more real estate spam

I’ve posted before about my frustration with Real Estate spam, (I have since marked my license ‘inactive’ since I can’t  dedicate time and money to it), I have been fighting a personal battle with “Listing Eflyer” or some combination of the above.  Essentially, I am blocking on my mail server, several versions of this:

/listingseflyer/ REJECT  Spam not tolerated [100]
/listingeflyers/ REJECT  Spam Not tolerated [101]
/listingsmove/ REJECT  Spam Not tolerated [102]
/listingeflyer/ REJECT  Spam Not tolerated [103]
/listing eflyer/ REJECT  Spam Not tolerated [104]
/^Subject .*listing eflyer/ REJECT  Spam Not tolerated [105]

These guys totally sucks.  They prey on R.E. agents trying to drum up business, but in reality, these agents are paying for the privilege for ending up in someone’s spam folder.

I hate this person.

Notice the amount of Spam this guy generates.


He sucks, and my heart goes out to the hungry agents out there that he’s preying on.  If you are a Real Estate professional, check out my other posts on responsible email marketing.  Don’t let this chump take your money so you end up in someone’s spam folder.

it’s overwhelming sometimes

I like to check out new things on the Internet especially some of the new services out there, like SocialThing and I’m on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blah blah blah…

But, sometimes it’s hard to keep all of them up to date, or updated or even to just check in. I have a Pownce account, but only visit when I get a notice sometime has happened, (like a new friend or file). I have a SocialThing account, but I think I’ve only been there once or twice. What else?

With all of these services, I feel like the spinning plate guy, trying to keep up with all of them. Sure, it’s getting better as more ideas become reality. Services like let you update Twitter, Pownce, Facebook, etc all at once.

But then you have to decide if you are going to use IM to update your status or post message, or use a desktop client or the web UI or your cell phone…

I don’t want to be the plate spinner, I want to be like Cardini. If you have not seen the video of Cardini, you’ve missed out. He was so masterful, he took slight of hand to a new level.

Don’t get me wrong, I love these sorts of things. I am enjoying Remember The Milk and Grandcentral. I’ve been using the heck out of my Pbwiki account, and LinkedIn has helped me make new contacts, but the daily routine of checking in everywhere gets old, and some of the newer services don’t seem to have much value for me at this point, so I’m likely not to visit them as much as the others.

So yeah, I want to be like Cardini of the Interwebs. I want to have such mastery of these applications, it looks beyond natural.

see me for who I am; how can I help?

I had a hard time coming up with a title for this post. I wanted to have something clever but not sound cliché, so I decided to start writing can see it something came up.

It’s always funny where inspiration comes from. It can hit you when you least expect it. It can be that little glow of an ember that could ignite into something wonderful, but only if you give it those first few flames of air. I’ve posted in the past about some really great TV shows on the BBC. I don’t watch BBC America often but every once in a while I’ll find something that I get a kick out of. I’m sure you’ve also heard how the BBC comes up with a great show and here in the U.S. they’ll try to copy it and just don’t do it right. There are plenty of examples; Who’s Line is it Anyways?, Coupling, Weakest Link, Who Wants to be Millionaire, The Office, and I am sure there are others.

We just started watching “Last Restaurant Standing.” We had three episodes on Tivo from last season. It’s really an interesting show. Surely you are aware of “Top Chef.” Top Chef on its own accord is pretty cool, but “Last Restaurant Standing” is sort of like ‘multi-dimensional chess” in comparison. The premise is that one of England’s most predominate chef and restaurateur, Raymond Blanc, is looking to partner with a couple to open a restaurant. Nine couples are given a restaurant to run, (none of them have any experience running a restaurant), and are given direction from the chef. The winner of the weekly change is given immunity and the rest of the couples face some sort of elimination challenge. The winning couple is split up and offers help to the remaining competing teams.

The last two episodes were around identifying and strengthing the restaurants’ brand.  Last week, each couple was given simple directions to “develop a brand” and then set up.  It was interesting to see how each couple went about what they each thought what was “their” brand and how to establish it.  Most of them floundered, most of them had a really hard time with this excersice.  And with this, I found myself relating.

The next episode they were given more clarification on what or how to identify their brand;

What excites you? What is your passion? What do you believe in?  That is your brand, and that is what you must do.  You must make other people, your customers understand and identify with your brand!

I’ve heard it before, this is nothing new.  But the difference here was seeing the people in the hot seat and how they reacted to this.  It was like they were too close to it to realize it.  Each contestant had that moment where they said, “Oh! I get it!”

