Archive: March, 2009

Podcast pals

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 30, 2009, 1:03 AM | comments: 1

Some Sunday nights I'm really not motivated to get my ass set up to record the podcast, but every time we do it, I inevitably have a good time.

We've been doing it now for about three and a half years, and the core group, me, Lord Gonchar and Mike, have been in it since the start. They even have fancy microphones to use (I really want this kit). I was thinking about it as we were recording, and I really just kind of let loose and do it. I've completely let go of all the shit I learned about radio because I just don't care about any of that. I want good sound quality, and beyond that, could give a shit about how some imaginary program director would critique it. When I started, I really thought it should sound more like a radio show, I guess because I used to actually do radio.

The Internet is freeing in that sense. The video stuff that I've posted online, mostly for PointBuzz, has been very free form and not rigidly structured. Again, there was a time when I thought it should all look like broadcast TV, but letting go of those constraints, I just let it look like a series of moving images that tell a story. No stand-ups, no constant cuts to B-roll, etc.

Tonight's show was pretty interesting. We rambled for a good 20 minutes about how long it would take to fly to Hawaii from Houston. I mean, who cares, right? The funny thing is that this kind of random banter either really engages people, or causes them to flee. We'll see what happens in this case!

Smart Americans

posted by Jeff | Saturday, March 28, 2009, 5:25 PM | comments: 0

A comment from my tech blog:

Well, of coarse not, cuz we're Americans, not dumb, and we can and will most certainly find a way to fix our boxes if and when we want.

I <3 MVC, even though that doesn't mean anything to most people

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 27, 2009, 11:55 PM | comments: 0

While at Mix, Microsoft finally released the ASP.NET MVC framework. It had been in development, openly, by the way, for more than a year. I thought it was interesting enough, but just didn't feel inclined to get into it as it was changing for much of the year.

Then it went final, and I thought I'd start playing with it. MVC stands for "model-view-controller," a design pattern that has been around for a very, very long time. Basically what it means is that you build an app so that the three components can do what they do without having to know much about each other, and you can test them all independently. Other Web platforms have had this for some time, the most famous of which is probably Ruby on Rails (which you've likely used in many of these "Web 2.0" apps). It's interesting and important because it takes a ton of grunt work out of getting data in and out of a Web application.

ASP.NET "Webforms," the old standard, has its roots in the way people used to develop Windows applications. You'd declare a bunch of controls like text boxes and buttons and then write a bunch of code to handle the events around them and do stuff. That's a little cumbersome on the Web, since the server doesn't typically know anything about what your Web browser's state is. It's powerful, sure, but developing stuff can be a little slow going, and you end up writing a lot of code over and over.

But MVC, along with some newer data frameworks in the Microsoft world, remove all of that overhead and get you to the meat of what you want to do. Figuring that I need real examples to learn something, I decided to make a little blog engine, since I'll eventually be migrating off of CampusFish. Sure, there are a bazillion existing free apps, including MS's Oxite project using MVC, but I wanted to learn for myself.

So here's how it's going. Not counting the generated code for data access, I've written a little over 200 lines of code. I can create and edit blog entries, display them, get lists of them, create and edit users, and handle logins and outs. In barely 200 lines of code!

This is making programming fun again, in part because I can already see how easy it is to concentrate on the user interface and design. I still have to get used to some of the quirks and buckle down a little to get the true benefit of testing, but it's still very exciting.

End geek nonsense. For now.

Five hours of TV a day? Seriously?

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 27, 2009, 5:53 PM | comments: 7

So say the people who measure this stuff.

That's absolutely staggering to me. It also makes me wonder how many people do what my family did growing up, where people get home, turn on the TV, and it runs until everyone goes to bed. I can't think of anything less interesting to do, but apparently I'm a minority.

Our habits are pretty lean. We'll watch the world news if we think to turn it on, and maybe two hours of DVR'd stuff after that (assuming it's not summer, when nothing is on). We might do this three days out of the week, so our actual per-day viewing is probably more in the one hour range, if that.

I think if I did five times that, I'd weigh 300 pounds and shoot myself out of boredom.

Lucy and Lisa

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 26, 2009, 11:49 PM | comments: 0

The weirdness that is Facebook never ends. We've truly entered an era where it's hard to forget anyone you've ever met in your entire life. Or perhaps, now we actually have the choice about who we remember or don't.

Starting I think in third grade, but definitely sixth grade, I was in a class with these two girls, Lucy and Lisa. Both I think were one or two generations removed from Puerto Rico and lived in my neighborhood. I think they were BFF's, because they were pretty much always together. Along with a number of other girls from the 'hood, they were probably among the first that I thought of in a non-cootie way as I got those "special feelings" that came with puberty. I'm sure there was hair pulling. I remember having a particular crush on Lucy for some reason.

So out of the blue, I get a friend invite from Lisa, who rattles off all these girl's names, all people I hadn't seen since the age of 14 or younger, circa 1987.

I'm not sure what to do with this information, if anything. I was recently approached by one of the girls from high school who played volleyball, and we've shared similar stories of marriage and divorce (and newer relationships). But do I try to further those connections? Like I said, I'm not sure what you do with it after that.

The Intertubes sure do make for some strange times.

Grumpy by day, contemplative by night

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 26, 2009, 12:48 AM | comments: 1

Work put me in a bad mood today. The problems we encountered could have in part been prevented had the things I've been talking about been implemented. That's why I'm so frustrated.

I try to rope in some perspective as the day winds down. I've become invested in this job, for better or worse, and I want it to be successful. It's just hard to feel positive when you can't enact the change and process that you know will help the cause.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. I'm getting on a plane in about a week to do one of the most important things of my life. I don't have the capacity right now for frustration.

My breaking point at work

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 6:07 PM | comments: 1

The one thing that I absolutely can't deal with is trying to bat clean up for people who really fuck up or don't know what they're doing. There's one project at work that is pretty much always that scenario. Generally it's the responsibility of one of the developers, but he's sick. So I'm trying to decipher what the fuck is going on and I can't tell.

