Archive: May, 2010

We can rebuild the forum, better, stronger than before

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 31, 2010, 11:22 PM | comments: 0

The forum app at work got a nice trim as we forked off the entire thing to one of the groups that was using it, and with that went all of the one-off customizations and other issues that made it hard(er) to maintain. Portions of the app have also enjoyed overhauls by us, and it's funny how when you have to do something with them, they're a lot easier to deal with. The app was a serious mess when our team took over, and slowly it feels like it's getting under control.

With all of this slimming goodness, and the good times that come with using ASP.NET MVC over Webforms, I've had the urge to get back to POP Forums. While the overall skills are transferable, it's interesting to note that my app and the work app have exactly zero in common. I wouldn't build much of any of that thing the way it was done, and thank God I don't need to use Live ID. Since I decided to do File -> New Project last fall, I wanted to not change any of the database (or as little as possible), which means that my rewrite has its rules written already. It's more of a port to the new platform than anything.

About the only thing that's similar is those actual data access points, which makes sense since I don't want to change the database. What's remarkable, after about four or five weeks of messing with it for maybe six or seven hours a week, is that it's something completely different. There's a whole lot of legacy of crap coding in the old app, to the extent that I rarely look back at any of it. Some of it is at least six years old. Being test driven (well, "test influenced" is more like it) and decoupling the shit out of everything has made me a lot more efficient. I'm realizing that for all of the work I've done for other people the "right" way, I haven't really done it for anything of my own. It's the first time I've really applied my skills to my apps.

My approach was simply to start with the obvious use cases, one at a time, and build whatever is necessary around those. So far, I created a user, let the user login or out, navigate to a forum, post a new topic, display paged topics. The result is about 1,400 lines of code, and another 800 for the data access. Of course, there are 2,000 lines of unit test code, but it's in dire need of refactoring (which I'll probably never do). There is a ton of stuff missing, like text parsing, security action logging and virtually no UI, but even with 60 files, it's so clean compared to what the old app was. The old app was 13k lines of code, and that had no testing to speak of. If I had to guess, the new app will probably have in the neighborhood of half what the old one did. That's bad ass.

I look back at the last four or five years of my own sites, including the forum app, and I think I see the pain points that kept me from evolving them. It mostly comes down to hanging on to a legacy that was toxic. It was too hard to evolve it. The CoasterBuzz rewrite that launched in 2008 was a step in the right direction, but even now I can see how held back I was by everything old. There's the fundamental difference between the personal code and the work code: At home I was bound to what the lesser code monkey (me) did years ago, while at work I was able to easily change stuff that better programmers wrote before me. That's funny to think about, because it's exactly the reasons I didn't want to do consulting work anymore in 2005... I couldn't get better at what I did. Thank God I've had good jobs with good people since then!

MVC has offered a kind of rebirth for me. Because the platform tends to encourage a certain style (the classic "separation of concerns"), you just tend to take OOP and unit testing to the places they're supposed to go (which is not to say you can't still write shitty code). For my experience, these were already skills I used every day, given that most of my professional work since 2005 has been server-side and non-UI in nature, but all of my personal stuff has been very heavily UI focused. Webforms makes it all harder. I know the official Microsoft position is that Webforms isn't going anywhere, but I just assume never use it again.

I still don't know when POP Forums v9 will be done. But I will say that it's a lot more fun to work on than the old versions ever were, and I feel a lot more confident about the long-term quality.


Post travel routine disruption

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 31, 2010, 8:35 PM | comments: 0

Simon doesn't have a rigid schedule, but he does have a pattern for sure. It varies by as much as two hours, but we can usually bank on him getting up from an afternoon nap between 3 and 5, and go to bed for the evening between 5 and 7.

Until we screwed him up with the vacation travel. :)

He did OK when we got home yesterday, but was in bed even before 5. He got up for his first late night snack around 11, which is definitely part of his routine. Today, however, he was all over the place. He finally agreed to an afternoon nap, after about a half-hour of coaxing.

The evening brought a strange series of put down attempts and eating. We entertained him until about 5:30, when he was ready to pass out. He got right back up by 6:30, so thinking about how he just ate, we gave him four more ounces. He wouldn't sleep, but he was generally happy. We put him down again, and he was having none of that, but we thought we'd let him attempt to cry it out. That didn't work. Again, we figured as a last resort he was hungry, and gave him some more, then more. All told, he had about 12 ounces in two and a half hours, which is an awful lot for him.

He was still not in any mood to sleep, so Diana resorted to intense rocking and walking around therapy. You could tell he was tired, but he had passed the point of no return and had to be talked off of a ledge. But finally, the three hour ordeal was over, and he was sleeping like a baby.

(Sidebar: I don't know who came up with the term "sleep like a baby," but it's complete bullshit. Babies don't sleep well, or even for long periods of time. As a grown up, if I "slept like a baby" I'd be tired and miserable all of the time! Perhaps "sleep like a toddler" is more appropriate.)

I think some of this is just us bitching about the inconsistency, and we constantly have to remind ourselves that he's not quite three months old. Diana's intense research on sleep probably makes her even more anxious on the subject. Despite all of this, I can tell you that it's still worth it as every day we watch his personality develop. He's one charming kid!


The first Puzzoni Family Vacation

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 30, 2010, 8:35 PM | comments: 0

We have returned from the lovely state of Oregon, where we embarked on our first family vacation. Our expectations were low, and our plans loose, because we had no idea what to expect traveling with Simon. As it turns out, this was the right plan.

All of our group's group (EPX... a subgroup of DevDiv but parent to STO) got an extra two days off as a reward for, uh, supporting the shipping of all of those products the last few months. Glad I could help. :) In any case, this seemed like a great opportunity for us to get out on a driving trip without using any vacation days, so we decided to head out to one of the very small number of places we could go: Oregon.

I went to Portland in 1998 with Stephanie to attend a conference for local cable access people. I think I went to two actual sessions that week, because I wasn't getting anything out of it, and Steph was doing all kinds of interesting things downtown. I remember feeling like it was a very cool, and yet large, small town. We headed to the coast on that trip, so I had some idea about that as well, and I figured we'd put that on our agenda.

Thursday's goal was simply to get to Newport, the town where the Oregon Coast Aquarium is. The route was to head down around the sound to Olympia, then head west from there around Aberdeen to US-101. I foolishly let Google Maps and Nigel (our name for the Garmin GPS) lead the way, and this led us away from the coast. Twice. The problem in both cases is that it thinks the route is faster based on a lack of speed limit, but in the case of rural roads, is totally and completely wrong. You can't drive 55 on a road up the side of a mountain with hairpin turns. The first unroute was just north of the Columbia River, while still in Washington. It probably saved five minutes of time, but it put off the ocean views. The second one was deep in Oregon, and that denied us quite bit of ocean town stuff. On the plus side, we drove through a stunningly beautiful valley with a number of small dairy farms, but it was one of those rural areas with bullet holes in the road signs that left you feeling uncomfortable. We missed the ocean from US-26 almost all the way to Tillamook. I'm still a little angry about that, but I should know better after our Wyoming detour through nowhere on our cross-country move. Despite these pain points, I'm completely amazed at how beautiful the Pacific Northwest is. There's just nothing like it anywhere else in this country.

The area around the Columbia River, where the 101 bridge is, is absolutely breathtaking. Seeing pictures of it, or looking at it on a map, doesn't really give you any context for how big it is. The bridge goes on forever, in the way that you'd expect some coastal Florida bridges to go (only without the tolls). The mountains in the distance and giant ships add to the scope of it all. There were some places to stop, and I would've liked to, but Simon was getting super cranky, and we wanted to keep our pace.

The optional objective of the day was to stop at the Tillamook Cheese Visitor's Center. It's right on US-101, so it's not out of the way. We rolled in there about 45 minutes before they closed at 6, and immediately took to feeding Simon, who was really tired of being in the car for the prior four hours. We really only stopped twice to that point; Once in Olympia for a quick feeding, and once at some random point to get him out and stretch a bit.

Tillamook is pretty much the shit when it comes to cheese and ice cream around here. They have the cheese in the grocery stores, and you can buy small packages in the Microsoft cafes as well. Their sharp cheddar is the tits. Prior to this day, I only bought a tub of their mint chocolate chip ice cream, and I was really disappointed in it. It just wasn't that good. So before we got to the ice cream, we of grabbed a bite in their cafe for, what else, but grilled cheese! I had a sharp cheddar and swiss, and it was delicious. For the ice cream, I had vanilla bean, and this was the salvation I was hoping for. I really liked it. Diana had the mudslide flavor, and it was damn good as well. I Bjorn'd Simon as we walked up to the observation deck above the packaging floor, where thousands of pounds of cheese was being cut up into little pieces and magically wrapped. I didn't get any non-phone photos, unfortunately, because with Simon getting so restless, I wasn't that motivated to get the camera out. There was what appeared to be a huge old blimp hangar just outside of town with an air museum, the first of two we'd pass, so I've made a mental note of that.

