Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Wordpress blogs

This blog is made using Blogger. I love Blogger, it is SOOO easy. It's Blogger that we teach in our seminar: Every RVer Needs a Blog! But, it's not the only blogging system. I've also had a Wordpress blog for a few years. I use it strictly for the geeky stuff we want to talk about - not the personal travel blog stuff. Notice the 'Geek Articles' in the left sidebar here. That comes from our Wordpress blog. It's NOT as easy! But it has a lot more capabilities. In addition to blog posts, you can also create static pages. It can actually be a complete website. And, it can be hosted on your own webhost, unlike Blogger where you have to use blogspot.com. There's always a lingering feeling of discomfort using a free hosting system! If you'd like to check out how Wordpress works, there is a free hosting option at Wordpress.COM. At Wordpress.com it is just as quick and simple to set up a new blog as it is at blogger. The big difference with Wordpress is that there is a private option. You can have the blogging system software installed on your own host. This is available at Wordpress.ORG. Confusing, I know - it's taken me a few years to figure it out! If you use a webhost like GoDaddy.com or Webhero.com or many others, you may see an option to have a Wordpress blog installed on your account. They're talking about the Wordpress.ORG stuff.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

It started before sunrise, about 6am, in preparation for driving up to Boca Raton to a pavilion on the beach. Friends from a dive club have been meeting here on Christmas morning for years to watch the sunrise. Our efforts were greatly rewarded this morning. Next we got to play Santa with grandkids. We went over to Devon's house and watched the crazy scene of a 2 year old, and a 5 year old tear open the wrappings on dozens of presents. It's so nice to see Devon and Lacie (Dad and Mom) having such fun with their kids. Then we picked up my Mom and Jim's Dad and drove up to West Palm Beach to Jim's sister's for Christmas dinner. Debbie and Bob always outdo themselves. Especially with decorations. More pictures on our Picasa Web album. Just click on any of the photos above, then you can click forward and backward to see more. Merry Christmas to all! I plan to sleep good tonight!
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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A romantic Christmas

Romantic midnight walks in the full moon, and new furniture for sitting at home enjoying our own company. How does that sound? Well, it's better than ... Jim decided to fix our toilet that had been leaking in a pretty disgusting way. Turns out it couldn't be fixed so he ordered a new one. Meanwhile the old one had been removed, just leaving a hole in the floor. When we needed to use the facilities, we had to walk out to the nearest bathhouse in the RV park. Not too bad really, except in the middle of the night, and there really was a full moon out! It took a week for the new toilet to get here. oooohhhh .... aahhhhhhhh - it's really nice. A porcelain bowl this time instead of plastic. And a hand-held sprayer for that extra flush. This is our Christmas present to each other! btw - the text in these pictures was added using Picasa 3's new text tool. The 'show-me-how' video on how to use it is the free feature this month at www.GeeksonTour.com. Check it out.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Party, Party, Party

I stayed in bed, drank plenty of fluids and took lots of Coldeze so I could get better. Because we had parties to go to! Lots and lots of parties. Since we're not normally here during the holidays, we don't want to pass up any opportunity to party with family and friends. Some people say they can't get into the holiday spirit when there's no snow and it's 80 degrees. I say 'fiddle dee dee' this is plenty festive for me! I haven't been taking my camera with me because, well, I want to party! But, here's a shot I snapped with my cell phone at the party in my Mom's complex. Christmas lights around the pool. Much better than snow in my book.
From Geeks on Tour Blog Dec 2008
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Friday, December 19, 2008

To all our Doggie friends

This one was just too good not to share! To all our doggie friends living with us fuddy-duddy RVers who stay south all winter long. We're sorry you get deprived of all the fun that snow provides! I try to imagine Odie in this deep snow ... he'd be lost and gone! Actually - I think he'd stick very close to our ankles. He's only seen snow once and didn't much care for it. Not like this dog!
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sick in Bed

Well, it gave me an opportunity to use my new lap desk that I won at the Datastorm rally. Other than that, I can't say much good about catching a cold and fever and staying in bed for the last 2 days. I used the lap desk so I could work on the computer in bed of course! In between naps anyway. One thing I worked on was finalizing an affiliate advertising system. George, of the famous George and Tioga team, agreed to put one of my ads on his site. Thanks George! Check it out and let me know what you think. If you haven't visited his site lately, it's worth it just to see where he's parked in Mexico.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

