Archive: February, 2006

Text messages... real or shorthand?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 28, 2006, 2:45 PM | comments: 5

I've noticed that when grown-ups (i.e., non-teenagers) send me text messages, they resemble actual English. When teenagers (namely volleyball kids) send me text, it's in chat shorthand.

What do you do?


It takes just a few words...

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 28, 2006, 1:58 PM | comments: 0

As crappy as I felt the other day about my shitty book sales, someone posted this to my tech blog...

"Jeff: Your book saved my career.

From where I stand, that makes it all worth it.

I had a rough transition from asp to asp.net. Dispite my oop background with C++, I just didn't "get" .net.

I while googling a problem I had, I visited a forum post where you helped some one, and I was amazed... here was some one who clearly and quickly got the concept across! All that with no marketing, no over-my-head deep .net talk, and no crappy bottom-feeder worst-practices hard-coded connection string examples.

And it got better... it was either your post or your profile that mentioned your book... within 5 minutes I researched it and bought it!

I got the book; I read the book; I bookmarked dozens of pages. Then I switched from VB to C# (it seemed to help bring back those C++ concepts, and separate "what I need to do now in .net" from "old vbscript habits"), and I got coding. At last, I could move forward and be a compentent and professional programmer in .net also."


Twenty-fucking-Four

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 27, 2006, 10:05 PM | comments: 0

So finally, mid-way through the season, 24 is finally getting good. We had some crazy double crosses, explosions, good times.

And the preview answers the question we've been asking... Kim was in the preview, and she doesn't have ugly hair. Yay!

Oh, 24 The Game came out today for PS2. I thought it was gonna be for Windows too, but apparently not.


A struggling team

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 27, 2006, 10:45 AM | comments: 0

Wow, things sure are different this year in volleyball. My kids didn't win a single game, let alone match, at our tournament yesterday. That's new territory for me. Last year, my kids made gold every tournament. In fact, I haven't had a losing record since my first two seasons doing freshman (out of nine seasons total). So far they're 1-7.

Despite this, I find myself still being relatively optimistic. I mean, when they're up, there are real flashes of brilliance. But when they're not, it's like watching a bunch of people that just don't care very much. Granted, I'll flat out admit that at least half of the teams in this tournament were better than us (not to mention more six-footers than I've seen in awhile), but that's not an excuse. I don't mind losing at all when you at least put up a good fight and play well. I've played national champions where we at least made a run.

So the plan in practice is to really focus on fundamentals and get them solid. Some of them are suffering from a lack of experience too, which is partly rooted in going to high schools with shitty or stand-in coaches. There's no doubt that they'll all be better as individuals, but I need to find a way to get them up as a team.


The agony of defeat

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 25, 2006, 9:28 PM | comments: 0

It's a very sad story, that Kimberly Derrick, a US short track skater, skated today despite losing her grandfather the day before to a heart attack. He had traveled to Torino to watch her.

She lost her race, but the fact that she even showed up, in tears as she took the ice, is really inspirational. It represents everything that athletes, and people in general, hope and dream about. Human beings can be so resilient, and when you hear a story like this, you can only feel that it's your duty to make the most of your life, and the lives of others.

Looks like something to tell the kids about tomorrow at the tournament.


Exploiting professional connections

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 24, 2006, 6:41 PM | comments: 2

I used to think there was some issue with taking advantage of my professional connections for personal gain, but I think I've finally let that go. In the last two weeks I've used those connections for $1,174.85 worth of perks. Hey, there's no conflict of interest, so why not?


Fading purchase regret

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 24, 2006, 6:38 PM | comments: 1

A couple of days ago I thought I was kind of crazy to be buying a ridiculously expensive camera, but today that regret is nearly gone. A check of the business finances shows it'll be 25% paid off already this month, as planned, and the rest in five or six months tops.

My concern is not to start raking in money with it right away, though I will put out feelers with the production houses looking for HD freelancers. The day I get it I'm going to go out shooting anything, maybe at the zoo. After that, a party to shoot a short feature with friends (screenplay ideas forming now). As I get comfortable shooting with it, I'll start writing a feature-length screenplay.

The empowerment for my creative juices is already something I'm feeling. It's a feeling I haven't had since 1998, when I bought my first (and only) professional digital camera at my former job. It's something I can't easily explain.

And here's the weird thing, that influence is spilling over into other areas like my motivation for programming. That's something I didn't expect. Yes, it's an expensive hobby (or business perhaps, we'll see), but the payoff in terms of my happiness and lust for life is worth every penny. My creative needs have gone unsatisfied for way too long.


Play Zuma anywhere

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 24, 2006, 2:12 PM | comments: 1

I don't know if you've seen it, but you can Zuma online for free.

I have to say that it's both easier and harder to play with the joystick on the Xbox 360. On one hand you can change directions very quickly, but on the other hand, your accuracy isn't going to be as good as using a mouse.

On stage 12 on the 360. One more after that!


Oblivion

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 23, 2006, 6:53 PM | comments: 0

They just put the trailer for Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion up on Xbox Live. Wow... I'm impressed (and not just because of the Patrick Stewart voice-over). That game is really going to make the 360 shine. I'm wondering if this will finally be the RPG that lures me into the genre enough that I'll actually finish the game.


