Archive: November, 2009

First day at Walt Disney World: Awesome

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 29, 2009, 11:09 PM | comments: 0

First day went pretty well, despite poor sleeping and jet lag. Started the morning with breakfast at the hotel, then went to Magic Kingdom. Hit just a few things (Hall of Presidents, Tomorrowland stuff, Pirates, trip report forthcoming), then met a childhood friend of Diana's for a late lunch.

The big score came when we got to Hollywood Studios, where I hoped Diana would be totally overwhelmed by the Osborne Family Christmas light display. She was. :) That moment was worth the entire trip.

More later...

Packing again

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 27, 2009, 7:12 PM | comments: 0

We're doing a little packing for the WDW trip, which feels weird since we spent the last week unpacking stuff. The movers took away the bulk of the boxes and paper today, thank God!

I'm pretty excited to go visit the rat, especially because Diana loves Christmas so much, and Disney does a pretty amazing job with their stuff. To see her smile when she sees the Osborne Family Christmas lights at the studios, or the Candlelight Processional at Epcot, will be awesome.

This will be a slightly shorter trip than last year, by about a day, and it should be more relaxed since there's really no pressure to see as much as possible. This year we can be casual, focus on the food (the dining plan was free, after all) and see whatever the things were that we missed. Hall of Presidents was closed for its re-do, Space Mountain has since been rehab'd, and there were miscellaneous things we just didn't get around to.

And wouldn't you know it, I just got used to Pacific time!

Financial aftermath

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 27, 2009, 6:49 PM | comments: 0

Now that I have a functional desk and the file cabinet is in place, I was able to comb through all of the receipts and bills and what not that have been collecting for about three weeks. I have used my credit card almost exclusively because I was worried about cash flow, knowing that I'd have to plop down a bunch of cash for rent and a deposit, probably before I got my first pay.

And wow, it's pretty clear that I reached my limit of self-employment, because writing that first check was tough. Most of what I charged was moving related, and I'll get reimbursed for it all. Aside from the anxiety associated with trying to ditch the houses, I have a lot of anxiety related to paying off the debt dating back to the honeymoon in April. Consistent income eases the anxiety a little, and I'm optimistic about the direction of online advertising right now. I'm very anxious to see what a paycheck looks like here without state and local income tax.

It really could have been much worse. Summer was pretty good to me in terms of site traffic and ad revenue, though I was not paying off the expenses related to the sites, I was mostly paying myself.

And did I mention that I really like living here?

Thanksgiving upgrade

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 27, 2009, 12:07 AM | comments: 0

Last Thanksgiving, we were pulling up carpet for the house I no longer live in, and it was a miserable experience. This year, we spent the evening with Joe, Kristen and Nina. Obviously that was quite an upgrade from last year.

Kristen should've had the new baby boy by now, but alas, she's still with child. She was in pretty good spirits and did not appear outwardly uncomfortable, though she said her craving for beer gets greater by the day. Pregnant women have the strangest cravings.

The turkey was delicious, and perhaps the best I've ever had. Joe cut thick slices, indicating that they stay warmer longer and don't dry out quickly. One of a number of Alton Brown's tips, apparently. It was truly amazing stuff. He also made some mashed potatoes, baked with some finely grated cheese on top. Also very delicious.

I had quite a bit of wine, which brought out my most talkative side, and also made me somewhat needy. I liked talking about Thanksgivings past and what not.

We had a great moment on the way home, where I realized that we weren't simply visiting on a holiday. We weren't going to an airport or a hotel, we were just going home. Every time I realize we live here, it makes me happy.

Broadcast TV reception, not so good

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 26, 2009, 1:56 AM | comments: 1

I finally busted out the DVR today, and the news about broadcast signals was not good. They're there, but they're all pretty week using the little antennae I have indoors. The neighboring building also blocks the line of sight to the transmitters downtown. If that building wasn't there, I suspect I'd get great reception, because we're on higher ground and (according to the FCC coverage maps) well within range.

But the news isn't entirely bad. The local cable company does have those channels in HD by way of Clear QAM on the wire, so I can get all of them. The problem is that I only have the one tuner that can do it, so if more than one thing is on, I lose one thing or the other.

So the plan I think is to get another Clear QAM tuner. With two, I feel like we'll be pretty well covered. The third USB tuner I have receives analog cable, so that can cover anything I can't get digitally. Eventually, I'd like to find a small and quiet PC or a Mac Mini to replace the DVR. Since tuners are all USB now, and video hardware is generally powerful enough without giant video cars, there's no need for the big loud thing with all of the fans.

Nobody's home

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 12:16 AM | comments: 1

The thing that most sucks about being on Pacific time is that no one is ever on IM when I get around to it in the evening. I never get to check in with folks.

Salty and chilled

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 24, 2009, 8:44 PM | comments: 0

OK, I admit it, I was a little salty today. I had weird dreams last night, the chaos in the apartment was getting to me, Seattle drivers are trying to kill me, and the previously mentioned self-induced stress around non-contribution at work put me in a shitty mood. I just felt spent and annoyed with people.

By lunch, one of the guys on my team helped me finally get my box ready to develop on, which is not straight forward for a number of reasons (read: LiveID, a.k.a. Passport support), and so I can hopefully start being a real contributor once I get back. Then we took a break to see some video that one of the PM's was sharing for her 2nd degree black belt testing, which was pretty interesting. I just worked out of the pissy state.

Then once I got home, aside from a lamp that caught fire, I was happy to be there. Diana made even more progress with boxes, and I brought home a propane cylinder to fire up the grill. After dinner I just passed out for an hour, and I woke up relaxed.

Now I feel chilled out. I feel like I actually live here, and that there's some sense of normal on the horizon. Granted, that'll be totally tossed on its side again when Little Puzzoni gets here, but that's OK. Seeing the sib-in-laws be parents puts me at ease.

Now we just have to find enough of our stuff to pack it for vacation!

A little moment of glorious reality

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 23, 2009, 11:20 PM | comments: 1

At the suggestion of one of my co-workers, I figured I'd shuttle over to the company store after lunch, to try out the shuttle and exercise my employee purchasing. Got over there in about five minutes. That area of campus is very impressive, and there's a parking garage under all of it.

I've been wanting a new mouse for my desktop for a long time, because the one I've had for about four or five years is just kind of gross and I wanted to toss it. Plus I really liked it when I had it at my last job. Smooth scroll wheel. It glows all blue when you wake it up. Got it for half price, roughly. I also got Halo ODST for half price. Nice perks in that store, though the only Xbox games they carry are first-party titles. They've got controllers for $20 right now, and I'm half tempted to get a spare to replace the one with the gnarly stick. You don't even want to know how cheap the Live memberships are!

While it was only around 50 degrees outside, I was walking across the commons area of the campus, when I happened to glance east, and there I could see the snow-capped mountains. I don't know if people around here take that for granted, but I'm in awe every time I see it. We drove past an elementary school near Joe & Kristen's last week, with an even more amazing view, and wondered if the kids realize how awesome that it.

I seriously hope that I never stop feeling like a tourist in that respect. I'm really glad to live here when I can see that kind of natural beauty every single day.

Weekend progress

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 22, 2009, 11:04 PM | comments: 0

Despite my generally high level of stress, I think it's fair to say that we got some stuff accomplished this weekend. Diana's persistence around the kitchen in particular paid off, and it's just about fully functional. There's no food in it, mind you, but once there is, it'll be functional!

I did get basic TV and Xbox functionality in place last night, and this morning I finished the new bookshelf. I really like it. Eight feet is really tall, but I like the tall and narrow look. I suspect we can now ditch one of the older crappy units that have been with me a long time.

I also got my desk mostly built, and I really, really like that as well. I got it up an hour before we recorded the podcast, and dropped everything on it just to the point that it was all functional enough. I should have pitched the old desk in Cleveland. The new one is really solid, and looks fresh and clean. I can't believe how heavy the steel parts are.

Of course, this furniture building didn't go entirely smoothly, with parts missing from both the shelf and the desk, but I had to go back to Ikea anyway because we forgot to get the desk drawer piece. I went solo, and was in and out in about 40 minutes or so. Like I said, I plan to make a full post just about my Ikea experience at some point. The point is that they had the parts there.

