Archive: February, 2008

After work social gatherings

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 29, 2008, 10:12 PM | comments: 6

One of our project managers at work had her last day, as she decided to move on to a different job after six years. We had a little after-school gathering to send her off. Really diverse group of people from around the company. Diana met me there too, so she could finally put faces to names (and people could see I didn't make her up).

I realized that I do work with a lot of very cool people. The last few months in particular I've tried to deepen the connection with people I can relate to, or generally find interesting. It's kind of hard to interact socially because of the distance to home, and it's a bitch a lot of the time to get people to go to lunch. Far too many over-achievers that sacrifice lunch for another meeting!

Anyway, good times. Would've stayed longer but Diana and I were pretty anxious to get some real food (which ended up sucking, which is unusual for Mustard Seed Market).

I <3 Mythbusters

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 29, 2008, 10:02 AM | comments: 0

I know there are a lot of fans here, so read up!

A conversation with Gmail

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 29, 2008, 12:14 AM | comments: 0

OK, I needed to something different with code. I wanted to have a little science project because I'm tired of doing mundane things at work and keep grinding on the same shit at home. So after Diana went to bed, I decided, you know, I want to talk to Gmail. Like with bytes I'm reading and writing.

I know, that's some dorky stuff. But the thing I have in mind is to write my own POP3 client so I can, among other things, get to a point where I can suck down e-mail for the CF moblog and parse it myself, letting that shitty 3rd party component I'm using burn in hell.

Pulling down data from a POP server isn't that hard really. You send some simple commands via a TcpClient object's stream, and process what comes back. What I thought might be tricky is that Gmail, and others, require SSL to encrypt the data. As it turns out, .Net has an SslStream class, and has since v2. I guess I never noticed it because my mini-book on streams and networking is based on v1.1.

The bottom line is that you simply use the SslStream instead of NetworkStream (both eventually derived from Stream), and you're good to go. Yay!

So without showing the commands I sent, here were the responses in the test I whipped up, just logging in and getting the message index...

+OK Gpop ready for requests from x.x.x.x a30pf387042rnb.0
+OK send PASS
+OK Welcome.
+OK 12 messages (62050 bytes)
1 4272
2 3216
3 6353
4 1382
5 5286
6 6359
7 1392
8 2002
9 6446
10 6256
11 1827
12 17259
+OK Farewell.

Crazy code documenting goodness

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 28, 2008, 10:51 PM | comments: 1

I'd like to document the class library for POP Forums because it just looks more professional and it's certainly easier to use that way. It's also a pain in the ass.

I knew there was a Visual Studio plug-in called Ghost Doc that would by some miracle create documentation for you if you were using standard and widely accepted naming conventions, or just needed it to generate the obvious text. In C# we can put this stuff right next to the various class and method declarations as specially formatted comments, and then when you compile, an XML file is generated from which any number of tools generate pages of docs.

So I have a static method in my utility class that looks like this...

public static bool IsInteger(string testString)
if (testString == null) return false;
Regex regexNumber = new Regex("^[-]?[0-9]+$");
return regexNumber.IsMatch(testString);

It knew exactly what to do...

/// <summary>
/// Determines whether the specified test string is integer.
/// </summary>
/// <param name="testString">The test string.</param>
/// <returns>
/// <c>true</c> if the specified test string is integer; otherwise, <c>false</c>.
/// </returns>

That's f'ing sweet.

Thursday routine

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 28, 2008, 11:56 AM | comments: 6

It's not good for me, but it makes me happy.

Backing up in my world

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 28, 2008, 10:10 AM | comments: 3

I know that Tyler was talking about backups recently, and I have to say that using S3 might very well be an option for me with my server. I have to do the math to see if it would be a better deal.

For the home comprooders, however, I know I'm going to let .Mac expire. Honestly, it's mostly because the backup client that Apple provides kinda sucks (it backs up big incremental files with no indication about what's inside). 30 gigs for $200 a year isn't horrible, but it's not quite enough either. Besides, I can upload whatever my disk can hold on my own server by enabling WebDAV.

So I've been trying to find a client that does that, and does a file-for-file copy of what you have, including deleting files you deleted, to any device or networked drive. Sounds so simple, but I couldn't find anything that did it. Deja Vu sounds like it'll do exactly what I need, so I'm going to give that a try. I might need a new server though if I want to truly backup my entire home folder. I don't like the idea that all of my photos and music could disappear if my house was hit by a meteor.

Using S3 then to backup the usual server stuff and my own stuff that's up there, that would be a super ideal solution. I just have to see if the Windows JungleDisk client restricts access to the S3 "drive" to the machine itself. With a known port number, I don't want that flapping around on Intertubes.

Time Machine for local backup is sweet. I haven't needed it, but the never think about it nature is exactly what backing up should be.

Hollywood isn't as hopeless as the music business

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 27, 2008, 11:30 PM | comments: 0

I was listening to a podcast recently where they were talking about the movie biz and how it's making all of the same mistakes that the music business did, and that it would suffer as well. Mostly the comparisons are drawn around issues of DRM and online distribution. And yes, I'll agree to a point that Hollywood is being stupid, but there's a very crucial difference: Not everything that Hollywood is turning out sucks.

Year after year, there are a lot of good movies that I would say maintain some level of artistic value, and some of those even end up making big bucks. The music business just puts out endless crap and promotes the most generic shit it can.

I'm not saying Hollywood always gets it right, but I tend to seek out a great many films, I buy tickets, I buy DVD's, and I laugh/cry pretty frequently. Granted, Hollywood seems to almost function like a venture capital firm, where it bankrolls ten films and if one hits, they've made their money back. There is some room for "failures" because the hits are so disproportionately successful financially. That's a pretty sweet arrangement, because it means I get to see movies like Kissing Jessica Stein or, God forbid, Clerks 2 (the latter of which, Kevin Smith will point out, more than broke even in theaters and cleaned up on DVD).

I guess going forward, the question is how we'll acquire movies. DVD sales are softening, but I suspect downloads will hit a snag since we're all getting used to music coming DRM-free. And heck, I just "rented" my first HD movie on my Apple TV. The distribution model is totally in flux. I just hope that by way of downloads they figure out how to do special features. As a wannabe, I live for that stuff.

I still wonder if there will be any kind of decentralization of power. Technically anyone can make a movie these days, and I'm not even sure if the production quality is that crucial. Pieces of April was shot on DV, and that one did OK. I'm just not sure anyone with online aspirations has done anything really sweet yet.

Exciting times for film. Just be sure, Hollywood, not to fuck it up.

Cheap crappy pens

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 27, 2008, 2:57 PM | comments: 17

I'd kill to have a Pilot Precise V5 pen right now. After writing with them for years, how could you settle for anything else?

Mac lust

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 27, 2008, 11:26 AM | comments: 4

Updated MacBook Pros and MacBooks were released yesterday. Except for the 2 gig cap on memory on mine, now nearly two years, I can't say that I'm that much in the market for a new one. I just find them appealing. Shit, even the MacBook air gets me a little moist.

I hate that technology is so interesting to me. It's too expensive of a hobby.

Hot tub FAIL

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 27, 2008, 10:03 AM | comments: 2

The debate at CSU

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 10:47 PM | comments: 10

I think I'm just about ready to say that Obama is the guy. Again, in terms of policy, he and Clinton aren't all that far apart, but I think he's much stronger. He tends to not simplify and pander, and spin for the sake of a different perception. Or at the very least, he tends to do it a lot less. He explains his position instead of trying to just dumb it down. I respect that.

The sad end to CompUSA

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 9:09 PM | comments: 3

Wow, I have to admit, I get a little misty...

I'm tempted to run out to the store in Fairlawn for one last look. The GM out there is someone both Stephanie and I worked for at one time or another, post undergrad years. Retail certainly sucks, but it wasn't a terrible place to work.

