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Archives for: May 2008

Guess Whoo's Barred?

May 30th, 2008  · stk

A National Geographic photographer I am not. As providence would have it, however, I spotted a "Barred Owl" in our pasture the same week I was testing a new (powerful zoom) digital camera. I was able to get some decent photos and now I'm sold on the camera. (It was an expensive owl sighting!)

Barred Owl Spotted at the Hutton House

barred owl strix varia

 

I happened to be taking our guest dog for a pee break, in the pasture, when I spotted this Barred Owl (Strix Varia) in a large Douglas Fir tree. I quietly and quickly went back to the house and grabbed the new Lumix TZ5 digital camera I'm testing this week (it has 70X digital zoom).

Sometimes, lady luck smiles broadly in your direction! :D

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Updated: 30-May-2008
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Filed in:CSS
Web Dev·The Web

Playing with Opacity

May 29th, 2008  · stk

Opacity is a CSS3 directive, but there's no reason not to start using it today. Apply it against the major browsers, validate it against the W3C CSS validator and I'll even show you a great "Before & After CSS Opacity Technique" for displaying your before-after photos

opacity overlay

hover to read

Using the CSS3 "Opacity" Directive: Future-Proof, Valid CSS and No CSS Hacks

opacity sidebar

The "Opacity" CSS directive is part of the CSS "level 3" Color Module, which is a "Candidate Recommendation". In a nutshell, this means that opacity isn't "ready for prime time".

Darn and phooey! You like opacity. And why not? It's fun to play with and you can achieve some nifty web effects using opacity. (I'll demonstrate an opacity technique that provides a great CSS-only way of showing "before" and "after" photos!)

Enjoy the MAGIC of Valid CSS3 Today!

What is opacity? Well, it's the opposite of transparency. Something that has 100% opacity is 0% transparent. Likewise, something with 0% opacity is 100% transparent.

The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) recommends thinking of opacity as a post-processing operation. After an element (including it's children) is rendered into an image for the computer monitor, the opacity setting specifies how to blend the element into the final display.

Applying opacity to an element is easy. Simply specify the "opacity" directive to a selector and provide a value from zero to 1.0, where zero is completely transparent and 1.0 is completely opaque.

Of course, the difficulty is that the level 3 CSS candidate recommendations are only honored by a select number of web browsers, notably current versions of FireFox, Opera, Safari & Netscape. As usual, the Grand Pubah of browsers (Microsoft's Internet Explorer), doesn't adhere to this as-yet approved CSS directive.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that I'm here to tell you that if you want to use opacity for your web pages - you can! We have been for some time!

There's a way to use opacity for FireFox, Opera, Safari, as well as Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 7. (According to AWSTATS, a web server statistics program, 97% of our 113,728 April visitors used one of these browsers ... heck, that's about as close to "everyone" as you're going to get in this cross-browser world of ours!).

There's even a way to use opacity so that the CSS validates (to verify this, just click on the "CSS" validation button in the footer below)!

Best yet, it's completely future-proof and requires no CSS hacks.

OKAY ... you're primed and ready. You want to start using opacity.

All you have to do is read on, Cascading Style Sheet lovers ... read on ...

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Updated: 30-May-2008
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Timberlands U-Cut

May 25th, 2008  · stk

Yesterday, Scott spent the day cutting a cord of wood at an Island Timberlands clear-cut. It was hard work, but for $30 a cord, who could resist? Find out more

A Chainsaw, Cord-of-Fire-Wood-Cutting Day

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We heat our home with a wood stove. Last winter wasn't super cold, but it did seem to linger and we were scraping the bottom of the wood shed by the time warm spring weather finally arrived. We're already thinking about building next year's supply, but not eager to shell out approximately $170 per cord. When Travis called to say that we had an opportunity to cut our own fire wood for $30 a load, we changed our family's weekend plan, so that Scott could participate.

Alex and I woke up at 6 AM on Saturday, tended to the chickens, fixed a fresh, fried-egg breakfast and then headed over to Travis' house. Alex stayed, to play with Miki, while Travis and I headed up to a clear cut area behind Chase River, to chainsaw up a bunch of fire wood.

