve a problem or make something on the cheap -- or, if you need to find something productive to do on a rainy day, then this is the place to go!

RobotOh, and I almost forgot to mention that they have a robot on staff...
"I am the Instructables Robot. My job is to alert you whenever someone leaves you a comment or sends you a private message. I spend most of my day sending email. I like sending email."
The instructables web site is community driven and it's completely free, so if you're into making stuff why not join up? I did! The site is one of the many successful projects by the fine folks at Fluffco.

Ponoko = Design, make, sell... smile.

Join the global making network
I stumbled across Ponoko, a very cool DIY/MIY/SIY (Design It Yourself, Make It Yourself, Sell It Yourself) site from New Zealand tonight during a very bashing mega-surf. Wow, it's an incredibly cool idea, that became a site, and got others involved in making stuff... and making some money -- and everyone gets happy. This is good all-around. Yup, it's becoming a trend out there, and these folks are really helping to make it happen.

You can create a Ponoko account for free, upload your design in EPS format, have it laser-cut in several different types of materials (e.g. MDF, Acrylic, Styrene, Plywood, etc.), and then sell what you've made. Very cool -- extreme cool in action!

I'm beginning to get inspired to actually "do some design" again, or at least think about doing some and that's good. Something tactile, useful... My brain is beginning to thaw just in time for the harsh bitter cold of a New England Winter! Odd how that works, huh?

When I get around to designing and making something, it'll wind-up here in my Ponoko Showroom.

Have a look-see for yourself if you like to MAKE Stuff at

Make, sell... smile. It's contagious. ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving :-)

Have a nice holiday, but remember all of the things to be thankful for. Take a moment to think of those less fortunate, and those who's days may not be as easy or rewarding as yours.

Think of folks you haven't seen in a while, and those who don't have the luxury of spending time with their family, or loved ones. Think about the friends and family members we have lost, and say a little prayer (if you pray).

Do something nice today -- it can be addictive and habit forming, and it feels good! Hold the door for someone, say some kind words, let that obnoxious driver go in front of you, or help someone carry their bags. Smile and be polite. Show some kindness.

Don't forget about the troops and other folks serving our democracy -- or those who dedicate their lives to our freedom, liberty and safety.

Thank you.

Boxes and Arrows gets even better

It's new and improved! Are you a web designer? Then read give B&A a visit...
I guess it's been a little while since I've hit B&A, so I was psyched to see they've launched a new redesign. The new Boxes and Arrows UI is fresh, "clean", and compelling. I'm diggin' the orange and gray color scheme! Great job folks... =>I don't love the lack of link color or missing underlines for article titles in the "Previously" section on the Home Page, but that's not a big deal and really a minor detail. Give 'em a visit and see for yourself at I think they've always had really juicy topical, timely and poignant content as well. This new UI design reflects their level of quality content, depth of knowledge, and an earned leadership role in the industry. Top notch.

My only problem is that I just don't seem to have enough time to absorb and soak all the delicious goodness they've brought to the table, but here's one (or several) article that caught my eye...

Where's the "fold" you keep talkin' about?
Personally, I have felt for a long time that there is no fold in web design, period. Show me how to fold this CRT, or my panel and then I'll change my mind. origamiHere's my point: Don't let misguided ideas about "folds" determine all of your design decisions. Compelling content eliminates scrolling problems. Don't force 'em, just persuade them! Let's leave the folding stuff to those who practice origami.

* Post abstract: is here
    * Full article: Blasting the Myth of the Fold

Get RADIOHEAD in rainbows

Saul Williams' "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation..." -- get it now

There's a revolution going on, people. Be a part of it. Or you can choose to sit back and watch us roll right by you...

Take a special listen to a bunch of great jams, as well as an amazing cover of U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday. Really good stuff overall and I strongly recommend giving it a good loud listen.

Pay what you want, or pay nothing. But make sure you listen closely. Pump that volume and turn it way past eleven.

I got it, I did, and you should too. Go to or to NIN and get it now, or you can fiddle with the widget above.

Browser Bruises Really Hurt...

Wow, I have been using Opera 9.x more frequently for the last week or so -- it's an amazingly powerful browser -- but, goodness grief it's amazing how quickly the User Experience can degrade!

