Archive: June, 2008

Jungle Disk coupon

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 30, 2008, 2:39 PM | comments: 2

If you think you might wanna use Jungle Disk, you can get $10 off if you're one of the first ten "friends" to buy from this link. It rocks, I dig it.

Days 1 and 2 of my week

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 29, 2008, 9:55 PM | comments: 0

So far so good for Jeff Putz week. We spontaneously decided to go to Cedar Point yesterday morning, because we haven't been in forever. It's only the third time this year (not counting the Red Cross event), which is really unusual.

The park wasn't super crowded, but given the weather forecast I can't say that I'm surprised either. When the big line of storms rolled through, it pretty much spared just the point. The radar showed this little break. An hour later, the sun was shining. We didn't ride a ton, but in addition to Magnum, we did some more flat rides like Troika and Calypso. We also talked to Timmay and saw the ice show. Diana had never been in the Candle Shoppe, so that was a new experience for her.

Despite the nice couple of hours in the park, we tried to have dinner at Friday's in Breakers and had nightmarish service that resulted in us leaving hungry. First we sat there for ten minutes while various servers ignored us, then we waited ten more minutes to find out they didn't have what I ordered. This kind of put me in a bad mood for the evening, I think because in the prior 48 hours I had enough of people pissing me off or otherwise inconveniencing me. It kind of adds up. We went to Red Lobster on 250 instead, because Diana loves seafood.

The evening was chill, and after some much needed whirlpool therapy, we watched The Incredibles in bed. It was something I picked up recently out of my "movie void" list, movies I like but didn't own. I really like having a TV in the bedroom for that purpose. I haven't used it much, and I fought the urge to have one there for a long time, but it's really nice on a cool breezy night cuddling up in bed.

Today we had two objectives: See Wanted and pick up some crap at Target. Er, crap buffer, i.e., cat litter. The movie was not bad. Angelina is ridiculously hot. She barely said anything in the movie, but that's OK. It was entertaining. The underlying theme is really about doing something about it when your life seems routine and uninteresting. Wow can I identify with that lately.

The random shut downs on my laptop are frustrating. I can't remember ever having an electronic device start to tank after more than two years. At the same time, I wish it would just resolve itself like it did last year. But I'm starting to come to grips with the fact that I just have a machine that's on the outside percentage of being a rare late-life failure and I'll have to suck it up and get a new one.

The truth is, I'm actually shocked I've had it for two years. It used to be that laptops, which tended to be under-powered compared to desktops to begin with, to save on cost and power consumption, wouldn't have a long lifespan because the next OS, Office, video game or multimedia capabilities wouldn't work. This laptop has no such deficiencies after two years. Well, except that it powers down randomly.

Amazon has it with a rebate, no tax, that makes it even cheaper than from Apple with the educational discount. I've decided the 15" model is still more practical, and not worth an extra grand just for a bigger screen. Rebate expires mid-July, so I'll sleep on it.

The next few days will be super interesting. No specific plans yet for my birthday on Wednesday, but I'm sure we'll figure something out.

Spinning skyscraper

posted by Jeff | Saturday, June 28, 2008, 11:51 AM | comments: 2

So there's a nutty architect who decided he's going to build a bunch of spinning skyscrapers, where the floors revolve around a central core. The idea is that visually it can look different and with more surface area it can generate power in novel ways.

This apparently is interesting enough that people were searching for it online. Cedar Point happens to have a ride called skyscraper, and it spins, and we happen to have a news story about it on PointBuzz. It happens to rank high on MSN for "spinning skyscraper." Out of the blue, we had a thousand bonus visits to the site yesterday just for that. Granted, those visitors are nearly worthless, as 85% of them bounce (i.e., bounce to another site because it's not what they're looking for).

Still, it's interesting, the wacky shit that goes on around the Internets.

Diana can has cheezburger soup

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 27, 2008, 7:08 PM | comments: 3

Battery replacement fail

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 27, 2008, 5:08 PM | comments: 2

Well, the new MacBook Pro battery I got does not fix chronic sudden shutdown, and that's a bummer. I guess at this point my options are to cross my fingers and hope it resolves itself, try to make it happen in front of a Mac Genius so they can send it off and fix it for $350, or just replace it entirely.

If I do replace it entirely, I've decided that I don't actually need the 17" model. The larger form factor doesn't bother me, but I'm not sure that the uber resolution is worth an extra grand for what is otherwise more or less the same computer. I've been able to do a lot of meaningful development work on the 15.4", and another 1.6" won't help (that's what she said!).

So in the event I replace, 15" it'll be.

Status update

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 27, 2008, 2:11 PM | comments: 2

I've had a couple of e-mail messages and IM's asking what the deal is with my recent blog posts. For now I'm going to keep it mostly private, until some time after Jeff Putz day (which is 7/2, and you can buy something on my wishlist if you want).

For now I'll say that everything is (relatively) fine, I'm healthy, me and Diana are still planning to get married and overall the world continues to function as expected.

Tonight is cheeseburger soup day at the Winking Lizard. Finally, Diana canhascheezburger.


posted by Jeff | Friday, June 27, 2008, 11:51 AM | comments: 0

This has been the fucking weirdest 24 hours I've had in a long time.

The other shoe drops

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 26, 2008, 1:05 PM | comments: 2

I often wonder why it is that we expect something bad to happen when things are going well. I think it's just because it usually works out that way, to keep the universe balanced.

Today something bad happened. It's not appropriate for me to get into specifics, but it is a real downer. As is usually the case, this too shall pass.

WWFBD: Auto-complete list

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 26, 2008, 1:22 AM | comments: 0

Awhile ago, too long ago, I mentioned how I wanted to do an auto-complete "to" text box for my forum app's private message system. The idea is that you start to type a name, and a list of members automagically appears. Then you can either use the arrow keys and enter to select one, or click your choice.

I guess the issue here is that I knew it was possible for me to figure out, and I felt strongly that it was the right thing to do. It's just time consuming, because I'm in the weeds with stuff I don't use every day. But regardless, I've got it basically working with everything but the call back to the server to get actual names. Honestly, that's the easy part.

I'm amazed at how easy a lot of grunt work nonsense is using the ASP.NET AJAX framework. For example, I can easily get an element, find out where it is and what it's size is so I can position the container for the suggestions similarly. That is too sweet. That's the kind of stuff I used to have a lot of issues with, but that junk is all removed and I can do real work.

So yeah, I'm spending time doing something that doesn't have huge pay off, but I feel like I'm learning and getting better at what I do.

Chuck and Cindy: Lovin' Life

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 25, 2008, 12:37 AM | comments: 2

If you've seen Elizabethtown, you probably remember Chuck and Cindy, the couple getting married at the hotel that Drew ends up in. Their mission is just to have an ultimate party for their friends because they're "lovin' life" and such, and hilarity ensues.

I'm not even sure what made me think of it, but I'm going to be Chuck! Me and Diana are setting out to do something similar on a slightly smaller scale early next year. I'm not sure if we're going to get T-shirts though, as that just seems a little creepy. You never know.

That movie came out at a very strange time for me, in fact, in one of the most odd months of my life, but I remember relating to it because I was trying to figure out what my next steps in life were, and an unexpected third party helped give me the courage to do that. The film followed that line as well.

I look forward to having the friends there at that hotel who will help celebrate the marriage of Chuck and Cindy, er, Jeff and Diana.

Battery replacement

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 24, 2008, 5:20 PM | comments: 0

Hopefully this is the cure to my laptop woes.

Bill Gates era coming to a close

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 24, 2008, 12:41 PM | comments: 0

Bill Gates is just about done at Microsoft. I feel very fortunate just have been in the same room when he did the keynote at Mix06. I don't think the guy is evil in any way. I think he's f'ing brilliant, and he deserves every bit of his success. He's not always right, but he's a smart guy.

I really dig this quote from this interview:

I mean, that's the greatest surprise to me of all in my whole business career is that you find people who are so good at one thing, and where the principles and models and approaches in that and in the other area are actually very similar, very similar, and yet they're very poor at the one and just beyond brilliant at the other.

