Wednesday, December 03, 2003

We launched a new site

floral_blanket.jpgWe launched around 5:00 on December 3. Charlie & Grace LLC is the creation of Ray Thompson and Alicia Breen and sells handmade blankets and burp cloth sets as well as hand-crafted fabric belts--very cool belts--that they design. Up until now, they've been selling their stuff mainly via the craft and trunk show circuit and doing quite well, and decided to expand via the web. It's an amazingly fast leap for them considering they founded charlie & grace (named for their first-born kids) just last May.

The baby blankets and burp cloth sets are different--interesting fabric patterns beyond the usual stuff; well made with good fabric, sophisticated. My favorite pattern is called "Vintage Floral," which is the blanket pictured here. I like all of the belts, one of which is pictured below.

It was fun working on this site--the products are great and we really like Ray w_belt_greenpattern_small.jpgand Alicia. It was nice that they had a pretty clear idea about what they wanted, and integrating their chosen ecommerce gateway/shopping cart software was pretty much a breeze once the initial learning curve was over. We implemented RTWare's RTCart.

Though the site looks fairly simple, there were a LOT of details to track and build in. We wanted to keep the structure fairly simple so that the owners could change things quickly if they had to, such as putting an "out of stock" notice if they run out of inventory on something and we aren't around to do it for them (which only means that it will ship in two weeks instead of two business days.) We also wanted to make the structure such that it will be easy to add or change inventory items -- I think we managed that. There are a few tweaks that remain -- mainly just reshooting a couple of the images that are bugging me and adding some visitor tracking code -- and maybe some more wording changes, or implementing suggestions that people looking at the site might have (we hope).

We still have a few other things to figure out as well, such as the best way to advertise the site (do we try out Google Adwords, or Overture, or both? Which keywords should be used if we do?) Is it worth it to fork over $300 to Yahoo in the hope of getting listed there? Where can we advertise that will give the biggest bang for their scarce bucks? What about an eBay store?

At any rate, check it out. Think about how cool a unique belt or a baby blanket/burp set would be to give someone for Christmas.
posted by lee on 12/03/03 at 10:36 PM
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Saturday, December 06, 2003

well it’s new england
why the hell are people so surprised?

As of noon on December 6, the snowfall total here in Norwalk was 6.5 inches, at least as reported by Weather Underground. I'd say as of about 1:15, it was about 7 inches, but it's hard to tell for sure because the wind is pretty fierce.

We meant to go buy a snowblower to ward off the snow this winter--but we didn't get around to it. So it's our fault we are being pounded with this snowstorm.

I love storms and I love to watch the wild weather, but from about twelve seconds after it's over, I want the snow gone, before it starts to get filthy and sloppy and the snowplows plow in the driveway. But it's beautiful and exciting now.

Stanley took this picture from our bedroom window yesterday early evening. He says it's an awful picture, but I like it. Bear in mind that the cars are going 40 mph on a 25 mph street despite the appalling road conditions. This is Strawberry Hill Avenue in front of Nathan Hale Middle School.


Ginger and I decided to check out the world around 1:00:


It has gotten much worse than this in the hour or so since I took this shot:


Ginger is listening for the snowplows here--she hates the awful noises they make even more than she hates the snowmobiles that tear up and down Strawberry Hill Avenue at the slightest coating of snow. It looks like fun, but I had my fill of snowmobiles when I had a house in the Catskills. And they're so damned noisy.


This is looking out in the school side of our back yard:


Ginger spotted Stanley through the window, and he was eating a cookie! "Oh please let me in I want a cookie too oh pretty please I won't shake I promise ... "


We're going to wander around outside again in a couple of hours, maybe. Right now, it's just too windy.

Tomorrow we're supposed to go with Helene and Maria to celebrate our birthdays with brunch at a nice restaurant--we do this every year since all four of us have our birthdays within the same three weeks. That's supposing we can dig out in time. We're not sure yet when this will be over since the "blizzard conditions warning" doesn't expire until midnight.
posted by lee on 12/06/03 at 11:01 AM
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almost over?

Well, Ginger and I trekked outside to check things out around 11:20 or so. My estimate is about 13 inches of snow, total. In the lower left corner of this picture, you can just see the top of a tin flowerpot, which is 15 inches tall. It's so windy and drifty there is no real level spot to get a ruler reading -- my measurements ranged from 11 inches to "where the hell did the ruler go?" So 13 is about right.


It wasn't snowing much this time, and you could see the almost-full moon through the clouds. The clouds are coming in from the northwest-west now, which means the storm has circled around, it looks like. According to the weatherfolk, maybe two to four more inches by early tomorrow. Allegedly, it's supposed to be over around 11 am-ish.

