Archive: April, 2009

Forbes: Cleveland #3 worst for jobs

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 30, 2009, 1:18 PM | comments: 4

Yay, we made a top 10 list!

File this one in the "no shit" category.

Seattle, Portland and most of the south (except Tampa and Miami) qualify as some of the best places to find work.


$139 monitor? For real?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 30, 2009, 1:39 AM | comments: 5

I'm not sure I can talk myself out of this.


Book introduction complete

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 30, 2009, 1:19 AM | comments: 0

It's done. Well, it's a draft at least. I wrote an introduction for what I think will be my next book. Not it feels like something real and actionable. I may feel differently when I see it in the morning.


Silversun Pickups: It's a man, baby!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 11:35 PM | comments: 0

Our local nostalgic alternative station (I don't know what the f you describe it as) has been playing a couple of songs by Silversun Pickups, "Lazy Eye" and "Panic Switch." The first time I heard "Lazy Eye," I was trying to figure out, is that a dude or a woman? I finally went to their Web site to find it's a dude, but I think the vocal is colored by the bassist, a woman.


Good lunch, good work

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 29, 2009, 1:24 AM | comments: 0

I had lunch today with one of my former bosses from ICOM. The intention was mostly to trade work stories from the last almost-year and catch up. With a little luck, there may be some contracting opportunities for me eventually.

But what made me really appreciate the meeting was the reminder of what it's like to work in a professional environment with forward motion. I think that's the thing I've been missing for awhile. Working with smart people doing smart things and holding the work to high standards is something I haven't seen really anywhere other than that job and at Progressive. Think about the implication of that realization, that 95% of the work done in your field is shit. Is it any wonder that a third of software projects fail and another half are mostly at risk?

I often wonder how this is possible, that the failure rate can be so high. The usual suspects are part of the problem... poor expectations and requirements, lack of buy-in from stakeholders, no customer input, turnover and lay-offs, etc. But I also believe firmly that people just aren't trained to do the right things, and they don't endeavor to become better at what they do. Last fall I ended up working with a "consultant" that, looking at his work, seemed barely capable of understanding what object-oriented programming was. Yet if you looked at his resume, it would appear he had a lot of "experience."

Most businesses simply don't value process. If you're not exposed to a solid development process or don't care, then you wander around in the dark and maybe get by if you're lucky. How is that OK when hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent and people's living depends on success?

Perhaps that's part of my book motivation as well. I think there's a sales pitch that comes with teaching. It has certainly been true in coaching volleyball, and in mentoring developers I've seen the same thing. You have to make the case that the process and the quality that comes out of it are key to success.

In any case, it gave me a lot to think about. I still feel like I'm sitting in front of some kind of huge opportunity and I just can't see exactly what it is.


Why "Free Willy" Keiko should never have been pushed into the wild

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 3:55 PM | comments: 0

I got to see Keiko up close when he was at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in 1998, and I was struck by just how child-like and social he was with handlers at the aquarium. A few years later, when they tried to introduce him into the wild, I suspected it might end up being a disaster.

Interesting look back at why it was probably the wrong decision...

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/AmazingAnimals/story?id=7447510&page=1


Book outline

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 1:36 AM | comments: 0

It exists. It has some form. It needs refinement.


Venting

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 12:31 AM | comments: 1

That vent on the side of my house ended up being a minor pain in the ass to fix. The vent is connected by a 4" pipe to the exhaust fan of my downstairs half-bath. It's on the side, about ten feet off of the ground. After eight years, the three flaps had in some combination disintegrated or been pecked away by birds. And the side of the house was splattered with bird shit.

The replacement vent I got from Home Depot was a wild card, and I wasn't sure how it would end up fitting. The shitty contractors who did the siding built this ridiculous frame around the old one. The pipe terminated flush with the wood frame of the house, and the gaps were filled in with that super hard foam stuff. The old vent seemed to be stapled to the inside of the pipe. The new vent was intended to fit around the outside of the pipe.

You can see how that causes a problem. Diana and I took turns breaking off pieces of the decaying plastic (seriously, was this thing made of corn?) until it was gone. While looking for screws, two birds decided to bring nesting materials to the thing. And mind you, the fan from the bathroom is on and pushing air out of it! The lip of the new vent was fortunately not very deep, so I kind of wedged it between the edges of the siding frame, and banged in some wood screws on the corners. The top two seem to have taken into the wood frame, while the bottom two seemed to really take to the hard foam stuff.

I have lingering concern that water will somehow land on top of it and go somewhere not desirable, but I think the siding frame should divert most of it away. Heck, before today it was a totally open four inch hole in the side of my house, which wasn't much better.

I feel accomplished.


Facebook fotos

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 27, 2009, 4:37 PM | comments: 1

In preparation for my transition to a new blog engine, I found I only had two photo albums here I wanted to transition to Facebook from before they let grownups use it, so that was easy enough.

Also got more wedding photos up there, primarily for the people who are Facebook types.


Look at me being domestic and productive

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 27, 2009, 3:21 PM | comments: 1

I feel like I have to hold myself to some standard of getting some kind of results. It doesn't seem to keep me wired and/or stressed out, but I do feel like I need to be doing something, and blog about it to measure it.

I finally got up "early" today, at 9:30. Still about eight hours of sleep, so at least I'm shifting earlier. First thing I did was rock the Mini-Wheats and get to CoasterBuzz, for which I found zero news. Then I got the podcast cut and uploaded. I emptied the dishwasher, showered, tore through a ton of CoasterBuzz Club card print/stuffs (thanks everybody... couldn't come at a better time), surveyed the damage to the vents on the side of my house and got some chicken out to marinade.

Only I didn't have any marinade, so combined with a Home Depot run, I ventured out. At Da Depot, I got some sticky thing for my living room rug which is supposed to keep it from bunching up, so we'll see how that goes. It's the wrong size, but cheaper than the ones I found online. I got a replacement vent for the downstairs bathroom, since birds tore up the old one trying to nest in it, and shit all over the side of my house. Also got some weed-n-feed, which I hope to put down tonight.

Here it is a little after 2, and I'm ready to really buckle down and work out a book outline. I'm probably insane for doing it, but whatever, it keeps writing itself in my head. I just need to get it into electronic form.

Surprisingly, I can see my desk. And it needs dusting.


Chillin' and transitionin'

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 27, 2009, 12:45 AM | comments: 1

This was a really chilled out weekend for us. I think it's the first time since we got back from the honeymoon that we really did mostly nothing most of the weekend. Just leisure. It was great.

Granted, Friday I went to CP and Diana started cleaning the garage, but that's about as far as it went. We did a lot of reading, watching movies and eating. Today we snagged some groceries, but even that was relatively painless and quick.

I didn't spend much time thinking about where I'll get a paycheck next either. Diana is anxious (to say the least) about the situation, but I'm not. I've been through this a bunch of times, and I'm not that worried even though the job prospects are pretty slim.

So the weekend for me is some kind of transition. I got the weirdness out of my head for the first week, and now I'm ready to get down to business. I didn't spend the time I wanted to thinking about my book idea, but that's OK because of the good Diana time I had. That's high on my list. And I have at least one project that has been on my plate now for more than 14 months that could potentially be making a little coin.

I don't have specific direction in mind and I'm surprisingly OK with that. There is a lot to think about. A lot to do. I can't help but think there's some enormous opportunity in front of me that's not entirely obvious.


It won't be long now...

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 26, 2009, 9:22 PM | comments: 1


Summer date day

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 26, 2009, 2:08 AM | comments: 0

The weather was pretty much perfect today. We decided to get some KFC and take it down to the Metropark in Hinckley. It wasn't very good, and probably had been sitting there for awhile, but I suppose it was sufficient. We brought reading material and did some people watching.