I've seen this very phenomenon countless times, and in terms of technology, I think it's the thing that at the root of so much technological failure. I would even theorize that it's the reason some of the "best" people I've worked with were not academically rooted in computer science, but came from a broader set of experiences. It's staggering how many brilliant code monkeys don't get even the most basic marketing principles.

It'll be interesting to see how the culture at Microsoft evolves post-Gates. I think it has already been changing for the better, just in the last five years that I've had exposure to the company. Regardless, you have to admire someone who started by taking a serious risk like dropping out of school and going on to lead one of the biggest, and arguably most influential, companies in the world.

Welcome to Alaska

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 24, 2008, 11:21 AM | comments: 6

One of my co-workers is in Alaska right now, doing the cruise thing, and another is riding his big BMW motorcycle up there with his wife in July. It's like Alaska is the cool place. Pretty much everyone I've talked to that has been thinks it's amazing, and they have the pictures to prove it.

Truth be told, Diana has expressed interest in doing a cruise, and I'm trying to get over my fear that cruise ships are big disease containers. I know that's buying into the stories the last few years where a bunch of people get sick, but it does creep me out a little. But Alaska is more interesting to me than the Caribbean, for example. The beach, eat, drink, repeat thing doesn't have a ton of appeal to me.

I think I just want to stand on the bow and say, "Iceburg! Right ahead!"

Toasty goodness

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 24, 2008, 10:35 AM | comments: 4

Would it be silly to buy this toaster? There was a short piece in Wired about it, and it just seems... awesome.

SEO and the scam

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 24, 2008, 12:09 AM | comments: 3

Search engine optimization, or SEO, I've long felt is a scam. By that I mean that people who offer to improve your rank in exchange for money are largely scamming. So much of what Google does is well documented, or at least well theorized, and Google itself these days tends to publish hints on its blog. And of course, the Jason Calacanis m.o. is, if you have good content, you'll get noticed.

But there are certainly things you can do to screw it up, and I've learned that pretty well. Google says the two top keywords on CoasterBuzz are "edit" and "quote," also the links on every forum post on the site. Yes, the 2003 crappy coding wears thin.

With PointBuzz being pretty clean and easy to change quickly, I made some tweaks that almost immediately got us ranking behind only the official site, and above Wikipedia (finally). It used to be that being linked to and just having high keyword density was enough, but things have changed quite a bit since then.

I used to think of this as gaming the search engines, but now I feel more like you're just trying to give the best possible profile as to what a page is about. That seems like the healthy approach.

Lingering thoughts about the Microsoft interview experience

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 23, 2008, 11:17 AM | comments: 1

It's strange how a number of different posts on my tech blog get comments practically every day. The big ones have to do with the failure of US education, my HP laptop from four years ago with the broken power jack, Xbox Live support sucking and the entire app/page/control event cycle based on pre-beta ASP.NET v2. A new one has become my post on my experience interviewing at Microsoft.

The comments on that post were thin, but I'm staggered by the number of e-mail messages I get. They come from random strangers, people who work there now and probably know the people I interviewed with, and surprisingly, a ton of people who had a similar experience, turned off by the company as a whole. As I said in that last post, that's still something I wasn't prepared for.

I also wasn't prepared for the, "Dude, you should come work on our team," messages. Ha! If only it were up to those people, right? The thing is, if I were approached again by someone at Microsoft, I'd make damn sure that the job was right for me. That's a luxury that I think a lot of people don't get used to when they get to a point of more senior experience. I never really realized it until I got my current job and left the consulting nonsense behind. An interview isn't just you being evaluated by the company, you're evaluating the company as well.

So would I work at Microsoft if I had the opportunity? Yes, I think I would, but I've developed a better sense of what I need first. The list starts with having a better opportunity for professional development than I have at I feel like they're finally getting me into projects and discussions that fit well with my skill and desires. Other companies have to compete with that if they feel I'm worth it.

Second, the position has to be right. My greatest interest remains in the ASP.NET area. It's what I know best, it's what I care about most. I really like the idea of being a PM, especially the opportunity to share your new goodies at conferences. I'm not sure if I'm smart enough to be a programmer, but my opinion may change as I continue to look at the .NET source code.

Third, the people who will interview me need to know what I'm about to some degree before I get there. I could tell that one of the guys I talked to last time had never looked at my resume prior to me sitting down in front of him, and frankly that pissed me off and I thought it was disrespectful (but hey, thanks for the 4,000 free OnePass miles).

I think it was that last part that really irked me when they came back with the stock "different direction" response. It's like, OK, you asked me one of your logic questions, then you guys gave me a bunch of absurdly abstract "what ifs" that were not particularly actionable. I was in a meeting last week talking about some pretty interesting stuff that we were planning, and my mind wandered back to Building 42 where I realized that no one had the slightest idea about the kinds of things I was doing today. That seems like a massive failure on their part.

I'm not the super-utility know-it-all type. I realize that, and I'm OK with it. But I do learn what I need to when the gig is something I'm interested in. The hard part about working for other people is that there is a certain level of burden placed on them to best utilize your skills, and you have only so much control in helping them connect the dots.

I don't know if this kind of brain dump is good for me professionally, or if it burns bridges, but I believe that honesty and a willingness to be open are essential to all relationships, even professional, as they facilitate expectation management. Let's face it, that's the foundation for successful software development too.

R.I.P. George Carlin

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 23, 2008, 10:17 AM | comments: 3

I was never a huge fan, but I guess partly because I didn't get his things until I got older. He was definitely a pioneer...

Get Smart and The (Not) Happening

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 22, 2008, 10:13 PM | comments: 0

I don't know how I forgot to blog about seeing The Happening last weekend. Oh, wait, yes I do. The movie was pretty stupid. Shyamalan movies are known for "the twist" right? Well this one doesn't have one at all, so I guess perhaps he shouldn't have set that expectation by formula writing. Furthermore, the premise is ridiculous. The R rating is completely forced by silly gore that seems completely out of context. The only saving thing about the movie is Zooey Deschanel and her big blue eyes. She's just adorable. Marky-Mark is annoying. (Come on! Come on! Feel it! Feel it!)

Today we saw Get Smart, and yes, Anne Hathaway is off of my annoying list and on to the hottie list. Finally she gets a movie where she's not a whiny bitch or a princess or some such shit. Steve Carell is of course comedy gold as usual, and delivers. While a little predictable, the twist was fun too. There was a lot more action than I expected. Hathaway in that dress and the little bob wig... yikes. Smoking hot. Put that in your princess Prada diary.

And sorry to Jeff and Kristin... we ended up going to see an earlier, closer showing because we had some other things on our agenda for the rest of the day. :)

Waldameer - 6/21

posted by Jeff | Saturday, June 21, 2008, 11:21 PM | comments: 0

I've been meaning to go to Waldameer for years, but was never serious enough about it until they opened the Spinning Dragons. Even then I didn't run right out and do it. But having a friend who designs wood coasters makes me inclined to get out and ride them, and Ravine Flyer II has certainly been a long time in the making.

The park definitely has that old charm to it. Granted, we didn't do any of the truly charming oldies like the dark ride, but we did get on some other great rides. They have a Paratrooper! What a great ride. I can't remember the last time I saw one other than at Kennywood (and I haven't been on that one).

We also did the drop tower, which was surprisingly great for its height. I still like free falls better than S&S towers. The Gondola Wheel was really, really fast. I think it's the same model as the one at Michigan's Adventure. Good times.

The Comet is a surprisingly good little ride. Loved it. The growth of the trees around the ride really make it special, especially with the sun peaking through. We were lucky enough to get a front seat ride. I love the good old giant brake handles. The one ride op I concluded could be me and Diana's offspring given her red hair and nose ring, and overall style (assuming she also plays volleyball). How funny is it that we would even have that kind of conversation?

The Spinning Dragons are quite fabulous. I wasn't really expecting the ride to be as aggressive as it was, though it obviously depends on just which direction the car is facing, and what your weight distribution is. Going down the first drop backward is a surprising sensation, and going back up even more so. The back-to-back seating is in some ways better than Gerstlauer's facing seats, but if you were in a group of three or four obviously facing would be better.

