Archive: August, 2008

Tonight is the night

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 31, 2008, 12:16 PM | comments: 3

I'm going to flip the switch tonight. Let's hope it all goes smoothly!

Second cuz Jake can sleep through anything

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 29, 2008, 8:29 PM | comments: 1

CoasterBuzz v4: Next week

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 29, 2008, 4:05 PM | comments: 3

Yep, it's going to launch next week. I'm not sure which day, or actually night because it's unprofessional to launch sites in the middle of the day.

It seems like I've been on a singularly focused death march to get it done, but actually I don't think I've spent more than eight hours in any given day working on it. It just seems different because of the strange hours, which have been in the 2 to 6 range and then 9 to 1.

I hesitate to talk much about what you can expect, because frankly I want expectations to be as low as possible. At my last job we talked a lot about "enabler" projects a lot, which create some kind of foundation for bigger things to come, without demonstrating significant value up front. This is kind of like that. Even when it's "done," there is a list of things to come still in the coming weeks and months. The goal is to have that architecture in place where I can deliver new stuff often. (Side note: It's hardly project management, but the very simple Ta-da Lists has served me well in prioritizing work, features and bugs.)

There were some relatively easy things to do that were new, most of them minor. Like the meeting calendar, for example. The UI is simplified, and now it uses the data in a smarter way. Park pages say who has been there lately and who plans to go, and it also shows your entries on your profile. That certainly encourages its use. Those are the kinds of things that I'm going for, to make it so that you want to use something other than the forum more.

The biggest win for me is just the self-assurance that I can complete a project. The site has been unchanged since 2003. I've had false starts every years since. But for better or worse, the site is a part of my life, for eight years now. I can't think of anything else I've done for eight years. It may just fizzle out at some point, but if that happens, I don't want it to be because I neglected it.

So heading into this weekend I'll finish up some things and do whatever testing I can. When I'm ready, I'll turn it off at 2 a.m. and start the hour-long process of migrating and transforming data. Then I'll sleep in. Then we're going out to celebrate.

Faith and religion

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 29, 2008, 1:35 PM | comments: 3

Carrie made a good post about a religion that I can totally relate to. In fact, I'm surprised how many people find similar issues with religion.

I don't think very many people challenge their faith or ever make a conscious decision to choose it. I loosely believe in Christianity because it's what I was brought up on, not because I decided it was the "right" thing to believe. What I've learned about other religions is that most of them would likely suit me just as well.

The issue I have is the institutions built around religion. Most have injected so much human bullshit into them that they completely defeat the purpose of the basic belief system in place. What makes it worse is that some people who believe in the institutions more than the religion get so belligerent about why their religion is "right" that they take any dissent as an affront to "their" god. Those people are toxic.

At the end of the day, I choose to believe in a somewhat vague higher power because I think the universe is too amazing to be a sheer scientific accident. People in particular are too amazing, even though many can also be such assholes. You mileage may vary, but don't bother me with reasons that I'm wrong because I simply don't care.

Build an RSS feed using LINQ to XML

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 28, 2008, 2:27 PM | comments: 0

Every once in awhile, gosh, once a year at this rate, I crank out something simple to write for my ancient ASP.NET site. This year...

Build an RSS feed using LINQ to XML

I haven't done a lot of writing since my book, and I kind of miss it. I just can't find the time to do it.

Clone Wars: Loved it!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 27, 2008, 5:24 PM | comments: 0

Went to see Clone Wars this afternoon. Loved it! I think it sets up the premise of the forthcoming TV show very nicely. And since it wasn't written by Lucas, it doesn't suffer from any of the boring dialog.

The movie, and the forthcoming series on Cartoon Network, takes place between Episodes II and III, where Anakin mentors his own padawan, Ahsoka. She's a rebellious pre-teen type sent by Yoda to teach him some responsibility. The movie has quite a few familiar characters, and already expands on some of them, like Jabba the Hutt (and his species), as well as a deeper understanding of Count Dooku's role in Palpatine's plot. In fact, the movie does more to help you understand the politics of the republic to empire transition than all three movies combined. The original films did a shitty job explaining the plot and double crosses, not implying enough for it to make sense (the role of the trade federation and separatists was vague at best).

I think if you're a Star Wars fan, this does a lot to redeem the franchise after the mess of Episode II and the all but the last half hour of Episode III. The animation is very cool too. It's CG, but it looks almost hand-drawn in terms of the textures. The new female Sith and Padme not being a pussy all of the time is welcome as well. I hope the TV show can live up to the precedent set by the film.

Shooting stars

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 27, 2008, 12:21 AM | comments: 2

The funny thing about having a hot tub is that you spend a whole lot of time staring at the sky. Star gazing always relaxes me and gives me a sense of perspective. The infinity of space will do that I suppose.

Around once a month, I see a shooting star. I suppose they're not nearly as unusual as I thought if I see them that frequently. A couple of weeks ago I saw one that made a very long streak, and must have lasted a good two seconds before burning out. It's fascinating to me that the tiniest spec of space crap can do that.

I saw another one tonight, and again Diana misses out. She's never seen one at all. Ever. She got home from tennis and rightfully, on a school night, went to bed.

I suppose I need to find out when there will be a bona fide meteor shower again. I didn't even know about that last one, and as it turns out, it was mostly in the northern sky, which is not visible from the hot tub.

What Jeff is listening to right now

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 9:49 PM | comments: 0

Not much. I haven't been motivated enough to really look for some new stuff to listen to, and I have no idea what's popular lately. Well, what's popular rarely interests me anymore, unfortunately. I can't stand all of that quasi-punk-emo-pop shit on radio.