We watched as a couple of sisters (with interesting burgundy hair) hung out with a newborn, belonging to them or a friend, we couldn't tell, as several friends joined them to eat poorly cooked hot dogs. People brought their dogs, tried to fly incorrectly constructed kites and hangout in the spillway with whatever critters were swimming there.

When we got back home, we both crashed for hour-plus naps. Last night was not good for sleeping at all for some reason. I didn't have any particular issue with not being able to turn off my brain or anything, I just couldn't sleep.

After the naps, I cooked up some wheat pasta, busted out the wine (a not-very-good Sauvignon blanc), and had dinner out on the deck. We played tunes from the stereo inside (Luscious Jackson) and enjoyed the breeze. Over some nail care, we talked about our early dating days, our "track record" (yeah, that one) and how it's kind of funny that we lasted as many dates as we did before it got really serious all of a sudden.

We also expressed concern about how it seems like we're somewhat behind on life. The sisters at the park kind of represented an era of our lives that may have passed, yet we haven't moved to the point of children. I'm almost 36 and she's 39.

And yet, we don't need to look any further than Joe and Kristen, my in-laws, who have really made things happen. Joe is a few years older than Diana, and they just had Nina. At the same time, he started his own business and they travel a lot more than anyone I've ever known with a youngin'. I think we'll be OK.

We capped our day with an AppleTV rental and some popcorn. It was such a relaxing day all around. It's the first time since we returned from Hawaii that I really felt at peace despite the chaos. I hope to have more days like that.


Search engine optimization

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 26, 2009, 1:32 AM | comments: 0

SEO is kind of a black art of the Intertubes. The idea is that you try to have the right kind of content and links to your site so it appears high up on Google searches for certain terms.

While I think a lot of it is bullshit, since the point of a search engine is to give you relevant results that aren't likely to be gamed, there are a number of things you can do to at least give you a boost. In the last few months that I worked at ICOM, I was lucky enough to get some of those basics down as described by a consulting company. I even got to write a framework that made it somewhat easier to change certain SEO factors quickly.

I also tried to apply a lot of what I learned to CoasterBuzz when I rebuilt it last fall. I figured I'd try to chase down "roller coasters" on Google and see what happened, because the site wasn't even on the radar at the time. Initially, it surfaced in the first page of results, but it only lasted a few days before drifting into the 40's or higher in terms of rank.

I spent a lot of time using Google's Webmaster tools to see how the machines were seeing the site, but I couldn't make all of the compromises it suggested. Ultimately the site still has to be useful to humans first, Google second. And the other thing that seemed to be hurting it was that the content changes constantly, something we had noticed previously on PointBuzz as well.

At some point last week, Google did a refresh of its data and the home page climbed to a page rank of 5, which is up from 4, and it started showing on the first page of results for "roller coasters." I've seen it in the 5th and 6th position. Not bad coming from the depths last year.

But what good is that, exactly? It's fun for bragging rights, I suppose, but it's not like I've seen any huge jump in traffic. Actually, I have seen a huge jump in traffic, but that's because of the timing of the season. That happens every year. Drilling down for visitors who searched for "roller coasters," there are only between 0 and 5 people arriving that way per day.

As it turns out, running a site that doesn't sell anything (not exactly, anyway), your best bet for traffic remains delivering solid content and good community. That's been my standard for nine years, and it has worked remarkably well for me. It still turns out that it's what people want the most, not a lot of goofy features that I think about. Although, I'd still like to add some goofy features now and then. :)


Movie round-up

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 26, 2009, 12:50 AM | comments: 2

I've seen several movies recently, been meaning to blog about them...

Adventureland

Of course this one was a long time in coming when we learned it was shooting at Kennywood, and Kennywood is awesome. My expectation was that the park would largely be background, and that's exactly what it was. No surprises there. I liked that it was set in the 80's as well, since that was such an unfortunate time for music and culture.

The movie was being sold as a comedy, and while there are comedic moments, it's actually a lot darker than that. It's another coming-of-age story, though one set after college, which we don't see enough of. While not the most gripping story ever, it was definitely entertaining enough. Not sure I understand all of the hype around Kristen Stewart though. Yes, she's ridiculously cute, but fuck, someone make her smile, please. If she's a good actress, you wouldn't know it until she gets something more to work with.

State of Play

This one I saw solo to fend off the stir crazies last week. I actually kind of hate Russell Crowe, but I am a sucker for Rachel McAdams. And Ben Affleck I guess I'm mostly indifferent about outside of Kevin Smith movies. But it was a pretty good story for the most part, and it was very topical in the way it treated the decay of newspapers and questionable credibility of electronic media. I really liked that angle. The plot twisting made it somewhat hard to follow toward the end I thought, which made it harder to maintain the tension. It's probably a forgettable movie overall, but still entertaining.

Frost/Nixon

We rented this one on the AppleTV tonight. Still playing Oscar catch up. Despite being alive at the time, Nixon's resignation and Watergate are part of that stretch of American history that never make it out in the schools, so I'm still very interested in it. History seems to put the Frost interviews as a footnote (when you research it), but the movie, and presumably the play, portray the event as a turning point for Nixon to begin repairing his soul and coming to terms with the things he did wrong. Hard to say if that's the way it really went down, but it certainly makes for interesting cinema. Amazing performances all around. Except for Kevin Bacon.


Can't stop thinking about the history

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 25, 2009, 2:12 AM | comments: 2

OK, so I'm not done talking about my day. On one hand, it was pretty weird because I really didn't see Diana all day other than the hour or so of time between me getting home and her going to bed. And one of the remarkable things about that is that it's OK. Our relationship is so different than any other I've been in, because we can pretty much do whatever we want and trust each other enough to understand the scope of our solo careers.

The late night was because I met Tim and Lois after work to watch the Cavs, as I haven't seen Lo since CP closed in the fall and Tim and I had some catching up to do since the wedding. Of course I shared photos too. But it was also the first time that we had a chance to really reflect on the insanity of the last four years. No time of my life has been filled with as much love, tears and complete intensity. Tim had a front seat for most of it, which is why it was so appropriate that he be my best man.

I'm so fucking lucky to have had the experiences I have in those four years. Despite going through something as painful as divorce, even that was ultimately filled with love, even if it did hurt like hell. I've been blessed to be at the receiving end of so much love from friends, lovers, and of course, Diana (who is also a friend and lover, obviously).

I've noticed in browsing old blog posts that I've left quite a bit out about what was really going on at various times, in a lot of cases to protect other people, and in other cases to hold on to some of my cards. A part of me wishes I didn't do that, because the richness in detail that comes with the blog helps preserve the memories. It's important to me because it helps remind me of who I was and what I learned. It gets around that selective memory issue I have.

I have noticed that I need to get some of the old photos off of CampusFish and on to Facebook or something before I kill this iteration of the blog (hoping to do so in a few weeks).


Driving on the midway amuses me

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 25, 2009, 1:14 AM | comments: 0


Some days I wonder if I should be in the amusement park business

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 25, 2009, 12:46 AM | comments: 0

I've been observing the amusement industry for a very long time now. Aside from some Web and video contract work, I've never worked "in" it per se. I know a surprisingly large number of the players and probably one-third of my closest friends work in the biz. But I do not.

I got to thinking about that today while at Cedar Point (Walt and I were there shooting Magnum pr0n and some other stuff). Ran into John, the GM, on the midway, where NOTNSUV was parked. Had my usual conversation with him about how I couldn't imagine everything would be ready by opening day, even though it always is.

