Me and Diana can mark the first anniversary of our first date tomorrow. We met at this kinda goofy bar called the Ice House near where she works. It was a crazy day because that morning was the mini-media day at Cedar Point for Maverick, for which I was there at 5 a.m. I was so fried, but I dunno, I had a good feeling about this one.
We were first matched by eHarmony in March. At the time, Diana was in Florida to be with her mom, who was dying of cancer. She tried to stay up on it though, and kept promising (and apologizing) we'd talk after things settled down. It's still crazy to me that she kept up given the circumstances.
She actually cancelled on me once because of her allergies, but this day we finally met. The cavs were in the playoffs, and there was a game on as we sat in their outdoor area. She had a Mike's or three, while I had a couple of Coronas. I was a little intimidated, I guess because I felt like she had done more in terms of travel and seeing the world.
We talked about the general progression of our lives, and experiences with online dating. I left with a good feeling about her, and we actually had dates every week from then on, even though I had one or two in between with other women. We didn't kiss until a couple of weeks later, not until mid-July actually. It was not romantic, but more of a "get it over with" situation to just break that ice. In the hot tub of course.
We were pretty touchy feely and gross from that point on, and by late fall it was already pretty obvious that this was going to be a very long-term relationship.
It's funny how much things can change in just one year. It all depends on how willing you are to put yourself out there. I'm pretty happy with the results. :)
Unfortunately, some of the news aggregators I use in looking for news to post on CoasterBuzz pick up things that aren't news. Take this "story" about the dire warning about gay day at Disney World. I especially love this line...
"This is an event that is, on its face, very offensive because they're in there demonstrating their same-sex affection..."
Imagine how gay people must feel the other 364 days of the year at Disney, with married people holding hands and taking in the fairy dust.
I also love how this site on its about page says it's "Your latest news from a Christian perspective." Apparently they now speak for the entire religion. It's ironic, given all of the anti-Arab crap on there, presumably because terrorists speak for all Muslims.
Yet another scary faction of people who wrap hate in some kind of moral stand.
One of the things that came out of the work discussion around the Dunkin' Donuts fiasco I mentioned was that there comes a point where some level of moral outrage has to be expressed to make meaningful change. A coworker asked when moral outrage ever had any meaningful impact on history. I found that quite surprising, because this country was founded on moral outrage.
And therein lies the problem. He, like apparently a majority of Americans, don't get outraged by anything. How else could you explain the moron in office getting re-elected after lying to us over reasons to start a war? People just don't give a shit about anything anymore, and don't stand up to anything. That, frankly, scares the fuck out of me more than any terrorist. Sleepy indifference is a far greater foe to our way of life.
For example, I was listening to This Week in Tech on the way to work, and the guy running The Internet Archive was talking about how they were served a letter by the FBI, with no due process, demanding information with fear of extreme repercussions (under the guise of fighting terrorism) if they didn't comply. Tens of thousands of letters like this have gone out, and only three were challenged. And the crazy thing is that the FBI rolled over each time, knowing how Constitutionally f'd up it is. Why hasn't anyone else waved their hand and protested?
I'm glad I wasn't around for the 60's, but it seems to me that in terms of challenging what is right and wrong, and what defines our national character, people really gave a damn (or so the news highlight reels would lead us to believe). Now the only thing people seem to give a shit about is Britney's rehab and reality TV. That sucks. We've got issues concerning our government, the environment, the economy, etc., that Joe Taxpayer doesn't seem to spend any time thinking about.
My hope is that following this presidential election, things change. There has to be some kind of leadership that brings a call to action to the front of the conversation. I don't know if it's possible to shake people out of their complacency, but I sure hope it is.
There was some controversy surrounding Twitter's non-reaction to dealing with some allegedly harassing posts recently, with the noise being made by a user who is reasonably well known in certain tech circles. (The fact that she works for competitor Pownce I think is irrelevant, but some are making noise about it.)
Basically, Twitter is making a lot of stupid statements in public and not owning up to, well, what they own. They can do whatever the hell they want, but for some reason doing what's right is not high on their priority list.
I've been running community sites now for ten years. Our terms of service have been pretty straight forward, and we only boot people for various -ism's and hate, harassment and spamming. Contrary to a few noisy dumbasses, we've never bounced anyone for having a dissenting opinion. We have bounced people for being illiterate morons or just being generally stupid in a way that doesn't contribute anything, and we do so because we can. It's not an issue of our TOS, it's an issue of doing what we think is best for our community.
So why is Twitter so reluctant to do anything? It's not because they don't want to get sued (because you're actually quite covered under various federal laws), it's because they don't want to appear unpopular. What a bunch of crap. Get some fucking balls and do what's right. I can tell you from experience that your community in the long run wants that.
I've criticized Twitter before, mostly for the fact that it's still a niche feature, not a business, and some people spend way too much time being connected. But regardless, I'm so tired of all these "Web 2.0" idiots trying to put high ideals over common sense, especially when it involves problems that were solved in 1.0 by countless sites that came before them.
Revision3 says the denial of service attack on their network came from Media Defender, the goons who serve as monkey boys for the RIAA. That's f'd up. It sounds like what happened was probably illegal, and even if it wasn't, I hope Rev3 sues the shit out of those assholes just because of their association with the RIAA.
I'm a strong believer in intellectual property rights, but the actions of the RIAA approach the issues in the wrong way, and these douche bags are even worse.
This was passed around work today. Feels very McCarthy era, doesn't it?
What the fuck is wrong with our country? How did we get here? The columnist is making very racist generalizations. If you follow his rationalization, which is asinine in the first place to assert Ray's scarf looks like any kind of Middle East culture clothing, then you conclude that all people from these cultures are by default radical terrorists. What kind of fucking moron makes that conclusion?
The only thing worse than the actual stupid association is that Dunkin' Donuts would bow to it. Get a fucking backbone.
I was really salty today after I got home, and not for any particularly good reason. I busted ass at work today (by the time this project is done I will have touched literally hundreds of files), more focused than I can ever remember being. It's not hard work, just time consuming, but I stayed remarkably on task.
When I got home, I started to be annoyed by something I couldn't quite put my finger on. I think it was that the f'ing Schwan guy was getting here so damn late. But what bothers me is that I was snapping at Diana over the dumbest shit, and of course given her personality she apologizes for provoking me, which is silly.
I was so relaxed all weekend, and now I'm all tweaked up and a little stressed out. I can attribute this to several things. The general theme though is that I'm beginning to intensely care about stuff again, the way I used to when I was just out of college. Life's possibilities and unfolding experiences are intense.
The funny thing is, they've been pretty intense for about three years now. I've had big job changes, epic romance (several times!), financial events and a whole lot of travel. When I look through my photos from these last three years, I'm overwhelmed.
So while the intensity of the ride is high, I need to blow off some steam. I guess I really haven't had any steam to blow off in a very long time!
We had the house totally opened up today. Having six-foot windows is going to be a requirement for where ever I live going forward, because it makes the house feel so open. The temperature flirted with 80, and the humidity was surprisingly tolerable.
All of that fresh air sure does give you a nice shot of energy. Even with the busy weekend we had (as described by Diana), I was able to really get down and focus a bit today. I finally made some progress on rewriting the private message system in the forum app. I've been so scatterbrained when it comes to code lately, trying to make everything work instantaneously, instead of breaking down problems into smaller chunks. I fought through it and got most of the class library changes in place, even though they're not tested. Perhaps tomorrow I can get the UI rolling and move it on up to PointBuzz.
The day started out questionable, as I had some serious cramping from, I don't know what. I think my entire G.I. tract is a little annoyed with my stress level, brought on by the shit storm (in a good way) of things going on lately. I'm a little overwhelmed with work, the engagement (though I can put that behind me now), the houses (as in, getting one sold and mine fixed up) and other opportunities on the radar. It's just a lot to get my head around.
I slept off the cramps, went to work, took breaks to play Mario Kart, and let that cool breeze carry me through the day. I also got all of my 2006 photos migrated to the regular file system and imported into Aperture, and JungleDisk is backing that 4 gigs up to the Intertubes now (at a surprising 700 kbits/sec).
