Pardon Our Dust

I’m installing a new theme in order to comply with Google’s mobile usability demands. This blog was first launched on WordPress about six and a half years ago, so it was held together with duct tape, ancient plugins and prayer.

As a result, converting it to a modern structure is taking a bit of effort. There are going to be things that are broken. Some of them I’ll catch. Some of them I might not catch.

If anything in particular is bothering you, feel free to comment here.

Review: Go Fork Yourself Podcast

As some already know, I’m a major consumer of podcasts. I get most of my audio news that way. I listen to as many history podcasts as I can, and a few on entrepreneurship and music.

The are surprisingly few good podcasts on food, especially with the potential demise of the Alton Browncast (it hasn’t released a new episode in a number of months).

One of the best food related podcasts is Go Fork Yourself, by Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame.

Every week, Andrew and his co-host Molly discuss the latest issues in food, in an episode that runs from forty minutes to an hour in length. The focus is largely on the restaurant industry, but they cover general food trends and sideline into travel as well.

Andrew’s equipment recommendations are gold. I love the spiral slider he recommended, and just ordered a Memphis Grills Elite for the outdoor kitchen in my new house.

He also has me seriously thinking about purchasing a sous-vide system.

Through interviews with chefs and discussions with Molly, Andrew helps the restaurant patron listener to understand the industry from the prospective of the chef and/or owner.

Sometimes the language can get a bit salty, but if you’ve ever worked in the industry, you know that this is just reality.

Give Go Fork Yourself a listen through iTunes or your favorite podcatcher!

Does Texas Health Presbyterian Survive?

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Thomas Duncan was diagnosed with Ebola, has seen a major decline in revenue. The hospital has reported a 50% drop in ER visits, and a 20% drop in daily patient census.

Couple that with a wave of negative reviews coming in, and even full page apologies may not be enough to survive. Earlier reports called Texas Health Presbyterian a ghost town.

Look, whichever hospital was first to receive an Ebola patient was screwed. The CDC had been telling everyone that Ebola wasn’t likely to come here, and even though hospitals have been working on Ebola preparedness for months, the urgency wasn’t there until it was on our shores.

That doesn’t excuse sending Duncan home the first time, but I can understand missing it.

And, the two nurses who caught Ebola from Duncan were apparently following CDC guidelines. Those guidelines have since been revised by the increasingly incompetent-appearing CDC.

If I or a family member were sick or injured in Dallas, I’d probably want to bypass Texas Health for the next available hospital. I can’t question others who do so.

But, if I had been potentially exposed to Ebola, and started to show worrying symptoms, I’d go there in a New York minute. They’ve learned a lot in the four weeks since Duncan walked in their door. If I’m not near a biocontainment facility, I’d like to go somewhere that’s seen the disease before.

Still, the challenges Texas Health faces are big. But then, so is their parent company, which provides deep pockets and a chance at survival.

The apology was a good start. So are articles that show how they’re improving their processes.

I’d like to see some of this happening at a national level as well. Perhaps invite one of the national news television shows in to examine what they’re doing.

At this point, Texas Health has no good will to trade on. Openness and honesty is the only way they’re going to being rebuilding it.

Unethical Behavior by Toys R Us

So, Toys R Us has this neat functionality where a child can set up a wish list. My nephew set one up a few months ago, and it was very useful when deciding what to get him for Christmas.

I simply got on the Toys R Us website, put in his name and location, and up popped a list of everything he wanted. I picked out a couple of items and ordered them.

Very convenient.

Except that this morning (four days after I had placed the order), I received an email from Toys R Us that one of the items I had ordered was not available. As a result, they cancelled that part of the order.

Ok, it would have been nice to have been given an option to back order the item, but it’s not that big of a deal. I can understand not wanting to deal with back orders during the busy Christmas season. I got back on his wish list and began looking for a replacement item to order.

Except that the item I had previously ordered was still there. And was listed as in stock.