I guess I just don't have the slightest idea what I'd do. I don't know how compatible I'd be culturally at Cedar Fair especially, though I suspect I'd fare better at Six Flags, Universal, Herschend or maybe Disney. I especially like the way seasonal parks roll, in kind of the anti-academic calendar mode. It's pretty exciting to watch things go from plans in the fall to an open park in the spring. Or for big cap ex projects, concepts a few years in advance up to the opening of a new attraction.

The business absolutely fascinates me. I'm surprised too to see how many things they could be doing in better ways if everyone had the right buy-in (or in CF's case, "Dad" didn't have to approve everything). There is a great deal of data generated in the business, and when it's paired correctly with human factors and vision, you can do great things. A part of me would love to be a part of that.

To a certain extent, yes, that's my unemployedness talking. But it's still interesting.


Cavs Heineken parody

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 24, 2009, 12:48 PM | comments: 0

By now you've seen the Heineken spot where the woman shows her girlfriends her new walk-in closet and they go nuts, then the men go nuts over a Heineken walk-in fridge. Well this is much funnier...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gwxq4HLDUx8


My open source myth

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 24, 2009, 12:18 AM | comments: 1

There are people that I call software hippies that go on and on at every change they get about how open source software is so awesome and there's free love and it cures cancer and whatever. And they always talk about how cheap it is and how you're sticking it to The Man or Microsoft (or "M$" as the tools would say). There's no point in arguing with them, but they are completely full of shit.

Anyone who has worked in any kind of software development or IT environment knows that the biggest costs come from having warm bodies on the payroll. Compared to them, the cost of software you pay for is a rounding error.

But the bigger cost comes in all of the time you spend f'ing around with open source stuff because so much of it is poorly documented. I spent a good chunk of today trying to get an open source and free rich text editor to work with my blogging application. Dropping it in there to make it edit text was a five minute process. Trying to integrate it so it would use the custom image storage component of my app took forever because there were little to no examples of how to do it right. Frustrating as hell. And Javascript-based stuff is so black-box to begin with.

In any case, I figured it out, and now I can go back to writing code that I understand. I suppose these goofy little struggles build character, but I've got nothing left to give tonight. And that sucks because I really want to make meaningful progress with some hours in front of me. Just ain't gonna happen.


Stupid credit report TV spots

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 23, 2009, 7:58 PM | comments: 3

These annoy me. You know which ones I mean, with the catchy songs. I ask you, if you're a doctor, for example, do you stop being a doctor because some asshole stole your credit card and went apeshit? Like med school disappears and you have to wait tables?

Annoying.


Ted Henry retires

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 23, 2009, 7:34 PM | comments: 3

Wow, I guess it had to happen eventually, but Ted Henry, who has been on Cleveland TV longer than I've been alive, is retiring. I mean, the dude has been in my living room since I was tiny.

Aside from the negative reinforcement that comes with realizing I've lived here too long, Ted is actually the last piece of an era that simply doesn't exist anymore. The broadcast industry and news profession makes it impossible to sustain that kind of track record.

Most of his colleagues left or died years ago. That station has been somewhat of an institution, and the only one to sustain any kind of longevity by not having a revolving door of on-air talent.


Making major pruchases

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 23, 2009, 2:40 PM | comments: 7

Tyler is having some anxiety about making major purchases, in this case better camera gear. I've certainly been there, and I feel his pain.

The landscape for creating any kind of media, whether it be images or video or whatever, has changed so dramatically in the last ten years. One thing that has not changed, however, is that if you want to really push the envelope of your capability, you still need to spend a fair bit of cash. I honestly do believe that curve will blow out further in ten years, but for now, it is what it is.

When I started Guide to The Point (now PointBuzz) back in 1998, I quickly bought an HP negative scanner for $300something, and soon replaced that with a Nikon scanner for about a grand. To get what I was capturing on film into the online world, it was necessary.

In 2000, I bought one of the early Nikon digital cameras, the Coolpix 990, Time's "Machine of The Year." I wanted something I could take to my first IAAPA for quick turn around and publication on CoasterBuzz. It too was about a grand, but it was the start of the digital revolution.

In 2002, Canon finally released an affordable to normal humans DSLR. It was over $2k. The freedom that came with it was astounding, and I really started to get into photography again. Just last year, I went the next step with a full-frame SLR and the nicest single piece of glass I ever owned with the 5D, and that cost me over $2,700.

My video interests, which certainly align more with my professional history, finally were satisfied in 2006 when I bought the HVX200. By the time I bought various accessories, wireless mics, lights, etc., I had spent nearly $10k. In the three years since, I feel like I definitely got my money's worth between the few freelances shoots I did and stuff I've generated for the online stuff.

My intention for this gear over the years was largely to fuel my amusement over creating media, but in some ways it has also greatly enhanced my business, however much of a side project it has been. The quality of stuff I've put online is measurably better than what others can produce.

And certainly, the benefits are not always tangible either. You learn a lot of skills simply by having access to the gear. That has an exponential effect on what you produce.

The bottom line is that these major purchases can seem like toys purchased in a fiscally irresponsible way, and for most people, they probably are. But for people like Tyler and me, these expensive objects open doors, our minds and a great many possibilities we hadn't considered. And they're a hell of a lot easier to buy when you don't have a family to support.


The intentions don't matter when the environment benefits

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 23, 2009, 12:00 AM | comments: 1

I kind of dickishly pointed out in a comment on Diana's post that the company she works for pushing for paperless stuff is a matter of cost before saving a tree. And while that's true, I think I was letting go of the more important issue.

Not only does it not matter what the intentions are, profiteering is ultimately the thing that will drive the most tree hugging, more than any other thing. There's a guy in Indiana making a shit-ton of money because he started making solar powered roof exhaust fans. He can make them cheap, and builders like them because they require no wiring and they give the occupants touchy feely green feelings. Everybody wins.

Many will argue that greed around existing energy infrastructure is what has been holding us back, but the ironic twist in our future is that greed, or if you prefer, the embracing of economic opportunity, is what will get us to a better place with regards to our environment.


Success has nothing to do with giving up your life

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 10:31 PM | comments: 0

37signals: The Lifestyle Business Bullshit

It’s been a long time since there was a direct correlation with the number of hours you work and the success you enjoy. It’s an antiquated notion from the days of manual labour that has no bearing on the world today. When you’re building products or services, there’s a nonlinear connection between input and output. You can put in just a little and still get out a spectacular lot.

This is something I've been saying for a long time, and it's quite the obvious of the stuff that Jason Calacanis is constantly spouting. I think smart people work smart, not more. I think the smart comes in part from experiencing life and doing many things.

I'd like to think I'm an entrepreneur with modest (i.e., not day job money) success, and while I've had spurts of hard work, it has never consumed me enough to entirely define me. Honestly, if I ever got to that point, I'd question why I do it at all.


House and home

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 2:28 AM | comments: 2

This morning I saw a blog post from a friend of mine who is currently in Hungary. His dad, who lives near Budapest, recently died, and he's out there to try and settle things, as they say. He posted some photos from the house, and it's relatively small, but I would characterize it as comfortable. It's certainly not the kind of thing we have here.

That tossed my memories back to Hawaii as well, where for the most part people don't live in big houses. Quite honestly, I don't think they need more than they have. Indeed, perhaps none of us really do.

I grew up in a fairly small, probably typical, house in the inner city. It was not exactly a good neighborhood, and I'd stop one notch short of calling it the ghetto. As a kid, naturally I didn't know any better, but I'd be horrified to raise a family in that environment now.

When we moved to the 'burbs in grade nine, our house was perhaps even smaller, if at least 70's construction. It sure wasn't the kind of place that dominates the subdivisions, that's for sure.