The land is owned by Island Timberlands and for a handful of days this year (6) it is opened up to the public, so that they can cut fire wood. The "U-Cut" program is unique and (as far as clear-cutting can be considered environmentally friendly) it is a beneficial way for the timber company to get rid of unwanted timber. (Normally, such timber is heaped into a great big pile and burned).

Neither Travis, nor myself, have been on a timber land chain sawing trip, so for us, it was a new adventure!

To read more about our chain sawing, sweat dripping day .... read on ...

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Updated: 2-Jun-2008
Web View Count: 42970 viewsLast Web Update: 2-Jun-2008

Going Once, Going Twice

May 22nd, 2008  · stk

Whiting Way Estates: (an update)

Of the eight 5-acre parcels for sale at the end of our neighborhood, only two remain. Six sold in less than four months, all over $250k CAD. Amazing. See which, for what, get an update on the tree-killing neighbor and see a pure-CSS hover technique

75% of Whiting Way Estate Lots Sold in Four Months

The advertisement on page twenty seven of the May 2008 issue of the local "Take 5" magazine reads:

Serene Yellow Point Acreage

Wonderful 4 to 6 acre properties. In a postcard setting, right in the heart of sought after Yellow Point. ONly 8 parcels in total, each with their own unique qualities, but all very nicely treed and private. One of the areas sunniest spots, abundance of wildlife, ponds, forest and wonderful park area. Only a short walk to incredible Robert's Memorial oceanfront park, airport, ferries & picturesque Ladysmith within a 15-minute commute. This will be a great place to live!

The magazine advert by realtor Ed Morrison, was accompanied by a small sketch map, showing that four of the properties had been sold.

In late January, we reported that the first of these eight parcels, in our neighborhood, had been sold (and that the new owners had illegally cut down trees on designated park land, so he'd get a better view of the pond). The advert sketch map parcels marked as "sold", didn't jive with those marked as "sold" on the "For Sale" signs, at the entrance of each property.

It got me wondering, "Which parcels have, in truth, been sold?"

I called the realtor's office to find out and what I heard, astounded me. Fully six of the eight parcels have already been sold and doggone close to their asking price! That's nearly $300k per pop in four very short months!

To see a map of which properties have sold, asking prices, selling prices, which properties remain and a fancy pure-CSS aerial photography hover overlay (and an update on the tree-slashing, lot-7 owner) ... read on

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Updated: 4-Jun-2008
Web View Count: 16929 viewsLast Web Update: 4-Jun-2008
Filed in:Noteworthy

David & David

May 21st, 2008  · stk

OKAY ... I'm a closet American Idol watcher (mostly because I couldn't carry a tune if it had a handle on it). The only musical instrument I can play is a CD player and I can't play that very well. However, I was floored a few weeks back, when David Cook sang a Chris Cornell cover to "Billy Jean" ... have a listen

David Cook & David Archuleta

The David & David title takes me back to 1986 and the one-hit-wonder by the band of the same name - "Welcome to the Boomtown" (a great song in it's own right and inserted here - in 128 kilobits per second glory - for your listening pleasure and my listening nostalgia).

No, I'm talking about David Cook and David Archuleta, the two finalists of the 2008 "American Idol" pop television show.

OKAY ... I may be old(ish), but hey ... I'm a watcher of the show and have been rooting for David Cook ever since I heard his jaw-dropping rendition of "Billy Jean" (a cover of a cover by Chris Cornell), the original having been written by Michael Jackson, at the height of his career.

Talk about song selection! (The judges are always coaching contestants about song selection on the show) and I just have to say ... I think David Cook's selection of that song - I forget what week it was, but there were several contestants remaing ... 8 or so - was SPOT ON!

To listen to the cuts done by all three artists - (Michael Jackson's original version of "Billy Jean", Chris Cornell's stunning cover and David Cook's amazing spin on Chris' version) - carry on ...

