Archive: February, 2009

Slumdog, experience and fate

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 28, 2009, 8:11 PM | comments: 0

We saw Slumdog Millionaire today, and it was exceptional. It totally deserved best picture. It broke out of that mold of Oscar movies that are dark, serious and, well, largely uninteresting to me.

India has fascinated me since college, and I've been very fortunate to know a great many natives since then. The culture is interesting, the women are arguably the most beautiful in the world, and it's such an interesting mix of historical influence. It's also a bizarre mix of a nation on the cutting edge of industry and technology on one end, and one of extreme poverty on the other.

The movie tells the story of a very young man's life by way of his appearance on the Indian Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, kind of a more realistic variation on the way Forrest Gump is told. What I started to get out of it very early on is that the experiences you have in life, no matter how terrible they are, ultimately come to serve you in some meaningful way. They kind of wrap this in a notion of fate, the old "everything happens for a reason" thing that I tend to believe is nonsense to a large degree.

The experience thing I get. Your experiences shape you in a way that may be beyond your control, but ultimately you do make the decisions on what to do with those experiences. And it got me to thinking about how different I would be if I didn't have my experiences. Nowhere is this more obvious than in my relationship experience. In fact, I often wonder what I'd be like if I would've had the experiences of the last four years, ten years prior.

For example, before I met Diana, I briefly went out with a girl a few times from out of town. The first time I met her, I thought she was very sweet. The second time, it was nice, but there were things that I found difficult to work with in terms of her approach toward life. We went out another time, and she asked to come with me on a long weekend in Orlando. By that time, I started to realize that she let life happen to her instead of owning it (surprising as someone with a graduate degree), and her self-esteem and indifference toward her own sexuality made her seem so broken. If we had met ten years earlier, I probably would have wanted to "fix" her. But my experience led me to realize that I just couldn't do that at my own expense.

The difference in perspective is kind of frightening to think about. Not so much for me, because I can't go back in time any way, but more because I think we're all doomed to do a lot of dumb things and have difficult experiences. It saddens me to think that if I have a kid, they too have to endure a certain amount of suffering. Is that our most true fate?

Regardless of the pain, there's little doubt that the experiences were ultimately worth it to me. I didn't have to grow up in a slum, obviously, and I'm at a place in my life now where I can make better decisions because of all that life has thrown at me. I don't think moving my experiences to an earlier part of life would've had much impact.

That's my final answer.

Last pre-wedding tasks

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 28, 2009, 7:06 PM | comments: 0

While Diana is out with Sherry tonight, presumably being forced to observe strange ding-dongs inches from her face (for the first of two bachelorette parties), I'm pleased to see that I'm pretty much done planning stuff on my end. The list is very short now.

I ordered some white linen pants, which ironically have to come from Hawaii, and the perfect black shirt. I already got the shirt, and it's enormous on me, so I have to exchange it for a large by sending it back to Miami. I'm gonna try and see if Tim wants it first, in which case we'd somewhat match.

I went looking at ring prices online for me, and holy crap, a plain platinum band is about half the cost through Amazon. All I want is a plain platinum band, which is pretty easy to make an apples-to-apples comparison on. Diana's will likely come locally because she wants a row of small diamonds, so there is a lot more possible variation. I need to get sized locally too. My former wedding ring slides off my finger, so who knows what size I need today.

The last night of our stay in Hawaii still needs attention too. We'll be coming back from Kauai for a night on Oahu so we can do Pearl Harbor and the big tourist scene there while killing time for our return flight. The plan is to stay at the big Marriott west of Honolulu, where I can use $150 in coupons I got from my Citi rewards card.

Hard to believe I'm getting married. It hasn't really completely sunk in.

No cussing

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 28, 2009, 11:55 AM | comments: 4

A kid in SoCal is being harassed because he started a "no cussing" club at his school. It's not funny, but it's still interesting. The kid says he wanted other teenagers to think about how they sounded when swearing.

It's no secret that I fucking love to swear. I don't entirely understand the cultural forces that make certain words naughty and others not. I remember at the last Cavs game we went to listening to some asshole behind us on his phone half of the game, sounding like a moron with various four-letter words. But now that I think about it, if he would've taken out those words, he'd still sound stupid.

So this leads me to the conclusion that there are actually two kinds of swearing. In one context you just sound like a bigger moron, but in the other, you can come off as witty and clever.

But regardless, I still don't understand why certain words are designated as naughty. Gonch swears in front of his kids and they don't swear at all, so there's more to the story.


posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 28, 2009, 11:13 AM | comments: 0

My new toy is on its way out of Shanghai right now.

Photo management app

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 26, 2009, 10:38 PM | comments: 0

One of the things I started to work on after relaunching CoasterBuzz was the rewrite of a photo management app. Again. I can't even tell you how many times I've done this, especially for Guide to The Point/PointBuzz. And I need to do it again, this time because I want it to be more abstract so it can easily accommodate variations on photos, like DeepZoom photos (for the project Walt and I decided to do a year ago... we're right on top of that).

Why the rewrite? Because without having a level of abstraction, it's really hard to mix and match. It's the story that's in every book about design patterns, where they use dogs, cars or pizzas to illustrate the point.

