The Guru’s Cat

When the guru sat down to worship each evening, the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshipers. So he ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.

After the guru died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.

Centuries later learned treatises were written by the guru’s disciples on the religious and liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed.

– Anthony De Mello, The Song of the Bird

A music festival where I’ve been a volunteer for nearly 25 years is doing their annual mid-winter pre-fest sales – selling a limited number of tickets at a reduced price. It’s a good way to carry the festival organizers over the winter, and to give regular festies a price break.

What’s NOT so good is how they do it – phone only, with a limited staff processing orders manually over a three day period. I’ve seen some posts on social media:

“After 111 attempts to get through, over a span of twelve minutes, tickets have been procured!”

Mine took longer than usual — 179 calls and 48 minutes (you re-dial faster than I do) . . .

and from one of the folks on the other end of the line:

FYI y’all S & A are working fingers off to accommodate youralls calls for tix & are very grateful for your wonderful patience

See, the thing is, this could be done online through eCommerce – put a limited number of tickets for sale (so you do not oversell) and for a limited time. Yeah, there’s a service fee (but probably not all that much higher than the credit card fees) and I suspect most customers would pony up an additional $5 or $10 per ticket to cover an eCommerce solution (and not have to dial in 100+ time). You could sell out your winter pre-fest stock without having to tie up customers, your staff, etc.

But….it’s been done this way for 25+ years and will probably always be done this way. Like the Guru’s Cat, sometimes we do things out of habit or tradition or inertia without stepping back and considering other options.

Philips Power Solutions

I was the national Power Quality Engineer at Philips’ North American HQ circa 1989-1995 and laid the groundwork for a lot of this. So this is interesting to see.

Overall, pretty well done. The “lousy power” waveforms are a little unrealistic / conceptual (I’d have insisted it was a little more realistic) but they hit all the high points. Think they futzed up the isolation transformer based UPS technology a bit (the isolation transformer is unique, but does not provide the conversion from AC-DC which is pretty standard in all online UPS systems). Interesting to see Rx Monitoring Services reports spotlighted; a good partner choice if one is using power protection as a revenue source.

I never got a kick ass video for my power program, if I recall correctly…


Day Out with Thomas 2016

I’ve spent a few hours each of the past three weekends riding herd on social media and eCommerce for my clients down in Essex as they have hosted Thomas the Tank Engine.

Kind of remarkable how Instagram has become the go-to social media platform – we had our fair share of check-ins on Facebook and a few posts – but scores of Instagram photos – wonderfully annotated, tagged, liked, and commented.

Instagram Sunday 1May16C

Trigger warning for cuteness, face-painting, kids in firetrucks, looking giddily terrified on the gentlest of carnival rides, and of course, Thomas, Percy, and Sir Topham Hatt –

Dr. Peter Meadow / Chiropractic Center of Farmington

We’ve been setting up a new, responsive website for Dr. Peter Meadow / Chiropractic Center of Farmington

It’s been fun (so far), although populating new websites (photos, content) is always a bit like pulling teeth. Still, we’ve got some fancy Search Engine Optimization, a blog (artfully disguised as Latest News),  an embedded Google Map, and Google Analytics.

As an old school HTML coder who avoided Dreamwweaver and other design tools over the years, it has taken me a while to warm up to WordPress. However, I’ve enjoyed working with it over the past few years, and look forward to keeping up with changing times going forward!

All Aboard – Essex Steam Train Tickets

We’ve been busy this late winter setting up ticketing systems for our friends at the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat. PowerLines has been supporting the folks at Essex since 2000; with website design, social media, email marketing, and in recent years, eCommerce through a variety of online providers.

We transitioned to a Shopify based ticketing site for the 2015 Santa Special and North Pole Express departures, and this spring, we’re selling tickets for the Essex Clipper Dinner Train, brand new Steam Train & Riverboat Lunch Excursion, and returning Friday Night Sunset Cruise.

Shopify-bag-and-logotypeWith a wide variety of products and ticketing options, developing and maintaining the ticketing systems can be challenging – right down our alley! You can see our handiwork in operation here.


Adventures in (ancient) HTML – Jeopardy

In this week’s “adventures in self employment”, I re-purposed a Jeopardy game (hard code HTML) that I developed back in 1998 for a corporate gig, for a friend’s church event. The friend was the event / production client back in the day so of course remembered the game.

