Archive: December, 2007

Operation kitteh co-lo and girlfriend kitchen assimilation

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 30, 2007, 11:41 PM | comments: 0

Well, we're about 48 hours into our co-habitation, and so far things are going pretty well (not that one would need an update every other day). The cats are for the most part behaving and not pissing off each other too much. Cosmo isn't very easy to read in that respect. She seems to do her normal things, sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor or up on "her" love seat.

Emma, Gideon and Oliver seem to be enough at ease now that they'll hang out, though Gideon won't eat his own food and seems to be sleeping a lot. Surprisingly, Emma and Cosmo mostly just avoid each other. The new cats seem to have claimed our bedroom, but I think that's because they want to be close to their mommy. I'm sure that annoys Cosmo, but she tends to still rule the downstairs.

Diana has performed a massive reorganization of the kitchen. I'm now living with a foodie who loves her kitchen appliances and making stuff. That's good for me (see previous post and bread), provided I learn to control myself and not eat mass quantities of everything she makes. The kitchen feels a hundred times more functional now, and I like that. I want her to feel like it's her domain. The only thing we can't totally agree on is where to put the towels.

The only real adjustment issue I'm having is the fact that when she's doing all of this domestic stuff, I feel like I should be doing something other than playing video games or writing code. It's like there's some guilty programming inside that says I can't let her do the domestic things she enjoys without me doing them too. I can't fully explain where that comes from.

But the smell of bread still hangs in the air, and it is good. The house has a feeling of vibrancy it hasn't had in awhile (which might be because there's always a cat nearby looking at you). It's a pretty good feeling to be moving forward like this.

Outback style bread from Diana's new toy

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 30, 2007, 4:56 PM | comments: 4


posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 29, 2007, 2:38 PM | comments: 2

Charlie Wilson's War and its politics

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 28, 2007, 2:36 PM | comments: 1

I know a lot of people groaned when the movie started showing trailers, but I gotta tell you, it's a lot more entertaining (and funny) than you'd expect given the relatively grave subject matter. Sure, it can probably be considered "liberal Hollywood propaganda," but it is intended to be a dumbed down version of the book. I've read that there are also references to the book Ghost Wars, which documents the covert operations of the CIA in manipulating and changing much of the world outside.

Regardless of the politics or historical accuracy, Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) is the money man behind the secretly US-funded weapons and training to Afghan rebels in the 80's who drove the Soviets out. He was largely a nobody Congressman who loved women and alcohol. According to the story, he was moved to take up the Afghans' cause by the influence and money of Joanne Herring (Julia Roberts). Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the CIA guy Gust who makes things happen on the other side of the world (and for the first time ever, he not only failed to annoy me, but I thought he was brilliant).

The dialog is really funny and interesting, and to see Hanks' character bullshitting with Pakistani warlords is absolutely priceless. I'm sure the real-life version of these meetings was hardly funny, but I laughed my ass off. Greatest line: Wilson: "You don't look like James Bond." Gust: "Well you're no fucking Thomas Jefferson."

The real payoff comes at the end when you see where the politics really come into play, and how the movie is essentially an indictment of the current war in Iraq. Once the "regime change" has been accomplished, there is no plan. While laboring for a half-billion dollars to help the Afghans liberate themselves, he can't get even a million to rebuild a school in the country. Sound familiar? It also suggests that the chaos we left in Afghanistan would have consequences, which not-so-subtly suggests the reason for Afghanistan being the safe haven for terrorists today.

Regardless of the accuracy of the film, I certainly do agree with its politics. We do choose to make radical change in the world, but fail to think it through or understand the consequences. Despite the simplicity of the screenplay, it actually makes me think about the complexity in these conflicts, especially in that region of the world. I remember my very Republican boss in 2003, when the Iraq War started, saying, "We have to show them they can't keep this up." I'm not sure who "they" are or what "this" is, but it has been the theme among a lot of Americans since we started this. People connect dots across the many issues of the Middle East without seeing that there's no line to draw, and therefore we should just blow something up. It's like we needed something to do since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Like I said, Hoffman was brilliant. The supporting cast was solid as well, including Enchanted's Amy Adams as Wilson's assistant. I was surprised to see Rachel Nichols as one of the staffers (see was the would-be replacement for Jennifer Garner if Alias wouldn't have been cancelled).

Sidebar: Saw a preview for a new Ryan Reynolds movie called "Definitely, Maybe" coming out in 2008 with Abigail Breslin. What is it about that kid that you can't resist? It also caught my eye because it has a bunch of actresses that represent my generation well, including Elizabeth Banks ("Miri" in Kevin Smith's forthcoming "Porno"), Rachel Weisz (voice-over in Revenge of The Mummy in-ride audio, and some movies) and Isla Fisher (psycho/horny sister in Wedding Crashers).

Americans work too hard, but for what?

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 28, 2007, 10:18 AM | comments: 2

Once again, it appears we work more than anyone else on the planet. Not me, of course. The asinine suggestion that working more shows character doesn't work with me. I'm not going to work more hours to dilute my salary down to what becomes a retail wage in hourly terms. No thanks.

Every time this story comes out, I scratch my head and wonder what drives people to do this. The Man still doesn't give a shit about you, and all that extra work only makes The Man richer. Take a fucking vacation. Knit a sweater. Ride a roller coaster. Watch a season of TV shows on DVD all in one day. For God's sake, let go of this sense of obligation to The Man.

What's really hard to get my head around is the fact that we as a nation are excelling in so few areas of the global marketplace. Some companies with "dot com" in the name are leading the world, but everyone else is behind Asia. If all that work was leading to innovation and market dominance, that'd be one thing, but it's clearly not.

The other ironic thing is all the bitching and moaning about how Gen-X, Gen-Y, "millennials" or whatever stupid term the media comes up with, are lazy whiny slackers who rely on their mommies to get ahead in the world. My ass. Not only is it a stupid generalization, it's obviously not true since they're working stupid hours too.

Some suggest that it's greed that drives the long hours, but I'm not sure I buy that. At least, I don't see that in people I know. There are a lot of people of all ages wrapped up in the due-paying myth that will help them rise to some great title, and that's annoying (see: The Man not caring about you).

I just wonder when work became a lifestyle. I'm OK with the fact that some professions and businesses require it to be a lifestyle, and if you're enjoying yourself, that's cool. But why John Q. Workerbee wants to bust his ass for the best years of his life with no real return on investment for that time is beyond me.

Two humans, four cats, one long weekend!

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 28, 2007, 12:52 AM | comments: 2

Diana decided, quite suddenly, that this was the weekend she was going to make moving in a quasi-reality. No need to move the piano and sell the house all in one weekend, but basically her needs are to have the cats and a fair amount of clothes here to truly begin living here.

I'm pretty excited about it, even though I do have some concerns, none of which really have to do with me exactly. My biggest worry is that Cosmo is going to have two young brothers and a bitchy sister in "her" domain all of a sudden. Cosmo will be turning 11 this winter, and aside from the five years with Luna, she's used to being in charge. I just don't want her to be stressed or grumpy the way she used to be at times with Luna. She'll need some extra special attention I think. As healthy and perky as she's been this year, I suspect she's got another five years or more.

I also worry that I don't remember how to be considerate when it comes to sharing space with someone, and the split responsibilities that go with that. I probably shouldn't worry about that since my new "roomie" is an amazing communicator. If I'm not doing my part, there won't be any build up.