Tonight I started hacking away at it again, to find that it's not very well defined at all. I'm not good at just writing some new code and refactoring it until it's in the right place. I tend to want to get it all right first, which means I get stuck easily on bigger problems instead of solving the smaller easier chunks.

What I think I have done is get the interfaces to a logical point, and now I can start work with the more concrete implementations.

Way too many ideas, way too little follow through.

Laptop shipping mystery

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 26, 2009, 2:50 PM | comments: 2

Apple is apparently not being forthcoming about when they'll ship the new 17" laptops to third-parties, because Amazon still has no arrival or ship date for it. But what's weird is that if I look up the order on the Amazon iPhone app, it says it'll ship March 21. That is suboptimal.

So now I feel like I'm kind of stuck in a limbo place. I'd obviously like to have it cheaper, but the risk is that I won't have it for the conference next month, or worse, in time for the wedding. That ridiculous battery life is pretty useful for conferences and excruciatingly long flights to Hawaii.

Apple's site says it will ship in 5 to 7 business days, so I'm wondering what the best course of action is. I guess if there's no traction by early next week, I should get into Apple's queue.

Adventureland red band trailer

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 26, 2009, 9:22 AM | comments: 1

Get it while it's hot and naughty.

I love seeing Kennywood in the footage. Beautiful place to shoot a movie.

Inevitable hot tub injury

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 8:55 PM | comments: 2

I'm just too clumsy to not have had a hot tub injury by now, and it caught up with me.

We were sitting in there in the warmish breeze, when the motors turned off after their 20 minutes. At about the same time, some really large, really cold rain drops started to fall. I left the bottle of shock on the step so I could throw some in before coming back in. When I had the bigger bottles, the measuring scoop sat inside, but for the smaller one it doesn't. It's clear, and I didn't see it. So as I was getting out, I stepped on it, freaked out, and one leg fell off the left side of the step, the other off the right. It hurt. A lot.

So I get inside and sit down, and both ankles started to swell on the inside, where the part is that sticks out. I have no problem with range of motion or standing or walking, but holy shit is the right one seriously swelling. It's not quite a golf ball, but it seems like it may get there. It hurts like a bitch and I'm icing. The left one isn't as bad, and the swelling is more toward the top of my foot.

How does dumb shit like that happen?

Electronic thermostat == savings

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 6:16 PM | comments: 7

One of my non-employment projects was to install an electronic thermostat. Truth is, it works...

Feb '08, Avg temp: 26.5, Avg daily usage: 7.3 CCF
Feb '09, Avg temp: 25.8, Avg daily usage: 5.9 CCF

Yeah, it's a "duh" moment. Don't know why I didn't do it sooner.

Model rockets

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 10:38 AM | comments: 8

One of the things I find myself doing frequently is talking about things I want to do, but never actually do them. Like the other day, we were in a Hobby Lobby (the yarn slut made me go), and I was thinking, "I wonder if they have model rockets, because that's a hobby." Sure enough, they did.

When I was in high school, I got this old key switch from my grandfather. No idea what it was fun, but I liked just holding it in my hand and turning it. I would imagine the first scene in the movie War Games. "Turn your key, sir!" I wanted to launch some shit.

He also gave me a four-foot stainless steel rod to build a model rocket launch pad. So I took some 2x4 pieces, nailed them together and routed a cable through a plastic project box, with aligator clips on one end and a 1/8" mono plug at the other end. I bought a steel project box with a button, a light and a battery holder, and mounted the key switch in it to make a "launch control." It was sweet. I wonder if I still have it somewhere.

Anyway, even then, the engines were kind of expensive, but it was still a rush to launch something 2,000 feet into the air. The first rocket I built was pretty simple. Then I built the SR-71 Blackbird, which was more challenging to build, and a lot more impressive to launch since it was so big. Estes still makes all of this stuff.

I've walked by the model rockets before in countless stores, and Saturday I did it again. As Diana looked for yarn, I stopped and thought about it, and couldn't really explain why I never stopped to really look and buy something. I was very much annoyed with myself! This time I bought one of the simple kits with a pad, launcher and two rockets. It's stupid that I always talk about doing stuff and never do.

I need to get some paint, glue and a knife, but I already cracked some of the junk open. Hopefully this weekend I can build and then launch perhaps next weekend (it's gonna be too cold to be hanging outside this weekend).

Overly tweaked

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 10:10 AM | comments: 1

I've found myself being very un-Dude-like (to use the parlance of our times) lately. Seriously, I'm snotty to people and easily annoyed. And when I catch myself being that way toward Diana, I get pissed at myself. This must change.

I'm tweaked out not because of any particular "good" stress, but just because of my frustrations and fears elsewhere. They fall into two categories: Worrying about things I can't control and creating expectations of myself that I can't always meet. Just snap my fingers and stop doing those things, right? Yeah.

I can't roll like this. It's not good for me. So my action plan is to be a little more proactive about my general response to life, and see where I'm falling into those two traps. And then not do that.

Continuous integration

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 7:47 PM | comments: 0

I felt pretty good today that I got running on my local box, pulling stuff out of Subversion and building applications. I can't truly describe how nifty that is to me. The deployment piece of the action is still a little up in the air, but I've got the basics down for continuous integration.