RVer's Wardrobe

Last Friday, my Women's Executive Club had it's annual holiday party at the Lauderdale Yacht Club. It's been a few years since I was able to attend. I considered it a special treat, and I took my Mom as my guest. I enjoy this group so much - which is why I've been a member for so long. They gave me my 25 year pin at the luncheon! Even though I'm not here much, I stay involved by being the club's webmaster. The hardest part of attending the meetings is finding something to wear. An RVer's wardrobe is limited. At least mine is. I think one of the main differences between a big RV and a small RV (I consider ours small at 30 ft.) is closet and other storage space for clothes. No big deal for Jim and me because we don't care much about clothes ... a couple pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, a pile of tshirts, a jacket, and a bathing suit. We're done. When we're on the road, most everyone we meet has the same fashion sense as we do. But, a holiday luncheon with a Women's group ... that's a bit different. Luckily, I have a duffel bag full of nice, light knit clothes that always look nice. They're a brand name called 'Weekenders' and it's amazing how they can stay folded/rolled up in that duffle bag for years and still come out and look nice. I store the duffel under the bed. Why do I have this duffel bag full of nice clothes? I laugh just thinking about it. Weekenders was one of those direct marketing organizations where you go to a 'party' at someone's house, try on the clothes and buy from the hostess. One of my fellow Women's Executive Club members sold Weekenders - and she introduced me to the business. I liked the clothes, and I thought they'd be perfect for RVers who occasionally need something nice to wear. So, I became a 'consultant' for the clothes. Meaning, I was going to *give* the parties and sell the clothes. This was in 2003, before we actually hit the road. I'm a believer in getting out of your comfort zone, but this was a little too far! My actual title was 'Fashion Consultant.' It was all I could do to keep a straight face! I learned pretty quickly that this was not a line of work for me, and not a good idea for an RV-based business either. Your party needs to have at least a dozen people to make enough sales. In my RV I could have 2! I only did that once ... remember Lynne? I am SO glad I did it though. First of all, it started my friendship with Lynne! She must have thought, "Here's someone crazier than me!" And, second, I got this duffel full of clothes. You see, in order to become a 'consultant' you needed to buy a starter kit. A variety of clothes, some of which I never would have bought on my own. I've had occasion over the last 5 years to wear everything in that duffel bag! I've never had to panic about not having anything to wear. Wedding, funeral, business meeting, or party - I'm ready! Unfortunately, the Weekenders organization recently went out of business. Too bad. I don't want to sell them, but I sure do recommend them. You can find some stuff on eBay and searching for Weekenders, but I think there is a department store brand by that name too - so you have to be careful. In any case, I highly recommend having a collection of wrinkle-free nice clothes to supplement the normal RVer's wardrobe.
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Don't pay for AOL

I've been getting together with a lot of old friends and clients here in Fort Lauderdale. Many of them are back in the 'olden times' of the Internet. You know ... 2 - 3 years ago! One friend wanted to have her email be more professional - name@herbusinessname.com instead of @aol.com. We found that her business name was available as a .com and I got her set up with the domain name, and an email for a mere $10/year.

She said, "oh good, now I can get rid of AOL, that costs me $12/month. I'll be happy to save that expense." OMG, she's been paying $12/month for the last 2-3 years for nothing! Since sometime in 2005, AOL's email has been free. The only need to pay AOL is if you need them for your Internet connection. My friend here has a cable connection to the Internet, so she's been paying AOL for nothing. AOL didn't publicize this change too much! If you kept paying them after the change, they just figured that you were using the Dial-up service.

Just thought I'd mention it here in case any other readers out there are in the same situation.

