October 22, 2017

Spammers Calling as IRS Agents

You may get a call from someone pretending to be the IRS. Consider yourself lucky and play along.

But first...

Questions to ask IRS agent on an unsolicited call. These should give you an idea if the "IRS agent" has real knowledge on who you are. If they say they are from the IRS these should be easy for them.

  • When did I file my taxes this year?
  • What State did I file my tax form?
  • Did I use Standard or Itemized deductions?
  • How many dependents were listed on the form?
  • Did I owe money or received a refund this year?
  • Did I file Electonic or via US Mail?
  • What state did I file my tax form?
  • Which tax forms did I file?
  • Did I contribute to the Presidential Election fund?
  • Since H & R Block (or your accountant ) filled out the tax form, have you notified them? Shouldn't they be the ones you need to arrest since they filled out the form and signed it?

If they push off because they don't have the proper document or access to your account:

Seven Bonus Questions

  • When was the review done? Is this considered an official Tax Audit? Why aren't the IRS audit proceedure being followed?
  • Your in Washington DC - What time is it there?
  • What Federal Exams did you have to pass?
  • Section 2 of the IRS code was abruptly changed last year do you know what areas got changed?
  • Who's signature is on the $1 bill?
  • Who the person in charge?
  • Why should I pay any amount when I don't know what the error is? How can I prevent this error in the future.

Point Counterpoint

Just a friendly reminder

IRS will not accept payments from a "Government approved store." So if Target, Walmart and CVS come up in the conversation - its a scam.

If you have to stay on the line so they can tell you what to do - its a scam.

If you feel pressured in any way because of a threat of an arrest for something that you're just hearing for the first time - its a scam.

If they are not able to answer any of the above questions correctly - its a scam.

Time to Say Good Bye

When you had enough time role playing.

"Thanks for letting me know about the situation. I will stop by the IRS office on my way to work tomorrow and take care of this."

"I am at the airport heading to Atlanta and don't have access to a car. Can I call back later?"

"I can't get to a Walmart because I am in the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. Beautiful day. I'll have to take care of this when I get home. Guess I don't have to worry about the police coming to arrest me."

October 21, 2017

Graphic Badges

Mozilla created a website called openbadges.me where people can design and Issue Open Badges. You can use the free online generator to create a badge for your website or blog. Badges also make great picture overlays.

It does take a bit of time to learn all the functionality of the online editor. Once you get it, making badges will be easy to do any time you need one.

openbadge
openbadges.me

Website Description

Open Badges are visual tokens of achievement, affiliation, authorization, or other trust relationship sharable across the web. Open Badges represent a more detailed picture than a CV or résumé as they can be presented in ever-changing combinations, creating a constantly evolving picture of a person’s lifelong learning.

October 20, 2017

Photo Size Optimizer

Effect Matrix's Photo Size Optimizer for Mac is a powerful image compression application.

I found about the application because it was one of the applications that I picked in this summer's BundleHunt.

Description from Effect Matrix's site:

Photo Size Optimizer for Mac, a powerful photo resizer, and optimizer, allows you to optimize all your photos by 80% ~ 20% compared to their originals while keeping their original resolution, quality and png, jpg, gif formats. With IMAGEmini, you can save huge space and share full-resolution photos with your friends much faster. It supports 70 types of image formats for re-sizing.

Sample Application Screenshot

Omni Photo Size Optimizer

Nine Things I Learned About Photo Size Optimizer

  • There's no documentation or help files with the application, you basically have to play around with the application to understand how to use it. Fortunately, most of it is straight forward.
  • You have no control over the compression. Basically you accept the savings that the application suggest.
  • There's two functionalities, Resize & Squeezer and Lossless Photo Squeezer.
  • Resize & Squeezer - will resize a bunch of images and resize them to a 10 different options. You can also add a custom option. Note: The resize option is for all the images that you dragged and drop, you can't set different demensions per image.
  • Lossless Photo Squeezer - Use this when you only want to shrink the file size and not the dimensions.
  • I found that Affinity Photo, GraphicConverter OmniGraffle offered better compression.
  • OmniGraffle and Graphic Converter offer previews to see how stronger compression may not impact the image. I was able to get better compression using other applications.
  • Some people may have problems installing the application because the application isn't registered. When I tried to open it I got a warning: "Photo Size Optimizer.app" can't be opened because it is from an unidentified developer.
  • You can't compress animated GIF files with Photo Size Optimizer.