Project ADD

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 1:40 PM | comments: 2

I've noticed lately that I have a hard time focusing down on one thing. I want to do everything, but taking these topics that are in my head and turning them into code is damn near impossible.

For example, I thought for a long time that it would be neat to build a rec center sports league app. Some kind of generic thing that would let a rec center, for a minor fee, keep track of their league teams, scores and schedules, and make the results public to their members. It would be straight forward to build and simple to use. I know there are things like that already out there, but every one that I've seen kind of sucks.

But I've got the forum app nearly ready, and I'm starting to roll on that "other project" with the hopes of it coming together quickly.

After that, CoasterBuzz has to happen eventually. It keeps getting slower and slower. Then I'd still like to do something Vegas like.

Then there are all of the science projects in my head. For example, one of the constraints on forum UI is that you have different browsers that generate different HTML in text boxes and it's a pain. There has to be a better way, and I have some ideas about how that should work. What's more, I think that storing it as some kind of intermediate XML, and applying XSLT at runtime, would be a better way to do things because the presentation is abstracted and not forced into a mold for every site.

This would all be so easy to think about if I had a year off to just play with it and not deal with a silly day job. :)

POP Forums is actually available for download

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 26, 2008, 12:20 AM | comments: 2

I finally hit that milestone... You can download POP Forums.

Granted, I'm calling it a beta, but it has been in use now since November on PointBuzz. During that time I've found and fixed a great many bugs, but for the most part it has been stable and sexy.

This is a journey that began in 2004. No joke. The alphas, then betas, for Visual Studio 2005, and therefore .NET v2.0, were coming on a fairly regular basis, and I was on the NDA list at Microsoft so I could get stuff as it was built. I couldn't really write the book without that arrangement.

Once the book was done and released in early 2005, well, life got really fucked up all of a sudden. 2006 brought some streaks of stability, but not any real work, save for productivity stream around Christmas. Finally in the second half of 2007, I started to get into it again, and made meaningful progress. Had Walt not done a new design for PointBuzz, who knows how motivated I would've been.

But there it is, and I'm charging for it. Whether or not anyone buys, well, who knows. Selling it was always gravy back in the day, but it was a couple hundred bucks of gravy every month. Who doesn't like a little gravy on their taters?

I think I'll feel best when I feel like it's really "done" and commercial grade. That'll be a sweet day.

It's (going to be) a boy!

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 25, 2008, 9:44 PM | comments: 0

Cousin Niki found out today that her and Dave's offspring will be a boy. Never thought that the fourth-oldest cousin would be first to have a baby, but there it is! Due date is right around my birthday.

Make it work, designers!

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 25, 2008, 12:13 AM | comments: 2

OK, I'm looking at my business financial state, and for the first time in, well, for the first time, it doesn't suck. It's time to start hiring others on a freelance basis to make things happen.

First up, I need a designer. I suck at design and color choices. If you're anal retentive about CSS in particular, and can do something beyond splash pages and imitating "Web 2.0" looks, drop me a line. jeff at popw dot com. Show me URL's of real work.

I may consider hiring a writer at some point as well, but that's something I really haven't fleshed out yet.

Not a horrible tragedy, and Juno won where it counts

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 24, 2008, 11:56 PM | comments: 0

OK, I can't really take issue with the Coen Brothers winning anything, because they kick ass. I still haven't seen No Country, but you can bet I will the day it's release on DVD. When I look at their body of work, many of my favorites were written and/or directed by them, including Big Lebowski, O Brother, Fargo and Intolerable Cruelty. They deserve all the recognition they can get.

I think Juno won where it really counted, with best screenplay. While certainly there is a lot of pressure for directors to interpret the words on the page to be something special, I'm a dialog nerd and I like to write, so I think that the writer needs to be recognized. And frankly, if a relative unknown sex columnist wins, even better.

For the writers, indeed.

Oscar dread

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 24, 2008, 8:46 PM | comments: 2

I'm not sure why I even bother watching the Oscars. They always disappoint me. If Juno doesn't at least win best screenplay, I'll be annoyed.

Good times and so many changes

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 24, 2008, 4:23 PM | comments: 2

We had dinner with Tim and Lois last night, and we really haven't seen them since closing weekend at Cedar Point. It's hard to believe he's been working there now for more than three years.

We talked a lot about the "good old days," circa 2000, when we all (except Diana) worked at Penton. Absolutely no one in our circle of friends has the same fundamental life situation as we did back then. Friends have changed jobs or careers, moved several times, there are new children, divorces, marriages, hot tubs, etc. The changes are radical all around.

For a brief moment, taking all of that in made me really sad. But when I compare my own life to life then, I realize that I'm still a happy guy. I was happy that year too, just for different reasons. In fact, when I really look at that big circle of friends, we're all still quite happy, many of us more so.

It's even more crazy when I think about the time in the interim. I mean some of the more important people in my life, like various volleyball kids, came during that time since. Heck, Diana came into my life less than nine months ago. When you stop and look at it that way, I think it makes a strong case for the richness that life will bring you in the next year, equal or greater than that of the previous years. That's pretty exciting to think about.

And really, the Internet has made it so much easier to keep in touch with people. Blogs, Facebook, IM, etc., all make it pretty easy if you choose to use them. I may not know the intimate details of the lives of Tyler or Linda, for example, but when we meet in real life, we're not exactly strangers either. The context for relationships like that didn't even exist ten years ago.

So those changes will keep on rolling in, and that's OK. On nights like last night, we're able to just pick up where we left off.

SBL - 11i

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 24, 2008, 11:23 AM | comments: 0

Been listening to the new Supreme Beings of Leisure album, 11i, pretty much nonstop the last few days. You should totally buy it! Very sexy.

First try with Apple TV rental

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 23, 2008, 4:45 PM | comments: 3

When the Apple TV came out, given the specs, I figured that some kind of HD content to watch on it was just around the corner. But as it turns out, it didn't happen.

Then v2 came out a week or two ago, and you could finally rent movies in HD, with full Dolby Digital 5.1. So this afternoon I decided to rent something to try it out. I was never that keen on seeing the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but figured for completeness I would eventually. So I kissed my $4.99 goodbye, and gave it a shot.

There was a pause of about 20 seconds before it had enough downloaded to start, but there it was, in full 720p and 5.1 surround. Regardless of whether or not I'd like the movie, this fundamentally changes the way I see movies.

For the record, the movie has dozens of betrayals and plot twists, and is frankly kind of stupid for that reason. Not even Johnny Depp's gay-drunk-pirate shtick was that interesting.

I think the pricing is a little on the high side, but when you figure it's minimum $12 to see a movie in the theater, I guess it's not terrible. I can see some minor difference in quality from 720p to the full 1080p that you get out of HD DVD (or at this point Blu-Ray, if I ever get one), but the difference is minor. It's still much better quality than a standard def DVD. And that's what it's going to be regardless, because the Apple TV's limitation is 720/24p.

Overall, it's a pretty sweet product. Since I wasn't getting my money's worth from Netflix (not to mention their online views are nothing short of hideous), this works pretty well for the two or three movies a month I might want to rent.

I'm in a happy place

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 22, 2008, 11:02 PM | comments: 0

Spending time with myself a lot in the last week, or at least not knowing anyone while in a queue or on a bus full of strangers, I've come to the realization that I really, really like my life right now. I'm in a great relationship, I'm doing things with my spare time that I enjoy, and aside from there not being enough hours in the day, most of the time I'm fairly content.