I spent a lot of time today being angry this weekend, I think because I just wanted to be comfortable and rested. But after two weeks since leaving, there's still so much chaos. I guess that's what you call being homesick. I was naive to think we'd get everything settled all in one weekend too.

It even carries over to work. When a company pays out the ass to move you cross-country, there's pressure to start adding value immediately. It's not pressure from the company itself, and they even say in orientation to give yourself a month or two, but from the situation. I hoped this weekend to remote into my work computer and get into the code base of our app, and it just didn't happen.

But we've only got two days this week, and then next week I'll be in Orlando under the rat's influence, so all is well. The living room is cleaning up, my home office is nearing rightness, the kitchen works, the bathroom is already feeling familiar... it's coming together.

Slow going at the new place

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 22, 2009, 12:00 AM | comments: 0

The boxes never stop. It's really discouraging. Diana is miserable because her allergies are completely kicking her ass. I've never seen her this bad. I'm wheezing a little myself, so I can only expect that her unmedicated state is awful given her typical issues. The more we unpack, the more dust we kick up, and it's all from the old house. And of course, she's on a mission to tear through as much stuff as possible. She can't breathe, can't lie down and sounds awful. I don't know what to do.

There has been some progress. I'd say the kitchen is on the verge of being 75% functional. Diana spent much time trying to organize that, which is a challenge since it's a lot smaller of a space than we had at the house. For the little gains we have in living room, master bedroom and bathroom space, we definitely lose a bit on the kitchen (and the third bedroom).

I attacked the living room entertainment stuff. Everything is in place except for the DVR there, and I'll get that tomorrow. I've looked through much of the office stuff, and I at least have a pretty good idea of where everything is. Getting the bookshelf in order is key to getting started.

We have a bunch of bookshelves, but the problem with them all is that they're not tall enough and too wide for the space we have. There's one spot in particular near my desk that needed just such a shelf, so we went off to Ikea, since I wanted to explore desk options anyway.

I actually intend to make an entire post about the Ikea visit, but for the time being, know that I got a new desk and the required bookshelf. With several additional, smaller items, we got out of there for around $500, which isn't completely unreasonable, I don't think. It's all pretty heavy and durable stuff. I still need to go back for a little set of drawers to put under the desk.

Getting out was something we really needed, because it got Diana out of the dust cloud, and retail therapy, especially for the purpose of equipping a new place, is kind of fun, if not exhausting in its own way.

The only food we really had was breakfast stuff, so we found our beloved All-Clad frying pan and had hashbrowns and eggs for dinner. Diana is still up, and pretty upset too about her non-breathing situation. I hoped we could just wind down with some of the new Lego Indiana Jones 2 tonight, but I didn't get everything hooked up fast enough.

The place looks more functional than it did when we woke up, but it's still so overwhelming. I'm not mentally prepared to think about the storage issue we'll face. Thank God this is a short week. No work on Wednesday either, apparently because of an exceptional giving drive last month. I expect we may be playing babysitter to Nina if her brother decides to be born, but that's good news. We'll also finally have our cars back on Monday.

Moved in and completely exhausted

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 20, 2009, 11:43 PM | comments: 0

Yes, we could have kept the temporary housing for 30 days, but there were two problems. The first is that it sucked. The beds were terrible, without box springs, and the living room furniture was so uncomfortable that you couldn't watch TV for a half-hour without something starting to hurt. I can only imagine what the pregnant lady felt.

The other problem is that when a good place opens up, it doesn't stay open for very long. Those awesome new places in Kenmore were going fast, and if it wasn't so damn far away from work, we would've jumped at it. Instead, we got this place in Issaquah, which we really liked, and it's fairly large at around 1,400 square feet. That's a net loss of about 450, which is essentially the family room/office and a smaller kitchen.

We left the temp apartment around 8:30, and it was a good opportunity to try yet another option for the commute, in the reverse direction. Traffic was not an issue in either direction, and we did it in 20 minutes (about 11 miles). That's the big pay off for this location, as it's really the best commute distance I've had in ten years. And that's not even taking the Connector.

Someone scoped out the property for the truck driver but never got the message to him that they'd have to do a transfer, where they move stuff to a smaller truck and run a few trips from the big rig, kept somewhere nearby. As a result, they really didn't get started until two hours after the start time. There was no way in hell they could get the 80-foot truck in here. So by 11, the boxes started to flow.

It all went relatively smoothly, and as far as I can tell so far, nothing broke. The moron packers packed my fog machine with a full bottle of fog juice, and that leaked all over the place, mostly trashing a new box of 200 envelopes and some manila folders. Right now the most frustrating thing is that I can't find the glass shelves to my entertainment rack. They packed the top of it in a glass pack, but not the shelves.

The baby's room is stacked almost to the ceiling with stuff. It's hard to say at this point how much of it will find a home, but we've got some time to figure it out. We are really hosed when it comes to storage. I can't really know the extent of the hosey-ness until we get some reasonable unpacking done.

My desk may also be a casualty of the move. Simply put, the corner piece and the longer piece don't fit. Not even close. Option one is to toss the long piece and use the file cabinet as my auxiliary space for the audio mixer. Option two is to toss it all and buy something new from Ikea.

At dinner time, we headed up to Snoqualmie and scored some pizza to share with Joe and Kristen. Nina definitely enjoyed the mini-party, until her bed time. Kristen is still with child... he wasn't ready this week. It's nice having family here, and they don't try to give all kinds of advice about living here or child birthing unless we ask, which is also a big plus. When the boy is ready to hatch, we'll be assuming the Nina duty for a day or two, which will be super fun.

After dinner, we had to head back in to Redmond to get the cats and whatever remaining goodies were left. I think we got it all, but I'll check next week when check-out. Yikes, four cats in the rental Corolla was a tight squeeze, and Emma's carrier had to go on Diana's lap. They immediately began to protest, but even taking the freeway it was only about 20 minutes.

Before we left for dinner, Diana got the bedroom operational, and we're so happy to be in a real bed again. She had a small 'sode when she couldn't reach behind the bed to plug in her alarm clock, augmented by her distress that her good pillow was nowhere to be found (it was stuffed in with a Christmas tree part, where else?). I found it, and all was well with the world.

There's such a mix of feelings you get with this kind of move-in. On one hand, it's nice to have your familiar bed and couch and such around. You get excited that there's room on the patio for the gas grill. On the other hand, you wonder what the neighbors are like and if you chose a good neighborhood (though God knows we've yet to see a low-income area anywhere on the east side yet, because everything is so expensive). I think we did pretty well, and the staff running this place seems very cool and responsive.

This afternoon, when I went out for lunch (lots of convenient and decent retail nearby), I was at a light looking at the mini-mountains touching the low clouds, and thought, holy shit, I live here. Tonight the clouds broke and I could see stars quite clearly. I think we're gonna dig living here.

Riding the party bus to work

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 19, 2009, 8:30 PM | comments: 4

Cleveland has notoriously awful, or inadequate at least, public transportation. One would hope that with the inner belt bridge falling down and being closed half of the time that would change, but it hasn't.

Seattle of course is something totally different. License tags heavily subsidize the public transportation, and it's fairly robust. The various regional authorities also have a combined pass to use it, including most of the ferries, and yes, Microsoft buys one for every employee. And then to augment that, they also have the Connector, the private Microsoft bus system, also free. The buses have Wi-Fi, power in every seat and "upgraded interiors."

The Connector has a stop a mile and a half away from our apartment, so I'm thinking I'll give it a try. I like the idea of not messing with the traffic, not spending money on gas (well, aside from that short drive to the pickup lot), having a half-hour to gear up and down to work by getting online on the bus... it all really appeals to me.

Maybe I won't like it. Maybe once the baby is here I'd prefer the car just so I can come and go if Diana needs me to. But it's a pretty cool opportunity to try it since it doesn't cost anything. I'll have to wait until after we get back, since there is limited service next week with the short week.

60's couple evening

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 10:10 PM | comments: 1

We had a stereotypical 60's married couple evening, with some modern twists. I left work at about 4:45 today, later than I hoped since I got in at 8 (people kind of make their own work hours based on commute times and what not... it's not a clock watching culture). Diana had dinner cooking, and we actually ate at the table with the news on in the background.

