Archive: July, 2009

Fascinating use of HD

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 31, 2009, 9:32 PM | comments: 0

With all of the noise about digital TV and high definition, the truth is that outside of sports, I'm not sure you get a lot of real use out of higher resolution video. Most stuff just isn't that interesting to look at.

I suppose that's why the BBC's Earth series has been such a good seller in the HD formats (RIP, HD-DVD). The more that I see in high definition, the more I see that documentary stuff is the most interesting. Like tonight, there was a show on Discovery HD Theater about the building, testing and launching of a destroyer. The detail in the welding, threading on bolts and the texture of steel surfaces all feel very life-like in HD. That's good stuff.

Regroup and refocus kind of day

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 31, 2009, 12:42 AM | comments: 0

I slept horribly last night, with the brain just working non-stop in an incoherent mess of noise. That's not fun at all. I tried to stick to the wake-up time, but I don't think I started to get any quality sleep until 3:30 or so. Diana didn't do her usual goodbye kiss this morning and left a note, because she said I seemed to sleeping hard whilst thrashing about (she left a cute note).

So once up and about, I backed off. I did some leisure reading, took a nap and spent just a couple of hours learning more and refining the little feed app I mentioned yesterday. I figured out how to do a little animation to load up the settings pane, which is fun.

I spent some time assessing what I was up to. I'm unhappy with the time I've spent on the new site (same story for the last year, right?), but happy with the body of knowledge I'm attaining. The ad tweaking on the sites is paying off (though it's streaky on PointBuzz for some reason), and I'm a little less worried about money for now.

And the real kicker is that I've got some job leads. One is a local small consulting firm, which is a little hard to measure. Another is a buttload of contracting work from another former ICOM'er in California. Not sure yet what he's got in mind. It seems like things are starting to loosen up again in terms of jobs, but it still mostly sucks here Northeast Ohio.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to really, really want to go to IAAPA just to cover it. The big motivation now is that one of the backstage tours are for the Blue Man show, which is pretty hard to resist. I'm going to start looking into some sponsorship arrangements and see if I can figure something out. It wouldn't take much, relatively speaking.

Looking forward to some movies coming out. Haven't had a good afternoon out in awhile!

Web Site Story

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 30, 2009, 1:14 PM | comments: 0

Love the part about eHarmony...

See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

Im in ur dock getin ur buzz updaits!!!11!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 30, 2009, 11:50 AM | comments: 0

It's pretty cool that there's a nice dock icon for the OOB app...

Science project revealed: CoasterBuzz Feed

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 30, 2009, 12:15 AM | comments: 0

CoasterBuzz Feed screen shotI started a little science project for CoasterBuzz about a week ago or so. I wanted to build a little Silverlight app that sucked down updates of all kinds, and make it live outside the browser. There are constantly new posts, topics, news items and photos hitting the site, and anything that encourages people to keep coming back is a good thing. It's not a giant community, but big enough that people like to be involved as much as possible, even if they're "readonly" types.

As it turns out, the back end of the project was more interesting to me, as I built a mini-framework that publishes events via any number of publishing services. In this case there's only one, a database writer, but I could just as easily pop in a Twitter publisher or Facebook publisher or what have you. Yay for extensibility and loose coupling!

As far as the Silverlight app itself goes, there are some things that bring me great joy:

  • The effects and projection stuff are a nice addition. You can add just a little extra polish to the app with these.
  • Support for Binary XML in a WCF call is easy. See previous post.
  • I'm thrilled that the app, at 500-ish lines of code, is relatively small, around 55k. That's smaller than many of the photos on the site.
  • Building feels faster. Admittedly, I've not measure this.
  • Isolated storage is so ridiculously easy, especially if you use the built-in ApplicationSettings collection for small stuff.
  • Auto-updating for out-of-browser is pretty cool (though I wish there was a method to restart the app).
  • Out-of-browser experience is very streamlined for the user.
  • Resource use OOB doesn't seem too bad for this little thing. CPU never goes over 2%, and it's consuming about 35 MB of memory on the Mac. That's not bad considering it has to run in a sandboxed host on top of a runtime and framework. A native app like Adium (which admittedly does a heck of a lot more) uses about 45 MB in OS X.
  • OOB window resizing shows just how awesome Silverlight/WPF layout works, without all of the work from the bad old days of Windows Forms.

I've got all kinds of frustrations too. Here are some of them:

  • Blend 3 seems to take hours to load, and then it frequently doesn't work. For example, I have a UserControl that inherits from a base class, and Blend can't load the base type. That's ten times as annoying since there's no designer in VS2008.
  • That you need Blend at all is annoying. "Wait for VS2010" is not a solution when you want to build stuff today. Making a tool for designers was a really good idea. Artificially forcing the separation on developers was not. Worse, it appears the MSDN subscribers at mid-levels don't get Blend anymore, and that sucks with the aforementioned lack of a designer.
  • No GIF support. OK, perhaps I should have RTFM'd, but I couldn't understand why my image was coming down the wire and not appearing.
  • Documentation in some places leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, there's a MouseWheel event now, but what do you do with the delta value returned? It took the 50th result in a Google search to figure that one out. Oh, and it's frustrating that the scrolling doesn't work in OOB on a Mac. I assume the bootstrapper is platform specific, so what's the deal? It does work in-browser, I think.
  • No compile-time checking of XAML for rogue attribute values. Accidentally slip an extra character in that Width attribute? You won't find it until runtime. That concerns me in all kinds of ways.
  • How is this for weird: With virtually any control, you can use HorizontalAlignment="Stretch" to make the thing fill the space it has. So I drop a Grid inside of a HyperlinkButton, and it doesn't fill the space, meaning right-aligned text isn't at the right. I pulled my hair out on this for way too long. Finally, by accident, I noticed that HyperlinkButton has a property called HorizontalContentAlignment. Sure enough, set it to Stretch, and you're good. Why the strange one-off, inconsistent behavior?
  • Debugging is still... weird. While I can hit break points, why can't exceptions hit in the debugger? Piping them out to the browser blows because you can't inspect the state of anything.
  • Out-of-browser debugging is a pain. You can attach to the bootstrapping app that hosts it, but you have to do it manually. It feels like everything for OOB is a little half-baked in terms of tooling, and I'm hoping that VS2010 is better.
  • It'd be nice if the OOB app could remember window position and size.
  • Using a base class for UserControls requires awkward XAML.

All of that said, I do dig Silverlight. Most of my frustrations come from the somewhat uncoordinated release schedules. I love that they're iterating quickly, but the tooling has to catch up. I know we don't have much longer to wait. I'll post the general link to check out this app after I've done some refining. Right now it's available to paid subscribers to try out.

Science project going well, taking longer than expected

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 11:45 AM | comments: 0

That science project I mentioned awhile back is finally coming together, though it has taken much longer than I expected. I'm using one technology I've not used before (WCF) and one that I'm still a little green on (Silverlight), and features that are so new that they're barely documented (out-of-browser). I've spent about 30 hours on it.

At first that makes me think, holy crap, that comes at the expense of the new site project, but there's a less obvious benefit here. I'm getting up to speed on new stuff that is not widely being used, and hopefully differentiating myself in the process. There is always a gamble with learning new tech, but given the advantages of these technologies (and the Olympics again), I think it's a pretty safe bet.

Bill Shatner does Sarah Palin

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 12:51 PM | comments: 0

This guy kicks ass every chance he gets...

Coder Girl

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 12:42 PM | comments: 0

Something for the code monkeys... "Feels like my first 'Hello World!'" (For the record, I don't think these girls exist. At least, not anywhere I've worked.)

Back in a groove

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 27, 2009, 10:51 PM | comments: 0

I settled into a pretty solid work groove today, fortunately. The weekend was pretty much a wash-out in terms of doing any work, as D-n-Me were mostly doing a lot of relaxing together. Plus we had NASA and the show.

Things always go a little better when I get out on the bike first thing in the morning, although today I had a lot on my mind about what I wanted to accomplish, so I did an unimpressive three miles and ran home. From there I did my weekly BWW run, where I did some reading on domain-driven design and its applicability to ASP.NET MVC (gripping stuff, I know). Back home, I finally got into writing code for my science project, which is fundamentally functional. I'm gonna try and bang out a little spit shine on it and get it up on the site and see what the early adopters can do with it.

I'm trying to let go of my anxiety. It gets in the way of me acting on solutions that address the causes of the anxiety, and that's not productive. My personal therapy is good music, exposure to sun and a concerted effort to just spend a half-hour each day relaxing.

A few weeks from now I think I'll feel better about a great many things.

Physical manifestation of anxiety

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 27, 2009, 12:48 AM | comments: 0

I think I mentioned fairly recently that I've been suffering from some crippling anxiety. The reasons many, most of which I've not blogged about, and likely won't for some time. Suffice it to say that I'm tweaked out.

A couple of days ago, the anxiety began to physically manifest itself as an itchy rash. Weirdest thing I've ever seen. It hasn't been as bad the last two days, but then I had an incident today with one of the cats biting me and that sent me into a fury that I think made it worse again.

The worst thing about the anxiety is that the root causes are largely things I either can't control, shouldn't fear or otherwise let go of. This is a transformational year in so many ways for me, and I don't think I'm keeping up with the changes very well. I'm not adapting, and it frustrates me because I want most of the change, and there are even bigger changes that I still want.

I really want to restore my laid-back self.

Hooray! Beth and Tyler bought bikes

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 26, 2009, 7:45 PM | comments: 5

See here. And she got a Cannondale too... sweet. They were easily the first to do the most with aluminum.

If you guys are looking for a rack, the Saris Bones 2 is flipping amazing. You can mount that thing on any car, van or SUV. It's so ridiculously sturdy and solid and elegantly simple. My local shop recently had them on sale for $99. When you go where bikers park, I can guarantee that nine out of ten of the racks will be this one (or the 3-bike model).

NASA Visitor Center a shadow of its former self

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 26, 2009, 6:21 PM | comments: 0

We headed out to our local NASA facility to drop by the visitor center. My dad and grandfather used to take us there when we were kids, and I used to love getting the Space Shuttle cut-out glider to make when I got home.

They still have the gliders (now with printed on them), but the place is a sad shadow of what it used to be. Start with just entering the facility. There are concrete barriers around the entrance, as well as all around the buildings on the north side of the street. You have to be a US citizen, and they have to search your car before you can roll up to the visitor center. That's a sad reflection of things. They give you a pass, which you in turn have to give to the receptionist at the center, and they radio over that you're on your way.

Of course, the place seemed bigger when I was a kid (true of all the museums in Cleveland), and part of that is because it was. They had a balcony area with additional exhibits at one time, which is probably office space or something now. Half of the exhibits didn't work, placards were peeling... it was just sad overall. Their crown jewel is still the capsule from a Skylab mission (I doubt many kids even know what Skylab was), and they also have a moon rock.