That said, some of the joy comes from a great deal of freedom to pretty much do whatever the hell I want, and that comes from having the financial resources to do so. I can feed my gadget addiction, eat out whenever, and best of all, travel quite a bit. The gadgets I suppose aren't that important, but the travel and eating, that sure is. Plus I can bank a fair amount of money, I'm not over-extended with a huge mortgage, and I'm (relatively speaking) debt free. Ultimately this frees you to spend more time thinking about things far more important, like your relationships, health, etc. More on that security factor in a minute.

I have a lot of younger friends, many of whom are still navigating their first career choices or buying their first piece of real estate or having their first (or second) kid, or whatever. I tend to give them a lot of advice too (though I ain't know nothin' 'bout burfin' no baby!). I find that they have a lot of fear over monetary security issues in that stage of their life, which is no different than what I had at that point too. I'll never forget the fear and self-esteem meltdown I had in 2001 when I got laid-off. But the advice I give always goes something like, "You're smart enough to figure it out, even if things go horribly wrong, and you'll come out OK in the long run."

So what does that have to do with me and my happy life? Well, I wonder if all that flexibility that comes with solid and predictable income makes me incapable of seeing what could be if I did something different. Could I give up the stability to try something more radical that might make me happier in more meaningful ways?

I've always been risk averse in certain things, to the point of it being a flaw. I didn't kiss a girl until my senior year of high school because I was scared of the "risk" of being rejected. Yet, I quit an overpaid consulting gig to write a book that might not make much money. I'm not very good at assessing risk, or accepting the assessment if it's obvious. Like, right now I could quit my job to build a log cabin or something, and if it didn't work out, I could just take those recruiter calls I still get every week. The chance of them not coming anymore isn't a big risk right now.

With one of the long-time peeps at work resigning this week, it got me to thinking about how you can get comfortable and not look at the possibilities. I don't think I'm in that boat, at least not right now. But I suppose checking in with yourself from time to time is a good practice to follow, putting aside the comfort and security you might feel. This job is now in second place for longest job held, and I admit it still feels a little weird!

Mix agenda all figured out

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 22, 2008, 9:24 PM | comments: 0

They posted a little tool to figure out which sessions you want to go to on the Mix 08 conference, and I'm pretty stoked about it. This thing is pretty much shaping up to be a rock star event in terms of speakers. Obviously it's very Microsoft-centric (seeing as how it's their conference), but keep in mind that development technology (and Xbox) is the part of the company that generally gets things right. I've had a number of e-mail exchanges with that VP doing one of the keynotes, because that's how engaged they are with the people who use their stuff.

There a couple of time slots where there are two things I want to see, so I'll have to pick one and see the other in online video after that.

Recent interesting extra-curricular activities include the epic party (and open bar), where that Donkey Kong high score guy is gonna try to set a new record. If he does it, and it takes hours, I'll no doubt be drunk dialing people or something by then. They're also going to have a RockBand contest with stage and lights and stuff. I'll have to check that out.

I'm pretty excited. I went in '06 on a comp ticket (they don't do that anymore because it's so popular), and paid my own hotel and air. This time the I-COM is paying my way. I got a lot out of it because of the diversity of the audience and sessions, and I suspect I will this time as well.

And I was surprised too that there's a session on using PHP on IIS, Silverlight media on the LAMP stack, a panel discussion on open source with people from Mozilla and Zend, and a fairly extensive user interface tract. It's definitely not the Microsoft we knew circa 2001 or so.

I leave a week from Tuesday for Vegas and The Venetian!

Getting my bearings again, photography thougths, projects

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 22, 2008, 12:08 AM | comments: 3

I'm trying to organize my thoughts and desires now that I'm back in the real world. I feel so scatterbrained, but I suppose that's OK after the trip.

Diana had photos of her as a kid, and some college years too. Good times. She was, not surprisingly, a cute kid. She has questionable 80's hair, as many people did. :) She could tease that stuff like nobody's business! It's strange to think of what she was like then and try to put the pieces together. I mean, when she tells me about college or high school, I imagine her in those stories as 2008 Diana, and God knows we all change drastically from one year to the next. That's the fun of getting to know someone!

I really, really enjoyed shooting the last few days. Yes, the capabilities of the camera and the lenses certainly have a lot to do with that joy, but it's more than that. There's one picture I shot that I always smile when I see. I was at the studios, looking down the main street toward the gate. A family was lined up in the middle of the midway, with dad in the distance, slightly out of focus, shooting the family. Two of the girls were doing a Charlie's Angels pose. I can't really explain why I like the photo, other than to say it captures a moment, and it tells a story. That's what I dig about photography.

Back into the coding grind, and it does feel a little like a grind because of all the relatively artistic stuff I've been absorbed in, I'm building a mental picture of what's on my plate. I want to get the POP Forums beta up as soon as freakin' possible. Then I can freely get up to speed on the "new project" that should be fairly obvious now. That can go really quickly if I push myself a little, and I'd really like it to be real very soon.

For now though, I'm tired. Gideon is all curled up and blending in on the love seat and I get tired just looking at him (if I could see him better, anyway, as he kinda just disappears in black leather).

And by the way... here's that picture I like...

Bad news, and good news

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 21, 2008, 6:00 PM | comments: 0

The bad news is that our bonus at work is much lower than they anticipated, but at least we get it tomorrow.

The good news is that my tax refund will be enormous. Like, get the business out of debt finally even though I just bought that camera enormous.

Cleveland weather...

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 21, 2008, 9:19 AM | comments: 4


That is all.

Menu FAIL!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 2:08 PM | comments: 1

One more time...

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 12:08 PM | comments: 0

Burned and burned out

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 20, 2008, 12:57 AM | comments: 1

I'm sure the usual band of Midwesterners will cry bullshit, but I got a sun burn today, and I'm burned out. The high today in Orlando was only around 70, so I wasn't really thinking sunburn. Duh.

But I've also reached a limit of sorts in just roaming around with 15+ pounds of camera stuff on my back. I wish I knew how many miles I've walked the last three days. I felt some minor tightness when I woke up, but once I sat down today in my room, getting back up was a bitch. Mind you, I'm not complaining really, because I feel accomplished and generally pretty good. I even got to ride a couple of my favorite thrill rides here (Space Mountain and Tower of Terror). I would've liked to have done Rockin' Roller Coaster and Everest, but things weren't really going quite that way for me.

I did get to see some new things, and some ancient things as well. I saw the Monsters Inc. Comedy Floor (hilarious), and the Country Bear Jamboree for the first time in 32 years or so. Lots of shows and rides I either haven't seen in a long time or haven't been to period. There are a ton of other things that remain that I haven't seen. All the more reason to make use of that annual pass some more.

I was telling Diana that I think the ideal time to bring her down here is around the holidays, since she loves Christmas, and they sure do it right here. The Osbourne Family Christmas lighting at the studio park is amazing.

For all the commercialism that Disney is associated with, it's hard not to get sucked into these theme parks. And it's not just me. Over the course of my days here I've seen everything from giddy goth chicks to excited grandpas in walkers.

The bus doesn't pick me up until 2 something tomorrow afternoon, so I can have one last crack at the place if I want. I'm not even sure what I'd do. I spent the least time in Epcot, but the only thing I really want to do there is eat.

Good times, for being a mostly solo trip. Lots of time for reflection, even if it was in a crowd of 40,000 people.

Scenes from Disney World

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 19, 2008, 10:53 PM | comments: 10

I wanted to post a few little previews of the photos I shot around Disney World so far. I tend to be an event kind of guy, and I find people more interesting to shoot than "stuff." These are some of my favorites...

From the High School Musical 2 show on the midway in Disney Hollywood Studios.

Mo' Rockin' at Epcot in the Morocco pavilion.

Indiana Jones stunt show.

Captain Jack in Pirates of The Caribbean at Magic Kingdom. It's creepy how real he seems.

Stunt show at Disney Hollywood Studios.

