Archive: February, 2010

Canada FTW

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 28, 2010, 11:27 PM | comments: 1

You know what I love about Canada? (Other than hottie curlers rocking a soccer-mom-with-nosering vibe? Link for you, Gonch.) I think the national attitude is one of pride and humility. Seriously, Canada doesn't fuck with anyone, and no one fucks with them. Even though the winters are cold, the people tend to be warm, their cities are clean, even their basic every-beer is yummy, and you just go see a doctor when you're sick.

We could learn a lot from Canada.

Sunday drivers

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 28, 2010, 6:51 PM | comments: 2

Diana has been pretty miserable for the last week, even opting out of our weekly lunch meeting, but today she absolutely needed to get out. And with it being sunny and 60, how could we not?

First item on the agenda was to satisfy her craving for a crab cake sandwich, so against my better judgment, we went to Cheesecake Factory, where she has enjoyed said sandwich before. Against all odds, it was not even a little crowded at 12:30. In fact, the 405 wasn't particularly busy either.

So in satisfying her craving, and observing that people weren't mobbing the retail chaos of Bellevue, I decided we'd venture down to Ikea. We've been wanting to get one of their "disposable" coffee tables for awhile, since we didn't have one that came with us. I can't see committing to something nice since our couch isn't really a living room couch, and we can't really engage in some kind of matching scheme. A $40 "dorm" coffee table is perfect. Surprisingly, it really ties the room together.

I also got some frames for a bunch of Cedar Point 8x10's I had in a mess of various frames, but beyond all explanation, the matte in three of the five frames is cut too large. In fact, they're some kind of weird 9x11 or something, which isn't even a standard photo size. Sigh. So I have to take a bunch of them back, which is not convenient.

Ikea was actually pretty smooth, and not crowded. I was shocked. If Diana weren't so, pregnant, easy browsing would've been possible. I'd like to spend more time in the lighting department. They have a lot of neat stuff there.

We took the long way home, through Redmond and around Lake Sammamish. Diana had not been through downtown Redmond before, or up the east side of the lake, so I figured today was a nice day to do so. There's a Whole Foods up that way too, which gives us another option to fill in the blanks in terms of groceries.

It occurs to me that there's a bunch of things I have just a few days to do. Some of them I have almost no time, since Sam-in-law gets here Tuesday night. This is gonna be a hectic couple of days.

Listening to: Metric

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 28, 2010, 10:54 AM | comments: 0


I remember hearing "Help I'm Alive" a couple of times on the radio before, but the single "Gold, Guns, Girls" really sucked me in. There are elements of other bands I like... like the Breeders with more production value.

Mapping out 2010 travel

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 27, 2010, 12:05 PM | comments: 0

We've been talking a lot about the travel we'd like to do this year. It's sweet to start a job and get three weeks vacation (not to mention the month of baby leave). They do it the right way as well, accumulating as you go. That's a rate of ten hours per month.

I'm going to make a solo 60-hour turn around to Kings Dominion for their media event, I'm pretty sure. Shoot some HD video of that new beast they put up. Diana's aunt will be here during that time, so we'll have baby backup. Also coaster related, we have long weekends for Fall Affair in September (not sure where to fly into for that), and BooBuzz in October. Then there's Universal Orlando, either in November or December, depending on whether or not I want to do IAAPA. If we wait until after Thanksgiving, there's Grinchmas.

For as long as I knew we were moving here, I've expressed desire to do a driving trip up the far side of the sound, and around the Olympic Mountains to the coast, then down into Oregon and back up through Portland. I haven't really mapped that one out, but it's a lot of scenery I'd like to see. I've seen parts of the Oregon coast, and would like to go as far south as the aquarium out there.

With all of the Vancouver BC porn on TV lately, naturally we've taken a strong desire to go there as well. And then Samantha Brown did a show on it too, so now we want to add that to the list. Aside from whatever the border crossing traffic is, that's a really easy drive.

We still have some more random travel desires too, like San Francisco and Las Vegas, though the latter would be kinda silly with an infant child.

And then there's the family visit to the Carolinas, which could be in the summer, or it could be around Christmas. Hard to really nail that one down just yet, but we'll see.

