Archive: January, 2008

Clinton v. Obama

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 31, 2008, 10:48 PM | comments: 30

I watched the debate in California this evening. What a weird setting, in the Kodak Theater where they typically do the Oscars. With many of the same people in the audience, too.

It wasn't really all that much of a debate as much as it was a discussion. These two cats have so many similar decisions that it's hard to find what they disagree on and how that aligns with my own opinions. But the refreshing thing is that they actually have positions with detailed points. Yes, they took their digs on Bush, and to a lesser degree the Republican party, but there was a lot more substance than I'd expect on a televised debate. That's really encouraging.

The truth is, I'm not sure which I'll vote for in the primary, assuming it matters at that point. Obama is very passionate, an idea guy, and not that it should matter, but not an old man. Clinton is actually much more interesting when she's not making a speech, and generally I think she has a good record of getting things done as a senator. I don't agree with all of the politics of either one, but I generally do on the things I think are important. It's a tough call.

But unfortunately, deciding which way to vote in terms of party is going to be easy. The Republicans don't have a snowball's chance in hell, no matter who they nominate. I wish that were not the case. Like in 2000, John McCain and Bill Bradley would've been a much more interesting race (McCain and the human Al Gore of today). But it's just the same old bullshit from the Republicans, and McCain, who I would've once thought about voting for, has gone off to wacko land. It's a shame.

And I really don't understand why people keep suggesting Ron Paul to me. In the bigger picture, I don't care for him because he tries to intellectualize everything to a level that suggests everyone else doesn't know any better, and that bothers me. Furthermore, some of the more prominent things he considers "issues" include gun rights and pro-life. I'm sorry, but that's pandering to gain emotional stock, and neither are top-10 issues right now.

I really think at this point that the Democratic winner will be our next president. It shouldn't matter that it's a woman or non-white person, in an ideal and intellectual world, but it will matter. And fortunately in this case, I believe that in either case we'll have a qualified leader. Sure, it's possible they could crash and burn, but for now at least, I have a reasonable degree of confidence. It'll be an interesting four to eight years, regardless.


And the hits keep on coming

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 31, 2008, 7:14 PM | comments: 0

Diana's car needs a new computer or something, so she won't get it back probably until Monday. That sucks. By some strange chance, the computer is covered under some strange warranty that expires at 80,000 miles, and she's just under it.

But she only found that out after her phone slipped out of her pocket and into a toilet. We probably can't really know if it's OK until it has had time to dry out tomorrow.

For me, I accidentally worked through lunch after wasting half the day on problems related to integrating something new and sweet into something old and shitty. I just looked up and realized all I had was a bagel left over from some meeting. Lame. I was starving when I got home.

Then I noticed, now that the color has mostly grown out of my hair, that this time around I see more gray hairs than I've ever noticed before. Super. It's bad enough it's thin, but now it has to lose its color too?

And just for fun, we're smack dab in the shitty freezing point boundary, so when that storm rolls in tomorrow morning, we'll have snow and then an inch or two of ice on top of it, making for peachy commuting conditions.

It's just been one of those weeks. We're both planning to lock the door tomorrow night and not come out until Monday morning if at all possible.


Compiled script and UI rocks

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 31, 2008, 12:16 AM | comments: 0

I finished up some of those stupid forum tricks earlier tonight, and I can't say enough how much I love the fact that I can properly compile Javascript into library code that is dynamically linked to in a page. There's no complicated versioning, just upload the new assembly, and you're done.

In the old days, you had big old script libraries that you put pretty much everything in. There was no context to how they worked, or where, or when, but they were in every page. What's worse, you had to do a lot of stupid hacks to figure out how to have server-side code interact with it.

This ASP.NET AJAX framework is just rocking my world in those two respects. You've actually been able to embed resources in compiled assemblies for a long time, but the connection to the server end was always complex and without a standard. Now you write a little plumbing code, and the framework takes care of it. If the script is required, the script manager in the page knows to load it.

For example, I did a variation on autocomplete in the forum's private message page. When you type a few letters, it fills a dropdown list with likely choices of members you want to write to. One of the configurable options is the number of characters before it delivers results. Setting that property on the server control is like any other control, but when the client-side part is written correctly, it's persisted there easily for use.

Great stuff. Now that I finally understand it, I really like using it.


This week is bordering on total loss... almost

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 11:51 PM | comments: 2

I know it's a bullshit thing to do, but when I'm having a bad day or week, I look around and see if someone else is having a worse go of it. I don't know why, because it's stupid to compare. Your reality is what it is, and the relative misery scale doesn't matter.

But Diana is having quite a shitty week too. Her car is fucked, and scares her enough that she wants out. It's sitting at the dealer again so they can fix it for real this time (third time's a charm). The plan is this weekend to get her a new vehicle. She's thinking small and Japanese.

If that weren't enough, her frustrations with Cleveland's income tax are being amplified by the free online tax services (for people making less than $52k or something, apparently subsidized by the IRS) losing her data and trying to get her to pay for it.

I suppose I can bitch about my week some more, but there's probably no point. I need to just suck it up and deal with it. My approach this evening was to dive in and make some progress checking off things on my forum app work list. I hit several, and that makes me happy.

Tomorrow and Friday I have minimal meetings at work, so hopefully I can nail down my project and see it on test Monday, with plenty of time before QA. And given the nature of it, I might have to do the early morning production elevate, which strangely I've never done in the two years I've been there.

I suspect that my karma battery is working up toward something awesome, like a huge tax refund. I'm theorizing it will be big, and that would thrill me to no end because the business could finally be debt free. That would be a glorious day. I expect my accountant to call next week.

Just as with writing code, if you break down life's problems into smaller chunks, it doesn't seem as hard.


Federal chest thumping

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 12:52 PM | comments: 0

This annoys the fuck out of me...

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/25/washington/25environ.html

So let me get this straight... the feds don't want state EPA's to impose any regulations because they'll have hurt feelings that they'll be perceived as not taking action? Are you fucking kidding me?

Good for the states that want to push for higher standards, especially California, which is too large of an economy to ignore.


Lego memories

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 10:09 AM | comments: 6

I get borderline teary-eyed looking at some of these pictures. Several of the Lego sets I had as a kid are featured in an article on Gizmodo.

Police headquarters
Robot
Galaxy Explorer
Rocket Launcher

There were several others as well, including a space station with a little car on a track that moved across the length of it.


Unrealistic

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 11:59 PM | comments: 0

As originally quoted on my tech blog in 2004...

"No progress is made without being unrealistic."
-Eric Lander, Professor of Biology, MIT

From Fast Company #81, April 2004.


Christmas remnants

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 8:59 PM | comments: 3


Reflecting on career, jobs and happiness

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 8:37 PM | comments: 3

The PE earlier today has left me way too much in my head. I find myself questioning my value to the company I work for, to other people and to myself even. My new manager put it best that if you're spending a third of your life working, you might as well figure out how to make that a positive experience.

But after a soak in the hot tub before the freezing death rolls in tonight, I took a little stock and realized that I'm in a very good place in terms of a relationship, I have a wonderful group of core friends, I'm not entirely unhealthy, and in the general sense life is treating me pretty well.

So in order to figure out how to roll in terms of my professional life, I think it's best to look at where I've been, and my relative state of contentment along the way.

My first career job, technically came in high school working for the city's cable TV office. I got to use professional gear and learn the (analog) craft of television production and basic engineering. It gave the dorky kid something to do.

My next "real" job was as a part-time jock at a radio station in Mansfield. That ambition quickly moved me into what was then market #23, Cleveland, and I learned quickly that it was a shitty business. The divide between sales and marketing and everyone else was huge, and there were starfuckers everywhere on our side of the building. Deregulation was in progress and Clear Channel started moving in. Getting laid-off was good for me.

1996 brought my longest running gig to date, running the city and school cable TV operation in Medina. I was there for three years. When I started, they had a bulletin board channel, and that was basically it. I got to use my business sense, some marketing, engineering and creative energy. I got off to a rough start because I "took" the secretary's job doing bulletin board stuff, but eventually the people I was working with around town saw me as a valuable asset. While every job has politics, I answered to a board of politicians though, and they didn't like me saying no to their special interests. That may have doomed the salary alterations to get me to a pay grade like that of my peers, but that Internet thing was taking off. It was media on the cheap, and I liked that.

