Archive: December, 2009

More attractive people

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 31, 2009, 8:33 PM | comments: 0

We went out for dinner tonight at a slightly more expensive joint on the east side (yeah, east side, and I'm going to write about the bizarre "Seattle versus" thing around here at some point soon) overlooking Lake Washington called BluWater Bistro. It was fairly yummy. Diana had surf-n-turf, which she said was very good (pretty outstanding presentation, too). I had surprisingly good chicken parmesan. Pretty basic dishes, but prepared really well. The dessert was this crazy delicious "Toll House Magic," some cookie dough but in a cast iron skillet and baked, then served with ice cream on top. Best dessert idea ever, in the history of man.

In any case, it being New Year's Eve, lots of people were trickling in all dressed up for the evening. Some slightly slutty outfits, sure, but you know, some days I think that's OK. We were looking around as the tables around us filled, and we seem to have noticed that people out here, in a general sense, are more attractive. It's hard to qualify exactly what that means. On one hand, it's often little variations like clothes or whatever, and sometimes it's hair choices. For example, one of the waitresses had kind of standard blonde curly hair, but the under-parts were auburn colored. Sometimes you might see a dude who fancies himself as a musician with integrity, but even with the clothes to match there's something neat and orderly about the look. Like I said, it's hard to qualify.

I think a lot of it comes in the diversity of people too. There's a lot of Indian and Asian culture influence in terms of fashion and style. Lots of piercings and tattoos too, but not in the shitty Pittsburgh prison tattoo sense, but rather the paid a lot for a good idea genre. Even grandmothers have nose rings out here, and I mean rings, not tiny little screws.

Some of it may have to do with all of the money here. Seriously, I've never seen so many nice cars as a percentage of those on the road (which is good because who's gonna fuck with my crappy six-year-old Corolla in a parking lot full of Mercedes and BMW's?). I know money doesn't directly make people happy, but it clearly doesn't hurt. I haven't encountered a ton of people who are dicks about it either, perhaps because it's more common. If you're wealthy in Cleveland, everyone around you is poor. :)

I feel more attractive too. I think that has to do with the lack of snow and straight weeks of gray sky. Your psychological state definitely has a lot to do with how you look and feel.

Decade retrospective

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 11:30 PM | comments: 1

Gonch done said:

With the 00’s coming to an end, you know damn well everybody will have a list or a retrospective or just some thoughts on the past decade.

Yeah, well not me. While this year certainly represents a transitional time between eras of my life, the decade as a whole (which doesn't end until next year anyway) doesn't fit conveniently to personal events.

And I'm not really sure if it does culturally either, though one could certainly say it was the years that the Internet came out of the lab and terrorism became the new cold war. But even those were things that were pretty much in full-swing in the first few years.

I'll let others be pundits on that. I'm just gonna write about me and 2009.

More on video and a real post-mortem on shooting with the 7D

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 9:58 PM | comments: 0

Last night I did my first real attempt at color grading and fixing stuff as shot by the Canon 7D in a "flat" color and adjustment profile. (This video shows how to do it, and why you should.) The results, which I wouldn't say I'm proud of, are embedded below. For everything that was wrong with what I shot, there were certainly lessons learned.

First, with regard to image quality, I'm fairly blown away. The amount of detail being captured is pretty stunning overall, and with the high video bit rate around 46 mbits for 1080p24, H.264 is surprisingly gentle. There really is a lot to work with there.

I did learn that there are some issues in certain circumstances though. The stuff I shot of the Christmas light show looks a little strange because the resolution falls apart with a bunch of tiny lights. This is apparently because the camera does not take the full 18 million pixels of the image and resize it on the fly (which probably makes sense given the computation that would be required), but rather samples a few lines here and there. So when you freehand the camera shooting those lights, they tend to wander between the lines, causing them flicker strangely.

Exposure is naturally the most challenging thing about using the camera for video, and because you want to get it right, you pretty much go full manual. The camera has three presets on the mode dial, which is awesome because they literally record the entire state of the camera, including the mode. I have all three set to manual, starting at 1/50th (because it's close to the 180-degree 1/48th of film cameras), f/4 (wide open on the 24-105 f/4L IS), flat color and processing settings. The only difference is that I have them set to do ISO 400, 800 and auto.

Those are not the settings I had while running around Disney World though. I was always eyeballing it and adjusting the ISO on the fly. Because I'm used to traditional video cameras where the iris is adjusting constantly (since you could care less about depth of field), this didn't work out at all. I'd go from one thing to another and get blown out highlights, especially the sky. What I am trained to see is a zebra pattern in the viewfinder for overexposure, but Canon hasn't implemented this in the DSLR's with video.

Auto ISO, when I did try it, seemed to work pretty well outside. In bright sun, however, if I want to be using that wide-open aperture, I'll need a neutral density filter for sure. Naturally if I'm shooting locked down and staged things (i.e., a movie), I can stick to manual. I used the 800 in the dark situations, and I got mixed results. I think it's usable enough that it doesn't look any worse than a lot of film shot in dark situations, but obviously if you can control the light, that's better. You can't use auto in dark situations because if it goes up to higher ISO's it's too noisy to use.

There were a few situations where the camera's auto white balancing just shot the weirdest shit. For example, the skin tone of the kid using the "Kimmunicator" in the Japan store was bright orange and it all looked horrible. While it isn't great (because coloring is still new to me), it does at least resemble something approaching real life. And the stuff for Candlelight Processional was really, really bad because of the theatrical lighting. Don't even get me started about the pink lighting in Restaurant Marrakesh.

I got some stuff exposed that I was really happy with too. The explosion finale from the stunt driving show is just awesome. I also like the look of the shot of Off Kilter playing. The bass player is just out of focus and the bagpiper really pops in the scene. These happy accidents make me see the potential, and with practice I suspect it'll get better.

Holding an SLR out in front of you with a heavy lens sucks. There's not much else to say about it. If my 24-105 didn't have the image stabilization, everything I shot would've been a disaster. I tried the 50mm f/1.4 at Cedar Point and most of it was terrible. A shoulder rig and loupe for the LCD to make a viewfinder is something I'll need if I'm serious. The upside is that I can easily get a matte box to use with it too, and mount virtually anything else to it. The rig I really like also has a follow focus, which is yet one less thing I'd need for movie shooting.

The audio is pretty bad. That's not really a slam on the camera, because the microphones are really for decoration on virtually every camera, including consumer camcorders. I don't understand why it's such an afterthought. The plan is to get one of the little Beachtek boxes to slap on/under/near it so I can use my baby shotgun, which I've absolutely loved on the HVX200.

So it's clear that I need more practice and some additional gear if I intend to get serious about making really sweet non-still stuff with the 7D. I'd love to make more use of the 50mm, but without some shoulder stabilization and a follow focus it would be extraordinarily hard. Regardless, I'm starting to "get" the camera when it comes to video. Watching Bloom's stuff, I have something to shoot for.

Real estate update (downdate?)

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 7:27 PM | comments: 1

After the $300 repair to my old house for the siding that came down (or at least, it should be repaired by now), it's not really getting any action. At the advice of the Realtor, I think we're going to drop the price. I don't want to, but every month it sits I'm pissing away money anyway. It just comes down to pissing it away all at once or gradually.

Right now, strictly on a pricing basis, it'll be listed at $5k less than I bought it. By the time the net sheet lands on my lap (assuming we can get our target), on a strictly down payment and shortfall cash basis I will have lost something in the neighborhood of $25k. That doesn't count the money spent on interest or principle of the mortgage, taxes or the closing costs from the original loan. It probably doesn't help that I had to refinance and lose equity in the divorce, but honestly that was more of a timing thing than anything else. You just think that after nine years you'd have something to show for it all.

But whatever, it was still worth it. I had too many good times there to count. I don't miss Cleveland, but I do miss that house.

Meanwhile, apartment life is OK at the moment. It's just big enough, and I think we've managed to make it work. Well, mostly Diana has, as she's the master organizer and planner. I would've liked to have been on the other side of the building, because we don't get a ton of sun this time of year, and we're already on the back side of a mini-mountain. I hate the refrigerator and the parking situation. The cable company really sucks. But I do love that I've settled into a nice little office space in the corner, with my Ikea desk and bookshelf.

I see houses I really like but could never buy all of the time when I drive to work. Those on the lake side of the drive (Lake Sammamish) are $3 million or more, while those on the other side of the road are a more "reasonable" $600k or so. I don't know that I could ever justify spending that much on a house and being "house poor." There are a great many houses a little further out in various directions that are sub-$400k, and about the size of my old house, which is probably the range we'll eventually shoot for. Stuff closer to work, and especially in Redmond, is ridiculously priced, and it's all ugly 70's houses.

