Jane Carroll York

Jane Carroll YorkJuly 20, 1956 – December 17, 2013

Late in the evening of Tuesday, December 17th, my Aunt Jane passed away. That moment represented the peaceful end to a valiant battle against cancer that she waged for the last few months of her life. Her daughter, Rachel, had arrived at her bedside just in time to be with her as she took her last breath… something for which I am very grateful.

Although we weren’t “close” for much of my life due to geographical distance, we had—for the last 5 years or so—spent quite a bit more time together thanks to her move to Florida. It was a great tragedy that precipitated her move here… the untimely loss of her husband, Jim, whom she greatly loved. They had made their home for the better part of their two children’s lives in Katy, Texas, just west of Houston. After Jim passed away in December of 2006, Jane felt drawn to Florida to be near to her parents, Rev. Jack Carroll and Erma Carroll, and to her sister (my Mom), Ann Johnson.

When she relocated to Florida, Jane brought with her my cousin Rachel, who was in her sophomore year of high school at the time. Jane’s eldest, my cousin Jay, was studying and playing football at Azusa Pacific University in the greater Los Angeles area, but we still managed to see him more often than ever during the holidays.

I’m very grateful for these past few years. We were all heartbroken at the loss of Jim… and very grateful for the family’s move to Florida. Countless times during Jane’s recent fight with cancer, whether we sat together at my parents’ house (when they were able to care for her there) or by her bedside in one of the three hospitals where she spent so much time, we remarked about how grateful we were that she moved her family to Florida.

Sadly, the time she spent her with her parents was not long. Within a year and a half of her arrival, we lost her father (my Grandfather). Fifteen months later, her mother (my Grandmother) passed away as well. A few short months later, my cousin, Rachel, left for college in Colorado, where she’s currently studying at the prestigious Colorado School of Mines.

Recently, I’ve thought a lot about that sequence of events… and although she didn’t “lose” her children, she did experience being distanced from them in the midst of losing her husband and her mother and father. I think that’s an awful lot of loss for someone to sustain, and my heart was heavy for her.

But… she was great fun to have around here in recent years. She was regularly to be found at Starbucks, where I would interrupt her coffee and reading when I had the chance. We always saw her at family gatherings for birthdays and holidays. She also went out of her way to invite my wife and daughter and I over to use the pool in her community, and we would often grab takeout and spend the evening with her afterward.

During her funeral service last Saturday at Toale Brothers in downtown Sarasota, Jane was remembered by all for her infectious laugh and for her feisty, vocal nature. She never was one to back down from any spirited debate, and it seemed that there were plenty to be had with her around! She was also fiercely loyal and genuine. She would certainly come to the defense of those she loved, and you really didn’t want to be on the wrong side of her when she did!

In addition to the family members who came to remember her and celebrate her life, some of Jane’s close friends from her neighborhood and from playing tennis were also there at her funeral. She managed to forge some really tight-knit friendships in her five years here in Florida.

I have fond memories of Jane from throughout my life. We briefly lived in the same part of Houston during my childhood, and I remember spending some time with her then. Not long after she met and married Jim, they moved to California. By then, my family had already moved away ourselves, so there were a few years there where we didn’t see them as often.

In addition to being spunky and stubborn (which I’m pretty sure came largely from her Mother), Jane was incredibly smart. This made her a force to be reckoned with. It was a badge of honor for me when I beat her (once) at Trivial Pursuit. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I couldn’t have been more than 12 at the time, and I’m quite certain it was just because I got lucky with the cards that were drawn, but I was no less proud of it!

When her nose wasn’t in a book, Jane was constantly doing crossword puzzles. She loved music, and I remember my amazement at her CD collection when I was a kid.

Most significantly, though, Jane dove into raising Jay and Rachel with all of her might. She was very involved when they were in music and sports, and probably ruined the day of more than a few educators during her time as a Mom. It wasn’t a good idea to treat one of her kids unfairly, that was for sure!

I’m so proud of both Jay and Rachel today. They have each been shaped by the loss of their Father while in their teens. There’s no question that that was difficult—and I’m sure remains so to this day. But each has carried on and pursued and achieved great things since then. They’ve demonstrated great resolve and fortitude as they stood by their Mom during her battle with cancer over the last few months. I was heartbroken for them as they lost their Mom.

