A nice site for tropical conditions.

The South Florida Water Management District’s web site has their own page that reports on tropical weather conditions. What I especially like about this page is the plain-English language that’s easy to understand. No degree in meteorology required.
The page is updated frequently during hurricane season, so it’s definitely worth bookmarking. Those not living in the Atlantic region will also want to bookmark the site as a reminder of the heavy price we Southerners pay for living in paradise.

All aboard the Toonerville Trolley.

When I was growing up, I loved checking out library books that featured comics from yesteryear. One book I enjoyed had a collection of comics from a strip called Toonerville Trolley. It portrayed life in the small village of Toonerville and featured a cast of unforgettable characters such as Mickey (himself) McGuire, the terrible-tempered Mr. Bang, Tomboy Taylor, and of course, the Skipper that runs the trolley line that runs around the village.
Now I have my own copy of that same book that so enchanted me as a kid. I bought it used from Barnes and Noble’s web site, and despite the book’s aged appearance, it still serves as a magic carpet ride to the world of yesteryear.
Or in this case, a magical trolley ride.
Toonerville Trolley is a look back at a way of life that no longer exists today. The village was small enough where the residents knew each other and everyone knew what was going on around town. Life was slow and easy back then, and many of the townspeople passed the time by walking around the village to see what was going on with their neighbors.
I really admire the skill of the strip’s creator, Fontaine Fox. He could draw scenes of village life with a few quick strokes of the pen. His drawings were simple but humorous, and they did much to capture an era that has long since passed.
Today we no longer have small towns where life was slow and easy. Instead we have huge cities where life travels at the speed of light. People today have fast paced lifestyles with stress and anxiety as their primary side effects.
I’d really love to visit Toonerville sometime.

My fretboard map.

I was frustrated at not being able to find a decent guitar fretboard map online, so I decided to make my own. I color-coded the notes to make them easier to find and hopefully highlight any patterns that may be hidden within the fretboard. Notice that the sequence of notes starts over at the 12th fret, except one octave higher.
This may not be the best fretboard map online but I like it and use it a lot. I am hoping it comes in handy for you fledgling guitarists out there. Enjoy.

Microsoft Agent scripting made easy.

Microsoft Agent Scripting Software is a free and a very fun way to make your own Microsoft Agent character scripts. You can easily choose the animation, tell the character what to say and even have it move to various spots around the screen. When you’re finished, it will generate an HTML file you can view in Internet Explorer or upload to your web site. You will be scripting like a pro in no time. One can only wish to have this much fun doing office work.

Agent viewer.

Agent Viewer is a freeware viewer that lets you see all the animations in a Microsoft Agent character file. You can also load one of the Assistants that come with Microsoft Office, including Clippy. Now you can see what those characters are really up to when you’re not at the computer.

BonziBuddy lives!


Remember BonziBuddy, that cute little purple gorilla that told jokes, sang songs and messed up your computer? Chances are you don’t even miss him. Well, he continues to live on in cyberspace, free from the evil software that once controlled him. He was innocent, really. He was brainwashed into doing bad things to your computer, something he himself wouldn’t dare do.
You can still download BonziBuddy, this time without the evils that came with him. Those evils are gone now. What you get is just the lovable purple gorilla himself, which comes in a single Microsoft Agent character file. You can get him from this site, which has a huge collection of other Agent character files. Just scroll down the page until you see “Bonzi.acs”. After downloading the file, you’ll want to put it in a folder called \windows\msagent\chars.
Now to put BonziBuddy back to work. This site has a nice collection of shareware programs that utilize Microsoft Agent characters to make those boring, every-day computer tasks more fun.
Speaking E-mail Deluxe uses Agent characters to check your e-mail while the Speaking Clock announces the time. I personally bought these two programs years ago and still enjoy them today. It’s a great way to put that cute little purple gorilla back to work without having to worry about cleaning up after him.

The Jellifish.

Another neat toy you need to have for your guitar is an oddity called the Jellifish. It’s a special pick with 16 very small and thin wires that enables you to create unique musical effects as you play your guitar.
With the Jellifish, it’s possible to make your ordinary 6-string guitar sound like a 12-string, a hammered dulcimer or even a cello. I’d never seen a gadget like it. With a little practice and some experimenting, you can come up with some totally new sounds with your guitar. This is one tool you need to have in your guitar kit.
You can hear demos of the Jellifish in action at the product’s web site as well as download the tablature files for playing the demo tunes. There are also videos that teach you the simple techniques for creating the various effects.

The Lightsnake.

I just got myself a cool new toy for my guitar that lets me record my music directly to my computer. This new toy is called the Lightsnake and is a 10-foot cable that plugs into your USB port. No drivers are needed, so you’re set to start rocking in no time. Talk about plug and play.
As you play, the cable’s built-in lights flash a cool green color to let you know that the cable is transmitting data normally.
The Lightsnake sets itself up as a USB audio device, so you’ll need to go to your sound recording program’s settings to use it as your input source. It works really well with Cool Edit 2000, which is what I use to record my music.

Giving back to nature.

On my patio I have a bird feeder which I keep filled with bird seed. I also have some squirrel food that I pour into the oversized flower pot that serves as the base for the bird feeder.
Hanging on my fence is a squirrel feeder, which is nothing more than a small platform with a long metal screw that holds an ear of dried corn.
Finally, I have a bird bath that’s filled with water which I keep near the bird feeder.
Needless to say, I have customers that frequent my patio. Blue jays, mourning doves, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, squirrels and even ducks visit my patio for a bite. In the evening, I see mice eating the seed, which is fine with me as long as they don’t come in my house.
As Florida’s population explodes and development continues at a frenzied pace, we’re really taking away from the animals that also live in this area. How good it feels to give a little back.

HTA scripting.

While I was at the Hey, Scripting Guy! site, I discovered a script format I never knew existed, one called an HTML Application. These applications are written in plain old HTML and are then saved as an HTA file. Afterwards you can double-click on the HTA file and it runs in an instant. No more waiting for the web browser to load and definitely no security restrictions.
This really holds a new world of possibilities. You can make a simple HTA script that has links to your favorite sites, or maybe a simple document with graphics. If you know HTML, you can make an HTA script.
This is an area of scripting I just need to explore. I think it’s going to come in real handy at work. Microsoft’s web site has a section devoted to helping you create HTA’s using the same friendly and funny approach as the Hey, Scripting Guy! columns.