Because she's moving in with me, a decision dictated in part by the fact that my house is much bigger, I feel like there's some kind of inequity and that Diana gets the short end of the stick. One of the things that always impressed me about her was that she lived on her own terms, and has for really more than a decade. It's as if she's giving that up or something. Maybe I'd feel differently if we were moving to a new third site or something.

Honestly, if this is the sum of all my fears, I suppose I'm in pretty good shape. As I said the day that I met Diana, life is all about being with someone who you can share everything with. God knows we've had a lot to share during this somewhat difficult season, and we do a pretty good job of backing each other up. Even though we're just shy of seven months together, it feels like we've been together for years. It's just so easy.

So for the long weekend, we'll get our new "family" used to each other, drink some wine, hang out with Ryan Seacrest, and let Diana loose on her new kitchen.

Low-hanging fruit

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 28, 2007, 12:33 AM | comments: 0

We use a lot of really stupid cliches in the programming world. My boss likes to use "soup to nuts," which for some reason really annoys me, as few meals I eat every include soup or nuts. But low-hanging fruit is one we use to describe something that is a relatively easy win that has a favorable cost to benefit ratio.

Tonight I coded a feature for the forum app that has been on my list for a long time, namely an IP history tracker. Basically, it's a way to aggregate data to show events that happened from a particular IP address. This app happens to log security events and posts with IP addresses, so it's the combination of two data points. The usefulness centers around people posting under multiple accounts, for example. It's not something you'd use very often, but it's nice to have something that saves you from digging around the database itself.

It's funny how I can crank out things faster than I used to. I simply created an interface that post and security log objects had to implement to translate themselves into IP event objects, and ran two queries based on IP and times. The interface takes care of the translation in one easy method, and a comparer implementation sorts out the combined list.

I think for the parts I was really paying attention it took me maybe three hours of work, including testing and deployment into PointBuzz. Again, it's not a heavily used thing, but the idea was fairly clear, and it didn't take long to crank out.


posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 27, 2007, 9:34 AM | comments: 0

Diana and I went to see Enchanted last night. It's one of several movies we want to see, and it just turned out that was the one that had the right time.

Yeah, I am admitting it. I wanted to see it. Dreamworks has been making fun of Disney for years now with Shrek, and I was anxious to see if Disney could really let loose enough to make fun of itself. They did it, sure, but somehow managed to put a little magic into it, not surprisingly, with music. There are around three significant numbers, with extensive dance routines.

It was reasonably predictable, but entertaining. Not sure if kids would get all of the jokes, but I think the movie was trying to say something about people being jaded with regards to the longevity of relationships.

I couldn't think of where I had seen Amy Adams, the lead before, but she was in the wholly terrible Talladega Nights and the equally terrible Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny. She's been in a number of small parts on Buffy, Smallville, That 70s Show and Charmed, so it's no wonder there's a vague sense that I've seen her before. She's very charming, actually, and has a lot of current work lined up. She's in Charlie Wilson's War as well, which I'd like to see. She was also in Drop Dead Gorgeous, which if you've never seen, is pretty hilarious.

Following in Hugh Jackman's footsteps, James Marsden plays an incredibly gay prince charming type, and honestly, comedy suits him. I never took him that seriously as Cyclops.

Overall though, fun movie. The kids will love it. Worth the rental.

POP Forums v8, in the wild (it does exist)

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 26, 2007, 2:21 PM | comments: 0

After mostly sitting on a mostly functional, if not feature complete, build of POP Forums v8 for almost a year, I deployed it as a part of the second coming of PointBuzz, the most popular unofficial fan site for Cedar Point amusement park. It was kind of the step child site I haven't paid enough attention to over the last couple of years. My partner on the site and I decided to scale back what we were doing and stick to what we were good at: forums, photos and news, instead of duplicating a ton of content that the official site already provided.

For the most part, I'm extremely pleased with it so far. There are quite a few things I look forward to adding, and now that the AJAX framework is very much a production piece of ASP.NET, use more of it. So far, here is what I've learned since putting it in the wild.

First off, templated controls rock. Placing ads inline is easy, and easy to programmatically turn off for our premium members. When I write the additional plumbing to show moderated posts and/or topics inline, it's as easy as putting another template in the various controls. Adapting pages to the "look" of the site is super easy as well. For this site, we ditched five-column grids and focused on the titles because we think that's what's important.

Using non-rendering controls to control other stuff on the page is cool, but it grows messy. My plan was just to get as much display logic out of the page itself as possible, and it does, for the most part, do that. However, when I look back at the code, some of which is now three years old (like I need to be reminded of that), I have no idea what the hell is going on.

I finally have security logging that works. I admit it's not something I'll use often, but it was something I always wanted when someone was doing unpleasant things. Perhaps my biggest shocker is that my home-grown session manager works as well as it does. Only 0.4% of session starts lack a session end. I must have rewritten that code four times, so it feels good to see it work.

While I'm generally happy with the performance, most pages rendering in .05 seconds or less on average, I still have some indexing weirdness to deal with. For example, I want to index the user ID column on the posts table, because it makes looking up "my posts" easier, and to some degree makes counting posts by users faster, but it's taking a pretty big hit when it inserts a new post. I've tried to index as little as possible, and in a way that I think makes sense, but I might have to bug a "real" SQL person to help me on that.

Surprisingly, worker threads to send queued e-mail and keep the session data current are living pretty well out of an HttpModule. There have been a lot of philosophical discussions in various blogs and forums about whether or not this is a good idea, but for someone who doesn't have access to the box, they don't have a lot of choices. I know it's the only way to truly kill a Web app that I've found (it'll even crash the dev server in Visual Studio if the session tables, for example, are not available), but it has been surprisingly stable. I still think there's a better way.

I've come to the conclusion that the UI to code approach is a better way to do things. The class library unfortunately only half-does that. I still have some older stuff that's stuck on that objects-mirror-data mindset, which doesn't really align well to specific use cases and the enforcement of certain rules.

There are still quite a few things I want to add. Even then, I don't know what I intend to do with it, if anything, outside of my own use. I've talked about selling it again, giving it away and asking for money only if you use it, or just keeping it all for myself. I don't know. At this point, I'm just happy that it's getting used at all, given the time I put in to it.

Thoughts of the holiday stress and the evolution

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 25, 2007, 10:53 PM | comments: 1

Christmas will be over soon, and with it, a certain sigh of relief. Holidays are hard, for a lot of reasons, all different for each person. But in my typical analytical sense, I've often wondered where that comes from.

I think it's safe to say that at least for most kids growing up, the holidays are a time for relative stability, where your family is together, and you feel warm and safe. Even with divorced parents, some portion of the day or weekend typically involved us going to with my dad, so there was still a routine of some of kind.

But as you get older, the world around you changes. Sometimes it changes very quickly. For me, it was hard to be without my wife, and then my family mostly moved away (not that they really ever acknowledged the divorce anyway). So in the space of two years, things were radically different. I fell in love twice in that time too before meeting Diana, so there was that added bit of stressful change. Decades of stability were shaken, and I felt a sense of loss over it.

