So the other day, I'm trying to figure out how to read an Exchange mailbox from GMail and it's really starting to get to me because I just can't get the stupid thing to work. It shouldn't be that hard, because it's possible to use an IMAP or POP3 connection to Exchange, after all, but I just can't get the GMail connection to work. To make matters worse, if you search for it (my usual method of solving such a problem), you end up with results, but not of the correct variety. You get pages that tell you how to forward from GMail to Exchange, and pages that tell you how to use GMail as a business platform - but not what I really want, which is simply to have GMail do the checking with Exchange being a regular POP3 account. So I had to keep digging.

I'll tell you first that it is possible. Secondly, you do need to have POP3 configured (you should probably have guessed that one). Finally, it's really not hard - you just have to be willing to play around and guess a few times in order to figure out the answer. After that, it works like a champ.

The other day as I was listening to the radio - I don't recall which station, though I could probably guess if I really had to put my mind to it - I heard an advertisement about an upcoming show. During this ad, they mentioned something about the "biggest bands" and how they were coming to town and naturally, that piqued my interest.

When you think of the biggest bands, what do you think? I'm figuring it has to be one of the bands that is on a perpetual farewell tour. Someone like The Eagles or Kiss or someone. Maybe even someone who hasn't been around for a while, like AC/DC or Def Leppard. Now I know that the they aren't everyone's cup of tea, and that's okay - they sold a lot of records.

The first dog I ever had was named Sheri. She was actually a family dog, and we had to put her to sleep when I was pretty young - needless to say, that was quite a few years ago. Then, a few years later, we were lucky enough to get another dog, Ruf-ce-Tuf. That tale is recounted elsewhere, but for those of you who don't know, Ruf was my first real dog. Even though Sheri was my first, I helped choose Ruf (of course, he helped choose me), I helped name Ruf (though I've since learned that names come to them, and they aren't truly given), and my mom probalby took more care of thim than I did. But he was still my first.

Then there was Tigger. One day as I worked - this was probably close to seven years ago now - a co-worker asked me if I could help him out, because he had a dog that needed help. I'm sure this was because I'm just a big softie, but I said that I wasn't home enough to help. When I found out that he had a hundred-pound stray, I wanted to help, but I really couldn't. Naturally, I told him that I'd like to be of assistance, but between the size of the dog and the fact that I wasn't ever home and didn't even have a fenced yard, I just couldn't. Then I met him. The poor guy was all cramped up in a crate that was about two sizes too small for him - think of the Grinch's heart if you need a visual. Yet he wasn't worried. That was just his nature. And that's all it took. Tigger had found a home.

I've seen a few Arena Football games in my time. Truth be known, I've probably seen more Arena Football games than I have seen NFL games (in person, anyway). The first that I recall was the Los Angeles Cobras, who played (someone). I don't even remember the game much, except for the Pauus. You see, the Cobras had a player named Yepi Pauu on their team, and he was Samoan if I remember correctly (sources online say he may have been Tongan). At intermission, his family would come out and lead the cobra dance - unfortunately for the team, the Family Pauu was about the best part of their performance. They folded after one season, 1988. If you search Google for Yepi Pauu, you'll be prompted to change it to Yeti Pauu. Go figure.

It so happens that I also caught at least one game of the Charlotte Rage. While the Rage lasted a whopping five seasons - from 1992 to 1996 - it was during 1996 that I saw the game. So at this point that I'm thinking I'm the death knell for Arena Football teams. And yes, there were others in there. These are just for dramatic effect, because I saw both teams during their final (or only) season. The Rage didn't have the Pauus, so I can't say what brought about their downfall, other than me. But I decided to attend my first indoor football game since that fateful night when I brought down the Rage in 1996. It was to catch the Carolina Speed on Saturday night. The Speed played their first season in 2007, which means we'll have to see if 2008 is their last, now that I've seen a game.

When we were kids, we all collected things. Baseball cards and comic books and action figures. But it wasn't collecting. It was just stuff. Okay, maybe we didn't all collect things. Maybe it was just us boys. Frankly, I think that girls collected things too, it was just different. Being that I wasn't one of them, I don't know what it was. I'd be likely to say dolls and ponies and shoes or something. If you knew the right kind of girls - or perhaps the wrong kinds of girls - then they would have collected boys.

But the point is, at the time, we had those things because we enjoyed them (especially those girls I was talking about). At some point along the line, it all changed. Rather than just having things that we liked to have around so we could use them, take them out and play with them - and at this point I'm going to stop talking about those girls - we became collectors. At least some of us did. Here, I'll also probably need to stop including myself in the analogy, because I don't really consider myself a collector of things. This point is where those treasures became objects that we thought might be worth something to people other than ourselves, and that is when our lives became just a little more jaded.