Global warming win

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 27, 2010, 11:10 AM | comments: 0

Seattle is once again warmer and more sunny than Orlando. Thank you, Al Gore!


posted by Jeff | Friday, February 26, 2010, 7:01 PM | comments: 0

I was having my weekly one-on-one meeting with my manager today, and he asked how my concentration was with a week to go. The answer of course is that it sucks. It's hard to concentrate on any one thing for very long.

That got me to thinking about stress, because people ask me if I'm stressed as well, but I'm not. I do have a great deal of anxiety though. I think stress is something I can generally manage and process. Stress is the "weight of the world" stuff that puts pressure on you. Anxiety is forthcoming events of a risky or intense nature. I'm not sure how to process that. And while I don't think stress triggers the IBS, anxiety certainly does.

It's weird though that the anxiety is not rooted in being a parent, it's rooted in the surgery and what I perceive as those three or four scary hours. I think I'll be good to go after that.

Annoying Web site failures

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 25, 2010, 10:56 PM | comments: 0

At this point in my career, I've been on the back end of consumer Web sites at various levels, from a few thousand a day that generated huge revenue, to those serving millions in a support capacity. In every case though, I now critical it is to have your stuff work, and when it's not working, know why. When I encounter sites that clearly aren't doing this, it annoys me. How do they stay in business?

Schwan's was the biggest offender recently. I couldn't complete an order, edit my address or even use their contact page. Finally I found an old support ticket by e-mail and used that, and they put me in touch with one of their programmer/analysts to confirm that a fix they deployed worked. But it went on for almost a month, and that disappointed me to no end. I've generally felt they have a solid Web site, and it's built on ASP.NET (not that you can't write shit for the platform... I've seen my share of it).

You would think they'd have instrumentation to see a drop-off in orders. I thought that maybe my account got into some suboptimal state, but then our driver today told Diana that he saw a huge drop in pre-orders, and he generally skips customers who otherwise have a history of pre-orders (our Cleveland driver typically did that too). It wasn't just me.

Or how about this one. Today I drop into Ikea to order a disposable coffee table. We've wanted to grab one the last few times we were there, but they just never had it. I try to order it at work, and the $39.99 item somehow had a shipping amount of $280! There is no rational situation for that to be the case. I try again later, and I can't look up stock or add one to the cart. Fail.

My current cable system has a horrible site too. It had no way to reset passwords or anything, but yet their support people could simply look it up and e-mail it to you, with zero identity verification. Nice.

It just disappoints me to see how inconsistent, and typically poor, the quality of many Web apps are. I understand why good developers and managers are expensive and hard to find. There aren't enough of them.

Sex and violence, Apple stupidity

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 10:15 PM | comments: 0

Apple decided in the last few days to kill a bunch of apps from the app store that were apparently too sexy or something. They did it on a fairly arbitrary basis, and without warning. Understand that these things had all gone through an equally arbitrary approval process, so it's not like the company didn't know they were there.

This only begs the question, what incentive to you have to create software for this platform if you have to go through a gatekeeper that may not let you have it in the first place? This is the thing that has troubled me for some time about the iPhone/iPod platform. Nevermind that the platform uses an archaic and ugly language, you can't even be sure if you'll get the thing out into the world.

And for as much as Apple succeeds at being arbiters of taste in terms of the hardware they build, where do they get off choosing what you can't see? The app store is filled with fart gags and virtual beers. They hardly strike me as having high standards.

The other side of this is still the strange cultural banishment of sex, that also happens to embrace violence. That was one of the observations from the founder of Suicide Girls, among others. In terms of entertainment, I'm pretty OK with sex and violence on TV, movies and video games. What's weird to me is that everyone I know in real life embraces sexuality, but not violence. Yet it's the sexuality that is so passionately demonized and stricken from the record.

Understand that I'm not talking about what's appropriate for social conversation (though I think people are generally too uptight about that as well, but respect others' boundaries), but rather the banishment of sexuality from the culture itself. Think about how a movie gets an R-rating for violence, where dozens of people can be killed with blood everywhere, but if two people are getting busy, and you can see it, it's destined for an NC-17.

The strange double standard is that we allow fictional violence into culture, generally not worrying that it drives people to want to kill people or blow shit up, but if we allow fictional fucking into culture, we might encourage people to have sex. Wait, they already are having sex, right? I mean, the world population isn't getting smaller, so that must be what's going on.