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Work at Home

Am I working or am I playing? It's really hard to tell. It's all done in the same motorhome, a total space of 30 feet by 8.5 feet. And, most of it is done sitting at the computer. There's stuff I do for fun on the computer, and there's work too. Only I know the difference! (actually, I don't think I do) I have never been good at time management, but I keep trying. With a laptop I'm learning that I can go somewhere else - the club house or my Mom's house - and it's a little easier to focus on work. By 'work' I mostly mean recording the tutorial videos for our Geeks on Tour online classroom and managing that website. Right now I'm creating a series on the new Picasa 3. I've made some progress, but I have lots more to go. There are now 11 Picasa 3 videos on the Geeks on Tour Picasa Tutorials page. *Sales Pitch**Sales Pitch**Sales Pitch**Sales Pitch* Although there are some free samples, you need to be a member to view all the videos - over 120 of them now, a little over 10 hours worth. You can also buy a gift membership for someone else. Dontcha think that's a great idea? I sure do :-) It's only $39 for a whole year and it doesn't automatically renew - $39 is your total commitment. *End of Sales Pitch!* Marketing is the other business skill I'm working on! Right now I've worked my way up to writing over a dozen articles every month as part of my marketing ... I write a Picasa tip every Tuesday, and an article for RV.net's blog every Thursday. Once a month I write the Geeks on Tour free newsletter with at least 3 articles in it. I've promised another feature article for Family Motor Coach magazine, and recently wrote one for Country Coach magazine. I've retooled my WiFiSavvy.com blog to be a repository for all our geeky articles. That way, they're easily found. They're all categorized and tagged. You can also use the Search feature to find any article by its content. Little by little, I'm making sure that all past articles get added to WiFiSavvy.com - so it's the complete Articles database. Once in a while, I have an idea for an article that isn't in any of our standard categories, so I throw it in on WiFiSavvy too. Like one last week on Mailing Labels for Holiday Cards, complete with a tutorial video. The great thing about being entrepreneurial is that you get to work on your own ideas and see them come to fruition. The bad thing is that you have *way* too many ideas to work on them all successfully. You have to choose. I think that's what time management is all about. Oh yeah ... I'm also doing websites for clients. That's something I actually get paid for! hmmmm, maybe that should be a criteria for choosing what I work on? Ya think? Luckily I did my chiropractor's website in trade for adjustments made neccessary by all this sitting! Ok, I know, I gotta get to work. If I've promised something to anyone out there and you haven't heard from me ... please remind me OK? You would think that, since we're not in travel mode these days, I would have more time, but it doesn't seem to work that way. I have greater expectations of what can be done when we're not traveling and I fill the time up at least twice over! When we're traveling, I at least have the down-time of when Jim's driving and I get to watch the scenery. I don't expect to get anything done then. Unfortunately, I've started using our cell phone tethered to the computer to get online even when we're traveling now. I did turn off the computer on Thanksgiving day. Maybe I'll do the same on Christmas. .. .. n'aaa, how would I track Santa's progress then?
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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Speaking at Kiwanis Club

For something completely different! This morning, Jim and I spoke at a local Kiwanis club meeting. We didn't speak about computers. Instead of the 'Geek' part, we concentrated on the 'on Tour' part! We had a slide show with pictures showing the process of becoming full-time RVers. From selling our house and all our stuff, to learning about the RV, to campgrounds, rallies, and Natonial Parks. We had about 50 slides, and Jim and I took turns doing the narration.

It was a 20 minute talk and it was SO much FUN. People came up to us afterward and said that was the best presentation the club had ever had. We want to do more of that!

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mother-in-Law Suite

People are already amazed when they learn that Jim and I live - and work - full-time in a 30 foot, class C motorhome with no slides. So, where does my mother stay when she travels with us?

In the mother-in-law suite of course!

The cab-over area of this old Safari class C motorhome is amazingly versatile. It's big enough to be our TV room, our library, our workbench and staging area when we need to spread stuff out, and, best of all, our mother/mother-in-law suite! I don't know of a 40 foot class A that provides such a nice guest room! Mom says she loves it up there! She even picked up a book in our 'library' and said, "Let's do this!" The book? Ooooohhh ... would that be cool? Kind of like recreating my first RV trip. When I was 10 years old, my Mom and Dad piled all our belongings into a truck camper. We left Anchorage, Alaska in January and traveled as far as Guatemala where the road got washed out by rain so we couldn't continue. Let's try again?!

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Petra and Lion Country Safari

Hanging around Fort Lauderdale means I get to spend time with my Mom. One of the main things we spend time on is editing the video she's taken on her many trips. The one we just finished is on her recent trip to Cyprus and Jordan. The highlight was Petra. Here's 4 minutes on Petra:


 Don't know what happened to the short one, but here's the full hour video on Cyprus, Jordan, and Petra - at the end.