Yes, IE6 is broken, and Firefox 2.x can be a challenge but using Opera is a real eye-opener. Give Safari a whirl on Mac and it gets even better...

It's important to design with all of these issues in mind from the outset, and attempt to deliver a positive User Experience for all. It's far more important for the user to have a positive experience than for everyone to have an identical one.

Much of the creamy goodness of Web 2.0 just doesn't seem to work as it's supposed to in Opera. It's a real eye-opener indeed. These days, a small percentage of your customer base can actually be a large number of people, so it's hard to just write it off as "1 percent of our visitors" when that number can represent thousands or even millions of users or potential customers. I believe the term is "micro-niche" and folks have built very successful products and services just by attending to these 'small' niche markets.

The problem for developers is that customers tend to attribute a "less-than-optimal" user experience with the products, services, and companies that deliver them -- rather than technical limitations, or some other related factor. Budgets and deadlines don't necessarily account for this, and it quickly becomes a lose, lose, lose situation for all involved (i.e.: customer, designer/developer, product/service). Even worse, it's difficult to rectify or fix a bad User Experience after the fact.

Here are some examples... When I Drop a site into my Plum, I have to do it more than once -- even after logging in to my Plum account for that session. I also wind up with a bunch of windows that don't seem to relate to the Drop and things get messy quickly. Even worse, I could not even log in to my Blogger account to create this post in Opera because the login form didn't even show up!

What ever happened to the idea of graceful degradation for browsers that don't work the way things have been designed? Are we missing opportunities by just counting numbers when we segment off and alienate portions of our customer base because of technical limitations or design oversight? I think it's something like seven times more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one happy.

Got thoughts? Got a pulse?

What Side Is The Gas Tank On?

101_6903Well, is there any correlation between dashboard icons and your gas tank? NO! And why do we put up with this kind of poor design as consumers? Unfortunately, this kind of lackluster and "broken" design is commonplace and is frequently overlooked, and accepted — if it's even noticed...

I stumbled across this post on Core77 (a great design blog) the other day, and had to check my car just to be sure. As many of the comments show, this is just wrong.

101_6900The iconography on the dash has little or nothing to do with which side of your vehicle the gas tank is on. Unless it's a Ford. My Ford Explorer has an arrow to indicate which side you fill-up on which is really helpful.

At least on many computer systems, web sites, and software applications — the iconography is far more consistent, conventional, and helps the consumer use the product — and isn't that the point?

October 26, 2007: Now there's NO excuse.

On October 26th. Apple will release the long awaited "OS X Leopard" with more than 300+ new features. Now there will be no acceptable excuse for not getting a Mac. Or, at least I can't think of any that would be valid...

Find out more at Apple.

Vector logos galore (sort of)....

Wish I knew about this site before starting my adidas desktop wallpapers! Check it out...


Ten Years After.

NH Visitor GuidesAfter a recent camping trip, I was gathering some of the stuff that had accumulated in the truck, and adding it to a similar pile of stuff in the basement. I realized that I had two visitor guides from the same place--the White Mountains in New Hampshire--but they were from 1997, and 2007! It just struck me as kinda cool... I know we've been heading north for a while, but it was neat to have the same map from ten years ago. We'd been there before, and without intention, happened to go again exactly ten years after.

The designs are very similar and consistent, and not a lot has changed on the new one--take a look and see how many things you notice that are the same and how many improvements have been made.

NH Visitor GuidesIt's really nice to take the family up north--especially in the fall to do some "leaf peepin'", or Apple picking. This area is really "family oriented" with so many things to do it would be hard to get bored. The prices are more reasonable than other New England states as well, not to mention the lack of sales tax (and lack of income tax) which gives you at least 5% more purchase power.

If you get a chance to visit New England, I strongly suggest a visit to the White Mountains! New Hampshire has so much to offer. It's definitely one of my favorite states for so many reasons. I like the color red, it's bold and upbeat. I really believe in freedom, liberty, and leadership by example. Add to all of this the most widely known and best state motto in the Union, "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." And then there's the New Hampshire state slogan which sums it all up, "You're Going to Love it Here."

My Favorite Color Is The Blues.