If you want to bring up the "you'll think differently when you're a parent nonsense," don't, because I'll virtually punch you in the balls (saw it in a movie once). Trying to "protect" my kid from sex will not stop him from eventually having it. He'll have easier access to pr0n than I ever did as a horny 12-year-old, so the best defense will be a good offense, to give him information and instill in him incentives to make good decisions. Trying to assert any control greater than that is a fantasy.

I guess at the end of the day, my frustration comes out of the double standard that glorifies violence and says that sexuality is something to be ashamed of. Like you need anything more to be ashamed of in life.


posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 24, 2010, 10:50 AM | comments: 0

People suck at listening. They often don't know when to just shut up and not talk.

The center of the universe

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 3:14 PM | comments: 0

Right now I feel like I talk a lot socially about myself, as if I were the center of the universe. But you know what, fuck it, as far as I'm concerned, I am the center of the universe, at least for the next few weeks. I'm not going to apologize for having what is bound to be one of the most intense months of my life.

Electric cars in real life

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 23, 2010, 11:34 AM | comments: 0

I was catching up on magazines (back to October) when I saw an article in Wired about how The Villages is already an electric car utopia. Having carted around there myself, I can't believe that never had occurred to me before. It's a real live example of electric cars in widespread use.

Granted, these are retired folks, so it's a little different. I mean, everywhere they need to go is within range by golf cart. Working folk aren't likely to find that many jobs that close. Still, it's an interesting article, with much of my family down there.

In search of pizza (and less snobbery)

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 22, 2010, 10:47 PM | comments: 0

I wouldn't describe myself as a pizza enthusiast. I mean, in college, KD Pizza in Ashland was the tits, because it was cheap and delicious. As a grown up, and particularly while Stephanie was a grad student at John Carroll, we used to frequent Pizzazz. It's still the best pizza I've ever had, period. Then of course there was Chet & Matt's near Cedar Point, which became a Halloweekends tradition for me and Diana last year.

Now we're starting over here in Seattle, and so far no real scores. Papa John's is good enough for local delivery (and we get a Microsoft discount), but it's just OK. We're looking for a good place to go out for pizza as well, preferably on the east side, but I'm not even sure where to start.

We really haven't gone out much at all since we got out here. We've probably tried about a dozen restaurants so far, and none of them have really done much for us. The place we went on New Year's Eve wasn't bad, and last weekend we went to a nice little Irish pub. I think what we'd really love to find is the Seattle version of the Winking Lizard, good quality comfort food, but I don't think such a place can exist here.

The problem is that people are arrogant snobs when it comes to food. My gut instinct is to attribute this to the amount of money here, because people with money tend to think that paying more for food makes it taste better. It's just a different mindset from the Midwest, where income alone does not drive the definition of what's good (see the Lizard and Melt for examples). Maybe it's the more practical, working class attitude toward food. I mean, people here are anti-franchise almost as a rule. Not that I endorse microwaved shitfests like Applebee's, but there are chains that make delicious food.

After next weekend, I suspect we'll be going out a bit less for awhile, but I think there could be some lunch time adventures looking for stuff.


posted by Jeff | Monday, February 22, 2010, 1:11 PM | comments: 1

"Honey? Where is my super suit?"

Putting teh coasters on teh Twittah

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 21, 2010, 11:30 PM | comments: 0

Way back in July, when I launched the CoasterBuzz Feed Silverlight app, I did some plumbing work to publish events (news, posts, photos, etc.) on the site as they happened. The hooks were pretty straight forward, and you could wire up any number of publishers to it. The only publisher I wrote at the time published the events to a database, which is what the feed app talks to. I always intended to publish to Twitter or Facebook or something as well, but never got around to it.

So last night I was screwing around, renewing some domain names together so I could use a 15% GoDaddy discount from one of the Revision3 shows, when I noticed that there was a .bz top-level domain. I don't have any idea if that's for a particular country, nor do I care. But if I put a cstr in front of it, it made for a nice short domain name:, ideal for publishing branded, short URL's for CoasterBuzz. It's stupid expensive at $25 a year, but whatever, I spend a lot more than that in a year on postage.

