Archive: September, 2009

Worst flight ever, and not because of the plane

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 12:56 AM | comments: 1

The flight from MSP to SEA was not good. The plane was fine, but the occupants were not.

I had a mom behind me who wedged her kid's car seat in between my seat and the kid's, meaning every kick that kid made I felt for three hours. And honestly, that wasn't the worse of it.

The college kid next to me had the plague. His nose was like a leaky faucet, and the sneezing and coughing never ended. When we landed, he called his grandmother, and told her, "Yeah, I still have a fever, and I don't feel any better." Seriously, what was this kid doing getting on a plane?

I'm trying not to freak out. I hosed down as soon as I got to the hotel (the lovely Hilton Bellevue, thanks Microsoft). I do plan to try and stay up a bit, so I'm not up at 5 a.m., and so I can do some basic review of stuff people ask in interviews that one generally doesn't think about often.

I love the skyline of this city. :)

High hopes for fall TV

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 28, 2009, 11:02 PM | comments: 0

So far, so good on TV shows. With so many that we watched biting the dust, I wondered if we'd be watching much of anything. TV is not a huge thing for us anyway, but I wondered if we'd be limited to House, Fringe and 24. Here's the recap of what we've seen so far.

The Cleveland Show: A spin-off for Family Guy seems weird, and I wouldn't have picked that character for it. Surprisingly though, once you get past all of the character set up, it does look like it has potential. Clearly they don't take themselves too seriously, as they've already used the joke about white people making shows for black people that are really bad. And what the hell, the bears living next door are hilarious.

Family Guy: First show was one of the epic Brian and Stewie adventures, and it was a ton of laughs. They pull no punches making fun of Disney, though I'm not sure I get where Disney had something against Jews, other than some unproven rumor that Walt was an anti-Semite. One of the alternate realities they visit has dogs being the dominant species with humans as their pets, and you can imagine where that goes.

Modern Family: Saw this one plugged in the "First Look" thing before the movies (along with Trauma), and decided to give it a shot. It's completely hilarious, and well written. Despite having to do a fair amount of character set up (there are 10 in the ensemble, not counting the baby), they nailed a ton of smart jokes and the characters are already very well drawn. It could be huge.

Fringe: What can I say... it's Alias meets X-Files, without aliens. It very thoroughly covers a growing mythology (where's The Observer though?) with solid episodic plots. It's starting to get a little more weird, but I think the writing has been smart enough that they'll stay on course. Easily one of my favorite shows in a long time.

House: Great start to the season, and I look forward to seeing how they work him back into routines. Clearly they had to move on from the pill popping and House-gets-along-with-no-one routine because it's not believable that anyone can function like that indefinitely. Now that he's detoxed and realizes what a douche he is, what's next?

FlashForward: We got around to watching this tonight, and it has a lot of promise. It's going to weigh very heavily on themes of destiny and fate, seeing as how everyone blacked out and saw two minutes of their future, which happens to fall at the traditional end of the regular TV season. And the conspiracy element has been set up as well, with the find on surveillance video of one person at a Tigers game who did not pass out. Fucking Detroit, of course.

Still TBD... Trauma, which started tonight, and Clone Wars, restarting this weekend. I'm sure 24 is a post-holiday start.

Fall melancholy

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 28, 2009, 1:13 PM | comments: 0

Wow, the weather today is super gloomy. It's cold, windy, gray and generally ugly. Fall has definitely arrived, and it's not pretty. I think it's only accentuated by the fact that I spent the weekend 300 miles more south whilst wearing shorts.

Looks like I'll see a little sun in Seattle later on Wednesday, and come home to a little more. I'm not ready for gloomy weather!

Top notch Fall Affair weekend!

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 28, 2009, 12:16 AM | comments: 0

I had really high hopes for this weekend. I needed everything to go smoothly, to relax and enjoy good times with friends. I got all of the above.

We didn't have the numbers we had last year, as I expected, but we had a healthy crowd of around 70-something. Some people bailed after dinner, before the monsoon, but those who did stay got some of the most insane exclusive ride time in history on the Voyage, in a torrential downpour. And yes, there's video, and I'll definitely post it when I get it edited down a bit.

The event itself went really well. A lot of people got to just hang out all day and ride. The park was so empty that lots of folks had "virtual" ERT pretty much all day. I know a lot of people were sitting on Raven for a period of time, and others were riding Voyage perhaps every other train. As usual, the park's people were awesome.

My enthusiasm for the weekend was mostly around the social aspect, especially finally getting to see Mike and Artemisa for the first time in almost three years. All of those good intentions to go visit them in Chicago just never panned out. And now, not one, but two little girls! Violet is just a tiny little thing at four months, but seemed surprisingly mellow most of the time. Artemisa insists that's not normal for her. Natalia is just over two, and she's a little talker. She really seemed to take to me and Diana, and seeing a little person like that makes us want one! Although ours will obviously not be half Mexican.

Also solid was a chance to spend some time with Tyler and Carrie. It's strange the way the Internet has enabled us to have friendships that cross several states, but it also sucks that you see the people so infrequently. Luckily, we did get to see Carrie early in the season, and I met up with Tyler at Kennywood this year (and obviously he was at the wedding). Good times with good friends.

We were also lucky enough to see Mike and Corrie Graham, especially since Corrie is only a few months away from delivering their first baby! The Grahams are two of my favorite people for a great many reasons, and I'm very happy for their procreation. Corrie had a photo book of all of her ultrasounds, which she's had almost weekly (because she's diabetic, and they have to watch the growth of the baby carefully). Mike shared some renderings of his "baby" as well (that new thing he's designing that has wheels).

Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better time, except perhaps no rain. I didn't take any laps at all for ERT, but got some in earlier. I was being Mr. Documentarian. We finished out the night recording the podcast, which is always ten times more fun and interesting when we're live and in person with each other.

Before leaving this morning, Mike let me take Diana around for a spin in their Prius. You can really scare the crap out of a kid on his bike in that thing in a campground, what with the silence and all.

I really needed this weekend. Here's hoping all of this positive energy is leading to something else positive this week!

Registration stuff good to go

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 25, 2009, 12:31 AM | comments: 0

Thank God for Diana and her generally solid ability to organize stuff. We spreadsheet'd all of the event registrations, printed envelopes, stuffed them with tickets, itineraries, coupons, name tags and got everything ready to go in about two hours. Check-in should be pretty smooth. The park is going to hook me up with Internet access as well, so I'll be able to accept credit cards for on-site registrations.

I really need to write that online registration app. I have it worked out in my head how it should work. Just need to write it one of these days. It's hard to prioritize it for something that would only be used at most two or three times a year, but on the other hand, an online based club should probably have online event registration!

Gmail pusher

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 24, 2009, 1:02 PM | comments: 0

They enabled ActiveSync/Exchange support for Gmail finally. I was already using it for Google Calendar on the iPhone. It's nice that it's one account, but honestly, it doesn't matter that much since I have no desire to enable push support. If you do nothing at all with your phone the entire day, push will zap the battery 30%, morning to night. I don't even have my phone polling for mail on intervals. First, I'm generally near a computer all day anyway, and second, I just don't need to be that connected.

One negative about using sync is that it doesn't expose the real trash. Pushing the trash button correctly archives the e-mail (into "all mail"), but you can't transfer a message to the real trash. I have no use for marketing mail or miscellaneous notifications, and as such I trash those so as not to create noise in the archive when I'm searching for something. Yes, I have nearly 30,000 e-mail messages dating back to 1996. (IMAP got old mail into Gmail.) I was such fuckwit in 1996. :)

Another visit to Ashland

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 24, 2009, 1:34 AM | comments: 0

Dropped into the old college town today for a haircut. Sixteen years now going to Darcy. I couldn't help but think about how I might not get to visit her anymore if I get the big gig.

After hairs cuts, I had lunch with Dr. Gretchen. It's so weird to see her down in the radio/TV hall, in an office, when I remember her coming in as a bright eyed freshman. She's a parent of only a year, so we talked a lot about making babies. It's also fun to talk to her about how it's difficult to truly evolve an academic program rooted in traditional broadcast and journalism. If there's one thing that would drive me nuts about working in an academic environment, it's that the status quo is practically an immovable object. Some programs don't change much over time, and don't really have to. R/TV isn't even called R/TV anymore, since it wouldn't make sense in light of the broad spectrum of media in the world today.