 We had also promised to take her on an RV trip somewhere. We decided on just a 2-night trip a short distance away to Lion Country Safari. In addition to the African Adventure Zoo, there is a KOA RV park with a Wi-Fi system we've been wanting to check out. Pretty weird to hear Lion's roaring on the other side of the fence from the campground. It's really a well-done place all around, RV park, Wi-Fi, and free ranging (kind of) zoo.
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lobster for Dinner

It was a perfect day on Thursday and then just slightly less so today. We went diving both days. Jim convinced me to go again today because I probably won't go again for the rest of the winter. The water is 73 degrees right now - that's a bit chilly for me. I like it at 80 or more!

Surprisingly, I didn't get very cold. I just love this diving so much!

Bill, the manager of the park here, has been bitten by the kayak diving bug too! It's fun to introduce someone new to our favorite pasttime.

Here we are getting the boats ready.

Here's Bill and Ray getting ready; And, here's dinner!

Three divers ... aren't they cute with their silly hats?

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Buy your Cellular Data Card or Router Today!

Internet access on the road is getting better and better. Wi-Fi, Satellite, and especially cellular have improved immensely. We use all three at different times and places. Cellular seems to be taking over. People *love* their data cards. We don't have one - we use our cell phone tethered - so we don't know enough about them. When someone wants to know details, we send them to EVDOInfo.com for information and we often hear back that they purchased product from the sister site, 3GStore.com. We've talked to so many happy customers of 3GStore, that we signed up as an affiliate. 3GStore is having a sale right now for 'Black Friday.' If you're in the market for any cellular data cards, booster antennas, or routers, check out their special prices in this online sale this weekend. And, if you buy after using the link below - Geeks on Tour will receive a small commission.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Life is SO good! Paradise Island, the park we're at right now, is almost living up to it's 'RV Resort' title today. Check out the ice cream social at the pool:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
The little girl is Marie, the manager's daughter, and she is just a doll. They charged $1 for each bowl of ice cream, and Marie is going to donate the profits to a charity which feeds the hungry. She's an inspiration. And here's the view around the pool.
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
A great quote came to my inbox from Heartmath.com this morning:
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." - John F. Kennedy"
In agreement with that quote ... We're going Kayak Diving today! I might even turn off the computer for the rest of the day! See my post today at RV.net's blog for more.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

More Website Tools

I'm always researching and reading about new ways of doing things on the web. Lord knows there's enough of them, I like to keep up with at least a few! Today, while trying to give someone an intelligent response about why Blogger always imports photos to the top of your post, I ran across this blog post by someone else about the same problem. They recommended using Windows Live Writer. hmmm ... what's that? I figured I should go check it out, so I'm writing this post using Windows Live Writer.

I downloaded it for free from Microsoft. Now I could be writing this blog post while disconnected from the Internet.

I use the 'Insert Picture' command, and the picture appears right where my cursor is instead of the top of the post! Nice. It shows the size as 640X427 ... this looks smaller.

20081117-29

So, now I'll click the 'Publish' button and see what happens.

Wow! That was pretty slick. And the photo gets uploaded to blogger's servers. The size when you click on it is 640X427. The image in the blog itself is smaller ... I'll have to see if I can figure that one out. Windows Live Writer also lets me insert a link that automatically opens in a new window. That's a nice feature that has been on my wish list for blogger. Oh dear ... another new tool. And, of course, if this is good - I should probably look into the rest of the Windows Live tools.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi

Every time we visit Fort Lauderdale we say, "we gotta take a water taxi ride!" It's one of our favorite things to do but we never seem to get around to it. Well, having visitors is a great excuse. I love showing people Fort Lauderdale the way it should be seen ... from the water. So, I was so glad that Don & Joy, Michael & Georgia made the time to go for a ride with us. Mom came too.

It was beautiful afternoon!

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Datastorm rally south

We have visitors here at Paradise Island in Fort Lauderdale. Member #1, and member #16 of the DatastormUsers group.

Here is the map that the DatastormUsers group is so famous for. Who is member #1? That's Don Bradner, the creator of the DatastormUsers.com website.

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

This map is the greatest thing. Every time we move (or any Datastorm User) we enter our position on the map. Then, the website automatically sends an email to whoever we specify with a link to the map. This way, our friends and family are automatically alerted to our whereabouts whenever we move. The map includes a link to our website so, if they want to read further and see pictures, it's easy to do so.