Overall Feeling

It's really hard to justify paying $29.99 for this application. You'll get better compress and more features in other applications. The application is useful when I want to quickly shrink a file and not have to play around with different settings - basically: "Set it and forget it."

In the long run, your better off buying and using GraphicConverter for $10 more.

Try Yourself

Effect Matrix offers a 10 days Free Trial with Full Features if you download it from their website.

The full version is $29.99.

October 19, 2017

Gilbert Stuart

In the Boston Common's Graveyard is a gravestone that stands out among all the other ones. It belongs to Gilbert Stuart.

Gibert Stuart has quite a story

Gilbert Stuart Grave

Thirteen things I learned about Gilbert Stuart

  • Born in 1755 in North Kingston County Rhode Island. Stuart's birthplace in Saunderstown, Rhode Island is open to the public as the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum. The museum consists of the original house Stuart was born in, with copies of some of his popular paintings from throughout his career hanging throughout the house.
  • In 1786, he married Charlotte Coates of Reading, Berkshire. They had 12 children together.
  • No one knows how many pictures that Stuart painted in his lifetime. Frick Art Reference Library has attempted to list Stuart's complete work.
  • He painted many famous Americans including President Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Monroe, General Henry Lee, Robert Paine, Paul Revere and much more.
  • He is most known for various George Washington paintings. He did three separate seatings with the first American President. A replica painted by Stuart is on display in the East Room of the White House
  • One of Stuart's portrait of Washington, called the "Unfinished Portrait," was also the model used on the dollar bill. You can see the original painting in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It's located in the Americans Collection.It's currently jointly owned by the Museum of Fine Arts and National Portrait Gallery. When you're at the museum, take out a dollar bill and compare it to the painting.
  • If you go to the Massachusetts State House and to the Governor's waiting room, You'll see an unfinished copy of the George Washington painting. It was copied by Francis Alexander from an original painted by Gilbert Stuart.
  • On November 17, 1988 - A copy of "A Portrait of George Washington" was sold at Sotheby's in London for $495,000. Some experts question whether this was an original or just a copy.
  • He died on July 9, 1828, and was buried the next day at Central Burying Ground in the Boston Commons. He died a poor man and the family couldn't afford a gravestone. Once the family got their finances settled they couldn't remember where he was buried. Thus, the current gravestone marker is not likely where Gilbert Stuart is actually located.
  • In 1898, a bronze plaque was placed on the gate of the Central Burying Grounds by "The Paint and Clay club"
  • Special gravestone was placed in 1975. Didn't find any specific reason for the gravestone change. You can see the 1975 date on the gravestone.
  • In 1851, the United States issued a George Washington 12 cent stamp based on Gilbert Stuart.
  • United States Post Office honored Gilbert Stuart with a 1 cent stamp on September 5, 1940.

You can learn more about Gilbert Stuart history at the Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum.

Finding the Gravestone

The Gilbert Stuart gravestone is located in Central Burying Grounds in the Boston Commons. Directly across from the GrubStreet. You can read more about Central Burial Grounds from my post last year.

October 18, 2017

Framingham Eight

In the 1990s there were 8 women who partition the state to be free from murder charges because of spousal abuse. These women would eventually become known as the "Framingham Eight." They were free because of long-term abuse.

The publicity around these women brought a light of spousal abuse - in particular, who were the real victims.

They were called "Framingham Eight" because they were all held in the women's prison in Framingham.

Defending TV

Framingham 8 : the women who fought back

Four members of the Framingham 8 were featured in the "Framingham 8: the women who fought back" documentary.

Explores the problem of domestic violence through the stories of the "Framingham Eight," women who were imprisoned in Framingham, Mass. for killing an abusive spouse or partner. Several have won their freedom by claiming Battered Woman Syndrome as a defense.