I needed that, because work has been frustrating me a great deal lately. I'm trying to drive a significant change in process, and sometimes I'm not sure everyone gets it. Everything I've been pushing for so far has been to achieve certain goals of stability, predictability, quality and reduced risk. If you can nail those things down, software development is a lot less painful. Either I'm not communicating the benefits very well or the people who I want to hear it aren't.

But it's fun to figure this stuff out. I've been around it (or more precisely, it has been around me) for years, and it's neat to suddenly own it and do what experts in other areas were doing for you.

Diana's quote of the year

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 23, 2009, 11:18 AM | comments: 1

"Karma needs to re-evaluate our situation and cut us a frickin' break."

-Diana, when talking about issues of realty, jobs and the cosmos.

What everybody else is doing is irrelevant

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 23, 2009, 10:53 AM | comments: 0

This says a lot about how I view the world when it comes to doing my thing, especially on the Web...

37signals SvN: What everybody else is doing is irrelevant

I'm not really unhappy

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 23, 2009, 9:35 AM | comments: 1

My mood the last few days has been poopy, and Diana said to me last night that she was sorry I was unhappy. I was kind of alarmed by that, because I'm not unhappy. At least, I don't think I am. I had a killer headache much of yesterday which was not helping me though.

But while I am a little stressed out lately, I wouldn't characterize myself as being unhappy. I am, however, absolutely suffering from the SAD, no question about that. I just need some sun in the worst way. I'm tired and lethargic because I feel like I should be hibernating. This is the worst I think it has ever gotten to me. And as I look outside, I know the snow falling ever so gently is pretty, but I hate it.

Three weeks from tomorrow I'll be in Vegas, which won't be warm, but it sure as hell will be sunny. Six weeks from today I'll be in Hawaii. Thank God.

Mix discounts

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 20, 2009, 10:23 PM | comments: 0

I got e-mail today indicating that they're now offering a discounted room rate at the Venetian, and giving you the third night free, if you're going to Mix this year. They've still got a $300-off discount on the conference itself too. They must be seeing attendance way down, which is hardly surprising in this environment, but a bummer after selling out the last two years.

Such a great conference too. I'm really looking forward to it again this year.

So much history

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 20, 2009, 1:39 PM | comments: 0

It's no secret that with our wedding coming up, I've spent a lot of time recently thinking about where I've been. It's a little staggering to think about just how much life I've lived, and I'm not quite half way done. Despite the parts I didn't like, I can't put into words how thankful I am for the story thus far.

Of course, it gets me into trouble some times, because Diana has only been a part of that history for a little under two years. So sometimes I peg something in the wrong year and it leads to one of those awkward "that must have been your other girlfriend" moments. The positive spin on that is that Diana became such a big part of my life so quickly and easily that she's solidly in my history of awesomeness.

Being single was surprisingly good for me. I experienced a great many things I didn't in and after college. The cost was certainly very high though, because divorce has a way of drastically altering your view of the world. You look at relationships, sex, career and life in general differently. Not better or worse, just different. Everything is so different now.

I can't help but think about how today and tomorrow will be. It's a pretty exciting time. I can't wait to get to that beach.

Edit : Transform

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 19, 2009, 9:55 AM | comments: 1

I'm reblogging one Tyler posted, but if you're a creative person like me (in my case, trapped in a technical person's body), you should see this:

Edit : Transform

My take away, given my interests, can be summed up in four words:

Just fucking build something.

Intensity in learning

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 11:53 PM | comments: 0

I haven't been writing much code in my world lately, but I sure have been reading a lot about new platforms. I'm really digging into ASP.NET MVC lately, because there's strong potential for its use at work, and I can see some good uses for it for myself as well (like when I shut down CampusFish and move my shit somewhere else). I'm trying not to think about all of the things I should be doing (like the Dis site).

I've backed off from Silverlight stuff, but it's still on my mind. I used it in the forum plug-in module I built, which is like 90%. I may put it up to CoasterBuzz for club members to play with soon. I really need to get it out there.

Work has also been pushing me to look at optimization and ways to code ourselves out of a jam. Lots of critical thinking on architecture. Every day of that makes me better at what I do.

But I still have the strong urge to ship something.

Citi nonsense

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 18, 2009, 1:33 PM | comments: 5

I remember somewhere recently talking about how my Citi credit card had an insanely low rate, like 8.5% or something in that neighborhood. Well I noticed that my statement this month had it at 15.9%. Ouch!

So I called to bitch, and they mentioned the updated terms that they send and I more or less ignored. But I could "opt out" if I wanted. Lucky me! It meant I'd get the old rate (prime plus 4-something) until the card expired, November 2010. So, um, yeah, do that. I don't care if I have to ditch it after that.

That puts it under 8% now, which is convenient since I'll carry some balance on it until my tax refund rolls in (honeymoon travel). But no wonder they can't get people spending. If they're going to jack you and you're a good customer with a high credit score, it would seem you'd put that low-risk customer in a good value rate. Idiots.

Schuyler Fisk show on the Intertubes

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 17, 2009, 10:22 PM | comments: 0

Check it out... the video isn't great, but the audio isn't bad.

I LOVE this chick! The girl can sing and write songs!

Big wins at work

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 17, 2009, 7:14 PM | comments: 1

The single hardest thing for me to deal with at work is that, doing client work, we often have to deal with someone else's crap. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it frightens me to see just how bad the code is being produced by most everyone. There is a lot of really bad stuff out there, and it's no wonder that software projects fail so often.

