Archive: January, 2006

I can see my desk, and job musings

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 12:07 AM | comments: 0

Well, if the day job has done anything to me so far, it has forced me to get on more of a normal sleeping schedule. It also forces me to get off the damn couch, put down the 360 controller, and instead sit at this beautiful 20 inches of LCD goodness so I can actually get some shit done.

I've been paying my bills on time and all, but I had a bunch of checks to deposit, statements to reconcile, CB Club cards to process, etc. All I have left is some hotels to book for volleyball, then I'm good to go.

As much as I suffer from SAD this time of year, I hate not being able to stay up until I pass out. It's weird that someone who needs sun to be happy can be so nocturnal. :) I'm f'd up.

The job is interesting so far. Generally speaking I'd say the company really has it together and I think there are some great learning opportunities there, which is precisely what I need to keep my brain from turning to Jell-o®. Working for The Man will perhaps work out now that I've met The Man, and he's got his shit together.

Here's the odd thing I didn't expect... all of the cranial stimulation has motivated me to actually do some of the things I haven't done. Of course that's the case, now that I don't have the time to just sit around on my ass all day.

Oh, and was Bon Jovi New Jersey not one of the best rock albums of the late 80's? Rock was so less serious in those days. Thanks iTunes random thingy.

PDA misery

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 30, 2006, 10:40 PM | comments: 5

My ancient Palm V is flaking out worse and worse by the day. It's closing in on being seven years old. Sigh. I'm annoyed. Now that I'm working again, I need that kind of organization in my life.

If you read this blog, you know I'm a gadget and technology junkie. I love the toys. But this is the one thing I really have no lust for. I don't want to spend money on a new PDA because it's just about as exciting as a pad of paper to me. Sure, I have two iPods, lots of video games and computer junk, but this is just one thing I feel is so utilitarian.

Sigh. I wish those iPaqs and Axioms were cheaper.


posted by Jeff | Monday, January 30, 2006, 12:38 AM | comments: 0

I was talking with a friend tonight who was feeling down about stuff. When she mentioned some deficiency, I put it in a different perspective, and she said, "You always put the right spin on it."

I could take that two ways... either that I try to keep friends making the glass appear half-full, or I myself twist the world around to protect myself from reality.

I hope it's something in between.

The list of things I haven't done

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 29, 2006, 4:40 PM | comments: 1

I'm annoyed with myself. There are a number of things that I want to accomplish that I'm just not. I want to blame starting a day job, but that's bullshit because I didn't do these things when I wasn't working. I get so angry at myself for this. In my mind, these are things that excite me, and yet when I have the opportunity to do them, I slack off and loaf.

So here's a list of things I'd like to do that aren't happening because I'm a slacker. Sure, some of them are bigger things than other, but they're things I want to do.

  • Launch a new blog. This one should be easy since the software is 90%, and I just need to skin it. I won't say what the topic is, but it's for a topic that would be fun to write about, and that I partially write about anyway. I don't know if I'll make any money from it, but it would serve as a creative outlet. Kinda like this blog, only sans the personal and emotional shit.
  • Finish the new POP Forums. This one has been haunting me for a very long time, and it's seriously critical because it will be the foundation of the next CoasterBuzz. Truth be told, it's in OK shape, but I need to focus and prioritize and make it happen.
  • Finish, or rather restart and finish, reading Head First Design Patterns. That's a book that, not surprisingly, teaches object-oriented programming design patterns. Not having a formal academic background in computer science, this is one of the last bigger picture things that I can use every day that I don't have a really firm grasp on. That troubles me, and I want to change it. Yeah, it's technically a Java book, but that's close enough for C# people.
  • Write another screenplay. I wrote my first screenplay in early 2004. While I think the idea behind the plot was novel, it wasn't well written. I want to write something a little less me and a little more imagination.
  • Make a movie. I want to translate that screenplay into an actual movie. Film is the last form of media for me. I've either had a job or otherwise made money working in every other form of media... radio, TV, newspaper, magazine, Internet... only film remains.

Most of these aren't really insurmountable and huge tasks. I just beat myself up for not doing this stuff. Life is short, and I feel like I piss it away. I don't want to feel like that anymore.

Remembering Challenger

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 28, 2006, 11:30 PM | comments: 6

Challenger exploded during launch twenty years ago today. I still have the newspaper around somewhere from the day after.

I kind of compare that day to the day of the Kennedy assassination my parents' generation had. One of those "where were you" things. I was in my science class in grade nine. At that point, we didn't watch shuttle launches in school anymore because it was just "normal" and not very newsworthy. That kind of bothered me, because I was rally into the space program through most of my childhood. The first shuttle launch several years early really captured my imagination. It still does, and it bothers me that nobody cares anymore about NASA or space exploration.