But of course, it's a race against the clock. Who knows how long stuff will stay "cheap" around here (by Seattle standards, anyway). When I first looked into cost of living out here, it was clear that housing was dramatically more (offset slightly by cheap/less needed energy), but the data on salaries all seemed to match up. I just don't have the advantage of having lived here for years to bank the higher salaries.

So I'm trying to stay positive that eventually we'll work out the living situation. I actually like the location we're in for its proximity to work and basic stuff like groceries and cheap restaurants. (Some people have a habit of making snide remarks about the town I live in, and I'm not entirely sure what that's about.) The apartment is very adequate, it's just hard to think of it as a home when you know you won't be in it for more than a couple of years.

Baby update

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 29, 2009, 6:38 PM | comments: 0

Diana had an ultrasound today, first one since August or something like that. The doctor didn't expect to need another one, but Diana has been having some minor issues again, so she wants to see what's going on at the other side of the cervix, particularly where the placenta is. The baby seems to be all normal but we still don't know why every OB "doesn't like her cervix." The good news is that further testing shows she doesn't have gestational diabetes.

Little Puzzoni is apparently a little bigger than average, and has some hair already. In one of the shots he has his leg up over his head, stretched out. We kinda saw his face but given the narrow slice at that angle, the shot we got was without a nose, so he looks like an alien. The profile assures us that he does in fact have a nose. :) Heartbeat, blood flow, fluid around him, etc., all look normal.

We'll all get to meet him in a little over two months. No name yet. I'm still pulling for Javier.

Video: The Move (and other thoughts on video)

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 27, 2009, 9:54 PM | comments: 1

I finally cut some of that video from our move. It's a whole lot of cats being annoying and/or sleeping, but there's a fun moment with us at Rushmore. As much as I wasn't looking forward to that trip, I'm glad we took it, and that I drove the entire way.

I've been recording most of the stuff on the 7D in the flat color profile I downloaded, since the popular opinion is that this preserves as much dynamic range as possible to allow for color grading later. I've also found that shooting at ISO 400 or 800 is about as far as you can go and still maintain reasonable noise. That said, I hope to re-cut the stuff I shot at Cedar Point (that wasn't color graded at all) and then the stuff from Disney World.

Coloring video, or at least video intended to look like film, is new to me. I've watched some excellent tutorials by Stu Maschwitz, one of the founders of The Orphanage and origin of the Magic Bullet software. It definitely takes some practice and messing around, which is all the more reason I'd like to get out and shoot more stuff. I'd really like to complete the rig with a shoulder mount and place to put my good microphone though. The handheld look is not so great, actually.

I'm putting up my HVX200 on craigslist. We'll see if I can unload it to finance my accessorizing.

Here's that video from our cross-country drive (link):

Up In The Air is amazing

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 27, 2009, 6:40 PM | comments: 0

Naturally my expectations were very high for another Jason Reitman movie, after Thank You For Smoking and especially Juno. And Clooney rarely makes a shitty movie, and for that reason I'm a little gay for him. Reitman cowrote this one too (as he did in Smoking). It totally delivered.

Imagine two opposites: A middle-aged guy who lives nowhere because of his job and isn't attached to anything or anyone, and a young barely out of college girl who moved for a boy and had her life figured out and on a schedule, only to find that it was all bullshit. Now make it some kind of twisted buddy movie almost. That's Up In The Air.

Clooney's character Ryan makes the case that physical stuff and relationships do little more than weigh you down and keep you from moving, and non-movement isn't living. His goal is to rack up 10 million airline miles. Understated meltdown occurs when he decides he wants some of that baggage after all. Meanwhile, young Natalie moved to Omaha to be with her boyfriend who "had potential," blowing off a better professional life and trying to stick to a schedule that many young women (you know who you are) try to implement. The meet someone, get married, have kids, get a corner office, etc., thing. Meltdown ensues when she realized the dude's only real potential was to advance her schedule.

So what do you take away from this? I didn't see a lot of myself in the movie, since I tend to fall somewhere between total non-commitment and the grand plan and schedule type. Granted, I did have the schedule in mind while in college, but I let it go within a year of graduating. I do, however, know a lot of people in real life who do fit into both of these camps, especially the Natalie character, especially among young women. I also believe that it's just a lesson people have to go through, because telling people that things ultimately will not work out the way you plan is pointless.

It's a great story though, and very funny. I like that outside of Clooney, and a few short scenes with Jason Bateman plus cameo appearances, the movie is mostly a bunch of unknowns. Every one of them was excellent, including the actress who played Natalie. I absolutely loved it. Go see it.

Superhuman tape measure skills

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 27, 2009, 12:33 PM | comments: 0

This is all kinds of awesome...

Non-sustainable start-up jobs

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 27, 2009, 12:27 PM | comments: 3

Calacanis is looking for developers, where he describes how awesome working for him is even though he won't be compensating you for it:

Seriously, I don't care if you wrote the book on Python or MySQL… if you're not a hardworking maniac who is hungry as hell you're of no use to us. We need killers. So, if you're a killer who wants crush it with a bunch of killer who already crushing it send me your resume.
1. We pay about 15% less than the best programming gig, but we give stock options and the ability to learn a lot. If you're driven by cash comp this isn't the gig for you.
2. We have a full-time chef that serves health breakfast, lunch and snacks daily. No one else n Los Angeles does this.
3. We'll clean your car for you and do your laundry–literally. Seriously, we don't want you thinking about doing your laundry, cleaning your car or what you're doing to eat–let alone spending time on that non-sense.

I thought that this dotcom approach to building a new company was history, but I guess not. Basically what he's suggesting is that you work for less than you're worth because he'll give you food and stock in a company that isn't public, and giving up life balance is totally worth it because you get to work for him and that's super awesome.

I don't get it at all. What entices people about this? From the individual end, I've worked in this environment, and it's not sustainable or fun. The start-up I worked like this was awful, and everyone was burned out and unhappy. Not to mention, one hiccup in the business and people start losing their jobs. You can't sustain that.

From the company end, why is it a good idea? There's no end point other than selling the company. Calacanis has done this exactly once and has been riding that wave ever since. Weblogs, Inc. and its properties have been completely turned over and none of the original folks are involved. The people have nothing to do with the company anymore. What is the fate of the people working for Mahalo?

A start-up doesn't have to be that. I've since worked for a few others, and ICOM in particular was one of the most sane environments I ever worked in. The smart people were there because they enjoyed the business, they were taken care of and were able to maintain a real life. The suggestion that you have to be uncomfortable to succeed and innovate is ridiculous. Just look at Google... those folks are made extremely comfortable, and even given a day a week to mess with whatever they want (and that's why we have Gmail).

I just really hate seeing job ads like this. It's one step away from those you see for graphic designers, wanting something for free because it will "add to your portfolio." Maybe that's the case, but it'll also subtract from your soul in the long run.

Photo and video storage issues

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 27, 2009, 12:04 AM | comments: 0

I bought a 1.5 TB USB drive recently, because it was clear that I needed a place to store my growing stash of video and photos. The photos have the triple backup strategy, on my computer, my Time Machine drive and in the cloud on Amazon S3.

Video is more tricky because it's so big. I can't realistically keep all of the original files, so I've resorted to making high quality compressed files for the edits, and those get backed up to the Time Machine, but not S3. If the pricing comes down, I may change that eventually, but at $0.15 per gig per month, I'm not quite ready for that.

Being a digital pack rat is hard. But hey, it's better than dealing with huge volumes of photo albums and video tape, that's for sure!

Holiday malaise

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 26, 2009, 10:53 PM | comments: 1

While everything is peachy at work and I love being there, the moment I leave it I feel like I don't belong anywhere. It's hard to describe. It's even hard for me to understand, since every day I smile about my surroundings. The holidays have strengthened that feeling of malaise, and I'm not sure what causes it or what to do with it. Being in the same place for so long, and going through the ringer in that locale over life's drama, makes being somewhere else even without the drama entirely uncomfortable.

Maybe that's what I'm trying to figure out... how to be comfortable again. People who know me well understand that this huge of a move is not easy for me. I've also been very outwardly focused again. I get to be a provider again for Diana. I'm excited about feeling out what my path will be like at work and contributing quickly. I've been trying to figure out how to step up my charitable donations. I think about what I can do with my time that's positive for others. All the while, I put the thought out of my mind that I need a little attention, because that's perceived as weakness (stupid cultural programming). In social situations I stop myself from trying to interject conversation about me, which is so not my personality as I typically sit in the background and observe. I let go of the programming long enough today to tell Diana that I needed to be the center of attention, if only for a few hours.