At age 27, when my career felt like it was going places and I was making serious coin, I very much wanted to have a house again. That's when Stephanie and I bought the place I'm in today. We really didn't look anywhere else, and it just happened. It was new, but mostly built when we got involved. As you might expect from the guy who drives cheap cars, we weren't looking to over-do it or buy more than we needed, and it certainly wasn't to keep up appearances. I think we just wanted a reasonably nice place that was truly ours.

A lot has happened since then, and now it's my house, I've remarried, and I'm sharing it with my wife. But it just doesn't feel like it's "our" place. There's so much history here, and all of it mine. I can't help but wonder what our next place will look like, and where it will be.

Diana's house, which sits unsold in Cleveland, is pretty classic stuff in terms of Midwest city houses. With my baggage around my experience a few miles from there (we got robbed when I was 11), it's hard for me to think of living there and feeling safe, so I feel like I'm locked into new and suburban. I know deep inside that I probably don't need it, but it's what I know now.

Then I see a place like the one my bro-in-law lives in near Seattle, and I'm in love with that. While fairly large, I wouldn't describe it as pretentious at all. In fact, his whole neighborhood has a surprising amount of character.

Comfort and safety is what makes a home, for me anyway. But even with that in mind, I really want to start a new adventure with Diana somewhere else. I can't help but wonder what it will look like.


Got no rhythm

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 22, 2009, 2:07 AM | comments: 1

On Monday I felt all ready to go, to tackle the world, but today I was just meh. I don't feel like I really did anything of substance. I seem to be having the same problem I had last summer, where I couldn't find any natural rhythm to my day to incorporate the things I wanted to accomplish.

I also recall that some change of scenery helped from time to time. I figure if tomorrow ends up being a total loss, I'll go off to the library or buy myself lunch somewhere that has Wi-Fi or whatever. I'm going to Cedar Point on Friday, so at least I'll get out and see people. I haven't been up there since closing weekend.


Damn you, Panasonic...

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 21, 2009, 3:35 PM | comments: 0

FreshDV posted some camera porn from NAB showing the Panasonic HPX300. Man, I wonder if they'll be able to keep up on demand for that camera. I'm also thrilled to hear about P2 cards getting much cheaper. The new 32 gig card will cost less than half of what I paid for mine.


Chemical dependency

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 21, 2009, 2:53 PM | comments: 0

I have a problem. I'm addicted to sunlight. The first half of the week here is supposed to be cold and rainy. So when the sun popped out about an hour ago, I grabbed the swimmies and ran out to the hot tub to sun myself for a half hour.

I'm continually amazed at the effect the sun has on my mood. Heck, it was so important that I insisted we get married in the sun. It makes me wonder how well I'd do in Seattle if I lived there, despite the mountains. The sun makes me happy when I have reason not to be.

And given that, this weekend should be pretty awesome.


Evening already? Plus Stacie and travel plans

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 20, 2009, 9:58 PM | comments: 0

I can't believe it's already evening. I managed to get up at a decent time today, and I was busy all day. I let the stack of mail and other things that needed tending to get really high, but I'm most of the way through it all now. I need only pay my homeowners insurance. I also got the podcast cut and posted, some news done, and various other tasks that just needed to get done. I think tomorrow I'll have time to start focusing a bit more on the list of things I want to dive into.

We had dinner today at Melt with my friend Stacie, who I've known since 1992 or so, but lost contact with her after her and Stephanie had a falling out years ago. I don't even remember what it was about, but it doesn't even matter. It was good to catch up and find out what we've been doing with our lives. So much change. It's hard to get my head around it sometimes.

Meanwhile, we have a little bit of money left from wedding gifts, and we're trying to decide if we should do some light traveling for the Memorial Day weekend. We've been contemplating going to Busch Gardens or something, and we can fly Canton to Norfolk for about $200 each. I'm on the fence, which is stupid, because it would be the last change to ride a certain ride. That, and I'm anxious to show Diana that beautiful park and finally get on one of the vertical drop coasters. We'll make a decision on it soon I hope.


Wedding memories

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 20, 2009, 5:48 PM | comments: 3

Gosh, I'm all nostalgic about the wedding today. It was just over two weeks ago, and yet it seems so far in the past. It really was an awesome day. Or two and a half days, actually. Diana's family was certainly as warm as the weather.

I'm really glad I had as many friends there as I did as well. I wasn't sure what to expect with a destination wedding. There were some failures that couldn't be helped of course, with Lois having to stay home and Gonch's childcare meltdown, but I suppose that's God telling me to think about what happens when you have kids! I know they would've been there if they could.

I'm also really, really pleased with the photos. Tyler snapped off a grand total of 1,001 (about half of which were the pelican or Kara), and as Diana went through them for framing decisions, there was a ton to choose from. I know I've said it before, but having someone who will document your wedding is far different from having someone who will stage it. Tyler's work is more documentary, and I love that.

Sometimes I wonder why we only celebrate things like this on rare occasions. I'd like to set a precedent where we do it more often.


The week ahead

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 20, 2009, 1:51 AM | comments: 0

I'm going to try really hard to be positive this week, since yesterweek was pretty shitty. I still have a lot of anger issues I'm trying to process about the lay-off, and what actions I'm taking in response to it. Actually I already know what actions I'm planning to take, and they bring me some joy.

But I really need to flush out the negativity and push forward. I'll spend the typical hour per day that it takes to find work, but beyond that I've got so many ideas and things I want to do. I'm really excited about the possibilities.

The funny thing is, my big win last year with eliminating non-mortgage debt has shocked me into fear about making as much money as possible, which works against me now. I'm going to have to work through that. Sure, I've got some honeymoon expenses on credit, but my credit card rate is the same as my mortgage. It's not a huge expense for now. I was in far worse shape circa 2001 with about half of the earning potential.

My immediate priorities include:
- Finish my blogging app, or just get it more polished since it's in pretty good shape.
- Explore the opportunity to write a programming book that uses the blogging app as the sample.
- Write. Fucking write as much as possible. I love to write.
- Read. Magazines, blogs, books, screenplays, cereal boxes, whatever. Take as much in as possible.
- Do what I can to help make Diana's life easier. I'm gonna be leaning on her emotionally and maybe slightly financially if this goes on too long.
- Have lunch with a former boss. Even if he doesn't have any work, I don't want to lose that contact.

The weather is going to be wet and miserable the next three days, so this will be one hell of a challenge. I think I'm up for it.


Me, Gonch and the Cincinnati mayor on Diamondback

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 19, 2009, 1:19 PM | comments: 6

The local NBC affiliate tossed up the raw video they shot when the mayor took a spin on Diamondback, and we're sitting behind him. Note I had to throw up a gang sign. I had no idea who the hell he was until we got back.


http://www.wlwt.com/video/19210468/index.html


Electronic passive aggressiveness

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 19, 2009, 12:42 AM | comments: 4

Way back in the day, a year or two after Stephanie and I got married, Steph was having a hard time with one of our friends. To make a long story short, she was frustrated with the level of commitment made on the other side of the friendship, and it made her sad. One day she blogged about it.

A day or two later, a different friend took it to mean that she was talking about her, and over something that had happened around the time of that wedding. It was a sad and unfortunate thing, with the end result being that I lost a friend too. Fortunately we've recently reconnected and intend to eat at Melt soon. Which is awesome.

The point of this story is that if you think if you read this blog frequently you'll know that if I have some issue with you specifically, I'll let you know specifically. As Tim put it to members of my new family, "The thing I like most about Jeff is that he's a straight shooter, he'll tell you what he thinks."

So this is what I think... If I intend to talk about you, I'll call you out by fucking name. Passive aggressive online bullshit is for teenagers.


