Archive: July, 2008

Gotta let go of the science projects

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 31, 2008, 6:43 PM | comments: 1

I love to screw around and tinker with things, trying stuff I've not done before. Sometimes these science projects lead to something cool (if completely emulating something else), like the little auto-complete/token list I did for the forum's private message "to" field. That's fun stuff.

But sometimes I get too stupid about it. Sunday night I was messing with the drag-and-drop reordering list control in the ASP.NET AJAX toolkit. I thought it might be something neat to use in ordering and ranking your coaster track record. But for a reason I don't even remember, I didn't like how it worked. So I figured I'd try to build my own. The truth is, I think I can pull it off, but I'm not going to be "self-employed" forever, and I'm pulling myself off of making more meaningful progress.

As I've indicated before, my immediate goal is to get that site to a manageable code base where I can quickly iterate and add stuff as I go. Big bang moments are not helpful because they're too hard to get to.

Body toll

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 31, 2008, 6:00 PM | comments: 0

I swear that I sometimes lose my mind when it comes to how I'm treating my body. The last two days in Cincy at the tennis tournament, I ate crappy food and didn't lube up with enough sunscreen, and I'm paying for it.

But hey, remember that Evian backwards is naive. More on that later...

Justice apparently doesn't matter in death penalty cases

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 31, 2008, 3:56 PM | comments: 0

In this mess of a murder case, there is enough back and forth to make you scratch how this guy was ever convicted. With the information in the article, it could certainly go either way, but isn't either way "reasonable doubt?" And isn't that flaw in the system reason enough not to use the death penalty?

The worse part is this money quote:

King called the stay a serious setback for the prosecution. "There is a good chance he is going to escape his sentence before all is said and done," the attorney general said.

Uh, isn't the right outcome the goal of a criminal trial?

There's little doubt that the guy is a scumbag on some level, at least, that's the impression I get from his record. I still have an issue we have with putting people to death in a system that relies on judgment calls, often poor ones, of human beings.

Gonch is turning into an old cynical fart

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 31, 2008, 12:12 PM | comments: 27

See here. ;)

Seriously though, I'm bothered by the way people diss an entire generation. People did it with mine, and yet we're trying damn hard to undo the damage of previous generations. Now the next one is being written off as a bunch of crybaby coddles shits, and I think that's totally unfair.

Let's be frank about it, our country is behind and non-competitive in the global marketplace because of protectionist precedent set by several previous generations, and reinforced with asinine programs like No Child Left Behind. So if you want to throw some responsibility around, let's first send it to the old men in elected offices and board rooms. They made this.

But only do that if you really believe this bullshit that the average 20-somethings are slacker crybabies, or at least, any more than any previous generation. When I think of the 20-something archetype just out of school, I tend to think of people in our own little blogging circle like Tyler or Kara. And now that kids I coached ten years ago are out into the world, they're the same way, making it in the world and contributing to society. I see the same "kids" out in the workplace.

Seriously, where are these entitlement no work ethic people? The only place I see them are in their 40's and 50's who bitch and moan that they don't want to learn anything new and would rather sit around on unemployment than embrace new technology. I see plenty of that. To me that says that even if these kids do exist, they aren't any different than countless generations before them.

I guess it all depends on how you want to view the world. I'm not going to get all Whitney Houston on you and tell you that the children are our future, but the most rewarding experiences I've had in my life come from mentoring and guiding young people to be better people. Putting down their generation based on a media fueled archetype is not productive or helpful. I'm regularly amazed, and perhaps even embarrassed of my own level of achievement, when I see what people younger than me are capable of.

Centre Court

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 30, 2008, 3:09 PM | comments: 0

No way, Kings Island

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 29, 2008, 9:10 PM | comments: 5

ASP.NET AJAX: Moving target

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 28, 2008, 11:49 PM | comments: 0

Working with the ASP.NET AJAX framework has been fun. I think the basics are well covered for the most part, and beyond that, your imagination can likely come up with some really interesting UI.

What's frustrating, however, is the way it has become a moving target. There's the original release, 1.0, as an extension to ASP.NET v2. Then there's v3.5, which comes in .NET v3.5, which includes ASP.NET v2. In the background, we had the "futures" package, and now the forthcoming v3.5 SP1, which has better a version of the history control, so don't use futures. Oh, and the roadmap for v4 was more or less recently released. It's madness. (Oh, and the documentation on MSDN, linked to from the old v1.0 docs, is poorly organized compared to the old stuff.)

So if you're a developer trying to get up to speed, where do you start? What's really important? For me it's easy, because I do independent stuff that interests me, and I happen to be between regular day jobs. I've been pretty focused on v3.5 and doing useful things with it, like a Facebook-esque auto-complete list (puts a "token" representing a data item in the box that you chose via auto-complete).

In the corporate world, adoption of anything new is slow. This makes me wonder... who are the people using the latest bleeding edge stuff, and why? Sure, they're the bloggers and authors and such, and the new open Microsoft is getting their feedback, but are they the right people? There are a whole lot of smart people involved, but I wonder if the chaos of versions and service packs and futures and community driven stuff are well connected. (The ControlToolKit's ReorderList control throws script errors in IE of all things for me, which doesn't instill confidence.)

Sometimes it's hard to just focus on what you have in front of you. I guess with all of the excitement over various pieces of the framework, the latest being the MVC piece, I worry that there is so much going on that there is risk for ASP.NET to become a convoluted mess, and that would suck.

Making plans, being handy

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 27, 2008, 5:49 PM | comments: 1

I bought a wall mount for our TV in the bedroom. It didn't exactly need it, I suppose, but as is the case with a lot of LCD's (especially an inexpensive one), they don't have great viewing angles on the vertical tilt. So to be sitting in bed, I was propping it up with a little board, which wasn't exactly the most stable thing. With the wall mount it angles properly. I feel so handy.

Meanwhile, Diana has been pounding the virtual pavement to find a wedding spot for us, and truthfully, it's not going well. We're planning something small, for under 50 people, which is the first problem. The second problem is that every place that has quoted us has been obscenely expensive or looking for a larger minimum. This is not ideal. My last wedding reception was $30 per person, with an open bar, and around a hundred people. The church was essentially free. We've yet to find anything on the gulf coast that would be less than $10k. That's more than three times my last wedding for half the people.

That's discouraging. We could do a Vegas wedding for a whole lot less that would frankly be nicer (save for the whole beach thing). I went to a Vegas wedding at the Flamingo and saw another in progress at Caesars. They don't fuck around, and they're pretty reasonable. I'm just not crazy about having my parents, particularly my stepdad, trying to get around in Vegas, even in the off season. Plus it gets really f'ing cold at night out there.

So I'm not sure what's going to happen with that. We're going down to the gulf coast next month to do some prospecting.

Lego Indiana Jones addiction

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 26, 2008, 1:24 AM | comments: 1

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that Diana got me Lego Indiana Jones for the Xbox 360. It's not a hard game by any stretch of the imagination, and I suspect hardcore gamers would diss it, but I had a blast playing through all three movies. There was only one point where I got annoyingly frustrated, during the boss fight with Mola Ram at the end of Temple of Doom. You're in a battle and yet it's not obvious what you need to do.

I was astonished, though I suppose not entirely surprised, that finishing the game left met at only 47% completion. Yikes! That's because there is a shit-ton of extra stuff, and things you can't do until you've unlocked free play so you can go back and do levels with other characters.

They tie together the extra goodies, among other ways, by having you collect artifact pieces. When you have a complete artifact, it shines a light on a gem in the university artifact room. You can buy some of the extra parts with the studs you collect (like coins), but with nearly 30 levels you can't buy them all.