Not that there's a scoring game, but I think it was harder for Diana, who lost her mom to cancer this year. Her family changed radically as well, with just her dad at the top of the family, and her brother merging a new family, and the other brother across the country (not to mention some coaster dork in her life). I can't even imagine just how different things were for her, feeling like you're not even in the same family anymore.

The common theme, at least in this micro-view, is that it's very easy to associate the holiday with loss. Every Christmas is a reminder of how things used to be, and how they never will be again. That's a pretty daunting thing to experience.

When I left Diana's brother's house at the end of the night, I thought there was something symbolic about the conversations we had in that last hour. There really were hints of new beginnings, new traditions, and redefined families for all of us. These weren't replacements for the former states, but new structures that were unexpected, with plenty of room to celebrate the good times of previous years.

People come and go from our lives, sometimes by choice and sometimes by life and death. Expectations are created, and some are met while others are not. Regardless of the out come, I think even a broken spirit tries its best to find the new normal, to adapt, and carry on. Really, it's the only choice that we really have. Christmas is supposed to be about hope. It's what we often need the most.

To my fellow 'Fishies, I wish you the very best, and hope that your lives are filled with hope and joy. Merry Christmas.

Trailing a drunk driver

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 25, 2007, 4:46 PM | comments: 6

Diana and I were just turning off of her street when we got behind some guy swerving a bit. I jokingly asked if the guy was drunk. When he clipped off another guy's mirror turning from the other direction, the answer was obviously yes. He did not stop.

Diana called 911, and the Cleveland police basically blew her off. I trailed him on the freeway, the opposite way we intended to go. His speed varied from 50 to nearly 80. I was not satisfied with the police response, and knew we'd be in a more caring jurisdiction. Since he turned on to 71 south, I knew he'd at least be in Middleburg before too long, where there are always cops.

But it didn't take that long. At the Snow Rd. exit, he plowed into a guardrail at nearly 60 miles per hour. He took out at least a hundred feet of it in a spectacular crash.

My first instinct wasn't to see if he was ok, but rather to feel relief that he didn't kill someone else. Another guy who stopped said he was barely conscious, and obviously fucked up drunk. The Brookpark police showed up, and we filled out statements. The cops pulled beer bottles out.

The strange thing is that I've felt so angry since then. I never actually got a look at the guy, but he could have killed a family. I understand that sometimes people have issues, but no one has any fucking right to put other people's lives at risk.

This has been one strange Christmas.

Feeling 80%

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 24, 2007, 10:42 AM | comments: 1

Thank God, I think I'm past the worst of the holiday plague. Saturday night I did the whole fever thing, and it broke around midnight. Yesterday morning I went to Diana's and slept some more. We eventually went out for dinner with her dad (Winking Lizard), and I felt at least capable of human interaction.

Today I feel much better, though snotty (in the literal, not figurative sense). But at least I can assume that means I'll be functional Christmas day, thus invalidating the Christmas Curse theory.

I'm sitting here looking at the very poorly wrapped present I got Diana... I can't wait to give it to her. :)

Not winking

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 23, 2007, 8:15 PM | comments: 0

My Christmas Curse

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 22, 2007, 10:14 PM | comments: 1

I'm convinced that more than 50% of the time, I am sick for Christmas. I can think of countless times I was out for the count with a lit tree near by.

I took NyQuil a little while ago, and it's starting to hit me. I still can't breathe, and I'm doing the whole sweating-shivering thing.

I know I shouldn't stress about things I can't control, but I'm supposed to be with Diana all weekend, hanging out with her family and not sucking. I have issues with failing people, perhaps because I don't want to be like people who have let me down, knowing how that feels.

Xbox Live support beats all other Microsoft units as the absolute worst

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 20, 2007, 9:01 PM | comments: 1

I still get comments on the most random posts on my tech blog, but none more frequent than on my previous post about the joke that is Xbox support. Read the comments and you'll find more dropped balls than you can imagine.

I'm not going to bother with contacting support, but for the better part of a year, their e-mail system is broken, and apparently there is no QA. When I buy Microsoft points, I get an e-mail receipt months later, and dated the day I actually get it. I'm a little alarmed every time because it gives me the impression that someone other than myself bought points. What a joke. People should be fired.

But it gets better. In my last post, I mentioned that I can't input my last name into Xbox Live, because apparently "Putz" is a dirty word. I really thought that now there was a famous baseball player with the name that my 34 years of torment were over. Apparently not. This is the response I got from support.

Hei Jeff!

Takk for Deres email. For at kunne behandle ditt spørsmål effektivt trenger vi ytterlige informasjon. Derfor venligst kontakte Xbox 360 Kundeservice direkte på 800 14 174 eller + 47 23162554 fra mobiltelefon. Hørselshemmede (teksttelefon): 800 14 175


Mandag-fredag: 9:00 - 17:00
Lørdag: stengt
Søndag: stengt

Med venlig hilsen
Michael, Xbox 360 Support

Yes, apparently because my name is of German origin, I should call Germany.

What have we learned? That no humans actually respond to e-mail support.

Only Microsoft could come up with an amazing piece of technology, adored by millions, and completely put off all those people with the worst possible experience after the sale.

People should be fired.

EDIT: I've been informed that's actually Norwegian.

The retrospective, already?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 20, 2007, 12:33 AM | comments: 0

I am as tired as could be, but yet I can't fall asleep. Suffering from a little acid reflux, not surprising after eating more pizza than I should have for dinner.

I've been thinking a lot about the year, because you know I have to write my typical summary. I was just looking back at my blog posts and I'm happy that I keep a record of some things on my mind. Without context it seems like I had a really dark year. The first quarter was pretty horrible, I suppose. The break up with Cath, putting Luna down, the disastrous second-night stand, the general dissatisfaction with dating... not a great start. Lots of posts about it all, plus frustrations with my projects, posts from a PointBuzz member who subsequently died, lots of posts about movies... it was a weird time.

The turning point seemed to be in early May when I moved my office downstairs and started to really think about how to make things right at home. I think the hot tub helped too (it still helps three to six times a week). Spring, Maverick and a certain someone really helped jump start the changes.

I couldn't help but look for any posts made the day I met Diana. It's funny how I didn't really mention the date itself, since frankly I was getting jaded about ever meeting anyone again, and yet I ended the post with, "And I'm hell bent on only being with someone I can share with, and who I can share their good and bad times with as well. That's really what it's all about. I'll never settle for anything less. I think it might be right in front of me."

Of course, we've since talked about how things went. She and her friend Sherry joke about how after the first date she wasn't sure but wanted to give me a chance. And things went pretty slowly for the first several dates. We had some barriers, that's for sure.

The first all-day date we had, I was pretty hooked, and we've had a very steady and enriching experience since then.

OK... I think that's enough of a brain dump, and I'm ready to pass out now.

Sick but not exactly

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 19, 2007, 11:22 PM | comments: 0

Ugh... I've been feeling uber-crappy the past day and a half. Last night I was sure I was going to be full blown sick, but it hasn't quite made it to that point. What I am is tired, achy and lightheaded, the way you feel before something kicks you in the nuts with the whole fever-sweat-shiver thing.

I can't say I'm surprised. It seems to happen every year around Christmas.

Top quotes of 2007

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 19, 2007, 11:36 AM | comments: 0

The entrepreneurial itch

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 18, 2007, 12:58 PM | comments: 1

If only there was some kind of ointment for it.

