Shortening my own URLs

OK, so here’s a dead-simple idea.  Shorten your own dang URLs instead of letting the URL-shorteners steal your Google-love.

Step 1 — get yourself an abbreviated version of your domain name.

This site is my old standby blog.  A dumping ground for all the ideas that can’t find a home on one of my other sites.  It used to have the domain-name but I lucked out and sold that name a few years ago so now it’s on the name.  Not bad, six letters, pretty short.  But shorter is better.  So I just ran off and got and loaded it on the server so it points to the same site as

Step 2 — load up the “non-WWW” version of your new shorter domain-name

Egad!  Another 4 letters wasted if you have to put that on your URL!  Make sure that your site answers to the shorter version as well as the “www.” version of your spiffy short domain name.

Step 3 — WordPress users — use the “ugly” version of your links

Here’s a great post from SheepTech that describes how your WordPress blog is already providing you with a darn short URL.  Click HERE to read his article.  In short, your WordPress blog creates a short “ugly” URL in addition to whatever “pretty” URL you’ve specified.  So you can save a bunch of characters by using that ugly URL.  The format looks like this (using the URL for this post);

That’s pretty darn short!  Way shorter than the “normal” URL for this post, which is;

It’s not quite as short as the URL-shorteners, but the nice thing is that it’s MINE.  🙂

Low Power FM program-distribution and station-control by Internet

I got going on an idea during coffee with Amalia Deloney yesterday.  She was saying the LPFM stations have a tough time filling the hours with programming and my thought was to replicate the old NFCB Tape Exchange using RSS feeds.  Here are some ideas to get people started.

Problem – Not enough programs to fill the day

Idea – Use podcasts (blogs with RSS feeds and audio programs) to aggregate content from a federation of LPFM stations.  Garrick Van Buren built a great gizmo to do this and you can see an example of his system at PodcastMN.  I’m sure Garrick would be happy to help with this.

Problem – Not enough volunteer hours to do the “program director” function for a single station

Idea – Share a program director between a federation of like-minded LPFM stations.  Let the person be the aggregator of multiple feeds similar to the one Garrick does, and then create a feed that drives the daily programs on multiple stations.  The stations could subscribe to this “network feed” and break away whenever they want to do local programming.

Problem – Not enough volunteer hours to operate a single LPFM station

Idea – This gets a little geeky, more for you engineer types.  What about using multiple RSS feeds as the command and control network to operation the stations?  Each station would generate an RSS feed of what it’s doing (playing a file, changing transmitter settings, losing/regaining Internet connectivity, temperature sensing, etc. etc.) and those RSS feeds are monitored by a centralized C&C system that sends station-commands down one RSS feed per station.  Monitor the RSS feeds pretty often (once a minute?) for granularity.  One could use this for both program control and technical control of the station.

Problem – The station isn’t on the Internet

Idea – Use the podcast program-distribution network anyway, but burn the programs to CD and carry them to the station.  What the heck, we used to do this with audio tapes sent through the mail.  This would still provide a really good, cheap source of programming for the federated stations even if they weren’t on the ‘net.

Problem – The station goes off the Internet (thus going out of control)

Idea – Lots of ham remote-control their transmitters (including me).  Many of us have built configurations that poll the Internet and, if the station loses Internet connectivity for some period of time, shuts itself down.  Here’s a link to my configuration, you could use this as a model.  And here’s a link to the remote-controlled power switch that actually monitors the ‘net and shuts the station down if the station goes offline.

Problem – LPFM station doesn’t have any money

Idea – The only thing in this page that costs money is that little switch.  The rest of this stuff you can do for free.

… Just a thought…


More life-hacking.  Here’s a cool concept — from Japan.  Keep track of little everyday things that make life easier.  Click HERE for an article to get you started (a link to a great book is at the bottom of the article).

This book saved my camera a couple days ago.  I dropped it in the snow, the camera was warm so the snow started melting before i could brush it off, the result was a really wet digital camera.  The Urawaza trick was to dump the camera in a bowl of uncooked rice (which acts like those little dry-out packets that are included in lots of electronics).  After a few hours in the rice, the camera emerged dry as a bone and works perfectly.

Ear plugs!

Ok, this is a life-hacking post.  Mick Souder changed my life.  Maybe I’ll change yours with this post.

I haven’t slept well for years.  I have ears that will pick up a gnat sneezing from a half a mile away, so I hear all the little night sounds.  Furnaces, water softeners, dew dripping through downspouts, trains, trucks, etc. etc.

All those little sounds wake me up, and once awake I start “processing” stuff…

Mick gave me some earplugs about a year ago when we dropped by his place in Durango and I forgot about them (I was sick at the time and didn’t feel like trying them right away).  I finally got around to trying them on our recent RV trip when we were parked close to a freeway.