Kim Possible at Hollywood Studios. I just thought her hair color was cool.

Not soon enough

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 19, 2008, 1:32 PM | comments: 1

The parenting zoo

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 19, 2008, 12:37 PM | comments: 3

I chose poorly.

Magic Kingdom is a zoo. Do people just pull their kids out of school to come here? Getting food seems an impossible proposition right now, but I don't want to leave until I use my Space Mountain Fast Pass.

More than the number of people, the thing I notice most is the range of parenting ability. Some people really suck at it. Those are the ones you notice the most. But if you look, you do see the good ones, and they make me smile. For every kid getting yelled at, there is one having a moment with mom and/or dad.

And come to think of it, the same is true for other relationships too. There are couples of all ages who are assholes to each other, while others are also making moments.

It just goes to show that the fantasy environment can't compensate for your perception of the world.

Agenda free morning

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 19, 2008, 10:23 AM | comments: 0

Well, I have no plan this morning. I'm going to try and ride some stuff, and later in the afternoon head to the studio park.

I find myself missing Diana. As I've said before, places are only as special as the people you visit with, so I can't wait to meet her in Vegas in a couple of weeks.

Got some neat photos last night of Mo' Rockin in Epcot's Morocco. What a neat band. Might have to buy their CD.

The show I really want my theater geek girlfriend to see

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 18, 2008, 2:56 PM | comments: 4

That High School Musical sure is catchy

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 18, 2008, 1:52 PM | comments: 1

I've seen both stunt shows already today at Disney's Hollywood Studios, dodged a downpour (it's sunny now), and I've taken the backlot tour. I'd like to steal a ride on Tower of Terror before I go.

I just saw the end of the outdoor High School Musical 2 show. I hate to admit that I like shooting things like that far more than rides and buildings. Dancers, especially, are so expressive. I think I'm gonna try shooting it tomorrow, and beat out the soccer moms for a better angle. The music is catchy too.

I really need to come back tomorrow night. It has the best lighting of all the parks at night, I think. I still need to stop by Animal Kingdom today, then head over to Epcot to meet Walt for dinner before Illuminations.

Batteries and recharging

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 18, 2008, 8:35 AM | comments: 5

I was fried last night, but feel recharged. If you dream all night, that means you're getting quality sleep, right?

When I finally saw my luggage, it appeared that the TSA stole one of my spare camera batteries. Fuckers. Anyway, I shot about 250 pics yesterday, perhaps 50 are decent enough. I learned with these new lenses I can shoot at ISO 1600 pretty much without consequence. Also underexposing by a stop or two really works when much of the scene is dark. I've got way too many pics of that castle.

On to the studio park...

Post magic medication

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 17, 2008, 11:58 PM | comments: 0

The distant family

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 17, 2008, 6:38 PM | comments: 1

It's weird to see my family, because life in Florida is so different. It's definitely better for them, because the weather is easier to deal with. Seeing them infrequently also makes it seem like they age faster. Overall, it was pretty painless. Sounds like my grandparents aren't doing very well, and are generally bitter and angry about something most of the time.

I'm on a bus to the Grand Floridian from Downtown Disney now, en route to Magic Kingdom. We'll see how late I can hang in there.

Downtown, mouse style

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 17, 2008, 1:46 PM | comments: 9

I'm sitting in Fulton's Crab House in Downtown Disney. Magical Express appeared overwhelmed at the airport, but we were on a bus within 15 minutes. My family will be visiting me here I'm a couple of hours, them it's off to Magic Kingdom for a 3am closing. Then Animal Kingdom at 7am. Yeah right!

As much as Disney makes me want to feel dirty, the fantasy is so well done that it's hard to resist. I see why people get sucked in.

More later.

CLE->MCO (again)

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 17, 2008, 8:07 AM | comments: 1

Packed for Orlando

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 16, 2008, 10:09 PM | comments: 0

Much to the, I don't know, dismay or surprise of Diana, I am packed. It took about five minutes. Packing has never been a lengthy thing for me. Then again, I'm a T-shirt and jeans kind of guy. :)

It's so weird to be going to Orlando for something that's not really for vacationing purposes. Yes, I'm going to Disney World, but I've got a lot of things I need to accomplish while I'm there. I guess I feel a little sad because Diana isn't coming with me, and that's kind of strange.

I've been thinking a lot about how I'm just not sure I want to be in Cleveland anymore. There are so many other places I think I'd like to live. I think I'm bored with things here. Diana seems pretty ready to go elsewhere as well. We've tossed out places like Portland and Seattle, heck, even Orlando, but it just seems so... hard, especially with a solid job. Then Diana showed me Under the Tuscan Sun and it didn't seem as radical. Stupid movies and their suspension of disbelief. :)

In any case, it'll be fun to spend some time with the rat again. I had a good time when I was there with Cath a little over a year ago, but I wish I had more time. I'm pretty sure I'll be returning in the next year or so, because I bought an annual pass. The room plus a 4-day park hopper would've been more than the discounted room as a passholder, plus the pass, so it just made sense to feel a little dirty and pay the mouse. As I've learned with Universal, buying a pass up front makes it a whole lot easier to enjoy the parks whenever, without huge time commitments. God knows I've had a lot of long weekends down there.

Definitely, Maybe

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 15, 2008, 11:19 PM | comments: 1

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a soft spot for certain chick flicks. What can I say, I'm a total sap who is easily drawn into silly emotional cliches. So naturally, when I saw the preview for Definitely, Maybe, I knew I had to see it. I mean, at the very least, I really dig every last person it.

Ryan Reynolds might still be looking for the right movie to showcase his charm (this one isn't it), but the rest of the cast is pretty sweet, and they have really well-drawn characters you get into. Abigail Breslin is so ahead of her age in terms of ability. Her character is written kind of like that Welch's Grape Juice kid in terms of maturity, but she's totally believable.

The plot is that Reynolds' character is getting divorced, and he tells his kid, Breslin, about three women he was interested in, one of which is her mom, but wouldn't say which one. So she, and the audience, have to try to figure out which one it is. Since he's getting divorced, you can rightfully assume he ends up with one of the others, but that's not clear until you figure out which one was the mother.

The three women are played by Elizabeth Banks, who I wanted to right off as just the cute pervert from 40-Year-Old Virgin, but she's cute and charming in everything else, and I have high hopes for whatever Kevin Smith has for her in Zack and Miri Make A Porno.

Rachel Weisz is beautiful and charming as always, though it's weird for her not to have an accent. She's another one that I think needs the right role. The Mummy was kind of shitty, Constantine was kind of shitty, and Fred Claus was a fluff role. This one was much better for her. The rumor is that she'll be in Rodriguez's next Sin City, and that's a powerful place to be.

Isla Fisher, who I only know as the crazy chick in Wedding Crashers, could be huge. I think this is her break-out role. Frankly, she and the kid carry the movie because they're able to express care for others in a way that usually seems not genuine on film. I have high hopes for her.

No talk of the movie would be complete without mentioning that Kevin Kline plays this drunk English professor who bangs his students. He doesn't get a lot of screen time, but he's fabulous.

Overall I liked the movie a lot because, despite the sizable cast, the characters have a lot of depth to them. I realized that this was true in part because of the stories that they tell each other. That's a plot device I see in a lot of movies that I like, but I never really thought much about how it deepens the characters. Clearly it's something I need to consider when writing my own.

And speaking of my own writing, it reminded me a little of my own screenplay, actually. Third Time was about a guy and three women, though they came at different times in his life and were essentially the same person. Where this movie hit home the most was the idea around getting divorced, and getting it right the second time.

Anyway, I dig it. See it. It has been a long time since we've had a chick flick that didn't suck.

Has Universal Orlando become my Cedar Point replacement?