By this point, Diana had given up trying to sit up front with me, because Simon was being high maintenance. We weren't that far out of Tillamook before he started to cry uncontrollably. I mean, he really started to flip out. This is something that Diana has a really hard time with, as all moms probably do. Her frustration level maxed out to her breaking point, and just then, there was a pull-off on the road. We had finally reached a bona fide ocean view. There was no one else there. I turned off the car, pulled Simon out with a blanket, and walked up to the stone wall overlooking a beach. Diana and Simon finally had their first view of the Pacific from the west coast. I told Simon that this was where the noise from his Sleep Sheep came from. He chilled out only momentarily. The timing couldn't have been better. I started to wonder, could he be hungry?

Sure enough, that was it. He had just put away a bottle an hour before at the cheese factory, so it really never occurred to either one of us that he could be hungry. He seems to be repeating the pattern we had at six weeks, where no amount of food was enough. This time, he was good for the rest of the drive.

We passed through a couple of beach towns that felt remarkably like Florida beach towns, only a bit desolate since it wasn't quite warm enough yet, and with mountains on one side. I spotted the light house that I took a picture of in 1998, and has been hanging on my bedroom wall for years. We arrived at our hotel around 8, with daylight to spare, and gave Simon another meal before bed. The fairly new Holiday Inn Express there in Newport is actually pretty nice.

The sleeping arrangements are actually pretty easy at this age. Since he can't roll over, we simply burrito him and chuck him into the middle of one of the queen beds. It's pretty weird to sleep in the same room as him, because we haven't done that in nearly two months. And talk about white noise, the A/C unit was just wonderful for helping the boy (and me) sleep, with a more subtle start-up than some. It was a fairly restful night after a somewhat challenging day of driving.

We began Friday with a little breakfast (wasn't bad) and checked out. The aquarium was actually just a block away, so we started there. I had been there before, and since it was something familiar, it seemed like a good objective on the coast. Last time I was there, they had Keiko (Free Willy) there, but as everyone knows, freeing him ended up killing him. I'm not positive, but I think what they did with the whale tank was repurpose it to have the walk-through tunnels typical of many aquariums. It was quite beautiful, and in addition to the sharks, there were divers cleaning the glass. The kids were more into the divers.

The other indoor exhibits were pretty typical, the highlight being their jellyfish tanks and a simulated pier piling tank, showing what stuff naturally grows on the columns, old tires, etc. The outdoor stuff included a sea lion tank, and the best thing, sea otters. As it turns out, it's mating season for sea otters, and they indicate this on signs saying not to tap on the glass because they're a little pent up. One of them was dealing with this by masturbating. A lot. He could use his hands and his mouth, and he was going at it for at least 20 minutes without a break (we passed the tank several times). Watching parents try to explain to small children what was going on was pretty hilarious, especially when they'd ask what that "big red thing" was. Nature kicks ass.

Before driving out to Portland, we wanted to stop for some lunch, hopefully scoring some local seafood for Diana. We found a greasy spoon kind of bar, with nice cars outside, so we figured it wouldn't be bad. The interior was small, but pretty clean. It was one of those places where on waitress takes on the whole place. I had a chicken sandwich, which wasn't bad, but the fries were clearly cooked in the same oil as something fishy, and that was gross. Diana had fried oysters, which came from a bay a few towns over. I suppose fishy fries aside, it was a pretty good score. Simon was a happy saint the whole time, and I'm sure his "talking" entertained the other guests.

We changed Simon in the trunk of the Prius. I guess this is as good a time as ever to mention how much I like traveling in this car. Even with our ridiculously huge stroller (apparently it's super deluxe, or so others say, but I've never really compared them as it was a gift), there is plenty of room. Diana had tons of room in the back seat. +1 to Mike J. when he suggested that the car was like a cavern on wheels.

We thought we'd stop by the light house, but it was drizzling and the state or feds or someone wanted nine bucks to drive up to it. No thanks. There were three possible routes to Portland involving various amounts of I-5 and nature, ranging from 2.5 hours to 3. I originally planned to do the long one through a state forest, but given the crappy weather and Simon's fidgeting, I opted for the middle route. We once again encountered a situation where he was impossibly hungry, but did respond to it once we realized he was.

There was another air museum on this route, and a new wing was under construction. I had just seen a photo of it online somewhere, as they just dropped a 747 on top of the new building. Another mental note.

This route did have some interesting scenery toward the start, and a lot less logging destruction than our previous day. The rain was pretty relentless, unfortunately. As we got closer to Portland, the traffic got worse too, and this time the Garmin at least prevented us from getting into some really ugly situations. It did end up taking nearly a half-hour to get the last mile to the hotel downtown, and that was not fun at all as Simon began a serious meltdown.

We stayed in downtown Portland, at the Embassy Suites. As it turns out, this hotel, nearly a hundred years old, was the historic Multnomah Hotel and is absolutely beautiful. It's one of those old hotels with all kinds of funny shaped rooms and tiny elevators. I also found it interesting that the E-shaped hotel has a bunch of steel beams running between the three towers, presumably a retrofit to the building to make it more resistant to earthquakes.

They have a free adult beverage reception every evening and a pretty solid breakfast in the morning. There isn't much in the way ambiance, because it's down in the basement, but it's still a pretty nice arrangement. We had a doc to get notarized for the sale of Diana's house (yay!) and the hotel manager was good enough to help. We were impressed, and would definitely stay there again.

Upon arriving Friday night, as much as I would've rather not, we ended up getting room service. This was always a consideration, but we figured one of us would run out for take-out. That wasn't going to happen with the rain, so we settled and it was mediocre. We watched The Blind Side (loved it) and retired early.

Saturday, Simon was pretty much a trooper the whole day. The weather continued to suck. After the morning nap/feeing cycle, we loaded the boy into the stroller and went five blocks to make our first Buffalo Wild Wings run in nearly seven months. I know, downtown Portland we go to a chain restaurant, but bite me, it was a long time to go without. Simon was again an angel, and our waitress Annie was charmed by him. She was a nice Midwest girl, so we had lots to talk about. I got 12 boneless, half Mango Habanero and half Hot BBQ. They were delicious, and some returned with me to the hotel. Diana had her customary Honey BBQ. And the real good news? The first Washington location opens soon in Vancouver, and Tacoma is getting one in less than 18 months. I miss this place.

Simon was again getting a little anxious to eat at the point that we left, so we returned to the hotel for a bit, and that's when we had to deal with singing and notarizing the thing for the house. Before you knew it, it was late in the afternoon, and this is why we did not have any specific agenda. We could've gone down to the Rose Festival or the Saturday Market, but we felt like Simon was already out of sorts and decided not to get too ambitious. He was being a trooper, but we were clearly f'ing with his routine.

We did some restaurant research, and found Huber's, allegedly Portland's oldest restaurant, two blocks away. Turkey dishes were their thing, but we opted for other stuff. Even though I've been self-loathing over food choices lately, I had fettucini Alfredo, and it was unbelievably awesome. Diana had some kind of seafood pasta, and also loved it. Hooray for local flavor! Recommended if you stay downtown, but get reservations if you eat there. The place was booked solid.

On my pickup run, I couldn't help but notice there was a higher per capita rate of great hair, tattoos, and piercings. I dig that. Maybe it's because it's who I hung out with in high school (before piercings were really common though), but I've always identified with that crowd. Weird to think about all the grown ups now who adopt these styles. Downtown Portland overall seems so much less pretentious than Seattle does, and more diverse, if that's even possible.

So another night in for us, but again, we had no expectations. It was nice to have family time together, somewhere not Issaquah.

Sunday morning rolled around, and the weather forecasters managed to get it wrong again. That's three straight days of crappy weather. It was drizzling again, and it looked like it would continue to do so. Sigh. We were hoping to either hit the zoo or drive out to Multnomah Falls, but opted out of both. We also had to stop for baby formula, as we underestimated how much we should have by two or three bottles. The downtown places we tried were actually closed for the entire weekend!

The drive home was pretty easy. It's a lot like the Cleveland-Cincinnati run, only without Columbus in the middle, and generally better scenery. Because of the crappy weather, we didn't get to see Mt. Hood or St. Helens. But we liked that area downtown so much that we'll absolutely go back at some point. There aren't a lot of realistic driving trips to take from Seattle (the other obvious ones being Vancouver BC and perhaps Silverwood over in Idaho), but there is plenty to do in Portland.

We needed this weekend. That we did progressively less each day was OK, and to be somewhat expected with a 12-week-old. Simon is doing all kinds of neat vocalization now, and his grab control is getting better. His personality is forming, and it's mostly that of a happy baby. We're so lucky. I love my little family.


Facebook RSS fail

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 30, 2010, 5:57 PM | comments: 0

Congrats, Facebook, on sucking posts out of my blog and onto my wall after four days.

Another QA win from the crack engineering team at Facebook!