So much disarray

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 18, 2009, 3:55 PM | comments: 2

It feels like everything at the Puzzoni household is in disarray right now. Diana is feeling completely not well, which pretty much hoses all of her intentions to work in the yard or do much of anything else. The jet lag and resulting lack of sleep has certain had a toll on us both.

The house itself is in some level of disarray too, although I did get the vacuuming done Thursday along with the hot tub cleaning. I got some of the laundry rolling (I'm out of clean underwear), packed up the video gear and camera stuff that was everywhere and got the Kings Island Diamondback video posted.

But despite all of that, I just feel so unsettled. I think part of that is obviously that I haven't had time to process the fact that I'm unemployed and I haven't given a ton of thought about what's next aside from the cursory first steps. I feel like there's some enormous opportunity in front of me, but I'm not sure what it is.

We actually jumped in the hot tub this afternoon to enjoy the sun. I turned it down to 99, which is the "summer temperature" I like to use. I think that was an indication to ourselves that despite the somewhat chaotic state of "stuff" around us, perhaps some relaxation is in order. Gotta let go.


Diamondback

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 18, 2009, 1:13 AM | comments: 1

After another night of sleep fail, I managed to get down to King Island by 9:30 this morning to shoot a little video and ride Diamondback. The verdict is that it owns Apollo's Chariot, Nitro and especially Raging Bull in every way. It's intense in ways that you wouldn't expect a B&M to be. And I checked around and found that I was not the only person who felt it was hard to marathon the ride with the extreme negative/positive G cycle. It tosses you high with up to seven seconds out of the seat on a cold empty train, to about five seconds for normal operation, then slams your ass back down.

Every seat is different. The front is pretty amazing, and the back yanks you over the top like no other. The outside seats (aside from the front) are in my opinion the best visually, but slightly rougher in spots since they sit over the wheels (which is still pretty smooth). In fact, the ride has what no other B&M I've been on has: personality. The longer trains allow them to design in ways they couldn't before.

That's all I can get out of my head at the moment. I'll have more stuff posted in the morning, including the sexy slow motion splash video. For now, here's a little taste (be sure to click the "HD" button)...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8zlgXL46uU


Productive afternoon

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 16, 2009, 6:09 PM | comments: 1

Today ended up being productive despite my late rise. Made some phone calls to the recruiters that don't suck, vacuumed the house and cleaned the hot tub. Need to get some start-up chemicals, but hooray for getting a really long run out of the water. I last changed it just before the new year. The water probably still had Kara's cooties.

Meanwhile, my head is in two other places right now. The first is that I need to get batteries charged and gear packed for tomorrow. Time to shoot some HD coaster pr0n. I'm also anxious to get back into some code, which I haven't done in two weeks now. I have an idea for a quick book that I think I can crank through and self-publish while the subject is still interesting. I'll go at it this weekend and see if it's something I can really do.


Wedding photos

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 16, 2009, 5:56 PM | comments: 6

Tyler posted 60 gems from our wedding weekend on Flickr. The one of Sam/Dad emerging from the pool is hott, ladies.


Broken sleep

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 16, 2009, 3:29 PM | comments: 4

Man, we are all screwed up in terms of how we're sleeping. I can adjust to a west coast trip in one day, but this has been harder. Apparently you need a day for every three time zones to the west.

Diana tried to go to bed at 11, but came back down shortly after to play a little Zuma to waste time and occupy her mind. She went back up at 1 a.m., and I'm not sure if she slept. I stayed up until 3 something, blogging and posting photos from the trip. I set my alarm for 9, but turned it off and didn't rise until noon (6 a.m. Hawaii time). I feel great today, but also like I lost half of the day.

And tomorrow I gotta get up early to drive to Cincinnati. It's gonna be rough.


The USS Missouri, airplanes, history, departure

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 16, 2009, 2:27 AM | comments: 0

Our last day in Hawaii one of those true touristy days. Our plan was to see the USS Arizona Memorial and the new (if small) Pacific Aviation museum.

Before setting that plan into motion, we started with room service breakfast. I love getting room service. I know it's never cheap, and sometimes it isn't very good either, but in this case it was very yummy. We enjoyed it right on the balcony. It was delicious. A fitting end to our string of good breakfast!

We walked around the hotel grounds because we didn't really see what it had to offer the night before. It was basically nice, but not as nice as the rooms. It felt like everything was really crammed in there. We were surprised to see that they had sharks and rays in their little pools. Again, in terms of room quality, we'd probably stay there again.

Down by the ocean, we were surprised to see how calm the ocean was compared to that of Kauai. Apparently it's the least surf-worthy area of the islands (we were about 15 miles west of Honolulu). But what was neat was all of the seacritters in the rocks. All kinds of alien looking things on this bed of rocks that was very coral-like in appearance.

The concierge at the hotel was no help about the attractions around Pearl Harbor (are memorials really "attractions?"). As it turns out, the Arizona is free and run by the national park service, while the USS Missouri, the Bowfin (a sub) and the aviation museum are all run non-profits on Ford Island. It's not used as an airfield, but there are bases there, including a strange little subdivision of military housing. It was very Stepford looking, and strange considering what went on there.

We opted for the Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum. We thought we'd hit the Arizona on the way back, but unfortunately they stopped shuttling people on the ferry at 3, and we were short on time to begin with. Chalk that failure up to my total lack of planning. Well, maybe not entirely failure, since the whole point of the trip was to not get bogged down in planning.

The "Mighty Mo" is a battleship of epic proportions that has had an epic history. The thing was built in the 40's, served in WWII and the Korean War, was decommissioned then recommissioned and served in the Gulf War. We're talking about a 50-year run. It's most historic significance is that the surrender agreement was signed by the Japanese to end WWII on its decks. There are few places that have been home to so much American history, in part because most places can't move around the way a ship can.

I was completely fascinated by the ship. It's no secret that war troubles me and I'm somewhat of a pacifist, it doesn't mean that I don't enjoy history. I curse the public schools that never got much further along than the Civil War, and I feel like I don't know enough about most of the 20th Century. So stuff like this is super interesting to me. And of course, the thing is basically a huge machine. Machines are interesting.

The Pacific Aviation Museum was not very big, but we got a little lunch there and walked around to see the seven or eight planes they had. Of particular interest was a training plan that George Bush (the first one) flew in as he learned to pilot. The plane had a crazy history, and eventually one of the owners figured out by an old flight log who spent a lot of time in it.

Just outside of the old hanger where the museum is housed is the old airfield tower, rusting and decaying. That, is a seriously interesting structure. It wasn't finished until just after the attack on Pearl Harbor, but regardless, is incredibly unique in appearance.

After boarding the shuttle back off of Ford Island (an island within an island... how odd is that?), and passing again through the Homeland Security guard post, we got in our rental and headed to HNL to conclude our trip. Everything about that was uneventful, thankfully. We had some ice cream, boarded the plane, and settled in for the seven-hour flight to Houston.

It was a pretty great trip, even with the sickness and the travel issues early on. Hawaii is an incredible place. Not sure if I could live there, but I love that Aloha spirit and the culture and people there. I look forward to an opportunity to return.

Mahalo for reading!


Kauai to Oahu transition

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 16, 2009, 1:27 AM | comments: 3

OK, I have to brain dump this stuff while it's still fresh in my mind!

Easter Sunday was our transition day from Kauai to Oahu. The Grand Hyatt was awesome enough to give us a 2 p.m. check-out. That was perfect, considering that our flight left around 4:30. I have to say, the hotel impressed me in most every way, and while not as intimate as some hotels, really took care of us.

We started with, wait for it, breakfast. I really came to love their breakfast potatoes, which they had every other day (three of the five), and finally figured out on the last day that the ideal toaster speed was "4" for wheat bread. We had to get right out of bed to go because they were closing it early for an Easter brunch.