I did hit one of the old standbys recently, Armin van Buuren's Imagine. You've gotta really be in the right place to like trance stuff, and most of it sucks anyway, but the dude does a pretty good job on a couple of tracks every album. On this one I'm digging "Hold On To Me" and "Intricacy." Not surprisingly, they sound like previous tracks from him, but that's OK.

I revisited the Nine Inch Nails free album, The Slip, and wow has it grown on me. Since it's free, go get it and listen to "Letting You" and tell me you don't want to just kick someone's ass after listening. That's classic NIN.

I dig Portisehead's "Machine Gun," but none of the other track previews interest me.

REM's Accelerate, who knew, they seem to have gotten back to the kind of music they're good at. First album I've bought since Monster, and I really like it.

I'm still listening to James' Getting Away With It... Live quote a bit. It's 2002 old, but it's new to me. "Sit Down" is such a great song, especially the live version with the sing-along. I don't know how you can't smile when you hear it.

Not that I've been listening to it lately, but I got a track on random and I still can't believe just how good Dido's Life For Rent is. That album is almost five years old and it's just so fucking well written.

Imogen Heap, nearly in tears, said on her video blog that she wasn't going to get the album out when she wanted. She's clearly having self-esteem issues about her work, which is odd from the outside view because everything she's previewed is fucking brilliant. I so dig tortured artist types.

That is all. New Jem album coming out finally next month.

Relucant non-stay at CP closing weekend

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 4:35 PM | comments: 1

I decided awhile ago that I was going to skip staying closing weekend at Cedar Point. The decision frustrates me.

I was testing the news migration for CoasterBuzz and just randomly saw the entry for episode #51 of the podcast, and it had some positive comments. It was one we did at Cedar Point in Lighthouse Point in person, with Gonch, Greg and Cath. Hilarity ensued. Mean Streak and the train made noise in the background. Good times.

But the problem these days is that my Cedar Point circle has shrunk considerably because people keep having babies and moving far away and it's just not the party it used to be. One of my best friends works there of course, but it's not like you're drinking beers in that scenario.

Probably the bigger issue is that it's just too damn expensive for what you get, and the total lack of service. Two nights in Lighthouse Point now costs you nearly five hundred bucks after taxes, and I've had too many unclean cottages to justify doing it again.

As it turns out, my favorite volleyball kid ever, Caity, has her last college game the night of Halloween here in Cleveland, so it's a no-brainer that I'm going to go see her play instead.

Me and Diana totally need to establish some new traditions.

Migratory bits

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 11:29 AM | comments: 0

One of the most mundane things I've been working on for the new CoasterBuzz is the data migration. It's boring work. There are a lot of changes in the way data is stored.

The forum data is a solved problem, as I had to do that for PointBuzz. It's nearly all straight SQL, selecting from the old and inserting in the new. The coaster and park databases are a little more challenging. The news is an outright pain in the ass, because it uses the forum to drive the comments instead of it being a stand alone thing the way it is now. I haven't done a dry run yet to see how long it would take, but I'm guessing it'll take an hour in real life to migrate it all.

Last night I wrapped up the work on the news migration, and ended up going to bed around 2:30 in the process. The problem is that when you run the conversion, and you want to delete the data from your last test run, even the delete part takes five minutes. I've not bothered to make a little subset of data for testing.

So I'm headed into the last 10% of work, which I suspect will take the longest. But there is an end in sight.

Kitteh wakeh commiteh

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 26, 2008, 10:22 AM | comments: 1

Regular coaster season ending fast

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 25, 2008, 12:11 AM | comments: 4

Holy crap, I just realized that this is the last week of daily operation at Cedar Point. I know a ton of kids in the area have gone back to school, so I'm wondering if I should sneak up for an afternoon.

I can't believe that summer is nearly over already. It's going to start getting cool again very soon. I'm not sure that I'm ready!

Accidental coding victories

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 24, 2008, 11:00 PM | comments: 0

It's a double-edged sword when you find something in your code that wasn't quite right and you fix it. On one hand, you uncover a potential problem and deal with it, but on the other hand, you wonder if you've got other brittle things going on.

Tonight I was coding a one-off data item that gets cached for five minutes at a time. When I fired up the debugger to see that it was in there, I noticed that there were dozens of entries in the cache. That seemed odd. So I looked to see what some of them were, and it was a bunch of forum post collections, cached by topic.

It turns out that they were being cached when called up to be indexed by the forum search engine. Topic objects have a GetPosts() method, that, not surprisingly, gets the posts from that topic. The data layer caches these by default. So my test database, filled with a bunch of CoasterBuzz posts from 2002 or something, was being indexed in the background.

The truth is that this bug is pretty low impact. Few forums need to be indexed from the start unless they're being migrated, and since the app doesn't run in the wild very much, that pretty much means only CoasterBuzz when it does get upgraded. But the problem is that these giant cached pieces might bump out a bunch of smaller ones that are more useful, like user data, and that's not desirable. So I did a little Ctrl-Alt-M to extract the method sans caching, and in two seconds I had it all worked out.

After all the years of mucking around in that code, it's funny how I'd write it differently, yet again, if I started over. I can promise you that a rewrite of that ain't gonna happen any time soon!

DVR power supply death

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 23, 2008, 1:09 AM | comments: 1

What is the deal with PC's and power supplies dying after a few years? The PSU in my DVR computer fizzled out today after about four years of continuous use. I was coming downstairs when I noticed the power light was flickering. The room was so quiet!