I did it

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 23, 2006, 9:46 AM | comments: 4

Within a month I'll own a Panasonic AG-HVX200.

I'll be casting for a short soon. :)


The reconciliation of logic and feeling

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 22, 2006, 9:36 PM | comments: 1

There was a fascinating article in Wired about a battle between psychiatry and religion. Basically, one researcher found that Buddhist monks had insane brain activity apparently because of their extensive practicing of meditation. The scientist invited the Dalai Lama to a conference and of course there was an uproar about it.

Now I'm not going to get into religion in public schools here (because that is a very different situation), but rather the personal ability to find balance between logic and feeling. I think that this is one of the things that not only makes us uniquely human, but also tortures us.

My recent rambling about video cameras illustrates this insanity quite well. Logically, I don't need a professional camera, and I can't say that I'm going to make back the money for it on related work. It's not logical to buy one. However, the creative, feeling side of me, enjoyed the greatest creativity when I was doing it full-time. Whether it was creating PBS-style recordings of high school orchestras (one of my favorites) or basic documentaries, it was deeply fulfilling.

I can tell you from recent experiences, and the experiences of others, that there are times where people will be in logically "safe" places, and bravely leave that safety to pursue something that feels better in the long run. People leave jobs, relationships and homes regardless of the logical consequences.

Where do people sit on that curve? I think most of the time we sit too close to one end, and getting to the middle of that curve is a difficult, and even impossible journey for some.

It's funny how many different ways I'm trying to make that journey.


Really shitty book sales

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 22, 2006, 6:59 PM | comments: 1

My publisher tells me that, despite a lot of good press and strong reviews, my book hasn't sold particularly well.

That's so frustrating... because throughout the editorial process there was a lot of relief that a book like this was finally being written. And with all of the people out there that I've interviewed that are in dire need of a book like it, the publisher did a pretty shitty job of getting the word out to them.

It's not about the money. It never was. I quit my job at the time I wrote the book because it wasn't about the money (I was billing $55/hr. at the time). I felt that I was doing something that was really going to help people who could learn from my own weird career path.

I suppose this is largely an issue of perspective, or my lack thereof. I've had a ton of e-mail from people that liked the book. The reviews are mostly positive. Headhunters love seeing it on my resume. I suppose I could blame the publisher. I don't know. I'm just really annoyed about the whole thing. It's often hard not to evaluate yourself on some level using external metrics.


So sleepy

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 22, 2006, 10:25 AM | comments: 4

OK, so here's where my big adjustment to a 9-5 comes in. I feel like I need to make the most of the time in the evening, so I don't nap, and I don't go to bed early. The result is that I end up getting less than seven hours of sleep per night and I'm always tired.

And then volleyball complicates it, especially on tournament days which are already emotionally and physically draining. Boo!

You'd think that routine would lead to better sleep and eating habits, but I've found just the opposite to be true.


Camera conclusions

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 21, 2006, 1:55 PM | comments: 1

I played with the baby Sony some more, and I'm really, really unimpressed. There's a lot of noise even when you tweak down the exposure, and especially with HDV that's unacceptable because it creates compression artifacts.

The bigger Sony and the JVC are nice, there's still that nagging feeling that I'm throwing something away with HDV, and the video clips and stills I've downloaded show a ton of instances of that.

The Panasonic HVX200 seems like the only choice. Yeah, it's expensive, but I don't have any objections with it and there is no limitation for any of the use scenarios. The only legitimate problem is that you just can't get the damn thing.

I guess if I really want one, I need to bite the bullet, get on a waiting list, and start saving my pennies.


Sony is blowing it on PS3

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 21, 2006, 1:01 PM | comments: 1

Sony is in trouble getting the PS3 out. Microsoft must be smiling.

The 360 hasn't done that well in Japan, but that market is very particular about the games. No killer Japanese game was available at launch. They've got the Square Enix people in their corner though, and I believe there are a few titles this summer that will remedy that. Here in the US, you still can't find one.

Consider this though... the average number of games purchased at launch was 3, which adequately covers the hit on the console itself. Sony isn't going to make that up if it costs $900 to build the damn thing.

I'll agree that 360 has some way to go to declare it a winner, but it'll get there with some of the forthcoming titles like Halo. Hard to believe that Sony is on the cusp of blowing a decade of dominance.


Another approach to camera selection

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 20, 2006, 9:40 PM | comments: 0

It occurred to me that I've been looking at the whole camera thing backward. I keep looking at from the standpoint of the cameras instead of what my needs are. Talking with Mike (onceler) today I realized that there's a lot of conflict in my needs.

The first need is a relatively minor one, and that is vacation video. How often would I use it? I'm guessing not very much, because I've been a slacker even in pulling out the DV camera. I don't shoot as much "home video" as I did in 2000. And for gatherings of friends or family, the camera obviously doesn't matter at all. So there's one need.