ASTOUNDING!  Complete silence.  I slept through the night for the first time in 25 years.  I’ve been using them ever since with the same result.  I sleep like a teenager.  I notice a huge difference in my energy level, my frame of mind, etc. etc.

These gizmos can be yours for about 15 cents a pair — a box of 200 pairs cost me about $30 at Northern Tool.  I like the Classic flavor (the kind Mick gave me).

Click HERE to look at ’em.

Lots of new O’Connor blogs

Not many blog posts on Haven2 these days, but that doesn’t mean we O’Connors have gone silent.  We’re just posting in other places… — I blog about the experience of being the at-large appointed urban-consumer representative to the Minnesota Ultra High Speed Broadband Task Force. — Marcie’s new blog about bug stuff. — Marcie’s even newer blog about raising bugs — Richard’s blog (coauthored with his friend Phil) about their upcoming trip down the Mississippi by canoe — Robert’s new blog about whatever catches his fancy.

Good Financial Advice — from Sequoia Capital

Somebody over at Sequoia Capital wrote up a pretty compelling (and dismal) set of slides for their member-company CEO’s.  CLICK HERE to view the presentation.

It’s pretty good advice for the rest of us — whether we’re entrepreneurs or just regular folks.

The summary?  This is going to be a different kind of downturn — longer, harder, tighter.  Get out of debt, spend every dollar like it was your last and be careful.  Sobering stuff from smart people.

Sarah Palin — this is the bio of our next VP??

The governor’s site at the State of Alaska is kinda punky today, what with Sarah getting the nod to be McCain’s VP choice.  I finally wriggled in and scooped off this “bio” information.

I can’t imagine the kind of trouble we’re going to be in if McCain keels over and Sarah winds up being President.

And this is the woman that is supposed to attract Hillary fans???  This woman is put up as the alternative to Hillary, the Wellesley grad, Yale law grad, national board-member, former first lady, champion of women’s rights, champion of health-care reform, 2-term Senator from New York???

CLICK HERE to see Craig Fergeson’s piece about Sarah in which she dubs him an honorary citizen of the state.

CLICK HERE for a great blog post by an Alaskan.  Not pretty.

Sorry about the political post.  I couldn’t help myself…  Here’s Sarah’s bio from the Alaska site.

About the Governor

Governor Sarah Palin made history on Dec. 4, 2006, when she took office. As the 11th governor of Alaska, she is the first woman to hold the office.

Since taking office, her top priorities have been resource development, education and workforce development, public health and safety, and transportation and infrastructure development.

Under her leadership, Alaska invested $5 billion in state savings, overhauled education funding, and implemented the Senior Benefits Program that provides support for low-income older Alaskans. She created Alaska’s Petroleum Systems Integrity Office to provide oversight and maintenance of oil and gas equipment, facilities and infrastructure, and the Climate Change Subcabinet to prepare a climate change strategy for Alaska.

During her first legislative session, Governor Palin’s administration passed two major pieces of legislation an overhaul of the state’s ethics laws and a competitive process to construct a gas pipeline.

Governor Palin is chair of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, a multi-state government agency that promotes the conservation and efficient recovery of domestic oil and natural gas resources while protecting health, safety and the environment. She was recently named chair of the National Governors Association (NGA) Natural Resources Committee, which is charged with pursuing legislation to ensure state needs are considered as federal policy is formulated in the areas of agriculture, energy, environmental protection and natural resource management. Prior to being named to this position, she served as co-chair of this committee.

Prior to her election as governor, Palin served two terms on the Wasilla City Council and two terms as the mayor/manager of Wasilla. During her tenure, she reduced property tax levels while increasing services and made Wasilla a business friendly environment, drawing in new industry.

She has served as chair of the Alaska Conservation Commission, which regulates Alaska’s most valuable non-renewable resources: oil and gas. She was elected by her peers to serve as president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. In this role, she worked with local, state and federal officials to promote solutions to the needs of Alaska’s communities.

Sarah Heath Palin arrived in Alaska with her family in 1964, when her parents came to teach school in Skagway. She received a bachelor of science degree in communications-journalism from the University of Idaho in 1987. Palin, who graduated from Wasilla High School in 1982, has lived in Skagway, Eagle River and Wasilla.

She is married to Todd Palin, who is a lifelong Alaskan, a production operator on the North Slope and a four-time champion of the Iron Dog, the world’s longest snowmachine race.

Through Todd’s Yup’ik grandmother, Alaska’s Native heritage plays an important role in their family. Track enlisted in the U.S. Army on Sept. 11, 2007.

Prior to taking office, Palin served on numerous boards and commissions throughout the state. She was active in her family’s pursuits including serving as a sports team mom and school volunteer. She also runs marathons.