Generally speaking, it isn't my job to get into the weeds with code, though I have on totally new stuff, kind of to establish standards in design and coding. But that's usually the extent of it. However, I've had to dive in and take a closer look at one system in particular, where something we wrote has to interface with someone else's system.

While not what I would describe as being a high transaction system, the performance of it has been getting worse and worse, and we were blaming the other third-party, and they were blaming us. Some clues led me to believe that a huge part of the problem was the database itself, as built by the other party, so today I just logged into the production server and watched it.

I'm far from a SQL guru, but I understand how to troubleshoot performance issues, how best to index tables, etc. Again, I'm no DBA and not a SQL programmer. That said, as soon as I saw the trace, it was immediately obvious that the other party didn't index anything in their database, so every query, some running up to three times per second, was doing full table scans. I was in awe. No wonder the CPU's were maxed out most of the time.

So I did some indexing, and at worst, it may spike to 30-ish% on the CPU, with some slight disk thrashing, but in between, there's almost no activity. A batch process that was taking upward of 12 hours last night, ran in three minutes this evening.

I look like a big hero, and I'm willing to take that credit, but there are a lot of other things that still need to be improved. Indexing tables is hardly the work of a genius, and I can't believe it wasn't going on in the first place. I'm stunned.

What appeared obvious to me resulted in a 30-point font reply of "thank you" over and over from the client, which is pretty cool. I needed that, because my morale was not good.

Cold kitteh iz at mah windoe

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 16, 2009, 1:11 PM | comments: 1

Camera drool

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 16, 2009, 11:52 AM | comments: 0

Holy crap is this cool. Anyone in the market for a gently used HVX200?

Growing frustration

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 16, 2009, 12:32 AM | comments: 1

I find myself being very frustrated with so many different things right now. Some I can't control, others I can, and other things are probably not that big of a deal in the first place. But whatever the case is, it still makes me crabby.

He's Just Not That Into You: chick flick

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 15, 2009, 12:35 AM | comments: 0

Yeah, we saw it today, as it seemed like an appropriate movie for Valentine's Day. Surprisingly crowded for the first matinee of the day, too. You have to figure that anything with that many A-list actors would be a draw, even in the second week.

I know I've said it before if I haven't blogged it, but Ginnifer Goodwin was the real draw and the big performance in Mona Lisa Smile, despite not getting top billing, and she was pretty good in Walk The Line as well. But even in this movie, she was buried at the bottom of the movie poster. And she was still better and more interesting than any of the A-listers (except perhaps Scarlett Johansson, but she can do no wrong in my eyes).

And who was the other one we loved to watch? Justin Long, of course. Granted it's hard to see him in a normal role after Zack and Miri, but the dude is genuinely funny.

What's with Bradley Cooper being in everything now? He's gonna be in a movie with Sandra Bullock too, which is weird because she's like ten years older than him (although I guess she doesn't look it). He's still Will Tippin from Alias to me. (Speaking of which, why does Jennifer Garner have to be in a movie now with fucking Matthew McConaughey? I hate that guy for nearly ruining Contact.)

The saving grace of this chick flick is that it's not a big cluster fuck of a happy ending for the entirely huge ensemble cast. Well, not strictly speaking anyway. I think it instead suggests that your happy ending might actually have nothing to do with landing a mate.

Radio dream again, but with a different premise

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 14, 2009, 7:59 PM | comments: 0

I've had the radio dream countless times. Usually it's because of some anxiety or fear of failure, and then there was the time that I nailed it.

Recently I had a completely new variation, and it's not hard to interpret. In this instance, it was back the problems with dead air and missed talk overs, but it was never my fault. This time around, people were leaving things broken, and I had to get music off of iPod Nanos that were full of music with no titles. And this time, I knew who the people were that screwed up.

Obviously this is me being frustrated with the failure of others affecting my own success. It's new territory for me in some ways, and in other ways I'm sure it's representative of having to ultimately rely on others' good decisions to continue enjoying my own success.

I'm trying to get a handle on how to process this, and what the action items are to respond to it.

Nick and Norah: very cute movie

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 13, 2009, 11:27 PM | comments: 0

When I picked up Zack and Miri last week, I also picked up Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. We watched it tonight. Loved it.

Michael Cera's nerdy high school kid thing is fairly endearing, I'll admit it. He's so non-threatening in almost every way, and it allows him to deliver sarcasm and wit with the most hilarious timing. I just hope he can figure something else out, because he can't live on that act forever.

I was most interested in seeing what Kat Dennings was all about. She had arguably one of the more special moments in 40-Year-Old Virgin (not that it was a high bar to reach), and I wondered if she could help carry a film. She absolutely can. She too is quite the charmer. She comes off very real and down to earth on screen. I suspect she could have a pretty serious career ahead of her.

Strange cameos by Seth Myers and Andy Samberg aside, the story is very much a mix of high school fantasy adventure the more realistic kinds of moments. Like people talk a big sex game but often aren't having any, and when you have moments, they're totally awkward and funny. There's a certain innocence to much of it that I really think of fondly.

Most people probably wouldn't be into it as much as I was, but I loved it. Diana was all about the many New York locations, where she spent a great deal of time for three years.