I also ran into Tom, who was the assistant engineer back in our day, only a few years older than us, actually. Now he's the chief and operations guy. I feel so old when I talk about what we had back in the mid-90's, compared to what they have today. On one hand, I'm familiar with most of the standard production gear (God knows I've bought enough of my own!), but the current state of the art for multi-camera field production has changed drastically. Unfortunately, they're not state of the art yet, but things like the new stadium have the right conduit in place so they can get there when the time is right.

They have a new radio guy there, and it sounds like he's very open to alumni dropping in to pick up a shift or two. I am all about that. I'd like to get back and do it a few times. It's something I was really good at, and I hate that the business itself just got so shitty. It was a lot more fun when I didn't have to do it for a living.

The couple of visits I've had there this year has really brought back a lot of memories, and a great deal of perspective about myself. So many things about my personality, good and bad, began to take shape in those years, and bringing those things to the forefront of my mind goes a long way toward helping me understand how to move forward.

New ATM's, not so reliable, actually

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 9:15 PM | comments: 3

I previously mentioned how I think the new Chase ATM's around here are cool. I'm rethinking that.

I've got a big old stack of checks to deposit for Fall Affair, and after three attempts to drop them in the machine, it has either been down or working but not for check deposits. I'm annoyed. Not a great track record in terms of reliability so far. Please don't make me go into the branch. That's so 1985.

Interestingly enough, they do have a system now where you pay something up front, but get a little machine that scans the checks and "deposits" them via the wire. That only makes sense at this point. I can't remember when I stopped getting what few checks I write back. Even those I do send aren't always returned to the bank, but rather are converted to electronic transactions.

My last hold out for checks is the gas company. I don't auto-pay because I don't trust the guesstimates on usage every other month, and I just assume have the chance to challenge them if need be. And their online payment actually has a surcharge, so I don't do that either. Oh, I have to pay by check for the county sewer too, because that's the only option.

The wrong casino issue

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 12:48 PM | comments: 8

We've got yet another casino proposal on the ballot here in Ohio this fall, and once again, it's the wrong one.

I don't have any philosophical or moral issue with casinos. I think it's stupid to expect some great economical boost (how's that working out for you, Detroit?). What I take issue with is that every time it comes up, it's a constitutional amendment with very specific attachments. In this case, it actually names the specific parcels of land where each casino can be built. Can you imagine if the US Constitution said where you had to build specific buildings? That would be completely asinine.

This also outlines in constitutional law who benefits first from the construction of these casinos. Whoever owns the land, makes out big time. That's completely wrong. I firmly believe that the licenses should first be bid out competitively, not set at an arbitrary $50 million each. If the state can get more, they should. Furthermore, once they do secure a license, they should have to find the land most suitable for their plans. The constitution should not be amended to decide which land owners win.

You can see why this keeps coming up over and over. In order to initiate the issue at all, you need significant backing, and no one is going to do it until they have some assurance that they will benefit.

The burden of trying to lead

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 21, 2009, 11:58 PM | comments: 0

One of the things I've tried to do in my "down time" this summer is improve my skills and generally know more stuff. I would even go as far as to say that I want to assume more of a leadership role in the things that I do, whether it be community building or developing software. It's my inner coach coming out after a couple of seasons of non-coaching (in the volleyball sense, that is).

So this evening, I was hitting the old Google Reader to see what I've missed. Saturday we were at Cedar Point most of the day. Yesterday we were in Toledo. Today we were tooling around with Diana's dad and Helen Ann. So essentially I was three days behind. And I haven't even looked at Twitter since Thursday.

It left me feeling overwhelmed, and out of the loop. That messes with my confidence a bit in a time where I should be demonstrating my awesomeness. As with anything though, that's me losing perspective. I'm not any less knowledgeable than I was last week, and the real important stuff makes its way through the filters of the social Web and eventually land in front of me anyway. I don't need to be plugged-in 24/7 unless that's my job.

Sometimes you do need to think about the audience

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 21, 2009, 11:45 PM | comments: 0

My best friend and best man Tim has said of me on several occasions (including at the wedding) that the he likes about me is that there is no real mystery about where I stand on things. I say what I think. This has landed me in trouble countless times, but I tend to rationalize that being passive-aggressive, manipulative, guilt-inducing or otherwise dishonest (or only partially forthcoming) would cause far more toxicity in my life than the few times I over-share.

Given this tendency, I very much write in this blog whatever is on my mind, without any regard to who the audience may be. I do it for me, so whatever. But there are times where I start to realize that I need to also be aware that it is public, so the audience can be anyone. We had some conversations last weekend at BooBuzz where people knew a lot about what was going on in my life. While none of it was anything that needs to be a secret, I guess I was a little creeped out that anyone would remember the details of my relatively average life. Maybe I share too much.

There's also the issue where people can misinterpret what I write, and God knows that's happened more times than I can count. It's not that anyone is that arrogant to think it's about them, as much as you'd be surprised just how much people have things in common. And sometimes, you just need to remember to tell people directly how you feel about them, just to make sure they know.

I'm not sure what to do with those realizations exactly. Just something that I was thinking about.

The relationship continuum

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 21, 2009, 1:37 AM | comments: 2

We went to a huge family reunion today in Toledo, where everyone was generally related, but didn't necessarily know how. Some people hadn't seen each other in decades, and there were all manner of new children and spouses there. While acquiring a microphone and sorting out how everyone was related, Diana's dad proposed to Helen Ann. What a way to be formally invited into the family!

We all have relationship stories. I shared a bit with one of the aunts concerning Stephanie.  This led to more discussion in the car ride home about the overall continuum of relationships in our lives. Much of the drama in our personal lives ends up being rooted in relationships, and it doesn't make any sense.

It's probably easy for me to think that, because despite my divorce being one of the most painful things I've ever been through, I wouldn't trade my time with Steph for anything. She was my wife and best friend for years, and for better or worse, that's part of who I am. How could I ever be angry or bitter for having those times? That I'm now married to Diana is additive in nature. She's not a replacement, she's someone completely different in a different time and in different circumstances. You don't replace people in relationships, you add them to the history of your life. I think that's the healthy way to approach all of your relationships. If you're looking for replacements, you aren't learning anything, and you're just looking for a warm body to sleep next to.

We know someone on a fairly destructive path like that. She's getting divorced, spends a great deal of energy disliking the guy, and now is throwing herself into a new relationship with very little regard or reflection as to why the marriage failed. She's angry and lonely, and maybe making a lot of the same mistakes. I wish she'd learn to look at the failed marriage as having given her this and that, and she takes those things with her, good or bad.

Dad-in-law's situation I suspect is an even more difficult scenario. The end of his previous relationship certainly wasn't anyone's choice. It was decided for everyone by cancer. Diana and I have made it very clear that if one of us gets hit by a bus, cry at the funeral, and then get back out there to find a happy compliment. We both know that if we're gone, we're not coming back, and we wouldn't want the other to sulk and feel some kind of obligation not to get on with life. Today's announcement was wonderful.

The reality is that people come in and out of our lives. It's just the way it is. You can treat it like a single slot in your life where you keep swapping out parts, or you can treat it as a continuum from which you learn, grow, and hopefully, land with someone who is there with you until the end, and without drama, guilt and toxicity.

Event madness and registrations

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 19, 2009, 1:14 AM | comments: 2

I've gotta say, I have no idea what to expect at BooBuzz tomorrow in terms of numbers. While club membership is 35% higher than it was a year ago, I'm not sure what that means.

As of Monday, I was a little concerned about the numbers for Fall Affair at Holiday World. I had a grand total of 40, which is a far cry from the hundred or so we had last year. By today it was almost 70-ish, but that's still a pretty serious drop unless we get a whole lot of walk-ups. I'm thinking that people just aren't traveling as much this year, which probably falls in line with what reports about tourism have been saying.

Meanwhile, I'm astounded that no matter what you do, some people will never follow directions. I must put in three places now about filling out the form completely, even in red letters, and still I get forms that are incomplete and returned. I just won't charge a card without a verifiable address.

What's even more gross is that people sometimes use the form as a place mat for dinner or something. I've had some really disgusting forms over the years. I don't get that at all. I mean, wouldn't the typical workflow be, print out, fill-out, put in envelope? You didn't turn in homework like that, did you?

Of course, this all points to the bigger question about why I don't handle registrations online. I know. I hoped to have an online registration app done by the end of 2003. I'm still thinking about it even. I have a great domain name for it too, and very much considered building an app that could handle event registration in a more general sense. You know, as a side business. Add it to the other dozen ideas I have with domain names.

