Yes, the guy who made that absolutely horrible song on YouTube, and probably thought he was doing something serious, has extended his fifteen minutes by pimping Dr. Pepper.
I'm trying to think of something stupid that some "clever" marketer could see and pay me for. :)
I know I've mentioned before that Xbox game development interests me. So they're doing a new console update, and the features are listed here. Note this one...
Added support for XNA Game Studio Express V.2
This led me to research a little, and I found this blog post that confirms my biggest wish... Xbox Live support! I still think that the greatest innovation in this space, with the indie developers, will happen online. I look forward to looking into it a little.
Speaking of which, I can't believe that the Xbox 360 Scene It? has absolutely no online component. What the hell were they thinking? With those controllers you've got the equivalent of bar-style NTN triva at home. Duh.
Today marks the six-month anniversary of the first date I had with Diana. It's amazing how quickly and naturally things have progressed. It has been really effortless. How can you not fall in love with someone who just digs you for who you are?
To recognize this day, she has her own nightstand now in what will eventually be "our" bedroom. We actually started talking about moving in together quite awhile ago. While friends of ours are shocked, it wasn't something we labored over. It just makes sense. What a great year this will be.
I bought Mario Kart 64 last night on the Wii. I know that seems kind of silly seeing as how I have an N64 and the game, but I don't need more consoles sitting in my living room either.
I had to use my GameCube controller, which worked OK, though the trigger buttons are variable analog triggers, so it's a little strange. The jump/slide button is the right trigger, and you have to squeeze it all the way to make it work. Ditto for the left, which selects/holds/fires items. It's not ideal. The classic controllers would go a long way toward fixing that.
But here's there other thing. You can download emulators and ROM's for free. I realize that's not legal, but seeing as how I own the originals, frankly I'm not stealing anything. I can use my DVR computer to run these games, and with a $20 USB receiver, even use my Xbox 360 controllers on it. The Wii is sending out 480i video which looks surprisingly not good for the classic games on my HDTV.
They also don't have the games packaged in a way that makes sense. All of the NES Mario games were packaged together, with the SNES Mario, into one cart for the SNES (all graphically updated), and of course they don't offer that. You can buy them all separately for a total of like $30.
But I really dig having the stuff right there available to me on the console as well. Frankly the controls feel "right" using the Wii, where as they don't feel the same when using the PC. I'll probably just bite the bullet and buy a couple of classic controllers.
It's still funny how I spend most of my time using my "modern" consoles to play really old games.
Diana and I have been watching Rise of The Video Game on Discovery Channel the last two weeks. It's a five-part series, with the first covering the early development of games and consoles, and the second covering the second wave and transition to games that involve stories. The rest of the series will cover shooters, sims and online gaming. It's not a strict chronological history.
It's interesting that if you were born in the early part of the 70's, you actually got to grow up with their games and witness their entire history. We both remember playing Pong as little kids, and we got to follow up with the Atari 2600 and the original NES (the latter of which I never actually had, but Stephanie still had hers). My total resume now includes the 2600, Gameboy (the original, Color and Advance), SNES, N64, PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Nintendo DS, Xbox, Xbox 360 and Wii. I don't have any of the GB's, SNES, PS1 or original Xbox anymore. I'm tempted to fire up that old 2600 some time and see if it still works. Prior to the modern Intel-Windows era, I also had an Atari 600XL, which I wrote my own games for, an Apple II+ (I still have the original Might & Magic disks!) and an IBM PS/2 model 25 with no hard drive.
It's funny though how really since I was 10 there has always been a video game console hooked up to my TV. I can't imagine not having it available, even if I'm not really all that hardcore about it. My second "console" was the original Gameboy, which I was really proud of since I bought it with my own money while in high school. I'll never forget playing through the Mario game that launched with it. Those were some good times.
These days I have a hard time finishing games, or even getting into them at all. I got the NBA 2k launch title for the 360 and I think I played it twice. I'm struggling to get through Super Paper Mario, partly because it's not a very good game. I love Halo 3, I just haven't had the time to invest in it. The big time in the last year actually comes from the Xbox Live arcade games for me. They're inexpensive, and they're fun to play.
I admit that I partially wanted a Wii so I could buy the old classics. Sure, I could play them for free on an emulator, but it's not really the same. There's something about playing it on the actual hardware. Waste of money to some people I'm sure, but I don't mind spending a couple of bucks on that kind of thing.
I really wish I could find some time to really lose myself in some games. The last title I actually finished was Tomb Raider: Legend on the 360. It was really a lot of fun and true to the original games. They just released Tomb Raider: Anniversary, which is a remake (not a port) of the original game on the PS and PC. I'm sure I'll eventually buy it for the 360 (available on other platforms as well).
I spent about two hours writing code for the thing on CB that is really the biggest pain in the ass. The current coaster database sucks because I never wrote any real tools to maintain it. So I had this great idea about how I'd change that, and at some point the idea got stupid, as did the UI to maintain it. So yeah, it blows. I think I got to an OK place with it, but I hate it, and I'm tired of messing with it. I think it'd be done if this weren't holding me back.
Wow, this is a topic that I first visited more than three years ago, and it still comes up over and over. This time, it comes to light through this post (though I'm not calling out Frans, as he's just a messenger), and ultimately by this post. I just don't understand why people spend so much time trying to neatly categorize everyone and, in the process, imply some level of superiority. People who do that suck, and they're not fun to work with.
Personally, I think that 80% of software development is boring and mundane crap that most anyone can do. But the funny thing about most of the other 20% is that someone else has probably already figured out how to solve those problems, so with a little creativity and investigation, you can derive your own solutions. More to the point, you don't need to be a ninja, you need to be a problem solver who delivers quality work, on time. It's not more complicated than that.
The whole Linux and open source religion is like the DOS and Windows thing revisited. Some people thought they deserved some kind of trophy because they were able to do anything from a command prompt. If you're one of those people, hey, good for you, but I'm busy getting real work done.
Specific to the ASP.NET world, yes, visual tools can create a "crutch" of sorts, but who cares? If those crutches keep people walking and work gets done, whatever. Sure, these tools don't act as a free pass from understanding the underlying frameworks and performance implications, but so much of software development has no such implications to begin with.