I don't understand the feelings ranging from apathy to "waste of money" toward NASA. Not spending money on scientific endeavors strikes me as a huge strategic mistake, especially when the expenditures pale in comparison to other things. Military and homeland have 40 times NASA's budget. Social programs have 100 times. The cost of a robotic flight to take pictures of Jupiter won't buy even one stealth bomber. The return on investment for space exploration and scientific experimentation in space is exponentially higher, yet the budget for it is exponentially lower.

I'm not convinced that we necessarily have to put a human being on Mars, although doing so would have an incredible effect on the morale of our nation, and perhaps the world, as the moon landing did. I bet you can do much of the same things with machines. But either way, when I look at all of the things I do on a daily basis, I'm surprised at how many of them were in some way affected by space travel. Every piece of electronics, the materials and manufacturing of my bike, the materials that make up my couch, my video camera... you could make quite a list.

I really hope that it becomes a priority again. Relative to everything else the feds spend money on, I think there's far greater return on space.

Dealing with psycho douchebags

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 26, 2009, 2:25 PM | comments: 0

Diana forwarded me a post by a knitting blogger/author that she reads, where essentially she tells the tale of a psycho making her life miserable, for no other reason than she has a popular blog. I think she dignified the nut job a little too much by responding as much as she did, but I can understand the desire to try to rationalize and make nice first.

After more than ten years of doing this online thing, I sure can sympathize with her. Even today, there are whackos out there who spend a scary amount of time worrying about what I say, what I think and come up with all kinds or extrapolations about who they think I am. In a way, it makes me sad that people spend so much time defining their lives over stuff like this.

I've tried to make my Web sites less personality driven, because I think the community's personality as a whole is more important. But because you run the joint, you inevitably get more attention for doing the same thing that every other member of your community does in terms of contributing to discussion. That's annoying. Someone inevitably tries to make it about you.

But really, can I be surprised? The Internet has been rolling like that for awhile. Whether it's some attention whoring blogger or narcissistic YouTube poster, a great many "micro celebrities" make it their wish to be the focus. Hell, we've got attention whores even among coaster enthusiasts on the Internet. It's no wonder that there are people who want you to be the focus of whatever it is you care enough about to build a Web site around.

With personal blogs, obviously you want them to be about your personality, and I don't think that's a bad thing. Personality doesn't automatically imply a desire for attention. I write my blog because I like to write. The knitter likes to share stories of knitting as well as her life. (And she's Canadian... honestly, who would fuck with the Canadians? They're among the nicest people I've ever met.) I'm down with that. But what compels a person to harass someone for what she writes about knitting, roller coasters or even basket weaving?

Ten years ago, I would take things personally and become really upset when someone said nasty things to me, typically as an anonymous coward. That's the worst dimension of it, that people hide behind anonymity as if it empowers them in some fashion. (And by the way, you're not really anonymous on the Internet, trust me.) Really, it just defines you as an even more pathetic human being. I may say things people don't like, call people out for bullshit, or whatever, but I always do it as myself with my name on it, and I'm willing to deal with the consequences of that.

Ultimately, all you can do is blow off these people, and avoid dignifying their stupidity with a response. 99.99% of the people you interact with online are pretty solid people. You can't let the other fraction bring you down.

Blog on, Yarn Harlot...

Mary Poppins

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 25, 2009, 12:59 AM | comments: 1

One of Diana's college classmates plays Mr. Banks in the touring company of Mary Poppins, so we went to see it tonight. The music is not my favorite thing in the "Disney Vault," but I do remember having the soundtrack on vinyl when I was a kid. I don't think I've seen the movie in 25 years.

Disney doesn't screw around with their theatrical shows, that's for sure. Of course, the first thing I'm interested in is the technical side, and the show was tight, start to finish. The scenery was relatively straight forward and I loved the lighting and effects. It really complimented the costumes too. Even with the flying, the tech was never outright distracting.

The performances were all pretty solid, and I was particularly surprised by the kids. The actress playing Mary could have been Julie Andrews, as she sounded perhaps even better than her.

The highlight of the show was easily the dance number around "Step in Time." It was everything that makes you like musicals. Huge number of dancers on the stage, lots of tap, and an actor who literally tapped his way around the proscenium. You don't see that every day. Thunderous response from the audience on that one.

The actual adaptation was OK I think. One of the new songs definitely added a slightly darker side to the end of the first act. They could've ditched the butler character. Other than that, I don't remember a lot about the movie. The bottom line is that it was pretty entertaining, and very accessible to a range of ages. The kids seemed to love it.

And by the way, the kids were very well behaved, if a little fidgety here and there. That's more than I can say for the moron 20-something women sitting next to us. Through two scenes in the first act, they're talking to the extent that I can't even hear the show. I was in awe at how rude they were. I finally leaned over and asked if she was planning to talk the entire show. She gave me some lip like, "Seriously?" They left in the middle of the first act for beer refills, and sat elsewhere, fortunately.

I haven't been in to Playhouse Square since I was a kid. Diana of course worked there. I have to say, I often forget that Cleveland has some pretty cool buildings, and the theaters are certainly among them. The State is a little rough around the edges, but still a pretty impressive space.

Overall, we enjoyed the show and I'm glad we got out to see it. Hopefully we'll get a chance to meet up with Diana's friend too.

Christmas in July

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 25, 2009, 12:34 AM | comments: 0

What's with all of the Christmas in July promotions this year? Local bars are doing big Christmas Ale taps. Cedar Point is giving the "gift" of cheaper tickets. And I think I saw a furniture store spot too.

Is this going on where you live?

Weddings and divorces follow up

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 24, 2009, 3:44 PM | comments: 0

Tyler clarified his position in a follow up post, and I get his points. I don't really have any response that I haven't already said.

His post does make me think about some things though. On the topic of divorce, there's no question that it sucks, and it happens more than anyone would like, but it really shouldn't surprise anyone. Getting married young carries the risk that you are not "well formed," and therefore prone to growing into a hopelessly incompatible relationship. People do change, and rarely as you expect. Getting married a slightly older, 27 in my case, might has well have been at 22, when we moved in.

I get annoyed when people get really critical about divorce though, because it's generally without the context or experience of people who've been in those shoes. For myself, I didn't appreciate the nature of the expectations, while we both had enough damage from other sources to render the marriage a mess. That we're both happier now is not at all surprising. Hindsight is what it is.

And you don't really get a medal or reward either for sticking to something that makes you miserable. My... uh.. father-girlfriend-in-law? (what do you call the woman dating your father in-law?)... spent decades in an emotionally abusive situation, which unfortunately taught her kids to be the same way, several of which are also in emotionally abusive relationships. There are no bonus points for that, because once you're dead, you've wasted your life being miserable.

I realize that religion, and Christianity in particular (and perhaps Catholicism specifically) teaches you certain values around marriage and how important it is. And that's fine, but not everyone needs to agree with it because not everyone subscribes to the same beliefs. Frankly, anyone who goes through divorce likely has everything about their beliefs challenged anyway. I know for me, it was the single most stressful and awful thing I've ever had to deal with, and ours was pretty civil. I used to tell people that the reason for our very long engagement was to hopefully prevent ending up divorced like my parents. It ultimately made no difference. I still wouldn't characterize it as a mistake. I think it was an honor to be married to Stephanie.

I can definitely sympathize with Tyler's comments about the explosion of nonsense surrounding the planning of a wedding. For my first one, Stephanie and I would've been perfectly happy to elope, but she wanted her dad to be there, so we settled into the more traditional ceremony. By the time it went down, I think to a large extent we just wanted to get on the f'ing plane and be done with it. There was so much drama with family, members of the wedding party, parents, etc., that at some points it felt like it wasn't even about us. Before you knew it, it was over. But hey, at least we had no chicken dance.

I feel like I knew better second time around, which is why early on I made it known that I just wanted to be on a beach, and I honestly didn't care who was there. Of course, this time around, my then future father-in-law wanted to throw the ultimate party, which changed things a lot. With Diana being 39 and me 35, everything was different in terms of expectations for everyone. No stack of college friends (or high school friends), most people are older and can afford to travel, and really, being older gives you the ability to question every decision, and whether you're making it because it's "what you do" or because it's what "you want to do." Even something as silly as cake was optional (we had pies). And no shoes.

Weddings, like anything else, are a product of our domestication process, and I wish someone would tell us when we're young that you don't have to fall in line with every tradition, with limos and tuxedos and flower girls and DJ's and such. I wonder if this isn't all rooted in the American prom tradition (which I skipped), as many describe it as a wedding warm-up for teens.

I'm exceptionally happy with how things went for me and Diana at our wedding. There was some drama with various travel plan failures, but for the most part, it went off without a hitch, and the way we wanted. It was exactly the kind of celebration I was hoping for.

Religion, faith and what other people do

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 23, 2009, 7:41 PM | comments: 10

My post on the dancing in the aisles wedding prompted quite a response on Facebook (which, by the way, I now see where Gonch was coming from about the weirdness of syndicating your blog there... I'd much rather see the conversations happen on my blog where I can keep them forever). As it turns out, apparently Tyler's bigger issue was that it happened in a church.

I know I've blogged about stuff like this before, but the conversation brings me a little more clarity on my own feelings on this, so let me see if I can bring it around full circle.

First off, let's talk about religion and faith. Faith and spirituality is your belief system, that there is some higher power, some kind of unseen order to the cosmos, or whatever. The most awesome thing about faith is that it's something you wholly own, and it can never be taken away from you. You may choose to adhere to it, alter it or dismiss it in whatever way you see fit.

Religion is the practice of (allegedly) mutually agreed upon set of principles taken on faith in the context of an organization. In most cases it's based on centuries-old doctrines and codes passed down through the generations. Church, temple or whatever is the product of the religious organization first, faith second.

Every religious organization does things a bit differently. Christianity, the religion I'm most familiar with, is broken up into hundreds of denominations, and their approach to Christianity is vastly different. I grew up going to a Disciples church, which I would describe as a relatively light weight flavor of Christianity that tends to focus on the bigger picture aspects of most any religion. I had a couple of good pastors who were extremely non-conventional.

Going to college, of course, is where everything I "knew" about Christianity fell apart, where I was first introduced to extreme right-wing "Christians" that were only interested in tearing down anything that did not conform to their own views. I wondered how God could be OK with this, and why She would let these assholes be, well, such assholes. It all came down to a conversation between me, my hall director and my fellow RA's, one of whom was a Hindu from New Delhi. My hall director, in the most serious tone, told him he was going to hell, and he felt sorry for him.

You can imagine that my college activist mind was shocked and horrified at this. Fortunately, my Indian friend simply laughed it off, but I was never able to respect that hall director after that. A discussion ensued that distilled down to the simple fact that no religion can be proven as "correct" through any device other than faith, to which the RD simply said, "I have the right faith." Yeah, this was an allegedly educated person.

