Archives » December, 2005

December 25, 2005

Welcome To Rain City

View from a window.

We flew into Seattle this morning, and checked in to the Camlin Hotel, which is now owned by the Worldmark vacation club. Cool old hotel, completely gutted and remodeled just few years ago. We don’t have the best view out our window, but during the 20’s when it was built you could see all the way down to the water. So I hear.

They offer wired internet access in the room, $3 for one night or $10 for your whole stay. Not too bad, I guess, considering that the Luxor in Vegas charged $11 per night. But then, when I switched on the latop I discovered an open WiFi signal and was able to hook into that. So, depending on how reliable this hotspot is, I might not have to string ethernet cable all the way across the room after all.

We’ll be here all week, through New Year’s. I’m sure I’ll be posting more, if I get around to it.

December 21, 2005

The Chaparral Lights

Want to see a really awesome Christmas light display? Well, you have to come here to Nevada. Wayne Kremer of Johnson Lane has strung up 50,000 lights on his house, and connected them to a computer. He’s programmed a 20-minute light show, set to music, that runs all night long. It really is amazing. I wrote a whole long post about it over at Around Carson, or you can jump to Ourmedia and see the video I shot.

The Chaparral Lights

You’ve got to check it out!

Update, 12/24: I just found out that the lights have their own official website, It includes, among other things, a complete video of the entire 19-minute show. Awesome!

December 20, 2005

We Love Carson Valley

There’s another new “community website” on the map for the Carson Valley. This one is And I’m not impressed. Why? Let’s do a little digging and find out.

We Love Carson Valley is another one of those “neighborhood template” sites, where someone develops a lowest-common-denominator community website and then sells it to communities across the country. This has happened before, with (the site is dead now, but I wrote about it a couple of years ago). That site was brought to us by a couple of real estate agents, and it was copied verbatim from some kind of nationwide, one-size-fits-all template.

So now if you do a little digging around, what do you find? Oh surprise surprise, it’s being brought to us by a real estate agent! Debra L. Garber of Garber & Garber Re/Max. And so any thought you might have had about We Love Carson Valley being some kind of helpful community resource turns out to be false. It’s really nothing more than one big advertisement for their real estate business.

And if you dig even further, it gets uglier. A copyright statement at the bottom leads us back to the originator of the site, the ones who built it and sold it to the Garbers. That would be My Online Neighborhood seems to be solely in the business of providing this kind of boilerplate website to real estate agents across the country. If you read through their site (or, I should say, listen through it, since the owner helpfully provides a sound file of himself reading all the copy on each page), you’ll find that the sites they set up aren’t intended to be anything more than elaborate advertisements for the real estate agency in question. The website isn’t there for the community, it’s there as a “tool REALTORS use to generate more buyer and seller leads than ever before.” You see, they don’t care about the people who contribute to the site at all. That’s not what it’s about for them. The site is just a way to raise awareness of their business, and everyone who contributes to the site (or puts a bumper sticker on their car) is falling right into their trap.

How many people do you know that would put a REALTOR’S bumper sticker on their car? Yet those same people proudly display one of their community web site.

You see? They’re tricking you into placing free advertising on your car. And not only are they poaching the labor of the community for their own personal gain, but they think they’re doing a noble thing! They say they’re “giv[ing] back to the community that had given us so much,” but all they’re really doing it taking, taking, taking. Taking people’s goodwill, taking people’s hard work, and using it to “generate more buyer and seller leads.” Screw them. I’m not donating my time to their marketing efforts.

But one thing you can say about them is that they’ve certainly made a successful business out of duping Realtors. And hundreds more. These sites are spreading around the country like weeds. And you can bet that each one of them represents money flowing in to My Online Neighborhood. The good news is that most of them seem to be empty of any real content, so they’re failing in their mission to bring people together to worship at the feet of the Realtor. Maybe in a couple of years they’ll all be abandoned and the domains taken over by squatters, just like

Jeff Jarvis said it best: Local ain’t easy. It’s tough to build a local site and attract participants, and to keep it going. I’m finding that out already with Around Carson, and I’m not even at the stage yet where I’m actively recruiting contributors. I think the best local sites are going to be built locally. And I don’t mean commissioned by some real estate agent who just wants to increase sales, I’m talking about local people who want to build a site, either from scratch or by cobbling together existing tools, and keep it running for the good of the community. Companies like My Online Neighborhood will always be around, and they’ll always be able to extract cash from guilliable Realtors, but the sites they build will die, and die fast. Because there’s no real local connection to them. The only person who cares about a site like that is the Realtor who started it, and they only see it as dancing dollar signs on a computer screen.

Of course, not all real estate agents are this clueless. There are Realtors out there who really understand the Internet, like Rain City Guide. But for every one of those, there are a dozen others who hear about My Online Neighborhood, or Connecting Neighbors, and all they see is a way to make some quick cash from this Internet thing. Eventually they’ll get bored, or it won’t generate the “buyer and seller leads” that they were promised, so they’ll kill it. And what will be left behind are the sites built by the little guys who really care about making something happen online.