This is the only thing that I ever encounter in my professional life that pushes me to the edge. I don't have the patience for it. When you add up a combination of things that make it hard to professionally debug a problem (little things like source control, documentation and the right tools), it's like beating your head up against the wall. And frankly I don't like the pain.

Wrong Heart Songs

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 25, 2009, 12:42 PM | comments: 1

Weezer has a song on The Red Album called "Heart Songs" that pays tribute to artists and songs that they like. However, they incorrectly say, "Debbie Gibson, tell me that you think we're alone." They seem to be confusing that with the song "I Think We're Alone Now," by the Shondells, and covered by Tiffany.

So let me clear some things up for the good of humanity. Debbie Gibson, for the most part, wrote her own songs and could play several instruments. Tiffany couldn't play anything, wrote almost nothing and covered a lot of tunes. Confusing the two of them is like a crime. And having seen both live, Tiffany can't sing to save her life, while Ms. Gibson can.

Plus she was much hotter in Playboy, because Tiffany had grotesquely large fake boobs.

Venture Bros. Season 3!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 3:52 PM | comments: 1

Ant problems

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 24, 2009, 1:00 AM | comments: 0

I seem to have an ant invasion again. I had the same problem about two years ago, and eventually beat it when I tried the ant baits where they carry the nasty back to the nest. Naturally, I bought some of those right away, and put them down yesterday.

But suddenly, not anywhere near the downstairs room where the problem is originating from, one of the little bastards crawled across my laptop screen and creeped me the fuck out. I irrationally itch all over.

Jungle Disk plug

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 23, 2009, 1:26 AM | comments: 1

They recently put out a new version of Jungle Disk, and I have to sing its praises again.

Since this version hit, and as a JD+ subscriber, my server backups are only sending up the changed parts of the files. The database backup files change about a total of a half-gig every night, which is a lot cheaper to upload than the full five gigs. So now, between my home stuff (photos, docs, MP3's, some video), and the server backups, I'm now storing over 100 gigs of data on Amazon S3. Monthly cost? Under $20.

With this new version, they also have an option to use Rackspace as the cloud storage (JD was bought by Rackspace), and it's less expensive and doesn't charge the bandwidth fees that S3 does. Certainly I'll think about it to cut some expenses, but I'm not sure it's even worth messing with. I know S3 is insanely redundant with Amazon's absurd infrastructure, but I don't know that Rackspace can deliver the same thing. It's hard to say.

Either way... fantastic product. Between Time Machine backing up our three Macs at home and the cloud storage, I feel pretty good about our backups. Backups only really work if you don't have to ever think about them.

The problem with the Internet

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 23, 2009, 12:41 AM | comments: 1

I was reading a column on one of the tech sites earlier today about how advertising was failing and destined for certain doom and nonsense like that. It was written by a guy who is an IT professor at Wharton, which is pretty awful considering that, well, that's supposed to be a good school. Sure, ad spending is down, but spending on everything is down. The guy gave no correlation between the alleged failure and the reduced spending. And he's an academic! What he clearly is not is someone with any marketing experience at all.

The problem with the Internet is that anyone can post shit on it. Yeah, I'll put myself in that category. I generally don't try to pass myself off as an authority on something unless I actually am an authority on it (yeah, of course there are exceptions). It's the crap you read from people who think that they are an authority that annoy me. Show me some credentials, because if your byline doesn't convince me, you won't either.

In positions where I've had to hire people, I've noticed that experience still requires context to truly demonstrate qualification. I mean, a prostitute may have had sex with thousands of people, but it doesn't make them good at sex. (This is a subtle jab at "consultants" in my area.)

The qualifications that make you an authority on anything are complex, and I don't know how you really filter out the crap from the good stuff on the Internet. I suppose it has been like that in all forms of media, but over time reputations are built and a track record is established. The Internet moves too fast to be bothered with that a lot of the time.

Where this becomes a critical issue is in the transfer of authority to new forms of news gathering in particular. If newspapers can't fund newsrooms, then I have to hope that trained journalists who follow the classic ethics of the profession can pick up the slack in some way that also allows them to eat.

It's less critical about things that matter less (like nonsense about roller coasters), but it's still hard to differentiate sometimes between a "first post!!11!!" anonymous schmuck and someone who has the experience and high level of observation to contribute meaningfully to a discussion.

All of that said, I'm optimistic that these problems will eventually work themselves out. I think there are a lot of very clever people out there in the Tubes.

Jet lag

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 22, 2009, 1:39 AM | comments: 0

Why is it that it takes three days to adjust to a time zone change? I'm still on Pacific Time.

On body piercing

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 22, 2009, 12:14 AM | comments: 3

I've had a couple of conversations lately on body piercing. It's strange that really before four years ago I didn't have any real knowledge about the subject aside from the fact that Stephanie had a few, but I didn't. Actually I pierced my own ear once when I was a kid, for an hour or so, because everyone was doing it, but that doesn't really count.

It bummed me out when I had to take out my industrial, but the others have been pretty solid, despite some migration issues. I think it's likely that I'll eventually put another hole(s) in my ear, but I'll probably start with a single ring around where the back hole of the industrial was and see how that goes.

A lot of people have the misconception that people get piercings for attention, but I think that's pretty stupid. The motivation may differ, but ultimately people do it because they like the way it feels and/or looks. I think it's rare that anyone truly cares that much how other people perceive it.

I would go further to say that some people do it to mark some event in their life or change the way they feel about a body part. I know there are a lot of tattoo stories that certainly fall in that category as well. My first ones were symbolic of my need to take care of body, and they constantly reminded me of it. I've read stories of people who got nose rings because they had a big nose or nipple rings because they had small breasts. People don't need a reason, but there frequently is.