Framingham 8

Here's a list of the Framingham 8:

Eugenia Moore life sentence for second-degree murder in the 1985 stabbing of her former boyfriend Was commuted in May 1993
Meekah R. Scott 8- to 12-year prison sentence for killing her boyfriend July 1993
Patricia Allen sentence of eight to 15 years in prison Sentence was commuted
Lisa Becker Grimshawconvicted of manslaughter in 1989 and sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison for luring her husband, Thomas Grimshaw, to his death at the hands of two of her friends who fatally bludgeoned him with a baseball bat. Given early parole in 1993
Elaine Hyde Convicted for murdering her husband in 1985 and sentenced to life Release on parole in 1994 after serving 6 years
Shannon Booker Was serving an 8 to 15-year sentence for the 1989 shooting of her abusive boyfriend Parole in 1994
Debra Reid Stabbed her partner to death on Aug. 12, 1989 and Served 9 to 14 years for manslaughter Denied Parole in 1994
Patricia Hennessey Serving an 18 to 20-year sentence for manslaughter for shooting her ex-husband on July 15, 1988

Three Returned to Prison

In July 1997, Framingham Eight member Patricia Allen was sent back to prison for violating parole after being arrested on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

In 1998, Lisa Becker Grimshaw was stopped by Leominster with her headlights off. She failed field sobriety tests, he said.

In 1998, Shannon Booker was charged with stealing a wallet from a woman's pocketbook.

October 17, 2017

Back Deck

This past summer we saw Phantom of the Opera at the Boston Opera House. We searched around looking for a great place to eat Gluten Free. We found some great reviews with Back Deck and thought it would be good to check out.

Back Deck

Back Deck

Brief description from their website:

Hardwood charcoal is made by partially burning oak and maple with limited oxygen which eliminates the more volatile components, like trapped hydrogen, methane and tars, allowing for a more predictable, even burn and much less smoke than wood. At the same time, we feel it gives you some advantages over grilling with gas.

Besides the pleasant smoky flavor it imparts, charcoal gives you higher, more intense heat. Charcoal can produce temperatures 100 degrees higher than gas which means foods sear better, delicate food like fish stick less, and the "grilled" taste, which is a product of the hot grate searing the surface of the foods, as well as the smoke produced by the fire, is enhanced.

If you are skilled in charcoal grilling, in some ways burning hardwood charcoal allows you more control than gas. A charcoal fire has many levels of heat, unlike a gas fire, so that if you can read the fire you can adjust the temperature under a piece of food by simply moving it to a hotter or cooler spot.

Gluten Free Options

They have a dedicated fryer for their french fries. Which isn't all that important for adults but its good news for a six-year-old. My daughter order the usual Cheeseburger.

They have a separate Gluten Free menu with lots of options to select from, check out the Dinner menu online.

The waitress was very knowledgeable about their gluten-free options and how the kitchen is set up to prevent any cross-contamination.

The Flourless Chocolate Sundae was yummy and highly recommended.

Overall Experience

It was actually a good experience eating at Back Deck. We had an early dinner, which was good since we could take our time and not feel the rush to make the show.

Note: We tried to get a reservation closer to the 6 pm show time but they didn't have anything available. If you do eat early and have sometime before the show, there are a couple of nearby coffee shops where you can sit and chat. Caffe Nero is direct across the street from the Boston Opera House.

The Downtown Crossing area isn't a fun shopping experience as it was back in the 80s and 90s. It's not as fun to walk around and browse the stores. (Hasn't been the same since Barnes and Noble left.)

As we were leaving the restaurant was getting busy - clearly from the theater crowd.

We certainly will be going back to Back Deck for our next show at the Boston Opera House. The food was delicious and they had great gluten-free selection.

October 16, 2017

Crystal Arts

Each Disney World trip usually results in getting something special at the Crystal Arts shop. It's the place to go to get something special to remember our trip.

From Disney's Website:

Remember your visit with porcelain giftware, lead crystal glassware and Pave crystal in Disney characters and themes.