We witnessed a total safety no-no too. A mechanic was actually walking through the low zone from the transfer area over to the back of the station. There was one point on his walk where he would absolutely be struck by a car if it were sailing by. That made me extremely uncomfortable, especially as our first ride, but generally speaking they did a good job running rides efficiently and safely.

Of course, the thing that ultimately got us out to the park was Ravine Flyer II. I love the smell of all that lumber when you walk into a queue on a new ride like that. The queue is not a long one, and moves pretty quickly. I think for both laps we waited around 15 minutes at most. Seemed like a really great crew, and the girl at controls was particularly perky and friendly.

The ride has been pretty well documented, so I won't go into a lot of specifics. There's no doubt that the passes over the bridge do floater airtime that you'd sooner expect on a steel coaster. And what's really great is that coming off the bridge in both directions you have those crazy and sudden direction changes like those on The Voyage. The part across the road in particular is the first non-straight rise that I've been on that never lets up. I thought the ending part was kind of mediocre, but they squeezed every bit of energy out of that layout. When you park in the brakes, you can hear the upstop wheels still spinning. That's awesome.

I haven't been on all of the Gravity Group rides yet, but this one is not nearly as aggressive as The Voyage. Our ride toward the front was a little more crazy than the one in the back too. Didn't expect that. Overall it's an incredibly solid ride, especially for a park that size.

As I said, Waldameer has a lot of charm with a combination of old and new rides. At twenty bucks, the POP wristbands are a really great value. The food is cosmically average commercial service stuff mostly, and a little overpriced at that. If you want a place to see a lot of bad tattoos, apparently Erie is it. The family picnic park with rides is certainly a dying breed, but it really suits this particular place. We were there for a little more than three and a half hours, and pretty much did everything we wanted except for the Sky Ride, which moves at a glacial pace. I'm not sure we'll visit again any time soon, because while nice, we spent more time driving there than we did in the park. But by all means, if you get the chance Ravine Flyer II and Spinning Dragons are totally worth it!

Different directions

posted by Jeff | Saturday, June 21, 2008, 2:04 AM | comments: 3

This was a strange week, because me and Diana were doing different things most of the time. Actually, I pretty much did the same things, but she had tennis, a work dinner and a stitch-n-bitch meeting. The one day we were at home together we just watched a bunch of HD shit on the new cable box. Finally tonight we had quality time.

We went out to dinner for the first time in what seems like weeks. We were craving pasta we didn't have to make ourselves, so Macaroni Grill was perfectly adequate, and close by. We had the waitress with the best hair cut ever. The portions were fairly enormous and we took most of it home. The bread was very warm and yummy.

At home, we had hot tub time, got up to speed on additional cooking reality shows, she did some knitting while I surfed for porn, and overall had some relaxed time in each others company.

What's on deck for the weekend? Hopefully Waldameer, if the weather holds out. And Get Smart is also on the agenda, hopefully getting Anne Hathaway off of my annoying list.

Oh, and "old fashioned days" are this weekend here in town, which is basically some fireworks (last night) plus some fair rides and bands. Not anything I've ever really been interested in, even after being around for it for (gasp!) nearly 20 years. Shit do I need to move.

"Big breakfast" diet

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 20, 2008, 4:51 PM | comments: 6

Call me a skeptic, but it does at least point out the idiocy of the low carb diet, mainly that ultimately your metabolism takes a nose dive...

I <3 outdoor lunch

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 20, 2008, 12:53 PM | comments: 2

Raiders of The Lost Brick

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 20, 2008, 10:47 AM | comments: 0

Watch it! Very funny.

Lego Death Star

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 20, 2008, 10:30 AM | comments: 1

I think I found what I should buy for my birthday...

I'm in awe.

Jeff Putz Day is coming up

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 20, 2008, 12:34 AM | comments: 1

It seems like just yesterday that we had my big 30th birthday blow out, and here I am getting to 35. I guess it doesn't seem that recent when I think about all of the change life has brought me.

I'm wondering if I'll buy myself a birthday present this year. Last year, it was mostly just the iPhone (which I could do again this year). In 2006 I did a Vegas blowout. I guess all of this "being good" and debt free makes me wanna reward myself in some way outside of all the money I'm pouring into savings and investments. The responsible person inside says save your money and prepare to buy carpet.

Actually, the thing I'm worried about is maybe having to buy a new laptop at some point, because it's still getting some random power downs. I'm cycling down the battery again to see if that helps.

But I can't think of any toys that I gotta have. Wow, that sounds weird to say. I mean, I have all of the geeky crap that I want, and I don't even owe money on any of it. Perhaps I can think of something small to get myself, and give a little to the Red Cross since they're obviously going to need some help with the flooding.

Work milestone and coding adventures

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 20, 2008, 12:15 AM | comments: 0

The project that I've been working on for the last six weeks or so is finally going to test. The downside is that I need to be there super early on my birthday when it elevates, but I guess since I've not had to do one yet in two and a half years, I'm probably due.

I'd like to think that the little framework I built for the project is pretty clever, and plays to my strengths. Unfortunately most of the work was relative busy work to use the framework, but it's still pretty satisfying to see it get done. Next up is another big project that I'll either partially write or inherit from one of our architects. Not sure which.

One of the things that I don't get to do a lot of is play with new stuff as it's released. I wish there were more opportunities for that, because it's a lot harder to do on my free time. For example, I'd love to dive in and play with the new MVC framework for ASP.NET, which they're actually releasing source for as they go. They released the source for all of ASP.NET a couple of months ago, and it's fascinating to see all of the final bits, with developer comments. Very un-Microsoft of Microsoft.

I've had the opportunity recently to do some mentoring for one of the other developers, specifically around the ASP.NET AJAX framework, which is very gratifying. He's a smart guy anyway, but teaching him the ins and outs and seeing him get it is a lot of fun. Reminds me of why I wrote a book, and there's a part of me that would love to write another one, if I could just find the right niche to do so.

Next up for the personal projects, I'm going to try to build a control that does the auto-complete and name token list for private messages, much the way that Facebook does it. I'm sure that won't be easy, but I think I know how I want to do it.

Time-Warner update

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 19, 2008, 6:58 PM | comments: 0

So the cable guy came yesterday, and did he have an HD DVR? Of course not. I'll have to go to their office and swap the box with them. Morons. In fact, the dude didn't really have to do anything, because there were no taps on the line (and the wasp nest in the box by the street means he couldn't have removed them anyway), and the house is already wired. Needless to say, I got my connection charge refunded.

On the upside, I am at least enjoying Discovery HD Theater, though I'm not sure why they haven't added the full Discovery HD.

Programming tools

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 19, 2008, 2:01 PM | comments: 4

Tyler posted a link to a blog post about someone preferring a text editor over an integrated development environment (IDE). Naturally, my first thought is, wow, who thinks like this?

My first real exposure to development work was with the old ASP, which was frankly a shitty scripting language. You could use Notepad, FrontPage or a stone tablet to "develop" scripts. And why the heck not? You ran the page and it either worked or it didn't.

In 2001 I got into the .NET beta thing pretty early, along with the new Visual Studio. I think the visual stuff in the app to this day came along to pacify the old VB6 crowd, but I don't know of anyone doing serious development using the visual tools. I've always been one to peck out the markup and C# in text.

And boy, that Intellisense is worth the price of admission. Type "<asp:h" and then tab and you've got yourself a Hyperlink control. Type "i" then tab and you've got ID=". In the C# side of things, "pub-tab-vo-tab" gets you to public void.

Now add in ReSharper, and I'm doing things like Ctrl-F to format code, optimize using statements and namespace references, ditch redundancies (like using "this" in a class when you don't have to), etc. Or highlight some private members, Ctrl-Ins and get public accessors generated for me. Or select and choose extract method, and just like that I have a logical piece of code broken out into its own method with the right parameters.

Visual Studio doesn't get you off the hook for knowing how to design software, but it does free you of the burden of knowing every class name in the framework or dealing with mundane syntax issues. That's empowering and saves time, and best of all, allows you to concentrate on solving actual problems.