It'll be cool in the morning, but I've only had one lap on Maverick this year, so I'm looking forward to it. It does suck that Diana can't join me.

Imogen Heap at TED

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 19, 2009, 1:00 AM | comments: 0

I wish they'd post her entire talk. Her creative process and endless gadgets and instruments are fascinating. That said, this is a pretty cool all-piano performance of "Wait It Out." In a lot of ways, she's even better when it's down to basics.

Mint and Intuit

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 18, 2009, 10:27 PM | comments: 0

37signals guy Jason Fried posted a rant about how annoyed he is that Mint sold out to Intuit. On the surface, I do see where he's coming from, as he has long championed the idea of independent, reasonable sized companies that are profitable. But where I take issue with his position is that he makes two assumptions I can't agree with.

The first is that the Mint product automatically becomes shit just because it's owned by Intuit. I'm not a huge fan (though I still use QuickBooks '99 for the business), but I don't see a reason to assume they're going to mess it up. The second assumption is that big, old business are ultimately evil and never do the right thing. Again, that's probably a reasonable generalization, but I think it paints the world in too broad of a stroke.

In the last ten years, I've worked for quite a few start-ups and small companies. I can say for the most part that all but one has generally let me down, and even the good one made some pretty poor decisions. Now I find myself actually wanting to work for a gigantic company, because I'm excited about what they do. I can see them making good decisions, and I want to be a part of that. Sometimes The Man can get it right.

Fried seems to hold the belief that there's a time limit on being a good company. That's ironic, since he seems to be making an argument for building great companies that change stuff and have a long-term strategy. What difference does it make if that's an older company? As someone who sometimes appears obsessed with sticking it to The Man, even I see this as silly.

Missing Garbage

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 18, 2009, 2:10 AM | comments: 0

The thing about having your entire library of music on your phone is that you're often reminded of your life's enormous soundtrack. The last Garbage album is now more than four years in the past, and that sucks.

The official site has nothing to share, other than Shirley uses Facebook. She's been active lately, too. And there are some cute photos of here there that are non-Terminator like. I like this one. Even more surprising, one without her trademark eyeliner. Sounds like she's seen a lot of death and destruction in her life by reading her notes.

Apparently, Geffen dropped her because they thought her solo music was too dark. Like, they never listened to a Garbage record? I mean, the last album was called Bleed Like Me. Not everything has to be puppies and rainbows.

I've always liked her sound and style (aside from the time she says she hated herself, cut her hair off and went blonde). I hope we haven't heard the last from her.

Fringe is back!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 17, 2009, 11:11 PM | comments: 0

We decided not to just let the DVR catch it and watched Fringe live tonight. That show is so ridiculously awesome. It looks like the cliff hanger from the end of last season won't be resolved any time soon, but rather was the impetus for the start of this season's new weirdness. Already we have a new character poking around, a relationship revealed that is completely odd, a dead principle character (sort of) and some assurance that we're going to see more of Leonard Nimoy before the end of the season.

This show absolutely fills the void left by Alias. I love it when they make subtle references to it as well. The challenge is going to be to continue building a story arc that doesn't keep folding back on itself, and keeps bringing new things to the table. It also has to reveal enough that you don't end up just being annoyed, something that apparently has chased off a lot of Lost fans. So far, I think the story telling is a lot more concise than Alias, even with the ambiguity they constantly inject into it. It feels like it's going somewhere.

House starts next week, and I assume we'll be waiting until January for 24 to start. Other than that, there's nothing from previous years that I want to see. Sure, there's Clone Wars and Venture Bros., but those aren't the same level as the big network shows. I have high hopes for FlashForward, and maybe Trauma (I wanna see another show shot on Red cameras).

Second gig, probably not

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 17, 2009, 4:09 PM | comments: 0

Had a really good discussion with the hiring manager for that PM gig in the Visual Studio group. I probably don't have the exact experience he'd like, so it's probably not one they'll consider me for. With that said, he thinks I have a lot of different knowledge and experience that people in the bigger group (server and tools) need, and he wants to meet up with me if at all possible while I'm there.

That's the interesting angle at this point. I find myself networking to a lot of people right now that I had never heard of two weeks ago. If the STO gig doesn't pan out, I need to keep this momentum and stay engaged with as many people as possible. The more I learn about what goes on there, the more I realize that it feels like the place I need to be. I don't think I've ever been excited about a company like this before. It feels different.

Just under two weeks to go.


posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 17, 2009, 2:40 PM | comments: 0

Things seemed normal this morning with a visit to Dr. Nattisox/Chloe. Got to hear the little doppler thing make some noise, and Diana got a non-H1N1 flu shot. Her arm hurts.

We brought to the forefront the C-section issue. With Diana's previous hernia surgeries, that doctor suggested that there was some serious risk of rupturing them again in child birth, since they're not the typical "patch jobs" due to her various allergies and what not. The doc said that ultimately it's Diana's choice, and I think we all agree that a C-section is a lot less risky in terms of maintaining the structural integrity of her abdomen. As it is, she's already having a dull pain of sorts in the area around one of the surgeries. I'm sure that'll make the next 24 weeks a ton of fun.

If we do end up moving, we agree that it would be a serious bummer to lose this doctor in the process. She's a very kind and caring doctor in terms of her reassurance and bedside manner. I suspect a lot of OB's are like that, but even with the relatively short amounts of time she spends with you, it makes everything less scary.

Solid day of comprooding

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 11:37 PM | comments: 0

Diana hates it when I use variations on the non-word "comprooder." But it makes me laugh. You have to appreciate that when I was working at CompUSA (R.I.P.) right after I graduated from college, I'd have customers approach me and ask, "You got some of dem new Pentenium comprooders?" Come on, that's kind of funny.

One of the things I worked on today, in an effort to brush up on my skillz before the big interviews, involves a project that I've kind of had in the back of my mind as a real, useful, bona fide open source project. I don't want to go into a lot of detail, but suffice it to say that it's something a lot of folks are asking for, there's an opportunity around it, and it's just something I have a lot of interest in doing.

Putting that stuff in motion felt good, and I'm starting to really believe that I have a thing for picking up things I don't necessarily have a strong foundation in pretty quickly. When I interviewed last year for Telligent, I knew exactly what deficiency precluded me from the gig, and it didn't take me long thereafter to go where I needed to in order to correct that. I think that's the asset I need to really push going forward: What I don't know now, I will soon.

I've also come to realize today that much of my stress, doubt and fear is rooted in a number of external factors that have nothing to do with my ability to write code, lead or be charming. Fortunately, my darling wife reminds me of this daily.

There's a lot of excitement in the next two weeks. BooBuzz is just a few days away! Fall Affair at Holiday World the week after is looking a little anemic in attendance, but given the friends who will be there, it will be the ultimate event.

They're calling again

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 7:29 PM | comments: 2

A different recruiter at Microsoft sent me a message today asking about availability for another phone screen for a program manager position in the Visual Web Developer product group.

It's nice to be wanted. :) Although now if I don't land a job, imagine how I'd feel!

Apple greatness

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 11:55 AM | comments: 2

Experience the Apple keynote greatness in less than two minutes.


posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 10:53 AM | comments: 0

My friend Maureen (redhead) sent me this. I don't know where she gets the idea that I've always had a thing for redheads.

Only two weeks to go, to grow

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 12:47 AM | comments: 0

I realized today that I go to Seattle in two weeks, and my weekends are pretty much shot with the two CoasterBuzz events. Factor in other appointments and what not, and I've really only got six days to lock down the things on my self-imposed agenda prior to the interview. That's not much time.

Diana and my various friends believe that I'm probably putting way too much pressure on myself, and they're probably right. While the stress of the self-imposed pressure isn't fun, it is kind of a rush to feel this invigorated by even the prospect of a new job. In talking to a friend about such career matters this evening, I've come to realize that it has been a long time since I was truly challenged by anyone other than myself.

I've noticed that there is a subset of people in creative and programming careers (and programming is arguably a creative endeavor) that get much of their satisfaction from personal growth. I'm definitely one of them. I've met people who learned something 30 years ago and are perfectly content to just keep doing what they know, but that's so not me. How could you not be bored out of your mind?

That's definitely where I get geeked about this gig. The potential to get better at what I do, whether it be with regards to software development or leadership or any of the things that turn me on, is what makes me so nutty about it.