So with that in mind, I went back to a random level to play. In this case, I believe it was the third one from Raiders. I only managed to score two more pieces, for a total of four out of ten. But I also found a huge Star Wars reference (they're all over... like the peek into a cave filled with snow and a skeleton hanging upside down and a snow beat skeleton). I opened a door I couldn't before, and went in to find the decor of the Tattooine cantina. The Indy theme was played sounding like the cantina band. And who did I run into? Why, Lego Chewbacca of course!

So now I'm like, OK, what's in the other levels? What happens when you have every piece of every artifact? For now at least, the suspense is killing me.

On Lego Star Wars for the DS (all six movies, also available on other consoles), I'm through Episode I and half way through the second. It's also fun, but the level design isn't nearly as good as it is in the Indy game. Very fun!

Randy Pausch didn't lose his life... he won it

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 25, 2008, 2:11 PM | comments: 1

Randy Pausch, the CMU professor known for his "Last Lecture," died yesterday after finally losing the battle with pancreatic cancer.

If you've not watched the lecture, do it. It's a little over an hour, but totally worth it. What's inspiring is not his accomplishments as they related to him, but rather the way he influenced others and graciously accepted the impact of others. It was this general attitude at life that allowed him to fulfill his childhood dreams.

He ends the lecture with the lessons learned. I think the single biggest thing to stick with me was simply this: "If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you."

Death is a certainty for us all. There's no way around that. But I don't believe you can lose your life when you've actually won it. Pausch won, and we should all be inspired to do the same.

EDIT: Here's his commencement speech from a couple of months ago...

iJustine denied the iPhone

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 25, 2008, 12:19 PM | comments: 1

OK, so I'm annoyed by the Web's attention whores who are famous for being... well, just being... but this one is funny just for her reactions to the bazillion Apple stores she calls looking for an iPhone 3G.

iJustine denied iPhone

Easy breathing

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 25, 2008, 11:37 AM | comments: 0

We have had some fantastic weather lately, where it's just the right temperature and you can keep the windows open all day. I can't imagine a better situation for the time I'm spending at home. And it occurs to me also that there doesn't seem to be anything pissing off my allergies. It feels good to breathe deep with nothing causing me to sneeze.

My allergies, which are nothing compared to what Diana endures, went really long this year. From the end of May to the first week of July one thing or another was bothering me. Thank God that's over.

GUI tools are not the enemy

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 25, 2008, 1:09 AM | comments: 2

Joe Stump, the lead architect for Digg, makes a comment that really bugs me, while another is positive, in a recent "my life as a programmer post" (that's the Google cached version... ironically Digg has overwhelmed his own server):

More practical advice is that you should learn to know and love design patterns and avoid GUI’s. I have a real problem with people who say they know SQL because they’re well versed with an ORM or a DB’s GUI. Go back and read up on relational algebra and SQL92 before you say you know SQL okay?I’ll probably get flamed for this, but I think people should learn a single environment in and out and stick with it. This might mean you learn Microsoft’s technologies in and out or Cocoa or LAMP. You simply can’t be an expert in an area of computers without picking a single environment and sticking with it.

On one hand, I give him credit for his comment that you should get to know a particular platform inside and out. Extra +1 for not flaming Microsoft's platform.

I do not, on the other hand, agree with the notion that GUI tools are bad. I thought this stigma went away with VB6 (which I suppose is largely responsible for it), but come on man... there are some tight tools out there and they make it a lot more fun and efficient to write code. Using them does not equate to not understanding what's going on under the covers.

Work work work

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 25, 2008, 12:51 AM | comments: 3

I've had work on the brain a lot lately. I have a certain amount of anxiety that I should be doing some certain amount of it, only to realize it's some poorly defined result or end game that I seek. Just as you do with software problems, you have to break them down.

My last post stops short of asking, "What do you want work to be?" I don't think our culture teaches us to ever ask that question. For decades there was the simple expectation that you figured out how to do something for a living, did it for years, had a reliable pay check and insurance, tried to put some money away, then retire and start to actually live. Whether or not that was what you wanted was not part of the discussion.

In a lot of ways, it's easier to think about what I don't want work to be. I don't want it to be measured in face time. I don't want countless meaningless meetings. I don't want meaningless tasks that don't challenge me.

On the other hand, I know I want to be a part of some act of creation. I want to make something. I want to make enough money to support my travel habit. I want to be challenged. I want to lead and mentor. I want the opportunity to learn something new every day. I want a gig that compliments my life, not replaces it.

I had two interesting encounters today. One was lunch with a friend. The company she works for is in a bit of turmoil, and her future there is not certain. She equated leaving or losing her job to a loss of time, much the way you might think of the end of a long-term relationship as wasted time. But talking her through it, I think she agreed that she's now more than the sum of that experience. I think her line of thinking was influenced by what she described as "sacrifice" during the years she had at that job. If you're sacrificing anything for a job, that's reason enough to quit.

I also caught up with one of my fellow lay-offees. His experience out in the world has been similar to mine. There is plenty out there, and you can pick and choose. That's unfortunately not a luxury that everyone has in every profession, but given that the circle of people I know best are in the biz, it's relevant to me and them. But the point remains that there's no reason to sell yourself short for a paycheck.

I know a lot of people feel that this line of thinking isn't realistic or whatever, and that's fine. I just don't understand the desire to put your life on hold for more than four decades or sacrifice the life in front of you to make what may or may not be a sweet run of your golden years. Why not do something with today?

Others believe that this is some kind of slacker mentality. I think that's a total load of crap. I've never suggested you don't have to work, and I don't think anyone like minded would make that case either. What I do think we'd agree on is that work should never be something that takes precedence over everything else you do. The word "sacrifice" should never come into play. Even if you like your job, I can't imagine it's more important than your friends and family, or simple joys like a sunset, or reading a book, or seeing a movie, or whatever else it is that allows you to really embrace the moment.

"Nothing else I'd rather do"

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 24, 2008, 5:34 PM | comments: 4

Today's 37signals Kool-Aid on freedom and security...

I don’t personally like to work 60 or more hours per week. Even 40 hours is pushing it. At 37signals, we all try to work just four days a week. That’s a perk in addition to the fact that we don’t count vacation days (I probably spent 4 weeks last year) and many of us often attend conferences and other out-of-the-daily-rhythm activities.

But when I actually do sit down to work, it’s very often that there’s nothing else I’d rather do. And I don’t think that’s really an uncommon phenomenon. I think lots of people really like what they do and for bursts of the time consider it the most interesting thing they could be working on.

And it only took until the second comment for some jaded, beat down opinion to be shared.

The real Dan Lyons is really a douche

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 24, 2008, 5:25 PM | comments: 1

The guy who wrote the Fake Steve Jobs blog is doing his own thing as himself, and you know what? He's really a douche. It's like he's assuming the role of Fake Steve still, only without the Jobs reference, it's not funny, just stupid.

I've thought for a long time about doing a blog about, well, the not funny narcissistic tech blog crowd, and this only fuels that.

Getting reacquainted with the CoasterBuzz project

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 24, 2008, 1:47 AM | comments: 1

It's pretty sad that so much time has passed since I worked on CoasterBuzz v4 that I can write better code to do some of the same things.

The good news is that I got the park and coaster detail pages working, and that's a big step. What makes me particularly pleased is how little code I have to do it. I won't post it (I sent it to two programming buddies :)), but it was neat to use C# 3.0 features, delegates and reflection all in the same area.

I found some more good news when I realized how much better the whole club membership thing is. I shouldn't be surprised that I wrote some of that stuff early on, seeing as how that generates real revenue.

I've now started to get the track record stuff in order. The good news is that I think I can keep the old data. The weirdness is still that you could technically have the same coaster twice if you wanted, or that the two records actually point to the same ride (think X-Flight and Firehawk). Once the data is cleaned up a bit, you'll actually see the listings for previous instances of the same ride (WWRCDBD, I know).

Importing all of the data from the old site takes about a half hour on my laptop. Ouch.

