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The JoeSchmidt.com blogiversary: One year and exactly a hundred posts later...

Posted on January 28, 2006 at 09:00 PM

Hard to believe that exactly one year ago today this blog opened it's doors for business. Few things have changed though, same layout, a consistently sporadic schedule of posting, and I dumped Fatcow. All in all it was a decent year. For this year I would like to see my amount of posting lean more towards consistent than sporadic, and eventually finish my new layout. Yeah, promises, promises...

This blog's anniversary also coincides with a lesser known event in history, my birthday. I know, hard to believe, but this blog has been around for 31 years here on planet earth and 1 year on the interwebs. For those in the know, you may also remember that I share a birthday with wife, CEO and Head of the JoeSchmidt.com Culinary arts department. Today she celebrates the 7th anniversary of her 25th birthday. Happy birthday my love.

I would also be remiss not to wish our Niece in the great state of Texas a happy birthday today as well. She turns the big 8.0 today.

And if you've been living under a rock for the past few days, you may not have realized that this day in history also coincides with a great loss in our nations past. Twenty years ago today, seven brave souls lost their lives aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger 73 seconds after lift-off. I was 11 at the time, in the 5th grade, and vividly remember that day as I witnessed the tragedy unfold on TV at school. Being a child in the 80's, this blog was a HUGE fan of the space program. I had posters in my room of the space shuttle and remember assembling and painting models of the various space shuttles.

My interest in the space program began in the wee hours of the morning on April 12th 1981 when I asked my parents to wake me up to watch the first space shuttle launch. This blog was even known for being "sick" on a few occasions just so I could stay home from school and watch the launches on TV. So watching the events of that day unfold on live TV sitting in class was a bit surreal. I remember lunch that day was uncharacteristically quiet.

To think that on a day when some celebrate, others mourn and remember loved ones lost.

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God." - President Ronald W. Reagan, January 28th, 1986.

Posted by joeschmidt at 09:00 PM | Comments (0) | post to del.icio.us

Dyson vs. Oreck: the vacuum cleaner showdown

Posted on January 25, 2006 at 12:23 AM

Dyson v. Oreck A few months back, our 5 year old Hoover bagless vacuum had become almost unusable. The amount of suction it was producing was so poor it's attachment hose would barely hold on to the palm of an open hand, not to mention the visible dust the vacuum was exhausting while in use. On the verge of being vacuum-less, this blog's in-laws stepped in to provide us a loaner vacuum until we could get something more permanent. Though the vacuum we received wasn't your average, run-of-the-mill vacuum, we were lucky, it was an Oreck XL which was in great condition.

The Oreck is the 8 pound marvel we've all heard about on TV and radio over the years that has enough suction power to hold a 16 pound bowling ball in the mid air. (I remember my Father made the Oreck salesperson demonstrate this feat before they purchased their Oreck years ago). After just one session of using the Oreck we were definitely impressed, as it was a tremendous improvement upon what we previously used.

But the time had come to cease our vacuum mooching ways and begin the search for a new vacuum. With so many different types and brands to chose from the decision was somewhat daunting. Our goal was to purchase a quality vacuum that would provide good value and stand the test of time (i.e. maintain suction for more than a couple of years). After getting bitten in the ass for buying crappy $150 vacuums, we decided it was time cough up the cash to buy a quality vacuum. Though we were impressed by our loaner Oreck XL we've always had our eye on something else. That something else was a Dyson.

Now, I've seen the commercials that claim how Dyson's never loose suction because of their patented, new-fangled sucking technology (technical description) which supposedly makes a Dyson superior to other vacuums. But being one that isn't easily swayed by marketing hoo-hah, or a quaint British inventor stating how he "just thinks things should work properly", we talked to friends that owned Dysons and read all the Dyson reviews on Amazon.com. Even armed with all that knowledge, we found that our trepidation concerning the price of the Dyson was the one factor holding us back.

"$549 is a lot of money to spend on something you only use a few hours a week" we thought.

To make a long story short, we pulled the trigger and bought the Dyson.

Now that we had it in our possession we were eager to get it home and immediately start using it (a wild and crazy Friday night, let me tell you). We just hoped it "sucked" well enough to justify the expense.

And so the challenge begins....

Upon arriving home we found ourselves in the midst of a great opportunity. In the same house we had the current reigning vacuum champion, the Oreck XL vs. the upstart challenger, the Dyson DC14 "animal". We immediately laid down the gauntlet, I would start vacuuming the house with Oreck XL and the Head of the Culinary Arts Department would follow suit with the Dyson. This would allow us to see if the Dyson was able to pickup anything that the Oreck missed.

I took great care to make sure I did a thorough job of vacuuming with the Oreck, as I wanted to give the Dyson a run for it's money. But after spending $549 on the Dyson we were hoping that we would be able to see some kind of results.

