Attending x.commerce Innovate Developer Conference

Posted on: 2011-10-10 14:02:09

Tomorrow, several other "Classy Llamas": and I will be heading to San Francisco to attend the "x.commerce": "Innovate Developers Conference":! This is very exciting for a couple of reasons:

The idea of x.commerce is very ambitious. It is the first platform that aims to be first full-spectrum, end-to-end eCommerce platform. It's exciting to be a part of something like that.

Secondly, Magento will be testing their "Beta Developer Certification Exam": I've been a big supporter of this and it will be awesome to be one of the first to take this new exam and become a Certified Magento Developer!

Lastly, it will be great to meet & greet the other Magento developers and partners.

We'll be updating our "Classy Llama blog": with updates as we can!

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God & Us: Father & Son

Posted on: 2011-07-24 15:13:30

Watching my son gives me insight into how our own relationship between our heavenly father and us looks.

It is hard to count the number of times he has done something that I obviously wished him not to do -- even while under constant supervision. He knows that what he does goes against my wishes. When I call him he does not come to me with childlike innocence... he quickly stops what he is doing and looks at me with these eyes that seem to say "I was not doing what you think I was doing!" Whoever says children are full of innocence and good must not have met my child! He knows full that his actions are not what I desire and when caught in the act he quickly tries to hide his actions.

He definitely gets that from me.

How many times have I done something and then half a moment later realized that our Father is watching over me? I'd do good to, like my son, quickly throw the object with which I've taken an interest in as far away as possible. Sadly, the son trumps the father on this one. The one think thankfully he has not yet learned is pride!

I thank God that he disciplines me just like I discipline my son.

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Arrays With UTF-16 Strings Will Give You Headaches

Posted on: 2011-05-19 10:13:38

Today I was working with some CSV files using PHP's "fgetcsv": and "array_search": functions.

I had a row like this:


Looks normal, right?

But when I was running array_search('cus_no', $headerRow) it would return FALSE. What is the deal?

Digging deeper, "print_r()": returned exactly what expected:

    [0] => cus_no
    [1] => first_name
    [2] => last_name
    [3] => full_name
    [4] => fax_no
    [5] => phone_no
    [6] => e_mail

Okay. Scratch head. Sip coffee. Deep breath. What is going on here?!

Lets see what "var_dump()": says:

array(7) {
  string(12) \"cus_no\"
  string(21) \"first_name\"
  string(19) \"last_name\"
  string(19) \"full_name\"
  string(13) \"fax_no\"
  string(17) \"phone_no\"
\" string(15) \"e_mail

Whoa. That is strange. Why is that quote at the beginning of the line? Check eyes. Sip coffee.

"var_export()": had something much different to report:

array (
  0 => 'c' . \"\\0\" . 'u' . \"\\0\" . 's' . \"\\0\" . '_' . \"\\0\" . 'n' . \"\\0\" . 'o' . \"\\0\" . '',
  1 => '' . \"\\0\" . 'f' . \"\\0\" . 'i' . \"\\0\" . 'r' . \"\\0\" . 's' . \"\\0\" . 't' . \"\\0\" . '_' . \"\\0\" . 'n' . \"\\0\" . 'a' . \"\\0\" . 'm' . \"\\0\" . 'e' . \"\\0\" . '',
  2 => '' . \"\\0\" . 'l' . \"\\0\" . 'a' . \"\\0\" . 's' . \"\\0\" . 't' . \"\\0\" . '_' . \"\\0\" . 'n' . \"\\0\" . 'a' . \"\\0\" . 'm' . \"\\0\" . 'e' . \"\\0\" . '',
  3 => '' . \"\\0\" . 'f' . \"\\0\" . 'u' . \"\\0\" . 'l' . \"\\0\" . 'l' . \"\\0\" . '_' . \"\\0\" . 'n' . \"\\0\" . 'a' . \"\\0\" . 'm' . \"\\0\" . 'e' . \"\\0\" . '',
  4 => '' . \"\\0\" . 'f' . \"\\0\" . 'a' . \"\\0\" . 'x' . \"\\0\" . '_' . \"\\0\" . 'n' . \"\\0\" . 'o' . \"\\0\" . '',
  5 => '' . \"\\0\" . 'p' . \"\\0\" . 'h' . \"\\0\" . 'o' . \"\\0\" . 'n' . \"\\0\" . 'e' . \"\\0\" . '_' . \"\\0\" . 'n' . \"\\0\" . 'o' . \"\\0\" . '',
' . \"\\0\" . '',0\" . 'e' . \"\\0\" . '_' . \"\\0\" . 'm' . \"\\0\" . 'a' . \"\\0\" . 'i' . \"\\0\" . 'l' . \"\\0\" . '

