Saturday, December 08, 2012

Christmas Blog 2012

Christmas ornament
I am hoping that you are safe and warm, snuggled by some source of heat. We know there are many who because of a gal named Sandy are not able to be in their own homes this year.

My stepmom Alice was fond of reflecting about the time (or times) when “the ocean met the bay;” a story of some long forgotten storm(s) that many years ago had drowned Breezy Point. Few current Rockaway Peninsula residents ever thought that kind of event would happen again, but indeed it has.

Sadly, brothers Kevin and Dickey and their wives experienced significant damage to their Breezy Point homes and will not be spending Christmas at the beach this year. The clean-up and re-building plans are moving forward, but it remains a stressful and challenging experience for all. Living 400 miles away, where Sandy was nothing but a breezy rain storm, I feel like I should be doing more but am too far to help.

This was again a year for some family becoming grandparents as more of the younger relatives acquired new additions to their families. Facebook continues to become the way we learn of these events – sometimes almost instantaneously – and always accompanied by photographs and sometimes videos. As much as I dislike Facebook, it is an amazing way for friends and families to stay connected. In the past year I have learned more about folks whom I have known for 50 years than I had in the previous 49.

I continue my design and consulting business - - and have been paying attention to costs and political debates. Again, it’s been an okay business year that “could have been better.” Need a web presence? – give me a shout

Let us be thankful that the presidential election season is finally over, albeit temporarily, and that we can now once again enjoy the endless ads for unnecessary medical procedures and medications broadcast during the evening news.

 I close by wishing you a Merry Christmases and a safe, happy and healthy New Year. May you and yours be filled with the Spirit of the Season!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Photos for Elaine and Carmen

I'll leave these up for a week or so. These are photos of Elaine the birthday girl from September.

Click on the image for a larger "blowup" version of the photo. To retrieve on the iPad, simply hold your finger on the image to the "Save Image" icon/popup appears.

Bob and Grant

Bob K


Pat, Kathy, Barbara

other guests

More guests

The Bobs

More Bobs

Sue and Bob

Even more guests

And even more guests

Did I mention guests

Here she comes



More hugs

Elaine and Carmen

Elaine and Bob

Grant et al

Elaine working the room

More celebrations

A cake?

E blows out the candles


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Breezy at happier times

A small collection of photos from years past. Taken in the early 1970s this shows our old bungalow on B214 St.
Breezy 1

Breezy 2

Breezy 3

Breezy 4

Breezy 5

Breezy 6

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Great loss at Breezy Point

UPDATE: October 31, 2012 - I've added some photos to the bottom of the page along with some links to video. No more news to share from the scene. The new photos are from Wall Street Journal. Also there is some amazing video and news of the disaster on NBC's website.

First we were concerned that my oldest brother's home along the beach would be damaged by wind and surge. Then there was concern for my second oldest brother who was planning to ride it out with his wife in the year-round bungalow on Lincoln. Then as the surge was reported to be higher, we were concerned that anywhere on the end of the Rockaway Peninsula was not a good place to be.

Our family has roots in Breezy Point since the 1940s and there have been many happy times including a wedding during Hurricane Agnes in 1972. The houses and people of Breezy Point all survived the years of tide and storms, births, deaths even a recent tornado. But I don't think anyone imagined that Breezy Point would succumb to a fire, especially one during a hurricane.

Yes, the houses in the old section of Breezy are very close together and mostly made of wood. But folks were very careful and the local volunteer fire department was quick to respond to any emergency.

These days there are lots of family and friends in the Breezy Point community so this is a very sad day. We are still waiting for information about what happened and who was directly affected although we know everyone is physically okay.

There will be long-term costs I am sure.

I have collected these photos from news and tweets today and will add more when I find them. If these are copyrighted and need to be removed, just let me know. I was moving to capture them so quickly, I failed to make notes from where they came. If these are your photos, thank you for sharing them.

Sorry, none of the photos are labeled as I don't know exactly where they were taken. It appears the fire's destruction was between Ocean Ave and Kildare Walk, from the water to Oceanside Ave. I'll post more when I get more info.