The religion surrounding programmer types is a lot like platform religion. Sure, there are different levels of experience and such, but you use what's appropriate for the situation, just as you would use the appropriate platform. I can't understand people who waste time trying to categorize such things.
Command line jockeys are worthless when they can't even wrap their head around the business case for creating software in the first place.
OK, so the TV commercials for anti-depressants are funny and dramatic. They make me giggle because they're so absurd. But I think I have to admit that I'm a little depressed right now.
In thinking about it, I got it all backward though. I thought that I was getting depressed because I was eating poorly, not executing on projects and generally just opting to sit around whenever I could. But those are the symptoms, not the cause.
The cause is environmental. It's leaving for work before the sun cracks the horizon and getting home in the dark. I generally feel that life is kicking ass for the most part, so the only thing that's left is the chemical response to environmental stimuli. In other words, seasonal affective disorder. Best acronym ever.
I don't know if there's anything I can really do about it other than suck it up and try to fight through it. When volleyball really gets started, that will certainly help because I'll get more exercise. Until then, I just need to do my best to get out in the sun when it's available and hope for the best.
Stephanie was in town for the holiday and I had a chance to spend a little bit of time with her. Diana and I had lunch with her Saturday (which is not nearly as dramatic or scandalous as you'd like to think, I'm sure), and then I picked her up last night after a tattoo improvement session. It's good to see her out on her own with a good job and her own place, in a locale with excellent views.
Anyway, one of her big frustrations is the way that "friends" choose to maintain their relationships, or don't, as the case may be. You'd think that after someone you're close to is gone for a year you'd make time to be with them, but apparently this is not the case. That's unfortunate.
Granted, different friendships work in different ways, but if they really do matter and are not trivial, there's a fair amount of regular, bi-directional contact. For example, Tim and I don't see a lot of each other, but we do check in from time to time and share the important details when they arise. We ping each other via e-mail or IM regularly.
And that's one of the biggest bullshit points, is that technology makes it so easy these days that the "I've been really busy" excuse is total bullshit. It takes no time to e-mail, IM or text. So why is that so hard?
I think it's normal to be hurt when the contact is not reciprocated, although it's not particularly healthy to start measuring your self-worth on it. You're left with just two possibilities really, to either let those "friendships" go or just accept that they don't fit your ideal of what they should be. Sometimes that doesn't seem like a choice at all.
Andreesen has a good blog post on the whole writers strike in Hollywood, and I mostly agree with him. It's pretty staggering how the big media companies simply refuse to get it.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to me is that the concept of the blockbuster slam dunk hit is starting to fade. I'm not saying it will ever go away, but I am saying that it's not something to build a business around. Hollywood and the music industry are learning what those of us with niche content sites have known for at least a decade: The Internet decentralizes power. Anyone can win, and even making a couple grand a year is considered a win if it's in line with your expectations.
I'm glad to see the music industry fail because they've been schlepping crap at us for quite awhile now. Social media and iTunes have helped us get new and interesting stuff we might not have been exposed to, but the record companies have been fighting it instead of figuring out the best way to monetize it, and let the f'ing hit model go away.
Hollywood has actually done a better job in producing entertainment, and a lot of it has real artistic value in my opinion. But they're playing these asinine games too with the HD disc format war and resistance to digital distribution. Oh, and of course, pointless DRM that only gets in the way of legitimate use. They're losing power as people go do other things, including waste time watching crap on YouTube.
Meanwhile, sites like mine that cater to a niche audience have been eroding mainstream media, especially in the print space, for years. It's because we have the power to deliver what the audience wants, and we're essentially on equal footing with everyone else, big and small. How kick ass is that?
I totally side with the writers in the strike. Four cents on a DVD? Are you kidding me? Your flick sells a million DVD's and you make $40k? That's lame, especially since the retailer itself gets more of the remaining $19.96 (or more). When writers and directors start saying en masse, "Fuck you!" to the studios, and start figuring out their own distribution models, then what?
I liken the whole thing to self publishing a book. I got all of two bucks for every copy of my book sold, and that was on the very high end of royalty ranges. I'd have to sell 5,000 copies to make $10k. By comparison, I could self-publish on LuLu.com and sell 450 copies and get to the same place. Sure, I don't have the marketing muscle of the publisher, but I own the content and I can explore other avenues or adjust the pricing. I win.
Very exciting times to publish content, and I honestly believe that there is more opportunity, even if it's less likely there is a huge hit potential.
We had a secondary tryout today to try and fill in a few spots on the various teams. As it turned out, one of the kids that bailed on me because she wanted to play regional instead of national, came back to my team because of some family friendships that take care of the travel. That put me at eight.
I needed one more kid who could hit. Almost all of the 16's that showed up were looking for DS positions, but I found one 15 who was actually trying out as a DS, but could do virtually everything. I talked to her and her mom and I think that she's in. That rounds out my team pretty well I think, though I won't have a clear picture until our first practice.
Hopefully though, this is it, and I can get to the task at hand and build a solid team.
These kinds of stories absolutely annoy the crap out of me. At first I was compelled to think that indeed, the insurance company and Wal-Mart should be reimbursed if this couple was being compensated twice, but then it occurred to me that insurance is a paid service and it shouldn't matter. If you pay for insurance, you're paying for a guarantee that you'll get compensated. There is no such automatic compensation from the courts.
The saddest thing is that a half-million doesn't mean shit to Wal-Mart of the insurance company.
I got to thinking more about my last post, and I realize why that story annoyed me. First of all, my generation (that's "X" to you, dammit), was labeled similarly, and we're kicking ass. Second, working with young people professionally and as a coach, I think it's lame to be down on them.
The truth is that today's 20-somethings aren't any different from any others. Every generation thinks they know better. God knows they've been given plenty of reason to be disenfranchised with the world being left by our parents' generation. Social security, the environment, bullshit wars, shitty foreign policy, Enron, etc. I'm sure the boomers can say something similar about the previous generation.
What I do think has changed is that in a world ripe with information and data, the gen-Y, and probably most of gen-X, have a lower tolerance for bullshit. Bullshit comes in many forms, that's for sure. I can tidy it into several categories for my perspective.