My Favorite Color Is The Blues.Wow! Pandora does it again! They've rolled-out another stellar series of amazing musical moments with their Free Pandora Video Series.

Seems like they've got a rainbow of great stuff up their sleeves, and they've decided to start in the key of "C" for Chicago, and in my favorite color, the blues. Take a sneak-peek below at one of the first in the series from Buddy Guy's Legends.

A Box Becomes a Home.

Click to see more of my Flickr stuff...Finally catching-up and getting control over my "in-box onslaught" this morning. I love trees, and while reading this week's mailer from Team TreeHugger, I came across this really neat article post.

It's a cool renovation of a very small 40's "boxhouse" home. The materials used, overall design (John Pyatt, Pyatt Studio), and prefab implementation are extremely exciting and compelling. What a cool project... Seems like Colorado has got it's groove on lately.

Simplicity, complexity, John Maeda & design.

Take a look and listen to this TED Talk by John Maeda. In it, he discusses daily life, technology, and design -- all mixed together with topical points of complexity and simplicity from the perspective of design and how it relates to daily life. His talk is engaging, and the examples are funny and well-worth the watch.

His new book Laws of Simplicity presents ten rules and three keys to working and living simply -- in the talk he brings it down to just one simple way to be...

Elegant Simplicity.

> Watch this talk on

One person at a time.

101_6471 I went to the Somerville Theatre this evening to join in on the Pandora Get-Together and it was a blast. Well over a hundred people were there for an engaging Q&A with Tim Westergren. Seemed like a wide range of folks in the bunch. Everyone had at least one thing in common. We all love music.

Music lovers, aficionados, connoisseurs, and musicians showed-up to discuss Pandora, technology, music in general, and the music industry. What a great night!

101_6470 Music changes the world, one person at a time. I'm listening to Anthony Hamilton Sailin' Away as I write this. Check my Pandora profile to see and hear what I'm listening to when you read this.

Got a tune stuck in your head? What's your favorite band or musician? Who you listening to?

Today's UD-WOTD is just great!

August 24


The opposite of emasculate. To grow one's balls back after they have been shrunken by an especially effeminate activity.

God, the girlfriend dragged me to go see License to Wed... it was terrible. I had to remasculate afterwards by watching Die Hard: The Bloody Retribution.

I'm waiting to see my submissions show up and I'll let you know if/when they do. Hang in there, "put your helmet on," and keep your eyes peeled! ;-)

> > > Urban Dictionary - Do your part to define your world...

Woof, Woof!

The "HTML Dog" is probably the best reference site I've ever used over the years. Just what you need, and just enough to keep you coding along...

I strongly recommend his book "XHTML & CSS" as well. Why bother memorizing all this stuff -- just visit "The HTML Dog". Plenty of bark with just enough bite!

> > > Take the HTML Dog for a walk and see for yourself.

It's ALL about the USER, right?

I just stumbled across an interesting article (Yahoo! News) that seems to focus on the issue of the importance of UX (User Experience) and customer satisfaction. Take a gander at the article and see what you think...

> > > Yahoo edges Google in user satisfaction survey

The article is proof-positive that these days attending to the user experience is critical to product success and user adoption. User satisfaction and a positive user experience can separate your product from it's competition, give you immediate as well as long-term advantages in the race towards success, and build a strong foundation for customer loyalty.

I use both Yahoo! and Google's products, and I feel there are benefits to both. I am loyal to, and use both both of them daily -- but for different reasons. Which is better? For me it depends on what you're trying to achieve. I think Google's better from the stand-point that they have a "suite of tools" that work together well. I can get a lot done in a short amount of time using my "Google apps". Whereas, I prefer the look and feel of Yahoo!'s email client, but the general process-flows are kludgey and tend to drag because of their onslaught of advertising. Both Yahoo! and Google tools tend to pop me into far too many windows. Google's got a far better account creation flow, and the process is simple, painless -- and it works. Yahoo!'s account creation can be painful. I recently tried to help my daughter set-up a Flickr account (owned by Yahoo!) so we could share photos, but we were left scratching our heads trying to figure out why we weren't able to do so (we kept getting errors), and we were left with a less-than-optimal user experience.