So in 1999 I moved to Penton Media, as Webmaster for a group of magazines. It wasn't a true development position, but it introduced me to enough technology that I started to learn how to use it myself. That was an exciting gig because people around me trusted me to be an expert at what we were doing. I was soon sitting in meetings with executives, wearing jeans, as the hip late-20's guy who understood the broad potential beyond brochureware Web sites. The golf/sales culture wasn't my scene, but I was bridging the gap between sales and editorial and the techies, and I loved it. I was making meaningful progress when the bubble burst, and the company quickly started to tank. When they cut the development staff, I saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship in 2001 because I couldn't afford to be unemployed with a wife in grad school and having just bought a house. Leaving made me sad.

Onward to a small start-up B2B publisher, I was finally hired into an actual development role. Back then we had to use ASP, which like all scripting languages is messy and cumbersome, but I was starting to learn about the data more than anything else. That job deteriorated quickly because what they really needed was three developers. Then 9/11 caused them to cancel a trade show and they were in danger of dying entirely, so out I went.

I was out of work for six months, which really fucked with my self-esteem. Eventually I landed at a local family-owned payroll processing firm that wanted to build a Web interface to their app. Only they never really facilitated an architecture that would let me build that. They were using FoxPro, so I don't know why I was surprised. But I hung out and had nothing to do every day, until they finally laid me off after a year and a half. They did me a favor because I was getting brain rot and didn't even realize I was miserable.

That gets me to early 2004, when I started working as a consultant at Progressive, out of work for only a couple of months. They paid me astronomical amounts, but it was more like a retainer because they weren't ramped up for the project I was on. In the time there, I did learn a great deal about giant enterprise architecture though, working with some brilliant architects. Before the payroll processor dumped me, I was already talking to a publisher about writing a book, and finally got the contract.

In May of 2004, I declared my independence. I'm not exactly sure what happened after that, except to say that I did in fact write my book. On one hand, I have a lot of great memories of writing, and researching the as yet unreleased .NET v2.0. It was even the year I started to rewrite POP Forums (ouch!) the first time. Sunny afternoons on the deck, random trips to Cedar Point and a smile every morning. What was difficult was that Stephanie was at school most of the time, and I started to feel a bit isolated. I wasn't sure if, as a developer, I could really learn as much as I could if I were working with other people.

By the time 2005 started, I started working for a local development consulting firm, on a project for a student aid calculating firm. It was exciting at first, and I liked the client, but it was being project managed to death and despite my prodding, I couldn't get us moving toward actually developing product. That was frustrating. Then I discovered they were billing $90 an hour and paying me $55, which felt dirty. Then the separation happened and none of it seemed important.

I quit that job in the late part of summer and spent the rest of the year up to October focusing on coaching at Our Lady of The Elms. While a handful of asshole parents could've easily ruined the experience, it ended up being one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. Desire and heart go a long way toward making up for a lack of skill, and when those kids had the desire, they were awesome. In the last quarter of 2005, I didn't do much of anything except be pathetic.

With the start of 2006, Insurance.com found me online somewhere and made an offer I couldn't refuse. The time was right too, because I was bored out of my skull, not learning anything and desperately needed something to keep my mind off the fact that my marriage wasn't coming back. The first year was tough making adjustments, and then last year was easier, but I wasn't sure where I fit. That gets me to where I am today. Where Progressive schooled me in enterprise architecture, this job has taught me a great deal about frameworks and design. Most of the time I like it.

During all of that time, it's clear that my time at Penton was probably my favorite of all jobs. It was sad to see it end, and the company only fell apart more after my departure. We were really on to some great things there, but the timing sucked, and the executives were too clueless to empower the Internet product (they treated it as "value added" instead of "replacement for your dead trees"). But I loved that place between the technologists, sales and editorial staff. You could see the money potential, and it was obvious even with the overall decrease in ad spending.

I saw a story on the news about how people hit their most unhappy times in their 40's, because they feel like they failed to achieve everything they set out to do in the excitement of their youth. But really, if you look at how you've changed as a person, how the world has changed, I think the ultimate conclusion is that you've necessarily adapted, and you've changed too. I never want to work in radio again, and it doesn't mean I failed, it just means my needs changed.

And that, ultimately, is the thing that makes me happy. I can always change if I can't make things work. Maybe a year from now I'll be an all-star where I work. Maybe I'll have moved on to something else. Maybe I'll come up with that great idea and be the next Zuckerberg. More likely, I'll be some combination of those things, and perhaps realizing that is a true measure of success and happiness.


Mortgage madness and other money thoughts

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 7:12 PM | comments: 13

A lot of talk about the economy lately surrounds the "mortgage crisis," and I guess I didn't understand what the problem was. I mean, when I bought my house in 2001, I had a great fixed rate just under 6%. Even when I refinanced in 2006 with a no-cost loan, it was just over 7% (my thinking was that I'd refinance when I move, and the difference between the interest and the closing costs works in my favor for about four or five years). I wouldn't say my payment is particularly low, but considering what similar houses around my neighborhood are going for, I've got a shit load of equity if I could actually sell it.

So I'm watching ABCnews, and they profile a couple that bought their house for $174,000, bigger than mine, with an introductory rate of 9%. 9%! It's an adjustable rate mortgage, and they were now paying 14%! I had no idea that kind of thing went on. I mean, the credit cards I carry a balance on (business cards) are less than that. With their combined income around $80k/year, they were paying over $2k a month. That's insane.

The story made me wonder then how exactly we got to this point. Is it a lack of education? Poor credit ratings? Predatory lending? Gotta have a new McMansion?

When I think back to growing up, it occurs to me that I never had any formal education when it came to borrowing or saving. Those seem like two pretty fundamental life skills to be aware of. My first house buy was made possible from the sale of popworld.com, and after several cars I didn't find the mortgage process that different from a car loan (aside from the escrow account for taxes).

On the other hand, I wasn't that responsible with credit cards, starting about two years after college. I never got behind or in any kind of financial peril, but I was certainly pissing away money on interest. The popworld.com sale kind of bailed me out on that too. Later I'd rack up and pay off $10k balances during lay-offs and my self-employment efforts.

I always knew that saving money was important, but I never really did much of it. I have the equity in my house and a decent chunk invested, but getting to that millionaire status by 55 isn't going to be easy.

At least being alone for a couple of years gave me the chance to really stop and think about what the hell I was doing with money. I feel like I'm headed in the right direction, provided I stay with this job for the foreseeable future. I have no personal credit card debt, a low car payment and a mortgage I can afford. Even the business is starting to get under control, with debt under five figures and total interest expense last year around $500 (it used to be three times that).

Again, I wish that you learned about this stuff in school.


Performance review

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 3:30 PM | comments: 0

I had my performance review today at work. Not surprisingly, it wasn't the most flattering thing in the world, but then I didn't give a great self-review either.

I'm not going to get into the internal aspects of what goes on there, but what it really comes down to is the fact that I have no real vested interest in the job or the company. To long-time readers of this blog, you know how many times I've been laid-off, so allegiance to The Man® may never be something I can establish.

But being a true stakeholder in the success or failure of what I'm involved with is the thing that really gets me up in the morning. So far I just haven't been able to find that place at this company, for a variety of reasons. As I've said countless times, I believe in the product and I like the people I work with. Some of them are brilliant.

The good news though is that I now report to someone who has fewer direct reports, and my initial impression is that he's someone who can help develop that stakeholder place for me. My concerns will not likely be put aside and hopefully I can be more involved. I guess we'll see how things go in the next six months.