New Venus Hum in a few weeks!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 10:43 PM | comments: 0

I'm so excited I could poop my pants. There's a new Venus Hum album coming out in a few weeks. Samples here. And worse, they're going to do a live show in Nashville on Oct. 9. I'm not sure if someone needs to talk me into going to see them or talk me out of it.

Idiocracy is starting to feel real

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 5:15 PM | comments: 1

Ever see the movie Idiocracy? When you watch the video below, you might feel like we're there.

I'll freely admit that the video selects the dumbest people they can find and that they're obviously advocates of whatever issues they choose, but what scares the hell out of me is that people are this stupid at all, and they're loud. And other stupid people listen to them. I'm embarrassed that people from other countries can see this.

How is it that we're failing on education this much? I mean, if you compare any elected official in all of American history to Hitler or Nazis, what the fuck is wrong with you? Which part of anything is like slaughtering millions of people for their religious beliefs? People don't know what communism or fascism is. If they'd pick up a book they'd see that socialism is something we already participate in, and mostly to our benefit. That's not to say that it's perfect or always the right thing to do, but it's there.

I don't get what it is that people are scared of. They repeat what they hear on TV and make zero effort to understand anything. They don't even know what they're scared of. But I suppose that's the root of fear, right? What you don't know could hurt you. It goes back to my previous post about having all the information in front of you, but not taking advantage of it.

I've done my best to try and engage and understand issues of macroeconomics and health care and what not, and I don't always fully understand it. My feeling about the health care reform is that it doesn't exactly fix what I think are the most critical issues, and I wonder if the up front expense reduces the cost in the end. But I have this opinion because I've tried to understand it, not because some moron marched on Washington with a sign that doesn't even make sense.

Political "activism" these days has taken a bizarre turn. In the old days, you protested things that fall into some moral ideal, like an end to racism or war or violence, or heck, even abortion. Now you just apply an "-ism" to something you don't understand and look like a moron on the Internet. Say what you will about the alleged "evils" of government and big business and the financial industry, but it's the uneducated people on the so-called Main Street that scare the hell out of me.

Edit: Daily Show is back! With more crazy people...

GKTW fund raising total

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 1:48 PM | comments: 0

Just got the word from Susie at Give Kids The World that the event at Cedar Point raised $9609.85! That's crazy! Mad props to all of the Gemini riders (and crew) who made it happen.

New Red demo reel

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 15, 2009, 1:42 AM | comments: 0

Wow... the Red camera is getting used a lot more than I realized. There is a lot in their new demo reel that I recognize, not the least of which is scenes from District 9.

The rig is still easily $30k with a less and minimal accessories, but as they're fond of pointing out, something similar from the big guys was three or four times that a few years ago. They also have the very thing missing from every other video camera that still photographers take for granted: raw image data. They actually store and record the raw image sensor data, much like a digital SLR still camera does, meaning you can tweak the exposure, color, sharpness, everything, using the raw bits. That's huge.

I wonder when and if they'll get the Red Scarlet out any time in the next few years, and if they can build enough to meet demand. If they can keep a decent rig under $5k, it's game over for everyone else.

And really, I think it just comes down to that raw feature as being the killer app. That's why it gives Peter Jackson a stiffy, because it gives you all the flexibility, actually more, than a film negative.

These are interesting times for the capture of moving images.

Seattle travel booked

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 14, 2009, 6:18 PM | comments: 1

Leaving the last Tuesday of the month in the afternoon, with a stop at MSP, then doing the red-eye back Wednesday night, coming back through DTW. That means I should have some time to visit Joe, Kristen and Nina before I go. Hooray! I asked for a hybrid rental, but apparently they're more expensive than the giant f'ing boat they rented me last time. Same hotel with the giant rooms.

I really need to not screw this up!

Therapy wins again

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 14, 2009, 2:43 PM | comments: 0

I was talking with a friend today who finally (after years of prodding) started seeing a therapist a few weeks ago. She said it has been enormously helpful, and man, I'm in the wrong profession. As the recipient of such therapy, it's like I know by proxy what they'll say.

One of the first things she discovered was that she settled for a poor marriage and subsequent poor relationships because she learned early on from her parents, who I guess don't even like each other much, that dysfunction was normal and just what you do. That's a very, very familiar story for many family and friends. I think the scariest thing about that is the effect it has on your offspring. I think my kid will be OK, because I've been through enough sub-optimal relationships to get to a really good one, but yikes, how do you know if you're in your first try? If your approach to relationships is largely based on your parents', and your parents hate each other, stay together despite being miserable, or something like that, you're really screwed.

I wish I knew this around the time I was in college. I would've done a hell of a lot more dating. Not that I regret how anything turned out, because it is who I am now, but it would've been a much easier road if I had a lot more diverse practice when I was in my 20's.

Awesome end to US Open for women

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 14, 2009, 12:58 AM | comments: 0

Wow, what a great tournament, start to finish. Aside from the Serena incident, there were so many good stories that shook up the status quo. I was so underwhelmed with Wimbledon by the women (though the men put on a great show).

So Kim Clijsters, the woman who retired to have a family at the top of her game, comes back as a wildcard in the tournament and wins it all, the first mom to win in decades. That's such a great sports story. Professional sports seem so ridiculous and not rooted in reality, so to see this restores my faith that there are good people who really do it for the right reasons. And hooray for working moms!

The men finish up tomorrow afternoon. If R-Fed can settle into a solid groove (as he apparently did against Choke-avic), I think he'll take it pretty easily. That guys isn't human. But at least he continues to be reasonably humble.

Serena was way out of line

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 13, 2009, 10:22 PM | comments: 0

It's funny, but early on in the US Open, me and D were talking about how interesting it would be to have a Williams-free final. At the time, it wasn't because of any particular dislike for them, but we've had all of these other incredibly stories.

Seeing Melanie Oudin come out of nowhere and wow everyone, bust her ass, take down strong players and just be so charmingly innocent and sweet about it all made you want her to win. She lost in the quarter finals, but did so to a 19-year-old, Caroline Wozniacki, who is well-ranked, but another one not expected to have a significant impact beyond a few rounds. She too shows a great deal of appreciation for being there, and she's no slouch in terms of winnings. The other finalist, Kim Clijsters, left the game to start a family, got the bug, and has worked hard to get back into the game. Now she's in the final, and still says that it's all good, because her daughter and husband are ultimately what's most important.

Which bring us to the behavior of Serena Williams. Yesterday, in the semi-final, she gets a warning early in the match for slamming down her racquet and destroying it. Then in her serving game, risking match point to Clijsters, she gets called for a foot fault (which is not new). She verbally assaults the line judge and threatens to shove the ball in her "fucking" mouth or throat or something. The line judge lets the umpire know, who in turn calls the head official or tournament director, and they award a point to Clijsters. Match over.

And it gets worse. Today she put out some half-assed statement that was essentially remorse-free and not an apology. It was a total joke. Even in the press conference last night, she didn't think she was wrong. It was ridiculous.

So you know what? Screw you, Serena. You play tennis for a living and score millions of dollars in endorsements. Little girls everywhere look up to you and want what you have. And you squander it away by being a pissy little brat. What a joke. Tennis doesn't need that.

No matter who wins the final, at least it's people who deserve to be there.

State income tax

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 13, 2009, 10:21 PM | comments: 5

Did you know that Florida and Washington don't have individual state income tax?

Cedar Point from the Willow II

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 13, 2009, 12:20 AM | comments: 1

Dad invited us out to the boat today, which was perfect since we were planning to come out to Cedar Point anyway for the haunted stuff reception the park had for media and VIP's. Haven't been out on Lake Erie since, well, probably not since dad had his sailboat, now that I think about it. Sitting in Pete's boat at the dock doesn't count.

Power boating is very different, and not as peaceful as sailing. Unfortunately, we hit some really nasty waves in the channel headed out of the bay, which tossed us all over the place. Got some cool photos around Cedar Point though, and surprisingly, most of them were pretty sharp. I was shooting at 1/1000th with my 70-200mm f/4 L, and it doesn't have IS.

I had one mishap at the fuel dock. I was on the side of the boat, stepping up on to the bow, and my shoe got caught between the deck and the rail, and subsequently ended up in the drink. Diana and Leo got a good chuckle out of that, but I was pretty annoyed. They fished it out with a hook.

