Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rapid Fire Learning - January 2008

January is coming to an end quickly. I am late with my Rapid Fire Learning so without further ado, here we go:

1 - "caveat emptor" - 'let the buyer beware' comes true again. I could have been a buyer had their letter been more fulfilling than it was. Suffice to say, do your due diligence before the offer is made. You will be in a better position to know what to do at that time.

2 - A free-lance writer from the Guardian contacted me about a post I had made earlier with a meme I had picked up on readability tests.
Were you aware that the blog readability test is a promotional device which tries to boost the search results for a site called If lots of bloggers use this code on their sites, then it pushes the loans site up Google's search results.
He went on to detail how the html code was hiding the link. I have since removed the offending code and will be much more alert when posting future memes of this sort.

3 - has undergone a major overhaul, and for the worse. As a runner, I had come across this site for the occasional race that used the Active online registration process. I did have an account but didn't use it other than for race registrations. Now, the new version synchronizes the account with CoolRunning and incorporates a whole load of other (I think) unnecessary stuff. While it used to be a race registration convenience, now it seems to be trying to combine blogging, social networking, and community forums all into one. Oh, and while they are doing this, when you use their account you still need to input items on the registration form that should be in your profile (well actually those data elements are there in the profile but they don't get pre-filled). Go back folks, complexity kills, simplicity is king.

4 - "Point of view" is so important. Where is someone coming from? What is their perspective? What are their expectations? If you stop and consider, you may avoid a rash assumption or not say something that may worsen a simple situation. Understanding, or at a minimum, appreciating an other's "Point of view" can make all the difference.

5 - I have been filling my bag on our weekend walks. I ran one 7 mile route on Sunday that will take quite a few bags to make a dent into the roadside recyclables that are available. Why don't you consider doing something simple as taking a plastic bag along on your walk to pick up recyclables. One small step, one can (or bottle) at a time.

What have you learned this month?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Beware Toyota Dealer Buy Back program

I received a letter from a local Toyota dealer that reads (in part):
Ira Toyota of Milford is in immediate need to acquire several pre-owned 2003 Toyota Corollas in order to fill specific requests for these high demand vehicles. Our records indicate you possibly own one of these vehicles and our Managers will buy back your 2003 Toyota Corolla. If you received this letter we want your vehicle.

What does this mean to you? We would like to make you an offer to exchange your 2003 Toyota Corolla for any new or used 2007 or 2008 vehicle. With factory authorized incentives supporting the Buy Back program we feel confident that you can make this exchange with little or no out of pocket expense and a monthly payment that fits your budget.
How much more will your 2003 Toyota Corolla be worth this weekend? Stephen Sherlock, if you would like more details on this offer or more information on how much more your 2003 Toyota Corolla will be worth this weekend, simply go to your personal web page at (link omitted). Your access code is (code omitted). Yours may be a vehicle for which we pay full retail.

Sounds too good to be true?
It was.

Now, I had used this dealer for service on said vehicle so they could have known all they needed to from their service records. In order to schedule the service, even the VIN was input. The scheduling
process was slick and well done. So why the hesitancy with
Our records indicate you possibly own one of these vehicles
When I was enticed by the personal web page, I was more than disappointed in having to provide them information that if they had used their service records (which I had provided them) I would not have had to provide them again.

As the web query completed, I received the auto reply. I also received shortly thereafter a personalized email indicating a follow up phone call was coming and it too arrived as promised. They do show good signs of knowing how to do service.

I made an appointment to see of I would obtain "full retail" value. I did check the
Kelly Blue Book online to prepare myself with the trade-in value, the private sale value and the "full retail" value.

After the perfunctory test drive, during which the deal and offer was being put together, I returned to the dealer to be disappointed with the offer. Suffice to say it did not include

little or no out of pocket expense
nor include anything close to
" full retail"
At which point, I thanked them for their time, there was no need to continue to waste mine.

If you do get such an offer, please check your
Kelly Blue Book values!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Sharing Foundation - Fundraising Challenge

Fellow blogger Beth Kanter is looking for help. The Sharing Foundation is in competition for some additional funds. From Beth's email:
We have a chance to win $50,000 - if we get the most number of unique donors. Right now we're in second place with 7 more days to go.

What is the Sharing Foundation?

I think Harry (with Beth's help) summarizes the situation very well:

If you would consider even the minimum contribution of $10, it would help this fine cause.

You can donate here.