Rigid structure and conformity I think are the things most bullshitty. Yeah, I'm 34 and don't own a suit. Any clown can put on a suit, and it doesn't ensure that the clown respects anything or is qualified for anything. It only means they can put on a suit. Similarly, a worker who shows up at exactly 8:30 and takes exactly an hour for lunch doesn't make them a quality worker. It only shows they can tell time.
On the other hand, someone who has good ideas and is intent on executing them, those are things that matter. Shit, some of these people work this way to a fault, neglecting family and real life to ensure execution.
Another pile of shit people who think like me try to avoid is the loyalty myth. The Man only cares about The Man, and you're only good to The Man when you're good for The Man. Therefore, it's important to exercise the reverse of this. If The Man ceases to be useful to you, you need to let him go and move on. I have a friend who has been very loyal to his company for years, works his ass off, and has nothing to show for it. Minimal raises, no promotions, and he insists he'll get his in due time. Well, no, because The Man doesn't need him.
On the other hand, it pays to find balance in your life with your job, and not be taken advantage of. Even if you love your job, it ultimately won't mean shit if it isn't balanced with the rest of your life. I value my free time. I'll work the extra hours now and then when I think it's necessary, but I won't make a habit of it, and I'll certainly not allow it to become an expectation.
My final bullshit compartment is reserved for something that may be considered a generation gap, but I think it's more about trusting the smart people you hire to do the right thing. I worked with a CEO once who is a total micro-manager. He's out of touch, doesn't understand the value of his people and believes he can apply his experience to totally new situations. I knew another CEO that followed trends but never listened to the people he hired (including me) to innovate and get ahead of the game.
The reality is that people just want to be heard. I think that gets confused with wanting to be right. I don't always have the answers, but I want my shot at contributing. That isn't being arrogant, that's wanting to be relevant. If you're relevant, but wrong, most people see that as a learning opportunity, and that's OK.
So now that I'm in the over-30 crowd (and therefore not trustworthy), I think that people my age and older who tolerate the bullshit are missing the point. If you put it aside, you'd be surprised what there is to see.
This afternoon I saw this post on the 37signals blog reacting to this steaming pile of shit that aired on CBS's 60 Minutes. Now that I've watched it, wow, I'm actually offended by it. How does this shit pass for journalism?
The blog post is right on, but also consider the facts. Americans are taking less vacation than ever. The greatest amount of new wealth in this country right now was started by people in their 20's and 30's. I mean, look at Zuckerberg and Facebook. The dude is 22, his company could fetch a billion, and he's in it to grow the company. Larry Page and Sergey Brin are my age, 34, and founded something called Google. I read about people like that every month in Wired and Fast Company.
Generalizations like this are beyond stupid. When I worked at Progressive, the biggest whiny bitches were the 40 and 50-something code monkeys who refused to accept that COBOL wasn't viable anymore, and didn't want to learn anything new. Does that make them all whiny bitches? Of course not, there were C# ninjas in the same age bracket.
I will say one thing, and that is that the boomers' generation, especially as high school teachers and guidance counselors, sold us on this idea that you'd go to college and learn something clever, and then do that for 40 years and retire. If there's an expectation gap, I'd blame them for setting it, but even then, most people I know are ready to work their ass off and take the world by the balls. They're also smart enough to know that if they don't like what they're doing, they can do something else. God knows I've done that.
CBS has really gone to the shitter since Rather was ousted.
Kevin Smith has been blogging about his next movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno for quite awhile, and he was finally able to reveal that the two leads will be Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks. Rogen is the Knocked Up guy and the stock room dude from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Banks was the horny pervert in 40 but I think at this point I mostly think of her for being in Scrubs as the mother of J.D.'s child. (If you blinked, she was also JJJ's secretary in the Spiderman movies, wearing a black bob wig.)
Smith has said the movie is pretty much what the title indicates it is, so given that kind of comedy, it sounds like they'll be good for the flick. I'm excited for a new movie from Silent Bob.
Dammit, you crank up the tunes and then suddenly in the midst of it all, it's bed time. A couple of the random songs that my AppleTV played for me...
"Girlfriend" - Matthew Sweet
"Possession" - Sarah McLachlan
"Alive" - Pearl Jam
"Edge of The Ocean" - Ivy
"Up To The Roof" - Blue Man Group with Tracy Bonham
"Mr. Jones" - Counting Crows
"Smack My Bitch Up" - The Prodigy
I could so have an awesome radio station.
I'm really glad that I took this day off too, because jumping into work, even on a short week, would've sucked. Instead, I was able to ease back into things.
I had a ton of bills and statements to deal with, all of which landed last week. I'm proud of my personal financial restraint, but I sure am kind of an asshole when it comes to the business. I still frequently decide that since I can write off interest, it's like a free pass, so I'm not careful about the capital expenses. I only got half way to eliminating the business debt this year. Maybe next year I'll figure it out. God knows the freedom feels good on the personal end. I really should get there on the business end.
I also went back to dealing with volleyball. Talked to a few parents today, hopefully made a good pitch. The one club director is busting her ass to get things in order, and I love that she's going to bat to make things right. That makes life easier. I'm crossing my fingers that things go well once I have them all in the same room. I suppose that's part of what being a coach is all about. (You'd think after ten years of this I'd get that already.)
Hopefully I can devote some serious time toward CoasterBuzz progress in the next few weeks. At this point, I guess I'd be happy enough now to get the thing up by the site's eighth anniversary at the end of January. Holy crap I can't believe it's eight years.
I wonder what excitement work will bring tomorrow...
I'm not sure when it happened exactly, but at some point after college, the holiday season started to suck. Somewhere along the line the joy turned into dread. My family made it a time to bitch about their lives, while Stephanie's made it a time to keep score on gift giving. Steph and I did the best we could to make it special for us, but it wasn't easy. Then the last two years, needless to say, were really hard for me.
This year I'm trying to fight through the dread (partially caused by seasonal affective disorder I'm sure), and figure out how to make it something good again. It helps that I'm dating someone who loves Christmas, that's for sure. I don't want to be down the last six weeks of the year anymore.