Then I read some news online (instead of a newspaper) while she finished up a few things. Shortly thereafter we watched some Hulu (instead of TV) to catch up and be recreational in the evening. I felt like Johnny Breadwinner with Suzie Homemaker. That's funny to me.

Even though we aren't quite into the new place yet, it's staggering how much life has been changing this year. At this point, I'm not truly used to anything. I'm finally excited about a job for the first time in a few years, I'm married, I have a child on the way, I live 2,400 miles away from where I lived my entire life, I have almost no local friends... and now we're playing 60's domestic roles!

On the flip side, I'm not at all concerned about how things will evolve. Diana believes she'll be a stay-at-home mom for at least a year, but if she decides to go to work, that's fine too. Even if we can sell one or both of the houses, I'm not in that big a hurry to buy property, and that's OK. I learned today that some flowers begin to bloom as early as February here. It's hard not be excited about everything, even if some of it (fatherhood) is slightly terrifying.

Enough with the stupid comments related to Microsoft

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 18, 2009, 6:55 PM | comments: 2

For the record, all of the people who think they're clever when it comes to comments, jabs and other stupidity regarding my start at Microsoft, you aren't clever at all. To clear some things up:

  • The "evil empire" makes more charitable contributions (matching their employees) than most companies make period.
  • My benefits are better than your benefits. Don't be a hater. The company takes care of its people.
  • No, I won't be discontinuing use of my iPhone or Macs. In fact, word on the street is that we can get discounts at the local Apple Store. It's not a binary world.
  • I don't have anything to do with Windows, but the more I use Windows 7, the more I feel like they got it right. It doesn't mean I won't continue to use OS X at home.
  • It's awesome to work for the same company that makes the Xbox 360.

After only three days of being here, I'm continually impressed at how often the company works to do the right things. Certainly I've been critical of Windows for a very long time, and if that were all the company did, and it were still 1998, perhaps the attitude some people have about the company would be warranted, but mostly it's just fashion these days.

See, I can drink the Kool-Aid® and still not treat it like an all-or-nothing thing.

Building 6

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 10:15 AM | comments: 1

Today was my first "real" day of work, which of course was still occupied by various conversations, setting up a new machine and just trying to get established. But at least I know the where and what stuff today.

I'm in Building 6, which is one of the places that Bill Gates once had an office. It's a fairly unremarkable space in one corner of the building, actually, and before they built 37 it was shrouded in trees. The cluster of buildings around there have a lot of history with the company, which is kind of neat.

The group I work in sets up in team rooms, because it's just easier to collaborate that way. I have an office, as many others do, but apparently no one ever uses their offices. I suspect that makes a lot more sense, though I do find it weird to not have a place to stick a few picture frames and a lava lamp.

The thing I'm most bogged down in right now is the feeling that I'm never going to get to all of the HR type stuff I'm supposed to do online, but I know that'll pass. I also feel like things won't really get underway until I get back from Orlando.

But putting all of that aside, it's pretty cool just to be working at a company that's doing so many interesting things, even if they're not in your area of responsibility. I mean, I work for the company that makes the Xbox and the keyboards I'm so fond of, not to mention all of the development tools that got me there in the first place. It's very exciting, and it's the first time I've felt that about any company in ten years.

How about that weather?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 12:17 AM | comments: 0

Watching the news here in Seattle amuses me, because all of the stuff that we take as normal in Northeast Ohio (snow, flooding, high winds, etc.) make the news as "extreme" here. Today in orientation they were telling us that if it's OK to work from home when it snows, do it. I suppose since most areas in the lower elevations suck at road treatment, maybe they're right, but it's still goofy.

The weirdest thing is that weather just materializes here. I've been watching Cleveland weather for more than 30 years, where it (generally) comes from the west, moves east, and strengthens or weakens depending on the time of day, temperature, etc. Here, systems move in off the ocean, but don't really do anything until they're "processed" by the mountains, and then elevation differences of a few hundred feet have different weather.

Sorry, friends, I don't know what you're doing

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 17, 2009, 12:14 AM | comments: 0

I fired up Google Reader today for the first time in a week or so. I'm completely behind on blogs and what not, and I have no idea what my friends are up to. I actually feel bad about that, since it's important to me to keep up with people I don't get to see much.

First day and settling in

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 16, 2009, 9:35 PM | comments: 0

Things finally feel like they're coming together here, more or less. I'm starting to realize that I can rely on Diana to do the kind of stuff I used to just assume I would do, because she's not working. So for example, she's handling the apartment stuff and insurance, so I can concentrate on getting work stuff going, benefits enrolled and all of that.

We've got a place in Issaquah, and it's actually an apartment. The odd thing is that with three bedrooms, it's actually far more flexible than the townhomes we were looking at, not to mention cheaper. As it turns out, if you can find a good sized apartment, the rooms are more logically shaped than the long and narrow town houses. We'll still have a spare bedroom. It's also one of the units in the 1.5% that actually have gas stoves, and we're thrilled about that. The hope is that we can have our junk delivered on Friday and we can get settling in.

I'm not pleased about the news I keep getting from the realtor about what people don't like about my house. I have a scary feeling that we'll be looking at two mortgages and rent for way too long.

Meanwhile, I had my first day of work. Sort of anyway, since really it's just all HR type stuff and an overview of how the company rolls. The orientation was impressive just from the people that I met there. The guy who was sitting next to me is going to work on Project Natal, and that's pretty exciting stuff. Another guy is on the Silverlight team, moving in from Canada. In fact, there were folks there from India, Iran, China, UK and the Philippines. And the really interesting thing is that I got in by simply by applying to the careers site, despite all of the networking I was doing.

I'm so impressed with the HR operation there, from the person running the orientation to the online systems. I've only worked for a few really big companies, but this one seems so less encumbered in needless and stupid process.

Oh, and I have to say that I'm already tired of people making the stupid jokes about working for the Borg/Evil Empire/M$ or whatever. The orientation person put it this way: How many evil companies donate hundreds of millions of dollars to hundreds of causes every year? I mean, I can donate up to 12% of my salary to a non-profit, and they'll match it, dollar for dollar. The company certainly has an image problem, but just because Windows may suck (still haven't had significant time with Win7, but it seems snappier) doesn't mean the company doesn't do great things. I <3 my Xbox, and the group I work for (Server & Tools) has made my life infinitely better with their products.

Lots of great perks around town too, including use of the public transportation, fee waivers for my rent, bus lines around town (with Wi-Fi) to work and cheap goodies from the company store. That's on top of awesome benefits and what not.

So once we get out of this crappy temp housing, I feel like we'll finally be starting the new life. I wish the house would sell, but there's not much I can do about that. Overall, I'm just thrilled to be here. It's hard to believe it's for real and permanent.

Robots! From space!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 15, 2009, 10:22 AM | comments: 1

Here was the inspiration.

Here's my version:

Roaming about the east side and apartment viewing

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 14, 2009, 7:46 PM | comments: 0

We pre-screened many, many places out here prior to moving, and there were two that we had a good feeling about.

The first place was up in Kenmore, and it was absolutely beautiful. They're completely new units, never lived in. They were intended for sale, but are being rented instead. They have marble counter tops, hardwood floors, amazing bathrooms, tons of storage... I can't even stop describing how awesome they are. They're really amazing. And they have Verizon FIOS service there! That's 50 mbits up and 20 down!

Unfortunately, the joy turned to concern as we drove back to Redmond. Drive time was about 35 minutes. Compared to the 40 or 45 minutes commutes I've had the last four years, I suppose that doesn't sound like that big of a deal. But there's so much congestion, and the traffic can be horrible, according to everyone we've asked.

The next one we looked at, in Issaquah, was about nine years old. The area is not congested, close to I-90, and we clocked it at 19 minutes to the Microsoft main campus. It's also 20 minutes at most to Joe and Kristen's place. It's not nearly as nice in terms of construction on the inside, though the outsides are fairly attractive. The thing to decide is whether or not to get a three bedroom unit, without seeing it first (there are no models), or get a two bedroom with Den, which is frankly a lot like a three bedroom.

Either way, we know that the Issaquah place is the right thing to do, but it kills me to not take the nicer place. It really troubles me. But Issaquah is more what we're used to, less crowded, and faster to work.