Once we got cleaned up, and we took our sweet time with that, we headed down to the pool for just a little while, hanging out in the shade. I had a little leftover Wi-Fi from the day before, so I brought the laptop down and uploaded some photos to Facebook. I also started navigating the troubled waters of our marriage license, because the captain apparently didn't stamp it or something. At first the clerk at the court said he wasn't even qualified to do the wedding. It's apparently all worked out, but I'll be happier when I get the certified copy in the mail.

After getting travel clothes on, we headed down to stroll the grounds one last time. I think my time at Disney last year has allowed me to enjoy these "manufactured" little realities more. I know Kauai is a beautiful place that has amazing examples of what nature can offer, but I felt really OK with the well-manicured grounds and pools with an ocean view.

We stopped and talked to the bird that was caged half the day near the entrance to our building, Lilikoi. I don't know my exotic birds, but this one was a lot of fun and said some basic words.

Once we packed up and had the valet bring the car around, we headed out for lunch at the Italian joint next door to Tomkat's. It's so weird to have island culture and people mixed with Italian food, but it wasn't bad. Diana got bruschetta and I got the four-cheese cream sauce penne special. It wasn't the best ever or anything, but still pretty good. The fresh grated cheese on top is what really worked for me. Our server was very cool.

While there, we witnessed a family come in and be shooed out of the outdoor area we were sitting in because they were closing it to clean it before the dinner rush. They got pissed and left, and were real assholes about it. It's also pretty stupid because, like most places in Hawaii, everything is practically outdoors in the first place. As I mentioned previously, I don't know how people can both welcome the tourists that feed their economy and yet put up with their bullshit.

Our return to the airport was met with significant drama. In an effort to save time and be prepared, Diana took her ID out to get ready to deal with the TSA. Just as we were about to check-in, she realized it had fell out of her pocket. She started to freak out, as did I, but I tried to contain it. She had it when we dropped off the car, and after two shuttle bus rides, found it in the seat of the bus. Good thing crappy Alamo was only running one bus. Crisis averted, but it was a tense 20 minutes or so.

Go Air finally gave us an uneventful flight, and we got to Oahu in 20 minutes. The rental car was off-site (price I paid for a $30 rental, including taxes), so that was a pain. And navigating Oahu isn't as straight forward either, as they have actual freeways and such. The iPhone mapping app crashed mid-route and we missed our exit. The UI is not very intuitive for an iPhone app, and Diana had a hard time getting us back on track. I got frustrated and pissy and immediately felt bad about it.

But we only missed the hotel by one exit, and we were pleasantly surprised by the room. A JW Marriott is apparently the higher end variety. I got $150 in Marriott cards from my Citi credit card rewards program (only took $15,000 in use over the last few years to get there!), so naturally I wanted to finish our vacation right with an ocean view. We got up to the room just minutes before sunset, and it was amazing.

The dining options at the hotel were not quite as robust, unfortunately, but we had some decent sandwiches. We spent a romantic evening in after that.

Overall, I have the opinion now that island hopping around Hawaii is a bad idea unless you can go five days or so between hops. I understand you still have the start and end trips if your airline doesn't fly direct to the non-Ohau islands, but out transition from the Big Island to Kauai was a total disaster. Plus, moving all your shit isn't fun. I don't think I'd want to do that again.


One of those really strange days

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 16, 2009, 12:53 AM | comments: 2

If I had a top ten list of the weirdest fucking days, today would be one of them. Imagine if you will stepping off a plane from paradise and finding you're being kicked to the curb at your job. Here I had the perfect wedding, a damn near perfect honeymoon (could have done without the cold), and then you're knee deep in bullshit. Throw in the IAAPA nonsense for a little something extra (when you were invited to come in the first place).

But alas, I've done my best to keep a little perspective. After all, I just did get married with a near-perfect wedding and spent a week in Hawaii. We actually spent some quality time today looking at the 1,000 photos from the wedding (did I mention Tyler did an amazing job?) and 600 from Hawaii. It all seemed to have gone by so quickly. But wow, we got to do it right.

Diana already had today off, and as it turns out, that was probably a good thing. The cold I was battling last week was kicking her ass all day, so she spent most of it on her back and lying down. I played the role of dutiful husband and went out to get her ice cream, made a little dinner and got her pills. She's officially my family now.

I did the usual network reboot, so to speak, but things aren't quite as positive as they were in July. I'm not that concerned about it yet. Shit, I'm still on Hawaii time! Again, the never ending adventure of life is sending me off to new territory. I'm still contemplating things, considering the options, evaluating, forming a game plan. It's not easy to start when you have a mostly blank sheet in front of you.

I do have a few things in mind. Obviously I have this stack of projects in front of me, some of which have been lingering for far too long. This time around, I have some degree of confidence that I can finish some of them after the successful relaunch of CoasterBuzz. I think the first thing is to get this new blog engine done. I need to come up with a design that says "Jeff Putz."

Tomorrow's priority is to vacuum up the fur balls all over the house from the four shedding animals, and then start prepping for the stuff I plan to shoot at Kings Island on Friday. Hey, at least I don't need a day off for that!


No IAAPA

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 5:51 PM | comments: 0

The hits just keep on coming today. IAAPA isn't interested in having me speak this year.

This week is not going well.


Word travels fast

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 11:59 AM | comments: 0

For as much as I dog Twitter, funny how it sent a huge chain reaction of Facebook activity, e-mail and IM's.

Yes, I was laid-off. Until I have the separation agreement in hand, I probably won't go much into it beyond that.

In the mean time, senior level .NET developer or architect with a storied media career and video skills is on the street. Give me a shout if you've got a lead!


Jet lag fail, racing brain

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 15, 2009, 2:43 AM | comments: 0

Well, we caved and took an hour nap around 7. Got up, watched some junk on the DVR, got into bed at 11. Watched Letterman. Still no sleep.

My mind is racing like crazy. I'm anxious about a hundred different things. I can't turn my brain off at all. I finally got out of bed and came down stairs because I'm sure my constant shuffling would get on Diana's nerves. Cosmo knows I'm troubled, sitting beside me purring and making bread (or perhaps she's just annoyed we were gone so long).

The experiences of the last week and a half, starting with the wedding, really forced me to think about my life in many different ways. My new family life, professional and financial goals and health all weigh heavy on my mind. There's so much to accomplish, and much of it has to happen sooner than later. At the same time, I feel like I know just as much about what I shouldn't be doing as what I should, and these things are often at odds.

Let's see if some senseless video games can help me turn it off for awhile...


Home, exhausted, happy

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 7:08 PM | comments: 0

We made it home this afternoon on time, and my dad picked us up from the airport. The kittehs are naturally very happy to see us.

I'm trying to process everything from the last week and a half, but it's damn near impossible. The wedding seemed to happen so fast, but it was so intensely packed with good times and good people. The honeymoon was a blur, and we didn't even work that hard to trying to do tons of stuff.

Yesterday, which is kind of today our given our lack of sleep, we did Pearl Harbor stuff (the USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum, but didn't get to the USS Arizona Memorial in time, unfortunately. I'll get all of the details about our last two days blogged eventually, maybe even tonight.

I'm going to try and stay up until 9 tonight, maybe even 10. I hope that I can sleep normally, but I'm expecting an enormous crash at work tomorrow regardless. Coming back east is always a bitch.

We shot a little more than 600 photos, lots of them of wild chickens (so Tyler wouldn't feel bad about the pelican photos in Ft. Myers). We rattled off quite a few on the Missouri in particular, because it was so interesting. We shot almost no video aside from a few shots on the Big Island as we were driving back up the road in the national park.