To that extent, I think Microsoft has done a pretty terrible job in marketing that ability outside of the core people who already know. When you read a blog post like that one, you can only wonder what they'd think if they saw you working with VS. It's far from perfect, but it makes my life crazy easier.

Complacency vs. The Moment

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 19, 2008, 12:24 PM | comments: 0

I'm having some serious anxiety issues lately, and I'm trying to figure out if it's because I feel complacent in some way or I'm just failing to live in the moment. So far this year I've had something in the works at all times, racking up around 20,000 miles in flight alone. Right now, nothing is really on the calendar (yes Kara, we'll be out in the fall!).

My personal projects are all stagnant, and that bothers me. When I'm home, I feel like I should be doing something more, though I'm never sure what. I just get restless.

I gotta figure it out.

Off-shore drilling is a bad idea

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 19, 2008, 11:15 AM | comments: 12

I think the thing that gets on my nerves the most about Bush, aside from his poor decision making, is that he treats everyone as if they're stupid, generally by playing to their fears.

This off-shore drilling thing is a perfect example of that. Any economist will tell you that such drilling will not have any affect on gas prices, for the obvious reasons that it takes five to ten years to finally get oil, and the total amount available is about two and a half years of our (current) consumption. Spread that out over several decades, and you don't need to be a statistician to see that it'll have no impact.

What's worse is that the dummy is now attributing high gas prices to the "Democratically controlled Congress." Nevermind that the rise started well before they assumed "control," and that it's market forces that dictate the price of oil.

I can't wait for this moron to be out of office.

Need a coaster trip, maybe

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 18, 2008, 12:16 PM | comments: 4

I've been reading Gonch's trip reports on CoasterBuzz (I'm not sure why he doesn't cross-post to his blog), and I have to admit that I have an itch to do something like that. The last hard-core coaster trip I went on, as in five parks in four days, was in 2001.

I would actually very much like to do Dorney and Hershey. I loathe the idea of going from this point forward, because of crowds, but I know Dorney is a non-issue for the most part because of the push to the water park. It's about a six-hour drive, which means leaving Friday night (and arriving late) to Hershey, then doing a half-day at Dorney and driving back unless we take a long weekend (which is hard for us at the moment).

Laptop power fix

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 18, 2008, 1:18 AM | comments: 2

I again learned what I did last year when my laptop kept spontaneously shutting off. To really exercise and teach the battery what its capacity is, you need to drain it completely, until it goes into sleep mode, then charge it. Maybe even do it twice. Resetting the power controller (the hold the power button without the battery in thing) was not the solution.

Sure enough, it seems to do the trick. I haven't had any random shutdowns since. That's good news, because as I've mentioned before, I want get a full three years out of this thing. It remains as my favorite comprooder ever. Until I get the next one, next year. :)

Firefox dooty

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 17, 2008, 5:00 PM | comments: 10

Heh heh. Dooty.

It's your duty to download Firefox 3.

It's crazy faster on the Mac, especially in terms of Javascript performance. That means things like Gmail are crazy fast. Google Maps is snappier too. And it doesn't bleed memory like the old version.

Stan Winston died

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 17, 2008, 12:59 PM | comments: 0

Another important person, this time for the film industry, died at only 62. If you've seen a movie with special effects, you've seen either his work or work inspired by things he invented. Stan Winston died Sunday.

Here's his obit in the LA Times.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 17, 2008, 12:46 PM | comments: 1

Ever have a day where you feel like you're beating your head against the wall, over something you shouldn't even have to? I'm having one of those days.

My previous life

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 16, 2008, 11:50 AM | comments: 5

I mentioned awhile back that I wanted to bring all of my photos, as in all of them from all time that I still have negatives for, into the digital world so they can be backed up locally and in the cloud. I've been able to get most of the way into 2002 at this point. It's not that I want to dwell on the past, but I think it's important to have a record of it. It reveals a lot about who you are today.

Naturally 2002 was a drastically different time for me, in a lot of ways. It's almost as if I had a previous life. Stephanie and I were happily married and having a lot of good times. We took little trips, she took goofy self portraits, I worked tirelessly on my Web sites. I know we had our issues even then, but overall life seemed to have a general order to it.

I think I've arrived at a place where I'm happy we had the time that we did. While I still put the decision to split mostly on Steph, I'm not bitter or angry about it. Aside from a couple of brief moments here and there, I never really was. It obviously sucks that it didn't work out, but we had some good times and I have wonderful memories. I'm genuinely happy for her pursuing the things she wants out of life in Colorado.

Another thing that comes out of the photos is the drastic changing in friend circles. The only people in those photos that I still have any contact with are Kara, who I really barely knew back then, and Kristin and Rob, who were dating at the time. Tim and Lois have been there all along too, thank God. I still talk to some of the volleyball kids now and then too. Even more weird are pics of Mike and Artemisa, who I'm lucky to see once a year but we always just pick up where we left off. Where did everyone else go?

Stephanie's friends started to flake out on her before she even moved. One guy in particular pretty much dropped off the face of the earth, while her best girl friend moved and cut off ties to humanity. Our maid of honor cut off ties after a misunderstanding with Steph, and my best man Frank I haven't heard from since our wedding.

My friends from various jobs moved, moved on or just stopped making an effort. Some of the coaster dorks grew up or did other things. It's pretty wild how all of that change went down in just a few years.

I guess it has really made me think about who my real friends are. I have hundreds of acquaintances, but people I'd call friends are a lot fewer in number. And actually, I'm OK with that. There's a short list of people that I feel some lasting connection to. They don't make a career of talking about me to other people (as many acquaintances do), they may not live near me, they give me a random shout now and then, we can bullshit about anything... they're always there in some way.

The last three years have served as a remarkable transition period for me. When I look at those photos, it's hard to get my head around just how much things have changed. It might be easy for someone to be brought down by something like that, but I am so thankful for every one of those days. I find myself reaching out now to the friends who helped me through that transition, because they were instrumental in helping me. I'm willing to work my ass off to maintain those friendships.

I just got to the end of the first of "the Diana years," which reminds me of how unexpected things can change, and how yet another person can enter the scene and immediately have impact on your life. Diana coming into my life seems too random to be random, but whatever higher power or cosmic forces you believe in, it has been amazing.

Indeed the collective experience of my life has taught me that other people can enrich your life when you're open to it and willing to learn from their experiences. You don't need a destination in mind for your life, you just need to take in the experience and influence of others to make the journey extraordinary. To me, that's what it's all about.

Video itch

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 16, 2008, 12:40 AM | comments: 0

Every time I open up DV Magazine I get that feeling like I need to bust out my camera and do some shooting. I keep telling myself that at the very least I'll get out to CP and shoot some HD video of stuff. The 16 gig P2 cards have come down in price enough that I think I can justify buying one and finally use that camera to its potential. Most of the stuff I've shot and posted online was in standard def, although it sure makes beautiful video at that rate.

I've also come to realize that I need to get a better tripod. My Bogen is very heavy, and really it's the head that I'm not fond of. I don't mind the weight, as you could support a car on that thing, but the head I have was fairly inexpensive, and the lack of smooth motion when I shoot moving stuff is apparent. I suppose I could just get a new head (the 519 looks nice), but I have to decide if I really want to stick with the system or move on to something else, like a Sachtler, which just introduced a system that is essentially a tripod, mini tripod and monopod all wrapped up into one sweet unit. Granted, it's like two grand with a decent head. The ball leveling is what I want most.

I've also been considering an external mic for the camera. I don't use on-camera audio that much for the stuff I've shot, especially for interview stuff, but it would certainly make a difference for the ambient sound. One of the annoying things is that the on-camera mic is totally omni-directional, so you can hear the camera's zoom lens. That's no good.

I've been eyeballing 35mm adapters, and it's good to see more vendors releasing them and the prices coming way down. These adapters essentially allow you to use lenses from 35mm cameras on video cameras. The benefit is that you can use a 30-year-old Nikon 50mm that stops down to f/1.4 and get the kind of dramatic short depth of field that you see in photos, which looks very film-like. If I were more serious about shooting a film, I'd totally use one of these. They create some goofy looking rigs to be sure, but I think they open a lot of creative doors for people that can't spend six figures on more expensive gear.