Thank you!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

new sherku

It has been a good week for some creative writing in condensed form. Check out my sherku over at quiet poet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Busy week ahead

A short work week but a busy one. School Committee meeting tonight, Town Council meeting Wednesday, Spirit of the Marathon movie on Thursday, and we meet Brad's parents on Saturday.

Who's Brad?
Recall this

Monday, January 21, 2008

auto creation - bogus links

For some obvious reasons, I will not provide the links to these sites but I have observed a regular pattern for these sites getting "auto created". One major reason why Technorati is counting more and more blogs daily.

Theory of relativity January 21st, 2008 I’ve a passion for Sports and keep looking for information on it. Today, I checked if I could find more info by entering ‘track racing’ in Google and found this: Forces son-in-law tops in Funny Car NORWALK Robert Hight has been around the model of Funny Car excellence for nearly two decades, … since the NHRA announced it would be racing here this season have been fantastic and the track surface … Summit Racing Equipment Nationals NHRA event at Summ

London helg January 21st, 2008 I’ve a passion for Music and keep looking for good articles. Today, I checked if I could find more info by entering ‘Stan’ in Google and found this: Det blev mycket strosande pa stan pa lordagen medan vi holl oss lokalt pa sondagen (fast jag helst hade velat besoka marknanderna pa Spitalfield och Brick Lane efter a tt ha last den har artikeln)….Fast jag tvivlar att en tvabarns familj skulle lyckats klamma in tva sovmornar, en biofilm, ett gymbesok, ett muse

RO FTW! January 21st, 2008 I’ve a passion for Games and keep looking for good articles. Today, I checked if I could find more info by entering ‘private server world of warcraft’ in Google and found this: Ok! So for the last couple of weeks I’ve tried playing World of Warcraft (WoW)again and in all honesty I kind of lost interest fast, I’m not sure if it’s due to the s … It’s kind of like WOW but more humanish,animeish type of way, so I found a private server to play on and I was thinking

Premature Ejaculation Desensitizing Cream January 21st, 2008 I’ve a passion for Gems and keep looking for more info. Today, I checked if I could find more info by entering ‘variscite’ in Google and found this: Elephantiasis sacrate by the premature ejaculation desensitizing cream same token didn’t hove the premature ejaculation desensitizing cream hearten they sucks at itacist dumfounded stand firm. At last we rectifying the rushing detach, it seems it was at least another ladder pipe ap

I could go on but you get the point. Each of these posts were created minutes apart. Each post is on a different site, similar template but while the posting is "patterned", it is copied (likely) from some other sites.

So when someone comments on how many blogs are being created every minute every day, remind them that there are an awful lot of systematically created blogs out there. Not everyone of these has a real person sitting and thinking and writing behind them.

PS - if you would like to duplicate this experience, you can create a Technorati search feed for almost any term you'd like. I happen to track "Passion" (results shown above), Billy Collins, running, and several others. No matter what term I create, these similar patterned auto-created entries appear.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What college student couldn't use some scholarship money?

Do you know of one that doesn't?

If you know of one (or more) that does, please let them know about this 32 second opportunity.

The Student Loan Network $10,000 scholarship.

They're giving away $10,000 to a college or graduate student as part of their 10th anniversary.

No essays, no transcripts, no GPA requirements ... it takes all of 32 seconds to apply for.

32 seconds.

What are you waiting for?

Thanks to Christopher S Penn of The Sudent Loan Network for this opportunity!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What's in your bag?

The January theme is Packing Our Bags for 2008 over at the Joyful Jubilant Learning blog.

My entry for this theme was posted today. You have my permission, even encouragement, to click on over and read it.

While you are there, see what else is ending up in our bag this month.

What is in your bag as you start 2008?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Franklin: You're welcome to sit

Franklin: You're welcome to sit, originally uploaded by shersteve.

Bundle up and try one of these custom form fitting chairs.

We could have a great conversation!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Franklin: Forensic Report

It will take me some time to complete making sections of the recording from the joint Town Council and School Committee meeting held this past Wednesday. As the sections are completed they will be posted to Franklin Matters.

The full 138 page report is available on the Franklin home page with a note that after a couple of days it will move to a page within the School section. I recommend reading this to all Franklin residents. It is not easy to understand but the audio sections to listen to, that should help you make sense of what is covered in the report.

As a Franklin resident and tax payer, I am approaching this with three questions in mind:

1 - Does the explanation of the deficit make sense?

2 - Do the recommendations address each of the issues raised in the report in an appropriate and sustaining manner? (Will these steps prevent future issues?)

3 - Are there any questions that were not answered by the report?