I'm still feeling a little overwhelmed at the scope of what has to get done, but at least I'm not fearful of it. I'm trying to take it one step at a time, and leave new features off the table, prioritized, for future iterations.

I had a Blue Screen of Death, in the virtual sense, on my Mac, which is pretty weird. I run in "coherence" mode, which means that all the Windows junk interacts with OS X as if they're native windows. All of a sudden, it reverts to windowed mode, does the blue screen, and resets. When it's done restarting, it lets me know, as if I didn't already, that a serious error occurred.

Cousin Dave and Niki are parents!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 8:57 PM | comments: 1

Jacob was born early this morning, about two weeks late, by way of C-section. Apparently he's a bruiser, weighing in at 9 pounds and not really fitting newborn clothes. Mom and baby are fine, if not really tired.


Best font video ever

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 10:34 AM | comments: 2

Font Conference - CollegeHumor Video

I know that Skydiving Jeff will be troubled at who the hero is.

It starts with a shell

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 12:30 AM | comments: 1

I can't even tell you how nice it is to be mobile again. Writing code on my laptop, on my lap, is not always ideal, but when you can bring it out on the deck, or to the living room couch, or some random restaurant that has Wi-Fi, you see things differently, and the change in scenery stimulates your head.

CoasterBuzz has of course been the bane of my existence for years because it's too fragile to try and modify, but large enough in scope that I throw up mental obstacles to rewrite it. The biggest barrier is probably that I want a big bang moment that not only replaces the site with a maintainable code base, but has all kinds of new features.

I know from experience that's a shitty way to develop stuff for the Internet, that iterating and delivering something frequently makes a hell of a lot more sense. So I'm trying to scale back and not solve every problem on my list all at once. The plan is to be feature equivalent and build from there.

I've gotta reach this point before I go back to work, or it'll feel too overwhelming. I don't know if that's a month or a couple of weeks or what, but I'm trying to apply some sense of urgency to it. I've already begun rewriting some of the simple underlying framework stuff, and I feel like I'm getting somewhere.

To help make things feel more real, I knocked out the page template, with all of its ugliness. The idea is only to create structure, and a place for stuff to live. Colors, typography, graphics, etc., can come at a later point.

25 years of Wars Games

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 4:03 PM | comments: 3

Wired has a pretty good article about the movie War Games, which is now 25 years old.

I think Ally Sheedy was my first movie star crush. I still crush on her when I see that movie! It's also funny to think about the state of the technology at the time, like 8" floppy disks and dot-matrix printers. Today we have iPhones. Crazy.

How we're killing creativity

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 1:03 PM | comments: 4

I saw a link to this TED talk with Ken Robinson, and I'm absolutely inspired by it. I feel like someone gets me, and gets what's wrong with education.

MacBook Pro heat follow up

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 21, 2008, 10:19 PM | comments: 0

Two seconds of Google power led me to an app called Fan Control that allows you to establish a temperature to fan speed curve. I set my minimum to 1,000 rpm, and anything over 120 degrees would raise the speed, with 172 degrees at the 6,000 rpm cap. Generally, with Parallels running and the other usual stuff, the fan is now running between 1,500 and 2,000 rpm, which is a lot more in line with what it did before the repair. It doesn't get audibly louder until 2,500 rpm.

While this will naturally impact battery life, it'll also preserve my nuts. I'll take a few less minutes of portable computing to preserve my goodies.

The worker's morale

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 21, 2008, 6:28 PM | comments: 1

I was chatting with someone today who works at a company where they pretty much know that there are layoffs coming, at all locations. The company is run by an ego and has a long history of not seeing the value of its people. The result is a culture of fear and uncertainty.

It's easy for me to understand that business is business. Things happen, mistakes are made, whatever, but there are still two kinds of environments that people can work in. There are the kind where people feel like they're contributing and have a real connection with their work, and there are the kind where you're not empowered or expected to have any meaningful impact. My friend works for the latter.

People have gotten wise that there's no such thing as just a paycheck. You spend more than 2,000 hours a year working, so you damn well better get something out of it other than money. The expectation that people have is that the company be as beneficial to them as they are to the company. When that equity does not exist, it results in failure and missed expectations.

A recurring theme goes something like, "This place could be amazing to work at, and we could dominate our market if only..." That says to me that we haven't turned into a nation of whiney bitches, it says that countless companies have no idea how to use what they've got. People aren't lazy... they genuinely want to be a part of something that doesn't suck. And yet there's this giant disconnect between the marble floors and the cubicle walls.

Unfortunately not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur, and frankly I don't think everyone wants to be one anyway. So countless people are looking for that meaningful job from The Man. If I knew anything about scaling up a company that did something clever (and profitable), I'd snatch up these people, just from those that I know.

I suspect that the poor morale that so many people live with is part of the reason that our nation isn't as competitive as it used to be. Perhaps the solution is for these driven people to get to a place where they become The Man, and remember where they came from.

Laptop results

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 21, 2008, 4:27 PM | comments: 2

The DHL guy finally came around 2 to drop off my laptop. They did not replace the logic board, but they did replace some audio components, the fans, some cabling and the latch for the screen. No shut downs after an hour, but shit does it run hot again. I suspect the innards are back to the pre-cooling adjustment state I fixed shortly after getting it.

I ran a 1080p movie trailer, full screen, and looped it for about a half hour just to give the CPU a work out. It got up to 160 degrees, which is within spec for the CPU, but it's so damn hot. The little strip between the keyboard and screen gets hot again, and the underside gets a little uncomfortable too. The fans never vary from 1,000 rpm, which seems so arbitrary.

But I suppose if I'm at the end result, that it doesn't shut down, then I can roll with the heat. The whine is still there, although subtle. I'm crossing my fingers that this is it though, as I miss being mobile. The repair work has a 90-day warranty, so I'll be working it out hard for the next month.

EDIT: I looked up in my disassembly manual to see that the sound hardware and power stuff are on a separate board together, and that's what they replaced. That instills confidence that the problem is fixed.

A fun and restfull weekend

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 21, 2008, 11:31 AM | comments: 0

I didn't do anything constructive this weekend, and I'm totally OK with it. I finally managed to just let myself do whatever and not feel like I had to be producing something. Granted, something out of my control annoyed me and put me in a bad mood, but I still had a pretty good time. Between Kennywood, the Irish Festival, watching Raiders of the Lost Ark (and playing the Lego video game version), I just screwed around all weekend, and it was good.

This week should be interesting. I feel energized enough to work on my projects, and I should be hearing some more about the one job prospect that interests me. I've got a lunch with an old boss too, and I'm not entirely sure what his motivation is to reconnect. That'll be interesting.

Meanwhile, I'm waiting for the DHL guy to return my laptop. If we didn't go to Kennywood Friday, the thing would've made its round trip in 48 hours. That's service. Go Apple. Of course, I realized last night that we couldn't do the podcast without it, so that's on the agenda tonight. Better late than never!

They just keep growing up

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 21, 2008, 1:23 AM | comments: 0

I ran into Katie Reece and her parents at the Irish Festival yesterday. Katie was my second favorite kid of all time, even though she was way behind the other kids on the team I had that year. She was my bench utility player. At the time she wasn't that confident, a little intimidated, and suffered from three years of shitty coaching at the Elms. Something clicked toward the end of my season with her, and she returned to high school for a very successful senior year.

What I loved about her though was her work ethic, and the fact that her desire to be a better player panned out. She even made her college team, though she dropped out as the time commitment got to be too ridiculous. She was one of those kids that you'd throw into a tough situation and watch them crumble or rise to the challenge, and she was not a crumbler.

That was also the team that I had Shirkey on. She was just so naturally gifted. I'd like to think I helped guide her, but most of her success came from something else. She'll be doing her last year, four years starting. Katie and Caity are both seniors. I can't believe that!