Late allergies

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 15, 2008, 11:09 PM | comments: 0

The funny thing about my allergies (if allergies can be funny at all), is that they really tend to not be the same from year to year. But historically, they do tend to hit right at the end of May. Well they're hitting me the last couple of days with itchy eyes and sneezing fits.

I took a Benadryl, and it fucked me up. I had to crash and slept for like two hours. I had to close up the house and turn on the air, which was not what I wanted on such a beautiful day.

My hope is that this will be brief. I had almost no allergies to speak of last year, except for a few sneezes late summer. I'll be crossing my fingers. Or nostrils. Or something.

Tim Russert died today

posted by Jeff | Saturday, June 14, 2008, 12:59 AM | comments: 11

I didn't watch Meet The Press all that often, but I'm really sad to see that Tim Russert died today of a heart attack, while recording voice-over pieces for this weekend's show.

As a journalist by education at least, I have a lot of respect for the people who have the true leadership to report the news, and go deep into it. Russert was one of those guys, and I loved that he didn't hold back. He'll be missed.

Ever since Peter Jennings died, I've wondered what the future holds for television journalism. The sad thing is that it's not as profitable as it used to be, and worse, American stupidity is willing to pass off something like Fox News as news at all. We're caught in a cyclical chicken-and-egg thing, where media pretending to be journalism is feeding crap to people who want crap. That's unfortunate.

We're very much in a state of flux right now, where it's not clear who the "real" story tellers will be. My only hope is that after eight years of shitty leadership at the top, that Americans start demanding more from their politicians and the journalists that cover them. We need to break the cycle. Russert was a part of that, and I only hope that others can aspire to do the same.

Canon 5D on sale, and lots of lenses

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 13, 2008, 11:11 PM | comments: 2

For the aspiring photographers, the Canon 5D with the 24-105mm L f/4 is on sale for $2,600. That's $150 less than when I bought it in February.

Actually, a bunch of the lenses and such are on sale too, which I think will at least interest Gonch (if he'd take care of his shit properly, that is ;)). The 70-200mm L f/4 is a steal at $560, and works great even on the field crop bodies. Seriously, if you've never had an L lens, this is the one that gets you hooked. What a great deal.

The 17-30mm L f/4 sure is tempting, as wide angle is really interesting to me again, especially having a full 35mm frame to deal with again. Check out the photo of Multnomah Falls on that page, which is in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Great photo (even though it doesn't truly do it justice in real life).

Universal Orlando: June 5-8

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 13, 2008, 10:44 PM | comments: 0

A little late getting this out, but here it is. I'll try not to do a play-by-play and just hit the highlights.

Let me get the negatives out of the way. They need to fix the admission procedure. The ticket/pass scanners are very particular about their focus point, so if you don't use them a lot, you have to rely on the attendant. The Disney scanners are slot loading, forcing the ticket's position. The attendant who is standing on the wrong side, so they take the ticket from you, reach across, then have to get out of the way so you can put your finger on the scanner. The scanners don't force your finger to a specific position the way the Disney scanners do, so there's more variability. You also need one attendant for each turnstile, so it's expensive for the parks. The system sucks and it's slow. I can do it quickly because I know the drill, but I have to be forceful in scanning my own ticket and just doing it.

Operationally, I wish they'd work a little harder and be more consistent. It's just at the point where if you know better you might be slightly annoyed, but it's not bad enough for the average guest to notice. The Mummy crew was kicking ass all over the place, and the big coasters were all pretty decent, but some of the other rides, like Storm Force, Dr. Doom, etc., need to lose the slow motion.

OK, got that out of the way. Overall, we had a great time and really took the most casual approach ever to the parks. With a Blue Man Group show on Friday night, meeting Diana's dad and my mom at various points, intermittent pool going and other activities, we just really took it easy. We got some really quality pool time in at Royal Pacific, which did a good job overall in terms of service.

The big story is of course The Simpsons Ride. I'm not much into simulators, so my expectations were low, but I've gotta say I really enjoyed it. It's a good ride because it's a very good integrated experience. The stuff they show in the queue starts setting things up, and then the count-out staging queue rooms have a number of things going on from four animated screens featuring characters and a fake informational sign that also starts the story rolling with Sideshow Bob. The small room they feed you into with your car mates further develops the story, and then you're into the ride vehicle.

The ride itself is well programmed, and the projection technology is the most amazing thing I've seen. I think it may project at a full 60 frames per second, maybe at a full 4k resolution, because it's amazingly clear for the size of the screen. It's really a lot of fun. I'm generally indifferent about sim rides, but I like this one.

As an example of poor operations, take Men In Black (just this one more point, I promise). The regular line is backed way up beyond the room with "The Twins" and into where ever it goes (I don't remember because I haven't used that line in years). The express line is almost non-existent, so we walk right up to the platform. And with all of that line, the ride ops can't even get four other people into our car. So me and Diana roll out, just the two of us, as pissed stares from the line watch us. Duh.

Anyway, it's funny how once you know the ride pretty well, you can score like crazy. Diana got all of the hits on the other car, so even though I got the red button bonus, she still beat me. What rocked though is that, without any schmucks to drag down our score, we averaged around 250,000 points, nearly ten times our opponents, and we finally got the highest rating out of it before the flashy thing. Sweet.

We also did the new Disaster Blah Blah Blah Starring You!, the revamp of the San Francisco Earthquake. The ride portion is about the same, only it shows a Mutha Nature, a film starring The Rock, er, Dwayne Johnson, a combination of pre-recorded stuff and stuff you shoot in the pre-show with audience members. It gets a serious laugh from the crowd. The first second room that had the miniatures has an effect where Christopher Walken is projected into the room and walks in front of and behind real objects, a neat trick considering said objects are still in 3D space for the viewers.

We ate at Mythos for lunch, twice, at IOA. The viewers of that theme park insider site must have shitty taste, because that's not even on the radar of being the best theme park restaurant. Seriously pick one, any one, in Epcot, and it'll be better. Mythos isn't holding reservations months in advance. It's not bad, it's just cosmically average.

We're still getting lots of discounts on food and merchandise with the annual pass, and overall the food is still better quality and cheaper than the crap at Cedar Point. Just had to throw that in there.

We got on the water rides early on Saturday. Yes, it's true that Dudley has lap bars. Strangest thing I've ever had. First time I've been there in awhile when the ride wasn't down for rehab, so it was nice to get on it. The airtime wasn't very strong, maybe because we sat in the back. They need to tweak the audio in a few places, as it's hard to hear the story.

We also did the Popeye/Bluto Barges. I usually hate those damn rides, but that one is so kick ass. The speed at times is actually alarming. It has a couple of dead spots, but it's still a lot of fun overall. I would've liked to have had a chance at Grand Rapids at Michigan's Adventure for comparison sake.

The Jurassic Park River Adventure again had a dinosaur boxed in. It has been a couple of years since I've been on that where every effect and animal was up and running. Again, it needs some audio tweaks, especially at the start. They need more fog around the T-Rex too, even if it does perhaps kill the skin that they replace weekly more quickly. I think the water level was low too, because we didn't get very wet at all.

The temporary bridge is in place between the service gate just passed Mythos to the Jurassic Park dock, for use when the Harry Potter stuff gets into the midways. The main ride building is enormous. They're gonna have to figure out a way to dress the back of the building, or hide it with more vegetation, because it's clearly visible from Jurassic Park.

We saw the Sinbad stunt show. Same actors we saw in November, and a year ago when I was there. That gig has gotta get boring. The princess has scary abs.

The studio park needs more sit-down restaurants, we think, but the truth is we've never really explored the food options there very well. I like to sit down and have food served at least once a day at theme parks. I think the Irish themed place across from The Mummy is sit-down, but I've never looked hard enough.

They were putting up an enormous light rig on the street around there. It was very impressive, but no idea what it was for.

