Adventures in Nomadic Serendipity
Just because there is a beaten path, that doesn't mean you have to take it...
Recent Entries 
19th-Jan-2014 12:39 am - Hello LJ....
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Just a quick post to say "Hi" - who is still hanging around here?
17th-Oct-2012 01:26 am - I Miss LiveJournal
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After watching the debate tonight, I was flashing back to four years ago when we worked on the Obama campaign, and I searched back to re-read some of my LJ posts from the time - especially my politics tag: http://radven.livejournal.com/tag/politics

Reading some of the old posts made me realize how much I miss LiveJournal.

I can't believe I haven't posted since April.

Hmmmm.
1st-Apr-2012 11:17 pm - Hashing / Sixth Nomadiversary
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Another year on the road has flown by - today is my sixth nomadiversary.

I posted some reminiscing here: www.technomadia.com/2012/04/sixth-nomadiversary/

We are right now staying in Cedar Key, FL - an absolutely amazing place. It is one of the few places I've encountered in my years traveling that I could actually imagine buying property. Not to settle down - but as an ideal nomadic port.

A impromptu convergence of other nomads has been happening here - it has been great to hang out with so many folks with similar and yet so different backgrounds.

Today two of the nomads who have been a part of Camp Nomadia at Burning Man in the past decided to run a hash for the rest of us here in Cedar Key.

The Hash House Harriers proudly describe themselves as a "drinking club with a running problem" - and there were plenty of beer and raunchy drinking songs to go around. Today we had a four mile run with pre and post-race beer provided, and two beer stops along the way... It was a blast.

And... The whole experience actually flashed me back to when I was 10'ish years old, and living in Indonesia!

There was actually a HHH group that used to run through the jungles around Duri in Sumatra where my dad was working as an engineer for Caltex... I remember getting to actually lay out the Hash trail (which always includes some tricky false trails) once or twice, and running along several times. And I recall being amused at the way the adults made such a fuss about racing through the jungle to find some beer.

I never would have imagined that I'd find myself hashing nearly 30 years later!

It turns out Hashing was actually started by expatriates in Malaysia, and it had spread around the world in the late 70's and 80's. I had always assumed that it was unique to our jungle camps.

But the "drink it down down down down" song flashed me way way back.

Only on today's hash, I didn't have to dodge any elephant poop!
31st-Jan-2012 12:25 pm - Designer Handbags!?!? Really?!!?
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As I mentioned in my prior post, I will soon be turning off anonymous commenting here.

Purging my "to screen" inbox of all the accumulated spam, I can't help but notice that a huge bulk of it lately is relating to various brands of designer handbags. Dozens of comments in the past week alone, on various completely unrelated ancient LiveJournal posts.

Designer handbags??!?

Why on earth would my journal be a target for handbag spam? Tech geekery spam, maybe. But handbags?!!?

*grrrr*
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I've always allowed for anonymous comments on my LiveJournal because I occasionally get a great reply from someone who doesn't have a LJ account, or who prefers to be anonymous. Anonymous rocks.

But spammers have killed Anonymous.

A few years ago the comment spam got to the point that I started to screen all anonymous posts, so none of them ever make it out to the live web. But for whatever reason, that spam load has only increased. And even on this mostly dormant journal, I am now seeing multiple spam comments per day. *ugh*

So - a week from now, I am going to permanently turn off anonymous commenting.

But until then, here's one last public post to reply to...

A few months ago I suffered a major HD crash that happened to coincide with my getting a new laptop. Rather than restore from backups, I took it as a sign from the universe to do a manual rebuild of all my bookmarks, reading lists, address book, and so on.

My old address book was full of names and numbers of people I can barely remember meeting - many with nothing more than email addresses listed at companies that no longer even exist. My LiveJournal friend's page is full of screen names that I've forgotten entirely the context for, and my FaceBook is an overwhelming jumble of barely acquaintances drowning out the people I actually want to invest more in getting to know.

My monkey sphere is overflowing!

To repopulate my address book, I made a friends-locked post on LiveJournal at the time offering up all my current contact info, and asking for the contact info from anyone who is still tracking me in reply.

Now, before I close of anonymous commenting for good, here is a public (and slightly redacted) version of that same request.

If your still connected enough to me to be reading this, I want to be connected with you as well. And I want to know all your latest data.

Where do you hang out online? Where do you hang out in the real world? And where on earth or online did we first cross paths? Let's reconnect the contexts of the past and present.

If you want in my address book, my browser bookmarks, my RSS feed, or my LJ actively reading list, please let me know as much of the following as you would like to share:
  • Name:
  • Nyms:
  • Email:
  • Phone:
  • Physical Addresses:
  • Virtual Addresses:
  • Past Addresses / Employers: (Where might we have crossed paths?)
  • Preferred Communications Methods:
  • Etc?
Replies to this post (on LiveJournal at least) will be screened so that no one but me will see your details. Or feel free to email me directly instead of replying here.

And to update your own files, here are my details:

Name: Chris Dunphy
Playa Name / Burning Man: "Seeder"
Online Handles: "Radven" / "RenDevang" --- The FAQ of where these handles came from is written here.

Primary Email: chris@radven.net
Aliases: chris@technomadia.com, chris@twostepsbeyond.com (primarily for work / consulting projects)
Other addresses: us@technomadia.com -- Goes to both Cherie and I.
Obsolete Addresses: Too many to list...

Phone: +1-408-667-9022 (mobile / iPhone)

Physical Address: 1961 GM PD-4106 Bus (frequently changes state)
Mailing Address: *redacted from public post*

Virtual Addresses:
Primary Online Home: www.technomadia.com -- My joint travel / technology blog with Cherie. The best place to learn where I am and what I am up to.
Personal Website: www.radven.net // www.radven.com -- Personal web pages, desperately in need of major updating.
LiveJournal: radven.livejournal.com -- My primary personal blogging outlet, though I've only rarely posted here in a long while.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/chris.dunphy -- Now that the iOS app is actually decent, I'll probably hang out here a bit more. But FaceBook always leaves me craving more depth - the kind that LiveJournal used to be overflowing with.
Google Plus: Chris Dunphy -- Is this worth investing time in?
Twitter: www.twitter.com/radven (no longer reposts to FaceBook automatically…)
Linked-In: www.linkedin.com/in/chrisdunphy (Not sure what to do with this site…)
Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/radven (Not updated in a while, but I think I will refresh this….)
SmugMug: technomadia.smugmug.com (The most recent Technomadia photo albums are here…) *canceled*

I am also on FourSquare, Gowalla, Path, Instagram, Color and a bunch of other faddish social and photo-sharing sites. I don't spend a lot of effort on any of them, but if I had more connections to play with, perhaps it would be worthwhile.

Past Employers: (in chronological order)
  • Washington University, St. Louis, MO.
  • Imagine Publishing / 'boot' Magazine - Brisbane, CA
  • Rendition (3D graphics company) - Silicon Valley
  • Eazel (Linux Startup) - Silicon Valley
  • Amiga (Ill-fated Gateway spinoff) - San Jose, CA
  • Palm / PalmSource - Silicon Valley (and all around the world as a globe-trotting corporate spy and company spokesmodel…)
  • Two Steps Beyond - My consulting business with Cherie.  We also develop a few mobile apps for travelers.
Past Homes: (in reverse chronological order)
  • Technomadically Roaming North America (5+ years now!)
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Black Rock City, NV (for a week each year, almost every year since '99)
  • Boulder Creek, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • St. Louis, MO (college)
  • Miami, FL (high school)
  • Southern New Jersey / Philadelphia
  • Duri, Sumatra, Indonesia (3rd - 6th grades…)
Chat Methods:
  • iMessage: chris@radven.net -- If you have an iOS 5 device, this rocks as a way to chat without the cost or limitations of SMS.
  • FaceTime: chris@radven.net
  • Skype: radven
  • AIM: RenDevang
  • Yahoo Messanger: RenDevang
  • Google Talk: radven@gmail.com
More Apple Geekery:
I am experimenting with the iOS GameCenter as "radven". Friend me there and challenge me to a game.
I am also using Apple's Friend Finder, so if you are a close enough friend to want to share your location - friend me at "chris@radven.net" and we can track each other.