When I look back at the last eight years or so, I've spent a lot of time self-deprecating in a manner that suggests I'm all talk and no action when it comes to manipulating ideas and desires into actual tangible things. God only knows how many posts I've made over the years about working for me.

There are actually two truths on this topic that perhaps I never realized until recently. The first is that I have in fact managed to create and execute on a number of things that most people never do. I wrote a book, sold software, started several successful Web sites (and some failures). The second thing is that collectively, these endeavors have not produced enough revenue to sustain me outside of a day job now and then.

Looking at it in that context, I think I'm finally ready to do away with the negativity I've typically directed at myself. The definition of success is something I've centered on the revenue component, instead of putting it somewhere between the revenue and execution, where it should be. I've done stuff, and I've made some money, or at least more than I would have if I didn't do anything. That's something I should take pride in.

The most positive result of this was probably that it landed me a really good job, that it turns out I like most of the time, and I've been there for two years. They weren't impressed by previous gigs, only by what I had done on my own, including the sites and the book.

Of course, over time I begin to stir, and I wonder how long I'll be content to do the regular gig. While I get to do interesting things and enjoy professional growth, I also feel like the 40 hours (plus another 8 or so driving) per week takes away from what I could be doing for me. I don't know what the big idea even is to pursue (it's definitely not consulting), but reading Wired and Fast Company makes me want to do... something.

I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually. It's just one of many things I want to accomplish. I wonder if this will be the year for it, if not for a big bang, then for an incremental step.

I be buggin'

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 17, 2007, 9:28 PM | comments: 0

It's now very clear that doing PointBuzz first was not just a good idea, but a great idea. Because it requires relatively little customization, I can fix bugs relatively easily, and test new stuff in the wild as it comes.

The bigger thing that makes me happy is that everything is relatively loosely coupled and easy to maintain. This is the place I wanted to be, and where I long to be for CoasterBuzz. It's the first time in awhile that I felt like I really got something totally right as a programmer. That's a good feeling to have given my various questions over the years if this is really what I want to be doing for a living.

That said, there are a lot of things I'd rather have done differently in the overall design, but I'm trying to keep that out of my mind for now and keep delivering stuff. As things stabilize on PointBuzz, I'm looking forward to CoasterBuzz and getting that project moving. I wonder if it's really possible to get it ready for its eighth birthday at the end of January. I guess I'll find out sooner than later.

Identity, holidays and companionship

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 17, 2007, 12:42 AM | comments: 1

Sunday night brain dump of unrelated things...

Friday night, when Diana and I went to Melt, I felt strangely into being around the pierced and tattooed crowed that worked there. Not everyone does it right, but there's a segment who really treat body art as something sacred (no prison tattoos or me-too eyebrow rings). I don't know where I get that interest. I suppose it could be from Stephanie, but isn't it strange that I never pierced anything until after we separated? I guess it connects with my never-will-own-a-suit ethos or something. I identify with that component of it. I really miss my industrial.

This has been a pretty intense month for me emotionally, and I'm trying to really wrap my head around the causes. Is it because for the most part you associate the holidays with a certain amount of comfort and joy growing up, only to have that disrupted continuously in adulthood? I don't think I'm alone in feeling that the season that is supposed to be about celebration and joy brings up intense feelings of loss.

This year I'm incredibly thankful for having Diana with me. She's a total Christmas freak. We listened to Christmas music all weekend while she baked cookies. She set up a small tree for me. The little glow of the "candle" in the angel's hands gives me a feeling of warmth that I haven't felt in awhile. It comes with the realization that the person who gives you companionship is a constant source of inspiration and love. That's what it's really about, and I hope everyone has a person in their life who offers that.

Life is really about finding peace, that's for sure. Just as we need bad things to appreciate good things, perhaps a little chaos this time of year helps us really know what peace is.

Diana's touch

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 16, 2007, 6:08 PM | comments: 3

A long night, long day and a new site

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 16, 2007, 4:15 PM | comments: 7

We relaunched PointBuzz late, late last night. I started the conversion and upload around 12:45 a.m., and gave up screwing around with it around 3. I got it to a point where it was mostly functional.

It was kind of fun to do that late night thing, but it still needs some work. I'm happy with how quickly it came together, and all things considered, a lot of things could have gone wrong. I feel like we have a platform to build off of now that's not cluttered and weighed down. It's crazy fast, which is a huge plus. I'm happy to see render times for pages around 5/100 of a second. That is such an improvement.

Now I just need to get down the list of stuff that still needs to be resolved and I'll be more or less content.

Cider + cheese

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 14, 2007, 7:11 PM | comments: 0

Drunken workplace bowling

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 14, 2007, 1:54 PM | comments: 2

I wanna be in "Porno"

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 14, 2007, 10:46 AM | comments: 3

Bonus day

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 14, 2007, 10:21 AM | comments: 0

Got the first half of my bonus today. Money can't make you happy, but it sure can make you temporarily giddy. :)

When the second half comes late February/early March, it'll be time to replace that carpet, I think.

Xbox Live says my name isn't allowed

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 13, 2007, 9:35 PM | comments: 4

Seriously, I entered my name into my profile, and it told me, "Your name contains a word or phrase that isn't allowed."

Should I be offended?

Harry in hi def

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 13, 2007, 6:51 PM | comments: 1

With the release of the fifth Harry Potter movie, they reissued all of them in HD (Blu-Ray and HD DVD). Seeing as how I didn't see the first three in the theaters, I figured what the heck, I'll get the box set. Plenty of HD eye candy there.

I put the first one in while I'm doing other things, because it was also just on cable, but it's funny how I look up and see detail I never saw before. For example, the "gym teacher" who teaches broom flying has yellow eyes. Would've never seen that in standard def.

Lunch observations

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 13, 2007, 11:34 AM | comments: 2

Coming to the local BWW for lunch once a week is a surprisingly centering experience. Thursday is boneless wing day too. Here's the stream of consciousness from being here five minutes.

I find myself strangely drawn to Dana Jacobson on ESPN2. That's pretty weird, I know. Maybe it's the bangs.

Walt just sent me email about crazy low fares to Orlando. I wonder if there's a quick weekend trip there in my future.

My waitress has a word tattooed on the back of her neck. It doesn't look great. I always wonder why it is that people are willing to skimp on cost and experience when putting something permanent on their body in plain sight. When I get around to it, I'll go where ever I have to go to get it right, at whatever cost.

You know those messages you get from around the office of people raising money for one cause or another? I find myself this year contributing to most of them. I'm not sure what my motivation is. I suppose it's wanting to score karma points or just the realization I can afford it.

Speaking of TV, I think HD has arrived in earnest this year. Every monitor in this new BWW is HD, with actual HD content on it. Skydiving Jeff recently got DirecTV HD, and I'm anxious to visit and see how the quality is. If they can get me into it cheap or free, maybe it's time.

Geauga Lake is a couple hundred yards from here. Looking at the retail traffic, I can't imagine anything less than a premium being paid for that land.

The gradual reconnection of Facebook

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 13, 2007, 10:40 AM | comments: 9

Allison, who worked for me most of the time I was in Medina doing the government cable TV thing, suddenly appeared on Facebook and added me as her first friend. Since leaving that job in 1999, she went on to get a masters degree, got married and had a child. And she lives in Las Vegas now!