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 15, 2008, 2:44 PM | comments: 0

Kara posted pictures from her trip to Orlando, with much Universal and Royal Pacific action, and I've come to realize that I've probably had more good times there in the last couple of years than I have at Cedar Point.

I think that's why I was so anxious to get Diana down there, too. I mean, every time, the place delivers. Obviously it has a lot to do with who you go with, but I think there's something to the environment that makes it so easy. I mean, I became a Loews First platinum member really quickly.

And now I'm torn, because I won't have time to go to Universal next week, as I'll be centered on Disney. I'll be there alone, so I suppose it doesn't matter that much, but it still bums me out. I wonder also, if it would be as cool if I lived there. I suspect not as much, since I wouldn't likely be staying in the hotel very often.

Well, since we're annual passholders, I'm sure we'll be back some time in the near future!

POP Forums v8, for sale soon

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 14, 2008, 1:48 PM | comments: 0

I made a post on my tech blog about the forthcoming release and sale of POP Forums v8.

After all this time, I feel like I have a shipping product on the way.

Diana's new ride

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 13, 2008, 10:44 PM | comments: 9

Here she is, happy to have her new ride at home.

But wait, that's country music coming out of the stereo. Eeew.

The new car arrives for its first night in its room.

Someone is still reading my book

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 13, 2008, 9:54 AM | comments: 0

From e-mail today...

"I really enjoyed your book “Maximizing ASP.Net” after several years of programming ASP.Net it’s really good to strip it all back and see the big picture."

The few dozen messages like this that I've seen over the years make it totally worth it, even if the sales were not great.

Car negotiation, victory

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 10:45 PM | comments: 16

Diana was ready to make her deal and buy a new Hyundai Elantra today. We did our homework and figured out what her trade was worth, as well as the real price and invoice on the new car. Diana ran the numbers for her budget, and I agreed to be the asshole negotiator.

We picked a good day for it. They had not sold a single car all day, which isn't surprising given the crappy weather. We were the only people in the dealership as well. Bottom line, we were the last chance for them to sell anything.

There isn't a lot of markup in the car, so we were OK with a price close to what people were generally paying, like $200 over invoice. But the absolute bottom for her car was $6k, and not a dime less. Part of the reason for that is she wanted to get her payment down around $200, which was easy enough given Hyundai's 2.9% financing. The data is all on the Internet.

We laughed off the first offer for the trade, which was $4,000. He even printed out the Blue Book evaluation, which was a grand lower than what we found on Edmunds. I countered his $4k with $7k, then said we'd concede to $6,500. He looked up some more shit online, and said he'd "reluctantly" give Diana $6k. Deal. That's what our target was. We essentially got exactly the deal we wanted.

Car sales just suck. Even the Saturn no negotiation scheme is bullshit, because on inexpensive commodity cars, there's no markup. The margin is in the trade, so you have to be a dick about it. I'm sure it comes as a shock that I don't mind being that dick when it comes to buying a car.

Memo to developer bloggers: Get off your pedastal and coach talent

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 3:01 PM | comments: 1

I've written time and time again about how annoyed I get when developers spend incredible amounts of time putting others down under the guise of some nonsense academic debate. It annoys me to no end. Well sit back and block off your afternoon, because here's a post from someone called Stevey that brings it to an entirely new level.

You pretty much know as soon as the word "n00b" is used that you're in for a steaming pile of crap, and this post is no different. To suggest that developers in the 5 to 10 year experience range are "junior" is laughable, ignorant and probably compensating for something. Give me a break. If you cut out the thousands of words surrounding platform religion, you're left with ridiculous assertions that younger developers are writing paragraphs of comments in their code. Who ever did this? I didn't even do it in Apple Basic in 1989. And what's the nonsense about code density and compression? Crap. If you're writing solid code, and breaking down the problem sufficiently, inexperienced developers can read it and understand it. Even analysts can understand it.

While I've been into programming in one form or another since I first touched a TRS-80 circa 1984, I didn't get my first actual programming job, where that's all I did, until 2001, at the ripe old age of 28. ASP.old was the platform, and .NET was in beta. Being object oriented to me at the time meant being fascinated with things (or things on people), not some kind of code thing. Wrox Press got me up to speed while most online communities were useless.

By 2004, I began writing a book because I felt that the things I was learning weren't being presented in a meaningful way to people who were coming up the ranks the way I was. Blogging was taking off, including on, but the amount of useful content that helped me was not high. And who was I to write a book after really only writing code professionally for less than three years?

I'll tell you who I was... someone who wanted to share the excitement of the learning process with others. Even with my fancy salary, a book credit and some entry level ninja skills, the learning will not stop. I work with someone who is brilliant, and I mentor a few people who are less experienced than me. At the end of the day, we collectively kick ass and deliver a sweet product. It's on time, it's quality, and we're free of the bullshit class system that Stevey spends a ridiculous amount of energy pontificating about.

Platforms and language are irrelevant. Taking what we learn and sharing it with others makes us all better. If these nerds would just put a fraction of this energy into actually advancing the technology and coaching the people who use it, more problems would be solved, and we'd all be better for it. (The open source community, by the way, is the absolute worst when it comes to this. They preach free love and get more bogged down in these "discussions" than anyone else.)

So if you're a code monkey with a blog, ask yourself if what you're posting today helps the art and science of programming by helping others, or if you're just being a blow-hard with an opinion. If it's the latter, remember what they say about opinions.

Photo management software winner: Aperture

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 11, 2008, 11:27 PM | comments: 6

The last part of the workflow before uploading photos to a Web site is resizing and watermarking with the copyright. So I already established that it's easy to manipulate the exposure and levels of camera raw files in Aperture, and then copy adjustments, set them as presets, etc. It's too sweet for words. Then I realized that the export function has presets.

So I created a preset that resized the image to be not taller or wider than 850 pixels, JPEG 5 quality, and here's the kicker, put a Photoshop file as a watermark, alpha preserved, in the lower right. Behold, a folder full of images to upload. Perfect.

But it gets better. It'll export the EXIF and TIFF metadata as well in the new JPEG. That means I can even slug it in Aperture, and the data is preserved. And even more exciting (for a dork anyway)... there are plenty of free .NET class libraries out there that can suck the metadata out of the file, which means after uploading I could extract that data and associate it in the database with the image. I could actually, with no extra work, show that it was shot on a 5D at 50mm, f/1.4 and at ISO 400. Yes, I realize that this is all stuff that Flickr can do, but the idea that I could do it excites me. I'm a dork like that.

Aperture wins.

Exploring "The Long Tail" in business

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 11, 2008, 1:58 PM | comments: 6

I think I've been looking at my entrepreneurial efforts in entirely the wrong way. I focus on things like, Blackoard and Digg, and think, "I was thinking about that before they were, and I missed an opportunity."

That thinking doesn't get me anywhere.

Over the years, I've read many articles about "The Long Tail," which is a business concept coined by Chris Anderson in a 2004 issue of Wired and in his book. It refers to the statistical notion that catering to niche customers with more diverse interests may not create the volume that heavy hitters can, but if you can cater to enough of these niches, you can win every bit as big. Amazon is frequently described as a company that leverages The Long Tail because it services people looking for obscure books and CD's. I don't know if I'd still describe them as that company, but it does make sense with regards to their early success.

In other words, my desire to come up with the next big score is hopelessly futile and silly. Even more asinine is the fact that I've already proven the value of a long tail strategy. CoasterBuzz has been a top site (in terms of visitor volume) for many years serving the coaster dork niche, and generates some decent coin as a result. PointBuzz, and Guide to The Point before it, do the same for an even smaller niche, which is actually even more lucrative if you look at it on a per-visitor basis.