I've been systematically trying to beat one "engine class" at a time by getting gold trophies in each circuit. Today I beat the last of of the 100cc circuits, Special Cup, with an epic performance on Rainbow Road. So my license has little gold marks all the way across now on 50cc and 100cc.
Yeah, and that means I unlocked the Mii as a driving character. And he has a special little red jumpsuit. He says really stupid things, so I think I'm gonna stick to driving Wario. "So long losers!"
It's amazing how much fun Diana and I have been having. I was starting to worry that I wasted my money buying the Wii, seeing as how I've only bought Wario Ware and Paper Mario (the latter of which is tedious and boring). I am going to try and play through Super Mario Sunshine though if I get more inspired.
Still need to beat Half-Life 2 Episode 2 in the Orange Box for Xbox 360, as well as Tomb Raider Anniversary. I'm sure I'll revisit them eventually.
Despite having lived in this town for entirely too long, I often forget that I live close to Whipp's Ledges, this really cool ridge of giant ledges formed by the edge of the glaciers as they stalled out over Ohio in the last ice age. It's really quite amazing to think that such a thing even exists here in Ohio.
So for all of the dogging I do lately on Cleveland, this is one of the cooler things around, and it's only six miles from my house. Diana had no idea the ledges even existed, though that's less surprising since she's not a native. But I know people who have lived here all of their lives and don't know about it.
In any case, given the perfect weather today, we decided to have a little picnic out there. We made sandwiches, packed the chips, cookies and soda, and enjoyed the sun. After lunch, we started climbing about up on the ledges (photos on Facebook).
It's funny how people familiar with it know that there's this one "cave" that you can climb through, because it's closest to the trail head and easy to find. For the most part, the climbing opportunities are not dangerous because they're narrow a series of levels up or down. Don't get me wrong, there are sheer faces that are close to a hundred feet that you'd definitely not survive, but somehow people manage to not die very often. There are a couple of places you can climb with ropes if you have a permit.
So if you happen to be visiting the Cleveland area, and the weather is good, definitely check out Whipp's Ledges.
Deciding to get married is probably one of the most life changing things you can do. Even more strange is being in a position to decide it a second time, when you assumed there would only be one. Naturally that was a huge concern for me, and it's impossible not to spend a lot of time comparing notes with yourself to see how this time is different. My only advice is to others is that if you decide to do it just because it's the next logical step, or the relationship is a lot of work to maintain (or worse, is built on negative things like guilt, dependency, fear or a lack of trust), by all means, don't do it.
For us at least, I think as far back as October, it was obvious that this was working out better than either one of us could have expected. We met the last day of May, and from that point on saw each other at least once a week. By the third week of July there was Wednesday date day plus weekend stuff. Just before the new year, she moved in. Indeed, it was a situation of, "Why are we waiting longer?"
In March we decided to put some kind of rough time line together, targeting late winter/early spring of 2009 for a beach wedding, shoes optional. A fairly small number of people have already been invited, and we'll likely add to that list, but it'll be small. Shoes optional. We're thinking Florida gulf coast.
That meant there wasn't really any true surprise at that point. I'll never understand how guys just pop the question with no prior discussion, especially because that rock creates pressure that changes the rules, and I wonder if the woman is going to be that up to saying no. Meh, whatever, that's me projecting my way (the right way ;)) onto others.
In any case, we started looking around at rings, since people were already congratulating us. Diana is not the flashy jewelry type, which I now realize is actually very representative of what I find attractive. (Sidebar: Yes, I'm really into piercings, but if you think about it, piercing jewelry isn't flashy either, as it tends to be stainless steel.) She has tiny hands, so big rings look goofy on them, and when putting big stones on, they look even more goofy. A one carat diamond looks like she's compensating for something, if you can even apply that to women. I think as someone in a career stage where I could afford something big, I was thinking that bigger is better, but the more I looked at diamonds the more I realized that was silly. Her desire to not have something big sticking off her finger solidified that.
A couple of weeks passed, and Monday I took the day off to do some shopping. I had been looking at Blue Nile a bit, as the guy who sits next to me at work just got his ring from there. You can save a little shopping there, or maybe get a little more for your money, but my experience was that you can't tell just from stats how good a diamond looks. In fact, that was illustrated when I found "the" rock.
Originally I was looking at a .7 carat rated at F for color, and pretty high up in the clarity range. It didn't sparkle the way I though it should though. So the next one I looked at was a .6, a very colorless E, and SI1 in clarity. It looked amazing in the light, having a different depth in the cut than the bigger one. I could actually see the inclusion with the naked eye from one side, but every look from the top was sweet. And this one cost so much less too. I was smitten with it. It would be in The One Ring. I went with platinum.
It was supposed to be mounted by 3 p.m. on Tuesday, but the head they ordered had not come in yet. No worries I thought. Then I had to call them on Wednesday, since they didn't call me, and the bastards were like, "Oh, the head just came in, sorry, we'll have it done soon." I was pissed off about that. Whatever, eventually I picked up Thursday, skipping out of work a little early.
So what to do about giving it to her? I really didn't have anything dramatic in mind. Her best friend Sherry said don't give it to her when she expects it, like on our one year meetiversary or in Orlando or something. Randi at work, a fellow divorcee, said it should be at least somewhat special ("I got mine in a Camry in the rain, and you see how it turned out for me").
Being a Cedar Point dork, and given how that place has been the one consistent thing in my life for the last ten years, that seemed like a good place to give it to her. I guess I wanted it to be special for her too. I have so many good memories there with friends, to the extent that a number of them work there. So the next thing to work out was where.
I actually met Diana on the same day that I first rode Maverick, the media event last year. I briefly toyed with the idea of giving it to her at the end of the ride, but that would be a public spectacle, and who knows if the ride would even stay open long enough (for the record, it seemed to run all evening). The next place I could think of, which included extended alone time, was Giant Wheel. So that was it.
It was a bit cool, and cloudy, which annoyed me, but whatever. Giant Wheel was the first thing we headed to. We were first to load as they went from two tubs per color to four, so that meant they'd roll us all the way to the top to balance the wheel. Perfect. I explained how Cedar Point was the location for so many good things to happen in my life, and I wanted her to have a great memory there too. So what better place to formalize our desire to get married? I asked, obviously she said yes, and I gave her the ring.
Her expression was pretty priceless, because she had no idea it was coming. It was almost a look of terror, but it was closely followed by the squeal she makes whenever we talk about getting married. I think I did OK. :)
It's still hard to believe that this "us" came about so quickly and easily. We both wonder if her mom is orchestrating the whole thing, and especially other events in our lives that are coming together. When you're able to have something this good, you can't help but feel there's a higher power involved.
Today, it looks like they got a big truckload of mulch. Of course, if I were to get some, I'd dump it on my driveway, as most people probably would. But they put out a big tarp. And while most people would start shoveling that shit into a wheelbarrow and put it where it goes, she's spending at least 30 minutes sweeping it into a more controlled and neat pile on the tarp.
You can't make this kind of shit up.
Ugh, so there's this cool thing that could happen, and I can't even talk about it yet. Of course, if it doesn't happen, that's all the more reason not to talk about it, but still. I hate keeping exciting things to myself.
So let me get this straight... A Web app with no business model that basically blogs short entries and aggregates them is worth $80 million.
Doesn't that feel very 1999 to you?
I actually managed to unwind a little bit tonight. Diana and I had dinner at the Winking Lizard, our favorite local joint. Then I did a little code writing, fully exploiting new features of C# 3.0 for the first time (and loving them). After Diana crashed for the night, Jeff and Tony roped me into some online Mario Kart action, where I summarily kicked their asses.
And the weekend is not far away at all.
I'm not sure if people are just turning into assholes in record numbers or what, but I've caught myself three times in the last week or so getting all pissed off, no, down right angry, for people driving like morons.