Jeopardy Screenshot 1

It’s designed to run on a PC / laptop, and a scan converter used to crop to the game board for projection (leaving the controls on the right side of the laptop, offscreen). Reportedly, 2015 tech (touchscreen) makes this even easier to operate (I was doing it with a mouse, back in the day). Note the controls for “Black Screen” (useful for a broadcast or projected meeting) and also “Event Logo” (useful for a meeting slate). Sneaky trick: I used the browser / html “followed link” function to set the number values to the same color as the background (thereby rendering them invisible) – you just need to clear the browser history to reset the game board. The links / content are still there – just can’t see them 🙂

Jeopardy Screenshot 2

I was relieved that the IE “non-standard” code I used to play the sounds <bgsound> is still valid. And also that I still have the HTML mad skillz to tweak the template a bit – added a “buzzer” feature and resized the screen to take advantage of larger displays – in short order. Also, the fact that I still had the game stashed in my archives, 18 years later.

Jeopardy Screenshot 3

The best part – the entire game, compressed, with graphics and sound effects, under 150KB.

Hell Week (Christmas in September)

NPEEach fall, PowerLines takes off our Electrical Engineering cap and puts on our Social Media hat (and eCommerce scarf) as we support the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat during the first few days of selling tickets for their very popular North Pole Express excursion.

When we started working with the folks in Essex (way back in 2002) they ran two Polar Express trains an evening, with nine operating days (Fri-Sun in December)

In 2015, there are four North Pole Express (Warner Brothers bought the rights to the Polar Express name) trains per evening, and thirty-six operating day, from Nov 12 – Dec 29. We started to sell tickets online way back in 2003 (with a javascript ordering form), in 2012 we transitioned to an eCommerce site (Volusion), and in 2015 we’ve moved over to Shopify. PowerLines has done all the eCommerce work – setting up the sites, creating a product database, and managing products from now until the holidays, but especially over the first few days.

These popular tickets sell out quickly – with Saturday tickets going within an hour or so. And throughout, we also keep a close eye on Social Media – addressing customer questions, concerns, and yes, doing a little bit of hand-holding and commiseration of disappointed customers whose desired tickets have sold out.

Via Linked In / Pulse – Experiential Marketers: The Essex Steam Train Will Blow Your Mind

Came across this review / write-up of the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat’s North Pole Express event today.

If your expertise is crafting product experiences, the Essex Steam Train is a humbling display of perfection. Essex is a great reminder of what kids marketing is about: creating a prolonged state of pure joy.

It is, in a word, amazing. Frighteningly positive in fact. PowerLines has been working with the folks at Essex Steam Train & Riverboat since 2002 – building their first official website, and growing with them to manage social media, blogs,  email marketing, and maintain their website. We’ve been up and down over the years, but the present product and the team behind it, is pretty amazing.

I can’t personally take credit for their various events and excursions, but having witnessed the evolution over the years, I’m proud to be part of the “public face” of this venerable Connecticut destination and company.

PowerLines New Website

The shoemaker’s children go barefoot. It’s a sad, but true, proverb. Despite living online, and taking care of many clients and organizations, I’ve been neglecting my own professional website.

Until now. I’ve upgraded my site to WordPress, and I am busily working through the site refreshing content. Based on the blog posts, I’ve been neglecting things since 2008…so a reboot is long overdue!

The Road to Perdition…..

….is paved with good intentions. And the road to poor power quality is paved with power conditioning devices. Four examples:

1) Reviewing a power quality study, wherein the complaint is a chiller that is shutting down due to excessive voltage imbalance. The voltage imbalance chart showed unusual step changes in voltage balance, often exceeding 2%. The problem: the site had a tap-switch voltage regulator installed, and as individual phases were regulated, voltage balance jumped from relatively balanced to relatively imbalanced. The solution: Bypass the voltage regulator.

2) A second study, with imaging artifacts affecting an MRI system after several years of satisfactory service. The system is protected by a UPS, and shows a higher than typical number of load related events. The problem: the UPS requires the battery string to supply the maximum imaging system load. As the batteries have aged, they were unable to support the peak load. The solution: service the UPS / battery string; in all likelihood the battery string needs to be replaced. A different UPS, that did not rely on the battery supply peak power, would not have had this problem.

3) Finally, a site with repetitive (~ 10 minutes) and severe low frequency transients. A facility based capacitor bank, intended to correct voltage and power factor, is malfunctioning – the capacitors pull in, and then shut down 45 seconds later (for so far unknown reasons) – probably internal fault or error indications. Ten minutes later, the caps try again. A CT scanner has been damaged repeatedly by this problem.