Undocumented MacBook Pro feature of the day: Headphone jack works with iPhone headphones

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 20, 2009, 7:06 PM | comments: 1

I plugged in my iPhone headphones to my laptop, which has the little microphone/click button that lets you skip songs, pause the iPod or answer a call. Well I was watching a DVD rip, squeezed the button, and it paused it. Gasp. The headphone jack is a four-conductor jack like on the iPhone.

And the microphone works too. That explains why Diana could actually hear me while doing the Skype the other day.

Blue Man Group X

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 20, 2009, 6:43 PM | comments: 0

So, not much to add about seeing my tenth Blue Man Group show, except to say that the third row is too close. Glad I got to see it from that angle though, to say that I did. We were not sprayed with Twinkie poop.

Allison had seen the show once when it was still at Luxor, and she said they had crappy seats. She didn't get the best show though. There were a few mistakes, including, gasp, a Blue Man breaking character! During the Twinkie dinner gag, which had a good audience member this time, one of the guys started to smile a little until he couldn't deal anymore. He picked up the faux plate off the table and put it in front of his face while he composed himself. I was a little disappointed, and I couldn't believe it! One of them also dropped three paint balls.

There are a few minor changes since I last saw it in 2006. They've dispensed with the chant gag before the last song they play on the PVC, and the transition from letting the paint suit guy go to that is a little rough. They also seem to change the tribute music every time I see it.

Good times though. Seeing "PVC IV" and "Chant Jam" played live is still a pretty intense experience, even more so when you can actually hear the pipes before amplification.


posted by Jeff | Friday, March 20, 2009, 3:44 PM | comments: 0

I got to spend a few hours last night with Allison, a person I hired back in '97 when I was doing the government cable TV thing. She's actually a half-year or so older than me, but got behind in finishing school and jumping into career life. She was very interested in film and television and such, so her lack of experience wasn't really a deterrent.

Obviously you become close friends with someone you see everyday in a department of two, and it was always hard to set the right boundaries to maintain a manager-employee relationship. She was at my first wedding, parties, social functions and we both coached at the high school.

When I changed jobs, we barely saw each other. She eventually moved down to OU with her then-boyfriend. I missed going to her wedding because I was on a vacation or work trip or something. Life ultimately led her to Las Vegas and babies and a complete change. It had been eight years since we'd last seen each other.

As is often the case, it's Facebook that eventually got us reconnected, and we tried but failed to meet up last year. This year she drove in after her soccer practices and we had dinner. Telling each other our stories of the last few years just amplified how drastic the changes have been. We have completely different lives now, and it's just so hard to get your head around it.

We only got to spend about four hours hanging out, and half of that was the Blue Man show, but the meeting made me feel intensely happy and sad at the same time. Happy because I miss the way we'd have our "off sites" at BW-3 and bullshit about our lives, but sad because I feel like I've lost so much in terms of the friendships of that era of my life. Sure, there are entirely different relationships and situations in my life now, most measurably better, but I wish I could have both.

It was really hard to see her go, but her daughter is only a couple of weeks old and obviously needs her mommy. It was good to see her. The one thing that hasn't changed in my life is where I live, and that I think is the last change I feel I have to make.


posted by Jeff | Friday, March 20, 2009, 4:52 AM | comments: 3

Vegas update

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 19, 2009, 6:00 PM | comments: 2

I haven't been blogging too much about what I've seen at the conference, because it has been pretty well documented in the press and what not.

I absolutely need to get out of this fucking building tonight, even if it's just to get some air. I've only been outside once, for a few minutes, since I got here Tuesday night. I don't need to go anywhere per se, but I'd be content enough to just be outside.

Tonight I get to meet up with Allison, who worked for me way back in 1999 to 2001 in the cable TV gig. After I left that gig, I missed her wedding, and then didn't even know she moved out here and had babies! That's so crazy. Facebook connected us again, so I suspect we'll have much to talk about. It was always tough at the time being friends and being her boss.

We had a fire alarm this morning at 6 a.m. I was not pleased.

Vegas is a strange place to be when you're by yourself. Normally, the excess and sin of the place compels you to either try to hook up with people or have a lot of gratuitous sex with your partner, and of course I can't do either.

I really like Palazzo over Venetian. Minimum bets are higher on everything, but it's nicer, has better music and is lighter. Regardless, I definitely want to stay elsewhere if we do in fact end up out here in November.

I'm starting to get brain rot. The density of information at this conference is very high. I'm about to go into another one that's really dense. I hope I can stay engaged.

I'm looking forward to going home though. I'm not fond of traveling alone. Everything is more fun when you have someone to share it with.

Keynote stage #mix09

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 12:50 PM | comments: 0

Safe in Vegas

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 18, 2009, 2:56 AM | comments: 0

I managed to get in early, and had enough time to pick up my registration junk. The swag is disappointing. I thought I read that they would have copies of Visual Studio Standard or something, but it's all marketing crap. And somehow they translated XL to small for the T-shirt.

Anyway, the BMG manager must have had the day off, because I didn't connect with him. I thought about buying a ticket, but decided against. I went over to Palazzo for video poker. I like the vibe there, and they play good music. Canadian guy next to me said some woman died on his flight in from Buffalo, and he was a little depressed. Lost forty bucks, but now am reasonably inebriated. And hungry. Fingers smell like limes.

I hate Vegas at first when I arrive alone. Then I settle in, enjoy the people watching, and soak in the fabulous. My room view kind of blows, in the Venezia tower with the back of Harrah's and Inferior Palace, but I still love the rooms here.

Looking forward to nerd stuff in the morning. And breakfast.

Pre-flight prep

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 1:41 PM | comments: 3

Leaving for anywhere in the late afternoon is weird. I hate arriving places later in the day because I feel like I'm losing out on something, especially when traveling east.

I've got stuff packed up and ready to go, traveling very light, because that's how I roll. I'm not that optimistic about getting to the hotel before 8 (flight arrives at 7:11), but that's when Mix registration closes. I'd like to get the swag and badge and such tonight so I don't have to screw around with it in the morning. I suppose I could make it if I haul ass straight there and then check in afterward.