Lowering the bugometer

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 13, 2009, 12:21 AM | comments: 1

After meditating in the hot tub tonight, I got motivated and fixed two old forum bugs. The first only mods ever saw, but it would take a long time to "delete" a post (in quotes because really the status is changed). Really long SQL timeouts being logged. Turns out it was firing off the search reindexing process, which normally it does in the background. Duh.

The other problem was the view counts dropping to zero now and then for no apparent reason. That was a caching issue, which I solved by simply not caching topic records. It's an optimization that didn't need optimizing. Silly trap to fall into, and one I was reminded of the other day by something one of my devs was doing, and again tonight chatting with a former coworker.

When I dive into the old crusty parts, I'm surprised at how many things I did sub-optimally, yet it's still very maintainable. I need to remember not to try and rewrite it all again just because I know better now. There's very little return on investment to do that.

Not purging to my blog enough

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 12, 2009, 10:13 PM | comments: 0

Man, I realize that I haven't really blogited up the mounting things in my head lately. This is an uncharacteristically slow month for me in terms of purging to these hallowed bits. I have some theories about the reason for that.

I wrote a big long paragraph about what I thought it might partly be as it related to a previous failed relationship, but I kind of dialed it back. It just doesn't feel like something to share. Suffice it to say that I'll probably have the fear that what I have today may not last stuck in me for awhile. It's not like a crippling fear that I think about constantly, but you know, something that you can't entirely ignore when you're about to get married either.

I also have anxiety about the Diana house situation. That's undoubtedly wasted energy because there isn't anything I can do about it.

But the other thing affecting my blogquency is the level of engagement my brain has had lately at work. A lot of my job (when things are going the way I'd like) is thinking about how to solve really big problems. That's probably a good thing because it keeps me from dwelling on the above issues. It's interesting how I find it so easy to drive process for others, but find it so difficult to do for myself.

Then there's the thing about how frankly we just haven't been doing a ton of stuff. I mean, we got to see Schuyler last week (best night of my life, as certain people would say), but it's odd that we haven't traveled since November, and won't until April! Well, I'm going to Vegas next month for a conference, but that's solo. We're pretty buckled down being homebodies. I'm not complaining though. That honeymoon is going to be nuts.

Hopefully I'll be inspired to write more. It doesn't feel right to not be writing about shit I know nothing about!


posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 10:57 PM | comments: 2

The last time I got my hair cut was in November, prior to our IAAPA/Disney trip. Darcy, who has been cutting my hair now for more than 15 years, was having surgery for carpal tunnel shortly thereafter, but I figured I'd get back to her in January or so.

But then I started thinking about how I didn't want to get my hair cut too close to the wedding and there was the new job and whatever, and here I am now in February and it's getting annoyingly shaggy. I figure if I can tough it out for another three weeks that'll put me at one month prior to the wedding, so it's relatively neat but doesn't look like I just got my hair cut.

I can't roll with longer hair the way I used to. It's just too thin in the front these days. Diana was shocked when we found a photo from late 1994, shortly after Stephanie and I had met, because I was rocking the Adam Johnson cut back then. Actually, it was even longer.

Too focused on too few things

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 2:15 PM | comments: 0

I was lying in bed last night thinking about how my brain gets too stuck on a few things and I get tired of thinking about them. There are some dominant things in my life that I think prevent me from being open to completely new things. Some things are very specific (gotta do something for one my f'ing Web sites) and some are very general (gotta figure out a way to generate lots of money without the man).

I'm starting to wonder if this kind of mind trap is affecting my quality of life. It's so fundamental of a question to ask that it's pretty easy to overlook. When I really get down to it, I see a couple of things about life at odds. I firmly believe that life is not about some destination, but rather the journey. If you're always driving toward something, you tend to neglect the awesome things about every single day. But on the other hand, there are some things that need a well-defined end point so you can feel as though you've accomplished something.

I've never been particularly goal oriented. I had some goals in college, but when I saw how quickly and unpredictably things change, I kind of let that go. I kind of drifted into a different career, marriage and just rolled with things. Now I'm like that Talking Heads song asking, "Well, how did I get here?" The truth is that I've been incredibly lucky or drifting works sometimes.

Ultimately I think I started going down this thought road because it's my job to think about the bigger picture, to innovate and steer people away from constantly being reactive. In technology, it's really easy to just jump on a bandwagon and try to emulate what others are doing, but you're never successful that way. It forces me to wonder if I'm stuck doing the same things over and over because it's what I know or what is generally familiar.

This is part of my ongoing early midlife crisis I think, which is easier to tend to now that my relationship life is about the most stable it has ever been. Hopefully I won't drive Diana nuts in the process. I just figured I'd know what I wanted to do when I grew up.

The money trail

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 9, 2009, 11:28 PM | comments: 2

As is typical of Mondays, I ended up thinking a bit about money today. We've both got estimates now on our tax refunds, and it looks like we'll both be in pretty good shape. Diana isn't entirely comfortable with the way I'm spending big bucks on the honeymoon, so she'd like to throw her refund at least toward our rings (which, thanks to the price of platinum right now, could suck). I'm OK with it though.