I realize now that I think I took those coaching years for granted. I had great kids, an average record, and great parents. The club was one of reasonable integrity with great coaches too. Some days we'd get beat up, and other days we'd win tournaments. But the thing that I remember most were the nights in the hotels, the parents stocking their coolers in the lobby, the kids showing each other photos from winter dances, travel stories... lots of good times. I was particularly fond of the tournaments in Baltimore.

I feel like that time was from my other life, and volleyball is on hold now while I figure out other things and try to establish some level of stability with my future wife and a career I can live with. I'm OK with that, because honestly the experiences I had were so high quality that I could go a long time before jumping back in.

But I can't believe my girls are going to be graduating soon.

Your Scene Sucks

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 20, 2008, 12:10 PM | comments: 0

Pretty hilarious stereotypes. I admit, I dig generic emo girl, even if she is a carbon copy of every other girl that fits the stereotype. :)

Kennywood - 7/18/08

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 20, 2008, 2:22 AM | comments: 1

Friday we finally made it to Kennywood, after talking about it pretty much since before the season even started. I haven't been there in years, I think the year Phantom's Revenge opened or something, maybe 2001 or a year or two after. I got the hook up... and it was totally worth the price of the gas.

The first big change I noticed was the whole gate plaza area. I'm pretty sure that was new since the last time I was there. Very nice. They also have the smoking policy thing nailed down. There is a big sign prior to the tunnel that says: "Smokers: Take One," which presumably has the smoking policy and locations for the designated areas. Good thinking.

We started by actually eating, since it was nearly noon. The park wasn't all that crowded. We ate at the Casino building in the middle of the park, where Diana was impressed that her sandwich was actually made, not frozen, on good bread, and on a real plate, and not nine dollars. Such was the case really with everything we consumed. It wasn't a bargain, but it wasn't excessive even for an amusement park, and more importantly, it didn't outright suck.

Our first ride was Ghostwood Estates, which is a pretty nifty shooting dark ride with the trackless vehicles. The pre-show is well done, and the scenes are continuous with interesting stuff to shoot that reacts to your hit. Your scoring ability is limited only by your sense of direction. There are targets everywhere, even behind you. Diana unfortunately had a bum gun, so her score wasn't great.

We didn't hit as many non-coaster rides as I thought we would, in part because the heat and humidity was a bit on the oppressive side. Of course we had to do the Turtle, because it's such a classic. We also did Garfield's Nightmare, which, I dunno, didn't impress me. Why they took a hundred-year-old ride and splattered it with fluorescent paint is beyond me. Cosmic Chaos is a ton of fun! I haven't been on one since IAAPA 2003, or whatever year Zamperla introduced it, but it's a good time.

First coaster was Phantom's Revenge. We waited for the front seat, despite the single train operation. It was Diana's idea, and I'm glad she talked me into it. I forgot just how ridiculous that ride is. It pulls some great G's at the bottom of that second drop. The airtime is nuts. It's also incredibly smooth, which leads me to believe that perhaps it's not the old Arrow looper trains that are an issue, but rather the track most of them run on.

Next coaster was Exterminator. Wow is that an aggressively run Reverchon. For some reason I thought the spinning release was earlier in the ride, but in any case, it just blasted through those hairpins. Well done!

By sheer luck, we got the front seat on Jackrabbit. Love that double down. Does anyone know when they adopted that strange logo?

Thunderbolt ran extremely well. I always seem to recall getting a little beat up on that ride on previous visits, but it really ran extremely well, especially in the bowl. I'm astonished at how well that ride is maintained.

Racer was running pretty well also, even though our train lost. Diana was inspired by the crumbling foundation under the midway and queue area.

Our last ride of the day was Log Jammer, the flume. I love that dip in the middle of the ride. They really need to consider just replacing the trough entirely at some point. I've never seen one so patched and rough before. It has definitely seen better days. Some of the boats are showing extreme wear and tear too.

We were in the park for about six hours, and I think if Diana didn't have shoulder pain from stress and sleeping funny, and I wasn't being a grumpy bastard for other reasons, we might have stayed longer. But we did get to ride most of what we wanted. The only negative encounter we really had was with this chick who had an attitude at the smoothie stand. In the general sense Kennywood did a great job showing us a good time. And I finally got my Potato Patch fries!

E3 super fast summary

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 17, 2008, 5:38 PM | comments: 0

Morgan has a nice quick round up of what was announced at E3, and who better to tell you than the only thing worth watching on G4. (Good hair look for her this episode. :))

The thing I'm excited about? All of these sequels and new games are making the previous lot cheaper, and I never got around to buying them.

Massive boredom streak

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 17, 2008, 4:42 PM | comments: 0

Wow, I can't seem to focus on anything today, and nothing is stimulating me. I think the thing that is most difficult about this working at home on my own thing, thing, is that it totally lacks human contact. I think that's why I don't really want to do any of the things that I like to do, because I'd end up doing them by myself.

Thank God me and The D are doin' stuff this weekend.

My baby is a comin' home

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 17, 2008, 4:38 PM | comments: 1

Health insurance sucks

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 17, 2008, 12:21 AM | comments: 4

One thing that you tend to lose appreciation for when you're working full-time for a company is how much decent health insurance costs. Mine will be expiring soon, so I had to do some shopping around for an individual policy. The bottom line is that there's no point in paying for the kind of coverage you get with a full-time job because it's cost prohibitive. Instead, if your health allows it, you get what amounts to little more than "catastrophe insurance," so that it's never bad enough to bankrupt you if you're hit by a bus or something.

You basically have to figure out what out of pocket cost you're willing to risk and balance that against co-pays and deductibles, and maximum pocket cost. The bottom line is that you'll likely arrive around $10k max for around $130 a month, if you're male and have no history like me. That, and if I need to, I want to continue using the Cleveland Clinic.

The thinking here is that I've seen a doctor twice in the last 12 years, once for the sinus infection I had in March, and once as a general diagnostic a couple of years ago. I'm fairly low maintenance, getting the more serious fever sick scenario once a year, and then one or two common cold instances. Given my shitty eating habits, it's a miracle I'm not more prone to crap. So for now, this seems like the most reasonable route to take.

I did look into Diana's plan, as her employer offers domestic partner benefits, but it comes out to an extra $230 a month, which strikes me as being really steep.

It's staggering that our medical system in this country is so hopelessly broken.

Sent away

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 16, 2008, 12:16 PM | comments: 1

My laptop has been sent to the Apple fairies. The Genius Bar guy loaded up the case file with reasons to replace the main board. Sure is nice to have a customer service situation where they aren't looking for reasons to not serve you. Should be back to me within ten days.

Bringing Down The House

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 16, 2008, 2:01 AM | comments: 1

I just finished reading Bringing Down The House, the non-fiction book that inspired the movie 21. It's a pretty easy read, and fairly entertaining.

It's pretty fascinating that Blackjack is actually a beatable game, provided you're really good at calculating on the fly the probability of getting good cards. What's hard is that you need to play a lot to get it right, and it's something these kids could do because of their team system. I can barely play poker, let alone track all of the cards going in and out of various hands. What they did was not gambling. I never knew that card counting (which is not really what you're doing) is totally legal, but you can be sure they'll kick you out if they think you're doing it.

The story is a little slow in the middle, but the most interesting parts are really the way they get sucked into the lifestyle that all of that fast money afforded them. There's no doubt that it changed some of them, and not for the better. You also get an appreciation for parts of Vegas will (thankfully) never see.

The movie barely has any real connection to the book, other than the notion that some dude put together a team of smart kids from MIT to play. The lead characters were all half-Asian for starters, and the significant female was actually married to one of the other spotters on the team. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed seeing Kate Bosworth slink around in a tiny dress with a little black wig, but I think portraying them more closely to reality would've been more interesting.

I think the most winpossible (yay for word invention) game is poker, because you're up against humans, and someone other than the house has to win. It's still a long shot, but again, if you play based on probability, throw in a little human factor understanding, a lot of practice, your odds are likely better. I tried it last time I was in Vegas. I probably would've done better had the alcohol not been flowing so freely!