If there is anything else you want to know about me (to perhaps piece together where we met or what we have in common), please ask!

And as I mentioned above - all replies to this post (on LiveJournal) are being screened, so only I will see what you write.

Reconnection time!!!  

Is there anybody out there???
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We absolutely love Millenicom - and have long recommended them as the best deal out there for technomadic connectivity.

Which is why it pains me to give this warning -- don't be tempted by the new Millenicom 4G Hotspot Plan. In fact - avoid it.

Millenicom resells Verizon and Sprint service under their own name. Millenicom's Advanced Plan is actually the exact same coverage and speed as Verizon 3G, but instead of 5GB a month you get 20GB, for just $60/month, with no contract!

Millenicom's Unlimited Plan is actually Sprint service in disguise, but you get essentially unlimited 3G for just $70/month, also with no contract.

Millenicom's newest plan, the 3G/4G Hotspot Plan seems to be an equally impressive deal, $80/month for 10GB of Verizon's insanely fast 4G, and with the current early bird special the price drops to $70/month, and you get an additional 10GB of 3G data, for 20GB total. And again, with no nefarious two year contract to sign.

It seems like a great deal, particularly compared to what Verizon offers.

But...

The plan is great. The hardware it comes with is, frankly, crap.

The Samsung SCH-LC11 4G / WiFi Hotspot that Millenicom offers is an absolute dud of a product, and after having spent a month pulling our hair out and cursing it, we wouldn't wish it upon an enemy.

The first SCH-LC11 that Millenicom sent us was DOA. It wouldn't turn on no matter what we did.

We were disappointed, especially because we had paid for express shipping to get the hotspot in time to demonstrate during our workshop on living on the road at the Choo Choo Bus Rally. But I've worked in the tech industry long enough to understand that an occasional dud slips through. So we arranged for Millenicom to swap out our DOA unit for another one.

When that one arrived, wow, it was FAST! The wireless 4G speeds at my parent's place was actually faster than their home wired internet service, especially for uploads.

But... Every 30 minutes or so, the connection would slow to a halt, and one of us would have to get up and forcibly reset the modem.

Over and over and over again.

It was unusably frustrating. No matter what we did, if both of us were online at the same time, the modem would lock up within an hour or two, and usually sooner than that. (It worked much better when only one person was connected, but that defeats the entire point of a Hotspot!)

I spent hours chatting with Millenicom's excellent support, and researching every possible fix I could find. I found a major firmware update released in August that according to reports online upgraded the SCH-LC11 from unusable to just bad, but for us it only helped some (and it required setting up a Windows partition and working through an overly complex 14 step upgrade procedure to install too!).

I checked the Samsung SCH-LC11 reviews on Amazon, and discovered that similar problems with this Hotspot are widespread. Then we heard that our friend Karen had also given up and sent her SCH-LC11 back in frustration for the same crazy-making connection dropping reasons. The problem isn't just limited to us.

I tracked down Samsung's SCH-LC11 Support Page (it is filed as a phone, making the page hard to find). The page actually tells you to "Call : 1-888-987-HELP" for assistance.

But... Once you manage to get through to a real human being, the Samsung rep informs you that they do not offer any support for the SCH-LC11 (then why is there a phone number??!!?) and that you have to deal directly with the carrier. Meanwhile, Millenicom is agreeing with me and saying that it is clearly a Samsung issue. Circles!

I vent my frustration on Twitter, and I do hear back from @samsungsupport, telling me to download the firmware I had already tried. And eventually, promising that someone would contact me. After several days, someone does - who then tries to run me through the same basic troubleshooting steps (take the battery out, factory reset the settings, etc...) that I had been through a dozen times already. When I tried to get any sort of official statement from Samsung about the issues and whether or not any future fix is planned, I was told that someone higher up would call me back ASAP.

It has been weeks, and that hasn't happened. At least as of two days ago @samsungsupport is "still looking into it"...
In our opinion, Millenicom should not have ever offered this modem for sale - they should have held off offering any 4G plan until they had a more reliable modem to offer.

When it comes to connectivity, reliability is WAY MORE IMPORTANT than speed.

Fortunately Millenicom made it easy for us to send the 4G Hotspot back, and they reactivated our 3G Advanced Plan.

After the month of 4G frustration and constant modem reboots, the last few weeks have been heaven. Our connection has been up and solid and has not dropped for days on end.

It is so nice when technology actually works!

Note: A shorter and somewhat different variant of this rant is also posted over on technomadia.com.
29th-Nov-2011 12:10 pm - The Space Coast Half-Marathon
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Space Coast Marathon Finisher MedalsLast year while in St. John I decided on the spur of the moment to give a 38th birthday present to my body, running in the island's "Turkey Day 5K" on Thanksgiving morning (also my birthday). It was my first organized run (not counting the very informal Black Rock City 5k!), and it was rather exciting (and a bit intimidating) to run in an event with 70+ other runners.

At the time running a full 5k was a challenge. A year earlier, before Cherie had introduced me to the Couch-To-5K training program, it would have seemed a laughable impossibility.

A few months later, I was actually up for the challenge of running St. John's notorious 8 Tuff Miles race up and over the island we were living on. It was the greatest physical challenge of my life, and an incredible experience.

Over the chaos of the past six months adapting to bus life, I hadn't kept up much with running... Just enough to know that I was still able to handle a 5K without too much trouble, and perhaps a long slow 10K too.

But I was certainly feeling out of practice, and heavier too.

Now that we are stopped in FL for a while, it seemed like a good time to get back into shape, and back into running.

Just over a week ago I found a calendar of local running events, thinking that perhaps I might find another Thanksgiving morning run, and maybe this year conquer an organized 10K as a birthday challenge to myself.

But instead of a simple Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, I found that the biggest event of the local running calendar was just 8 days away - the 40th Annual Space Coast Marathon & Half-Marathon!

*gulp*

After having proven to myself that I could do "8 Tuff Miles", the idea of a half marathon seemed at least conceivable - and I had started contemplating perhaps entering the Disney Half Marathon in January. But that was well over a month away, and this was barely over a week. Was I up for it, having not trained?

When I told Cherie about my idea for a 39th birthday gift to my body, she encouraged me. And when we determined that the event was walker compatible, she then surprised me by saying that she was up for entering as well.

Yep, we are both slightly crazy.

Last Sunday late afternoon we went out and each did 10K (her walking, me running) to prove to ourselves we were up for it. We were - and I surprised myself by actually managing my fastest ever 10K time with a 6.44 mile run at a 12'05"/mi pace.

Registering for the Space Coast Half MarathonSo Monday morning, we both registered.

We were going to do a half marathon! 13.1 miles!! And it was less than a week away!!!

Thursday (Thanksgiving) morning I set out to do another training run, and this time I ran an entire half-of-a-half-marathon, doing 6.63 miles at a new record paces of 11'55"/mi. It was exhausting, but I did it.

I figured if I could run the first half on Sunday and then walk the rest, I'd be happy. My reach goal would be to run the entire thing, but I wasn't really planning on it. That was just so far beyond anything I had ever done before...

Particularly when a bruise on my foot started to act up Friday and Saturday - leaving me hobbling and wondering whether I might be able to finish the race at all. Perhaps two 10K's in such a short span of time was too much training too fast.

Sunday Morning:
The worst thing about running events is getting up well before dawn.

Our 4:15AM alarm and the double backups did their job, and we managed a groggy yet nervous 30 min drive up to the starting line in Cocoa Village. Despite being well before dawn, the entire area was mobbed with people, and the closest parking we found was blocks away.

We ran into an old friend of Cherie's, and together we all lined up towards the rear of the crowd with all the walkers. Though I was intending to keep a faster pace (you line up according to your hoped for finishing time), I wanted to start the race together.

This was a big event - over 900 registered for the marathon, and over 2,000 registered for the half. It was by far a much bigger production than the 880 that ran 8 Tuff Miles. We were swimming in a sea of people, some of them running in costume even.