So if I see my strength as someone who can foster communities, then I need to pursue that, regardless of the size of those communities. My next project addresses another, larger community, though in a crowded space. The one I've conceptualized and think about is another. Both involve things I care about. If each of these four communities can reach the level of CB, I have my new full time job, and then some. No individual one is huge, but collectively they become something more for me. I've known this inside for a long time, I just never really put it in front of me to consciously realize it.

Photo management software

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 11, 2008, 12:23 AM | comments: 2

I've been looking at photo management software lately, for a number of different reasons. The biggest reason is that I have a shiny new camera that I intend to take thousands of pictures with.

iPhoto isn't a horrible program, but for the basic tweaking that you need to do to every photo in a raw photo world, it's not adequate. You can't batch adjust photos, for example. Its file management is also very own and conquer (as opposed to file referencing, which I'll get to in a minute). I love iPhoto, but I find myself outgrowing it.

I also have Adobe Bridge, which came with the CS3 suite and Photoshop. The program is really intended to be a catch-all media management program, and it does that very well. That said, it works in the physical file space as opposed to referencing photos. In other words, it doesn't comply to the "bin" organization that video editing software has followed for years. In Avid or Final Cut or whatever, the media can exist virtually anywhere, but you organize it in bins, which are simply references to the original media. I also don't like that adjustments are made by launching the camera raw app, which is cumbersome and doesn't let you make batch adjustments to photos.

Apple's Aperture, on the other hand, does the kind of adjustments you need to do on the fly, does file references with project "folders" and such, much like the video programs do. I love the way it displays data, applies adjustments to a range, and its implementation of the loupe tool is easily the best of any program I've seen. The only thing I fault it for is that it doesn't support the digital negative standard, and it doesn't save the adjustment data in the "sidecar" format the way Bridge does, so it can be easily read by Photoshop. On the other hand, its vault feature makes archiving the media itself a breeze, and that I think is extremely important.

I tried Adobe Lightroom as well, and while comparable to Aperture in many ways, and with killer Photoshop integration, I find the UI to be very cumbersome, to the point it even competes with your actual content. Maybe I just didn't give it enough of a chance, but it didn't strike me as very good.

I've got a 30-day trial on Aperture, so I'm giving it a whirl to see how I like it. The idea of spending another $250 on something when I already have something that kinda does the job is annoying, but it's almost like a rounding error compared to what I paid for the camera gear. So where I am now is trying things both ways. The cat photos I recently shot as a test, for example, I've processed with Bridge and Aperture. Obviously Aperture was far sweeter.

We'll see how it goes.

NY Times sweetness

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 10, 2008, 9:19 PM | comments: 0

I was reading this article on The New York Times, when I saw the word "progenitor" and wondered what it meant. I double-clicked it to highlight it, and the page spawned a new window with the definition.

That. Is. Sweet.

80's movie weekend

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 10, 2008, 8:59 PM | comments: 1

We watched the first Terminator movie yesterday. Diana hasn't seen any of them, but we've been watching the Sarah Connor Chronicles on TV, so I figured I'd pick up the first and third movies (I already have T2) so she could fill in the blanks. Wow, the music in that first one is pretty terrible. Linda Hamilton's hair is pretty terrible too. The club scene was funny for the dancing. The stop-motion animation was bad too. But the thing is, the story was still pretty epic, and really set up this great universe for the other movies and the TV show. The time travel element also let them explain away how Sarah was still alive in 2007 for the TV show.

I also snagged War Games, coincidentally another movie about computers causing a nuclear holocaust. The computer hardware, especially the 8" floppies, is pretty hilarious. I don't think I had seen the movie in at least 20 years. It came out when I was 10, and I think it just might be the source of my first movie star crush. Ally Sheedy was pretty cute in that movie, and it was fortunately a year or two before big 80's hair came out.

Yay for cheap old movies!

Watch tower kitteh

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 10, 2008, 11:54 AM | comments: 0

Another check mark off the feature list

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 10, 2008, 12:33 AM | comments: 0

Tonight I finished another feature that I've wanted in POP Forums for a very long time: Inline moderation. Basically, I want to see what's deleted or edited, right in the context of the forum threads themselves. The new version of the app has done that from the beginning, in terms of storing the data, but I couldn't really view it. As of tonight, I can!

One of the things that does become a pain is backward-deploying changes into PointBuzz, because of some customization on the UI side. If it's the class library, no problem, just drop in the new assembly in the /bin folder. But there are UI tweaks, like the single-column topic lists, and wholesale weirdness, like in the news forum where I replace the first "post" with the corresponding news item. Because of those, you can't just replace the files. Fortunately, Subversion does sweet diff comparisons, so I can see in a range of code check-ins what changed, and carefully apply those.

There are two minor features to finish now before I can start my next project, which should go pretty quickly at that point. Designs are more or less done, as is the overall site architecture. Beyond that I have one major feature and one refactoring thing (more Javascript library changes) that I don't need for my sites, but need to get in order before putting up a beta of the source code to download.

It's ridiculous to think about, but this forum version is something I began thinking about four years ago. PointBuzz was coming together with v7.5 of the forum, Visual Studio 2005 was in alpha, and I was starting to move forward with my book. I suppose I don't beat myself up anymore over the time I didn't work on this stuff, because life got a little chaotic starting in 2005.

One of the long-standing issues I've had is the way posts are formatted and parsed, and it has gradually gotten better. Stuff isn't nearly as screwed up on PB now. I've also thought about how there should be some kind of standardization on formatting, maybe storing posts as XML, then using XSL to translate them for display. It's not something I want to think about a lot, but it is on my mind.

I'm really happy with the way this is finally coming along.

New Supreme Beings of Leisure album Tuesday!

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 9, 2008, 1:30 PM | comments: 0

11i comes out Tuesday. Life is good. Love me some SBL! Very sexy.

Volleyball memories

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 9, 2008, 1:04 PM | comments: 1

The Apple TV shows a screen saver of photos flying by when it's playing music, and among the albums I have that sync with it include my 2004 and 2005 volleyball teams. 2004 was the year I had Caity and Katie, Rachel, Megan, Dana, Jackie, Bridget, Amanda and Val. We had a particularly good time in Baltimore and won our lowly bracket. 2005 was the year I had Jossie, Rachel, Rachel, Bridget again, Sara, Kali, Gabbi, Katie and Carly. It was a slightly less strong team, but they had such a good time together.

You might think that I'd be sad or something because I'm not coaching this year, but honestly, I'm not at all. I still love the sport, love shaping young minds and look forward to doing it again... but on my terms where the situation doesn't suck.

Those were an amazing couple of years for me. I got to coach my setting prodigy (who would be one regardless of whether or not I coached her), and had a lot of success making kids better players. I'll have those opportunities again. I'm not planning on dying tomorrow.

I've really come to accept that I can only be so many things at one time, and right now I want to be into relationship developing and being an entrepreneur. I'll add coaching back into the mix when it feels right, and I can really do it the way I know I can. For now, I'm just happy to have those volleyball memories, and the lasting friendships with many of those kids.

An amazing streak of motivation and productivity

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 9, 2008, 11:45 AM | comments: 0

I have really been in the zone lately. This week I was up fairly late writing code for my various projects on several nights. I was even at work late on Wednesday night, and you know how I feel about that.

From the technical side, I'm able to easily write a lot of new stuff because I'm building on top of things that I built in an extensible manner in the first place. I'm able to be iterative and make smaller changes quickly. I've got a clean deployment process that's easily rolled back. I'm just, generally speaking, much better at this stuff than I was five years ago.

The other side of it is that I'm driven because I see potential, and I'm well supported. With my social life in a fairly good state, I'm able to use energy on this. Diana is extremely supportive of me. Federated Media sent a grand my way this month too. There has been this series of conditions that remind me of things I'm not willing to arrive at on my own: I can do this, and be successful at it.