Lego Millennium Falcon built

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 11:28 AM | comments: 2

I know I mentioned it before, now see it built in compressed time...

http://gadgets.boingboing.net/2008/01/28/50-years-of-lego-ult.html

It takes a lot of restraint to not buy this. :)


Getting all AJAXy

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 12:07 AM | comments: 0

I spent the evening doing a great deal of refactoring on the forum app to try and tame the Javascript mess I created with AJAX stuff. The goal was to use the ASP.NET AJAX framework because it's now a supported and shipping piece of ASP.NET.

Trying to use Javascript in an object-oriented way is already really strange, but once you get the hang of it, specifically how the framework wants you to use it, it becomes suddenly very obvious. I'm really surprised at how well thought out this framework is. Well, maybe not, because in the contact I've had with those cats at Microsoft in the last couple of years, you only wish they were cloned to work on Windows Shista.

So the script pieces and their server counterparts are all lining up nicely now, compiled into an assembly and loaded as needed. The sweetest thing, and something I had not messed around with prior to tonight, was exposing a Web service and consuming it with script. It's awesome. An extra attribute on the Web service class serializes everything as JSON, and then in script it's like the resulting object is exactly what you had server side. So to load a post quote, I can just do something like $get("textBox").value = result.Title. It's too ridiculously easy.

What excites me about this is that if there were just more hours in the day, I could make some really interesting stuff. It's a ton of fun.


Do the HD movie formats really matter?

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 28, 2008, 2:16 PM | comments: 3

There has been a lot of talk lately about how Blu-Ray will win the HD disc format war, or already has. What's weird about it is that the declaration is largely predicated on sales of PlayStations and ignores cost, but regardless, perception is reality.

So where does that leave me? Well, I think I spent a total of around $400 on the format if you include the player. That includes about 40 hours of content when you include the bonus materials, and if you further consider that I pretty much watch everything with Diana, that means it came out to about $5 an hour per person. I guess that's not a horrible loss. Transformers alone was so worth it. :)

Going forward though, I can't help but wonder if this format war is irrelevant. Music has finally reached the point that makes sense, where we can pay nine bucks for DRM-free, 256k MP3's from Amazon. iTunes is even giving me the gradual "privilege" to "upgrade" my existing music from iTunes to the DRM free, higher bit rate versions for a fee (while these are AC3 files, honestly that format isn't going anywhere). It seems as though music has finally reached a logical place.

The big question is, how long will it take movies to get to a similar place? There are several hurdles that make things a little more complicated, not the least of which is the movie industry has to be dragged kicking and screaming into the present. In an ideal world, here's what I hope to see...

1) The right player for the TV. As far as I'm concerned, I have that, and it's called Apple TV. The negative point here is that it's still a part of the whole DRM ecosystem, but it's a start. A lot of people criticize Apple for this, but I honestly don't believe Apple does DRM because they want to. I think the product is solid enough that people would want to use it regardless if they could.

2) HD I can own. DRM is of course one of the issues in this regard, but it seems to me that other technical issues have largely been solved. H.264 is the codec that has been delivering the best bang for the buck for awhile now on the quality and file size curve, to the extent that it has been integrated into Flash.

3) DRM has to go. It's not that I want to make copies of everything for all of my friends, or even accept copies from my friends. It just annoys me because for now devices have to phone home.

4) The special feature thing isn't special enough. Face it, a lot of people buy DVD's because of the special features that lend more insight into the movie. That's certainly my motivation for ownership. But this perk hasn't been figured out for the download age. Sure I can buy a movie online, but I miss out on all of the extras. I'd hate to see us take a step back.

5) Archiving is still hard. This is actually something that people in TV and film are still trying to figure out as they've adopted tapeless formats (myself included). I don't know what the answer here is. I mean, you can buy an external hard drive now for the cost of several HD tapes, so I suppose that helps, but what is the real life span of these devices? Do we really know? Obviously storing things "in the cloud" is the long-term strategy, but bandwidth has a ways to go, and it gets weird when you think of millions of people storing exactly the same bits.

It's funny how I let go of owning physical CD's years ago, but I still like having shiny discs for movies.


I hate food

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 28, 2008, 12:50 PM | comments: 1

I wonder if the fact that I generally feel like I have a lot of things going for me leads me to some aspect of my life that I have to find troubling, as if I need to have something that will worry or trouble me. Right now it's food. I loathe food.

I have this great paradox going that could cause existence to stop existing if I'm not careful. I love food that's not good for me, but it makes me feel bloated, overweight and crappy. So instead of finding better things to eat, I just rather not eat at all since I can't eat what I want. Nevermind that it's an opportunity to find better things.

It seems every night, after the cats have been fed, I sit there scratching my head (or my junk) trying to figure out what the hell to eat. A lot of the time I just settle on the same bland crap and call it a day so I can get on with my life and do other things. But that loathing and angst seems to come prior to every meal except for breakfast.

Lifestyle change is a bitch.


Why does auto repair suck so much?

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 28, 2008, 9:44 AM | comments: 0

Diana is having a string of problems with her car, and now two different dealer shops have failed to fix the problem. What's particularly annoying is that the issue seems at least in part to be electronic, in which case the computer tells you what's wrong with it. So why can't they figure it out?

Granted, it is a 2001, but with low mileage and a Florida lifestyle. She bought the car from her dad after her mom died, giving her a slightly newer vehicle and relieving her dad from having to deal with two cars. Win-win for everyone, right? It's as if the car is protesting the move to a colder climate. Either that, or it feels my car's anti-SUV sentiment in the garage.


You are now responsible for links you don't control

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 28, 2008, 9:06 AM | comments: 0

From the fucked up use of law enforcement and school resources file, a school cop is being investigated because someone on his MySpace friends list linked to porn...

http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/01/school-cop-inve.html

So he does what the kids do to create an outreach to these kids, and this is how he's rewarded for it.


Libraries are still popular... who knew?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 26, 2008, 11:45 PM | comments: 4

Diana is a bit of a book nerd, so she was anxious to check out the library here in Brunswick. I was curious too because it has been renovated without me even realizing it. I never really go anywhere in town because there isn't shit here worth going to usually. I'm a mile away from the main road off the freeway, and the freeway is a quarter mile from there. Even the grocery store is at that intersection.

But they recently opened a new Winking Lizard further into town, and when we went the first time I noticed that the library had nearly doubled in size. We went today, and Diana was thrilled that her prior card from the Cleveland system was gladly accepted.

It was very nice, and a lot different than I remember. The last time I went to a library was college, and the last time I went to that library was high school, circa 1990 I think. Things sure have changed.

They didn't loan DVD's last time I was there. Come to think of it, DVD's didn't exist last time I was there. They had Wi-Fi, and a ton of computers. Self-checkout lets you scan the book and turn off the RFID tags in the spines. The building has a lot of environmental features too, like bamboo flooring and fluorescent lights.

The place was busy, but generally pretty quiet. Except for the asshole with his phone ringer on high who then answered his phone in a tone loud enough to annoy everyone (yet another thing they didn't have to worry about in 1990).

I guess in the Internet age I just assumed that the library was a dying thing, but it's certainly not the case. I shouldn't be that surprised, as I should know books are still used (seeing as how I wrote one). Heck, I've got a stack of three tech books sitting in front of me right now.

I might not run out and get a library card, but there's a nice quiet place for an alternative place to work.


View in new library

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 26, 2008, 12:55 PM | comments: 2


Blue Man Group sued for "esophagus cam"

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 25, 2008, 12:30 AM | comments: 3

From Junior's blog...

Blue Man Group show makes one Chicago theatergoer see red

What a moron.


Sarah was in Africa

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 24, 2008, 11:00 PM | comments: 2

Sarah, from my 2001 and 2003 teams, one of my favorite volleyball kids (I'll say top 5), who I haven't seen in about two years, posted some photos on her Facebook account of her traveling in Africa. I'm not talking about tourist shit, I'm talking about fucked up starving kids Africa. The images are stunning. I have no idea what she was doing there, but knowing her and her ambitions, I'm sure it has something to do with changing the world. I look forward to hearing about her time there.

This brings two feelings to the surface. The first is that I'm not really contributing anything meaningful to the world. I mean, blogging about my relationship issues and maintaining a place for people to talk about roller coasters is probably pretty low on the karma scoring game.