Being the "Space Coast Marathon", of course the race started with a countdown, with a shuttle launch video synchronized onto the jumbotron over the starting line.

It was so far away, we could barely see it.

And by the time our section of crowd actually shuffled to cross the starting line to begin the race, I'm sure the shuttle was in orbit. It took nearly 7 minutes!

Course Description:
"This is one of the most unique running and walking events in the country! As our race is held within the shadow of the Kennedy Space Center, the entire event revolves around a space theme sure to delight and energize our participants. Experience one of the most beautiful waterfront courses on the east coast. 14 “space” themed aid stations along a partially shaded mostly flat course. A USATF certified course and a great Boston qualifier!"

My Race Experience...
Space Coast Half Marathon CourseOn a map, the race route looks extremely dull, with barely a curve and the entire route is essentially completely flat. The marathoners run north 6.5 miles, turn around, run south 13 miles, then turn north again and run back 6.5 miles. The half-marathoners are running the same course, only they start off heading south. Everyone starts and finishes together.

But the entire route is right along the waterfront, in front of beautiful homes and with lots of lush vegetation and trees everywhere.

It was absolutely gorgeous to watch the sun slowly rise over the water as I swam downstream in a flowing river of people. There was a strong breeze, but it was always from the side making it refreshing. And there was very little direct sunlight - the day was nicely overcast, and much of the course was shaded too.

It really was a stupendously beautiful course to run.

I was very pleased to discover that my bruised foot didn't seem to bother me while running. It hurt to walk, but not to run - lucky me!

I had been contemplating going for speed, and trying to set a new personal best for the first half of the race. But, well, this is a marathon after all. So instead I focused on keeping my pace as steady and consistent as I could - mostly avoiding the temptation to sprint when my favorite run-fast songs played.

It worked. And... I actually managed to RUN the ENTIRE race!

To keep myself motivated, I kept mentally breaking the race into chunks... The first 5K I knew I could do. During the next 5K I saw the police motorcycle escort for the half marathon leader (he finished in 1hr 17min!) heading the other way, and it was inspiring to start watching the ever increasing stream of elite runners flowing back towards the finish.

There was a water station roughly every mile, and some of them were decorated quite cleverly, and all were staffed with very enthusiastic volunteers. One had a band setup (on break both times I passed, sadly), and the one near the turnaround point was a big Parrothead themed party underway.

I really enjoyed running past a marching band performing.

Once I reached the turnaround and started heading back the other way, during the next third of the race I started keeping an eye out for Cherie. We found each other and snagged a kiss over the centerline. Awesome!

Once I crossed the 8-mile point I was in virgin territory, having never run this far before. But I was feeling great.

The marathoners were now flowing steadily the other direction, and the lead (who finished the marathon in 2:37!) had just passed me with his police motorcycle escort. I liked having both races overlapping - it kept things interesting, and it was inspiring to see the more experienced runners both going and coming. I was really impressed with the official pace runners, who were running holding up signs with their target finishing times so that others could match them.

Near mile 10, I started to get excited. Actually running the entire race seemed possible now.
It was around this point that a woman ran up beside me and signaled me to flash her.

What???

I pulled off my earphones, and she explained that she had seen me pick up my pace from a mid 12 min/mile pace to well under 11 min/mile, and that she thought I was overheating. She told me to lift up my shirt to cool down, and to run with my hands over my head a while.

When I told her I had never run this far before, she coached me some, and told me it was very late in a race to change pace so substantially. I tried to explain that it is impossible to not sprint when "Kickstart My Heart" comes on, but ultimately I thanked her for her coaching, and settled back into a steady pace.

Mile 11 and 12 seemed to get ever longer, and I was starting to feel tired, sore, and hungry. But overall, not too bad. The 13th mile seemed to last forever, but then at last the end was in sight!

And then the finish!
The finish involves running a circular route around the park, lined with spectators.

As soon as I cross the finish line, a gauntlet of volunteers handed me a (very hefty!) finisher's medal, a commemorative beach towel, a commemorative patch, and a soaking wet rag to cool off with. At that moment, the rag was my favorite thing ever.

The nearby jugs full of ice cold water were my next favorite.

Once I caught my breath, a woman came up and asked me what it was like running in Vibram Five Fingers. I told her I loved them - they really are incredible to run in. When I told her that this had been my first Half Marathon, and that it was my 39th birthday gift to my body - she told me she had run her first full marathon for her 40th, and asked if I was planning that.

*gulp*

Uhm, I hadn't even been planning a half marathon 8 days ago!!!

But... Well, at least the thought of a marathon seems imaginable now. But not right now. At the moment, I'm more concerned with the thought of cooling off and with finding some of the free pizza and pancakes waiting for finishers in the park.

Cherie - Almost Finished!!I texted Cherie to let her know I was done, and checked in on her location via our iPhone's Friend Finder. It looked like she was doing fabulously, and she messaged back that she was "Nearing mile 11!"

Yay!

I grabbed some food and rested a while, and when it looked like Cherie was getting close I managed to stand up (owww!) and started walking back along the course her way.

At this point, a couple runs past towards the finish holding hands, and one of them turns towards me and exclaims "Hey, Technomadia!" as they go by. I only got the briefest glimpse of them (and mostly from behind), but I was shocked to be recognized in a crowd by someone running past who was just finishing a 13.1 mile run. Who was it?? A blog reader? I still have no idea!

I positioned myself at the end of the street before the final turn towards the finish line, and kept up watch for Cherie. Soon I saw her, and I managed to grab another smooch as she came around the corner. I cut her off again at the 13 mile flag at the entrance to the final spiral, and then cut across the park to be there for her as she crossed the finish line - totally rocking it and with a huge smile on her face.

Afterwards...
We found a shady spot in the park, and Cherie showed me the Texas-sized blisters on her heels. It was as if she were trying to grow her own fluid-filled gel cushion inserts! Ouch!!!

I let her rest her sore feet, and went off to fetch her a plate of eggs and some Natalie's OJ (yumm!!).

We rested together for a while, and then hobbled the many blocks to where we had left the car. It seemed a much shorter distance five hours ago!

We came home and napped, showered, and then had to clean house... We were having an "open bus" that afternoon, with Cherie's folks and various friends coming over to see our new home on wheels. We didn't have much chance to rest, but we had an awesome time being social and showing off our bus.

What a long day!!!


The Results:
Looking at the official results, I finished 1,652nd out of 2,186 competitors. My official finishing time was 2:49:50, with an average pace of 12:58/mile. I ran the first 5K in 36:57, 10K in 1:15:22, and 15K in 1:56:32. In my division (male, 35 - 39) I was 97th out of 110.

But the important thing was that I had accomplished my goal of finishing, and not only finished, but actually ran the entire way. Wow. I still can hardly believe it.

Looking at my GPS log afterwards - I am amazed at how steady I managed to be, slowing down somewhat in the end, but overall performing amazingly consistently.

If I had sprinted more, I don't think I would have been able to run the whole thing. It's probably a good thing that the woman near mile 11 asked me to flash...

The race was a very different sort of challenge than 8 Tuff Miles. Obviously, the 1,000 ft mountain in the middle of it made each of the Tuff miles much much tougher (both up and down), but there were substantially more miles to deal with here.
We Win!

I am thrilled to have conquered both challenges this year, and actually excited about taking on another half marathon sometime during the coming year - ideally with a bit more training time next time!

As for a marathon on my 40th birthday....

Uhm, ask me again in 50 weeks or so!
23rd-Jun-2011 11:34 am - Bus Training
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Life has been an adventure since we returned from the Virgin Islands in April.

Quick Highlights:
We started in Florida visiting family and moving back into our Oliver that had been stored for the past five months at a friend's place. We had no idea what was next for us, other than that we were looking for a new adventure and that we would be open to selling our Oliver sometime within the next year once we had found what was next.

Open the door, and the universe comes knocking... We got a surprise offer that was too good to pass up, so on May 6th we drove up to Virginia and sold our truck and Oliver trailer, leaving ourselves very literally homeless.