The wedding and the trip have made me think a lot about the important things in life, and I'm sure I'll be writing about those things as well in the near future. For now though, let's see if I can stay engaged in anything for another three hours...


The sun returns!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 12, 2009, 5:09 AM | comments: 0

I woke up feeling a little better today. I was still tired, but at least I felt somewhat human. Today's symptom was a cough, but as long as I didn't do a lot of heavy breathing I was OK.

The sun finally made its way back into our lives, and we started the morning (after breakfast) by going to the Spouting Horn. Basically it's an ancient lava tube that the tide fills and pushes water out vertically with a strange noise. It probably doesn't sound that exciting, but the fact that nature managed to put it all together on its own is pretty neat.

Back at the hotel, of course we wanted sun. Actually, I mostly wanted shade, but to be outside in it. I brought down the laptop to do some online reading and catching up (going a record week with zero connectivity outside of my phone) while Diana did her best to obtain color. It's like I barely recognize her! She's a combination of brown and freckly, depending on where you look. But she'll be able to confirm, "Yes, I was in Hawaii."

After lunch at the pool bar, yep, I took a nap. Diana spent some time in a hammock and some money at the spa on products.

For dinner, we ventured out just to the west and found a neat little place that fulfilled our need for "local color." Good food there, including some garlic-cilantro fries. Seriously yummy.

That was really the extent to which we did anything today. We're both fairly exhausted from the sun exposure (I burned the inside of one leg from inadequate sun block application). Tomorrow is our last day on Kauai, with a late check out and then a short flight back to Oahu for our last night on the islands. The Hyatt has been a good home for us and met my requirements for simply being "taken care of" at all times.


Waimea Canyon, kittehs and dinner fail

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 12, 2009, 4:53 AM | comments: 1

After breakfast on Friday, we made our way up to Waimea Canyon, the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific." With all of the cloud cover over the islands, I wondered how much we would get to see, but it turns out that the edge of the clouds were just moving across the west portions of Kauai.

I somehow missed the more civilized road up to the canyon, and ended up taking the super winding, sometimes single lane, road with the abandoned burned car on it. That was certainly an adventure. But eventually we got to the biggest observation point of the canyon, and the cloud cover was minimal. It's absolutely breathtaking. Even though I had been there before, it's still hard to believe it's real. You don't appreciate the scope of it until one of the helicopters go flying through it.

We worked our way all the way to the top, stopping at the various look-out points, the little museum, and photographing the wild chickens all over the place. From the top, we very briefly got a break in the clouds to see down through the Na'Pali coast and down to the ocean. I sort of regret that Diana will not have a chance to see the coast by way of boat or chopper, but I think it would be a priority when we return.

I really struggled with the cold thing on the descent from the canyon. You come down about 3,000 feet in a couple of miles and my ears were horribly blocked. Not a good feeling.

Between Waimea and Poipu Beach, we stopped at the Kauai Coffee Company's little visitor center, and did their short walking tour. Coffee is so weird, and I didn't know the beans came in pairs in "cherries" that were mechanically separated. Pretty interesting stuff, even for a non-coffee drinker. It was neat to see the machine that shakes the cherries from the trees.

We stopped in Koloa again on the way back, and had lunch at a little place called Tomkat's. Like a lot of things in Hawaii, it's actually open and outdoors, and stray cats walk around between the tables. They're very well behaved and seem to just gravitate to my cat lady wife. :)

Again, by this point in the afternoon, I needed a nap. I felt pretty awful, and emotionally frustrated at the limitations that this bug was causing me. The timing just could not suck more.

We decided for dinner to return to Yum Cha, the Asian restaurant over in the golf course's club house. Unfortunately, this time, the food was pretty terrible. I got the same thing, the Mandarin chicken, and got something bone-like in it. Diana had the same dish, and just didn't like it because there was so much dark meat. We were completely disappointed. They ended up comping the meal. Since Diana had so little of hers, we stopped in the Italian restaurant in the hotel itself, and she had gnocchi. I just made an off-the-cuff remark about how this was dinner take two to explain why I wasn't eating, and they ended up comping that meal just because. Reminds me of the stories from the Ritz hotels where you can get free stuff if you bitch. That was not our intention, but I won't complain.

We ended the evening by parking on a swing down on the beach. You could see the light of the torches flicker on the waves as they broke, and the clouds broke up enough to finally see that stunning Kauai sky. I think the star count is even greater than it is on the mainland when viewing from nowhere Indiana. Simply amazing. Nature will never disappoint you on Kauai.


Luau day!

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 11, 2009, 7:12 PM | comments: 0

I woke up Thursday with a sore throat and more feverish feelings. I was really distraught because this is obviously the last thing you want on your honeymoon. We had an amazing breakfast again, and I felt a little better, but tired, so Diana headed to the pool and I went for a nap.

I didn't feel great after getting up, but you know, I'm on Kauai, I gotta get out! We went to near by Koloa, where there are a number of little dives and shops in really old buildings. This town was once at the edge of an enormous sugar plantation that extended many miles to the west. It has a bit of charm to it that's absent from more recent building around the east shore (and it's a hell of a lot less crowded). Diana found a fleece for about $18 to keep warm, as it was the start of two days without sun and it was chilly. The coolness did not stop us from obtaining ice cream. It was damn good ice cream!

We booked the hotel Luau for the evening, then went back out to the pool. There wasn't really any sun to be had, unfortunately. The lack of sun was taking its toll on Diana, who is convinced that she brings cold weather everywhere she goes (and I might be inclined to believe her, after this and our cold week at Disney World in November).

The luau wasn't cheap, but it was convenient and all-you-can-eat/drink, a plus when you can walk back to your hotel. Unfortunately, because of the weather, they had to move it inside to their giant ballroom. Something didn't seem right about that. The food wasn't bad, the stuff I liked anyway, and Diana said the pork was just amazing.

The dancing was pretty good, as it was a combination of a number of different Polynesian cultures, all the way down to New Zealand (which I didn't know had any Polynesian culture). The band was pretty cool too. As you can imagine, given my love for Blue Man Group, lots of percussion makes Jeff a happy guy.

We met a nice father and daughter couple sitting next to us from L.A. There's a serious cultural gap there to be sure. Californians definitely see the world differently. And for that matter, so do Hawaiians. The woman I sat next to on the plane from Honolulu to Hilo made me realize that, as she works for the state and documents the living conditions and such of natives throughout the state.

I can't imagine living here, being dependent on the tourism economy (which is hurting), but tolerant of tourists who neglect to consider that people live here, and this is their home. The locals are simultaneously annoyed at tourists driving too slow on the main roads and too fast in the residential neighborhoods (we saw a sign that someone made that eloquently said, "Slow the fuck down!").

It's such a beautiful place though. I don't think I'd want to live here, but I do love visiting.


Wednesday on Kauai

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 11, 2009, 4:13 PM | comments: 0

We started our first full day on the Garden Isle with breakfast at the hotel. The discount package we got includes it every morning, and it's awesome. Almost better than the Paris casino.

In the morning we spent some time poolside at the adult pool. The Hyatt has many, many pools, some of the connected by little rivers. It's quite beautiful, if a little of a manufactured reality. They definitely earn their room rates.

We decided to drive out around the east and north sides of the island. Traffic is terrible there, but I figured there were cool things to see. We started at a little marketplace for food and perhaps a little shopping. Had some yummy chicken skewers. The hurting tourism economy was obvious, as a number of places are closed. As we were leaving, I didn't feel like myself, like when you're about to get sick.

We drove around the north side to the lighthouse and took lots of pictures. Such an amazing coast line.

By this time I was feeling feverish, so we headed back to the Hyatt. We stopped at Wal-Mart for supplies (I felt dirty about it) and meds. I started to panic, because I could not be sick after surviving the plague at work. I napped hard.