Less government! No, more government!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 8:41 PM | comments: 12

It's no secret that despite the fact that I get more moderate in my political opinions with age, I still absolutely can't stand these Tea Bagger douchebags. They don't even know what they stand for, and a lot of them actually think that Sarah Palin, who doesn't even hold an office and quit the one she had, has a clue about... anything. They get on TV and spout off soundbites about how government is ruining their lives and is intrusive and whatever, but when you ask them how, they can't even tell you. Instead they just say Obama is a socialist (or Nazi or whatever) and go on. Shit, they don't even know what socialism is, or that they participate in it, and benefit from it, every day.

I can buy into the desire for smaller government. I really can. But it's not an ideal that can be realistically applied to everything. A lot of people have no desire to think about that.

Now, there are loud voices saying that the government isn't doing enough about the oil spill in the gulf. It doesn't matter that the government isn't well equipped to do much about it, or that there is no law that simply allows the feds to take ownership of BP's shit and do it themselves.

It's interesting to see these two loud factions from both ends wanting exactly the opposite out of government, and I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't overlap.

I don't think that government at the national level has a spending problem as much as it has a prioritization problem. States and local governments have the problem that they're too reliant on the financial health of their constituents to provide basic safety services and infrastructure. I'm sure these are all solvable problems, but all of the shouting for more or less government doesn't work toward solutions.


The Art of Noise

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 8:09 PM | comments: 0

When I was in grade nine and just starting to build a collection of music, stuff was on cassette then. I didn't score a CD player until the summer before my senior year, when the Ames department store I worked at was going out of business. But that freshman year, I scored this tape from The Art of Noise called, The Best of The Art of Noise. It had a bad ass mix of Tom Jones covering Prince's Kiss. I listened to it a lot. It was weird and electronic and wonderful.

Something made me think of it, and how I'd love to have it on CD or MP3, even though I have the original cassette somewhere. Today I learned that what I had must have been an import, because looking around on Amazon, there are two versions of it, one with a red cover, the other blue. I had the blue. Listening to the previews, the red version sucks and has the wrong songs. The blue version has all the good stuff, and it appears to be mostly the 12" mixes of prior stuff. Looks like I can get it for a couple bucks used if I'm willing to take that chance, about $18 as a "collectible" and $30 if I want it new. I don't think I'm attached enough to want a new copy, but if a CD is good enough to get it into MP3 form, that might be good enough.

I have zero idea where my old cassettes are, but they're likely in a box. The funny thing is that my trusty Sony tape deck that I bought in college is two feet from where I'm sitting. By the end of my freshman year of college, I had replaced most tapes with CD's (thanks, Columbia House!), but there were a few that never made it, including this one. And as it turns out, it sounds like it would have been hard if I didn't go to a record shop that did imports. One way or another, I'll get it.


Why should I be expecting adversity?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 11:21 PM | comments: 0

Do you ever get the feeling that something not good is just bound to happen because things are generally pretty good? I think we've been feeling that way pretty much since we found out we were moving out here. I'm not exactly sure what causes that feeling. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that nothing has been easy for me for the last five years. If my professional life was good, my personal life was bad, and reverse. Now they're both pretty good, even with the house nonsense. And of course there's also something about having a baby that changes your perspective on everything.

Today I learned about some uncomfortable issues we'll have to deal with, but these will pass. I think from here on out, we're going to work hard to learn to accept that life is pretty good, and fearing the good life is hardly a way to live.


Ad revenue rising: What's going on?

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 24, 2010, 11:22 PM | comments: 0

I was impressed last night with the level of ad revenue flowing in the last two months, but wasn't sure what to make of it. First thing I checked was traffic, and CoasterBuzz in particular is about the same this year, and actually down a point or two. Disappointing as that might be, ad revenue, on the other hand, is way up... almost 40% over last year. So what's going on?

I have two theories. One is simply that companies are spending money again online. Last year was pretty dismal at times, so that's a pretty low bar, but it's impressive even compared to years prior. I haven't seen any recent news from the IAB or anything, but I'd be shocked if there wasn't a huge trend up in play for the online ad industry in general.

The second thing is that Google has really figured out how to match ads with content. I give dibs on my inventory to Federated Media, and they do OK in short streaks, but right now it's all Google. It's a little harder to tell what's going on there, because they don't really tell you anything about who is advertising or how much anyone pays, they just tell you how many ads, how many clicks and what the CPM is. It's clear that most of the ads are in fact CPM and not per click, though that great matching sure does result in unusually high click-through ratios. But look at the ads... Disney, Great Wolf, various Vegas attractions and hotels... it's obvious the right stuff for our audience.

It's very encouraging to see, because I started to fear that smaller publishers like me would have a hard time keeping up in the long run, but perhaps that's not the case. After more than a decade, I've learned to temper any enthusiasm, because it definitely comes in waves. Hopefully this one will last a couple of years. Moving has been awesome, but it also made me po! And I've got an extra mouth to feed. :)


Build a product, stupid... plus thoughts on workspaces

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 24, 2010, 11:51 AM | comments: 0

One of my greatest frustrations with my former employer, a small company that defined itself as just a creative agency with some peripheral app dev work, was that they didn't build anything that was a true product. The next project was all they could think about scoring (and then execute it poorly). I was there only a few weeks before I started to press a product agenda, something that would lead to recurring revenue. Obviously you can see how much they cared about my vision.

37signals profiled a company that actually created an e-mail marketing platform, growing out of the limitations of the design shop mentality. It's a pretty good read, and an example of the kind of vision I had. I'm so convinced that building a solid and sustainable Web based business is about a real product, not random project work.

I don't entirely agree with everything this particular company did though. I'm torn on the idea of closed offices. Personally, I do like having my own space, but I've also enjoyed a lot of development and growth in shared spaces in several jobs, including the one I'm in now. The notion that an office shields you from distraction makes the assumption that live humans are the problem. I find that distraction comes from IM, e-mail and the Web itself. I probably drop by CoasterBuzz three or four times a day for distractions. Come to think of it, maybe I'm making the case that you need distractions anyway. It's hard to get heads-down into anything for more than an hour or two.


Daddy's little angel

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 23, 2010, 10:17 PM | comments: 0

What a difference a day makes. After yesterday's general state of irritability that Simon was in, it was great to see him in good spirits and mostly getting a decent amount of sleep today. When Diana said she wanted to get out to do a little shopping solo, I feared the worst.

He was cranky with me for about 45 minutes, but I was patient with him, walked him around, and once he chilled out, burrito'd him and put him down in the crib. He got a solid two-hour nap. He needed a good bit of holding today by both of us at various points, but he was still pretty manageable. I enjoyed giving him a good bath just before we did the podcast this evening, and he was pretty happy after that as we put him to bed.

Simon is pretty cool to have around. Few things in my life have really forced me to keep perspective on the world like he has.


When wait staff steal to your face

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 22, 2010, 11:06 PM | comments: 0

As much as I'm content with all of the electronic ease of life, and hate using cash, I still get paper statements and still reconcile them with Microsoft Money '97 (insert winky face). Today I remember why.

I was looking through my bank statement and couldn't get the match for a take-out pizza from Tutta Bella I got for Diana, I think while my dad was here. I don't tip for take-out, because no one is actually giving me any service. I line through the tip line and put the total on the credit card receipt. Well apparently the bartender hooch who rang me up found that unacceptable, because she added three bucks to a $12 order. Personally, I think the pizza sucks, but Diana digs it so I'll pay whatever it takes.

But I won't allow someone to steal from me. That's what it is, it's theft. Naturally, I've already disputed the charge, but a part of me wants to go to the restaurant, and show the manager what his people are up to. I don't care about three dollars in the grand scope of things, but this aggression will not stand, man.


New Realtor®, new hope

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 22, 2010, 9:53 PM | comments: 0

After almost seven months of non-house selling, I kicked my former agent to the curb. She was a non-producer whose only thinking was, "Drop the price." To not get even an offer in that amount of time was pretty ridiculous, even if it was a low-ball, no-way offer. I don't think she was really "selling" the house as much as she was doing passive marketing. Heck, one of the volleyball moms from high school (who coincidentally is cousins with Timmay) was watching for advertisements of open houses and didn't see any.

Fortunately, this new guy, who sold my friend Shari's condo when she moved to the Carolinas, seems to be more of a go-getter, and he thinks the price is fine and the house is great. Will the result be better? Who knows, but I feel at least more optimistic just from his tone.


A challenging day for us

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 22, 2010, 9:40 PM | comments: 0

Today was not a great day. I was up last night until 2, trying to figure out a problem with the server move (I left it for morning), and then my new Realtor called at 8:30, not fully appreciating the time change, apparently. I got out of bed anyway, because Simon was being irritable, and I figured I'd see if I could help.

Diana just put him down, hoping for a morning nap since he got up at 5:30 again, but it didn't last long. I briefly went back to troubleshooting the problem, but didn't get far. Then Diana noticed a recipe she printed didn't print, and it's because the drum finally gave out on the printer... nine months after the warning light came on. Maybe it's because I was still out-of-my-mind tired, but in trying to extract the drum out of HP's nuclear shielding plastic, I cut deep into one of my fingers with the other hand and proceeded to bleed. Lots. I was more angry than hurt, and I'm sensitive to finger tip injuries after slicing a good part of one finger tip off a few years ago on vacation on the razor in my suitcase (still have a scar from that).

