Archive: October, 2009

Getting more dynamic range out of the 7D

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 31, 2009, 2:40 AM | comments: 0

If you're not an imaging nerd, move along.

Some guy did a video on setting some custom processing profiles on the Canon 7D in order to get more dynamic range out of it. I uploaded the profiles to my camera, and wow do they make a big difference. The win here isn't better images, per se, but the ability to fix under and over exposed stuff in post. If I can learn how to use the Color app in Final Cut, this would make an enormous difference. Yes, much of the work comes from what you do after you record.

The discussion around this is still pretty interesting, in that if (or the optimist in me says "when") Canon comes up with a way to record in a "raw" format, the way it does still images, you've essentially got Red by the balls, and empower every jerk with a (relatively) cheap Canon able to create images just as solid.

But until those days come, I have to say that this helps the situation. These flat profiles retain a lot more detail in light and dark areas, which makes it a lot easier to do your own processing. The camera records in H.264 at a bit rate of like 45 mbits, which is pretty damn good for that codec (think JPEG quality 90 in Photoshop... it certainly approaches that). The pro codecs like DVCPRO HD and XDCAM I think are 100 mbits with higher color sampling and far less data loss, but they also assume you're going to be compositing or something.

You can still correct for some of the over processing by the camera by simply lighting correctly, but when you're shooting out in the wild, that's rarely possible. I'm going to shoot with this flat profile this weekend, and see what I can do about learning to use Color after that.


House fixin'

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 31, 2009, 12:25 AM | comments: 0

Leo was over today to fix my five-year-old ice dam water damage in my living room. I suppose it was something I could have endeavoured to do myself, but I don't have the tools or the experience to just get it right the first time. Besides, that's what dads do, they help.

I did fix the door bell myself. It got broken somewhere along the line, probably because it's just cheap made in China plastic. So I replaced it with the same thing, sans a light. It seems to me that convention alone should be enough for people to find the door bell.

Once the hot tub is gone, the last thing to deal with is to power wash the deck. No telling what it looks like under there. I mean, when it was dropped there, it had recently snowed so I have no idea what happens to the water and ice that used to be there.

I can't believe they're going to pack up all of our crap in a week.


Fuck you, NBC

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 30, 2009, 12:34 PM | comments: 0

NBC cancels Trauma


The Web: Something to do between songs

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 29, 2009, 11:06 AM | comments: 0

So what do you do between songs on the radio? Surf the Web. Could've used this on those overnight shifts circa 1995!


Got my radio playlist together

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 29, 2009, 12:19 AM | comments: 0

Tomorrow should be interesting, as I get back on a real radio station for the first time in, uh, almost 14 years. Yikes.

I have a lot of fond memories of my college radio station, even though much of the music then was frankly not very good. It got better toward the end, when grunge really started to take off, and "alternative rock" became mainstream.

Of course, it didn't matter, because the station actually followed a specific format, namely old crap and not good new crap. The idea sounds good on the surface: Have an actual programmed station, what we called AOR (album-oriented rock) with some limited new stuff, because it simulated the "real world" of commercial radio. The problem with that is that the only real learning about programming occurred with the staff members, who were the PD, music director and assistant, and creative director. I did my best to try to at least get us ditching the old crap (I was creative director one year), but it was like this ridiculous religious debate. Looking back, it's still a wonder that we could fill air shifts to be on 18 to 20 hours a day.

These days, they're pretty free form, which I believe is better. Give the students a chance to do what they do and practice the craft of announcing and programming. It doesn't matter if it completely sucks... that's college radio! I mean, they've got someone who plays Disney music for their entire shift.

So I've got about 2.5 hours tomorrow, then I'll do a four-hour shift on Monday. Can't wait. Been wanting to get back to this for a long time!


Living gadget limited

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 29, 2009, 12:14 AM | comments: 0

Neha Tiwari, one of my favorite young San Fran tech media types, has a good post about living your life without getting too gadgeted out. I'm glad someone in that circle of folks questions how much you need stuff.


Travel route for move

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 3:03 PM | comments: 0

I mapped out the approximate route for the trip out west. It's here on Google Maps.

Thursday will probably be a little on the brutal side, but we're still going to see Mt. Rushmore that morning if I have something to say about it. Fifteen minutes, get some photos, off we go, through the mountains. Because of the distribution of somewhat populated cities, that was pretty much the best I could do in terms of dividing it up in reasonable parts.

We'll see if that map changes at all once I book some hotels.


Stir crazy setting in

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 2:10 PM | comments: 0

The next week and a half feels like it's going to be too short and too long. A part of me wishes the movers were showing up tomorrow. It's hard to believe that I was in Redmond four weeks ago today, and in two and a half weeks, I'll be starting the new job.


Venus Hum stuff

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 1:35 PM | comments: 0

The cats from Venus Hum have been posting some stuff on Vimeo lately. Below is a stripped down acoustic version of one of their new songs. The audio quality isn't great, but still worth a listen.

If you're looking for something new to listen to, give them a try. I particularly like the tracks "Get Out Of The Way!," "Mechanics & Mathematics" and "Tell Me Secrets." This is probably their most accessible album, and as good as their Songs for Superheroes EP. Like a lot of people, I learned about them from their opening for Blue Man Group on the original Complex tour.

On one hand, it's neat to see how they (as well as other favorites like Imogen Heap) can record without a big studio infrastructure around them, but being independent makes it a bitch to get noticed too. The electronic music craft isn't something everyone is good at, and they elevate the art. Annette Strean, the vocalist, has got serious pipes. I hope beyond hope that they visit Seattle, otherwise, I'll have to visit Nashville to see a show.


Windows 7 Whopper in Japan

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 28, 2009, 1:52 AM | comments: 0

Eeew.


Zombieland: Loved it!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 8:43 PM | comments: 0

Finally got out there to see Zombieland, and it did not disappoint. This is Woody Harrelson's movie. His character is so awesomely over the top. Zombie movies tend to be hit or miss, and it's silly for them to be anything other than comedies, but this one rules. Plus it's a road trip movie. And they use Fringe titles in the middle of the film. The dialog is hilarious.

You know what else is hilarious? Abigail Breslin killing zombies with a shotgun. This tiny little Miss Sunshine girl, cocking a shotgun, blowing away zombies. If that's not quality cinema, I don't know what is. I like that she's just slightly evil in this one, and still manages to be charming. If she continues to get a variety of solid roles, she could definitely be a big star. Looks like she'll be a cute teenager.

Emma Stone, the girl from Superbad, is smoking hot (she rocks the dark eyeliner look), and like her onscreen sister, manages to be slightly evil yet charming. She's got that straight-faced sarcasm that I'm crazy about, the very matter-of-fact delivery.

Jesse Eisenberg, I'm not sure what to think of him. He's like a less pussy-ish version of Michael Cera, who I'm already tired of seeing playing the same role over and over. If this dude doesn't diversify, he's in for the same destiny. They painted a nice profile of his character right at the start.

This is definitely one for the DVD collection when it comes out. Hopefully it'll be rich in special features.


Cedar Point in the Fall video

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 27, 2009, 6:33 PM | comments: 0

Duh, I think I posted this everywhere but on my own blog. HD version is here. The experience of shooting with it in a previous post.


The past and future, all coming together via the radio

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 26, 2009, 5:33 PM | comments: 0

I glossed over it in my previous post, but I've secured a couple of radio shifts at my radio origin, WRDL at Ashland U. It's something I've wanted to do for the longest time, and I realized a couple of weeks ago that I was running out of time to do it. I can't even put in to words how stoked I am. Seriously, the current students are gonna think I'm a freak, especially since I'm gonna do a 4-hour shift Monday.

As a bonus, I'm hopefully going to see some former classmates after, which thrills the shit out of me. Thank you, Facebook. Ugh, I hate how there were all these people I was close to during those four years that I just lost touch with. We've all done a hundred things since then, made career changes, had families (well, I'm still working on that part), but few things create the kind of bonds that four years of living, learning and playing together every day. That's weird to think about, because so few of my relationships post-college have been at that level.

And of course, playing tunes of my choosing is basically like playing back the soundtrack of my life, most of which is from after college. So it's like I'm unifying the past, middle, present and future all together, in my head at least. Plus one of the profs was a classmate, and the engineer started when the year I graduated, so there's that too. And I look forward to talking to current students, to hear about what they're doing and hope to get out of school. I just wish Diana could be there... it's one of those pieces of my life so central to who I am that she's never seen.

I've got all kinds of anxiety right now about the move, really just the driving and the cats, but what an adventure I've got in front of me. What an adventure I've had behind me.

