Archive: November, 2008

Thanksgiving weekend blogmit

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 30, 2008, 9:00 PM | comments: 3

Time for a random brain dump!

Yesterday in the post-carpeting movement of stuff, we were left with some of my junk that I'd rather not put back into the upstairs closets. The "big closet" downstairs, which serves as a basement essentially since I've only got a crawl space, has a number of plastic tubs, so I figured I'd consolidate those that were upstairs into there.

With that came some discoveries, like some of my wedding photos, and a somewhat hilarious photo from shortly after Stephanie and I met. It was funny because of my hair, which Diana thought was kinda hot, making it all the more funny.

Also "found" was a big box of floppy disks. It was strange to find things like Norton Antivirus for Windows 95. I was hoping to find electronic versions of the stuff I wrote in college, but I don't think such things exist. Maybe on 5-1/4" floppies somewhere, and in some strange format. I have all the printed copies though, so I suppose I could OCR them. I'm not even sure why I'd like to have them.

I also found a huge cache of PC video games. Tomb Raider I through III, Myst and 11th Hour were among them. Also found were collections from the old Sierra Online classics, like Kings Quest, Space Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. I wonder if they'd even work on a modern PC, but it was neat to see them.

We saw Four Christmases yesterday. It was definitely entertaining, but probably forgettable. I like Reese Witherspoon with bangs. And yes, Kara's cat definitely has the same jaw line as her. What's with Vince Vaughn doing Christmas movies?

While at the mall, we ran into Jossie, one of my volleyball kids. She's a junior at OU now. I haven't seen her in a couple of years, aside from Facebook stalking. I really miss coaching.

We went to get Diana's engagement ring inspected today (they'll replace the stone if it falls out, provided you have it inspected every six months). Of course, it's insured anyway with supplemental insurance on my homeowners, but still.

While out there, we went over to Mustard Seed for lunch, but I'm really disappointed with their menu lately. They don't have a good chicken dish anymore. I used to love their burgers (organic beef was so much better). We ended up reverting to Macaroni Grill.

Mustard Seed did have a new flavor of Kettle Chips though... Spicy Thai. Holy crap are they good.

We're watching Elf on USA right now. Mostly because Zooey Deschanel is in it, and I dig her. She was cool in Hitchhiker's Guide too, and will be in that Jim Carey flick.

Home is... homey. Me, Diana and the cats, with soft carpet being squishy between our toes, the Christmas tree and a general warmth I haven't felt here in awhile. It's amazing what her touch does to the place!

Canon 5D Mark II in China

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 30, 2008, 10:33 AM | comments: 2

Wow... this is some of the most compelling video I've seen yet coming out of the new version of my camera...

I guess the remaining questions about it are, how do you do audio right, and is it clean to convert down to 24p.

Looking for my voice

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 30, 2008, 12:42 AM | comments: 0

Diana spent the evening putting up the tree and stringing the lights. We even got our first ornament up... fresh from the Walt Disney World. While she was working on that, we played some movies that we had not seen in awhile. First it was Mean Girls, then Clerks II.

After that, I watched the making-of doc on Clerks II. Yeah, it's long, and I've seen it before, but I really find the process fascinating, especially as it relates to the making of his prior movies and trying to figure out what exactly the movie was supposed to be. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that what Smith is getting at in the doc is that the movie was about getting back to doing whatever it is that you really love, which is exactly what he was doing in making that movie following the commercial and critical downfall of Jersey Girl (which, by the way, I thought was Afleck's best movie since Good Will Hunting).

Unlike my usual fascination with coming of age stories, this one is a, holy shit I'm in my thirties, what the fuck am I doing story. That's a fairly relevant thing for someone 35 and unemployed! It also gets me back to thinking about how much I want to make a film. What I have a hard time finding is my voice.

I suppose that someone who just met me could say, "Well just fucking write a script." But I have. I did it in 2004, and I submitted it to Project Greenlight and got very useful feedback. It was a year where I felt very empowered, blowing off a high paying contract gig to write my book and coach the shit out of my volleyball team that year. I wrote it in a couple of days, and it essentially told a somewhat fictionalized version of my journey to finally dating and believing I could be with someone. The movie is kinda all over the place, but it has a lot of my favorite dick-and-fart joke stories. The problem is that it's often too serious or too silly, and I don't feel like the characters are drawn well enough. It's like I was intentionally trying to combine a Cameron Crowe flick with American Pie. I think with some revisions it could be made, but I can't find the Project Greenlight feedback anywhere on my computer. It feels amateurish.

But my biggest fear is that making something autobiographical is both the easy way out (I don't have to invent as much) and the hardest thing to do (it has to measure up to my actual experience). I'd like to write something that's purely fiction, but I'm not sure if I have that in me. On the other hand, I think that Smith taking the pressure of a big Hollywood movie not being what he wants to do and translating that to the Clerks characters not doing what they truly want is a pretty good fictionalization of real things that he was feeling.

I think the biggest story that my voice wants to tell is one of my recovery from that very next year, after I wrote the screenplay and my book. To say that 2005 was, uh, rough, would be an understatement. My self esteem completely went into the crapper when Steph and I split. The interim story between then and now involved two significant, complicated relationships and several really strange, uh, encounters. The story "ends" with me meeting Diana, happy to meet her and also thankful for the experiences of the two prior years.

That's a story that I'd like to tell. To do so, I think it has to be simplified. Maybe elements of the relationships are written as one (though they were certainly very different), and maybe that has to be further distilled into the real point of the story: That others can help you realize all that you have to offer. I mean, the recurring theme in all of my non-trivial relationships has been that woman telling me I have so much love to offer, even if they weren't the right person for me. Maybe it's the reconciliation of the fact that the love doesn't guarantee success. The happy ending can't always be that you get the girl. It can, however, be the idea that you'll find her eventually.

In the mean time, maybe I need to do the short horror film I was thinking about. I mean shit, I can write ten pages, and find a couple of people to shoot it with. I don't know how creepy it would actually be, but expectations for that genre are generally pretty low anyway.

Fully operational battlestation

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 29, 2008, 12:13 AM | comments: 0

The carpet is in, and the house is fully operational again. There is still some stuff to move around, but it's 100% inhabitable. It's strange that after all this time, we can actually use every room and not worry about the smell.

The whole affair was not without its casualties, mostly from me injuring myself. My thumb was the first, then I stubbed my toes and actually cut the tops of them tripping over our bed frame. I suck at any kind of manual labor, and that bothers me to no end.

So between the self-inflicted wounds and the short temper from moving stuff around, Diana and I would at times get to each other a little. It was mostly me being a dick. I think we've finally found a specific instance where we clash a little. When there's a problem, she often wants to solve it by way of organization, while I want to do so by efficiency. The two approaches are often very opposite of each other. Fortunately these are instances that we move on quickly from, so by most couple standards, I think we handle it pretty well.

I'm thankful that we still have two days left in the weekend, and I'm hell bent on allowing myself to decompress and relax. No worrying about job hunting, the weather or whatever. Diana wants to put up her tree, and hopefully we'll be well on our way to new holiday memories. With new carpet smell.

An odd Thanksgiving

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 27, 2008, 11:52 PM | comments: 0

This has been a seriously odd Thanksgiving. Diana and I didn't go anywhere, which in a lot of ways was kind of nice. She cooked a Turkey breast and made some mashed potatoes (with skins) and we had a quiet dinner while catching up on some of our DVR'd shows.

For me, Thanksgiving always seemed like such a production. When I was younger, it was at my grandparents' house, with 20 some people sitting around the ping-pong table in the basement. For some reason, at my youngest, it was assumed that I didn't like turkey, and my grandmother would always make a hotdog for me. In retrospect, that's really odd, especially since today the only meat that I eat is poultry.

For a lot of family gatherings, when I was growing up, I always wanted to engage in conversation with the grown-ups. Maybe it was because there was nothing else to do, or maybe because I was a nerd. I'd listen carefully for anything subject that I could actually meaningfully contribute to, hoping for the attention. It certainly implies a lot about my personality.

When Stephanie came into my life, things changed a bit. By that time, my aunt and uncle lived down the street and would often host the big holiday gatherings. We were educated people doing interesting things (Steph was really educated), and some of the family took a great interest in us. Most still did not, and I think that's the reason I just feel so indifferent toward much of my family. It's not that I don't like them, I just feel like they didn't pay attention to me as a child. It was, in turn, hard for me to take an interest in their lives because many of them never seemed happy or willing to talk about anything.

Of course, it was easy to roll with my family compared to Steph's. I continually felt bad for her in every way because her relationships with her small family were almost continually fucked up. In a lot of ways, spending time with my family was like a reprieve for her. My fondest memories were of our private holidays, often with a couple of friends. We had a lot of good times together.