If you've been reading the blog for the last little while, you know that I've been hanging out on Plurk recently. Naturally, that means that I have been playing with Plurk as well, and trying to integrate it into my daily routine. When I used Twitter, it meant that I used Twitterfeed to create Tweets from the entries that I posted here. The problem is that Plurk has no such interface, as it doesn't have an API, so no such solution exists.

Luckily, Plurk power-user Ryan Lim came to the rescue. Not long ago, he released RLPlurkAPI, a PHP-based API into Plurk. It's not an official API, but it's good enough to allow outside services to access Plurk from the outside. It isn't Twitterfeed either, but what it did was allow people such as myself to see that it's possible to access the system from the outside. Unfortunately, I still couldn't do it, and I needed some more help.

It's time again for the hot dogs to start flying. Just over a year ago Charlotte hosted a regional qualifier that was pretty well attended by some of the larger names in the Major League Eating circuit. Juliet Lee and Hall "Hoover" Hunt battled it out to the very end, with Hall Hunt edging Juliet by just three-quarters of a HDB (hot dog and bun), setting a North Carolina record and personal best with 28.75 in twelve minutes.

This year, the official time has been dropped to ten minutes, after investigations have determined that the original contests took only ten minutes, rather than the traditional twelve. Why no one looked into it previously is a bit of a mystery, but that's the case, and so ten minutes it is. Chances are good that no one will be matching up with Joey Chestnut, but hey, it's good, clean fun, so who really cares, anyway? The stage was moved from the back side of Concord Mills around to the side, and it seems to have helped - a few more people showed up, even though there was no readio sponsor, and the event didn't seem to get much mention in local media.

Even Tom Sorensen, local sports reporter who wolfed down a monstrous helping of four HDBs last year, decided to cover senior center croquet this year. No telling why. I think he was afraid.

As you know, we had to put our dog Ray to sleep not long ago. While this actually went really well, there are times that we miss him, and we wanted a memorial of sorts. While he is in the backyard (not stuffed and mounted or anything, he's been cremated and buried, and we're waiting on a marker for the spot), and we can say hello, it's just not quite the same as having him inside with us all the time. So we went looking.

One of the things that we found interesting was the idea of a Laser Engraved Glass Ornament, from Everlife Memorials. I'll admit that at first, an ornament on the tree for your pet that's been gone seemed a little odd, but after thinking on it for a bit, the idea really grew on me. Plus, it's not terribly expensive (just $39.00, and if you look under the Special Offer link in the sidebar, you might find that you can get a discount (when I did, there was an extra 10% off, but it's not there right now). So we ordered one. It just arrived.

It's almost dangerous writing this as I do (in advance, I mean), because in so doing, I run the risk of having some of these things done by the time it actually gets published. One of the items - I'll tell you which in a minute - already had to be updated slightly from my original request, since it's already been fixed. I'm not complaining, mind you, as it means that Plurk is moving forward and continuing to roll out updates to the service in response to user requests. So here are mine.

First, let me say that I understand that the service is new. I've said that all along. I also understand that some of you don't necessarily like the service, and that's okay too. I'm just passing along some ideas for what I think would make things work even better, because quite frankly, I think it works pretty darn good, seeing as how it's only been around since January, and only in true live mode for the last ten days or so. Prior to that, it was on a development server, and it wasn't ready for the load that it's seen. Now, on with the list!

That's right, I said Themed Amusement Park, because that's how they describe themselves. Most similar venues fall into one of two categories - amusement parks, which are often just large collections of games, rides and things to do, and theme parks, typically owned be large media companies, such as Disney or Universal, and can therefore be more practically integrated with the properties that are a part of those companies. Sure, they can have big rides, too, but instead of just roller coasters and thrill rides, they are often themed to coincide with a movie release or even a famous character from the stable of years gone by.

Carowinds is actually something of a crossover (hence the name), in that until recently it was owned by Paramount, which mean that there was a good deal of theming going on. Not on the scale of Disney parks, mind you, but a decent amount, nonetheless. That all changed in early 2006, when it was announced that none other than Cedar Fair Entertainment had acquired Carowinds (and all of the Paramount Parks), meaning that changes were definitely afoot. Still, nothing really changed for the 2006 operating season, and even through 2007, only the Cedar Fair logo was added. But in 2008, changes definitely started showing.

There are all sorts of reasons that you might like Plurk and dislike Twitter - or, as is often the case, the other way around.

A number of people - notably the Twitterati - will argue that Plurk doesn't have an API, or it's too colorful, or it's like a funhouse. Whatever. Pick your reason. It doesn't really matter. There is one thing that sets Plurk apart from Twitter, and one thing only. Yes, there are many smaller reasons, but there is one very significant point that most people seem to push under the rug, to try and ignore, but it's the point that is staring everyone in the face, and that the refuse to accept.

Plurk is about the conversation. It's about the relationship. Twitter allows you to distance yourself, while Plurk does not. It's as simple as that.