We then set off in a borrowed Winnebago Le'Sharo RV to move our stuff (and our cat) to temporary storage at my folk's place in St. Louis. The voyage of the Le'Sharo was rather epic, and I wrote an extremely entertaining blog post about our adventures overcoming the challenges.

In part inspired by our friend Ben and his Creative Cruiser project, we decided to seek out a vintage bus to make our next home. We toured several buses while heading across country in the Le'Sharo, and then we set off with a month long Amtrak rail pass for a cross country train adventure, with the hope that a bus we had our eye on in Oregon would prove to be ideal.

For the past month we have been homeless backpackers, sleeping on trains, couches, and at motels. It has been a blast.

The bus in Oregon didn't work out (but it is an ideal bus for Burning Man - let me know if you know anyone who might be interested!), so we headed south to the land of little rust - Arizona.

Little rust, and extreme heat. We've been roaming the desert in 110+ degree heat, touring hot metal cans that were often literally too hot to touch.

But our hunt paid off!

Yesterday, we purchased a 1961 GM PD-4106 tour bus that had been lovingly converted into an RV in 1989. You can read more and see some photos here.

She needs new wheels and tires and bunches of other work, but overall she seems like an amazing find.

We are HOME again. *grin*
1st-Apr-2011 05:39 pm - My Fifth Nomadiversary
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Today is my fifth Nomadiversary.

I've now spent five years on the road without a fixed address, never even knowing particularly far in advance where I'll be headed next.

It has been a great ride.

But we all know that every nomad is just searching for the right place to settle down, and the past five months living in paradise here in the Virgin Islands have been a great taste of that. This is the place for us, though we've kept our intentions secret not wanting to undermine our credibility at SXSW or jinx our secret plans until we had something firm to announce.

But everything has suddenly fallen into place, and today, on my fifth Nomadiversary, it seems like a fitting day to announce some big life changing news...

We're buying a three bedroom condo on St Thomas!!!condos

We'll be heading back to Florida next week to sell off the remnants of our mobile life, and then we'll be heading back to the Virgin Islands in May to begin our fixed life existence!

We are so looking forward to the challenges of filling three bedrooms of space - we are thinking to use one of the spare bedrooms as an office, and the other will double as a guest room and a library. There is a nice huge living room perfect for a big screen TV and surround sound, and there is lots of great neutrally colored wall space to start covering up with fashionable art prints.

Solaris - Brickell CondoThere is no view, or backyard, and sadly only a one car garage. But just five minutes down the road we can see the ocean, and from the overlook we can see all the cruise ships docked in Charlotte Amalie.

We picked St. Thomas over St. John because we could get a better deal on a bigger condo (bigger is better!), and we can always commute via ferry to St. John if we crave some snorkeling or hiking in the National Park. Living in the Virgin Islands long term, we wouldn't want to be too far away from fast food and K-Mart and the other modern luxuries that are only found on St. Thomas. You can only go so long without McDonalds and Pizza Hut.

In St Thomas I'll also have a better chance of finding a 9-to-5 job so that I can transition away from the unpredictable rhythms of being self employed. Ideally I'll find a job involving some sort of cubicle.

I really miss cubicles.

Ahem... As if.

Me, buying a condo?!!? Shoot me first!

Nine to five job?!! Even when I technically had one, I never worked anything resembling regular hours.

I have had a history of some pretty awesome cubicles though. A few of them even had some natural light exposure.

In other words...

After five years on the road, there is still no end in sight.

When I set out on April 1st 2006 it was without a clear plan, other than that I wanted to explore making nomadism a fulfilling life, and not a "trip" with some particular destination or end-point in mind.Chris @ Home

I set out trusting in Nomadic Serendipity to guide my voyage.

There were however a few things I expected to accomplish within the first year on the road - in particular I expected to be visiting Alaska, and spending time camped on the beaches of Baja, Mexico.

And I still haven't made it to either place.

The one thing I did not expect to find on the road was a major life-partnership caliber relationship. But then I met Cherie within my first six months on the road, and a year later she was signing on to become a full-time nomad herself.

That is the true joy of nomadic serendipity - you never know what joys the road has in store for you. Every day has the potential to bring about some new unexpected adventure. Every year is literally a blank slate.

  • My fourth Nomadiversary  was hanging out in a Texas state park in the midst of a field of wildflowers, drinking wine, and learning iPhone programming.

  • The year before I was working on a beach in Malibu California, watching the waves crash.

  • Nomadiversary #2 was spent in Florida, helping Cherie prepare her house for sale (again), and beginning the research into our next RV - which ended up being our custom built Oliver.

  • Nomadiversary #1 was also in Florida, as Cherie and I were preparing to set out for our first trial year together on the road.


In each case, I could not have possibly predicated where I ended up the following year.

What does next year have in store for me? I still have no idea.Technomadia - Drunk Bay, St. John, USVI

I know that we'll be returning to RV'ing life in our Oliver next week when we return to Florida. But everything past the end of April is wide open and unknown. Will we keep the RV? Will we leave the country? Will we end up living on a boat? Or, will some previously unimaged opportunity strike our fancy - like this opportunity to live on St. John did?

Anything can happen. We're excited for whatever serendipity has in store for us next.

Five years.

Wow.

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A version of this was also posted at technomadia.com.

Here are a few other historical recap posts: fourth nomadiversary, third nomadiversary, and first year recap. Apparently I missed posting on nomadiversary #2...
28th-Feb-2011 02:07 am - 8 Tuff Miles
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Yesterday morning was the 8 Tuff Miles race. It was an incredible experience.

I first heard about the run back in October when we were researching heading to St. John for the winter - it was one of the major local events listed on every St. John website and calendar we found. As a still very tentative runner, the prospect of building up to this race seemed like a worthy challenge.

The thought of competing in such a demanding and organized race excited me, and also thoroughly intimidated me. Less than a year ago I never would have considered myself a "runner" of any sort, and I had never competed in a race any more organized than the "Black Rock City 5K" at Burning Man this past year.

Learning that it was officially a "Run / Walk / Jog" race took the pressure off, and Cherie and I signed up together in December. Running in the "Turkey Day 5K" and completing a few major hill-climbing hikes around the island convinced me that at the very least I should be able to finish the course in the allotted time.
A way too early start in the day!
I have no doubt that Cherie would have been up for it too - but a month or so ago she playfully responded to a Facebook update from our friend Wayne in Arizona saying that he had just had a great 8 mile run. Cherie asked if he was training for "8 Tuff Miles", and within the course of a few back-and-forth comments Wayne's wife was offering to buy him a ticket to visit us for an adventure, Cherie was offering Wayne her coveted (sold out!) place in the race, and I was offering to buy the beer. Serendipity for the win!

And then another serendipitous encounter with the organizer / founder of the race a week ago wound up with Cherie being invited to be part of the official volunteer crew. Serendipity score x2.

We had to get up extra early yesterday since Cherie was volunteering to work the SAG wagon, and needed to be at the start at 6AM.

It was great to get to the start well before sunrise when the place was nearly deserted, and to then witness the flood of a thousand racers arriving for the start. Particularly once the special ferry from St. Thomas arrived, it was a mob scene - and Cherie was in the center of the mob, collecting people's backpacks and belongings so they could pick them up at the finish.

Wayne and I wandered around, and met up with our friend Trevor from St. Thomas who was also racing. Shortly after 7AM we were all herded into the starting coral, the National Anthem was sung, and a Coast Guard rescue helicopter did a flyby. This was indeed a big production!

And then we were off!

Course Description:
"This course begins and ends at sea level. Along the way you will reach an elevation of 999 ft. There is approximately 1400 ft. of elevation gain in the first 5 1/2 miles and then it's back to sea level. The course actually measures 8 3/8 miles."

My Race Experience...
The race started at the Virgin Island National Park Visitor Center, then ran past the Mongoose Junction shopping complex, and then made a sharp left uphill. A special treat was running through the newly completed traffic circle in the heart of Cruz Bay with the Love City Pan Dragons playing a steel drum concert in the middle. And then the serious hill climbing began...