I ordered another from Amazon and paid the $3.99 next day shipping (we're Prime again), so it should be here Monday. I hope it didn't fry anything else in the comprooder, because I don't want to replace anything else. It might be four years old, but it's perfectly adequate for even HD DVR-ing.

I've got a whole lot of Venture Bros. on there to watch!

I got the call

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 21, 2008, 6:42 PM | comments: 2

The job I've been holding out for called me today, saying it's time to move. Quickly. It's not a sure thing yet, but even still, I feel totally blindsided. Like, "Holy shit, I could be drawing a paycheck Monday," kind of thing.

I think I had it in my mind I'd be working full-time on POP World Media for another month, but maybe that won't be the case. I'm totally not even sure how to feel about it, but I know deep down that the sooner I get back to work, the sooner I can replace my carpet, book the IAAPA trip, the MSP and LAS trips, sock away money for the honeymoon, prep for a potential loss on Diana's house, etc. Oh, and get back to paying into investment accounts, which I haven't done much the last two months.

That means I better get my shit together on CoasterBuzz and get moving.

When I woke up Tuesday...

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 21, 2008, 4:48 PM | comments: 0

...this is what was outside (I'm where the "X" is):

Hide & Seek 2

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 21, 2008, 4:17 PM | comments: 0

Not sure how many Imogen Heap fans there are out there, but check out her remake of her won Hide and Seek on the "Songs for Tibet" album. I might like it more than the original.


posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 21, 2008, 3:41 PM | comments: 0

For a guy who doesn't have a normal day job, I sure feel overwhelmed. In addition to the projects I have in motion, I'm trying to re-evaluate some ad inventory management for an ad campaign sold for CB, tracking down some server issues, catching up on mail, planning for a visitor and other plans this weekend, etc. Plus I'm just trying to stay conscious. I'm tired as hell and just feel scatter brained.

An amazing day for USA volleyball

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 21, 2008, 2:57 AM | comments: 0

The men won their quarter final, Misty and Kerri won the gold on the beach, and the indoor women swept Cuba after being swept by them last week, and they're off to the gold medal final.

Saturday night is the big game for the women, and I honestly didn't think they had a chance. They have turned things around and they're playing great ball, starting with much better serve receive.

I'm all screwed up on schedules after being in Florida an extra day. I had no idea the women played tonight!

The value of swearing

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 21, 2008, 2:49 AM | comments: 2

This post about using naughty words has the usual and predictable comments, but I thought I'd give my take.

People swear, and I'm willing to bet that it's most people. The argument that it's weak or whatever is silly. Stupid people who swear sound stupid regardless of whether or not they drop an F-bomb midstream. If you've truly explored your own value system and morals, wouldn't you ask the question about who designated forbidden words and why?

I certainly don't suggest you just swear whenever and where ever. Professionally, when my co-workers feel like they can swear around me, it's the equivalent of a mate farting in front of you. It says they're comfortable enough in front of you to trust you.

April 4 is our date!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 4:47 PM | comments: 5

We've booked it... April 4 will be our wedding day. This is, by sheer coincidence, also my mom's birthday, and Diana's parents' anniversary. Her mom will be missed I'm sure, but I can only imagine how happy she'll be.

We're having the ceremony at the Sanibel Harbour Resort outside of Fort Myers, which is absolutely beautiful. Diana's dad is being beyond generous. I'm having a hard time being OK with all of the money he's willing to spend (but I have a theory about that, which is a topic for another post). The reception will be on their yacht. We're keeping it small, in part by making it a destination wedding, but also because those giant weddings suck. You never get to spend quality time talking to anyone.

I'm beyond excited. You can't have parties like this at home, or in the Midwest in general. This is the right way to celebrate our marriage, uniquely and not adhering to every little tradition (we're not doing a cake, for example), but making it our experience, the way we want. It's also a way to thank some of our close friends and relatives for putting up with our (really just my) shit. And above all, it'll be incredibly informal. I sure as hell won't be wearing shoes during the ceremony. Invitees are welcome to be barefoot as well, while sipping lemonade.

Here's the little beach, which has a warm glow around sunset:

And here's The Princess:

It's a relief to have the place and the day nailed down. Now we have the agonizing wait... eight months.

I sure do like Florida

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 20, 2008, 2:04 AM | comments: 0

I'm happy to be getting home (I miss the pussies), but I have to say, I really like Florida. This is the first time I've been down here in the super hot crappy season probably since high school, but I'd still take two months of this than five plus months of cold and crappy up north.

Me and Diana certainly have the drive to move, but right now with two houses, we just can't. We can't take on a third mortgage. But with any luck, unloading hers would definitely set some ground work.

The best job prospects for me would be in Orlando, which wouldn't exactly be a struggle given the proximity to the theme parks. We also really like the Pacific Northwest. We both definitely need a change.

Hopefully tomorrow we can get some time with the person at the resort who books events and get a date nailed down for the wedding. We're pretty sure the beach/boat thing is the plan, and if something falls apart there, we have a back up in mind as well (although, the boat is so impressive I can't imagine anything else).

Florida has been good to me, and I tend to just feel better here. It's something we definitely need to think more about.

Return to tranquility

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 9:17 PM | comments: 0

Berg time!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 7:02 PM | comments: 0

The women won their quarter final today, despite playing poorly the first three sets. And why the turn around? Lindsey Berg. I said it in one of my first posts about the team, and today I feel vindicated. Berg is the better setter, period. She sees the defense, reads her own hitters and makes better decisions. I don't understand why she's not starting.

Post-Fay Famous Dave's

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 6:53 PM | comments: 0

Sustained winds

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 11:39 AM | comments: 0

The storm moved slightly east as it hit land last night, and right now the center is just east of us in Fort Myers. That's a positive because the worst weather is in front of and right of the storm.