Perspective is key. People often theorize that you can't know happy without knowing sad, and I've seen my fair share of sad the last couple of years. I used to think that comparing my sad to others' helped establish the perspective, but you can only relate so much to what others go through. Everyone has a different reality.
I like how my life is going lately, but I do need to figure out how to change this season into something positive. I think I can do that with help from Diana, because she's got my back, and she's generally merry to begin with. How could you not respond to that?
So while she helps me with the external factors, I'm going to work on the internal factors. Hopefully that will put it all together to change the season into something better than what I'm used to the last few years.
I'm not going to write another boring trip report about Universal Orlando, seeing as how it's the fourth time I've been there in the last year. The only thing different, and it's pretty significant, is that I went with someone who had never been. Diana was mostly an Orlando virgin!
Operationally, the whole place seems to be working better and friendlier. When I was at IOA on Wednesday, they were running four trains on Dueling Dragons even though the place was a ghost town. Mummy was fully operational, which is sweet because I was excited for Diana to see it. There were some missing dinosaurs on the JP River Adventure, but I suppose they need to get refurb'd at some point. Once again, I was robbed as Ripsaw Falls was closed for the annual rehab.
I noticed a fair amount of construction going on behind Jurassic Park, but I don't know if that's for the JP attraction I've heard about or if it's for the Harry Potter thing. There are a great many new foundations poured across the access road between the park behind Dueling Dragons too, and I don't know if that's infrastructure or stuff for the new section. They were giving the Dragons queue castle some paint too.
On Diana's first Spiderman ride, our car totally crapped out on us. It didn't do any of the right audio cues, no motion, and always pointed in the direction of the track. Everyone else in the car knew what it should have been doing and were bitching, while poor Diana had no context at all. They put us on another car and she got the real experience and loved it. It was strange going forward, looking away from the screen, where Doc Oc comes through the brick wall and throws fire at you, because the heat still gets blasted at you.
Diana has a real enthusiast streak about her. I ended up riding Dueling Dragons a total of five times, Mummy four times, Spiderman four times, and hit most every major attraction. She was even outscoring everyone (but me ;)) at Men in Black. She's hardcore!
The Blue Man Group show was again top notch. I love how there are voices singing, "Bathroom! Bathroom!" in the restrooms. The show has been tightened up quite a bit since it opened. They changed the paper finale to use "Last Train to Transcentral" instead of that bad "I Feel Love" mix, thank God. It works so much better, and with less strobe lighting in the song you can actually stand (probably easier for the blue guys too). Diana almost got picked for the Twinkie feast, but she made too much eye contact I think, so they went looking elsewhere. But they did climb over seats bracing on her head. Did I mention last time how much I love the "Utne Wireman" arrangement?
Friday ended up being very, very cool. Or cold is more like it. Saturday was much warmer, as we could sit on City Walk waiting for our table without freezing our asses off. We really didn't wait for much of anything despite it being crowded. That's why staying on property pays. I'm still thinking I'd like to stay at Portofino next time, although that was one hell of a long walk when we had to go there for our massage appointment. The boats didn't start running until around 8:30.
I was pondering if the whole club level thing is really worth it. I didn't have to pay for it this time, but I wonder if I would at some other point. You pay a full $100 extra per night, which entitles you to continental breakfast, beverages all day, beer and/or wine and hors d'ourves, and sweets at night. Plus one "free" Internet terminal, since there is no free Net access elsewhere. They have dedicated concierges too, but who cares, they have a ton of them working in the lobby. Seems like the perks aren't entirely worth it.
Overall, I had a great time, and I can't believe we logged like 16 hours in the parks, plus another five for me solo on Wednesday. I was also surprised we got drunk Saturday night, and did so in that perfect sustained long-term buzz. That's hard to do! Although, that's probably it for me for awhile. My body can't handle that the way it used to, although we were both smart enough to drink lots of water before bed and on bathroom runs during the night. Neither one of us were hungover.
Hopefully this escape will help recharge me for the holidays and what is quickly becoming a fiasco for volleyball. No work for me tomorrow, so an ultra-short week is ahead!
The trip back home was mostly uneventful. I think I actually slept for part of the flight home, and after Diana procured beverages and a dried up sandwich for me, we watched a couple of episodes of Family Guy. We picked up some BWW for dinner (my fridge is totally empty), watched a DVR'd House and gave Cosmo some attention.
I gotta tell you, it's so hard to have these adventures with Diana and then see her leave. We had such a good time last night. Getting drunk wasn't really planned, but it was a perfect storm of alcohol. We had free wine on the hotel club level, plus a bottle from the "Loews First" perk in the room (I'm a platinum member), so before we even left for dinner I had four glasses of wine. Then I had four margaritas on City Walk. Our table at Margaritaville was right next to the stage, where we watched a pretty good house band play for about a half hour. I renewed my girly cigar on vacation tradition. Before a game of drunken air hockey, I raced Diana down the boardwalk in a stolen rental stroller. Good times.
It just feels so empty here when she's gone, because that's love, baby. When you want to share the goofiest little moments, you know, that's what it's all about. Having this level of support for each other, total honesty and constant looking out for each other is something special. You hate to go without it once you have it!
We're working on a plan to make "home" the same place for both of us, at least to the extent that we can until she can sell her house. Then we won't have those cold nights during the week.
I'm here in the club level lounge for a couple of minutes before I head down for lunch then over to the show, and thought I'd continue the thought I had last night.
I've done a fair amount of bitching about the declining quality of the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal, especially with regards to quality of service. They seem to be raising their game a bit with the refurbishment of the rooms.
They aren't that different in terms of decor, and they're not putting in flat screens or anything, but they're going with lighter paint and fabric colors. The difference is astonishing. They used this maroon color before that really darkened the room, but it looks much better lighter. The new light fixtures actually put out a fair amount of light too. Even the hallways look better, including new carpet.
People everywhere, from the front desk to the maids, are always in your grill asking if you need something. It just seems like they finally get that it's the only way to score that four-diamond rating again.