Give the book a read if you're looking for some OK non-fiction narrative.

The dilemma for my laptop

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 15, 2008, 3:54 PM | comments: 2

I scheduled an appointment at the Apple Store tomorrow to have my laptop looked at, and I'm unsure if I want to go through with it. I'm a little torn.

The random shut downs are somewhat less frequent, but it's not a useful device when you can't reliably use it. My thought is that I could take it in and have them do the flat-fee repair, at $300 and change. If I can't get it to die on them, I can claim the "whine" problem, a well known defect that causes a high-pitched noise when it operates on battery power. The fix for that is to replace the logic board, which is where the power hardware lives, so it would get me to the same place.

But being a little more careful with my money, I do have some concerns. First off, that's $300+ that could go toward a new computer. With the rebates still in effect, $1,400 more gets a new, faster computer with a bigger hard drive. I planned to replace it early next year anyway. I'm torn. If I end up doing consulting work, I could definitely use the bigger drive to store more virtual machines and essentially have a different one for work stuff.

The other thing is that I'd eventually like to give this one to Diana so she's not fighting Vista on her Dell, and yelling at it when it doesn't wake up from sleep.

The immediate short term has no consequence from non-action, since I can use my desktop and its quad-core goodness. But I miss having the laptop to work on the couch, or at a restaurant, or on the deck.

What would you do?

Kitteh prison riot

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 15, 2008, 1:04 PM | comments: 2

Out of sorts, not feeling like ourselves

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 15, 2008, 2:19 AM | comments: 0

When Diana got home from tennis tonight, she was feeling "out of sorts," which is a lot like me when I say I'm "not feeling like myself." I'm not entirely sure what causes her to feel that way, but for me it's my lack or routine, and lack of contact with humans during the day. When Diana gets home, I have nothing new to talk to her about other than the day's key pounding and what the cats did.

When I asked her if she wanted to meet a friend for dinner tomorrow, she was all over that. We feel like hermits lately.

We both need some change, and I'm not sure exactly what that means.

Dumbass reporter gets what he deserves with iPhone crowd

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 14, 2008, 7:10 PM | comments: 1

This is classic...

"You call this journalism?" Right on.

And by the way, you may recognize one of the anchors as Michaela Pereira, who used to be on TechTV.

High hopes for Imogen Heap

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 14, 2008, 1:45 PM | comments: 0

I've mentioned before that I've been watching Imogen Heap's video blog as she goes through the process of writing and recording her new album. It's so bloody fascinating to hear her talk about her process, her strange samplings and her very non-traditional instruments. She's just weird enough (in a good way) that she leaves a lot of convention behind and does whatever comes to mind. I really dig that.

I've got high hopes for her next album, because honestly most of the artists that I've come to love have kind of just fizzled out. Garbage has no plans to get together to record, and Shirley Manson's solo stuff is apparently being held hostage by her record company. Most of the groups or singers I like just aren't doing anything these days. It bums me out. I find new stuff periodically (Bitter:Sweet) and some old favorites are at the top of their game (Supreme Beings of Leisure), but those tend to be exceptions.

So, no pressure, Imogen, but I hope you can deliver on this one!

Lifestyle and work ethic

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 14, 2008, 2:00 AM | comments: 0

I've found myself checking in with Diana a lot lately about my general lifestyle. I have this guilty feeling that I'm not doing anything, as if I'm not meeting my work ethic.

OK, so the first part of that is, holy shit, I have a work ethic. For all of the times I'd come back from lunch and think I couldn't take another four hours of this, that's a real shocker. Granted, this is part of my domestication (in Four Agreements Terms) or whatever the hell you call it in proper psychology (I wouldn't know because I only went to the class three times for my C-). Culturally we're made to believe that we aren't shit without our jobs. I know that made me miserable in the tough times of 2001, and I see it making a lot of good friends nervous and stressed out lately. Ironically they're the ones who still have jobs.

But whatever causes it, the feeling is real, and I'm trying to figure out how to adjust. In a general sense, I notice that I get up in the morning, do "feeding" work for my sites for an hour or so, get three decent hours of project work done in the afternoon, and then another three hours or so of work late in the evening. I'm thinking about doing a spreadsheet to track my own time, so I can weigh it against income or my own typical hourly rate in the field. I need to feel like what I'm doing has some value, in the short or long term. I'm thinking, gasp, like I'm running a business.

I've already identified some opportunities, and, believe it or not, have endeavored to do some work for CoasterBuzz v4. Yeah, I can't believe it either. I've come to realize that I can certainly live off of this stuff in the short term if I so choose, so why not use the time appropriately?

I've been talking with a potential employer that really has my interest. It's less down and dirty code work and more like process guidance and architecture. That pleases me. I think it's something I want to do. But the upside of it is that it won't start for several more weeks, so I've got time to make a go of projects I've neglected for years. Who knows what I might accomplish?

In the mean time, I'll get up when I feel like it, play some video games, do hobby stuff, and enjoy summer. I'd be an idiot not to.

Lizard, show tunes and a crisis averted

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 14, 2008, 12:16 AM | comments: 2

Given Diana's union card carrying professional status as a theatre dork, she wanted to see the Cleveland Orchestra's show tunes concert this year. One of our early dates, with much groping, was to see them last year do Lord of The Rings stuff ("There's only one fucking trilogy"), so there was some sentimental thing going on there.

First we went to the Winking Lizard in Peninsula, which we never really go to now that there's one in Brunstucky. There is pretty much always a wait, which is odd given its location, but one can't underestimate the draw of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park area. I'm disappointed that they don't have a RollerCoaster Tycoon pinball machine anymore. And I'm annoyed that Gonch won't sell me his either.

Between the Lizard and Blossom, we realized we never chucked any lawn chairs into the car. Oops. Diana seemed to take it particularly hard, and given the moistness of the day, it was sure to be wet. And it was. Fortunately they had chairs for rent for five bucks. Silly expense, perhaps, but who cares.

Seeing the orchestra at Blossom is probably one of the better deals around Cleveland in terms of summer entertainment. The parking is free, it's in the middle of nowhere, and lawn tickets are generally about twenty bucks. Plus you can bring in your own shit and booze it up, and man do the old people booze it up! It's a neat venue too when you think about all of the acts that have performed on that stage. I saw my first concert on my first date there (Def Leppard, 1988, Hysteria tour), and have since seen Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Aerosmith, Jewel, Toad The Wet Sprocket and many, many more there. Lots of good memories.

I only knew about half the music they did. It's always interesting when a full orchestra performs stage stuff, because some of it is helped by having more musicians, compared to the typical show where they stuff a little orchestra (or 70's rock band, in the case of J.C. Superstar) under the stage. On the other hand, the popular elements are often omitted or replaced, like the heavy percussion in Lion King's "Circle of Life" or the guitar parts in Superstar.

And seeing as how they're Broadway shows, they need vocalists. Some of the arrangements seemed a little forced to include all four of them, and others made me chuckle ("Total Eclipse of The Heart," which was made for some vampire show that apparently flopped), but I thought they were pretty strong. It was good to hear someone who could do "Music of The Night" from Phantom and not suck. The guy we saw in Vegas was the understudy, and not that great. We were talking about that on the way home, how the original London cast is probably the least good of the popular recordings and shows. One of Diana's friends from college is doing Christine at the Broadway show, so one of these days we'll have to check that out.

The show didn't go very late, and so it never actually got dark, which is a bummer. Blossom is so far out there that you can actually see stars the way you do when you get far out of the city. And of course, we raced out of there to avoid getting into heavy traffic with old people. Blue hairs on dark roads == never get home.

Good times. So glad to get out of the house.