Whoa! Now that is strange. Looks like there are two characters per... wait a sec!


Should have known. UTF-16. Friends don't let friends use non-multibyte functions on multibyte datas! It was putting null characters into the string internally? Who knows. I'm sure the PHP source code would probably enlighten me on this. But no time! Those CSV files aren't going to read themselves!

Update: My fellow llama Jonathan Hodges noticed something I failed to see: The length of the strings in var_dump() are double the size they should be:

array(7) {
  string(*12*) \"cus_no\"
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Moving the Cursor in OSX's CLI

Posted on: 2011-05-16 20:58:33

Just found this "great little article over at": about how you can use meta-b and meta-f to use backwords and forwards by words in the CLI. Since there is no meta key, you have to use ?-b and ?-f (escape as meta).

Optionally, you can set the option key as meta in Terminal's settings:


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Easily View Magento Layout with Alan Storm's Layoutviewer

Posted on: 2011-05-16 16:22:56

<a href="">Alan Storm has a great module called <a href="">Layoutviewer that is great for front-end developers.  It allows you to see the layout that Magento will use to render a page. This can be useful to debug what layout updates have been applied to a page.  One way or another, it usually ends up in most of my development sites.

Here is a nice little shell script you can copy-and-paste or download to easily add it to your project:

#/bin/bash VIEWER_HTTP_DOWNLOAD=\"\"

If we are in the root, then we need to go into app/code/local.

if [ -f "index.php" ]; then cd app/code/local; fi

curl -so - $VIEWER_HTTP_DOWNLOAD | tar xvzf -

( cat <<'ConfigFile'

true local

ConfigFile ) > ../../etc/modules/Allanstormdotcom_Layoutviewer.xml

Also, here is a little bookmarklet that you can use to show the formatted XML for a page using the installed module:

<a href="javascript:window.location.href = window.location.protocol + '//' + window.location.hostname + window.location.pathname + ('' ? '?showLayout=page&showLayoutFormat=text' : + '& showLayout=page&showLayoutFormat=text');">Display Layout

Just drag it to your bookmarks bar!

You can also download the attached shell script. It will (from the htdocs folder for your Magento site) download the layoutviewer module.

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Leaps, Blessings, and Springfield, Missouri

Posted on: 2011-01-09 20:52:35

Several months ago I started looking for a new job. Not one of those desperate "i'll-take-the-first-thing-that-looks-great" kind of search. A pleasure search. One of those "where-would-I-absolutely-love-to-work" kind of searches. Applications slowly trickled out. Resumes were written, tweaked, revised, and sent. LinkedIn recommendations were written, etc. I probably sent 2 or 3 resumes per week for several weeks. Only to places that would have been really fun to work (or at least I thought would have been fun to work for.)

The job market here in Temple, TX is not what you'd call "jumpin'" for people in my field. Austin, Dallas, and Houston are really the places to be unless you want to freelance. But freelancing is just not something I could really do. It has never really felt like my calling. It felt like it a couple of times but I honestly suck as a freelancer. I hate asking people for money and I don't like keeping track of hours. My point is that ultimately there were two choices: move some place or commute.

Having commuted something like 4 years for an hour and a half each day, I can easily tell you that commuting is not my first choice. If gas were 50% of what it was... it would be easier to consider. Having a small child at home makes me want to maximize my time even more. There are good things about commuting: audio books, lectures, talk radio, tunes, etc. But all of those pale in comparison to spending time with my family. Commuting is eh.