The club lounge isn't that impressive, but it's the only free Internet connection in the building. But the free sodas, continental breakfast, free beer and deserts do kick ass. I don't think I'd pay for it (I got a free upgrade for previous bitching), but it's very convenient.
I can't wait to get Diana in here!
It was so weird being here without Diana, considering how much time we've been spending together. I can't wait to introduce her to my special place.
For all the drama back home, it's funny how my mood immediately changes when I go through Port of Entry and see that "the adventure begins." There's a certain irony that a place I use to escape grounds me in reality by reminding me of the things that are important in life. Simply put, things are mostly kick ass.
I ran into Eric Geiszl (hope I spelled it right) from Ultimate Rollercoaster in IOA. Haven't seen that guy since 2001. Glad he recognized me. We had dinner and bullshited about running coaster sites and such. Good times. We have a lot in common when it comes to the Intertubes.
I do wanna talk a little about the renovations going on at the hotel, but I'll save that for some time when I'm not pecking on my iPhone.
So I get off the plane to find that one of the kids is declining so she can have knee surgery. It never ends. I wonder if I'll have a team at all.
But I'm on a boat now, passing the Islands of Adventure lighthouse, about to get some lunch. The place is a ghost town. I will own the dragons shortly.
I bitch and moan about how I want more free time, then I get it, and I don't do anything with it. I was seriously bored out of my skull for a good portion of the day. It has been raining for about five straight hours too, which pretty much rules out hot tubbing.
Back when I bought a second hard drive for my Mac Pro, I accidentally pulled out the optical drive box. I was pushing on the drive to seat it by pulling on the box, which I didn't realize pulled out. When I tried to push it back in, the IDE cable got caught in the post that seats the box, and ripped it. I booted it up and tried using the drive, and it seemed to work OK.
But lately, it hasn't been. I don't know which of those wires does what, but the drive was being weird about recognizing discs, and it made a coaster the other day. I figured maybe it was time to try and replace the cable.
For as much as Apple gets right, having every cable being exactly the right length can be a pain in the ass when you need to change something. What's worse, it took a whole series of steps to get to the motherboard to plug in the new cable.
First I had to remove the memory cage. Two screws at the bottom were caked with loc-tite, and I couldn't one of them off. I ended up destroying the screw, and had to get it off with Vise-Grips. I finally got them off, which allowed me to wiggle off the heatsink cover, and free the fan assembly. Or so I thought. (See pictures)
The f'ing fan piece was nearly impossible to get out. A hard plastic slot secured it and it absolutely wouldn't move, and there was nothing to pry against. So while struggling and getting frustrated, of course the cat is crying and the dryer is buzzing. It was one of those classic world is pissing you off moments.
I took a deep breath, and tried to think if I had any tool that would allow me to grab it and pull up that was smaller than my fingers (at this point cut three times). I used the car door panel prying tool I've had, by just getting it under the lip of it on the side where the heatsinks were, and it lifted right out.
The longest cable I could find happened to be one that Cousin Dave had, so I went out to his house to pick it up. It's still about four inches too short to fit the way it should, but I made it work, and all is well again.
That was way more work than I thought it would be.
I saw Lions for Lambs this afternoon. I was going to skip it, because Robert Redford bothers me for some reason. Actually, I know the reason, it's because I read Down and Dirty Pictures a book that doesn't paint him in a favorable light when it comes to the indie and film festival circuit. That's probably not fair, but whatever, he's kind of preachy.
Objections aside, I went to see it anyway. The performances weren't all that great really, although Tom Cruise as a full-of-shit Congress Critter is different enough for him to be interesting. Meryl Streep being vulnerable and confused as a veteran journalist is good too since I can't get Devil Wears Prada out of my head. Robert Redford, as the wise old professor who seeks to inspire, isn't all that inspiring.
There are three concurrent stories going on. One is the senator and reporter spinning their shit about the war. The professor and one of his apathetic kid do their thing on the other coast. Two former students of the prof go into a risky special ops mission in Afghanistan. All three stories happen simultaneously, and in the course of an hour, and all three are related to each other.
Ultimately, I think the movie tries to get at the point that we've all become so apathetic to the war, and meaningful change in policy, that we all share some of the burden for being there. The prof struggles with making a difference (the right difference, for him) in his kids. The student avoids the conflict entirely because he just wants to have a good life. The soldiers think they can create meaningful change from within the military. The senator disregards history and reasons behind our conflict. The journalist acts as a puppet to the government. The movie suggests that there's a big vicious circle that perpetuates the shit, and I tend to agree.
What struck me was a part near the end, where Streep's character is driving through Washington. She passes countless memorials and cemeteries, and I can only wonder. Why is this country rooted in so many wars and violence, throughout its short history? That brings me back to the original question, how did we get here?
While not Oscar worthy in any way, the movie does make you think a little. You have to ask what you can do with your talents to make things right, and it's a "scary question" as the movie puts it. It's a hard question to answer.
I've figured out that I can do some of the things I used to do between gigs if I look for the opportunities. For example, I'm at a movie now on my day off. I used to love doing that even twice a week. I wish Diana could be here, but there's no getting her out when she's in class, unfortunately.
I'm loving this week already, and I'm not even in Orlando yet.
A kid from the next town over went down in a military helicopter crash in Italy this week. It sounds like he's not in good shape at all. Here's the story from our local NBC affiliate.
One of my volleyball kids, one of my favorites of all times, went to school with him, including prom. I'd appreciate a moment for a kind thought or prayer for him and his family. You can probably keep up with his condition in this Facebook group as well.
It's done, tryouts are over. What a relief. As much as I love coaching, the J.O. tryout process sucks. It's not like school, where you have a finite number of kids who only have one choice, play for you or not. On the club circuit, they can tryout for as many clubs as they want, and they have ten days to decide.
I picked 10, and eight said they were in already, so hopefully they were honest. I don't think the other two are going to make the other clubs they tried out for, but we'll see. The important thing is that my libero and setter were enthusiastically in, and they are of core importance. The thing that surprises me the most is that they all pass pretty well. That bodes well for working my system.