The next need is for-hire work. The truth and reality there is that I probably wouldn't be shooting HD in those cases at all, though I can certainly down-convert to SD. The trick in the for-hire stuff though is creating easy workflow to commonly used commercial formats, which tend to be DVCPRO (and rarely DVCPRO 50), DVCAM and some flavor of Betacam. The 50 and HD formats have a higher color sampling which is key for compositing or chromakey work. Oddly enough, the HDR-HC1 has a cousin that, for a couple hundred bucks more, includes XLR audio and records to DVCAM, so that camera sort of suits the personal and for-hire needs, if you don't get laughed at by the size of the unit.

Another need that might be more fantasy than anything, is the idea of doing a documentary that I could sell to Discovery or PBS or something. I don't have anything specific in mind, but the HD requirements tend to be pretty specific, and various discussion boards say "those people" are really picky. The HVX200 is the only camera that approaches being adequate for those needs.

Probably the most useful thing is the personal ability to shoot a real indie picture or any kind of smaller project like that. The biggest technical requirement there is that it can shoot 720 or 1080, provided it's 24P. While some DV films have made it to the big screen (Pieces of April comes to mind), they don't look very good when blown up. 1080 would look as good as film in terms of resolution, even if the image quality isn't quite a Varicam or Cinealta.

One need that covers all of these scenarios is Web delivery, and in those cases the common thread is that progressive scan video is key because I'm not happy with any of the deinterlacing software I've tried. 24P would be preferred because fewer frames mean smaller files.

So where does that leave me? Well, only the baby Sony or the premium DVCAM version satisfy the low end, which would enjoy infrequent use. The bigger Sony makes nice images, but HDV at 1080i is still scary and there's no true 24P. The JVC would be awesome for indie film with that beautiful lens. The HVX200 of course does everything I could ever want except fit in my pocket, and Mike made the probably correct comment that anything less wouldn't suit my long-term needs. Out of those five needs, the baby Sony can probably do two, the JVC can do three, and the Panasonic can do them all.

I guess it depends now on what my financial outlook is, because the decision is probably the cheap one or the really expensive one. :)


Funny slo-mo with the HVX200

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 20, 2006, 11:14 AM | comments: 0

Check out this 720p video shot at 60p with the HVX200. It has very little production value in terms of lighting, but even then it looks pretty amazing. The cardboard box explosion is funny.


Camera roundup

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 19, 2006, 5:16 PM | comments: 3

Yeah, so it's probably obvious that I've been spending my leisure time this weekend researching cameras. One of the conflicts is that I have two different sets of needs when it comes to the equipment. On one hand, I need something to document life's little moments. On the other hand, I need something professional grade that's going to meet a number of needs, including independent film making and for-hire work.

So with that, here's the roundup...

Sony HDR-HC1: $1,500
Pros: Inexpensive, small.
Cons: It's HDV, 1080i only, single CMOS censor, not suitable for pro work. Inadequate manual control.

Sony HDR-FX1: $3,100
Pros: I nearly forgot about this model, but it has major manual controls with actual dials and buttons, not menus. 3 CCD's for reasonable price.
Cons: HDV, 1080i only, no XLR audio.

JVC GY-HD100U: $5,200
Pros: A real, actual Fujinon lens! Shoulder mounted camera, XLR audio, looks kick ass, does 720/24p. Good price for having real glass. Has a $1k battery package free through the end of the month.
Cons: Still HDV, even if it is a different flavor. Not quite 1080/24p. Not vacation material at all. A little expensive.

Panasonic HVX200: $6,000 (plus $2,800 for 16 gigs of storage)
Pros: It's what I really want, does 1080/24p like Star Wars, DVCPRO, DVCPRO 50, DVCPRO HD, DV at 480/30p, tapeless, XLR audio... it does it all.
Cons: It's expensive, it's hard to acquire.


Bird brains

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 19, 2006, 1:49 PM | comments: 2

I'm in the red room getting some sun. There are more than a hundred small black birds outside eating something out of the ground. Every minute or so they all take flight and a thunderous noise is made. Then they land again. Luna is totally overwhelmed.

I'm easily amused.


Camcorder fun Part II

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 19, 2006, 12:16 AM | comments: 0

I got to actually touch an HDR-HC1 today at Best Buy. To my surprise, this is a camera that's small enough to be used for vacations and such. It's a little bigger than a typical DV camera, but it's not terrible.

I'm looking at it of course because my old DV camera is having some issues. If I'm going to buy a camera, at this point it needs to be HD. The Sony is the first true consumer HD camera that normal people can afford, but I have so many reservations about the HDV tape format. It uses standard DV tapes, but squeezes HD down to a 25 mbit stream. That's some serious lossy compression. But on the other hand Avid and Final Cut Pro do edit HDV. I'm also troubled by the bottom-loading tape compartment, which Sony has done for years as if people don't use tripods.

Of course, what I really want is the Panasonic HVX200, but that thing costs five times as much. Granted, it does 1080/24p, and you can show that in digital cinema. The flip side is that I probably wouldn't want to take that thing on vacations either. Oh, you still can't get one.

So I'm not sure what to do. I need a camera for volleyball, and I'd like to take one to Vegas as well. But I don't want to spend the money, particularly on something I'm not sure I want.