The first two miles are a steady climb up to 571 ft of elevation, with hardly any flat spots. I had learned during the training run two weeks ago that for me it was better to power-walk the steepest uphills, so this time I didn't push myself to exhaustion too quickly knowing that there was a long race ahead.

This strategy paid off - and when I got to the top I was (relatively) refreshed and energized, and the next mile was the most fun of the race. "L.A. Woman" by The Doors came on, and the driving beat of the song pushed me on at a nearly 7min/mile pace for much of the next mile, a nicely shaded and slightly downhill part of the course. I was weaving through the crowd and actually passing people - it was a blast!

The mile 3 to mile 4 segment however is a rough one, featuring a very long steep sustained climb up to 904 feet elevation. And then the next mile is the most extreme, starting with a steep downhill, followed by a climb up to the 999ft high-point (I jumped to make it 1000ft!), and then a very steep drop down to 798ft. It was on these steep downhills that I got to try out my skipping / galloping technique, and it worked as if I were hitting afterburners. I'd shoot down the steepest hills like a galloping rocket, passing people on all sides. It was exhausting, and exhilarating. And apparently very amusing for some of the other runners too - a woman at the awards ceremony later in the day said of seeing me - "We needed that!"

The next half-mile was the final climb to the Bordeaux Mountain Overlook, where the view opens up to all of Coral Bay below you. You can see all the way to the finish line. This was where the training run two weeks ago ended, and I was thrilled to check my iPhone and see that I was passing the overlook after 1hr 10min, a full 10 minutes faster than my finishing time two weeks before!

There were drummers playing at the Overlook as we ran past, and, more ominously, an ambulance loading up one of the elite runners who had pushed himself too hard. But it was all downhill from here! The end was literally in sight!

Unfortunately, though it was in sight, the finish was three miles away and 900ft down, and there was neither much shade shade nor any flat spots during the long twisty run down the mountain. And this was all new territory for me - I was now pushing further than I had ever run before. My legs and feet were certainly letting me know!

And then the finish... Chris crossing the finish line at 1 h 44 m
As I ran around the final bend and into the chute towards the finishing line, I saw by the giant clock that I just needed to push a little harder and I would be able to finish under my goal time of 1hr 45min. And I did - finishing with an official time of 1:44:40!!

Cherie (as well as folks following along on Facebook) had been using the awesome iPhone app Glympse to GPS track my progress live, so she knew exactly when I would be finishing and was able to sneak away from the SAG wagon to cheer me on. It was a thrill to see her, and to have her hugging me at the finish line. I was handed my finishers medal (a very cool bottle opener!) and t-shirt, and then I sucked down some water and dove into the fruit.

Once I had caught my breath and had the sweat out of my eyes, I met up with Wayne. He had totally rocked it - finishing in 1:12:25, just missing winning 3rd in his division by a minute! Trevor also had a great time, 1:28:03.

The elite runners though were really amazing. Seventeen men and one woman finished the course in under an hour, and the first place finisher set a new course record by finishing in just 46 minutes! That would be an amazing time even on flat terrain!!!

We also saw a different type of elite "runner" at the finishing line... We met two stumbling guys who had started the race wearing backpacks each full of 18 beers. One had managed to finish all 18 while completing the course (with three pit stops), and his friend had managed 16. I was personally amazed that they were still standing....

There was such a great mix of runners and walkers of all types. The youngest finisher was 5, and the oldest was 82. There was a whole crew of "Black Shirts" from Kentucky that came down as a group every year to race, and I think there were 30+ states and 7+ countries represented.
Wayne, Cherie & Chris - post 8 Tuff Miles.
A few other thoughts on the race...
I loved how well supported the race was, with 11 official water stations, some with orange slices (heaven!). There was even an unofficial "Beer Bong Challenge" hydration station, which I wisely skipped. The entire island of St. John really did a great job in hosting the event, even allowing the main road across the island to be (mostly) closed for three hours. I also loved all the cheering crowds and musicians playing along the course, although you could only ever hear a bit or two of any song before you ran past.

I also have to say that I was VERY impressed with my Vibram Five Finger Trek shoes. They were fabulous to run in, though I did wish a bit for more padding on the final downhill once my feet were reaching a point of serious tenderness. They were also a great conversation starter - I must have had a dozen people ask me about them while on the course and after.

Here is the playlist that kept me going as I ran:
Love City Pan Dragons Youth Steel Orchestra - Live! *grin*
Marathon - Rush
All The Way - Shakiban
Orange (Re-mastered) - Ed Alleyne-Johnson
Catch My Disease (That's The Way I Like It) - Ben Lee
L.A. Woman - The Doors ***One of the best running songs ever!!!***
Super Rad - Aquabats
Everybody (Bassnectar vs. Freq Nasty remix) - Bassnectar
A Glorious Dawn (Cosmos Remixed) - Carl Sagan & Stephen Hawking
Kid Gloves - Rush
Believe - Run Lola Run - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack *Hard not to run listening to this!*
Mysterious Ways - U2
Holiday - Green Day
Just Because - Gaia Consort3 Tuff Guys - 8 Tuff Miles  (Wayne, Chris, Trevor)
Lovers Of Light - Afro Celt Sound System
I Have My Moments - Blues Traveler
Synchronicity II - The Police
Hammer To Fall - Queen
Elevation - U2
La Villa Strangiato - Rush

Afterwards...
Once the finishing inflow had slowed to a trickle and Cherie was no longer needed as a volunteer, we took a bunch of pictures together and then headed home for lunch.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the beach - and we did enough long-distance swimming to almost turn the day into a biathlon. It was GREAT to be weightless and off my feet for a while. Then we checked out the awards ceremony back in Cruz Bay, and Trevor came home with Wayne, Cherie, and I to join us for dinner and a movie before we all crashed.

What a day!!!

I am thrilled with myself for accomplishing this, and I am thrilled to have a supportive partner in Cherie who did such an amazing job making it all happen. (I wouldn't even have taken up running if it wasn't for her getting into it first last year!)

*grin*
17th-Feb-2011 08:06 pm - Social Networking
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I've just about had it with Facebook.

Facebook is full of-single sentence fluff, and the site feels like it is actively working against any sort of deeper connection or sharing than single syllable grunts of "Like!".

LiveJournal used to be a great place to connect and share online. But lately LiveJournal is a ghost town that is desperately trying to become just another Facebook wannabe. The latest update from LiveJournal encourages me to "Check out Farm of Happiness and grow magical trees, tend your quirky pets, plant exotic flowers, and use your charm to deter thieves."

No. Please, no. Take your Farm-anything away and never ever ever come back. *ugh*

Where oh where is the an internet communications platform that fills the communications / community niche that LiveJournal used to fill???

Things I hate about Facebook #1: There is no way to keep your replies to other people's posts from showing up on your wall. When I reply to people, I do not want to make that conversation part of my public front-page. But in Facebooks's universe of non-privacy, there is not even an option to opt out of broadcasting every comment you make to the world.

Things I hate about Facebook #2:There is no way to edit your posts, even if all you want to do is fix a typo. I mean, wtf!?! Why on earth does FaceBook keep me from editing my own posts on my own wall!?!? It is ridiculous that I am forced to choose between deleting a post, or leaving an mxided up sentence posted for all eternity.

Things I hate about Facebook #3: Speaking of all eternity, how on earth am I supposed to link back to interesting old posts? Facebook treats all content as disposable, not worth saving or linking to. If it is so disposable, why should I waste my time looking at it? I want to be able to easily browse back into my own past, and into the past of my friends. If there is something interesting from a week, a month, or a year back - I should be able to comment on it and link to it.

Things I hate about Facebook #4: Single threaded reply streams make it way too easy to hijack a conversation, and way too hard to chime in 'late' on a thread that is interesting. Facebook - is threaded replies too much to ask for!?!?!?