I'm glad to see myself feeling generally positive and optimistic, which comes from two places. The first is that my '06 team was so terrible and apathetic that anything is an improvement from that. And the second thing is that I'm not dealing with a heap of bullshit and roster poaching the way I did every damn year I coached for Quicksilver (except my '04 team).
As the tryout went on, I had a chance to talk to most of the kids, which I've learned is important so you have an idea as to what their personalities are like. They seem like good kids. I suspect they'll get along well. I can't wait!
Next up, IAAPA...
Appropriately enough, the day before tryouts (not that I was planning to use it), I found my volleyball swing offense demo video file! It's a clip from my 2004 team that shows how you can own another team when you execute the offense successfully.
I found it just by opening an explorer window in the virtual Windows instance on my laptop. There it was, in all of its glory! Needless to say, it has been copied many times over and backed up off-site. I won't lose it again!
I was looking at my pay stub today and was a little surprised at the gross pay for the year. The size of it implies that I should have a lot more of it, but I also realize that I've been a good little saver/investor this year. Good thing I think I've got the stomach for the ridiculous market slide this week.
The thing that struck me the most though wasn't the amount of money I've made so far this year, but rather the condition that got me there: A full year's worth of work. You see, this will be the first year since 2000 that I've actually been in the same place, all year.
I worked at Penton Media from the summer of 1999 to the summer of 2001. That's where the volatility started...
I saw this photo from 1937 at Coney Island, of beauty contestants. I think the one on the right is pretty hot, but what I find sad is that in today's fashion circles, you know she'd be considered "fat." At least back then, fashion was in touch with what normal people looked like.
I had a rough day at work. I had an "easy" project that I thought was going to take two hours of work that has been killing me since Monday. The problem is at least resolved now, but it was painful getting there.
Basically, there were several issues in play. First, the simplicity has to be wrapped up in a third-party product we use. Second, the interface to that was written by a guy who no longer works there, and he couldn't code his way out of a cardboard box. Third, there is no documentation on this particular set of classes. (Geek note: People who work in agile development circles will tell you that good code documents itself, and generally I agree, but this isn't one of those times.) So basically I was debugging around shit that didn't matter. The black box would only work after you opened it and looked around, which defeats the purpose of having said box.
I was frustrated, and frankly it felt there were no experts who really knew how to do what I needed with the library. Then the brilliant guy who I look up to sits down and calmly thinks it out when I'm at my wit's end. He arrives at a solution.
We had a brief postmortem chat about it all, and he said that getting excited when debugging is counterproductive. Usually I don't get nutty like that, but calm for me comes out of familiarity with what I'm doing. Shove me into a new scenario with new stuff and I start to crack a little. My debugging style is to see a nail, and figure that the best thing to do is grab a hammer and drive it in. The reality is that sometimes there's something in the way of the nail, or you're better off using a screw instead. I can't always take that step back and be more abstract to get to that place.
I gotta tell you, that has been wearing on me all night, because I felt stupid given the simplicity of the solution. (I'm sure that made me more fun for date night!)
I got a sort of reality check when I got home though. A friend did a comp for me to use for my volleyball club's Web site, and it smacked me back to the real world. The truth is that I can take something like that, beautiful on the outside, and back it up with some damn good code on the back end. When I think in the context of the CoasterBuzz stuff in development, most of what's left to do is dropping in stuff I've already written, because it's extensible enough that it's that easy. I don't give myself enough credit.
So while the day was challenging, and the disappointment of knowing I can't hit my CBv4 goal, a little perspective goes a long way.
Stephanie suggested the group Bitter:Sweet to me, the album The Mating Game. Sexy lounge/triphop kind of stuff. A little like Supreme Beings of Leisure only without the outright 70's vibe.
Oh, and SBL says their new album will be out early next year.
I'm now ready to admit defeat. There's no way in hell I can get a new version of CoasterBuzz to a usable state by Sunday night. I think I could get close, but close isn't good enough and doesn't allow time for deployment rehearsals.
That bums me out. When I look at the work list, it's pretty daunting, especially the part of me not having any design work at all in the done column. My goal was only to get to feature-equivalent at first, and bring additional things online after that, but it's just not even close. The intensity in my day job and minor anxiety about IAAPA isn't helping either.
What I will say is that I can now pace myself and not be frantic, and get it right. I still want it up sooner than later, but I was looking forward to having the Sunday night without Monday work to do the deployment.
Oh well... I've still made a lot of progress, and I need to give myself some credit for that at least.
I hesitate to ponder the ups and downs of work when I know Diana is having a less than stellar week, but it sure has been event filled. I need to write some of this down to start processing it.
One of our directors resigned last week, which resulted in an organizational shake up that, actually, is probably good for the company in the long run because it forces you to take a look at how you're doing things and make corrections or improvements. It's probably not proper to get into a lot of specifics, so I apologize if i speak in some generalities.
Today my manager and one of the newly promoted second-in-command guys approached me today about working in more of the marketing related projects, given my background and understanding in that area. I had a lot of mixed feelings about that because I've enjoyed working in the UI area as much as I have, especially after developing a portion of that framework. Plus I don't really know much about what our marketing people are actually doing, and by extension wonder about their effectiveness. Of course, I always think I know better, so I'm not exactly impartial.
But they made their pitch, and eventually convinced me that it was the right thing to do because there is a certain amount of opportunity there to create influence to do the right thing. It became an easier sell for them because I had a meeting in the interim with the director who now oversees our group.
My conversation with him was basically along the lines of believing very honestly that we have a team of ninjas. It is hands down the smartest group of programmers I've ever worked with, in part because they get business as well as software. This is not a group that you drop a spec on their desk and go to it, they're a group that helps shape the product. We all make each other better, and frankly, I think it's some of the top talent in our area. That standard is what makes it a bitch to find people good enough to hire. We also talked a little about the benefits of current process, but that's not relevant here.
I was already thinking about it last week, but it brought to the forefront my thoughts about what makes the job worthwhile to me. I don't need this specific job, and I have days that I'd rather not get out of bed. I hate the commute. But I keep going because I get a lot out of it in terms of professional development, and I do think that, fundamentally, the company has a killer product. That's the reason I care at all, but I need some ownership to feel like it's worth my time in the long run.