The amount of change in my life in the last few months, positive as it has been, has also been staggering in scope, and I'm way out of balance. The year-end reflection is probably not helping. I think what I need to do is reach out a bit to my friends (and there are a lot of them) who have made drastic changes and moves in their lives to get their experiences. I can start with Diana, of course, as she's had more experience with moving than anyone I know. I've gotta get comfortable again.

Child molesters and terrorists

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 26, 2009, 6:16 PM | comments: 1

So we're watching the news and there's some story about some pediatrician child molester in New England. And of course, me and Diana kind of look at each other like, great, this is the world we're brining our kid into.

But I really don't want to be that person who keeps his kid under lock and key to age 18. Certainly I want to look out for him, but I don't want to believe the world is that awful. I have enough baggage and security issues myself from having my house robbed when I was 11. I don't want to pass those issues on.

The very next story on the news was about some super model who lost her fiance in the tsunami five years ago, and has since gone back to open dozens of schools and help with various children's charities there. One has to keep in mind that people like that outnumber the people who are out to harm your kids. I hope that's the kind of perspective I can keep.

Not the end of the decade

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 26, 2009, 4:13 PM | comments: 0

Just a friendly reminder to journalists and what not, that this is not the end of the decade, anymore than 2000 was the start of this decade. Remember that there is no year 0 in our calendar, and as such, we didn't have a full decade until year 10 ended (or a full century until year 100 ended).

More cable nonsense

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 26, 2009, 11:48 AM | comments: 0

We had no TV on the cable this morning, so I called the support phone number. Internet is fine. Person on the phone was stumped, said they'd get someone on the phone to schedule a service call for me post haste.

Not wasting any time, I e-mailed the regional VP since I had his address. He said someone hit a utility pole, and they were working to fix it right now. How is it he's that keyed in but the people on the phone were not?

He also mentioned that the Internet upgrade that's supposed to cure the bandwidth issues is happening on Monday, 1/4. We'll see how that goes.

For all of the years I had Time-Warner, and for as creepy as I wanted them to be, the problems with them were limited to two brief Internet outages in six years. With Broadstripe, I've had more issues than that in just the first month. I'd kill to have access to AT&T or Verizon FIOS.

A Mattoni Family Christmas, Pacific Northwest Edition

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 25, 2009, 11:31 PM | comments: 0

After a fantastic dinner last night prepared by my darling wife, we had a nice quiet morning and exchanged a few gifts. Diana also made the kittehs a knitted kitteh-gonja ball that they've really enjoyed.

Diana got me some sweet goodies. Right off of the Amazon wish list, I got 24 Day 7 to complete the collection. She also got the big Gorillapod for me, something I've been meaning to buy for myself for awhile. Would've come in handy at Disney World, to just strap the camera to a light pole recording the Christmas lights, but I'm glad to have it now. She also got a Winking Lizard T-shirt, which I will totally cherish. I miss that place in the worst way.

I scored her Toy Story Midway Mania for the Wii, and it seems pretty cool. I also got her a big old Dutch oven (the Mario Batali version), which I know she's wanted for some time. Good cookware is essential stuff, especially because Diana seems more inclined to cook now that she isn't working. Of course, she did a lot more cooking before we started dating, so I'm not sure what I did!

Of course, we spent the afternoon and evening at Joe & Kristen's house, where her parents were in town to meet Mason. We watched a little of the Cavs game, played with the kids (not that Mason is a big player :)), sucked down some homemade pierogies and Diana's chocolate cream pie. We got Joe Something Something Something Dark Side, and so we watched that after Nina went to bed (we bought it for ourselves as well, watched it Tuesday). Not as funny as Blue Harvest, but still had some laughs.

The weather was just beautiful today. Very, very sunny. You could see Mount Baker pretty clearly from Joe's neighborhood, which he says is way up near the Canadian border. Yesterday we saw Rainier from downtown pretty clearly as well. Lots of great sights right now. We had a nice white Christmas without having to drive around in the white.

So other than getting a little misty with the Winking Lizard shirt, it was a nice laid-back day. And we've got two more to go!

Doctor visit with Diana

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 25, 2009, 1:07 AM | comments: 0

Diana has been having some minor spotting issues again (her cervix is not popular with OB's). Nothing to worry about as far as we can tell, but she's gotta do an ultrasound next week.

The new doctor is OK, but she doesn't have the personality and bedside manner of Dr. Nattisox and Nurse Debbie. What can I say, she was awesome. Maybe because she was our age or something. The new doc certainly seems to know her shit and I'm sure she'll work out fine, she's just new. I don't have any rapport with her. As if I were having the baby. :)

Anyway, the thing that stuck me as so weird is how not the Cleveland Clinic it is. I thought it was cool that Obama was citing the Clinic's record keeping skillz, but I didn't realize how sweet they really were. Here at this new place, they have folders and stacks of paper, and fax ultrasound orders. It all seems so incredibly inefficient, especially in a town where the world's biggest software company lives.

In any case, we're in the home stretch, and I'm terrified. I'm not ready. In fact, going downtown was more adventure when I'm still just trying to feel settled. I'm glad I feel comfortable on the east side at least.

Oh, and we had lunch at a brew pub in Issaquah, knocking another place off of the list. Wasn't impressed. Only three non-red meat choices, and two of those were appetizers.

Two Minutes of Cute

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 24, 2009, 8:51 PM | comments: 0

I almost forgot to post this on the blog. I finally ponied up for a Vimeo Plus account, since I'd be a bit of a hypocrite if I didn't pay for sites that I wanted to support. So I get more unlimited uploads, head of the queue, HD embedding.

This is my darling niece, Nina, on Thanksgiving.

A truly different Christmas

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 23, 2009, 9:07 PM | comments: 0

The reality of life's changes really sits at the forefront of my mind tonight. Oddly enough it was a TV spot for TNT's 24 hours of A Christmas Story that made it real for me. For the first time ever, I won't see the movie filmed partially in Cleveland, while in Cleveland. That's weird.

In fact, it's actually that I won't be in my house that is the strangest thing. The people have changed over the years, and some have moved or moved on. I've had holidays that were flawless and happy. Some were filled with uncertainty over career. Others where a friend comforted me in the hardest of times. Most recently, my new family stayed with us. The memories associated with that place are intense.

This year, we'll celebrate Christmas in a completely new place. That isn't bad, it's just different. I think the holidays make you want to hold on a bit to what you're fond of. Not that I want to go back to playing Atari in the basement for hours, like it was 1986, but God knows I've been trying the last two years to undo some of the negative things that made the holidays less than stellar. Next year, after the boy is born, I suspect I'll have an even stronger desire to establish some new traditions.

One thing that really makes me happy, and makes me smile each time I've been out and about town this year, is that I can see snow without having to move through it. I need to make it a point to keep my camera in the car, because I'd like to get some nice shots of the Cascade and Olympic mountains from around town while they have snow on them.

First try working from home

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 23, 2009, 5:58 PM | comments: 0

With so few people at work this week, I decided to just try working from home today. Plus there was the issue that so few cafeterias are open. That stuff matters! The result was mixed.

Remote access went pretty well, surprisingly, since I'm sure many people were doing the same thing. +1 for Microsoft IT. Remoting into my work computer was pretty responsive most of the time, and of course during the day here I don't have the bandwidth issues I've had at night here.

I wasn't sure how tuned in I could get at first, because the cats were battling and the kids upstairs were wrestling or something. I also kept looking to see what Diana was doing around the kitchen, which is next to my desk. By lunch time, and after a shower, I was pretty tuned in.

Unfortunately, I was also frustrated as hell, because I've been engaged in a science project while trying to reverse engineer some bad code we're replacing. You can only do that for so long before you need to get away from it, and it definitely tested my patience today.

In any case, I was glad to see that from a technical standpoint it could be done, and my environment wasn't as distracting as I worried it might be. Somehow I bet the same won't be true after the baby is born. Joe & Kristen both work at home, and they learned early on that they had to have Nina cared for.

I'll show those cable bastards

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 21, 2009, 1:00 PM | comments: 1

The first rental we looked at out here was absolutely beautiful. Brand new, never before lived in townhouse with marble counters, hardwood floors and stone tile. And my geek flag was flying over the place as soon as I saw the fiber hanging out of the wall in an unfinished unit. Verizon FIOS, 50 mbits.

Sadly, the location was less than ideal, to put it mildly, especially when the place we landed is an easy 23 minute drive most of the time (a far cry from the 45+ I've been doing in Cleveland the last four years). So no fiber to the Interwebs, and instead an ISP that has a few pockets around the sound, in an otherwise Comcastic area.