It's weird how boating includes really interesting toys now. Back in the day, we had a compass, a knot meter and... well I think that was it. Now you get a little computer that has GPS charting, depth meter, speed, heading... everything. The gear isn't that cheap, but it makes navigation something completely different, and probably a lot safer.

It was good to get out there. Perhaps we should have just tooled around the bay, because I know the motion wasn't pleasing to Diana at times. I always thought the bay got nastier because it was more shallow, but honestly we were way off the CP beach and it was still only 7.5 feet deep.

A few shots...

Captain Leo

Diana Dearest

Hotel Breakers

Wicked Twister


Mean Streak

Maverick (excellent launch timing!)

Millennium Force

The big interview day, interim skill sharpening

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 12, 2009, 12:58 AM | comments: 0

The big Microsoft interview day (second attempt) is coming in about two and a half weeks. Just waiting at this point to find out which planes they'll stick me on. Hopefully it'll involve a hybrid car instead of a boat this time. :) Looks like my first interview is with the guy who did the first phone screen, which is cool because I feel like I really hit it off with him. He definitely pushed me in the right way, and I feel like I responded well.

Meanwhile, I need to jump in and get engaged in some stuff. My brain has been a little soggy lately because I haven't been using it much for programming. I have a specific set of goals in mind, and with new stuff that will require some prototyping and practice. I'd say it's about half-relevant for the job as I understand it now. Again, the brain exercise alone will be beneficial.

Last night, while trying to fall asleep, I actually realized that the new site project that I've not worked on in too long was something I loathed because I was just over-thinking it. Not the first time I've done that. Essentially, I was having all kinds of weirdness about the way I was constructing objects and their backing data around photos and DeepZoom photos. I was trying to treat them as very similar and building this really silly object model around it with disparate tables and interfaces and factories. It was kinda stupid, because it assumed there'd be a hundred other variants on photos, which of course there's not. The solution was just to put a bit on the photo record indicating if there was DZ data available. Boom. If the UI encounters it and has to care, it loads that extra data. I don't know why I was trying to service problems that don't exist today and likely never will.

I coded myself into a box like that because I was originally thinking about a tagging system that could largely be applied to anything. That makes more sense in terms of sucking out various objects of different varieties with one simple and unifying interface member. Oh well, I learned something, and hopefully I can attack that again soon.

The real meat of what I'll get into will likely be some of the finer details of ASP.NET MVC that I understand conceptually but would like to get deeper into with real examples. Lots of good stuff to learn, job score or not.

I've underestimated the Canon 7D

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 11, 2009, 5:44 PM | comments: 0

OK, so perhaps I've underestimated the camera. Check out this short some guys shot in the Philippines in two days. (Not embedded here because it wouldn't be HD.) That's pretty gorgeous stuff there. I'm really in awe. With the street price for the body looking like $1,500, perhaps there will be a second body in my future. In fact, I'd be willing to sell my Panasonic even.

My concern about the unit is the small sensor, but look at how clean that stuff is. Those guys didn't do any retouching, and it's pretty clean. They've used some pretty expensive lenses (the wide zoom would be a good investment with the field crop), but I own the 50mm they used, and my 24-105mm would be solid on it as well, effectively a 38-168mm.

Once it's released for real, I look forward to seeing how people are really using it, and what their post workflow is. My suspicion is that there will be a lot of transcoding for people, maybe to ProRes (those guys used XDcam). If the compression doesn't fall apart, and it doesn't look like it does, that would be pretty solid.

Of course, for cinema style, it needs a good rig like the Redrock Micro stuff, and definitely a good audio interface. Definitely something I'll be thinking about.

Sleeping discomfort

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 11, 2009, 12:02 AM | comments: 1

Diana has been having issues on and off being comfortable, especially in bed. The other night she went into the spare room just so she could flail around and not worry about me. I think she's just now looking pregnant, and not just bloated. When the bloat goes away, there's still a spherical shape to her belly.

Last night she actually slept all the way through, and didn't even get up to pee, which I'm sure was a nice change for her. I just can't imagine what that's like, always having tightness or cramps or gas or some other general discomfort. And it's only going to get worse over time. I wonder if she'll need a wheel chair at Disney World! Lots of breaks and sitting, I'm sure.

The funny thing is that I'm having sympathy discomfort. I don't know what it is, but the last few weeks I get into bed and I'm not sure how I should position myself. Nothing seems obviously comfortable.

Tech job cities

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 10, 2009, 6:02 PM | comments: 0

Forbes says that Seattle is the best city in the US for tech jobs. Orlando is third.

Huh. Who knew?

The Oudin story is just starting

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 10, 2009, 12:22 AM | comments: 0

It was sad to see Melanie Oudin lose today in the US Open quarter-finals, but as much as it's the end of her story in this tournament, it's only the beginning for her career. I wish Pam Shriver wouldn't have interviewed her out there after losing, but she seemed to handle it well. Alec Baldwin actually had the best quote during the match, indicating that at least now she can realize that she belongs there.

At 17, she's the age of most of the kids that I've coached. Tonight aside, where frankly I think the match was hers to win or lose, her attitude and focus are generally way, way above her age. She's every coach's dream in terms of her ability to stay positive and hungry for the next big thing.

In volleyball, I've encountered two players who were prodigies. While neither was very tall, they both had great potential to play in college. The better one (as a junior in high school, anyway) ended up not doing anything with her gifts, was combative toward coaches, and thought she was better than everyone else. Her behavior was reinforced by her sister and she was self-destructive in the relationships with everyone else in the game. As much as I liked her, it bummed me out that things ended up that way.

The other one went on to play in college, got better every year after two seasons with me, and to this day is a well-rounded and awesome person. She endured suboptimal teams and coaches. She never stopped working to be better. All other things being equal, it was the attitude that made a difference over ability.

When you see Oudin in interviews, hear the commentary, the chats with her coach and family, I can only believe that this kid is the one with the attitude that will take her far. And it's refreshing to see someone play and get ridiculously and genuinely excited when they win. Some of the pros don't have that fire when they win anymore.

I can't wait until next year to see her play some more. I think she's exactly what tennis, especially in the US, needs.

Redmond bound

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 2:35 PM | comments: 0

As I suspected, talking to the recruiter was more about making sure that I am in fact a US citizen than anything else, and they've started the scheduling process to get me out to Redmond for face-to-face interviews.

This should be interesting, because she indicated they were interested in me in a half technical, half leadership way. The second part doesn't worry me at all, particularly after my last gig. I find it very easy to manage people and process. Heck, it's easier than trying to manage teenage girls in a coaching sense! (I've loved my kids to death over the years, but there are all kinds of challenges you just wouldn't ever encounter in my day job profession.) The technical stuff I worry about a little, especially since the phone screens were more intense than any actual interview I've had. Generally I've read that they're more interested in your thought process than they are your ability to recite algorithms from memory, but you never know.

The funny thing is, at least this time I feel like I know what I'm getting into. The last time they flew me out there, it was completely bizarre, the position was not well defined, and there was no vetting before visiting. Granted, that was a program manager position (a title that has many overloads, to use object-oriented parlance), so this is definitely something else. The recruiter did, however, emphasize that they're looking for someone who can grow into that role, even if they need someone who can be a daily coder today. That sounds exactly like the place I'd like to be.

The group maintains the online stuff for the entire server and tools division, so they own,,, CodePlex, the blog sites, etc. That's a natural fit for me in terms of what I enjoy building in my "hobby" business. They also work in fairly small teams, which means they're a lot more agile than I suspect most groups. I'm looking forward to getting in their heads as much as they are getting in mine.

So hopefully I'll have an itinerary in the next few days. Beyond that, all I can really do is try to kick ass and hope for the best. I want this in a big way.

Finally got a bike ride in today

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 9, 2009, 12:38 AM | comments: 0

I haven't been on the bike in about a month. August was just a weird month for a hundred reasons, and I just didn't feel like myself. There was the strange rash, the frustration with the job situation, the realization of future parenthood, the house situation... all causing me to feel like something other than myself. I just got disengaged with so many things, including working on my projects (my hour log drastically took a hit compared to July) and riding.

This afternoon, once the rain had passed and it warmed up a little, I was having that engagement issue and just couldn't stand to be sitting, so I went down to the park and banged out the usual 6.7 mile route I've grown accustomed to. My average speed sucked compared to previous rides, but I just wanted to do it. I was spinning down in a big gear and just enjoying being outside, smelling the fresh air and the start of fall. It felt really good, and I didn't care about the numbers.