My teacher, Ms. Smith, a crabby woman but someone with her heart in the right place, was late to class. That was fairly unusual because she was such a hard ass all of the time. I remember that room particularly well because it had been renovated, and most of Whitney M. Young Junior High was aging. It had more of a new construction smell than a nasty old science lab.

When Ms. Smith came into the room, she had a very serious look on her face, like something was up. She said she had some bad news.

"The Space Shuttle... blew up."

My first reaction was that she was joking or just heard wrong. No way... I knew the craft and the launch process too well, and I just didn't think it was possible. I didn't pay attention much the rest of the day in class, and when I got home I rushed to the TV to find out what really happened.

I read the news paper nearly every day and watched ABC News almost every night. Much later we'd learn that the O-rings that sealed the joints in the solid rocket boosters failed and that caused the ignition of the fuel tank. It angered me that something so stupid caused the accident.

The more recent Columbia accident was very sad as well. I went to a hockey game that day, and it was hard to do that. I felt like a part of my childhood died that day in a way, because that was the first shuttle to orbit the Earth.

It's hard to say what will become of space exploration. It seems hard to justify the expense when there's so much shit going on here down on the planet, despite the many innovations that have come out of experiments in zero-gravity. I guess the idealist in me still thinks that the pursuit of science is a noble goal.

Camcorder fun

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 28, 2006, 2:11 PM | comments: 0

It's so weird that I have a "day off" when it used to be that every day was a day off. :) Anyway, I started thinking again about HD because I'm really super interested. I still want to make a movie and such.

But now I'm wondering if me buying the HVX-200 is a bad idea. It's a lot of money to spend if I end up not following through on some of the ideas I have for it, and the price doesn't even include P2 cards or an external Firestore hard drive to record on. There's that endless cycle I have about wanting to do something, then feeling bad that I don't do it. :) And now I have some minor concerns about some performance reviews of the camera. Again, they're just minor concerns, as I've seen the video from one of these and it's insane.

I've noticed that Sony's consumer HD camcorder, the HDR-HC1, has been dropping in price like crazy, presumably because Sony is introducing a new, smaller model (that actually loads the tape from the top... gasp!). I'm not a giant fan of the HDV tape format, because it compresses the hell out of HD to fit it down to a 25 mbit stream on standard DV tape. I don't know why exactly that scares me so much, but compared to the DVCPRO HD that the HVX records, on solid state media at that, there's a gigantic difference in quality. I guess not having seen video samples from any HDV camcorder, I wouldn't know.

Then there's just the issue that the HC1 is something I could actually use every day on vacation. Hell, it's smaller than my old DV camera (and the same price mine was in 1999). I'd probably get a lot more use out of it for a fraction of the cost, and it has enough manual control (iris especially) that I could use it for my first "film" if I wanted to.

This subject just continues to tap into that need I have to be using video, both for myself and maybe for a living. I don't know why I continue to deny to myself that it's such a core part of who I am and what I like to do. I saw some video that a friend of mine cut recently just for her own use, and I miss doing stuff like that. I was good at it, much more so than I ever have been writing code. Grrrr.

Damn I need pie!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 26, 2006, 10:40 PM | comments: 5

I have this insane taste for chocolate, ice cream and pie. Like it's consuming me. If it wasn't getting late, I would go out and get stuff. I swear I'm not menstruating.

It makes me think of the frozen chocolate sex I ate a week ago tonight...


posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 26, 2006, 12:51 PM | comments: 0

I stopped in Chipotle for lunch and Supreme Beings of Leisure was playing on the speakers.


Monetary wisdon

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 25, 2006, 2:48 PM | comments: 0

Steve Pavlina, who does a self-help blog of sorts, made a post about blogging and making money from whatever it is you post on the Web. Interesting stuff, but here's the thing that struck me the most:

"But money is only a means to an end, not an end in itself. Making a positive contribution to the world is a lot more important to me than money. Money can be useful in achieving this objective, but human relationships are far more important. The funny thing is that the less I rely on money, the more of it I seem to have... While many entrepreneurs pursue money for the purpose of becoming wealthy, I chose a different route. I sought to earn money for the purpose of increasing my freedom. I don’t want to get myself stuck in a pattern of working for money, so I’m constantly turning down opportunities to make money that would restrict my freedom."

Wise words. See, I haven't been lazy the last couple of years, just exercising my freedom. ;)

Spellbound for Firefox 1.5

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 25, 2006, 11:02 AM | comments: 0

I don't know if anyone else uses this, but I've had problems getting Spellbound to work in Firefox 1.5. This hacked version seems to work every time.

Crazy huge DVR!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 25, 2006, 10:00 AM | comments: 0

As someone that has a BeyondTV setup for recording SD and HD, I was amazed and stunned that someone built a four-HD, seven-SD tuner BeyondTV DVR. Yeah, this bad boy can record 11 shows at once.