The new involvement may give me that ownership because I can have influence that makes the company better in an area that I think it doesn't do all it should. If that brings success, both to the company's bottom line and my bonus, that satisfies the needs for both job satisfaction and compensation.
I've been there almost two years now, which makes it about the second longest I've been at any job. While I've spent a lot of time loathing The Man, this particular The Man has been good for me. I guess I should see in the short term just how good it can get.
Unfortunately, following the weekend of real world interaction, going back to the electronic world today didn't go very well.
It started out as a good day when I squashed an annoying bug at work, cranked out some code for another project, and then couldn't get what I really needed from one of the other developers. That was kind of annoying.
Microsoft did announce that Visual Studio 2008 would be available this month, which I thought was really exciting. I don't know what "available" means, but I'm not sure how I'm going to buy it this time around. I'd prefer not to go the MSDN route, because I don't think I really need to screw around with Windows Server 2008 or SQL 2008. I dunno. I'll have to think about it.
As happy as that announcement made me, the fumes from paint or carpet glue or something really worked up a headache, and I'm still fighting it right now. I did get the podcast posted and took care of the bills, and I'm fried now.
Not feeling very confident anymore about trying to get CBv4 out the door, but I'll press on and do the best I can.
Even after doing this for almost 10 years, I'm still fascinated by the dynamics of online communities. A recent thread on CoasterBuzz made it known that we have a member-only forum, and the responses are interesting to me.
I started it because it required zero coding on my part, and I've heard from a lot of members that they're disenchanted with the noise level as of late. So it seemed like a no-brainer to just create the forum and see what happens.
While not setting the world on fire, it's getting some decent use so far, and I've really enjoyed reading it. It's a totally different caliber of discussion that I haven't seen in years. This gets me to thinking about two things.
First, the paid members are obviously the people who care most about what you're putting out there, and as such also have a certain respect for it. Right away that seems to mean they're more likely to be civil to each other because they have the highest stake in the community. Perhaps knowing that you are not, in fact, anonymous at that point makes a difference as well, but seeing as how people who pay didn't likely do so to start trouble, I suppose that's probably not a big factor.
Second, the responses by people who seem to feel left out post comments that almost imply they're hurt or something. That makes sense, because even if they aren't a paid member, but post frequently, they still have a stake in the community. But a lot of those same comments are representative of the reasons the paid members enjoy "their" forum too, in that they're salty or sarcastic much of the time.
Certainly it's not going to be a love fest in there, and people do disagree, but without the sarcasm and general bullshit, disagreement is a lot more palatable. The thing I'm most curious about is how it scales. I have been a paid member on other sites before, much bigger than mine, and have found that generally people are more civil to each other when it's on their dime.
Amazing how you never stop learning new things in this environment.
I've gotta tell you, I've been impressed with myself that I've been able to stay on task and write code lately. Unfortunately, it has been taking longer than I'd like to get where I'd like to be, but I am staying on task.
While I went heads down and solved some problems on Friday night, Saturday I wasn't motivated to get into it at all. The old entertainment center that has been sitting in my garage since early this year has been blocking Diana's access to park there (and it's gonna be her garage too, eventually), so we endeavored to destroy it so I can take it to the curb this week. That ended up turning into half-cleaning the garage, and the deck.
Having Diana there to help made it go so quickly, and dare I say it was even fun doing something domestic with her. This from the guy who hates cleaning anything. But the time spent together and doing something with tangible and visible results was a big win.
Today I had to help out with volleyball tryouts for the younger age groups. Not a fan of the younger ages because a) the youth coaching in the area mostly sucks and b) I just don't know what you can teach the younger kids. But it was cool to just be in the gym again, and chatting with the coaches. It's a really different vibe with most of them. At least so far, it doesn't appear that there's a class system the way there was in my former club.
The point here is that interaction with the physical world is something that has been sorely lacking in my life. I understand now why some of the guys I work with are into woodworking, motorcycles and running, because the results of those activities balance out the things we do in the electronic realm. This coding sprint aside, I need to keep that in mind.
I spent about two hours trying to solve a UI problem tonight for CBv4, which is a lot of time only because it's not even a public facing piece, it's an admin function. I kind of hate that I spent the time on something that adds relatively little value (time is money), but there is something to be gained.
My solution used the AJAX framework, in part because it was something I previously experimented with. Once I remembered my little science project, it was pretty easy to apply it quickly. The bottom line is that I learned something, and that's value even if it pushed me behind schedule.
The truth is, AJAX changes everything. We've been able to manipulate the contents of a page with infinite variations in ASP.NET since the start, by using the postback mechanism that returns the entire page in its new state. An example of this is on the current news contribution page, where you can select a park to associate with the news, click the right arrow button, and it appears in the other list. This simulates the statefulness of a regular Windows app.
But now we can focus on a small part of the page with almost no additional work. Then to do things in a more interesting way, we can start blurring the line between client and server even more, thanks to the richness of the ASP.NET AJAX framework. It's incredibly well thought out, and takes a lot of the pain out of client-side script.
These are exciting times to be an ASP.NET developer.
I wrote a fair amount of code and solved some nagging problems tonight. My to-do list is still pretty long, but most of the things on it are fairly easy, as well as time consuming.
The little experiment with a private member forum on CoasterBuzz has energized me a bit, because it demonstrates that there are a fair number of people who do care about the site, and enjoy using it. Those are the people I want to build stuff for.
My goal now is to launch something that represents the new platform, but doesn't necessarily have any new features. It's just so stale, and I can't deal with it anymore! :)
I've had Google Analytics running for a long time now and there's a mountain of data that shows how I'm really doing. Tie that to the ad revenue and I finally have a better idea about what the sites do, and what they might be capable of. I remember when the idea that you could monetize a million page views a month would net you a heap of cash, but that's not the case anymore (not that serving a million pages isn't pretty cool). It's actually inspiring that if I could duplicate the success with a site that has a more broad appeal, I could do better. That's kind of exciting.
For CoasterBuzz, at least, it's not the amount of traffic I want to concentrate on anymore as much as the quality of the traffic. Naturally I see quality traffic as paid members, and I'd like to have more of them. Forum noise has really shown that popularity isn't synonymous with quality interaction. That's something to keep in mind.