Despite the lack of physical activity, I have for the most part stuck to better eating. I'm on track to hit the 2005 weight in a couple of weeks, as planned. It has been pretty easy, even without any official Weight Watchers resources, because it just becomes habit once you know the system. I use an iPhone app called iLog It, which requires you to plug in the formula (points formula is patented, so they can't include it), but honestly I find myself going until Thursday and stop logging, just knowing what I've got left for the weekend. Wired illustrated this is the point of the system a couple of months ago.

The ideal would be to drop another 20 pounds over the course of the next six months, putting me around my college freshman weight. I suspect half of that will come with diet alone, so I'm not sure what to do in terms of physical activity since I pretty much hate exercise of all kinds (especially in the gym) that aren't volleyball or cycling. If I'm working, there are definitely tennis lessons in my future. I can get into that since it doesn't seem like exercise.

The end game for all of this is more behavior change than anything. The numbers aren't important as much as they're a measurement that reflects the change. I want to get to a point where I'm not abusing my body anymore. I'm not interested in becoming a finely tuned athlete or any nonsense like that, but I do want to reach a point where I can set an example for my kid about what not to do, and increase the chance I can be there for her in the long run by minimizing risk going forward.

MSFT next steps

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 6:29 PM | comments: 6

The Microsoft recruiter e-mailed today...

Congratulations! As you must already be aware, the screens with the team has really gone well, and we would like to take the process forward. In this regard, I wanted to schedule some time with you as well, before we can move forward and invite you to come in for an interview here at Redmond.

That's the kind of news I desperately needed today.

Diversity in the marketplace of ideas

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 5:50 PM | comments: 1

I was out riding the bicycle today, thinking about random stuff, including my last post about the bizarre protest of Obama's speech to kids. All of a sudden, I thought back to college, in my newspaper column writing days. It's funny how having a week to think about stuff made writing better before the Intertubes. Anyway, I realized, I've seen this all before.

In fact, I've seen it twice. The first was in 1993, after Clinton had taken office. At that time, I was only just starting to take an interest in politics, and I thought Bush One was an average president who handled the Gulf War really well though his economic policy was suboptimal. Regardless, I was also surprised at the relative dismay and anger over everything the new president did (pole smoking interns not withstanding). While it was a change from 12 years of Republican presidency, the newness didn't seem destined to end the world.

We saw it again in 2001 (before 9/11), when Dubya took office. In some ways it was even worse that time, not because of any specific policy, but because of the harsh divide and vocal noise by proponents of Bush and Gore, reflected by the split election. In retrospect, that's surprising, because the close election also demonstrated a great deal of indifference toward both candidates.

In both cases, there seemed to be a great deal of fear of change. The result wasn't debate, the result was an effort to simply squish any discussion at all. Some may blame the two-party system (and rightfully so), but I think more to the point it's just fear of change. Change makes people uncomfortable because disrupting the status quo could conceivably change the comfort you enjoy.

In the first example, what made the strange fear so apparent to me was going to a school that was relatively steep in Republican politics, particularly as they related to the various speakers that the school's poly-sci "center" or foundation or whatever invited. They had small, approval-only guest lists, so I didn't get to see Quayle, Thatcher or Powell, and it pissed me off to not get to see recent and relative historic figures. Naturally I channeled my annoyance into print.

My case was simply that as an institution of higher learning, learning only takes place when you can be exposed to a diverse set of ideas, data, theories, (beer) and such. Not only was Ashland's poly-sci effort a closed affair, but it was also completely lopsided. It's like the joke made with regards to liberal or conservative "think tanks." If you're really thinking, you can't start with a self-serving bias that leads you to the result you want to arrive at!

So back to the Obama school kid speech, last night's network news (ABC or CBS, I forget, maybe both) asked the protesting parents what it was they didn't want their kids to see or hear. Most had no answer, but one went off the deep end about socialist agendas and recruiting a new generation of Democrats. The guy's kid couldn't have been older than grade three, and I suspect the kid's only agenda was to pull hair at recess and maybe eat a little paste.

The reality is that, in the event Obama did have some agenda, and I find it completely asinine to suggest that he did beyond sending a "stay in school, do something for your country" message, what difference would it make? Exposing kids to as much information as possible, including elected officials of all political orientations, is a moral imperative. It's essential that they be engaged in a process that affects them and their future. That will only happen if they get to see it and talk about it. Let them see as many speeches and elected folks as possible. Let them talk about it. Kids are only stupid and uneducated if we try to filter and control everything they see. It's scary enough to see some 20-somethings incapable of leading a post-school life, and I just assume we give them as many chances as possible to think on their feet and make decisions on their own, even if it means making mistakes.

This is a real eye opener for me as a future parent. We've already talked about how we want our kid to be exposed to various religions and cultures. I also want the kid to understand as much about the world he or she lives in, whether it be the reason behind war in Israel or how to make a bird house or what a city manager government is or how to make a wicked risotto. The last thing on my agenda would ever be is trying to have the kid avoid hearing a speech by any president, even one with a funny name.

Obama to kids: Seriously?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 1:53 PM | comments: 4

Really? This is what people were getting all nutty about? What the hell is wrong with people? I just ready his speech to kids, and I'm scratching my head trying to figure out why anyone would give two shits about having their kid "exposed" to it. It seems to me that any president speaking to kids is a learning opportunity. Heck, I'd be 100% OK with Dubya speaking to my kids (provided he didn't mispronounce "nuclear"). There isn't any president in my lifetime that I would skip on the chance to meet, or have my kids meet.

I wonder what the motivation is for people who so strongly dislike this guy that they make this kind of ridiculous noise. Is it a race issue still? Continued disdain that McCain lost? Even if you disagree with his policy, which is fine, why do people make it more personal? Does anyone really think that his agenda in speaking to kids is anything not pure?

It's disappointing that the nation seems more partisan than less, and I don't think that's any fault of the president. I also wonder if he has any real shot at being the transformational, unifying leader he said he wants to be.

Disney World booked

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 7, 2009, 7:26 PM | comments: 1

We've been talking about it forever, but today we booked five nights and six days at Walt Disney World after Thanksgiving.

For the most part, we've been fairly responsible in the fiscal sense the last few months, but we also really need a break. Not only do I want Diana to get to see the Christmas stuff there, but we honestly can't be sure when our next shot will be for a reasonably decent vacation. We're assuming a spring or early summer to the Carolina's next year to visit Sam-in-law, but who knows when we can do a solid getaway with the offspring.

I priced out a bunch of different options for a warmer weather week, and honestly there was no beating Disney's current deal. The room was down to $59 a night with a free quick service dining plan, and upgrading to the regular dining plan was only another hundred bucks for the week. The admission, of course, is the only thing that has no discount. Grand total for five nights, six day park hopper, dining plan for two, ended up being about $1,150. We don't need a car because they pick you up at the airport, and we've got enough miles for free flights. On a per day per person basis, it's a slightly better deal than we had last year with my annual pass discounts. We spent very little beyond the package.

Diana is a Christmas freak, and there's just so much I want her to see out there. Between the lights at the studios and the candlelight processional at Epcot, and the general vibe around all of the parks, it really is a Christmas lover's treat. She won't be riding anything, of course, but riding is not a huge focus at these parks. The Hall of Presidents doesn't pull any G's. :)

I'm very excited.

Fun podcast, fun times ahead

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 7, 2009, 1:04 AM | comments: 0

We had a good time with the podcast tonight. We had Tony from CP on for a bit at the front too. No idea why, but one of the previous shows that he was on is still the most popular ever I think, with over 3,800 downloads. As usual, we also had a good time shooting the shit before and after. We sound a bit like a knitting circle or something.

Also looks like we'll have a really nice group for both of our events this month, even though both will be Gonch free. Looks like we actually have three straight weeks of stuff coming up here, with a reception for the haunt stuff at CP this weekend, BooBuzz after that, and then the Fall Affair. Fall at amusement parks just gets better every year.

About that local job

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 6, 2009, 11:34 AM | comments: 0

The LinkedIn updates that came by e-mail this week showed that one of the guys I used to work with at ICOM who was more recently laid-off, an older and more senior dev, got that local gig I was pursuing. I'd hire him before me as well, as he's one of the scary brilliant guys from that job, but it still sucks. They could have at least followed up with a "thanks but no" message.