Ginger had fun jumping through the snow -- it's hard to get a picture of her mid-jump, so this will have to do. It's hard to capture the joy she exudes romping through the snow. It's such a pleasure watching her play I don't mind bundling up to take her out. Much.


Stanley has most of the shoveling done. I just hope the worst of it is really over so he doesn't have to do it again in the morning. I still have no idea if we're going to make it to brunch or not -- won't know until we wake up. I suspect not.
posted by lee on 12/06/03 at 08:55 PM
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one wonders, “why?”

and then it hits: why not?

I love the design of this site.
posted by lee on 12/06/03 at 11:00 PM
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Sunday, December 07, 2003

writer wannabes: read this now

Elmore Leonard's Rules of Writing: and very good rules they are from this grandmaster of dialog.
posted by lee on 12/07/03 at 02:43 PM
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Friday, December 12, 2003

fruits of the occupation

Why the US Occupation of Iraq Must End is a powerful Flash movie created for Dennis Kuchinich's campaign. He is trying to raise the funds to run it on television in Iowa.

The animation was created by Eric Blumrich.

Ed Stephan, a sociologist at Western Washington University, maintains a chart tracking U.S. military deaths during the conquest of Iraq.

Today, there was a story on the wires on the possibility (probability?) that the U.S. would house the U.S. Embassy in Iraq in Saddam's main palace, which somehow escaped being blown to smithereens during the shock and awe bombing. That demonstrates very clearly the lack of sensitivity, or even common sense, exhibited by our gub'mint. Or maybe it symbolizes exactly what the Bushies are up to.

I still check this: IRAQOMETER. But it's so depressing.
posted by lee on 12/12/03 at 03:23 PM
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Thursday, December 18, 2003

we don’t forgive you, Johnny boy. Resign.

I watched John Rowland's sorry attempt at an apology last night:
Rowland makes public apology--"I ask the people of Connecticut for their forgiveness, I should have paid more attention to people around me and people that I trusted but I am sorry for my actions and take full responsibility."
So he's saying he was too oblivious to notice the sudden, expensive spruce-up of his cabin on the lake. Just like he didn't think there was anything wrong with paying pennies on the dollar for vacations that should have cost thousands. The maximum dollar amount for any gift received by a government official in Connecticut is $10. So one would think he would think twice about accepting a hot tub. But no--he's guilty of either not paying enough attention or for trusting bad people, he says. I think he's just another slimy crook accepting graft with one hand while slashing funding for the people who need it the most: poor children, the disabled, the working poor.

Rowland is a crook, and he should resign and spare the state the expense of impeachment. He's gutted the coffers of Connecticut enough.

After watching Rowland's piss-poor performance, Stepford wifey Patty steps up to the podium and reads a long rip-off of "The Night Before Christmas" where she whines because the media dares to report things such as her husband is a liar and a crook and her son (from a previous marriage) is a druggie who agreed to rehab to avoid jail.

It's so embarrassing.

Rowland is particularly repugnant because he didn't hesitate to smear former Bridgeport mayor Joe Ganim (who I think is now serving his jail time) for exactly the same thing. Rowland whines about how this cabin thing is overshadowing his nine years of service. That kind of whining just makes me wonder if the cabin and the vacations are only the tip of the iceberg--I don't he all of a sudden became dirty. I suspect when the feds dig further down, they'll find lots more. Whether or not they do, Rowland has effectively destroyed his own political future, so he may as well resign now and maybe the feds will go away so he can avoid becoming Ganim's cellmate.
posted by lee on 12/18/03 at 10:26 AM
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Saturday, December 20, 2003

Pork Watchers Blog Slaps Candyass Kean

The CAGW Waste Blog wrote this yesterday:
The Letdown of the Week Award goes to the chairman of the independent commission investigating 9/11, Thomas Kean, who backed away from statements he made to CBS News concerning bombshell revelations about who was responsible for one of the biggest intelligence failures in the history of the United States. Despite a pattern of ignored warnings and missed opportunities leading to Sept. 11, not a single high-level intelligence or administration official was fired or otherwise held responsible, and the White House maintains that 9/11 could not have been prevented. CBS reported that Kean's earlier comments constituted "pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame," adding that the attacks "could have and should have been prevented." Now Kean is reversing himself and saying that "nobody in the Clinton or Bush Administration did anything wrong."

We watched Nightline the other night, and were pretty amazed at how Kean managed evade laying any blame on any top-level government official in either the Clinton or the Bush administrations--including the president, the heads of the CIA, the NSA, the FBI. He basically said flunkies screwed up, and those are the people who should have been fired but weren't. It was a pretty sickening half hour.