There is no other software this kick ass out there.

The little things I dig

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 23, 2006, 5:52 PM | comments: 10

So I started my new job today. While most people would probably talk about the office, the people, where they had lunch or whatever, I have to talk about the phone.

As my three readers know, I'm a huge 24 fan. Best show ever. And if you watch the show, you know that in the CTU facility that they have these cool Cisco phones with a distinctive ring.

When they showed me to my desk, I recognized the phones. I heard one ring somewhere and I was really disappointed as it didn't have the right ring. I finally got around to playing with mine and found there were a ton of different rings. Most of them sucked, but then I got to the last one... labeled "24." Score!

No Michelle Desslers walking around though. :)

Volleyball family reunion

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 22, 2006, 9:19 PM | comments: 8

I had a scrimmage tournament today with my new J.O. team. Can't say it went swimmingly well with so little practice, but it's nice to have a very clear idea about what to work on before we play for real. Lots of potential there.

It was also a reunion of sorts at so many levels. I had several kids now in college there, one of which I haven't seen in ages. Oddly enough, Caroline is the big sister of Katherine, who I have now. So it was neat to spend time with her and her parents, as well as some of the other kids I've had previously and their parents.

Our club has so much history in terms of families, and I'm so glad that I've had the opportunity to be a part of that. We don't always remember the scores and rankings, but there are so many good times over the years. It's what really makes coaching rewarding in the long run, especially when you keep in touch with the kids and their families long after they've gone out into the world.

My Michigan Adventure

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 21, 2006, 1:20 PM | comments: 4

Wednesday I drove up to Michigan to meet some of my peeps up there and see a show. First order of business was seeing Imogen Heap at The Magic Bag outside of Detroit. I met Kara and Tobe in East Lansing and let Tobe do the driving.

The show was pretty sweet. Even though she seemed nervous on Letterman the other night, Imogen really knew how to work the crowd. It's interesting the way she's a gadget dork, a one-person show, but doesn't rely on the tech to perform. When it made sense, she was just as comfortable behind a piano as she was behind her computer and keyboards. She had a cellist open for her and play with her on a few songs, Zoe something or other, who was pretty awesome too (and had fabulous hair). I think it was a particularly cool experience for Kara, who had never been to a show in such a small venue. It's a lot of fun to share that kind of experience with people who haven't before.

The next day I got to have the Michigan State experience. I met Kara's roommate, Julie, who could be her twin (if she wasn't shorter and blonde, anyway). You wonder how the hell I could miss dorm life after having a house, but I kind of do. Their room is really cozy and comfortable. I took the girls out for dinner (because apparently dorm food is pretty bad there) and then watch The O.C. with some of their friends. To date I've refused to watch the show, but now I see it's a lot more interesting when it's with a big group of people.

Friday the girls were class-free, so while Julie went to lunch, Kara showed me around some of campus. I have to say that I was skeptical that a Big 10 school would be so nice (I've been to Ohio State and it's a dump). She took me to this little ice cream shop where the stuff is made totally local. It was awesome. I don't understand how ice cream can be made better, but right on.

Overall, I had a great time up there. I wasn't sure what to expect going to a strange place with lots of strange people (i.e., Michigan people ;)). It was a great escape and I look forward to visiting them again. Good times!

I miss Lords of Acid

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 17, 2006, 1:10 AM | comments: 4

I'm listening to my Lords of Acid mix tonight. Two hours of the best hardcore techno/dance tunes ever made about sex, drugs and having sex while on drugs. Good stuff.

I think I've seen Lords of Acid six times. Maybe more. Honestly I don't remember. They all kind of blend together after awhile. Listening to any individual album, you wouldn't think much of them (or him, as the band has always been Pragah Kahn at the core, much as KMFDM has always been Sahsa at the core). But when you listen to a mix that spans the years, there's some real brilliance for that genre of music, despite the lyrical content.

I miss the shows too. I've been fairly drunk at a number of their shows, but the fashion among the concert goers has always been great. It's not the cheesy high school goth kid shit... it's the very beautiful weekend goth adult crowd, that know how to dress in tight clothing. The women at these shows are beautiful regardless of size, shape or ethnicity. Makes you appreciate that being "sexy," whatever that means, is more of an attitude than something you can really nail down.

And you know, in a particular coaster dork moment, I hear the song "Orchestral Si nations" and I think about a video I always wanted to make. It's an instrumental, and it came out the winter that Millennium Force was being built. I always thought it'd make a great background to a video about the ride. In fact, to this day I think about it when I ride the thing, since I visualized riding it prior to its opening. God I'm a dork.


posted by Jeff | Monday, January 16, 2006, 1:31 AM | comments: 0

Early morning, April 4.
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky.
Free at last, they took your life.
They could not take your pride.