I think that's a part of why the holidays are still hard for me, because despite the sometimes difficult conditions, we had our own kind of normal, and it hurt a lot when I didn't have that anymore. My first Thanksgiving alone was truly alone. My second one was with Cath's family, which was one of those overwhelming situations that were hard to fit into (though her dad is easily one of the most interesting people you'll ever meet). Last year was the first with Diana and some of her Toledo family, and it was a small enough affair that it was easy to blend in. I still felt out of place, but it was certainly a warm and calm feeling.

This year, we spent a great deal of time pulling up the carpet and generally being miserable. The dust and pee smell at one point had me wheezing and struggling to breathe normally. A Zyrtec would eventually put me out cold once Diana started to cook. But eventually we got everything upstairs moved into one bedroom, and there is about 1,300 square feet of nasty carpet and pad in the garage.

The carpet replacement is a precursor to moving in the remainder of Diana's stuff, in part so her family has a place to sleep when they're here for Christmas. But one of the things this brings up is Diana's feeling that this isn't really her house. I've lived here since 2001, and frankly it doesn't feel like "our" space either. It's not that I have a heap of negative baggage or anything, as I spent a lot of years with one of the great loves of my life here. But with me and Diana starting a new life together, it's hard to do so when there are so many memories that are a part of this place. Moving in together, and now getting married, is like a reboot for my life. I guess I just want all aspects of it to be truly great.

So for all the negatives abound lately, I'm thankful first and foremost that this great person has been brought into my life. I'm thankful that I'm relatively healthy, if a little overweight. I'm thankful for the skills that I have acquired, and hope they get me back in the world of the employed soon. Above all, I'm thankful for my past and my future, and all of the people who have had incredible impact on me. I am largely a product of what those people have given me.

Operation carpet strip

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 27, 2008, 11:03 AM | comments: 2

Diana and I will be spending part of our Thanksgiving stripping the carpet from the rest of the house in preparation for the installers tomorrow. Yeah, I didn't think the scheduling through very well, but the nice thing is that when we wake up Saturday morning, it'll be like having a new house and we can relax the rest of the weekend.

I had one tragic accident, trying to move some shelves, one of them came loose and landed on my thumb. It's swollen and bruised. Doesn't really hurt though, so I'm hoping that I don't lose the nail, because that's six moths to a year of having a gimpy hand. I dropped an Anton-Bauer on my big toe once, and it was deformed for a long time.

We didn't really get that far last night. The stairs and the hallway are finished, and we got half way through one of the front bedrooms. The reason it took so long wasn't the carpet pulling, but moving stuff out of there. The hallway was another one of the super vulgar spots. Luna peed in this one spot between doors over and over.

What I'm concerned about now is that I'm out of Kilz, after getting a second can yesterday. Home Depot is closed today, obviously, so it looks like I'm going at 6 a.m. tomorrow. There are two spots I worry about in the master bedroom, and one in the living room. Installers are apparently pretty sensitive to animal soiling, so I want to avoid any drama.

I have no idea how I'm gonna pay for this at the moment, but I've got a year to worry about it. This is going to certainly change the house for the better, and as much as I wish I didn't live here anymore, at least it'll finally feel like I've reclaimed it from that poor cat.

No more green stuff

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 26, 2008, 3:06 PM | comments: 2

After at least 20 years, Schwan's seems to have discontinued their green fruity beverage. It's a sad day.

Xbox support is completely useless

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 26, 2008, 2:06 PM | comments: 5

Like so many other lucky folks, I have the red ring of death. And just in time, I suppose, since the warranty extension ends for me in January.

But I have to add my story about interacting with support the way everyone else does, because Microsoft really needs to be held accountable. The trouble began when I tried to open up a repair request online. It simply wouldn't let me, and told me to call. So I did, and that's where the failure continued.

I speak with what I call the "American broadcaster" English accent, in part because I started my professional life as a broadcaster, and in part because that tends to be the way people in my area speak. We all sound like news anchors! So why is it that these voice recognition phone systems suck at understanding me? They never get it right. I had the same problem last week with the dining reservation system at Disney World. Admittedly, it was comical that phone voice guy is made to try and sound vaguely hip, answering with a "hey" instead of hello.

What's even more amusing, at first, is that the guy at the call center in India is apparently instructed by his scripts to use the same casual hipster tone. It's hilariously bad. Anyway, at first he did the necessary check to see that it was the console and not the power supply, and then tried to put in a repair order. That's when things made another turn for the worse.

For whatever reason, they could not "validate" my address, and couldn't create the order. I've been getting mail and UPS packages here for seven years, so I'm pretty sure my house exists. So he asks me for an alternate address. What does that even mean? I'm out of work, so it's not like I could send it to a workplace. I tell him, no, I don't have another address, so figure it out. He comes back and says he can't do anything about it, I tell him to find someone who can. He tries to get rid of me again, so I tell him to make something happen. At this point, 30 minutes have passed, and I'm getting pretty pissed off. He comes back again and tells me to call back in a few seconds because "my system is updating and I can't generate a repair order."

This is the point at which I go ballistic. This jerk has been trying to get rid of me and I start dropping some four letter words. I've been patient as hell and he's not doing anything to help me. I tell him someone there can call me back when it's convenient for them, because I'm sure as hell not going to sit around on hold again like this. He very nearly hangs up (and I guess I would too, what with my sudden aggressive streak), when I ask him to put me through to someone who can actually help me.

Supervisor guy is just as useless, and wants nothing more than to get me off of the phone. I'm too pissed to be constructive at this point, so I hang up and accept that I just wasted 40 minutes.

I go back to the online request mechanism, and what do you know, now it works, which makes me wonder if they did something after all. I have a UPS tag and I'm sending it away.

I've been relatively apologetic about the high failure rate of the consoles, because aside from this I think the 360 is a pretty great system, especially with the NXE interface. The online service, Arcade and the developer farm system with XNA is brilliant. But support is still shit. I still can't use my real name on Xbox Live because it's a dirty word in their eyes.

In a lot of ways, the Xbox kingdom at Microsoft is representative of the company at large. Even within a specific division, there are these great wins just oozing with awesomeness, while some other area fails completely. It's like Xbox 360 vs. Vista, or Visual Studio vs. Hotmail. Sometimes it's amazing to think these products come from the same company.

Xbox 360 ultimate fail

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 26, 2008, 12:07 AM | comments: 10

I just can't catch a fucking break today...

Toxic fumes and installation failures

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 25, 2008, 9:08 PM | comments: 4

I lost too much time fucking around with that stupid DVR computer today. I should have given up earlier and started reinstalling. Backing up hundreds of gigs of unwatched shows to USB hard drives wasn't exactly going to go quickly, so I got that started and began the dreaded carpet pulling.

Two of the worst spots that Luna destroyed, not counting my former office/spare bedroom that I pulled up last year, were the two landings on the stairs. Even years later, her nasty pee smell would on occasion waft across the living room, given the right temperature and humidity. With the new installation coming Friday, I wanted to get that aired out. So I decided to do the two landings.

It was the most vile and disgusting thing I've ever done. The cheap pad with no lamination sucked that cat piss right up, and has been holding it there for a very long time. I wanted to throw up. My nose was running and I was coughing and it was not easy to keep it together. The tack strips had retained quite a bit of the nastiness too. Fortunately I have a tool designed to pry off the inside of a car door (needed it for my first car to change the locks) that works really well getting them up. Many of the pad staples had rusted to nothing, so pulling them out was not easy.

It was so bad that it didn't take long to realize that we couldn't occupy the house this way. I had a little of the old enzyme cleaner that neutrailzes the stink, so I sprayed that down. Then I went out to Home Depot to buy a mask and some Kilz spray paint to seal in whatever lingered. It worked pretty well on the upper landing, but I may need another coat on the lower one.

Meanwhile, the DVR reinstall seemed to fail at every turn. First I couldn't use my USB keyboard so I couldn't "press any key" to boot from the optical drive. Then the DVD I had for XP was failing, so I had to burn another from my MSDN image. Then once XP was installed, I couldn't get the driver to install for the wireless card. I screwed around with that for a good two hours before I just plugged the ethernet into my laptop and shared its connection, just so I could get BeyondTV up and running. Five minutes into House and NCIS, I had it finally recording from the HD and cable tuners. I still need to get the network issue figured out, plus get the USB HD tuner up.

On a positive note, some good old-fashioned technology, my snow blower, worked like a champ. Primed the fuel, made one pull and it started right up. I was shocked. I figured the oil and gas mixture would be like glue. I poured in the last of the mixture, which I think I mixed about two years ago now. The five gallons or whatever went a very long way.

If I don't get to work soon, I'm going to be completely batty. I need to get out of the house in the worst way.