Getting cultured at Blossom with the Cleveland Orchestra

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 13, 2008, 7:43 PM | comments: 3

Sleep messedupness

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 13, 2008, 1:04 PM | comments: 0

Not being on The Man's schedule, my sleep routine is a little strange. I find myself sleeping from 1 or 2 a.m. until 9 or 10 a.m. I'm particularly productive late at night, and sometimes I have to stop myself and force myself to go to bed. Then I don't sleep anyway because I can't turn my brain off.

I guess I worry about it because I'd like to go to bed with Diana now and then, although on "school nights" she goes around 10:30, which would never work for me. So I'm left feeling dysfunctional even though she says she's cool with it.

And hey... I'm getting some real work done too.

Another reason I love Canada

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 12, 2008, 5:11 PM | comments: 5

Overweight people offended by Wall-E

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 11, 2008, 10:39 PM | comments: 3

We saw Wall-E last weekend, and regardless of whether it was kid appropriate or whatever, I thought it was fucking brilliant. It broke from the Pixar formula and it's political as hell. Loved it. No Pixar tear-jerking epiphanies.

So now, apparently overweight people are offended by the way people are portrayed in the film. Are you kidding me? That quote on Gawker sounds as if it were written by someone who hadn't even seen the movie.

The movie isn't saying that fat people are worthless pieces of shit, it's saying that the movie is our future unless we get our shit together. I thought the panorama of ship captain pictures made that obvious enough. The movie wasn't exactly filled with deep metaphors. It pretty much came out and said what was on its mind.

The book that started it all

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 11, 2008, 5:39 PM | comments: 0

In order to make some room for my own, more current books, and try to free up more space for Diana, I've been going through my old books and making a stack to ditch or give away. Computer books get so hopelessly useless over time. I came across one book, though, that I've decided to keep, just for nostalgia...

This is arguably the book that started it all. I got it in 1999, when I was ready to up the game for Guide to The Point (now PointBuzz). I wanted to write my own forum app and do some database driven news stuff. And that's what I did, with a combination of Microsoft FrontPage, an Access database and a Web hosting account that cost nearly fifty bucks a month.

The edges of the book are all frayed, the laminate on the cover is peeling off, the side is just dirty and the spine is well worn. There were PostIt notes on the pages for the recordset object and for stored procedures.

That book was the genesis for the entire lot of professional change for me. ASP was an absolutely horrible platform, but it was fairly easy to learn. It seems like the dark ages, but it was entirely new to me. Those were exciting times.


posted by Jeff | Friday, July 11, 2008, 2:46 PM | comments: 9

Check out the comments on this short entry from my local paper regarding the iPhone line this morning. What's with all of the hate?

I don't know anyone who bought an iPhone because they wanted to look cool or feel important. I'd say half of them or more already had some kind of "smart phone" to begin with. I think the motivation for me, and the people I know, was that they wanted to carry one device that was a phone, iPod and Web thingy, and this was the first such device to really do it right. I've had mine for a year now, and it's the only phone I've ever had that I liked, and now just take it for granted as the standard.

And yeah, the guy with the ponytail and the book, that's George, one of the guys I used to work with. He recently bought a MacBook as well. I have assimilated him.

PM in the a.m.

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 11, 2008, 2:39 AM | comments: 3

The last two days were ridiculously productive. I wrapped up the whole private message overhaul project for the forum app. Once I got done with the little AJAXy UI auto-complete list thingy, it went really quickly. It's up and alive on PointBuzz right now.

This is the best I've felt about writing code in a long time. I started to wonder if I wanted to do it at all anymore, but this confirms for me that I still dig it. And when you see that what you've rewritten uses less code, how can you not be excited about it?

The question now is, how long can I sustain it? With the PM thing out of the way, I can start blasting into the "other" site project Walt and I started way back in February. If I can do that quickly, who knows what I might be capable of in my time between jobs.

Remote for iPhone... awesome

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 10, 2008, 7:42 PM | comments: 0

OK, I overlooked a very, very sweet app, simply called Remote. It controls your iTunes on the computer or, more importantly, an AppleTV. The AppleTV needs a software update, but once you've got it up there, it makes the AppleTV a hundred times more useful because you don't need to depend on the TV to use it. As a big iPod hooked to your stereo, essentially, this is a dreamy app. It's faster to navigate than the on-TV stuff as well.

I have to admit, that despite the rather locked-down nature of app development for the iPhone, there are already some very handy and well thought out apps there. And just like that, Apple's ecosystem takes another leap and does things no one else could. You almost wish they'd get something wrong, just because.

iPhone 2.0 first impressions

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 10, 2008, 2:32 PM | comments: 0

The new version of the iPhone software came out kind of early and not officially, so I downloaded and installed it. The update takes forever, but it's done and I've been playing with it.

The new phone, out tomorrow, switches to using 3G networks for data and has real GPS in it. Aside from that, all of the other new stuff, primarily the support for third party apps, comes with the update.

I've downloaded several apps, including AIM, Facebook and IGN Reviews. Pretty cool stuff. AIM has a pretty decent interface. I can't imagine using it a ton, but it's not bad. Facebook still won't work. I grabbed the IGN app because sometimes when I'm in a store looking at video games, I'm curious to know how they rate.

There are a ton of paid apps and I haven't really browsed them much. I admit a solitaire or poker game might be fun. Dragging cards around and what not.

I've not done any work today. Thanks, Apple.

Getting LinkedIn

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 10, 2008, 1:05 AM | comments: 6

I've never really had much use for LinkedIn, but with the recent layoffs, others have been adding me and I've been adding them, and then it started suggesting other people I've worked with at previous jobs, so I've added them.

Today I got e-mail from a guy I worked with/for back at Penton seven years ago, and he wants to have lunch. He works elsewhere now, but he's still in a media gig. I'm intrigued, and I guess I'd like to think a little more about my own media roots. (As long as it isn't radio. ;))

I'm still not entirely sure I understand the value of LinkedIn. Anyone else using it?

A transitional day for life

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 9, 2008, 3:14 AM | comments: 2

I've been beating myself up over the last two days because I felt like I should be making some strides toward, I dunno, something, in terms of getting some work done that I always blamed on my day job for not getting done. And as Diana rightly points out, between my birthday, the holiday and being sick, it's not like I don't have excuses.

The nasty cough is still with me, and it's starting to piss me off. But to balance that out I spent quality time in the hot tub, especially in the afternoon, in the sun. That was the best. Sure it was hot out, but I've had the water down at 98, and when there's a good breeze, the spray hits you in the face. It's very tranquil.

I managed to sit down and write code for probably five hours today, which is pretty awesome. That's probably more than I've ever done in a typical day job, what with the meetings, interruptions and barrage of unimportant e-mail. I've been writing an ASP.NET AJAX component in the most generic way possible to work like the tokenized list/auto-complete thing in Facebook's messaging "to" field. Their implementation was incredibly convoluted, so I just went from scratch. It's probably the most involved Javascript anything I've done, but I figured it out tonight. The meat of it is probably a hundred lines of meaningful script, which is pretty good considering it's very customizable, and not bound to any particular data source. It'll work with any PageMethod on an ASP.NET page, and all of the CSS-ness is declared in markup. I'm very pleased.

This was the kind of stuff I was really trying to be the guru for at work, in part because I have a lot of personal use for it. Once you get an appreciation for how the framework wants you to work, it's pretty smooth sailing. Microsoft did a nice job with this framework.

I also spent probably another hour on news posting and searching, which is good because I've been slacking. Also tried to catch up on some of the more interesting forum topics. We've had some decent discussions out there.

Today was probably the first day I really looked hard at my expenses and income, and gosh, I could coast right into October if I wanted to. Of course, that ignores travel requirements, and I can assure you I'm not sitting around all damn summer.

The cats seem to be thrilled that I'm hanging out. They're all coming by for love, and there are usually at least two nearby until Diana gets home. I'm glad that they're generally at ease here. Cosmo is showing signs of accepting them too, and I think she's viewed rightfully as the queen of the pride. Now if only she'd let Oliver cuddle up to her.