Nerdy techie types now into their 30's are naturally using tools like Facebook, but for everyone else who didn't literally grow up with the Internet, it's a slow process. It's a little frustrating. Graduating from college in 1995, we saw the birth of the Web. The first commercial site I had ever seen (using Windows 3.1, a "Winsock" client to do TCP/IP, and Mosaic) was Because of that timing, only a few of us around that time really appreciated what was coming.

A lot of pundits feel that online social services trivialize human connections, but my experience has been so ridiculously opposite of that. 95% of my friends I met through some form of Internet media. I'm moving in with someone I met through an online dating service. I'm reconnecting with people I haven't seen in years. I'm keeping up with former volleyball kids that I otherwise would've lost track of. If I'm a typical case, the Internet has enriched people's lives more than we could have imagined.

My hope now is that Facebook doesn't screw it up. It has quickly become "the" place to maintain these contacts. It would suck if they did something really stupid and chased people away. Then again, even if they did, I wonder if people would be willing to leave those connections.

CoasterBuzz, forums and a T-1 in 2001

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 11:45 PM | comments: 2

I was just looking around at a bunch of old posts from 2001 that I made on CoasterBuzz, and I noticed a lot of different things that just feel so different.

1. I was really, really into it. The continuous growth and massive rise in traffic in a year and a half was impressive, and I really thrived on that. I was into coasters more too. Stephanie and I did the 40 coasters, six parks in five states in five days thing that summer.

2. There were a lot more people, as a percentage of all visitors, that participated in the forums. These days, there are twice as many visitors but only a small number who actually participate. I think that partly has to do with that being what I like to think of as the "Millennium Force Era" of coaster building. It has slowed dramatically since then.

3. When I launched a new forum version that year, in old ASP even, people went ape shit when I included a rich text editor. I'm pretty sure it was the first of its kind back then in a forum, and it's probably why people were shelling out hundreds of dollars to buy the forum app.

4. I was fielding some of the same problems, like, "Why did you delete my thread?" "Because you were plugging your site and spamming." That was followed up by it's not fair or you're picking on me or whatever.

5. I didn't run pop-up ads then. Those were different days, when you could actually make a buck with regular 468x60 banners in the page.

6. The database actually ran on Microsoft Access, and there are posts still in there that were heavily corrupted.

7. I made tweaks frequently to the site, and it seemed there was always a new bug to squash.

8. Early that year I killed the rumor section that I started with.

9. The fall was the mess after 9/11, where I got laid-off after buying a house, I had a T-1 costing $1,200 a month and DoubleClick dropped me as an ad client.

10. One of the most trafficked threads was about my "subdivision cam," where a camera took a picture out my front window and put it online every few minutes. Watching my grass grow became a big hobby.

11. RollerCoaster Tycoon was still something everyone played, and that was a couple of years before RCT2 came out.

Looking back at those days, I think the biggest difference is that my interests and hobbies have changed so much, as has the audience.

The bit about the forum innovation really strikes a chord with me, and I just wish I had the time and drive to make something truly great that is better than any forum product out there. No one has really challenged that genre of Web app in years.

Good times, flashing back.

A home cooked meal

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 10:56 PM | comments: 0

Diana cooked dinner tonight, and it's the first time I've had actual home cooked food (read: not frozen Schwan's crap or take-out) in quite some time. She grilled chicken (from Stubb's Chicken Marinade, the best pre-made marinade ever), made some herb and butter red potatoes and broccoli. Hardly exotic, if par for my bland tastes, but super yummy. And even better, I got to nap while she was cooking and cuddle after.

We eat out a lot, and that's partly because of our lifestyle and stuff we do. That's probably not the most economic way to eat, but I suppose since we both do OK, it's OK. Of course, even with my somewhat limited tastes, I end up buying "better" stuff even for groceries, like good pasta, vegan butter-like spread, exotic hot sauces, organic mac-n-cheese, high fiber wheat breads, etc., even though it's more expensive.

But the thing is, Diana loves to cook, and I'm interested in cooking. Maybe more interested in baking, actually, but cooking as well. I think the reason we don't do it more is because we find ourselves being fried after a week of work and not that motivated. Plus the current transient nature of relationship, one always staying with the other, it adds to the desire for convenience. I suspect that will change once we share the same kitchen.

I'm just not creative enough. Sure, I can make pasta and heat up sauce from a jar, or make my goofy burritos, but these are hardly culinary masterpieces. Shit, I bought an Italian cookbook shortly after we started dating and I've never made anything in it. I feel so lame.

The other thing that complicates stuff is that I'm trying, and often failing, to not eat like an asshole. I'm still five pounds up from my 2005 weight, and I wanted to be going the other way by now. But I still find myself eating fried food at least twice a week, and nutritionally worthless white rice and potatoes more than I'd like. At least when it comes to breads, everything is high fiber.

Fortunately, while we may eat together when we co-habitate, Diana is very cool with not eating the same thing. She loves various beef products, and I'm certainly not going to get in the way of that. Red meat will eventually touch my grill I'm sure, even though I haven't had it in almost three years.

Food is such a challenge for me, and for some reason I still have some mental roadblock that prevents me from dealing with it in a way that is healthy and enjoyable.

Study: Pregnant women's backs keep them from toppling

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 4:22 PM | comments: 1

If only I could have this feature in the library

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 12, 2007, 12:28 PM | comments: 0

I really like the ASP.NET AJAX script library. The Sys.UI.DomElement class in particular has some really useful pieces parts. As much as I'm enjoying using it, every once in awhile you find one little thing you wish it did.

For example, I have a little script does the expand/contract on user info in the new forum thread pages. It figures out how big to expand the div by looking at the CSS class that it uses. While this sounded like a good idea at the time, in order to avoid hard-coding heights into script or the page, it ignores the fact that you can have more than one style sheet, and for that matter, more than one style class on the element. I wrote this a long time ago, and I don't remember for sure, but I think my original issue was that I couldn't simply render the div hidden, read its height, then make it visible and start at height zero because the hidden-ness doesn't work the same in each browser.

This is where you start to wish something had that one more feature. I mean, all things considered, that script library does an awesome job of isolating you from so much crap, so I can't really complain. I'm just a big fan of taking advantage of solutions to problems someone else already solved! :)

Supreme awesome carbs

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 8:46 PM | comments: 7

Time is running out for a tax deduction!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 8:01 PM | comments: 3

No joke, that's what it said in an e-mail from Apple sent to business customers. As if buying something from them is magically like not spending money. I suppose if you ultimately pay upwards of 35% or more to taxes, then yes, you'll save $350 on your $1,000 purchase, but you're still down $650 than if you wouldn't have bought anything at all.

I'm still wondering why my deli turkey (peppered, of course) was $8.90 for a pound at the grocery store. It's not like it's some gourmet shit! Can I deduct that?

When to spend money you don't have

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 11, 2007, 6:38 PM | comments: 3

In college and post-college, there were justifiable times. Kara, seeing Blue Man in Orlando with Julie and Dan is one of those times. Live a little!

That is all. Everyone tell her she should do it. Peer pressure rocks.


posted by Jeff | Monday, December 10, 2007, 10:32 PM | comments: 10

Good news

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 10, 2007, 10:25 PM | comments: 3

Today sure was a better day in terms of news and events in my world.