My dear intraweb friends, let me tell you, there was no competition.

We could immediately see that the Dyson was pulling up dirt, dog hair, and debris we couldn't even see in the carpet. It was unbelievable. I mean, I had just thoroughly vacuumed the carpet with what I thought was a top of the line Oreck vacuum, only to watch the Dyson's dirt canister quickly become full. To get a sense of how much it picked up, I submit for your perusal, exhibit "A", a pic of the Dyson's dirt canister after we used it to vacuum the same area we just finished with the Oreck.

A horrifying sight to say the least. We had no idea how much dirt and debris the Oreck was missing.

Weighing the benefits

While the Dyson isn't without it's faults (though none real significant) I thought I would give you a list of Pros/Cons we observed after using the Dyson over the course of the weekend:


  • Awesome sucking power. Dyson's proprietary root cyclone technology claims to never lose suction and picks up objects some vacuums wouldn't touch.
  • Dirt collection bin easily empties from the bottom with the push of a button.
  • Extra long extension cord (approx. 35 feet). Was able to vacuum a large percentage of the house with the Dyson plugged into the same outlet.
  • Lifetime HEPA filter (just rinse, dry and reuse)
  • Telecsoping wand lays hidden within the Dyson's handle then extends to 17 feet, allowing you to easily clean a full flight of stairs, giving the Dyson a total reach of about 52 feet.
  • Comes with 3 standard hose attachments, a low reach floor tool for hard to reach areas under furniture, plus a mini turbine head tool for upholstery.
  • Ergonomic design provides easy handling and a well balanced feel.


  • Price ($549 is a little steep for a vacuum but a tremendous value in this blog's opinion).
  • Vacuum tends to roll when telescoping hose is used while base unit sits on tile or wood flooring (unit stays situated when placed on carpeting).
  • Weight - approx 20 pounds (when compared to the 8 pound Oreck. Not that great of a difference).


By far the Dyson is THE BEST vacuum we have ever used/owned. In the beginning we were timid of the Dyson's cost but found it was easily justified when considering the money we would have spent on other lesser quality vacuums that tend to lose suction over time. Also consider the fact that a vacuum like an Oreck doesn't have a built in extension hose to get those hard to reach places, which would have forced us to use two separate vacuums had we stuck with the Oreck.

I highly recommend this vacuum to anyone looking to replace their dying, suctionless vacuum, especially for those of you that have dogs/cats that shed hair throughout the house or children who are part time geologists and seem to bring home every rock they find on the playground.

Hell, I like this vacuum so much I proudly display it as the gadget of the week. (it was due for an update anyway.)

Ed. note: Any personal experiences (positive or negative) with Dyson vacuums would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Posted by joeschmidt at 12:23 AM | Comments (98) | post to del.icio.us

Who is Stanislav Petrov and why you should care

Posted on January 19, 2006 at 01:44 AM

Monday, September 26 1983 is an unassuming date in world history for most people. Though it is precisely that date in which the world as we now know it might have changed forever. During the pre-dawn hours of that infamous date, Lt. Col. Stanislav Evgrafovich Petrov was the officer in charge of the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System for the former Soviet Union. At 40 minutes past midnight, the system detected the launch of a U.S. nuclear missile heading directly for the Soviet Union. Lt. Col. Petrov made a judgement call that this inbound missile detected by the defense system had to be a false alarm. He rationalized that if the U.S. were to strike the Soviet Union they would have surely launched more than one missile. The doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), which was an integral part of the Cold War, probably weighed heavily in his thinking.

Tensions soon began to mount as a second warning appeared only a few minutes later signifying the launch of yet another U.S. missile. This was followed by three more alarms, for a grand total of 5 inbound nuclear missiles. Lt. Col. Petrov was now faced with two choices: either go with his gut instinct, that what he and his men were witnessing was a computer glitch, or report his findings up the chain of command, which would have assuredly started World War III.

He chose the former of the two, and with no other systems to verify if there were in fact nuclear missiles heading for the Soviet Union, Lt. Col. Petrov and his men anxiously waited for his suspicions to be confirmed. All the while realizing that if he was wrong there would not have been enough time remaining for the Soviet Union to launch a counterstrike.

As it turned out, Lt. Col. Petrov's decision was correct. It would later be revealed that a faulty satellite picked up what is saw as exhaust from a minuteman rocket but more likely was solar glare reflecting off a missile silo in the U.S. Initially his peers and superior officers lauded his actions, which for all intensive purposes, helped prevent the start of World War III.

Later as his superiors further investigated the incidents of that evening, they found he had not properly filed his logs during the incident and questioned his actions with regard to military protocol that was specified. Ultimately he was made a scapegoat for the failures of the defense system that occurred that night.