I'm actually fairly comfortable with our money situation for now, and don't have any reason to not be as long as I'm working. The only fear I have is that we're eventually gonna have to take a bath on her house to get rid of it, and that sucks. If it ends up being like 10k, so be it, that's a year's worth of what she was already paying into the mortgage. But if it's more, I don't have a better game plan.

She did get some good news last week though, in that she found an insurance policy that was actually less than what she was paying before, instead of one being quadruple because the house is vacant. It's about fucking time she caught a break.

I'm actually even cautiously optimistic that ad rates are starting to rebound a little. November and December were some of the worst CPM's I've seen ever. I'm still concerned about the year-over-year traffic decrease, but that gap is starting to close, though I can't attribute it to anything. I can only hope it continues.

Night owls are more creative

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 9, 2009, 1:07 PM | comments: 3

I read this in Wired today:

Artists, writers, and coders typically fire on all cylinders by crashing near dawn and awakening at the crack of noon. In one study, "evening people" almost universally slam-dunked a standardized creativity test. Their early-bird brethren struggled for passing scores.

I can't even begin to say how much this describes me. The only caveat is that it isn't sustainable. Do it too many days in a row and you will most certainly crash.

Christian Bale is a dick

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 8, 2009, 11:26 AM | comments: 1

I don't know if you've heard this prize bit of off-camera nonsense, but basically Christian Bale on Terminator 4 goes ape shit because apparently the DP was moving around or something during a scene.

I'm not one to trivialize what actors do, certainly, especially the good ones (of which he really is not), but if I were a director and someone did this, I'd do my best to see that they were fired. I don't care what happens, nobody talks to each other like that in a collaborative work environment. He was an asshole because he could be. If it were a set decorator, he couldn't get away with talking to an actor like that. That's bullshit.

And what kills me is the comments of people on that YouTube thread that actually defend him. What the fuck? When is it every OK for people to be assholes like that in a work environment? He's a fucking actor, not someone curing cancer.

What a dick.

Tonight's playlist

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 7, 2009, 10:17 PM | comments: 0

Diana's out with the girls tonight, which has allowed me to rock out solo whilst actually writing code. It's no substitute for hanging with my girl, but it has been fun to pick out tunes I haven't hard in a long time. And some that I have.


posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 7, 2009, 9:32 PM | comments: 0

let me feel the air wash over me
let the ground sink beneath my feet
and i expect so much more from today
than just a time between tomorrow and yesterday

-Jesus Jones, "Blissed"

Funny how a lyric from 17 years ago can nail exactly how you feel about a moment right now.

Fear in uncertain times

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 7, 2009, 9:52 AM | comments: 1

I have to admit, whether the danger is real or not, the current economic climate makes me nervous. A lot of people aren't working and I predict that things will get worse before they get better. That economists don't even have a good feel for when we'll bottom out is scary.

I'm working, sure, but for how long? I don't get as many recruiter calls as I used to, but maybe that's because this time I was smart enough to turn off my profile this time around (duh). I don't know what the job market for people like me is, but I doubt it's as awesome as it was last fall. This general feeling that others have with me has led to some interesting conversations.

What it generally comes back to is the suggestion that having to rely on someone else to determine your fate sucks. Carrie mentioned this in one of her last blog posts, and we chatted a bit about it. Indeed, it's a conversation I've had with a lot of people that I consider smart and generally top notch.

After establishing that line of thinking, the next question is always, what do I do next? It's not that anyone has a lack of good ideas, it's that they can't easily take the risk of acting on those ideas to form a viable business. People like to eat. And when you reach a certain level of income, you also like to eat at nice places. I think that Gonch was right in a comment from a previous post, that as you get older, you do actually have things to lose.

But there's an interesting theme that you read about from economists and pundits as well. They consistently say that in a down economy, many new businesses are born. In some cases it's because people have nothing else to do. There are opportunities to win, even in competitive markets because your competition might be dialing back.

So where does that leave me? I don't know. I have several Web sites in the pipe, but a part of me gets bored with the idea of making yet another Guide to The Point for another niche. I still need to fight through that, because one of those I know could be sweet, and I owe it to my partner in that one.

That kind of relates to one of the side effects of running a business with people that you employ. You have a responsibility to them. They depend on you to make the right decisions so they can maintain their quality of life. I don't think very many business owners and executives take that seriously enough. It's why I'd probably be a shitty CEO too, because I couldn't deal with having to let people go on my watch.

One of the things I'd like to do is do the one-weekend software challenge. Basically it's one of those things where you have an idea and you bang it out, all in one weekend. I have an idea (and a domain name!) that would be perfect for that, but as usual, I'm not that motivated when I've been writing code all week at my day job!

Schuyler Fisk is for real

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 6, 2009, 12:04 AM | comments: 0

If you've heard me talk about working in radio at any length, you've probably heard me say how unimpressed I've been with the vast majority of famous people and musicians. So knowing that someone whose music I was getting into all of a sudden would likely be accessible enough to meet, I was apprehensive about doing so. My fears were unfounded.

If you need the bio, you can read up here in the New York Times. For me, she was the supportive girl friend in Orange County, a very well written favorite of mine. Then she was the young singer who did duet with Josh Radin called "Paperweight" on the Last Kiss soundtrack. On the strength of that one song, which is special to Diana and me, I've been waiting ever since to hear more from her. So yesterday on iTunes and Amazon, she finally released the album that she's putting out sans record label. Buy it. Seriously.