On the other hand, knowing that this amazing kid that once tripped over her own disproportionate legs is now an adult and still hell bent on having meaningful impact on the world is very encouraging. Some days you get bogged down in all of the suck that the world has to offer, but people like Sarah remind you that there is a lot of cause for hope as well.


The HD cameras of Cloverfield

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 24, 2008, 12:49 PM | comments: 3

By now you've probably heard about Cloverfield, kind of a Godzilla meets reality TV meets Blair Witch movie. The idea was to make it seems like the person shooting was actually shooting for themselves on a personal camera.

As it turns out, much of it was shot on a Sony CineAlta, one of two or three high-end cameras good enough for "film," but they also used an HVX200 and a Panasonic HDAVC model (both of which I happen to own). That's pretty cool stuff! There's a brief article in HD Magazine.


Rolling through the forum project list

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 24, 2008, 12:30 AM | comments: 0

Tonight I wrapped up the refactoring issue on my forum app project list. It's transparent to people using it, but basically all of the AJAX stuff complies to the ASP.NET AJAX design patterns, so it's more reusable and there's no chance of screwing things up when I add other things.

Also crossed off the list are user avatars, and some data retrieval tweaks. PM's are a little cleaner in their implementation, and e-mail handling is also smoother.

Unfortunately it's too late tonight to try and deploy them on PointBuzz, because I need to go to bed and I can't make sure everything is still cool. I'm rolling up a lot of changes at once, and I can't just push and go and assume everything will be swell.


Macheads

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 23, 2008, 12:30 PM | comments: 1

I admit I look forward to seeing this...

http://www.macheadsthemovie.com/

Some of the quotes in the trailer really make you think when you're an Apple fan. It's clear that Steve Jobs, while brilliant, is a complete and utter dick head. But is that what it takes to make the best consumer electronics gadgets in the world?

"Love the community not the company" is an interesting choice of words, because in the modern Apple era I'm not sure there is a community, just a whole lot of fans. Like when you see someone bust out their MacBook, you just kind of nod and think, "Yeah, you get it, like me."

The funny thing is that the devices themselves don't make me happier, but the things that they enable do.


From the no shit file

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 11:50 PM | comments: 0

Study: False statements preceded war

You think?

The end of the article does point out that news agencies pretty much took all the bullshit on faith, and they admit that now.


iPhone owners are way hotter

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 10:08 PM | comments: 5

I had dinner with Kristin and Jeff (the skydiving variety) this evening and I noticed that we're all more sophisticated than most people, probably because we all have iPhones. Jeff doesn't have any protection for his, which seems a little dirty, but that's cool.

I don't know how people can allow themselves to feel so left out and less attractive without an iPhone.


Soundtracks that rule

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 4:25 PM | comments: 0

I saw this article on the NY Times about the Juno soundtrack (that Kimya Dawson is a scary looking chick), and I was thinking about how many soundtracks over the course of my life have really kicked ass. Sometimes you have to buy them, but sometimes they're great just in the course of the movie itself.

One of the earliest I can remember was one of my first cassette tapes: Beverly Hills Cop 2. Hopelessly 80's, sure, but a good collection of bad pop songs at least. I had Top Gun on vinyl as well.

Much later, one of the most dominant in my memory, came Singles, which is without question a perfect snapshot of rock music in 1993, at the height of grunge. That's one of the most fantastic fucking albums I've ever owned, and I'm amazed at how I can play it now and it still holds up. It has a couple of Paul Westerberg songs, and "Drown" by Smashing Pumpkins, which has four glorious minutes of feedback and noise. (Also the year the Pumpkins' Siamese Dream came out, which is one of my favorite albums of all time. Check out the track "Soma.")

There have been some other great soundtracks lately, most recently for The Last Kiss, which has amazing music on it. Zack Braff produced it, and was behind Garden State too. The guy has good taste in music.

You know, I subconsciously think about how much it annoys me that I couldn't just put whatever music I wanted to in my own future film. Cameron Crowe (director of Singles, as well as Elizabethtown and Jerry McGuire) said somewhere that music is critical to setting tone and making a movie a movie. I totally agree with him.


The cake is a lie!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 2:44 PM | comments: 0

I finished Portal last week. What a great game. I think Valve is really on to something with that game, and I hope they do another, much longer version. If you haven't played it, get The Orange Box. The cake is a lie.

In other gaming news, Diana is hooked on Zuma. She's not addicted as much as she's hell bent on getting to the next level. She's getting better every time she plays though. I remember at first when I watched her I had to hold back on the back seat playing, but her perception of what's on the screen is quickly falling in line with a with a more experienced player.

I'm 80% through Half-Life 2, and the two following episodes await. I don't think the game really challenges the Xbox 360 hardware, but I like the way the story isn't just a bunch of cut scenes. You're more of an active participant. Still a lot of crates and hallways, but good fun.

With all of this game playing, I look forward to getting out into warmer temperatures, which is why I'm so anxious to get to Orlando and Vegas in a couple of weeks. The cabin fever is starting to get to me a little. I mean, look at that last post (which was more about me than "people" really). Jeff minus sun equals shitty. :) But hey, hands on video games and code keeps it off food, and I lost a pound in the last week.


Why don't we listen to people when it comes to relationships?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 2:02 PM | comments: 17

Tyler's recent post on pre-marriage counseling got me to thinking about stuff. The first is the wholly unbelievable realization that I'm divorced. That just seems too fucked up to be real, even a couple of years later.

But more to the point, why is it we don't listen to others when it comes to relationship advice from people who've been there? I mean, I can remember advice I blew off that would've probably prevented me and Steph from getting married in the first place (which I wouldn't take back anyway, because I'm very thankful to have had the time we did). But it's annoying that when the signs are obvious, neither one of them acknowledged them, let alone act on them.

For example, I have a friend who is living with and getting married to this complete alcoholic douche bag. Everyone calls her on the bullshit and she doesn't even see that she's constantly apologizing for him and making excuses for him. Why can't she see past the initial pain of breaking it off to see a life that is far happier in the long run? Why do we, especially in our 20's, get so hung up on the short term?

Sure, some people get lucky and do have long lives together even if they're the first true loves, but it's so rare. I don't know what kinds of fear motivate people, whether it's of loneliness, failure, external opinions, low self-esteem, or whatever, but it's ridiculous.

Those happy old couples need to sit us down when we're teenagers and explain that if something feels consistently bad about a relationship, you need to think hard about why you're in it. Sadly, perhaps we can only truly understand it if we live in that pattern, or worse yet, repeat it. That makes me sad for younger friends, and indeed my own children if I have them.


Go Juno!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 11:54 AM | comments: 3

Juno got rightful Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Ellen Page for Best Actress. It probably doesn't have a snowball's chance up against the Coens and Clooney, but I'm glad to see it recognized.


What a productivity streak

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 9:14 AM | comments: 3

The last four or five days I've been a coding machine, with focus I haven't seen in myself for a long while. I'm cranking through things on my lists for the forum app really quickly. I guess with a new project in the works that I've been thinking about for a long time, I'm energized again.

I also realize that I'm getting perhaps a little too intense, because when I quit last night at midnight, I realized that I was beyond tired. I'm probably not much fun to be around either because when I get this much into the zone, I become less aware of what's going on around me. I only get a free pass from Diana for another day or so while the Australian Open is still on. ;)

The feeling of accomplishment sure is nice though. I often wonder what I could do if I didn't have that pesky day job taking up most of my time.


Posts you've already read

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 20, 2008, 5:14 PM | comments: 0

One of the things that I always wanted my forum app to do, in part because every other one does, and in part because I felt like it should, is change the "new post" indicator to not knew when you had viewed the topic. It sounds like something simple enough, right?

In many ways, it probably is, but in finally trying to add it in the app, there were a couple of problems I had on my mind. The first was the metric assload of data you'd generate when saving records with the user's ID, the topic ID and the time. Chances are pretty good that's going to generate thousands of new rows every day. The second thing I wasn't crazy about was wiring this up to six different sets of paging queries (the forum, recent, user posts, search, favorites, subscribed).