Still, we've got sustained 30+ mph winds, which is weird in itself. We're used to gusting at that speed. The gusts are up in the 50's, so it's definitely weakening already. Even without being a true hurricane, it's fascinating to see that it just doesn't let up.

Looks like we're going to be delayed a day getting home, which is a bummer.

Fay fizzle?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 19, 2008, 1:54 AM | comments: 0

It's not looking like Fay will make hurricane status (it has to have winds at 74 mph), which is sort of disappointing for some sick reason. It might get the designation, but it only has about 30 miles of gulf water to pass over at its poorly defined center to strengthen before hitting land. Diana's dad drove down to Naples earlier to look after his special lady friend, so we're hanging out here still in Fort Myers.

The first weird thing is that the house is built of concrete block, so there's no creaking or noise so far. Our wind here hasn't gusted much above 30, which is a lot like any thunderstorm in Northeast Ohio. The impression I get from watching local TV, which is surprisingly not sensational at all, and has not interfered with Olympic coverage on the NBC affiliate, is that this is likely more of a rain event than a wind event. Power outages and down trees are still likely. I went out to the lanai a little bit ago, and what I find staggering isn't the wind, but just the steady driving rain.

What a difference though that having some warning makes. When you get severe thunderstorms and tornadoes back home, it just happens and you have to deal. I think when Charlie just destroyed things here in Southwest Florida a few years ago, people became reasonably alert about this sort of thing. They picked up all of the construction barrels from the freeway earlier today, gated communities (which is most of them around here) opened up all of their gates, presumably for emergency vehicles, people who have roll down shutters have closed them, a few people put up the aluminum shutters, people stocked up on gas for generators... and it all just seems routine. Sanibel, the neighboring island, was mostly evacuated. Tolls on the freeways were waived to allow people to get around more quickly. It's just an orderly process overall.

So while I was hoping for some Jim Cantore wind scenes, it looks like the most I'll get is driving range with wind gusting in the 60 mph range. That's still pretty impressive.

I think we found our venue (which is being sailed inland to avoid Fay)

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 18, 2008, 1:45 AM | comments: 0

If you've seen my recent photos on Facebook, you've seen where we plan are hoping to have our wedding and reception. Ceremony on the beach at sunset, then rock the boat for the reception.

Today it felt like things came together and there was a weight lifted. I still don't feel great about what it'll cost, but Diana's dad is enthusiastic about doing it right for his little girl. We're still going to kick in cash for some of it. It'll allow us to have some degree of reckless abandon on the honeymoon, that's for sure.

For now anyway, we're getting ready to experience my first hurricane. We're right in the middle of the projected path for Fay. It's hard to say if we'll get out on time Tuesday or have to wait a day. Fortunately the house/kitteh sitting is taken care of, and it's not like I have a job to go back to!


posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 17, 2008, 1:03 AM | comments: 1

"Our bus system is crap!"

Pieces of us

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 17, 2008, 12:55 AM | comments: 0

Our wedding recon mission has been interesting thus far. I'm seeing pieces of Diana I haven't seen, and to a certain degree filling in the gaps about her that I'm not as familiar with. I'm showing her pieces of me that perhaps she hasn't seen before, given the emotional reality of what we're doing and its relation, or non-relation to my history.

The funny thing about meeting in your 30's is that you've got a lot to catch up on. After being together for a little more than a year, we've got the rough outlines for each other, with sections of detail that are of higher resolution than others. For her, I think she learned a ton by meeting various segments of my family, mostly in the last three months. I met much of hers last year (or subjected to, as she likes to put it), and then met her brother in Seattle this year. Coming to Ft. Myers and staying with her dad gives me additional context.

Diana hasn't been down here in more than a year, when her mom died of cancer. Arriving at the house, not surprisingly, was a pretty tough reminder for her. Planning your wedding and not having the person you're closest to has to be hard. I never got to meet her mom, obviously, but the stories her family has told me paint a pretty wonderful picture. I'm lucky in that respect that I'm able to construct a virtual memory that doesn't include those last few weeks, and if I could do anything for Diana it would be to do the same for her.

Also in those first two hours, the three of us started to talk about the planning process, who will pay for what and guest counts. It was at that moment that I started to think about something that I had largely just repressed. I've done this before, and I can't believe I'm in a position to do it again. I guess it opens an aging wound. I'm not bitter or angry, just sad. It's hard to get your head around getting divorced for some reason other than simply not liking the other person. Liking each other was never a problem for me and Stephanie. We had a serious expectation mismatch though, that's for sure.

But despite the emotional intensity of our first two hours here, the reality of why we're here takes precedence. Our first day of recon took us to three locations. The first sucked, the second wasn't bad and the third was pretty sweet. Tomorrow we see the place that could set us up on a yacht, which sounds pretentious, but on the surface it also sounds like a good deal. The cost makes me nervous regardless of what we do, but doing something memorable eases my pain. That, and we have a financial backer that wants to more than help (and actually that makes me uncomfortable too).

Now there's just a question of what Fay will do. Projected path is right over us, the eye hitting Tampa Tuesday night. If it gets far enough along and we can fly over or around it, we'll be good to go. If not, we could end up here an extra day. Good thing we've got a house sitter who is flexible!

Strongbad video game

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 16, 2008, 12:06 AM | comments: 0

Has anyone played this? Is it novel or does it suck?

I need nine friends to eat free burritos with me

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 14, 2008, 10:55 PM | comments: 3

Just for shits and giggles, I dropped a business card in the bowl at the Chipotle at the mall. (I ordered a thousand of the damn things and I'll never give them all away.) Well, they called today and said I've got free lunch coming... for me and nine friends.