Moving was something that I was initially opposed to doing. Proximity to friends & family, a wonderful church and small group, along with so many other things that makes roots hard to pull up was definitely a consideration that had to be weighed in the search for a new job. My stepdaughter has a year and a half left of high-school here, my in-laws are 30 minutes away. There were plenty of reasons to stay here.

But there are definitely more reasons for looking. It is a long story, and one that isn't really worth telling in depth. The short of it really is that bonds of trust were broken, great initiatives and ideas were discarded, and the desire to give 110% had slowly waned. Granted, I think we all go into slumps and drop below the 90% mark. It just happens. But when the things you help to build and felt were good and right are stripped away and discarded like last week's leftovers: it hits you like a train. A train that you can see coming but the world is moving in slow motion... and your feet don't want to move.

It leaves you with two choices: stay unhappy and collect that paycheck or get out of the way.

Well, we're getting out the way. It's not easy to look a nice check every month and just say "eh, I can do with you!" Not very easy at all. Especially since Sarah is not gainfully employed. But what is it? A means to an end? Proverbs 11:28 says "Money cannot be trusted in for it will lead to one's downfall." Man. My downfall? The strange thing is, just like that "train" I can see it coming. Bad moods, stress, and all sorts of bad things. They lead to worse things. I had to get out... and trust in the Lord.

Sometime in between all of this I saw an ad on Facebook for a job at "Classy Llama Studios": They were looking for a PHP Expert. Sure, no problem. So the resume got sent, and a couple of days later a call was made to follow-up. Good thing that call was made because apparently someone had overlooked my resume! Next thing I know, I'm driving to Springfield, MO for an interview. I went from not knowing if there was another job out there for me to "Oh man, this could be awesome!" in no time.

I had prayerfully considered the idea that perhaps God had wanted me to stay in my current job. To do good work, to be kind to those who had hurt me, and to carry on what was started by those before me. However, even those around me started picking up on the fact it would be harder to do than we expected. Things kept getting more stressful, and there did not appear to be an end in sight. I felt a little like David being pursued by Saul. But whereas David has a kingdom waiting for him on the other side, more and more it seemed like there was nothing waiting for me on the other side. I had to get out. But in order to get out, a lot of trust was needed because what was coming was not what we expected.

And so trust we did. We had to put our house up for sale, start packing, find a place to live, come up with a new budget, and gracefully leave my current position. From the very start we knew that we could not do all of this on our own. But as we were talking about the offer that Class Llama sent me, I realized that we were not talking about "if" I would take it... but how we could make it work. It was a "yes" the moment we got it. But there was so much we were worried about.

But as this story is unfolding, it is wholly apparent that our trust has been graciously rewarded. The Lord's hands have been felt in our lives since we began this process! The Lord provided someone who really wants to buy our house. The Lord provided free boxes for moving. The Lord provided a wonderful place to move. We have been blessed in finding a home for Fez, my cat. The list goes on and on: support from our small group, families, and friends, plenty of time to finish things here, Sarah being able to do some contract work from home...

To top it all off, I'll get to work with some awesome people, doing awesome things... with a purpose. The icing on the cake is that two of Sarah's kids live near Springfield, so we will get to see them more often as well! The Lord has truly blessed us. I am so excited about this new job and we are excited about starting the next chapter of our lives in Springfield, Missouri.

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Is Sin Binary?

Posted on: 2010-10-03 22:06:36

Tonight while we were walking, I was telling Sarah about some of the things we went over today in our Sunday school class. We went over commandments 5-10. Teach the commandments is easy, but explaining to a bunch of 4th graders why the law was given to Moses and what it means is kind of a stretch. God has blessed me with the ability to be pretty good at describing or analogizing things. It is very useful in my profession and has helped a lot while teaching these guys.

But today it felt like I had a hard time going over the material. Perhaps my understanding of it was underestimated! These are some of the questions/observations that were brought up:

  1. Are the 10 commandments in any particular order? This question seems to lead into the next question, but the only thing that really seems to make sense (to me, at least) is that the 10 commandments are in the order from the "most visible" sins to the least visible sins. There is probably some relatively simple argument that would disagree with that statement, but like I said it leads into the next question...