More on Phantom

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 18, 2006, 9:49 PM | comments: 1

As a follow up to my previous post, I watched the special features for Phantom. There were basically two features, one for the stage show and one for the movie. The stage stuff I had heard before, and I believe I have a book on it somewhere (odd since I've never seen it).

They mentioned some of the changes, of which there were few, but I finally realized that what troubled me was the timing of the chandelier crash, which happens near the end in the film, but at the end of the first act on stage. I suppose that's why I was disoriented given the lyric during "Masquerade" about having a new chandelier.

I also didn't know that the Phantom was played by the guy from the second Tomb Raider movie, and I was shocked that he had no significant singing experience to that point. How do you go from not being a singer to singing that show? Suddenly learning to play guitar doesn't seem so impossible to me anymore.

Emmy Rossum, who played Christine, was only 18 when the film came out, and obviously younger during shooting. That impresses me even more because I really think she was better than any other previous singer I've heard in that role. I think I like her because she was a little more contemporary and less opera, and that really works in the film version.

I also found it interesting that the film was shot outside of the studio system as an independent. That sure is an expensive film to go it alone, but it also shows that with 80 million people seeing the stage show, Andrew Lloyd Webber has clearly done OK.

You know, seeing this movie of course reinvigorates my film bug. It's funny too, how the things I'm interested in are made more actionable when I'm stimulated by things in those areas. For example, work has me wanting to write more code, talking about writing makes me want to write another book and really good films push me to make my own film. If only time and money were no object.


How does Pandora know?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 18, 2006, 1:05 AM | comments: 0

Wow... I guess I'm not as complex as I think I am. Pandora got its seed songs and artists, and it just figured out on its own to play Dido's "See The Sun," KMFDM's "Dirty" and James' "Lullaby" all in a row. That's one fucked up mix, but it's stuff that I all know and like, and I didn't tell it anything about those songs.


Another week ends

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 18, 2006, 1:00 AM | comments: 0

Wow... I've been at my job now for four weeks. I guess the fact that I made it this long means that I've been able to adapt back to the routine. This week had a few fun times as there was a lot of collaborative discussion about how to build stuff. Sometimes that's more fun than actually writing code.

This week I got an invite to a Microsoft conference in Vegas, scored a cheap flight, bought a ticket for Blue Man Group, and just today learned of an opportunity to do some writing for MS. It's neat to have "access" to Redmond even if I can't talk about everything I hear at first (NDA and all). I love writing, I love teaching, and I wish I was doing more of it.

But time just keeps flying by, and I feel like I'm missing something. Actually, I know exactly what's missing, there just isn't a ton I can do about it at the moment. I won't go into that here, but suffice it to say that I'm enduring a lot of frustrating situations lately in various parts of my life.

So there you have it.


The Phantom of The Opera

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 17, 2006, 9:58 PM | comments: 3

I rented the film version of The Phantom of The Opera. My God... I'm so annoyed I didn't see it in the theater.

I got the London cast recording when I was in high school. Despite never seeing it on the stage, I was blown away by the emotion that went into the performance, and the sweet sadness of the story. While my musical tastes at the time were all over the place, I loved this musical.

My freshman year of college, when I (for a semester) minored in theater, it wasn't cool to like anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber, so I kind of forgot that I like it. Despite even the touring show that stopped in Cleveland at least twice, I never did see it.

When the film came out, I had the intention of seeing it, but never got around to it. I was a little skeptical anyway, because Joel Schumacher directing concerned me. This is the guy, after all, that decided the bat suit in his Batman movies needed nipples. So I just skipped it.

I had a promo for Blockbuster Online and decided to get some TV shows to watch, and throw in a few movies that I missed. I queued Phantom. It arrived today, so I ordered a pizza, poured a little wine, and popped it in the 360.

As soon as the music started, I was sucked in. Understand that I probably haven't heard the music in something like 12 years. All of that high school emotion came roaring back to me. The movie was amazing, and largely how I imagined the state show would be. Schumacher didn't screw it up at all.

And while there are inevitable comparisons to the original cast recording, I have to say that some of them were better than the original. The actress that played Christine absolutely nailed it. "All I Ask Of You" was better than the original, as was "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again." I was moved to tears. No joke.

I think I'll have to buy this one.


Jeffy Radio

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 17, 2006, 12:25 AM | comments: 0

Listen to Jeffy Radio, if you dare. It's starting to lean a little too electronic, so I might have to start a new station or two based on my mood.


Pandora is awesome

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 16, 2006, 9:36 PM | comments: 4

I've got a few hours worth of yay or nay action on Pandora after seeding it with some stuff I've been listening to lately, and it just keeps getting better and better at picking music that I like. I've found a few things so far that I'm willing to buy, so it's working, and I hope to God they're starting to make money.

The only thing that I don't like is that it tends to play a few safe songs from artists you've cleared, and I'd rather it just started with new stuff I haven't heard before so I can start training it. Because of licensing restrictions, you can only skip so many songs per hour.

By the way, I might add that having a big LCD HDTV that works like a monitor is great if you have a computer in your living room. It's like I'm using my good old Sony receiver to play music for the first time in ages (not counting parties).