The rest of the morning was spent trying to keep Simon from melting down, since he refused to sleep. I can't even account for most of the time. This has been his pattern lately, where he just can't settle into a morning nap. I only experience this on weekends obviously, and it's the fatigue that gets to me. With Diana, it's the daily fatigue and the concern about napping as a health issue. Personally I don't think he's developmentally at risk, but when you're tired, everything appears worse.

After much tag-team binky realignment over the course of an hour, he finally fell asleep around 1-something, so he missed morning napping entirely. Diana ran to bed. After a little busy work archiving server logs, I crashed on the couch. I was there maybe a half-hour when the maintenance guy came to check out the dish washer, which needed a new pump.

Simon got up a little after 3, which was disheartening because it meant another early evening crash was likely, and we theorize that part of the early mornings may have to do with the early bed times. He was still being cranky, but we did play a little and talk. By 5, he was already starting to crash again. Keeping him up was obviously not going to help, so we put him in the swing for a bit, and despite dozing off, didn't truly sleep. He more or less made it to his next meal without actual sleep.

We had more happy time with him and he stayed up until 7, which was what we were hoping for. We burrito'd him up, kissed him goodnight, and he was out almost instantly. So now we'll see what a day of minimal napping and a decent bed time do for his overnight sleeping. He is admittedly still kind of young for pattern forming, but it feels like we've already been at it for a year! I know, even from looking at photos from a month ago, that we'll be amazed at how big he'll be even a month from now, so I'm trying to keep some perspective that we'll never have another chance to enjoy his tinyness again.


Mostly smooth server move

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 22, 2010, 1:59 PM | comments: 0

Moving the sites last night to the new server went mostly OK. Moving stuff basically means moving files, copying the databases and changing the DNS records to point to the new box. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought, thanks in part to a suggestion from Aaron at work. He suggested doing a full database backup, and moving those big-ass files earlier in the day, then doing a differential when I turned off the old sites. Those smaller files copied over quick, I restored, and the new sites were up and running. I set the TTL for the DNS records for 15 minutes ahead of time, so most people (if they were even up at that time) saw at most 15 minutes down. +1 for Aaron.

There were a few problems aside from the previous e-mail server issue. The biggest problem is that the CoasterBuzz Feed service broke. IIS7 wanted different crap in the config file. WCF is so bad ass in many ways, but I absolutely hate the nonsense with configuring and deploying it.

So overall, it's all good, and I'm much happier with it. The Windows Server 2008 firewall is so much easier to configure. I like the idea of the integrated pipeline with ASP.NET. I have memory to spare now, and the CPU average now is not even 1% (though weekends are typically slower for traffic anyway). The home and forum pages are rendering in .02 seconds, forum threads in .05 and topic lists in .10. If I can just score a few more CoasterBuzz Club members to help pay for it, that would be great.


Most epic Google doodle ever

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 21, 2010, 9:40 AM | comments: 0

That's right folks... Pac-Man that you can play in the Google logo.


Server transition

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 21, 2010, 12:16 AM | comments: 0

I spent a couple of hours tonight, way too long in fact, trying to set up stuff that should've been easy, but wasn't. I'll say it again, I hate setting up and administering servers. That's why I won't outright buy one and prefer to rent. If a hard drive fails or something, I want that to be someone else's problem.

The difficulty was around getting the really ancient sites that I should just retire, like uberasp.net, to run in the new environment. The new server is Windows Server 2008 R2, which by default doesn't do anything unless you turn it on (the right thing to do). It also certainly doesn't have .NET v1.1 from 2003 by default, and it took some messing around to get it installed right. Then there's the issue that the whole SMTP server thing is there, but kind of half-assed supported. The old server had a complete mail package running still from the old days when I still hosted my own mail, but now that I use Gmail for that, it's going away. I eventually figured out how to get it installed and configured. Even the bigger sites like CoasterBuzz need to send mail.

Overall, I'm actually pretty blown away at how good 2008 R2 is in terms of ease of use. There's a lot more instrumentation, the firewall is way more simple than messing with IPsec, and of course there are many huge benefits to having IIS7 that I couldn't use before. I'm looking forward to experimenting with media services, and love having ASP.NET integrated in the pipeline. Good stuff.


From the new hotness

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 11:22 PM | comments: 0

If you can see this, it means you're hitting the new server. Hooray! I hope to move the other sites this weekend. Diana's blog has made the move as well.


New server? Probably

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 11:30 AM | comments: 0

Last night I actually clicked the "yes" button on the "want to chat?" pop-up over on ThePlanet's Web site. I've been watching prices to upgrade the server, but just haven't been happy enough to pull the trigger. The dude gave me a deal that eliminated the silly $25/month RAM upgrade cost (that would piss away $300 a year). I may do it.


Cherry Coke... noooooooooooooooooo!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 19, 2010, 8:41 AM | comments: 2

So much for free Cherry Coke.


Good Simon time

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 7:40 PM | comments: 0

It still wasn't a lot of time, but I slipped out of work at 4, and that meant I had a little more time to hang out with Simon. He got up a bunch of times last night, but he did manage to take good naps today, and we got him to bed a little before 7.

Before that, we played on the floor, changed diapers, ate, hung out and talked, took a bath... with lots of laughs. He was absolutely adorable. It's hard to put into words the kind of things you feel when he laughs and giggles with you. He's growing up so fast, and I'm trying to be as proactive as I reasonably can to spend time with him. There are times where he gets to be a little tough to manage, but when he's that cute, it's worth it.


Seattle Cheese Festival at Pike Place, shooting results

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 17, 2010, 11:59 PM | comments: 0

I definitely didn't shoot that much Saturday, but I cut together some of the shots I liked. As I mentioned before, the rig is pretty solid except for the handle position and the non-Zacuto viewfinder, but I was surprised to see how much I did manage to keep focus anyway. The follow focus makes a huge difference for that. It was kind of a proud moment for me moving between the two female singers and their instruments. I feel pretty confident with that set up and that lens.

Again, shooting at f/4 gives a pretty nice depth of field, and hitting the focus isn't all that hard. I'd like to experiment a bit with the 50mm, but I'm not sure if I can find an ND filter strong enough to use it outdoors, and I'm not confident about how the non-IS lens will handle camera shake.

This time I really decided to choose a "look" for color grading and tried to hit it. I was going for "warm but a little grungy," which is pretty much how I would describe the market. It's funny how all of the years of video work the idea was to preserve as much dynamic range as possible, without clipping or crushing the blacks. Now you do one or both on purpose, and remove, alter or add color. It's actually a very gratifying experience for me. I kind of enjoy it. I don't think I'm any good at it, but I look forward to practicing it some more.

So for now, here's the little bits I shot, and it's HD of course, so feel free to watch full screen if your gear can handle it.


Transcoding... yawn...

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 17, 2010, 9:21 PM | comments: 0

I wanted to mess with what little video I shot Saturday down at the Pike Place Market. The unfortunate thing is that you need to transcode it to something that plays back smoother. Final Cut technically can use H.264 and then do whatever rendering necessary when you output the edit, but it's super slow. It also makes color grading not even remotely close to real time. So I transcode it to Apple ProRes, but it takes so long.

Apparently, this is why a lot of the video SLR fans are flocking to CS5, because the new version of Premier Pro can cut the native H.264 with great efficiency. I'm in no hurry to buy the upgrade, but it's pretty neat to hear.

And by the way, the Canon 7D records the video, 1080p24, at 45 mbits, which is crazy impressive.


12 months same as cash!

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 17, 2010, 8:52 PM | comments: 0

Last summer we scored a new mattress since the old one was literally causing sleepless nights. Like all furniture stores, they had a big financing deal. I wasn't working, but so what, it was 12 months, same as cash! I did the same thing with my bike, at six months. Today I paid for the mattress in full, 11 months later.

I know they bank on the assumption that a lot of people won't pay in time and get nailed with 24.99% retro-interest, but I'll show them! :)


Just-in-time learning style

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 16, 2010, 11:11 PM | comments: 1

I was recently talking to someone about learning style, in particular how one approaches desired knowledge for a new subject. Nowhere is this more relevant for me than with Simon's arrival. The truth is that I didn't read any of the new dad books beyond a cursory once-over. This might be something that was rooted in my m.o. all the way back in high school. Basically if it doesn't serve me, I'm not interested.

After Simon was born, I did seek knowledge as appropriate, and one book in particular that we have was pretty awesome for that. I was worried (probably because of the scene in the movie Knocked Up) that I was being an irresponsible douchebag, but in the end I think I did OK.

As it turns out, my entire career as a software developer has worked this way. It's not that I don't think some of the broader academic concepts aren't important, but rather if I don't see how they'll serve me, I'm not likely going to look heavily into them. For example, the MVC pattern has been around since the dawn of time, but I never really bothered to understand it thoroughly until a framework was built around it on the platform I use. Sure, I had read all about it previously, I just didn't need it at the time.