It was at this time, I had a realization.  No, I didn’t realize what my brand was.  I think I have a good handle on that, (don’t get me wrong, it did take some time to get there).  What I realized was that manybe I wasn’t doing enough to promote what my brand was.   Some of the contestants had really clever and innovative ideas on how to promote their brands.  I would have not thought of them, but what I did find myself having, and this was like getting hit with a ton of bricks, was the permission to try really different things.  I’m talking about stepping out of my comfort zone.

One thing is clear, is that you have to have a personal brand. I saw something on a new blog I started reading,  It referred to the 95% rule.  Whenever you are at a networking event, see and hear what 95% of the people are doing.    Then, do the opposite.  If you are in the 5% minority, you are sure to get noticed.

running with a time limit sux

I don’t mean a time limit, like in a competitive environment. I mean like “Okay, I got 30 minutes before my son’s tutor is done and I have to get back!”

I’ve been a serious, steady runner since 1994 when I was working in a family owned running shoe shop during my college years. It was great. Then when I got my first job in an office, I ran on my lunch break (yes, our office did have a shower). So I got used to running, or at least being out of the office for one hour every day. I ate at my desk or in my office. I did this for years and have seen the Atlanta area change over time with some really big changes!

Since I’ve been out of the office, I haven’t run as much as I would have liked. I am trying to change that and I am trying to get out whenever the opportunity presents itself. Today was one of those days. I got done with an interview at a local recruiter and was able to get back home in time to get my son off to see his tutor at the library. I donned my running attire and we took off. I planned on doing 3o minutes, and as you might know from my previous posts, I am big on running with a HRM (heart rate monitor).

So, I am out beating the street and feel the overwhelming pressure of the 30 minute ceiling. I worry about being late and my son getting done with the tutor and him worried that I am not there. I actually planned it so if I did run 30 minutes, I’d be back 15 minutes before he would have been done as a buffer.

I started to think at how this sort of limit is much more stressful than say, trying to run three miles in 30 minutes, or even running a competitive race. I began to think back at how I used to feel when I had to get back to get ready for a meeting or a phone call. I felt the same way. When I am running in a race or trying to beat a specific pace, I am really trying to beat myself or improve my time. I have no illusions that I am going to win a price in my age class so I am out there for myself. But today, I was running to beat the clock because others are counting on me.

When I run, it’s my form of mediation. It’s my therapy. It heals my soul. I think about my muscles and how they’ve been conditioned for running for over 10 years. I think of them as a worn in, efficient system. If you have ever seen a steam boat engine, you might know what I am talking about. When I run, it’s when I have my “A-ha!!!!!!” or my “Eureka!!!” moments.

But not today, since I was so consumed with getting back within 30 minutes. Don’t get me wrong… I did have a great run as the weather, although chilly, was beautiful, and I did have a couple of minutes of deep thought, but it was missing the calming, introspective spice I was so looking forward to.

My therapist says, “Awareness is more than half the battle” and she’s right, of course. Having this awareness, I guess, is sort of an “A-ha!!” moment, just maybe not the one I was hoping for.

Ruby, SEO, and CSS… or how I spent my time off…

If you have been following along, you’ll know that I’ve been out of work since October.  I’ve been really busy, though.  I’ve enjoyed spending time with my children and my wife.  I’ve worked on projects around the house, (I made a bench out of scrap lumber), played around with technology (getting around to all those software updates I’ve been putting off), and I’ve been hitting the books.  Oh yeah, I’ve been doing some consulting on the side, too.

One of the things I really wanted to sink my teeth into was the whole Ruby on Rails things.   It’s been a while since I did any heavy lifting in Perl or even shell scripts for that matter.  I used to be into PHP before version five, but with most things, if you don’t use ’em, you loseWeight Exercise them.  Now, it’s not completely wasted.  I can open a script in Perl and PHP and quickly figure out what’s going on and make changes to suit my needs, but writing something from scratch really made the rusty gears turn and cobwebs fall away.

One of my biggest challenges is coming up with a project to do.  There are so many “solutions in a box” out there by fantastically smart people released as Open Source.   It’s an easy temptation not to reinvent the wheel.  Okay, so back to Ruby on Rails.  I bought a book, that turned out to be pretty crappy.  Except I didn’t know it was crappy, I thought I was too dense to grasp it.  Then I had a friend explain the whole MVC framework.  A light bulb went off and I began to understand concepts that I hadn’t seen before.  The book was still a crappy book, but now I had better direction in trying to find a book that I would personally find useful.  I did.  I found two both by the Pragmatic Programmer series. They got to me.  I understood it.  And while I lack sheer experience, I know enough to be dangerous.  I know where to look in a reference to do what I want.  I also know how to search for answers based on my questions, (sometime you got to know how to ask).