Palin is a lifetime member of the NRA and enjoys hunting, fishing, Alaska history, and all that Alaska’s great outdoors has to offer.

A great blog

Dang I like Guy Kawasaki’s blog. I keep sending snippets from it to people. And I keep finding myself muttering to myself “dang! I’ve said those exact words myself. Why didn’t I think to blog that.” Here’s the link to his Let The Good Times Roll blog.

Business types will like it. Non-business types, you might too — Guy’s a bit more well-rounded in his approach than the typical heads-down business blogger.

Cheap nordic walking poles

Marcie and I are big-time walkers. We do 2 walks a day, 2.5 miles each time — 5 miles a day, 150 miles/month, probably around 1700-1800 miles a year. We run through a lot of walking shoes.

The new addition to our routine is walking with poles — aka “Nordic Walking” — which seems pretty nifty. It helps us old geezers navigate icy sidewalks in the winter and gives us a little bit better workout. Here’s a pretty good writeup of the whole Nordic Walking thing if you’re interested.

But oh my, those poles they’re using are darned expensive — ranging from $60 to $200+ per pair. My “cheap is good” instincts were aroused and we decided to make our own. Heading over to the used cross-country ski-pole place, we bagged some nice bamboo poles for a big $6 a pair. Heading over to REI, Marcie got replacement tips for walking poles for $9 a pair. So we’re talking $15/pair for stuff.

The making is easy. You need to know how long to make the poles. I came across a formula (somewhere, can’t find the link) that says that the length of the pole should be about 70% of your height. I used a hack saw to cut off the poles (sometimes there are metal gizmo’s in the middle of those used poles — those would be tough on a wood saw). A little detergent applied to the “replacement” rubber tips to slip them on to the bamboo pole and we’re good to go.

Yeah yeah, I know — these poles don’t have shock absorbent neutrino power subsystems with articulated carbon fiber folding landing gear modules. But they work fine for us.

Couches for town

Here’s the post about this winter’s Big Project — a couple of couches to replace the ones we have at the house in St Paul. Dang, we bought those couches pretty recently but the fabric was terrible — they’ve faded really badly in the sun and they pick up stains like nobody’s business.

Read on if you’re interested in the ongoing saga. Continue reading “Couches for town”

Winter project — a dresser for Marcie

I’m kicking off a new topic area — Woodworking. The “notes to myself” I wrote about my home brew PVR (“FreeVo”) project is what inspired me. Another kind of geek stuff I do is fooling around trying to teach myself how to make furniture. So this is the first of an periodic series of posts describing my efforts.

This winter, the “big project” was to try out making a dresser. This is my first foray into the realm of boxes — and this dresser has 7 of ’em! The big box of the dresser case, plus six little boxes for the drawers. The big lesson learned is that making things square in two dimensions is a lot easier than making them square in three. The big box is out of square about an eighth of an inch and that wound up driving me nuts for the whole project thereafter — constant corrections.

I built this dresser following (slightly modified) plans from Bill Hylton’s Chests of Drawers book. A great book — filled with plans that are mostly way too advanced for me, but very clear and good at helping navigate the rough patches.


Here’s a picture of the big box, just after I glued it up. It was at this point that my fateful eighth of an inch out-of-square crept into the scene. I got too cute — I used mortise and tenon joints instead of the loose tenon joints that Bill describes in the book and paid the price for deviating from the instructions of the Maestro.



Now the “big box” is basically done. The top isn’t structural, it’s going to get hooked on with those little angle irons you use to put solid-wood tops on tables.



These are the blanks for the drawer handles. Another “first” on this project was to learn how to do pattern cutting with the router. Now that’s a gizmo! I can tell I’ll be having a lot of fun with that router bit in days to come.



Now the six “little boxes” are done and mounted. This dresser uses drawer-mounting hardware like you’d find in kitchen cabinets. I’m still a little too ham-handed to make a real dresser where the drawers fit in the dresser frame directly. Maybe some day, but only after I get better at square. One neat thing about this hardware is that it’s got a little gizmo that “self closes” the drawer in the last 3 inches of its travel — sorta like the trunks on fancy cars.



All done. I like it a lot, and Marcie does too. I’ve adjusted that one drawer-front that’s a little out of whack in this picture so everything’s looking pretty good unless you know exactly where to look for that dreaded eighth of an inch.

2 for 1 — a financial management checklist *AND* resource

I'm quite taken with this index of financial management articles in INC Magazine.

They have done a great job of breaking out the topics and, while the articles are a little fluffy for my tastes, they provide a great starting point for ideas if you're stuck. Here's an example — what about doing a “trial run” of your business (or business-function, or project-deliverable) before opening the doors? Read this article to learn more about a fella that did that very thing.