I built a very small ASP.NET MVC app to handle the requests and 301's, a couple of lines of SQL, and a new publisher that responds only to news events by making Twitter posts. That gets you nice headline publication with links like this one. That was so easy that I'm not sure why it took me six months to think to do it.

I still find Twitter to be of limited usefulness for me, but there's a lot of action there so I have to play along. I find myself mostly using it as a kind of searchable super RSS. For my socially critical "I'm taking a dump look at me" status updates, Facebook is more than adequate, and a hell of a lot more targeted. Oh, it's good for bitching about your cable company too. :)

They grow up so fast

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 20, 2010, 7:39 PM | comments: 0

One of my volleyball kids from I think 2003 posted a new profile photo on Facebook and it's just gorgeous. It's wild to think about how these "kids" have grown-up, gotten jobs, advanced degrees and in this case, even married. And she's not the first, either. When they played for me, especially the 16's, most were kind of awkward jocks, you know? (Not counting my '05 team, frequently referred to as "Team Barbie.") I'm not saying they were ugly, it's just that they were... 16. Now they're all these beautiful grown-ups taking on the world. I'm so proud of them.

It's funny because at the time they used to make me feel so young, but now they make me feel kind of old! They're not kids anymore, they're peers. That's wild.

I really need to get back into coaching.

What's with the "tea baggers" and angry conservatives?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 20, 2010, 7:07 PM | comments: 0

You've seen them on TV, the angry self-labeled conservatives who get together and bitch and moan. They're doing it at the CPAC gathering now. What I don't understand is what it is they're bitching about exactly. They all agree that they don't like the president, but never quite say why. In fact, I can't remember any president as long as I've been able to vote that was disliked this much without being for some specific position on policy, let alone have critics offering alternatives.

It's particularly sad when you start having entertainers like Coutler and Beck as your speakers. It's like having Tom Cruise or David Letterman satisfying your political desires. Although the one soundbite they used today on ABC from Beck was absolutely right on: The Republican Party needs to admit it has a problem. That pretty much sums things up nicely. Being diametrically opposed to the sitting president is not a policy, it's being a bunch of douchebags. That's not going to win any elections.

And then you have those whacked out "tea party" people who don't have an informed opinion about anything. I mean, they don't even get the reference right. The Boston Tea Party boiled down to taxation without representation. If they don't like who is representing them, then perhaps they should endeavor to get others elected.

Regardless, the anger is what gets me. What are people so angry about? When you get these people standing up in a room saying they want to "save America," what exactly is it that they're trying to save? I wasn't aware that we were in danger. If there is policy that they don't agree with, then let's talk about that. That's at least actionable. Being able to afford to fly somewhere to a nice hotel to see entertainers speak doesn't seem like something to be angry about.

In fact, the loudest and most angry people seem to live pretty comfortable lives. Why are they so angry? Back in the day, at least this same group of people had emotional issues like abortion and gay rights to cling to, but now what? That they have to pay taxes or that the government spends money on stuff? I saw an interesting graphic that showed the national debt in recent decades has gone higher every time a Republican president was in office (I found this one by way of Google, but it's not the one I saw originally). The thing about taxes is that they don't exist in a vacuum independent of spending. That's why I'll never understand the Bush tax cuts, made in a time when we could least afford it. Paying less tax isn't going to fix anything until we can get that debt under control.

Our economy is in the shitter and slow to recover. That we know. Our health care system is broken. We know that too, especially with so many people out of work. I'd love for there to be discussion about how to solve those problems instead of the constant versus nonsense. As I've said before, I put Obama on a B-/C+ rating for the moment. Congressional Democrats I'd put much lower. There was a time when I truly believed that having a congressional majority that was the opposite of the White House was a good thing, to balance out government. That seemed to work pretty well in the Clinton era. But now, I'm not so sure, because the m.o. of many Republicans right now is diametric opposition, which is the wrong thing to do. Being a centrist from either side seems to be impossible, and that's a shame. Most people may lean one way or another, but few are fringe wackos to either side. Yet it's the fringe that is the loudest. No wonder no one can get anything done.

I still have some level of faith that this political deadlock will work itself out. I'm not jaded enough to believe that a democratic process doesn't work. The last presidential election had a ton of data being published on the Internet around policy, most than any time I can recall. There actually was some meaningful discussion taking place. I'm just not sure why it stopped once there was no election at stake.