Unfortunately, my friends are rather distributed, and sure as hell don't all work near the mall, so I'm not sure how I'm gonna roll this.

My nocturnal admissions

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 14, 2008, 2:49 PM | comments: 1

Just before the Olympics, my sleep cycle started to normalize a little, and I was going to bed in more of a 12:30 time frame. Honestly I'm not sure it matters, and I know Diana insists it doesn't, but I have this programming that says I'm supposed to go to bed with her at the same time or else. Silly, right? That, and she goes to bed usually around 10:30 on school nights.

But man I am a productive guy as the hours get late. There's something about those last few hours that make it easy for me to get things done. Last night's science project was a perfect example, and I was surprised to get up this morning before the alarm, six hours later, with enthusiasm for what I was doing.

Granted, this kind of thing does come in spurts. I can't do it for days on end. Eventually I have to mix it up and do some reading or gaming or whatever. (I should probably try exercise.) I feel like I neglect other aspects of my life, and Diana, when I get into that mode. Of course she insists that's not the case, but again, I've got some wiring issues.

Today I've changed my focus to design issues, where I'm trying to wake up the creative part of me that was far more obvious when I worked in broadcast, or when I was a kid. It's a challenge because I'm very emulative, and struggle to identify my own voice. Once I get to a somewhat happy place there, I'll finish up some of the lint on my issues list for code.

And I thank the recent rash of CoasterBuzz Club membership orders. That certainly keeps me motivated!

New feature from a science project

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 14, 2008, 3:18 AM | comments: 2

OK, so I got sucked into a science project for CoasterBuzz, but it's kinda neat. So for Gonch and Ty, the site will suck less, per your request. :)

No seriously, I really have been working on CoasterBuzz

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 2:30 AM | comments: 5

I've been really buckling down and trying to stay focused on my rewrite of CoasterBuzz. The fact that I have blog posts over the last four years saying that I was working on it is embarrassing. This time, there's actually something there. Aside from the design work, the code stuff is probably 80%. There are a few old URL mapping things to do, some club member plumbing and a meeting calendar thing. Heck, even the track record functionality has been rewritten.

I've learned a lot so far about the process of undertaking what is largely a new project, within the context of being a one-man shop. The first thing is to stop being overwhelmed, and just start writing something. Starting was the hardest part. Having the forum rewrite finished certainly made things a lot easier. The more I'd break down problems, the easier things came to me. My initial curse was figuring out how to deal with the coaster and park databases, plus the track record. I wanted tighter, relational data. It's there now, and the work sets up some new features, forthcoming.

I learned to stop trying to repurpose every damn thing or be overly abstract. On an attempt last year, I tried to figure out how I could use the photo library code I eventually used for PointBuzz, even though it was for use with reference to coasters instead of albums or whatever. It was like trying to use a screwdriver for cutting. Ultimately, I ended up pulling out the utility stuff (converting byte streams to images, checking sizes, etc.) into my general use library project, and then wrote like 200 lines of code built specifically for handling coaster photos. That was a lot easier.

The really fun thing I've done is come up to speed on the C# 3.0 features, and I can't even tell you how awesome they are. Object initializers, lambda expressions, anonymous types, extension methods, etc., are welcome changes. I'm getting into LINQ as well, and picked up LINQ in Action. I think it's finally the data as object thing I've been waiting for.

So when will the world see it? Give it a couple of weeks.

NBC keeps pre-empting volleyball!

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 1:29 AM | comments: 0

Shit shit shit. NBC has the broadcast schedule online and seems to be completely ignoring it. Last night for the men, and tonight for the women, they had their games listed for broadcast on NBC. And, both nights, they've ditched it for other stuff. I'm annoyed.

What's worse is that they're not even showing the games online live, presumably because they're supposed to be broadcast.

EDIT: They finally started showing the match, starting with the third set, at 1:30.

The job front

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 12, 2008, 1:11 AM | comments: 0

People ask me frequently how the job hunt is going, so I figure that perhaps I should share.

There's a strong change I can land a very, very cool gig with a consulting company that is part architecture, part development and part development process guidance dude and mentor that I would really like to do. Basically, the biggest issue is that they're waiting for their client to green light the big long-term project, so it leaves the position in limbo. I'm really holding out for this one, but obviously I don't want to wait forever either.

Meanwhile, various gigs of average interest come along from time to time. Most of them I politely decline, but there was one today that's in the next town that is hard to pass up given the proximity. The idea of having a commute under 10 minutes sure has some appeal and encourages me to look deeper. We'll see.

Again, I'm cash flow adequate through the end of September, but I'd still like to start getting ahead for next year's festivities.

In the mean time, I have been working pretty extensively on CoasterBuzz, and also working on some science projects and reading up/experimenting on some of the new stuff coming into the .NET world.

Serve receive FAIL

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 11, 2008, 3:00 AM | comments: 0

Wow... Cuba is pretty amazing in terms of raw power, and especially the serving from one of their setters. She was hitting that ball at nearly 60 mph. I know from trying just to hit as hard as possible that's not easy (I can hit, if I ignore direction, just over 40). That hard serving just decimated the serve receive of the women, and if you can't pass, you can't do anything else.

On a positive note, when the passing was solid, I saw a lot more of a technical effort on the part of our team, and it resulted in a lot of points. I recall one hit from the right side going down with no blockers at all. That's what I like to see!

I was really disappointed in the second set when the ref overrules a line judge call, and the ref was totally wrong. That, I think, changed the outcome of the game that we should've won. I'm not sure if that would've mattered, but it sucks to see a bad call influence the game.