I like to call this just-in-time learning. You seek the right information, when you need it. I try to avoid crowding my brain with knowledge I don't need to use. It has generally served me well.

There is some irony, or perhaps hypocrisy around that. I have long advocated college as something that can enrich your ability to function in the world because of its broader teaching. I mean, that's what a "liberal arts" education is all about. Yet, you can tell by my grades that I wasn't that interested. Years later I can tell you that so much of that generalized "crap" (aside from the two semesters of French, which have in fact been useless) has proven valuable many times.

So I guess JIT learning is a mixed bag. For Simon, who changes almost daily, I'm not sure the bulk of the information in the 411 book was necessary, and going forward, I'll probably still wing it and seek new information when it's clear that there is a gap in knowledge I need to fill. Professionally, I do have some desire to learn certain bigger concepts, but I'd still like to know how they'll serve me first.

There's actually a third category of learning styles, and that's one that comes from the application of experience to new problems. That actually works pretty well too, and has served me well in instances of business, coaching and guiding processes. That's a little harder to define.


Debugging sleep

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 16, 2010, 10:52 PM | comments: 0

Diana outlined some of the issues she's had with sleep lately, both her own and for Simon. I've seen first hand how cranky and unmanageable he can be during the day, and it's not fun at all. Adding to the problem is that the advice people offer is generally only applicable to their kid, and the so-called professionals selling books and DVD's often have conflicting advice. So all you can really do is take in the information available, and do your best. What absolutely doesn't work is random experimentation (what a lot of the typical advice is), as doing so only demonstrates a lack of understanding of the problem domain.

Diana learned several solid things from a recent book. The first is that kids Simon's age need about two naps during the day, and typically will sleep longer at night if they go to bed earlier. To this point, given his eating desires and typical young baby's short sleep cycles, we pretty much put him to bed when he seemed tired. As it turns out, the better thing to do is put him down before he gets to that point. That's a hard thing to unlearn considering we spent a great deal of time in his early weeks doing everything possible to get him 100% out cold before putting him down.

The night time thing might actually be a selfish mistake, because when he's all chilled out in the evening, giggling and smiling and being social, you want to keep him out there. This is especially true for me, since I don't get to see him much during the week. This new bed time schedule is going to limit me to two hours tops in the evening, and I already leave work by 4:30. But starting Friday we worked on this, and the results have been mostly good. Friday night he slept almost 7 hours, fed, and then did another 4. The trick now is to get the napping right, and the theory goes that he'll adopt this cycle after awhile. From some of the things I've read, I'm not convinced since some experts suggest babies don't really start to form habits until somewhere between three and six months, but considering how huge he is, I'm going to cross my fingers and hope he overachieves at this too.

What sucks is that Diana is always tired. Telling her "it gets better" does not help. When I'm here, I can at least take him off her hands, and I do try to balance that with my own endeavors on weekends (and try to get couple time on top of that), but it still doesn't make the overnight feed, early morning and then business hours that Simon is all-mommy, all of the time, any easier. If that weren't enough, trying to make rational choices that help him when you're crazy tired is that much harder. I felt like we had a good rhythm going just before the end of my leave, but as a one person job, this is clearly taking its toll.

The best I can do in terms of my optimism is to remind Diana that he's at 10 weeks, and the changes are remarkable, constant and come quickly. The adjustments to sleep have only really been going on for a week, and the night-time sleep just since Friday. The result of these efforts could come in the next few days, and we'll have a happier little boy who is also healthier for it. I'm looking forward to the long weekend coming up soon, so I can be a little more active with the lad, and hopefully reduce the burden on Diana, even if it is temporary.


More on political stupidity and anger

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 16, 2010, 6:59 PM | comments: 0

Shortly after I did my last post, this was on ABCNews, and it really summed up what I was thinking, and from someone as conservative as they come, no less.

Link: Senator Bennett on losing his seat

This guy is about as conservative as it gets, and he really lets the Tea Baggers have it for being completely non-intellectual. In essence his closing comment sums things up really well: "You can win elections on screaming and anger, but you can not hold and govern for an extended period of time on screaming and anger."

He's absolutely right. Being angry isn't a movement, it's being a moron. I mean, this loosely organized mess of angry people think Sarah Palin is a figurehead, a woman so ignorant about the world around her that she cost her running mate the presidency (or at least a shot at it). Real life truly doesn't matter, so long as they have something to channel anger into. It's like the movie Idiocracy is coming true.


Things might be suboptimal, but relative to recent history, this is practically the golden age

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 16, 2010, 2:57 PM | comments: 1

I've made a realization, by watching various historical documentaries, movies and what not, that my generation, perhaps one above and all below, have no context at all about the relative state of the world, or at least our own country. All of this anger and toxicity you see in the news, over the economy and politics and anything else, is frankly a little stupid.

Consider this: We're not in a war costing an extraordinary amount of lives like Vietnam. We're not seeing lines at soup kitchens wrapping around the block, every day and all day in affluent cities as in the Great Depression. We don't have people marching on Washington for equal rights denied to them for the color of their skin. Protesters exercising their right to free speech aren't being shot down as they did at Kent State. Presidents and political figures aren't being gunned down like the Kennedy's or MLK.

People need to find a little fucking perspective. High unemployment and a slowly recovering economy suck, but it could be a hell of a lot worse.

Perhaps people just need something to fear or hate to get along. If that's the case, it's a wonder the human race has managed to survive at all.

Twenty years ago, we didn't carry phones in our pockets, keep social connections with people over the Internet or enjoy football games on 60" TV's. The world is so much more amazing than it was, and I'm tired of the assholes who do nothing but bitch and moan about how awful it is. You don't realize how great you have it. And as someone who spent seven months last year unemployed (and did not collect unemployment), and has two houses to sell, I think I'm entitled more than most people to bitch and moan, and certainly more qualified. I don't, because I have a little perspective. That, and I'm willing to do something about the things that are suboptimal.


In search of cheese

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 15, 2010, 9:20 PM | comments: 0

We made a run down to the Seattle Cheese Festival this morning, which is held every year in the street along the Pike Place market. Diana has quite a thing for cheese, and given the beautiful day, it seemed like a pretty good idea to check it out.

I brought along my video-ized camera rig, with the recently acquired neutral density filters. Haven't looked at the results, but I suspect they were pretty decent. There are two recoverable issues with the rig, the first being that the handle would be better if it were angled. I think Redrock Micro makes one, or some kind of angle thingy to clamp on a rail to do it. The second is that the cheap Hoodman viewfinder is sketchy at best. It doesn't reliably stay where it should, and it's hard to get the entire viewfinder in focus. The eye cup is also too shallow. As others have reported, the only super solid solution remains the Zacuto Z-finder. It's pricy, but the anti-fog lens and the fact that it bolts to the camera makes it a pretty solid choice.

I've also thought about an alternate configuration, using the short rails with the camera mount and follow focus on the shoulder mount, with a monopod pinned to it. That takes the weight off of you completely, makes it convenient to carry and lets you get your right hand on the camera itself. I'm just not sure how well it would work with the tilting.

As it turns out, there wasn't that much interesting stuff to shoot. I mean, there might have been if I spent three hours there, but it was crowded, Simon was waking up and that's just our reality. I did get some shots of street musicians, which are most interesting in my mind anyway.

And yes, Diana did get some cheese. :)


Good times at "work"

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 13, 2010, 8:19 PM | comments: 0

All of DevDiv had its "ship party" today, to celebrate the release of Visual Studio 2010, .NET 4, Silverlight 4 and Expression 4 (although I don't think that's RTM'd yet). I have no idea what the head count is, but as a huge part of the Server & Tools Business (the top-level piece above that), it's huge. Lots of good food, good desserts and good alcohol. I think a company that gives extra days off and throws big parties goes a long way toward demonstrating commitment toward its people. Or, I'm just easily satisfied.

In any case, it's also good to engage with co-workers in a social setting. My immediate team is really tiny, but even though I spend a lot of time with the guy I share an office with, it's still generally in a work context. It's also fun to be around some of the other guys (and woman) in adjacent teams. The hardest thing about moving is still trying to build a new social circle. For me that's meeting people at work, for Diana it has become the mom meetings.


So disappointed in the Cavs, and the MVP

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 13, 2010, 8:01 PM | comments: 0

I am completely in awe at how the Cavs gave up today. After Lebron's comments after the last game, I'm even more disappointed in him. What the hell happened?

I won't deny my Cleveland heritage, but after 36 years in that town, there's one thing I've come to expect: Disappointing professional sports teams. Even after moving 2,000 miles, I don't know why I would expect anything to change.

A week ago, I defended Lebron James and thought the rumor mill about him leaving Cleveland (to teams that have no game at all, no less). Now, I don't even care. I think I'm ready to let go. I'll gladly talk about how awesome the museums are, the zoo, Cedar Point, Melt and low housing costs, but I'm done with sports.