They promised 15 mbits, which is still an upgrade over what Time-Warner was pushing out in Cleveland. And sure enough, ran that speed test on the morning we got the keys, and it was hott. Even the upstream was 1.5 mbits, which sure helps.

Then I started work the next week, and my speed was not even 1 mbit most of the time in the evenings. I called, they sent out a tech. The tech said the modem was fine, no worries. It's definitely not a local problem. I sent a message to their support people, who blew me off and said I should call to have a tech come out. Idiots. I started documenting speed tests (to their own server, by the way), and sending them the results.

That got me nowhere, so given my background working for two different franchising authorities (i.e., cities) as a cable nerd, I found the contact for the local city and started copying him. He forwarded to the local VP/GM, who in turn sent me this:

I have reviewed your issues and have authorized a significant equipment upgrade that will be in place by December 31st of this year.  I will monitor the change in service and speed issues serving your home.

I will send you an e-mail the day that this change takes place so you can confirm that you are seeing improved level of service.

So yeah, that's cool that there is action and whatever, but why do you have to cc people, be a dick and yell to get what you're paying for?

Siding fail

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 20, 2009, 4:08 PM | comments: 0

I just got word from my Realtor that a chunk of siding came off the side of my house in Brunswick. Shit. The good news (or at least the non-bad news) is that a couple went through today and they're "interested."

Having a house 2,400 miles away is seriously not convenient.

First month at Microsoft

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 20, 2009, 12:36 PM | comments: 0

I've been meaning for some time to give friends an update on how working for the largest software company in the world is going. I've been there now for a month, sort of. With Thanksgiving and the week in Orlando, I've really only been there in earnest for three weeks.

I'm working on a team primarily of four developers on the forum application that runs on MSDN, TechNet, Expression, IIS, Answers and some other properties that I'm sure I can't think of now. We also have a bunch of testers, two program managers (one for the forum, one for the profile functionality shared with other stuff). You can look up on Quantcast the kind of traffic that those sites support, and therefore get a pretty good idea of just how enormous it is. I often forget myself just how rarely a person gets to work on something seen by so many people.

And organizationally, in case you're wondering, the forums fall under the Server & Tools Online (STO) group, which runs pretty much all of the stuff that is developer and IT facing, including the official sites for ASP.NET, Silverlight, etc., that fill more of a support and community role, as opposed to marketing. STO is part of the "DevDiv," which is all the stuff made for developers, and that in turns is part of the Server & Tools business (STB). STB is one of Microsoft's top level groups, the others being Windows, business products (Office, ERP stuff, etc.), entertainment and devices (Xbox, Zune) and online services (MSN, Bing). Looking at the org chart, I'm six degrees from Steve Ballmer, which to me says that the management structure of a company that huge is actually pretty rational.

Anyway, ramping up sometimes takes awhile, but I've actually got checked in code now. I'm still not running at what I'd consider significant velocity, because I'm still feeling out everything that I can touch and what's already there. Our app was not written by us, and so we're spending a lot of time making it more maintainable, testable and easier to expand.

My team is agile, not so much in the religious, capital "A" sense, but we adhere to the principles as much as possible. We do some amount of pairing, iterate pretty quickly, and at least intend to work in a team room instead of offices. There's some kind of facility snafu, so at the moment we're sharing a bunch of adjacent offices, which I happen to like because of the lovely view to the outside. I've worked way too long in places without windows.

As far as the company goes, it's fascinating every day to be there. For being in such an enormous company and in its largest division, it still seems small in some ways. That's probably because there's a lot of internal communication about what's going on around the company, options to "dog food" new products before they come out, etc. The sheer diversity of things that happen in Redmond is staggering. I found out the other day that MSNBC has a full newsroom there, for example.

It's hard to not drink the Kool-Aid® when you're there. The campus feels a lot like college. The older part is so rustic and wooded, while the newer part has a nice set of shiny new buildings and a cafeteria area that overlooks the Cascades. It's really beautiful, with the parking stuffed underground (for 6,000+ cars). Then you go to the company store and buy the high-end mouse for $35 and enjoy a free beverage. Did I mention the free MSDN subscription? The food is generally pretty good there as well. It's hard not to get swept up into it.

The new machine I got at work was of course loaded with Windows 7, so that's what I was going to use. For all my bitching about Vista, I have to say, 7 is an enormous improvement. I've even migrated my projects at home into a 7 VM. It still has its quirks, but it's pretty fast overall and they seem to have removed some of the really annoying UI and ridiculous dialog boxes.

The next two weeks are going to be slow going with massive vacations, so I suspect that really feeling like a contributor will take a bit more time. But I'm starting to feel like I actually work there, and I'm enjoying it. It's been a really long time since I've felt that way about a job.

Visiting the Museum of Flight

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 20, 2009, 12:45 AM | comments: 0

One of the cool perks at work is that we get something called the Prime card. We get discounts all over the place with it. One of the most compelling things is the discounts at the various museums. With the recent fanfare of the Boeing 787 first flight, it got me to thinking about the Museum of Flight next door. It was only three bucks for each of us, instead of $14.

It's a pretty cool place. They have a barn that was apparently used by William Boeing at the birth of the company to build his first planes. A two-story building has WWI and WWII planes from all sides. The big main building has a mix of jets, military and commercial. The outdoor area has one of the Concordes, a 707 used as Air Force One for Kennedy and Nixon (you can go inside both), as well as the original prototypes of the 737 and 747.

It was pretty cool overall, though the best collection of military planes I've seen is still the Air Force's museum in Dayton (which is free). I think they have the other similar plane that served as Air Force One during the same time. The overall presentation, especially in the World War galleries, is really outstanding. Lots of great text and short video pieces. WWII is always interesting to read about, because had Hitler not been so crazy and expanded to fronts in the Soviet Union and Africa, all of Europe might be speaking German today. Very scary.

We intended to go downtown after going to the museum, since I've not been in Seattle proper yet. The intention was established yesterday when the forecast for rain was only 20%. But it was quite steadily raining. After trying to find food nearby, and witnessing the hell of last-weekend-before-Christmas traffic, we gave up and headed back home. I was crabby and hungry and Diana was getting all kinds of uncomfortable from Baby Puzzoni.

Still, good to get out, enjoy some very cheap entertainment and at least see downtown, even if we didn't get in it. Last night, Diana went to a knitting gathering at a yarn shop and met some folks. It's starting to feel like we actually live out here.

More RAM, more awesome

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 18, 2009, 9:50 PM | comments: 3

I decided the last cap ex I'd work in for the year was more RAM for the new iMac, to boost it up to 8 gigs. Holy. Crap. I can run Windows 7 in Parallels like it's native, throwing 4 gigs at it. Everything runs super fast, and I can concurrently load up stuff on the OS X side without consequence.

It's kind of amazing to think about the computing power we have available in this day and age, and how (relatively) inexpensive it is. Exciting times for people in my line of work!

All my pictures of you

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 18, 2009, 12:28 AM | comments: 0

Apple finally got around to releasing an update so OS X (and therefore Aperture) supports Canon 7D raw files. That was a very long and annoying wait. But I got everything imported this evening, with around 3,500 pictures so far on the year, a 50% increase over last year. Naturally a thousand are from the wedding alone (thanks, Tyler!), and I shot a thousand just in the last month and a half. It has kind of been an eventful year. ;)

It's that last thousand or so that have really put things into perspective though. The change since I was out here on September 30 has come hard and fast. Looking at the video and pictures I shot on the day we moved out of the Beaumont house is difficult. Because things were so frantic, and really are just finally settling down, I never really got a chance to process the move.

I'm glad to have moved, and every day that I see my surroundings or swipe my Microsoft ID, I get warm and fuzzy. At the same time, I'm a little home sick. That's probably to be expected when you leave a house you occupied for eight and a half years. I had a 30th birthday there, had many great parties, got divorced, fell in love a couple of times, started a new family there, pushed around God knows how many feet of snow from the driveway, ran a server there and started a business, nursed piercings there, enjoyed many thunderstorms, watched trees get bigger, wrote a book... that's a very substantial portion of my life.

But it's the little things that I sometimes miss too. Like the Winking Lizard and Buffalo Wild Wings. Seriously, who do you gotta fuck around here to get some boneless wings with good sauce? (Apparently you need to go to Portland.) I miss drivers who understand what merging is. And I really, really miss my hot tub.