DVR meltdown

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 25, 2008, 1:51 PM | comments: 0

My BeyondTV DVR has had a total meltdown. Last night I tried updating to the new version, and it hosed it completely. It can't tune over-the-air HD channels, and trying the obvious reinstall of the app and the drivers has only hosed it worse. I screwed around with it all morning.

The good news is that I haven't lost any recorded shows, but who knows if I can get things working again before it has to record tonight. I did lose all of my recording settings, and that blows.

So why do I still use this thing after five years? One word: "SmartSkip." It finds the commercials, and you skip them with one button. It obviously works far better than the standard Scientific Atlanta DVR as well because it's smart enough to know what's new, has moved time slots, what's a repeat, what you missed because of a conflict, etc. It's relatively great software. I just don't understand what happened here.

I hate dicking around with computers like this, and I especially detest reinstalling Windows. Admittedly, there's a good three years of Windows rot on that machine, so that's likely part of the problem. I finally decided about an hour ago to backup the recorded shows (slowly, because they're about 120 gigs), and do a clean install. What a waste of time. I should be ripping up carpet. Or snow blowing.

Jeff and Diana's future

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 24, 2008, 6:04 PM | comments: 2

Presented in glorious HD... :)

Kitteh abandamint ishyewz

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 24, 2008, 11:15 AM | comments: 1

The cats are clearly not happy about us being gone for a week. They're being really needy and shadowing us all over the place. Cosmo hasn't been too far from me since we got home. The boys have never been far away from Diana either. Gideon in particular, she says, has abandonment issues from the three months she was in Florida a couple of years ago when her mom was sick. It's strange how they remember.

Totally out of order

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 23, 2008, 11:52 PM | comments: 0

Real life back in the cold of Cleveland has been a complete shock to the system, for both of us. Diana woke up last night with the room spinning, and hoping to head it off, retired to the couch try and sleep sitting up. On the positive side, she gets the difference between vertigo dizzy and headache dizzy. On the other hand, this was vertigo dizzy.

As for me, I slept like crap, gained five pounds over the week and hit with the harsh reality that I need to find a job. I'm not in danger of financial ruin or anything, but I need to be booking the honeymoon now, and I don't want to do it on credit. I have a lot of anxiety about that. Diana insists that we can put off the honeymoon if need be, but I absolutely don't want to do that. I want to celebrate getting married when we get married!

I'm all behind on posting news to CoasterBuzz, which made me suck with the podcast. I need to do some house cleaning, schedule the carpet install, remove the old carpet, etc. I got another recall notice for my car (power window motor coupling replacement), so I need to get that taken care of. I just feel a little overwhelmed right now, and find it difficult to just break stuff down into smaller tasks.

Today I just played in escape mode by playing Lego Batman. Then we watched some TV, including the 24 prequel. Diana wasn't in good enough shape to do much of anything today, so this was just the out of order kind of day we were going to have no matter what.

On a positive note, there might be some video contract work for me this week. I'm really hoping that comes together. I'd really enjoy some old-school video work!

Reflections of a Disney vacation

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 22, 2008, 4:26 PM | comments: 0

I went through a period of many years, well, a good portion of my adult life, hating on Disney for no particular reason other than it was Disney. I perceived the company as a giant marketing machine that consumed people and their money. Maybe that's actually true, but I can't pretend that Disney's product is not a significant portion of my cultural experience, and a great deal of it is of high quality.

My prior experience with Disney included a trip as a small child, once in high school and once with Cath a couple of years ago. Stephanie and I also did a whirlwind through three of the parks (those with coasters) earlier in the decade on a one-day trip free on behalf of a friend of her grandparents, who was a carpenter at Disneyland in the 70's. I also went in February of this year for a certain project that isn't done. So going with Diana was going to be entirely new for her, and I was hoping to do many of the things I had not before. And there sure was a lot I had never seen.

It's strange, because you enter a manufactured alternate reality literally from the time you check your bags at your airport. It's a lot of fun to indulge in that fantasy. I've found that there are several different kinds of experiences you can have there as an adult without children. Some are more intimate (Spaceship Earth, dinner at the better restaurants, "driving" the monorail, etc.), while others you share with thousands of people at a time (Lights, Motors, Action!, Illuminations and such). It's quite a variety.

It also leaves you exhausted. Mind you, we weren't trying to do everything we possibly could, but we did pretty much everything we wanted in the eightish days without rushing around or having some kind of grand plan. You still end up going for about 14 hours at a time or more. As much as we thought about going back to the hotel for a break, we only did it once (on the last day). It was not busy at all, at least, but Disney standards.

It's also worth mentioning that me and Diana felt like we were child shopping. I know that sounds weird, but we're in our 30's and a little late in getting the whole family thing started. Every little redheaded girl we pretty much imagined could be our own. Of course, we saw our share of poor parenting too, which is scary. But today, on our last day on a bus, we ran into a woman in her 40's and it was clear she got a late start with her five-ish girl, and said that it was absolutely the right thing to do.

We had a number of goofy "us" things that developed too. For example, riding Spaceship Earth became a bit of a sport. With no wait, why not? Our goal was to get the various combinations of video options at the end of the ride to see all of the ways they could animate our head shots (you'll likely see them on YouTube eventually). We even did it once in French, which just wasn't the same since it isn't Judy Dench narrating.

I mistakenly told Diana about the hidden Mickey's, which is the wrong thing to do for someone who gets a little OCD. But she found at least two in Spaceship Earth, once of which was non-obvious from most angles.

Soarin' was the big surprise of the trip. I figured it just another stupid simulator film, but we loved it (three times). One of the most relaxing times I've ever had on a ride. I thought it was exceptionally brilliant.

The food was pretty amazing most of the time. Make no mistake, the dining plan is an enormously good deal. Our biggest bill was $91 for one meal. Consider again that the hotel plus meal plan for two was $140/night (with annual pass discount), so I felt we really got the most out of it we could. Unfortunately, the service at Marrakesh is still terrible, but damn is the food good.

Our Segway tour was also a serious highlight. I want one. Or two.

I'm sure there are many things that I'm not thinking of right now, but we had a great time. We're exhausted, but in a good way. In the eight days, we went to Epcot six, studios three, Magic Kingdom two and Animal Kingdom two. I think it'll be at least two years before we do it again. I definitely got the most out of my annual pass, especially with the discounts on the room, dining plan, tours and merchandise.

Photos are forthcoming...

Mouse update

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 20, 2008, 11:30 PM | comments: 1

We're fortunate that Diana's issues mostly cleared up by Tuesday morning. We started our day early with the Segway tour at Epcot. It turns out that we were the only people registered for the early session. It was just us and the guides. The Segway is incredibly easy to ride. It's like a natural extension of your body. They have them limited to 6 mph, but I'd love to try one opened up! The truth is, I'd love to own one.

After the tour, we spent about four hours at IAAPA. I didn't get to see everyone I would have liked to see, which is a bummer. If you've been to one, you've been to most. One real highlight was what I can only describe as a personal Top Spin for two from Moser Rides. You could control the rotation and braking with a joystick. A Dippin' Dots guy tried to get us selling their product.

We spent the rest of that afternoon at Magic Kingdom and did several major rides. From there we went to Epcot again for dinner. Most of Wednesday was spent at the studios, where "Chompers" the dancer is still in the HSM show. Trying to get to Downtown Disney from most places is a pain in the ass. Fantasmic isn't a very good show. Too much video.

Today we started at Magic Kingdom and did a ton of stuff. There are a ton of classic attractions there, some of which I did for the first time. I swear we find ourselves "kid shopping" out there. Every kid not screaming for attention gets the aren't they cute comments. Grown up moments are largely made at Epcot, but Magic Kingdom is all about family moments.

We ended up at Epcot again for dinner, and made friends while copiloting the monorail again. We did Soarin' again, which is a wonderful and relaxing ride. We also filled in the gaps by seeing the China Circlevision film. We saw the Canadian-Celtic band Off Kilter, which was pretty awesome. We finally saw Illuminations from the midway too.

One bummer is to see all of the holiday prep, but not see the actual event. Diana loves Christmas, in part because she stage managed A Christmas Carol for several years. Speaking of shows, I really liked Fesitval of The Lion King.

That's all for now. Got an early morning ahead!

Diana drives the monorail

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 4:13 PM | comments: 2

Rockin' the Segway

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 11:50 AM | comments: 2

Suboptimal vacation experience

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 17, 2008, 10:08 PM | comments: 3

Today was a strange day. Ever feel like things are going on around you and completely not within your control? That was today.