The upsetting thing from yesterday came from a couple of text messages from Catherine indicating that Cosmo took off in the woods at her dad's house in rural Indiana, and was likely dead because of the cold. I'm not a dog person, but I can't help but admit that I was her "daddy" for much of the first year or so of her life. And she means everything to Cath. That little dog is the most unassuming, innocent and loving creature on the planet, easily.

Well against the odds, she survived, and a neighbor caught her. What a relief. Cath says her lungs and heart sound good, and she's just exhausted, but OK.

Last night's ad problems were caused by Federated Media's default mechanism stopping after a year. I suppose technically it was my fault for not knowing this, but I complained to FM anyway, and they agreed to compensate me for the lost revenue. To my surprise, they also have sold a great deal of remnant inventory at good rates, boosting my overall income unexpectedly. Who knows when I'll see it (they pay when they get paid), but that was a nice surprise.

I realized tonight that the PointBuzz re-do is actually going pretty well, and quickly. I'm not sure exactly when it'll be done, but it's nice to feel like it's going well. I'm starting to not like how some of the forum app is written, but whatever, it's gonna be what it is until after CB gets its love. I can't endlessly fuck with these things and never deliver anything.

Speaking of PointBuzz, Walt got his cult induction kit today, in the form of a shiny, tricked-out 24" iMac. Dude has 4 gigs of memory too (third party, of course). That's awesome.

Microsoft put out a preview of the ASP.NET MVC framework today. That thing was just made to be used for something like CampusFish. That might be a good exercise when it's closer to release.

And Kara got a ham, which I guess is good if you like ham.

Indy Jonesing

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 10, 2007, 3:40 PM | comments: 0

They've been putting out little bits and pieces about the next Indiana Jones movie, among them that Karen Allen will reprise her role as Marion Ravenwood. She pretty much looks the same as she did in Raiders!

I know I've mentioned it before, but I loved the Indy movies growing up. I've been waiting a very long time for this one!

R.I.P. CompUSA

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 10, 2007, 10:12 AM | comments: 4

Well, it had a good run, but CompUSA was bought by a private equity firm that intends to shut it down. I don't understand how that works exactly. Usually a PE company buys something to get a return on it. How do you do that by shutting it down?

I have a few good memories here and there of the company. I worked there before my first full-time radio gig, and after I lost that gig. I was there for the Windows 95 launch. My total time there, counting the break, was barely a year, but it wasn't horrible. Stephanie worked there for I think a year and a half when she started grad school.

When I got laid-off in 2001, we actually bought the Xbox and Gamecube there. My first Pentium-based PC came from there, as well as my first decent printer.

Perhaps the only thing I really feel bad about is that Al, the GM that Steph and I both worked for at various points, is out of a job after at least 12 years or so. He was kind of a grumpy bastard, but at the same time someone you liked working for.

The company made a lot of really catastrophically bad decisions. They had a corporate direct sales division, with reps in every store, and they just shut it down one day even though it was making an assload of money for most stores. (Sidebar: The dudes at my store thought they were better than us floor monkeys, but the truth is that we still made more money than them, and did more volume.)

Contemplating life and loss

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 10, 2007, 12:20 AM | comments: 2

There were a lot of serious things on my mind this weekend, and in my nightly brain dump, I'm trying to sort it out.

The contemplative state began when I started watching Wonderfalls with Diana, because I had to share the best show on TV no one ever watched. With its themes on fate, being true to yourself and listening to the little voices (even if they do cause a 'sode) are all things I can totally relate to. You just want to find a point in it all.

We went to a party last night composed mostly of Diana's tennis friends, and it was interesting because I might have been the youngest person there. I tend to be the oldest at most parties! It was cool though to spend some time with her tennis partner and chat a bit because she's fun. The party reminded me though a little of my childhood church, where the median age was like 80. People talking about ailments and deaths and such.

That in turn got me to thinking about loss, and that was augmented further by some really upsetting news today. Loss is a pretty intense thing and comes in many flavors. You can lose your keys, your job, and in the worst of scenarios, someone you love. In fact, there seems to be an inherent risk in loving anyone or anything in fear that you could lose it.

I try to keep my losses in perspective by comparing them to others, which is probably not fair for me. My biggest loss to date was my marriage, and all things considered, that turned out for the better for both of us. But other people lose parents, grandparents and other things that are harder to deal with.

And that brings it all back full circle to the fact that it's other people that help with the processing of loss, so you can continue to live your life. You have to love people, at risk of losing them, to make it easier.

In that respect, I think of Diana as a Christmas miracle for me, because we're a pretty good team at picking each other up. We almost wish we'd have some kind of disagreement just to see what that's like (and have make-up sex). We're so open and honest that it's probably disgusting from an external perspective about how we roll. We don't put each other through any bullshit because there's no mystery about what the other is thinking. It's liberating.

So with all of the ups and downs, I think I'm finally coming out of this one on the up side. Life can come to an abrupt ending, and that's reason enough to enjoy the moment you're having right now.

Ad woes

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 9, 2007, 11:51 PM | comments: 1

There was a time when I used to fairly obsessively watch ad revenue from my sites. That's when there were two providers. Now, there are six. A tangled web of defaults between each other and my own app trying to distribute them in a way that makes sense and returns the most revenue.

Well I login to one of them and find that it hasn't served shit in three days. Look around, turns out the others haven't either. Turns out that Federated Media, the one who I hoped would sell the crap out of the site at high CPM's, let the default ads expire and it has no way to warn me.

I can't just be annoyed by the situation, of course. Instead I'd rather read into it as some statement about me or something. I'm looking for that magic technological solution to just make shit work.

Jackpot winner

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 9, 2007, 12:16 AM | comments: 2

Movie making magic

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 7, 2007, 2:34 PM | comments: 2

I noticed today that Panasonic has announced 32 gig P2 cards (the kind my camera uses), for a street price of around $1,600. Those things will do 32 minutes of 1080p recording. Unfortunately I don't think any of the P2 cameras do native 24 fps recording to save a little space, but they do all do native 720p at 24 fps (the 1080p records extra frames to throw away, wasting space). So for 720/24p, that's 80 minutes of recording time for every card. That's awesome. Hopefully the 16 gig cards will go down in price now, because I'd like to have one of those.

Incidentally, the HPX500 is out. What a sweet camera. Had this been out a year and a half ago, I would've spent the extra money for it. Big 2/3" CCD's, Anton-Bauer batteries, real lenses... I get a little moist just thinking about it. If I do actually get a film made with my HVX200, you better believe I'll look into it.

I was actually thinking about the film making thing again, as it kind of dropped out of the forefront of my brain for a little while. An idea for another screenplay popped into my head, inspired and borrowing from some of my other ideas. The question is whether it will be a short or a feature length. I haven't really decided. I think I can probably do more with it if I keep it short (and by extension, less expensive).

The screenplay is starting to get fairly clear in my head, which is startling considering I spend so much time wondering what the "right" idea is. If I let it marinate for a little while I think I could get it to paper pretty quickly. I don't know if it'll be any good, but that's not really the point.

Movies are on the brain in part because of my recent evaluation of the things important to me with regards to the volleyball thing. Plus there is a Coen Brothers movie out, and I just picked up Planet Terror and Death Proof. The former has those great special features that Robert Rodriguez does about making films, and I look forward to checking that out.