Bill Gates is "addicted" to 24

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 16, 2006, 1:43 PM | comments: 0

Yep... he says it in the first few minutes of this video.


Today's "up yours" note to Microsoft

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 16, 2006, 1:37 PM | comments: 2

Even though I develop software on Microsoft's platform, I'm still astounded at some of the stupid things they do. now they're saying that you can't use your Windows license on a new motherboard when you upgrade.

That's stupid. What moron in Redmond thinks this is OK? Since I bought Windows XP, I've had three motherboards. You know what happened to the old boards? They were banished to my closet, where they still sit. You mean to tell me that the software I paid for is now tied to that hardware?

What a joke.


Hollywood is going to blow it with HD

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 16, 2006, 11:01 AM | comments: 2

If you read the stories about what Hollywood wants in terms of copy protection for the new DVD formats (and yes, there are two of them), you can see that no one there gets it. What a bunch of morons.

In the quest to lock this shit up as tight as they can, they're killing the technology and driving people to get their content elsewhere. No one is going to want to deal with the hassle of these various copy protection schemes, let alone buy all kinds of hardware to support it.

In fact, the physical medium of a disc is in itself silly. Look at what has happened with music. CD's are quickly becoming a dying breed. I haven't bought a CD in almost two years. Yes, I have to deal with some DRM buying online, but it's relatively simple and in many cases easy to remove entirely.

Wake up Hollywood. People will pay for content. People who steal it will find ways to steal it anyway. Don't make things a nightmare for us.


Motivation escaped

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 9:51 PM | comments: 1

Yeah, all of these posts means that I'm not motivated. I've been doing really well this week working on the forum software. I did a major refactoring of the Membership provider, and it's good to go now (though not tested). Now I have to do a new profile provider, and then tie in to the other various objects that relate to user data (which is, like, all of them). I've finally got some forward momentum.

But I got home today, and after doing a call with The Gravity Group guys for the podcast, I just crashed. I lost all motivation to do much of anything. For some reason, I'm particularly hard on myself about this, perhaps because for all of the time I wasn't going to a day job, I didn't do shit with my own projects.

At least I did some laundry. Mmmmmm... warm pajama pants. :)


Rock concert movement #32: Buying tickets

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 8:07 PM | comments: 2

I just bought my Blue Man Group ticket for the show in Vegas when I'm there for Mix06. Center seat in the front row of the balcony.


Being the alternate and having a good attitude about it

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 7:48 PM | comments: 0

I saw an interview on ABC News tonight with Emily Hughes who is replacing Michelle Kwan at the Olympics.

What struck me is how good of a sport she is about the whole thing. She was intent only on doing her best, and had no expectations beyond that. Such an awesome attitude for a teenager. I wish I could clone that.


Counseling is good

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 2:34 PM | comments: 4

I've had conversations with friends lately who are ridiculously opposed to seeing a counselor. They perceive it as something that only really fucked up people need, or some other lame reason.

The irony is that the most well-adjusted people who are proactive in improving their lives are the people that get the most out of it. Seeing a counselor, shrink or whatever, is like meeting with someone that can act as a tour guide through your mind. They don't make decisions for you, they just help you get to the root of your feelings, and offer suggestions on how to process them.

I've personally gained to learn about everything from relationships to dealing with college instructors trying to crush me to understanding my own personality traits to identifying when to rise above my surroundings. If I kick ass, it's probably because of the things I've learned about myself through counseling.

It's not something just for the mentally ill. I don't know why people are so apprehensive about it.


The Box

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 15, 2006, 2:26 PM | comments: 2

I put the iPod on random today... to choose from the 4,200+ songs on it. "The Box" by Orbital came up and unlocked a gigantic flood of memories and feelings. You see, when MTV Amp came out, a CD that had that song, someone put out this kick ass Windows desktop theme, with sounds, based on that CD.

That was about 1997 or 1998, when we moved into our bigger apartment and I was fairly into my job with the city/schools doing cable TV stuff. We had shitty (or no) furniture, and I had this awesome "cockpit" desk (occupied by a 14" NEC monitor, which I still have).

Wow... I could write pages just by listening to that song.


Today's jokes

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 14, 2006, 11:30 PM | comments: 0

(From Phil...)
Q: How many kids with ADD does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Let's go ride bikes!

(From one of my volleyball kids...)
Mickey and Minnie Mouse have been married for like 50 years. One day, Minnie comes home and says, "Mickey, I want a divorce." Mickey says, "Are you fucking crazy?" Minnie replies, "No, I'm fucking Goofy!"


Hey Julie

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 14, 2006, 9:15 AM | comments: 2

How did it come to be
That you and I must be
Far away from each other every day?
Why must I spend my time
Filling up my mind
With facts and figures that never add up anyway?
They never add up anyway...

Hey Julie,
Look what they're doing to me
Trying to trip me up
Trying to wear me down
Julie, I swear, it's so hard to bear it
And I'd never make it through with out you around
No, I'd never make it through without you around

-Fountains of Wayne, "Hey Julie"


Is Kim dead or nearly dead on 24?