The morning started out normal enough, though I felt weird not having breakfast. We rolled to the convention center, paid the rip off ten bucks for parking (seriously, when is IAAPA gonna start paying speaker for this?), and headed inside. As is typically the case at these things, I get sucked into the world of people I know or people who'd like to chat, and before you know it, I've more or less lost Diana. She was OK with that, hoping to do some knitting or whatever.

My job was to try and rope in the featured speaker, Peter Shankman, to help relate to the IAAPA audience. But really, I don't think he needed to be roped in. The guy is intense and to the point, and I think he made a very clear point to the marketers in the audience that they need to understand the world that's happening around them with regard to "social media." Looking at the body language in the audience, some people seemed energized, others insulted. The amusement industry, much of it anyway, is a little slow believing in technology.

I noticed Diana got up about 20 minutes in and left the room. Turns out she was having all kinds of pressure issues in her head, and that was bringing on dizzy. Not good. She called the doctor's office at the clinic right away. Somehow they failed to get back to her, either the doctor, nurse or whatever. The hope was that they could call in a prescription down here. Diana is understandably concerned that if she can't get the headaches and other things under control, this won't be much of a vacation for her.

So we pressed on anyway, and abandoned the Universal thing, seeing as how we've been there a bunch of times already anyway. Originally we hoped to spend a couple of hours at Animal Kingdom and then roll to Magic Kingdom since they had extended hours, but that wasn't meant to be. We got to AK and saw Festival of The Lion King and the Nemo musical, and then went to Epcot for eats.

The upside of the dining plan is that the savings is pretty great. Typically the table service, counter service and snacks add up to around $120 or so. Considering that the hotel and dining plan for the two of us is around $140 a night, that's a pretty good deal (the annual pass discount sure helps). The downside is that the decent places to eat are all in Epcot or the nicer hotels. The hotels can be a pain in the ass to get to, depending on where you are. We were scoping out Magic Kingdom, and it's like there isn't a damn place to go for table service.

In any case, we ended up returning to Epcot and had dinner at Marrakesh in Morocco. Out-fucking-standing food there, but again, the service blows. I really feel the food there is one of the best kept secrets (and one of the easiest places to get a reservation for), but I don't get how the service can be so crappy.

After dinner, we returned to the hotel, by 8:30 or so. With a long day tomorrow, starting with the Epcot Segway tour, the IAAPA show opening, and hopefully, some Magic Kingdom time, Diana wanted to take no chances. I'm kind of feeling wiped out too, but mostly because the stress of the last few weeks. I'm excited as hell to be here, but haven't been able to 100% let go and enjoy myself.

Crossing my fingers that we both feel more like ourselves tomorrow. I think a solid night of rest will be good for both of us.

And by the way, it's really fucking cold down here!

A fun day fo sho!

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 17, 2008, 12:41 AM | comments: 0

Our second day on vacation was pretty cool. I can't sleep because I'm still processing it (and a little buzzed).

We thought we would go to Magic Kingdom, but with it being the weekend figured we would delay that. Went to Disney Hollywood Studios instead, where it happened to be Super Soap Weekend. People go nuts for it! But testing Diana's vertigo issues, we successfully rode Tower of Terror and RnR.

We ran into Skydiving Jeff and a couple of his friends, and did Toy Story Mania. Verdict: Awesome! Seriously, I thought, who cares, another shooting game. This wasn't that at all! We loved it! We were able to do a couple of other minor things before leaving, and headed back to the room for a bit.

We returned to Epcot for dinner at Marrakesh, and it was awesome. Seriously, the Disney Dining Plan is an enormously good value. From there, we had to get to Downtown Disney, and the Epcot back entrance got us to the Beach Club and therefore the appropriate bus.

We met Kara and Dan at the Irish joint. Had much cider. Kara said she felt so grown up meeting friends while traveling. I made fun of her at the time, but it's totally true! We had good times, and Diana got to give her the scarf and hat she made.

IAAPA next two mornings.

More fun

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 16, 2008, 5:05 PM | comments: 1

Disney World is more fun than I remember. Probably because Diana is more like a kid than anyone else I know!

Work no, vacation yes

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 14, 2008, 7:36 PM | comments: 2

OK, so I'm still a little bummed out about the Uni... I mean... major theme park job thing. I should have known better. I randomly wrote the CIO, who had HR call me, who started signing me up for interviews without even telling me what the position was for. Then they show me the posting, and it sounds like something completely outside of my skillset (anything with "AS/400" in the description is likely not something I'm qualified for). They assure me no, it's just a blanket description. Then I talk to an actual technologist, and they figure out what I suspected all along... it's not my thing.

But I had it all built up in my mind about how cool it might be, so now I have the sense of disappointment that goes with it. That's crappy.

On a more positive note, I got a call from ICOM yesterday asking if I could help them out on a consulting basis. Someone asked why I would want to do that, having been laid-off, but given that I know the systems and the people, why would I not? I was pretty excited about it, but with the timing of the vacation, I wasn't sure what I could do for them. Unfortunately, not much this time, but I'm hoping there's more available next month. It's nice to work with people who have a clue, and not through a f'ing staffing firm.

So with that all processed and blogited (blog-vomit), I'm ready for my vacation now.

No interview in Orlando

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 14, 2008, 12:42 PM | comments: 0

Well, the "major theme park" that wanted to interview me confirmed what I was worried about in the first place... that they were trying to get me into a position totally outside of my skillset. The job mostly required someone with Peoplesoft and other ERP integration experience. I kinda set the tone early on to let them know, hey, I'm a .NET developer, but they kept pushing on and scheduled a half-dozen interviews. I think they finally connected the dots.

But on the upside, that means that aside from the IAAPA obligations, next week is all vacation.

Red announcement wasn't that exciting

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 14, 2008, 12:01 AM | comments: 0

The fans of the Red One camera have been all aglow with excitement for today's announcement of what they were planning for the Scarlet and Epic models. The idea was that they were changing what they planned to do because Nikon and Canon were suddenly recording HD on their SLR's (well, Canon is, while Nikon is recording something that looks like Jell-O® in motion).

So today they unveiled the new system. While there's little doubt in my mind that these are going to be great cameras, I expected that they'd also break down the price barrier. There are 200 pages of posts on just stroking all each other to death because they're so excited. I get it... but a good rig will still cost $10k. That's disappointing.

What makes the Canon 5D Mark II most incredible is that it's using a 21 megapixel sensor that's a full 35mm size. When scaling all of that down to 1080p, that means there's virtually no noise at any light. That's staggering. You need the $12k Red Scarlet for that sensor size (though admittedly, you can shoot up to 6k resolution, which is absurd). The Canon isn't perfect, of course, since audio support is meh and you can only shoot 30 fps (not 24), but still.

I think what Red is doing is a huge kick in the nuts to Panavision and Sony, and that's awesome. That the Red One can do what it does, 4k for under $30k (for a realistic package), is truly great, and pro film folks have really responded to that. But I guess if I wanted a more serious camera, I'd probably score a P2-based, shoulder mount camera like the HPX-500, which comes in under $20k with a lens.

I'm very curious to see if Canon will have the good sense to adapt what they've done with the 5D Mark II and migrate it to their video line. That would be impressive.

Upgraded Parallels

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 11:09 PM | comments: 5

Parallels Desktop 4.0 came out today, and although 3.0 was working fine for me, I decided to upgrade right away after reading some initial reactions. At $40, it didn't strike me as a horrible expense.

The first thing that sold me was that it finally supported multiple CPU's. My Mac Pro has four, so naturally I thought it'd be nice to give my Windows XP VM a little more processing power. There's actually a setting now to let the app manage resources for you, but I'm not sure I entirely trust that. Regardless, the usual combination of Visual Studio, SQL Server and such is visibly a little more snappy. I notice ReSharper Intellisense acting faster in particular.

With the initial reports of some speed differences, I admit that I had a silly desire and hope... that RollerCoaster Tycoon 2, in all of its 2002, sprite based assembler glory, would run more smoothly. Before, it was very choppy, almost to the point of not being fun. But what do you know, it runs better than it ever did on my PC's of that era. I'm pleased.

Apparently the upgrade can potentially hose shared Boot Camp/Parallels partitions, but I don't have that setup. So I'm pleased with the little tweaks. The UI is prettier too. The whole product feels more polished.

Still paying for Luna

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 8:10 PM | comments: 1

We ordered the carpet today to replace the living room, stairs and bedrooms. Another 1,200 square feet or so, and that'll mean all of the carpet in the entire seven-year-old house will be replaced. And it'll only cost $2,900. Sigh.

Luna really hosed the place, and I can't believe I'm still paying for it more than a year and a half after her passing. I loved that cat to death, but now I appreciate more than ever the extent of the damage. And how fucking cheap Pulte was with the original crap.

Still, it's long overdue. My former office has been carpet free since June of last year. It's that time of year also where you can that slight pee smell from the stairs. We need to move Diana's remaining furniture so family and friends have a place to sleep when they visit (though not because her house is sold, which sucks).