Fortunately, I continue to have new moments of comfort, and there is no shortage of new memories being made. I find myself getting around town without a map. I have Washington plates and a drivers license. I'm already loving the 30 minutes of walking between the bus and the building I work in. I get to spend time with the original Seattle Mattoni's (all four of them now). And most importantly, I get to come home to a wife every day in a place that is uniquely ours.

Of course, that's one of the difficulties too, that I feel like apartment living is so transient. Hopefully that feeling will pass. It's also hard to be writing checks still for a place where I don't live, and I hate that I'm starting to actually resent the place I made so many good memories.

Is it too early to start being nostalgic about the year that is about to end? I can't remember any other year of my life so dense with change, challenge and joy.

Lots of history even in my relatively short life

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 17, 2009, 7:45 PM | comments: 0

This is the last week for Charlie Gibson on ABC News, as he's retiring. He's been good for the job, which is something to say since I think Peter Jennings had some serious shoes to fill when he died of lung cancer.

In any case, he's been doing retrospectives on his career all week, dating back to the early 80's. The thing that strikes me is how much serious history has occurred just in my lifetime. I mean the rate of change is really insane. It really makes me appreciate just how exciting a time this is.

The Scoring Game

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 16, 2009, 11:30 PM | comments: 0

I've been known to post "+1" and "-1" in various places on the Intertubes, and some have asked what that's all about. Others assume it's in reference to Digg or some other voting system on some various Web site. That's not the case.

When I started at in early 2006, they already had established something called The Scoring Game. The rules were fairly simple (Johnny Malloy can fill in anything I've missed, as chair of the rules committee):

  • You can give someone a +1 or -1 for virtually anything.
  • Only one score can be given for any one thing.
  • You can't score in response to a score.
  • You can't participate until you've been scored.
  • Scoring someone before being scored voids that score and starts you with a -1.

I think when I left, or was laid-off anyway, I was sitting at a comfortable +3 or more. Considering some of the negatives I got for various instances of dicketry, that's pretty solid. My proudest one came out of fixing a strange configuration problem with our app the day before we were supposed to deploy. Oddly enough, I gave Scott Guthrie at Microsoft a +1 that day for helping me (he's a VP overseeing much of the developer product now). Typically, people outside of the company only got -1's for sucking, especially a certain CRM vendor.

I think the lowest in-house score went to the IT department, especially one guy, who lacked a can-do (or will-do) attitude. Our chief architect's score was really low as well, but not because of anything job related. Had something to do with bicycle shorts, as I recall. The highest internal score probably went to one of our dev leads, all of whom had a habit of doing really smart things to compensate for everyone else's dumb things.

It was just something stupid and fun to do. We had an internal wiki page where we kept track of the current scores as well as all of the incidences of them being awarded. Shortly before the layoffs, apparently HR wasn't cool with it, and it had to be moved to some external location. Sure, some of it was of questionable taste, but it was a fun morale thing for us. Unless you were way in the negative.

I enjoyed The Scoring Game.

Gotta get yourself connectored

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 16, 2009, 5:04 PM | comments: 0

I'm on my way back to the park-and-ride lot about a mile from our place, riding the Connector. It's all kinds of strange to step on one of those big touring buses to find everyone with a laptop cracked open and surfing for pr0n. Actually, one dude appears to be chasing e-mail, but everyone else is looking at non-work stuff that I can see.

So do I like it? I think so. This morning I walked from the OTC (Overlake Transportation Center, it's where the Connectors, shuttles and public transit converge near the middle of the campus) to B6 (Building 6 ;)). I really liked doing that. It was fairly pleasant, mid-40's, and no rain. Took about 15 minutes, and my fat ass can certainly use the exercise. I took a packed shuttle in the afternoon, because the rain was pretty solid and steady. Not ready to test the water resistance of my WDW rain jacket or my laptop bag.

There's something inherently calming about not driving, offset slightly by the panic over potential for missing your bus. Not that it'd be the end of the world, but getting home to my woman and the kittehs is something I really look forward to. I think later in the pregnancy, I'll be driving just in case.

Still, +1 for Microsoft commuting services!

Evening time seems short

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 15, 2009, 10:51 PM | comments: 0

My "me time" in the evening seems short lately. I think it's partly because I try to get to bed by midnight at the latest, but I still don't really do much after work. I'm not sure what I expect to be doing either. :)

Perhaps it's just part of being back in the world of having a day job.

I'm taking The Connector in tomorrow.

The 787 takes flight

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 15, 2009, 6:00 PM | comments: 0

The huge news here in Seattle is that the Boeing 787 finally took its first flight today. It's a really big deal since Boeing's big production is based here of course, but really in terms of aviation it's a big deal. If you think about how many new planes they introduce, it doesn't happen very often. The last was the 777 in the mid 90's.

One of the many neat things going on here in the Puget Sound area.

You don't know Microsoft culture

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 14, 2009, 11:09 PM | comments: 0

I'm closing in on a month now at Microsoft. OK, not really, because with the holidays and a week out for a pre-hired trip, I'm obviously still in a bit of a ramp up mode. Although I checked in some code last week, which is very exciting.

In any case, I've taken my share of cheap shots about the Borg, evil empire, M$ and the other predictable nonsense. Now I just find it sad that people spend that much time and energy on hating a company. I get it, some folks think the company is evil. Whatever.

The thing that I've noticed about Microsoft, from an internal view, is that it's an enormous company. I find diversity in teams, groups, divisions, top to bottom. In orientation and training, this diversity is reinforced in every aspect, from the way people develop product to the way they interact with each other.

Externally, you may also notice diversity. There are epic success stories, like the Xbox edging out the established players or Silverlight quickly iterating and gaining market share. On the other hand, you have things like Vista (which might have been more of a critical failure than financial, in my non-expert opinion) and Windows Mobile, which fails to make any traction.

Do you see what I'm getting at? You can't make generalizations about the culture of Microsoft. When I tell friends that I work in an agile team, in a room together, delivering value regularly, don't get bogged down in e-mail or specs that people never read, they think I'm lying. Are there "old school" teams around the company? I'm sure there are. Maybe there are even business reasons for it. But to suggest that Microsoft on the whole is incapable of doing amazing things in a very forward and progressive way is to suggest that a huge company operates in exactly the same way, from end to end. That's just silly.

I might drink some of the Kool-Aid®, but I'm not naive enough to believe that Microsoft doesn't deserve much of the criticism it gets. That said, the press and the average fashion hater are not credible when they paint the company with one broad brush. You don't need to work there to see that the different parts of the company roll in different ways. There are thousands of very different, and very real, people in this organization.

Now I remember what it feels like to have income

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 13, 2009, 8:25 PM | comments: 0

After seven months of being self-employed and trying to scrape by on ad revenue, it's so weird (in a good way) to see money in my bank account. I don't feel like I need to scrutinize every little purchase of groceries, gas or whatever.

There are a lot of upsides I didn't have before as well. No state and local income tax is a pretty serious boost. The sales tax is higher, around 9.5% around here (about 2 to 2.5% higher than where I used to live), but not on food. So even if you spent every dime you made on taxable stuff, the lack of state/local income tax still more than makes up for it. Utilities are way lower, even if housing is way higher. Working for Microsoft, I keep finding one thing after another that is cheaper or discounted or whatever. I get a substantial discount from AT&T on phone service, for example.

I don't spend a ton of money on lunch either, even though I eat at work every day. I rarely spend more than four or five bucks a day, and never more than six. It averages to about $25 a week. The beverages being free seriously helps. I'm actually better off for it too, because generally it's fairly healthy food. Everything they have is easy on the body compared to the crap I'd get eating out at previous gigs.

I'm spending less on gas, and hopefully when I don't have weird hours for training stuff and other special events, almost nothing on gas when I take the Connector in.

All of this positive cash flow is certainly a good thing, but I'm also still dealing with the debt dating back to our wedding and honeymoon, plus stuff accumulated since then. And even if I can be cash rich in the short term, I'll be writing a check to the loss on one or both of our houses eventually. Additionally, I need to be pretty aggressive about the 401k, and I'd like to find a little for charity, since Microsoft matches dollar for dollar. So given all of that, I'm not exactly building a fortune or living the plush life.

I'm really motivated to get that other Web project rolling, and it's getting there finally. I get more motivated in the winter, when traffic on the existing sites generally blows. We'll see if that can't boost us up a little. It would really help out me and Walt if Cedar Point would build another enormous roller coaster!

Overall, it's nice to not be on edge over money for the first time in a few years. Here's hoping that continues.