Likewise, my Mom has lost both of her parents and now her only sister. My heart breaks for her as well. The same could be said of her brother, my Uncle Steve.

I know that Jane had a very deep faith that kept her connected with God throughout the ups and downs of her life. She was, it seems, especially made to suffer at the hands of some of the “old school” religious ideas that were handed down early in her life. I don’t have a way to know this with any certainty, but I’m guessing that she spent some time being angry with God (not to mention some people) over some of that. But Jane yearned for freedom, heart and soul. As my wife, Jill, and I prayed with her in recent months—often alongside other family members and close friends—we could see Jane’s heart reaching out to God with everything she had.

As I ponder this, I am especially grateful now for her true freedom. She’s free of all the pain and nastiness that was brought on by cancer. But she’s also truly free in her spirit and soul right now. I can only imagine the reunion as she saw Jim and her parents again.

A graveside service will be held on Saturday, December 28th (tomorrow, as I write this) in Katy, Texas at 2pm (local time). Her body will be laid to rest alongside that of her husband, Jim, at the Katy Magnolia Cemetery. Jay and Rachel will be there, and I’m sure some friends from Jane’s years there in Katy will join them.

I miss you and I love you, Aunt Jane.

Twelve Years Later… Sarasota’s 9/11 Connection Stronger than Ever

Sarasota’s 9/11 Connection

I’ve previously recounted my own memoirs of 9/11 in Sarasota, but as we remember the anniversary of this tragedy yet again, it seems that Sarasota’s connection to the events of that day gets stronger, if not more mysterious, every year.

Recently I was on a plane chatting with someone who happened to have moved to Sarasota in the years since 9/11. Not having been a resident of the area at the time, he was only vaguely aware of President Bush’s presence in our beautiful city that fateful morning. In fact, he’d recalled “W” being in Florida, and even on the Gulf Coast, but didn’t realize Sarasota was the location.

“Yep. He was in Sarasota. I saw him drive by that morning on his way to Emma E. Booker Elementary School, where he was famously reading to the children when someone whispered in his ear about the attacks,” I said.

As we flew over Florida, I went on to explain that several of the hijackers trained as would-be pilots nearby in Venice—one of them famously not wanting to bother learning to land, just fly.

It reminded me just how much I’ve always felt that Sarasota was eerily connected to the 9/11 attacks… and how that even that day I wondered if our city might have been a target because of the well-publicized movements of the President.

But none of us who lived here back in 2001 had any idea just how strong that connection would turn out to be. We learned of the Venice connection pretty quickly, of course. But we still don’t know much about the Saudi family living in Sarasota at the time, and just how much they may or may not have had to do with the 9/11 hijackers. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is reporting that the FBI continues its pattern of obfuscation and denial about the issue.

Since the FBI has unfortunately not been forthcoming about what it knows, it is only after significant public outcry and a lawsuit that we, the people, stand a remote chance of ever learning more about the family who mysteriously vacated their Prestancia home just 2 weeks prior to the 9/11 attacks.

Perhaps we may never know just how deep the Sarasota 9/11 connection goes. For now, it’s up to a federal judge in Broward County named William L. Zloch. Let’s hope he rules in favor of the people.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica: Travel Worth Doing

Recently, I returned from my first Costa Rica trip. And, “Wow.” There were some moments that truly left me breathless:

Sunset at Villa Caletas

My visit was mostly business, but thanks to my friend, Charles Boyd: “Costa Rica Charlie,” I managed to get to see some of the unforgettable sights in the Puntareñas province. Puntareñas actually covers most of the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, but I spent most of my time near the quaint beach town of Jacó.

Traveling to Costa Rica

The actual trip to Costa Rica isn’t bad at all. My flight to San Jose, the nation’s capital and home of its biggest airport, took only two and a half hours (departing from South Florida). Immigration and customs moved at a reasonable rate, and within an hour after arrival I found myself exiting the airport with my checked bags. Even with my incredibly poor Spanish, I navigated through the process with relative ease.