As with anything else right now, I just hate that the timing is what it is. But at the same time, I can't really do anything about it, so I guess I just need to roll with it. I know I'll be a lot happier once it's done.

Being a bystander in your own life

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 1:10 PM | comments: 4

The Draeger says:

Just as how I had to re-train myself when it came to eating and not assuming it automatically meant future pain, I now have to start taking charge again in life. People around me are still okay with writing off laziness, procrastination, or apathy on my part as me simply “not feeling well.” That’s no longer the case however. So, really, not only do I need to re-train myself, I also need to make sure those around me are once again okay with kicking my ass when necessary.

I sure can relate to that. I feel a little beat down right now. But the thing is, I didn't recently have my large intestine ripped out, so I feel like I don't have any good excuse for being a lazy sit-around douche. I keep waiting for something to happen and then begin to cower in fear as soon as I feel as though it might. That's fucked up.

Feeling closer to normal, jobs, W., cars

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 12:31 AM | comments: 0

I think we've both turned a corner after weeks of feeling not right. Diana had her third and final infusion today and feels very nearly normal. We actually had some good laughs and such today. She's been very supportive too. Then I had even more reassurance from a close friend. I finally feel like I'm restoring perspective on life.

That Orlando job thing is a long shot, but what feels good about it is that I had the idea to ask for it. That's what it's really about when it comes to career, asking for what you want. A lot of the time, you actually get it. I could be totally out of my element, much in the way I felt at Microsoft, but I'll give it a whirl. They don't pay for re-lo and the pay rates sound low. And I have to interview on vacation, which is troubling.

I went out and saw W. this afternoon, and while the story "interpretation" was a bit much at times, the performances were knock down amazing. Josh Brolin nails it. Elizabeth Banks can actually act, well, given good material (though I hope she never stops doing dick-and-fart joke movies). Richard Dreyfuss as Dick Cheney is just creepy good. Oliver Stone was I think genuine when he said that the movie didn't paint Bush as an idiot. Instead, it paints him as a guy never good enough for daddy, and one easily influenced by people around him. If nothing else, it reminds you what a cluster fuck of a war this has been, and the outright lies that it was predicated on.

Diana's car is still f'd up. She took it in a couple of weeks ago to have the fuel pump replaced as part of a recall. But the recall caused another problem, and it's still not right. Freaked me out last week when I was driving her to work and it simply stopped working. Wouldn't start. So the car is back at the dealer tonight, and I'm gonna be a shut-in tomorrow. Hooray!

Magic on the way

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 11:49 PM | comments: 4

Where the magic happens, in just four and a half short months. (Note the Princess on the dock. :))

A good volleyball dream, and a random job thing

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 9:44 AM | comments: 3

I've been having some pretty crappy dreams lately (save for a sex dream the night before last), but the one I had this morning was totally turned around. I was on a volleyball team, instead of coaching it. The team was playing with no intensity, and I tweaked out completely in the huddle because I was so annoyed. One of the girls, one that in real life I had a lot of issues with, chilled me out and reassured me that we were going to go in and kick ass. After her pep talk, the coached subbed us in. The process of going in was so surreal and vivid. I woke up at about that time, but had the rush of getting to play in an intense situation, and it felt really good.

Anyway, I randomly sent e-mail to a certain theme park's CIO since I learned what her name was. She had me send a resume, and I'm going to interview with them when I'm in Orlando. Ha! How random is that? Sometimes you just have to ask for things.

POP Forums v8 released

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 11, 2008, 12:14 AM | comments: 2

After it has been running for nearly a year, and with parts of it rewritten in that time span, I've decided to release POP Forums v8 into the wild and see what happens.

So what's the delay, and what's my problem? Well, there are three issues that have made me unsure about releasing it into the wild.

The first is that I'm not sure what to do with it. Do I sell it, give it away, sell support services... I wasn't sure. Remember that this is an app that I've always built for my own use. Trying to package it up for others makes it more complicated, as you start second guessing how it might be used. At the end of the day, I decided I'd let it go, code available for download, and a request for $95 if you want to use it in production. Honestly, if I sell once license in a year, that's good enough for me.

The second problem is one of code worry. I've got 12,000 lines of code that has been written on and off for the past four years. Some of it is good, some of it is not. By putting it out there, I'm subjecting myself to public code review. At the end of the day, I realize that's probably not a bad thing. Besides, it is what it is. I'm not expecting to make a living from it. It is funny though how internally you'll let some things be suboptimal or a little messy, but the moment you have to show it to someone else you bring yourself to a higher standard. God knows I wouldn't write any of it today the way I did four years ago. I've never really spent a lot of time trying to invent a smooth installation process either.

The biggest issue has always been time. That became less of an issue when I got laid-off in July, and enjoyed a good ten weeks of "me time." When I rebuilt CoasterBuzz around v8, I realized that it was a pretty good app that was meeting my needs. Even if I can't extensively support it or do new builds and features every day, it may still have a great deal of value to some people. It makes sense to get it out there.

So there it is. This app, in its many iterations, has been with me now for nine years. It has always been a little ahead of what I needed, and an odd combination of my skill levels over that entire time. I'm confident in what it can do, and I hope that there are others who find it useful as well.

Morning at the Clinic

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 10, 2008, 9:38 AM | comments: 3

Diana woke me up at 6:30 this morning to go the Cleveland Clinic for another round of IV drugs. The steroids did help keep the headache in check for the weekend, but when she got up this morning she felt there was some regression.

It took a good 40 minutes to get my comprooder to connect to the Wi-Fi here. Not sure what's up with that. My iPhone had no problem. There have been updates to OS X that have made better and made worse the wireless connectivity over the last few years. I think something recently went back the other way, and I've seen complaints of it regarding the new models. That's frustrating.

Anyway, I had about six hours of sleep after staying up talking to the podcast boys until around midnight. I haven't been sleeping well because of the general work issues and the anxiety that comes with it. Mike and I talked quite a bit about the life of a software developer, and the conditions you seek when doing it for a living. That was good perspective, and we traded stories about things we've encountered.

While I generally feel like I slept pretty well last night (though a nap is certainly in my future), Diana says I yelled out "No!" around 4 a.m. I do remember now that I had a dream that I was working for ABC (the network) to report on some kind of war conflict. It seemed like some kind of tropical location though. Anyway, there was serious danger and I wanted nothing to do with it, so I was getting irate with the boss at the location while dodging bullets. Then someone had taken my phone, wallet and wedding ring, and I suspected a former boss had taken them. No idea how that all connected, but obviously I was still feeling some anxiety about going to a job that I wanted nothing to do with.

In the general sense, I feel pretty good now that I'm finally awake. A lot of it has to do with working Diana's problems, the proximity of our vacation and some of the prospects popping up. I need to give myself some credit in that respect, because I have been working the problems now for a couple of weeks. I feel like I'm getting my shit together after a strange two months or so.

A couple of pharmaceutical reps from GlaxoSmithKline just sat down here. Why do I feel like these guys are the scum of the earth? I've admittedly not spent a lot of time studying the issues surround health care (when you do have good coverage, really, who cares?), but I get the impression that this industry, for all that it does to help people, is also the source of many of its problems.

That's this morning's dose of random.

OMG friend me (JP Lifestyle Manifesto #4)

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 9, 2008, 11:17 AM | comments: 2

I was reading a column in Wired about friends and social networking, when I started to think about the role that friends play in my life. It's something that has evolved a great deal in my life.

But before I get into that, I should mention that I'm still very particular about who I accept as a friend on Facebook. For the most part, I don't "friend" anyone I don't know or at least have some meaningful exposure to. In the early days it was almost entirely volleyball kids, since they were the only ones who could use Facebook at first. After very slow adoption, the kids were superseded by coworkers and former classmates. I'm still only around 160, and that's cool.

But who are your friends, really? Friends have never been that different than family to me in terms of being people you can rely on. Similarly, you can't do much else than accept them for who they are. There's often a mismatch in what you expect to get out of friendship, and it's sometimes too easy to be hurt by that.

I'm the first to admit I'm not very good at keeping up my end of the bargain on friendships. I also find it difficult to maintain a large array of them. It's easy to have hundreds of people I know, but the number I consider close friends is very small.

What seems less a factor is distance, and we can thank the Internet for that. It kills me that I haven't seen Mike and Artemisa now in two years, but we do talk now and then when we do the podcast. I went about a year without seeing Kara, the longest time probably since we met, but again technology makes it possible to keep up. Tim and family we often miss completely in the winter. But even when people are near by, like my cousins Dave and Niki, who are the most geographically close relatives I have, the time can get away from you and you realize it has been awhile.