The manager at Blue Man Group does still work there, or so says his voicemail. Obviously he wouldn't be there in the morning, but I left him a message. Maybe I'll score that free ticket. Even if I don't, heck, I'm tempted to just buy one. I feel like when you do stuff out on your own you owe it to yourself or something. That's why I see so many movies solo.

It looks like there aren't any sessions at Mix that I want to go to that are concurrent, which is absolutely a first. I've penciled in a couple of "placeholder" sessions that don't have descriptions because of stuff they intend to announce at the keynotes, which is silly because pretty much everyone knows what's coming (I'm not sure if I can say because of the NDA, even though I've heard it all third hand). Looks like an action packed conference.

At least it will still be light out when I get there, and best of all, I can wear shorts with it being 80 there and 60 here.

Must... stay... up...

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 12:43 AM | comments: 1

I'm hell bent on staying up as long as I can, hopefully to 2 a.m. I want to get a head start on Pacific time so I'm not dragging ass Wednesday afternoon. I have to take Diana to work early in the morning, but will return to sleep some more, get up, work from home for a bit, then pack up and get on the plane. Tomorrow night's goal: Stay up until midnight Pacific time.

Enough negativity

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 16, 2009, 11:06 AM | comments: 3

I had some messed up dreams last night, and already before 10 a.m. I've encountered enough negativity to last me a week.

Enough already.

Sports Night fest for the plane

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 16, 2009, 12:55 AM | comments: 2

I ripped the 14 episodes of Sports Night that I haven't watched yet to my laptop for airplane viewing. I strongly dislike flying cross-country because I get so bored and restless, but hopefully this will help. That's a little more than five hours, so there should be plenty for both directions.

I suck at changing time zones. I need some strategy to stay up as late as I can Tuesday night or I'll be up at 5am, starving and wanting a nap when the conference sessions start. I may call that FOH manager who refunded our tickets last year and take him up on the freebie if I can, for the 10 o'clock show. I hope he still works there.

Long-time refactor in the making

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 15, 2009, 8:56 PM | comments: 1

Refactoring is the process of iteratively changing code to clean it up or alter its function. Awhile ago, I started to think about what it would take to make a photo album, like those found on PointBuzz, work in a more abstract way that would allow it to serve up photos and other photo-like things. And by things I mean DeepZoom images (see Hard Rock Memorabilia).

This kind of thing is largely a solved problem if you consider the many object-oriented design patterns that every OOP'er should know. A mix of interfaces and factories make this something I've done before, like with different controls in an insurance interview, for example. But for some reason, this one troubled me and I couldn't execute what I knew I had to do. I probably restarted the project a half-dozen times, and I annoyed myself.

Tonight I finally got it to a pretty good place. It's not serving DeepZoom pieces yet, but I know that it's not hard to get there from here (not hard, but still time consuming). I ended up really throwing away much of what I had done and let go of the legacy I had.

This, by the way, is something I encounter frequently with my own projects. I get so tied down to what exists, because I want to reuse the data. I often try to conform to the data instead of conforming the data to the new paradigm. It's always easier to port the data. I got stuck on CoasterBuzz for the same reason last year, wanting to preserve the way the databases worked instead of just starting over and figuring out how to port the data.

I think I'm doomed to write the same apps over and over.

Experience: I haz it

posted by Jeff | Saturday, March 14, 2009, 1:26 PM | comments: 0

I was looking at my LinkedIn profile (which I don't think anyone actually uses) because they want to link to us from work (which I'm not comfortable with, and seems to put your people on the market, but whatever), and it occurs to me that I have an awful lot of experience.

I saw somewhere recently that it takes about ten years of doing something to be truly good at it, whether it's making music, working on cars or programming. Naturally that's a big point for me because I've been doing this programming thing for about ten years. I still feel that I have a great deal to learn, which is what turns me on about it.

All that said, if I look at my resume, I realize just how diverse and rich my experience is. It serves me every day at my current job. It serves others when I give them advice.

With my tendency lately to constantly question myself and my ability, I need to fall back on this. There's a pretty good story to tell, and a great deal from me to draw on regardless of what I do. Being down on myself is a mistake.

What happened to good and inexpensive restaurant food?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, March 14, 2009, 1:10 PM | comments: 3

When I think back to 1999 or so, I recall that Stephanie and I used to go to TGI Friday's pretty much once a week (before she went veggie). The menu was filled with pretty good stuff for the most part, and it was usually reasonable. But in the last few months, Diana and I have made several attempts at it, and it's all crappy microwaved and deep fried shit. It really sucks.

A lot of restaurants got that way. Maybe Applebees was always like that. Hell, there are a lot of chains that have sucked and disappeared in their entirety. Restaurants have a high failure rate, but why is it so hard to get it right?

Last night we went to the Winking Lizard, and it was packed. We go at least once a week. The food is solid and inexpensive. It's actually cooked, not microwaved. You can get baked potatoes. The menu is reasonably diverse, the beer line up is amazing and they have good desserts (if you can find room). This is a relatively local chain, but they recently expanded into Columbus as well.

The one here in town opened about a year ago, and several restaurants around town have come and gone since. It's not a complicated formula. Make good food, offer good service, make it nice enough to be reasonably comfortable. I wish there were more places like that.

Hawaii planning complete

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 13, 2009, 3:42 PM | comments: 2

I think I've now made every reservation and purchase I needed to relating to the wedding and honeymoon. I have clothes and a lot of plane tickets. My credit card is definitely tired. I'm a little stressed out at the amount of money I've spent (with some left for half of the Kauai stay and the rental cars), but at least the vast majority of it is paid off before the trip. That really helped me enjoy the Disney trip in November too. I forgot to factor in the cost of my ring, but that's more or less taken care of too. Fortunately my credit card is at 7.49%, so even if I don't pay it off quickly, it's not gonna ding me very hard.