In a completely unrelated conversation with a new friend, we were talking about web design.  He said, “Oh yeah… we use CSS for everything.  You know, instead of using tables and frames like they used to in the old days.” Like in the “old days?”  Was I really living in the old days?  HTML was one of the first languages I had learned.  I think that was around version 3.2 and I had one of those “Teach Yourself HTML” books.  And while I wouldn’t consider myself a complete master, I had chops.  But… this comment made me rethink myself… What did he mean “instead of tables and frames?”  I stopped using frames years ago.. but tables?  I used them all the time.  What on earth did he mean?  I became obsessed.  Now, I knew about CSS and how to change colors and fonts and alignments… but what was this… what sort of wizardry was he talking about.

Seriously, I became obsessed.  I tried to read all I could on CSS.  I found more crappy books.  Nothing gave me the answers I wanted.  Until, that is, I found the O’reilly book and that changed my life.  I got it, it was clear… crazy and zen-like webpages polluted my mind.  I can’t wait to get into some hight-art CSS’ing.  I have found what I was looking for… the missing piece in my webdesign toolbox!

This is all very exciting for you, I am sure.   If you manage to stay on this page, then you are in for a real treat.  One day, when I was the bookstore, a guy came up to me and asked if I knew anything about the Internet.  I smiled sheepishly and said something like, “Yeah, I know a little about it…”  It turned out, he was a contractor, like a handyman-type of contractor and he had a website.  He was interested in SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  His “web guy” didn’t know anything about it, so he decided to take matters in his own hands.   We talked for a while and I tried to recommend him a book.  I found one, leafed through it and said it looked pretty good.  He asked if I had a card, and I said I didn’t and we parted ways.  I was worried I had given him a bum steer so I looked up the book on Amazon and I was surpised to see it was one of the highest rated books on SEO.  I felt good that I gave him some decent advice.

Since then, in my job search, I’ve seen posting after posting for “SEO Experts” so I figured this would be a skill I should learn about.  I was able to find the recommended book at the library and I just started reading it.  You know, I thought I knew a lot about that, but I was very happy to see  that I had lots more to learn.   I’ve enjoyed this book and am going to make some changes to my website, (as it is, I wasn’t far off.  When I view my stats for my website, I was surprised to see how highly I rank in the search engines for topics covered here!).   Am I an expert yet? No, I’m not.. but I think I know a heck of a lot more than a lot of people… read on…

Another thing I have been enjoying, is that I took over my son’s school’s website.  I didn’t do the initial design, which is very good and using CSS, but I did have to get up to speed on it and understand someone else’s code.  I got in the habit of using Subversion to keep whatever I am working on.  The few websites I have been working on, are all stored in my Subversion repository.   I make my edits and then upload my new pages, and then commit everything to subversion.

Now, to gain some additional features, we are moving the school’s website to a new hosting provider, and the new provider allows ssh/shell access.  I’ve used this before, but I had one of those “A-ha!” moments.  If I have shell on the server, why can’t I use subversion to publish my changes on the site?  Sure enough, it works!  It works like this:

  • I have a separate SVN server.  On my laptop, I keep a local copy.  I make all edits on my laptop, verify my changes, (since my laptop is LAM(R|P)), upload my changes to the remote site via FTP, and then commit my changes to SVN.

Since the new provider  has SSH access, I just realized my life is so much easier.

  • I make sure I have the latest revision on my laptop. I make my changes, test them, and commit to my SVN server.
  • On my new webhosting provider, I SSH in and change to my site’s DIR and run “svn update” and viola! Site updated!

Okay, I am sure there are a ton of people doing this and I didn’t make any sort of breakthrough discovery.  But, this IS cool, since I am midway in migrating between providers.  It does make my life easier.

I also got into CMS (content management systems).  I have committed to moving the schools website to a CMS system since so many parties need to updates specific sections.  But that’s another topic entirely and I am going to have to do some hand-holding on this one.

Oh, and I did mention I was doing some consulting.  I enjoy it.  I’ve made some people really happy with my contributions.  So much in fact, my wife and I are in the baby steps of starting a business.  I think for right now, it is on the back burner until I find a steady job; we need benefits.

My final point on is that my experience is somewhat unique.  I worked with some of the smartest and creative people I have ever met in my life.   I’ve been inspired by them and learned from them, but back in the day, I did some hump-busting, too.   In my time off, I’ve discovered that my sweet spot is some balance between creativity, technology, and problem solving.  That’s what I like.