Breezy 1

Breezy 2

Breezy 3

Breezy 4

Breezy 5

Breezy 6

Breezy 7
Aerial shot posted from Wall Street Journal - AP/Mike Groll

Breezy 8
Aerial shot posted from Wall Street Journal - AP/Mike Groll
Breezy 9

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

How fast is your Internet?

need for speed
Well according to Akamai, a high-performance Web and analytics company, the good old USA lags in 14th place behind the likes of Belgium, Ireland and Latvia when it comes to internet speed. For those dying to know, South Korea comes in 1st Place. The details of the Akamai study (download the entire report here - PDF) were recently chronicled in an article on ZDNet called "The Internet is Getting Faster."  It is probably still a bit technical for the average American to understand, but in the final analysis, the log-jam in the USA is related to the "last mile" of  our connections. More about this below, but first let me briefly explain how the internet gets to you.

Most Americans' home internet connection comes through their cable TV provider ("cable internet") or the local telephone company (DSL). A small, but increasing number of Americans are now connecting via their cell phone (known by various names including cellular 2G, 3G, or 4G, etc.); they do this by using their mobile devices or by "tethering" them to their home computer. And a still smaller minority have super-fast access through a fiber optics connection to the internet (e.g., Verizon FIOS). Clearly, fiber optics is the way to go if you have a need for speed, but only a very small part of the country has access to this method at the present time and this is not likely to increase soon because of the great expense of installation.

So cable internet provides the fastest option for most users. Oh, and in case you were thinking this, DSL is the slowest, despite what your telephone company tells you. And DSL will never get faster because the telephone lines are regulated by federal laws that intentionally keep them, well, slow.

According to the ZDNet article, the fastest state in the union is Delaware. Yeah, I know, Delaware. I guess Joe Biden got together with Al Gore and put the fix in early.

I was reflecting on this article with a friend recently and he wanted to know how to test his own internet connection speed. I just assumed everyone knew how to do this, but apparently I was wrong. For the curious, head right over to and check out your connection. You may want to compare that with what your internet provider advertises as the fastest download and upload speeds. But make sure you read the fine print. Anyway you'll want to check the speed several times over several days (see more below).

I have been generally pleased with my switch over to Time Warner Cable (TWC) last year. I had been using DSL for years and was getting about 3 MBS down and 2 MBS upload speed. But I was pretty amazed when TWC gave me close to 10 MBS the first time I tested. Upload is much slower on cable internet. The cable companies want to reserve the "bandwidth" to download, but for $10 more per month you can increase all of this. I'm now averaging 15-20 MBS download speeds and about 2 MBS upload. I can live with that.

To compare these - and your own results from what Akamai reports, here's what the ZDNet article says:
Within the US, “Delaware  [yes Delaware] remained the fastest state in the union, with an average connection speed that improved 24% quarter-over-quarter to just over 10 Mbps. New Hampshire remained the second fastest state, improving 15% to 9.4 Mbps. All of the top 10  states joined Delaware and New Hampshire in having quarterly changes that exceeded 10%, as did 38 other states across the country. Only Minnesota, California, and Nebraska improved  by less than 10% as compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, though they did not trail very far behind, with average growth rates around 9%.  Arkansas remained the state with the lowest average connection speed, though it increased 14% quarter over-quarter to 3.6 Mbps.”

That business of the "last mile" that I noted above (the connection that brings the internet to your house) makes all the difference in the world when it comes to internet speed. If you are connected via fiber optics, you are on a nice strand of fiberglass that loops around your neighborhood and provides a connection to the internet at the speed of - you guess it - light! And yes, the cable internet providers do this in essentially the same way, and at the speed of light, but their coaxial cable just doesn't have the same capacity as fiber.

You should also know that internet speed is affected by a lot of variables - the biggest of which is how many customers are "on the line" at the same time. Fiber optics customers and cable internet customers are both adversely affected more by these "crowding" effects. DSL, which has a direct link from your house to your telephone company's "switch," is not affected by crowding at this point of the connection, but from the "switch" on, you internet speeds are also at the mercy of crowding. In addition to crowding issues, weather and terrain can adversely affect cellular internet, especially if you live in a rural state like Maine. Anyone with a cell phone knows that the reliability of cellular service is pretty poor everywhere.