Rock Concert Movement #698...

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 7, 2007, 10:15 AM | comments: 9

...buying tickets to see Blue Man Group for the eighth time (four stage shows, four tour shows).

I could have bought seventh row for $75 a ticket (plus another $15 in taxes and other charges), but opted instead to go for the front row on the side at roughly half-court for $50 each. I decided it wasn't worth another fifty bucks to be in a crowd, looking up the whole time, with less access to beer and people on all sides. Here I can put my beer on the hockey wall and take a picture of a Blue Man when they walk by into the crowd. :)

Can't wait!

Holiday gamin'

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 6, 2007, 11:21 PM | comments: 1

I finished Super Paper Mario tonight. I admit that I used a walk-through a couple of times because I often get lazy when it comes to certain puzzles. It wasn't a bad game, and it was a pretty neat idea, but sometimes the story was just annoying. Button, button, button to skip the text.

I still have Halo 3 to finish, and I also have Super Mario Sunshine (the Gamecube game) that I picked up pretty cheap. I'd still like to go back and finish SpongeBob Battle for Bikini Bottom and Splinter Cell (both original Xbox titles).

New stuff I'm interested includes Tomb Radier: Anniversary (Xbox 360 version), and I admit to being curious about the Half-Life Orange Box collection, also on the 360. I remember playing the original Half-Life back in 1998 or something and jumping out of my chair because it was so creepy. I'm just not sure if I have the stamina for another shooter.

They did a console update for the Xbox 360 that includes a simple browser to show video clips about Xbox stuff. One of the new features is that you can buy original Xbox games. They have a handful to start. I have Halo, and I'm somewhat interested in the Crash Bandicoot game they're offering. It's quite a leap from the Arcade titles. They also have Transformers available in HD for rental.


posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 6, 2007, 9:11 PM | comments: 2

I mentioned that I was taking a break from working on CoasterBuzz to work on PointBuzz. In just one week I have probably 75% of everything up and working. The forum is ready but not styled, the photo app is in and super pretty, the content management app is in. It's a lot like an actual site! It takes about 13 minutes on my laptop to convert and copy the data (images, forum and user data).

The last 25% of course will be more labor intensive. The news handling stuff, while fundamentally similar, will require some additional plumbing. There's a lot of style to modify too for the forum.

In the mean time, Walt is going to work on the photo gallery, which runs on the same code right now on the live site, so he can start organizing and uploading. We're probably going to have to do a staging site so we can do some of the content management junk.

I'm crossing my fingers that I can buckle down and find the time to really crank through the rest in the next week. It would be a huge win for us, especially since we could finally ditch those stupid skyscraper ads that don't pay.

A look back at education

posted by Jeff | Thursday, December 6, 2007, 6:06 PM | comments: 1

There are certain posts on my tech blog that still get comments pretty regularly due to high search rank, including one that criticizes US education. It has been viewed about 3,000 times. What struck me was the latest comment, as it seems pretty typical of things I hear from teachers.

I had forgotten about the comments that the Indian co-worker made when I was at Progressive. It's interesting to revisit that.

Different day, different attitude

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, December 5, 2007, 11:21 PM | comments: 1

By the time I went to bed last night, a great many people IM'd me about my decision to pull out on volleyball, and I was overwhelmed by the support and understanding. I'm not usually one to need a lot of validation, but in this case I think I did because my own gut check wasn't enough. In the end, I know I did the right thing for me.

This evening was "date night" as usual, and I spent the evening over Diana's. Understand that we don't really go out that often (though we did last night), but we mostly enjoy each other's company and hang out. Sometimes she knits while I do something on my comprooder.

Tonight I worked on PointBuzz v2 and made some nice progress integrating the photo app. Walt came up with a nice design for the site, and I've been integrating a bunch of apps that I've already built into it. The forums, photos and content apps all exist already. The remaining work revolves around data migration, styling, some basic plumbing, and the only thing really unique, the news engine. That last part I've done a hundred times, so that will go quickly.

The cold and dark thing has been getting old, but today, with snow on the ground, there was something beautiful about it. I'm sure it will get old in a few weeks, but for now, I like it.

I now realize that it's critical to have the courage to make the adjustments in life that ultimately make you happier, even if they're painful and risky to begin with. The impact can be pretty huge.

What a difference a day makes.

Adventures in IT

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 11:14 PM | comments: 6

I've grown to hate IT stuff. My interest in computers started to deteriorate right about the time PC's became common place while in college, because already at that point you mostly spent time just getting them to work right.

Aside from my odd random shut down problem on my laptop, which has gone away, I can't say that I've had any real IT challenges since drinking the Kool-Aid hardcore. Apple shit just works most of the time.

Last night's two-hours on the phone with Time-Warner, as I mentioned, eventually led me to a guy who had a clue and theorized my router may be slowly dying. That router is "on the outside" because it's also a Vonage router, and therefore my phone line. I know that having a land line (if you can even call it that) is rather passe, but I have that phone number in a lot of places and now and then I do use it either to talk to my mom or record for the podcast. It's $15, and the business pays for it, so whatever.

I bought the Apple router because a guy at work said he was floored at how solid it was in terms of signal strength and UI for the client app. Sure enough, it's pretty sweet. What I liked about it was that the MAC filtering was perfectly logical and everything made sense. I wanted to put my Linksys/Vonage router behind it since it may be failing, and once I learned what ports Vongage was using, it was a piece of cake to put it in the DMZ and expose it to the world. The phone works. Probably not a big deal to the average network monkey, but I was happy to figure it out.

I have another problem though that's getting on my nerves. My printer, an HP 2550Ln, around three years old I think, is starting to misfeed paper so the alignment is totally f'd up. Seeing as how I print CB club cards on it, that's a real problem. I can't even do return address labels because they won't print right.

I'm not sure what I should do about the printer situation. The last thing I want to do is replace it because few big-ticket things are more uninteresting to buy than printers. Not to mention I can stand the idea of that thing ending up in a landfill. I'm open to suggestions.

Diana and fried mac-n-cheese

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 5:30 PM | comments: 4

Sweet, what do I win?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 3:06 PM | comments: 5

I just got a small bag of dark chocolate M&M's. I opened it up, and there are no red ones at all, and one blue one.

Do I win something?

I hate the environment because I'm divorced

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 12:38 PM | comments: 6

It's true.

Sounds like a good research problem. Who would ever go to Michigan State anyway? ;)

I bailed on volleyball

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 9:33 AM | comments: 8

I'm a bit of a mess right now, because I just resigned my position from the volleyball club. This was the hardest thing I've done in a long time.

There has been a rapidly growing expectation gap between me and the directors in terms of what it takes to build a successful national team. The shared practice situation in particular is a deal breaker, and I would've never signed on if I knew that was their intention. Combine this with the fact that I just learned that one of the practice locations was a half-hour away from work, which is already 45 minutes away from home, and I just couldn't deal. The thought of driving an additional 150 miles per week is horrifying, especially when I can't even use the time in a way that makes sense.

The last nail in the coffin came when half of the kids called off for the first practice, and two more said they'd be missing half of the second practice. As if the negotiation and posturing and outright lying on behalf of parents and kids during tryouts wasn't bad enough, I began dealing with attendance issues before we even started.