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Updated: 22-May-2008
Web View Count: 12201 viewsLast Web Update: 22-May-2008

Creating Keepsakes

May 19th, 2008  · stk

When I went to renew Rachel's subscription to "Creating Keepsakes" magazine, I discovered that the publishing company - CK Media - is duping subscribers into believing they're getting HUGE "Insider Savings" on rates, when instead, they're paying MORE! This adds up to a couple of million dollars in extra revenue. I'm holding the company to task on it. Find out more

Magazine Unethically Dupes Subscribers

thumbs up creating keepsakes - CK Media

Creating Keepsakes (published by CK Media) lies to customers about HUGE "Insider Savings" on magazine subscription renewals. Instead, existing customers pay up to 25% more for renewals than brand new subscribers pay! Subscribers are left wondering, "Where are my HUGE Insider Savings? This is how I'm valued as a customer?"

Rachel enjoys scrapbooking our adventures, big or small. She's put together some really nice layouts and our shelves are slowly being filled with 12-inch by 12-inch binders, each holding stunning and creatively designed pages. It's a hobby, a creative outlet and it's been fun to watch her skills and pages improve over time. We enjoy pouring over the old memories, reliving the joy, adventure and good times. The scrapbooks are a treasured family heirloom.

For Mother's Day, last year, I bought Rachel a 12-month subscription to a magazine called "Creating Keepsakes", published by CK Media. The magazine is all about scrapbooking. She draws a lot of inspiration from looking at the featured designs, staying on top of new tools, styles and scrapbooking trends. She really looks forward to the magazine arriving in the mail each month and it's been a wonderful gift.

When I went to renew her subscription this Mother's Day, I happened to discover that existing customers pay up to 25% more to renew their subscription than do brand new customers who are signing up for the first time. This doesn't seem right. You'd think that CK Media would reward existing subscribers, eh? What's worse, is that they flat out lie to their customers, stating on the magazine subscription expiration notice:

LAST CHANCE FOR INSIDER SAVINGS ... ACT QUICKLY ... you can still maintain your insider status which entitles you to take advantage of HUGE SAVINGS and home delivery at no extra cost!

We've all seen these magazine subscription renewal forms, right? "Act Now" ... "Hurry" ... "Huge Savings" .... "$70 off of news stand prices" ... etc. I've never looked to see if it's a better deal than what's offered for new subscribers ... until today.

To follow the trail of magazine subscription enlightenment, subterfuge and *gasp* bold-face lies ... read on brave magazine subscribers ....

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Updated: 21-May-2008
Web View Count: 16852 viewsLast Web Update: 21-May-2008

Hello BC

May 14th, 2008  · stk

Clever British Columbia Tourism Ad

wonder lake yoho national park bc wonder lake yoho national park British Columbia

An online (pure CSS) replication of a lenticular, transforming print ad put out by Hello BC. (Photo donated by Tom Dempsey)

"Beautiful British Columbia" is what it says on automobile license plates in these parts and why not? When the heavens dump as much water on such a mountainous landscape, it's bound to be green and beautiful, filled with streams, lakes and waterfalls!

Tourism plays a huge roll in British Columbia's economy, accounting for nearly $5.5 billion dollars in 2006 (about 4% of the Province's GDP). One out of every 15 jobs is in the tourist industry. Unlike timber and fishing, tourism is actually a booming industry in B.C., growing nearly 5% a year since 2004.

As a result, clever people at advertising agencies are hard at work, coming up with new ways to make a British Columbia vacation sound irresistible. One such print ad landed in our mailbox (courtesy of the previous owner). It was an ad extolling the beauty of the province with a 6-inch by 9-inch photograph of a lone canoeist on Emerald Lake, in Yoho National Park. Using a lenticular printing process, the image transforms from one to another, depending on the viewing angle. One image is a the photo, with a puzzle grid overlain and a piece of the puzzle is missing (the canoeist). The tag line at the top reads, "The only thing missing ... ". The other image is the original photo (no jigsaw grid and no missing canoeist) and the tagline is completed, to read, "The only thing missing is you".

It's not your typical print ad. It was made by Tourism BC, to promote their 2008 BC Escapes Guides. I thought of a way, using CSS styling, to do something similar on a web page, so a had a play and came up with the image on the left. (The photo isn't identical, but it is of the same Emerald Lake in Yoho National Park. The photographer - Tom Dempsey - lives in Seattle and graciously donated the image.)