It's becoming increasingly clear that a positive user experience can be an obvious differentiator when traveling the road to product adoption and long-term success. Customer satisfaction can also have a direct effect on the bottom-line.

Ultimately, it's all about the user. What are your thoughts?

Why do I love Twitter?

I love Twitter [] first and foremost because I am a twit. Yes I am and that's okay.

I love twitter because it forces the writer to be clear, concise, and get to the point. I also love it's "stream of conscious", fragmented style of prose. I love it because it helps people communicate. I really like it's simplicity. It's non-judgmental, and friendly.

Most of all, I like it because it's priceless. It's also free, and that's good too.

Thanks for reading.

100% Natural Computing?

Check out this... um, "earth friendly" computer stuff. Here's a really nice quiet wooden desk - Rusty's Quiet In-Desk PC, and A Real Beaver Case Mod for the hunter in you, or The Real Mouse, Mouse (this is just nasty). Who needs pets when you've got these nifty computer gadgets!

Here's one for folks on the go. This is my favorite find the Legnatile, by Zaverio. They make wooden desktop PC cases, handmade wooden laptops and other stuff in an ancient laboratory.

Photoshop World 2007: Guru's Gone Wild!

101_5124Photoshop World 2007
Hyne's Convention Center
Boston, Ma. April 4-7th.

Wow, what an intense bunch of goodness! I was incredibly pumped when I logged into my iStockphoto account last week and noticed a posting from Jokia for 5 FREE passes to Photoshop World 2007. I quickly fed my account with some points so I could send an iStockphoto email, just to give it the "Collegiate try" and see if I could get my greasy hands on a pass... I sent the email and went on to grab a few images for the mockup I was working on and didn't think much more of it.

101_5081101_5082A short time later I saw an email drop into my iStockphoto inbox -- it was Jokia and she had one pass left if I wanted it -- I replied with a resounding YES INDEED! Jokia is amazing, and I swung by their booth to meet her and thank her in person during the Tech Expo. She even had a t-shirt for me, and iStockphoto has earned a customer for life!

iStock Rocks
I give iStockphoto two thumbs-up and highly recommend their service over the competition. 101_5069 The user experience is the best I've encountered for even more expensive services (no need to list 'em here). They have a lot of really well done features that make sorting through thousands of stock photo, illustrations, composite images, icon sets, and even video clips really effortless and fast. I could go on, but you really should give it a whirl and see for yourself...

This is an example of 'being in it to win it', and I'm glad I try to stay on top of all the new services, cool offerings, and web sites popping-up out there on a regular basis. This time, I was in the right place at the right time...

ptamaroMiscStuffApril'07I took as many photos of the event as I could, and I have to say I've been overwhelmed by just how much stuff was covered. I registered quickly and started delving-in to as many classes as possible. My brain was like an over saturated sponge in just a short time, and I could feel the weight of the tome they doled-out to each attendee filled with tutorials and notes of all of the Conference presentations.

101_5062Weighing-in at over 2 lbs. and comprised of more than 765 pages, it's big! The only unfortunate thing is that the book is printed in B&W... go figure. It's literally a cornucopia of goodies, tips, tricks and techniques. Jam-packed full of yummy photoshop, illustration, and digital photography inspiration with gurus galore.

Here are some photos from Wednesday...


    And here's most of my day...
  • Morning sessions
    Things got whipped-up into a frenzy quickly with Jack Davis, Wow! Then I Dave Cross add Finishing Touches

  • Tech Expo
    Crowd shots, and booths. Feeling a little like the old days, but different just the same

  • Lunch time
    I had lunch at the Pour House, and watched part of the Manchester United game

  • Afternoon
    I was able to catch a Bert session on "Illustrator & Photoshop" after watching him make magic for just under an hour.
    Bert Monroy is God!
    "And on the eighth day, Bert made the universe as we now experience it today."
    - Book of Palm, Genesis; 36:34:36

  • Wrap up
    Feeling a bit rushed, and after , and then a good chunk of "Visual Effects" with Corey barker

If you're able to get to Photoshop World, you'll enjoy it for sure. Here's some stuff I was inspired to churn out in my Flickr, and I'm hoping to do more soon. Stay tuned...