No wedding favors, but you know, our favor is that if you got invited, you get to party on a fucking boat. :)

I'm thankful to be working, or I'd be taking on all kinds of debt. Admittedly the laptop purchase wasn't well timed, but whatever, I stuck with the same one for three years, which is unusual, and it's the primary tool for what I do for a living.

Next week is Mix, and I can't wait. Vegas makes me smile, even if it is completely ridiculous.

Want to engage, but brain is moving too slow for code

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 13, 2009, 12:08 AM | comments: 0

A couple of nights this week, I've been rewriting my photo app so it can accommodate regular photos as well as DeepZoom images or whatever else I come up with. Lots of abstracting interfaces and refactoring. I know that it shouldn't be hard, and I feel like I'm on a pretty good track now, but my brain is just unwilling to match my enthusiasm.

But it's getting there. Last night I cranked out creating albums and subalbums, navigation, uploading a single photo and displaying it. The tricky part is the counting of images of various types even though they live in the same album.

Chickened out

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 12, 2009, 11:26 PM | comments: 0

For the first time I ever, I chickened out of jumping in the hot tub. I was already cold, and that two step walk from the door to the tub seemed too cold endure.

Randi on TV

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 12, 2009, 11:23 PM | comments: 0

She's all about face time for business travel...

Cross-eyed street kitteh

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 12, 2009, 4:42 PM | comments: 0

There's a cross-eyed, white street kitteh at my window. I've seen him before. At first I thought he was blind with cataracts, but it turns out he's just got very light blue eyes and the pupil doesn't sit well between the lids. I took a picture of him once and deleted it because it creeped me out.

I feel bad for stray cats, but I also have four cats, so I have no desire to "save" another.

Live video itch

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 12, 2009, 12:56 PM | comments: 0

I was screwing around last night watching TWiT Live and thought, wow, that's pretty cool. I'd like to do that. Perhaps seeing me and Gonch in video form isn't the most compelling thing ever for the podcast, but it would be fun.

As best I can tell, Leo is outputting each Skype video frame to a scan converter (full screen) and feeding those outputs to his Tricaster switcher. That means his Skype machine is doing at least five video outputs (probably three dual-head video cards). That part would be relatively cheap. It's the video switching that's not cheap. It would be super cool to have a Tricaster, but I don't think that would be a good use of money. Not unless I suddenly get 200 new CoasterBuzz Club members above and beyond the existing members.

I miss doing live TV.

Wedding favor fail

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 12, 2009, 10:32 AM | comments: 3

I'm so annoyed. I wanted to get cheap USB drives as wedding favors, and put some tunes, photos and video on them of us. So of course none of the bulk sellers have actual prices on their sites, so you have to get quotes. Every last one of them quoted me prices that were higher than retail! Do they think I'm an idiot?

I know they can be had for three bucks for a gig. I can find them in a few places for $3.50, which is close enough, but they ship on a per-item basis so the savings is lost.

Success and an "inherently satisfying" process

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 5:59 PM | comments: 0

Two gems to share...

From Jeff Atwood:

But on some level, success is irrelevant, because the process is inherently satisfying. Waking up every day and doing something you love -- even better, surrounded by a community who loves it too -- is its own reward. Despite being a metric ton of work.

And from 37signals:

So stop thinking that you can’t get there because you don’t have a huge audience already. Start building that audience today. Start getting people interested in what you have to say. Then in a few years time you’ll get to chuckle about your overnight success as well.

Message to the .NET world: Seriously, the UX does matter

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 11, 2009, 3:34 PM | comments: 0

The new gig I started in December as the company's technical architect ("technical" to make the distinction that it's not "information architect") has been an interesting experience for me thus far. My experience at was excellent in so many ways, because the processes were entirely solid and my peers were rock stars without the ego. Getting laid-off from there sucked, but it also presented an opportunity to find something where I could lead processes and have that "enterprise" experience applied to a place that needs it.

My new employer has been primarily a creative marketing endeavor for most of its history, and app development has been a smaller part of their business. Appropriately, their processes around development, QA and deployment were a lot less structured than I was used to, so my initial goals were to mitigate risk and decrease costs in every area I could while leading the overall technical direction of new projects. As you might expect, there are a lot of cultural challenges to deal with.

But I did hit most of my goals in the first three months, including the establishment of coding standards, good source control, continuous integration, solid libraries and code reviews. I'm really happy with the way the team pulled together and bought in to what we were doing.

So what does this have to do with the title of this post? Being a largely creative agency means that people spend a lot more time thinking about how to make things functional and visually attractive. This has really influenced me a great deal, and I didn't expect that. It's like the classic comparison where people say that Windows was written by engineers for engineers (see any of Vista's copy confirm dialogs, if you need an example), while OS X was written by engineers for their grandmothers. The user experience matters. Working for a company rooted in design, I've really come to appreciate that.

No where does this become more apparent than in the various communities that surround the .NET ecosystem. We're surrounded by poorly thought out, and often ugly, implementations of all kinds of stuff. For example, in the official ASP.NET forums, you can click the button to subscribe to a thread for e-mail notifications. But here's the catch... you might not actually ever hear from the site. That's because the poorly organized user control panel has a switch to turn it off. So subscribing to a thread doesn't really subscribe you to it. There's no indication or clue that what you just did didn't actually do anything.

I think we have some incredibly awesome tools to work with in the .NET world. I mean seriously, every day I thank God for Visual Studio (not to say it doesn't have its quirks), ReSharper, anonymous types, Cruise Control .NET, and now, the MVC framework. It blows my mind that we have so much power at our finger tips to deliver really great stuff. But in the case of the poor design that I just mentioned, there are actually people who spend time being apologists for this kind of thing. They'll go as far as justify the design and chalk it up to some user issue. Are you kidding?