Crystal Arts

Crystal Arts2

The Crystal Arts store is located on Main Street USA in Disney World and in Disneyland. The store features lots of figurines and collectible items - including some that are made right in the store hot oven. There are some high price items, but there are many small items - quite simply they have just about anything to fit anyone's budget.

You can always ask one of the cast members about a gift that will your price range.

Sure we could just purchase a T-shirt or mug at the Emporium Store, but it doesn't have the same appeal as getting something nice at the Crystal Arts.

Fun Facts about Crystal Arts

  • Crystal Arts was previously at the seating area of Main Street Bakery. It was moved to the former Market House location. The new location is bigger.
  • On the sign it says it's established in 1875
  • The Town of Orlando was established in 1875. (I couldn't find anything else that would be significant for Disney in 1875.)
  • The Arribas Brother's have a their own website. You can read their story how their shop started in Disneyland and now have a store in all Disney theme parks.
  • You can join the Arribas Brother's Collector's Club for $19.50 which entitles you to save 10% on merchandise that you purchase in their store. You'll also be part of Greenback savings network where you'll save money on other stores.
  • Walk around the store and you'll see an area where someone does glass blowing or engraving. Also, note the porcelain giftware in the ally window. (Usually, find some very well done displays.)
  • Items purchased at Crystal Arts can be picked up at the exit, or at your hotel room or even better shipped to your home. We always have selected the home option because we don't want to have to worry about packing it for the trip home. You pay a bit more for the ship-to-home, but it's well worth it.

Magical Extras at Crystal Arts

If you purchase your vacation package through Walt Disney Travel Company, you also get this benefit:

Receive 10% off purchases at the Crystal Arts by Arribas Brothers stores at Disney Springs(R) Marketplace, Magic Kingdom(R) Park and Epcot(R). Exclusions apply. Not applicable to shipping charges. Some other restrictions apply. Discount may not be combined with any other offer.

October 15, 2017

Cloudwards Data Recovery Review

One of the worst thing that can happen to a computer user is a failed hard drive. It always happens at the worst possible time. Usually at the tail end of writing a term paper or before the big presentation is due.

Murphy Law2017

Recovering from a failed hard drive can be a painful and very expensive experience. There are plenty of places that will offer data recovery but at a very hefty price. Having a good backup plan can make it easy, but unfortunately, it isn't properly planned until well after you experience the computer startup failure.

Finding the Right Solution

The technical team over at Cloudwards.net recently selected Prosoft Engineering Data Rescue as their choice for the best Data Recovery for failed hard drives. They recently wrote up a very detailed review of the software solution and why they selected it as their top pick for consumers and businesses. Data Rescue is available for PC and Mac.

Pro Soft Monitor

Read all about the Data Recovery Software review on Cloudwards website: https://www.cloudwards.net/prosoft-engineering-data-rescue-review/

At the End of the Day

If you have a computer hard drive that is about 5 years old, you should consider getting a good backup today. My computer crashed earlier this year and it was a hard lesson learned. A good back up, offline or online, would have made starting off 2017 so much easier.

Read the review on Cloudwards.net and find the solution that works with your needs and budget. Get your Data Recovery Software now, because you don't want to be scrambling through Google Searches to overpay for a solution later.

October 14, 2017

JPEGmini

Image compression is important when your sharing files. You don’t want to email a large file if you don’t need to. The problem with most image applications is that they don’t have a good preview of what the image will look like when you compress it.

That’s where JPEGMini comes in handy, from their website:

Get the smallest image file size without compromising quality. JPEGmini can optimize photos up to 28MP.

jpegmini

This is a very useful tool to help compress images for email or website development. You’ll be able to see the before/after and decide if the compression is worth it.

In most situations, you don’t really need the high-resolution photo unless your sending the image file to a printer.

JPEGMini Pro

If your using JPEGMini a lot, then consider going Pro, here are some features:

  • 128 Megapixels - Support high-resolution photos from the world's leading camera brands.
  • Lightroom Plugin - Fits perfectly in your workflow, enabling you to optimize photos without adding any extra steps.
  • Batch Resize -Drag and drop any amount of photos and have them resized to your specifications.