And in case you are interested, I am listening to “Ian Brown” right now.  He’s great!

a good spy story

If you anything about me personally, you’ll know that I love a good spy story. When I was a kid watching 007 movies with my Dad, I loved imagining that I’d grow up to be a spy like James Bond. It wasn’t so much the license to kill, rather the gadgets and the cloak and dagger. I have really enjoyed the Bourne Identity movies as I picked up a copy of the original book and loved that, too. As far as I am concerned the movie and the book were different enough that it was almost like two different stories.

I read with relish, Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counterterrorist Unit by Eric Haney. I was enthralled by the spy-craft aspects of the book and was often jealous that the need to sneak past security or evade militants didn’t come up more often in my current line of work.

If you happened to read my blogs from the beginning, (unlikely based on the stats), then you might be aware that I posted about an amazing show from the BBC:

If you check out the links in the post you can visit the BBC pages about the show.

Tonight, I became aware of an excellent read over at Wired:

Continue reading

the music all around us

As I mentioned before, I usually listen to my iPod while I put our son to sleep. Tonight, we have guests in from out of town so my son is sleeping with us in our bed. I had my iPod and he wanted to hear what I was listening to. He is six and in his kindergarten class, they were playing Bob Marley and he liked it a lot. We listened to a R.L. Burnside song, then a Midnight Oil song came on. He didn’t like it at first then he said he liked it a lot. Later, as I was skipping songs I thought he might not like, we hit another Midnight Oil song and he wanted to hear it. I told him the band was from Australia and it was a far away place. I also told him I saw them in concert once. That got me thinking about all the concerts I had gone to.

Laugh as you might, the first concert I had ever been to was Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I think I was in 8th grade or something. I had their LP and the concert was great. I remember I really enjoyed it. So, here’s a little list of concerts I had gone to. I might make this a little more prominent in the future. This is just a running list, so don’t expect to be in order.

  • Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  • 7 Seconds
  • Dag Nasty
  • Circle Jerks
  • Butthole Surfers
    • Multiple times
  • The Tombstones
  • Drivin’ & Crying
  • B.A.L.L.
  • Das Damen
  • Morrissey
  • 10,000 Maniacs
  • Dead Can Dance
  • Midnight Oil
  • Skinny Puppy
    • Backstage and met the band
  • Front 242
    • Backstage and met the band
  • The Fall
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
  • The First and best Lollapalooza
    • Rollins Band
      • Saw them before
    • Nine Inch Nails
      • When they were still small
    • Butthole Surfers
      • Saw them before
    • Ice-T
      • somewhat entertaining
    • Living Color
      • I fell asleep after many beers
    • Siouxsie & the Banshees
      • The tour was good to her
    • Jane’s Addiction
      • OMFG!
  • Kiss
  • The Cult
  • Iggy Pop
  • My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult
    • Before they sold out
  • Depeche Mode
    • in 2006
  • The Rolling Stones
  • The Who
  • The Cure
  • Ween
    • Several times
  • The Pixies
  • Stereolab
  • The Wedding Present
    • Several Times
  • Robyn Hitchcock
  • The Cramps
    • Maybe three times
  • The Fleshtones
  • Stray Cats
  • Brian Setzer Orchestra
  • Flat Duo Jets
  • Gwar
  • Goober and Peas
  • Lime Spiders
  • Mojo Nixon
    • atleast twice
  • Southern Culture on the Skids
    • Countless times
  • Neil Young
  • Crowded House
    • Private Album release party with three open bars! Man oh man!
  • Madonna
    • A gift for my wife, but I had a great time, too!
  • Ministry

People I had a chance to see, but didn’t for some lame reason, and now regret it:

  • Lou Reed
  • The Pogues
    • yes, of course with Shane!
  • Sisters Of Mercy
  • The Smiths

People who I would have beaten up if I saw them back then:

  • Rick Astley

I am sure I’ll think of more as time goes on. And there were a slew of little bands in the various bars and clubs in Atlanta.

austin powers is the snake to my mongoose…

I was watching Austin Powers the other night. I love those movies. As Bob pointed out in the comments on the Invisible Sandwich post, I do get a good bit of laughter from low brow humor. The funny thing is, when Austin Powers first came out, I thought it would be dumb. I didn’t think I liked that sort of humor. My mom and sister encouraged me to see it and they were right. I loved it. I was hooked.