Doing a little research, I found that many major airlines (and some tiny ones) have regular flights between San Jose and a number of U.S. cities. Finding one isn’t a problem, and cost isn’t a big deal. In fact, this whole trip cost less than many I’ve taken inside the U.S.

From the airport, we had a one-hour (give or take) road trip to get to Jaco, which sits directly on the Pacific Ocean. The journey takes you through some scenic mountainous areas on a relatively new highway, with a few stops to pay tolls along the way.

Jacó Beach

The Town of Jaco Sits on This Gorgeous Little Bay

Depending upon the purpose of your visit,  Jacó may or may not be for you. If you’re looking for the travel-brochure, 4-star luxury scene, you’d be better off visiting one of Costa Rica’s higher-end areas. (One exists just a few minutes North of Jaco, in fact: the world-famous Los Sueños Resort & Marina.) Jaco itself is known to attract surfers from all over the world (as is Hermosa just to the South, where evidently the real die-hards go), and is not a particularly upscale city. With its busy nightlife and main thoroughfare (which is loaded with restaurants and shops), it’s got a quaint, beach-town quality that’s familiar to anyone who’s been to Florida.

Beneath the surface, though, Jaco is a small town where everyone seems to know everyone else. The locals you encounter in Jaco will definitely help you understand why Costa Rica is thought of as the happiest country on earth. They seem to put up with gringos like me (I truly butchered the language quite pathetically while I was there) without a complaint.

My photos of Jaco didn’t turn out so great, partly because the times when I wasn’t working and was outside didn’t often seem to coincide with sunshine. The summer is officially part of the “rainy season” in Costa Rica, which makes everything come alive in a glorious green celebration of life, but comes with some extra clouds and rain.

Jaco Beach’s Northern Tip

The beach itself is OK. I’m a bit spoiled since I live and work near the best beach in the USA, so sand quality on other beaches is something I generally have low expectations about to begin with. And the sand of Jaco’s beach met those low expectations quite nicely. It’s actually got a darker color than I was expecting (almost chocolaty brown), and was perfectly tolerable. There are a few areas on the beach that suffer from some litter problems, but this could have had something to do with the exact timing of my visit since I was there during the short part of the year where Costa Rica’s native residents seem to all go to Jaco at once.

Overall, the beach experience was magnificent. Up at 5:30am each day (in summer, they’re on the equivalent of Mountain Time in the US… and they don’t change for Daylight Savings Time), I found the sun was already up and the beach was well-lit for a refreshing early-morning walk — something I highly recommend. I didn’t actually spend much time in the surf, but the waves were gorgeous. I think surfing lessons might be on the agenda for my next trip.

Villa Caletas and Other Local Attractions

A couple of quick adventures that I was able to enjoy when not working included an evening trip to the Hotel Villa Caletas. Along with its castle-like Zephyr Palace, which is a dream-come-true location for a destination wedding in Costa Rica, the Villa Caletas operates a gorgeous hotel with absolutely spectacular views of the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean. Just minutes from Jaco, this is and absolute must-see on any trip to the region. 

The amphitheater & restaurant at Hotel Villa Caletas

Of particular interest is the gorgeous little amphitheater which is built into the top of the mountain ridge that is home to the Hotel Villa Caletas. I wish my photos could somehow do this justice… it’s much more majestic than it seems in these pics. They managed to perch their restaurant atop this ridge, and the stone amphitheater has a stunning drop to a tiny stage which I’m told actually plays host to some live performances.

A More Orange Shot of the Sunset at Villa Caletas

But in the evening time, no live performance could begin to equal the stunning view of the sunset which the amphitheater affords. I took countless photos trying desperately to capture what no camera possibly could. In fact, the color variation in these shots is largely due to my camera’s inability to take everything in with the amazing shaft of light that penetrated through the clouds to the west. Depending upon what I focused the camera on, I got a light, dark or color-desaturated image.