One last thought... maybe I can put the radio failure dream out of my head once and for all.


The Battle For Hearts And Minds

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 26, 2009, 2:03 AM | comments: 0

Yes, I keep getting all excited about everything I find being shot with a DSLR, but this is the most intense thing I've see so far.

http://battleforheartsandminds.com/

Basically this guy went in with a 5D Mark II along side of Marines trying to take a Taliban run area in Afghanistan. One of the guys dies, and he apparently includes that in the doc. Very intense stuff.

I will say that reading about this three day battle makes me sad about the job these guys are being sent in to do. When you can't even tell who the bad guys are, the locals get hurt or die, and then no one wants you there in the first place.


More stuff coming together

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 26, 2009, 12:53 AM | comments: 0

Various components of Diana's Toledo-based family were here today, and at her house, to get more stuff moved and taken away. We're now down a few more tables, chairs, a chest freezer, various garden tools and a twin mattress set. And probably other stuff I don't remember. Also important, everything coming with us is all at my house.

We've made arrangements to visit CP for closing weekend with the Neu's, which is also awesome. They're pretty much our favorite people from Nashville. I've always had good times hanging out with them, and it's actually funny to think I will have seen Tyler three times this year.

Diana got laid-off, so there's one less thing to think about. Her last day of work is a week from Thursday.

My dad is going to help with the ice dam water damage in my living room from 2003. Yeah, I probably should've fixed it years ago. He's also going to bring his pressure washer so I can hopefully restore the deck's color a little. I fixed the broken door bell. I think that's the sum total of issues with the house, other than some weeds in the landscaping.

The hot tub will be picked up next week. That's gonna be difficult for me, because it has been my calm thinking place. God reminds me of how peaceful it is every night I sit out there with a shooting star or two.

I'm picking up two radio shifts over the next two weeks, one 2.5 hours, one 4. Looking at their schedule that seemed crazy with current students doing one or two hours at a time, but then I remembered that I did it six hours every night. Four will be easy.

This week I'm hoping to firm up all of the travel stuff and temporary housing. We also need to get a cat to the vet so we can get drugs to knock them out on the trip if need be.

Just two weeks to go...


7D in the field (or at Cedar Point)

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 25, 2009, 12:39 AM | comments: 0

I took the camera out to Cedar Point tonight, for the purpose of shooting some stuff at night. Between the SNL opener, and stuff I keep seeing from this guy on Vimeo, there's little doubt in my mind that there's enormous potential for what you can do with this camera. I'm gonna need a lot of practice.

First off though, I still find that using the 24-105mm f/4L IS hand-held works really well. There's virtually no camera shake to speak of. It's the only zoom that Canon makes with image stabilization that wide, and also with an aperture that goes that wide. I shot quite a bit with it, mostly wide with big stuff not close to me, and it's great for that. I got one shot of a person up close in daylight, even moved around him a bit, and at f/4 the depth of field was reasonably shallow. Wish I would've known that so I would use it more later. This lens is so kick ass for practically every application. The only thing I'd add is to make a f/2.8 version. Can't imagine what that would cost.

The 70-200mm f/4L zoom works as expected, and you can get beautiful shallow depth on it. With the field crop though, you're looking at as much as 320mm in the virtual sense, so you can't realistically use it without a tripod. Hey, the IS version of the lens is twice as much, and at a price of around $600, this is already one of the best lens deals Canon has, especially for "L" lenses.

I thought I'd be all clever by using the 50mm f/1.4, at f/1.4, but that was naive and a little stupid. Trying to track moving people manually focusing was damn near impossible. I closed it down to around f/2 and it was still really hard. And with the lens that wide open, I wasn't paying attention to ISO. Which leads to my next issue.

The mistake, or learning moment, if you will, that bothers me the most is that I decided to manually set the ISO the whole time. I mostly wanted to do this because I was shooting blocks of stuff at a particular setting to see what the noise would look like when I got back home. Generally speaking, stuff looks pretty good at 1600, and I bet when the video is down-res'd you won't even see it. Even more impressive though (and not surprising given the still capabilities) is that there were several situations where I could easily use ISO 100 with the 50mm wide open. So aside from situations where lighting keeps changing rapidly (rides going by), I have a feeling that setting to auto ISO is probably a good idea. Being in manual with the 1/30 shutter speed and f/4 aperture is good enough for the "look," but let the camera work out ISO.

The biggest problem is that focusing is hard, and I don't have the practice yet to turn the right way the first time. Having one of the rigs from Redrock Micro or Zacuto would likely help a great deal, but I have to decide if I'm willing to commit to that kind of expense. I also have to fight the urge to use the 50mm at f/1.4 because, duh, the depth of field becomes impractical with moving people. That's why I should stick with the wide zoom at f/4 and IS.

So the next time I go out, hopefully next weekend, I think I'm going to bring only the 24-105, and nothing else but the spare battery. Set it to 1/30 and f/4, and let the camera decide the ISO except where there are weird changing lights.

I've got a little bit of stuff to show... I'll try to cut that in the next day or two.


Farewell to lots of the suck

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 24, 2009, 12:47 AM | comments: 0

I had lunch with my friend Nikki from high school today. She recently visited Chicago, and thought a lot about how interesting it would be to just pick up and move there. Like me, she was married and divorced, changed careers and such. Obviously I can relate when it comes to fresh starts.

I think we agreed that Cleveland doesn't suck exactly, but certainly after being here for a few decades, one can start to see how any location may simply run its course. That's certainly my situation. I've come to the realization that I don't dislike Cleveland, I'm just done with it.

But I've also realized how much crap I leave behind. First and foremost on that list is the weather. Winter is just awful. Forty degree mood swings suck. If you're not burning hundreds of dollars a month on heat, you're zapping it for air conditioning. And yes, contrary to popular belief, it rains more in Cleveland than it does in Seattle for half the year, namely summer. The only things redeeming the weather here are thunderstorms.

I also leave behind a great deal of professional suck. I have worked for some serious schmucks who aren't professional at all. The market is obsessed with the disposable consultant ethic, which as you'd imagine, means a whole lot of awful software. I feel like I had that solid three years of intense growth at ICOM, surrounded by lots of mediocrity. In fact, the only other really rewarding work I had was writing my book and running my own sites, both of which were initiated by me.

It all reminds me of the scene in the movie Orange County where the professor talks about how great writers all have this conflicted relationship with where they came from. I'm careful not to say that my origins define me, but they certainly shape the way you perceive the world, for better, worse or different. Much of my success and failure in life occurred because of where I was, and I'm thankful for it.

But yeah, I'm done with it. And if that moronic casino issue passes, I'm even more glad to be gone. At least I get to vote before we move!


First and very raw impressions of Canon 7D

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 23, 2009, 1:58 AM | comments: 0

Hooray for B&H delivering my 7D very fast, in just two shipping days for the standard rate. With all of the gear shedding I've been engaging in, seeing that the SNL opener was shot on one of these made me a little moist. And seeing as how I've got some nice glass, it seemed like a no-brainer.

The first thing I recorded on that memory card was naturally video, since that was my whole motivation for buying it. I did absolutely nothing with the settings, I just turned it on and started shooting. Then I went out and shot a few more silly shots. Here's the result (HD link):

Overall, it records nice stuff when the light is adequate, though in auto mode it may resort to a higher shutter speed than you'd like. The picture quality at 1080p really comes down to your tolerance for noise. At ISO 400 or 800, you've got a boat load of latitude to play with provided you have adequate light. I cranked it all the way up to 6400, and I suppose if you like the "gritty" look, it'll work. Little tests around the house in dark places show that 1600 might be the magic spot. I need to take it to Cedar Point and see what kind of light/dark scenes at night require to have a more informed opinion.

Getting away from the video stuff, the still functionality is superior in every way to the 5D but one: It's not full-frame. That's why the 5D Mark II costs a grand more. If you're used to full-frame, it's a little jarring to look through that viewfinder the first time. In some basic tests with stills, I'm surprised that the noise levels are still pretty good at high ISO's. I'd say that the 5D gives you a stop or two, but I'm just pulling that out of my ass without any actual testing. My eye still likes the stills made by the 5D better, even if they are at a lower resolution (the original 5D, that I have, not the Mark II). The 1.6x field crop really puts a dent in your wide angles too, when 24mm essentially becomes 38mm.