Overall, we had a really good time. I think we spent around five hours in the park the first two days, then two or three on Saturday and Sunday, which is when we were traveling to and from The Villages to visit mom.

I ended up having to buy another annual pass for me, because mine expired, and like an idiot, failed to realize that the cheap seven-day pass on the Internet has to be bought more two days prior. I bought the cheap one with the black-out dates, so maybe we'll take a quick hit in November during IAAPA so I can at least get my money's worth. Generally speaking, I've had my fill for a little while, though I look forward to the new coaster and Harry Potter stuff late next year. IAAPA week is gonna be all about the rat.

Hulk... not bad

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 13, 2008, 9:12 PM | comments: 2

I'm not sure what Ed Norton was pissing and moaning about regarding The Incredible Hulk, but honestly it wasn't bad. It was certainly better than the first, and I say that because I don't remember the first one at all. Granted, I'd probably watch anything with Liv Tyler in it, so what do I know.

Fun things... They used the sad walking out of town music from the TV show. Lou Ferrigno had a cameo, and IMDB says he was the voice of the Hulk. There is way too much of Ed Norton and Tim Roth without a shirt. There's an Ironman tie-in I'm not clear about other than Robert Downey Jr. makes an appearance at the end. Now that Marvel is its own studio, it's about time they start exploring some cross-overs as they did in the comics.

Clone Wars

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 13, 2008, 9:08 PM | comments: 0

I saw the trailer today, and it's on the official site...

I have to say that when I first heard about this, I was skeptical, but I really like the visual style of this animation. It could be a total flop, or could be great. It would certainly fill in some gaps between Episode II and III.

Summer movies

posted by Jeff | Friday, June 13, 2008, 12:20 PM | comments: 2

The funny thing about summer is that one of my favorite things to do is an indoor thing. Summer movies are always so much fun. Sure, lots of them are forgetable, but that's ok, because the experience of the film, popcorn and sound is fun. I think there is still some excitement left in going to a movie theater.

Granted, I tend to go to matinees with as few people there as possible. I did that quite a bit during my summers off, and I wish I had more opportunities to do so.

Today's flick: The Incredible Hulk. It couldn't be worse than the last one. :)

Holy bandwidth!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 12, 2008, 9:31 PM | comments: 2

So I tested out my Internets, and wow, it's considerably snappier. Various tests show bursts at 12 mbits, with sustained transfer around 5 mbits. Not bad. Upload speeds are a dead on 720 kbits.

I'm a cable subscriber

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 12, 2008, 3:28 PM | comments: 8

Well, in my quest to upgrade my TV situation, I called DirecTV and Time-Warner to see what my options are. Before five minutes ago, I was paying around $55 for my Internet access via cable, and $54 a month to DirecTV. The Net access is since 2003, the DirecTV since 2001. Yeah, shows you how much I've been paying attention.

My first call was to DirecTV. They offered a new HD receiver and dish for free, and a $10 up-charge. Yeah, I know that they have a few more HD channels, but come on. That didn't exactly strike me as a deal.

Next call was to Time-Warner, which is notoriously shitty in terms of customer service, but I figured what the hell. First, I found out my Internet plan was ancient. I was paying the amount that normally gets you 15 mbits down! Yikes. I said that the 7 mbits was fine, and a substantial improvement over the 3 or so I was getting now. The price for that service, stand alone, was ten dollars less.

Then I asked about the TV. Digital cable, with an HD DVR, about the same channels that I already have, locals available in ClearQAM, another $43 over the reduced Internet price. That's $88 a month total, instead of the $110 I was paying before. Um, yeah, not much of a decision to make there! It's not an introductory price either.

So there you have it. The analog signals will stay on the cable for the forseeable future as well, so my DVR is still 100% useful, even more so once BeyondTV supports the rash of ClearQAM tuners out there. Score. I'm not sure how much I'll use the DVR they include, but of course I'll check it out and see what it can do. SmartSkip is too great of a feature to totally leave my BeyondTV box for.

I wonder how much money I would've saved if I would've looked into this years ago.

Random turnyoffyness

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 12, 2008, 11:49 AM | comments: 3

My MacBook Pro is starting to randomly shut off again, something it did back in August for a short period of time. It did it to me three times last night, once in Orlando and three times at the airport in Seattle. It's seriously annoying.

As I've said before, I'd really like to get a solid three years out of the laptop, because frankly it's pretty adequate in every way for the things I need it to do. OK, it would be nice if it could use 4 gigs of memory so Parallels could have 2, but other than that it's totally adequate.

The battery is only lasting about two hours these days, after more than 250 charge cycles and health around 75%. I still wonder if it isn't the battery that's influencing the issue, but as I mentioned in August, it powered off once with no battery in. I think that the power management stuff is still influenced by the battery, or last batter in, in some way.

Regardless, I'm just not ready to replace it. Hopefully the problem will just go away like it did last time.

International understanding

posted by Jeff | Thursday, June 12, 2008, 11:39 AM | comments: 1

I added Al Jazeera to my Google Reader account a couple of weeks ago because I felt like I wasn't getting a very good picture of what was going on the world. I'm happy that I did, because their coverage tends to be a lot more rich in terms of what's going on in Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. Their coverage of EU politics in particular is fascinating.

Their editorial decisions are a lot different than that of the US news agencies, in that they seem less interested in trying to dumb down stuff or drop the stories that might be less tantalizing. Their choices for the US stories they pick up is often surprising as well (covering the Kucinich effort to impeach Bush not withstanding).

If you're interested in broadening your horizons, I strongly recommend the site.

Mobile Me and Windows Me

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 3:46 PM | comments: 5

This post from Fake Steve Jobs is hilarious because honestly as soon as I saw the images from the keynote, this is what I was thinking. The logo is scary same. You don't forget an OS that shitty.

William Shatner

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 10:39 AM | comments: 8

I happened to run across this article about Bill Shatner, and I found it fascinating.

Boston Legal is an absolutely brilliant show, and it succeeds because Captain Kirk of all people is shockingly good, as is James Spader who has always been good. And hey, it's a coming of age story, coming of old age, that is, so naturally I find it interesting.

Let's be honest, Shatner was pretty much a shitty actor his entire life. I'd go as far as to say this is the only role he was ever good in. What's inspiring to me is that he never quit, and he's at the top of his game at 77, when I suspect a lot of people would just give up. That's impressive.

Preemptive monetary concern

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 11, 2008, 1:20 AM | comments: 0

With my credit card balances abolished, naturally I'd like to keep them at zero. I had to bust ass to get there, and I don't want to undo it all.

So tonight I'm having a minor short-term freak out at the balance I've racked up in the last month. It's a combination of the vacation (it's no secret I do whatever I feel like while on holiday), the new TV and of course the One Ring (which I have plenty of time to pay off). There isn't a spectacular failure in the works or anything, it just feels like I went a little nuts. As long as I pay myself out of the business, everything should be fine.

It's such a different vibe for me. Here I am saving money and not spending more than I make. I have some level of regret that I didn't do this sooner... nah, not really. I've had some awesome times that I wouldn't have had without throwing money I didn't have around, and you can't put a price on that. (Actually I can, and it was somewhere around $20k for the last ten years.)

Perhaps the realization about being a 30-something for me has been that I need to stock pile as much as I can so I can retire early and stop fucking around with a day job. I'm on a good roll now, if you don't count that the markets aren't being kind at the moment. Now I just have to exercise the right amount of restraint, or find clever ways to make more money without doing a ton more work.

More thoughts on TV stuff

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 10, 2008, 1:48 PM | comments: 2

I mentioned previously how I was thinking about a DVR-ish solution to match the new TV. My first thought is to build a baby PC for under $500 and get BeyondTV Link for it. That means I can just stream whatever is on the main DVR into it over the wireless network. To get a free remote, I'd have to buy it today.

BeyondTV has a ton of things going for it, not the least of which is SmartSkip, the function that finds the TV spots, marks them, and allows you to skip them entirely with one button press. Having played with TiVo, that's the thing I still maintain the system has on it. It also records the native off-air HD signals. It's just a really good system, and after almost four years the original computer has long since paid for itself over TiVo or rental boxes.