  2. Murder, stealing, and coveting are all on the same list. If the list is in no particular order, then would it not be safe to assume that all of the sins on this list are of equal weight? Growing up Catholic, we were taught about "mortal and venial sins": But the differentiation between those sins is not biblical. That is, no where else in the bible does it talk about 2 different types or weight of sin. There is just sin: that painful "estrangement from God." It either is or is not sin.

There is something about God's infinite perfectness our and limited flesh that makes no sense for there to be different levels of sin. The only distinction of sin that the bible makes is repented vs. unrepented sin. Romans 2:5 says that because of "stubbornness and an unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself on the day of judgement." Not because you committed a "mortal" sin, but because of not repenting! Plus, doesn't saying that the existence of sins that are unforgivable mean that in certain circumstances God's mercy is not limitless for those who might seek his face?

At any rate. All of this to put forth that sin is binary. It either is or is not. Murder, stealing, coveting, are all sin. The punishment for all of those is the same.

What are your thoughts?

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The Trinity: Visualized

Posted on: 2010-09-04 00:02:39

Over the past couple of months, there have been a series of changes that have caused me to seriously reconsider many aspects of my faith. Some of these changes were depressing, others solemn, and yet some were joyous and causes for celebration. I don't mean to get off topic, but only put this so that this change might be put into perspective. More and more, I've come to learn about glory, our chief end in this life, and what it means to be a part of Christ. It's like having a new set of eyes and ears by which the world looks and sounds totally different.

At any rate, during one of the times when discussing the trinity and trying to figure out exactly the trinity relates to in this world... something interesting caught my eye. It's no secret that things come in threes:


So we have the trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All three are clearly defined in the bible. Three in one. What else is like this? Genesis 1:3. God creates light.

What is light? More specifically, what is white light?


From Wikipedia ("White":

bq. White is a color, the perception which is evoked by light that stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in nearly equal amounts and with high brightness compared to the surroundings. A white visual stimulation will be void of hue and grayness.

The human eye has 3 types of cone receptors and 1 type of rod receptor ("Trichromacy": Those 3 cone receptors are what give us the ability to perceive color by responding to "red, green, and blue (RGB)": light. In other words, every time we white light, we see a simultaneous trio of equal portions red, green, and blue light... a trinity if you will. Each plays it's own role in forming that white light. They are all required in order to produce it, too.

I believe in the same way that God made our eyes to take the three wavelengths of light so that we could see white light, He made our hearts receptive to the trinity so that we could see Him. Or at least, attempt to see Him. Staring too long at a bright light can make you go blind. :)

My point is this: Look no further than your own computer monitor to understand how three can make one. As you read this blog post, it is happening right in front of you. I pray that if you have a problem understanding the trinity, you will seek the word to know more and perhaps this illustration might be useful.

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Thoughts on An Interfaith Dialogue

Posted on: 2010-08-20 21:42:11

I wanted to expand on a comment I made and get some feedback regarding a video on Vimeo entitled "An Interfaith Dialog": The whole video is worth watching, but the part I'm really talking about is from 16:05 to 17:34. Here is a transcript of that section:

bq. When she was a student at Carlton College in Minnesota, there was a mosque that was burned down in an arson attack in Minneapolis. And she was taught in her Evangelical Christian tradition you help your neighbor. It's basic. You love your neighbor. You love your neighbor. So the Imam of that mosque said, "Will you help us rebuild?" Will you help us rebuild? [She] said "yes." I want to love my neighbor. And there were people in her Christian group that said, "How can you help these devil worshippers? How can you help these people who worship the wrong thing?" [She] said, "I disagree with their worship, but they are my neighbor. I want to help them." Kicked her out of the Christian group. And [she] had a choice. "Am I going to be a Christian the way that some of these people view Christianity? In a way where I secretly applaud the burning down of a mosque? Or am I going to follow that ethic in my heart that says 'Help your neighbor?'"

After listening to Eboo's thoughts, the story about the young Christian woman who was ostracized from her church stuck with me. My initial reaction was to feel sorry for her. But after considering this story, and re-reading the "Parable of the Good Samaritan":;&version=NIV I feel there is an aspect of this conversation missing. And this anecdote provides a good basis to relate how I feel.