By the time I graduated, I had befriended Jews, Buddhists and Muslims, and probably because of that experience at that staff meeting, tried to learn what I could about their religions. What I ultimately got out of this was that they all had their ridiculous factions (except the Buddhists, as far as I could tell), and that these factions should not define the religion as a whole. So while these things eventually helped restore my faith in Christianity, it very much tainted my view of religious institutions, and as such, eventually settled on my own brand of faith that is based on Christianity, but without the overhead and dogma of an institution. This is the point that the distinction between faith and religion became crystal clear for me.

Later in life I was able to further make the distinction that organized religion isn't inherently bad; It's bad when people in it are bad. And it's at its worst when people adamantly get in the face of others to tell them that they're doing it wrong, which oddly enough goes back to that staff meeting my sophomore year.

The way people conduct themselves in religion is truly none of my business, as long as it's not hurting me or anyone else. So while we can all agree that Christians bombing abortion clinics or Muslims crashing planes is bad, the bulk of what people do as it concerns their religion is none of my concern. I don't care if gay people get married, or if others have arranged (adult) marriages, or practice ritualistic circumcision, dance down the aisle or anything else that doesn't fall into the categorically harmful things that hurt people.

I also don't care for people who make it their mission to recruit people to their way of thinking. My faith is my choice, and a choice we're all entitled to. We can arrive at that choice as we see fit. We are not entitled to force it down someone else's throat.

As for Tyler's post, he stated it as his opinion, which is fine. I don't take any issue with people believing what they believe. My issue is with anyone who believes that their own beliefs are the only correct ones. I know Tyler well enough to know he's not one of "those people" like my RD, and I don't even think he's close minded. I was only troubled that he'd extrapolate that the dancing wedding party's actions meant that they didn't take marriage, or the ceremony in the church, seriously. What matters for the newlyweds is not the religion, but rather the faith that they share.

Millennium Force: Announced ten years ago

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 23, 2009, 4:46 PM | comments: 0

Someone mentioned on PointBuzz that Cedar Point announced Millennium Force ten years ago. It's kind of amazing to think about. Those were amazing times to be a roller coaster enthusiast. CoasterBuzz was still eight months from launching at that point.

I had just started working at Penton Media a week or two before that. I had just met Tim, who worked as a sales rep at CP back in the day, and would later be in both of my weddings and be director of marketing at the park. Weird how you never really know how things are going to pan out. Tim worked for another magazine on the same floor as me, and we met when I figured out he and Lois were members of Guide to The Point. In fact, I got the job in part because Tim had put the GTTP T-shirt phrase "W8 4ME @CP" on the company outing posters he was organizing, and I recognized that when I was in for an interview, and that impact impressed my boss.

Back in those days, they didn't have dedicated Web sites for new ride announcements, and they mailed out press kits the day before the announcement. I'm sure I still have mine somewhere. The park was good enough to e-mail me the scanned renderings, and I got them up on GTTP that afternoon.

I snapped hundreds and hundreds of photos of that ride during construction, which was expensive since I had to use film. And the worst part of it was that the park embargoed posting any of them on the Internet when they invited you in for a tour. The reasons were many, but it was rooted in a culture that believed you could control the message despite the Internet. Those rules persisted through 2004, when they finally let go.

Those were good times. Lots of fond memories of the tours, first rides, the media day... definitely made it fun to be into coasters.

New Final Cut Studio!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 23, 2009, 4:40 PM | comments: 0

Holy crap, they even lowered the price. Definitely on my cap ex list for next year!

Apple: Final Cut Studio

On the value of marriage (and parties)

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 23, 2009, 4:31 PM | comments: 5

Tyler doesn't think much of the wedding in the video below, as he said in his blog post. Specifically he says, "I want to say that making a production like this in a church is evidence that the couple doesn’t value the true meaning of marriage." Assume for a moment that he didn't want to say it, and actually did say it.

Personally, I think it's awesome, and I'll tell you why. There are a hundred stupid traditions that people adhere to for weddings. I don't have a problem with that, and what's stupid to me may not be to other people. That there's some connection between what you do at your wedding and how you value marriage is absurd to me. I had the completely traditional and "normal" wedding first time around, I loved my wife dearly (and always will, if in a different context), and took very seriously what was going on. You know what? We still ended up splitting.

The "meaning of marriage" is whatever you make it. And for some, it's living out your life in a miserable existence. For some it's sharing your life with the ultimate co-pilot. Whatever it is, it is your own, and I think Tyler is making a strong judgment against anyway who sees it differently. To the extent that I know him and Beth, I can understand his strong convictions though, because they're a pair that seem to get it right, meeting very early in life, and that's his experience. I think if I had met Diana in high school or college and we would've hooked up then, I'd probably feel the same way (not likely... we were both incredibly different people then).

As for tradition, well, you know how our wedding turned out, and if you weren't there, you saw it through Tyler's eyes in photographs. We didn't have a church, or clergy, or shoes. And we had one hell of a party on a boat. Now I wish we had choreographed dance moves. :)

I think marriage is a party. I try to celebrate it every day. Marriage being a serious commitment and marriage being a party are not mutually exclusive concepts. That these cats could get their friends and family together to do something truly memorable and different is top notch. Aside from the vows, weddings are a show for other people as far as I'm concerned. I had a friend just get married, with a very similar relationship history to my own, and she eloped. Everyone rolls their own way.

As an aside, the "in a church" part of Tyler's comment also spurred another thought... that if so much of church the way I experienced it wasn't so much like a weekly funeral, perhaps I'd still go. Religion that focuses on you being a sinner piece of shit is incompatible with faith that brings you great joy for life. That's a post or another day, I suspect.

Letting go of social networking

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 22, 2009, 11:46 AM | comments: 3

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails recently said he was abandoning social networking stuff, and Twitter in particular, because, well, because people tend to be nasty assholes. The negativity, particularly toward him and his relationship with his fiance, is what ultimately put him off. I guess people don't like that Mr. Dark-and-Depressed finally grew up and fell in love with a hottie.

I remember last year, Jason Calacanis, the guy who sold Weblogs, Inc. to AOL for a bazillion dollars and has since started, quit blogging entirely because of the usual bullshit that ensued (he now posts photos of his dogs and lunch). Heck, Drew Carey got as far as two posts before he felt he had to shut the comments down due to nasty stuff.

Being famous has its own set of problems, but all of these situations are magnified illustrations of something we have to accept and deal with: Stupid people can use the Internet. I think what's most disheartening about it for celebrities is that there was a medium that would finally let them have more intimate interaction with fans, and now it has been overrun by idiots.

Ultimately though, the idiots are there at all levels. If you've ever read the comments on some random video that some 14-year-old anonymous kid posted to YouTube, you see they're everywhere. A lot of people try blogging and posting components of their lives online only to completely withdraw later.

Using these services is like being in a relationship. If you stop and realize that someone paying attention to you isn't worth all of the crap, you get the fuck out of the relationship, you know?

The Internet's creation of the "micro-celebrity" has made things difficult, too, and it really demonstrates the transformative nature of the medium. I mean, when I worked in radio, I'd talk to tens of thousands of people every day, and never know any better outside of the occasional stalker that showed up at a remote. With the Internet, there's a lot more potential for exposure, whether you want it or not, and it's distributed and potentially huge. Anyone can be that person.

I think that the people abandoning this stuff are probably doing the right thing, but I'd never dismiss the social Internet entirely. For all of the dumb shit you encounter, there's a sea of potentially rewarding contacts you can maintain as well. Most of the people I know using Facebook rarely add "friends" they don't know, but instead use it to stay in the loop with people that they do know. That's powerful stuff.

Ads ads ads

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 10:11 PM | comments: 1

I'm just about done thinking about advertisements for a long time. The drama began yesterday when I noticed that one of my ad providers seemed to be missing thousands of impressions from CB. Seeing as how that's the only income I have right now, naturally you can understand why I was concerned. It wasn't until this afternoon that I finally got some resolution, after framing the issue in a way that made sense. One of their tech guys finally owned up to the problem instead of blowing me off.

The whole situation puts me in a tough spot, because as a relatively small publisher for them, I'm certainly not going to be a priority. But compared to the remnant ad crap I get from everyone else, they go a long way toward paying my bills. It was 36 hours of frustration I really didn't need. I think everything is going to be cool now though.

Meanwhile, I got tired of the crappy weight loss ads on PB with the fat and skinny chicks that just aren't the same person. Those don't pay well, as you might imagine, and they're one step away from "male enhancement" ads. In any case, I never did get around to getting Google Ad Manager in play for PB, so I did that last night, hoping it could do better.

The thing that I learned from using it on CB is that it creates a no-risk opportunity to use Google AdSense. You set the "virtual" CPM's for your ad networks, and they show AdSesne only if they can beat that rate. That's much better than the wasteful "always on" method of showing AdSense that never amounts to anything. The preliminary results are encouraging, but as their algorithms smooth out over time and audience behavior, we'll see how it goes.

Brain dumps help

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 12:06 AM | comments: 0

I dumped some of the junk on my mind today to a friend, and I have to say, it greatly reduced my anxiety. Obviously, not everything in life is fit for blogging, but I still need to get some shit out to process it.

I didn't have the productive day I was hoping for, instead getting bogged down in really boring crap, cat litter and trying to account for "missing" ad impressions over the weekend. Before I knew it, it was 4, and then 5 when Diana got home. But still, my head is a lot clearer, and I'm getting a little late night work done.

Tomorrow I have to send her off to Buffalo again, which isn't fun. Maintaining each other's sanity, and not contributing to it, is something we do really well together.

Coding buddy

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 21, 2009, 12:05 AM | comments: 0

(Focusing on the new iPhone makes the camera infinitely more useful.)

Anxiety interference

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 20, 2009, 12:11 PM | comments: 0

Do you ever suffer from anxiety so much that you can't begin anything? I'm having that issue this morning.

Oh, and my bike shop doesn't sell toe clips. WTF? I can't justify clipless.

Physically not well tonight

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 20, 2009, 12:05 AM | comments: 0

Today seemed like a good, chilled out day early on. I was really tired though, so I took a nap after lunch. I still felt lethargic, but didn't think much of it. Had awesome turkey burgers for dinner, plus a milk shake I made with the emulsifier we got as a wedding gift.

Not long after that, I started to feel nauseous. Then came a headache with it. I feel all out of sorts, and I don't like it at all. Fortunately we decided to skip or postpone the podcast. Crappy way to end a week where I've been otherwise feeling pretty solid, likely due to the better eating and exercise. Hopefully it's just a passing thing.

Harry Potter 6

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 19, 2009, 12:57 AM | comments: 0

Saw the HP flick, enjoyed it. Thought it could've been trimmed here and there, but not having read that book yet, not sure if that would've been right. Can't believe how old the "kids" are now. Shit, Ginny Weasley is 18 in real life. I don't remember what all went down in the previous movies/books. And I have them on HD-DVD, which will do me no good when that format disappears. Sigh.