But now the price had changed from $22.49 to $29.99.

Wait… What?

It seems clear to me that what happened was that they weren’t able to get that item at the old price. Instead of honoring the sale, they just cancelled the item from my order.

Very slimy, in my opinion.

Feeling burned, I jumped on Amazon to see if they had it. Yep, and it was only $16.00.

Guess who got my order?

Guess who’s going to get my future orders?

SFC Farmers Market at Sunset Valley

Austin loves a farmers market. There must be a dozen or more around the greater Austin area alone. These markets focus on locally grown, and often sustainable, food and other products.

The Wife and I have been to several of the Austin-area markets and this morning we decided to make the trek down to south Austin for the SFC Farmers Market at Sunset Valley. SFC also runs the markets downtown (on 4th) and in the Triangle, and is supposed to be one of the largest in town.

Perhaps it was an off day, but we were underwhelmed. It was much smaller than we expect, with maybe twenty-five tents. I think that’s smaller than the one in Cedar Park even. The 4th Street market is much larger.

The vegetables looked ok, but there weren’t any that just screamed out to us to be purchased. That may be somewhat due to the time of year, however.

We purchased a bison tenderloin and some bison rib-eyes (no yak to be found). We’re going to grill the rib-eye tonight.

There were some vendors selling beef and chicken, but we’ve never bought any there. Frankly, it’s very expensive, and doesn’t look any better than what you can get at HEB. I’m willing to pay a premium for local produce, but their prices are a bit high. The bison, at least, is unique and not something you can easily find elsewhere.

SFC Farmers Market at Sunset Valley
3200 Jones Road
Austin, Texas 78745
Tel: (512) 236-0074

Tech Notes: All pictures taken with my Nikon Coolpix P80.

2010 Longhorn Football Players on Twitter

As the social network Twitter continues its growth, more and more current Longhorn players are joining. Below is a list of the 2010 Texas Longhorns I could find on Twitter.

Let me know who I’m missing (or if any of these are fake).

LUBBOCK,TEXAS - NOVEMBER 1:  Tray Allen #56 of the Texas Longhorns watches practice before the game against the Texas Tech Red Raiders on November 1, 2008 at Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Tray Allen
Senior Offensive Guard

Curtis Brown
Senior Cornerback

John Chiles
Senior Wide Receiver

Dominic Espinosa
Freshman Offensive Lineman

Jeremy Hills
Junior Running Back

Trey Hopkins
Freshman Offensive Lineman

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 05:  Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin #84 of the Texas Longhorns at Cowboys Stadium on December 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Marquise Goodwin
Sophomore Wide Receiver

Vondrell McGee
Senior Running Back

D.J. Monroe
Sophomore Running Back

COLLEGE STATION, TX - NOVEMBER 26: Defensive tackle Kheeston Randall #91 of the Texas Longhorns sacks quarterback Jerrod Johnson #1 of the Texas A&M Aggies for a loss in the first half at Kyle Field on November 26, 2009 in College Station, Texas. The Longhorns defeated the Aggies 49-39. (Photo by Aaron M. Sprecher/Getty Images)

Kheeston Randall
Junior Defensive Tackle

Christian Scott
Junior Safety

Kenny Vaccaro
Senior Safety

Fozzy Whittaker
Junior Running Back

Aaron Williams
Junior Cornerback

Note: If you’re interested in Twitter accounts for non- and former players in the Texas Longhorns ecosphere, check out last summer’s Who’s Who in Social Media for the Texas Longhorns, Individuals and Who’s Who in Social Media for the Texas Longhorns, Sites.

FaceTime Wishlist

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 07: Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrates FaceTime video conferencing on the new iPhone 4 as he delivers the opening keynote address at the 2010 Apple World Wide Developers conference June 7, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Jobs kicked off their annual WWDC with the announcement of the new iPhone 4 (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

FaceTime is Apple’s video calling solution for the iPhone 4. My buddy Paul G. and I have been testing it over the last week or so. The high video quality has been fairly consistent, even when downloading and uploading files on the same network as the phone call.