When I was commuting downtown to work, you never knew if you'd get there on time, and the only way to really deal with it was just not worry about it. Getting excited or worked up about it had zero effect on you getting to or from work any faster. So I learned pretty quickly to just go with the flow. I think I did a good job finding my zen place back then.
Unfortunately, my issues are not confined to just driving lately. I find myself getting snappy with people, over-reacting to whatever dumb thing one of the cats did or just wigging out over something stupid like dribbling soda down my shirt. (Or the USPS fucking with me over a penny.) This is so not like me.
I'm not an angry person. I don't get angry that frequently. Things outside of my control tend to barely make my radar. But lately everything tweaks me. The worst part of it is that it tends to cause physical discomfort for me too, in the form of headaches, digestive drama and muscle tightness.
I think I'm just holding on too tight. There are a lot of things going on in my life and I think subconsciously I'm letting it overwhelm me. I'm prescribing a strict regimen of more hot tub time.
I've sent pairs of CoasterBuzz Club cards out countless times. Together, they're still less than an ounce.
Yet some fucking postmaster in Akron sent an envelope back to me with a big fucking sticker that said, in big red hand written lettering: "Postage: 1 cent."
Are you fucking kidding me?
I am not having a lot of luck with uninteruptable power supplies lately. With the power outage last month, I found how short they lasted. Now, the one that I had powering my router and cable modem started to power click on and off with no browning out or any other strange power condition. I figure that can't be good, so I yanked it out and put the stuff on a power strip. Sigh.
I know I get what I pay for, so maybe I just need to spend a little more on the next one.
Naturally I've been reaquainting myself with the world of diamonds again, given our pending quasi-official pre-engagement. A dude at work just bought a ring online, got a decent deal, but I don't think I'm comfortable with that. The stats never tell the whole story about the gem.
I was poor when I did this last time, but I emphasized color and clarity over size. I've seen some really big ones that were noticably yellowish, and I don't want that. Not only that, but Diana has tiny hands. When we went shopping, a carat was absurd looking on her.
It sure is fun to shop for stuff like this for my special lady. :)
Last weekend was all about my coaster geeky shit, but this weekend was totally about Diana. She has pretty much been running herself ragged, as she mentioned in her blog, and I really think that it has caught up with her.
Friday night I helped (and by helped I mean mostly watched) as she put some finishing touches on cleaning up her house so she can sell it. I gotta say, it looks damn good, and I hope there's enough charm to convince someone to buy it for what she's asking. I did a food run to Friday's that ended up being free because it took so long, and we capped the night off with some hot tub action under a clear starry sky.
Saturday started with a meeting with the realtor, who did not exactly paint a pretty picture on the prospects for the house. The sale prices of houses in the area vary like crazy, and some have been on the market for six months or longer. What makes this all scary is that it may be difficult for her to even break even after four years. But whatever, we'll deal with it and figure it out. There isn't a huge rush to sell other than for the fact that she just doesn't want to own it anymore. We'll cross our fingers and pray for someone to come out of nowhere and make the sale.
After that, we met up with various alumni from Baldwin-Wallace, where Diana did her undergrad. The theater people do an annual softball and cookout thing. It's interesting that one of the guys she schooled with is the brother of a buy who was a year ahead of me at Ashland, though I didn't particularly know him. Small world, eh? I gotta say, it's amazing how much everyone loved her. Not that I'm surprised, but this is someone who was well loved in school!
We spent the rest of Saturday night chilling out, and got up in the morning to see the first daily showing of Narnia. It was fairly excellent. I think I may have liked it better than the first one even.
Diana wasn't feeling well after that, so we chilled out the rest of the day and watched the Cavs suck. We also played some Mario Kart, which I'm happy to say she's really starting to get good at. I was worried that there wouldn't be any video games she could get into, but the game is so close to perfect!
I like that we seem to have a good balance of looking out for each other, as it goes in shifts. There is a lot of excitement coming up for us over the next year, that's for sure. The first anniversary of our meeting is coming up in about two weeks, which is hard to believe. I technically had a date or two after that, but it's as good a date as any to mark when the magic started to happen. Yay for eHarmony!
Tyler's post about going to the "big city" for a potentially life-changing employment opportunity really got me to thinking about those kinds of situations. Kara up and moved to the twin cities for a similarly radical change (though she insists she's not fully made the independent transition). With my own retrospective through ancient e-mail, I realize that I've not taken the same kinds of risks. That's not regret, but rather surprise and revelation.
The fact that being with me, who was rather inflexible at the time, meant that Stephanie couldn't pursue big opportunities is something that caused a certain amount of resentment. It's weird how I, on the other hand, was just content enough to be with someone. That was a big change for me over a few years before that, when I was ready to move to Billings, Montana, if it meant getting a full-time radio job. I don't think either one of us had any idea what we really needed and wanted out of life, but at the same time we weren't really finding the experiences to find out either. I take most of the responsibility for that, though I leave her with the responsibility of not fully communicating her needs as well. The net result is that we didn't allow for the change process until about ten years later, when we split.
I got there the hard way, but now I see how you need a willingness to really take a risk and expect some failures along the way in order to get as much as you can out of life. The challenge in that I think comes from imaginary constraints that we put on ourselves. Tyler is letting it all hang out, letting go of his small town comfort (though it helps having a very willing partner, now wife, who will share the risk). Diana up and moved to New York having never been there to work in theater. Kara moved several states away to work in her industry. These are all examples of letting the physical constraints go. I applaud that.
Today I wonder if I'm still imposing constraints on myself. Between buying a house and getting laid-off, all within a few months from each other, I think I was stunned into thinking the world was too dangerous. But these days, even with a relatively shitty economy, it doesn't seem so impossible to just start something new. Granted, getting married to someone as amazing and supportive as Diana makes that a whole lot easier, but I think I was ready to pursue something next level even before we met. The sweet part now is that I get to share it with someone.
So to all my younger friends... good luck. Persist. March on. Know that your own experiences can influence even someone who has a decade on you.
I was telling someone recently that I had nearly all of my post-college e-mail still. I have all sent messages dating back to September 1996, and all received mail since May 1997 (that's when I stopped "emptying trash"). Up until late 2006, I used Eudora as my mail program at home. I switched to the Mac, and therefore Apple's mail program, at that time, and by sheer coincidence I also stopped hosting my own mail and moved it to Gmail via Google Apps.
When Google enabled IMAP for Gmail, a protocol that basically allows you to mirror mail on the server and on your computer, I realized that I could combine it all. My first attempt was to fire up Eudora on my old PC, and login. There were two problems. First was that ancient Eudora didn't talk to Google very well, second was that it didn't handle the formatting right or associate nicknames with real names or addresses. I couldn't get it to upload more than one message at a time, manually. Not an option for 25,000+ messages.
Then I found that some guy wrote a little app called Eudora Mailbox Cleaner. With a little tweaking of folder and file structures, this little thing could put all the attachments and embedded content, and your contacts, and rebuild it into Apple's Mail program. That was an obvious win since I knew Mail could do IMAP no problem.
The little app breezed through the messages in a couple of minutes, and just before I went to bed, I dragged those messages into the Gmail folders. Off it went! When I logged into the account this morning, I found they were all there and totally searchable. That is sweet. (It totals only 428 MB, in case you're wondering.)
So why would I want all that mail? Well, in some ways it's because I view it as portion of my history. History doesn't define you, I don't think, but experience does. There's a subtle difference. I like having a record of that experience.
Browsing through the mail was a somewhat dark experience at first because of the time frame. Mid-1997 was a pretty rough time for Stephanie and I, and that comes through in some of the messages. On the other hand, if you browse in the 1999 to mid-2001 range, life is really peachy.
It's funny that I went through a phase where I didn't capitalize circa 1997. We were so ridiculously immature back then, and I guess I understand now why friends in their 20's are so fucking neurotic and make silly decisions. I did it too! I can't even imagine how I'll feel when I'm 60.
I was bitching about how I feel there isn't enough time, and to compensate I suppose, I've stayed up really late the last few months. Like, nearly 2 a.m. late. That's not very easy when you're getting up at 7.