October 13, 2017

BBEdit 12

Yesterday Bare Bones Software updated BBEdit to Version 12. The feedback from long term customers has been amazing.

B B Edit Fans

Yes, BBEdit has a very strong customer base.

Some Cool Features in Version 12

There are a lot of changes in Version 12, you would expect that with a major release, here are five some of the highlights that I like:

  • Paste Using Filter - You can now apply a filter to any text you paste in. For example you can create a filter to add hyperlinks to certain company phrases.
  • Columns Edit - Now its easy to remove or rearrange data in CSV files.
  • FTP/SFTP Browser - Lots of code cleanup with the FTP/SFTP browser window.
  • Canonize - Allows you to perform batch search replace using a reference file. This is great when you need to run the same file clean up command as part of your daily task.
  • Color Scheme now carries over to the sidebar

ColorScheme_thumb.jpg
The Editor window difference between version 11 and version 12 of BBEdit.
Click on image for a larger version.

Complete details are listed on theirBBEdit 12.0 Release Notes.

Are You Using Completion Correctly?

One of the Preference changes Bare Bones made was to move the Completion into its own category. I actually had it turned off because I wasn't really using it that much. Big Mistake!

BBEdit text completion makes typing HTML commands so much easier. You don't need to use the HTML Markup Tools palette. Simply type in the first few letter and then select the text completion that works for you.

For example, Typing in the words 'an' will bring up the anchor drop down. Hit Return then type the URL then Tab then the text you wish to link. It's a lot faster than bring up the anchor dialog box.

It might take a few tried to get used to it, but once you have gotten used to it, it will speed up your HTML work.

Create a BootStrap Panel Text Completion

If you do any work with Twitter's Bootstrap your probably creating a lot of panels. Here's a simple step to add a panel to BBEdit Text Completion so that it will be super easy to create panels.

To get you started, copy the following text to a BBEdit file:

<DIV class="panel panel-default"><div class="panel-heading"><h3 class="panel-title"></div>
<div class="panel-body">

</div></div>

Highlight the text, right click and select "Save Selection as Clipping..."

cryan

Call it whatever you want, the name is important because that's going to be your Text Completion trigger. Mine is simply: panel.

Create a new set and call it Bootstrap. This will help you organize common Clippings

BBEdit Panel

Test it out! Type in the word 'panel' in any BBEdit document and you should see the drop down.

How awesome is that! Now you can create text completions for all your panel types. Don't forget to add one for Wells and responsive Tables too!

Getting BBEdit

You can download a trial version of BBEdit from their website. You'll have 30 days to try out all the features.

October 12, 2017

John Smibert

John Smibert (Also known as John Smybert) was a Scottish American artist. You can find John Smibert paintings in various art museums:

The painting at Yale University was John Smibert favorite painting as it hung in his Boston office for everyone to see.

Bronze 20" x 20" Monument

Next to the entrance to the Granary Burying Ground is this monument:

John Simbert

Here lies John Smibert
Painter 1688 - 1751
Cherish A Man Such As This
Erected by the City of Boston
John B. Hynes, Mayor

In tiny print you can see: "Ca Ascieri Adi Biccari." I wasn't able to find the date that the Bronze monument was placed, but I suspect it was in 1951 which would have been the 200 anniversary of John Smibert death.

Five things I learned about John Smybert

  • Born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1688 and died in Boston in 1751.
  • Considered to be America's First Portrait Painter.
  • Organized Boston's first painting exhibition in 1730.
  • In 1742, John Smybert designed Faneuil Hall. Faneuil Hall was destroyed in a fire in March 1761, it was rebuilt shortly after keeping many of the original designs.
  • He is buried in an unmarked grave at the Granary Burying Ground, Boston, MA.
  • In Colonial times people that couldn't afford their gravestones were buried in unmarked graves. It's possible that John Smibert was a poor man when he died.

October 11, 2017

Framingham Sister Cities

The Sister Cities International is the resource to facilitate relationships between international cities. They make Sister Cities a productive relationship for both entities.