-U2, "Pride (In The Name of Love)"

24... upsetting

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 16, 2006, 1:28 AM | comments: 3

Wow, no sooner had the first ten minutes of the new 24 season started that they killed off two of my favorite characters. And things got nuts so quickly from there that I didn't even have time to mourn them until the two hours were over. Unreal.

They're wasting no time getting into it, that's for sure. It's just really hard to get all tense and stuff when real life throws enough of you that way!

Normal people

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 15, 2006, 1:31 PM | comments: 1

"Normal people scare the living shit out of me. Because normal people haven't had enough problems in their life to know how to handle problems when they come up. Something little happens and they just snap."

-Christopher Titus

I'm shrinking

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 14, 2006, 1:37 PM | comments: 0

Since I'm actually going to be around people on a more regular basis since accepting a day job, I figured I'd better buy some clothes that actually fit me.

This time I was surprised to see that 34" pants now fit loosely. That's weird because I haven't lost any more weight that I'm aware of. I figured I'd try large shirts, but I remember now the reason I've always worn XL shirts is because of my freakish rib cage, not my beer trophy. I wish I could say I had a muscular upper body, but it's just a strange build.

So I'm gathering up some of my older clothes for charity and it's weird to see the old and new next to each other. I know now when I see old pictures of myself the difference, but on a daily basis it's had to see since I wasn't "Biggest Loser" reality show material in the first place.

Lack of domestic zen

posted by Jeff | Saturday, January 14, 2006, 1:10 AM | comments: 1

My new entertainment acquisitions last week have caused a number of issues in the living room.

First of all, my TV doesn't quite fit in the entertainment center. It fits, just not right. The other problem is that the Xbox 360, receiver and DVR computer together are creating a ton of heat in the rack. And by ton, I mean it gets so warm that you can feel it as soon as you get near. I think it's even preventing the heat from coming on. It has also been tough accessing the wiring.

But I love this entertainment center. It has been with us a long time, and as far as such furniture goes, it's kind of nice. Sigh. I don't know what to do. I don't really want to get rid of it. Maybe if someone adopted it, perhaps, but it would need a good home. I dunno... it has just been a part of our living room for a very long time.

Directorial connection

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 12, 2006, 3:27 PM | comments: 0

Unexpected things you find on the Internet... Jon Cassar, who has directed most of 24, also directed a number of episodes on La Femme Nikita. Joel Surnow, one of the writers for 24, was also "executive consultant" on Nikita.

That explains why I like both shows. Nikita was a good series that deserved better than the USA Network. It was nearly cancelled (rimshot for those of you who know the series) before fan outrage brought it back one last season, which frankly was pretty terrible. Still, it's interesting to see the connection there.

Imogen Heap on Letterman for real

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 12, 2006, 12:50 AM | comments: 0

Tonight she was on the show for real after poor time management last night booted her off of the show. My God was she clearly nervous. Network TV debut indeed. She did "Goodnight and Go" as a one-person act, with various electronic components and of course a Powerbook. It was very old school synth. Really cool. I can't wait to see her Wednesday.

Oh, and she's a giant. She's taller than Letterman in bare feet!

DVR CPU issues

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 11, 2006, 2:51 PM | comments: 3

Despite the overclocking I did on my DVR computer, I was disappointed that it's choking a bit on the HD playback, though I'm not sure why as it was acceptable yesterday. When I put it up full screen I get some tearing and interlacing artifacts. If I watch it at its native 720p size in a window it's fine, but the computer is having a hard time upscaling it to the full 1920x1080.

I've spent a fair amount of money on my DVR PC, though way less than a grand. After 16 months, overall I'm pretty happy with it. I'm hesitant, however, to do any upgrading. I have this feeling that Apple has something cool in the pipe, as Front Row is a great application that does iTunes, DVD and photos. So I'm kind of in a wait-and-see mode regarding the "living room box" that pundits have been predicting for years. It's getting there, but it's not totally there yet.

New Apple ad

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 11, 2006, 2:04 PM | comments: 1

Apple posted new ads for the Intel Macs on their site. Funny stuff. And with Kiefer Sutherland doing the voice-over.

I hate you Letterman!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 11, 2006, 12:46 AM | comments: 2

I watched Letterman tonight because Scarlett Johansson and Imogen Heap were supposed to be on. Well I sit through some interview with this football clown I don't care about, and they ditch her performance. I'm so pissed!

Oh well... going to see Immi in The D next week. Would've been nice to have a get stoked preview though today. I'm so annoyed.

Encouraging volleyball practice

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 10, 2006, 11:36 PM | comments: 3

Had our second J.O. volleyball practice today. Went exceptionally well. A lot of the apprehension associated with getting used to a new coach and an aggressive system is going away quickly. I've got a good feel already for who needs what work, and I've got kids already asking for individual work, which we're starting Sunday.