Looking forward to the gripping conclusion, even though it'll take two movies to show.

I suggested we could be Harry and Ginny for Halloween.

Diana's new old iPhone

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 19, 2009, 12:20 AM | comments: 0

I signed up Diana on a family plan on AT&T using my old iPhone today. Basically it costs $40 more than my plan alone, which is more than her old T-Mobile plan, but it includes unlimited data and 200 text messages, which she obviously didn't have for her crappy Razr. She's thrilled to have it.

Think about why that's so weird. She's excited to have a two-year-old phone. Most phones are virtually disposable, let alone something someone would desire. The last non-iPhone I had was a Samsung, which held up OK I suppose because I had a leather condom for it, but others weren't so lucky. They must have sold a bazillion of those, because I had several friends and volleyball kids that had them. I remember Kara managed to get three years out of hers, with tape holding it together. Most previous phones weren't much better.

My first phone was some giant brick of a thing that I suspect was relatively indestructible. Then I got a Motorola StarTAC, and it was awesome. They were a sign of things to come though, as they were known for cracking hinges. It all went down hill from there. I remember Stephanie got one of those earlier Nokias (with the trademark ringtone) that had the interchangeable face plates. She dropped it, and the antenna element inside actually broke off the circuit board. What a piece of junk that was.

Other than the StarTAC, I never really liked any phone I ever had. They were all cheap and crappy devices with no shelf life. But this iPhone... I'm still surprised at the impact it has had. It's surprisingly durable. I always got exceptional battery life too, generally going three days without a charge (I don't talk much). It's in really good shape and I think Diana will dig it. And it's pretty cheap considering there's no contract associated with it at this point.

It's funny, but I'm really just getting into the apps recently. The 3GS, with all of the game playing and nonsense is going about every other day for a charge. I like to "exercise" batteries and not constantly charge them mid-drain, in case their charging circuitry isn't smart enough to compensate for those cycles.

In any case, Diana is one of us now, even if it's with the "vintage" model.

What I've been up to at "work"

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 18, 2009, 1:56 AM | comments: 0

I realized today when I met with that recruiter that I've been "self-employed" for three months now. This is the first time that I've been unemployed involuntarily since 2001, which was for six months. By involuntary, I mean there aren't any suitable gigs out there. The three months last year were by choice as I waited for the right thing (and chose poorly).

Thankfully, ad revenue has picked up enough to sustain me and get by, and the work I've done to boost traffic on CB has helped. There are a lot of positives this time around, some of which are tangible, others not immediately. I'm generally pretty happy with what I've been engaging in, but at the same time, I'm desperate to get back to a day job. It's shocking to say that, but I've realized that I crave the knowledge gained by working with others, and the social aspect. I'm not entirely sure that I want to run a company that makes "day job" money unless it involves hiring other people, and even then, I hate the idea that I'd be responsible for other people's financial well being (something the douchebags at my last job ignored).

Since I started keeping track, I've found that I'm working about 30 hours per week, which is probably about the realistic amount of work anyone does at a day job. I'm pretty content with that. About a third of it is just general maintenance and weekly stuff (posting news, podcast, accounting, archiving logs, checking backups, etc.), which makes me realize that used to come out of my spare time.

The rest of the time has been split between the new project, which is finally feeling less monolithic, and enhancements to CB and related science projects. From a revenue standpoint, I feel as though I should be concentrating on the new project entirely, but it's just hard to keep that kind of focus.

There is a benefit to the enhancements and science projects though, in that I'm building skills that I simply didn't have before. I was looking at the stuff I sketched out on my note pad three months ago, and I've accomplished quite a bit. The new skills make me more marketable too. I've acquired a fairly strong foundation in ASP.NET MVC, along with the better understanding of associated design patterns (dependency injection) and related frameworks. I'm getting much deeper into Silverlight, and seeing its potential for a great many things, with one mini-app now in production (the uploader). I've also started to get more familiar with the WCF framework, which is used for services. I'm really digging that too. The science project I'm working on right now uses Silverlight 3 and WCF.

And all the while, I'm making time to get on the bike, I'm getting my eating back under control, I started reading again (slamming through the second Harry Potter book), and I just might have mastered the art of bringing back bad hot tub water from the dead.

The only area of my life where I feel like I'm suffering is the social side, and I'm trying to be proactive about it. I'm determined to meet up with that long lost friend from high school, my college roommate wants to have lunch, and dammit, we're going to have a party at some point (bring your own damn mai-tai's though).

There's a certain peace I have that I haven't had in a very long time when it comes to work. I've let go of the self-inflicted hatred over starting some grand business for myself, preferring to let it happen more organically as it always has. I've also realized and accepted that working for The Man doesn't always suck, if you're working for the right guy. Funny how it took working in a really bad environment for me to realize that.

So that's where I am. It's not an awful place to be.

Casualties of the housing market

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 18, 2009, 1:09 AM | comments: 0

We got the news that we pretty much expected from a new Realtor regarding Diana's house. Best case scenario is that we'll probably have to take a bath on it, somewhere in the amount of $20,000, if we want to get rid of it. That's what we get as responsible credit users in a market where banks would lend to anyone and morons would buy more house than they can afford.

So where does that leave us? Well, if we can contain the loss to $20k, we may have some options. The first is to see what we can do to refinance my house, and disturb the equity I have. I need to refinance anyway, because when I did it in 2006 around the divorce, I settled for a no-closing cost loan at a higher rate. It made sense provided I sold the house within four years (i.e., closing costs divided by 48 were the difference between higher rate payments and normal rate payments at the time).

The question becomes, what kind of risk are they willing to accept? Houses around me aren't taking as much of a ding in value as other places, but I'm realistically looking at only $30k in equity given sale prices of my neighbors. That's $10k lower than a year ago. By the lower estimate, that puts me right in the 85% loan-to-value ratio. I doubt anyone is going to loan us money for that. It all comes down to what the bank thinks my house is worth.

So if that route fails, believe it or not, we can draw up a bunch of cash in a hurry by way of the most evil form of lending, credit cards. I can stick about $12k there at 0% with a 3% fee for a year (rate after that is 7.49%). That much would be pretty easy, and Diana could easily pay that portion off in a year because it's around what her current payment plus utilities and her now paid-off second mortgage was.

Beyond that $12k, I'm not entirely sure. The big variables are what the sale price of her house would be, how much cash we could stock pile between now and then and what I'm doing for work. If I can find a gig soon, I could probably sock away $10k in three or four months. I've done it before. I think it's all of those variables combined that stress out Diana the most.

And make no mistake about it, she's stressed. Her first feelings are of guilt, that I have to get involved in her real estate debt. First off, she didn't know assholes in her neighborhood would have foreclosures selling for $20k, and second, you don't marry for mortgage scenarios, you do it for love! I'm OK with all of this.

The other feeling she has is that we're trapped in Northeast Ohio, not just because of her house, but potentially for difficulty in selling mine. I believe that there are two ways to spin this positively. The first is that all of this is little more than a setback. Assuming that I get to work again soon, or sell another domain name for top dollar (lightning twice?), we'll stockpile cash and build toward living where ever we want. The second spin is that what you lose on the sale, you might be able to make up for on the purchase. Shit is on sale all over the place, and it won't be down forever.

So yes, the situation is shitty, but it's not hopeless, no one is going bankrupt and we're still eating well and healthy. We'll roll with it and deal.


posted by Jeff | Friday, July 17, 2009, 2:20 PM | comments: 0

Lunch with recruiter: market is grim

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 17, 2009, 1:46 PM | comments: 0

I had lunch with one of the recruiters that I've been talking to with the last few months. They've actually nearly hooked me up twice, once last year (client budget axed) and once this year (client got a rock star cheap), so I definitely don't mind working with them. Free lunch doesn't hurt either.

He told me what I already knew, that the job market here in Cleveland is really grim. No shocker there. A year ago I could pick and choose and ignore calls, now I'm lucky to even see something posted. He did say that some companies are "fishing," where they ask for candidates in certain skill sets without any actual intention of hiring anyone. Annoying for them, but he thinks it's a sign of a turning point on the way.

Cleveland is worse than a lot of places though. I peek at listings in other cities, and there's a little more out there. Perhaps we need to move.

Twitter in Real Life

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 16, 2009, 9:37 PM | comments: 0

You know how much I love Twitter, and this sure helps point out the absurdity of it.

Connected disconnect

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 16, 2009, 8:01 PM | comments: 3

I've been relatively quiet with my blog for the last 48 hours or so (note I said relatively) as I've tried to be a little less connected to concentrate on getting some work done. That means limited IM, no Tweetdeck, no Google Reader and very little CB/PB. It has been kind of refreshing.

I've said it before, and in little time periods like this, I appreciate that there is too much information out there, and you need to step back from it. Sometimes catching up on the blog roll (and LOLcats) is enriching, but I can't say life is more empty without it. And for someone who doesn't get the chance to be social as much since I work at home, that's saying something.

Real life encounters definitely win, whether it's talking with a waitress about laptops at college, or chatting with a young mom about her baby's teething in the park, it puts online life in perspective. The limited engagement certainly helps with productivity, too.

But it is like a drug, and I can't quit. I'm sure I'll be digging in again as soon as I'm done with this post.

Bicycle choices: Don't skimp

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 16, 2009, 2:57 PM | comments: 1

Beth is debating if it's worth it to buy a "good" bike or a Wal-Mart bike. I can tell you with absolute certainty that getting the better one is worth it.

Here's the thing about cheap bikes: They're disposable. They don't last, they're not as rigid, they're extremely heavy and have cheap parts (and crappy seats). My Trek was something like $600, but it's going to last me 20 years as long as I clean it and get it overhauled every couple thousand miles. If you buy a decent aluminum bike, and they can be had for under $500, from a reputable bike shop, you'll get a ton out of it.

The Bianchi I got in high school, 1989, is still completely useful. I outgrew it only because it was heavier steel (typical back then), and I wanted 700c wheels.

Science project making me a mad scientist

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 15, 2009, 5:27 PM | comments: 1

Yesterday I endeavored to start a little science project that I thought would take me a day, or two at most, and I'm more frustrated with it than I was the big project I was working on in the first place. It's all because it's a distributed app, and I'm using a new-ish framework (WCF) instead of what I already know because it's the "right" thing to do and I can see potential for reuse and other applications. Unfortunately, it's not simple enough to just dive in and go for it, so I've wasted a great deal of time trying cut-and-past "learning" instead of taking a step back and understanding.

Music sure can turn around how you feel

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 14, 2009, 5:36 PM | comments: 0

My life has a soundtrack composed of hundreds of songs, where the first few notes or drum hits can instantly force total recall of days, places and people. And yet, I often forget that music consistently helps me whenever I listen to it. It can make me happy, it can help me process sadness and, above all, helps me get out of my head for awhile.