INXS Kick, covered... I'm in awe

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 11:33 PM | comments: 1

So on the drive home today I'm listening to the XM, which has singlehandedly restored my faith in "radio" as a discovery mechanism, when the jock mentioned that Beck has been doing this thing called Record Club, which is him and a bunch of pals locking themselves in a studio and covering an album. What did they record this time? INXS' album Kick, arguably one of the best albums recorded in the 80's, hands down.

All I can say about the covers is that they're incredibly and utterly fucking brilliant. They haven't posted everything yet, but even half way through the album, all I can say is publish that stuff and I'll buy it. Covering any song is risky, covering a well-known song is borderline stupid, but this is nothing but awesome. "New Sensation" will blow your mind. This woman Annie Clark singing "Need You Tonight" is just stunning. It's the same song, but not.

They're posting video from every recording on Vimeo (looks like they're recording on SLR's). It's really amazing stuff.

Of course, this does remind me about how completely selfish Michael Hutchence was when he killed himself in '97. Not every INXS record was good start to finish, but Kick was solid, and Welcome To Wherever You Are was one of my favorites in college. Stephanie and I saw them perform in Cleveland only a few weeks before he offed himself, and I feel lucky that I had the chance.


I sure love unit testing (most of the time)

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 12, 2010, 8:22 PM | comments: 3

Way back in August or something, I started to rewrite my forum app for the bazillionth time as an ASP.NET MVC app. After doing the blog earlier that spring and a few science projects, it seemed like a solid and non-trivial thing to do, and it was something I knew I'd use. I wanted to do it in a "real" test-driven way as well, because it really is something that takes practice.

I never did get around to doing much with it, as life just kept getting incrementally busier. But recently, a couple of nights last week, and then last night and tonight, I started to revisit it. I couldn't tell you when it might be done (I'd love to refresh CoasterBuzz by the end of the year, but I'm not sure that's remotely realistic), but it does go pretty fast.

I'm not doing 100% pure test-driven development, because sometimes the design comes to mind first and I just want to hack it out, then write the tests. I know the purists like to call you names when you do that, but whatever. I just can't be that dogmatic about a process that is inherently creative. The spirit of test-driven development is that it forces you to design code that does just enough, and is abstract enough to exercise in isolation. When you do it enough though, that design starts to feel natural, even if you're not writing tests first. But whatever, the ideological "debate" around that is not something I'm that interested in. What excites me is the ability to change and refactor and know exactly what the impact is. Amazing how concise you can be even when you've got a bunch of stuff throwing NotImplementedExceptions.

At work, unit testing is harder, because our primary app was written without tests. Plus it was poorly written. When I say poorly written, I mean everything is tightly coupled with crazy dependencies and it's hard to get any little piece isolated enough to test it. That's thoroughly annoying. On the other hand, our profile app was written from scratch, and it's remarkably easy to change and maintain.

At the end of the day, the thing I like most about unit testing is how high the quality of your code is, if you're doing right. While test code can out-do production code by a factor of two to one, I also think there is a huge cost savings in long-term maintainability and ease of change. That, and everyone loves a row of green lights.


Mr. Six Dance Troupe

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 11, 2010, 8:46 PM | comments: 0

If this whole Microsoft thing doesn't work out, I'm totally gonna learn this dance and tour with this creepy bastard.


Club member data

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 10, 2010, 8:24 PM | comments: 2

I finally got around to marking Google Analytics to track what kind of people were visiting CoasterBuzz, among those who are anonymous, logged in but not club members and club members. Interesting facts:

  • Club members account for 5.7% of all visits.
  • Club members account for 14.0% of all page views.
  • Non club members who do login account for 12.2% of all visits.
  • Non club members who do login account for 16.9% of all page views.

The rest are random anonymous visitors who land on the site and either don't have accounts or don't login. While they aren't as "dedicated" as visitors who login or are club members, I'm surprised to see that on average they look at 3.77 pages. That's shockingly high.


Facebook and the competition

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 10, 2010, 8:15 PM | comments: 2

I know I've rambled on about this recently, but I got to wondering if there was any real potential for real competition for Facebook. I don't think they're untouchable, not even close. Internet users are too fickle and will go where ever the easiest distraction is that aligns with their... uh... distractionary needs.

I was reminded recently of MySpace though (ironically because of a thread on Facebook), how they used to be the dominant social site. I'll never understand how outside of the fact that they had a couple of years of lead time, because it was always a steaming pile of shit. Then in 2006, I was at the first Mix conference, at the MySpace party, where the CTO got up on the bar and proclaimed they were ready to hire all of the .NET developers who were there. That sure would've been a tragic career move.

I wonder what the ideal variant of Facebook would like, without the privacy concerns.


My media monster

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 9, 2010, 11:10 PM | comments: 3

To the surprise of no one I'm sure, my collection of digital files has really ballooned since Simon was born. I haven't been content to just bust out the pocket Canon either; I've been using the 5D and 7D a ton. I've slowed down a little in the last few weeks (which is a bad thing, actually), but wow is my S3 account growing like crazy. I think my last bill was $27, and I'm sitting around 150 gigs or something (remember that it includes all of my music as well).

I am in the habit now of making sure both camera bodies are ready with lenses on them. The 5D has the 50mm f/1.4 on it, because with the huge aperture and the full-frame sensor, it's a killer combination. That's how I get all of those beautiful portraits of Simon. The 7D then has the 24-105mm f/4 IS L on it, which is good for all other scenarios, though I prefer to use the flash on it when indoors. To really make the 7D video thing work freehand, I need the IS lens as well or suffer from Blair Witch looking crap.

I've thought about backing off the 7D to a lower resolution when I'm only shooting personal stuff. I know that sounds like blasphemy, but the medium setting is still 10 megapixels. That thar's a lotta dots still. The raw files (no +JPEG) are 25+ MB, so if I rattle off a hundred shots, well, do the math. The 5D is a little easier to manage, making photos (raw only) around 12 to 14 MB, and it does 12 megapixels at the largest setting.

I'm still not backing up video into the cloud, because there's just too much of it. That giant USB drive I bought does sit quietly in the background though, ready to receive stuff. I'm still not shooting as much video as I'd like, though Friday's little experiment gave me the confidence to take it out to try and shoot a little mini-doc-short-thing next weekend. I'm still contemplating if the shoulder rig makes the most sense or a monopod with the short rails and follow focus would work better. Monopods are cheap enough, but I think I'll try the shoulder rig first.

And to think I'm also considering getting all of my old negatives scanned. I also want to get all of my old DV tape archived as deinterlaced H.264 files, though that shouldn't be too bad considering standard def video gets pretty small. Hard drives are plenty big these days, but I sure hope the online storage comes down in price soon!


Sleepy cycles

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 9, 2010, 10:26 PM | comments: 0

While Simon has had a few long overnight sleeps, he still needs at least one overnight feeding. He shows promise of getting there though. In the last week, we stopped trying to get him to slam-dunk out cold before putting him down, and settle for good enough drowsy. That's mostly working well, though there are times where we have to go in to replace his dropped pacifier. We're also letting him cry a little when he does wake up, at the suggestion of Dr. Cargopants. (It's actually Dr. Traci, but by now you know we like to give our doctors nicknames. She just happens to be a snappy casual dresser and can rock the cargo pants.)

Diana has been reading a lot about baby sleep, which of course is dangerous because it's too easy to think that something ain't right when these books make generalizations. But a lot of that concern also grows out of wanting Simon to settle into the long overnight sleep routine because she just gets so exhausted being with him all day with overnight stops. Talking with Mike after the podcast tonight, he said his girls both hit the long pattern at about three months, so we've got a few more weeks. And who knows, given his general over-achievement in development, maybe he'll even get there sooner.

I had my share of issues with him on Saturday, because I'm having a hard time reading him. I had no problem with him Friday night when Diana went to knitting, but all I did was get frustrated on Saturday. His cues are evolving so fast, and since my weekday time with him is basically for about four or five hours after work, a relatively predictable time, I get a little lost about what he's trying to tell me during the day. I can relate to Diana's feelings from a few weeks ago about thinking you're not an adequate parent. It's a shitty feeling.

But at the end of the day, having Simon around is really remarkable. Looking at a little human with a blank slate does wonders to rekindle your own sense of wonder and possibility. He makes me feel less limited, if that makes any sense. And contrary to what a lot of couples go through with a child, Simon makes me feel closer to Diana because we made him together. (Well, mostly her, but it's clear he got half of my genetic code.) I'm thankful that we're so functional together. It makes for a solid first Mother's Day as a mother.


I have JELL-O® brain

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 8, 2010, 12:17 PM | comments: 0

I don't know what my deal is, but I'm mentally and emotionally too tired today. It's a beautiful day, but my desire to do anything is so not there. Physically I feel rested, but the brain just isn't willing. I guess when I look at the last, uh, six months, that's probably OK. I realized when my screensaver came on, with photos from the last year, that I've certainly had a very exciting and busy life as of late. I'm giving myself a pass for passive relaxation.


What an odd week at work

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 7, 2010, 11:39 PM | comments: 0

This week was kind of strange. Since coming back from leave, I've felt like things weren't flowing or moving forward or generally heading in the right direction. Or rather any direction. I wasn't alone in that feeling. You know those dreams people have when you're standing at the dock next to the Titanic and trying to tell people not to get on the boat? It's like that.