Yes, I can be a gear head too, but come on, my .NET brothers and sisters, we have to do better than this. We need to pay better attention to how we design our interaction with humans. I see all of this stuff built on Rails or PHP that is just so entirely slick and easy to use, and it really has nothing to do with the back end, except that the developers in those spaces seem to pay more attention to the front end design. Dependency injection is a fascinating thing to talk about with very obvious benefits, but at the end of the day, if your app is hard to use or sucks in some other way, it won't mean anything that you can manage and alter the app easily because no one is using it anyway.

The user experience matters. Stop ignoring it.

One ring... now it feels real

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 1:41 PM | comments: 2

I got my wedding ring today from Amazon (did I mention that platinum is crazy expensive now?). It feels really real now.

It fits OK, feeling slightly loose, but it doesn't slide off at all. It's incredibly strange to put that thing on. I've always liked the idea of what it represents, and the public nature of it.

And it makes me realize that being married is pretty cool. That's important for me because there's a part of me that still feels like getting married is the first step in getting divorced. That's my damage, I guess.

Three and a half weeks to go...

There's not enough time in the day

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 10, 2009, 11:28 AM | comments: 2

This 37signals post about people who complain that there isn't enough time in the day to do [whatever] kind of hurts because there's truth in his argument. If you can't find the time, you probably don't want it bad enough.

When you look at it in that light, you question your character and values, you know?

My time issue is that I love to do other stuff that's just entirely fun. I can't relate to people who are constantly chasing something.


posted by Jeff | Monday, March 9, 2009, 12:24 AM | comments: 2

We saw Watchmen today, and I've gotta say, I think it lives up to the hype. The original comics are credited with establishing the medium as genuine literature, and were a precursor for all of the dark and scary comic-come-movie things we see out there.

I've not read the comic, only the press that talks about it, so I can't say how faithful it was (and I'm not sure I should care, but I did order the book). What I did see was a lot of powerful themes in the movie about the value of life, namely our disrespect for it, and the failure of our leaders and "super heroes" to execute on the things we hope for. Written during the Reagan era and the cold war, I can see where the motivation comes from. More than anything, to me at least, it asks of the ends justify the means when hard decisions must be made.

Visually, the movie is pretty stunning. It doesn't go the route of "comic realism" that Sin City went, and actually draws a believable, if alternate, reality. It isn't too stylized for the sake of being stylized, but I wonder if some of the momentary slow motion moments were there to pay homage to the comic. Like the one scene from the trailer, where Laurie (the female lead) turns and that beautiful, long straight hair with the bangs turns and moves as she dodges a fireball. (As an aside, that hair moves in excellent ways throughout the movie.) It's just little details and textures all over the place that make it pop.

There are some parts that are exceptionally violent too, almost to the point of distraction. I don't know if that was to keep it true to the comic, but sometimes not showing it would be better.

Overall, I really liked it. I wasn't sure what to expect. But I think it's important to note that there probably would be no Batman movies had it not been for the comic Watchmen.

Rocket video

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 8, 2009, 11:48 AM | comments: 1

I'm still not thrilled at the high shutter speed on that little camera because it makes everything look like it should be in The Fast and The Furious. And when you put it in manual for a slower speed, it doesn't pull down the iris to compensate.

Rocket man (and woman)

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 8, 2009, 3:30 AM | comments: 3

This morning we headed out to the park in the next town to launch the two rockets I bought two weeks ago. Diana had never seen this go down, so it was all new for her. And man was it muddy.

I bought a kit because it came with a pad and launcher and two rockets that were relatively quick to build. The big one had plastic fins and it was just a matter of gluing it into the tube. The smaller one had foamy cardboard fins, so those required actual glue.

We set up the pad in the outfield of a baseball field, which seemed like enough room given my teen experiences. We fired off the big one first. It was a reasonably impressive launch because of the size. The wind really caught the parachute and it floated far, far away. In fact, it took it the field just to the north over the trees, as I would find later. I expected it would be gone.

I used the slightly weaker engine included in the kit for the smaller one. That was much more impressive, surprisingly, perhaps because it was so light. We saw the engine eject, and the little orange streamer was reasonably easy to track. It too went way north over the trees, and I expected it would be gone as well.

Surprisingly, I recovered them both. I had no idea that the adjacent ball fields were there, or the big sled hill. Now that I'm aware of those, I think next time I'll go plant myself out in the sled hill area. It's strange, because I used to launch those in a baseball field near my house bordered by a school and housing, and I never lost a rocket. I came damn close to losing them this time.

Auto show

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 8, 2009, 2:56 AM | comments: 5

We went to the Cleveland Auto Show last night. Yeah, that's pretty odd because I could generally give a shit about cars. But it's one of those things that goes on in Cleveland every year, and it just seemed like it was something we should do instead of bitching about how Cleveland sucks.

I have to say, when you walk around that floor, it's not hard to see why the big three are sucking ass and looking for a bail out. They can't even get colors right. Walking through the Chevy area was like looking at the part of your crayon box with all of the sharp points, because you'd never use those colors. That, and everything they seem to develop is just ugly. I used to think that Chrysler was at least having a go of it, but there isn't much interesting to see there either. Saturn is the one wing of GM that seems to at least get how to build cars, but apparently they're one of the divisions that they want to sell or kill.

In the luxury car realm, yes, I'm generally not that interested in any of them. I've been in the income bracket for some time where I suppose I could have one if I wanted to, but why? I don't take care of my cars, and it just seems like a waste if your car payment is anything over $300 (or your down payment is more than $10k). I have to say that I have a certain weak spot for some of the BMW's though. I'm fond of one of the convertibles in particular, and the fuel economy isn't totally offensive.

We were pretty disturbed to hear parents talking about buying their kids Scions as we looked at those. Toyota has really managed to nail down a niche with the teenage fast/furious crowd, but they seem so plastic and cheap on the inside.

Smart was there, and wow are those things odd. They're also crazy expensive, and you're only getting 41 mpg despite the size (real life can be closer high 40's, they say). But $18k? I can get a Corolla fully loaded for that much, with room for other people and stuff, and probably get around 40 mpg.