But the truth of the matter is that if you can live with the field crop and losing a stop or two comparatively for noise at high ISO's, the 7D is absolutely a steal for what it can do. If I were buying a new camera body because I didn't have one, it would be really hard to justify buying a Mark II over this one. The newer menu system is beautiful and well organized, the focusing is very fast (though not nearly as good in low light as my older original 5D), the auto features like face recognition are great for handing it to Diana, the built-in flash is convenient for vacation situations where I don't want to lug around the Speedlite... there's just a lot to love here. And if you're a sports nut, holy crap, with the memory card I have, it can snap off 15 frames in what feels like a second and a half.

The question for me becomes whether or not I carry both bodies with me. I suppose it depends on the situation. If I were going to a tennis tournament, I'd probably have both, and keep the long zoom on the 7D and the nice shorter zoom on the 5D. If I don't need video and just need stills, probably just the 5D. If I'm being vacation minded, the 7D. I've got a giant world of versatility.

There are some tricks to consider for video though. It's not super simple to operate, particularly if you're not used to manually focusing as stuff moves. Once it begins recording, you have to focus yourself. One of these DSLR cinema rigs with a follow focus would help. You also need some kind of rig for better sound, and I wonder what's really going on with the audio input in terms of limiting, as there's no setting for levels.

Overall, this looks like it'll be one of the most useful tools I've had in awhile. It's true that the 5D Mark II would be a better camera all around (at least, once it shoots 1080p/24 some time next year with a firmware update), but for an additional grand in price? I'm not sure.

First shot...

This is 6400 ISO, which isn't horrible resized, but it's not pretty native. Not great color temperature either.

The pumpkin shot is actually the native pixels, cropped down from the original shot. That should give you a good idea about image quality if you're the type of weirdo that looks at native pixels.

This one is just cute. :)


Windows 7 released today

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 22, 2009, 4:30 PM | comments: 0

Windows 7 officially came out today, which given my new employment, is suddenly important to me. It's no secret that I haven't been a big Windows Vista fan, and it annoyed the crap out of me trying to support it when Diana had her older laptop. The only thing I do in Windows now is development work, and in Windows XP at that.

But I figured that I would give Windows 7 a try, since it's relatively easy to fire up a new virtual machine on the Mac. With it, I also started a new project that isn't necessary for any immediate needs, but something I've been thinking about for awhile.

The good news is that the annoying UI "quirks" from Vista have all been either revised or eliminated. I mean, I remember finding a simple copy/overwrite dialog box in Vista that had four choices, each with a paragraph of explanation. It seemed like everything was harder to find or had multiple entry points. In the general sense, Vista seemed to get in the way of everything.

7, on the other hand, had a faster install time and faster boot times. It also doesn't seem to be as much of a memory hog, which is weird in a good way. Who knows how it runs natively, but it's pretty smooth in Parallels. I may start to bring my mainstream development lines into that VM sooner or later.

So I'm glad to see we finally can put Vista behind us. It'll be interesting to see if it drives PC sales as we climb out of this economic chaos. Using cute little Asian girls might just move more product than Justin Long. :)


How the housing mess is screwing me

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 22, 2009, 2:21 AM | comments: 0

The worst thing about the "mortgage crisis" is that people like me, who bought a house they could afford with normal loan terms, are screwed because banks made stupid loans to morons who don't understand credit and couldn't afford to pay their mortgage. Everybody hurts because the bubble that was the real estate market has popped. That annoys me to no end.

Ultimately, it looks like my house is likely to sell at my original cost or at a slight loss, though it becomes more of a loss when you consider the down payment I made and the various closing costs. It was kind of a perfect storm of equity decline over the eight years. I had to refinance at the time of the divorce, five years after purchase, at which time I had to let go of a little bit of the equity, and that was basically half the down payment. In the three years since, the only equity I had was appreciation, which has been summarily erased in the last two years because of the shitty market. So if you were to look at it in pure money in that wasn't going toward interest, I'll lose around $20k. Add in interest and taxes paid, and, well, I don't even want to go there. I'll just pretend that was like rent!

When you're not deep into a mortgage term, you're obviously not paying much of anything toward the principal of the loan. As such, waiting for a better offer gets you nowhere, because you'll end up going months paying on a loan and not building any equity. I'd rather just take the hit sooner and have better cash flow. The sooner I unload my house, the sooner we can start banking cash to take a bath on Diana's house.

I think the thing that pains me the most is that I can't get back in to purchasing while stuff is going relatively cheap. Purely in square footage terms, my house would go for around 75% more out in the Seattle 'burbs, so whatever break you can get today would help. As disciplined as I think I could be, there's no way I'll be generating that kind of down payment cash for at least two to three years, unless I get promoted to Steve Ballmer's second in command. I'm guessing there's little chance of that. :)

But renting won't be terrible, even if it is expensive. Houses may be 75% higher to buy, but apartments and townhomes look more like they're around 40% higher. With salaries being in the neighborhood of 30% higher (in my field, at least), that's not a horrible disparity.

If this all sounds terrible, I don't know if it really is. The way I look at it is this: If we can sell my house quickly and Diana's within a year, we could be at a point where the only debt we have is her car (which is a tiny payment). Sure, we don't have a house that may or may not appreciate in value, but even with rent and a child, we should have tons of money left over to save, invest and start a college fund for Puzzoni Jr. We effectively lose a year of wealth building, but retirement accounts aside, we don't really have any wealth to speak of today.

I'm sure some people would see this as the end of the world, but really, what can you do about it? The upsides in my life suddenly become priceless. I get to work for a company I very much admire, I'll see mountains every day, I can avoid snow unless I choose otherwise, and above all, Diana and I get the fresh start we very much need. There's a lot of winning along side the losing.


Volleyball in prime time

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 10:07 PM | comments: 0

They've had the Big 10 Network on my cable system for some time, but they just recently added it in HD. I rarely channel surf, and when I do, it's only in the HD range. I've recently discovered that they have a lot of volleyball. I mean lots of it. Tonight I was watching Michigan vs. State (sorry Spartan fans, it didn't work out). I've really enjoyed the matches I've watched. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of talent in this conference.

Once we've managed to nest a bit, I definitely want to get involved with USAVB again. This year, I just can't imagine doing it while adjusting to a new place, new job and a new baby. Perhaps I'll volunteer in the regional stuff, but that's it.

The year after, however, I'm inclined to even start a club. It doesn't look like there are very many clubs around there, which might just be a serious opportunity. One of the things I always struggled with in the Ohio Valley Region is that it was easily the most competitive in the country. I'm glad I had average teams against all of the national champs we'd contend with, but the clubs themselves then have to compete for the best talent.

Regardless, I've been without volleyball in my life for too long.


Heather Graham's public option

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 21, 2009, 5:32 PM | comments: 0

Uh... I'm pretty sure Rollergirl could talk me into anything.


Camera shuffle

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 11:39 PM | comments: 0

I sold my older Canon 10D today, probably for less than I could get on eBay or whatever with the lenses, but I also sold it to a friend that I know will put it to good use and knows what the hell he's doing.

I've got a nibble on selling the HVX200, but it's one of those "trying to figure out the finances" things, so I'm waiting to see if he comes through. I really don't want to move with it. I've also got a Panasonic HDC-SD5 high-end consumer camcorder I want to unload, for $500 or so with the USB DVD-ROM burner it came with and a 16gig SD card. It's a solid camera that I bought for recording volleyball, right before I quit the club I was going to coach for. I suppose if I don't sell that one, it's not the end of the world, as I'm sure I can use it for coaching some day in the future.

Speaking of the future, there's a 7D in it.

Not related, but I really need to get rid of the hot tub. I'd like to get $2k for it, a fair price after spending $5,500 two years ago. The problem is that if I just bake it into the price of the house, I'll likely get nothing. That's the thing that will be hardest to let go of.


Yes, I'm aware that I'm having a rather intense year

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 1:11 AM | comments: 0

For some reason, everyone I've talked to lately, from Realtors® to people taking my furniture, end up getting the condensed version of my life in that last six months. And all point out the obvious: "Wow, you're having most of life's greatest stresses all at once!" Thanks for that!

It's true. By the time I start the new job, I will in the span of seven months managed to get married, procreate, get laid-off, be unemployed for seven months (or self-employed, if you will, since I did not collect a dime), attempt to sell two houses, relocate 2,400 miles and start a new job. I'm aware that these are a lot of intense things squeezed into a relatively short period of time.

So how am I handling it all? Mostly in stride I'd like to think. I have my moments where I just switch off. I've also found myself being kind of a snippy dick toward Diana, which is when I know that I need to relax a bit. But the truth of the matter is that I've chosen most of this, and it's good. I'd be a schmuck to complain.