Things I hate about Facebook #5: Facebook limits status updates to 420 characters, but it doesn't give you a count of how much you have written until after you try to post it. Only then does it tell you that you have gone over. *grrrr* It is MY wall, I should be able to post whatever the hell I want on it.

I could probably go on and on.

But LiveJournal really isn't much better. Particularly since the traffic here has dropped so much over the past few years.

Thinking about the people whom I most want to /really/ keep in deeper touch with, it dawns on me that perhaps the best technique may just be the oldest - actually writing to them directly. One-on-one direct emails sharing what is up with me, and asking what is really up with them.

I might just have to try that. There are a lot of people that I miss, and Facebook is a poor substitute for real communications....

Hmmmm......
12th-Feb-2011 02:12 pm - The Tuff Tune-Up
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I ran in the final organized training run this morning for the upcoming 8-Tuff Miles race here on St. John. The route this morning covered the first 5.5 miles of the course, everything but the final long downhill. And I did it in 1hr 21m!

To get a sense for what I just ran, you can see the elevation versus distance charted here.

Things I learned:
1) On the steepest uphills, it is slightly faster and a LOT less tiring to power walk than to run/jog.

2) On the steepest downhills, it is MUCH faster and a lot easier and less tiring to skip / gallop than to attempt to run. People give you funny looks though as you shoot past them...

3) I am able to keep up a nice solid pace for the entire course, only switching from jog to power-walk for a few of the steepest sections.

4) These are indeed TUFF miles, particularly the first few!!!

Two weeks from now is the main event - I'm excited!

PS: Thank you serolynne for getting me out of bed at crazy-o-clock, driving me to the start, and being there cheering at the finish. She rocks!
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UPDATE: I heard back from Microsoft.  Read below for the (hopeful) conclusion...

Our iOS apps 'Coverage?' (iTunes Link) and 'State Lines' (iTunes Link) are doing reasonably well in Apple's App Store. We are particularly excited to see 'Coverage?' getting featured on TUAW, Gizmodo and Boy Genius Report, and even labeled as "indispensable" by LifeHacker.com. Though our rank has dropped since, we spent some time as the #2 travel app in the entire store. Awesome!

I have been enjoying iOS development, and it feels good to know that we have created some genuinely useful tools.

We have had a lot of people ask us for Android versions, and occasionally for WebOS ports too. Our answer has always been that we are willing to work (and split profits) with any developer who wants to do a port, but it is not something we have any interest in doing ourself.

So far, we've had no takers. (But if you know of any developers interested, send them our way!)

We haven't actually had any user requests for a Windows Phone version of our apps, but we did have a developer recently ask us if he could do a port of 'State Lines' for the fun of it. We'd have to cover the upfront registration costs with Microsoft, but it seemed like a reasonable way to test the waters in the Windows market, and at the same time work out our systems for working with an outside developer. Sure, why not.

He'd be doing the hard work - all we would have to do is register with Microsoft and upload the app to Microsoft's developer portal.

How hard could it be? Really?

Well, it has been a week - and I still haven't even been able to get registered for Microsoft's $99/year Windows Phone Developer Program. Here is what I have been through so far:

1) Go to http://create.msdn.com// - click to sign up for the Windows Phone Developer Program. Create a Passport account, register as a company, fill out all the info.

2) Get forced to create a "GamerTag" as part of the process. Why on earth do I need to create an XBox Live GamerTag in order to register to develop Windows Phone apps? I'm sure enterprise developers love being forced to play guessing games to pick a unique "GamerTag". I imagine "PocketOffice223Rulez" is probably not taken...

3) Get prompted for a credit card to pay the $99/year fee. Enter credit card. Get error no error, just jumped back to the enter credit card screen again. Infinite loop.

4) Try on other browser than Safari. On IE, I get the same behavior but an error: "Your credit card could not be authorized. Please contact your credit card provider, or enter a different credit card." Try multiple times with multiple cards, always the same error.

5) Contact my bank - they have seen and approved 8+ verifications from Microsoft. They confirm that the problem is on Microsoft's end.

6) Try again with different web browsers, and on different days. The process still fails the same way - sometimes without giving any error at all. I can only hope that I don't end up charged $99 x 20 by Microsoft for all these failed attempts.

7) Read the FAQ's on the MSDN site - one refers to http://billing.microsoft.com for help with billing issues. Clicking that link gives a "You do not have permission to view this directory or page" error. Only after changing the url to use HTTPS can I log in to the billing page.

8) Billing page has all my account info, but no payment methods configured other than my zero balance of "Microsoft Points" - WTF is a Microsoft Point?!?! FAQ explains how to add new payment methods, but the button referenced in the FAQ is not on the screen. FAQ says: "Under Payment method information for this account, click Use a different payment method." These sections described do not actually exist.

9) The "Contact Support" button on the billing page jumps to a page with a huge list of URL's for departments within Microsoft. The most promising support URL is "For Windows Marketplace for Mobile developers", which sends me right back to the support page at create.msdn.com, exactly where I had found the FAQ that sent me to the billing page.

10) The support page has a link for "If you a registered App Hub member and require personal, 1:1 support with your account" - clicking it jumps back into the broken registration process that will never complete. I apparently can't get help until I finish registering, and I can't finish registering without help.

11) Digging further for help on the create.msdn.com site, I try to find a way to reach a human. The only number given is for the paid $99/per incident developer support, but I decide to call it anyway for help.

12) Phone number leads to voice menu hell. Absolutely insane options asking me confusing questions about whether or not I am a Microsoft partner, and what type of partner I am. Eventually I hit zero enough times that I end up talking to a very friendly person named Mike in Microsoft pre-sales support.

13) Mike explains that Microsoft's credit card verification is very touchy around things exactly matching the credit card bill - even to the point of "St" not matching "Street" not matching "St." not matching "ST". Yes, even capitalization might matter. I try registering again, using the exact same capitalization and punctuation as my credit card bill. Still no luck.

14) I tell Mike about the billing.microsoft.com. site. He stumbles over needing to add https, then realizes he has no way to log on there himself to even look at what the options displayed are.

15) Mike suggests that the MSDN support group might be better able to help. He gives me a direct number (800-759-5474), and then transfers me.

16) Gruff and unfriendly woman at MSDN answers - I explain I am trying to sign up for the Windows Phone developer program, and some of what I have been through. She says she has never heard of a Windows Phone, or the developer program. I tell her it is on the front page of MSDN.

17) She puts me on hold and spends some time looking, and then comes back and asks me if I want an MSDN Action Pack subscription. She explains the packages cost between $999 and $12,000. I tell her I want the $99 Windows Phone Developer program. She puts me on hold again and keeps looking.

18) She comes back and asks which carrier I have - and whether I want AT&T or T-Mobile. I explain that the program is not tied to a carrier. She says that it is, and then tell me that I should call my carrier to sign up.

19) I tell her she is on the wrong track. She gives me the number for Microsoft Pre Sales support, and suggests I call them. I tell her that Pre Sales transferred me to her in MSDN, and I ask if there is anyone else in MSDN to talk to about Windows Phone. She again says she knows nothing about a Windows Phone, and tells me to call my carrier.

20) I hang up.

21) I email the developer who is working on the Windows Phone port, and he digs around the Microsoft support forums and finds a post indicating that there is a known issue with registration: http://forums.create.msdn.com/forums/t/71836.aspx

22) The post claims that the issue has been resolved. I try again, it has not.

23) The post gives an email address to contact, and requests a lot of information, such as what is my XBox Live region, and whether or not I created my GamerTag on an XBox, via the web, or on a Windows Phone.

24) Again - what the hell does a GamerTag have to do with signing up for the Windows Phone developer program!??!

25) I send off email to Microsoft with my best guesses at all the information requested.

26) And for now, while I am awaiting a reply, I am giving up.

Compare this to the 5 minutes it took to sign up for the Apple iOS developer program.

No wonder Microsoft is failing in mobile.