I'm hoping for a better result late night Tuesday (or early Wednesday) against Venezuela. They'll have to bust ass to get a medal, and even then, I'm not sure they can place higher than bronze. I haven't seen any matches scheduled for TV from the other pool.

Lego Star Wars on DS not as cool as Lego Indy on 360

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 10, 2008, 9:49 PM | comments: 0

I finished playing through all six episodes of Lego Star Wars on the DS, and I don't think I'm going to go back and find all of the stuff the way I did in Lego Indiana Jones on the Xbox 360. I find the DS format for the game too hard to deal with.

First there are the screen issues. It's small, low resolution, and the detail level is not very high. It's hard to find stuff and see where the hidden things might be. Combine that with the fact that it's already hard to see in daylight. The Xbox 360 version looks so good by comparison, in part because Lego blocks are easy to render for the hardware, but also because of the reflections, lighting and plastic look. It seems to run a full 60 frames per second too.

Then there's the seemingly random use of the dual screen or touch screen. The human field of view is horizontal, and it's hard to look up and down. All of the flying levels do that, and worse, stuff gets lost between the screens so you can't even see it. Then they'll toss out some random instructions that you can totally miss. Or they have completely random touch screen things, like having to draw circles around an AT-AT when you're trying to bring it down on Hoth.

Then there's the issue of not having the object detection extras present in the other versions. Finding the minikits or red blocks is a pain in the ass, and there are no items to help you in the DS version. That makes it a lot less fun. Boo.

So I think I'm gonna trade mine in for the Xbox 360 version. That way, when Diana gets 100% on Indy, she'll have something new to keep her from knitting, cooking and the other things she enjoys. :)

Battery life

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 10, 2008, 9:40 PM | comments: 0

Diana's fresh pasta

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 10, 2008, 5:05 PM | comments: 3

Rough start for USA women, but a win

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 9, 2008, 1:09 PM | comments: 2

Yikes, it was a tough start for the women against Japan, but they pulled it out 3-1. As the fourth seed, they need to do better if they want to score a medal.

For all of the press around Logan Tom returning to the indoor game, she wasn't the force I hoped for, at least not yet. (And she's harder to spot with the long hair!) She was pretty solid on defense, but really struggled in the front row.

Japan's defense was so ridiculous, and that's where we were hurting. I'm surprised to see Stacy Sykora is not the starting libero because I was blown away by her in 2004. Nicole Davis is pretty good though, and adorably tiny at 5'4". Unfortunately, they weren't using Sykora enough early on while the hitters struggled to pass, especially on serve receive. Putting her in cleaned up the defense and made a world of difference.

I'm not fond of Robyn Ah Mow-Santos as setter. She's accurate, but she doesn't read the defense well enough to make the right decisions. I mean, when you've got an opponent with a 5'3" setter, there's gonna be a gaping hole in the block, so use it! And while I'm all for moving the ball around, if you have a particular hitter who is dominant against a weaker blocking team, use them. I like Lindey Berg setting better for that reason. She's not as fast, but I think she's a better decision maker.

Hopefully they'll get these issues worked out, and step up the defense. Japan was an easy to read team, and you've gotta react and take advantage of that.

Bernie Mac died

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 9, 2008, 10:56 AM | comments: 0

He was 50, and it was from complications to pneumonia. Very sad. Details here.

I loved the Bernie Mac Show on Fox, which ended a couple of years ago. He was great in the Oceans Eleven movies as well. His act and his characters always mixed an outward arrogance with undertones of humility, if that makes sense.

He was too young.

r sirinz were haX0rd!!111!

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 9, 2008, 10:44 AM | comments: 0

Last Wednesday night, in perfect weather, the tornado sirens went off. First thing I did was send an IM to Jeff P. down the freeway two exits to see if they were going off there (they typically go county wide). He heard nothing.

Well it turns out that the sirens were hacked, which is interesting. They're triggered wirelessly, that much I can tell, because they have little cell phone antennas on their boxes near the base of the poles. Sounds like the vendor did a pretty shitty job securing that.

I <3 the Olympics

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 9, 2008, 1:18 AM | comments: 2

I've been a huge fan of the summer Olympics pretty much since the 1984 games in LA. While certainly NBC stands to make a shit load of money from the games, overall, it's still one of the purest forms of sport we have left. There are no advertisements in the venues of any kind, no giant salaries, and a certain humility on the part of the athletes that you just don't see elsewhere.

The opening ceremony sure was impressive. Eastern cultures fascinate me, and I can't help but wonder what China's future will look like. I can't imagine that communism will last forever in light of the intense capitalism that makes it such a huge player in the global economy. I guess we'll see.

Tomorrow morning starts with volleyball, and I'm anxious to see what the women look like. There's a certain irony that our coach is actually Chinese, and the players in interviews seem to be excited about the direction of the team.

Speaking of NBC, they really have elevated the story telling to a new level for sports, and they seem to get better at it every time. I think that's ultimately what draws me to it, even more that the competition. +1 to them also for dedicating the broadcast tonight to Jim McKay, who is most known for his work at ABC, but certainly defined sports television for decades. is up and running, and as promised, you can watch four video streams at a time. That's nuts. Knowing about the way they scale bandwidth and such with Silverlight and the media server, I'm not at all surprised it works pretty reliably so far (yay, I can watch live badminton!), but I am surprised that Microsoft didn't get Silverlight 2 out of beta in time.

I'm looking forward to lots of volleyball goodness for the next two weeks!

Balance in The Force, karma, justice, etc.