And here's the thing that annoys me... how do high school coaches go so long without working individually with kids and fixing their problems? For example, setters tend to not square and rely too much on their arms, and that affects accuracy and distance. My primary setter said she knows she does it, and that she wants to fix it, but her coach never made the time to work with her. After finally doing a season as a head high school coach, I don't know how that happens. I wish I had the luxury of having so much time in the J.O. season.

Speaking of the high school season, I went to see several of those kids play basketball last night. Wow was I impressed. All three are really good. Very fun to watch them.

Stupid Zuma

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 10, 2006, 3:25 PM | comments: 0

I mentioned that I thought the Xbox Live Arcade was the coolest thing ever. Well, Microsoft has figured out a way to cause impulse buys with these little games that cost $5 or less. Worse, Zuma is like crack.

I first saw Zuma visiting Tim and Lois, and they played it a lot when I was over there. I downloaded the demo off of Live and tried it, and after beating the first level, needed more. So I bought the rest. Between last night and today, I think I've killed at least six hours playing that stupid game. It's worse than Tetris was back in the day. Even more scary are the accomplishments on Live for it. One of them is "24h," which you get when you've logged 24 hours on the game. That will be a scary day when I get that one.

Oh well... I deserve to piss away some time. I'm going back to a day job 1/23!

New Macs

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, January 10, 2006, 3:10 PM | comments: 1

Wow, Apple is not screwing around with their new Intel-based Macs. The Powerbook is history and replaced with the Macbook. Two models to start, both with 15" screens. The iMacs have been replaced with tweaked up 17" and 20" models at the same price points with more goodies.

And the kicker here? They're using dual-core processors. These things will kick the asses of the old Macs quite handily. We have to wait until March to get the recompiled pro apps (like Final Cut Pro, which is what I'm most interested in).

I'm a little disappointed that they didn't do the Mac Mini to start with, but I'm crossing my fingers that they'll do it. Actually, I have to say the Macbook is really appealing because it's a real shit-kicking laptop regardless of the OS, but even more so because editing video on that thing is going to be amazing. Seriously, I want one! I can't wait to see how people do in terms of dual-booting with Windows. I'm sure we'll find out in a matter of days.

Alas... yet another thing I shouldn't be buying. Gonna hold off on this one until people have spent time with them and I actually have video worth editing.

Gamer dork revived

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 9, 2006, 1:40 AM | comments: 2

What can I say... my hands hurt. I've been playing on the Xbox 360 almost all day. I haven't been this into gaming since the Super NES days. (Sidebar: I realized while talking to a friend that the first two things I ever bought with a credit card were a TV and a video game console, the SNES. Weird how history repeats itself.)

I also picked up NBA 2k6 and Project Gotham Racing 3, so I more or less have four game genres covered. All four games are awesome. I spent quality time playing them on Xbox Live too, and that is where these things really shine.

While playing a really simple track on PGR3, I was talking with a couple of guys about where they found their 360 machines, and was surprised to find they were also "got lucky" customers like I was. And that's what's so f'ing cool but this live stuff, that you can talk to someone anywhere in the world about dumb shit like this as if you're in the next room. And given the price of the box and the rising age of even hardcore gamers, they're adults.

That's not to say you don't have some real funny moments too. I was deathmatching on Perfect Dark Zero (always a ton of people on!), and I heard some guy (or kid) yell, "Ownage!" Come on, seriously... nobody really says that! Alas, I made it my mission to kill him, and I did so twice. Otherwise I was mostly getting my ass kicked, but laughing every time someone sent a rocket at my head. Death and destruction can be funny.

I played a couple of rounds of Joust with people too. There's something I wouldn't have thought of, that a game two decades old could find new life by way of online play.

So while there are amazing games for the Xbox 360, what really makes it amazing is the live service. Microsoft really, really got it right. All of the haters need to get over it... this thing is the shit. I just hope they can catch up with demand quickly because it really is an amazing experience to share with others.

My new Jag

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 8, 2006, 3:33 PM | comments: 4

A day with HD and 360

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 8, 2006, 2:52 AM | comments: 0

OK... look at the time. I haven't been addicted to gaming this way since, well, I guess never. GregLeg just signed off IM telling me the same thing.

As I mentioned before, I first saw HD in the late 90's at a tech demo, I think from Sony. I was blown away. It was some big ass monitor hooked up to what I assume was a D5 tape machine. The fact that it has taken ten years to get this in my house is kind of astounding.