First, I know very little about the "Jesus Ethic." From the context and meaning of the words, I would guess that it means something to the effect of... the moral and ethical teachings of Christ devoid of soul-saving faith in Him. If this is incorrect or incomplete, please let me know! But running with this, it would seem that Eboo puts much weight in works, but we need faith: "“And without faith it is impossible to please God”": If that is the case, then it makes his message very weak. But I digress.

"Love thy neighbors as yourself" is Jesus's greatest commandment. It was a command in the old testament. It is also important to know that "our chief end is to glorify God": We do that by following in Jesus' foot steps. This is where the "Jesus Ethic" seems to come in.

Okay, so let's break it down:

Neighbor's ProblemJesus Ethic says HelpBible says Help
Neighbor when he gets burned.YesYes
Neighbor's house gets burned down.YesYes
Neighbor's place of worship where a god besides the triune God of the bible is worshipped burns downYes*???*

While the act of helping to rebuild a mosque is definitely loving your neighbors, I don't think that it glorifies Jesus. It is one thing to achieve a common purpose which glorifies God with others from disparate (or even disagreeing faiths). It is another to commend a Christian rebuilding a mosque. Aren't mosques places of worship for Allah? The god of Islam and the god of Christianity are two different Gods. They must be since Jesus was \"the way, the truth, and the light\" and Muslims don't follow Christ. It would follow that she was essentially helping to rebuild a temple to a false God. That, in my mind, is pretty good grounds for making someone leave your church.

To respond, I would ask another question, "If your friend didn't know Christ, and he/she was addicted to drugs.. and let's say that they are a nice person, too. If that person's stash disappeared... would you help them buy some more to replace it with?" Call my crazy, but I think that is a fair analogy. To help someone get something back which the desire, but draws them further from the truth of Jesus Christ is to say, in essence, that it is okay for them to go to hell. There is no Universalism.

One last thought: there is a great difference between, say, helping a person of any color or creed on a personal level and helping a group that follows a different creed. We must love our brothers and sisters... But worshipping Allah/Mohammed, to me, is a sin. Love the sinner, hate the sin. It is cliche, but that is the point: Love the individual, not the religion. Rebuilding a temple of worship is not loving an individual, it's loving another religion.

I applaud Eboo's generosity and his openness to discuss these things. As a Muslim, it seems as though there are not enough of them that want to have dialogue. However, I get the feeling that he is talking about some sort of inclusive unitarianism. I mean no disrespect to Eboo, but I think his liberal Islam would give him a firm foundation for being a Christian. He understands what it means to give glory to God (and lots of Chrisitians have a problem with this, including me.) But ultimately, all of the good works will amount to nothing unless each and every one of us pick up our cross and follow Jesus Christ!

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Haiti: Do's and Don'ts

Posted on: 2010-08-02 23:24:39

As part of writing down my thoughts and experience on the recent mission trip on Haiti, there were many feelings and experiences that I was not prepared to handle. Others, were adequately identified and met. The purpose of this post is to answer questions for those of you who are going or thinking of going to Haiti in the future and to help give you a more complete idea and hopefully answer some of these questions: "What should I bring?" "What should I leave at home?" "What should I expect when I get there?"

Some of these answers are personal experience. Some of them are suggestions and hints from people who live there. Others are observations garnered from other visitors' experiences and suggestions.

So I present to you a list of Do's and Don'ts. Things to expect and general observations. If you have been to Haiti, please leave feedback. Hopefully this page will be useful for someone else traveling to Haiti.

Note: these aren't in any particular order. Also note: this list is not exhaustive. Also also note: Understand that there are certain sites or sources of information like Wikipedia, for instance, that appear to be misleading or misinformed[1]. Take what you read about Haiti with a grain of salt. Err on the side of caution.

h3. Don't expect electricity.

During our stay in Port-au-Prince, the hotel we stayed at had a generator. About every night between 10:00 and 10:30, the power to the city gets shut off. One of our companions told us that it's because the city can't meet the needs of the power consumption at night. At any rate, many places do have generators and may run them at night. Ask whomever is hosting you if they have generators or if you can expect to have power at night.

h3. Don't expect hot water.