Regarding the job, that's the thing I worry the least about. I've never been a nervous job guy. Right now, it's the thing I look most forward to, because once I've started, I'm in the home stretch toward settling down in a place, and I'm finally engaging my brain on a full-time basis again. Wow do I need that.

If you encounter me in real life over the course of the next several weeks, you need not remind me that I'm having a "busy" year. I'm aware of it. :)


Kitteh pr0n

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 20, 2009, 12:58 AM | comments: 1


Canon 7D... wow

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 19, 2009, 6:49 PM | comments: 1

I must have one. Being able to combine everything I know about still photography with everything I know about video could make me incredibly dangerous. And I've got the lenses to make it happen. This is really beautiful stuff... (HD version on Vimeo)


Google Maps: They have humans!

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 19, 2009, 4:49 PM | comments: 0

The last refresh of Google Maps messed up my street. I live two houses down from an intersection, where on one side the street has one name, and a different name on the other (two subdivisions started years apart). In the last refresh, they had the name from the other street extending half way down my street. I noticed a "report problem" link on the map, so I did. Here's what I got...

Hi Jeff,

Your Google Maps problem report has been reviewed, and you were right! We'll update the map within a month and email you when you can see the change.

Report history
Problem ID: A4EE-24E3-19D7-40FE

Your report:
Beaumont Dr. actually extends to N. Carpenter. It's Red Clover to the east, Beaumont to the west.

Thanks for your help,
The Google Maps team


Radio daze

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 19, 2009, 4:34 PM | comments: 0

I got in touch with the new guy running the radio stuff back at school, and as one of my professor friends implied, it sounds like he's really got his stuff together. I asked him if I could squeeze out a couple of air shifts before I move, and he was all about it. Sweet. He also said that because of the Internets and automation, I could at some point even do a show from Seattle. How cool is that? Radio is not a very good profession, but it sure is fun when it's for fun.

I love that he's thinking about automation, because for better or worse, that's a lot of what the business is these days. But it also means that he embraces the difficult future he has in teaching college students in this field. It's not a matter of simple, "Show up, play music, talk, go home." The Internet and the machines have changed everything. It's the kind of cross-disciplinary stuff everything we used to call broadcast and journalism encounters now. The media is so free form that it's hard to nail down exactly what audio and video programming is, or where journalism goes.

For all the good and bad I got out of that program, I'm still grateful for what it was. I feel hopeful about the future of academics in the field with his kind of big picture thinking.


Little Puzzoni is a boy

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 19, 2009, 12:39 PM | comments: 3

The results are in... and it's definitely a boy. If you look at the picture below, you probably don't need to be an ultrasound tech to figure this one out. :)

Am I disappointed it's a boy? Yeah, I'm not going to pretend that I'm not. With all of our "baby shopping" over the last two years, we've always gravitated toward girls, and 90% of my exposure to kids has been with girls because of coaching. I'll need some time to adjust how I see the future. It's not really possible to think of your future parenthood in gender neutral terms.

I'm certainly not angry or anything though. The thing I had more anxiety about was just whether or not the baby was healthy. All of his parts look right, and he doesn't have any of the markers that would imply birth defects and what not. We also found out the last blood tests put the odds of specific things way in to remote territory. I think the Downs Syndrome odds were like 1 in 5,100 or something now, which is a far cry from where you start out with a mom giving birth at 40. As long as Diana's cervix and other parts continue to do their job, everything is in pretty good order.

I'll still feel a lot more relaxed once the baby is born. As I've said a hundred times, it's not the child raising that scares me, it's the development and delivery.


Kick!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 18, 2009, 7:49 PM | comments: 0

The baby was doing step aerobics or something, and I felt it kicking. That was completely freaky! As I've said, having a baby doesn't seem like that big of a deal to me, but this developing in the womb thing continuously freaks me out.


Constant baby stimulation

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 18, 2009, 12:47 AM | comments: 2

Sherry took us out to Babies-R-Us today to get us signed up for a last minute baby shower. She had some good tips, although I honestly don't have an opinion about most things because, well, I don't have a baby. :)

In any case, there's some neat stuff out there for babies. I also noticed that there is way too much stuff designed to continuously stimulate kids. I mean, vibrating seats? For real? Why does a kid need constant stimulation?

It reminds me of one of the times we went for an ultrasound. The family's older kid, 2 I'd guess, had a DVD player in his stroller. No joke. When the kid got bored with that, the father busted out his iPhone and showed him video on that. Does anyone read with their kid or do something that engages them instead of distracts them?

We were talking about how we never really noticed this stuff before, until we started thinking about making our own baby. Yes, it's easy to judge when you haven't been there, but we're still in agreement that we'll do our best not to foster this kind of stimulation addiction where the kid can never be left to his or her own devices.


Moving estimates, more purging

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 16, 2009, 5:41 PM | comments: 0

The moving company sent out a rep to guesstimate how much crap we had, and thinks our packing will take two guys around 7 hours or so. When I was actually showing him around, it seems like we have a lot less stuff than I thought. They're estimating one week of transit time for all of our loot.

The cars will take two weeks. We'll take about four days in our rental. I'm starting to accept that there's probably no way around temporary housing unless we can actually sign a lease the weekend we get there and make sure the movers can redirect there. My emotional side wants to find our landing place and start settling in, but rationally, if the temporary housing is paid for, we should be using it.

I hit the crawl space today, and found some boxes orphaned from actual products. For the most part though, anything electronic has a corresponding box to it, which I'm now thankful for. I have a 17" LCD monitor to give to some family member, a mini-DV camcorder and yet another small TV for the Salvation Army. There's also a Nikon film scanner I need to find a home for. It uses an old SCSI interface, but otherwise looks similar to the models sold today. Not sure what to do with it.

We're getting lighter!


No music makes me dumb

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 16, 2009, 2:49 PM | comments: 0

I haven't really listened to any music the last few days. With Diana working from home and not really driving anywhere, I just didn't really think to listen to anything.

I'm convinced that makes me dumb. Music has a certain therapeutic or stimulating effect on me that I can't exactly describe. I find it easier to engage in things, especially more intellectually driven things like writing or coding, when I've got tunes.

Right now, old Nine Inch Nails tunes (live album, And All That Could Have Been) seem to give me the mood adjustment I was looking for. That Trent Reznor is one moody dark bastard. Why does that make me happy?

By the way, I'm really digging the new Venus Hum album, Mechanics and Mathematics. Good stuff there.


Bored bored bored (making travel plans)

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 15, 2009, 5:25 PM | comments: 0

Today has been ridiculous. As the house becomes more turned upside down and abnormal, I'm more inclined to want to just be on my way. It's almost like I wish I could do some of the driving to get it out of the way, though it obviously doesn't work that way.

Today I talked to the movers and the car shippers. Our stuff will take about a week or so, while our cars will take two weeks. The question becomes, can we secure a place the day after we arrive, or will they have to put our stuff in storage? If they have to put us in storage, that's gonna mean up to two weeks before they can schedule the final move, which would be suboptimal. Yeah, they'll have us in temporary housing, but who wants to live out of a few boxes?

We're banking on four days of driving, which is about 10 hours a piece if it were possible to divide it up equally. Given the distribution of civilization, I'm not sure if that'll happen. I'd like to get to Omaha on the first day, which is 12 hours, but it assumes that we leave in the morning of the first day of travel. The biggest variable is still the specifics of when they come to pick up our junk. They'll reimburse as long as we do at least 350 miles per day, but we don't want to take a week either. The fewer days the better.

In an ideal world I think we'd try to do Omaha the first day (12 hours), Rapid City, SD, near Mt. Rushmore the second day (8.5 hours), Missoula, MT on day three (11.5 hours) and finally Seattle the last day (7 hours). It's not even distribution at all, but again, it just depends on where there's enough civilization to find a place to sleep.


Interview to start: Six and a half weeks

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 15, 2009, 1:03 AM | comments: 0

Trying to wrap your head around leaving an area you've been around for 36 years for a destination and job 2,400 miles away is one of the single most bizarre things that I've encountered in my life. The time between my arrival in Seattle to interview at Microsoft (I was in town for just 27 hours) to my start date is going to be about six and a half weeks, or a month and a half. I'm not sure if that's making good time or not, and I'd love to hear stories from other current Microfolk who have relocated. The only unknown variable left is the move scheduling.

We're downsizing a bit, because we simply can't buy a house. The housing market here around Cleveland has been a brutal disaster, and between my wife's unsold house of 18 months, which we'll take a bath on eventually, and my own which may sell quickly but erase most of the equity, this move is very much like starting over. We're not angry or bitter about it, but it isn't the most cheery subject. Lots of nice apartments and townhouses around the Seattle metro, and we look forward to waking up to much better scenery every day.