The partially documented story of my life, last five months edition

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 20, 2010, 12:54 AM | comments: 0

Was messing around on Facebook, looked at the last five months of mobile photos. Including the comments, wow, definitely tells an interesting story.

Something Beautiful

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 20, 2010, 12:23 AM | comments: 0

Not the greatest audio, but speaking of my soundtrack, here's a little Tracy recorded live in LA last month...

The solitary music experience

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 20, 2010, 12:06 AM | comments: 0

Today was a remarkably awesome day. I spent the day being pretty psyched that I work for Microsoft, for starters. Seriously, that never gets old, especially for all of the amazing things the company is doing right now (can't wait for the total Windows Phone Series 7 story to be public). I love that on my drive home I can see Mt. Rainier looming 14k feet, at something like 80 miles away as if it were the next town over. Diana came to work for lunch and we walked around the old school original Redmond campus, buildings 1 through 6, in the "woods." I love that I'm about to embark on an incredible new adventure with a baby (even if it freaks me the fuck out). No time in my life, not since college, has been this intense.

When I got home from work, Diana had gone off to her knitting meeting. I cranked up the tunes, and for about the last five hours, I've been listening. And I've been drinking wine steadily, too. I'm pretty good at it... drinking enough to have one tied on, without getting truly shit-faced. I don't do it often, maybe two or three times a year. As I've mentioned many times before, music provides an ongoing soundtrack to my life, and the memories associated with that soundtrack are intense.

The soundtrack reminds me how incredibly fortunate I've been, in terms of relationships and my overall life. Sure, the pain has been terrible at times, but it only makes me realize how much love I've experienced, too. I don't know if most people get that out of their lives, typically. If I died tomorrow, I could do so with the assurance that I had an incredible run. And since I'm not planning on that, I can only imagine what the future holds with this new undiscovered role of parenthood. I do not take my life for granted. I've been through more shit than anyone should have to, but it was so worth it considering the good times. That I've found a partner willing to stick with me through the good and bad only makes it better.

I know a lot of people go from one relationship or life scenario to the next with the idea in their head that each replaces the previous, and that's unfortunate. The ongoing story of your life, in terms of people, lovers, places, homes, and even pets, is additive in nature. And while I'm only 36, I feel like my life has been so packed with all of the above. For all of the shit I give myself for not getting out and living enough (mostly related to my geographical stagnation), wow, I've had a lot to take in. It's humbling to think about, and I'm so thankful for it. I feel like I've had more than my share of living in the last three and a half decades.

And by the way, the latest song in the soundtrack of life is "Gold Guns Girls" by Metric. What a great song. Here's Diana at the faux pond between buildings 1-4.

Sun Come Through (again)

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 19, 2010, 8:39 PM | comments: 0

From 311...

"I'm finally home
   I see a light house
I don't have to roam
   It's not all black out
I can see it all now
Out of nowhere came a clue
Truth I hid the truth I hid from me
Hit the skids I hit the skids only
To find a light to light my way home
Sun come through
Sun come through" 

A family moment (again)

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 19, 2010, 8:28 PM | comments: 0

Walt and I were talking about Disney stuff, and I remember this photo I shot in February, 2008 at Disney Hollywood Studios. It's still one of my favorites. I love what's going on there. I hope that some day I'm at the opposite end of this kind of scene.

Career discussion

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 19, 2010, 12:04 AM | comments: 1

I had my mid-year review today, which is to say it was more of a baseline setting event since I haven't been there for very long (three months as of last Tuesday). The idea though is to let you know where you stand in the organization, and how far away you are from your next promotion. Obviously I won't be moving up this year, but it's conceivable I could in the summer of 2011 (end of year is the fiscal year).

But it all depends on how quickly I can grow my skills and what kind of career path I evolve into. My manager asked a series of questions about what kinds of things I could see doing, and what I wouldn't. Things that don't interest me are anything shrink-wrapped with long development cycles (Windows, Office, etc.), though I suppose if it were something interesting enough I wouldn't pass it up. IT, operations and testing also don't interest me. But there is a wide range of things that I encounter all of the time that are pretty interesting. Obviously the community apps we're in are a plus, but I'm also interested in some of the more fast evolving frameworks, the XNA game submission stuff, Xbox, Silverlight, some of the Bing UI stuff (images, maps, non-search stuff), and oddly enough, the new mobile platform (you'll have to wait a few weeks 'till Mix10 to find out why). There are a lot of really exciting things going on around the company.