An alternative I started to consider was to just buy another AppleTV. BeyondTV has an exporting system via RSS that iTunes can use to suck in the shows that it records, and then you can sync those with AppleTV or your iPod or whatever. That's not nearly as seamless, and it doesn't do HD either.

I have to admit that a part of me just gets a kick out of building a new computers, and now that I've been in the Apple world for two years, it has been a long time since I've done that.

Do you really need to be that connected?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 10, 2008, 12:46 PM | comments: 2

It's no secret that sometimes Web celebritards annoy me, but if Scoble needs three phones, you know, it's time to ask yourself what you're doing. I realize it may in part be because of his job, but even then, it's a bit much.

I'm not sure I entirely understand why people, especially in tech circles, are so hell bent on being connected at all times. I travel with my laptop in case I have some kind of crisis with my Web sites, but I don't turn it on much. Last trip I fired it up the night before we left and at the airport, and that's it. I liked not being online.

Yes, I have an iPhone, but I don't endlessly fiddle with it unless I need to kills some time. On vacation, I found myself answering a couple of e-mail messages (all personal, not business) in the mornings, but that was about it. It's just not that critical to be connected all of the time.

I'm about as big of a nerd as anyone, but sometimes I wonder if all that technology enhances our lives, or obscures the parts that matter most.

WTF Time Machine?

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 9, 2008, 11:32 PM | comments: 1

Apple did something in a recent upgrade that seems to have broken Time Machine working through a drive connected to the Airport Extreme router. I'm annoyed. I bought a 1 TB drive just for this purpose, and suddenly it stopped working. It can't mount the backup.

Other people seem to have the problem as well, but it's not widely reproduced. I suppose I could just connect the drive directly, since I don't ever save anything long-term on the laptop, but that's sub-optimal because it's not what I originally wanted.

For more fun, my UPS failed on a brown-out, and one of the fans in my DVR is screaming. And my laptop randomly shut down twice. Technology doesn't like me today.

iPhone 2.0: No brainer

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 9, 2008, 5:03 PM | comments: 6

So the new iPhone will be 3G, have GPS and be $200. Um, yeah, of course I'm going to buy one. That's like an impulse buy!

Already some people are disappointed that there are no Mac upgrades announced, but honestly, there isn't a lot to be excited about. They just keep upgrading the CPU's, RAM and hard drives. I don't see any reason to mess with them. I guess a lot of people want aluminum MacBooks, which I understand. I think though that the plastic is what differentiates the models, much in the way that iBooks and PowerBooks were.

I don't see a lot of use for MobileMe, especially because you just know that Google has someone working on native apps for Gmail and Calendar (and they better remember to make it work for Apps for Your Domain as well).

I wonder what I'll do with my old iPhone? ;)

So much stuff on the brain!

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 9, 2008, 12:22 PM | comments: 1

Despite being a bit tired from travel, and Delta's incapability to get my luggage home, all of the sun and fresh air has my mind racing.

Work stuff and home work stuff is becoming more clear in my head. I'm feeling a definite need to get back into eating right and exercise more. Mundane things like getting my oil changed are obvious. I hope I can translate all of this to some action.

Vacations are good.

On growth in business

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 9, 2008, 11:24 AM | comments: 0

I love this blog post from the 37signals guys. I've been saying for a long time that growth is not the measure of success in business, which unfortunately is how nearly all public companies must define success.

Success is not about scale, it’s about sustainable execution.

When a vacation is long enough

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 8, 2008, 3:57 PM | comments: 0

You know that feeling when you're at the end of a vacation, and you're just about ready to go home? I love that feeling. For me, I need to go about five days. Diana says she's about ready today with four. It makes you appreciate home, but you get that neat feeling of accomplishment too.

This vacation was busy, but we had some nice restful time too. I think I've stayed at the Royal Pacific at Universal so much that it seems like a second home! Diana's dad and girlfriend thought it was exceptionally nice, and I guess I'm just used to it.

I appreciate it more this time because we spent time at the pool. I was down there for a little while with Cath last year, but I haven't been in the water since more than two years ago (some Michigan chicks were with me). I gotta tell you, when it's really f'ing hot, a nice pool is sweet. I managed not to burn too much, but to say I got some "color" would be an understatement.

I'll write some kind of trip report later about Universal. Around the park-going, I upgraded last minute to a convertible because, well, why not, I'm on vacation. We got a VW Beetle, and while it still feels like a cheaply made car, it's very peppy and it was nice to have the top down. It was arrest-me-red.

Friday night, Diana's dad and his friend Helen Ann came up to join us for dinner and my ninth viewing of a Blue Man Group show. She's an employee of the Ritz, so she got a great rate on the place. The show has still more minor tweaks here and there. The one guy dropped a paint ball for the first time, after not being able to break the first one in his mouth. I've not seen that happen before! Universal finally lets the Blue Men come out and take photos after the show. I had heard they didn't allow it before because they wanted to figure out how to monetize that. (Lame.) I wonder how the partnership between BMG and Universal is going.

Saturday afternoon we drove up to The Villages so Diana could finally meet my mom. We ate at a mediocre Italian place. I got to drive around the golf cart, while my mom and step-dad drove my aunt and uncle's (they were out of town). I swear, retirees and golf carts and alcohol seem like a dangerous mix. Though ironically, it was me who had his blinker on all of the time, because it didn't automatically turn off.

Overall it was a fun weekend, and we paced ourselves pretty well. I'll write about The Simpsons Ride and all that later.

This is what happens if you wear a tie too long

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 4, 2008, 3:21 PM | comments: 8

Wow, check out this guy going totally ape shit in his office. What makes a person snap like this?

Microsoft interview fail

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 4, 2008, 3:12 PM | comments: 2

Well, I don't have to worry about moving to Seattle, because Microsoft is not making an offer. So now that it's all in the past, I feel like I can talk a little more openly about the experience.

I won't say which group it was that I was approached by, but I will say that it was not one that I expected. My expertise is largely in the ASP.NET space, and this was a PM gig definitely not in that area. It was initially pitched to me as being heavily related to my experience, so I figured, sweet, I could totally do that!

The job was actually posted after that, and the written description was a little different than I expected. But still, this was Microsoft, and there is certainly a lot of opportunity there in the bigger picture. And did I mention they were footing the bill for the visit?

My first interview was actually with one of the .NET PM's, which was cool because I felt like there was more to talk about there, even though I wouldn't be working directly in his group. We talked about how I'd handle a crisis with regard to shipping something, and I gave my best strategy based on my limited knowledge of the organizational structure (it was based on a real problem I'm not allowed to talk about :)). He also gave me a coding problem, which was surprisingly hard to get my head around without Visual Studio. I'm a refactor-until-it-works kind of guy, and boy do I realize that now! But it was still a fun exercise.

The second interview was with a senior PM in the group I was interviewing for, and that's where my impression of things started to change. The conversation was all over the place, which perhaps was a symptom of going out for lunch. I started to also get the feeling he was very disinterested in me. That's kind of intangible, but I kept getting the feeling I was inconveniencing him in some way. That really put me off. Checking e-mail and using his mobile device while chatting put me off even more.

From there, he asked me some very vague and abstract questions, leading me in kind of random directions. I know from reading other interview accounts that there tend to be a lot of complex scenarios thrown at you, but they're defined well enough that you can make actionable responses. This was not one of those. I asked a lot of questions, but I wasn't getting what I needed to make any kind of intelligent response. It's like someone asking you, "How would you make something?" It depends on if you're talking about software or woven baskets!

The third interview was better, but again with the e-mail checking or whatever. Come on, man, I had to come 2,000 miles for this! If you can't do me the courtesy of listening and learning about me, it's really hard to sell myself! I was really put off by that, to the extent that I started to feel like this wasn't the gig for me. Honestly I was so excited about coming to Redmond that I never even synthesized that as a possible outcome. I left the building feeling really let down.

Not surprisingly, I didn't get the gig. I think the position itself was a mismatch for my background, and that was the first issue. The second is that the quality of the interviewing wasn't particularly good (except for the first guy, who I wouldn't be answering to anyway). I've had far more vigorous interviews that did a better job of assessing my capability.