You just never know what your future will look like

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 13, 2009, 6:37 PM | comments: 1

In March, 2008, I shot a few photos shortly after my bro-in-law picked us up from a hotel in what I'd later learn was Issaquah, Washington. Shortly after we moved into our apartment last month, Diana and I had moments of realization that we had been here before. The Krispy Kreme, the wood paneled Home Depot at the foot of the hill and a Papa John's with fish all over the building... these were recognizable landmarks. We were here almost two years earlier.

Now we live a block away from where these three photos were taken. There was no way that I could have possibly imagined this outcome. I think there was a long period of time in my life where I feared this idea, that you can't truly know what your future is. Now, I find it completely exciting. Even though I struggle with the unsettled feeling I've had lately, I love that things can be better, different, in virtually no time. And not only that, but I can choose to make it happen. I dig that.

So here's March 28, 2008... places we went just today.


27" iMac, initial thoughts

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 13, 2009, 12:31 PM | comments: 2

I haven't had a ton of time to use it yet, but I am really, really pleased with the 27" iMac so far. The big (literally) win is that amazing screen. It's as bright as the laptop screens, only much bigger and 2560x1440. When the gray start-up screen comes on, the backlighting is even edge to edge. And since it's LED lighting, it also runs a lot cooler.

The migration app worked as expected again, though it more or less ignores additional hard drives. I let it do its thing, then I partitioned the drive (1 gig!) in half and copied over my second drive from the old Mac Pro to the new partition, and named it the same thing. Aperture had no problem finding all of my photos and what not.

I also got a 1.5 TB external drive, which I'll use for video files. It should be fast enough to work from, and if not, I'll just use it for the source material and use the internal drive for the converted ProRes files.

The machines has four USB ports, but I need six. Mouse, keyboard, iPod/phone dock, Shuttle video controller, external drive and card reader. (Machine has an SD card slot, but no CF.) I also might need another port to connect my smart card reader now and then in case I need to login to work. I ordered a cheap hub from NewEgg, as well as a DisplayPort to DVI adapter so I can connect my old 20" Dell monitor as a dedicated video preview.

I'm also contemplating a memory upgrade, since you can never have too much when you're running Parallels with something memory intensive like Photoshop or Aperture. Trying to decide if I want to simply add another 4gig to the iMac (cheap), or get a pair of 4gig sticks for the laptop and rotate those into the iMac (not so cheap). The latter would get me to 8 gigs in both. Oddly enough, they use the same kind of memory, with two slots in the laptop and four in the desktop.

I hope to do some real work on it today. We'll see how that goes!

When the little things add up

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 13, 2009, 12:41 AM | comments: 0

I have a problem. My normal, generally chilled out self is missing. I've been getting really tweaked out lately, mostly over stupid shit.

Today there were a series of things that messed with me. Around lunch time, I burned (not seriously) my hand on a plate from the microwave, which I then dropped on the counter and broke, which made me even more angry. The front door keeps getting stuck because it seems to have become swollen from the cold. Then the ATM ate my business debit card, and after 15 minutes on hold, the woman at Chase couldn't even issue a new card.

It's weird not feeling like yourself. I'm sure a part of it is not being in a familiar place, away from your friends and away from the routine you had for many years. The settling process is obviously going to take some time.

Oh, the things you can do with a 7D

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 11, 2009, 11:28 PM | comments: 0

I've been following this Philp Bloom guy pretty closely, as he has quickly become the authority of shooting high quality stuff with video DSLR's, including the Canon 7D (the new body I obtained). Well imagine being called by Rick McCallum, the producer on the Star Wars prequels, to come to Skywalker Ranch to show them what you can really do with one of these cameras. Then imagine George Lucas and Quentin Tarantino show up to see your test footage. Yeah, it happened to him, and he blogged about it. Gasp.

I'm starting to get a good feel for shooting on it, but as with real film, or even stills on an SLR, there's a learning curve to getting the right exposure. The rig that Bloom is using, with the Z-finder and the "tactical shooter" obviously makes a difference. Personally, I'm more interested in something like eyeSpy bundle with a follow focus from Redrock, but regardless, free-handing isn't the best approach.

I'd definitely like to shoot one of these small "slice of life" kind of things in the spring, maybe around the Pacific Northwest, with junior in tow. God knows I've got the right glass for it. I have some stuff from Disney that I'm going to try and color a bit and post soon, hopefully.

Office shuffle

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 11, 2009, 12:05 PM | comments: 0

Our team room at work got commandeered for some other purpose, so we've managed to get most of the team into adjacent offices. I'm sharing one with our team lead, and the other two devs will be next door while the testers will be across the hall. We've got some beautiful daylight views here, though I took the desk closer to the door so I don't stare outside all day.

Microsoft is famous for its everyone-has-an-office culture. I actually like the idea of that, of having your own space, to make it comfortable, and a door to close when you want it. That said, having a team out in the open does wonders for getting things done. Sometimes the interruptions seem like a bit much, but the upside is that we exchange almost no e-mail, and everyone is in the loop at all times. Our managers are pursuing new team space now, and we're crossing our fingers that they knock out some walls, near some windows. I like the way the CodePlex guys have their stuff set up (see this video).

Incidentally, Bill Gates apparently had an office in this building for some time (it's Building 6, in a cluster of early buildings on the main campus). It's remarkably unspectacular, with a similar looking view from the second floor. Little has changed other than the carpet and some paint. Some of the conference rooms still have these funny floppy disk signs where you slide the window on the bottom to say "in use" or something.

Will hopefully write more about my first real full week here. I dig it. I'm excited to come in every day.

Painting the old house

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 11, 2009, 10:44 AM | comments: 0

My Realtor is starting to frustrate the shit out of me. She wants me to get the living room painted because of the repair work there. So she got a quote from a guy who said he'd do it for $700. Are you fucking kidding me? For one room? That's one day of work for one person, and a pro can probably do it in far less time.

Worse was her advice, which amounted to, well, you should just lower the price and sell it. Thanks for that.

Feeling much better, finally

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 11, 2009, 9:40 AM | comments: 0

It has taken all week, but I'm feeling much better. Yesterday I was pleased that the head congestion and sinus pressure went away (no sinus infection, whew!), but I was coughing a bit. Last night the "a bit" turned into "a lot," and I ended up doing a drug store run at 1 a.m. to obtain NyQuil and cough drops. Then I was out like a light.

Today I feel ridiculously better. Tired from the late night, but definitely better. Hopefully that means being able to truly relax this weekend. Hooray!

The lead from my team just left for China. I told him he better not bring back the SARS.

Mac swappin'

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 10, 2009, 6:18 PM | comments: 0

My plans to upgrade/lateral grade my Mac Pro all came together in the scope of a couple of hours today. I put it up on craigslist a couple of days ago to see if it would get any action. My motivation is that I've wanted a bigger screen for awhile, in terms of resolution. But in looking at the available monitors, they're all crazy expensive and not LED-lit. I can't bring myself to spend a grand or as much as $1,600 for a big monitor. Then when George got his 27" iMac, it occurred to me that you can get one of those almost for the price of a stand-alone monitor.

So the plan was that if I could sell my Mac Pro for a few hundred bucks under the cost of a 27" iMac, I'd be replacing my three-year-old machine with something new and with the giant screen. That's the nice thing about Macs, they actually retain some value. Having quad-core is nice, but aside from compression jobs, I'm never taking advantage of that. So going to a dual-core machine, with faster CPU's, is still a win.

The 27" models are in high demand, but I found one at a Pacific NW chain called "The Mac Store." The place is slightly ghetto compared to a bona fide Apple Store, but whatever. I got in, got out, and started the data transfer as soon as I got home.

I'm excited it came together quickly, and inside this tax year. No purchase regret at all when it only cost a few hundred bucks for the upgrade.

I like Carrie's post too

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 10, 2009, 3:31 PM | comments: 3

Yeah, I'm a Carrie stalker too, and I like her post. I don't understand the cultural expectations that are placed on people when they have no bearing on anyone else, especially when it comes to relationships. I mean, I can't understand how Diana got so far into life without getting married, but not because I think something is wrong with her, but because she's so awesome. :)

The kid thing, the kids club thing in particular, is horribly annoying. I've had more advice and assurance about how things will be than I care to have, thanks. We aren't other people, so you don't know how it's going to be. Fortunately, our closest geographic relatives here, fresh on offspring two, have been very kind in only really describing their own experiences when we've asked, and I love them for that.

And to add to Carrie's angle, sometimes we put the pressure on ourselves too. I mean, I didn't rush into my first marriage, but in retrospect I think we eventually went down that road because it was what we were "supposed to do." Not to say that there wasn't a lot of love, but that alone isn't reason enough to get married.