Overall, I feel a little energized today, and that's on five hours of sleep. Alas, the crash is coming, and the bed calls...
I ordered an Apple wireless router today. Does it cost more than a Netgear or Linksys? Only by a couple of dollars for similar features. After more Wi-Fi experimentation at home I found that all my wireless stuff tends to blink out on it, including my DVR (which in turn connects to my Xbox), the Wii, the iPhone, and even my MacPro when it's sitting right next to the router (normally just wired). Clearly it ain't right.
I have to hang on to the old Linksys for the time being if I want to continue to have Vonage phone service. I'm only keeping that service for two reasons at this point. The first is that I like having some kind of 911 service in the house. The second is the off chance that I need to do an interview for the podcast over the phone. I don't actually call anyone on it.
One of those right-wing media sites has an interesting write up on a recent rant from CNN's Glenn Beck. The funny thing is that all of the quotes they used really argue something entirely different.
First, let's keep our brains on and remember that Paramount is making a movie, and movies play all over the world. Would a US-centric film do that well overseas? Probably not. So if Hollywood has an agenda, making a shitload of cash is probably first on it, and that's pretty American to me.
Second, the whole suggestion that we're trying to get our own kids to hate America and whatever it is we stand for is silly. When I was a kid, I just wanted to play in the sandbox, and when I was a teenager, I just wanted to touch boobies. I couldn't have given two shits about what we're supposed to stand for.
But since we're on the subject, what exactly do we represent in terms of culture? Honestly, as a young country that represents a broad cross-section of ethnicities and cultures, we don't really have our own culture unless that diversity is itself the culture. Civilization didn't start here. We have almost nothing more than 200 years old (other than the environment itself).
In terms of values, democracy and freedom are certainly things we can all agree on. So far, at least, they seem to work as a driving force for wealth and security. There's irony there too, because we want to impose those core values on everyone, but yet when another country wants wealth and security, we start building walls and don't want to share.
Fuck pride! Pride only hurts, it never helps. Fight through that shit.
-Marsellus Wallace, Pulp Fiction
I've always loved that little speech because it really forces Butch to evaluate his own values. Throwing the fight is bad, but Butch comes out with a wad of cash, and that's good for him. Not throwing the fight but betting on himself when the odds are against him makes him even more money, which is less bad because he sticks it to the bad man. Regardless though, Marsellus is right: Pride only hurts. Butch does not act out of pride in terms of who wins the fight. He just wants to get away with his little French girlfriend.
Pride hurts, because it distorts our view and keeps us from seeing a bigger picture. Should you be proud to be an American? Yes. Should you be proud of what America does? No, not all of the time. A lot of politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle suggest that these two things go together, and they don't.
The bottom line is that pride has gotten in the way of common sense. It fosters the with-us or against-us mentality. Everything is so divisive now, and the current crop of presidential candidates look like they're doing nothing to break that cycle.
The world is shrinking, we don't own it, and we won't be the dominant force on it forever (especially the way we're borrowing money for this bullshit war). There are other kids in the sandbox, and they're not going anywhere. While we should all celebrate our ethnicities and culture, we can't be naive enough to think that we can get along by ourselves forever. Science fiction movies almost universally refer to a united future that involves one governing body (in part because there's some alien race to fight instead, but I digress). What's so bad about that? The members of the European Union don't seem to mind some level of oneness.
So yeah, be proud to be an American, but don't assume that means you need to be proud of everything we do.
Thursday is boneless wing day at Buffalo Wild Wings, 50 cents each. That's good because eight is too many. Now that they have one near work, you can guess where I like to go!
So here I am, stomach satisfied, good tunes playing (surprisingly), and I'm in a coding zone. I've started over on a couple of components for CBv4 and this time they're going faster, and more logically.
I wish I could bottle this kind of productivity, and use it in this environment more often.
(And by the way, my wireless connection works flawlessly here.)
I am so tired right now, and yet my body won't allow me to fall asleep. I suppose getting annoyed by that isn't going to help.
For all the restlessness I seem to be experiencing right now, there is an upside that I've realized: I'm not being lethargic or taking naps all of the time. That's more typical behaviour for me this time of year.
In trying to figure out my wireless problems, I've at least noticed that it keeps latching on to new IP addresses after it disconnects. Can't say I understand that one. I'd be blaming my router if it weren't for the fact that it does seem to work fine while plugged in to AC.
My head, to put it bluntly, has really been fucking with me lately. I find myself being all stressed out and anxious for no apparent reason. I'm having scary dreams and can't relax.
It doesn't make much sense because, for the most part, I'd say that my life is pretty sweet in most cases. But my issues with security, safety and general risk aversion weigh heavy on my subconscious. It's annoying.
One thing I am pressuring myself over is CoasterBuzz. I really want the new site done and out there. I've put a lot of pressure on myself over it because it's been something I've put off for literally years. The last update was almost four years ago. That's sad. My perception of myself is that I can't finish anything, and if I can't do that, how will I make my million for retirement on my own terms?
Eating causes a lot of anxiety for me too, because I do too much of it. I feel like I'm starting to bring that under control, but it's really hard when I find myself being hungry, or looking to counter the anxiety with the comfort of food. I'm trying to get my head back to 2005 to understand what I did to really get my head in a good place, without piercing something, if possible. I do remember that I wasn't working a day job during that second half of 2005, but right now that's not an option.
In other news, I ordered some new business cards online tonight. I've been using the same crappy cards from Kinkos for six years and they blow. Oh how the Internet has come along. Create Photoshop file, upload, order, done. $50 with shipping for 1,000, as if I'll ever need them all.
My connectivity issue on my MacBook Pro I have discovered is power related. Namely, when I'm plugged in, the wireless works fine. Unplug, and it struggles. The signal strength looks good, but it fails to do any actual data transfer after awhile. At my house it just stops working, at Diana's it just gets unbearably slow. Weird though how it seems to work just fine at airports and Buffalo Wild Wings. My router, a Vonage enabled Linksys, is apparently pretty notorious for being shitty. This problem came long before Leopard.