When I woke up, we went to a restaurant in the hotel called Tide Pools. It's set on water with open sides. Really cool concept. Food was just ok. I expect $50+ per plate places to rock my world, but this didn't. Still, great location.

We ended our day crashing after navigating the many pools here. I'm surprised to see so many pool dwellers with so much to see on the island, but it is ridiculously inviting!


Big Island, big pain in the ass

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 8, 2009, 3:24 PM | comments: 2

We were up at 5:30 yesterday morning in the beautiful rain forest where our B&B was on the Big Island. It was almost too secluded! Very quaint little place, and we'd stay there again. By 8 were in Volcanoes National Park.

At first I was disappointed because the lava viewing area was a night time thing. Half of the road around the rim was also closed due to high sulfer dioxide levels. It was feeling like a fail trip. But as it turned out, we got to walk through an amazing lava tube and see landscapes that were completely alien. I got a little teary. I still can't process some of what we saw.

We drove all the way down from 3,700 feet to the ocean, passing through various lava flows of the last fifty years and various craters. Down at the ocean, we could see the steam miles away where the island was "growing," but again, the gasses and distance made it impossible for us to check out. Still, it was all pretty amazing.

I was hesitant to do any island hopping, and unfortunately, my fears came true. Hilo was an eating disaster, stuck at a Pizza Hut the night we arrived, then an Ihop for lunch. We returned to the airport barely in time, but then the layover on Oahu got extra long when they pulled us off the plane to change a tire.

Once on Kauai, our baggage didn't seem to be there. Diana was crazy upset and I was pissed. They were holding it at the ticket counter but didn't tell anyone. By the time we had our car, almost seven hours had passed since we arrived at ITO. Wasted half day.

Fortunately, the Hyatt excels at ass kissing, as they should for what it costs. Asian fusion for dinner, hot tubbing and a walk to the surf put us in the right place mentally. We're back on our honeymoon.


We're married

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 6, 2009, 8:26 AM | comments: 0

Wow, just haven't had a chance to catch my breath since Saturday morning. We did it. Once we got into the wedding day, pretty much everything went off without a hitch. We had a ridiculous descent into Cleveland last night and got things charged, re-packed and squared away. A parade of house/kitteh watchers are in place.

We'll be on the big island by 2 a.m. Eastern, 9 Hawaii time. Long ass day to say the least. I have a lot of anxiety because you never know want to expect with a B&B. I feel like things aren't 100% until we get to Kauai. Then I can relax.

I want to thank everyone involved with our big day, and for those who couldn't make it, we missed you. As they say at Islands of Adventrue, the adventure begins...


Good morning, Sanibel

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 4, 2009, 11:19 AM | comments: 0


The day has arrived

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 4, 2009, 11:04 AM | comments: 0

The big day is finally here. A little over six months ago, we were here dodging tropical storm Fay but loving the resort. Today I'm sitting on my balcony looking at the pool and the bay between the mainland and Sanibel Island while Diana is off for her hair and makeup appointment.

We've had some travel casualties, so to speak. The Toledo Mattoni's had the drama in Detroit, and Michelle did not make it here. Gonch had a last-minute child care failure, and he and his wife had to bail. Lois (Tim's wife) had to attend to school action for one of their kids. While disappointing that these folks can't be here, we know that it was largely outside of their control. We'll spill a little off the stern of the boat for our travel-challenged friends and family.

Last night we had a very small dinner gathering just for the people standing up at the wedding, plus Tyler (and Beth) since he's shooting. The bill was impressive. I drank a lot of wine, after getting free drinks at the pool. I was pretty much done with the alcohol at that point, because I didn't want to be ruined for the big day. So when the party continued at the bar, I stuck to water. We were in bed by 11:30.

So I'm hanging out on the balcony, watching the boats go by, the resident pelican get his fish on and using the free Wi-Fi. It's a little cloudy right now, but the forecast calls for it to be pretty hit or miss. At noon I'll meet the boys at the pool. Temperature will be perfect.

It's a good day to get married.


Travel crisis review

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 3, 2009, 9:49 AM | comments: 9

Wow, so things got ugly late in the day yesterday.

Diana's Toledo-based relatives, two aunts and two cousins, got stranded in Detroit (the shittiest place in the world to get stranded, if you ask me), when Spirit (who the fuck is Spirit?) cancelled their flight to Ft. Myers. No alternatives, just a big middle finger to the 150 people on that flight. The aunts, infrequent travelers and not accustomed to airport drama, figured that their only option was to get refund and drive down. The next flight Spirit could put them on was in five days. Are you fucking kidding? Planes in Detroit don't go to other cities?

Diana's dad called them and explained that you have to be a dick, and eventually they got them on Amtrak to Chicago, and this afternoon they'll depart O'Hare. The one cousin has bailed because completely.

Meanwhile, Gonch and his wife are having a kid-watching melt down, and are busting ass to fix that.

Seriously... we don't need this kind of drama.


Spacebar

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 2, 2009, 2:50 PM | comments: 1

The terminals at the Continental counter have paper wedged into the keyboard to keep the spacebar down. The cursor just keeps going and going in a terminal window. Strange hack.


List complete

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 2, 2009, 1:59 AM | comments: 1

I actually made a list of things I needed to achieve before heading off into the sunset (on a boat). I don't make a lot of lists, because I tend to just do stuff or forget about it. I'm an inbox purger. But I was worried I'd forget something, so made a list, I did.

I got a ton of CoasterBuzz Club cards printed and mailed, paid some bills, cleaned up the kitchen, got a little sun, packed as much as I think I need (I need to buy some T-shirts I think from the islands), and I feel like I'm ready to go. Packing for two trips is odd.

Diana says her dad is somewhat going to play the roll of bridezilla, because he wants everything to be perfect. He's a fussy guy when it comes to entertaining people, so I can only imagine how he's rolling with something this important!

I can't wait to feel that sun on my face and sand between my toes. This will be one hell of a party.


It's almost time to get married

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 1, 2009, 1:03 AM | comments: 0

Man, I feel like I've had my head up my ass, because the reality that I'm getting married in a few days has really set in now. It's not the idea of getting married, as I've been perfectly comfortable with that for a very long time, but rather that the actual date is almost here. Holy shit! Work has kept me very distracted, but today I think I had some conversations that at least partially put my mind at ease. We'll see.

I'm not a heavy list maker or planner the way Diana is, and honestly she's been at the center of all of the wedding and boat plans. I handled all of the honeymoon plans, which honestly isn't that hard beyond making reservations. My mind will be at ease when we touch down in Lihue. The run out to the Big Island actually has me a little tweaked out because, I don't know, I just hate shuffling around on a schedule.

I haven't packed anything. Diana leaves tomorrow, while I go Thursday. My clothes are traveling with her dress, as are the rings, so that part is off my shoulders. I mostly just have to show up in Florida. But I did have to get all of the iPod music arranged and such, and that's good to go. I've actually made a few lists so I don't forget any of the gadgets I need to document the experience. Battery chargers and such.

It's a complete pain in the ass that we're flying back here to Cleveland before going to Hawaii, but the extra three hours or so total flight time actually saves us about a grand between the two of us in airfare. As soon as you start arranging flights that aren't round trip, they get more expensive. It doesn't make any sense. Actual travel agents can't seem to get around it either. I suppose the one bonus is that we have to tote around less stuff, but on the flip side, we also get the honeymoon moving a day later, and that kind of sucks.

But I think for the most part everything will just happen, and hopefully we'll be able to just enjoy it. I know her dad is going to make everyone nuts because he wants everything to be perfect, but he gets dibs on the wine at the reception.

There are good times in our future...