Hover over the image to see an online version of the lenticular ad effect.

To see the original print ad and learn more about tourism in British Columbia, read on

 

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Updated: 16-May-2008
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Pull My Hinge

May 7th, 2008  · stk

MyHomeHardware - We saved money by cross-border shopping in the United States for 96 hinges and 48 cabinet pulls, when we recently gave our kitchen a face lift. Total cost: a little over $100 CAD. Savings by not buying from Home Depot Canada? $500!! Outrageous.

Cabinet Hardware:
A U.S./Canada Cross-border Shopping Tale

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We've been in our "new" (24-year-old), Vancouver Island home for a year and a bit. The galley style kitchen is a traffic jam, drives us nuts and needs a complete renovation. Unfortunately, we have neither the funds - nor the time - to embark on such an expensive and extensive project, at the moment. So, instead, we've satisfied ourselves by painting the (dark forest green) cabinet doors, using a lighter earth-tone melamine paint ("Cozy Cottage") and replacing the old cabinet hardware with something more modern and brighter.

Having a major kitchen renovation under my belt (I completely gutted and re-built the kitchen in my 1940's California bungalow-style craftsman home), I had some idea of the costs associated with cabinets and cabinet hardware. After we counted the number of pull/hinge sets we'd need - forty eight - we took a trip down to the local Home Depot hardware store to purchase some simple, brushed chrome wire pulls and matching hinges. That's when the project stalled, because after a rough tally, we were looking at about a $400 bill and Scott said, "No way! That's outrageous!"

This is the tale of how we bought our pulls and hinges from an eBay company in the United States, for a fraction of the cost that Home Depot wanted for similar items. Chock up another success for cross-border shopping. It's thumbs down for Home Depot Canada for not being competitive and a big thumbs up for MyHomeHardware for their accurate product description, prompt shipping, reasonable shipping costs, product prices and customer service!

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Updated: 7-May-2008
Web View Count: 35069 viewsLast Web Update: 7-May-2008

Twin Baby Boats!

May 3rd, 2008  · stk

Twin Kayaks! We're now the proud parent of two 9-foot, 6-inch kayaks that weigh in at 40-something pounds each. The amount of plastic in our lives continues to climb! ( On the plus side ... they'll be loads of fun for visitors at the Barkley Sound floating cabin .... "Topanga?" :D )

"Blue Yonder" Gives Birth to Twins!

Little did we know when we bought her, but "Blue Yonder 19-foot bayliner classic cuddy For those that don't know, "Blue Yonder" is our new-to-us 19-foot Bayliner Classic Cuddy boat that we acquired as means of getting to the floating cabin. Click for more about the floating cabin & boat " was pregnant! (No wonder we got her at such a good deal)!

Early this morning, when we went outside to fetch the morning eggs, we noticed that there were two brand new baby kayaks, sitting in the yard. Apparently, they had just been born and were resting, after their birth, the night before.

We didn't know that boats could even get pregnant, but we're pleased with the new arrivals and will care for them as if they were our own.

Mum appears to be doing just fine, but she's tuckered out from her labor and is resting under a waterproof tarp. The twins appear healthy and fine. They each measure 9-foot, 6-inches and weigh in at respectable 42 pounds (can you say "ouch"?)! They're healthy baby kayaks, for sure. There is some question about their lineage, however. (Mum has classic yachting lines and a white fiberglass hull, with blue canvas on top. The twins are both beige and made of plastic.) Hmmm ... it leaves us wondering who the father might be?!

Mum is mum on the matter. (Mum is mum? Of course, who else would she be? The English language, eh? :p ) We're concerned that she's been slumming it on the wrong side of the yacht club, had a late night rendezvous with a certain tugboat, or maybe a wild fling with a schooner? *GASP* Perhaps liaison with a *hold-your-breath* working skiff?! Who knows,eh?

Regardless of their heritage, we're now the proud surrogate parents of two brown baby kayaks! (Some people "invest" in trampolines for their back garden, we get a pair of his'n-hers matching kayaks!) :D Go figure.

For more about the new new twins, read on.

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Updated: 3-May-2008
Web View Count: 22766 viewsLast Web Update: 3-May-2008