A lot of people that you think are friends tend to disappoint you, or you realize that they have some other motive. A lot of people just want something from you. You see this more through working situations than anything else.

The best friendships come from lovers, girl/boyfriends (I prefer the girls) and spouses. I'm grateful for the intensity and love that I've experienced in that realm. I never take that for granted, because I know there are a lot of people who never have those experiences. I can say it's happened to me four times. It's humbling and amazing.

Friendships come and go, and that's just life. I used to generally subscribe to the idea that you experienced significant changes every four years or so, and as you go from one era to the next, few people transition from one to the next.

At the end of the day, I find it compelling to summarize friendship in principle #4 of the J-Pizzie Lifestyle Manifesto:

"Friendship is what you make it, with great joy and disappointment, and with the excellent knowledge that you're always making great memories. Seek more of those experiences."

Live comfortably, now, and in the future (JP Lifestyle Manifesto #3)

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 8, 2008, 3:36 PM | comments: 1

It's funny how the first 48 hours after learning I'm without new income I'm a bit of a machine in opportunity seeking. The thing that's particularly different these days is that I'm far from starving or taking on all kinds of debt. I'm still in a pretty good cash flow position until mid-January, assuming no leads. But I do have leads, so for now it's all about enjoying this month's vacation.

But I've spent a lot of time being reflective of my prior days and careers and how money fits into the whole scene. Shortly after college, I remember there was some amount of tension between Stephanie and I because, once on my own, I felt like I was keeping us both afloat and it seemed unfair. I didn't like myself very much back then for acting that way, and we nearly broke up at the time. But I eventually got a decent job and I promised not to let that kind of feeling get the best of me, knowing full well that I was dating/marrying someone who would be in school for quite a few years to come.

Then I had my dotcom windfall from the sale of, and I was working in my first true Internet job, getting paid pretty well. Really, from that point on, even with some depressing layoffs and such, we always lived pretty comfortably. Post-divorce, that became even more true, especially as a single guy. The comfort that came with my income became most apparent around my birthday in July of 2006. Cath and I had just started dating, and I figured, what the hell, let's go party in Vegas. She pointed out at the time that she had dated guys who bought a lot of stupid shit to compensate for something, whereas I was willing to spend money for experiences, like taking someone I just met on a trip. Sure enough, that ranks as one of my favorite vacations of all time. It wasn't the last time I bought plane tickets for a companion either.

I have my gadget lust, sure, but I feel like I've reached a pretty good understanding with myself about the importance of money as it pertains to the lifestyle I want to have. Cars and houses remain unimportant, so long as they're reliable and practical. Status luxury objects in general aren't important to me. Beyond basics, I like to have enough money to go out to eat a lot, as in local joints around ten bucks a plate, buy music, books and movies when I feel like it, travel at least every other month with nice hotels and be generally comfortable. That's not really as expensive as you'd think. What's left over, I want to save. (That's the one minor point of not working right now, is that I haven't hit my max IRA contributions this year.)

You have to look at the other side of that equation though. You obviously have to do some kind of work to generate that income. I've known the potential of six-figure income now for years, but I've only followed through on it twice. The reason is that the rest of the time I felt as if I were giving up some part of my soul to achieve it. I've met a lot of people like that, stressed out constantly, always looking for some milestone and never being satisfied. Those people are miserable. I first encountered it on a consulting job, and after five months stopped and asked myself what the hell I was doing. I quit and wrote a book for a couple grand, and it was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. The money isn't important if I have to be unhappy to get it.

And so I've determined the third point of the J-Pizzie Lifestyle Manifesto:

"Balance your life with career and money to find the sweet spot that gives you the comfort and adventure you require, without the expense of damaging your soul."

Gamestop is dirty

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 8, 2008, 11:50 AM | comments: 1

I wanted to get rid of Tomb Raider Anniversary because it was absolutely terrible. Legends was a lot of fun, even if it was short, so I don't know how they managed to get this one so wrong, especially since it was a "reimagining" of the first game from way back in 1996.

Anyway, I took it to Gamestop to get some credit for Lego Batman. First issue is that they wanted a phone number and all kinds of crap, and I argued with them. They suggest it was Ohio law with regard to pawning crap, which I think is bullshit because The Exchange never asked me for any of that. Anyway, I fed them a bad phone number and left it at that. I got $6.75 for it, which is at least something.

But later, after I got over the feelings of being rid of the game, I started to realize that it's not a very good deal for me. With tax, I only saved about $3.50 compared to buying it from Amazon with free shipping. Plus, they'll tack on $30 and sell it used at an enormous profit. That doesn't feel good either. I know that's how the place stays in business at all, since there's virtually no margin on new games, but it still doesn't feel right.

If I buy Rock Band 2, it'll be from Aamazon.

Private Obama photos

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 8, 2008, 11:35 AM | comments: 0

The campaign photog posted photos from throughout election night on Flickr...

I can't even imagine what was going through any of their heads at the time, especially the kids. Imagine you're a little kid and your dad is about to be elected the president. I don't know how you'd get your head around that as an adult, let alone a kid.

And by the way, since it hasn't been said before (sarcasm), his kids are adorable.

How to behave on a forum

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 7, 2008, 8:24 PM | comments: 0


We totally need to do something like this for our sites.

Diana's vertigo: the revenge

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 7, 2008, 7:38 PM | comments: 3

Diana started out the week struggling with the vertigo issues again. She did the maneuvering to get the crystals rolled around to the right places where they can harmlessly dissolve, then she slept upright again for two nights, as prescribed.

But she continued to suffer from a headache and dizziness... all week. I don't know how she can function like that. Regardless, she called Dr. Neil Cherian at the Cleveland Clinic and got in to see him today. Again, we're surprised that the diagnosis is not as simple or straight forward as you'd expect.

Chances are good that she did have the nasty positional vertigo issues prior to the maneuvering to get the crystals moving, but the web of symptoms lead to other problems. In this case, the doctor first checked to see if she did in fact have the "stones" floating about. The way to truly diagnose this is to observe what the eye does when the head is positioned or quickly moved. He straps a goggle contraption to her head that has a camera and lights over the eye, and he views the eye on a monitor. He then manipulates her head in certain positions, and does a quick motion that reminds me of a forceful baptism. The things her eye did were strange, but apparently not symptomatic of the BPPV. Remember that the ear, eyes and muscles in the neck are all working with the brain to try and normalize or counteract dizziness, regardless of the cause so observing the eye tells the story of what it's trying to achieve.

He concluded there were no stones floating about in her ear, but the migraine experience was likely caused by the last bout of true vertigo. These kinds of headaches can even perpetuate themselves for extended periods of time and, oddly enough, cause dizziness. Throw in the normal changes of hormone levels at the end of the menstrual cycle, and it only aggravates the situation. So yeah, vertigo caused dizzy caused migraine caused dizzy. I'd never even consider that line of thinking. This guy is brilliant at conducting diagnostics and putting together the puzzle.

Anyway, the treatment is to get her head chemically right and break the headache. That involved about two hours on an IV with three different drugs. She's supposed to do it Monday and Tuesday as well if she does not improve, and is on a steroid for the weekend.

For as much as I'm down on Cleveland lately, and strongly desire to get the hell out, I can't help but be continually impressed at the resources and talent associated with the Cleveland Clinic. Frankly, if it weren't for the organization, Cleveland would be pretty much useless. And while there, I was able to use their wi-fi with my iPhone to mess around, and I'll likely bring my laptop if she goes back next week.

More than anything, I just hope Diana can get back to being herself. We're both not having the greatest time with life lately, and desperately seek some level of normalcy. I'm hoping this gets her to a better place sooner than later.

Out in the market... again

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 6, 2008, 2:56 PM | comments: 8

I got laid-off again today. People ask, "Is that good or bad?" I don't know how to answer it.

Am I happier? For the time being, absolutely. The job was making me miserable. There wasn't much to do (most of the reason for the "separation"). This frees me up to really think hard about a game plan and explore my options. I was already interviewing anyway. I had one last week, in fact, but they're worried I'm over-qualified. Diana says that's HR for "may get bored and leave." Weird, because the other gig I was pulling for in September left me under-qualified. Surely there's something in the middle.

If the timing were different, this would be the time when I'd say screw it, and build out on my own business plans. But because of the timing, and my/our desire for the best honeymoon ever, I can't just go without significant income for three or four months. Although, significant win, the Disney vacation is paid for.

So there are several outcomes I'd like to achieve. Any one of them would work out fine.

1) Get a full-time, salary gig with a company that does something other than make stuff for other companies. Yes, there are many jobs out there, but so many of them are contract gigs for hired guns. Sure, they pay crazy good (saw one for $83/hr. recently), but those jobs are rarely interesting, and they don't make me better at what I do.