We got out of the house and had dinner at the Winking Lizard, which was mediocre due to the crowd and the service. Meh. I'm not hugely complaining, I just really wanted to get out of the house.

Another lunch with a recruiter tomorrow. And since it's Macaroni Grill, that probably means dinner too!

Back into the world!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 8, 2008, 12:56 AM | comments: 0

Today was a bitch. I'm over all that fever crap, but the rattling in the chest and power coughing was in full effect all day. But I had to get out of the house.

I originally had two meetings scheduled today, but I cancelled the first one because I know it's not my thing, and a waste of time. I think my initial reaction to being laid off was to line up as much as I could just so I could say that I could line up as much as I could. That's pretty stupid, and I've got an inbox full of crap I need to let go of. I learned that lesson years ago and I should know better.

The one I did go to was with a company owner looking to make some significant game-raising movement with the company he bought. He wants someone with a broad range of experience to help guide that development. That's something I could totally get into. It gives me something to think about.

But I'm trying not to think too hard about it either. There's too much out there and there's no point in jumping into anything without fully understanding what my options are, and if they include a day job at all.

Interesting times...

"You're so talented"

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 7, 2008, 12:59 AM | comments: 0

One of the things that I've heard countless times from people who know me, including a lot of my former co-workers, is that I'm "so talented" or "bound for bigger things" or something along those lines. That's incredibly flattering, especially given the respect I have for a lot of those folks, but it's hard to get my head around the accuracy of it.

I haven't thought about this in years, but it's a good story to tell. When I was very young, in grade school, I was a bit of an overachiever. School was easy, not challenging at all. I was a straight-A student (actually, we had E for excellent, S for satisfactory and U for unsatisfactory back then, so I was straight-E). It wasn't that the schools were too easy I don't think, as this was long before all of the pass-a-test bullshit they do today, I just had a natural mind to latch on and do the work.

I didn't always like the attention though. In fact, I was kind of embarrassed by it. In third grade I was voted class president, and I didn't tell my parents. They found out when they came to open house. There was kind of an expectation going forward that I'd always be like that, and I think all of the praise put pressure on me to always be perfect.

Then came the fifth grade meltdown. I pissed off my teacher, Ms. Coe, for some reason (I recall she was unusually confrontational for being someone who spent the day with 10-year-olds) and she wanted me to sit out in the hall. This was problematic, because the speech teacher in the building went to my church, and she'd obviously bust me to my parents. So I had a crying/shouting meltdown and the teacher stuffed me in the coat room, and eventually had my parents pick me up.

The next several years included the awkward junior high years and such, and I got bored with school. I didn't care what my grades were. I just wanted to get by. That was a realization I had the first time I met a college admissions officer, at Ashland, who looked at my GPA (2.9 I think, and that was probably weighted), and my ACT score (28, in the top 4% that year), and figured I was bored. College was much of the same for things I was disinterested in, and when I look back I can't believe I managed to double major. Then again, the "effort" consisted of taking three extra English classes instead of advanced underwater basketweaving.

My professional career has been completely strange. I suppose if you measure success by income, then sure, I've upped my salary by five figures every two years or so. I learned when I cracked that $50+ hourly that it was a pretty poor measure of success. I think that I've had four significant successes in my professional life. And I've never really thought much about them.

The first was the distance I brought the cable access effort in Medina. There was nothing but a bulletin board when I started, and after three years, I ramped up school and city production, built a facility in a closet and won a lot of fans of what we were doing by getting high school sports on TV. I didn't play nice with a lot of the elected officials, who didn't understand that this was not their play thing, but I was proud of the direction we were going.

The second big success was my time at Penton Media. In my radio days, getting a job was all about sales, that is, selling yourself. Understanding that process got me the job at Penton, and it helped me to bring together the classic sales types (as in expensive cars, lots of golf and client parties) with content people and dotcom-era "Internet people." Sure, some of the old media types were repackaging my ideas as their own, but I didn't care, because it seemed to be working. It was a shame that the direction wasn't shared by the rest of the company, because the executives shut it all down, but I was a part of something new... the sheer act of creation. That was a buzz.

The third biggie was my book. It's probably the thing I forget most about, and yet the thing that gets me in the door first for new jobs. It wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be, and the sales were cosmically average, but dude, I wrote a book. If I never do anything else, I'm always going to have that.

And lastly, I've made money doing what essentially has been a hobby for ten years. My Web sites haven't made me rich, but they've lived through a private T-1, the ad fallout of 2001, marriage and divorce, a bunch of layoffs, and a shitty site design that has been around since 2003. I don't give myself credit for the commitment I've had to these sites.

Maybe that's the problem. I was chatting with one of the friends who said I'm "so talented" tonight, and I asked her if the typical day job for me was a safety net for doing something really important. Her response was, probably. I'm like that grade school kid still, in that I'm not sure I want the praise, and maybe it's just easier to coast by, even if I'm bored. God knows I talked myself into enthusiasm at my last job, even though I think I was actually bored.

Tomorrow I'm meeting with two possible employers. The one I know will be a waste of time, but the other is an actual business owner. We'll see what happens.

I need to make it a point to realize when I'm bored and ignoring that alleged talent.

Beach vs. indoor volleyball

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 6, 2008, 7:22 PM | comments: 0

There's a good article on about the desire of players to go beach or indoor. Particularly interesting are the quotes from Logan Tom, who makes the point that unless you win consistently, you aren't making any money on the beach. Not only that, but if you're a woman, you've always got the Misty/Kerri machine in your way. In the AVP match on TV today, they mentioned that Misty May-Treanor's career winnings are only around $1.7 million. Consider that she's been playing pro for around 18 years, and that's not good at all.

As a coach and spectator, I much prefer the indoor game. There's a lot more going on and there are opportunities to out-think your opponent when you can't beat them on sheer athleticism. There has to be this coherent machinery between the six people out there at any time, and I love that. I love teaching it.

In theory, it should be possible to see all of the indoor game in the Olympics since it'll be online if not broadcast. They're already giving preferential billing to the beach game, which is not surprising since I think we can guess who will take home the gold. It's funny though... it was only added as an official Olympic sport in 1996, making this only the fourth time it has been played.

High definition eye candy

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 6, 2008, 6:59 PM | comments: 1

I've had my HDTV for about two and a half years, buying it with my Xbox 360. The thing is, the only thing I've really watched in HD is the stuff I recorded with my DVR off the air.

Now that I've switched to cable from DirecTV, I've got a few more HD options, including all of the locals (I can't get my NBC affiliate over the air because it's on channel 2, which is VHF and low power). Being sick this weekend, I watched a lot of TV.

Today we watched the Wimbledon final, which was "the longest in history" as they said countless times, and I have to say it was very cool to watch in HD. The AVP finally got some network time too, so I got to see Misty and Kerri win again (shocker, I know). Honestly, it's hard to watch stuff in standard def now. Owning high def cameras I can't even stand home video in SD! I know the feds get a lot of criticism for forcing digital on the world, but honestly, I think it had to be done. I'm not sure why people have megapixel mania when it comes to digital photos, and yet people settle for shitty TV resolution. The Olympics are gonna be fun to watch!

The DVR that Time-Warner provided is a complete piece of shit. It makes me appreciate just how good BeyondTV really is. It makes no differentiation between repeats, only times. As you know, cable channels air stuff a million times and change the times frequently too. It's worthless.

Enough of being sick

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 5, 2008, 7:21 PM | comments: 1

Ugh... Diana mentioned that I was suffering from allergies yesterday, and while that may have the initial trigger, it was full blown sickness by midday yesterday. Last night I was so blocked up that I couldn't swallow, which is fairly alarming. I've only had that one other time. Then overnight I had a fever and some degree of blockage, so that was miserable. Then today the painful coughing hit and I couldn't ditch the fever most of the day.