Good fun watching tennis

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 5, 2009, 6:28 PM | comments: 0

We've been watching the US Open on and off all week, and I've really been into it. I'm really starting to get into the sport, and if I were working I'd probably start taking lessons.

The fun thing about this tournament has been that even in the early rounds, there have been no automatic wins by anyone. The men have played out according to seed for the most part, but most of them had to fight like crazy to get there. And then there's the women, where the giants keep falling to kids or barely hang in to win.

We watched a match between Djokavic (the Joker, Choke-avic), who is the biggest crybaby bitch in professional tennis and some chubby unknown guy ranked #276 named Witten, and Witten almost stole it from him. It was awesome.

And then there's the Cinderella story that you watch sports for unfolding with the women. 17-year-old Melanie Oudin, only 5-6 and ranked #296, beat Dementieva in the second round, and today beat Sharapova. Here she is now in the sweet 16. She couldn't help but cry at the end of the match. A lot of these pros just don't react when they win, and it's refreshing to see someone be so genuine and grateful. Those are the kinds of moments you love to be a part of as a player and a coach.

Tennis is generally a lot like volleyball, in that the men's game is a lot more serve focused, so I generally prefer watching the women. But the men have been so inconsistent in this tournament that they're every bit as fun to watch.

And I'm not ashamed to say that I think Mary Joe Fernandez is kinda hot. I'm just sayin'.

Diana to the rescue

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 5, 2009, 6:19 PM | comments: 0

Last night, when Diana got home, she was upbeat and suggested we go to Cedar Point. I was a little reluctant, because I knew we'd only get two hours. I wanted to go some time this week and bring someone on the comp I had (sorry, Leo), but I got so preoccupied with the phone interviews and one of my projects that it just didn't happen.

So we had some Famous Dave's and walked around a bit. We did Giant Wheel and Space Spiral, and of course that's about the extent of things she could ride. I could have jumped on Raptor, and intended to, but we were hell bent on getting fresh chips before they closed so I skipped it. Also ran into Bill S. and got to walk through the new Toy Factory haunt. Work in progress, but wow is it gonna be cool.

I really needed that, and I'm thankful she suggested it. We've not done any leisure travel in about five months now, and there are so many things lately that are keeping our stress level high. We're in dire need of some release. The Fall Affair can't come soon enough.

Verizon commercial cracks me up

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 5, 2009, 1:10 AM | comments: 0

I love this commercial. Makes me laugh every time. I love when the father looks up at the son and gives a giggle under his breath. Parents are so uncool!

The lowest common denominator of intelligence

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 4, 2009, 3:21 PM | comments: 0

In the midst of all the stupidity and hating on Cedar Point for announcing a ride that's not a roller coaster, someone recently pointed out that the comment threads on the newspaper Web sites everywhere were significantly worse. Not for this story necessarily, but in a general sense. I guess in the back of my mind, I already knew this, but the reality seemed bigger to me when that was pointed out. That makes me sad.

Use of the Internet has become so ubiquitous now that stupid has taken hold of it. It doesn't help that celebrities like Shaq post shit on Twitter like, "deeez nuts, aha got yalll, if u fell for that come on now, lol lmfao, aha got u all." What the hell is that even supposed to mean? But the worst is on these news sites, without a doubt. There is unbridled hate, anger and stupidity in quantities that cause me to fear for our future.

It wasn't supposed to go down like that. Because the Internet was so rich in information, and so available, people were supposed to become smarter and more informed. Instead it has become just another place for people to post whatever is already in their head. Opinions are fine, but as the saying goes, they're like ass holes and everyone has one.

Understand that I'm not trying to make some case for being elite or establish class boundaries or anything of that sort. This is not what I want for our culture. I was hoping the Internet would actually do the opposite. It reminds me of what Bill Cosby said in Detroit the other day. Education is free, so why the hell would you not take advantage of it? The Internet has limitless information, and a lot of it is amazing.

The stupidity translates into real life too. Like that moron who stood up at one of those health care town hall meetings to call the proposed bill a "Nazi health care plan." Does she have any idea what the Nazis were about? Even if you believe the bill would establish the worst health care system imaginable, it's not one designed to slaughter Jews and establish a "pure" white race. It's offensive and moronic to compare anything that Congress has ever done in a hundred years to mass-murdering nut jobs. And yet, despite having limitless information at our finger tips, that's how people roll.

Much is made about the financial erosion of the middle class, but what about the erosion of an educational "middle class?" Are we destined to have a further split between people who make an effort to think and understand, and the rest who don't? It seems to me that would be an epic failure on the part of our society.

I suppose I'm still naive in my optimism, but I'm not convinced even with thousands of years of documented anthropology that we're destined to have a society that is always split in some way. I can't believe that it's a zero-sum game where there will always be smarter richer people at the expense of stupid poor people. But it sure feels like the bell curve is inverting.

We still uphold standards for grammar on our sites, even if the debates sometimes aren't the most informed. It's a start, and I'm not willing to let my little corner of the Internet be stupid.

District 9

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 3, 2009, 9:57 PM | comments: 0

I've been a little preoccupied lately, but I don't want to forget to mention that I saw District 9 yesterday. I really liked it. Without giving too much away, it's a great sci-fi piece about a bunch of aliens who show up in South Africa, with their ship simply hanging over the city, and they're stuck there. When the humans cut them out, they're starving and in bad shape, and essentially become refugees.

The script is really imaginative and the format starts and ends like a Discovery Channel doc. The subject matter really explores the best and worst of human nature, and at times, you're not sure who you should be sympathetic to. The action and effects are pretty solid too. All around, a good movie considering it's filled with a bunch of nobodies.

Oh, kind of interesting, but it was shot on Red cameras. It looked every bit as good as film, and if anything, the compositing of the CG stuff might have been extra clean because of it.

Part 2: Meh

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 3, 2009, 3:28 PM | comments: 1

I was not thrilled with how I handled the second call. Still went an hour, but the first half the interviewer was talking over my head on some things, and all I could really do is tell him that. That's frustrating. I'd like to think I made up some ground talking about process, mentoring and the like.

So we'll see what happens. Next step is to hear something from the recruiter. Not feeling as confident as I did yesterday.

Charlie's GMA days

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 3, 2009, 1:23 PM | comments: 0

Being a news anchor on a solid network would be such a cool job.

Can't believe he's retiring.

Whiny bitches

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 3, 2009, 12:10 PM | comments: 0

Coaster enthusiasts are whiny bitches who don't like anything. You know why.

Auto maintenance

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 3, 2009, 12:03 PM | comments: 0

Had to take in the care for some love today. The front brakes have essentially been ineffective, and started to squeak, so I knew it was time. I also needed new front tires, since the old ones were bald. Yeah, I never rotate because I'm lazy. But hey, it was only 40k miles!

So I'm out $440 for two new tires and the brakes. The rotors were toast too. But consider this... they're original. That's 107k miles without replacement. That's not so terrible.

I thought about doing the brakes myself, because it's not that hard of a procedure, but I had nightmares of trying to get the rotors off. I had a bitch of a time with those on my first car. But whatever, it'll get done and I can squeeze off another 20k miles until I can afford to replace it. I hate spending money on it, but at the same time, I don't have a car payment, so it kind of comes with the territory at this point.

Life changing jobs

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 3, 2009, 12:34 AM | comments: 1

Having potential for a new job like this Microsoft gig really messes with your head. The rational thing is to just assume it won't happen and go on living your life, but you can't help but imagine all of the good things that could happen if you do make the score. Then that whips you back into fear of not getting it. Yikes.

I've only had one job that was truly life changing in a more instantaneous way. When I went to Penton Media, that was the start of the transition into the Internet world in a professional capacity. The next job to truly change me was at, and that happened gradually, and without me even realizing it until I got laid-off from there.

Naturally, this gig would instantaneously change life because of the relocation. It would solve a great many problems. The other gig, which I've not been contacted about in any official way, would also be a game changer even though it's potentially a remote job, because of the doors it would open. I'm actually 50/50 on these two jobs. I'd be thrilled out of my mind for either one.

What's rare these days is companies that will pick up and move someone. It's just not done as often as it used to be. I love that Tyler, as a young developer with limited experience, had some minor assistance as they put him up for awhile in moving to Nashville. That's a company that understands the value of its people, and that seems increasingly rare.

There were so many things in my chat with the developer today that excited me. Their methodology, their desire to deliver value quickly, his enthusiasm for the platform... I just don't hear that from people very often. That's the kind of environment you want to be a part of.