In any case, we've done a whole lot of driving today, and I'm starting to get some feel for how to get around. We noticed there aren't a lot of franchise places in many of the cities on the east side. Lots of Asian, Thai and Indian places though, almost as frequent as Starbucks. I suppose that makes sense, since the "majority minority" here is Asian, not black or Latino. It actually pleases me that McDonald's are really rare around here.

We're also starting to get a feel for food costs. Milk is crazy expensive for some reason, but packaged food goods at Target are pretty much the same as what we had back in Cleveland. I'll be interested to see how it goes for meats. Of course, we also have to figure in prices at Costco (likely better) and Whole Foods for our organic likes (likely higher).

We spent some of the late afternoon with Joe, Kristen and Nina. Kristen is expecting to have the second baby this coming week, so we'll likely get some quality time with Nina, which I'm really excited about.

Overall, I feel less displaced today since we're working toward a permanent place. I'm still exhausted, but feel better about getting established. I can't wait to start working. I don't feel like I've had the chance to be at peace with leaving the old place. It'll be nice to move in to the real joint, with my familiar dishes and furniture and all of that. The temp apartment is kind of a dump.

Reverse jet lag with a car

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 14, 2009, 11:05 AM | comments: 0

Can you really get reverse jet lag when it took you four nights to drive three time zones away? I was quasi-awake around 6 this morning, which is, you guessed it, 9 on the east coast, when I would typically get up.

The plus side is that I need to get up in the morning to go to work anyway, starting Monday, and you can bet that after seven months to the day of "self-employment," I am ready for that.

Move Day 5: Missoula, MT to Redmond

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 13, 2009, 9:27 PM | comments: 1

I woke up at 6 this morning just completely wired, perhaps because I crashed at 10 last night. Diana was up too, so we just decided to go for it and get underway.

Cats were all kind of cranky this time around. Oliver took two hours to settle down, and Cosmo was just cranky and kept trying to get down under my feet. I couldn't get these animals to Seattle fast enough.

The drive from Missoula to the Washington border was absolutely amazing. It was easily the second best scenery I've ever seen first hand (second to Hawaii). The section through Idaho in particular was stunning. There were several towns literally stuck between mountains. The lake at Coeur d'Alene was really cool too.

Spokane, and most of Eastern Washington, is remarkably uninteresting. We stopped in a town called Moses Lake, where the rain was starting to get crappy, as temperatures were dropping. This is where I finally reached a point of frustration, and let go of some tension. I ended up smacking the brakes hard an a short red light, and shit came flying forward, freaking out the cats and sending the two plants we tried to bring flying (for the second time, actually, as they also went flying with deer in the road coming down from Mt. Rushmore). I did a lot of swearing and a solid steering wheel pound. I just had it with the long drives. And this mess in the car, looking for a shitty Pizza Hut because there was nothing else around?

Before too long, after another hundred miles or something, we hit the Columbia River Gorge, which was beautiful and vast. It reminds me of the part I've seen toward Portland, but yet it's different too. There was an overlook just up river from the dam and the I-90 bridge, and I jumped out of the car to snap a few photos. Just beautiful.

Driving up from the river got interesting, with some snow or sleet or something, but it wasn't horrible. The electronic signs were all warning of doom through the Snoqualmie Pass.  During the climb, I kept waiting and waiting for it to be horrible, and it really didn't get bad until just before the high point.

It was the way down that things got interesting. I didn't find it to be any more challenging than any typical winter storm in Northeast Ohio, but as is generally the case with winter driving, it's the actions of others that can get you into trouble. Clearly, most people driving through had no fucking clue how to drive in snow. Braking too hard causes you to slide and lose control. Why is this so hard to understand? Even in a downhill situation like this, don't get too quick, but don't start brake mashing. Things were probably at their worst about half way down, back where the temperature transitioned back from frozen to not.

Further down 90, things relaxed, and there was even sun. The temperature in Redmond was 40. When we got to the location to pick up the keys, the place wasn't ready. Apparently I had a 5 p.m. check-in time. I don't recall choosing that, and I was fairly irritated. They brought in the keys around 4.

The temp housing is adequate. I'm glad we'll only really spend two weeks here. On the plus side, it's literally a block away from the building that I think I'm working in. I'm glad that the cats can actually just hang out and not be moved again for a few weeks.

I'm exhausted. I mean, really wasted. I can't wait to turn in that damn mini-van tomorrow. Here are the stats:

Total miles: 2,500 (weird, eh?)
Max speed: 88 mph (downhill in Montana, east of Butte)
Average speed: 67 mph
Total drive time: 37:25

Move Day 4: Rapid City, SD to Missoula, MT

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 12, 2009, 10:45 PM | comments: 0

Today was one of the most intense days of driving in my life. It was equal parts wonderful and terrifying.

It was nearly 60 degrees still in Rapid City when we left at around 7:45. I knew it was going to be much colder as we got closer to Montana, but it got ugly really fast. Cats were generally OK, though Oliver again fought the drugs for a good hour. Cosmo, who is usually content to explore the car and crash where ever, had a complete freak-out when I turned on the back window wiper, flying up to the front of the car, and seemingly wanted to leap out of Diana's closed window. It took her more than an hour to relax after that.

Our first adventure was letting the Garmin direct us to a route I had not already reviewed. Instead of taking I-90 the entire way, it said to take US-212 instead. The new route was 50 miles less, though Google Maps said the time was longer. But seeing as how most of it was in the middle of nowhere, with the speed limit at 75 and driving faster than that, it actually shaved at least a half-hour off of our time, if not more.

We went briefly through Wyoming, and then into Montana. We stopped in a "town" of two or three blocks, where Diana couldn't use the local store's restroom without buying something. Yeah, deny the pregnant lady, that's real hospitable. There were deer and antelope around, the latter of which were hanging out all over the place, which is awesome when you're doing 80. Really though, it was quite beautiful to see the true Montana "big sky," and the terrain kept getting more interesting as we went. I've never seen so many free range cattle before.

While beautiful, it was also scary as hell. There was absolutely zero cell phone reception out there, let alone any hospitals or other safety services. That scares me. We went about 150 miles with no service, aside from a few odd miles in one town.

Eventually we reconnected with I-90, but not before the Garmin spontaneously died. It did this one other time later, and in both cases it was zoomed out to show the terrain view, as that's all that's meaningful when you're that far out there. I think it's a software crash, but I'm not sure. It wouldn't restart without holding the power button.

Back on 90 and entering Billings, it was raining a lot. The temperature was in the low 30's, so it wasn't really slowing us down. We managed to find a Famous Dave's there, where Diana could satisfy her meatloaf craving with some regional grilled 'loaf. I had my usual chicken tenders, reminding me very much of Cedar Point. It was good comfort food.

Unfortunately, that's when things started to get scary. As we began moving west from Billings, the temperature gradually dropped. The weather got scary. The snow itself isn't something that worries me all that much, having been driving in it for years, but then add rapid elevation changes of a thousand feet, and there are reasons to be concerned. The town called Bozeman managed to score a foot and a half of snow today, and there was one down-hill in particular that scared the shit out of me. People were driving too slow, to the point where braking means sliding. Visibility was awful.

All told, we were in the worst of it for almost three hours, which takes its toll on you physically and mentally. We got through it, and lived to tell about it, but there were some scary moments.

Then, after the all of the horror, the snow stopped, and we got to see this shockingly beautiful view... (Google street view without snow, my video on Vimeo)

After that great view, we had another climb up to about 6,400 feet, at the continental divide (the point at which water flows to the Pacific instead of points east). This was yet another stunning location, with these beautiful rounded rock formations with evergreens popping up between them. The descent into Montana's Butte (I know how to pronounce it correctly, but it's immature and funny to say it wrong) was smooth and easy, and we stopped for gas again. The car was just coated with ice, as the temperature was well into the 20's.

The sun set as we were exiting Butte, so if there was more to the scenery, we couldn't see it. We arrived in Missoula just before 7, for total travel time of about 11 hours with stops. That's actually much better than I anticipated. There was an IHOP nearby, and that was dinner.