This shot of the spectacular sunset at Villa Caletas shows just a bit of the tall pillars located in the amphitheater

Despite my inability to display it for you, the spectacle was nothing short of breathtaking. The view of the sunset is perfectly dazzling. However, Villa Caletas makes the experience even more unforgettable by creating a phenomenal atmosphere that complements nature’s own display perfectly. Firstly, the amphitheater is equipped with a sound system that adds just the right touch of ambiance with music. When we arrived — and as I caught my breath from taking in the beauty of the visual extravaganza that greeted me  — I recognized the familiar strains of Vangelis’ “1492.” I can’t imagine anything that would have served as a more fitting soundtrack than that.

As we settled into a spot at the amphitheater to prepare for nature’s daily show, a waiter from the restaurant appeared with some seat cushions. We placed our order and a few moments later he re-appeared with what turned out to be a perfect cappuccino.

I was in heaven.

A gorgeous view… both of the sunset over the Pacific and of a spectacular stretch of dense primary rainforest as the mountain ridge dropped away beneath us toward the water… great music… a nice cup of coffee… the only thing I could’ve asked for to make it complete would have been the presence of my gorgeous companion, my lovely wife, Jill. Alas, she didn’t accompany me on this particular trip, so I look forward to a date at Villa Caletas to take in a sunset together the next time I go.

Seriously, this one element is enough to justify the entire trip to Costa Rica.

Yours Truly at Villa Caletas

Ultimately, a small crowd gathered and cameras of every size and shape came out when the sun began its final descent for the day. But… I must say, a sort-of reverent awe came over the entire crowd. I hardly noticed that others were even there as we all watched the glorious display.

So that’s Villa Caletas. Or rather… the portion we took in (and presumably the portion that matters). We did manage to get a peek at Zephyr Palace. Though removed somewhat from the more “public” amphitheater (which could hardly be described as public), the palace commands a similar spectacular view of the Pacific (and the sunset). Like the restaurant area, it has an infinity pool stretching out toward the ocean, which is one story below the banquet facility and directly adjacent to the club-like dance floor. Rumor has it that the palace rents for something like $15,000 a night, and plays host to brides and their parties from the world over. I can see why.

We took in some other sights. I mentioned Los Suenos, which boasts what is arguably the best marina in all of Central America. Walking along the marina, yachts of every shape and size (and flying every conceivable flag) were docked. The luxury resort hotel at Los Suenos is a Marriott property, and although I didn’t get an up-close look at it, I’ve been told it’s an amazing property.

Costa Rica Real Estate

Perhaps the one thing I’m most excited about from this trip is the increased awareness I’ve gained for the Costa Rica real estate market. It’s definitely beginning to boom again. I don’t know if prices have crept up as high as they did during the high point of the market just before the US market crash, but they’re on their way back up. While I was there, an article in the newspaper reported on new statistics from the Central Bank of Costa Rica. The data show that the first quarter of 2013 represented a high water mark in terms of foreign investment in Costa Rica — reaching heights that haven’t been seen since 2000 — including $377 million in the real estate sector alone.

If everything is as it seems, there will be lots of Americans looking to purchase second homes, retirement homes, or even explore the expatriate lifestyle. In my book, Costa Rica is a great fit for any of the above!

RIP: Google Reader

Alright, so maybe the “RIP” is a little premature. But Google announced today that it’s sunsetting Google Reader as of July 1, 2013.

I guess it’s not dead yet, but it’s terminal. With only months to live. Tonight, a Twitter campaign seems to have been mounted in a desperate attempt to get Google’s attention and have somebody change their mind about the decision. I’m not aware of Google having ever reversed a decision like this due to outcry from users, but perhaps this will have some effect.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of chatter (as expected) around what a good alternative might be. The problem is this: we are now suffering from Google’s success.

A building on the Google campus. Photo credit: brionv / Flickr

Here’s what I mean.

Like most, I started out using Reader as a free tool long before Google consolidated all of its services with the single sign-on that we all originally hated when the “Big G” rolled out “Google accounts.”

Over time, my business purchased a subscription to Google Apps (For Your Domain, to be precise). So now… my Reader account (and data) is all part of a paid service that I subscribe to.

If it were just a “free” service (in quotes for reasons I’ll explain in a minute), then perhaps it would be a bit more understandable that Google would feel the liberty to just kill it off. After all… if it doesn’t generate revenue, then it’s a simple business decision to kill it off.