I think things have finally turned a corner though, as I can sit upright and check e-mail. This is not the way I would've liked to have spent the weekend. Sigh.

Helpful tips for recruiters

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 3, 2008, 5:27 PM | comments: 1

Let me start by saying that I'm thankful for the fact that I have skills that are in demand. Within 12 hours of posting my resume to Monster, I've been getting hammered with calls and e-mail. It's a seller's market where I live, and that's awesome for me.

That said, there are unfortunately a lot of recruiters just trying to land that commission, and it's annoying. Here are some of the things I'm battling:

If your position says "PHP" and my resume says "ASP.NET," then it's probably a good idea to not engage me for that. That seems pretty basic to me.

If you have a position available in Nebraska, and I live in Ohio, then that's probably not for me either. "Just off I-71 in Lexington, Kentucky," is not on my way to anything either, even though I live just off I-71 myself (just 300 miles down the road). Columbus is not close to Cleveland either.

If you aren't forthright about what the position involves or who the company is, you know, I'm just not that interested. There are countless others that I'm already talking to who lay it all out there.

Low paying gigs for people with "1+ years" of experience are probably not a good match for me. Again, see resume.

If you act like a used car salesman, I'm hanging up the phone.



posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 3, 2008, 1:03 PM | comments: 0

Supergloom + JP Day report

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 3, 2008, 12:57 PM | comments: 1

Holy crap, first true day for "self employment" and it's like the gloomiest shit outside I've seen in awhile. It's outright dark in here. Looks like the front should move through in a couple of hours.

Despite the weather, I'm in an excellent mood. Diana is working from home today too, which is nice. I'm trying to get on task to finish that silly private message stuff I was working on last week, though I've been distracted with a wonderfully scandalous story out of Tulsa regarding Bell's Amusement Park.

I'm trying to get my head around the state of my world too, and it's pretty good. Getting another job is honestly not that high of a priority, as I can go into October and be more or less perfect financially. I'm not suggesting that's what I will do, but I'm starting to get a feel for what kind of projects I'd like to roll on. Depends entirely on what kind of groove I fall into next week.

Meanwhile, after all of the chaos and carnage Tuesday, and more sadness and anger amongst people yesterday, we eventually made it to Dave & Busters for some adult entertainment. No, not nudies, just drinking and stuff. It was good to blow off steam. I got phone calls from some of my best friends, an onslaught of Facebook wall posts, etc.

Diana bought me Lego Indiana Jones for Xbox 360, which is super cool! I got the Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga for the DS a couple of weeks ago, and have had a good time with that. Kara got me a $25 Apple gift card and a farting greeting card. Good times.

In other news, I've nicknamed Gideon "Thunderpaws," because that fatty sounds like a hyperactive kid pounding up the stairs when he runs.


posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 7:24 PM | comments: 0

Sit Down

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 2, 2008, 10:29 AM | comments: 1

It's well known that I'm a James fan, and I recently learned they've done some performing again and released a new album you can't seem to get here in the states. In any case, I recently bought their live album from 2001, which was supposed to be their last show, and I've since become a big fan of the song "Sit Down," which they're known for closing shows with. You can see the video from the album here.

The song seems really relevant to me lately. I guess the reason is that it makes you think about the people you appreciate, and who appreciate you in turn. It makes me feel like regardless of the madness life may throw at you, we get through it, together. That's a good feeling.

I'll sing myself to sleep
A song from the darkest hour
Secrets I can't keep
Inside of the day
Swing from high to deep
Extremes of sweet and sour
Hope that God exists
I hope I pray

Drawn by the undertow
My life is out of control
I believe this wave will bear my weight
So let it flow

Oh sit down
Sit down next to me
Sit down, down, down, down, down
In sympathy

Now I'm relieved to hear
That you've been to some far out places
Its hard to carry on
When you feel all alone
Now I've swung back down again
Its worse than it was before
If I hadn't seen such riches
I could live with being poor

Oh sit down
Sit down next to me
Sit down, down, down, down, down
In sympathy

Those who feel the breath of sadness
Sit down next to me
Those who find they're touched by madness
Sit down next to me
Those who find themselves ridiculous
Sit down next to me
In love, in fear, in hate, in tears

O Canada

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 1, 2008, 10:03 PM | comments: 1

I feel it's appropriate to give a shout to our neighbors to the north, Canada, on this, their special day. We can forgive them for Celine Dion, because they also gave us Peter Jennings and Barenaked Ladies.

I've had a Canadian flag on my desk since college, for something like 15 years. Canada is not perfect, but it seems like a far more rational place than the United States. I haven't crossed the border in years, but I've always felt very welcome there. I had my first legal beer there, worshiped radio there and had many good times.

I could ramble on about why I love Canada, but this post from a knitting blogger than Diana reads really sums it up.

The .NET Developer Job and the stack of Wired magazines

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 1, 2008, 6:02 PM | comments: 3

As of today, I'm officially not employed. The last two and a half years have been an interesting time for me in terms of my professional development, and it's a very appropriate time to close that chapter.

I know that I've told the story before, but here's a recap. Back in 2005, I was having a very strange year in terms of my personal life. My ASP.NET book was released, I was doing consulting work, coaching high school volleyball, and feeling as though I was hitting a plateau in terms of my own programming skills. More to the point, I was bored.

So in 2006, I went back to work on a full-time basis. What sold me was the interview itself. I could tell that the guys I'd work with were a lot smarter than me, and there was a lot to learn. Unlike the consulting work I had been doing, there were plenty of people to turn to when you didn't feel confident that you had good solutions to the problems you faced. That's the kind of mentoring you wish for.

Culturally, I did have a hard time fitting in at times, in retrospect because there are only so many people you need attacking the bigger issues and being responsible for bigger solutions. I was OK with that most of the time, provided I was still learning and getting better at what I did. I have a strong need to feel as though I'm a part of the bigger picture, I guess because it's what I'm used to in my earlier jobs and my personal projects.

It was just in the last two weeks that I think really started to understand that. Several things happened that made me realize it was time to move on (even though ultimately the choice was made for me). The first thing was my trip to interview with Microsoft in Redmond. It doesn't matter that they didn't offer me a job, because it was a wake up call that reminded me I had options. The second thing was the assignment to a project where I'd be batting clean up, because it was the kind of project I'd endeavored in countless times before in my own work or other jobs. That led me to believe that perhaps my opportunities for learning were decreasing in number. And the third thing that happened, was an e-mail message from a co-worker, who thanked me for helping him on one of his projects. He thanked me for beign patient and working through his issues. As much as I think I try to not rely on external validation, I can't deny that made me feel good.

Collectively, I've come to understand that it was time for something else. I have no idea what that else is, and honestly, this being Jeff Putz week (tomorrow is my birthday), I don't even care to think about it at the moment. For now I want to relax and reflect on the great experiences I had, the friendships, the 1337 code I wrote and the fact that I can get up whenever I feel like it tomorrow!

When I started the job, I got into the habit of bringing my Wired magazines to work, to take to read at lunch or whatever. Over time, they started to stack up. The stack got to 30 issues high. It was a pretty good run.

An intense week so far

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 1, 2008, 3:33 PM | comments: 0

Normally you spend time around your birthday thinking about how much things change over the years. Me, I'm thinking about how much they've changed just in the last week!

Hopefully I can talk about it more tomorrow, my actual birthday, but that depends on just how capable I am of typing by the end of the day. The upshot of it all is that life has become exciting in ways that I had not anticipated, and it energizes me. It's seriously some of the craziest shit I've seen in awhile.

But through it all, I also see that a number of people are not as fortunate. No matter how much you try to command your own destiny, external forces can do quite a bit to fuck with it.

In any case... certainly the most interesting Jeff Putz week I've had in a long time, and mostly in a good way.