The cats are a little stir crazy, and Diana is ridiculously uncomfortable from, well, from being pregnant. Plus she can't breathe because of allergies in her non-medicated state. She's exhausted and just wants to sleep. I wish there was something I could do.

Me, I'm tired, but tomorrow we'll be temporary Puget Sound area residents. In a few weeks, we'll have a real address. Monday, I'll be a Microsoft employee. Oh, and I'll be able to say that I singlehandedly (or two-fistedly) drove more than 2,400 miles.

Move Day 3: Jackson, MN to Rapid City, SD

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 11:46 PM | comments: 0

Today went pretty smoothly for the most part, although we're clearly getting more impatient and tired of moving around a bit.

The day started with us getting out on time from Jackson. I think it's because we had a solid shower! Oliver fought the drugs for the first hour and a half of the drive, and Diana pilled him a half hour before that even. Gideon was pretty much stoned right away, but he still wants to cry if Oliver does. Again, the girls were perfect the whole time.

The rest of Minnesota continued to smell like a county fair, and the first half of South Dakota was largely more of the same. Once we got to the Missouri River, it got pretty interesting. In fact, the area where you cross the river is absolutely beautiful. It's strange to see so few trees.

We stopped for gas and had some crappy food at an Arby's. Last night, we had crappy food at a DQ. The problem with driving through much of this route is that there isn't enough population to support sit down restaurants. There aren't even very many greasy spoon local dives. It's really odd. So we've had our share of crap on this drive already. I mean, I'd settle for an Applebees even, and I hate that dump.

Speaking of driving, South Dakota's speed limit is a robust 75 mph in most places, since the roads are so straight, and I'm comfortable doing 80 in this tank of a mini-van. Unfortunately, it really blows the fuel efficiency down to like 20 mpg (I was able to do 25 most of yesterday). Getting near the badlands made it even more interesting, and there's a whole lot of "big sky country" out here.

We rolled into Rapid City by 2:30 local time, which is to be expected since this is our easiest day. Only two states, about 6.5 hours today, versus four states and nine something hours yesterday. It was nice and sunny most of the day too.

After checking in to a Holiday Inn Express, we headed out to Mt. Rushmore for the one and only touristy thing on our agenda. I truly wasn't sure what to expect. The temperature was holding around 60, and up there at 5k+ feet, there was still some snow hanging out here and there. We even saw a wild mountain goat, and it was enormous. The visitor center is quite beautiful, and seems very new for being conceived 15 years ago. It has a timeless feel about it without looking Roman.

The monument is open every day, but with the primary tourism season being finished, it was pretty empty. In fact, the town of Keystone is a ghost town with almost nothing open (including the alpine slide I would've loved to have tried). We walked around the trail as far as the non-strenuous part goes, so we could stand at the base of the stray rock. I've gotta say that made me nervous, because it looked like it could all start sliding down. Got some neat photos, and a little mock video that some people might get.

There's an Outback, uh, out back behind the hotel, so we went there for dinner. The food was meh, but they were doing free beers and bloomin' onions for vets on Veteran's Day.

It's still pretty early here, but we're really tired and I think we'll be able to turn in early and get out early in the morning. Tomorrow will be the most physically and mentally challenging day we'll have. We're looking at 11 hours of drive time, and the risk of snow in Missoula and points before it are high. It'll be significantly colder, with the highs in the 30's and lows in the 20's.

Move Day 2: South Bend to Jackson, MN

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 1:24 AM | comments: 1

Today did not start out well. The hotel we stayed in last night, an extended stay or whatever, had a crappy bed, crappy pillows and a crappy shower. I don't think either one of us had a very good day, despite the early rise, the packing and the driving.

But we managed to get out around 9:15, which was close enough to what I had hoped. It seemed to rain overnight, but it was drying out. We pilled the boys (half pill) about a half hour before we left, and they seemed a little stoned so we figured they'd be OK. Dr. Cath warned us that you could tell because their third eyelids wouldn't open, and that was freaky.

Unfortunately, they were not as relaxed as we thought. We decided to keep them in the carriers to start, because we were heading through Chicago with all of the crappy traffic and such. On top of that, Diana could obviously not be un-belted when things are stop and go, so we had a bit of a powder keg. Oliver is the instigator. When he's unhappy, it makes Gideon nervous, and for shits and giggles, Emma will cry too despite not being physically anxious.

Oliver got hysterical as we were passing through downtown Chicago. I mean, he made noises that were hard to just write off as a scared animal, and it upset Diana. Gideon started to do the same. Both started to try and claw their way out of their carriers. Oliver did so obsessively, and when Diana could finally get up to let him out, his claws had been bleeding.

The Garmin picked up on huge traffic delays on I-90, and instead routed us up I-94 to Milwaukee, to connect back to 90 west from there, adding about 10 miles total, but undoubtedly saving us some time in delays. Somewhere between Chicago and Milwaukee, we stopped at a rest stop, gave the boys each another half pill, and Diana got out of the car for a little while.

The driving was intense pretty much all the way until we got west of Milwaukee. There was a ton of traffic and construction. I got to wave to Great America. The boys finally passed out during this time, I think more from exhaustion than the drugs. The sun came out too, and the drive to Madison was fairly painless.

I scoped out the food situation beforehand, and I knew there wouldn't be shit within two hours of our destination. Diana was having a meatloaf craving, so we went to Cracker Barrel. I don't care for it, but pregnancy trumps my dislikes, and I'm OK with that. I was satisfied with lunch.

The last five hours of the drive went remarkably smoothly. Cosmo has been a saint, and we only saw Emma twice all day after we opened all of the carriers. Wisconsin is surprisingly beautiful, with the Dells area in particular being striking. There are these strange rock tower formations there. The Kalahari there is insanely large. The area around the Mississippi River is also quite striking. And did I mention there was almost no traffic after Madison?

This part of Minnesota, however, is only marginally more interesting than I suspect Iowa would have been, but at least it's shorter. The whole state smells like a county fair. I was about to give up on the state until we started to drive through the most enormous wind farm I've ever seen. This street view is outdated, because there are many times more turbines out there. A little searching suggests we may see even more tomorrow.

We're at an Americinn tonight, and it's definitely more comfortable. Cats are all passed out, and Diana is finally asleep, despite having breathing issues all day from allergies and swollen feet.

We racked up about 600 miles today, with about 10.5 hours of travel time, including stops. Tomorrow should be easier, and we're planning to see Mt. Rushmore. Only about 6.5 hours of drive time.

Move Day 1: Cleveland to South Bend

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 10, 2009, 7:12 AM | comments: 0

My day started with a pick-up from Cousin Dave to the airport, where I picked up our car, a Dodge Grand Caravan. It's fairly comfortable, and fairly enormous, though not efficient. Looks like I'm doing around 22 mpg so far, which hurts the soul a little.

The packing went pretty smoothly today, as far as I can tell. The driver actually lives south of Seattle. They were done around 2:30, after an 8-ish start. I was absolutely amazed to see our stuff packed in the truck with amazing efficiency. He'll have three or four loads total, and is heading up to Minneapolis.

The cars were picked up also, the first by some nearly elderly guy who took an hour and a half to get Diana's car on the deck and out. The guy who picked up mine an hour later was in and out in ten minutes.

When we got the last few items out and packed into the van, I did a quick run-through the house to make sure that it was in fact empty. I was pretty emotional about it, but once in the car, the cats were crying and so I let it go, and we got under way a little after 4.

The boys were a freaking out the first hour or so, and we decided that they'll be pilled up tomorrow before leaving, and probably in the cages. The girls were fairly cooperative, and Cosmo in particular took most of the trip like a champ in the passenger foot well. She did a little protesting, and really wanted to be under my feet, but she did OK. Once in the hotel, she pretty much owned the place.

Once in South Bend, we went looking for food, and failed. The hotel is pretty close to downtown, and there isn't shit open. We drove all over the damn place for 20 minutes before getting up toward the Notre Dame campus, and we found a Chipotle and Five Guys, open late. It felt like a flashback to our first day in Hawaii, where we couldn't find shit in the dark in Hilo. We got the take out, took it back, and enjoyed it the best we could. We were under our reimbursement limit for the day by about $85.

After dinner we called Cath to ask about the boys ridiculous panting, and she suggested to just keep them cool in those situations, as the nerves cause overheating. It's nice having a vet "on call" like that.