But… I’m a paying subscriber. I use this tool as part of my business, and ironically I was forced to place my Reader account under Google Apps because I used my primary email address with it (now hosted at Google).

All of this raises an important question:

Should We Rely On Google’s Services Going Forward?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not plotting the cancellation of our Google Apps account… yet. But this has forced me to think about how quick we are to adopt offerings from Google, and how likely we are to continue to entrust important business processes to their tools.

One reason we’re quick to use their services is that they’re a strong company. I’m not worried about them going out of business tomorrow. Another reason is that as a domain administrator, I have a certain comfort level in the central authentication and controls that Google grants me over our users.

In other words, if some new service sprang up tomorrow that met a need… and Google had a competitive offering (whether “free” or rolled into Google Apps), prior to now my decision would be relatively easy. Even if the competitor had a superior product or a better price, Google is the path of least resistance. My staff and I already have well-established Google accounts. There would be no need to create (and keep track of) another login. I know about Google’s promises to allow us to hang on to our data, etc.

But Google’s decision to kill Reader gives me reason for pause here.

If we rely on their services, it appears that we don’t have input into whether or not those services live on into the future.

Again… I’m not suggesting that Google continue to put resources toward a product that doesn’t produce sufficient revenue. But from what I can tell from the public outcry tonight, there are plenty of us who would gladly pay for (or pay additional fees for) a subscription to Google Reader if it were to be made available to us.

At least then we’d have the opportunity to make a choice.

This also makes me wonder how many great competitive products might have been developed over the last few years had Google not been giving away the Reader product for free. There were tons of RSS readers on the market prior to Google’s launch of Reader in 2005. Where are they now? It appears that the landscape is quite sparse today by comparison.

In other words, Google’s decision to give away the Reader product harmed competition. And now… as they kill off the product that doesn’t generate enough revenue for them to justify keeping it, the marketplace has fewer options available for users like me.

Thanks for that, Google. I’m a fan, but this really makes me stop and think twice.

Is It Legal to Carry Firearms at Florida Theaters?

Frequently, after publishing content online, I find myself learning something. Often this is from looking at what type of traffic our websites get.

This week is certainly no exception. After publishing some thoughts about the Aurora, Colorado theater shooting and contrasting it with a recent Florida shooting incident, I’ve learned that a lot of people have a similar question:

Is it legal to carry a firearm into a theater in the State of Florida?

This is of particular interest to me since AMC Theatres has a nationwide policy banning firearms from their locations. The ban therefore applies to the location we sometimes patronize in a nearby mall, and to at least one other Florida location in Clearwater (see a copy of the AMC “No Weapons Allowed” sign here).

First: Florida Law

Florida law does not specifically prohibit the legal (concealed) carry of firearms in theaters. Of course, legal concealed carry in Florida requires a Concealed Weapons Permit. (If you are already a permit holder, then you are well aware that a number of conditions apply to make your concealed carry of a firearm legal.)

Without a permit, in Florida you are not permitted to carry a concealed firearm on your person anywhere other than in your home or place of business.

There are many ins and outs to Florida law related to firearms and other weapons. I am not an attorney or expert in the law, nor would I pretend to be one. If you own (or plan to own) firearms in Florida, then I strongly recommend that you get a copy of the book widely considered to be the “Bible” of Florida firearms law by attorney Jon Gutmacher. Don’t just get a copy… devour it and keep it close by for reference.

Second: “No Guns Allowed” Signs

AMC Theatres: No Weapons Allowed, Courtesy of gruntzooki

Some businesses choose to place signage prohibiting firearms in their establishments. AMC Theatres is an example. Regal Cinemas may be another example if various internet chatter is to be believed.

Again, I am not an attorney or expert, but from my research a business that has invited you (by opening its doors to the public) onto its premises cannot prevent you from bringing a legal concealed weapon onto its premises.

That said, if they discover your firearm (which one has to really wonder how they would do if in fact it is properly concealed), they can ask you to leave. If any business asks you to leave and you refuse, you are likely to be guilty of trespass (regardless of whether you have a firearm).

If you are found guilty of trespass and you are carrying a firearm, then you are quite likely to be guilty of armed trespass, which is a third degree felony.