Now that I've had a couple of days to think about it, and have a sort of closure with the non-offering, I think I have some conclusions I can draw. The first is to remember what I learned years ago with meat market recruiters who put me places like Progressive (the worst consulting gig I ever had), in that it's a good idea to understand for yourself if the position is right for you in the first place. Just because it's Microsoft calling doesn't mean that the gig is right. Duh.

Second, while I was disappointed with the experience, it's not a reason to write off Microsoft as a whole. My experience as an author, and as a customer needing a little help, has been awesome. Heck, it has been better than awesome. There are a lot of very smart and passionate people there.

Is there a big job change in my future? I'm not entirely sure. As I said before, I wasn't actively looking as much as I thought it'd just be a good idea to be on the radar in Washington. It helps to understand what your worth is every couple of years and evaluate if you're getting what you want out of your current job.

Bottom line, the experience was worth it. And visiting my future brother-in-law and his family was certainly an awesome perk.

America's Asshole

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 4, 2008, 12:44 AM | comments: 9

From Alex...

Alex: wow, NYC really is america's asshole
Alex: i don't see why anybody would want to live there
Me: hahahahahaha

It's interesting the way people perceive various places. I've never been to NYC, so I'm not qualified to have an opinion, but I doubt I'd want to live there. Diana did for several years while working in theater.

But there are definitely places that have different character. Minneapolis is totally surreal because people are so nice. In Seattle, people drive the speed limit and don't seem to be in much of a hurry. Las Vegas is glittery excess with happy (i.e., drunk) people everywhere. Chicago is vibrant and feels cultured. Portland is laid-back and tree friendly. Baltimore wants really badly to be a better city.

Isn't it amazing that despite the Internet and (relatively) inexpensive means to travel, that American cities are so diverse?

Our LOL cat

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 4, 2008, 12:34 AM | comments: 2

Oliver is our comic relief here. He can be outright annoying at times, but he makes up for it in cuteness. He has this long plush tail like thing on a stick, and he carries it around in his mouth, brings it to you as an invitation to play. It's kinda hilarious.

While in Seattle, I got to hang out with my future brother-in-law's cat, Lou. He's a ragdoll, and he's cross-eyed. He fell four stories off of his former apartment balcony, and after much medical care, is the slightly limping charmer he is today. His funny thing is that you can whistle at him like a dog and he'll come running.

Thank God for kittehs!

Medical mess

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, June 4, 2008, 12:26 AM | comments: 8

Draeger's recent posts with regards to him fighting his condition really open your eyes to some harsh realities. The first is that despite all of our progress, medicine can still be a bit of a dark art. We don't have all of the answers, and we're still not indestructible. If you're in your 30's or 40's, you may have grown up supposing that things would be like Star Trek, and we could just put people in those little machines that fix your innards. We're not there yet.

Which is not to say that I'm not optimistic. Every day there's a new story about some promising direction. Just today I saw a story on how Accutane, the acne drug, can be used to supplement cancer treatment. How odd is that?

I think that the bigger problem is that the whole insurance system is such an epic failure, since not everyone has it or can afford it. And a grand a night just for a hospital room? (When the food is terrible? ;)) I can't even wrap my head around that. It'll be interesting to see how the issue of medical expenses figures into this presidential debate.

Workplace readers

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 3, 2008, 11:25 AM | comments: 6

So it has come to my attention that a number of people from work are stalking, er, reading my blog. Super. Just keep in mind that you may read some shit you don't like. :)


posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 3, 2008, 1:23 AM | comments: 0

I'm borrowing Wi-Fi from the Continental President's Club through the wall adjacent to me here at Sea-Tac. Of course, I enjoy people watching.

There's a water fountain behind me that makes loud bubbling noises through a speaker every time someone takes a drink, presumably to match the the brass fish set in the floor.

Across from me is a guy that embodies everything I don't like about Cleveland... hill jack, listening to shitty music, doing the white man's hair band head bob.

A young couple is here, and they seem incredibly annoyed with each other.

The Continental podium attendant has her hair largely in her face in kind of a come hither fashion, but can't seem to talk to customers because she's so busy securing her hair behind her ear.

My plane just arrived. It's strange that the only direct flight back to Cleveland is a red eye. This is going to be a difficult night, and probably an even more difficult morning.

Interviewing at Microsoft

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 2, 2008, 8:28 PM | comments: 1

So by now it's probably pretty obvious that I interviewed at Microsoft. Truthfully, I haven't been looking for a job, and I tend to like where I'm at right now. That said, I had a series of casual conversations with various people at Microsoft, and out of the blue I got a call asking me to come interview for a program manager position.

The PM position kind of reminds me of the gig I had at Penton Media, basically where you provide the vision and direction for something, and coordinate the development of that product. It's a neat mix of development, architecture, some degree of project management... really a little of everything.

Since Microsoft was paying for the visit, and, well, it's Microsoft, how could I not go? It's hard to say how I think it went, for a lot of reasons I'll talk about at some other point. Truly I think that this was as much about me seeing what the company was like as it was the company seeing if I was a good fit.

So regardless of the interview itself, I was actually quite surprised at the scope of the campus. I mean, I know Microsoft is fairly substantial, what with $50 billion in the bank, but it's amazing at how big the many buildings are, with their parking garages, shuttles driving around, etc. From the outside perspective, it seems like an enormous amount of overhead.

But when you get inside, it doesn't strike me as a company of excess, the way I perceive a lot of technology companies. They seem to be a lot more invested in their people, which is, I think, the right thing to spend your money on.

Like I said, I don't have a good read on how the interview went, or even how I feel overall about the entire experience, but there is a lot to think about if they do make an offer. If not, I'll continue working at, where they continue to give me more responsibility and more opportunity to meaningfully impact the business.

Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that. Sure is a different scenario than that of eight years ago.

Venture Bros. starts tonight!

posted by Jeff | Monday, June 2, 2008, 1:18 AM | comments: 0


posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 1, 2008, 1:06 PM | comments: 12

Economic stimulus and TV stuff

posted by Jeff | Sunday, June 1, 2008, 1:07 AM | comments: 2

We went out to run a bunch of errands today prior to my trip to Seattle, not the least of which was to hunt down Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga for the DS. With the forthcoming Indy game in the Lego genre, I remembered that I had a lot of interest in getting the whole Star Wars series game. It allegedly has some extra goodies in the DS version too. I've barely used the DS since Kara stole my Wario Ware, so I figured it'd be fun to play something while flying.

While at Best Buy, I made some comment about how I often wished we had a TV in the bedroom to watch movies or whatever. I had been looking at a 26" Westinghouse for a long time with a built-in DVD player, and since it was finally on sale, I figured what the hell.

The TV has a ClearQAM tuner in it, so I figured it might be a good chance to see if the cable had the local HD channels on it. I don't pay for cable TV, but I do get my Internet connection with it. To wire it up though, I needed to connect that cable to the bedroom from the outside of the house. Home Depot happened to have the cable stripper I had when I worked in TV, and it even works with RG-6 and RG-59. It's a little thing with two blades in it at different depths, so you squeeze it on the end of the cable, whirl it around a couple of times, and get a perfectly stripped cable to crimp on to. Sweet.

Well surprisingly enough, yes, the cable did have the local HD channels, so we can view them on the TV. Yay! This got me thinking about Beyond TV, the PC-based DVR that I've been using now for four years on a computer I built. They have link software that allows you to play back anything you record on other machines. It's pretty seamless. So I'm thinking about building another comprooder to link to. I priced out parts and I can build a little one in a little case for about $400.

Or maybe I'll get a second Apple TV. That would actually be cheaper, especially since Beyond TV can synchronize stuff to iTunes.

The funny thing is, the cable stripper is the purchase I was most excited about.

So we spent the day stimulating the economy. Diana picked up some shorts at Old Navy, we had shakes and smoothies at Mustard Seed, new headphones for Diana's iPod and boneless wings from BWW. all in all, a fun day on the anniversary of our first date. The real party is next weekend...