I still have a soft spot for the Mini. Almost bought one in 2005/6, just because.

My hope, of course, was that Toyota would have an actual 2010 Prius, and they did. And it was locked up and you couldn't touch it. Bummer. But I will say that the changes, while subtle, make it more attractive, and as much as I don't care about cars, I really want one. It's pretty much a gadget in my eyes, just like a sweet computer or camera or something, only you drive it. They're supposed to start appearing in dealerships late May or so. With a tax credit and forecast soft auto sales, I may very well consider getting one later in the year. Depends on how much I enjoy not having a car payment.

It was a fun distraction, and now we can say that we've been to an auto show.

Prius porn

posted by Jeff | Saturday, March 7, 2009, 12:10 AM | comments: 0

No fake-n-bake for me

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 5, 2009, 11:12 PM | comments: 0

Diana decided that, despite her fair-skinned redheadedness, she wanted to get a little faux sun so she didn't burn in Hawaii. Since I've known her, I've never seen her burn, only get slightly red and with a certain amount of color in the face (and freckles, of course). She can in fact get quasi tan with gradual sun, so she's doing a few minutes at a time here and there fake tanning.

I entertained doing this myself, because I'm just an outright burner. But I've decided against it, because this is, after all, an act of slowly burning your skin on purpose. I'm just not comfortable with that. Even with sunblock on, I'm not going to get any less sun on the islands, so my total exposure will be higher, and I don't want that.

I think what I will do is not use SPF 5000 or whatever I normally use, so I come back at least looking like I went to the tropics, but again, I'd rather be careful. The last thing I want to do is find a big lumpy mole on my nose or something a month later that's actually cancer. And, God forbid, I might even wear a hat.

iPod battery replacement: Not so easy, actually

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 5, 2009, 11:02 PM | comments: 0

I ordered one of those $20 battery replacement kits for my 5th generation (video) iPod that I bought in the fall of 2005. I'm not sure why I bought it other than I thought it was amazing that something so small could play video. Who knew I'd take that for granted after scoring an iPhone almost two years later.

Anyway, the battery was toast, because it has spent most of the time sitting on an Altec-Lansing speaker rig next to my bed. That's not particularly good for those batteries. You have to "exercise" them from time to time, and let them drain entirely. That, and I'm not sure the charging circuits are the smartest from that generation of technology.

The kit I bought was like any other, with the nylon tools to try and split the thing open. That did not go well. I couldn't penetrate the crack (that's what she said!), so not caring that much about the cosmetic appearance of it, I used a small screwdriver. That did get it started, but it wasn't separating the way it looked in the photos. Normally the innards stay attached to the top, not the metal enclosure. But it was coming open like that.

By the time I got it open, I realized that I had ripped the innards from the top, which was held on by small screws. That ended up not being a big deal, as there was enough of the screw mount holes left to reattach, but the latches that held on to the metal part were toast in places. The culprit, once I got it open, was that one of the rubber cushions for the hard drive was not secured well, and created a mess of stuckness that prevented me from getting it open the right way.

In any case, the old battery was bulging. A lot. That explains why the screen had a dark spot in it, because the battery was pressing against it. Lithium-ion batteries that bloat tend to catch fire, right?

So any way, I got it back together, and it looks like everything is functional. The replacement battery is actually of a higher capacity than the original, so the battery life is probably something like 15 hours for audio. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite close up entirely, but again, it's not really ever going to get hard core use. It may live in my car eventually.

The Falkirk Wheel

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 5, 2009, 1:06 PM | comments: 1

This is pretty neat, if a bit geeky...

Sore all over, inside and out

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 4, 2009, 10:33 PM | comments: 1

After last week's accident, my ankles are both like rainbows, if rainbows were ugly and had more in common with black holes. By Saturday, I was walking pretty normally after I'd get up and move around a little.

Now I'm finding myself just being sore, in the ankles and the knees. It really didn't seem like that big of a deal when I did it, but clearly I bent my legs in all kinds of ways that I shouldn't. That kind of scares the hell out of me, because I've not generally subjected my body to any degenerative injuries before, and that shit doesn't get easier as you get older.

The timing blows. I was just starting to get motivated to at least be a little more active, frankly doing anything, even walking, and now it just doesn't feel good to be on my feet for long periods of time.

I find myself being sore inside, too. I find myself feeling very melancholy. I think I know some of the reasons, and I'm not fond of talking about them. Part of the reason is that I don't think they're particularly good reasons, and I've spent a lot of time lately not finding worth in what I feel, which is total bullshit (and perpetuates issues of self loathing).

I'm feeling emotionally intense in general lately. On one hand, it makes you feel very alive, but it also leaves you prone to breakage. I feel like I need a good laugh or cry or something, just to break the tension of stress and my constant brain churning. I know it's normal, given that I'm about to do one of those top five most stressful life events (marriage) which reminds me of another one (divorce) and I fairly recently had another of the five (job change). I'm fortunate that Diana gives me a little room to be neurotic now and then.

For now, I need to put that ice on the other ankle...

Crazy impressed with new laptop

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 10:44 PM | comments: 1

I'm really impressed with the new laptop (and for what it costs, I suppose one should). I was just shy of using the other one for three straight years, but as we speak, the old one is getting a fresh install so Diana can use it. Even at three, it's still a lot easier to use than her newer Vista Dell.

The thing that impressed me immediately is how solid it is. I've picked up and twisted the 13" and 15" models in the store, but I guess I still felt that the 17" just "had" to feel less solid. But it doesn't at all, it feels exactly the same. I give Apple a lot of credit for going to this machined solid block of aluminum. It makes a huge difference.