This is probably not something you want to risk. It is also quite possibly open to interpretation, which could go badly for you if you find yourself in this situation. Find more on this topic here.

The good news is that you are unlikely to be guilty of trespass (at least in a business which is open to the public—assuming you are there during its hours of operation) unless you refuse to leave after first being warned to leave.

2 Shooting Incidents, One Day Apart

**UPDATE: The events described here happened almost one week apart, not one day apart as originally thought. The stark contrast between them is not weakened by the number of days separating them, however. See why below…

Last night’s deadly incident in Aurora, Colorado at the late-night showing of The Dark Knight Rises was a tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims as well as to those survivors who are wounded physically and traumatized.

Word of the incident spread rapidly—as with any situation involving guns and fatalities. By the time I awakened this morning, Facebook and other social media outlets were awash with news of the shooting. Many people expressed sympathies (quite appropriately) and remorse over the absolutely unnecessary loss of life.

No Weapons Allowed, Courtesy of Steve Snodgrass

One of my first reactions was to recall the signage I’ve seen at our local AMC Theatres location in Sarasota, Florida. The theater has exercised their rights under Florida law to prohibit weapons—including lawfully-carried firearms—on their premises.

This means that law-abiding citizens who wish to respect the wishes of the business will leave their weapons at home (or securely encased in their locked vehicle in the parking lot) or will choose to take their business elsewhere. Either way, this greatly reduces the chances that someone who possesses a legal firearm and is capable of using it will be there to take down a gunman on a shooting spree like the one that took place in Colorado.

Criminals will, of course, ignore the sign.

The Other Shooting Incident

Consider what took place in Marion County, Florida, just one day six days (turns out the date on the YouTube video didn’t match the date of the event) prior to the Colorado incident. In this case, there were two armed gunmen—this time with robbery as their intent. They entered an internet cafe pointing guns at the customers and making demands for valuables.

This situation did not make national news. It didn’t spread like wildfire through social media. In fact, were it not for the Colorado tragedy, I might not have ever known about it.

Why?

Because it ended quite differently. See for yourself:

Regardless of one’s opinions or politics, the law is clear. Florida has a “shall-issue” policy concerning Concealed Carry (CCW) permits, which are available to citizens who pass a background check (no felonies, etc.) and demonstrate basic proficiency with a firearm. This permit authorizes citizens to lawfully carry concealed firearms for their own protection throughout the State with certain notable exceptions (schools, certain government buildings, bars, etc.).

71-year-old Samuel Williams, though admittedly quite scared by the masked gunmen, legally drew his weapon and fired at both of the would-be robbers, who turned up later at hospitals being treated for their gunshot wounds after fleeing the scene empty-handed.

Whether or not the gunmen intended to shoot anyone, the crime was stopped and the man quite justifiably shot them to protect his wife, himself and the other customers at the cafe. More on this story here.

Liability for Deaths & Injuries

All of this begs the question…

Do businesses (like AMC Theatres) have any liability or responsibility for deaths and injuries that occur on their premises because they have prohibited citizens from legally carrying concealed weapons to protect themselves?

I’m not sure whether Samuel Williams would notice or comply with the “No Weapons Allowed” sign at AMC Theatres, but perhaps businesses—especially those that draw large crowds—will reconsider their policies in the aftermath of the Colorado tragedy. I, for one, would want proficient, legally armed citizens nearby if a moron like James Holmes showed up on the scene intending to do harm.

For the record, I’m not familiar with the policies of the Century 16 Theater, owned by Cinemark Theaters. Speculations abound. If the theater prohibits legal firearms like AMC Theatres does in their locations nationwide, then the Samuel Williams of the world won’t be there to return fire.

With 12 dead and as many as 59 injured, this incident is being reported as the largest mass shooting in U.S. history. Ultimately the responsibility for this tragedy lies with the shooter. However, I have to wonder what businesses are thinking when they attempt to prohibit legal firearms. And I’m sure that the families of the victims as well as the 59 injured will be considering this in the days ahead.