On the verge of a nervous breakdown from the stress incurred from that one event, Lt. Col. Petrov retired from the military two years later in 1985. He lived in poor conditions and relative obscurity for most of the next 20 years. His only income being a pension from the Russian government for his military service (which was approx. $200/mo.). Still to this day he hasn't received any recognition or awards from Soviet/Russian government.

It wasn't until 2004 when the Association of World Citizens awarded Mr. Petrov with their World Citizen Award, which brought him not only $1000 dollars, but also world wide recognition for the actions he performed on that fateful day in 1983.

Currently, a Danish film crew is creating a documentary based on Lt. Col. Petrov's life and have brought him to the U.S. this past week to document his experiences here. Today at the United Nations, Lt. Col. Petrov will be once again recognized for his actions as the AWC award will be repeated in front of an assembly of UN officials.

Looking back at the situation, Lt. Col. Petrov may vary well be one of the greatest heroes who has ever lived, having the convictions and instinct to ignore military protocol and stave off what could have been World War III and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people. Though it would be naive to conclude that this was an isolated case and there could be many other "Lt. Col. Petrov's" out there, either foreign or domestic, who too have saved the world from a nuclear holocaust with little or no recognition.

At any rate, we all owe him a great debt of thanks.

Posted by joeschmidt at 01:44 AM | Comments (0) | post to del.icio.us

A new year, a new web host

Posted on January 11, 2006 at 01:25 AM

Loyal readers of this blog have probably have noticed my general lack of posting for the last month or so. I could make up some kind of outlandish excuse as to why but I won't. Though, I have been keeping busy with working on a new site design and switching to a new web hosting company. Excuses, excuses...

You see, just about a year ago I signed up with Fatcow to host this blog. I didn't do a lot of online research of web hosting companies, as I usually find that personal experiences are usually more informational than reading the typical marketing hoo-hah some company lists on their site. So I asked around, and based on the recommendation of a blogger who shall remain somewhat nameless, I decided that Fatcow would suit my needs. All I needed was a somewhat cheap web hosting company that would reliably host my site. I wasn't asking for much.

That was then, this is now.

After being with Fatcow for a full year I can report that their reliability as far as a web hosts go was so-so. Being a company that hosts thousands of sites, their number one measuring stick for customer satisfaction should be website availability, which is the total amount of time their client's websites are running sans any unscheduled downtime. And 2005, at least for Fatcow, was less than a banner year.

I can recall at least 3 occasions when I went to update this blog and found that it was unavailable. One time last April the outage was so bad I had to look at a cached copy of Fatcow's support site on Google just to get their phone number. It was as if the entire company was yanked off the interwebs. Not cool.

Another time I found that my site was down, yet again, along with a few other Fatcow hosted sites. So I called their tech support to report the outage and was met with the response, "Really? Hmm... yeah I guess it is down." Any web host company that brags that they have 99% uptime is really telling you that their your website will probably be down down approx. 3.65 days a year, which is really unacceptable in this day age.

To top that off I had to personally call Fatcow and confirm my wish to disband their service. Apparently numerous emails to their customer service department isn't enough for Fatcow. Though I saw this for what it really was, their last ditch effort to somehow persuade me to keep them as my host, even though I'd already signed with a new company weeks earlier and begun the process of transferring this site to my new host. Pretty sure I'm not changing my mind at this point.

So, during my last communicae with Fatcow I was asked why I was taking my site elsewhere. I thought I'd be nice and responded "Well, I found a better deal" and hoped to leave it at that. Though apparently this wasn't a good enough reason for the rep on the other end of the line as he started to break into some jedi mind trick sales pitch about how he could offer me a better deal. I politely cut him off, mid jedi mind trick speak, and promptly listed about half dozen reasons why I was leaving Fatcow. He quickly got the point and our conversation ended. All I thought was "You asked for it buddy".

So for the foreseeable future I've decided to go with MediaTemple. This time I did quite a few comparisons of web hosting companies, along with the usual personal experience factored in as well, and found that they had exactly what I was looking for. I decided to go with MediaTemple's 2GB Shared Server Professional Plan for $7.95/mo (2yr agreement required) which meets my needs perfectly. And with Urchin Stats included with my account, well, that was the icing on the cake.

With all that out of the way, I then had to go through the process of transferring this blog from Fatcow to MediaTemmple. That involved installing movabletype 3.2 on my server, exporting/importing all my posts into my new install of MT3.2, and finally copying the 200+ MBs of data that I've seemed to accumulate in the past year. Even though we're only a few weeks into 2006 my experience with MediaTemple has thus far been superb. Hopefully it stays that way.

Posted by joeschmidt at 01:25 AM | Comments (12) | post to del.icio.us