I don't know that we have any resolution, but the coworker I'm most aligned with and I agreed on a basic plan of action. The thing that's hard is that we work in a big company that often acts like a big company in terms of its agility, despite the fact that our team can generally move fast. There are decades of stereotypical big company culture, ranging from development and planning processes to over-obsessive HR things (and surveys for everything!). It's not easy to roll all of that back and convince people, "These things are important, the rest is noise."

I think my long-term success at the company will come from applying what I've learned in start-ups and mid-sized companies to some role there. Hard to say where or what that is, but I'm confident I can find it. It's a pretty good company that's hell bent on developing its people. It's been an exciting few months, and I have every reason to believe that it'll only get more interesting in the coming months.


You are my density

posted by Jeff | Friday, May 7, 2010, 11:23 PM | comments: 2

Successful field test of the filters today (as I hoped last night). I took the camera with me to work and busted it out after lunch. Had a nice sunny day with a blue sky. This was shot using the 1.2 filter (4 stops), ISO 100, 1/50 at f/4. I shot on one of the downloadable "flat" color profiles and did some minor color correction in Final Cut. I didn't try to be extra creative in the color correction or achieve a "look," but I was hoping it would look "filmy," and some of the shots do.

I feel like I'm starting to really understand what I might be capable of with this camera. The clip is HD, so feel free to watch it full-screen.


Neutral density

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 6, 2010, 10:38 PM | comments: 0

I ordered a set of neutral density filters for my 24-105mm f/4 IS L lens, and received them today. Hopefully this takes care of my outdoor issue of tremendous over-exposure when trying to shoot video with the aperture wide open. I still can't believe I took it for granted that those were built in to every regular (pro) video camera I've owned or used. Tomorrow, after lunch, I'm going to take it out freehanded and see if I can get some nice stuff around the office. Crossing my fingers for blue skies.


RAM upgrades for everyone!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 6, 2010, 6:47 PM | comments: 0

I decided to go ahead with the RAM upgrade for my laptop. It was totally the right thing and I shouldn't have waited so long. Well, yes I should have, because it was way too expensive even six months ago. But the bonus was that the displaced 4 gigs in mine were able to replace the 2 in Diana's, so everyone wins!


Two-month weigh-in

posted by Jeff | Thursday, May 6, 2010, 11:37 AM | comments: 0

After two months, Simon is:

  • 14 pounds, 6 ounces (97th percentile)
  • 23.5 inches (75th percentile)

He's enormous, and will be riding roller coasters before you know it!


Online community evolution

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 5, 2010, 10:36 PM | comments: 0

There was a good bit of play in the press today about the closure of our developer newsgroups. It was mentioned and heavily commented on at Slashdot (predictably wrong and full of conspiracy theories), C-Net (more tempered and at least somewhat realistic) and Ars Technica (strikingly rational about the usefulness of Usenet). As you can imagine, the public rationale for closing them down is pretty expected, that there's simply not the kind of action that there was 10 years ago compared to the forums on MSDN and TechNet (the app I work on). Most interesting is some of the negative comments on this are the suggestion that typical Web forums suck.

As you might expect, this is a subject I care a lot about, not just at work, but in the communities that I foster, and as someone who has rewritten a forum app about eight times (so far). My first exposure to Usenet came by way of my crappy retail job at a CompUSA right after college. One of the guys I worked with was giddy with excitement to show me where you could get illegal software and porn. About a year into my first "real" job, I discovered the newsgroup rec.roller-coaster, where people interested in the rides would post wildly detailed information about said roller coasters.

I posted on RRC a lot starting in 1998 as I got hooked really quickly. It was also the year I started Guide to The Point (which became PointBuzz). There were two or three people that seemed to derail and disrupt the group in a very loud way, to the extent that the newsreader tools didn't really effectively deal with the problem. The noise started to interfere. I was also very Cedar Point centric then (well, for another year or two), so I added a forum to GTTP in the form of an Ultimate Bulletin Board license. I wrote my own forum app about a year or two later.

UBB was historic in its approach, and I'm honestly kind of sad that it more or less died. It really defined the modern forum user interface, which is to say that it hasn't changed much in ten years. Lots of other free and paid apps have come since, with the de facto standard eventually becoming vBulletin. While the Web-based nature of these forums were certainly a win over newsreaders, particularly since you could keep track of what you had read at work and at home, the biggest win was control.

Usenet was like the wild west. It was very much the ultimate in free speech. It couldn't be moderated or controlled, which is probably why it was so widely used for porn and warez (as the kids used to call it). Then the spammers found it, and the noise level just kept getting higher.

But as the Web forums took over, so began the fight against them. I made it a policy early on to shut down anything that was noise or spam, and in the early years, it meant deleting a lot of crap. Anonymity seemed to encourage racism and stupidity (not to mention homophobia as it pertains to the coaster enthusiast community). I remember having to block those people on a fairly regular basis back then. The great irony is that most would go back to Usenet to complain about our "Nazi" tactics and how it was personal because we disagreed with them. But hey, it kept the noise on Usenet.

Years later we know that most solid forums pretty much take care of themselves, and you rarely have to delete anything unless it's blatant spam. You block people even less. The Internet has become so huge that, unless you're banking a million page views every day, the worst of the worst will probably use other outlets to dispose of their stupidity. The speech isn't any less free in most communities, provided you exercise some basic human respect.

The next wave of Usenet preservation cries came in the early part of the decade, where fragmentation pushed quality community contributors to many, many different places. I remember for some of the dev issues I followed, for example, it was hard to find a really solid place to go with lots of experts. Heck, even Microsoft had several different forums at the time. Our coaster community had a half-dozen very active general interest sites, plus countless niche sites for specific parks or even ride manufacturers. In some ways, it was awesome to watch, because every college kid with a high speed connection was building something. The Usenet defenders had a real point.

But in the last four or five years, massive consolidation took place. Interest in building sites had long since dissipated. The standard UI of a Web-based forum was familiar, even for one that was custom built like mine. Usenet's usable content in most groups continued to go into the crapper. Ultimately, the Web forums became the place for the action. Those who were using Usenet were probably using Google Groups, a Web-based app.

And that gets us to today. The Web forum is just the obvious place for community. What we have seen in the last year or two is variations on how best to use it. If you're a developer, you know and love StackOverflow. It's essentially a forum, only geared and formatted to facilitate questions and answers. Facebook has managed to create a "forum thread" out of virtually everything you put on it. Blogs are even forum-like, in that the first post sparks endless comments. I spend a lot of time wondering what the next variation will look like.

I hope to write a little about what forum apps have meant to me personally and professionally, soon.


Weird little three-wheel electric car

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 5:01 PM | comments: 4

I got behind this strange little car today:

I have no idea what it is. The front has only one wheel, in the middle, and there was a funny looking crab-shaped logo that said, I think, "GSM" in the middle of it. Google fails me.


Microwaving an iPad

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 10:54 AM | comments: 0

Wow, this guy did fuck around. He didn't just destroy an iPad, he destroyed a 64 gig 3G version, the most expensive model. Well done!


Ignore button

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, May 4, 2010, 9:31 AM | comments: 0

Here's a private message I got on PointBuzz...

Is there an ignore button on this forum?

I really dislike [name removed] posts. Sure he may disagree with me, but thats not my problem. It seems as if thread is infested with his BS. It makes an otherwise enjoyable thread a problem when he constantly tells everyone how wrong they are, yet is wrong most of the time himself. Even when corrected by Tony, who works there, he still goes on and on. I'm not trying to tattle, I just want to ignore him.

My response:

You can best ignore him by scrolling past his posts.

I can't make this stuff up.


Visitors, help, isolation

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 3, 2010, 9:31 PM | comments: 0

I have to say that we were pretty spoiled with the long list of visitors since Simon was born. Diana's dad and future step-mom helped defuse the chaos before and after the birth, and we're still eating food they made and froze. Aunt Kathy helped during Simon's fussiest phase so far, and when he had a cold no less. My dad helped feed the boy and got lots of photos that we simply would never have otherwise. And my mom finally had her long awaited shot at spoiling a grandchild, which she did extremely well (but in line with what we really wanted and needed, thankfully).

We also had Diana's BFF and tennis partner Sherry here, who showed how to be all-pro at parenting a baby. I think there was also something extra special about having a friend, non-family, because friends don't typically go that distance when you move away. That's not a reflection of our friendships or anything, it's just a realistic view on how things are.

But now that all of those important people have come and gone, we're feeling a little isolated. It's the one thing about moving that I never really anticipated, that we wouldn't have the pool of people we're used to leaning on, even in the most casual sense, as we went through this life-changing act of having a newborn. Our most trustworthy connection we have out here is Diana's brother and sister-in-law, but I already feel like we've leaned on them pretty hard at times, all while they have their own newborn and toddler. If anything, we should be helping them out!