Excited that I now have my entire music library on my phone, I was plucking around today, and landed on "Sit Down," which I've blogged about before. And just like that, last night's dismay at the grief in the world has left my brain. Whew.

I've gotta remind myself that funk can be dealt with by using what is literally within arms reach at all times.

I don't feel adequate when it comes to data

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 14, 2009, 2:41 PM | comments: 0

I'd like to think that I'm a place in my career where I'm pretty solid when it comes to object-oriented programming, specifically with C#. It took awhile, but as the various frameworks and tools evolve, so do my skills to use them. I mean, a year ago, I didn't see why Inversion of Control was important, and now I do.

Where I start to struggle though is the bridge to data. Objects don't always map particularly well to relational data, and I find myself sometimes spinning my wheels when it comes time to get dirty with the database. The bigger project I've been working on lately has been like that, with me hitting a wall in terms of the data picking, at least, picking it in a relatively efficient way. Granted, a part of that might be me getting a little too reliant on ORM's too.

But in any case, I need a distraction, a science project. I have something in mind...

Facebook's brutal reality

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 14, 2009, 1:31 AM | comments: 3

It's a strange era in history. If we choose to engage in the online world, we're exposed to a fairly high level of connectivity with people we would have never, ever heard from beyond what I often call the four year cycle, where much of your life, and the people in it, change.

I recently heard from a high school friend who had a great deal of career chaos, divorce and a great deal of damage (gosh, that sounds familiar). Then a few days ago, I heard from a college friend who is getting divorced after two kids because her husband puts weed and alcohol above being a father and husband. At least one of them grew out of that phase.

Couple these "lost" connections with current friends and acquaintances losing relatives, seeing their children go to the hospital for serious illness, and other sad and miserable events, I mean, fuck... is this just life or the apocolypse? This isn't seeing a natural disaster or war on TV, this is a batch of nasty happening to people I know.

We've certainly had our, uh, "issues of misfortune" lately too, which doesn't help. And the next person who tells me that everything happens for a reason, I swear I'm going to punch them in the nuts. Why do people say that? How is that supposed to make anyone feel better? I'm not interested in some dissertation on faith or thick bullshit about fate and crap like that, I just want things to change. Mostly things I can't control.

One of the really difficult things about being a human being is that we can't simply blow off things that adversely affect us, even though the adversity is often caused by things outside of our control. It's hard to blow off when it involves people we love and care about too. It's even hard to blow off when it involves people at the edge of our social sphere.

I have only limited use for luck as a concept, as I generally believe that you make your own future, but I very much wish for more of something like it to come our way, to me and the people I know. Reality need not be brutal all of the time.

Super annoying job prospect fail

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 13, 2009, 2:34 PM | comments: 0

Last week I had a phoner with a potential employer, set up via an agency. I really hit it off with the hiring VP for the company, and he said the thing that every developer loves to hear: "We're going to start over and build from scratch." It was one of those slam dunk job encounters, and a good situation on top of that.

Then I get the call today from the agency. Apparently, the HR department of that company is throwing a fit because the guy I talked to, who is fairly new himself, is overstepping his bounds or something, or more to the point, the kingdom builders in the HR department don't like someone else finding people instead of them. In other words, no new hire. Shit.

I think I'm going to go see a movie.

Slow day at the Puzzoni household

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 12, 2009, 5:43 PM | comments: 0

Today has just been a strange day. I woke up at 5 a.m. in a ridiculous coughing rage, allergic to something I can't explain. I mean, the house was closed up with the A/C, so I have no idea what caused it.

Diana's allergies have been pissing her off too, and she's got some dizzy things and general physical weirdness keeping her down today. We were planning to go to Sandusky to party on my dad's boat, but that didn't pan out. I've felt like I've been in some kind of funk all day too.

But on the positive side, at least it's a mostly sunny day, not too warm or humid. Hopefully tomorrow we'll snap out of it and things will feel more up.

One week on the pregnancy watch

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 12, 2009, 2:32 PM | comments: 0

A week ago this morning, Diana woke me up at 6 a.m. to tell me that the pregnancy test she took was slightly positive. I say slightly because it was just a faint line on the pee stick. She took the test because she was a few days late already.

We weren't expecting it at that point. My most important reason for going to spend a few days with Diana in Buffalo two weeks before wasn't for tourism, it was for ovulation. The door was open, and at this point in our lives, and with uncertain reproductive health for both of us, we had to get busy as much as possible. The ovulation test said it was time. There's a lot of pressure for that kind.

In any case, a week after ovulation day, they say it's possible to get a positive pregnancy test. So she took one, and it was negative. A day or two later, she also had some minor spotting, so we figured that Project Make-a-Puzzoni did not succeed this month. A part of me was not willing to accept that sticks you pee on could out-smart nature, so in the back of my mind I wasn't willing to let go just yet.

My birthday came, and she should have started her period. A few days later, she took the slightly positive test, and it seemed awfully likely that she was in fact pregnant. Over the course of the last week, she's bee reading many books about nutrition and what not. It hasn't become entirely real for me, because I don't have all of the physical weirdness that she's already enduring, however subtle it might be. That I will likely be a dad by the end of March seems too impossible.

Of course there's the expectation right now that it's very, very early, and things can still go wrong. I guess some part of me is still in the hope for the best, expect the worst mode, as a way of protecting myself. It's not something I even want to think about. If we get to the end of September and all is well, then I'll feel confident.

And then we can actually tell people too!

iPhone case swap, iPhone games

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 11, 2009, 7:02 PM | comments: 1

For my previous iPhone, I bought a leather case for it, which had a belt clip on it. I never had any intention of needing the clip, but it added bulk to the phone that I liked. Naked, iPhones are very narrow and slippery, and after one day I feared that I would lose it. So when I got the newer 3GS, I got essentially the same case, only fitted for the newer model (which is more rounded). After a week or so, I generally liked it, but the snap was bent and opening from time to time.

Off to the west side Apple store to exchange it, the next one I tried didn't fit the phone well at all. It wasn't tapered at the bottom at all, which is strange because it's allegedly the same model. That kind of concerned me. The Apple guy busted out his iPod Touch and showed me his case, a plastic hard case coated with some kind of slightly rubbery stuff, and I loved it. It didn't interfere with the screen and it made it not slippery without a ton of extra bulk. I found the iPhone version of the case, and made the even exchange. I really like this one. The bottom slides off for docking too, though it makes little difference since these don't come with docks.

Meanwhile, I've always been silly gun shy about buying apps for the iPhone, for reasons I can't explain. I mean, 99 cents doesn't buy much. I love Sol Free for killing time (sidebar: It appears to be the same software house that made a similar game for the Palm devices ten years ago), but it recently occurred to me that it's the ultimate value game device. Most stuff is somewhere between a buck and five dollars, with a few up around ten. Console games tend to be $60, like Diana's birthday gift to me, Ghostbusters (which is fun, if only because I love those movies).

Everyone says FlightControl is good fun, so I bought it. Diana commandeered my phone and played it for quite a while this afternoon. I still think I'd like to get Apple's Texas Hold'em, one of the launch titles, and I noticed there's a version of Yahtzee, the latter of which would be an ideal time waster.

I want to be more of a reader

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 11, 2009, 12:50 AM | comments: 1

Kara IM'd me today and mentioned that she has been reading like a fiend. Diana does so in spurts as well, and my parents were always reading when I was a kid. Somehow that didn't rub off on me, and it bothers me.

It's not that I don't have anything to read either. I bought the Potter books and only read the first one, even though I have them all. I have non-fiction sitting around like In Defense of Food and Tribes. I even have the composite Watchmen sitting here.

I do "read" a great many technical books as related to my profession, but I wouldn't characterize that as pleasure reading (even if I do enjoy the learning). And I wrote a book once too.

Like everything else I want to do or feel like I should do, I need to make the time and do it. I have time, I just don't use it well. I wonder if my wiring isn't quite right. I sure seem to have a hard time committing to doing anything regularly.

Pillow talk

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 11, 2009, 12:16 AM | comments: 0

One of the many "value adds" that came with the new mattress was a couple of pillows. At the time we ordered, they only had the down feather pillows available, so we had to wait for the latex foam versions to come in. Today, they finally did.

I feel ridiculous now for having a crappy bed and crappy pillows for so long. I feel even worse about it since Diana moved in because of the lingering muscle issues she has related to the vertigo issues from last year. With the amount of time we spend sleeping every night, how did I manage to completely overlook the fact that we were living on that lumpy piece of crap?

Note to self: Pay attention to the time at which furniture is no longer comfortable. You'd think it would be more obvious.

Why the Republican Party is fucked, and why that's bad for everyone

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 10, 2009, 10:51 PM | comments: 1

The elected feds are now overwhelmingly Democrats, which, the way I see it, can shake out in one of two ways. Either they can take the responsibility seriously, and be innovative and lead us down the right path, or just subscribe to dogmatic principles and enact them because they can. I'm hoping it's the former, but only time will tell.

I saw something refreshing the other day from some Republican senator who said that, despite the clear lack of leadership in the party, they needed to own up to the mistakes they've made, analyze the party's core values, and not arbitrarily work against the majority just because it's the only way to differentiate themselves. That was music to my ears. It took Democrats all of Clinton's second term and much of Bush's first to make those admissions and get their shit together. Our most stable time in this country was during the Clinton years, when we had a Democrat in the White House and Republicans controlling Congress. The two seemed to balance each other out, and we had an unprecedented budget surplus.

So if you read up on these Republicans who want the party to get its shit together, there's some hope that they can make it happen. Unfortunately, it's not the Republicans who are being douche bags right now (aside from those having affairs like Sanford or sticking it to Alaska like Stevens and Palin), it's the pundits and entertainers who are hurting them the most. The rhetoric and hate these guys (and women) are putting out there is intense, and I think it characterizes the conservative base of the party as bitter partisan morons who aren't invited to the sandbox. I'm waiting for one of them to stand up and say, you know, you're really not helping us here.

When you look carefully at congresscritters and presidents, I think you tend to see that few of them are all that far off center. I'd even argue that's the reason the last three presidential elections were as close as they were. Unfortunately, we live in a society that favors things in black and white, where everything is one or the other. And if something bad happens, then the only "obvious" action is to do the opposite of what we were doing before.

If the Republicans can't find someone who can speak above all of that bullshit, they're in trouble. And if they can't bring some sense of balance to the force, then we have to hope like crazy that the Democrats take their responsibility very seriously. They've got a very smart guy at the top who listens to people. Unfortunately, we're already seeing people start to be dissatisfied with him because after only six months, things aren't yet all puppies and rainbows.