Most importantly though, I'm having fun.

Winking Jurassic Park

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 8, 2008, 8:16 PM | comments: 2


posted by Jeff | Friday, February 8, 2008, 12:19 AM | comments: 8

For the longest time I couldn't figure out how to create an action in Photoshop that would align text (like a copyright tag) to the bottom right of an image. Different photo dimensions would yield different results.

Then, by some freakish accident, I figured it out.

Make your text layer and apply a drop shadow or whatever.
Select All.
Move the selection up and to the left (you can count pixels in the inspector).
Layer -> Align Layers to Selection -> Bottom.
Layer -> Align Layers to Selection -> Right.

That's it!

Victory is mine

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 7, 2008, 1:54 AM | comments: 7

It took five hours, but I figured it out.

47 million page views

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 8:22 PM | comments: 9

Diana recently started going to a site called Ravelry, which is a site for knitting freaks. I think I first heard about it from Kristin, actually. It's so popular that they're metering in new members to keep up with the load.

The husband of the spousal Web team in play made a blog post about their traffic. Yeah, you're looking at 47 million page views. 47 million! Unreal!

I respect anyone who does their own home-grown Web app and people find it useful. The respect them even more when it's something that they also personally care about. I'm a little jealous that I haven't come up with such a thing myself.

Naturally this causes me to look at what I am interested in, and what I'd like to do. The truth is that I am doing a new project that, with any luck, could be up within a month or so. It has a potential audience of 42 million. It will compete with established players who don't do it as well, but frankly I'd be happy to take on 2% of that group.

Ironically enough, on a day where Federated Media sent some very good business my way, I'm starting to feel like CoasterBuzz is dying a slow death. Its eighth birthday past last week, and I forgot. It has become the step-child I've neglected for too long, and frankly I'm embarrassed by that. Traffic isn't on the decline, but it is starting to slip. And worse, I'm not sure how long I can continue to serve such a small niche with my own interest in the subject constantly up and down.

Regardless of the tone, I'm actually quite invigorated by the thought of doing the new stuff, and eventually getting back to CB. The forum is getting closer every day to something I'm really proud of, and that's such a great base to jump from. There are positive things to act on right in front of me.

Chris Berman goes nuts, fucking Sarah Silverman

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 1:42 PM | comments: 6

This is almost as good as the audio where Kasey Kasem goes nuts over the "goddamn dead dog"...

And Sarah Silverman is Fucking Matt Damon...

I want to hate her in the worst way, but I can't.

A couple of first impressions with the 5D

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 5, 2008, 9:12 PM | comments: 5

Well, it's dark outside, and I have nothing to shoot around the house of interest other than kittehs, but so far, I'm blown away by the 5D and the two new lenses.

Let's start with the benefit of a full-frame sensor I hadn't thought much about: The viewfinder is HUGE. When you look in there, it's a giant bright view. Instead of three focus points, there are I think nine, and until I set it otherwise it finds the best single or combination.

The focus, perhaps because of these lenses, is super fast. I put the camera into AI Servo mode with the 50mm, and was shocked at how quickly and continuously it makes adjustments, since the depth of field on the 50mm, when wide open at f/1.4, is incredibly shallow. That's why I was able to snag the image below.

The menus and controls are roughly the same as my old 10D, though this one doesn't have a built-in flash. I've tried my Speedlite 550EX, and my existing 70-200mm f/4 L too. The big zoom seems faster when it focuses.

The noise level exceeds my expectations in ever way. The image below was at ISO 1600, which frankly looks like 400 film from back in the day. A few test shots at 100, 200 and 400 show no discernible noise. There's a tiny bit at 800, I'd feel totally comfortable shooting at 800.

As for the new lenses, the 50mm f/1.4 is every bit as cool as the reviewers say it is. While not as heavy as an L lens, it still has a nice build quality. It has manual focus override like most of the L's as well, without having to switch out of auto mode. I was annoyed that I had to buy the lens hood separately. The very shallow depth at f/1.4 is a little challenging with the animals since they won't hold still, but with humans who move less, I can just imagine how wonderful and soft those images can be.

The 24-105mm f/4 L IS is just amazing. It's kind of heavy, no doubt because of the image stabilizer and all of the metal construction. Looking through that full-frame viewfinder at 24mm makes me remember how much I've missed true wide angle shots, which you can't get without a very, very wide lens on the cropped field camera bodies. I look forward to shooting outdoors in daylight, to see just how sharp the picture is, especially with the IS.

Overall, the initial impression is that it was worth every penny, and I haven't even shot anything that cool with it yet. It's an amazing tool.

Here's the one shot that I liked out of the two dozen or so I shot of the cats. Emma has never looked so good! It was at ISO 1600, 1/30, f/1.4, using the 50mm lens.


posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 5, 2008, 2:37 PM | comments: 3

I got out of a meeting to find a huge stack of boxes with the new camera and other stuff. Apparently when you subscribe to Amazon Prime, it's easier for Amazon to just send stuff out a box at a time, even if they come from the same DC. Strange.

Haven't busted out the gear, but I did take out the LowePro Slingshot bag (since the box was crushed by UPS). It's even more sweet than I expected. This is the camera bag I've wanted since I picked up the Nikon F in the 80's.

Dude scores an unopened Apple IIc on eBay!

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 4, 2008, 10:10 PM | comments: 3

The first computer I ever owned was an Atari 600XL, but the first computer I ever did any substantial programming with was an Apple II+. I never had any religious attachment to Apple back then, since I was in high school, and was busy thinking about girls, if not trying hard enough to get them naked. But I still have a soft spot for those old machines.

So imagine you score an original Apple IIc, that has never been opened. This guy did. I can't imagine what he paid for it, but if this was a special thing from his geeky teen years, I can only imagine how awesome it was.

I still have floppies sitting around somewhere, presumably with the little program I wrote to store D&D profiles on disk, and print them out. Those were exciting times! Weird how I'd never do any real coding until ten years after that.

Must fight purchase regret

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 4, 2008, 3:39 PM | comments: 8

I was talking with one of the guys at work who is also a photo nut, and told him of my lust for the new gear, but overwhelming preemptive purchase regret I was feeling over just thinking of buying it.

So he laid it out for me. He asked several rational questions... Would it cause financial hardship? No. What opportunities will you have to use it? Many in the next seven weeks, plus summer trips, plus Italy in the fall. Are you a grown-up? Yes. Will you record memories in a way that you couldn't before? Yes. OK, so I see his point.

I pulled the trigger.

So it sets me back a month. I can deal with that. I still can't help feeling guilty for buying nice things for myself. I wish I knew where that feeling came from (though I have a pretty good idea). But whatever, I'm going to enjoy using it. I've been putting it off for more than two years.

Thinking about photos again, part 2

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 4, 2008, 12:36 AM | comments: 3

I spent a lot of the day having an internal dialogue with myself about photography. I'm sure a part of that is me justifying the expense of a new camera to myself, but part of it is nostalgia creeping in.

In high school I borrowed my dad's Nikon F, the "F" standing for Fucking older than me. It was a Vietnam-era SLR, completely manual. I had the one with the light meter in the viewfinder. I shot a whole lot of stuff on black and white film for yearbook, and with the wide angle was able to shoot a ton of natural light stuff that frankly wasn't bad for those analog days.

I used that camera in college as well, a couple of times anyway. Then my senior year I bought a new kit from the local camera shop in Ashland, spending about $350 I didn't have. Stephanie thought it was a really bad idea, so I returned it two days later. Most of the stuff I shot in college wasn't that interesting.