But I feel happy and excited when I finally go to bed, spending a couple of hours tinkering with code, video and whatever, and getting something accomplished. And to cap it off, I get to crawl into bed with my sleepy redhead.
Then the morning comes and I feel like shit because I'm tired beyond belief. Today in particular, it has caught up with me and I'm feeling like someone mugged me. Specific work hours suck. I don't think humans were meant to work that way.
Now that Sarah Lacy's Web 2.0 ego stroking book is out, much has been said about what a blowhard she is, and how she's only successful because she's attractive and covers an industry that's largely a sausage party. Lots of haters in the blog-o-sphere.
It's an interesting paradox to the rest of the world, isn't it? Our culture has no issue with making people like Paris Hilton famous for, well, being famous, but for a cutie to write a book, it must only be because she's attractive. The "good" success has a higher standard to live up to. Go figure.
Aside from reading a few Newsweek columns and blog posts from her, and seeing the rude response to her Zuckerberg interview, I have no opinion about her as a writer. As I've said before, there's a strange celebritard fascination with some people in Silicon Valley, and even then it's mostly driven by others who are involved there. I think the book has some potential to look at the other side of that in a way that "regular" people would find interesting. But who knows, because she's been accused of being too much of the story herself. I'm still curious enough to read it.
(Repost from tech blog.)
This is a post I've meant to write for a very long time. Since 1998, my part-time job of sorts has been to maintain a number of community sites. One of those, started ten years ago, was Guide to The Point. "The Point" in this case is Cedar Point, an amusement park an hour west of Cleveland and about two hours from Detroit. It's home to more roller coasters than any other place on earth, and for people how grow up in the region, it's a summer ritual. In 2004, I joined forced with a friend doing another site, and we called it PointBuzz, inspired in name by my woefully neglected general coaster enthusiast site CoasterBuzz. These sites have become a business to a certain degree, since the ad revenue isn't exactly small coin. And if you can make money doing something you enjoy, why not?
Late last year we rebuilt the site. The old version was still running on v1.1 of .NET, and frankly a lot of the code was vintage 2001 stuff built on the beta of .NET. Our goals for rebuilding it were to concentrate on what we were good at: news, forums and photos. Our previous attempt ended up being a huge array of content that, frankly, was just as easily found on the official Cedar Point site and we didn't really have time to maintain it. A secondary goal was to boost performance (the site peaks around a million page views a month, sometimes as much as 100k a day) and get the code base into something maintainable. Let's face it, in 2001 I barely understood what OOP was, and even in 2004, prior to writing my book and having experience in a giant company, I had a lot to learn. The app as a whole was rather fragile when it came time to change something.
Naturally the first priority for me was rewriting POP Forums. The benefit of experience is that I know how many things I did poorly in the previous version from late 2003. I've tried to eliminate much of that legacy, but there are still things I find in my code, often inconsequential, that should be different, like checking for a string to be empty or null instead of String.IsNullOrEmpty(). I spent literally years trying to make it work with Membership and Profile in a way that I liked, and generally it did, but I abandoned that cause. You had to give stuff up too often when making efficient database calls, and that annoyed me. It's not that there aren't logical architectural solutions, it's that I was spending all kinds of time worrying about it, when I was the first and primary user of the app!
What was important to me was using a little AJAX where it made sense, and using the ASP.NET AJAX framework for any client script I had. The version you can download doesn't have it yet, but the version running on PointBuzz does, and I'm very pleased with the way you can encapsulate it and reuse it. The primary use is to load stuff into the page, like user profile data, dynamically. Most forums who you the user's name, number of posts, astrological sign and other useless shit that doesn't advance discussion, and I've always been annoyed by that. (Heck, you've been able to turn off signatures and profiles in my app, also annoying, since 2003.) So I just load that when a user chooses to view it. I also do first post previews this way, but not as tool tips the way vBulletin does (because I find that annoying too). Finally, I refactored the mess that is my rich text control, dating back to 2000 at least, so that it uses the AJAX framework.
The forum app does a whole lot of caching, but not to an extent that it isn't necessary. In old versions, I found that it wasn't holding on to much because the cache collection got enormous and it was always cycling items out. I also didn't cache on a paged basis, so if you viewed a topic with 1,000 posts, it read and cached the whole thing. That was silly. I've found that nearly all of the performance tweaks have to do with the database and caching, which I guess is certainly no surprise.
Custom controls were also a big part of it, using list controllers to handle UI elements based on the data they created. I had mixed success with this, because the thread page still has a lot of code in it because of all the stuff going on. On the other hand, the forum index page is pretty lean in code-behind. Doing custom templated controls also helps, because you can easily drop in an ad, for example, in between forums, topics or posts.
I prototyped a search engine for the forum way, way back in 2004, and after some tweaking I got something I'm pretty happy with. The SQL is incredibly ugly, but the performance isn't bad. Basically, when a post is updated, it's marked for indexing. A background thread on a timer dissects all of the words, throws out the junk and scores them on frequency and appearance in the title. I think the scoring formula needs some work, but most of the time I get pretty relevant results.
Honestly I could probably talk about the forum as a stream of consciousness forever, so I'll move on to photos. The truth is, we have too many. Walt, my partner on the site, went through a document everything phase, and we have over 6,000 photos to prove it. This is honestly not a totally solved problem. We have categories and albums as units of navigation, and we also have tags. The truth is that people generally go to photos of the roller coasters or to albums we link to from news items. We don't know if that's good enough, and we have thousands of photos untagged.
From a code standpoint, we started testing the photo app months before re-launching with live data. Contrary to the advice a lot of people gave me, I decided to store the photos in the database. My reasoning had mostly to do with ease of backing up. HttpHandlers serve the images and the thumbnails, and frankly I've not encountered any performance issues at all. I also kept permissions for editing the photo collection as abstract as possible. There's a simple HttpModule that does the required plumbing to map forum user data into the photo app. I can just as easily wire it up to anything else.
The news management is nothing special, and as such doesn't exist as its own project. The only interesting thing is that it will replace the first post of a special forum topic with a user control that has the news item in it, so essentially there are two views of it, either in the forum or the regular news page.
That's really the bulk of the site. The forum is used for all the member handling junk and e-mail.
Incidentally, I do hope to have another beta of the forum out soon. In addition to the items I listed on the PF site, I've also rewritten the private messaging.
A question I get a lot is, "Why not just use stuff that's already out there?" Aside from being my own code monkey, all of the stuff out there tries to be too many things to too many people. I don't have excessive database tables to deal with, superfluous UI, rigid style elements, etc. The forum is a lot of code, sure, but overall the rest of this stuff isn't hard to roll on your own. If you've got the skills, why not?
I've been having a good time messing around with video this week, even though I haven't been able to commit a lot of time to it. As I mentioned before, it's a little frustrating that I essentially have to relearn Final Cut Pro shortcuts and such over and over since I don't do it enough.
Being a former broadcaster with the salary of an in demand programmer has really allowed me to stay in the loop with video gear and own "real" HD gear. (I have a Panasonic HVX200, for which the major expense is the solid state media.) It's funny how I've thrown a lot of convention out the door with regards to how I edit, since you're not constrained by the "package" mentality of broadcast news. Especially when you're dealing with fanboy type content, you can go with nice long cuts of stuff they just want to see.
In any case, I've been a QuickTime fan for many years. Back in the day, this was because the Sorenson Pro codec was easily the best in terms of quality. Then H.264 came around, and I declared it as the future years ago, back when most computers didn't have the nuts to even play it back.
These days, the action has been in Flash, for the obvious reason that it's so universally available. The recent adoption for Flash to playback H.264 QT movies makes it a total slam dunk for me. The primary benefit is one of work flow. It's easy to export these from Final Cut Pro very quickly.
I've started to play with Flash, the authoring application, to try and hack out a slightly customized video player. As an IDE for writing code, it absolutely sucks. ActionScript is not terrible, but I kept hitting obstacles in trying to get moving. So many articles online are behind subscriptions, and the documentation isn't organized very well. I'd kill for Intellisense.