In other words, it’s all about the passion. And We Love Carson Valley is about as cold a fish as you can get.

December 18, 2005

The Xbox Faithful

Lining up at Best Buy

Yes, there are people under those tarps. What are they doing? Find out at

December 17, 2005

Christmas Blueprints

I know many of you hire a contractor each year to come to your house and set up Christmas for you. Trimming the tree, hanging the stockings, making sure a landing strip has been properly installed on the roof for Santa’s sleigh. And getting outside help is a convenient way to do it, but it can get costly. So that’s why, for all the Do-It-Yourselfers in the audience, I dug up this set of blueprints so you can decorate your own house for the holidays, and still be up to code.

For best results, download the extra large version (350kb) of these plans. Enjoy!

December 15, 2005

Seattle Bound

Seattle bound, Seattle bound; in just ten days we’re Seattle bound.

Yes, it’s an exciting time for all of us here at the Schrantz Ranch. In addition to all the Christmas craziness that always goes on this time of year, and my wife working 9-to-10 hour days, which is something new and a little stressful, we’re also getting ready for a trip up north. Through the generous gift of timeshare, thanks to my mother-in-law, we’re spending a week in downtown Seattle, at the fabulous Camlin Hotel which is one of the many fine resorts in the Trendwest family. (Can you tell I’m shooting for a Trendwest sponsorship? Call me!)

We’re flying up on Christmas Day and hanging around until New Year’s. And while part of the trip is dedicated to family, visiting my parents and brother, the big reason we’re going up there is just to become more familiar with the city, get to know the place, explore its neighborhoods. Every time we go there, it seems like we’re so rushed we don’t get to enjoy anything. Last year we packed a visit to the Aquarium, Pike Place Market, a harbor cruise and the Pacific Science Center into just one day, and that kind of thing will just drive you nuts. Our schedule was off, we didn’t have time to stop and eat, everybody was cranky, and what kind of vacation is that? We were so busy trying to get to the next place that we didn’t have time to stop and look around at where we were. So this time we’re taking it slow. Go to the Market and spend some time there. Maybe even (gasp!) buy something other than souvenirs. Check out some local restaurants. Hang out in some WiFi coffee shops. And just generally get to know the Puget Sound area, and see if this crazy dream we’ve both since before we met had about moving to Seattle has any legs to it.

Of course we wouldn’t live in the city. We’re not suicidal. We’re suburbanites at heart. The concrete canyons just don’t call to us like they do others. But neither does living in the sticks, something that both of us have been doing here in Nevada for a very long time. So somewhere up in the Pacific Northwest there’s got to be a spot that’s right for us, somewhere that the streets are quiet but it doesn’t take ten minutes to get to the nearest Wal-Mart.

So, I’m putting the question out to all the Seattlites out there. What should we do and see while we’re there? What restaurants should we check out? What neighborhoods are a good place to live?

December 6, 2005


2005-12-06 045

December 5, 2005

Short Ormsby

Got five seconds? That’s all you’ll need to check out this month’s Ormsby House gallery..

Just one page, and three pictures. Don’t get too excited!

This picture cannot be rotated in the Wizard

I’m running into a new snag with my new camera. It’s just a small thing, but it’s still annoying.

To copy my pictures onto the computer, I remove the memory card and pop it into a card reader in my computer. And then I open up Microsoft’s Scanner and Camera Wizard to preview the pictures, rotate them, and copy them to a folder. Everything worked fine with the other cameras I had, but with this new Fuji S9000, when I try to rotate a photo that I took in portrait mode, I get the message that “This picture cannot be rotated in the Wizard” Which…why? These pictures are being saved as JPEGs by the camera, same as every other camera I’ve had. What is so special, or screwed up, about this camera that the wizard is unable to rotate them? What I end up having to do is copy them without rotating, then go into the folder where they’re saved and rotate them there. Which adds an unnecessary extra step.

And then, on top of it, when I enter that phrase, “This picture cannot be rotated in the Wizard”, into Google, I get no hits. None. Does that mean I’m the only one having this problem? That my camera is so screwed up that I’ve discovered a new bug in Windows? Maybe they’ll name it after me.

Hopefully by writing this, I’ll get that phrase into Google, and others with the same problem can seek me out. So add a comment if you’ve seen this problem. Maybe together we can figure it out.

December 4, 2005

Las Vegas Nights

Looking for a cool calendar for the new year? Why don’t you hop over to and buy mine! Lulu is a new print-on-demand service, where you can upload a book or calendar and sell it online. Lulu does all the printing and shipping for you, charges a flat fee for printing, and takes a percentage of your royalty. And instead of having to get signed up with a publishing house and print off a run of 10,000 books at once, Lulu is equipped to print one book at a time, so they’re not printed until they’re ordered.

My first calendar is called “Las Vegas Nights”, and it’s a collection of photos we took of the Las Vegas Strip when we were down there last week. Go check it out, and buy a copy if you like what you see.