It's weird how you can end up in a particular place for much longer than you expected. A great many life changes have affected me the last five years or so, which led me to one of the big "I'm a grown up" discoveries: That I can move if I want. Between visiting my new family out in Snoqualmie and frequent trips to Orlando to support my theme park habit, I was done with Midwest winters. Then I lost my job, twice in the span of a year, and I started to realize how awful the job market here was. Duh, good time to move.

I've only had a few other "I'm a grown up" moments. The earliest one was that I could buy a season pass to Cedar Point and go as much as I wanted to. It makes me a little sad to break the streak of 11 straight seasons of passholderness. Another moment was they day I realized I could buy a house to live in. The most recent one was about two years ago, when I had a lot of bonus cash in hand and decided I could buy a completely non-essential expensive item: a hot tub.

But the moving on to a new place and new job bit is the best moment of all for me. I've been a fan (and critic) of Microsoft for a very long time. I got caught up in the excitement of product development when I was writing my book, privy to early builds and roadmaps under NDA, and wondered what it might be like on the inside. Then the Mix conferences (I've been to three of the four) gave me warm fuzzies about how the Server & Tools division as a whole was coming along. Now I get to work with smart people who are very rapidly changing the way the customers of those products are interacting with the company. Very exciting times, indeed.


Furniture adjustments almost there

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 9:58 PM | comments: 0

Today I said goodbye to the black leather furniture. Wow, if that couch could talk. Lots of good memories there. And naps. But it and the tables are gone, being enjoyed in the basement of a family on the far west side. We got a little money for it, about 15% of what it cost nine years ago. It had a good run.

I gotta say, it was weird to see it go, even more so than the pinball machine. Along with the e-mail today from the movers (background check is done) and a date for new employee orientation, it feels more real than ever. I don't think I'll truly get my head around this until I'm somewhere in the mountain time zone.

Still have a few more things to unload with family, and we'll be a lot more slender. The issue isn't one of moving stuff (we don't have to pay for it) as much as we're downsizing to a smaller place.


Start date

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 3:21 PM | comments: 1

It looks like my start date is more or less confirmed for November 16. Four weeks from Monday. That sure makes it feel real. There is so much to do between now and then.

I've got another Realtor® coming tomorrow for a second opinion. A nice family is coming to pick up the living room furniture tonight. Pinball machine is gone. We're trying to talk our OB into buying the hot tub. The movers will be making an appointment soon to survey our remaining stuff. We're pretty sure we'll take I-94 west because of snow in parts of North Dakota and Montana (sorry, Kara).

The wheels are turning.


Dyson bladeless fan

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 3:00 PM | comments: 0

What will this guy think of next?


"I'm not happy with your cervix"

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 13, 2009, 3:50 PM | comments: 0

Those are words you generally don't want to hear from your OB. Diana has been having some bleeding problems, so we went in to see Dr. 'Sox today.

There doesn't appear to be any immediate danger, but if it gets worse, she has to go to the hospital. She's on bed rest the rest of the week. They also drew blood to test for clotting disorders.

We're almost half way, and have a serious ultrasound next week. Crossing our fingers for less drama going forward.


Realtor report, not so great

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 12, 2009, 4:59 PM | comments: 0

So the Realtor®'s that looked at the house and did some market research gave me news which I'm not entirely surprised about, but also not willing to roll over and accept. Given their fees, which are insanely too high, I'm looking at pretty much a break-even situation. Given real fees in line with other agents, and a bit more comparison to properties that I think are more similar, I might be able to eek out $10k.

I'm annoyed with the situation, but there also isn't much I can do about it. To compensate for the crappy situation, I kind of play a time game in my head. If I could get rid of the house today for less than I would like instead of six months from now, there's $8k worth of payments to think about to offset what I didn't get up front. My goal is to bank as much cash as possible to unload Diana's house, which clearly doesn't seem to be going anywhere soon, and paying on hers in the long term doesn't bother me as much.

It still bothers me that the actual sale price may be lower than what I bought it for. Not that my mortgage has ever been a burden financially, but it sure would be nice if I had something to show for it. While it's always the case in the first ten years of a loan, it's like I've pissed away 100 large on property tax and interest. And the worst thing about it is that there isn't enough left over to get in on something else in Seattle while the property there is also cheaper.

At least I know what I'm up against now. Microsoft has a network of real estate people they use, so naturally I'm gonna talk with them. If their rates are lower, that alone is incentive to see what they can do.

What's really broken about the business is that these folks are all little more than marketers. That's a different job from actually selling. They don't get to actually pitch anyone directly and make an emotional appeal, the way evil car salespeople do.


Stuff purging

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 12, 2009, 1:00 PM | comments: 1

Our downsizing operation is going pretty well so far. Pinball machine is gone, and last night we listed the living room furniture on Craigslist, with much interest already. We think family will take the spare vacuum cleaners, one of Diana's chairs and the twin mattress we don't need.

We've also unloaded a ton of clothes. I was surprised to see I still had 38" pants lying around, which have been too big for at least four years (mostly have 32" and 34" these days). I've never been a big clothes person, but I sure have let old stuff sit around.

I started to really dig into the filing cabinet too. Not that it matters how much gets moved, but I had bank statements for my business account going back to 1999 when I started it. Pretty sure I won't need those! I did find one of the deposit notifications from the first half of the wire transfer from the popworld.com sale. I kept that as a reminder of my non-achievement for doing nothing but registering a domain name.

It would be nice to unload my video camera before we go, but I'm less optimistic about that working out. The important thing right now is that it feels like our stuff will fit in a smaller place.


A $45 pepper grinder

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 11, 2009, 9:35 PM | comments: 2

We recently obtained a $45 pepper grinder. Before you assume we're ridiculous people, know that it was obtained with a gift certificate at a Viking store. Given our rich collection of knives and what not, the stuff we could buy usefully was limited, and not enough for an actual stove or something.

But let me tell you... when you pick that thing up, you know you've got something awesome in your hands. I'm reminded of the time before I realized that an expensive All-Clad frying pan was worth every penny. So goes the noble pepper grinder. I've been through countless others, all crap, breaking, getting jammed or otherwise failing its basic task. Not so with this monster.

It has a spring loaded dial that grinds in fine, medium and coarse, and the actual grinder parts appear to be ceramic or something. It doesn't get jammed. It's worth every penny that we didn't spend, but now that I know better, I'd be willing to spend the same amount of my own cash. Totally worth it.


The long-range impact of choices

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 11, 2009, 8:46 PM | comments: 1

We were watching Fringe yesterday, where Olivia finally remembers her interaction with Mr. Spock, I mean, William Bell. She's in an alternate universe, inside the World Trade Center. He mentions that the buildings are still standing because of a number of different choices made. (Side note: We found a bunch of match boxes from Windows On The World at Diana's house today, which is a weird coincidence. She worked in the south tower for a few weeks when she lived in NYC.)

I got to thinking about that notion of where our choices take us while getting dressed this morning. I told Diana that it's strange how the slightest little thing could cause our life to be radically different. For example, why did I end up going to college and my brother became a heroin addict? When I think about my reason for going to college, it was somewhat rooted in my desire to live out these broadcast fantasies I had. Sure there was the junior high DJ fantasy, but there was also an optional ninth grade field trip in my Cleveland high school that landed us at Kent State, where we toured their TV station. I eventually visited Ashland as well and I was sold on doing that for a living.

If I didn't have that chance to see Kent, would I have taken a radically different path? Would I have endeavored to work for the city's cable TV operation?

On the surface, one might conclude that these decisions and events create a make-or-break situation, but ultimately, we still have options later on. I believe we still have to fail at a lot of things, or have the balls to simply change and do other things. My only real radical life changes have been the decision to leave the broadcast stuff for the Internet, and agreeing to get a divorce and then marry again. Most of my actions are more like inaction, or maintaining the status quo.

So there's some truth to the idea that decisions can have radical impact on your life, but I doubt very many of them could be considered permanent. I'm moving to Seattle now, and that may be my most radical change to date, but I think just making that decision illustrates how empowered you are to alter your course.

Is it obvious that I've been in a rather reflective mood lately? Get used to it... I suspect it'll be that way until my zip code starts with 98...