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 8, 2008, 5:38 PM | comments: 0

I found out some good news today that restores my faith in corporate America. Let's just say that I'm bound by contract not to talk about it, but it's one of those things that make you believe karma is real, and it makes you smile.

All My Kittehs

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 8, 2008, 2:48 PM | comments: 0

Four cats is probably too many. If my house were any smaller, they'd definitely be too much to deal with. But I hate to admit that I love having them around. They seem to take turns being my shadow.

And every once in awhile they do cute things that just make you smile. Like just now, Gideon randomly walked up to Emma and started washing her, and she did it back. How cute is that?

All of Diana's cats changed for the better when they moved in, and especially with me being home during the day, they've really accepted me as the father figure. I think Cosmo could still do without them. She's always hissing at the boys, and more or less avoids Emma. But Oliver is too stupid to know he's hated, so he discreetly sleeps near Cosmo or hangs out near her. He wants to be her friend. But she lived her first five years solo, then with a hyperactive and sick cat for another five, then another year solo (with periods of antagonistic behavior on the part of a certain Boston Terrier who shares her name). She just doesn't know what to do with other animals.

I love having them around, and having so many helps me to try to get passed Luna's passing, which haunts me to this day, and is probably the second worst thing I've ever had to go through.

But I don't wanna go to bed!

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 8, 2008, 2:22 AM | comments: 0

I find myself late in the evenings, or early in the morning if you prefer, feeling like I don't want to go to bed. As if there's something else to do. This despite the fact that I keep yawning and there's typically a cat that's out cold within arms reach.

But I think I've finally hit my stride. As I've said before, I really believe that a person has at most six good hours of productive work time, and the rest of the time you need to do other stuff. For me, I've pretty consistently worked on self-employment projects from about 2 to 5 in the afternoon, and then from 10 to 1 at night. It's ridiculously not traditional, but it's working out. In the event I can make a go of true self-sustaining work some day, this seems to be the routine that works best for me.

In the mornings I read news and stuff on the Internet, have lunch, read and read some more. In the evenings I hang out with Diana and we play video games or watch movies or whatever. I'm trying to figure out how I can add exercise to that routine, but I don't care for exercise.

I could get used to this, but I'll have to try out some ideas to get to the self-sustaining part. In the meantime, I hope this gig that I want comes through.

Does anyone use tags for text content?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 7, 2008, 2:09 PM | comments: 5

I was thinking today about how I want to organize news content on CB going forward, and was thinking about using tags, the way most blog engines do. Tagging is something I find very useful for photos, but is it as useful for text? I'm not sure that it's particularly useful for most types of text.

We gots to chill

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 7, 2008, 12:31 AM | comments: 11

Me and the yarn slut were sitting in the hot tub tonight talking about the things that have us all cranked up, and I realized that we're both pretty wound up lately and stressed out. That sucks, because we're generally pretty laid-back people.

Diana's stress comes largely out of the wedding planning. I had this brilliant idea that we should get married barefoot on a beach, and, well, that ain't cheap, even for the relatively small number of guests we plan to have. But you know, we're in our 30's and don't ever want to have to get married again, so this is our shot. One positive... she found out yesterday that the one place she's been looking at can do the reception on a yacht, for significantly less. How sweet would that be?

I've been stressed because I feel like I should be back to work. I'm cash flow positive (like Six Flags wants to be!) for another two months at least, and I've enjoyed the time off. But a part of me feels like I need to be packing away the bucks for the wedding, reception, new carpet, vacations, etc. I'm still holding out for this one gig that depends on the company's client moving forward, but it's a sweet gig.

The reality is, one way or another, we're going to get married and the only thing important is being together. And there's always a plan-B in the Nevada desert. I'm going to go back to work eventually, and the time off has allowed me to get to know me again, while learning all kinds of new stuff I didn't have time for at ICOM. And I still have no non-mortgage debt. So for both of us, the reality is that life is going pretty well, and we really need to relax.

This is why we try to get out for "date nights" still, even though we live together. You need to blow off steam and keep perspective.

Kevin Smith talks down Zack and Miri from an NC-17

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 6, 2008, 6:58 PM | comments: 0

Silly MPAA...

Come on, the title of the movie itself should be indication enough that this is not porn.

Can't wait for this one.

Annoying self-declared celebritards

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 6, 2008, 1:31 PM | comments: 0

Gonch and I had some fun with the concept of "micro-celebrity" on a podcast awhile ago. The concept of celebrity at any scale is silly. On one hand, working in radio, I met my share of truly famous people, and I would guess that 90% of them were uninteresting, assholes or generally shallow people. On the other hand, I was often treated as a celebrity by radio listeners in a way that was completely absurd. I mean, I shit sitting down too, and talking to tens of thousands of people at a time hardly is worthy of any recognition. That, and I was really a schmuck who couldn't afford to move out of his parents' house on a radio salary.

But the Internet has enabled entire new classes of celebritards. Wired has a cover story on a woman who makes it her job to be famous for being an attention whore. Are you kidding? I can't decide if this is a sad statement about the attention whores or the state of our culture.

You even see them on coaster Web sites. We have one who never posts anything unless it's about her and what she did or who she knows. Another always has to post with passive-aggressive nonsense about who he knows and how important he perceives himself to be. It's annoying.

I have a great deal of respect for people who openly share what they think, whether it be on a street corner or on the Internet, but I'm annoyed by people who do it for the attention. I think it cheapens human interaction.

Me, excited about stuff

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 6, 2008, 9:21 AM | comments: 0

When Diana kissed me goodbye a little while ago, I couldn't go back to sleep. I went to bed at 2, so that's less than six hours of sleep. I'm sure I'll crash by lunch time, but I'm excited to be working on CoasterBuzz, for the first time in five years.