I suggest that as you review the report, you answer these three questions for yourself. I will share my answers as soon as I complete the audio sections.

I look forward to the discussion around these questions and answers.

Updated: The full audit report is available on the Franklin Schools page (left menu item) or via this link (PDF). Note, the PDF file is quite large, it may be slow opening depending upon your connection.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Franklin Matters - Busy Week

The School Committee and the Town Council have meetings this week. The School Committee meets on Tuesday (1/8/08) and Town Council meets on Wednesday (1/9/08).

Amongst other items on their agenda, the School Committee receives the Brick Task Force report on Tuesday.

As I recall, the two groups meet together to receive the budget shortfall audit report on Wednesday.

This will be a busy week for Franklin Matters!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tabblo wins tonight

I tried to make a mosaic with FD's Flickr tools like I have done several times. Tonight for some reason, the auto cropping of the photos was not good.

I switched to Tabblo to see if that would do a better job and indeed it did. You can see the results here.

I also noticed that Tabblo has been purchased by HP. Nice move. I think I'll go back to trying Tabblo more frequently.

Note: I had stopped because the timing of the loads from Flickr to Tabblo was not sufficient for what I wanted to do. Now it appears, you can reference a Flickr set (which in this case I had already set up) so it worked out for me nicely.

Stepping back 10 years

I dug into the 1997 photo archives to find the photos on the right. The series on the left are current and digital from this past holiday week.

Tabblo: Baslocks - Stepping back 10 years

See my Tabblo>

My how time flies! Hey, I had dark hair then!

Notice how the two "little" kids then are the tallest kids now!

Easy does it - for snow, use the Wovel!

The Boston Globe Magazine introduces the find for the season, the Wovel.

Yes, try combining a shovel and a wheel.

Looks cool. Apparently, it is only available in my area via web site order. I'd like to hold a Wovel before buying so I need to find a place where it is available.

For those of you dealing with snow, what do you think?
Would you try one?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Plum Good Chicken Thighs

This recipe is from the Bastian's via Good Housekeeping. We brought it home with us after the Baslock re-union over the holidays.

Plum Good Chicken Thighs

1.25 lbs - skinless, boneless chicken thighs

1/2 teaspoon - Chinese five spice powder

1/2 teaspoon - salt

3 - green onions

1 tablespoon - Olive oil

1/2 cup - chicken broth

1/2 cup - plum jam

2 tablespoons - balsamic vinegar

1 bag (12 oz) - microwave in the bag trimmed green beans

1 package (8.8 oz) - heat and serve precooked brown rice


1) in bowl, toss thighs with five-spice powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. From dark-green end of onions, finely chop enough to equal 2 tablespoons; reserve for garnish. Cut remainder of onions into 1 inch pieces; set aside.

2) In 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add thighs and cook 10 minutes or until they are browned and lose their pink color throughout, turning once. Transfer thighs to plate; cover to keep warm.

3) In drippings in skillet, on medium, cook 1-inch onion pieces 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in broth, jam, and vinegar; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium and cook 3-4 minutes or until sauce is syrupy. Return thighs to skillet and turn to coat with sauce.

4) Meanwhile cook beans and rice as labels direct; serve with chicken, sprinkle with reserved finely chopped onion as garnish.

Steve's modifications

Substituted Emeril's Asian Essence for five spice.

I think the amount of five-spice is too little, probably should be tablespoon not teaspoon as the measurement so I added more.

Not sure that you really need that much salt so I did not go with a full measure.

When doubling the recipe, the amount of thighs was going to be too much for the one pan. I cooked the first bunch, then moved them to the plate and microwaved them for a bit to remove the pink inside. I put the oven on warm and moved the plate to a rack in the oven to keep warm. I cooked the second portion in the pan as directed.

I used a Rice-a-Roni box of Rice Pilaf and cooked that to go along with the bag of microwaved green beans.

This recipe will be one we will use again. It was relatively easy to put together. Tasted good and we have some leftovers to enjoy during the week.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The importance of readability???

There readability varies amongst the places where I write. A couple of these sites below are group blogs (where I am not the only writer). Assuming this "test" is accurate, you can go from

Steve's 2 Cents


Joyful Jubilant Learning (group)


Hitchhikers Guide


Franklin Matters


quiet poet

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What's this?

What's this?, originally uploaded by shersteve.

What came first? the building or the tree?

or did they grow together and co-exist harmoniously?

Oh, this was found in central PA.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Thank you for coming here to read and continue the conversation.

Wishing you and yours all the best this year!