The delta-based compression creates artifacts if the subject or background are moving, but that is to be expected.

Overall, we were both impressed, especially considering it is a first generation product. We did, however, have the following wishlist of items to be improved or added:

1. No equivalent MacBook, PC, etc. app for dialing for those of us who do not have an iPhone 4? This could go a long way towards making FaceTime an industry standard.

2. The phone needs some kind of stand. Long conversations get wearisome and I want to free my hands.

3. I want a 3G ‘unrestricted’ version of this (say hello to hax0r), so I can use Facetime WHERE EVER I am…not just on a WiFi connection. Not offering this is just stupid. It would increase usage which would increase the revenue from AT&T’s data plans. Fring is attempting to fill this niche, so Apple had better hurry.

4. Fingers & hands: if you hold the top and bottom you are killing the microphone and speaker…and don’t give me that Steve Jobs answer.

5. This is a female-centric comment: the fish-eye lens adds 10-15lb. And will not be adopted readily by the female community. Fix it or add some feature to change aspect.

6. No ‘pinch’, no zoom?!?

7. Would be nice if it could be coupled with some sort of text messaging system, so that links and such could be sent.

Initial Thoughts on the iPhone 4

This week, I upgraded from the original iPhone to the iPhone 4. I ordered using the Apple Store app on June 16th (the second day of pre-ordering). It shipped from China on July 1st and was delivered into my hands July 6th. It set at the FedEx office in Austin for three days due to the holiday.

The packaging was the usual minimalistic Apple, with the phone, a set of headphones, a USB cable, a charger and a bit of documentation.

Converting over to the new phone was amazingly easy. I plugged it in to my MacBook and iTunes asked whether it was a new phone. I told it “no”, and it copied over the settings from my old phone. It remembered which podcasts, apps and playlists I wanted on the phone, and even copied over my background image.

Other than re-entering passwords for my email accounts and a couple of apps, it was pretty much seamless. Apple truly excels at this.

Syncing Bluetooth with my MINI was easy and has been very stable so far.

The phone is much faster than my old phone, but I did jump over two generations entirely. Apps also seem much more stable.

GPS in the phone is wonderful (yes, I was on the original iPhone). Yelp and GoSkyWatch are particularly improved.

It seems like the max volume is lower than on my old phone. Generally that wouldn’t matter, but the podcast version of NewsHour is often sampled at a very low volume. It was a bit hard to hear in the gym yesterday.

I’ve only had one call drop so far, and I’m not sure if that was my end or the other. AT&T seems to work decently in Austin, fortunately.

The problem with having to avoid holding the phone in a certain way is truly goofy, although I’ve managed to avoid the problem, and now I have a set of the bumpers that fixes it. Apple should fix this at their own cost. It can’t be viewed as anything but a design flaw.

This is really the only negative I’ve discovered so far. It’s an attractive phone, that is easy and comfortable to use. We’ll see if I get as much use out of it as I did the original iPhone.

American Idol and Google Searches

One of the many interesting tools offered by the search giant is Google Trends. It allows one to compare the number of searches on various queries. I thought it might be a useful tool for predicting the winner of American Idol tonight. The theory is that web searches reflect interest, which should translate into votes.

Unfortunately, it only has data through May 24th (Monday) at this point, so it doesn’t tell us what the interest was last night, when voting was happening.

It does reveal an interesting trend, however:

Searches for [crystal bowersox] mostly outpaced searches for [lee dewyze] until last week’s performance show, where Lee jumped way ahead. This is even more clear on the data for the last thirty days:

Lee certainly has been coming on strong the last few weeks, and he was great last week. Crystal was much better than he was last night, however.

It should be interesting to look back once we’ve got the data and the results to see how they correlate.