Yeah, don't expect to get hot water from a faucet. Anywhere. If you want hot water, someone will either have to boil it, or run it through a coffee pot. So, if you bring a bunch of ramen or need to shave, remember that you'll have to find or make your hot water. Again, the hotel we stayed at was happy to accommodate the needs of people who wanted hot water. I can't imagine anyone else wouldn't either.

h3. Don't expect... water.

This one is a little tougher. Don't expect water even from the cold faucet. Almost every house in Haiti has a water tank on top of the house that provides water to the house. These tanks require the water to be pumped up to tank. Those pumps require electricity. Catch my drift? This normally happened because the tank would be empty after a night of people taking showers after the pump was turned off. Occasionally there was water, but there was not enough pressure because people downstairs were showering. Keeping a small bottle of hand sanitizer on you will help!

h3. Don't expect air conditioning.

Our (the guys of our group) first 3 nights in Haiti were without A/C. Luckily, our hotel had them and we got to move to another room. They ran all night on the generator. Depending on where you stay, you may or may not be so lucky. You may want to bring a small fan. Even most of the tents we saw had outlets that allowed for fans to run, especially during the night. One group mentioned that their tents didn't have fans or outlets. Ask whomever is hosting you. If you are staying in tents, a power strip and extension cord may come in handy to run a power line into your tent. In Haiti, anything goes.

h3. Don't flush toilet paper.

The sewer systems here don't handle toilet paper for some reason. There are going to be small waste baskets beside you. Yeah, it's a little gross, but you'll get used to it. For latrines, they may just tell you to throw it in. But if there is an actual toilet in the city, just don't do it!

h3. Don't throw away glass (or plastic) bottles.

Haitians, for better or for worse, recycle a lot. You wouldn't tell it from all the trash in the street, but the glass bottles you'll get when you buy a coke or beer will be recycled again and and again. Don't throw them away. Most places will have a spot for you to put them. Same for the plastic bottles. Fill those up with water and keep a few of them on you. It'll waste less and you'll have extra water. Now that's win-win!

h3. Do keep lots of water on you at all times.

Not all of the water in Haiti is safe to drink. We drank "bottled" water while we were there. Many of the places buy water in the large 5-gallon water-cooler size bottles and then have coolers scattered. Make sure you keep your bottles filled. The climate in Haiti is warm and humid. You will sweat just sitting outside and you need to keep hydrated.

h3. Don't expect the internet to work.

Again, our hotel provided this for us. Most places we visited had internet -- and it seemed that every one of them was satellite. It was slow but it usually worked. Usually. The point is: don't make promises about sending e-mail or keeping up with stuff while you are away. Between the lack of electricity and storms it may not work.

h3. Do expect to be overwhelmed.

Haiti is a 3rd world country. Some parts of Haiti are great: sandy beaches, restaurants, decent hotels. Port-au-prince is nothing like that. It is: streets in disrepair, reeking of sewage and decomposing garbage, rubble and collapsed buildings everywhere. Babies crying. Children begging. Guys will cat-call the ladies. Few people speak english. Vendors will crowd you and shove their wares into your face. Babies will poop and pee on you. Flies and mosquitos are everywhere. Animals run through the streets. Naked people sometimes do too. People urinate in the streets. People bathe in the ditches.

At one point while we were just on the outside of City Soleil near the red market, the smell of rotten food and decomposing garbage was enough to make me gag. I've got a pretty strong stomach for that stuff. It was intense. If you are visiting an orphanage, you'll probably smell feces, urine and vomit. Be ready for it!

h3. Bring stuff to read or a deck of cards.

Depending on where you are going in Haiti, you will spend quite a bit of time traveling. If you are going with a group and you are not a group leader, you will have plenty of time during travel and down-time to read a book or play cards with others. During a 9 day stay, I finished 3 books. Most of that before bed and traveling. You will want something to do to help you unwind. Some people wrote, some people slept, many read books, and others played cards.

h3. Bring extras.

People lose things. Sometimes you'll end up giving items away. It's better to pack a few extra pairs of socks, t-shirts, work gloves, or snacks and give them away than to need them and not have them.

h3. Bring snacks.