Framingham has only one city listed as a Sister City, whereas the town officially recognize two locations as Sister Cities:

  • Lomonosov, Saint Petersburg - A municipal town in Petrodvortsovy District of the federal city of Saint Petersburg, Russia
  • Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais - A Brazilian municipality in the state of Minas Gerais.

Sister Cities International has only Newark, New Jersey as the sister city.

Sister Flags

Some information about Lomonosov

Lomonosov, Saint Petersburg became Framingham first Sister City officially on July 27, 1992.

How it came about: The mayor of Lomonosov was looking for a Western city to build better relations. Irving August was on a business trip to Lomonosov and met the mayor. Irving came back to Framingham and convinced the town selectmen to make Lomonosov a Sister City.

The relationship is for pure knowledge for the children of Lomonosov and Framingham to learn about each other.

A committee on Sister City relation was created in Framingham. The committee is called FLAME - Framingham Lomonosov Association for Metropolitan Exchange.

A year after the relationship was created 13 citizens from Lomonosov came to Framingham for a visit.

There has been very little information about the cultural exchanges between the two locals since 2004.

Irving August died June 12, 2006.

Distance from Framingham to Lomonosov, Saint Petersburg

Straight line or air distance: 6595.01 km, 4097.95 miles, 3558.66 nautical miles. Estimated Driving Distance: 7584.26 km to 8243.76 km

Some information about Governador Valdares

Ties to Governador Valdares, Minas Gerais was officially formed in October 2003.

The sister city request was made by Joao Paulo Freitas and his wife Vera Dias Freitas.

According to some estimates there are about 1,000 Brazilian immigrants from Valadares in Framingham.

The relationship goal was to teach Framingham residents about Brazilian music, food, language and culture.

In July 2004, a group of Framingham residents visited Governador Valdares, Minas Gerais. They used the trip to learn about Governador Valdares and stayed with host families.

The newspaper in Valadares often feature Framingham news.

Joao Paulo Freitas is currently a realtor at Re/Max One Call Realty.

Distance from Framingham to Governador Valdares

Straight line or air distance: 7439.35 km, 4622.6 miles, 4014.27 nautical miles. Estimated Driving Distance: 8555.25 km to 9299.19 km

October 10, 2017

Muddy Moose Restaurant and Pub

Muddy Moose is located in the center of the busy North Conway Shopping area. Tourist visit here because of the location and the food. It's a very popular location.

If you arrive during the typical lunch or dinner hour, expect a 20-30 minute wait.

Muddy Moose3

Gluten Free Options

The Muddy Moose has a separate Gluten Free Menu. Be sure to ask for it when they call your name. (or as you see them collect the menus as you walk to the podium.)

There are lots of excellent Gluten-free options on the menu, including Burgers and Sandwiches on gluten-free bread. They don't have a separate fryer, so french fries are not available.

Trailside Burger

My daughter ordered the Trailside Burger with a side of white rice. She was happy to get the rice since she actually likes that when we go out for Chinese.

The person taking the order was educated about the Gluten Free options and make sure to put that it was for an allergy.

My daughter liked the Trailside Burger but didn't really like the rice. While she did like the thought of getting rice, I think she was disappointed because other children had french fries with their order.

Recommended?

If you do go to Muddy Moose, my daughter would recommend getting the Baked Potato as the rice wasn't that good. Otherwise, it wasn't a bad place to go. It was a good casual restaurant that seemed reasonably priced.

Directions to Muddy Moose

The Muddy Moose is located at 2344 White Mountain Hwy, North Conway, NH 03860. Directly across the street is the 1768 Country Inn.

October 9, 2017

Mouseaholic Shopping Services

If your a Disney fan you know all the good stuff are available in the parks before they are available on the Disney Store. This is particularly true for attraction specific merchandise.

Case in Point: The Momento Mori has a lot more Haunted Mansion merchandise that Disney.com.

Wouldn't it be great to have a personal assistant to get you something that's available in the park? There is... Mouseaholic Shopping Services

Mouseaholics Websites

Here's a description from their Facebook page:

Searching for a way to access all of Disney's amazing and exclusive merch without leaving home??