I'm trying to catch up on CB news, but it's just not gonna happen tonight, unfortunately. The Wi-Fi sucks and I'm completely fried. Nine hours through Chicago and into southern Minnesota tomorrow. Looking at the pic I posted to Facebook of my empty living room, the emotions are trickling back to me about that moment, but I don't have anything left today to truly react.

Waiting to hurry up, getting out on our last day

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 8, 2009, 5:37 PM | comments: 0

We had another beautiful day here, near 70 and sunny. There isn't much of anything we can really do around the house, because everything is packed, so we headed down to the Cuyahoga Valley for some minor sightseeing and one last meal at the Winking Lizard's Peninsula location. (Oddly enough, Peninsula is not in fact surrounded by water in any way.)

I had my usual favorite, the Cajun chicken sandwich with fries. The thing I love about the food there is that it's consistently good, and not expensive. There are a number of different chicken meals they have, all delicious. The "dinner" in particular is good, with chosen sides as a baked potato and rice pilaf, plus garlic bread.

The Peninsula location is neat because it's a very old building, once existing as a night club. That seems so odd to me given its location, but then again, it's on an old rail line and the place is a zoo even today.

We also did a little walk around the canal lock and river, which we've done countless times before. With the leaves gone, everything is very monochromatic and cold in appearance, but it was so warm today. We even got to see the train roll in. I took lots of pictures.

Tonight we'll go to BWW and meet up with Diana's BFF, then the chaos begins early tomorrow morning when the truck arrives. Cousin Dave will drive me to the airport to pick up our rental minivan, and by the end of the day, we'll be in South Bend, Indiana.

Last night ever sleeping in this house. I can't even get my head around that. I'm ready to be gone and at the same time will miss it.

Going away meet-up: success!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 8, 2009, 1:15 AM | comments: 1

While there were quite a few people I hoped to see tonight but didn't, I will say that overall I had pretty much every era of the last ten years of my life well represented, and I feel absolutely blessed in that respect.

The first person to see was actually Micki, one of my first volleyball club kids. Only she's not a kid, she's this amazing, wonderful, beautiful grown-up. She just happened to be in Northeast Ohio this weekend (currently living in Pittsburgh), and I happened to comment on her status on Facebook, and there she was! We always had a somewhat difficult relationship in terms of the athlete-coach thing, but I always felt she was one of the kids I could most rely on. I coached her my first two years of club, when I really had no idea what the fuck I was doing, but she went on to pay in college and now she's an engineer for stuff on nuclear submarines. I'm infinitely proud of her!

The Penton Media era was represented by the Freeze's. As much as I try to stay connected to media, Freeze is still in it, and one of the few I know who has branched out and stayed in a role that really is about creating stuff. I admire that.

From ICOM, George was there with his wife Jen, and Cabbie, who recently joined AmeriCorps, also made an appearance. If it weren't for George's influence, I wouldn't be going to Microsoft. Cabbie is one of the most capable SQL people I've ever met, despite his tendency to make fun of my Zuma obsession on Xbox.

The most old school of Cedar Point/Guide to The Point/PointBuzz folk were represented by Brandon and Dan, the latter of which brought his wife Marissa, who was charming and lovely. Funny how I've seen more of them in the last two months than the last four or five years! The Willi's also stopped by, which gives me hope for a somewhat adult life, since they were there sans kids.

My dad was there, who is one of a shrinking number of people in the family still in NEO. He supplied adequate drink and stories of old times.

Diana had a number of work bosses show up too, including her immediate supervisor who I had never met.

Despite not seeing a great many people I would've loved to have seen, the mix was largely representative of the many people who've had a huge influence on my life, and I can't even put into words how thankful I am in that respect. I can't just leave and flip off NEO, because it's so core to everything that I am today. I'm so happy and thankful for the life I've had here.

Last $5 movie: The Men Who State at Goats

posted by Jeff | Saturday, November 7, 2009, 3:25 PM | comments: 0

We went for one last flick at the local Cinemark for the first-showing five-dollar rate. Seriously, I can't believe any nicer theater prices that low, and I can only assume that there's no chance in hell of any theater doing in the Puget Sound area. That's a bummer. Of course, now that I'll have a job, perhaps I'll see fewer movies!

The Men Who Stare at Goats is absolutely hilarious. Seriously, what can't Clooney do? He may very well be the actor of our time. You'd think a movie full of middle-aged men would suck, but when they're all awesome, how can you go wrong? It was entertaining start to finish. There was a joke about being a Jedi that was a little over used (because Ewan McGregor was, obviously, Obi Wan), but otherwise it was very funny.

Technology doesn't make you anti-social

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 6, 2009, 10:28 PM | comments: 0

So says a report from Pew. I've been saying for a long time that things really haven't changed in terms of social interaction, and if anything, people are more likely to interact IRL (in real life, duh) because technology tends to be an enabler.

But the basis of my unscientific opinion has always been rooted in the fact that people like to get naked and touch each other. Online interaction hasn't replaced the real thing any more than virtual reality rides have replaced roller coasters. It's just ain't the same thing.

My personal experience is that the Intertubes have helped me maintain a lot of relationships over distance that would be difficult otherwise, and more and more I keep reconnecting with people because of Facebook. This partly begs the question about the quality and scope of these relationships, but that's probably another discussion. But again, a lot of the real life principles still apply. A solid relationship, for example, requires some bidirectional effort, just as face to face relationships do.

We're boxed in

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 6, 2009, 4:22 PM | comments: 0

The house smells like cardboard, and not like the, "Wow, I'm six and this refrigerator box is the best thing ever" smells like cardboard. It's completely weird. +1 for the Graebel packing team, as they were fast and efficient and as far as I know didn't break anything.

They had some "specialist" company come out and pack the TV, which seemed excessive. It's only a 37" LCD, though it did cost close to two grand almost four years ago. Still, what they built around it is almost absurd. There's even a drop detection "thing" inside, like something out of a Mythbusters test. Seriously, this is a $750 TV at most these days.

They ended up doing about 115-ish boxes I think, so add the furniture, plastic tubs, bicycles and such, and that's about it. I'd like to think we did a good job at lightening our overall load (not that we had to pay to move it anyway). We unloaded a pinball machine, twin mattress set, a leather living room set including couch, love seat, chair and ottoman, coffee and end table, hot tub, many lawn and garden implements and several car loads of stuff we gave to the Salivation Army [sic].

The car pack stuff isn't too bad. Aside from the cats, it's mostly just cameras and laptops. I couldn't sell the HVX, unfortunately, at least, not what I wanted for it. So it's one extra trip into the hotel each night. No big deal, I suppose.

We managed to stay just ahead of them in terms of finishing up the division of temp housing stuff. I noticed in taking out the stereo and TV stuff that there are fortunately a lot fewer wires than the last time I moved. The DVR and AppleTV have a lot to do with that, I suppose.

So at this point, we're essentially packed and ready to roll. The next three nights we have pretty much nothing to do, which is awesome. Japanese food tonight, party at D&B tomorrow night with whatever shows up, Buffalo Wild Wings (I'll miss you!) with Diana's BFF on Sunday night. Hopefully the car shippers show up early on Monday, because we could likely depart early afternoon if they do. The packers think this is a quick load.

Man power, power washing and power packing

posted by Jeff | Friday, November 6, 2009, 1:12 AM | comments: 0

OK... I'm fairly exhausted now, and I really wasn't doing much work.

The day was reasonably productive from the start, which was a welcome change from yesterday. I got the water damage fix painted with primer, which of course doesn't match the primer paint that still adorns my living room, but whatever. When someone buys it, they can paint.

I also got the temp housing address, the cable canceled and some organizational type things squared away. I also put together a travel kit with snacks, beverages, magazines and other entertainment. Diana was thankfully let go from work early too from her last day. Seven and a half years!

The hot tub guys got in late afternoon, and wow was it a bitch to get that thing out. They've got this awesome trailer and roller thing to move it horizontally, but they had to first tip it up on the deck and on to their roller thing, then get it down the stairs. They actually built this ramp thing just today, and put it over the steps. Remarkably, it worked. Took them about an hour.