UPDATE: I heard back from Microsoft today, here is how the story (hopefully) ends:

27) I got two separate emails back from Microsoft Developer Support.  I think they are unrelated because they came from different people and made no reference to each other.  The first from "Ben" started with him "sincerely apologize for the terrible experience you have had trying to register", and he then asked if I wanted some sort of "token that should help resolve the billing issue".  He explained that the token would take several business days to issue if I wanted it, and that it would then allow them to bill my credit card to activate our App Hub subscription.  Uhm, a token?  Is this a video arcade? Oh, wait...

28) Before I could reply to Ben, I got a very brief email from "Shaun" telling me to go to a page on Xbox.com and redeem a token code he had sent, with no other explanation about what the token would actually do.

29) On the Xbox.com page I read:  "Prepaid codes can be used to extend an Xbox LIVE subscription or redeemed for games, avatar items, and special offers."  There is no mention about the developer program. Maybe it will give me a magic developer Avatar, with a scimitar of debugging.  I enter the code.

30) I get a message that the code has been redeemed for "XNA Creators Club 12-month subscription."

31) I log back in to the create.msdn.com site, and this time when I try to completed the registration process I am not prompted for a credit card and am able to complete registering. I am told to wait for a verification email.

32) I get a verification email a few minutes later with a link to verify my account.  I click the link and get: "we’re sorry. an error has occurred. We have detected an error while processing the page you were looking for. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please try again."

33) I try again, and get this: "Your account is now pending activation as we validate your identity. When that process is complete, we’ll set up your publisher ID and send you an e-mail once it has been activated."

34) I go back to the developer portal, and see that now (in theory) I am seemingly able to submit apps for approval.  

35) But - according to the email from Shaun, only once I upload our first app will Microsoft begin the process to confirm my business identity - which they say may take several days.  Hopefully there won't be any problems that delay the app being released.  You'd think they could/should verify my identity before the first app upload.  But anyway...  

So - it looks like Microsoft might have comped me a year's subscription to their developer program, though the email initially offering the "token" implied that my credit card will be charged later, so I'm not actually sure.  

I hope this is the end of the story. Finger crossed...
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We've spent the past month in paradise hard at work polishing up our next iPhone / iPad application, and it went live in the AppStore today!!!

Check out our Technomadia blog post about Coverage here.

In a nutshell - Coverage? provides an at-a-glance “universal” coverage map by interactively overlaying the coverage maps from the four major nationwide US cellular providers.

We came up for the idea last summer when we set up camp in a beautiful field of wildflowers along the continental divide in Colorado with a strong AT&T and Sprint signal. We planned to spend a few days catching up on work, until AT&T notified us that we had used up our 24MB "Off Network" allowance for the month, and Sprint emailed us to let us know that our Aircard had exceeded their 300MB Roaming cap. Yet neither our iPhone, iPad, or Sprint Aircard in our Macs gave us any indication we were "roaming" until after we were notified that we would be shut off until the end of the month. *grrr*

If only there were an easy way to look up where we might be roaming, and where the nearest 3G might be, without needing to go online to do it....

And thus Coverage was born.

We wrote the first proof-of-concept of Coverage at the iOS DevCamp conference in August, and it was voted the "Most Useful App" of the conference.

And now, after a lot of work, it is out - and starting to get noticed. Major Apple site TUAW just ran a feature on it this afternoon, and we have been climbing steadily the AppStore sales ranks!

We can use every sale (and positive AppStore review) we can get today to lock in our rank before Apple "freezes" the ranks at midnight tonight for a week-long Christmas shutdown. So if you think you might be interested in buying Coverage, please buy it today. It is only 99-cents. If you don't like it, I'll owe you a beer.

Here's a quick video we made that tells the story behind the app, and gives some real world examples of how this app can be useful:

It's been an exciting day seeing this at long last go live! *grin*
20th-Dec-2010 12:44 am - Technomadic Dreams - Vintage 1996
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The job that first brought me west to California way back in 1996 was to become the first Technical Editor of Imagine Publishing's 'boot' magazine. It was an incredible job, and other than the ever present panic of print deadlines, it was heaven for a tech junkie like myself.

I still get a thrill every time I see boot's successor Maximum PC on the newstands, and recently I spotted a new spin-off Maximum Tech that is broadening the PC-focus into all sorts of consumer technology. The first issue was absolutely fabulous -reviewing everything from Web Tablets to Vibram FiveFinger shoes..

I love knowing that something that I helped start continues to thrive, and remains one of the most respected and influential magazines in the industry.

Lately on the Maximum PC website, they have been running a series called "Old School Monday" featuring reruns of articles from the early days. And one article in particular just brought a huge grin to my face.

boot Magazine - Lust List - 1996For the 1996 "Lust List" feature, every editor had to briefly write about the 10 products that most fired up their imagination that past year. Here was one of my picks:
Ricochet Wireless Modem: Taking the Net with you on the road helps blur the boundaries between cyberspace and reality. A Ricochet and a notebook are the first step to being the technomad I've always dreamed of becoming. Next, I need a HUD headband and a palm keyboard. I wonder if the Borg have any job openings...

This was a time years before WiFi, and the Ricochet modem was the size of a small brick. But it allowed me to get online wirelessly all over the SF area, and it was actually faster than the then common 56kbps dialup modems. I actually wrote my Ricochet review while enjoying the "office view" from the top of SF's Twin Peaks. It was incredible technology, way ahead of its time.

The Ricochet was reliable enough that I even "cut the cord" and ditched the phone line at my apartment, and even back then was relying on just my cell phone and my wireless modem to live my digital life.

Another fun Ricochet memory - I once created a VAN (Van Area Network) that combined a 12volt-to-AC inverter, the Ricochet, a wired router and hub, and a lot of ethernet cable... All so that my team could have four laptops sharing the wireless connection while underway playing in an epic weekend-long puzzle hunt (The Game).

Those were the days... It is amazing how far wireless and mobile technology has advanced since then.

But I am thrilled to realize that 14 years later, I am now the "technomad I've always dreamed of becoming".

Dreams often do come true. *grin*
2nd-Nov-2010 01:04 pm - Vote for Sanity
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Today is election day, and I am ashamed to admit that I messed up my absentee ballot request and am missing out on voting. Unfortunately the democrat-held house seat in South Dakota is actually considered a toss-up, and my vote might have mattered...

Though I am generally pleased with what Obama has accomplished so far, I am distressed about a new congress gaining power that is dead-set on "stopping Obama at all costs" (no matter what the issue), and not on finding ways to work together.

Polarizing paralysis and demonizing those who disagree with you is NOT going to help us improve this country and this world.

To try and understand the Tea Party movement a bit better, I spent some time listening to Glenn Beck this morning. The cognitive dissonance and fear-pandering coming from his direction left me literally nauseous. I think I will be having nightmares about "President Palin" once again...

Meanwhile, MoveOn.org is sending around a viral video "broadcast from the future" saying essentially that anyone who votes Republican in this election will be responsible for the future enslaving of the human race.

Fear mongering crap is raining down from both sides, and (seemingly to me, especially on the right) politicians are racing to embrace it.

I don't care which party you vote for today, just please pick the "sanest" of the candidates on your ballot. Anyone who has campaigned on a platform of fear and/or intentional obstructionism is part of the problem - vote against them.

But please, if you still have a chance, do get out and vote. If the polls are to be believed, there is a flood of fear-driven voters headed to the polls. Sane moderates need to have their voices heard too...

For some sanity inspiration, here is some of Jon Stewart's closing speech at the Rally to Restore Sanity this past weekend:
So what exactly was this? I can't control what people think this was, I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and we have nothing to fear. They are and we do.

But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies. But unfortunately, one of our main tools in delineating the two broke. The country's 24-hour politico-pundit- perpetual-panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder.

The press can hold its magnifying glass up to our problems, bring them into focus, illuminating issues -- or they can use that magnifying glass to light ants on fire, and then perhaps host a week of shows on the sudden unexpected dangerous flaming ant epidemic. If we amplify everything, we hear nothing. …

Not being able to distinguish between real racists and tea partiers, or real bigots and Juan Williams or Rick Sanchez, is an insult not only to those people, but to the racists themselves who have put in the exhausting effort it takes to hate. Just as the inability to distinguish terrorists from Muslims makes us less safe, not more. ...