And finally, you should also know that all of the internet providers are experimenting with something called "throttling." This is the intentional slowing down of throughput so no one customer hogs all the bandwidth. It is a very controversial issue and will likely get more serious in the years ahead unless the internet service providers can find a way to increase capacity.

All of this is why you have to check your internet connection speed multiple times over multiple days. You should begin to see a pattern; certain times of the day when things are more sluggish than others. Make sure you are testing with a computer that is directly connected by a wire to the modem. Wireless (WiFi) connections in your home will be affected by multiple factors that will slow down your connection speed even further (I should write a whole separate article about this).

So, have fun folks - enjoy your travels on the information superhighway...and don't worry about getting caught speeding, it's just not going to happen here in the USA.

Photo credit: Image licensed by Creative Commons by Internet and Tacos

Friday, June 22, 2012

40 Years Ago Today

Alice Feeney Smith married Arnold E. Brandt during a downpour associated with Hurricane Agnes. It was a good union that lasted 24 years until Dad's death in 1996.

Sorry, I can't find any wedding photos....still looking....jeb

Update: I'm still looking for the wedding pix, but in the meantime Sister Mary sent this new photo along and I have added the shot from Alice and Arnold's engagement party - December 24, 1971. 

Alice and Arnold's Engagement Party - Dec 24, 1971

Alice and Arnold along with their grandchildren and a few more of the kids.

Alice and Arnold

Friday, April 20, 2012

Time Warner - Are you listening?

Time Warner Cable logo
NOTE/UPDATE: April 20, 2012 - Shhhh...don't tell anyone, but this week I noticed that my Time Warner Cable account is achieving 20 Mbps download speeds and 2 MBPS upload speeds. No announcement, just faster speed. YES!

Update: April 23 - TWC sent out notice about the upgrade.

Originally published January 2012:

I am not a big fan of my cable and internet provider, Time Warner. Yes, they are infinitely better than my previous cable supplier, Adelphia; the company whose CEO and president were sent to prison for corruption. And yes, I have been pleased with the rather impressive download speeds (between 20 - 30 Mbps) I have been experiencing since switching over from Fairpoint's DSL about 10 months ago. But I have not been impressed with upload speeds in the neighborhood of 1 Mbps. At least with DSL I was getting uploads around 2 Mbps. I do a lot of uploads in a day and time is money.

With this as a background, I was thrilled to receive an e-mail yesterday that stated this:

Your Internet just got faster!

Time Warner Cable is happy to announce we have increased your Internet speed. Now you'll have even more speed to do what you love on the Internet - at speeds even faster than before - at the same great price!

This increase is already complete, and you didn't have to do a thing. We've already upgraded our equipment, and your modem has been updated.

Your new Broadband Turbo download speed is up to 20 Mbps, and your upload speed is up to 2 Mbps, increases of 33% and 100%!  

Excitedly, I immediately checked my speed with and was gleeful when the meter for download struck around 30 Mbps. But this was tempered when the upload speed was still registering 0.97 Mbps. I checked again, this time using Roadrunner's own speed testing application. Same results. Hmmm.

Ironically, I had called Time Warner just last week because my upload speed was almost nonexistent. A quick "chat" with one of their "analysts" using the Time Warner Support Desk and I had the modem re-booted and re-set and was content and back to my advertised "up to 1 Mbps" upload speed So, from this experience I knew what my upload speeds were a week ago, and clearly, despite the announcement, there was no "100% increase" today.

So I decided to call them on it and within a few minutes was texting away, chatting with "Benjamin" on the Time Warner Support Desk. We checked thing and tested again, re-set the modem, re-booted the modem and each time kept getting the same numbers. Benjamin eventually looked up my account and replied that I was only supposed to be getting "up to 1 Mbps." In response, I sent him the text of the announcement and a link to a web version of the same.

He said he would expedite me to another analyst.