You can also see the map in google earth:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
Thanks Don for creating such a cool tool! Number 16 on the map is Michael and Georgia Day. Michael is the one who organized most of the last rally. We're thrilled that they're both spending some time seeing Florida, and now, visiting us here in Fort Lauderdale. Here's Georgia and their 44 ft Newell!
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
And, here's #1 - with the BIG dish!
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Refrigerator Fire

If you get a notice from Dometic that your refrigerator is subject to their recall ... take it seriously ... here is what can happen if you don't:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
This happened here last week while we were gone. Actually, I hear that this refrigerator was a Norcold (ouch! that's what we have) that was having some kind of problem. But the recall on the Dometic is specifically for a fire hazard issue. The good news is that their insurance (Progressive) is treating them right. They acknowledge the fire as a total loss of the motorhome. Insurance is currently paying to put the owners up in a motel.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

RVing in Asia!

On our way back to Fort Lauderdale from Tampa we decided to make a stop at Sun 'n Shade in Punta Gorda. Sun 'n Shade is owned by the same company that owns Paradise Island, where we stay in Fort Lauderdale. Jim is often telling people about it when he works in the office, and it seemed like a good idea for us to see it.

Ahhhh ... the west side of Florida is so calm and laid back compared to the east. So much space, and peace and quiet! Here's our site:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

And some very friendly local residents!

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

As we pulled in to our site, we noticed this 5th wheel and they seemed to be fidding with their Datastorm satellite dish. Sure enough, they saw our sign and came to greet us asking if Jim could help get their dish to connect to the satellite.

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

While Jim worked with their computer and dish, I chatted with Helga and learned that they are from Germany. They've spent several winters here in Sun 'n Shade. But what was really fascinating was that they took a 6 month RV trip a few years ago with a tour group from Germany called Perestroika Tours. They started in Austria with 10 RVs in their caravan. They drove through Greece, over to Turkey, then thru Iran and Kazakhstan. She said Kazakhstan was gorgeous! From there they continued east into China, up into Mongolia - she also loved Mongolia - and then Russia. And back - 26,000 miles I think she said. She remembers spending 4 days in Moscow. Can you imagine!? Boy, did this get my adventure juices flowing! I didn't even know there were roads thru the places they went. Let alone that it would be possible to drive your RV. She does remember one of the mountain passes being pretty scary. And the roads were horrible. I believe it was all rental RVs from the tour company. They didn't take their 5th wheel - it was a 24 foot class C. There weren't any RV parks ... they parked in fields and parking lots. They even took their dog with them! The dog was a problem at the China border crossing, but after much perserverence, a little cash, waiting till the guards changed, and even hiding the dog at one point - they kept going. Here's Helga and her dog, Sockie:

From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008

I sure wish they had a Blog! If we were staying by them for any length of time, you can bet they would :-)

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

What a week!

At the Datastorm rally, we saw lots of folks we knew from past rallies and we met new people. We presented several seminars ... Picasa, building Websites, Vista: What's New, Networking, and Google Earth. Jim did some computer service ... one computer that didn't have sound, or connectivity with it's Verizon aircard. It had been this way for a while, and several other computer service experts had tried to fix it ... Jim succeeded!

During the week we took our motorhome over to Lazydays service to fix what we hoped was just a small leak in the brake line. Turned out to need a complete brake job - 3 days and $1,300 later, we were back to normal. One night we slept in the coach in the service bay.

Saturday and Sunday we held our hands-on 'Boot Camp.' People used their own laptops and we taught them things like how to control what happens when you close the lid of your computer, how to backup files to CD, and how to put your digital photos on the web using Picasa. One couple in the class had just won a digital camera during one of the raffles ... good timing!

Here's a slideshow from the week:

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sky Deck

People are often amazed that Jim and I live full time in a 30 foot Class C motorhome. It is small, but the layout is so perfect - we just love it. We often go looking at other RVs just for fun. Even when we see half-a-million dollar coaches we still look at each other and say, "I like ours better." And, it's a good thing!

This week, for the first time, I saw something I actually liked better. A sky deck!

From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally

From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
We've actually seen this before and thought it was interesting but couldn't see really using it. This week we got to know Beverly and Alan and their SkyDeck coach. they love it. It's where they socialize, watch the sunset, and often sleep under the stars. Bugs don't seem to congregate up that high, and there's always a good view. It was SO pleasant. Uh Oh. Here's how the stairs look from the inside:
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
And the outside:
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
They told us that only 20 of these were made. It's an Airstream product.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Datastorm Rally - Tampa Lazydays

Sure feels weird being at a Datastorm Users rally ... our 5th one ... and not having a working Datastorm :-( Our 5 yr old modems finally died a couple months ago. We have a spare, new, modem but we need a new controller in order to use it. It just doesn't make sense to put out money now, when we know we have good Wi-Fi for the winter - and we can use our cell phone when we're away from the park. We'll probably get it fixed when we head out on the road again in the spring ... maybe.