Look no further! We are your one-stop shop for all things Disney Parks - Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disney Springs! Our personalized shopping service is your wish upon a star to make your dreams come true! Simply send us a message with the 6 Disney Parks or Springs items you are looking to purchase and we will tirelessly work to acquire your special items and ship them right to your door!

Please note that we do not have any personal inventory. The items you request are sourced and located right from the Disney Parks at the time of a request.

Thank you for your interest and I look forward to making your day magical!

-Lindsey and Sabrina

New Starbucks Disney Mug

Recently we saw Disney selling a Starbucks mug with a new Disney Design. We were pretty excited about it, and were disappointed that it was only available in the park:

Phones Twitter

We liked the new design and didn't want to wait until our next Disney trip to get one.

We reached out to Mouseaholic Shopping Services and they were able to secure a mug for us. The price was very reasonable - your not paying an arm and a leg like you would when you deal with some eBay sellers. Note: The mug is very hard to find, but Mouseaholic Shopping Services was able to find us a mug.

We highly recommend Mouseaholic Shopping Services, be sure to checkout disneyjunkie75 Instragram site. There's a lot of amazing Disney Photos.

October 8, 2017

Hot Toys of 2017

Last Month Toy R Us come out with the Hottest Toys of the Christmas season.

So far here's what I see as the hottest toys of the year:

Note: It appears that any toy with a "surprise" is going to be a hit. That is you don't know exactly what your getting until you open it.

If any of these are on your children's shopping list, you should start going shopping now! Otherwise, you'll be spending much of December looking for stores that are getting stock.

Christmas2017 Ebay
On eBay you can find sellers that will have all the popular toys starting at $1,200.

I'll update this post as other products become "hot" due to supply and demand.

October 7, 2017

Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator

One of the neat features of HTML5/CSS3 is the ability to have gradient colors. You can fade colors or mix different colors to create all sorts of creative effects. All the major browsers fully support HTML5 and CSS3 gradient functionality. Chrome has supported

Creating gradient colors in CSS can be tricky. You have to figure out all the HEX values, the length of the color and then decide on the gradient type: linear-gradient, repeating-linear-gradient, radial-gradient, repeating-radial-gradient.

Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator

Ultimate CSS Gradient Generator makes creating CSS gradients designs very easy.

Ultimate CSS Gradient
http://www.colorzilla.com/gradient-editor/

There are 115 gradient color designs to get you started. You can get inspired by selecting one of the designs and then change the colors and position to what will look good for you. There all sorts of configurations, including hue, saturation, lightness and more.

You can also convert an image gradient to a CSS style too! Useful if your trying to match a web design from a printed design.

There's a Live Preview to show what the gradient will look like.

Once you have the perfect design, simply copy/paste the CSS code into your CSS or web page.

Very useful site and it's free!

October 6, 2017

FFMpeg

If your looking for a powerful multimedia framework check out FFmpeg. It's a powerful command line utility that has a strong user base and easy to learn.

ffmepg doesn’t have a fancy user interface, which may turn away some users. I believe It worth learning FFmpeg because you'll learn more about creating multimedia files.

Three Examples

Show MetaData

Find out some MetaData on your multimedia file. Here's what information that Quicktime and Finder shows:

Finder Metadata

This is what FFmpeg displays when you run the command:

ffmpeg -i

Input #0, mov,mp4,m4a,3gp,3g2,mj2, from '/Volumes/MONOCARPOUS/Computers/2003/3.17.03/done/mitt.mov':
  Metadata:
    creation_time   : 2003-03-16T05:31:43.000000Z
    encoder         : Encoded with Cleaner 5
    encoder-eng     : Encoded with Cleaner 5
  Duration: 00:00:30.06, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 491 kb/s
    Stream #0:0(eng): Video: svq1 (SVQ1 / 0x31515653), yuv410p, 320x240, 442 kb/s, 15 fps, 15 tbr, 600 tbn, 600 tbc (default)
    Metadata:
      creation_time   : 2003-03-16T05:31:43.000000Z
      handler_name    : Apple Alias Data Handler
      encoder         : Sorenson Video
    Stream #0:1(eng): Audio: qdm2 (QDM2 / 0x324D4451), 44100 Hz, mono, s16, 48 kb/s (default)
    Metadata:
      creation_time   : 2003-03-16T05:31:43.000000Z
      handler_name    : Apple Alias Data Handler