2) Work part-time doing consulting work for people/companies that I know, while executing on my own plans. This list of potential consultees is very, very small.

3) Secure a big deal with someone to build something big. This particular scenario is too poorly defined to act on in a meaningful way, and can only result out of talking with people.

4) Stop dicking around with staffing firms and pick companies I want to work for, and work the angles. I actually did this already today, and hope to talk to the CIO of a company I'm very fond of. A long shot, but worth exploring.

Let's see where this takes me. I'm tired of dicking around.

CampusFish FAIL

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 6, 2008, 2:27 PM | comments: 5

I suppose I should get this out now... but I'm planning to shut down CampusFish some time next summer. At that point, I'll be moving to and Diana will go to I don't think there's anyone who will be left by then, but if so, let me know and I'll keep it open until your expiration date.

Jesus Jones: Doubt

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 8:53 PM | comments: 0

It seems like no one remembers Jesus Jones, but here was a band that would've been huge in the Internet age. Doubt was a fantastic album. While most people remember "Right Here, Right Now," it has other great tracks like "International Bright Young Thing," "I'm Burning," "Stripped" and "Blissed." It was a great album.

Liquidizer, which came before it, wasn't as good, but "Song 13" is a glorious mess of noise and sonic fury. Perverse wasn't bad either, with "The Devil You Know" being the best track. They had a couple of albums that came later, but I don't know anything about them. Good memories with the others though.

Michael Crichton died

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 2:56 PM | comments: 2

See here

How incredibly sad. There aren't a lot of authors who can attract a wide audience and keep them interested in reading, and keep the content at least somewhat based in science. I realize he was a fiction writer, but imagining what science might be capable of is the basis for scientific discovery.

Mark Cuban on Obama

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 5, 2008, 10:52 AM | comments: 22

I think he's obnoxious, but along with Calacanis, right more often than he is wrong...

In looking at the Democratic platform, there are a few things I agree with, but on the economic side, other than being ok with him raising my effective tax rate to 40pct, there isn’t a lot of his economic policy that I do agree with him on. So why did I vote for him ?

Its simple. Having an elected black President will do more to energize this country than any economic or social policy ever could. In a single day of voting, our amazing country once again reinvigorated the dream that any child in this country, no matter what circumstances they are born into, can grow up to be anything they want, including President of the United States.

That dream, staying viable, being reinvigorated, will do more for this country than any economic policy or any legislation that could ever be passed...

As any successful CEO will tell you, leadership, vision and motivation has far more impact on results than any tax cut or increase. While I prefer lower taxes, I can tell you that no entrepreneur or CEO worth a damn in this country gives up or works less because of a change in tax policy. In this country you work harder to achieve your dreams and goals.

-Mark Cuban

On the significance of civil rights

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 11:38 PM | comments: 1

For the most part, I think people my age and younger tend to see the civil rights movement as ancient history. I think it's safe to generalize that my generation sees less color than previous generations.

One of our local former congress critters, Louis Stokes, who is a legend here, said this in an interview:

"As much as I love this country, and believe in this country, I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime."

John Lewis, a congressman from Atlanta who marched with MLK and was a leader in the civil rights movement at the time, was interviewed on ABC, was also in awe that we have an African-American president in the queue. Keep in mind that this was the time when they had to pass legislation just to ensure that everyone could vote. This was about the time my parents graduated from high school. It wasn't that long ago.

I grew up in the age of desegregation in the Cleveland schools. We were bussed across town, by court order, due to the inequity of schools in black and white neighborhoods. That's probably the reason that colors my perception (pardon the pun) in terms of whether or not we've come far enough. With hilljacks in the middle of nowhere displaying yard signs about a "muslin," we've got some way to go.

But today I feel like we're getting somewhere. When a black man can become leader of the free world, it gives me hope that there will be fewer reasons to have race be an obstacle to the advancement of our culture. I don't see how it can be any other way if we expect to be leaders in the world.

For the moment, race does matter. It's just not the only thing that matters in the long term.

Today is a historic day

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 1:09 PM | comments: 21

For my entire legal voting life, there has been a Bush or Clinton in the White House. That's what made the prospect of Hillary Clinton running so strange, that we'd have at least 24 years split between two dynasties.

But today, I've never seen anything like this. To arrive at Kidder Elementary to vote and see a line out the door. And not just because the median age of poll workers was 90 (brought down from 100 by some early 20-something cutie). People are actually fired up and involved this time around, and that's awesome. Frankly it shouldn't come as a surprise, as the last two elections were between incredibly uninspiring people, which is reflected in how close the popular vote was. It really suggested indifference and apathy.

This time around, we've got two relatively inspirational leaders that people are willing to get behind. In terms of policy, they're not nearly as different as they'd like you to think, and both have largely neglected to talk about non-sexy but vitally important issues like the national debt. To that end, what I believe the president does the most is set the tone for discussion about how government should work, what our agenda should be and how we are perceived in the global marketplace in the social and political sense.

A lot has been said about what a president can do, and this one will have some of the highest expectations we've seen for as long as I've been alive. Maybe the expectations are impossibly high. But four years from now, I won't be as concerned with what he managed to do as much as what the mood and tone of the nation is. If we're financially on better footing, on better terms with the rest of the world and generally a country that is doing innovative things, then that to me is success.

I remember having a conversation with a guy I worked with who is Pakistani by birth, and a citizen for something like 20 years now. He couldn't understand voter apathy in the face of the meltdown his birth nation has been in for years. He was also very in tune with the cowboy image of Bush as seen from most of the world, and the harm it did to our image. It's antagonistic to say the least.

And so he is hopeful that Obama wins, because as an ex-pat he sees the value in a non-white president (with, gasp!, Hussein as his middle name), but also sees the value as a citizen in the uniting influence he could exact. As much as one might be willing to argue that race shouldn't matter, it does in a nation that has been ruled by old white men for 200 years, governing a populace that is anything but dominated by old white men.

If he does win, he's going to have an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress to work with. It's hard to say how much they'll agree with him, but time will tell. Truth be told, I'm not sure if this is the greatest thing, since things haven't been great with the opposite extreme in place. The pressure on the Democratic party is enormous to do the right thing, or we'll see it swing right back the other way.

It's fun to see how we got here. I remember in 2000 thinking that McCain would be a sure thing for the nomination when he surprised everyone and won some state (I forget which), and yet we got Bush. Gore had name recognition, but Bradley was the more interesting candidate. I figured we'd never hear from McCain again, but here he was. In primaries he seemed mostly willing to stick to issues, but his campaign degenerated over time to nonsense about stupid things that rational people weren't having (like the Ayers nonsense). Then he picked a totally unqualified running mate with a resume of beauty queen and hockey mom. I'm sure she has potential in the long run, but with her current knowledge and experience (and hotness), it's scary to think of her next to the red phone. I ultimately think that it was this choice that could be his undoing.

I first heard of Obama in 2004, when he spoke at the DNC. Aside from thinking he had a funny name, I remember being impressed with his delivery. It was like something out of an old news reel from one of the Kennedy's. Even then the pundits were making those kinds of comparisons and considering him the future of the party. When this race came along, I figured it was a forgone conclusion that Clinton would get the nomination, and I was OK with that given her record of hard work as a senator, even if I didn't always agree with her. But the more I heard Obama speak, the more I saw that there was an intangible quality in his personality that would make him the better choice, especially given that his policy stance isn't fundamentally different from Clinton's. He went on to mostly stick to issues, though he had some dumb ads as well, and I applaud him for not taking the fed cash for campaigning.

And here we are now, ten hours away or so of having a pretty good idea of who #44 will be. It's pretty exciting. There's actually reason to be excited for a change. I think the brand/cult of Obama is a powerful thing, but if the dude moves to DC, he's sure got his work cut out for him.

On the local level, we had two obvious state issues to deal with, and I think for a change that Ohio voters will do the right thing. Local elected folk in my county generally do a pretty good job, and I voted for most of the incumbents, except for one. I've known these guys for years from working in local government. It's strange, by the way, how all of the local Republicans here have been generally sufficient leaders, yet at the state and national levels, epic failures. All the more reason why getting tied up in dogmatic party ideology is a weak-minded cop-out from actually considering the issues.

Exciting, if a little scary, times indeed.

Kevin Rose in Inc.

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 10:42 AM | comments: 0

Walt linked me to this article in Inc. about Kevin Rose. As I've said before, he's kind of my hero when it comes to the Internet. I don't find the idea of user-generated content to be all that revolutionary (we were doing it on CoasterBuzz in 2000), but I can't help but admire his sheer ability to execute and see what comes next. There's a guy who really loves his job.