So starting with the TV, I technically don't have any content I can play back at a full 1080, but lots of 720p stuff. I tried viewing some QT movie trailers at 1080p, but my comprooder doesn't have the balls to do it. In fact, Apple says you need a dual-processor P4 at 3 GHz. Ouch. The good news is that the Xbox 360 has trailers you can download in 720p. I nearly wet my pants when I saw the X3 trailer. I was also blown away at the Titanic movie footage that shipped on the machine. Wow. I mean holy shit wow. I can see already that when the HD DVD/BluRay thing gets figured out, I'm gonna have to re-buy my favorite movies. Lucas is gonna get my money for Star Wars for a sixth time.

DVD's didn't look great at first. Our DVD player is seven years old, a Sony that cost $500 at the time. Looking at the composite output, I wasn't that impressed. Looking at them through the 360, I was very impressed. The box must have some nice signal processing and up-resolution capability. The gold standard for quality was Episode III, and it looks fabulous. Some things you appreciate the mastering. The Veronica Mars first season has a bit of noise, and I think it's film noise. I haven't seen a DVD with obvious compression artifacts yet.

Over-the-air signals are interesting. I view/record them through my DVR computer, connected by DVI to the monitor at the full 1920x1080. The NBC affiliate is 1080i, but the signal is too weak. I can get our ABC, CBS, UPN and WB, all of which broadcast at 720p. Letterman in HD is cool, if only to see grinder girl in high def. :) You can also see just how old Dave is really getting with all of that detail. If you pause a recording, it looks like a high-res photo. I can't wait to watch 24 in HD! As I mentioned, my computer doesn't quite have the "stuff" sometimes, but I over-clocked it and it mostly keeps up.

Off topic, but Letterman has the microphone I want for my podcast on his desk.

The thing that isn't so cool is that standard def stuff doesn't look so good coming down the DirecTV pipe. The compression looks like shit, especially the local channels. I could tell on the old TV, but now it's even more obvious.

Now on to the Xbox 360... what an amazing machine. It's pricey, but my God is it amazing. The games honestly are cool, but I'm so fascinated by what the hardware and its operating system can do. Microsoft, really, really got it right. I know it has been said before, but the "killer app" is the console itself and its connection to Xbox Live. They now have a free account so you can download trailers and demos. Using points (purchased online or on cards at retail) you can buy various graphics, themes, games, etc. The Live membership itself, to play the real games online is $50 for 13 months, but Greg is gonna score me one for 30% off at his local going-out-of-business Toys-r-Us. Awesome. I already spent nearly $5 to buy Joust, and already some kids kicked my ass.

Oddly enough, the quality of the video looks the same at 720p and 1080i, and my guess is that the box and my TV have the same processing chip to upscale.

So what about the games? I have Perfect Dark Zero (shooter) and Kameo (adventure) so far. I really want Project Gotham Racing and NBA 2k6 too, and I have coupons. Kameo is a neat variation of the platform game, and it's so rich in detail and glowing lighting and beautiful textures. Really amazing. There was one point where I killed a bunch of trolls, and I look in the sky and there are dozens of dragons flying around and this rich background. I couldn't believe it was all being rendered in real-time.

Perfect Dark Zero... let's say I have a new favorite video game heroine. Sorry, Lara. Seriously, if Eidos is too stupid to do a 360 games, they're missing out. Joanna Dark is such a cool character for this decade, with her red streaky hair. As far as shooters go, it's familiar territory, with a story that reminds me more of a Splinter Cell plot than anything. But it's weird how there are reflections, volumetric light and great bump mapping that you don't even get in a PC game. In fact, given the high resolution of 720p, I'd venture to say that a lot of 360 games look even better than they do on PC's with video cards that cost more than the 360.

I also downloaded the demo for Quake 4, and I'm amazed. That style of shooter is too hard to I think on a console controller, but it really is beautiful. The Doom 3 engine translated very well to the 360.

So overall, I feel so stoked that the kind of quality I've been used to in digital photography is finally coming to video, and not just in professional stuff. I hope that with this job I can also afford to buy that HD camera when it gets easier to find.

One peripheral note... For the longest time, people were always big on getting huge TV's. However, a big TV doesn't mean a better picture, and in the old world of SD, I've always felt this way. My new TV barely fits in my entertainment center, but it looks great. If I had something bigger (because it is relatively small), it wouldn't actually look better. When I do go bigger, I hope I have a house with a room for a theater and a front projector.

One of the best days I've had in ages

posted by Jeff | Friday, January 6, 2006, 7:33 PM | comments: 3

The days in which you feel you can do no wrong are few and far in between, but when they happen, well, you can't help but be all smiles.

I got a job offer today that includes a signing bonus. A significant signing bonus. Score. I walked into Target and they happened to have an Xbox 360. Awesome. I decided I needed a TV to connect that Xbox too. Coupons and stuff, saved almost $300.

Probably most amazing is this 360... I haven't even played a game on it yet, because everything else that it does is really amazing. I can't wait to mess around!