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 13, 2006, 10:53 PM | comments: 3

OK, so for weeks we've been speculating on how Kim Bauer would return to 24, since she's credited on IMDB as being not only in last week's episode, but in tonight's as well. So I ask the question... in this still from about 40 minutes in, is this Elisha Cuthbert?


The many shades of Milla

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 13, 2006, 9:34 PM | comments: 1

Milla Jovovich is in the forthcoming Ultraviolet. I find it amazing that she can pull off virtually any hair color and length. Yeah, she's in those Feria commercials too.

There's Ultraviolet, long, straight and black, wavy, brown and shorter in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, orange and yellow faux dreadlocks and bangs in The Fifth Element, and of course the variations in the Feria commercials.

If I was a girl, I'd want to be her!


Going to Vegas to see Bill

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 13, 2006, 4:18 PM | comments: 3

Quite unexpectedly, I got an invite to attend Mix06 in Las Vegas next month. Normally this conference costs a grand to attend. So I'm in, no matter what it costs to get there and stay at the Venetian (where Blue Man Group also lives, I might add).

The thing I'm most excited about though is seeing Bill Gates speak. Yeah, he's no Steve Jobs, but he's the richest man in the world, and Tim O'Reilly (as in the book publisher) gets to grill him about stuff. For a geek like me who develops with Microsoft products, this is a pretty amazing opportunity.

They're planning something like 50 sessions all together, with tracks for developers and marketing monkeys and such. People I've always wanted to meet will be there, including Rob Howard (Telligent, formerly MS, author), Lynda Weinman (lynda.com, author), Scott Guthrie (MS), Nikhil Kothari (author) and others. I mean, we're talking about a lot of very smart people all at one place at one time.

Oh, and I'll get to see Blue Man Group one night as well, hopefully. Yay!


The death of analog TV

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 13, 2006, 12:55 PM | comments: 0

Three more years until the death of analog television.


In Good Company

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 12, 2006, 8:49 PM | comments: 2

I saw In Good Company tonight. I was looking through stuff released to DVD in the past six months and I was kind of interested because I adore Scarlett Johansson. Oddly enough, the movie wasn't about what the previews suggested, a relationship movie where a guy dates his much older employee's daughter. No, the movie was actually about where we get our value and meaning in life. That's a subject that's near and dear to me.

First off was the whole corporate culture thing. It was interesting to me to see how so many of the characters placed so much of their self-definition on their jobs. It doesn't surprise me, because I was there once, but going back to a company to work I see it everyday. The movie touches on the whole concept of loyalty, which in terms of jobs is so absurd to me. Maybe that's because of all the lay-offs I've been through, but I wish people would realize how expendable they really are and not place so much value in what they do. I did that for a long time and it just crushed my self-esteem when things didn't go well. It's what happened with all of the lay-offs in the movie, people just shattered by it.

And then there's the money thing. Topher Grace's character gets a promotion, buys a Porsche and gets divorced pretty much all at once. It's so weird to me that people buy cars when they're financially successful. I actually traded down to a smaller car when I first broke the six-figure barrier (maybe in part because I knew I wouldn't choose to sustain a job at that rate). Money doesn't mean shit, and that's a lesson I think a lot of people never learn, or learn too late in life. I'm not saying that having lots of it is bad, but people do OK as long as they have some and account for a future with adequate funds.

There was a line at the end that really summed up how I feel though, where Grace's character asks Dennis Quaid if he really believes in what he's doing. And of course he says yes, and that's so critical to whatever you do. If something doesn't feed the soul in some way, however minor, I really think you shouldn't do it. Some people think that's naive, but if anything, I feel stronger about that now than ever. Buying into anything less is being jaded.

The other point they made several times was that relationships are probably the things that define and create the most value in your life. That's tough when you lose out on relationships, but relative to the other things (like money and jobs), that's where the good stuff is.

Not a bad movie... worth the rental.


Tough first tournament

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 12, 2006, 7:29 PM | comments: 0

So we had our first tournament today, and it didn't exactly go well. I wouldn't say that it went poorly, but we struggled. This group of kids is very streaky, up then down. Actually, when I look at it objectively, we were probably just a hair away from going exactly the other way.

I got to spend some quality time talking to parents, and I realized that's where high school ball was such a problem. In J.O. you have down time and you can talk to them. That helps with getting to know the personalities of the kids.

What's next? Well, I have a good idea of the things we need to work on, a lot of it mental. Aside from that, I'm still fairly optimistic about the rest of the season. The thing that makes 18's a different animal is that you never know what the competition will be like. There aren't many "average" teams (where I think we place)... they're either hot or cold generally.

One thing that's certain is that every kid will be better by the end of the season. I can see the improvements already. The juniors will be ready to lead their high school teams when they go back.


Another gadget crapping out

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 11, 2006, 7:00 PM | comments: 1

First my PDA started crapping out, now my camcorder is. Grrrr. Not good. There seems to be a short in the power switch or something, because it gets into this "flickering" power thing. And of course, I need it tomorrow to record for volleyball.