After talking to one of the database monkeys at work about using the WHERE IN clause, that sounded like a good plan, and he assured me it would probably perform pretty well. After all, you're checking for records in around 20 topics per page, so if indexed right, it should be fast enough.

What I already had right was the abstraction of choosing which icon to show on each of those pages through one abstract base class, so that part was easy. So I have a new class that figures out the status combination of the topics by taking the user object and the generic list collection of topics. So far so good. It looks like it's performing well.

I'm really happy with the solution, because the refactoring actually reduced the total code. I got to use an enum with the Flags attribute, which I've never done for some reason.


My card, bitches

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 18, 2008, 4:22 PM | comments: 4

Because you asked, bitches.


Positive external stimuli, and an exciting travel schedule

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 18, 2008, 1:34 PM | comments: 3

I'm reminded again today how external things can have such a huge impact on your mood. It's Friday, the sun is shining (even though it's in the 20's), I'm listening to fabulous tunes, a new and exciting project just fell in my lap, I feel good about my potential for a tax refund, and I'm generally surrounded by people who are supportive. Aside from seeking out music, none of that was really my doing, and yet, it can all make you feel so gosh darn good.

I'm kind of giddy too because of all the travel coming up. In the span of six weeks I'm going to Orlando, Vegas and Seattle. I can't even tell you how sweet it is that the Vegas trip is mostly paid for by work (I say mostly because I'm staying a couple extra days on my dime). I've never been to Seattle, aside from a layover there, and I'm super excited to go there. If it's anything like Portland, I suspect I'll fall in love with the place.

The list of places I want to visit is pretty extensive, and I want to travel more. Certainly going to Italy will bust me out of my comfort zone. I look forward to taking loads of pictures of stuff there.

Only a few weeks in, but I feel like this is finally going to be that great year I've been longing for.


Work business cards

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 18, 2008, 12:41 PM | comments: 2

They finally bought us all business cards at work. They have rounded corners. We're so Web 2.0. ;)


Reprogramming my head

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 18, 2008, 12:20 PM | comments: 1

Diana has a tennis event tonight where she's going to be playing for several hours, and she invited me to come watch for awhile. I wanted to get started on and continue various projects to some degree this weekend, so I figured the alone time would be good for that.

But I couldn't help feeling bad about it. I feel like if I don't do something when it comes to my significant other, I'm failing them in some way. This obviously comes from prior experience in other relationships, and it's hard to un-learn.

More to the point though, there can't be hurt feelings and disappointment if there are clear expectations, and that seems to be something we do pretty well. There isn't a lot of guess work between us. I need to keep that in mind so I can dispense with the unpleasant feelings I needlessly create in situations like these.

I think I have the best girlfriend ever.


Airline fares are insane

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 18, 2008, 9:03 AM | comments: 0

That flight to Orlando that I booked yesterday for $91.16 (plus $32.84 in taxes and fees)... is today $218. How insane is that? It's amazing that anyone can ever get a good deal.


Best C# book ever

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 18, 2008, 12:23 AM | comments: 4

I know I don't have many readers who code in C#, but C# 3.0 in a Nutshell is an awesome and amazing book. Not for beginners, but if you want a well-rounded reference for everything in the core parts of .NET (i.e., not the higher level frameworks like ASP.NET, Windows Forms, WCF, etc.), you need this book.


I'm goin' to Disney World!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 17, 2008, 4:08 PM | comments: 3

And in just a month from now. That sure was unexpected.

It's totally for business, I swear.


Feeling so unsettled lately in terms of work

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 16, 2008, 11:16 PM | comments: 0

I wonder what it is that makes me feel so uneasy about my job and career this time of year. I get really unsettled and want to do... something else. And that's weird, because for the most part I like the people I work with, I like the company and the work is (most of the time) interesting. God knows the money is good as well.

So what's wrong with a person who has all of the things that allegedly matter when it comes to a job, and still isn't sure it's what they want? A part of me thinks it's a cyclical self-evaluation tool developed in the times I got laid-off and did contract work, with the true understanding that a job should feed the soul. I know most people get those feelings and just push them aside, but once you've left a job with no specific plan and still felt it was better for you, I guess you approach it differently.

Another part of me thinks the entrepreneur is trying to get out, egged on by the constant recruiter calls that create an obvious safety net if things don't work out. Unfortunately, that side of me is directionless. The fact that I can't seem to deliver a project I've worked on and off on for several years now probably adds to the anxiety.

I think it's just a phase. I did the same thing last year, and went on to have a pretty good year at work. Mind you, I only used the average "meets expectations" in my performance self-evaluation, but I was involved in some really cool things.

Oh how I miss the simplicity of just being.


Amazon MP3 store rocks

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 15, 2008, 9:52 PM | comments: 8

I bought two albums today from the Amazon MP3 store. Wow, Apple is getting dicked by the labels who haven't fallen in line with the end of DRM. Also weird is that the labels are going cheaper on Amazon.

I bought the Juno soundtrack for $8.99 and The Reminder by Feist for $7.99 (I'm going through a folky kind of thing right now.) So let me think, 256k MP3 files with no DRM for less money, or DRM'd 128k files from iTunes for more money. Um, that's not a hard decision. And the little downloader app for OS X even puts the files in iTunes, complete with album art.

Being a guy who has sold a lot of content in his professional life, from software to books, obviously I'm not one who is OK with stealing music, but I hate the DRM shit, and I'd really like to unlock the stuff I have. That makes Amazon such a slam dunk obvious choice. Once the labels do fall in line for Apple, it sure would be nice if they'd offer an upgrade service to get the DRM-free, higher bit rate files.


Thoughts on Apple product announcements

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 15, 2008, 2:27 PM | comments: 7

This is the first Apple keynote in awhile that frankly leaves me a little disappointed. It's not the whiz-bang kind of things I was hoping for exactly, and the big one is priced all wrong.

The first thing was the Time Capsule, which is just an Airport Extreme with a built-in hard drive. The intention is to turn on support for Time Machine to the remote drive. If they'd simply turn that on for existing Airports (which can act as a host for USB drives), that would be adequate.

The iPhone upgrade is very much an evolutionary thing. Neat features for sure, but man, I still wish they'd do MMS. I found it odd that they're charging $20 for iPod Touch owners to upgrade with the apps we already have on the phone.

Online movie rentals are long overdue, and I have to wonder if that was the original intention for the Apple TV. My guess is that the R&D on Apple TV was done, and they were like, oh shit, we haven't roped in any movies studios to do this yet. $5 for an HD rental I can have right now is, frankly, worth the convenience and not that much more expensive than Netflix considering my average use of it. It's cool that you can use the rental on your iPod, iPhone, computer or whatever. Thank God the software update for Apple TV is free. And $229 for the one with the smaller hard drive is a pretty good deal.

The MacBook Air is the big announcement, and at $1800, I think that's a fairly reasonable price. If I traveled more and did less development work on my laptop, I'd probably buy it in a heartbeat. However, the two things that suck are the the two natural upgrades and their prices. To go from a 1.6 GHz to 1.8 GHz CPU is $300. If you want to go to the solid state drive instead of the mechanical one, they want an extra grand! That puts the ideal configuration at $3,100, and that's insane. I'll have to wait to see one in real life, but I can't imagine those little iPod hard drives are going to be very fast on a laptop.

I'm still hoping for a refresh of the MacBook Pros, and perhaps some improvement to the Cinema Displays, but I suppose those aren't in the cards for now. For now I get the free software updates for the phone and for the Apple TV.


Juno

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 14, 2008, 2:13 PM | comments: 0

We went to see Juno on Saturday, and it was without question one of those really special movies that only come out every so often.

The movie has some of the best dialog I've seen in years. It's damn funny. It's sad at times. The story behind the screenwriter is that she went the tortured artist trapped in the soul sucking corporate world, took up stripping accidentally, blogged about it, wrote a book, and then did this screenplay. Strange but very interesting career path.