Silverlight v2 has a lot going for it, though I haven't had any time to mess with it. I've barely touched Silverlight v1.x. Assuming that adoption skyrockets with the Olympics, I can see moving toward it for a lot of different reasons. Aside from being .NET-centric, the server-side of things have a lot of appeal. I remember the demo for the media server at Mix where they showed how you don't have to stream out the entire file too far in advance when there's potential that part of the video may never be watched. That's awesome stuff. The price is right too (free).
The only big negative to Silverlight as a video platform, for me, is the work flow issue. I can't quickly and easily get the video there out of the tools I use, and these are tools that the bulk of people in the field are using.
When I stop to think about it though, I left broadcast about nine years ago, and it's still not quite where I thought it would be with regards to video on the Internet. I mean that in terms of quality, which is no longer a function of CPU power, just bandwidth. Hopefully the US can catch up in that regard.
Normally, I tend to think in terms of, "Boy, I can't wait for the weekend." Lately though, I feel like one week after another goes racing by and I'm missing something. I look at the calendar and think, wow, it's almost June.
I have things on my short-term agenda that I feel aren't getting attention. I don't feel busy, but those agenda items aren't happening, and not because I'm just lazy and picking my nose. I guess I suddenly need to start paying attention to how I spend my time, and manage it a bit.
Next trip is just three weeks away too... yay!
It seems that for the most part there are creative people and there are technical people. Few people are both. Even fewer are great in both areas, and therefore often fail to achieve a high level of understanding for what it takes to execute on something both creative and technical. That's frustrating.
And by the way, I'm not claiming to position myself anywhere on that curve in particular.
I have the strangest allergy issues. Not as bad as Diana, who I suspect can't even function without her drugs, but still strange.
I crash on the couch to do a little reading, and start to fall asleep. Oliver comes up and crashes on my lap, so I give him some rubs and he goes to sleep to. About a half-hour later, I wake up sneezing and snotty and coughing and just a mess. It all goes down just in time for Diana to get home after a late tennis match, and she heads straight to bed.
While it seems the worst of it is past, I crawled into bed and could hear myself audibly wheezing, to the extent I'm worried I'm going to wake up my exhausted companion. So here I am crashing on the other couch, killing time until I start breathing in a normal fashion.
Sometimes the strangest things set me off. When I was in Washington, the fabric softener or laundry soap that Diana's bro used on the sheets set off the same kind of respiratory chaos. Certain smelly stuff just kills me, and then it's made worse by other smells that would ordinarily be benign.
Hopefully I can sleep this one off quickly. It's cold down here by myself!
I'm trying to cut the video I shot Saturday around Planet Snoopy at Cedar Point and I'm in awe of how quickly I forget all of the keyboard shortcuts and such in Final Cut Pro. Cutting is easy enough (and I have a Shuttle Express controller), but I can't remember how to quickly apply transitions to a range and such. And I'm really lost trying to remember the "right" way to do graphics in Photoshop and get them to key right. I don't use it enough!
Anyway, I realized while shooting that my camera is actually very capable and makes beautiful images. It's obvious why the indie crowd really latched on to it, even with cheaper HDV options that came out around that time. My objections have been that it's a bitch to use handheld and P2 cards are/were a little on the expensive side. Anton/Bauer just released a new support called the Stasis Flex that really turns me on though, especially if I can put one of their batteries on it! The P2 cards have become much cheaper, hard drive space is ridiculously inexpensive, and I feel like there's some good potential there to start shooting more serious HD content.
The other thing that's, well, not an objection, but a weak understanding, is how to get short depth of field with the lens. I received a book from Panasonic that a popular Internet guy who uses this stuff wrote, and it does go into more detail about it. You can do OK if you have subjects that are right up in your grill. There are also 35mm adapters available, which intrigue me. You can create some beautiful photography like this, and once you have that adapter, as Tyler knows, you can get used manual lenses uber cheap.
And that brings me to the short film thing. I woke up with an idea for one a couple of weeks ago after a really strange dream. What makes it weird is that's it's a kind suspense/quasi-horror genre thing, a far cry from the usual coming-of-age ideas that typically come to mind. The idea is fleshed out enough in my head that I honestly think I can start writing it soon. It sounds like 20 to 30 pages in my head, and I could probably shoot it for under two grand. I'll keep you posted.
I'll keep this brief, but here are a few observations from opening day at Cedar Point.
First off, we actually got our season passes processed Wednesday, just before the mini-golf Red Cross thing. It was very fast, and very efficient. I was actually surprised at the number of people they had working there. The system seemed to execute just fine for both parking and entering the park.
Let me get this out of the way. Someone decided it was OK to let those time share assholes do their pitch at the park, between Magnum and Witch's Wheel. I can't stand these guys, and I will not hesitate to be as rude as possible to them. Come on man, this isn't Six Flags. You're already raping me for a soda, don't subject me to this crap too.
We started the day with my video gear in tow, to document the Planet Snoopy ribbon cutting. I hope to get that video posted in a couple of days.
The old Peanuts Playground I always thought was a bad cover up over the old Berenstain Bears area, so ever though it comes at the expense of Geauga Lake, this was a much needed improvement to that part of the park. The rides look great, and it's a nice looking area. It's almost staggering to think about how many kid rides there are in the park now. Hopefully they'll market the hell out of it.
After ditching the camera in the car, we started by walking through the back of the park. Maverick was still nursing an hour line, and appeared to not be running very consistently. I saw some trains go empty, but it didn't seem run much all day. One nice thing to see: The water canons on the turn over the pond were firing, if not at the same strength as last year.
We started the season with the Cedar Creek Mine Ride. This was our first exposure to the strange new policy of ride operators saying "check" when they check a restraint. This is apparently something they're doing throughout the company, and it seems kind of silly to me. Were restraints not getting checked before because people weren't saying check? I don't get it.
One really nice thing was that the ride op who was spieling gave a pep talk to a young kid in the seat behind us who was very nervous about riding. It seems like no big deal, but imagine the difference that could make in that kid's day. I was really happy to see that.
By the time we worked our way up the Frontier Trail and past Millennium Force, it was pretty clear that this was not going to be a light crowd day. We met Pete for lunch at Famous Dave's.
Dave's seems to be running pretty smoothly already, and I recognized a young woman there from last year who I think is a Famous Dave's corporate level trainer. After the chaos of the first two seasons in there, I'm pleased that overall they seem to be on their A-game in terms of service. We've gone there quite a bit without incident since last year.
After lunch, we ran Pete out to the Venetian Marina to pick up his boat after some service, as he was going to drive it back to the CP Marina where he's normally docked. On the way out we saw the reason behind the crowds: A seriously two-thirds filled parking lot, including a whole lot of buses. You never know what opening day will be like, but if the weather cooperates, a big crowd is certainly not unusual.
By this time we also noticed a lot of stuff not open or broken down. maXair is obviously not ready. Even Blue Streak saw some down time. It seemed very unusual to see a ride down every time you looked. I wonder if it's a symptom of the shorter off-season. I'm sure they're happy to have Dragster up and running though. I actually don't recall seeing it down at all.
Once we returned to the park, we started to seek out rides we don't typically ride, given the crowds. First was the Tilt-a-Whirl in Camp Snoopy. It did not tilt or whirl very much. Our car got all the way around only once the entire time. What a disappointment!
Heading back up toward the front, we snagged a ride on Corkscrew, which I think I completely missed last year. I still find the sudden need for seat belts after 30 years without strange, but the retractable belts minimize the pain for the riders. For the ride ops, ouch, that's a long way to bend down. The ride is what it always has been. Love the air time pop.
Next we hopped on Super Himalaya, which as Diana pointed out, has no sign. I wonder what happened to it. They had that stone looking sign that had "Himalaya" on it vertically for the longest time, even making the move from over by Gemini pre-Camp Snoopy. I think it has probably been a decade since I've been on it. It was one of the first rides I really had the balls to ride, since I was kind of a wuss in my early years.