Diana has her first PEPS meeting Wednesday, which I think will be awesome if just to hear other people say, "I know exactly what you're going through." She's also trying to get out for knitting on Fridays, which actually hasn't happened much because of our visitors (not that we're complaining), and she is on a tennis sub list too.

I try to do what I can, which is mostly taking over for Simon care after work, and take him for long stretches on weekends while Diana naps. I worry a great deal about building resentment that I get to go to work, and take no feeding duty midnight to 7 so I can stay awake there. It's not an ideal situation, but I feel like there's hope because he has had some really long sleeping runs here and there, as long as five hours. If he can do a five and four back-to-back, even if Diana has to be up for a half-hour to feed, that's almost like a real night of sleep! I'm crossing my fingers he gets there soon.

There's kind of a vicious cycle about trying to be social and get to a point where you have other people that you trust in your life, because as much as you need it, you get too tired to pursue it! I've met some good people at work, and a few are starting to be people I'd interact with outside of work. Most are a bit younger, but many also have kids so there's a great deal to learn from them. What I really need to do is find some people to play volleyball with and get back to coaching next winter, although playing is gonna be really hard for awhile, given the shape I'm in.

All of this adjustment to our new surroundings, and new family situation, has taken so much longer than I expected, probably because of the holidays and the big work leave. Things are still tough at times, but every day Simon gets more mature, and the potential for longer term social rhythm is greater. We'll get there.


Sunny disposition

posted by Jeff | Monday, May 3, 2010, 11:14 AM | comments: 0

I was expecting a total loss for weather today, but it has been sunny all morning here in Redmond. There's a chance of actual thunder later too! A little taste of home in the Evergreen State.


Cavs chances

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 2, 2010, 10:53 PM | comments: 1

One of the things that's been hard to do in Seattle is keep up with the Cavs. Unless you pay for NBA League Pass or whatever, the games just aren't on TV enough. Now that the playoffs have begun, it's like seeing them for the first time.

My impression so far is that this is the deepest talent pool they've had yet, and certainly this is the best chance they've had in a long time at the title. It's a chance for Shaq to have one last hurrah, and for Z to have one at all. I can see that intensity in the team in a way I haven't before. The trades have all been top notch. The players that have been around a few years are making their best showings ever. They're really, really fun to watch.

The Bulls series wasn't all that interesting, and I'm surprised that they dropped one. Not to take anything away from Chicago, but they lack cohesion and they're incredibly inconsistent at both ends. The distractions with their coach drama probably didn't help.

But Boston, wow, that's a tight team. Their bench isn't as deep, but the starters are beyond solid. I've really enjoyed watching them for a couple of years now. They earned their lead in game 1, and I feel like it was theirs to lose in the first half. They brought out the problem that has been nagging at the Cavs for years, that inconsistency that got them bounced last year. What a turnover fest.

I think what ultimately brings them some balance is Jamison and Mo. These guys have been so consistent in shooting, and that relieves some of the burden on the MVP. They still can't have these shit streaks of turnovers (read: stupid passes), but the shooting is so much better than last year.

Speaking of Lebron, yeah, I get it, his elbow hurts. Does he have to be so dramatic about it? He said post-game that he doesn't make excuses, but he's still a drama queen. Come on man, even Andy has reduced the drama (and flops). Suck it up and earn that paycheck!

I'm no basketball expert, but I like what I see. I think if we can get through Boston, getting to the finals should be relatively easy. On the other side, I'd love to see some freakish thing happen like the Spurs win the conference, and kick Kobe's ass, but that's probably a dream. If it ends up being Cavs-Lakers, the Lakers do not impress. I mean, the Sonics, er, Thunder, handed their ass to them once.


Meteorological decline

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 2, 2010, 10:43 PM | comments: 0

Wow, I checked the weather, and it's not going to be good this week. It's not even supposed to reach 50 the next couple of days. This is why we resorted to taking the baby to a shopping mall today, because all of the natural goodness around here right now is cold and wet! I realize it's not normal, but I'm pretty anxious for the awesomeness that's supposed to be summer here (even though it never gets hot, which I'm gonna miss a little).

We're already plotting our first family vacation down into Oregon in a few weeks, and we're finding easier walks and hikes that we can carry Simon on, so we're ready to take on the Evergreen State. Just need some sun and dryness and we'll be all set!


One year with the 17" MacBook Pro

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 2, 2010, 3:15 PM | comments: 0

I mentioned recently that it wouldn't be a bad idea to follow up on how my laptop has been after a year of use. To summarize, it is, as was my previous 15" model, the best computer I've ever had.

MacBook Pro battery after 155 chargesThe durability is probably the biggest improvement they made since the original Intel-based machines, which weren't that different from the PowerBooks before them. The machined aluminum bodies are so rigid that when you pick even the beefy 17" up by its corner, it doesn't flex. The battery is also incredibly durable, and I was surprised that just yesterday, after a full charge, the health went from 99% back to 100%. I've been pretty careful to drain it completely before charing, which allegedly makes a difference. As for the life, I've had no problem getting the promised eight hours of "wireless productivity" when in dark situations that require a less bright screen. In practice, with a Parallels VM fired up and more common screen brightness, I'm doing around 6.5 hours. That's still night and day from any previous computer I've had.

I was admittedly skeptical about the glossy screen, but it hasn't been an issue 99% of the time. The only time I couldn't use it was just a few weeks ago in the Richmond airport, sitting next to a window with bright sun. I suppose a matte screen wouldn't have been any better. As "glare" is just a reflection, I think some people are somehow trained to look at the reflection and not the screen, and those are the people who hate the glossy. I have no issues at all, and photos and video seem to "pop" more with the glossy. Even text in Visual Studio looks better to me (though I have kind of crappy monitors at work to compare to).

The screen's size and resolution are what compelled me to get the 17", and I don't regret that at all. Running Visual Studio full screen is awesome, and cutting HD video in Final Cut is actually productive at this size and resolution. If they offered a 15" model with a higher resolution, I think that would be just as suitable, but I honestly don't feel that the laptop is too large at 17", except maybe on a Northwest Airlines plane.

Performance has been a non-issue until upgrading to Parallels 5. I get a lot more disk thrashing now while the VM has a 2 gig memory allocation. It depends on what else is open on the OS X side. On my desktop iMac, with twice the RAM, and a VM with twice the memory, I don't have those problems, so I may upgrade. It's not a consistent problem, so I'm on the fence at the moment.

So overall, it has been a great computer that has done everything I wanted. It's also well-traveled, with trips to Las Vegas, Florida twice, Virginia, Hawaii and Seattle twice (once the hard way, driving, and in one direction). It was priced about the same as a comparable Dell at the time, with obviously higher build quality. I liked it so much that I got Diana a 13" for her birthday!

There are still obnoxious people on the Internet who think that these things are too expensive for what they are (they generally aren't, especially at the start of a component refresh cycle), but even if they weren't, I'm OK spending more on something with such great build quality, and that runs OS X, which is still my favorite way to roll for every day Web nonsense. I still have no tolerance for Apple's dev tools and environment, but for consumer stuff, I dig it. I suspect this one will last me three years as well.


Bjorn'd!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, May 2, 2010, 2:34 PM | comments: 0

This has really become my favorite thing to do with Simon. And most of the time, it's not really even interactive because it puts him to sleep. But since I don't get nearly as much time to spend with him since returning to work, this totally makes up for it. I foresee a lot of this when we take our first family vacation later this month!


Def Leppard like you've never heard it

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 1, 2010, 11:59 PM | comments: 1

From the "shit too weird to not be real" file, I give you... Def Leppard as bluegrass. Fan or not, listen to the previews. It's really f'd up.


How could I refuse?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 1, 2010, 6:52 PM | comments: 0

This is the most hilarious e-mail I've ever received...

Hello,

We'd like to buy small advertising spot at your website. We need least intrusive type of advertisement  - simple text links. Here's what we have in mind:

We need to place 2 text links on your homepage. You choose the position of the links yourself - this can be the rught side of the website or bottom.

Here is an example of links we would like to place:

Canvas Art
Furniture Store

These are SAMPLE ADS, if we have a deal I will sent you the actual ads for review.

We will pay $10 per month (3 months upfront payment can be made) for these 2 links.

Please let me know if you are interested and I will send you the actual links.

How could I refuse an offer like that? Ten bucks, whoohoo!


Simon is getting so big

posted by Jeff | Saturday, May 1, 2010, 11:54 AM | comments: 0

I feel like all I do is talk about how big Simon is. This morning, when Diana was holding him over her shoulder for a burp, I was just amazed. When I had him lying on the couch next to me, particularly when his legs were stretched out, he was so long. Of course he's a little chubby right now, but that seems to be balancing out now.

He was a big kid when he was born, but when I look at those photos from his first week, he's so little by comparison. I swear he'll start shaving next week. Some of his clothes are already 6-9 months, and he hasn't even reached his two month birthday. It makes me sad that he's growing so fast, but at the same time, it's crazy exciting to think that it really won't be that long before we ride our first roller coaster together.

It will be interesting at his two-month check-up this week to see what his weight and length are.