The acting is total top shelf. Ellen Page, who basically came out of nowhere, is beyond good, in the way you'd think of Claire Danes in the My So-Called Life days. (Granted, Page is not actually a teenager, but you get the idea.) The dad, JK Simmons, probably best known as J. Jonah Jameson in the Spiderman movies, was also brilliant. Jason Bateman plays a grown up who wants to not be grown up (a total role reversal for him), and Jennifer Garner plays a seemingly neurotic and desperate mom wannabe as the family who wants to adopt Juno's baby.

I think what I got most out of it is that everyone struggles to find what their place is, all the while trying to figure out how relationships are supposed to figure into the madness, if they can at all. In a sense, it's another one of those coming of age stories for several of the characters, and you know how I like coming of age stories.

Incidentally, I saw on IMDB that Page and the girl who plays her best friend, Olivia Thirlby, star together in a movie later this year apparently about having a young lesbian experience together. Can't wait to see what kind of stink that causes.


iPhone Web browsing bigger than Windows Mobile

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 14, 2008, 10:38 AM | comments: 2

This article in the NY Times says that iPhones account for a huge amount of mobile Web browsing. Looking at stats for my sites, I see the same thing. Roll in the iPod Touch and there's no contest. Various flavors of the Windows Mobile OS combined can't touch the Apple stuff.

I guess the thing that surprises me about this whole iPhone affair is that it's the first time that Apple jumped into a market they not only did no own or have a presence in, but it's a very mature market. They managed to just show up and have impact, which is pretty amazing.


It should've been me making $10 million

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 14, 2008, 10:14 AM | comments: 4

I thought of doing something like this even before he did, but never pursued it since I was a married buy.

The greatest irony? Many of the ads shown on his site are for "real" dating sites.

It's the ugliest thing I've ever seen. You'd think that for $10 million a year he could throw a couple hundreds bucks at a designer to do something not ugly.


Portal and DDR

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 13, 2008, 9:50 AM | comments: 2

I got The Orange Box mostly because I wanted to play the Half-Life 2 games, but everyone kept going on and on about this game Portal. Friday I fired it up, and now I see what the hype is all about.

Take a first-person shooter control scheme and environment, only don't make it about shooting. Instead, you open two sides of a portal that you, objects, energy bubbles and go through. The goal is to do the right combination of things to move stuff, push switches, get on elevators, etc., to get out of the level. It's addictive like crack.

Diana decided to give it a try too. She's had a hard time with all of the video games she's tried on the 360, and I think I figured out why. While game nerds have been used to it since the N64, she's never played anything with analog sticks before. She's used to one level of stick movement, on or off, while the analog sticks offer a range of motion and control. For example, when she was turning in Portal, she was pushing the stick all the way right or left, and missing where she wanted to point herself. Once she started using the more subtle partial joystick push, she got it. I'm sure she'll get used to it overtime.

We also busted out the DDR, because I need to do anything physical at this point, and she's not getting as much tennis time as she'd like. I still credit (blame?) Kara with getting me into that damn game back in 2003 or something. It's very crack like too.


Another boring post about code

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 10, 2008, 11:23 PM | comments: 0

Man, I have really had my head in code lately, both at work and at home, which is unusual because doing both tends to get to you after awhile. Granted, I played video games pretty much all last weekend. The coding trials I think got to me this afternoon with a headache that really, really sucked. I ended up leaving work around 3:15 or so because just looking at a screen made me wince and wanna yack.

After popping pills and keeping my eyes closed for awhile, I fired up the comprooder and started looking into a problem we had today. Walt tried to use the mass-mailer to send out messages, and something went horribly wrong. I got 40 copies of the message on one of my e-mail accounts. I know what happened, I'm just not sure what the approach should be to deal with it.

Aside from that, I started to do a little refactoring on all my data access to clean it up and perhaps enable some performance metrics. I've been thinking about that for a long time, so that's something on my list.

Overall I've been fairly pleased with how PointBuzz has performed since the new site launched. Unfortunately it hasn't really pushed me into going back to CoasterBuzz, in part I think because I want to get the forum app right and to the feature milestone I was shooting for. The more it changes, the bigger of a pain it will be to integrate into a site.

At least I'm over the disappointment of not being able to quickly figure out the previous problem.


Dull trade show, mean fun

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 10, 2008, 5:23 PM | comments: 1

Yeah, this is pretty awesome. Gizmodo went around turning off TV's at every booth they could. Hilarities ensue.

Confessions: The Meanest Thing Gizmodo Did at CES


Back stage at Revision3's studio

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 10, 2008, 1:58 PM | comments: 1

This is pretty cool to see...

http://revision3.com/rev3gazette/studioop

I have to take issue with what the guy was saying at the end about the uniqueness and the challenge of the studio they built. Even without the software and quality/price ratios available today, people were building government, school and public access facilities on the cheap for at least 25 years. I should know, I did just that.

A half-million dollars would have been a dream come true for me when I built one for a local municipality. I had to do it on about $100k up front, with another ~$20k budgeted the second two years. We even had digital SD tape machines and a Media100 (Avid competitor).

Still, it's kind of neat to see what they're doing. The engineer also mentions crew size as being a challenge. When we did city council meetings, we did so with two or three people. My city now does it with one. A suitcase sized box has monitors and computer-based recording and CG, and the cameras are little robotic things on tripods (four of them). It can be done.


Diana's birthday

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 9, 2008, 11:05 PM | comments: 0

Having a birthday in the middle of the week and having to work is kind of a bummer, but for the few post-work hours, we had a nice little date night for ourselves.

For her #38, we went to Melt again. That place is such a great idea, and it's just a bummer that clearly giant buttered up pieces of bread with a ton of cheese and whatever else inside is not good for you. But it sure tastes good. You can get cider on tap there too, which Diana is all about as it reminds her of the semester she studied at Harlaxton College in the UK.

We finally got some quality hot tub action in too, without a ton of wind and a portion of clear sky. All the stars are different than those I saw the last time we had a clear night out there.

Technically, I wasn't supposed to get Diana anything for her birthday since it was just Christmas and she got the giant mixer, so I unofficially got her an 8" stainless All-Clad frying pan. We also got a tickets to Vegas, totally coincidentally.

We're kind of homebodies. We go out to eat, a lot, but we generally aren't that compelled to go tear it up and do stuff every night. Maybe that's actually typical. I don't know, I haven't lived with someone for years!

Hopefully though, Diana had a nice birthday, even though she had to work.


Coding frustration

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 9, 2008, 10:46 AM | comments: 1

The last two nights I was heads down trying to figure out how to re-engineer the background processes in the forum app, and it's frustrating the hell out of me.

My first problem was just not being able to conceptualize how to design it. I finally stepped back enough from it that last night and I got it distilled to a logical and relatively easy design that required implementation of just one method in the derived service classes.

But where I'm sucking is the multi-threadedness of it. When I upload it into production, the code is firing several times at each interval, and I can't figure out why. It's pissing me off. It looks like I'm following proper singleton patterns, but it's not working.

I just wish I could take time off to really dive into this and get it right. I've spent at least eight hours on it, and it seems like it should be something obvious.

God only knows how desktop app developers deal with threading issues every day.


Forbidden kitty love

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 8, 2008, 11:43 PM | comments: 3


Apple buzz

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 8, 2008, 8:02 PM | comments: 6

It's funny to see the Internet get all aglow every time we get close to a legendary Steve Jobs keynote. I was surprised to see they refreshed the Mac Pro today, with the default configuration being an 8-core machine. Seriously, my 4-core 2.6 GHz Xeon I got more than a year ago is overkill. Now they have this?

The safest prediction is that they'll do online rentals. The big question I have is whether or not that'll work in conjunction with the Apple TV and whether or not they'll have high definition available. I don't know what their sales are like, but they've been doing a pretty good job with that on Xbox Live.

The MacBook Pro line is expected to be refreshed, with the addition of a smaller unit, perhaps with a regular flash-based drive. Couple that with the LED-lit screen and I can imagine amazing battery life on something like that. It'd be a neat product to see, though I expect it would also be very expensive.

What I'm crossing my fingers for is updated Cinema Displays. If they come down in price, use LED lighting for lower power consumption, and include and iSight camera, I'm in.