Generally speaking, I don't care what people do with their lives unless they're close to me. It's no secret that I analyze every move that my friends make when it comes to their personal life, and a lot of it is based on my own therapeutic experience. I don't know if that's right or wrong, and I might be at the age where I don't care, it's just who I am. But for random people I don't really know? Why would I care or even spend time judging what they do in their personal life?

Thanks for getting that frustration out into the world, Carrie. I hear you.

Imogen Heap unplugged

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 4:48 PM | comments: 0 has a few cuts of Imogen doing new songs piano-only. "First Train Home" and "Wait it Out" are really solid songs. Truth be told, I can't really stand "Half Life." It's not even that I don't like the sound of the song as much as I hate the lyrics. It's so whiny and co-dependent, and I hated when I went through a phase like that in college, and I hate to see friends be that way about relationships. I realize that she's probably trying to point out how lame it is to be that way, but still.

Bailed from work today

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 9, 2009, 2:45 PM | comments: 0

I got up this morning feeling suboptimal, but figured it was no big deal. By the time I got in the car, I was feeling worse. There was a big demo/update meeting that I went to (MS has some fantastic meeting spaces), and about mid way through that, I finally gave up. The spirit was willing, but the body was not.

My head feels like a brick, and like it was hit by one. It reminds me a lot of last year when I had the sinus infection. I just hope that's not what it is, because that would be bad news. It might just be association, since the last time I felt like this was after that trip, and the flying and what not.

Keeping on my happy face and hell bent on going in tomorrow.

Walt Disney World trip report

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 8, 2009, 11:50 PM | comments: 0

Truth is, I'm not going to write a bunch about our trip. I've gotta say, I'm less motivated to write about the trivial goings on in my life right now, and the bigger things require some down time to write about. So I'll make some bullet points.

  • One of our motivations for the trip, going back to last year's November trip, was that I wanted Diana to see the Christmas stuff in full force, and the Osborne Family Christmas dancing lights in particular. Sure enough, Diana actually wept when she saw it, and I had my brief hero moment. We actually went back toward the end of the week for a second time. I shot some decent video of it all, but like much of what I've shot so far with the 7D (including stuff from CP), I need to take the time to do some color grading and tweaking.
  • The "new" Space Mountain is not appreciably different. Even after reading the Wikipedia article on it, I'm left scratching my head about how they spent $10 million on it. The paint, the video game in the queue (which I passed completely in the FastPass lane), and the closure of the loading area from the ride above were obvious to me only because I knew to look. The ride itself doesn't feel different to me other than being a little smoother in places.
  • The new Hall of Presidents is solid, not because of the Obamabot or any of that stuff, but because the film so much better, and apparently projected digitally. Morgan Freeman narrates. Even Dubya is painted in a positive light. I think they still need to make some tweaks to the lighting in the Presibot portion, because it's hard to follow the introductions.
  • Amusing: Pirates has two lines, one for each of the two boats that load simultaneously, one from each side. The crowds simply funnel into one side, causing a long line, while those willing to go the other way walk right on.
  • Saw the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse finally. Neat.
  • Diana got to dance with Mr. Incredible, and we have photographic evidence of it.
  • Finally did the Carousel of Progress, and it's horribly dated in Tomorrowland.
  • Because we never got back to Magic Kingdom beyond that first morning, we never did get to Haunted Mansion, Tiki Room or the Magic Carpets. No biggie.
  • Spent tons of time at Epcot, as usual. Managed to miss most of Future World outside of The Land, where Soarin' is.
  • Did the Raytheon exhibit in Innoventions with the Microsoft Surface tables and the robot simulators was kinda cool, and there was almost no wait for it.
  • Our three month advance reservation for Le Cellier in the Canada pavilion was so worth it. I generally theorize that the place is popular because the food is fairly standard meat and potatoes. While standard elements, the preparation is way above standard. Diana felt her steak was possibly one of the best she's ever had. My chicken was marinated and seasoned in a way that was perfect and not dry at all for pan searing. The moose mousse was delicious.
  • Other, more standard food at Epcot included the Japanese restaurant (the real stuff, not the hibachi junk), and of course Restaurant Marrakesh, which had good service for a change.
  • Did one night where we paid for dinner outright (dining plan would've swallowed up two credits) so we could get preferred seating for the Candlelight Processional. John O'Hurley was the reader. Yeah, Peterman from Seinfeld, and he was amusingly good.
  • Also at Epcot, we did a few Kim Possible missions, where you get the Kimmunicator and run around the various countries looking for clues and setting things off. The stories were a little hokey, but I can see how kids would be into it. Heck, we did three countries! Lots of neat things they do, like setting off animated things in shops, or taking a picture of you and sending it to the Kimmunicator.
  • We missed Illuminations. :(
  • Hollywood Studios were of course a blast, and the lights were a big part of that. We also hit favorites like Toy Story Mania and the stunt show.
  • The American Idol Experience was not nearly as lame as you'd expect. The set is beautiful, and they run it like a live TV show, complete with SteadiCam® operator. The make judges were silly caricatures of the real ones, but the female was kind of a goofy blonde Meg Ryan-ish woman who embraced being a redneck, and she was funny.
  • The Beauty and the Beast show at the studios is the single worst show I've ever seen at a Disney park. It's just awful. Two live singers on a tracked show with the queerest choreography ever. Avoid.
  • The 50's Prime Time Cafe is a real gem if you get the right server. Our "mom" could have in fact been our mother, or maybe even grandmother, and she was hilarious. The decorating was great, the food was average, and if you really got into the arrangement with the role of the waitress, lots of fun. She gave me a clean plate club sticker.
  • Animal Kingdom was a lot of fun, even though we didn't spend much time there. We did the safari, but then didn't do the walk-through trails because I'm a moron who acted like I remembered where everything in the park was. As a result, we didn't see the gorilla habitat, which is one of the coolest things I've ever seen at any zoo.
  • We did the Asia Trek walk through early enough that all of the tigers were hanging out, napping in view. Those animals are just amazing. We also spent a surprising amount of time checking out the giant bats there on our second visit, because they were cold and wet and active (heavy rain that day). They're really cute animals if you can get past their creepy wings.
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical was again a highlight. Having the soundtrack, I'm pretty sure that Nemo, Dori, Crush and maybe Gil were the people who did the recording. It's amazing how that show can kick so much ass several times a day. It's just fucking brilliant. Diana gets pretty misty for the show as well, less because of the story and more because she misses theater so much. Imagine knowing what you like to do and not being able to because it simply turns your life into a single-purpose endeavor.
  • We spent the Friday morning at AK again, and unfortunately, it was a steady cold downpour. After 70's and 80's, all sun, all week, I suppose it was inevitable. That I was trying to recover from being sick did not help, but we bought two ponchos for $15 and made the most of it. Had lunch at Yak and Yeti, an "Asian fusion" place, and it was excellent. Also picked up a zip-up hooded jacket that is of an appropriate weight for 40's and 50's with rain in Seattle.
  • So how'd the pregnant lady do? Mostly pretty well, as she has a molded brace/sling/belt thing that the doctor prescribed, making walking around all day a lot easier. We did theorize, however, that later in the day, after eating, it contributed to the acid reflux that made her miserable (and sick on two occasions) at night. The nights where she pulled it off after dinner were much better. Unfortunately, we ended up not being in any park much past 8 any night.
  • And on Thursday night, it was because of me. Wednesday I woke up with a sore throat, I thought from my own bout of acid reflux all night. Thursday it felt more like a conventional cold-in-progress. After seeing the lights at studios, we went back to the hotel for a quick nap. By the time we got up, intending to go back to Epcot for Illuminations, I was starting down the fever chills/overheating cycle. That sucked.
  • Bus and monorail transportation was generally pretty easy to deal with, and we only waited long once, for the bus from AK to Epcot. Except for one dumb redneck, people were more than willing to give up their seat for Diana.
  • The Magical Express kind of pissed us off the night we got there. We arrived around 8, but our bags didn't get there until 12:30. Every time I called they said it took longer. It's a nice service and perk, but I think it should have some kind of SLA attached to it, free or not.
  • Pop Century again proved to be adequate. At $59 a night with the free counter service dining plan, upgraded to the table service for another $100 for the entire week for two, it was a steal. The only big expense is still the tickets themselves. The hotel has comfortable bedding, and it's kept very clean. I think it's a great value.

I knew there'd be some risk with going there, not knowing how Diana would feel, but for the most part, we did OK, even with me being sick. It was nice to kind of just pick up where we left off last year and take it easy. We really enjoyed the food, that's for sure! I think we probably won't return until junior gets older. Next year, after a long absence, I think a Universal vacation at Royal Pacific is in our future. The Potter stuff should be complete by then.