Aside from Kean's wimpout (how much are we paying him for this?), the Citizens Against Government Waste website is a fascinating collection of pork, both pending and past. I wonder if there's anything comparable at the state level -- bet Rowland would be headline news.

So far, they haven't charged Rowland with anything since, so far, he hasn't broken any laws as far as anyone has found. Mostly he's guilty of colossal stupidity and arrogance and shoddy ethics. Though I have a hunch there's a lot more to this iceberg. It's particularly telling that people in his own party (Republican) are telling him to quit. But he still refuses, as of yesterday.
posted by lee on 12/20/03 at 11:19 AM
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Sunday, December 21, 2003

Hartford Courant interview with the guy who
lost the election for governor

During the last campaign for governor here in Connecticut, I supported and voted for Bill Curry, the Democrat running against Republican John Rowland. I remember at the time being very frustrated because there was very little media coverage of Curry and that there didn't seem to be much money being spent on his campaign and that our allegedly democratic senator, Joseph Leibermouth (who ran for vice president AND senator and is now spending his days in New Hampshire) didn't make a strong push for Curry.

The Hartford Courant, one of the oldest and most-respected newspaper in the United States, at that time was content not to delve too deeply into the Rowland administration or look at the issues that would actually have an impact on Connecticut citizens. Now, after two years, the newspaper is finally getting around to talking seriously with Curry:

Bill Curry: How Do You Like Me Now?
We've talked about signs of abuse of government, signs you pointed to in your campaign. Why was it hard for the public to see this and why was it hard for the press to pick up on it?

"Among the people upon whom we rely for leadership, Connecticut had slowly lost sight of its own values. It's like the thing about slow-boiling a lobster, it had happened slowly over time. It began with camping equipment and concert tickets. Year after year in which no one really questioned anything led to fundamental failure. The worst change was among the institutions of government, then the journalists and other leaders, and then the least changed was the public's opinion. What happened here, it was as if the state had made a collective decision to stop enforcing its own ethics laws.

"The public understands what happens here. This is Connecticut. We were the Constitution State. We were the home of New England town meeting democracy and now we're Louisiana with foliage. This is the Rowland legacy. And everybody knows it. ...

"In a decade, my state that I live in and love has become the most corrupt state in the nation, and when we said it a year ago it was hard to get a hearing."

Connecticut is a small state with several major newspapers (including, the Courant, the Connecticut Post,, the New Haven Register, and the Stamford Advocate). One would think that with all those journalists hungry for a chance to jump into the major league (or even to the newspaper next door, the New York Times), or even just doing their jobs, that just one of them would have taken a closer look at Rowland and his sleazy administration a long time ago. This, after all, is his third term. But no--even on the state's huge loss due to the Enron fiasco, there was no investigative reporting going on. Laziness? Complacency? Some kind of a deal with the state administration?

Maybe as the tax bills start showing up in mailboxes around the state, people will start to demand some answers.
posted by lee on 12/21/03 at 12:05 PM
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Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Merry Christmas to all

We made it to Natick, MA with no hassle--we left around 7 and despite the rain, there were no accidents to mar the trip. (We saw a bad fender-bender earlier today that's going to ruin at least four Christmases. Sad.) We finished everything we needed to do as far as getting ready, gave the dog a bath (so now she smells like tea tree and jasmine!), Stanley wrapped the last of the presents, packed the car up, and off we went. We started listening to "Skipping Christmas" by John Grisham and it's pretty funny so far.

Christmas will be low key: we'll open presents, cook a great dinner, play Scrabble or Upwords or Triominoes, talk, argue politics, eat, mellow out. Other than getting dragged out of bed at what we consider the crack of dawn by a nephew excited to be opening presents since he suspects he'll get at least one thing he asked for (like PS2), it is shaping up to be a very nice day.

Friday, Boxing Day?, we'll take the kids to the mall to cash in those gift cards and then we're invited to a Hannukah dinner, and at some point may try to get to see LOTR3. We were planning to do that Wednesday, but just didn't make it. And there is some work we need to get finished.

Don't know yet what's on our schedule for Saturday. I just want to go with the flow. I might involve finding a puppy, but I don't know for sure yet.

Adam called Wednesday afternoon to wish us happy holidays, which was really nice. I like talking with him about stuff and don't get the chance to very often.

The only really strange thing is that it's in the mid 50s outside right now, in the middle of a winter night. And it's supposed to get even warmer. Not exactly your typical New England Christmas weather, that's for sure!
posted by lee on 12/24/03 at 11:01 PM
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