HVX200 for sale

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 11, 2009, 7:39 PM | comments: 0

I think I'm going to sell my HVX200 video camera. Asking price is $4,750 for the camera and all of this stuff:

  • Panasonic AG-HX200, hour meter is at 82, and I'm sure half of that is sitting on my desk
  • Extra battery
  • 2x 4gig P2 cards
  • 32gig P2 card (this is worth over $1k now, only about a half-dozen uses)
  • All original packaging
  • A UV filter on the lens
  • A handful of Sony mini-DV tapes (for SD video)
  • A sweet Porta-Brace bag (this one, only with red instead of blue)
  • A Duel-Adapter (ExpressCard to PC Card to read P2 on laptops)
  • All of the various cables, manuals and such
  • The HVX Book by Barry Green

It isn't that critical that I sell it, so I really won't let it go for less. Those who know me also know how careful I am with my gear, so I can assure you it's in excellent condition.

If you're interested, drop me a line, jeff at popw dot com.


Reasons and fate

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 10, 2009, 11:42 PM | comments: 0

While it makes for interesting TV from time to time (FlashForward, Fringe), I tend to reject notions of fate. And ever since this wonderful development has occurred regarding my employment and relocation, I've been hearing a lot about what "happens for a reason."

Things do happen for a reason, but not in the mystical sense. I was not working for all of those months because the market here sucks and I didn't start to really look elsewhere until relatively recently. That's the reason my lack of work happened. And I'm moving and joining an exciting company because I applied, and they thought I was a good fit for what they wanted. It wasn't because of karma or some mysterious grand plan.

I respect the need for faith and hope, and I need those things too. I guess the problem is that sometimes when I hear people say, "Everything happens for a reason," it's often in the context that they, or I, can't control my own fate. That's too troubling a concept for me to deal with. I like to think that only I can truly be responsible for my success and failure. Are there circumstances that contribute to a situation? Yes, and those situations are also the result of decisions people make, not fate.

When things do go well, there's certainly reason to celebrate though. With positive direction comes a lot of hope. These are positive times!


My miserable baby mama

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 10, 2009, 10:59 PM | comments: 0

Long before I ever met Diana, she was diagnosed with pretty much being allergic to everything. Except for a few seasonally bad days, she largely keeps it in check with a combination of Zyrtec and a prescription nasal spray.

Of course, when you're pregnant, you can't be on all kinds of drugs. She was able to keep the Zyrtec, but the spray is out (I believe it has a steroid component). So for the last week or so, whatever is out in the air has been really kicking her ass, and she's miserable. She can't breath half the time and her sneezing fits last an hour.

And that all feels great I'm sure as her belly keeps getting bigger. The pregnancy is probably the only thing that doesn't make her miserable. It sucks because there isn't anything I can do.


The replacements of House

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 10, 2009, 2:38 AM | comments: 0

We got caught up on House tonight, and we were wondering if they were going to phase out Thirteen/Remy soon. Of the "replacements," they killed off Amber the season before last, Kutner killed himself to join the Obama administration, Taub quit because House wasn't around, and now Thirteen was canned because Foreman is playing the role of uber-dumbass this season.

We decided they can't ditch Thirteen, who was exceptionally pretty not wearing a lab coat, until Jennifer Morrison (Cameron) goes back to brunette. Seriously, some otherwise attractive people just shouldn't be blonde.


New Jem video

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 9, 2009, 4:28 PM | comments: 0

This one (in HD) is for "I Want You To..."

I can't figure out what it's about. Is it about two people who need to get out and hook up, or two people who hooked up and broke up? At least they translate the Spanish at the beginning, which Diana thought was two Korean women chatting. :)


Whip It was really good, surprisingly

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 9, 2009, 3:59 PM | comments: 0

Went to see Whip It yesterday with low expectations. There are a bunch of people in the movie I like, and freaky hot chicks on skates wouldn't be a total waste of time ("You can never have too much eyeliner," as they say in the film), so I figured it was worth a shot. I felt like there were a hundred things that could've gone horribly wrong.

First off, the subject matter is already over the top, so it could've been treated with a fringe edge that would turn most people off. Drew Barrymore has never directed a feature before. Ellen Page, charming as she was in Juno, is still unproven. The movie could have sucked, but it didn't.

First off, you'll recognize pretty much everyone in it, and it's a great ensemble. Jimmy Falon plays the track announcer, and he's pretty good at it. The skaters include Kristen Wiig as the aunt/alternate mother figure, and again shows that she can play more than just slightly retarded characters. Zoe Bell, my favorite actress/stuntwoman is in it, sexy-ugly as always. The coach is another Wilson brother I didn't know about (and better than the more well known bros). Juliette Lewis finally looks and plays someone her age, which is to say she's hideous. Barrymore and Eve are also skaters (Eve could so be Reese Witherspoon's sister if she weren't obviously a different race). Even one of the lesser skater characters I recognized as the sister from Fringe. Just a ton of great working talent here.

And the good news is that Ellen Page is again charming without rehashing the Juno role. She's the center of a story that fills all the genres we like seeing: Sports movie, buddy flick, coming of age story, minor romance, parent-child conflict... it has it all. She's flanked by a best friend (apparently from the TV show Arrested Development) and a neurotic mom (Marcia Gay Harden) who push and pull her with great performances.

I'll admit that there probably isn't much you haven't seen before, and it really plays out as a strong sports movie, but it's the most engaged I've been in a movie in awhile. Page's greatest asset is that every little thing she does seems like a completely sincere and real response to the story. You want her to be happy, successful and not a douchebag on every page (no pun intended). I have to wonder how much of that is Barrymore, who may not have directed before, but she's been in so many movies that by now she has to have a pretty good idea about how to make one.

Very fun movie. Lots of people you'll like. Go see it.


Moving anxiety follow up

posted by Jeff | Friday, October 9, 2009, 12:20 AM | comments: 0

The more we've looked into it, the more I think we've talked ourselves into driving the trip to Seattle with the cats. The bottom line is that the process to get the cats on planes (with vet certifications, vaccinations, carriers, tags they'll protest, pressure changes, being handled as cargo, etc.) is awful and expensive. Driving them will be somewhat less awful, still expensive, but lower risk. Assuming that they'll ship both of our cars, and still pay hotels for driving (the agreement seems to read that way), we'll go that route in a one-way rental. It won't be cheap, but I don't think we have a lot of options. I really worry about the fur balls.

The apartment seeking bit I actually feel a lot better about. We called Joe to get an idea of what traffic was like around Redmond, and it seems like we'll be in good shape almost anywhere on the east side of Lake Washington, and where we can avoid having to take the 405 in the commute. It really opens up places along I-90 as well.

We want to be practical, but it's also hard not to want a reasonable amount of space. Somehow we need to balance the two of them. The less the apartment costs, the less time we have to wait to bank cash for an actual house.

So far we've found about a dozen places to look a little deeper into, and rank and sort. There are still a few more towns we need to systematically search through. I feel like we've at least got a handle on it though, and I'm crossing my fingers that places we like have units available.

I'm a little less anxious now after breaking everything down into smaller problems, you know, like programmers do. :) Of course, the recruiter and the re-lo person are both out tomorrow, so I'll have to let my questions stew over the weekend. It looks like the most realistic start date for me now is 11/16, a lot further out than I would like.

Stay tuned for stuff we want to sell and give away!


Here comes the moving anxiety

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 8, 2009, 5:14 PM | comments: 1

I got the initial contact and information from the relocation people today, which surprised me because they originally said that wouldn't come until the background check was done (not that I'm worried that the speeding ticket I had three years ago would disqualify me). There are really two things that stress me out.

The first is the cats. While it's awesome that the company will pick up the cost of their flights, I'm not even remotely comfortable with them having to endure eight hours of travel time with layovers and two planes and baggage handlers. I particularly worry about what that would do to Cosmo and Gideon. Call that silly, but you know, they're like my kids.

Stephanie suggested to me we drive it. As she points out, we don't have to go through Iowa (as she did to Colorado), and there's a great deal of country to see on the way. She thinks it would be neat for me and Diana to see states we might never see otherwise. She has a good point about that. If we did that, I think we'd let them ship the cars and get an SUV or minivan or something to rent on our dime. If I'm reading things right, the company will still get the hotels.

It looks like a three day drive if we're being reasonable. One day to Minneapolis, then to Billings, Montana (passing through Fargo!), and finally to Seattle. I tell myself that wouldn't be horrible, but I do wonder how boring day 2 might be. That's 12 hours a day for three days. If we switch it up, how bad could it be?

The other thing that stresses me is finding a place to land. I feel like I've got some solid ground work laid-out about the areas that would be ideal, and I've been surfing for specific properties, but I just want to see some in real life and reach a decision. The idea of trying to start work while looking some more doesn't sit well with me at all, even though Diana will have the time to lay some of that ground work. That, and temporary housing is just, well, temporary. A part of me wants to go out ahead of time and get looking.