Convert old .MOV to the latest .MP4 standards

This is a basic functionality of FFmpeg. The core command is:

ffmpeg -i filename.mov filename.mp4

A more advance example would be:

for FILE in *.swf; do ffmpeg -i "$FILE" "${FILE[@]/%swf/mp4}"; done;

That will convert all Flash SWF files in a directory to the industry standard h264 format. This is very useful to view Flash video if you don't have a Flash player.

As you learn more about the FFmpeg, you'll understand which compression will work for your multimedia and distribution method.

Create a Looping File

Let's say you have a howling wolf audio clip and you wanted to have a longer version. Here's an example of how you would go about doing that using FFmpeg.

ffmpeg -stream_loop 4 -i howl.mp3 -c copy howl4.mp3

Real Video Files

I thought I might be interesting to see if FFmpeg would convert some old Real Media files to MP4. I tested converting a couple of Real Video and Real Audio files, some that you can see on this site, and they converted from Real Video 10 to H264 successfully.

Stream #0:1 -> #0:0 (rv10 (native) -> h264 (libx264))
Stream #0:0 -> #0:1 (ac3 (native) -> aac (native))

The video quality was bad. However, it was probably because when I encoded it I went for the smallest file size as possible.

October 5, 2017

Boston Neck 2017

The Boston Neck was a small strip of land connecting the mainland to the then-peninsular city of Boston. Over the years the area was filled in as the City of Boston popular grew.

The Boston Neck was an important part of the American Revolution as the British closed the access way into the City of Boston. This was part of the British Seize of Boston April 19, 1775 - March 17, 1776.

1775 Boston Neck Map

William Dawes Journey

On the night of April 18, 1775, William Dawes snuck pass the checkpoint and rode south to warn the British were coming. Paul Revere avoids the checkpoint by crossing the Charles River by rowboat. Both patriots would meet up in Lexington and continued their journey to Concord.

The Gallows

Nearby the Boston Neck is where criminals, religious rebels, and other Colonial-era offenders were publicly hanged. Many published reports that hangings were done at the Boston Commons. This is probably because the area where the hanging was done was called the "Commons Land."

The bodies were then dumped or buried nearby, reportedly leaving unhappy ghosts to haunt the surrounding neighborhood.

Boston Neck in 2017

There are no markers to indicate where the Boston Neck was. Historians that are looking for the exact location will find this overlay map very handy:

Old Map Gallows

The neck was located between Peter's Park and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

The only thing that shows the history of the area is at the Union Park Street (Silver Line MBTA station). There's a couple of permanent wall posters of this history of the area.

Boston Neck Oct2017

There is a small park nearby, Peter's Park, where a statue or monument could be placed on the history of the location. Perhaps something to mark William Dawes contribution to the American Revolution.

What do you think? Should the city of Boston put a historical monument about the Boston Neck?

October 4, 2017

Framingham Mayor Primary Race

Last week Framingham residents went to the polls to vote for the town’s first Mayor. Yvonne Spicer was the clear winner with getting more votes than all the other candidates combined:

Framingham2017 Results

Factoid:
More people voted for Yvonne Spicer than for the change for Framingham to be a City. (5,684 people voted to transform the town to be a city.)

Number of Register Voters vs Turn out

Last November there were 39,910 registered voters, in September there were 39,996. Which mean 86 people signed up since the Presidential election. Not a huge change, but not bad for a primary election.

  • 27.52% of the registered voters turned up in the primary. (11,006 voted in the Primary Election)
  • 75% of the registered voters turned up in the November Elections (30,028 voted in the General Election)
  • 43% of the registered voters turned up in the Presidential primary. (17,300 voted in the Primary Election)

The General Election had a lot of national coverage so it was expected to have a higher turnout.

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