Still miserable, little I can do

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 8, 2009, 1:35 AM | comments: 0

Diana was pretty miserable again tonight, with the constant "stuff" wanting to come up from her stomach and the dry heaving and the ineffective Tums and what not. She's had this problem night after night, pretty much all week. I hate seeing her like that, and I hate that there's nothing I can do about it.

She's sleeping upright on the couch right now, and seems to be doing OK. I think she worries that this is how it's going to be for the next three months, but interestingly, it seems like every week is something new. The little guy has been ridiculously active now for almost three months, and we call him the ninja because he loves to kick. It's also weird how he feels what Diana feels. In some nasty turbulence over the gulf flying out of Orlando last week, she was somewhat terrified, and the lad was not pleased with the shot of adrenaline he got (either that or the shitty airplane food).

We're at a strange point where on one hand I wish he could be born now so that Diana can be her old self, but on the other hand, I'm not even remotely ready for it. Some days I'm completely terrified of being responsible for another human being when I barely feel able to keep up for myself.

Hopefully a call to the doctor tomorrow will offer some guidance on what to do with constant acid reflux night after night.

New location adjustments in progress

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 7, 2009, 6:44 PM | comments: 0

The adjustment to life in Seattle is coming along pretty well. The hardest thing, for me anyway, is that we don't have our own house, and worse, that we still have two we don't live in. It's not a pride thing (God knows I could give two shits about my lawn ;)), but more of a feeling like I've taken a step backward. That's just American programming I think, but it's an awfully good time to get in to the market, especially around here.

The apartment has really come along, thanks mostly to Diana's work to get it feeling like home. Generally speaking, I would describe it as adequate. We lose about 400 square feet (and a two-car garage) compared to the Brunswick house, so we definitely have some storage issues that we haven't exactly figured out. I think a lot of what it comes down to is that our guest room will store a lot of stuff, and guests will just have to deal with it.

There are lots of little trades. The kitchen is smaller, but the master bedroom is slightly bigger, and both bathrooms are actually enormous. I mean, the shower has dual heads. It generally doesn't require a lot of heat, but it's also kind of low on the upside of the hill, limiting direct sun. But it has a gas stove, which apparently less than 1% or rentals around town have, and that's an enormous plus. I also don't like the parking lot space we have, because it's not a legal 9-foot spot. We should probably ask for a new one, now that I scraped Diana's car against the car port support, I don't want her to have to go down the hill for her car either.

We definitely like the area we're in, as it's convenient for pretty much everything. Work is only 20 minutes, 10 miles and a lovely drive. Everything we could possibly need in terms of retail is within 2 miles, from groceries to Costco to Target, and we're feeling out where the right deals are. There are a ton of restaurants too, but God only knows how long it'll take to try any significant number of them. Joe and Kristen and the kids are relatively close as well. Some of the people I work with refer to this as a "yuppie" area, but you know, there aren't a lot of BMW's at our complex, so I don't know what that means. I've yet to see where the poor people live around Seattle.

I think we also need to expand socially once we feel a little more settled, but after the holidays, I'm sure we'll be in baby prep mode, so I'm not sure how that will go. I feel really disconnected from my friends. Even though most didn't live near me in the first place, they also weren't three time zones away. I hate that I fire up the IM at night and no one is there. Diana doesn't have the benefit of a day job where she meets people either, which has to be weird.

The thing that I can't stop marveling about is just how beautiful it is here. I asked the senior dev on my team today if that ever wears off, since he grew up here. He said he definitely still takes pause when he sees it from where he lives. Stephanie mentioned the same thing to me recently about Boulder. Even on my drive home today, after sunset, I smiled a little at the view across Lake Samammish, the remaining sun light reflecting off of houses on the other side.

So overall, I think it's going pretty well. I still have the anxiety about actually being useful at work, but I've only been there eight days total, with the trip and the holiday. This month will also be slow going because of the vacations folks take. But I really dig the company and the people in my immediate group.

O noes!!!11! Bone chilling!

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 7, 2009, 6:09 PM | comments: 1

The 6 o'clock news tonight spent the first six minutes of the show talking about the "bone chilling" cold. You'd think it got down to something below zero, but no, it was in the low 30's today.

Come. On. I realize people may not be used to it, but why is everything so dramatic around here when it comes to weather?

Disappearing hard drive space

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 5, 2009, 11:11 PM | comments: 4

I'm running into an issue now that I had not anticipated when it comes to using the 7D. The files are freakin' enormous. Raw format at the full 18 million pixels are weighing in on average around 24 to 26 MB each.

The second hard drive in my Mac Pro, which is used almost exclusively for photos and video, is nearly full. The external bus-powered USB drive I decided to use for video, at 100 gb, is already full from stuff I've generated out of the 7D.

My online backup is now weighing in around 130 gigs, and costing about $23 a month. It's growing really fast all of a sudden because of the big photos. I don't actually backup any original video material to the Internet, only locally on my Time Machine drive.

I really don't care much for buying hard drives, but it looks like I'll need to do that soon. I noticed an external drive at Costco, a terabyte and a half, for around a hundred bucks, but it's not bus-powered. I like those because you don't need to lug around a power supply, which is super handy when you take it with you.

Osborne Family lights at DHS

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 5, 2009, 8:03 PM | comments: 0

Just a preview for the photos posted for my Facebook pals.

Trip recovery day

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 5, 2009, 6:13 PM | comments: 0

Wow, yesterday was the worst day of travel I've ever had. Our flight out of Orlando was delayed an hour because that plane was coming out of Houston, which had snow. Our layover was in Houston as well.

Here's the problem with Houston: They don't exactly have the means to deal with snow or de-ice lots of planes. So our crew was late getting in, then the line became so long to de-ice that they didn't even bother getting us on the plane until around 12:30. Finally, at 2, we took off.

If we hadn't been in first class, it could've been a lot worse. On the way down from the Orlando-Houston flight, my ears were painfully blocked, probably a side effect of the cold I've been trying to beat. Diana is just all out uncomfortable, pretty much all of the time, and I swear she got bigger just in the last week. Nothing sits well with her digestively, and the acid reflux is causing all kinds of heaving and what not. The sky waitresses were very kind to her, and went above and beyond in my opinion, even for first class.

When we got the car, the drive home was straight forward enough. On 405 we encountered some idiot who completely wrecked and spun his car, and was hanging in traffic lanes. Called it in to 911, but someone else already reported it.

Light was just starting to peek over the Cascades on a clear horizon. When we got home, I fucked up Diana's door on the support for the car port, because some num-nuts parked too close to our spot. In fact, I'm pretty sure that our spot is not actually the regulation 9 feet wide. That was the perfect end to a great day of travel.

We crashed and got a few more hours of sleep. The cats were definitely glad to see us. It has been a good day for decompression.

Airport hell

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 4, 2009, 9:55 PM | comments: 1

After last night's fever nonsense and this morning's monsoon in Orlando, you can bet that all I really want to do is be in my own bed. Unfortunately, it's gonna be awhile. A long while. And my ears are all blocked, I guess from the cold symptoms combined with the airplane pressure.

Our flight out of Orlando was delayed because the plane was late getting out of Houston, due to snow of all things. So we got in an hour late to Houston, only to find that our flight out to Seattle had been delayed by two hours. Then it became three hours. Now our 8:55 leaves at midnight.

The one and only positive thing about this is that we have first class seats. Actually, the flights for the whole trip only cost the fee to transfer some of Diana's miles to me, which is one of the reasons we were motivated to take the trip in the first place. Sadly, we won't get to enjoy the perks of first class because we'll likely be out cold.

I can't emphasize enough that we had some good times on this trip, and I'll write about some of those once I've had time to recover.

Challenging vacation

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 2, 2009, 11:25 PM | comments: 0

We decided a few months ago to go to Walt Disney World as a last solo trip before Little Puzzoni arrives. No families, no obligations, just Christmas stuff with the mouse. We realized there was some risk, given the pregnancy, but decided to give it a shot anyway.

We started out doing pretty well. Monday night, Diana's digestive health quickly deteriorated. Yesterday, she was better most of the day, but I had a sore throat that made me feel crappy much of the day. Then today, I felt better by afternoon, and Diana started to rapidly get sick in the evening.

But all things considered, we are mostly enjoying ourselves and taking it easy. Disney is a different place when you're simply going with it and not really planning anything. We've seen more shows, had more good food, did the Candlelight Processional up close, did the Kim Possible thing at Epcot and soaked in a whole lot of holiday spirit.

Tomorrow we've got some serious eating to do on the dining plan, and hopefully we'll finally see Illuminations.