No Cedar Point season pass

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 11:38 PM | comments: 0

In reading one of the threads on PointBuzz, I realized that next year will mark the end of my continuous string of season passes to Cedar Point. I've had them 11 straight seasons. I watched four roller coasters grow up and a boat load of other changes.

This doesn't mean I won't visit next year. At the very least, I suspect, we'll come in for BooBuzz. Even if we were still in Cleveland, with the baby you can pretty much rule out the spring, and I've never been a July and August visitor anyway. We hope to visit Carowinds and maybe Dominion, so I think a pass might still happen anyway, but not until we have a better picture of post-baby-and-new-job travel potential.

Of course, I'm not going to abandon PointBuzz or anything. That site has been with me for those eleven years! If anything, I think that the new job will give me a bigger toolbox of skills from which to make the site better. Since I tend to be the code monkey and Walt tends to be the content guy (though I'll miss doing video stuff), it's probably less critical that I be geographically close to the park.

These last few weeks, we'll definitely make it a point to visit as much as possible. Last weekend made me think a lot about the good old days up there, and the good new days that have come sense. My best man works there, I've been visiting since at least 1976 and countless friendships are rooted in the park. It has been a significant part of my life for a very long time. It'll be very hard for May to come and not be there opening day.


I feel like my dietary needs are a pain in the ass to others

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 11:13 PM | comments: 0

I don't eat red meat. It's not a political choice (not heavily, anyway) as much as I just decided to cut it out of my diet almost five years ago.

This means that I have to look out for what's on the menu at restaurants. And unfortunately, when people have me over for dinner, they probably don't know ahead of time, creating awkward situations for everyone. I don't want to be a picky douchebag, and I don't want them to feel like the need to make special accommodations.

I know that in moderation beef isn't bad, but when I stopped and looked at where the cholesterol came from in my diet, it was almost entirely beef. So I stopped eating it. Poultry and the occasional soy-substitute product generally meet my protein needs. Later, I also learned more about how inefficient beef production is, and the environmental impact. I don't care that people eat cows and swine, because we are omnivores and top the food chain. I think our culture eats way too much of it though.


GPS amusement

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 12:53 AM | comments: 2

Diana suggested some time ago that if we ever moved to a new city, she needed a GPS. So last weekend, we went to Best Buy to burn the gift cards we got through a promotion with the furniture store when we bought our mattress.

After messing with them, I think it was clear up front that the Garmin UI was hands down better than the others. The Tom Tom models had too many menus and seemed less logical. We settled on a model that had the nice big wide screen and sucked in traffic data. Opted to skip the Bluetooth model, as it probably wouldn't get that much use.

So far, I've made simple trips to the mall and the local BWW. The British guy voice amuses me. I like that it finds stuff near you, though I've not seen yet how it handles that when gas or food is just a side trip to your real destination. Funny how it gets certain pronunciation wrong, through no fault of its own. It called Medina "mih'-di-nuh" instead of the local "muh-die'-nuh" or the European "muh-dee'-nuh." It gets Beaumont right.


So long, Jurassic Park

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 12:15 AM | comments: 0

Wow, I can't believe how sad selling the JP pinball makes me. I think I've had it for about nine years now. I haven't played it as much in recent years, but it literally is like a piece of furniture, and it was the focus of countless parties, sleep-overs, volleyball gatherings and wrist cramping nights.

When Stephanie and I started dating early in my senior year (fall, '94), we encountered one of these for sale at the mall in Mansfield. I flirted with the completely irresponsible idea of buying it on credit, for I think $1,800 at the time. I think my entire credit limit was only $2k to begin with. Banks didn't give a lot of credit to college students in those days. Fortunately, I talked myself out of it, but I always said that if we grew up and lived together, we'd get one.

So 2000 rolls around, I make a cool $100k selling popworld.com to the Brits, and I have the cash to buy it outright. So I did, much to the dismay of others in my apartment building. Also to the dismay of the people who helped me move into this house in 2001. In the house, we also got the three movie posters framed and mounted to theme the room with the red furniture we had at the time. It just didn't match my newer brown couch nearly as well.

What made it such a great machine was the simplicity of the mini-goals and the attainability of the bigger goals. It was easy to learn how to get all six balls going, even if you were drunk (as evidenced by various attendees to various parties). To this day, I think it's one of the most fun machines I've ever played. And of course, people loved to see the T-rex eat the ball.

In the bigger sense, I'm amazed at just what a focal point a pinball machine is in social situations. I noticed in particular that since moving my office downstairs and shoving it behind my desk, where people can't stand on the sides, it got less use. At parties, even small gatherings of a half-dozen people, it would be played almost continuously. Come to think of it, the machine may have even had more exotic use I probably don't want to know about.

Giving it up makes me sad, not so much for the play value, but for all the memories it's associated with. When we get to a point where we're living in a house again, I definitely would like to get another, preferably virgin, out of the box. I love the new Indiana Jones machine, but unfortunately, Stern only makes their machines for about a year before going on to the next one.


New work stalkers

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 9:49 PM | comments: 0

My new boss says folks on the team I'll be working on have been stalking me via my blog. Hello, future co-worker/stalkers! :)

I guess I better self-moderate my quasi-douchebaggery so as not to give a bad first impression.


Thanks to my friends, the movers

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 3:05 AM | comments: 1

This could be one of those nights where I can't turn the brain off, so it's time for more dumping.

I'd like to thank the various friends who have made big moves in the last few years, because it had made me realize how much I needed to do it myself. In no particular order:

  • Stephanie: Cleveland to Boulder
  • Tyler and Beth: Somewhere Illinois to Nashville
  • Kara: East Lansing to Shakopee
  • Shari: Cleveland to Charlotte
  • Allison: Cleveland to Las Vegas
  • Cath: Where hasn't she lived?
  • Sarah: Cleveland to Greensboro (and the world in between)
  • Diana: Toledo, Chicago, UK, NYC, Cleveland... Seattle :)

I'm sure there are others.


So begins the preparation (and waiting)

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 1:28 AM | comments: 0

I can't even tell you how sore my brain is already making lists and trying to get my head around what has to happen. Of course, the real meat of the moving situation remains somewhat of a mystery until the background check is done, which takes a week or two. Once that's done, they'll hook me up with one of their re-lo people and we can figure out the when and how. My longest post-college adult moves have only been two miles. Each. Three times. So I'm totally in the dark about how to move 2,400 miles, and what you have to do with real movers who pack up your shit. I'm glad they have people to figure this stuff out, but I wish I knew more already.

They do put you up in temporary housing and hold your stuff in storage while you find a place to live, but honestly I just assume spend as little time as possible in that situation. Living out of suitcases isn't fun on vacation, let alone in the city you'll call home. Assuming we beat our junk by two or three (or four) days, I wonder if we can nail a place down before then. I'm already filtering the list by looking online.

We'll be apartment dwellers, because whatever equity I squeeze out of my house will finance the loss on Diana's. It sucks to feel like I'm starting over, but life experience has also demonstrated how to not be a moron with money, and I'm sure we'll figure it out and acquire a nice nest in a year or two.

Meanwhile, there are all kinds of things to get rid of. It'd be nice to get some money from them, but truth be told, most of it I don't even care. For example, what do you ask for to sell a leather couch and love seat that's nine years old with some cat scratches? The pinball machine is easy enough, because there are others out there ($2k, if you're interested!). I told the realtors I talked to today that I'm basically looking at bundling all of the appliances, including the lawn mower and the snow blower. I mean, I want this to be a move-in and get started kind of place. Not sure how the hot tub fits into it either.

Oh, one list, mental, not written, is the stuff I'll miss in Washington, most notably the hot tub, Buffalo Wild Wings and an NBA team.

I've got the ball rolling on things I can, but there's a lot of hurry up and wait at this point. Diana is already feeling like we should be doing all kinds of things, but I'm not sure what.

And for those friends who live in the area, we're going to have a massive get together I think. If not massive, at least fun. Probably not at our house though, so maybe Dave & Busters or something. We're still thinking about that one.


The Puzzoni's are moving to The Emerald City

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 5, 2009, 6:15 PM | comments: 2

As many of my friends and stalkers already know, I got a new gig, about 2,400 miles west of here, with a small software company. As such, we'll be moving to some 'burb around Seattle some time next month, likely near or around Redmond, near the mother ship. As I mentioned in my tech blog, this is probably the single best move I could make in my career right now.