HTC Evo Shift Running Out of Space

I’ve written previously about how to root the HTC Evo Shift. In that post, I identified the Android ROM I ended up using. For the last 9+ months, I’ve been incredibly happy with my EVO Shift without making any significant changes. I guess this is somewhat rare among people who tend to root their Android devices, but I don’t have a lot of time to waste playing with tweaks and mods. Consequently, once I find something nice and stable that performs well, I tend to stick with it.

Recently, however, my Evo Shift has been low on space quite a lot. For the last month or so, I’ve founded myself uninstalling some apps, double-checking some others to make sure they’d been moved to the SD card (another luxury that actually works on a rooted device), and frequently deleting the browser’s cache. These have all been band-aid attempts at freeing up space so that basic functions would work (such as GMail sync).

Finally, I’d had enough. I decided that it would be worth it to revisit the forums around rooting, tweaking, modding and hacking Android devices. Since I’d had such a great experience with the ROM I download last October, I decided to try out TheMikMik.com and see if they’d done anything new. Thankfully, they had!

Checking out this thread, I downloaded the MikShifted-G v2.1 ROM. This ROM features Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread), HTC Sense, and lots and lots of tweaks and mods.

Something New: Titanium Backup

One thing I did differently this time was that I downloaded Titanium Backup from the Google Play store. After testing it out a little bit, I opted for the paid version because it added some great, worthwhile enhancements. I had already fulled backed up my Evo Shift via Nandroid, which comes with Clockwork Recovery, but I wanted to be able to restore certain data. In particular, my daughter has made lots of progress on the 3 versions of Angry Birds that I keep on my device for her amusement (OK… for mine too), and some other games & apps had data that wouldn’t have otherwise survived the upgrade. Titanium Backup permits the backup and restoration of this kind of data. I specifically used it to back up the data before proceeding with installing my shiny new ROM.

So… here’s what the steps looked like for me this time:

  1. Download the ROM (.zip file) and copy it to the device’s SD card. I did this from my laptop and transferred it via a USB cable. You could theoretically just downloaded the .zip using the phone, but I was doing all my reading and research from my laptop.
  2. Perform a full Nandroid backup
  3. Reboot the device
  4. Install Titanium Backup, then backup data from specific games/apps
  5. Reboot to Clockwork Recovery
  6. Wipe everything several times
  7. Install the new ROM from the .zip file on the SD card
  8. Step through the device’s configuration process
  9. Reinstall apps and selectively restore data using Titanium Backup

I made a list of all the apps that I wanted to be sure to re-install. This turned out to be unnecessary because Google has greatly improved the user experience in the Play store. They’ve always permitted users to re-download purchased apps, but I found this time that even the free apps (some of my favorites are free ones) were readily accessible.

Another luxury for me this time around involved easily restoring my SMS messages. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to back these up separately before wiping my device, so after re-installing all my apps, I decided to see if there was an easy way to pull these out of my Nandroid backup. It turns out that Titanium Backup has a very simple procedure for restoring this data too. It’s just like restoring data from apps… the only trick is knowing which data to restore. It turns out that SMS messages are stored with the “Dialer History” (at least that’s the case with these HTC ROMs). After the restore and a simple reboot, all my SMS messages came right back. Thank you, Titanium Backup!

This whole process took a couple of hours of my time, some of which was spent on the minutiae of sorting out what data from which apps I wanted to backup. I also am a bit meticulous about configuration. Now that it’s all finished, I’m back to virtually the identical set of apps as before, but I have tons of free space and my device is running faster and more smoothly than ever!

I’m a very happy camper. Thanks very much to aamikam and all the others at TheMikMik and XDA Developers who work so hard at making such fantastic tools available to us!

Why I’m a Big Fan of Macy’s in Sarasota

Dean Burnside, Owner of Macy’s Pest Control Sarasota

Recently, I sat down for lunch at the newly reopened Don Pablo’s in Sarasota (a habit of mine lately) with Dean Burnside, Owner of Macy’s Termite & Pest Control. Dean and I have become acquainted lately thanks to an introduction from a good friend of mine who thought that the two of us would be like-minded.

It turns out we are. Dean operates his company with a very unique approach—one rooted in principles of business that are entirely Scriptural in nature. In fact, the first time we met, he described their operation as a, “for-profit ministry disguised as a pest control company.”