That being said, I feel strangely, calmly good, because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false. It is us through a funhouse mirror, and not the good kind that makes you look slim and maybe taller, but the kind that gives you a giant forehead and maybe an ass shaped like a month-old pumpkin. We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is, on the brink of disaster, torn by polarizing hate. …

The truth is, we work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here, or on cable TV -- but Americans don't live here or on cable TV. ... We know that as a people if we're going to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. ...

And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the promised land, it's just New Jersey, but we do it anyway.

One thing that gives me hope... Jon Stewart's "Sanity" rally drew a vastly larger crowd to the National Mall than Glenn Beck's "Honor" rally. Perhaps there really aren't as many wingnuts out there as it seems...

Anyway, go out and VOTE!
face
Did I mention yet that we have just signed a lease and will be spending the winter in the US Virgin Islands?

Details are posted here.

Anyway....

Since we will be leaving our Oliver behind for the a while, we've decided that it makes sense to sell the Mac Mini system which has served us well for the past two years as the media center in our Oliver.

Here are the details:
Model Identifier: Macmini3,1 (mid-2009 model)
Processor Name: Intel Core 2 Duo - 2 GHz
Memory: 1 GB
Hard Drive: 320 GB / 5400 RPM (Upgraded from the stock 120GB HD)
Optical Drive: SuperDrive DVD/CD Burner
Wireless: 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1
Graphics: nVidia GeForce 9400M
Ports: 5x USB, 1x FireWire 800, Mini-DVI, Mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet, Audio In/Out

The Mac Mini is incredibly power efficient, and only consumes around 14 watts while on and idle. This makes it perfect for a system like ours that is dependent on solar-charged batteries. It is also extremely small and quiet. It makes a great DVD and media player, and you can use an iPhone, iPad, or Apple's IR remote to control everything.

When in our trailer, we power the Mac Mini via a CarNetix CNX-P2140 185W Dual Output Intelligent DC-DC Power Supply. This lets us run our Mac Mini (and stereo speakers too) directly off of 12 volt power, without needing to use an inverter. This makes our setup even more power efficient. The CarNetix power supply sells for $165 new (including the Mac Mini cables). We also still have and will include the regular Mac Mini AC power brick.

Ideally we would like to sell the Mac Mini and Carnetix power supply together as a set, but we would consider breaking them up. (I may already have someone interested in just the CarNetix power supply, actually...)

More CarNetix info here.

BTW -- The new 2010 Mac Mini model no longer uses an external power brick, so this is the latest Mac Mini that I know of that can be wired to run directly off of 12 volt power.

===========

Checking eBay, equivalent used Mac Mini's seem to be going for around $499 (with the smaller 120GB default HD). With the larger HD and CarNetix power supply, we'd like $650. For the Mac Mini alone, $499 takes it.

This is a great setup for an RV, boat, or home entertainment system.

Let us know if you are interested - particularly if you are in the SF Bay Area and we can deliver it to you and avoid shipping hassles.

Also - Cherie just upgraded her laptop to a 17" MacBook Pro, and her two year old 15" MacBook Pro is for sale as well. Here are the details:
2 yr old MBP (purchased July 2008):
Processor 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Display 15-inch Anti-Glare 1400x900
Graphics GeForce 8600M GT 256MB
Memory 4GB 667 DDR2 SDRAM - 2x2GB
Hard Drive 500 GB Serial ATA @ 5400 rpm
Optical Drive SuperDrive 8x DL
AppleCare Valid thru July 2011

What's new: The battery was replaced about 9 months ago and is holding about a 2.5-3 hr charge, the harddrive was upgraded from 250GB about a year ago. The power adaptor, DVD drive and memory was replaced about 9 months ago under warranty.

Issues: The 'T' and 'N' keys have worn spots on it, and the exterior case has some minor scratches and such. The vinyl sticker on the outside case would be removed before shipping.

Pictures here.

Asking Price: These are selling on eBay without AppleCare for about $1100.

She is asking $1100, including FedEx/UPS ground shipping & remaining AppleCare.

If you know of anyone who might be interested, send them our way.
2nd-Sep-2010 10:49 am - Burning Man 2010: Time Frame Photos
Burning Man
My photo project in Center Camp at Burning Man has been fabulous.

Here is the Flickr Set to follow along with the new photos each day.

And here are some quick highlights so far:

Time Frame - Monday, 4:40 AM

Time Frame - Tuesday, 11:28 AM

And here is a picture of me, setting up the project in Center Camp. I can't believe the prime placement they gave me!!!
Time Frame
29th-Aug-2010 08:58 pm - Burning Man 2010: 6:01 & Hanoi
Burning Man
We are on playa now, and have actually set up at the gateside 6:01 corner of the 6 & H (Hanoi) intersection. Our new satellite internet connection is working beautifully.

We spent the day setting up camp, and the afternoon helping friends set up Pandora's Lounge & Fix-It Shop. We also went to place my art project, "Time Frame", in the Center Camp Cafe.

I had expected to get placed off to the side of the Cafe, and was blown away to end up RIGHT IN THE CENTER. Nearly fifty thousand people will walk within a dozen feet of my art project within the next week. Wow.

The city gates have been thrown open early - they seemingly "secretly" decided to open at 6pm instead of midnight to try and avoid some of the backlog. But by the look of the line of lights heading out towards the horizon, it wasn't a well-kept secret.

Right now Cherie is napping to save up some energy for the late night ahead. Any moment now our first Nomadians should arrive to join us...

*excited*
Burning Man
In just over 48 hours, we'll be back on the playa for Burning Man 2010 - Metropolis.

For the third year in a row, Cherie and I have organized Camp Nomadia, a theme camp dedicated to bringing together other nomads on the playa. After last years theme camp placement fiasco, this year we decided to go fully unofficial, with no preset placement and much less up-front organization.

Even so - we have managed to sign up 90+ other nomads of all sorts of modalities and from all over the world to join us this year. Egads!

Are you going to be out on the playa this year? Come look us up!

Camp Description: Is travel in your spirit? Is wanderlust your calling? Have you dared to give up a conventional home and make home wherever you happen to be? Is life too short and the world too large to be stationary? Then welcome to Camp Nomadia. For past, current and future nomads of all sorts.

Camp Location: 6:00 & Florence (or as near as we can manage - look for a sign at the intersection, or check at Playa Info...)

Update: We are on playa now, and have actually set up at the gateside 6:01 corner of the 6 & H intersection.

Camp Nomadia Events:
Nomadic Happy Hours -- Tuesday and Thursday (4pm to 6pm) and Sunday (3pm to 5pm)
Technomadic Lifestyle Workshop -- Thursday 3pm - 4pm

For more details on our events, and Camp Nomadia, check here.

Also...

This year I pitched an art project idea to the Center Camp Cafe art team, and was accepted!

My project is called "Time Frame".

The "Time Frame" is a classic antique table-top mirror, with the mirror removed, mounted on top of a 5 foot tall self-supporting pole.

Looking through the frame gives a glimpse back in time to the view as seen through the frame the day or night before. For example, participants looking into the frame on a bright sunny morning may have a view of the kinetic action as seen from that exact spot late the night before.

Every day / night of Burning Man I'll take another picture of the scene in Center Camp through the frame, take it back to our photo printer, print a new image, and return to update the frame with a new view (in both directions). Older views will be mounted, and left on display for viewing or to take.

The day of the burn, I hope to relocate the Time Frame to capture a before/after portrait of the Man.

Now that we have satellite internet, I hope to also update a Flickr group with the daily photos from the Time Frame. I'll post here with updates when that goes live.

This will be my 10th trip to Burning Man, and I am really excited to have an "official" art project of my own for the first time ever. I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Anyway... Things are mostly packed, other than some planned stops for provisioning. We head to Reno tomorrow, and (thanks to the art project) we get to head into Black Rock City Saturday night instead of Sunday.

The man burns in eight days.

See you out there?
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