I bought the Sony back in 1999 with the refund from the public employee pension system I paid into after changing jobs. DV cameras were still not enjoying massive acceptance yet, but having used digital formats in pro circles, I certainly wasn't going to buy something not digital. So I shelled out a grand and was in awe that a consumer piece of electronics could produce something so (relatively) high quality. That camera went all over Kauai, and on several other vacations. It has been recording volleyball for just as long.

I'm not ready to buy another video camera just yet, for reasons I mentioned previously. I just don't want to spend that money yet, not until I get things a little more stable in other areas.


Jell-O® Brain

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 9, 2006, 11:06 PM | comments: 2

My head hurts. In 24 hours I've been subjected to extreme intellectual stuff at work, to two mind-numbing hours in the car going nowhere, to stuffing 80+ envelopes for an ad mailing, to researching design patterns.

I SO need to do something creative. Fortunately I consider volleyball a more creative (and certainly more emotional) outlet. First tourney Sunday!


Radio is corrupt?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 9, 2006, 10:37 AM | comments: 2

Say it isn't so!

File under the "no shit" heading.


Patriot Act: Now fucking nuns

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 9, 2006, 9:05 AM | comments: 4

Yes, giving arbitrary power to fuck with people with no accountability or consequences is a great idea. Ask these nuns.


Dogma

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 9, 2006, 8:53 AM | comments: 0

Let's stop saying "Don't quote me"
Because if no one quotes you
You probably haven't said a thing worth saying

"Dogma" -KMFDM


Music musings

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 8, 2006, 11:20 PM | comments: 8

OK, so Kara mentioned it already, but I'll give a me-too and tell you to go watch Sarah. If last year wasn't one of your most philanthropic years, you need to try harder.

I've been really listening to Imogen a lot lately. That's either helping me get in touch with my feelings or making me depressed, or most likely, reminding me of the warm and fuzzy feelings of her show. There were so many things right about that night, and I just haven't had a concert experience like that in years.

Who the hell made the nominations for the Grammys? Mariah Carey? Washed up, move on. But Kelly Clarkson, she's the real fucking deal. Good for her. And U2 made lots of scores, and they're all well deserved. I miss freaky Christina Aguilera (she made a cute goth chick). Actually, most of the nominations were spot on if you don't count the Mariah nonsense. I'm annoyed that Garbage was once again totally ignored, and I assume (and hope) that Imogen was just late to be considered this year.

I have to say that I probably bought twice as much music in 2005 compared to the year before. It's still hard to find stuff that I really like, but I'm gonna try and get into Pandora to help me with that.


Two hours I'll never get back

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 8, 2006, 7:43 PM | comments: 1

It took me two hours to get home today. There was some accident somewhere on I-271, and it took me an hour to go a mile and a half to my exit. Then someone on SR 303 crashed somewhere, but at least I was able to get around that.

I had a whole list of things I wanted to bitch about, but now that I've had my greasy Wendy's comfort food, I'm letting it go.


Stuck on 303

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 8, 2006, 6:41 PM | comments: 1


Stuck in traffic over Cuyahoga Valley

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 8, 2006, 5:37 PM | comments: 0


Last practice before tournament

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 8, 2006, 9:50 AM | comments: 0

Our first tournament is Sunday, and we had our last practice before that last night. In terms of skills, the kids are still a little rough, but what I'm most excited about is that they're getting along really well and seem to enjoy playing together. That alone is worth its weight in gold. Ability is rarely a problem with the kids I coach, it's usually their desire to succeed.

I've always welcomed former kids to come back to my practices or tournaments, and last night I had one of my Elms kids from the fall at practice. I'm still very proud of her. She was so behind with her skills due to apathy from her former coach, and she worked her ass off to be what she is today. That's the reason I coach... it's awesome to see kids rise to that occasion.


Net neutrality: Deregulation for the hell of it is stupid

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 7, 2006, 3:57 PM | comments: 0

The talk about forcing Internet neutrality is heating up again. Some law makers want to legislate neutrality, while others want to "let the marketplace decide." Yeah, that's a bad idea.

Commercial radio was always heavily regulated because spectrum is a finite resource. You can't just open a radio station because you want to, as there are a limited number of frequencies. But Congress, in their deregulation craze, lifted ownership restrictions anyway. Now, instead of diversity in the marketplace of ideas, two radio companies control virtually everything, and radio sucks.

Now we're heading down the same road with the Internet. Newsflash: the Net is a finite resource as well because so few companies own the major backbones. If they start giving preferential treatment to various content providers, or force their own, we have radio all over again. We obviously can't have that, because the Internet is far more precious.


Tired of auto insurance

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 7, 2006, 11:22 AM | comments: 3

I'm tired of thinking about auto insurance. Someone tell me a joke.


I feel naked

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 7, 2006, 9:01 AM | comments: 4

I forgot my phone at home this morning. I feel naked. Today will be the day someone really needs to get a hold of me.


The little Internet business that could

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 6, 2006, 10:40 AM | comments: 1

There are a lot of little businesses on the Internet. Some are electronic extensions of real-world things like garage sales (eBay "workers") while others are totally new ideas that have reached critical mass (Digg). The important thing to note here is that there was little to no cost involved in getting these businesses started.