At the end of the day, I suspect time and market forces will do a great deal more to fix what hurts than the feds will. I'm still optimistic that the feds' actions aren't going to hurt us worse, but time will tell on that one.

Letting go of IE6

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 10, 2009, 3:29 PM | comments: 2

Digg had an interesting post about supporing IE6, a browser that's so f'ing old that it's staggering anyone still uses it. The good news is that the numbers are very quickly dropping. Before the CoasterBuzz re-launch last fall, it came up in a conversation very early on that many IE6 users are stuck there because of IT departments that force them to use it. Despite that, I summarily dismissed any deliberate effort to support it. It seems to work OK, but if it doesn't, I'm not going to lose sleep over it.

Sadly, my numbers aren't even as optimistic as Digg's, and I've got 13% of visitors still using it. However, I don't think they're the users that really "count," as they view fewer pages and/or bail far faster than the average for the site at large. It still amazes me that there are comprooders out in the world still running a browser that's eight years old.

First Train Home... awesome!

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 10, 2009, 2:51 PM | comments: 0

Imogen Heap debuted the first track from Ellipse, "First Train Home," on a non-com station in San Diego this afternoon. I love it! Lyrically it's the kind of slightly dark thing you'd expect from her, largely about being in a situation where you don't fit in and want to bolt. The sound is a great mix of textures, both synthetic and acoustic. Has an upbeat yet mellow sound. Definitely sounds like the "right" song to start off an album.

Still a month and a half before release!

Strange Facebook/MySpace race connection

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 10, 2009, 12:10 PM | comments: 0

I was reading this article on CNET about an alleged class divide, and therefore race divide, between Facebook and MySpace users. I find the "study" a little absurd. Granted, I'm a sample of one, but my Facebook "friends" exactly coincide the race/gender mix that I know in real life, so I don't see any divide there.

What I do see is that people with an edgamacation and desire for some kind of order and control prefer Facebook, not for any social divide, but because MySpace is a steaming pile of shit-chaos. That's not a new development. MySpace has always sucked like that. The only reason it got out to a somewhat stronger start is because Facebook was a little slow to open up to the public at large and shed its college roots.

The bottom line is that I don't see a racial connection, I see a one site sucks really bad connection and people move on from it.

Adult juice box aftermath

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 10, 2009, 11:28 AM | comments: 0

Last night I wanted to make room in the fridge (so it truly appears we have no food) so I busted out the adult juice box, estimating there were two glasses of wine left. That estimate was off, and it was more like five.

I'm lethargic and have a dull headache this morning. And room in the fridge.

Making huge mistakes and not listening to anybody

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 10, 2009, 1:28 AM | comments: 3

What a weird f'ing day this has been. Right from the start, I was all out of sorts when I woke up and heard Diana talking on the phone downstairs, as she was working from home. I got some work done, then I got distracted by the Silverlight 3 launch. Then news of the Billy Mays tribute, which was excellent. And I also talked to a friend on the verge of doing something incredibly stupid.

I spout off all of the time with relationship advice, which, because I was married once before either makes me completely full of shit or fully qualified. Maybe it's a little of both. I have a friend who is going to do something catastrophically stupid in her personal life, and I think she knows it, but no amount of talking her out of it will help. The capacity for making poor decisions is amplified when you're lonely, having a tough time with your professional life, or facing health issues. She's enduring all of that.

It causes me pain to see her go through this, and I know it will end poorly. Yet it's hypocritical of me, because I'm the first in line to say that I wouldn't trade my first marriage, or its failure, for anything. But it's only easy for me to say that because I've lived through it and made a great many positive strides in my life since. If you would've asked me four years ago, I would've said, fuck, why didn't someone tell me about this outcome?

There's nothing I can do to talk her out of her decision, and she'll suffer. I hate that. The only thing I can do is try to be a good friend when it all falls apart. I mean, it's some real Jerry Springer shit. But fear of a world that isn't exactly what you planned is a powerful motivator, even in the face of obvious fuckery.

Why do I care? Well, there aren't that many people I care about in a meaningful way for one thing. But the bigger picture is that I see how much time has passed in my life, occupied by drama. As I learned from my therapist, it doesn't mean that there wasn't a lot of love and caring in those relationships, but in the absence of healthier experience, you feel like those situations are normal. The drama free relationship is something most people don't strive for because they either don't believe it exists, or have too much fear to pursue it.

When Diana got home from tennis tonight, I thanked her for sharing a drama-free life with me. As I've said before, I always thought Gonch was full of shit when he claimed that his marriage has never been "work," as many people say is required in marriage. But he was right. The tricky part is holding out for that low-maintenance situation, even when we're scared and lonely.

I recently got in touch with a friend from high school, who went through a similar series of relationships like me, including divorce. And like me, she appreciates the right scenario. It's a shame that we have to suffer to acquire that knowledge.

Weird e-mail shit of the day

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 9, 2009, 8:02 PM | comments: 5

This is the kind of weird shit I get by way of e-mail on a frequent basis...

What are the price to get into disneyland theme park?
I was hoping maybe you could give me a few hints as to what I should be looking for and what to avoid.  Any help appreciated.  Thankyou.
yours truly, Fred

So you can send e-mail, but you can't use Google or type

Billy Mays tribute

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 9, 2009, 7:50 PM | comments: 0

In case you're a fan, there's a Billy Mays tribute on Discovery tonight, at 9p EDT.

Silverlight 3 is out!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, July 9, 2009, 2:40 PM | comments: 0

Can't wait to think of something clever to do with it. The out-of-browser piece alone excites me to no end.

Eli Stone: another swimmer in the TV dead pool

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 9:20 PM | comments: 1

I was surprised to see that all of a sudden my DVR was recording Eli Stone in the middle of June, and that with them not promo-ing the next episode, something wasn't right. Sure enough, Wikipedia says the show was cancelled, and they're just showing the last four unaired episodes. ABC: You suck.

This is yet another good show banished for non-homerun ratings despite being good. Add it to the pool with Wonderfalls, Sports Night, That 80's Show, Girls Club, My So Called Life, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Boston Legal, Boston Public... the list goes on. That I watch so little TV (other than Discovery Channel) isn't surprising when they keep killing stuff I'm in to.

The greatest technology for e-commerce (and everything else)

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 6:25 PM | comments: 0

I had a phone interview today with a guy who tossed an interesting question my way. He asked me what I thought the greatest technology to come along in the last five years was for e-commerce. My response was that technologies are just tools, and that it's what you do with them that counts.

I think mining data and understanding your customers is the thing that's most useful in e-commerce. Understanding behavior and where you're putting up road blocks, that's the stuff that fascinates me. Even though I think we got too far in the weeds at times, that's one of the biggest things that I took away from ICOM, that everything can be measured, and the measurements give you a lot of insight. You just have to figure out which insight matters.

As it turns out, many of these data issues translate well into other areas, including community ad-revenue driven sites like mine. It's funny how the things you thought were important on the Internet change over time. In 2000, when I started CoasterBuzz, I wanted to have more eyeballs, like everyone else. By the end of 2001, I just wanted to make enough money to cover the expenses, and the number of eyes mattered a whole lot less.

That line of thinking has served me well ever since. I've worked in environments where the opposite extremes were part of the culture, either that audience measurement didn't matter, or that it mattered so much that the ROI gained was less than the effort to measure.

I've spent a lot of my "self-employment" time enriching my technical skills, but sometimes I wonder if there are more business oriented things I should spend time learning. I continue to believe that people in my line of work are generally more effective if they have some business sense about them. I want to be one of those peoples.

Continuing traffic trend

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 2:33 PM | comments: 0

I'm surprised to see that there has been some residual traffic boost from the Disney World accident last weekend. It's surprising because it managed break through the constant onslaught of Michael Jackson nonsense, and people are still talking about it.

Someone posted a link on CoasterBuzz to a video that some family shot from the pilot cab a few days ago with the guy who died. It's really disturbing because it puts it in the context of a real person that died. Very sad, and judging by the accounts of what likely happened, very unnecessary.

Piercing "phase"

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 1:26 PM | comments: 0

I've had the strange urge lately to get something pierced again. That surprises me from the standpoint that I figured it was just a phase during a particularly turbulent few years of my life. And yet, I still think about it. I don't have anything specific in mind really, though it would obviously have to meet the approval of the only person I would ever grant such authority. Two years later, it still bums me out that my industrial went bad.

iPhone 3GS impressions

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 10:59 AM | comments: 0

I've had the new phone for a little over a week now, and feel like I've used it enough to have some solid opinions about it. The biggest physical change from the old one is the more tapered edges. It also feels lighter, perhaps because the backing is plastic. The vibrate switch feels a lot more solid. And thank God they did away with that stupid recessed headphone jack.

In terms of new features, the GPS functionality is the shit. I kept reading about the "blue dot trance" on the map, where the blue dot moves around and the map rotates around it as you move, and I totally get what people mean. I don't know what that's so fascinating. Last weekend, we used it to find a graduation party in Sandusky, and a Dairy Queen on the way home (Diana wanted a Mr. Misty, which is now apparently an Arctic Blast). It's very awesome.

I've only used 3G data a few times, because the truth is, there seems to be Wi-Fi in most of the places I frequent. Sandusky is still Edge, so that was no help. I did try it the other day down in the park after my bike ride, and CB seemed to load pretty fast.

The most obvious thing is that the CPU and graphics processing got a boost. The checkerboard that appeared as you scrolled through a Web page and it redrew the screen is gone. Animations are all smoother. Even the cards on Sol Free move with more fluidity.

The camera is still not spectacular, but it's a little cleaner in outdoor light. The focus targeting is cool too. The video recording is actually better than I expected. There's a mindset change that comes with enabling technology. When I got my first phone with a camera, I never thought much to take pictures. Now I suspect there's some of that with video. I just have to resist making it all cat video.

Battery life is not as good as my first gen phone, which was about three days without a charge, but it's not much lower than that. Video and GPS are the big battery suckers. In fact, recording video zaps the battery at a rate of 1% per minute, not that anyone will be shooting a movie trilogy with it. After two days, I'm usually down around 50%, so I could go longer. Maybe three days isn't out of the question. One thing I did twice, right out of the box, is charge and completely drain the battery. It seems that devices with "smart" charging hardware benefit from this to calibrate the battery now and then, where as short drain/charge cycles trick it into thinking the battery's capacity isn't that high. Not sure if that's the case here, but it the battery life is longer now, as it was on my 17" MacBook Pro (still getting 8 hours).

The biggest excitement is having all of my music on there, so I don't have to choose. That alone is worth it to me. I also can have all 1,000 wedding photos and 700 honeymoon photos, because you never know when someone will ask about it.

It was absolutely a worthy upgrade.

Wow did I sleep

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 10:32 AM | comments: 0

I went to bed a little after midnight, and aside from waking up due to freezing my ass off (Diana chucked the comforter off of us!), I slept really, really well. I had a ton of dreams, many of them sex dreams (I was making a porno), which is usually the result of solid sleep.