Your host may or may not cook for you. The hotel we stayed at served breakfast and dinner. No lunch was served. Bring plenty of nutritious, energy dense foods: nuts, granola, etc. Being in the heat will drain your energy out of you as you sweat.

h3. Pack light.

Getting through customs can be a pain. When we arrived, we had a fairly long walk from customs and immigration to where the car was parked. If you are going to be moving around remember that you'll have to carry what you bring. Pack light, especially if you are going to be moving around frequently.

Another reason to pack light is if you intend to bring stuff with you. This is a topic that will require more discussion. The gist of it is this: there really isn't a reliable and affordable way to get items to and from Haiti. FedEx and UPS do not make deliveries there. If you want to ensure someone gets something, you'll have to pack it and deliver it yourself. Split it between people. Utilize the 2nd checked bag. Heck, buy a cheap suitcase and leave it there. It will get used.

h3. Wear sandals.

Everybody wears them. Boots are nice, and shoes are okay. We didn't walk around on the streets much, but between boots and sandals, I'd have to say that sandals are the best choice. Not only are they light but they are cooler than regular shoes. I wore my Keens every day while I was there. Those (in my humble opinion) are the best choice. Make sure you bring stuff you can be active in: running, climbing, etc. Don't wear flip-flops.

h3. Bring surge protection.

Lighting was common while we were here. If you do decide to bring a laptop or other sensitive equipment, then make sure you bring a surge protector to make sure it doesn't get damaged the next time lightning strikes a block or two away from where you are staying.

h3. Bring rain gear.

I'm fairly certain that whomever came up with the saying "When it rains it pours" had visited Haiti. It truly does here. I'm not sure if it's how it normally is or if it only did this during our visit, but the last 4 nights we were here... like clockwork around 6 p.m. came lightning, thunder, and rain. Heavy rain. Coming through the corrugated roofing rain. It also wouldn't hurt to have a waterproof pack and/or a couple of trash bags to protect your gear.

h3. Bring small bills.

This could read: Don't expect exact change. If you haggle with a street vendor and get him to come down to $5 on something he wanted to sell you for $20, don't hand the guy a $20 bill. Give him $5. These guys are going to try to make as much as they can off of you. Even if they are honest, don't expect them to be able to give you exact change. We had several businesses that weren't able to give us change or break a $20 US bill.

h3. Do expect to get everything dirty.

My wife washed my t-shirts this morning. She is currently washing them again. I'm not certain what exactly caused them to change color, but my white t-shirts are now a dingy brown. So are my shorts. As is my backpack and everything else I took with me when venturing out on a tap-tap. There is so much smoke, dust, dirt and sweat that everything you wear will get amazingly dirty. Some people bought packs of very inexpensive t-shirts. Don't wear expensive clothes! They will get messed up.

h3. Do carry some form of protection on you if you travel in small (less than 5 person) groups.

As far as I know, it is illegal to bring a gun into Haiti without proper documentation. I'm not sure what is required to do this, but it brings me to a discussion I had with one of our travel companions: a gun would be useless in Haiti. If you (God forbid) ever find yourself in a situation where you are fearing for your life, run away. Do not try to fight people off. Their sheer numbers will overwhelm you. This is the primary reason that even if you could carry a firearm, it wouldn't help. You couldn't carry enough bullets! One guy suggested carrying a metal water bottle on a carabiner. Another suggested a pair of knives. Only do this if you are prepared to use them, though. Otherwise they will taken and used against you. But seriously. Check with your host. Make sure where you are going is safe. Don't go anywhere alone. Ever. Many places will be able to set you up with security if you need it. Don't assume you can take care of yourself if you have not been trained.

fn1. I note this because the "Religion section of Haiti's Wikipedia page": says makes note of "Haitian Vodou": What it does not tell you is that many take this very seriously. First-hand reports of run-ins with Vodou "priests" in Haiti reveal a practice that is not as benign as some of these websites would have you believe. There is a reason why Christian evangelical missionaries say what they say ("Wikipedia uses the word defame": about Vodou. Let there be no mistake: Satan definitely has a hold on Haiti.

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