Job hunting adventure

posted by Jeff | Thursday, January 5, 2006, 8:29 PM | comments: 1

I mentioned previously that I was looking to get back into the job market after a break lasting a few months. I had no idea that it was going to go so well, but particularly with the start of the new year, there's a lot out there. I have one formal offer, one informal and possibly another tomorrow. It's so crazy.

There are a couple of reasons the jobs are coming to me. The first is that there is a serious shortage of qualified .NET developers in the Cleveland and Akron market. I don't know why that is, but part of the going theory is that Progressive (the auto insurer) is hoarding most of them. Seeing as how I used to be one of them, and with nothing to even do at the time, I think that's certainly possible. They pay a ton too, and kind of set what the market will accept in terms of compensation.

The other thing is that when I got laid-off in 2001, I made the decision to seriously buy into Microsoft's vision of using the .NET Framework as the next big thing. It was only beta at that point, but it seemed interesting and I had lots of time on my hands. As it turns out, that was a good decision. By getting into it so early, I acquired something you can't fake... time. No one can say they have more experience in terms of time because it didn't exist any earlier than the time I got involved. It also gave me more time to make the leap to the OO platform, which for former script monkeys isn't easy, me included.

The architect I talked to today was like, "Isn't it great to be in demand?" Yes, it is nice, but I honestly find myself feeling a little guilty about the whole thing. While a lot of my situation can be attributed to my own actions, some of it is luck too. A lot of people can't afford to take months off of work, and struggle to find a job. I'm very, very thankful that I've had this opportunity, and I don't take it for granted at all.

I hope I make the right decision.

First practice

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 4, 2006, 7:42 PM | comments: 0

Well, the first practice is history, and I have a team. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I couldn't do the preliminary get to know you stuff and I had to race through a lot of information quickly. But at the very least I have an immediate idea of the things I need to work on.

My thoughts? Well, I've done more with less, so I think they'll do OK. Only a few practices before we go to a scrimmage tournament.

Need to see U2 live just once (plus other concert moments)

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, January 4, 2006, 1:36 AM | comments: 1

DirecTV has a "free view" of U2's Vertigo tour. I snagged it over night with my DVR and I'm compressing it for my iPod. I might rip it into audio tracks too because I dig that live stuff.

U2 is one of the only bands I can think of that I've loved for years, but never been excited about any particular album release. Rather, they have this incredible body of work that now spans decades and there's so much good stuff in their catalog.

Unfortunately I've never seen them live, and that annoys me. I strongly feel that hearing The Edge play guitar live would be very close to a religious experience. If I don't get to do that before I die, I think I may regret it. Yeah, some people want to see the Grand Canyon or whatever, but me, I want to see what I consider to be quite possibly the greatest rock band of all time.

When I think back to the biggest concert moments I've ever witnessed, there aren't a ton that really stand out. However, here are a few, in no particular order...

Tears For Fears, 1990, doing "Shout." Like a lot of cool concert moments, they did an arrangement that was at least ten minutes long. It was really cool.

Def Leppard, 1992, doing "Hysteria." A lot of people are quick to write off all the bands of that era, but I really think these guys set the trend for everyone else, and had the best guitar and vocal harmony sound in music at the time.

Nine Inch Nails, New Year's Eve, 1994, The Palace at Auburn Hills. Craziest show I've seen, and the among the longest. Pop Will Eat Itself and Jim Rose Circus opened.

Jewel, 1997 (I think), singing "Angel Standing By." Not sure if you know the song. It's basically a lullaby, but I'm not kidding when I say I was almost brought to tears by it.

INXS, 1997, performing "The Stairs." Rainy show, just weeks before the singer killed himself. This particular song always stuck with me because of a line in it: "Do you lead, or are you led? Are you sure that you don't care? There are reasons here to give your life, and follow in your way. The passion lives to keep your faith, though all are different, all are great. Climbing as we fall, we dare to hold on to our fate, and steal away our destiny to catch ourselves with quiet grace.

Toad The Wet Sprocket, circa 1997, performing "All In All." Good stuff. They opened for The Cranberries, who sucked.

Barenaked Ladies, circa 1998, the whole show. Having been a fan for probably six or seven years at that point it was great to see them finally, and for free at that (radio station win). It wasn't their songs... it was their show. I've never seen the Beastie Boys, but BNL did a great job with "Shake Your Rump" and Public Enemy's "Fight The Power."

The Cure, not sure, doing "Pictures of You." Probably the best sad song ever written. Surprisingly great show for an arena concert.

Garbage, 2005, doing "Bleed Like Me." Actually there are a lot of big Garbage moments after seeing them five times, but this was the most recent. The band's polish and Shirley's vocals were just perfect. Amazing stuff.

The magic at shows has been lacking for a long time. I cross my fingers that the next one will have a few of those moments.