+1 for the new bed!

Early bed trip report

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 12:31 AM | comments: 0

When Diana got home, I suggested we spend the rest of the evening in the new bed after dinner, just because. She decided around 9 she wanted to go to bed due to a lack of sleep, working, etc., so she popped in a movie (Wimbledon... I <3 Kirsten Dunst) and I joined her, laptop in hand.

The good news is that the bed is so comfortable that she missed most of the movie, and I'm so damn tired from sitting here that I may even get to sleep at a decent time. That's magic, baby!

Need to get my rest. I have some major refactoring to do on one of my projects (need to conform the DeepZoom to the regular photo stuff) and I've got a phone screen for an interesting gig in the afternoon.

Day in Pictures forum live on CoasterBuzz

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 6:06 PM | comments: 0

Big old mix of Silverlight, AJAX, jQuery, ASP.NET and a Web service, all plugged into the forum app without breaking it. That last part about the plugging in part isn't pretty in terms of code, but it's "good enough," as they say.

Diana's artistic sensibilities

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 3:58 PM | comments: 0

Diana was so excited about the bed that she busted out MS Paint at work...

Diana's new blog

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 3:55 PM | comments: 0

I'm trying to think of something clever for Diana's blog design. Something that can capture her Diananess, tennis, cats and knitting. Nothing is coming to mind.

Sweet slumber tonight!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 1:13 PM | comments: 0

It's all soft and plushy. No weird soreness tomorrow morning for either one of us!

Crazy SEO traffic spike for tragedy

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 11:51 AM | comments: 0

The range of news over the Disney World monorail death led to a huge spike in traffic on CoasterBuzz, because the news items were so well tuned for search engines. Sunday and Monday were nearly double the normal visitors. Unfortunately, they were poor quality visitors who didn't hang out very long, but you figure that some percentage will bookmark and come back at some point. It's just a shame that it had to happen because of something horrible.

One more restless night

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 12:39 AM | comments: 0

The new mattress comes in the morning, finally. It seems strange, it's like the old one just started to deteriorate faster and faster the last few months. Sleeping in really nice beds while in Hawaii certainly didn't help.

I have been sleeping poorly and waking up with stuff hurting, and Diana has had it even worse, particularly her "vertigo shoulder" issues. I can't believe we waited as long as we did. The timing isn't good, but we can't keep having these nights of half-sleep.

Are people for real about Sarah Palin?

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 6, 2009, 7:48 PM | comments: 0

So Palin resigns from being governor, and there are all of these stories asking about her viability for future political office, particularly presidency. The conservative pundits are even talking about her in the context of leadership for the Republican party. For real? Am I missing something? She single-handedly propped up the McCain campaign, and subsequently brought it down. McCain had a shot in virtually every poll prior to her appointment as his running mate.

I'm not hating on her for being a Republican, I'm hating on her because she doesn't have a fucking clue about anything. Despite my general distaste for Republicans over the last decade (which does not, my one-dimensional thinking friends, imply that I love Democrats), I'd hate to see the party completely melt down, as there has to be some healthy debate in government to keep it from going off either deep end. But shit, this woman is not a leader, not a thinker, and seems completely unaware of the world around her. She's not qualified to be a governor, let alone hold national office.

I just find it hard to believe that there isn't someone in the party who can show some leadership.

EDIT: OK, so even someone on Fox Snooze gets what I'm saying...

Back on the bicycle, finally

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 6, 2009, 4:57 PM | comments: 2

I went about two weeks without getting on the bike, due to weather, travel, holidays and a brief bout of indifference. I'm annoyed by myself for that. I know I'll feel awesome afterward, and I just don't associate that award with the action yet.

I did a nice 6.5 mile run though, despite feeling the burn early on. It's a nice half-hour, particularly if I push hard. I was surprised to average 13.3 mph, which for me isn't bad considering all of the slow gearing I drop into on any up grade. I need to get toe clips soon though, because as I remember how to peddle in circles, I remember how how much easier it is when you're strapped in.

Feeling very reflective

posted by Jeff | Sunday, July 5, 2009, 12:34 AM | comments: 0

Diana and I had a nice mellow holiday at home. We watched the Williams sisters in the Wimbledon final this morning, hung out doing pretty much nothing, watched Star Trek III and IV (she loves those movies) and did up some yummy picnic like food. Grilled and blackened some turkey burgers, had brown rice and corn on the cob. Really good meal.

Just before bed, Diana was sorting through some of her mom's old jewelry. I guess she liked a lot of junk, so she'd like to find the stuff that's worth something. I obviously never got to meet her mom, but it makes me smile to hear people talk about her. It sounds like she had her quirks, like anybody, but a lot of people loved her.

That got me to thinking about my own life. There's no real way to know if you're doing enough to have positive impact on other people. There is no universal measuring stick for that sort of thing. It's human nature to nurture, I think, and every year you get older, you want to do more for others. I'm sure that has a lot to do with our desire to have a child, even if we are getting a bit of a late start in trying.

The flip side of that is the expectation of death. After seeing Up, which I imagine would make most anyone cry in the first 15 minutes, Diana told me that few things terrify her more than death. I'm kind of the opposite. While I'm not looking forward to it or crossing the street without looking, I think I have a certain peace about it. I can't control it and it will eventually come for everyone.

And perhaps that realization is what makes us want to do something that matters. It's true that most of us will be completely forgotten a hundred years from now. That doesn't mean, however, that the things we do today don't benefit individuals, and if we're lucky, the world, tomorrow. For many, the accomplishment is as "simple" as having a child, while others become astronauts or presidents.

So it begs the question, what is it that I have really done? While, again, it's hard to measure, I think the kind of love and support I've given to a very small number of people is the biggest legacy I can leave. I'm not done by any means, but if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, I think I'd be content knowing what I have done. As I put it to Diana, whether I live to 50 or 100 (and I'm shooting for the latter), I'm fortunate to be in her life. We spend a lot of time worrying about the future, but we can never do so at the expense of appreciating today.

I'm in...

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 4, 2009, 12:45 AM | comments: 0


We take technology completely for granted

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 3, 2009, 8:05 PM | comments: 2

Gonch posted a link to this column about how unimpressed at 13-year-old was with a Sony Walkman from 30 years ago. The kid's reaction is a lot like putting him on a horse with him not realizing that airplanes are a relatively recent invention.

But while Gonch thinks it makes him old, I would argue that everyone has come to take technology for granted. I mean, we were talking recently in one of the podcasts about how crazy it is that we talk to each other for free hundreds of miles apart (as if we're in the next room), and then distribute a show all over the world. I could not have imagined that 15 years ago.

Or let's go one better. Yesterday I bought a device that's smaller than a deck of cards, lets me call people, has nearly 5,000 songs on it (compared to 10 or so on a cassette), can find my location on a map, plays video games, sends messages, retrieves documents from all over the Internet and does things people haven't even thought of yet. I never saw it coming.

But the truth is that most of us, at any age, aren't even surprised by this anymore. Honestly, that makes me fearful. I mean, what if we start to lose our ability to use our imaginations? I think that would be very sad. How do we come up with the next somethingorother to do stuff we've not considered?


posted by Jeff | Friday, July 3, 2009, 3:19 PM | comments: 0

Beyond my lengthy description of my trip down amnesia lane, I had a nice 36th birthday. My temptation was to talk Diana into doing the Dave & Busters blow out like last year, but I wasn't really in the mood for a bunch of drinking and Deal or No Deal. Not saying we won't still do it at some point in the next week though.

After a brief nap and some Wimbledon on TV, we headed back out to Solon, to meet some ICOM people at the alley. One of my former co-workers was leaving the company (voluntarily) and they were doing a send off for her. We weren't there for very long, but it was fun to see people. There were a few who weren't there, but still, good times.

Since we were out east, we headed up to eat at Stir Crazy. Love that place. I'm still reminded of the bad dates I had there, but I dig the food, brown rice, and this time I got to go with my wife. Had the Sam Adams Summer Ale, which was really quite good. Much lighter than their Boston Lager. Saw it in the grocery store today, but ouch, $8.50 for six.

Wandered over to the Apple Store, and I guess I knew in the back of my mind that I'd probably end up buying an iPhone 3GS eventually. The two year launch anniversary had passed, and it was clear that AT&T's exclusivity was for real (still no definitive statement that I ever saw). After seeing Tyler's and Jeff's, it absolutely seemed like a worthy upgrade. I watched that fucking blue dot on the map the entire way home! I'll post thoughts about it at some point, but I'll say right off the bat that it's pretty awesome to have all of my music on it, nearly 5,000 songs!

It's pretty cool how you get more birthday love via Facebook wall posts than you ever would via birthday cards. I'm not one who has high expectations from others regarding my birthday. I rarely send greeting cards or go ape shit with gifts myself, so it'd be odd to expect it from others. But I had a nice day with Diana, and that was enough of a gift for me.

IPhone video test

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 3, 2009, 11:34 AM | comments: 0

What's most hilarious about this is that under "related videos" when you go to the site, there are about a bazillion other clips labeled exactly the same thing.

A walk around Ashland University

posted by Jeff | Friday, July 3, 2009, 2:02 AM | comments: 0

We headed down to Ashland this morning to start off my birthday with a hair cut from Darcy. After 16 years of nearly uninterrupted cuts, Diana felt like she was meeting my mom for the first time. I can't explain why I still go to her other than she's a sweetheart of a person, and because I go so infrequently, the 45 minute drive isn't that big of a deal.

We followed up with lunch at the place I did my college drinking, for the last three months of my college career, anyway. The rest of my senior year, it was Lucy's, one of only three bars in town, and easily the most convenient. It's strange to go in there, because it still smells familiar, and even with Ohio's no smoking law, it still smells well smoked in. Smells played a big part in much of the trip.

After lunch, we started by driving around a bit, first around Broad Street to see the stadium going up where I used to rent Scott Paxson's house. Looks like it'll be a nice looking place, and it's long, long overdue. That they used to play at the high school is half the reason I never went to any games after my freshman year.

From there we drove around to King and Samaritan, where the university has taken over. The new student center, the rec center, the senior apartments, the new education building, the Kettering expansion, the closed Grant Street... it's crazy what has gone on in 16 years. Plus there's the business building where Grant Elementary used to be. I barely recognize the place.

Though I suspected no one would be around, we did try to get into R/TV, but it was quite vacant. Fortunately I just recently got the tour from Dr. Gretchen, and saw Tom G. there, but I hoped to show Diana where the magic used to happen. Although, it only kinda happened there, since the radio floor was gutted and rebuilt. Ah the days of the green shag carpet walls.

The scene shop to the theatre was open, so Diana had a brief moment to geek out there. Looks like they replaced the ancient dimmers out of there at some point, which is good since they seemed like a fire risk back in the day. And to think that awful building was built in that shape because it looked good from the sky.