I can't even tell you how sad it all makes me. Something that was so wonderful seven years ago has turned into something else entirely. I'll take partial responsibility for the expectation gap, as I can't entirely fault the club for that, but the way things are going in Northeast Ohio is unsavory to say the least.

I'm sure I'll coach again at some point, I just don't know when. The advice I'm most frequently given is to be true to myself, and despite the pain associated with giving this up, I do know that it's right for me. (A byproduct of blogging is that you can pretty easily sniff out your own bullshit, and this doesn't smell like it.) The club director I talked to was certainly disappointed, but I think generally understanding, and I know they'll find another coach. I'll still maintain the Web site for them.

I've never broken up with anyone, but I suspect it feels a lot like this. It makes me sad, but at the same time I feel like a weight has been lifted.

Hard stuff, morons and broken education

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 3, 2007, 11:52 PM | comments: 4

I have to do something really hard tomorrow. It makes me sad, but I know it's the right thing.

I spent two hours, mostly on hold, with morons that work for Time-Warner Cable. My connection has been dropping on and off over the course of the last day, and I haven't been able to isolate why. I finally got someone to transfer me to a "tier 3" tech who actually understood how the Internet works (the "tier 2" asked me what "operations system" I used). Obviously it's hard to troubleshoot an intermittent problem, but someone who understands the technology makes it easier for both of us to find a happy place. The guy explained what they were able to see at any given moment and he checked the network on their end. He theorized that my router, a Linksys known for crapping out, may be dying a slow death. That makes sense, since that's why I bought the Apple router because the wireless was dying. The problem now is, that's my land line phone connection to Vonage. It might be time to kill that service, as I only use it for the podcast once or twice a year.

Stephanie sent me a link to this video. It borders on being whiny (I'd know), but it makes a pretty strong point about how broken education is. There was one thing in there that struck me as, well, striking: "When I graduate I'll probably have a job that doesn't exist today." That's me. I can't imagine telling college me that I'd be doing a job that didn't exist at the time.

The world can be a fascinating place.

I'm not a whiny bitch, just figurin' it out

posted by Jeff | Monday, December 3, 2007, 12:11 PM | comments: 2

Carrie and I were chatting on IM about my general distraughtedness as of late (I made up a word!), and I told her that I was tired of being a whiny bitch. She said, correctly I believe, that everyone has their own reality, and that it's not fair to yourself to rate your distraughtedness against others'.

I guess I just feel overwhelmed right now, mostly by my own doing. I'm trying to work a day job, rebuild two Web sites, stick to this ridiculous volleyball schedule (I think it's the driving that has me loathing that most), enjoy the holidays, and have something resembling quality time with Diana, my cat, my hot tub and a video game now and then.

I suppose there is no getting around the fact that the next five months or so are going to be busy, and there isn't much I can do to change that. That said, I'm trying now to be more analytical about what it is that I need and want out of life. In the last two years I focused on what I need out of relationships, and I think now it's time to think about what I need professionally, and how it merges or lives apart from what I want to do for fun. Some overlap between the two would be ideal.

Here's what I know so far...

Writing code for a living works for me when the environment and opportunities are right. I mostly have that, though I don't like the 9-to-5 thing, and the commute is sucking my will to live (and do other stuff). Related to that, a part of me really wants to write another book.

In an ideal world, I'd work 20 hours a week just on things that are for me, and make enough to support Diana and I in a comfortable and well-traveled lifestyle. That's actually not that impossible, it's just hard and risky to make it happen, and I have an aversion to risk that just causes me to freeze up and not act.

My sites feel like a pain in the ass when I'm trying to rebuild them, but on a daily basis they're relatively easy to care for. They take care of me in terms of my computer equipment and education (books, software, etc.), and that's important.

Volleyball is important to me, but I'm not sure how it fits in my life these days. The next few months will be very telling in that respect.

I want to exercise and read more, but because those things are slightly less important to me, they get moved down the list and neglected.

In the back of my mind, I wonder if it's time for radical change in terms of location. Diana and I have talked about that in a very pie-in-the-sky kind of way. The only thing I remember is that we both like the Pacific Northwest, but she doesn't care much for Central Florida. :) I wonder too if that kind of change would really force a different perspective.

The movie making thing is still on my mind, and I even have a rough idea for another screenplay that is actually a combination of previous ideas. That's something I'd have to act on before any radical change, due to access to friends and Diana's acquaintances in theater and one of the local universities.

Most importantly, I want to just enjoy every moment. I want to create great moments large and small, and enjoy them. Last night we were curled up on the couch watching TV, and it was a great moment. I wasn't thinking about all of this stuff. This is the curse of being an emotional intellectual. :)


posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 2, 2007, 11:53 PM | comments: 2

The Intertubes came back on around 10:40, and we recorded the show. Gonch tells me this is the start of a big turnaround.

I noticed that work is online after moving the rest of the servers this weekend, so that's a good sign. Hopefully that means work is smooth sailing this week.

One problem at a time...

What did I do to piss off the world?

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 2, 2007, 10:27 PM | comments: 2

Seconds before trying to log on to Skype to do the podcast, my Internet connection died. Are you kidding me? I just called Gonch to let him know. Too bad I can't use the phone to do it!

It feels like the world hates me right now. Like Kasey Kasem, the hits keep on comin'!

Volleyball... when does the fun start?

posted by Jeff | Sunday, December 2, 2007, 9:46 PM | comments: 0

After the whole tryout fiasco, I feel like I can't get a break on this stuff. We practice three times a week, which strikes me as excessive, and I have to share the gym with 15's two of those days. That's pretty ridiculous for a national team, but whatever, I guess I just need to deal with it. The thing that concerns me more is the fact that they couldn't be much further away from where I live. I mean, we're talking almost a half hour away from work, and that's 40 minutes from my house!

I met the final team today, and they seem bright eyed and excited, though I'm concerned about the setting because those girls are not very outgoing (or tall). The truth is I don't recognize half of them because I didn't originally pick them. That was all post-tryout negotiation while I was in Orlando. It may be awhile before my mind is at ease.

All of this concerns me because this is supposed to be fun, and so far it's only been a pain in the ass. And of course, that makes me a little bitter about the whole Quicksilver breakup too because most of the time that was pretty easy.

I'm still trying to be optimistic because at the end of the day, it's supposed to be about the kids, and none of them strike me as lazy or satanic. :) Here's hoping things go OK these first two weeks.

A new low in funk

posted by Jeff | Saturday, December 1, 2007, 6:57 PM | comments: 0

I have been a shitty asshole all day, not feeling like myself. I haven't been in this much of a funk in awhile. I'm suffering from gastro-intestinal discomfort too, which I suppose could be brought on by the strange emotional issues.

Of course, it feels even more complicated when I try to nail it down, and convince Diana that I'm not crazy. How do you explain why you're in a funk to the person that brings the most joy to your life?

When I write like this, I tend to gain more perspective and understanding. The true reason for the funk is still not clear to me, but I think it's that the holiday season was a generally positive and consistent experience for me for the first 20 years or so of my life. Since then, they seem to have become a roller coaster and source of constant change. As much as I embrace the radical change in my life as being mostly positive, I long for a sense of comfort and familiarity. Comfort for me doesn't result in complacency, it results in motivation.

I'm more thankful than anything to have someone to lean on this year, especially someone that loves Christmas. I definitely need the help putting the cheer back into it.