It's the best thing I've heard since Tracy Bonham's Blink the Brightest. Yes, there is music that doesn't suck, and not surprisingly, it is best consumed without a label in the middle.

She's totally got the pipes as a performer. I was sitting there thinking about how she's gonna be huge and there's no chance I'll ever get to see her in a small club like that again, a few feet from where I'm sitting. She's so damn charming too, and she almost seemed embarrassed when her band was making the point that the album went right to #1 on iTunes in the folk category.

But despite being in movies and having celebrity parents, she's playing little dives and literally selling her own CD's after her set at the show. How can you not respect that? She's very gracious when people compliment her and you can tell when you're talking with her that she's having the time of her life. It's really inspiring and refreshing. I met so many douchebags back in the day.

So even though it seems kind of lame (from the former radio guy's perspective), I did get a photo with her. What can I say, I wanted to remember the moment!

Today's super awesomeness

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 5, 2009, 11:42 PM | comments: 1

I had an extra shitty day at work this morning, but things really turned around.

I got to see Schuyler Fisk perform and got to chat with her for a minute (more on that in another post). Federated Media sold some ads for me. My accountant already did a draft of my return, and my refund is about four digits and starts with a "4." I won one of the 100k free tickets from Universal Orlando. Several new members joined CoasterBuzz Club today. Traffic is up 10% over last month.

Five hours ago, the day was looking like a total loss. I'd like to give a shoutout to God for helping me out, as they say.

Serious music recommendation

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 4, 2009, 10:58 PM | comments: 0

Schuyler Fisk - The Good Stuff

I haven't been immediately taken into an album like this in a long time. I've listened to it three times today, and can't wait to see her tomorrow.

Software and solving just the current problems

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 4, 2009, 10:01 PM | comments: 0

One of the things that I find myself doing a lot at work now that I have an architectural role is roping in developers, designers and PM's in terms of sticking to just what we need to meet the basic requirements. There's a desire most of the time to do a little more and anticipate a need or fulfill a wouldn't-it-be-cool. This becomes problematic because that kind of thing doesn't come for free in terms of time, and it tries to solve some problem that isn't a problem yet. It's an easy trap to fall into.

I find myself doing it all of the time with my own stuff, especially with the damn forum app. I still have this illusion that millions of other devs the world over are using it, and they're not. So with the plug-in architecture I've been baking into it now, I'm already doing things that I don't need to do, and it causes me pain. I don't always practice what I preach.

Right now I'm actually writing code for a forthcoming project into our core library, something I took on myself because I want it to be right, I want to set a template for the "right" way to write and frankly we don't have free resources for someone else to do it. I'm just about at the limit of what I can take because there are too many things that fall into my regular duties (heh heh, duties) that I'd much rather be spending time on. I set some goals for myself for the first 90 days that I really don't want to miss.

When, oh when will it ship?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 3, 2009, 12:55 PM | comments: 0

I put in an order for the 17" MacBook Pro within minutes of it hitting Amazon, and I still reserve the right to cancel it. But I probably won't. I always planned to replace the old one after three years, and honestly, I've never even had a computer last that long. And it's still tip top.

But oh the agony of waiting for it to actually ship. People in the Apple forums say they've had their cards charged buying direct, so they're presumably trickling out, but Amazon has yet to give a guess. Gotta do it on Amazon because of the lack of sales tax and the associates kick-back.

I haven't bought a new toy in awhile. :)

Weight loss progress

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 2, 2009, 8:32 PM | comments: 0

Four weeks on the plan now, though I haven't been hard core tracking points, but I'm down five pounds in four weeks. I was reading six as of Friday (I use Monday as the official weigh-in day), but I had fried food three times this weekend, so that probably didn't help.

But I'm still more or less on a pound-and-a-half per week pace, which I can live with. I wanted to drop ten by the wedding, so hitting the next five should be easy enough to get me back to my 2005 weight. If I could drop 10 to 12, even better.

I haven't added in any exercise, so I'm sure I could be doing better. I just hate "working out" for the most part. I keep saying I'm going to take up tennis, but I'm not motivated enough.

The thing that really helps me out is working in an office where I'm in the sun most of the day. I mean seriously, I see just how huge of an impact that has. If I'm in the sun, I don't feel the need to get out of the office, and if I bring lunch, I'm not eating Chipotle or BWW or whatever. It helps that I don't mind being there.

I decided this weekend that I don't mind being just slightly doughy, and more than one woman has told me that's actually not terrible (and I've got the legs to distract). I'm never gonna have the body of Phelps (unless I start hitting the weed I guess), so I'm OK just being remarkably average without being unhealthy.

Nine years of CoasterBuzz

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 1, 2009, 2:29 PM | comments: 2

As I posted earlier today, CoasterBuzz has now been around for nine years. That's a fourth of my life! In that time I've been married and divorced, owned three cars, had eight jobs, wrote a book and God knows what else. It's a long time.

In the last year or so in particular, I've had to really stop and think about what the site means to me. I'm not the hardcore roller coaster enthusiast I used to be. I think it peaked in 2001, a year where Stephanie and I went to around a dozen parks in one year. There were so many new rides being built back then.