We were pretty shocked to see a nearly full queue for the Matterhorn, so we passed. Instead we landed on Ocean Motion, unfortunately being assigned to a middle seat. It was pretty lame.
The waits for Wicked Twister and Disaster Transport were longer than we were willing to deal with, unfortunately, so we skipped them. I wish more than anything that they'd tear down Disaster Transport. I hate that ride. I hate the way an ugly box blocks the lake.
Finally, Diana got to try shi... I mean... cheese-on-a-stick. She's a cheese lover, so I thought this would be perfect. But you know what? She didn't like it. I feel validated. I don't know how anyone can stand to put that into their bodies.
Walking around the games area, I wanted to check out the shop at near Demon Drop for new stuff in merchandise. Nothing really popped out at me. I used to buy at least a shirt or shot glass or something every year, but it has been awhile. The year before last I got the "I Like 'Em Fast" shirt with the MF and naked-lady-truck-mud-flap silhouette. I think that's the last thing I bought.
We hopped up on Sky Ride, which had a much shorter line down at that end. Again I was surprised at the much friendlier than expected ride operators. In fact, when we got off, Diana noticed the ride op's tag said Brooklyn, which is about where Diana's house is, so she said she was from there. He was very enthusiastic, quickly mentioned where he lived, and it was just a nice interaction from someone not acting like a robot. I hope this continues throughout the season.
We ran into Pete again, who said his boat was running much better. We hit the Space Shot side of Power Tower with almost no wait. The queue times were really heavily loaded on the big rides, and it didn't help that some of them were down a lot. But I do love those S&S towers. I've been on them in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and I always enjoy them.
Next up, the CP&LE Railroad. They added on-board speakers to the trains for music and a bit of narrative during the ride. The first problem is that they're too loud. When they're giving instructions from the station, you can't hear them. When the "conductor" starts to speak, she's talking too close to the mic, and the speakers are being over-driven and you mostly hear distortion. This is a long standing problem at this park. Over-blown speakers, cheap mics and a lack of training on how to speak into them results in noise. That said, it's a good idea, but they need to learn to do it right.
Making our way back, I got a text message from Catherine that she was in the park, and Cosmo (her dog) was in Pet Chek. Cath was 45 minutes away from riding Millennium Force, but we were pretty tired at that point from carrying things, being up early, etc. Plus we were a little frustrated by the crowd size (something conditioned into you by visiting Friday nights in October). To kill a little time, we went up to the place with funnel cakes next to Cedar Downs.
I'll cut to the chase: The service sucked. I just find it mind boggling that Cedar Point can't figure out counter service. They sell four items! The pricing everywhere is out of line (soda is 40% more than at Disney or Universal). I ordered a funnel cake and a soda, and the girl forgot the soda. I ordered two things! The line was out into the midway too. If in this kind of operation there are people not in constant motion, you're not doing it right. Your efficiency sucks.
And by the way, pricing at the new Subway location is eight bucks for a 6" sub, and they for "only" six bucks more you can get a 22oz. soda and a bag of chips. Inviting the direct comparisons for out-of-park location pricing is a recipe for disaster. Mark my words on that. $14 for a sub, drink and chips is insulting. Compare it to whatever you want, people will only perceive this as price gouging. My lunch at Famous Dave's was less, and someone was there to bring food to me.
After visiting with Cath for a little while, we headed out. We stopped at the Pet Chek to see Cosmo. I love that little dog! The attendant in there was very clearly a dog person, and was very nice.
Overall, the park seems on top of things on operations, struggling, at least initially, on maintenance, and outright failing at counter service food. I suppose you could say, well, it's opening day, but if that recent statement in the press is true that 90% of guests are there on a daily admission ticket, that's not the kind of impression you want to leave. I'm sure the maintenance issues will get resolved quickly, but after this many years, I have no reason to believe foods will get any better, and that's unfortunate.
It was good to be "home."
I have a serious sunburn right now, and my epidermis hurts. I used to have sunblock in the car, but I don't, and with cooler temperatures I wasn't even thinking about how I was cooking in the sun all day.
Then, because I'm out of shape, my shoulders and legs are hurt. It's not the walking that got to me, it was carrying around my video gear, and then doing the wacky contortionist poses I do to get "the right shot" and remain relatively stable. This is a pretty good indicator that I need to get my shit together and be more active.
Although right now... I don't want to do much of anything requiring a lot of movement.
Despite having my (at the time) expensive video gear, I haven't used it in awhile. I've had it now for about two years, and I have to say, I love using it. But yikes, the last significant amount of use was for Maverick's media day! I nearly paid it off with some contract work in '06, but that's certainly no reason not to use it more.
I'm going to take it to CP tomorrow and have a little bit of fun with it. I know the kids will love whatever we shoot and post on PointBuzz. Diana is gonna take a shot at being my field reporter, which is super fun.
The thing about the HVX200 that sold me was the P2 format, the solid state, high speed recording media. The thing that keeps me from shooting more with it is the P2 format, because I only have a pair of 4 gig cards for it. That's only 20 minutes of 720p at 24fps, or 16 minutes at 30fps. That makes it a pain in the ass to shoot HD. I shot all of the Maverick stuff in standard def, though it looked pretty amazing because it'll record progressive scan, and the optics and 3 CCD's are pretty kick ass when they downsample to 720x480. But that's still not the HD eye candy.
Two things excite me though. First, Panasonic finally released P2 viewing and copying software for the Mac. That means that using the Cardbus adapter, I can plug in P2 cards directly and pull down more than 4 gigs in under 2 minutes. That is awesome! I can even view the video right off the card, full screen, in HD.
The second thing is that the P2 cards are getting really inexpensive (relatively speaking). The camera actually comes with a 16 gig card these days, and you can buy them for about $800. That's 40 minutes of 720p at 24fps, or 32 at 30fps. In case you're wondering, full blown 1080p is a gig per minute regardless of the frame rate, but man is that beautiful. I think if you wanted to shoot at that rate, it's best to tether to a computer and record directly to hard disk, which is also nice because you have a nice big monitor on the computer you record to.
So the bottom line is that I'd like to go out and shoot more video this year. It's really long overdue, and I want to take advantage of the gear I have. Unfortunately, it's not easy to travel with if I travel by plane. Either I need a big anvil case or I'd need to ship it.
I was listening to This Week in Tech on the way home from work today, and Calacanis was talking about his new Tesla, the electric sports car. He compared it to a religious experience knowing you can drive and have "almost no environmental impact."
He says that a charge for the 250-mile range costs about $4 in electricity, and given the efficiencies even of a coal power plant compared to gas, that's a really big deal. Even better if you get some of your power via nuclear power. Granted, that car is $110,000, but if Tesla is able to follow through with a $50,000 car, then the $30,000, that's a really big deal.
Obviously there's the whole issue about economy of scale as the barrier to bringing down the price, but it's an important first step. Battery tech keeps getting better, and virtually all of the components of the batteries can be reclaimed as well. Again, economy of scale is the issue there.
We're just getting so damn close to making some meaningful progress on this issue! Other exciting things include a report today that a silicon shortage today is causing problems in the solar market, but a huge surplus will drive its cost way down in the next two years.
I feel like things are in a shitty state right now, but it seems like we're getting somewhere at the same time. I just wish Toyota could get that plug-in hybrid to market sooner, but they insist it's just not ready for the '09 Prius.
In other news, just getting my tires inflated correctly has boosted my fuel economy back up to 37 mpg, and thank God at $3.75 a gallon. I've never replaced the spark plugs, so that's next on the list, hopefully to eek out another fraction of a mile per gallon.
Now if only I could telecommute a day or two a week!
That some real life Twister shit. Granted, if you look at how slow the dust is moving when he gets close to it, the funnel is clearly falling apart. If I understood the phenomenon well enough and could be reasonably certain it wouldn't strengthen again, I guess I'd do it too. Still, that's nuts. Watch the video as well.