It's still a great rally. Anyone who has a Datastorm should be required to come to this rally at least once. The education is so good. Representatives from Motosat (the company who makes the Datastom) are always participating. And not just any representatives! The Vice President, Royal Lamb, is here as well as Maurice Rojas, a senior technician who can fix anything!

Maurice is presenting sessions on understanding the technology and troubleshooting. Royal is giving sessions about the company. For the troubleshooting session, they set up a live system - with the satellite dish out on the sidewalk outside the seminar room and the controller, modem, and router in the room for demonstration.

From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
Meanwhile, we're giving at least one of our seminars every day. Monday was our Picasa seminar, Tuesday I gave a different one, "Building a Basic Website." I play the part of Goldilocks, saying that Blogger is TOO SIMPLE, Dreamweaver is TOO HARD, but WordPress is JUST RIGHT. It's way too big a topic for an hour and a half seminar, I doubt that it will become one of our regular seminars, but it was fun for this group. At least I had fun!
From Lazy Days DataStorm Rally
btw- if you're interested in how I got that ©www.geeksontour.com on every picture, see our Picasa Tip-o-the-Week this week!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

All about people

Shortly after parking here at Lazy Days Rally Park, a friendly face came into view. Bob and his wife, Honey, came to our classes in St. Paul this summer. Honey learned how to make a blog and she joined our Geeks on Tour online classroom ... check out her blog, she's doing great! Beautiful pictures Honey! And what a great story. They've had a tax preparation business for many years. So, they've now organized their life to travel 7 months out of the year. They stay home and work hard for the 5 months of Tax Season. Here they are ... I really enjoyed spending some time getting to know them (and their 3 cats!) today.
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
And they weren't even here for the Datastorm rally! Just pure coincidence that they were parked here today and saw our motorhome come in. This afternoon the rally began and we met a couple who remembers us from Hutchinson Kansas in summer of 2004. He says that we shared our Datastorm Internet connection with them at the time and they loved it. They now have their own and they put it to good use home-schooling their teenage kids while living on the road. We had a great pot-luck dinner and then came my 'Icebreaker Treasure Hunt.' Each person had filled out an Icebreaker card with a couple of personal facts, but no name. I handed out those cards and told people to ask questions of each other until they found the person who matched their card. With just a little bit of confusion, the icebreaker served it's purpose quite well. It got everyone up and mingling. I was happy. The winner found 8 matches in about 40 minutes. An example of one of the facts written by someone attending the rally ... "My signature is on Mars." Wow - he used to work for Lockheed Martin on the Mars lander. All members of the team put their signatures on some part of the lander! You just never know who you're going to meet at RV rallies!
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
From Geeks on Tour Blog photos for November 2008
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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Exercise on the Road

We've been walking every morning while we're parked in Fort Lauderdale. It feels so good! But, that is usually the first habit to go by the wayside once we're traveling.

We stayed last night at a park in Fort Pierce, FL and we've never been here before. We have no idea what is around and how far we could comfortably walk. But, we've actually gotten to the point where we *want* to walk in the morning - so we got out Google Earth and took a look around. We ended up walking for 2 miles according to Google Earth. I'm so proud of us!!

To see exactly what I'm talking about with Google Earth, you can watch this video I made a while ago:

We're staying at this park because it's owned by the same management company that owns the park in Fort Lauderdale. This one is actually a trailer park, but there are a few RV sites, and they're considering putting in Wi-Fi to attract more RVers. Jim said he'd check it out - looks easy enough if they want to do it. I'll put Jim to work! Meanwhile, it's on to Tampa today and the Datastorm Users Rally.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Rally Icebreaker

We're on the road today! On our way to the Datastorm Users Rally in Tampa. Our very first rally - actually, our very first road trip in this RV, was to the Datastorm Users Rally in Tampa in November of 2003. And, we've been to this rally every year since except one. This is our rally!