That was also the year I committed to CoasterBuzz being a real business enterprise, largely out of necessity. In order to support the traffic to the site, I had to get a T-1 to my house at a grand a month. The ads were working until Doubleclick dropped me, and I started the club to make up the difference. And that was all while losing my job and just buying a house. That was a crazy year!

The quick success of the site I think was in part due to the relentless updating, and the site database. Back then, there were so many coaster sites, and in addition to mainstream news, we were directing people to these awesome niche resources. I miss those days, when every kid with an Internet connection wanted to build a Web site. The content was so rich back then.

The other thing that ramped us up quickly was the fact that I was advertising via, which later became Overture and is today Yahoo. People credit Google with the miracle of AdWords, but the business eventually folded into Yahoo was doing it much sooner. The thing I liked best is that it brought in an audience that was not cut from the usual enthusiast circles. It was less fickle, less jaded about "corporate" parks and remembered that amusement parks were fun.

The site also mirrored my own development as a developer. The first two versions were written in old ASP, the shittiest scripting platform ever. I made all of the classic mistakes back then, designed inefficient databases, etc. The transition to ASP.NET was a mixed bag that partly was sweet because the content management app I wrote was way ahead of its time, to the extent that Tim and I (both unemployed) wondered if we could market it. By the time we got new jobs we kind of let that idea go. The negative was that I still did a lot of things in a suboptimal fashion due to my lack of solid design pattern understanding.

When I think back to the last four or five years, I had a real love-hate relationship with the site. The positive was that it was essentially self-perpetuating, with users continuing to find much of the news and obviously posting in the forum. I didn't really have to do anything. Eventually I got costs under control, and last year I got the business to a point of being debt-free for the first time since I started back in 2000. That's a big deal when I consider that ad revenue was down last year.

But two things in that long time period made me hate the site too. I felt like I still had to feed and care for it often just because it had been around so long. And I just couldn't bring myself to work on a new version, and I hated the site and myself for it. There were many times where I just wanted to say fuck it and let it wither and die because I lost interest.

The turning point was late 2007 when we finally got around to relaunching PointBuzz, which also went relatively unchanged for years. That was motivating because the technical achievement and simplicity showed that people would use it more even though we were offering less. The damn forum app, the core of it, had reduced the resource impact dramatically. So in the first part of last year, I was at least building a re-do up in my head as something I was ready for.

The two and a half years at also had a lot to do with it, because my game had been raised to epic proportions. I know I say it all of the time, but having the opportunity to work with that many top-shelf, brilliant people is rare. I appreciate that now more than ever as I mentor younger developers. I'm exceptionally better at what I do than I was three years ago. When I go laid-off in July, it was an opportunity to translate that experience into a new CB.

So in two months I rebuilt everything, around the forum I had "finished" the November before, along with the tweaks since then. I even did my own design, something I've never felt confident doing, and I liked it (reception was mixed).

Since the relaunch, my attitude toward the site has changed for the better. I no longer see it as a burden, but rather a playground of sorts to try new things. I miss the old days of bigger revenue, but with a dedicated club membership pool, it's holding steady. The quality of the conversation is reasonably high and fairly LOL-free, so it's still interesting to me.

I'm thinking it would be fun to have a big tenth anniversary bash next year, since January 30 is on a Saturday. I wonder if people would come to that, if we tried to have it at Castaway Bay or something.

Religion, children and other "serious" topics

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 1, 2009, 1:56 PM | comments: 1

Diana and I went to lunch at the Winking Lizard today, figuring it would be fairly empty pre-Super Bowl, and to satisfy her burger need. With the wedding day fast approaching, we got into discussions about some "serious" things.

Having a child is important to us, but we also realize that the clock is ticking. Even if we were to conceive the day of our wedding, that still puts Diana at 40 by the time the child is born, and that's pushing the fertility clock. As it is, with her past hernia issues she's likely to require a C-section. And who knows if my swimmers are potent. So many variables to consider. Of course, we're 100% OK with adopting if it were to come to that, but still. We have settled on the idea that we want to start trying in the summer, so as not to preclude any possible travel late in the year if we're successful. Between IAAPA in Vegas and a strong desire to see Disney World Christmas-ized, the timing is important.

We also got to talking a little about religion, and the enormous difference in approach between the hardcore Catholicism and the light-weight Protestantism I experienced. Perhaps it's not fair for me to judge as an outsider, but Catholicism seems to be a solid belief system wrapped in endless rules and dogma that completely overshadow the underlying faith. It reminds me of the scene in Dogma where Selma's character says, "You don't celebrate your faith, you mourn it."

But that's not to say I was OK with my own exposure either. I was fortunate to have several young and smart pastors, who would ultimately tell me that the institution built around the faith didn't matter. The only accountability I have is to myself when it comes to what I believe. That was an important realization for me to have when I was in college.

Given the conversation prior, we naturally wondered how religion and child rearing overlapped. I think we agreed that going through the motions of participating in an institution's culture while not believing in it would be problematic. We also expressed a certain desire to better understand the many world religions out there. We got to thinking that maybe we should spend time weekly with our offspring learning about these religions, and ultimately allowing them to exercise their own choice about faith. After all, most of us never have that choice, and we ultimately adopt a certain faith for no other reason than it's what we were brought up on. It's definitely something we'll be thinking about.

I feel fortunate that we see eye to eye on these things.