And it makes a ton of sense for me personally as well. Ditto for Diana. We're ready to really start something new, with all of the other newness we've been experiencing. The list of reasons to stay in Northeast Ohio is really short. It's time, and perhaps long overdue.

The move doesn't stress me out much, and honestly my biggest concern is unloading my house as quickly as possible. In the mean time, there's some minor work to do around the house, plans to have a party for all of the folks we'll see less frequently, stuff to unload (anyone wanna buy a Jurassic Park pinball machine or a leather couch?) and stuff like that.

Diana quite correctly pointed out that this is the first time she's seen me excited about a job. I think even interviewing out there made me realize just how little there is around here that satisfies my desire to be a part of something cool, interesting and fun. ICOM was kind of that for awhile, but I think even for some of my former co-workers it just hasn't materialized. And working for a company as big as Microsoft, there are always things going on, and the long-term possibilities are virtually endless. Heck, Seattle is the number one city in the country for tech jobs, according to Forbes. Why am I not there already?

Like I said, Diana is pretty excited about it too. She likes it out there, has family and also views it as an opportunity for us to start an us life. Not that we don't like our house, but it still represents a prior part of life that is not us. Lots of good memories here, but it's time to move on.

So there's quite an adventure in our future. Being newlyweds, losing a job, gaining a job, selling houses (hopefully), moving cross-country, conceiving... this is one intense year.


Pregnant lady update

posted by Jeff | Monday, October 5, 2009, 12:40 AM | comments: 0

Not a lot of new things to report lately. Diana's entering 18 weeks. She's already having a lot of discomfort issues when it comes to sleeping or even sitting in the car. Worse, whatever allergen is annoying people right now (it's bothering me too, even with the cool weather), is really working her over and making it impossible for her to breathe. She can't take her "normal" prescription nasal spray, so she's a bit miserable at times. She has scary painful sneezes now and then that she compares to hernia surgery pains. You can see why a C-section is the obvious correct choice.

Her bump growth is starting to ramp up a bit too. For most of the first trimester, I think she was mostly bloated on and off, but now her belly is getting hard and tight. I can't even imagine what that's like.

We've still got two weeks before the next ultrasound, where hopefully we'll see which parts the baby has.


The future

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 4, 2009, 1:36 PM | comments: 0

I can't think of a time in my life ever more filled with hope and endless possibilities than what I have right now. It's completely overwhelming and invigorating. And slightly terrifying.

Movie backlog

posted by Jeff | Sunday, October 4, 2009, 1:53 AM | comments: 0

Stuff I really want to see before it disappears from theaters:

  • The Informant!
  • Zombieland
  • Whip It
  • The Invention of Lying

Cedar Point flashback... like it was 1999

posted by Jeff | Saturday, October 3, 2009, 11:33 PM | comments: 0

So there we were, minding our own business on the midways of Cedar Point on Friday night, when I run into Magnum Dan and Brandon. Neither one visits the park that often. Not a minute later, Pete walks by. It was the weirdest damn thing ever, particularly as I tried to bring Diana up to speed about who these guys were. (Actually she knows Pete, but that is a different story.)

Most people in my closer circle of friends know that we were all a part of a group of friends that spent a lot of time at Cedar Point back in the day. Time has drastically changed that. Dan gave up CP for DMB, Brandon kind of disappeared, and wives, fiancees and girlfriends all became past parts of our lives (and a great deal of therapy has been enjoyed, I came to find out).

I remember talking Brandon in to going to school full time, and pushing Dan to get serious about photography. The women of our lives all became friends, and it was kind of a nice, comfortable vibe we enjoyed. Things have changed so dramatically in the last ten years.

Perhaps a tiny part of me is sad about all of the change, but two things become immediately obvious. The first is that change is inevitable, and it's not going to stop. Look around you, because what you know today won't be here in five years, let alone ten. I feel like such a tool when I didn't believe people who told me that when I was in my 20's. The second thing is that the new adventures you have enrich and your life further. It's like my recent post about relationships; They don't replace one another, they just collectively add on to your story.

The old CP group sure did disperse. A lot of annoying people from that era still hang out there, but these two cats moved on. Pete's still around, though he's also got a family now. Tim joined the "other side" and now works there of course. Stephanie is in Colorado. And now, as it turns out, the new adventures that I've had with Diana there will become far less frequent.

Still, it was fun to bullshit about the old days, and share a lot of stories with Diana that she had not heard. Good times, indeed!


Where is the Fall Affair video shot at Holiday World?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 1, 2009, 11:27 PM | comments: 0

Well, it's sitting on both of my computers at the moment, unedited. Why, you ask? Because Snow Leopard seems to have borken the aging version of Final Cut Studio I have. Specifically, it has broken the P2 importing function. I've not found any resolution on it.

I also discovered that the Duel Adapter I have to read P2 cards directly via the ExpressCard slot won't work, and I've read stuff on various video sites that say it won't work ever, blaming the manufacturer for being dicks and in turn blaming Apple.

Anyway, I can't help but wonder if I shouldn't just break down and buy the newer version of Final Cut Studio, in part because then I can also edit the AVC stuff my consumer camcorder makes, get the Color app, and the newer version of Compressor, which has enough tweaks to make desire it. It's just not a particularly good time to buy it.

I'm gonna give editing it a shot in Premier Pro, which I've used never. At the very least, the CS3 version does a nice job importing P2 without transcoding, which is awesome.


More details about my day in Redmond

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 1, 2009, 6:46 PM | comments: 2

I'm finally somewhat alert today after a five-hour nap. I don't sleep well on planes, and when I finally started to doze off during Night At The Museum 2, we hit some ridiculous turbulence for an hour. I'm a pretty mellow flier, but this was disturbing. After three hours in Detroit, I was in the air for 25 minutes more before landing in Cleveland and passing out. I find it easy to travel west, but going back east is always a struggle for me, whether it's from Hawaii, Las Vegas or Seattle.

In any case, I got up at 6 a.m. yesterday, since I was still pretty firmly on Eastern Time. Enjoyed a delicious breakfast buffet at the Hilton Bellevue, where Microsoft puts up recruits. I stayed there last time as well. It's about a 10 minute drive to the main campus from there, with traffic. It's a slightly aging hotel but it's well kept, and the rooms are giant. Very comfortable.

My interviews were in buildings 5 and 6, a few blocks east from 42, where I was last year. There's a new garage next door, along with the new 37. Building numbers there are odd. Even though 37 is new, there are buildings with higher numbers, and there is no 7. Apparently that's a hazing ritual, sending new people to building 7.

One other aside, it seems like there's some effort to preserve trees when they build stuff in the Northwest. The MS campus is very green, but so were all of the surrounding areas in Redmond and Bellevue. I like that.

Anyway, my first interview was with one of the guys I did the first phone screen with. We talked mostly about technical stuff around testing, refactoring and some architecture. My second one was along those lines as well. Did a bit of white boarding in both cases. For the most part I felt like I was doing well, although my SQL was a little rusty. At one point, I felt like one of the things I was tasked with was not an ideal architectural decision, and said so. I wasn't sure if I should, because I guess it was based on something existing.

The third interview was with a developer lead. He explained really small developer teams don't have managers or PM's, so they designate someone as a lead. The grill cook in the cafeteria took it upon himself to grill some chicken with particularly hot rubs, not so much because I asked, but because I asked if it was "really spicy." I was nearly crying as we were talking because of the heat. It was kind of funny to me. In any case, we talked about process and playing nice with others, among other things.

Usually they set up a few interviews in the morning, and leave the afternoon open ended. They say it's because they have to firm up further appointments, but really it's because they don't commit unless your first interviews go well. Yeah, last time I was there, I didn't have any afternoon interviews.

After lunch, I met with both the hiring manager and his boss, who was more of a director-level person. Again, these were more personality driven interviews about me and why Microsoft and stuff along those lines. The senior guy was really pitching his group, which seemed unusual to me, and left me feeling optimistic that they were serious about me.

So again, I'm left feeling optimistic, but I can't really know anything for sure until they get back to me. It would obviously be very difficult to not get it, after meeting likable people and enjoying time in town. There are a lot of smart people there, and we simply don't have opportunities like that here in Cleveland.

Crossing everything I can...


The day in Redmond

posted by Jeff | Thursday, October 1, 2009, 2:15 AM | comments: 2

I'm completely fried, about to board for the Motor City on a red-eye. Five interviews in six hours, and I generally think they went pretty well. Met with people straight up to the senior group PM/director type. Everyone was awesome to talk to.

The recruiter told me yesterday that they wanted to make a decision this week. Yikes. Could be a long two days.

This concludes 28 hours in Seattle...