Diana and I are pretty much doing everything out of order with regards to the whole getting married thing. There is no ring (yet), we don't have a date, we don't have a location... but we're hell bent on figuring out the honeymoon. Actually, when I say it out loud, that makes sense given our general thing to travel.
Originally, we both assumed without talking about it that Hawaii was off the table since I went there on my first honeymoon. When we started to talk about it though, that decision seemed kind of arbitrary. I mean, knowing who I am, it's not like I'm trying to relive the past, or compare it, or whatever. I just happen to think it's the most amazing location on the planet.
So now we're seriously considering it. I have an idea of the things I'd like to do there, since I know a little more about the islands, but I want to get Diana up to speed as well so we can plan out more stuff. It's funny because the thing that I think turned her on to it was seeing Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and we've even looked up that specific resort in the movie.
I loved Kauai in particular and feel like I didn't get enough. Granted, there are only two hotels there that really meet my standards, so if going to the Sheraton would be too weird, that narrows it down to the Hyatt. I think the room rates are about the same (read: insane for an ocean view), but you know, it's f'ing Hawaii!
I'd like to do the touristy volcano stuff on the Big Island, but I definitely don't want to stay there. Much of that island is just bleak expanses of volcanic rock, though I hear Hilo is a lot greener (I've only seen it from the west side, Kona up to Waikoloa). The middle group of islands I'm not sure about. Maui, Molokai and the two little ones I can't remember don't jump out at me for any reason I can remember. I do want to look around Oahu though and at least do Pearl Harbor, and drive around (or rather through) the island.
I really blame the movie. After seeing all of that tropical lush green goodness, I totally want to go back.
All of the contract work I've taken on was via female recruiters. I hate gender generalizations, but this one seems to ring true. Male recruiters just don't know how to communicate.
I get several e-mail messages every week from recruiters. If it's someone I've never talked to, I tell them, "Hi, I'm not looking, but in the future I need to know the company, the rate and length of the contract so I know which leads are a good match for me." The volume is high enough, even when I was looking, that I'm not going to screw around with mystery blind solicitations only to find out it's crappy work. That's pretty reasonable, right?
So this dude cold e-mails me the usual crap about an "excellent opportunity with a great company," just like every other solicitation. So I reply with the sentence above, and he comes back with this...
Sometimes you need to take a chance. If you want help finding a new opportunity give me a call if you don't that's fine to.
He obviously never went to charm school. But this is typical of the responses from male recruiters. If it had been a female, they'd sell their firm, tell me what I want to know and maybe even kiss up a little (which I could do without, but they stand more to gain than I do).
There are a lot of points in your life that you experience radical change. Some of these, marriage and child birth in particular, can change your life in very permanent ways. And for some people, these changes happen later than for others.
I got an e-mail message from my dear friend Maureen today (who I'm sure some of you know from the old PKI days), and she's having a baby! Mind you, she just remarried last year, and now she says she'll be "doing my part to bring more sassy redheads into this world!" I used to have the worst crush on her, even though neither one of us have ever been single in the time we've known each other.
But you know, seeing her get on with life and fully taking advantage of her second big set of life changes makes me smile. When you look at how things turned out, even the bumpy parts of life don't seem like that big of a deal. In fact, what's the rush?
Diana and I met almost a year ago, and we've both had very interesting journeys in our personal and professional lives. Staggering as it is to think about, I'm sure that things will continue to change and go in unexpected directions. When I stop and take stock in that, honestly, I don't think I'd have it any other way. That's a far cry from the way my brain was wired five years ago.
Sometimes you need the right perspective to see it that way. I have two friends from college (sorority sisters, coincidentally) who both have kids and husbands and routine and, the way I understand it, very little adventure in their lives outside of their kids. There's nothing wrong with that, but I just can't imagine having that life, with kids that are 10+ years by now. I'm not confident that I could have reached the point in life I'm at right now had I taken that path.
And honestly, I don't even think the kids are the thing that "age" you. One of my best friends has always managed to have a life and be a dad, and have a winding career path. But I think most people do get into the heavy nesting mode of life early on. I wonder if that makes them more prone to a mid-life crisis later on?
So the point here is not to criticize or say that any particular lifestyle is better than another, but I'm very glad that for me at least I've been able to do in the direction I have. It hasn't been easy, and some of it was painful, but I'm really happy with the way it all turned out. The adventures of the next year promise to be even more exciting!
Back when I was in college, the flats in Cleveland were a thriving center of clubs and restaurants. It wasn't really my scene, but Stephanie brought me along to this one place that played great music where the alternative station would broadcast from, and that was kinda neat (it was called Smart Bar and The Whiskey, among other things). In the years following we'd go see shows at this place called The Odeon, and I really grew to love that place.
The Odeon was a great place, and it survived longer than a lot of stuff down there, until the House of Blues opened up the hill in the warehouse district, which is the trendy area now. This shot of the old club makes me sad.
As you go down Old River Rd., you can see empty lots on the Cuyahoga. It's wild how the whole thing imploded, and it's kind of fascinating. I mean, people I know stopped going down there because they outgrew the whole clubbing thing, but I would assume people in their 20's would still be into it. Apparently not.
The weird thing is that there are all kinds of downtown housing projects around there, all very expensive. And now, there is a huge project to build on the east bank, where they're going to tear down all kinds of stuff. Apparently it's a combination of office space, retail, restaurants and more living space. Ernst & Young's CEO was in town today to say they'd be moving into a significant amount of office space down there a couple of years from now.
Cleveland has had such a strange roller coaster ride of vitality just since I was a kid. As much as I don't think I want to live in this area anymore, I do hope the city's core gets the facelift and development it needs.
We had the Red Cross mini-golf fundraiser today at Cedar Point's course. I realized that this is the tenth year I've sponsored a team for this event. Ten years! I have to wonder if anyone else has had a team that consistently.
I again realize how many hooks I have in the amusement business and kind of wonder why I'm not actively doing more in it beyond the enthusiast/fan sites. It's like I could name drop all day, but it doesn't really benefit me in any particular way. I'm still just a guy with a Web site.
More specifically though, I sometimes forget how many connections I have to Cedar Point on a friendship level. Over the years I've made a lot of lasting friendships there. It's hard to get those friends away from the park sometimes, but they're great friendships.
It's really nice to share all of it with Diana too. I'm glad she's willing to be a part of my goofy coaster nerd life.
Check out her latest video blog entry...
OK, she's weird, but she's kind of hard to resist in that way because she's such a nerd. It's also odd that musically she tends to be so fucking dark and yet she's goofy and bubbly for the camera.
In any case, I really like the sound of the song she's previewing in this video. I still don't know what the hell that instrument is that she plucks at, but I love the way it sounds. Lot's of great textures to the song overall. Can't wait for the new album later this year.
No work tomorrow, thank God, because it's starting to really stress me out. I think this is why I was so reluctant to get too invested into the company, because I know how that made me feel when it started to get "challenging" (in quotes because that term is relative). History has shown that when you get most invested, the potential for it to all fall apart is greatest. I need to work through that shit.
Tomorrow should be free of emergencies and crisis. Diana and I are both off. After doing our own things in the morning, we'll be heading to CP to process our passes and also do the Red Cross mini-golf thing. I've sponsored a team now for nine years. That's nuts. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.
All of the first-quarter travel seemed to really balance me out, and now going two months in between I feel like I need to get out. It's not that I want to escape, but rather feel like there are more pieces to life than just a daily routine.
I'm sure I've mentioned before that I read stuff like Wired and Fast Company. I like those magazines because they're not solely focused on the latest Silicon Valley start up that has zero chance of ever making any money. They really cross industries with the idea in mind that all industries use technology and the Internet.
What I find fascinating about a lot of the stories is the speed to market and genuine discovery of solutions to problems. Well, sometimes the solutions solve a problem that hasn't been thought about, but either way, that's kind of the point. The fact that there are people out there who can think something up, either entirely new or as a better mouse trap, and build a business around that, is amazing.