I put another two gigs of RAM in my Mac Pro today. Second try, after the first batch was DOA. I paid probably $20 too much buying from Crucial, but their return policy is effortless, so I guess I'll live with it.

I was talking today with our chief architect at work about Macs in general. He bought his wife a MacBook last year, and is thinking about an iMac for one of his kids. He reiterated that the extra cost, or rather paying for something that's already above average in terms of specs, is worth it because he doesn't have to be a tech support guy at home. I hear that. Not that I have to support it exactly, but Diana seems to always be having some problem with her Vista laptop. Meanwhile, my MacBook Pro is going on two years, and unlike every other laptop I've ever had, I don't see any reason to replace it in the near future.

I would've never guessed Apple would be where it is just a few short years ago.


Bill Gates' last day

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 7, 2008, 12:52 PM | comments: 1

Strange that there are no Republicans in the video, considering he is one. From the CES keynote...

Bill Gates' Last Day


Game nerd again

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 6, 2008, 12:59 AM | comments: 1

I'm still trying to come down from the emotional intensity of the holidays. Now that we're firmly into 2008 and back to business, so to speak, I think I'm almost there.

I traded in a bunch of movies and video games that sucked for something new, and decided on the Orange Box for the Xbox 360. It has the three Half-Life 2 games, plus Portal and Team Fortress 2. I also got Tomb Raider Anniversary from Target for thirty bucks.

TRA is actually a remake of the very first Tomb Raider on the PlayStation, like ten years ago. I remember playing it on the PS as well as on Windows. I remember getting a video card for my computer from Rendition, which was trying to take on 3Dfx long before the Nvidia and ATI wars started, just so I could play Tomb Raider at "high" resolution, probably 800x600. I was fond of the game because it was one of the first 3D games that was not a first-person shooter. It redefined platform style games before Nintendo did.

The remake is pretty faithful to the original, to the extent that many of the levels are even the same. Of course, now the graphics are HD, Lara is more nimble, and for better or worse, her boobs jiggle. What counts though is that the classic game play is there and a lot of fun.

I got the Orange Box mostly because I loved the first Half-Life, which I played on the PC I think in 1999. It was seriously creepy and combined the shooter angle of Quake with the puzzle solving of Tomb Raider. I remember there were bugs here and there, but it was fun. I ended up using the invincible cheat through the last level because I thought it was impossible.

The second one I gave up on in 2005 because I couldn't even get the demo to run, thanks in part to Valve's Steam application, which handled downloads and online game purchases. I know Stephanie bought it after she moved out, and she loved it (not to mention didn't have the problems I did). It's a pretty cool game so far, in that there aren't cut scenes, but rather the characters do their thing around you. It's funny that Robert Guillaume does one of the voices. The game doesn't have the strong polish of something like Halo, but it is fun.

It has been a long time since I've spent any significant time gaming, but it's kind of fun to just lose yourself for a couple of hours blowing shit up or swinging on vines or whatever. I'm starting to realize that if I spread myself around doing different things, each one becomes more enjoyable, whether it be gaming or writing code.

Most importantly, it gets me out of my head, where I've spent far too much time the last few weeks.


Obama's Iowa speech

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 4, 2008, 12:42 PM | comments: 6

I gotta say, this is the first political speech I've heard in awhile that didn't leave me feeling dirty.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yqoFwZUp5vc

I still firmly believe that presidents can only have a certain level of impact through policy, but the right spirit and tone can go a long way. I think the notion that Clinton would be the next president came too early.


Airport security nonsense

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 4, 2008, 12:15 PM | comments: 0

This is the best editorial I've ever read on the subject...

The Airport Security Follies - NY Times

I especially like the last paragraph:

How we got to this point is an interesting study in reactionary politics, fear-mongering and a disconcerting willingness of the American public to accept almost anything in the name of “security.” Conned and frightened, our nation demands not actual security, but security spectacle. And although a reasonable percentage of passengers, along with most security experts, would concur such theater serves no useful purpose, there has been surprisingly little outrage. In that regard, maybe we’ve gotten exactly the system we deserve.


Where I should spend my at home programming time

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 3, 2008, 1:41 PM | comments: 0

I have to admit that I got a certain rush out of seeing the new version of my forum app, still a work in progress, get used out in the wild by real humans. Looking past traffic and revenue and whatever, it's neat to see it working, looking for ways to tweak the performance and constructing something that others might use some day.

When I think back to 2000, when I first started to sell it, that was an interesting time. I was a total hack then, and yet people were forking over $150 per license to use it.

I don't really know if people would pay for it these days, but I look at how popular vBulletin continues to be, and I still think there's a market for it. That app is so ridiculously fast too, despite being one of the most over-featured forum apps ever made.

Thinking about those glory days and the reality today, I wonder if that app is what I should be focusing on again. I have a very clear vision of where I could see it going in terms of design, with the potential to really break some new ground. This class of application has gone relatively unchanged in ten years. It's time to think differently about it.

Of course, shifting focus would mean that other things, like the extreme aging CoasterBuzz, would be again put on the back burner, and I'm not sure if I want that. It's just that I desperately want to do something... new.


The fans already hate Indy, apparently

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 2, 2008, 4:31 PM | comments: 0

Sweet write up on the next Indiana Jones movie in Vanity Fair. Check the Q&A's with Lucas and Spielberg too. Can you believe that picture of Cate Blanchett? Countless movies and I still can't decide if she's attractive.

I'm stoked. These are the films that inspired to make that awful piece of shit I put together in high school. :)


Going to Mix08 in Vegas

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 2, 2008, 4:15 PM | comments: 10

I registered for Mix08 today, and realized that's barely two months away.

I couldn't find any free entries this time, but work is paying for it, so that's a plus. I feel a little dirty spending that kind of money that isn't mine for some reason. That's so unlike me.

Diana is going to join me at the end of the conference and we'll stay for the weekend. I'll pick up the cost of the extra two hotel nights. Love The Venetian, by the way. You really get what you pay for there. Will try not to puke after the conference party this time.

I think we're gonna try and see a Cirque show this time. Those who know seem to prefer O, so I suppose that's what we'll shoot for. That, and The Price is Right. How could alcohol plus Plinko not be entertaining?

I'm excited. Haven't been to Vegas since summer of '06. It's way overdue.


Microcelebrity

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 2, 2008, 12:47 PM | comments: 1

I totally understand where this is coming from. The weird thing is that it seems far more intense than it does in traditional mainstream media, where you're still mostly just a face or voice coming from a studio somewhere.

Of course, no one is a bigger microcelebrity than Tyler.


When you know it all...

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 1, 2008, 11:20 PM | comments: 0

"...it becomes nearly impossible to look beyond what you know and think outside the box you’ve built around yourself."

NY Times - Innovative Minds Don’t Think Alike

What I find fascinating about this is that being ignorant is more like having a wealth of knowledge than one would think.

Still, I've seen so much of what they describe in my various jobs. Even as a programmer, it's hard to throw away what you already know works, when there's a better way. What a challenge to modify your thinking.


All My Kittehs

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 1, 2008, 9:34 PM | comments: 1

I figured that with the expansion of my cat family, it's time to give a quick recap of the players.

Cosmo
You know and love her, she's the orange terror that used to be known for wanting to bite off your nuts if she didn't like you. After Luna, she mellowed out quite a bit, and seemed to get more and more playful. She is the queen, after all, and at nearly 11 years, is more than twice as old as her new sister. I've referred to her as my furry bastard, fuzzypants, furry whore, etc., and I just love her to death. My biggest fear is that she'd get all mean again with the new cats, but so far she's been pretty cool about them, and even secretly likes Oliver I think.

Emma
She's about the age that Luna would have been, around five, and despite all that fur, is actually pretty thin under it all. Talk about the queen bitch, I never really cared for her much for most of the time Diana and I were dating pre-move-in. She'd hiss at the boys and constantly bitch and moan until she was let out. She'd start fights with the neighborhood cats (or maybe dogs) too. However, since arriving here, she's been pretty mellow, hasn't tried to take over the pride, and ends up on my lap more that I expected. She does some single white female things to imitate Cosmo, but as long as she doesn't show up orange one day, I think it's just coincidence.