Beyond that, I can't say for certain if my future is hands-on coding in the long run. I actually hope it's not. I like leading a team of people, or like coaching them to achievement and delivery of something, if you will. But even if I land in some kind of program manager role at some point, a title that can have endless variations, I'd still like it to be fairly technical, with an opportunity to get in front of customers as well as the teams making whatever it is. Otherwise, some kind of lead/senior gig would be a lot of fun.

It's still refreshing that, for the first time in my professional life, I'm working for a company where there's truly no limit to what I can do. I've worked with rock stars before, but in small companies, you can never get to where they are unless they're hit by a bus. In a big company, or in this case a huge one, they want you to evolve and go bigger, if that's your thing. Maybe that's within our group, but maybe it's not.

Microsoft is huge, yes, and it deserves some of the criticism it gets. But wow, being inside and seeing the bigger picture, seeing the future, and being surrounded by so many smart people, it's hard not to really be into the place. I don't know where I "see myself in five years," but at this company, I can see that it's probably somewhere in Redmond.

Toyota and a new car

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 18, 2010, 5:55 PM | comments: 0

If there's a positive upside to the overblown and frankly exaggerated beating that Toyota is getting right now, it's that they finally have a good financing deal for the Prius. And demand has suddenly dropped too, meaning you don't even have to pay sticker.

As much as I'd like to pull the trigger, in the worst way because my car is six-years-old, I also appreciate that it's probably not practical. I'm now paying both mortgages, plus rent, plus Diana's car and baby stuff now. All I can do is hope that through some miracle my house sells quickly.

And even then, I'm not sure if I want to spend the money. I don't want a car payment over $275, because being "car poor" is about the most moronic thing you can do in life, next to being "house poor," anyway. Or maybe car poor is the worst, because if you buy more car than you can afford, you don't even get something out of it in the long run. Few things depreciate over time like cars, and all they really do is get you between points in the first place. You don't sleep in them or eat dinner around them. In any case, without a substantial down payment, I wouldn't hit my payment threshold, and the more immediate goal is to start banking cash for a house.

I still feel like I need to reward myself for something, even if it's just fot getting my ass out here successfully.

Hot tub sold

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 17, 2010, 6:05 PM | comments: 0

The Place that took back my hot tub let me know that they've got a buyer, and the net to me is $1,200. That kinda blows, but leaving it with the house would've added no value or require me to sell it anyway. So for the two years and eight months I had it, that breaks out to a cost of $134 a month. Yikes. With electricity and chemicals, that makes it easily $200 a month.

But it was totally worth it. I miss that more than the house itself.

Phone photo map

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 16, 2010, 8:54 PM | comments: 0

I just installed the new version of Aperture, and it has a mapping function for any of your pics that are geo-tagged. Only my phone does that right now, but even still, it's interesting to see where the photos come from.

Southwest Air thinks Silent Bob is too fat

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 15, 2010, 12:00 AM | comments: 0

This is how individual customer service failures become PR nightmares.

On a side note, I wish for his sake that he would shed a few pounds. I like him and his movies too much to see him die early.

Programmers don't have Web sites

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 14, 2010, 9:50 PM | comments: 0

We were talking about some stuff on the podcast around how co-workers wouldn't care or find it interesting that I run some Web sites in my spare time. Not because it isn't generally something I spend a lot of time talking about, but because in theory everyone in my line of work does something like that.

But the truth is, they don't. In fact, having done this as my primary job function now for around ten years, I can't think of anyone I've worked with that had a side project Web site (not counting blogs) with a high level of traffic or revenue. That seemed strange to me upon that realization, but actually it probably makes sense. My sites came out of having a media background, not a code monkey background. Although oddly enough, the programming career largely came out of the fact that I didn't feel like I could do anything cool from the media angle without the programming knowledge. Weird how that worked out.

I will say though that blogging in the aggregate sense among coders has actually been an enormous benefit to the profession as a whole. I obviously can't read each and every one, but because they're all so well indexed by search engines, they provide a lot of answers when you're looking for them.