I think it was 1997 that I bought a Canon Elan IIe. The "e" stood for eye, because it sensed where your eye was looking, out of three positions, and focused/metered there. I had two cheap lenses too, one a short zoom, another long. Film sure wasn't cheap, but it didn't stop me from snapping off one roll after another that first winter. In fact, I have a photo of one of the bridges over the Cleveland flats that I took then, framed in my living room. The exposure isn't great, in fact it kind of sucks, I dig it.

In the years following, I'd shoot all kinds of stuff on vacations and coaster trips, all on film. I remember doing so at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in particular, burning through 8 rolls, in 2000 I think. I had a Nikon negative scanner, so many of those images ended up on CoasterBuzz at some point.

I also shot hundreds of pictures at family gatherings. I actually did that for a lot of years, until I realized that for the most part they just looked the same every year.

2000 was also the year I bought my first digital camera. It was a Nikon Coolpix 990, and it operated somewhat like an SLR in terms of its manual abilities. It was almost a grand, but had a neat form factor in that the body split so you could turn it around on yourself (Kara's strange Japanese camera works that way). I bought it because I went to IAAPA that year in Atlanta, solo, and wanted to be able to post stuff quickly. It was a whopping three million pixels.

In 2002, Canon finally made the digital SLR something that humans could afford. By afford, I mean it cost around $2,200. I can't believe I paid that much for it back then. The camera in its class now, the 40D, is a little more than half that. But wow, that really changed things. No more killing film. You could understand what you exposed instantly, instead of having to wait to develop. That really changed the game. Sadly, I think a lot of people still disregard exposure theory, which leads to a lot of photos that look like the camera did most of the work.

Less than a year later, I sold my D60 for around $1,300, and replaced with with the 10D, which is what I have now, five years running. Between the two, I've done a lot of shooting, kind of in spurts. Getting the nice 70-200mm f/4 L in late 2006 really renewed my interest.

I've had two players now in the practical small vacation camera category. The Canon PowerShot S400 served me very well for years, until I broke the LCD at a volleyball tournament. I managed to replace it myself, with a few leftover screws and a plastic piece. Last year I got a PowerShot A710 IS, which allows me to do all the manual SLR-ish stuff, and I like it a whole lot better.

I have about 2,500 photos on my laptop, all taken since late 2005. On my desktop, you can add several thousand more. I have hundreds more from negative scans burned on various DVD's, and I think at some point I'll import all of those and start keeping them all together on a USB hard drive or something.

It's amazing to me how many photos I have from various points in my life, and how relatively few I have from my childhood (in part because people treated film like a scarce resource). I can't imagine what a child born today will have when he or she grows up!

A slam dunk spot of productivity

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 3, 2008, 11:50 PM | comments: 2

Giving it my all most of the evening last week, I decided this weekend to just relax and not do a lot of project work, if any at all, and not feel bad about it. I still felt a little weird, but I did get to watch some movies I haven't seen in awhile (Shaun of The Dead and Total Recall... Sharon Stone was hot with 80's hair).

Given my deep thinking about photography, I was thinking about how there has to be an easier and cheap way to upload photos, lots at a time, to PointBuzz. The little Java app that Facebook uses is ideal, but it's a hundred-something dollars I don't want to spend just for me and Walt to use. (This is, what I hope to use for CF though, eventually.) So then I realized, just FTP photos up to a specific folder, then let something on the Web site admin suck in those files.

So that's what I did. I cranked it out in a half-hour, and it works brilliantly. You send up files with whatever FTP program, go to a page in the admin area, pick your album or the name for a new one, and it imports them into the system. Then you can add titles and all of that.

I needed something like that. Something that went quickly, was easy, and didn't cause me any pain.

Thinking about photos again

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 3, 2008, 1:11 AM | comments: 2

Gonch got me thinking again about photography with his post on wanting to upgrade to the just announced new entry level Canon DSLR. With a project coming up where I'll take lots of pictures, naturally I was thinking about it anyway. Also, with a trip to Italy coming tentatively in the fall, I'm not going to fuck around with anything less than the best possible quality photos.

PMA, the photo show going on right now, failed to produce the replacement for the 5D (generally referred to as the 5D Mark II), but the 5D has been dropping in price. It's down a couple hundred dollars from a few months ago. The benefit of the 5D is that it has a full-size 35mm sensor. That means that it "sees" all of what my lenses see and it will perform better in lower light. The rumors generally say it will go from 12.8 megapixels to around 16, which frankly doesn't make a difference unless you're shooting for billboards, and it will use the newer Digic III processor.

The other photo lust I have is for the 24-105mm f/4 IS lens. That ain't cheap either (though Amazon sells it with the 5D body for $2,750 right now, which is around $300 less than the last time I looked). That's a great general use lens, and the image stabilization is gold. I do miss "real" wide angles (my camera, the 10D has a smaller than 35mm sensor, so it crops what the lens sees), and 24mm would be amazing.

An inexpensive addition to my photo gear would be a 50mm f/1.4 lens, as you can do stunning short depth of field, with all the sharpness associated with prime lenses. They're awesome for portrait photography. I think Tyler could do some serious damage with one of those.

I still haven't tried Aperture, even though a lot of people swear by it, and there is a trial version from Apple. It seems a lot better for organizing and doing batch processing than Photoshop and Bridge (a workflow that's still a little weird to me). I gotta try it soon.

So I don't know that I'm going to pull the trigger on any of these any time soon, but God only knows what will happen if my accountant calls back this week with a really good tax refund number. The fact that I have a video camera that almost set me back five figures but skimp on the still photo camera is pretty weird.

Car shopping for Diana

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 2, 2008, 7:38 PM | comments: 11

We went out today to look at small cars for Diana. She's not buying just yet, but getting a feeling for what's out there. I'm the negotiator, because I love fucking with those people, and have a great deal of success getting as much as possible for as little as possible.

Seeing that the guy I bought my car from was still around, and I had a good experience, we went to a Toyota dealer first to look at the Yaris. I'm surprised at just how solid the car is for being at the low end of their line. I expected the suspension to be super rigid and transmit every vibration into your body, but that wasn't the case. The interior fabrics are of course a little on the cheap side, but it's not a bad car. The only weirdness is that the speedometer is in the middle, because it saves money when they want to sell it in Europe, where it's Toyota's best seller.

We stopped by a Honda dealer to look at the Fit, just for fun, and it's a neat little car too. However, it's heavier, less fuel efficient, and a bit more expensive. $18k for a car like that? I don't think so. Diana wasn't that impressed either.

Tomorrow we'll checkout various Hyundai models, since there's a new dealer here in town. I don't know how to feel about them really, but in recent history I don't know anyone who had a particularly bad time with them.

Of course, I had to sit in a Prius while at the Toyota dealer, but I'm gonna wait as long as I can to buy one. They're changing the body style slightly next year, and there's a lot of rumor and speculation about using a lithium-ion battery and maybe even making it a plug-in hybrid, as they've been prototyping them in Japan. A smaller and more efficient battery is definitely key, you just need to make sure it's not gonna catch fire like a Sony battery in a Dell laptop.

I touched air

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 1, 2008, 3:08 PM | comments: 1

So to fend off any more IM's asking me what I though, yes, obviously I touched a MacBook air. So here's what I think.

I don't want to admit it, but fuck, it's a lot more sexy in real life. When you pick it up, it doesn't feel fragile, it doesn't flex in your hands and it doesn't feel like you're going to break it. I honestly feels even more durable than my MacBook Pro when closed. Go figure. The keyboard is remarkably solid.

I screwed around with looking at Web sites and booting up Office 2008 (definitely faster than 2004). Despite the much slower processor, I can't say that I found it at all slow. If 13.3 inches is adequate screen real estate for you, it's a sweet machine. I did not see if it had the hard drive or SSD.

I hate that I don't need it, but I sure want it. Fuck you, Steve Jobs.

It's so thin!

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 1, 2008, 11:41 AM | comments: 8