Gideon
Giddy kitty is around two or so, and had a tough go of it at first due to problems in his digestive tract. When Diana's neighbor was being murdered, he sensed it and freaked out. Maybe that's why he's seems so nervous all of the time. He's not adjusting to the move as well as the others, but I think part of it is that he just wants some alone time with his mom, and there's too much moving and other kitties in the way. He's a real porker too, around 17 pounds. I think he'll be OK, but he doesn't always trust me.

Oliver
The baby of the family, he's barely a year old. He's really filled out since I first met him, when he was this scrawny little runt. He's still kind of clumsy, and still has crazy eyes, and he's got the most energy of any cat I've ever seen. He's also a cuddle monkey and attention whore. He loves everyone. Oliver has taken a real liking to Cosmo, who surprisingly reciprocates the play time with chases and pawing through door cracks. He's so damn irresistible because he has so much personality.

So that's my new extended family. It has only been a couple of days, but they all seem to be doing well in their new surroundings. Cosmo still seems to feel like she's in charge, or she's just so indifferent that the other cats don't matter. She's the one I was most worried about because she's generally had her run of the place since March.


2007: The me

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 1, 2008, 7:40 PM | comments: 1

It's hard to think of 2007 just by itself, because really somewhere in the middle the end of two completely strange years of my life ended. So first I think I need to put a little context in that larger time period.

April 2005 was of course the time when Stephanie decided it was time to do her own thing and try it on. There's no secret about how that ultimately ended, but what a journey I had in the mean time. I had to learn how to like myself, and really understand what I wanted and needed from others. There were a couple of people who were instrumental in helping me get there. That journey really began to wrap up in the spring.

Backing up to the beginning of the year, it was a rough start with Catherine and I breaking up. I'm glad we're friends today, and I think we both understand what didn't work about us. That landed me in the dating world again, and that was a world that I got tired of pretty quickly.

I went out with close to 20 different women from the start of the year to early April, and for all but two or three it was a one-time thing. I was getting fairly jaded by the end of that time because of the inability of people to communicate like adults. The few that I went out with more than once frankly weren't at all right for me, and I found myself settling for no particular reason. The worst one was this crazy woman I went on two dates with, the second of which ended as a "second night" stand. She wanted nothing to do with me after that, apparently because I was still friends with my former wife. Like I said, dating didn't work well for me, in part because it's not easy meeting people as a divorced 30-something.

On May 31, exhausted after the Maverick media day, I met Diana. After several dates, the barriers came down, the connection got stronger, and before you knew it, we were one of those eHarmony commercial couples that make you wanna yack.

But she really changed my life and restored my faith in the art of relationships. There are no games, guilt, score keeping or mismatched expectations. We communicate freely about everything, and don't take anything so seriously that it gets in the way.

Just days before the year ended, she moved in with me. The biggest adjustment for me has actually been to let go of some of the programming I have. For example, she gets into these cleaning sprints, and I feel like I should be doing the same thing. She explains that it's just her neat-freak tendencies and not out of some expectation that I'm a lazy slob (which I am).

This new relationship caused me to reflect a lot on previous relationships. I don't feel any ill will toward Stephanie, especially now that she has her own place, a good job, and gets to see mountains every day. I'm really happy for her. I'm also glad that I had the experience I had with her, however bumpy it might have been. She'll always be a part of my life, and I'm better off for it in the end. I feel that way about the other close relationships I've had as well.

Professionally, I feel like I found a happy place of sorts in my job, for most of the year. This was the first full calendar year that I had the same job the entire year since Penton in 2000. It's strange to think about. I stay because I work with people who challenge me and make me better at what I do. As long as that continues (which has a lot to do with managers keeping me on the right things), I can see being there for some time. I have had some brief periods where I didn't want to get out of bed and work for The Man, but fortunately those haven't been serious enough to cause me to do something nutty like quit.

I got a bit into photography again, though not to the extent I'd still like to. A lot of it had to do with documenting stuff that me and Diana did. I've got quite the collection of photos this year.

Volleyball came back into my life briefly, and I'm not going to rehash here what I previously wrote about. It just turned out that everything that I stand for as a coach in terms of values and methodology was not compatible with what the new club did. Given the intense time commitment and my own expectations, I just couldn't stick with it.

A part of me wonders what it'd be like to run a serious volleyball "academy" at some point. I've done the math and know what it would cost, but the risk is pretty high unless I have some serious coin to throw around. It's something I'm sure I'll think about going forward.

I sort of got back into amusement parks again this year. I got to see two new parks this year by way of visiting Kara in the Twin Cities. I went to Cedar Point a ton this year because Diana really got into it, especially Halloweekends. I really made the most of my Universal pass too, and Orlando has become something of a fun distraction for me every couple of months. I was very happy to have events at Hershey and Holiday World.

Losing Luna, or rather making the choice to lose her, really was hard for me. As miserable as she made me at times (and I'm still reminded every day of it since I haven't replaced the carpet she destroyed), she was a real light for me. Fortunately, Diana moving in means I became an instant daddy to not one or two, but three cats. The youngest one, Oliver, is very Luna like. Hopefully he'll be the kind of cat that never grows up.

I didn't do the stuff with video and/or film that I would have liked to, but I don't really hold that against myself. We were going to do some awesome TV stuff for the Maverick media event prior to its cancellation (with a TV friend from college), but that didn't pan out. I did do a nice B-roll package that we put on PointBuzz.

It seems almost silly to bring it up, but I'm surprised at just how at ease I'm able to stay in part because of the hot tub. It seemed like such a stupid single guy thing to buy, but I use it so much, and enjoy it constantly. And only two of the nine months was I single, so it turns out it works for attached guys too. Best use of a tax return ever.

Overall, this year was pretty amazing, largely because I met someone who gets me, accepts me and allows me to continue to be who and what I want. That works out because I was ready for it, and in some ways I'm glad I didn't meet her sooner because I don't think it would've turned out the same way.

I suspect 2008 will kick ass.


2007: The business

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 1, 2008, 11:54 AM | comments: 1

As I did last year, I'm going to split my yearly retrospective into the me and the business.

This was a year where I really kind of let myself take a step back and not work that hard on developing the business. That was partly because I wanted to concentrate a bit on my personal life, and partly because I really wanted to explore what its place in my life is. Although it's mostly just because I was lazy.

I started the year getting picked up by Federated Media, which was cool because I thought it meant I'd finally get some decent ads sold that paid at much higher rates. Well, they only sold a handful of campaigns, and some slightly higher remnant stuff, but it wasn't the windfall I really hoped for. The old ad companies of course fail to produce any significant results.

I actually did start to write code again mid-year, and cranked out new image gallery stuff relatively quickly. I even put it up on PointBuzz in its rough form and tweaked it a bit. I had already reached a decent spot with the forum app at the end of the previous year, but it just kind of sat there. I finally put all of the pieces together and launch the new PointBuzz a couple of weeks ago, and I'm mostly happy with it. There are some performance issues regarding indexing that I'm still working out. But overall, Walt and I are sticking to discussion, photos and news, the things people most want from us.

CoasterBuzz of course hasn't changed. I'm not motivated to rebuild it, even though it's in dire need of a face lift. I do have 75% of a new site built, with no design, but I'm just not getting on it.

In terms of skill development, I think that rests more under the personal blog entry, but I'm overall in a much better place than I was before. Problem solving is very much coming easier to me than it used to.

I spoke at IAAPA this year, which wasn't for money or anything, but I'm not sure what that really did for me other than make a resume point. I didn't do it to get consulting work, because frankly I don't really want to do consulting work. Building stuff for other people isn't fun.

Video was not a big component of anything I did this year, but a lot of that can only loosely be considered business related anyway.

I ended the year having more tools and working code available to me for whatever I decide to do next, and that makes me happy. I didn't spend too much money this year either, the only significant purchase being the Adobe CS3 suite. I think I might actually get to a debt-free place this year.