Leo showed up shortly thereafter with his power washer, which is one of the most awesome things I've ever seen. I don't know why I didn't already have one of these. In any case, he gave the deck quite rub down with it, and I was just shocked at how new it looked. There was green stuff growing all around the tub, and the railings in particular were a bit nasty (probably from me dumping hot gross water on them). We ran out of gas once, and it started to rain midway through, but Dad pressed on and got it done. He uses the thing mostly for his wood siding and to clean the boat. Some day, I will have one.

After that, I grilled the final chicken breasts, and realized I need to clean the grill before they pack it (whatever that actually involves). We're getting down to some serious emptiness in terms of food, though I still have an awful lot of chicken strips left. They're pretty much my favorite things that Schwans makes. Very delicious.

Before dinner even, Diana started separating out clothes for both the drive, temporary housing and for the Disney trip. This will be a serious pain in the ass, and I still haven't quite done that. I spent most of the time packing electronic stuff (computers, video games, stereo, etc.), and I'm not quite done. Will attack those two things first thing in the morning.

The dudes show up in the morning, and hopefully they'll start with the kitchen or something so we can finish dividing up the temp and vacation stuff. Tomorrow will be a long day, I suspect.

Would it be successful?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 5, 2009, 12:34 PM | comments: 0

Jason Fried from 37signals on success (Inc. Magazine):

"Our blog has more than 100,000 readers, but I don't post every day. I write when I have something specific to say. I recently wrote a scathing piece on the tech media. It really bothers me that the definition of success has changed from profits to followers, friends, and feed count. This crap doesn't mean anything. Kids are coming out of school thinking, I want to start the next YouTube or Facebook. If a restaurant served more food than everybody else but lost money on every diner, would it be successful? No. But on the Internet, for some reason, if you have more users than everyone else, you're successful. No, you're not."

Suboptimal packing productivity

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 11:16 PM | comments: 0

I was kind of annoyed with myself today, like I didn't get everything done that I wanted to get done. Got the boys to the vet for drugs this morning, emptied and cleaned the hot tub and the electrician was here to cut the line to it. But it took me about two hours to book hotels, because I'm picky and wanted locations that weren't way off the route. Additionally I ate more frozen food. Business accounts were balanced, club cards were printed and mailed.

What I hoped to also do was get the ceiling repairs painted, consolidate electronics boxes where possible, get the cable terminated, clean the grill and other things I can't think of right now. Didn't happen.

There's also the issue of pre-packing, or at least organizing the packing. Essentially, we have to divide out anything that goes to temp housing or in our car with us. The added layer of complexity surrounds the fact that we need stuff for Orlando during that time. For some reason, this causes me anxiety.

Diana is concerned about stuff at her house, not that she intends to take, but just stuff that's there in the basement. We actually had some disagreement about it, because she's stressing about it which stresses me because I think it doesn't matter if some random crap is left there and we just got to each other a little, and that sucks because we never do that.

In my mind at least, once Friday is over, we're essentially good to go. Everything will be packed, and we just wait until Monday for them to put it all on a truck so we can leave. And on Saturday we party with friends.

Have I mentioned I can't wait to just start the job?

The moon

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 7:20 PM | comments: 0

Canon 7D, 70-200mm f/4 L, 1/2500, f/4, exposure adjusted -2

Hotels booked, route changed

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 6:23 PM | comments: 1

Got all of the hotels for next week booked, and ended up changing the route. As it turns out, we'll avoid Iowa entirely, and skate up around Chicago into Wisconsin and pass through the southern most part of Minnesota instead. It shaves about a half hour off of the drive time overall.

I actually changed the route by accident. When I first did point to point driving directions, Google had me going through Omaha. When I split up the driving with a custom map, I just went with that. When I started playing around with locales to stay in (Omaha has no decent hotels on the route, as they're all way off the route), I accidentally dragged the line up enough that it put me through Chicago and showed the shorter time and distance. Little wins like that are good.

Disconnect complete

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 3:05 PM | comments: 0

I called some random electrician found on Google (geographically the closest one), and he only charged me $35 to disconnect the hot tub and close up the disconnect box. That's 100% worth it, because I didn't have to risk electrocuting myself, and the disconnect is left in a state that is to code. And by that I mean, there's no gaping hole on the side of it.

Watching them take it away tomorrow won't be nearly as easy.

"Can you tell me how to get..."

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, November 4, 2009, 11:19 AM | comments: 1

Best Google doodle ever.

Ohio voters: Morons

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 11:41 PM | comments: 1

Looks like the casino issue is going to pass. Way to pre-ordain millionaires and completely destroy capitalism!

Now we join the ranks of states like Florida, where they wrote a monorail into their constitution.

There's a box for that

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 11:20 PM | comments: 0

I cleared out the crawl space tonight, with some help from Diana at the receiving end. She was making fun of me because I saved the boxes to virtually everything electronic that I own. Say what you will, but every one of those items will be well protected in the move.

Oh, and I still have my N64 and Dreamcast, both in their boxes. Sounds silly, but what I'd give to still have the box for my Atari 2600.

Nordic Escape, I shall miss you dearly

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 11:20 PM | comments: 0

Tonight was it. I probably had my last dip in the hot tub. I was blessed with a cloudless sky, an almost-full moon and no wind.

When the dudes come to cart it away, it'll be harder than it was to see my living room furniture go, even though it was only with me for about two and a half years. I've never bought anything that expensive that I completely didn't need, and never felt worse about it. At first, anyway.

In March of 2007, I had just got the second half of my bonus (remember those?), and my tax refund hit as well. I was just about debt free. What's a single guy to do with a shit storm of cash like that? The responsible thing would've been to save it or something, but at that point, I felt like I owed myself something.

A hot tub was an immediate consideration, but there was so much guilt from even thinking about it. I'm not sure where that came from, but I was accustomed to buying people lunch, donating to charity, driving conservative cars, etc., and this seemed so dirty and selfish. Like the ultimate single guy stupid thing.

But that night I finally got in it... wow... that all changed. I no longer felt like a jerk, I just felt relaxed. And that's how I've felt ever since then, generally four to six times per week. Winter was a hundred times more bearable, when the hot water would contrast the white snowy hill behind my house. When I was stressed out, the bubbles took the stress away. It was a place I could simply think or turn off my brain. The therapeutic value was priceless.

The really funny thing is that it never was a chick magnet. In fact, grand total, only six people total have ever been in it, and of those, Diana was the only person I was truly ever dating. When I was dating, it never came up in conversation.

I'll miss having access to that thing. With priorities changing, I wonder when I'll have one again.

Old software purge

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, November 3, 2009, 3:40 PM | comments: 1

In cleaning stuff out and organizing today, I find that I have a lot of old software. What's disturbing is how a lot of it cost thousands of dollars when it was new (yes, I actually purchase software, and yes, that's where the bulk of my expense over the years comes from in running my sites).

I have Avid Xpress Pro v5.x something for Windows, which I suppose I'll never use again. I have Final Cut Studio (academic, first version), which I also don't need. I had remnants of an old Adobe bundle, but I send most of those discs to Stephanie (and it's the Windows version). I have literally every version of Visual Studio since the .Net era began, which I think I'm just going to toss. I have a feeling that if I really needed to get a hold of any of those, I could through my new job. In the last round of cleaning last year, I tossed old boxed copies of Windows 2000 and SQL Server 7.0.

It's kinda funny how Apple now boxes Final Cut in a tiny little box with no physical manuals. Adobe, at least with CS3, still had the mega-manual box, so that'll come with me.

I've actually got a plastic tub with a ton of old PC games. It's a bit of a treasure trove, even if I'm not sure how much of it can still be run. I'm not ready to part with that. We sure bought a lot of PC games back in the day. Not sure how I fell out of that interest, other than the fact that the Xbox satisfies most of my gaming desires.

Lunch with Jen, and life catch-up after the changes

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 2, 2009, 11:52 PM | comments: 0

After this morning's radio gig, I met up with Jen, one of my classmates. She lives a few towns over, and through the magic of Facebook, we started Inter-stalking each other again within the last year.

Her story reminds me a little of my own, in that we weren't working in radio for very long before we realized how shitty that business is. I think we already knew, technically, but had to find out for ourselves. Sure, we went to school with a lot of people who just weren't well suited to the business, but I'm astounded by the number who rocked out and quickly chose to get the hell out.