2005 Retrospect Part III: The me

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 2, 2006, 10:58 PM | comments: 1

This was the part of my look back at the year that I found most difficult. I guess to explain why, I just have to go to it.

This was, without question, the worst year of my life. I've endured more trauma this year than I have most of the rest of my life. It has not been pleasant. But here's the weird thing... it has also been one of the best years of my life (maybe second best if I had to rank). I know I'm being ambiguous here, but I think the last month or so of 2005 was about trying to reconcile this seemingly impossible contradiction in conditions. The idea that, yes, the worst of times can include the best of times, because life is a continuous gray area.

What does this mean? It means that bad things happen, you experience unpleasantness, misery even, and yet great and better things can come out of those negatives. The biggest challenge is to process the negatives so that you can see and celebrate the positives. It's not easy, particularly when it involves feelings of loss and sadness.

So while I'm not going to go into the negatives, there were a lot of great things that happened to me this year that I can't deny have been great, and to a certain degree, provoked by the negatives. Probably the first good thing, and the thing that I frequently forget, is that I wrote a book, and it came out in March. In that interview I had today, the hiring manager seemed fascinated by that, and a lot of friends say that I don't give myself the credit that I should. It certainly is an accomplishment.

I experienced piercing this year. That's something that makes a lot of people cringe I'm sure, but the first one (two) led me to a very spiritual realization about caring for myself and really understanding how to look out for myself. The only downside of that is I wish I could decide what to pierce next, if anything, and what the associated goals with that would be.

I lost weight this year. A lot of weight. None of my clothes fit. The need to do this came out of the idea that I didn't like myself very much, in combination with the above realization. It wasn't a vanity thing at all as much as I just didn't feel healthy. I'd still like to knock off some more, but I'm pleased with the start. My measured vertical leap is now back up to 21", higher than it was in college. My short ass can reach 9'2" now from a standing jump.

I eat better too. I'm a long way from embracing veganism, but I've found alternatives to stuff I used to eat, I eat more (but not yet enough) vegetables, and I've cut beef out of my diet entirely, for about seven months now. I really think that has a lot to do with how I feel and how much less I weigh. That's been a big challenge though, because it really is a lifestyle change. You can't cheat and eat fast food and eat better next week. It's something you have to fully commit to every day.

I coached high school volleyball this year. It was amazingly rewarding. Dealing with a couple of parents made it a complete pain in the ass, but the trade off was worth it because I saw kids meet goals that I originally thought might have been too high. It's amazing that a 17-year-old kid that you're trying to make a better person can in turn make you realize things about your own abilities just by doing their thing. It makes you realize how capable young people are, and also helps you remember that you can be the same way.

I did a lot to strengthen my friendships this year, and re-established one I thought long gone. I don't have a lot of deep and close friendships. I used to think that was bad, but the truth is that those I do have are very much a big deal, and I get immeasurable happiness from those friendships. Realizing this has caused me to put forth the effort to keep up on those.

My original intention on the year in review was to slam it, be done with it, and move the hell on. The truth is that I can't deny that a lot of good things came out of it. It's just so hard to believe that a bad year could lead to good things. It makes you wonder if the desire to avoid conflict, sadness and confrontation can ultimately make you more unhappy than if you dealt with it, processed it and eventually continued on with life. It's not easy.

So all of that said, I welcome 2006.

Interesting interviewing

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 2, 2006, 5:51 PM | comments: 0

The interview I had today was interesting. Not just because of the particular work the job involves, but just the way the process has changed for me over the years since graduating from college.

Back in my broadcast days, getting a job required the tenacity of a commissioned sales person trying to close a six-figure deal (ironic since you were lucky to get a five-figure salary). That was kind of a fun challenge at first, but it wore thin after awhile.

These days, in the last two years in particular, it's not just you selling yourself, but the employer selling themselves to you as well. I think the reason is more the demand for my particular skillset than it is me being me, but it's a nice feeling being able to carefully consider the fit.

I'm interested to see what I eventually find by the end of the week. I think one of these gigs will be a good fit. We'll see!

The thoughts are ready

posted by Jeff | Monday, January 2, 2006, 1:55 AM | comments: 0

Well, I finally have a good idea about what to write for the last part of my 2005 retrospect, but it's just too damn late in the evening now. I managed to make something of the evening by recording and posting the podcast and dealing with various menial tasks. The rest of the day ended up being such a waste. Hey, I would've started 2006 bigger had it not started on a Sunday!

Interview tomorrow afternoon with mixed feelings, first J.O. volleyball practice on Tuesday with much excitement.

More Mythbusters

posted by Jeff | Sunday, January 1, 2006, 3:07 PM | comments: 4

Mythbusters is on Discovery again. I can forget doing anything productive today. Yeah, I still have a crush on Kari too, but I also dig Scottie, the chick with the tattoos and pigtails.