At the last rally, I told the organizers that I loved the rally but I wish there was some more activities aimed at helping us get to know one another. At every rally we go to, we are surrounded by fascinating people, but we don't know them! And, I feel pretty funny just going up to someone and saying, "Hi, tell me what's interesting about you!" Actually, I have done just that - and I'm usually glad I did.

If you've ever participated in volunteer-organized events like rallies, you know what happens when you ask for something to be done, right? You're told, "Sure! Go ahead." :-) So, I am the committee chair - and the committee - for icebreaker activities. I want to tell you what I've come up with and see if you've ever done anything like this. Did it work? Got any further suggestions?

So - when people first check in to the rally, I'm going to ask them to fill out an index card with the answer to 2 questions:

  1. When was your very first RV trip and where did you go?
  2. What is a little known fact about your life? or What is your favorite sport?

The index cards will all be numbered, and I will keep a master sheet with just the numbers and the name of the person who filled it out. When they fill out a card, I'll put a colored dot on their name badge. All the cards will go into a bucket. At the 'Meet and Greet' opening event, everyone picks a card from the bucket and sets about to find that person. When they find a person, they put the card back and pick up another, marking on another sheet that they found that person. Whoever finds the most people wins! What do they win? I'm not sure about that. I know there are lots of door prizes, maybe I can get one earmarked for the icebreaker rather than raffle tickets.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Ballots: Paper, Electronic, or Florida?

It was the infamous 'hanging chads' of the punch card ballots in 2000 that prompted a switch to fancy electronic 'touch screen' voting systems in Florida for the 2004 election. They spent millions of dollars for these fancy new machines and then simply junked them because they didn't have a paper audit trail. Why they didn't have a paper trail, I don't know. It doesn't seem to me that it would be so difficult to have the computer spit out a printed 'receipt' after you vote? But, they didn't ask me.

We didn't get to experience these machines because we were in Roswell, New Mexico during election 2004. The aliens abducted our absentee ballots there - but that's another story!

So how are we voting in Florida today? Back to paper! Yes, we have a regular paper ballot where you fill in the bubble next to name of the person you're voting for. You might think that would be cheap and low tech.

Au contraire! We took advantage of being in Florida this time and voted at a booth rather than absentee. Let me describe our experience. We voted last week during Early Voting. There were 11 voting locations set up throughout the county This means that multiple precincts were handled by each location. Each precinct has a different ballot, so, they had to individually print them out! First you handed your ID to one pollworker who swiped it and verified your eligibility and your precinct. She gave us a receipt to take to the worker at the printing machines. The receipt was entered into the printer and it spit out a perfect 4-page ballot. We took the ballot to the booth and filled in our desired bubbles with a black ink pen - not a #2 pencil.

Last, we took the ballots to an optical scanner, where we fed them into the machine and saw a message that they were successfully scanned.

So ... is this scanned paper ballot a good compromise? Or the worst of both worlds?

I'm hoping for the best. It's about time Florida got it right. It sure seems to me that the day is near when we'll be able to swipe our fingerprint on any Web-connected computer and be able to register our vote. Or use the cell phone, like on American Idol! Not only does that not cost the public anything, they actually *make* money when people vote for Americal Idol. Voters dial a 900 number which costs a dollar or so. I don't believe there are any controls over how many times a given person can vote however ... that could be a problem :-)

If you want to read more about the paper/touch screen/scanner controversy, here is a good article.
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Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

We got a new toy! I cashed in my points against an old credit card and redeemed it for a new Garmin Nuvi 255 GPS/Personal Travel Assistant. It's sooo cute! And, Jim already had fun downloading all sorts of extras - like waypoints for Geocaches, and different voices for the turn by turn directions.

Here's how geeks have fun on Halloween:

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Camera's Back

Like a long lost friend returning and giving me a big hug! I'm so happy to have my camera back. $130 to have it repaired, vs. 4-500 for a new camera body, seemed well worth it.

So, here's some photos from around the park. It's a *GORGEOUS* day. We woke up to 58 degrees! Clear and sunny. Life is good, money or no money!

From 200810
From 200810
From 200810
My good friend Chris, and I went to the Obama rally in Sunrise. We waited in line 2 hours, but it was worth it. Hard to believe I got this photo from the upper balcony of a 20,000 seat stadium! Did I tell you I'm glad to have my camera back?!
From Geeks on Tour blog 200810
From Geeks on Tour blog 200810

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