Two analysts later I had now spent over an hour, re-booting, re-setting, and explaining my tale. "Sharam" is not very sympathetic and eventually gives me the same "company line" about my service contract only calling for "up to ONE Mbps" in upload speed.

In disgust I tell him he's not been helpful, then fill out the on-line evaluation giving Time Warner the lowest ratings I can and one more time explaining my plight. Fifteen minutes later, I receive an automated telephone call from Time Warner asking me to again rate my experience with their customer service. Once again, I give them failing grades. By that time I had wasted two hours on the damn thing.

So what should appear last night in my e-mail....? Read the following:

Dear Valued Turbo Internet Customer:

Earlier today you received an email from us announcing increased Broadband Internet speeds.

We apologize to you for sending that email prematurely. While Time Warner Cable plans to increase your Broadband speeds at no additional charge this year, the faster speeds are not yet available in your area. Please disregard the earlier email. We will contact you again when the new speeds are available.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience this has caused, and appreciate your loyalty as a Time Warner Cable Turbo Internet customer.

I'm not sure if I should be happy or sad. But at least they appear to be listening...

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Adding ALT Text in Blogger

When inserting images into webpages, accessibility standards require the use of something called "ALT description." The ALT, as it is affectionately known, is code that a person using a screen reader hears which describes the image. Screen readers are "Assistive Technology" (AT) software applications used by people with blindness or low vision to "see" what's on a computer screen, to navigate around the screen and to interact with content. Everything on the screen is "read" to the user by way of text-to-speech software. When the screen reader device encounters an image it announces to the user, "image." But unless the web page owner/designer has added an ALT description to the image, that is all the screen reader will say. The blind user will not know anything about what image is or why it is on the page. So if you want everyone to enjoy your Blogger blog, use ALT descriptions on all your images!

Here is how you add ALT descriptions to images in Blogger.


  1. Add the image the way you normally would by using the image icon on the menu bar.
  2. Highlight the image by clicking on it.
  3. In the pop-up menu that appears, choose "Properties"
  4. In the new pop-up you will see a place to add a Title and ALT text. 
Note that this is actually an improvement in Blogger. In the old version you could not add ALT text without viewing the HTML and coding it in directly. For more tips and to learn more about accessibility, check out my website

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Daydream Believer, oh what can it mean?

Monkees Daydream Believer albumn Cover
Record cover from wikipedia
With all the news and interest surrounding the untimely death of former teen heart-throb, Monkee Davy Jones, the song Daydream Believer has been rolling around in the head incessantly. Then this morning the iTunes splash page had a "tribute" to Jones (actually a way to cash in on 45 year old recordings), so I clicked on the sample button and listened to the cherubic Davy and the boys belting out the old song.

It was then that I realized that the lyrics I remembered - and indeed the ones I was now listening too, didn't make sense and were probably wrong. It was one of those "'cuze me while I kiss this guy" type of things.

I thought they were singing:

Cheer up sweet be-jeeze
Oh what can it mean
To a
Daydream believer, under
Home coming queen.

I kept listening, but for the life of me could not figure out what the heck he was singing. In desperation (not really) I looked up the correct lyrics and this is what they are:

Cheer up, Sleepy Jean.
Oh, what can it mean.
To a daydream believer
And a homecoming queen.

By the way, the rest of the lyrics are also a hoot; check them out. What the hell were they smoking in those days!

Photo credit: from wikipedia

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Adding Google Analytics to your Blogger account

Google Analytics logo
Just learned this so I figured I should share:

Assuming you already have a Google Analytics (GA) account, you need to create a new "property" for your account. Call it "Blogger: Name of your blog" or something like that. When you have been assigned a Tracking ID for this new property, you need to add this to your Blogger account.

With the latest version of Blogger adding your GA Tracking Code is very easy. Simply log in to your Blogger blog  > go to Dashboard > Select "Settings" (at the bottom left) > Select "Other" > Scroll to the bottom and see the place where you put your Google Analytics code (e.g., UA-xxxxxxx-xx). Put just the Tracking ID number in; no quote marks or any Javascript is needed. > Click "Save Settings" at the top of the page. Google will do the rest.

Check GA in a week or so and see how much traffic is coming to your Blogger account.