There's an article on News.com about this, and naturally it caught my attention because I've got a business like this. It's not a six-figure income, but it is something that didn't cost a ton of money to start, and there was no army of people involved. I think about it a lot, because it has always been that "beginner" success, as I like to call it.

The Internet, while more crowded than ever, is still fertile ground for being the great equalizer in terms of new business. The companies in that article have demonstrated how true this is. The question for people like me becomes, do I settle for beginner success, or do I try to translate it into something much bigger. Actually, more to the point, the question is, "How do I grow this into something more?" Honestly, I have no idea. That's something I've been mulling over now for at least two or three years.

The problem for me is that if it starts to feel like work, I lose interest. I have to feel genuinely into it or my mind wanders somewhere else. There was a period of time where CoasterBuzz was starting to feel like work, but fortunately it has landed squarely back into the fun realm. That's a good thing, seeing as how it accounts for 75% of my business income.

So what does it take to be a 37signals? I envy that company, because I think they're exactly the thing I'd like to be. I'm just not sure what the big idea is that I would need, and be interested in, to mimic that.

Many things to think about...


Low self-esteem

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 5, 2006, 7:46 PM | comments: 2

So far one Superbowl spot that stood out, from Dove in their girl self-esteem campaign.

It sounds kind of stupid really, but I guess when you've coached teenage girls for so many years, and knew someone who died of anorexia, you tend to think about the issue quite a bit. I can't know how culture influenced girls 20 years ago, or say that girls have it better/worse than they used to, but today I can tell you that there are so many external influences that pressure girls into feeling shitty about themselves, and that bothers me.

I don't know that a PR campaign by a soap brand is exactly the most altruistic thing in the world, but I think it is an important subject. It's not even something that is limited to girls either. I think we've actually seen some improvement in terms of adult women. I mean, Desperate Housewives is all about 30- and 40-something women being powerful and beautiful. Then at the young end, Disney Channel always has shows with chubby girls. A lot of young actresses like Scarlett Johansson are "normal" for the most part.

Is it normal for teenagers to just not feel that good about themselves? I don't know... I don't think it has to be that way. When I ask women I know if anyone ever said to them, "You know, you're kick ass exactly as you are," most say that no one ever told them that. Maybe it would make a difference if someone did.


Michigan girls in Cleveland

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 5, 2006, 3:28 PM | comments: 2

My two dearest friends in Michigan, Kara and Julie, took a little retreat from being Spartans and took up temporary residence in my house for the weekend. Their goal was to just get away, but you know, I like entertaining people!

So once I got them to put the video games down, I took them to the Great Lakes Science Center, which is also hosting the Grossology exhibit. It was a toss up between that and the Rock Hall, but I figured that since the science center is so much more interactive, it would be more fun. Judging by the way they played with the fart noise exhibit, I think I chose wisely.

Killer weekend.


Reminder: picture day

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 5, 2006, 11:00 AM | comments: 3


Do not unplug

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 4, 2006, 2:00 PM | comments: 6


A personal best shopping trip

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 2, 2006, 8:04 PM | comments: 2

I realized last night I had nothing to eat other than soy chicken nuggets. Not good. I mean I had nothing. I could see the back of my fridge and the pantry.

And I was right about not having anything. I hit a grocery total of $140! A personal best!

Sadly the shopping gave me a headache, and now I'm useless. :( Time to watch a movie.


Directions on forums and writing

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 2, 2006, 1:13 PM | comments: 1

After I finished my first book, I started to think about what I'd write if I did another one. I wouldn't write anything if it wasn't something I was interested in, so it had to be relevant to my interests. I discussed a book with a couple of publishers that was based around the end-to-end creation of a significant ASP.NET application, namely POP Forums. At the time, v8 wasn't much more than a idea (and still is hardly where it needs to be), so it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Most of the publishers I pitched to felt it sounded like a fairly good idea, provided it was well developed and easy to position as unique. I never really followed up on it though, but it's still something I've been thinking about in the back of my mind.

Truth be told, I'm not sure if I'd write the book for mainstream publishing now. I guess it depends on how well my first book did the latter part of 2005 (the publishing process is insanely slow when it comes to calculating royalties and such). It got off to a slow start, and I don't think it got much better after that. That's a real disappointment, and I partially blame the publisher for doing a really crappy job marketing it.

And while thinking a lot about POP Forums lately (especially the part about how I used to make a grand a month selling the really crappy old ASP version), I started to wonder if there was some way that I could monetize it a little. Remember, my motivation for writing the forum app is to use it in my own projects. I give it away only because I can't really sell it with all of the free stuff out there. But still, it would be nice to get something for that work.

I was looking at the stats from the forums site, which honestly has been more or less static for, I dunno, nearly two years, and people really like poking around the class documentation. They also make a lot of hits to the integration help page. And with the next version doing Membership/Profile, that's going to be even easier.

So thinking about all of these, I think a book on the forums would be a good idea, if self-published on something like LuLu. I don't need to sell 10,000 copies the way I would through a traditional publisher. I'd be happy to do 500 copies in a year. That would be something like a 2-5% conversion rate though from downloads, so who knows if that would be realistic.

I don't know... at this point I'm just kind of thinking out loud.