A quick aside: if you thought I was referring to Macy’s Department Store, my deepest apologies. Actually, I’m a big fan of that Macy’s in Sarasota as well. (Well… both, actually, since they have 2 locations.) I always get great service, and I was thrilled when they brought the famous Macy’s brand to town a few years ago, replacing the native-Floridian Burdines brand.

When it comes to pest control, Sarasota residents have quite a few options. Dean is well aware of this, of course. And in a competitive environment like this one, you might wonder why someone would bother trying to present their company publicly as one that upholds the highest standards of ethics, integrity, honesty and excellence. Businesses are being scrutinized quite enough without the added pressure.

But for Dean, the answer is simple. If his business doesn’t operate with excellence—whether it’s a salesperson who tells the truth or a service technician who delivers on the company’s promises—Dean’s company not only won’t grow and be profitable, but they also won’t have a valid platform to share what Dean calls, the “Good News.”

How Macy’s Termite & Pest Control Got Their Name

You might be wondering how a Sarasota pest control company owned by someone whose name is Burnside got the name Macy’s. Actually it’s a great story. The founder of the company is John Macy, who brought Dean on in the mid-1990s. John naturally lent his surname to the company—long before the other Macy’s came to town—and ultimately sold the company to Dean in about 1998.

Since the business already had a great reputation, Dean saw no need to change the company’s name, and has grown it considerably since then. Several years ago, John Macy showed up at Dean’s doorstep wondering if there was a role for him to play. Sure enough! Macy is now the company’s ambassador, and does lots of networking and assorted goodwill-generating stuff for the business. All these years later, the two make quite a team.

The Macy’s Termite & Pest Control name isn’t without its quirks, however. Dean says he routinely gets calls in November from people looking for tickets to the parade. His staff has the telephone numbers of the local stores handy to give out to people who call the wrong place. There’s even the occasional billing question that lands in their accounting department when people think they’ve already paid their Macy’s bill.

Dean’s a good sport about it, though. It isn’t unusual for the company to give out Macy’s gift cards to employees or as prizes in company promotions.

Under the Hood

Since my team and I are known for Nourish The Dream and the events we conduct around the country related to doing business according to Kingdom principles, Dean opened up his operations to me and allowed me to get a first-hand look at how they run things. As Zig Ziglar says, “What’s in the warehouse needs to match what’s in the showroom.” This is the case with Macy’s Pest Control.

I’m sure they disappoint a customer once in a while, and I have no doubt there are conflicts that arise in their business as in any other. But when you see a commitment to make things right and to really live up to the high standards someone sets, then you know you’re dealing with people of integrity.

An example that comes to mind deals with being a leader in green pest control. Sure… a lot of people are jumping on the environmentally friendly bandwagon, but Dean and his team see this as a lot more than a marketing gimmick.

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 NKJV)

Referencing the above Scripture, Dean will tell you that he sees this commandment and others like it as a mandate from God to take care of the planet. In an industry that makes wide use of chemicals, he sees it as his responsibility to operate with policies and procedures that do as little harm to the environment as possible. And plenty of others have taken notice, including Natural Awakenings, which has awarded Macy’s Pest Control their “Green Business of the Year” award several years running.

Next time you’re in need of a pest control solution in Sarasota, Bradenton, Venice and the surrounding communities, I urge you to give Macy’s a shout. Make sure you let ’em know we sent ya!

Happy 40th Birthday, Atari! (with Infographic!)

Atari turns 40 years old today!

And though they clearly aren’t the same company that started producing Pong (while virtually single-handedly inventing the video game) in the 1970s, they remain a fantastic example of innovation.

Atari 2600: the Game Console that Started it All!
I still remember (like it was yesterday!) the Christmas morning when my Dad gave my brother a cartridge for the Atari 2600 in his stocking. As my brother tried to explain that it was no good without the unit, my Dad started laughing and told him to go look in his room. The 2600 changed our lives forever!

Check out the infographic below to see how Atari became a household name in the 1980s, got killed when Nintendo came on the scene and ultimately reinvented themselves after several changes in ownership. You may not be aware, but a lot of the great Atari titles are alive and well today!