Line for civic doody

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 7:20 AM | comments: 0

Digg brought down the Blade

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 12:11 AM | comments: 1

Hilarious... a big story on Digg brings down the Toledo Blade. These newspapers crack me up. They're getting crushed by other forms of media because they just don't get the importance of the Internet. And here they'll miss out on a ton of traffic, and just as one of the biggest news days in years comes to pass.

Out with October

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 2, 2008, 11:22 PM | comments: 2

October ended up being kind of a shitty month. At the top of the list was the continued struggle with Diana's vertigo. She's just not 100% and there isn't a whole lot I can do about it. She's trying to float that stuff in her ear to the right spots and sleeping upright again tonight.

The month started out with great promise. We spent the first weekend in the Twin Cities visiting Kara and had a blast. We didn't even do any real exploring beyond the mall and the park, but it was a great relaxed time and a relatively inexpensive trip for us.

Meanwhile, I'm at this shitty job. There are a lot of reasons I'm not caring for it at all, but I don't want to get into it. Suffice it to say that it doesn't include the things I need most from a job: Doing interesting things that leverage my abilities and keep me involved in the sheer act of creation.

I've also just been blasted with a hundred different things that keep reminding me of how much life has changed the last few years, and while it is for the better, it still makes me sad at times. It's also possible that the seasonal affective disorder is just kicking in really early, which would suck.

Then there's the whole crappy ad month thing. While there was a slight rally at the end, the month was almost the worst I've had in years. It was only slightly better than last year, and on less traffic. October typically sucks to begin with, but combine it with the fact that there's just nothing that interesting going on in the world of roller coasters and Cedar Point, and you see the disinterest in the numbers. It still remains true, however, that if Federated Media were selling all of my inventory, I wouldn't be working a day job.

We took one last visit to Cedar Point today, though we only got on Skyride since I suspect coasters wouldn't be good for whatever is floating in Diana's ear. We had some quality time with Tim, and by way of sitting in the marketing office ran into all kinds of people we haven't seen in awhile. We fully briefed him on the wedding drama. The park just wasn't what it used to be for me this year, and it's the first time in years I didn't stay on-property for closing weekend.

The wedding drama this month really took its toll on Diana emotionally, but we reached a point where it is what it is, and at the end of the day, fuck it, it's about us. We're going to get married, party on a yacht, and the people who will be there consider it a great honor. We're going to have a great time.

Our goal in November is to get ourselves back to feeling like our true selves. It just seems like the aggregate life experience lately has been sub-optimal, and that's shitty for the happy couple. I mean, we're two generally laid-back people with a positive outlook on life. Yet it seems like the world is doing its best to fuck with us. That ends now.

What's on Jeff and Diana's DVR

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 2, 2008, 10:55 PM | comments: 0

I've been meaning to bang out a few comments about what we're watching this year. We've been careful about adding anything new, because as it is we're several weeks behind.

Fringe is the big new show this year, and it's awesome. Anna Torv, the lead, essentially a nobody from Australia before this role, totally makes my laminated list. The show launched from the first episode with a mythology, laying it out there quickly. That's a departure from the other big J.J. Abrams shows like Alias and Lost. There's some big, intense and horrifying conspiracy going on, and they wasted no time establishing it. It's pretty easy to pick up, so if you haven't watched it yet, it's not too late.

Eli Stone is back, and the writing is more intense than ever. There is just slightly more happiness than pain in the show, which is why I think it works. The themes that I love, looking for purpose and meaning in life, are pretty thick, and without thinly veiled metaphors.

House has become really interesting again as they get far deeper into character development again, something they mostly ignored last season since they blew off two of the credited leads. I think killing off Wilson's girlfriend last season gave it a great dark twist that it needed.

Boston Legal is in its last season. Despite the Emmy's, the ratings still aren't that great, apparently. I love the show, though the cast has shrunk down considerably, and it's clearly about Shatner and Spader's characters now. It's still well written, and Shatner is giving some of his best performances. It's also very political, which you'd think would generate more buzz.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles isn't bad, but it's not a show I think people would cry over if it got canned. Shirley Manson from Garbage is one of those liquid terminators, but I'm not fond of her as an actress (though playing a robot doesn't exactly give you a lot of potential). The plot line is interesting enough, but how many people and robots are going to get sent back? They've almost got too much freedom in some respect, because all of the time traveling means that Judgment Day has three different dates (set by the first movie, then the third, now the TV show, and God only knows what's up for the next movie).

I'm also watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network and loving it. Continuity is something carefully controlled by LucasFilm (see here), so this show fits in nicely between Episodes II and III. Truth be told, it might even be better than those two movies!

Zack and Miri Make a Porno is the tits

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 2, 2008, 10:08 PM | comments: 1

In the figurative sense, that is. Kevin Smith has an interesting ability to really write whatever he wants I think. Clerks II is different from Chasing Amy, is different from Dogma, is different from Jersey Girl, is different from Zack and Miri, and I suspect Red State could be the movie that proves he isn't constrained to any particular genre.

Zack and Miri is being commented on as a "chubby guy nails hot chick" movie, but I don't think it's that at all. I think it's a, "Dude nails his woman friend after years of friendship" flick. The difference is huge, and it sure hits home for me because most of my best friends throughout my life have been female. This was particularly true in college, and of course I wanted to see them naked. One I even did, and you bet it changed things.

But for me, the impetus wasn't that I was making a porno to raise money. That obviously inspires all kinds of hilarity. Seth Rogen plays pretty much the same character he always does, but believe it or not, Elizabeth Banks shows some depth well beyond the "put it in my butt" role of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Miss Brant in Spiderman. I figured there had to be something there after her role on Scrubs, and I have to say that she's really grown on me.

Rounding out the cast, Justin Long ("I'm a Mac") plays the best gay porn star ever, and completely steals his scenes from Brandon "Superman" Routh. Jason Mewes plays someone a little different from Jay, though I could do without the full frontal nudity. Traci Lords is pretty funny, as is the Indian guy from Virgin with the potty mouth. The guy playing the "angry black guy" role, for which there seems to be one in every Kevin Smith movie, was OK, but I don't know what I've seen him in. I think he's mostly a TV guy.

As is the case with a lot of Smith's movies, they set the bar high with great dialogue and a lot of vulgar banter up front, but ease into a romantic or warm and fuzzy story by the end. I dig that. I think that's how real life is. There are lots of dick and fart jokes, but at the end of the day, when you stop laughing for a moment, you love.

And I loved the movie. It's a romantic comedy the way that men would write them (or perhaps should). I suspect women would love it too, because even though they might not admit it, they probably want to bone their male friends at times as well. Unfortunately, Diana didn't get to see it, because big screens and the vertigo issues aren't a good mix, but I can't wait for her to see it.

Definitely one of my favorite movies this year.

Palin pranked

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 1, 2008, 10:33 PM | comments: 0

Not that funny, but a little scary... Check out the story here. Here's the audio.

McCain chose poorly. At least he can make fun of himself on SNL.

Caity's last match as an academic

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 1, 2008, 12:32 AM | comments: 0

We headed out to John Carroll University tonight to see Caity play in what ended up being her last match as an academic. Her team, Marietta, needed to win tonight to make the conference tournament. Despite a strong start, the passing fell apart and they just couldn't click after that first win, dropping the next three.

But what an incredible eight years! Her talent was obvious at a very young age. It was first identified by her high school coach as a freshman, who coincidentally graduated the same year as me from Ashland. While that coach unfortunately moved away, I was lucky to get Caity for two years on my 17's teams, bringing her up a year, then vigorously fighting to keep her at 17's the next. I've never coached a kid that had more talent, more respect for the game and above all, the ability to learn and consistently work to be better.

It was with Caity that I first tried to use the swing offense, and it was her ownership in it that made me a believer. She was definitely one of those kids who could've called me out and told me what I was doing was crap, but she didn't, and in fact helped me feel out how to make it work. She was always able to tell me what was going on in practice and game time. Her ability to communicate was awesome.

When she went away to college, I knew that bigger schools would likely overlook her because she's 5'6" (nevermind that she generally jumps higher than the middle blockers next to her), but I also knew she could be at the core of any D3 or D4 school. And that she was at Marietta, starting the majority of the time all four years again. High coaching turnover caused some ups and downs, but she was out there most of the time, working her ass off regardless.

Needless to say, there were tears with the loss tonight, because that was a less than ideal way to go out. But after that sting goes away, I hope she realizes just how amazing it has been for me and her fans, namely her parents, to watch her play these last eight years. I mean, shit, a part of me feels like coaching will never be as good because I'll never have a kid like her again! It wasn't just the ability, it was the nearly perfect attitude.

So that's my tribute to my favorite kid ever. I hope that as she goes out into the world, by some remote chance we'd get to play or coach together. It would certainly be an honor!

From September...