We made different choices after that, and she started her family in what I think just might be the ideal age range, in the late 20's. At that point, you're not a stupid kid anymore, but you're also not going to see your kids off at the age you're thinking about retirement. She also managed to eventually settle into part-time work so she can be with her family as well.

Her story is different from most of the others that I've heard in reconnecting with folks the past year or two, but the thing she has in common with everyone else is that she's made life work in a way that's ideal for her. For as much as I second-guess my own life and choices (maybe not second-guess, since I wouldn't change anything, but definitely wonder about an alternate reality), I'm starting to see that infinite possibilities that might have come out of different choices are all OK if you're happy. It's not that our standards of measurement for "good" life get more relaxed or have lower standards over time, it's that the future we could not and would not imagine is actually a pretty good fucking way to go. Kids, new partners and career changes all contribute to this.

There's a lot of comfort in knowing that the journey other people take, even if it is radically different from your own (and the one they expected to take), is actually more similar than you think.

Radio, someone still loves you

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 2, 2009, 11:38 PM | comments: 0

I did another shift at the old college radio station this morning. Had a blast playing stuff I could never do back in the day, like Depeche Mode, Goldfrapp and other decidedly not standard rock and roll (take that, Steve Johnson!).

While I had fun, I'm also saddened by it all. The station doesn't get a lot of time on the air. Participation is in the crapper. It's just not taken as seriously as it was back in the day. No one hangs out there. And the irony is that it's far less structured and begging to be everything that college radio is known for, instead of some has-been's station manager fantasy like it was when I was a student. It doesn't matter if it sucks, as long as it has vitality and a solid feedback loop to make it better.

It sounds like the problem prior to this year was a combination of faculty turnover and perhaps an overall declining issue in radio in general. Let's face it, the Internet gives everyone a voice these days, and I'm sure more people listen to my silly podcast than they did this morning's show. But isn't there something that's still cool about broadcast signals that travel with no wires, with great immediacy? I could cut together a show on my laptop, make an MP3 and have people listen, but it's not the same thing as the live act of putting a "performance" together in real time.

I hope the new folks are able to turn it around. It makes me sad to see the station so under-utilized, when it was hard to even get the shift you wanted circa 1992.

Overwhelming brain dump

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 2, 2009, 11:17 PM | comments: 0

I need to rattle off a series of posts tonight to process life. I'm feeling completely overwhelmed right now as the reality of the move is right around the corner. I got the offer from Microsoft a month ago today, and it's hard to believe how quickly (and slowly) things have been moving.

Moving the 9,000+ pounds of stuff we own still doesn't really concern me at all. I'm not worried about the cars, the rentals, the temp housing, or even the apartment hunt at this point. Most if it is taken care of. The job doesn't even worry me, and frankly I can't get started soon enough.

There are just a few key issues that stress me out. In no particular order:

  • Traveling with the cats. Cosmo in particularly worries me for some reason. I don't know what my worry is exactly, but what if they don't eat or poop or something?
  • Planning for our vacation. It seems absurd to think that because we won't have access to all of our stuff, we essentially have to pack for our trip after Thanksgiving. That probably shouldn't worry me.
  • Diana's comfort. All of the weird sharp pains and discomfort she's having is apparently mostly normal, but I hope to God she can be as comfortable as possible in that mini-van, especially on the longest travel days.
  • Loose ends. I'm making lists, but I feel like there are more and more little things to keep track of. Getting rid of cable, making sure I have my SS card to start work, getting a vet for cat sleepy pills, calling an electrician to disconnect the hot tub, paint the spot of water dam damage... I feel like I'll forget to do something important.
  • The house. It's priced to sell, but if it sits on the market for any extended period of time, that's going to suck. It's not I won't be able to afford to make the payments, but continuing to pay on that mortgage is just pissing away cash.

Stuff will work out, and I know this. I think I'll feel better when we've got a day or two of travel finished. Then I'll have time to process the emotional aspects of this huge change.

Still "Trauma"-tized

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 2, 2009, 10:29 PM | comments: 0

Another great episode tonight. What a waste. From what I've read, they're going to finish out the 13 episodes, and it has actually seen a boost in ratings against repeats on the other networks, but the odds of NBC changing their minds doesn't look good.

One of the things that the various news stories say is that it's crazy expensive to produce, and I believe it. It looks expensive. They've got more helicopters than 24. Every episode is like a mini-action movie. It's a shame though, because even though most of the people in the movie are a bunch of nobody actors, the writing is so good that you really care about all of them.

TV networks fail to develop any long term success because their view of everything is too short-term. In a somewhat ironic twist, the Internet has demonstrated how word of mouth can actually buoy a show over time, and led to huge DVD releases (see: Wonderfalls or Sports Night). And yet, they'll hang on to shows for much longer than they should, like ER, which had miserable ratings in its last few years, or Jay Leno, the biggest WTF in TV history. If you can't give a show that kind of time, then its entire success is based on the lure of the marketing and what established shows it might be up against.

I took a chance on Trauma, because I thought the TV spots and movie theater pieces were kind of cheesy. Since it was shot on Red cameras, I figured I'd at least check it out for that reason. Who knew I'd get so attached to it. I guess that's what happens when you have to wait until January for 24.

Morning playlist

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 2, 2009, 12:04 AM | comments: 0

Here's what I'll play in the morning. I tried to keep it mellow in the first hour, but you know, it's not like I get to do this every day.

Scoring some baby loot

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 1, 2009, 9:19 PM | comments: 0

The timing of our move has been a little difficult for baby related stuff, but we had a baby shower today anyway. Sherry and Jen put together a nice little party at the tennis club, and we got all kinds of loot for little Puzzoni. People have been extremely generous with stuff. The Neu's even brought us some little outfits this weekend!

It's so weird, because even with Diana being very visibly pregnant, and getting this stuff, my brain almost doesn't have enough room for thinking about baby stuff. It seems too far away still.

I do look forward to it though, when we get to a time where we can really create the environment for the little guy. I suspect we'll be a lot more settled by then, and then I can get into the baby zone wholeheartedly.

Last weekend at Cedar Point

posted by Jeff | Sunday, November 1, 2009, 6:29 PM | comments: 0

While we planned to do something at Cedar Point the last operating weekend, we weren't really sure what. Then Tyler asked about our plans and things came together where we were able to share a room at Breakers with the Neu's.

I did not get a lot of action at Cedar Point this year, just because of weather and just the general busy nature of the year. In fact, it was just yesterday that I finally got on Raptor and Wicked Twister for the fist time this year. But there is a lot of weirdness around the fact that I've had a season pass for 12 straight seasons, and now I'm not even sure if I'll get there until next fall. I'd like to come in for the mini-golf tournament and media event for Shoot the Rapids, but I'm not optimistic about it. Also, I'm more the coding/server guy for PointBuzz, but I've enjoyed shooting video for the site.

We started the day going to Chet & Matt's for pizza. They sure have yummy pizza there. Then we stopped by the Walsh household to see Lois, followed by a visit to Tim's office so he could see us off.

In any case, we've had some good opportunities in the last year to hang out with Tyler and Beth, and I was excited to see them again. Even at a decade younger, I see them doing a lot of things that we're doing now in terms of career changes, changing cities and thinking about families and such. Plus they're fun people to hang out with that everyone likes.

We also ran into Jeff and Rebekah later in the evening, and they hung out with us while Diana and Beth went back to the room. Jeff has been out shooting with the camera I sold him, showing an obvious lust for shooting night stuff. (The microdrive I gave him with it apparently is flaking on him today, which I feel really bad about.)

Diana mentioned as we were driving down the causeway that it's amazing how many memories we have there, even after just three seasons together. Indeed, the place, less than the rides and park itself, have been such a big part of my life the last dozen years, and it's weird that I won't have easy access to it anymore. So many good memories there. From me and Stephanie going there to shoot construction photos, to getting Cath on her first coaster ride, to making fun of Dan and his Magnum obsession, to Tim starting his new job there, to the third date that I had with Diana... so many good times.

One of the many things I'm very thankful for as we begin new adventures and I reflect on my life so far.