We walked out along College Avenue, where I explained to Diana that all of the cast iron eagles around campus had names, there was some story about them all, and that's all I remember. We looped around the front lawn and then walked through the church, and back out to King Road.

We got pretty lost in looking at all of the photos around the new (well, new to me) student center. I figured I'd find myself in there somewhere, and sure enough, the 1992 R/TV banquet photo was there. I never appeared in subsequent photos, which is something I'll get back to. Still, people from the early to mid 90's were well represented there, and it was neat to see many faces that I hadn't thought about in years.

They had some big old photos of the board of trustees, and I was thrilled to see that Dan Lehman, my journalism professor, was among them. I remember him expressing certain frustrations with the school at various times, and I hope that in his position now he's able to have meaningful impact on the place. He was absolutely one of my favorite professors in all of the time I was there.

I was impressed peeking into the new rec center. That's a really nice building. Not sure why they didn't build a bigger pool when they had the chance. Overall, it was nice to see intramural space, the pool, pool tables and everything in one place.

We walked though several dorms, most of which were open as there was some massive convergence of Indian families from around the US (they had name tags with cities), and they were staying there. First through Kilhefner, which has held up remarkably well since the 1992 lobby renovation. It stinks less than it used to. Then into Myers, which really brought back a hundred memories, all of girls I was friends with, made out with or wanted to make out with. We dropped into Redwood just to see it, and Diana thought that was a neat space. Jacobs was open too, aside from some paint, the lobby looks the same. We went up for shits and giggles to see if 201, my junior year room and the largest regular double on campus, was open for some reason, but no joy. They've replaced all of the doors and put drywall over the block walls, recently it seems. Between that and new carpet, it no longer echos in the halls. It's strange to go out the back door and see the senior apartments.

The quad looks dramatically different. The Kettering expansion reduced it in size by a good 50 feet or more, and the trees on all sides have grown in so much. The eagle in front of Myers faces into a tree and is barely visible. The Avenue of The Eagles has a thick jungle canopy over it now. It generally feels more rustic, and I mean that in a good way. Though I suppose, as a sign of the times, it also is home to a security panic phone.

Seeing Grant Street closed off is odd, but with the new education building, it really makes sense. It could benefit from some bigger trees, though I think they did save some on the old house properties where the ed building is.

The whole experience was completely surreal. It's like so much time has passed, and yet, it seems like yesterday that I lived there. There's something about the on-campus environment that is amazing, and Diana nailed it when she said it was the sense of community you have from living and working with people in such close quarters. She went to several schools of similar size, so we had similar experiences. It's strange how the electronic bells, the smell of A&H and those silly metal birds create such rich and detailed memories.

For me, Ashland was a place I loved and often hated. Having spent a lot of time doing TV stuff before I got there, it was exciting to have the opportunity to do even more, get my own shows and even do radio within a week of being there. I got the sweet freshman in TV award or something. By my sophomore year, when I wasn't being depressed over a girl, I was getting involved in other stuff, including residence life. Mid way through my junior year, I branched out of R/TV a bit, and my frustrations with Ego Papppas made me crave something more, driving me out to a commercial radio job. I was doing Collegian stuff and started journalism as a second major. By my senior year, I was in many ways done with R/TV, though not with my classmates. I just didn't see them as much, which I somewhat regret, but there were so many other things going on, and I figured I'd be doing that broadcast shit the rest of my life. I was dating someone, spending Thursday's at Lucy's, making new friends, more newspaper stuff, Y-105 on weekends, Super NES... I felt like I was finally taking advantage of everything that was college!

But for all of the bullshit I had to deal with, there were good things going on as well, and both prepared me for life in many ways. I wouldn't change many things (aside from a concerted effort to not be such a prude). The weird thing today is that, despite programming being my primary profession, all of the R/TV and journalism stuff serves me today. It just serves me in ways I wouldn't have imagined. I get to do a goofy audio show distributed over the Internet, I get to cut high definition video in a very loose format and post that on the Internet, and I get to decide what stories in a niche interest are newsworthy and, you guessed it, put them on the Internet. The distribution medium has changed, but I still get to do many of the things I loved to do back then, and largely on my own terms.

I miss that sense of community though. I've had something almost as cool in a couple of jobs, but you still tend to take it for granted when you're there. What's neat to see is how everyone has rolled with the changes life sends your way, thanks largely to Facebook. I had lunch with Shari in December, just before she moved to the Carolinas, and I have great admiration for the way her professional life has gone. She stuck in TV for a long time, and finally bailed, got into a corporate situation that may have made her wealthy, and recently left that to start over to do something that makes her happy.

That story is representative of the thing you can't possibly learn in college. Larry Hiner, who I loved dearly, even though I often disagreed with him, used to tell us that most of us in R/TV would end up "selling sneakers." He was right, but no one ever told us that it wasn't an indication of failure, especially if you like shoes! Indeed, some of us went on to be opthomologists, PR experts, stay-at-home moms, voice talent for anime, and yes, even software developers. Almost every person I went to school with was above average in the ways of broadcast ninjas, and most left the biz by choice. (Hang in there, Ted!) I think it speaks volumes about the quality of the people, in that they've been successful in completely new professions.

I'm not even sure where I'm rambling with this. I guess being there reminded me of a time when we all had to prove ourselves, and as time has passed, the only thing that still matters is that we had the opportunity to be there, and laugh, cry, drink (and get naked from time to time). I'm thankful for that chapter of my life.

Why Apple can make more

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

I know that Microsoft is campaigning now to let everyone know that Macs are expensive and, allegedly, people buy them because they want to be cool. I certainly won't deny that some of that goes on, but I think it's only half of the story. They saw a slight decline this year, but are still way outpacing the overall PC market.

My personal love for the machines is more based on the fact that they're just so damn solid. I mean, I'm a Windows developer, and I still want the shiny aluminum stuff. It feels better in your hands, the quality of the screens and keyboards are better and they don't make a low end anything. For me, as someone who makes a living using the machine, I want the nicest machine I can get my hands on.

As a business strategy, Apple's biggest story is that they're simply not chasing after a crowded commodity market. Analysts and pundits are always saying how Apple could do this or that with greater market share, but why would they want to do that? I think even in this economy, there is a consumer segment that wants better quality stuff, and is willing to pay for it. Apple's margin on some machines is higher than the entire cost of some of the junk peddled by Dell and HP.

I admire that they're able to market themselves from a better product angle and not get too wrapped up in price. Granted, it means they have to deliver on the promise, and I think for the most part they have. I'm very curious to know if they can continue this trend. It has been awhile since they've had a truly colossal failure.

Scary drive

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 6:19 PM | comments: 0

Diana just called me... apparently her boss, who was driving them back from Buffalo, nearly passed out almost as they got back to the office. Scary stuff. She's on her way home now, and her boss went to the hospital. Potential for stuff like that scares the shit out of me every time Diana leaves the house.

Work, fear, opportunity, happiness

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 5:35 PM | comments: 0

Today is the one-year anniversary of the first round of lay-offs at ICOM. I can't believe how quick the year went. At the time, I really looked at it as an opportunity to try some new things, and I certainly have had that chance. I do miss the people though. Of all the places I've worked, that was easily the most solid in terms of people who knew what the hell was going on in the world. Two and a half good years there, even with the ups and downs.

Since that day, I worked about half of the year. I waited three months for one gig to materialize that sounded awesome, only to find that there was no work once I was hired, and was back on the street two months later. I felt a bit like a sucker for that one, because the dude really gave me the hard sell about how awesome the gig was going to be. But I learned from it, and had a nice vacation after that.

A month after that, I started with a small company that was a mess, but I enjoyed the opportunity to fix the development problems and make meaningful progress there. I set high goals for myself to get things closer to "right" in three months, and hit every goal. Unfortunately, and I saw this coming given that no one had been there longer than six months, the owners continued to make all of the wrong strategic decisions, had complete disregard for the people they hired, and just generally had no clue about running a business. Perhaps the biggest lesson out of that gig was that if I ever hire people myself, I'll only do so if I can treat them with respect and honesty that makes them feel invested in the company. You're nothing without your people.

In talking with fellow lay-offees and former co-workers, I'm saddened by the amount of fear people have. I guess I've been there before, since my post-9/11 layoff really messed with my self-esteem. I never had the fear while working, but I can relate to putting much of your self-worth in a job. What's interesting for me is that I can compare the fear of impending doom a lot of people have at their jobs to my own fears, hopes and dreams as an entrepreneur trying to figure out what business I'm in. Given the choice, I think I'd rather be poor and rolling with my own path then having my destiny wrapped up in someone else's decision to maintain payroll.

But the thing I always go back to is the people. I like working with smart people, and I miss that. I barely make enough money in my business today to pay myself, let alone someone else. If the right opportunity came around (the big "if" being that there aren't many period right now), I'd dive in.

I can conclude from all of this that the ideal intersection of work and happiness looks something like this. I work in a situation where I can largely control my own destiny (which can be for myself or others, I've realized) and I get to do it with people that I like and can be smarter for the experience. That's surprisingly uncomplicated! The complication comes more from figuring out how to get there. And there's that other little detail too... that you have to make enough money to be comfortable and reach your financial goals.

In the bigger picture, I can't really complain much about the last year, especially given all of the non-work related awesomeness I've enjoyed. I got married, had seriously fun times traveling to Florida a few times, Hawaii, MSP, Eastern PA, a tennis match, Las Vegas... lots of airline miles. Life has been mostly good to me, and I dare not forget that.

304 Images in .NET

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 2:33 AM | comments: 0

Super geeky post on my tech blog about doing up 304 responses for images stored in a database. For the biggest programming dorks only, please. :)

Working "the feature"

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 1, 2009, 1:43 AM | comments: 0

The feature I was working on for CoasterBuzz is safely in the hands of club members for testing, although with only 300-something club members, of which only a small percentage regularly contribute on the site, it might not be the biggest test. Still, they've found some basic problems, which I'd hate to have exposed to more people. Still a few things to work in, but the hardest stuff is done.

One of the things that's clear is that I'll eventually have to rewrite the forum app, yet again. I'm pushing it a bit beyond the limits of what it's supposed to do. It's also not abstract enough to make it easy to maintain and test. Naturally I'd do it in MVC if I did rewrite it.

But that kind of thing has to come some time later. I'm trying to focus on delivering new stuff, and entirely new projects, as that's where the greatest amount of growth potential is. I've gotta grow the company, or get the growth started, then go back to iterating on old stuff.

And with that, I need a break from it. Wrists hurt, brain hurts and I need to spend human time with Diana when she gets back tomorrow. I'm really pleased with the quantity and quality of work I'm doing lately, in part because I log what I'm doing so I'm more accountable to myself.

Jeff Putz week starts late in the afternoon...