I don't know how I'll sleep tonight.

Round 2

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 9:48 PM | comments: 1

Round 1, pass. Follow up phone screen tomorrow.

Phone results

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 6:24 PM | comments: 0

After 75 minutes, hopefully things went well for the phone interview. It was, fortunately, the type of screen I hoped for. I had a couple of question failures, but I don't think any of them were deal breakers. One thing I've learned to do is make sure that I use opportunities to inject other knowledge that a phony wouldn't know to compensate. And even on a newer technology that I haven't had a lot of experience with, he agreed that I understood it conceptually.

So what's the take away? I think it's fairly good, but again, I have zero idea about what I'm up against. He asked for the hard sell at the end, which I don't think you'd do if you weren't interested. Next step is to hear something from HR.

Crossing my fingers.

Gonna be a long night again

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 2:01 AM | comments: 0

I can't turn off my brain.

Phone screen tomorrow

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 2, 2009, 12:33 AM | comments: 2

I've got a phone screen with MSFT tomorrow for the developer gig. I absolutely dread these things. The problem is that they come in three varieties. The first tests your knowledge on conceptual stuff and basic understanding of common stuff you need for the platform your work on. These aren't bad, and these are I think the kind of thing that you're supposed to look for in a phone screen. I've been on both sides of those conversations, and they're the right way to sniff out a phony.

On the other hand, some people try to test to see if you have an encyclopedic knowledge of a framework, and those suck. I don't know every property of every class in the framework, but I can Google it and get the job done just like the next guy. I would never ask a potential hire these kinds of questions, because stumping them is not something I'm interested in.

Then there's the ultimate computer science nerd screen, which is worse than the encyclopedic screen. No, I have not read the GoF design pattern book, and likely never will. So if you ask me about the most rarely used patterns, I won't know what to tell you. But ask me about every day things like dependency injection and factories and such and I'll explain them and give examples.

So I'm crossing my fingers for the first scenario, but you just never know. I really need to get back to work. I can't stand being home all of the time and talking to cats.

Canon 7D, what were they thinking?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 11:19 PM | comments: 0

Canon announced the 7D. But don't let the nomenclature fool you. This is not a successor to the 5D Mark II, it replaces the 50D. It has a smaller APS-C sized sensor (wasting what your good glass can see) and is under $1,600.

In video circles, it's going to get some serious attention though, because it can shoot 1080p/24. I'm not sure how to feel about that. Recording to H.264 is weird at best. AVC-Intra is better though, even if it is a Panasonic variant.

What I really wish Canon would do is a firmware update for the 5D Mark II to do 24fps. That would certainly make the indie film folks happy.

Thursday's announcement

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 10:44 PM | comments: 0

I'll be so glad when we can have our Web site back.

Fat neighbor sits while making kid break concrete

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 6:20 PM | comments: 0

One of a hundred reasons I can't stand my neighbors.

One year with CoasterBuzz v4, and the come back

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 2:45 PM | comments: 0

The current version of CoasterBuzz launched a year ago today. Time sure flies. There was a lot of soul searching leading up to that time, and much since, trying to figure out what the point of the site was to me, in the personal sense.

When I started it in 2000, it was mostly because Guide to The Point (now PointBuzz) was too limited in scope, and despite its success, I wanted to do something with a more broad focus. I was motivated half by the programming geekery, and half by wanting a coaster site that met my needs and wants. A year and a half later, it was almost breaking even to cover hosting costs, then I got dropped by DoubleClick. That inspired the club, which turned out to be good for everyone and saved my ass. By 2006 or 2007, I wasn't even sure why I did it other than habit. My indifference was showing in terms of traffic as well.

Then last summer I realized that the site had satisfied a number of different desires for me. First, it was a sandbox for me to mess around in professionally. It offers unrestricted freedom to try anything I want in terms of programming. Second, it's a chance to use my media skills to build an audience. Third, it has always enabled me to buy hardware, software, cameras and such to create more. When I've been between jobs, it has also kept me eating. And finally, it still does what I started it for, it keeps me engaged in a hobby I care about.

I was embarrassed by how old and fragile the site had become, so I made an effort to replace it. Since then, I've more or less been able to adapt it quickly and little by little. There have been about a hundred code check-ins in the last year, not counting changes to the forum app (another 70 check-ins there). I'm still dealing in a somewhat aging code base when it comes to the forum, but overall I've been able to make changes in a solid development environment.

I slipped into indifference a bit over the winter, which was also bad for traffic. I wasn't updating enough or engaging. Fortunately, getting married and laid-off, within days of each other, energized me to make a serious effort to turn it around. It's not like I had any larger agenda at that point!

It paid off. Compared to the same month last year, visitors are only slightly up, but page views and pages per visit are up 44%, time spent per visitor is up 19%, and new visitors are up 20%. It's a thrill to look at the analytics and see all green numbers. The site served more than 1.2 million ads in August, which isn't bad considering club members don't see ads at all. Most of the numbers are up compared to August 2007 as well, where there were more visitors, but they spent significantly less time on the site.

The end result of all of this is that I'm at least paying my mortgage through my own means. It's not a lot of money, but it feels good to be doing this and not collecting unemployment. Since I started keeping track of the time I put into it, I figure that I make about $22 an hour, and that's working a fraction of what I would at a typical day job.

So what are the lessons learned so far? There are many.

The biggest lesson is to do what makes sense for you and your audience. Yeah, I had to drink some 37signals Kool-Aid® for that one, but it's true. There was a time when I spent way too much time thinking about what other sites did and whether or not I should emulate those. These days, there really aren't any other sites, at least, not any that do things quite like I do. I've focused on delivering stuff that made sense, and that has served me really well.

The other thing is to pay attention to your numbers and measure anything you can. If you build some shiny new feature, see what the impact is. Sure, I've seen traffic spikes every time someone announces a new ride, but where do sustained increases come from? They come from specific new features, and you can see it on the graph. That's vindication that you did the right thing.

A more recent revelation, last week, in fact, is that using your "eyeballs" for good feels better than any other gains you make. Getting involved with the GKTW fundraiser felt good in every way. And it's not a "look what I did" thing, it's a "look what other people did using my facility" thing. If you have the attention of a large group of people, point them toward a cause now and then. They won't disappoint you.

It's hard to say what's next for the site. I'm anxious to get back to a day job, because I think it goes a long way toward stimulating my brain. The development side of CB is largely a solitary activity. I'm crossing my fingers that the MSFT phone screen tomorrow goes well!

Good shrinkage

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 12:30 PM | comments: 0

I hope the tone of recent posts hasn't implied that life sucks, because really there are a lot of good things going on right now. The things that are suboptimal come largely out of things I can't control, so naturally it makes sense to focus on what I can.

One of those things is to lose a bit of weight. I've been awful about riding the bike the last few weeks, but I'm not been willing to beat myself up over it in light of the digestive distress and that silly rash (both of which are history I think). Even without the riding, I have been sticking to eating better, and after eight weeks or so, I'm down nine pounds. Frankly it has been pretty easy for me, and I generally have not been stress eating, snacking or trying to pack in twice as much food as I used to.

I'm about 14 pounds down from the honeymoon. My goal was to be my 2005 Fall Affair weight by this year's event, and I should just about make it. I'm interested to see how far I can go beyond that. Another 10 to 20 pounds would be ideal. I'm already 34" in the waist, so hopefully whatever I lose comes from the gut because I really don't want to make more pants obsolete. Regardless, it's nice to feel lighter again, and hopefully I can keep the modified behavior in place.

Our abnormal normal

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 1, 2009, 1:16 AM | comments: 0

It has been kinda hard to watch Diana's body mess with her on a constant basis. Gas, cramps, tightness and just general discomfort are her normal lately. She's tired pretty much all of the time too. And if that weren't enough, she can't use the prescription nasal spray that helped her battle her insane allergies, so she's miserable in that way as well right now, as weed pollen is crazy high.

It also doesn't help that I've been sleeping in the spare bedroom lately as that strange rash heals, in order to rule out the possibility that it's the new mattress that caused it. (I think it was likely stress, as my digestive system is behaving again too.) Diana said to me tonight that she'll sleep with me there just to make one thing feel normal.

I've gotta say, we've been really pushed out of any familiar rhythm the last few months. It hasn't been anything we couldn't handle, but we definitely need a break in some form.