I think that this is what separates the recreational entrepreneurs like me and those that really create something cool. I followed some ideas that were meaningful to me, got lucky, and generated some revenue. But those people you read about are generally able to be more abstract and see bigger things.
Understand that I'm not suggesting that scale equates success. A business that can do a million in revenue per year and live comfortably in that range to me is just as successful as Google is. The scope of execution is unimportant. The sustainability of that execution is what I consider success.
I played Gonch tonight on Mario Kart Wii... we split a circuit each. Good times though. The online component is not as slick as the stuff you'd find on Xbox 360, and it would be infinitely more fun if you could smack talk over voice (you haven't lived until some kid in Halo stands over your dead body and says, "You suck, you should sell your Xbox").
I'm feeling a little more love for my Wii with this game. I've got a gold cup on all of the 50cc circuits. I fired up Mario Kart 64 on the virtual console, and I'm amazed at how primitive the control feels compared to the Wii Wheel. We've come a long way!
They say that a lot of people battle chaos in their lives by finding things they can control and attacking them head on. Some people care for their lawns, some develop strict habits and others ground their kids. Me, I look around for order restoration.
That started Friday, when I went on a made cleaning spree. I got the ugly couch and my desk chair fur-free, and put the Dyson to work getting the black rug in the living room fur free (it ties the room together).
Saturday was non-productive because I was in a pissy mood for no reason, but today I resolved to get a few things fixed. It started with two simple things: Pound in one of the hinge pins on the front door, and tighten a screw on the shower door handle. Then in the afternoon, a trip to Home Depot yielded a new mail box (door on the old one was rusting off) and a new programmable thermostat. I wasn't actually planning the thermostat, but Diana suggested it and I've been meaning to get one for years. I got the mailbox quickly replaced and the thermostat installed no problem.
One thing that is starting to bother me is that my lawn looks horrible. I experimented with the vacant lot look back in 2005 when I started having to cut the grass (and subsequently passed it off to a lawn cutter service). There is so much clover, weeds and dead grass that it's not far from looking like a vacant lot again. My problem is that I don't want to use extreme chemicals. I have a hard enough time justifying fertilizer. I think the only way to deal with it at this point is some kind of ChemLawn approach, unfortunately, plus some new seeding to patch the holes made by the fucktards at Madden Bros. landscaping last year.
What a weird weekend this has been. I feel totally out of control. I've been up and down, happy and sad, and to top it off, had intermittent digestive issues. I think it's because I had high ambitions for the weekend, and none of them have panned out. Was hoping for a good time at Kennywood yesterday, and some productivity after that.
What's funny, but not unsurprising at this point, is that the weather swings are right in line with the ups and downs. Yesterday started down, then we got a break with lots of sun and some hot tub action, then it started raining again and I was annoyed.
I think this is the first time that Diana has had to put up with me like this. Fortunately for her, she went back to her house to do some work there. Imbalance is hard to correct when you're not exactly sure why you're all over the place.
This is going to be a sweet week though, and we're already planning for a correction next weekend.
I'm having a lot of fun playing Mario Kart Wii. It's a good thing too, because as elated as I was to finally score one last year, I never really got into any of the games. I played through Super Paper Mario and didn't care for it much, and Wario Ware doesn't keep my attention long. I thought about buying Mario Galaxy, but I really need to play through Mario Sunshine first. Beyond that, I have Mario Kart 64 on the virtual console (yeah, I paid ten bucks for a game I already own).
But this is a real score, and the use of the remotes in the wheels is a really good idea. The control is a lot more precise than it ever was using the stick (which as an aside makes me wanna get the Xbox 360 wheel). The course designs are really good, and it's fun to play some of the courses from previous games, though I wish there were more of them.
Local multi-player, while not using the Grand Prix mode exactly, does set you up for four courses, so you just pick which courses to make your own circuit, which in some ways in an improvement. I haven't tried the battle mode. The handicapping with items really works well, as Diana was able to keep up even though she has less experience. The game is so accessible for people of all skill levels, which is a rare thing in the video game world.
I still need to finish Half Life 2 Episode 2 from the Orange Box, and then get through Tomb Raider Anniversary, and then I'll be mostly caught up on video games (aside from Mario Sunshine). I really need to make it a point to play more often, because it really helps me blow off steam.
Well, the weather is looking super wet for tomorrow, so sadly we're not going to Kennywood. That's such a buzz kill because I had been looking forward to it for a very long time, and Diana was too. Sigh. I guess it'll have to wait for another weekend.
Looking ahead to next week, it's going to be cool, but clear for the mini-golf fundraiser, and possibly rainy for opening day at Cedar Point. Crossing my fingers that the forecast improves there. I love opening day, and it's nice to see the place come to life.
I ended the work part of my day more sane than I was in the middle of the day, and felt like I might even want to work on that private message rewrite for the forum (something my "other" project is dependent on, not to mention the future CB). When I sat down and took care of a few bills though, I got into a groove and ended up spending most of the evening on money related stuff.
I paid or scheduled payments for all of my bills for the entire month, which is something I've never done before. I forecast out my balance a few months, and things are looking pretty good. Then I moved on to the business account, paid the contractors, looked at what little is left on the credit card, and I'm generally feeling pretty good about that as well. I realized that there was a lot of income from club memberships (happens this time of year just prior to several events), so I rattled out a huge batch of those to be mailed.
Once that was all done, I started to look at the expenses on the horizon. All of my "low toner" lights are shining bright on my printer. It appears that buying replacement toner carts might actually be more expensive than buying a new printer, which I'd rather not do because I don't want to contribute to e-junk. The paper slippage problem seems to have mostly resolved itself, so I think I'll keep it around for now.
It's time to finally get my shit together and look at replacing my carpeting. My former office, the front bedroom, has been a bare wood floor for a very long time now. Of course, that's actually OK because it has been home to all of the litter boxes. But with varying humidity in the house, the various places that Luna peed over the years start to stink again, and I just don't want to think about it anymore. I can afford it, so now is a good time.
I also have a "major purchase" in the near future to think about. Fortunately the intended recipient is not into giant rocks or three-month salary nonsense. The timing for this isn't bad either.
This is turning out to be such a strange year because for the first time in my adult life I'm not dealing with any significant amount of debt other than my mortgage. I'm even socking away as much as I can. It's like I'm a real grown up or something. Of course, it's all contingent on me continuing to like my job, but it's strange to be so... stable.
And through the magic of comprooders, I can see where the long lingering credit card debt got me. From 1997 to the end of 2007, I pissed away more than $15,000 on interest. If I would've known that'd be the case, I would've been a lot more careful. That's a car or an ample down payment on a first home. Ouch. Makes me feel like a dumb ass.
Lesson learned though. Better now than when I'm trying to retire.
I decided to work from home today since I had no meetings, and I figured I could probably get more done without the distractions of the office. And I save five bucks in gas too.
Unfortunately I've been struggling trying to integrate a framework that I wrote into an existing app, and it's frustrating. There are underlying design issues with the original app that I suppose couldn't have been accounted for in the new world I'm introducing to it, but it makes getting to the goal like hitting your head against a wall over and over.
The problem I've had at work is that you frequently deal in a much bigger system than I would with my own projects, which means that tossing something out and starting over is never an option. You more than likely have to evolve from one point to the next. That gets me to thinking a lot about processes and how to account for that kind of madness, or if it's avoidable. In an ideal world where everyone has the same experience, I suppose it is, but the real world is unfortunately not that robust.
I'm sure I'll get the issues ironed out, but what drives me nuts is that right now I feel like I'm so close. It's discouraging to not be able to get to that intermediate point where you feel like you have momentum.
Last night, going to Melt, we were in Lakewood, which has kind of become like the west side version of Coventry. That means the alt culture types very much are a part of the scene. Lots of piercings and tattoos.
I thought that maybe three years ago me getting into piercing was just a phase, but if it was, I don't think I got over it. I still have my original pair, almost three years running, but I miss having the industrial, which I took out about a year ago because of the keloids that kept getting worse. I'm not even sure what I'd poke new holes in at this point.