Last night I made enough progress on the database stuff that I actually feel as if there's an end in sight. It's still a long way off, but the stuff that troubled me most is done. The migration of coaster data to a one-to-many relationship, i.e., one coaster can have several names and locations, was a design goal from the start, and by itself wasn't that complex. Throw in how it interacts with track record data, and it's less obvious.

I think at this point I need to avoid feature creeping more. Get to feature equivalency, release. That'll put me in a good position to do some of the really sweet stuff.

My hope is that people will be energized to use the site more. With a little SEO and some other appealing items, I suspect there's an opportunity to boost the traffic, which has been pretty much flat for the last year. And while the site by itself doesn't create J-Pizzie lifestyle revenue, it can certainly be better. I feel like I need to prove this to myself before I endeavor into anything new.

Coaster data madness

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 5, 2008, 1:14 AM | comments: 7

When I first thought about re-doing CoasterBuzz, and tried to hack out some code (this was two years ago), I wanted to make it so that the coaster database had one record for one coaster, and then a table indicating its various names and locations. That's easy enough. Then I started screwing around with track records.

The pain came when I didn't have any specific rules in mind as to how to assemble a track record. For example, I think it's OK to add the same ride to your track record twice when it has been moved to another park. Think X-Flight/Firehawk. But it's be silly to credit yourself with Top Gun and Flight Deck. The data, as it stood, made no distinction between the two situations.

List of coasters for parks were easy enough. Just query the data and only pick the newest name for a coaster. For track records, I had the "duh" moment when I realized I should just use the coaster and park ID's as combined keys for the track record. That way, if a new name comes along, nothing changes.

These are the kinds of things that aren't really that hard to figure out, but if you spend too much time staring at them, the obvious becomes obscured. Life can kinda be like that.

Post-party clean up and thoughts on home

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 4, 2008, 3:35 PM | comments: 1

I got the place cleaned up today from the party, since we had other stuff to do yesterday and were really not motivated. The nice thing about running out of food is that there wasn't a ton to really clean up. Although maybe Diana made significant strides Saturday night in the two minutes between the departure of our last guest and the time we got into the hot tub. I was a little drunk.

I started to think then, and yesterday, that I don't really want to live here anymore. It's not that I don't like my house, I just don't want to be here anymore. Part of it is just that I'm tired of Northeast Ohio. Part of it is that I don't feel like this can ever truly be "our" house because of the history.

This is both the best and worst time to make a radical move. Best because I'm not tied to a specific job, and worst because I'm not tied to a specific job. That, and Diana's house hasn't sold, and I can't imagine mine would fly into the arms of someone else either. As much as I'd love to say that these are imagined obstacles, they're hard not to consider in my new cash-only way of life. We could really only do a life-makeover on credit, while paying two different mortgages and some other third place that we'd likely have to rent.

But I do understand that it's short-term. I'll start accumulating cash again soon, and the housing market isn't going to suck indefinitely. I'm just impatient. I want something different out of life, even if I'm not sure what that is.

Party afterglow

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 3, 2008, 2:25 AM | comments: 2

We had a pretty good party today, with nearly 30 people who came and went at various points. The problem with such parties? It seems like you don't really get a lot of quality time talking to anyone.

But still, it was fun, and the 12 litres of mai-tai were mostly gone. I've learned over the years that if I'm gonna make a big ass drink with good liquor, don't make too much. It seems that 12 is the magic number.

I'm a little more drunk than I'd like to be right now, and Diana has gone to bed. Between the mid-afternoon nap (I slept horribly last night) and my general tendency lately to sleep in, I'm just not ready to sleep. That sucks because sleeping is the thing I'd like most.

The reason for the party was our engagement, and we had a pretty seriously strange mix of people here. Unfortunately, I didn't make it clear enough that this was a no-gift kind of party, and we got a shit load of wine and boxed gifts from my cousin. I feel kind of bad about that. Our goal was just to get people we care about together. Regardless, we're thankful for the forthcoming wine experiences!

Sometimes in these cases, you hate that certain people can't be there, whether it be for the distance or excusable neuroses or simple conflicts. Even with the Internet, sometimes it's hard to maintain relationships with friends, and that kinda sucks.

Still, love the afterglow from a good night.

iPhone v2 battery issue resolved

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 2, 2008, 12:35 AM | comments: 4

While down at the tennis tournament earlier this week, I was in the EDGE wasteland known as Cincinnati. I don't know what the deal is, but AT&T's EDGE coverage is very nearly useless. The coverage map says it's there, but I'm not convinced.

Anyway, twice since upgrading to the new software, the phone has totally drained the battery over a relatively short period of time, the usage stats showing hours upon hours of use. What the hell could be running in the background? I wondered.

I immediately turned off the push service, because it appears to talk to it regardless of whether or not you have apps that use it. That just left the mail checking every 15 minutes. Anyone who has used Gmail's IMAP knows it's not particularly fast to respond. Combine that with crappy connectivity, and it's even slower.

I turned it off, setting it to manual, and sure enough, I bet I could go days without a charge. Usage shows 30 minutes in the last 24 hours. That includes around 10 minutes of talk time, using the alarm (and snoozing), a couple of weather checks and manually receiving and sending e-mail.

My theory then is that the error handling of the mail app blows. It has no sense of timeout, and just keeps transmitting away even though it can't make a connection. That's pretty lame. Hopefully it's something they'll fix. Although, honestly I've never really used it to be notified of received e-mail in quasi-real time. If I typically only use it if I'm looking for it.