Looking back, I remember I saw a movie when I was in high school. I saw it at one of the first “parties” I went to where no adults were around. I don’t know how many people saw this movie, but I still think it was really funny.

The user comments on imbd sums it up pretty good. 1984 was a big year for me as I began to form my identity. I think I probably saw this in 1988 or so since we had it on VHS. Talk about low brow humor, this movie had it all. I am still laughing as I type this. I agree that it is temping to highlight certain scenes but I think if I did and you hadn’t seen the movie, you just wouldn’t get it since it would be out of context.

This movie was a hidden gem, and growing up I came across other hidden gems. I used to work at a record shop when I was in college and we rented movies. I got to see a lot of really good movies during that time. One of the things that I found somewhat interesting is the connections you could find amongst several movies. I was turned on to Jim Jarmusch in college. He is still one of my favorite film makers. Using him as a starting point, there are connections in various ways between, Joe Strummer, Dick Rude, Alex Cox, Tom Waits, David Johansen, John Lurie, Nick Cave, Neil Young, Iggy Pop, The Pogues, Elvis Costello, and other actors who have been in various movies with the above people. Aside from the movies, there is other evidence, like The Sons of Lee Marvin and the excellent “Fishing with John” series.

Fishing with John:  John and Dennis Hopper

Let me get back on track here for a minute with the funny movies that I have seen over the years. Honestly, I could go on and on about good movies, but I started talking about low brow humor and here I am now talking about Indie films and conspiracy theories. If you’ve made it this far, I apologize.

Okay, so back to the low brow. I’ve never really enjoyed movies like Fast Times or Porky’s. I think I like the low brow with a certain level of intelligence behind it. Animal House was like that. It was low brow alright, but it was put together intelligently and was done well. A movie that I happened to catch on the premium movie channels was:

  • EuroTrip

Despite the alluring, yet misleading cover on the website, I found this movie to be a real surprise. First it was really well done. The story was interesting and situations the characters found themselves in was gut busting funny for me. I liked it so much, I found it used at a rental store, (when I first got a DVD player, the first previously viewed DVD I bought was Duece Bigalow for $1. I still maintain it was the best $1 I ever spent!). What was interesting about this movie, given the humor, was the attention to detail. This movie came out well before Pope Paul John II passed away. And in the movie, they did this whole scene around everyone mistakenly thinking the Pope died. I followed the Pope’s death and the appointment of the new Pope pretty closely and watched the movie afterward, they pretty much got it right. It is a fun movie, but my Dad said it was too much for him.

Crazy Ray.

I’ve wrestled with the fact that I am not too big on blogging about personal stuff, but I can share some of the cooler things in my life; current events, funny storys, and other oddities you can find on the internet.

Some friends of our family, when we were younger, lived in some rural place outside St. Louis. You had to drive down a long driveway to get to their house, and while you were on their driveway, you pasted this run down house. They said a guy named Crazy Ray lived there. Why was he Crazy Ray, and not something like Irriateable Ray? Good question. Apparently, Ray’s older brother played the accordion. And one of the family’s favorite pastime was to play accordion around a fire in a trash can when it was cold outside. Well, one day, Ray’s brother got too close to the fire and his accordion went up in flames. His brother died then and there as the family watched on helplessly. Now, that in itself is indeed a tragedy. And no doubt, it affected Ray in ways we can only imagine. But some of the stories that our hosts shared with us, I can’t help but think Ray had other problems and this was just another brick in the wall. Oh, btw, this happened before Ray was a teenager; he was then in his fifties when we heard these stories.

So now Ray was Crazy Ray. What kind of things did he do to deserve such a name? Well, quite a bit, actually. It seems that Ray had a problem with his arm. It looked kind of weird if you looked at it, kind of crooked. One time when he was cutting the yard, he got into a fight with a tree and broke his arm. He never went to the doctor nor had it set, so now it just looked kind of odd…

Ray used to have a dog. This dog loved to walk. In fact, there was a trail worn around Crazy Ray’s house that was rumored to be made by his crazy dog. So Ray used to walk his dog. Now, this wasn’t what you would think of as a normal walk. No, not just around the block for his dog to poop. Ray would walk his dog 20+ miles. So much did this dog walk, his pads were worn off his feet. So Ray wanted to keep going out, so he got a bike (he might have had it laying around, I don’t think he bought one just for this), and put his dog in the basket on the handlebars of the bike. Crazy Ray would ride around with his dog in the basket for 20+ miles also. Finally, the dog could no longer sit in the basket since he was sores on his bum.

So what did Ray do at this point with his dog? He ate him!