Also impressive was the migration app that pulls all of your junk over the wire from your old comprooder. It apparently is even smart enough to set the ethernet port to cross-over. Nice. It took a little over an hour to move the 50 gigs worth of junk, and when it was done, everything (mostly) worked as it did before. My browsing history and bookmarks were all there, all of the apps I installed, etc. Even keyboard preferences made it over. It was even smart enough not to copy over older versions of iPhone and such. The only pain was the serial numbers, having to re-enter them for the pro apps, and having to deactivate CS3 before activating it on the new one.

No heat issues at all. Fans idle silently at 2000 rpm, and there are no hot spots. Screen is beautiful. Four-finger swiping to activate Expose is sweet. Parallels screams giving it 2 of the 4 gigs to work with. Keyboard is a huge improvement. The size isn't nearly as troublesome as I worried it might be.

The battery, man, I don't even know what to make of that. I'm running in the better performance mode, using the better video processor, screen at full brightness, keyboard lights on, and it looks like it'll easily do five hours on a single charge. My guess is that you can easily get six or seven if you back off. I know Apple says eight, but honestly, I was hoping for five or more, and that seems easily achievable.

I suppose I'll post more after I use it, but at this point I'm not honestly expecting much to be different than what I've experienced for the last three years.

The electric sex has arrived

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 10:56 AM | comments: 5

The three questions no one asks whilst sucking off Skittles

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 12:05 AM | comments: 1

So yeah, got turned into a bunch of social media nonsense, with a Twitter search as its home page (filled with male enhancement spam), Flickr photos and Wikipedia pages. Self-appointed pundits are sucking off the "genius" behind this and completely ignoring the fact that it has been done before. More importantly, they're ignoring what I consider the three critical criteria for success.

1) Does it in fact move product?
People who spend all of their time online seem to forget that real-world products require money to be purchased, and that material goods can't get high valuations based on "eye balls." So I ask you, does this Skittles nonsense actually generate sales? My guess is, not likely, but only because curious social media addicts aren't going to all run to the store to buy a bag.

2) Is the company genuinely engaging in a conversation?
Of course they're not. This isn't the Comcast cable guy or Paula at Holiday World. In fact, they're not actually contributing anything. They completely ignore who they want to reach and where those people hang out. They're not building good will or giving people a reason to do anything but spam their "home page" with naughty words.

3) Are they executing in a way that doesn't smell like advertising?
No audience is as fickle as the online audience. It's a silly advertising stunt, and a week from now, no one will care. In fact, it'll be even easier to spam once the excitement dies down. Twelve hours later, The Bachelor, a shitty TV show, has overtaken it in popularity.

Some apologists will undoubtedly say "good try" or whatever, but get real. This took no flash of brilliance or heavy thought process to execute. It took some balls, sure, but does that meet any of the three criteria for success?

Now I have to go spam the site with a link to this post.

Get a hobby!

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 2, 2009, 12:15 AM | comments: 2

Many years ago, Stephanie suggested to me that I needed a hobby. I never really understood why she insisted that was the case. I mean, I liked running my silly Web sites and coaching volleyball and such. Those were my hobbies. At the time, she was trying all kinds of new things, like soap making, knitting and such. In retrospect, I have to give her a lot of credit for trying a great many things.

But I felt like I was pretty balanced out. Coaching in particular was such an intense thing, and I had to balance that out or I'd go nuts. These days, I don't have coaching, and I miss it like crazy. Even at my most tweaked out, I had the joy of it all.

So I get it in my head that I'm going to stick to my programming hobby more, which is hard because it's my day job too. And then I disappoint myself when I don't spend more time on it, because the entrepreneur in me isn't achieving. But then lately I've been thinking about the balance thing, and when I go back to ancient blog posts about coaching, working and doing other stuff, it always came back to balance.

My desire last weekend to build model rockets, that came out of the need for balance. And this weekend, I built those rockets. When seeing the TV reports about the auto show, I thought, I've never been to one, why don't we go? So hopefully we'll do that next weekend. There are all of these things I talk about and never act on, so like the movie Yes Man, I find myself more willing to do stuff I haven't really done.

And you know what the interesting side effect of that is? When I do get back to things like programming and coding for *Buzz, I really enjoy it and get into it. I don't get burned out or set expectations for myself to do more. I'm just able to be.

So Steph's advice was actually pretty good, even if I didn't feel like it applied to me at the time. When I line it up in the context of trying to balance myself out, it totally makes sense.

Less sad ads

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 1, 2009, 7:15 PM | comments: 0

Ad revenue in February ended up to its highest level since October, which isn't saying much, but at least it's up and not down. Pretty good spike in traffic as well, which is also a bonus. CPM's fizzled out the last few days, but it was still a decent month.

I've gotta wonder where ad revenue is headed. Certainly newspapers can't support themselves on it, which is unfortunate, but for low overhead operations like mine, I wish I knew what the next year had in store. I'm thankful for the CoasterBuzz Club, because without it, I would've tossed this stuff years ago. That's surprisingly steady.

Some of my SEO efforts that came with the CB relaunch have helped a great deal. While I still can't seem to crack the top 20 for common terms like "roller coasters" on Google, I get a ton of traffic from odd searches like specific park names or specific news events. That long-tail effect has really helped out. Unfortunately, the quality of my inbound links kinda sucks, but I have some ideas around that.

Hopefully the summer won't be as bad as people seem to guess it might be in terms of ads.

Love Sports Night!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 1, 2009, 2:05 PM | comments: 0

Diana got me Sports Night on DVD for Christmas, and I just started watching the season 2 discs. Have I mentioned that show is awesome? Why is it that so many of the really good shows (like Wonderfalls, among others) get canned before their time?

The writing is so awesome, and surprisingly intense for a show squeezed into 22 minutes. Love it. The cast is pretty amazing too. I forgot William H. Macy was in it second season. Felicity Huffman (married to Macy) is, dare I say it, damn sexy in that show.

I'm still surprised at how relatively accurate the show is/was to real TV, although because of that it irritates me when something isn't right, like the fact that they don't actually have teleprompters on the cameras. Still nothing quite like creating live TV. I miss the opportunity to do that.