Techie bubble boys and girls

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 13, 2010, 8:26 PM | comments: 0

I've come to the conclusion that I could start a blog and have a ton of material pointing out why people in the inside of the tech bubble (bloggers, podcasters, successful entrepreneurs, etc.) are completely full of shit. I think so many of those folks are too close to it all to really have a grounded view of what's going on in technology.

Fascinating as that might be, I'd feel like one of those uber-negative people, and I don't wanna be that guy.

Grandma's body piercing

posted by Jeff | Friday, February 12, 2010, 6:19 PM | comments: 0

It occurred to me today while walking around that body piercing here isn't just something kids and 20-somethings do. It's common to see women in their 40's with nose rings or men with earrings at any age. Of course, grown-ups, i.e., people my age, have been around it since we were kids, so perhaps that just makes sense. Still, you don't see it as much in the Midwest, which has always been a bit old-fashioned in that sense. As a piercing enthusiast, that's another +1 for the Pacific Northwest.

Three weeks to go

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 11, 2010, 11:39 PM | comments: 0

In just three weeks (and eight hours) we enter babydom. It can't come soon enough. I'm tired of seeing Diana in constant pain and misery. We both agree that the lad requiring attention every two or three hours beats the heck out of this.

I'm taking tomorrow off, sleeping in a little, then we go see the doctor to see how everything is going.

Buying toner sucks

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 10, 2010, 10:07 AM | comments: 1

About every 18 months or so, I end up replacing all of the toner carts on my printer. This costs in the neighborhood of $400. Keep in mind the printer itself only cost around $600 at the time with its first set of carts. I also, just before I moved, got the image drum warning, and I have one of those already waiting, which cost something like $150.

Printing is expensive. I don't really print out very much stuff, except for a couple of business checks per month and CoasterBuzz Club cards. There's some peripheral junk now and then, but for the most part we're not big paper people. So I feel dirty every time I have to replace those damn things because they seem like such a rip off. It takes about 16 club memberships to cover the cost of printing.

I've looked into specialized and outsourced ways to do cards, but none have really panned out. I'd love to do plastic cards, but the screening printers are crazy expensive. I don't think I'd go that route unless the club got into the 2,000 member range.

Kool-Aid®... I drunk it

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 9, 2010, 7:24 PM | comments: 0

We had another "all-hands" meeting today for the second tier down of the organization at work ("dev div," which is all of the developer tools, frameworks, servers, etc.), the last of them for the quarter at least. I've now seen all six levels of people above me, right up to SteveB. In any case, the next few months are going to be huge in terms of all the stuff being released. Yesterday, the RC for Visual Studio 2010 went out. I've gotta tell you, I might criticize the company for a lot of things, but wow are there exciting times ahead. I think it's safe to say I've been fully assimilated, and frankly I like it. There is a lot to be positive about.

Speaking fo' nothin'

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 9, 2010, 7:13 PM | comments: 0

A friend of mine let me know yesterday that it was the deadline for submitting speaking proposals at IAAPA, and it only took me two seconds to realize that I have no desire. Sure, part of it is that I was annoyed they way they dicked me around last year. I never really explained it back in April, but after speaking there the previous November, a couple of people on some committees or whatever were adamant about me submitting a proposal for '09 to cover this and that, and then they decided they weren't interested. Granted, it would've been nearly impossible to do in the long run since I started my job then, but still.

But the bigger issue was that I don't see a lot of upside for me to speak for free at a conference, at least not for that audience. I did it twice, but since I don't sell them anything and don't want to work for them, what's the point? That's a lot of expense for very little benefit.

Your perspective changes when you look at what goes on in other fields, for other shows and conferences. There's a pretty clear difference in the way different markets approach education, and the truth is that you generally get what you pay for. IAAPA pays zero, so unless you've got other business there, I guess it's not a very good value proposition either way. Since investigating opportunities to speak at conferences for code monkeys and such, I feel like I really sold myself short. Nice bullet points on the resume, I guess, but perhaps I should've asked for money.

That said, I think I would like to cover the show this fall and make a week in Orlando, assuming the lad is travel worthy and everyone is healthy. It's just too far in the future to truly make a prediction there. I'm sure I'll be looking for a project by then!

Too much integration

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 8, 2010, 11:56 PM | comments: 0

That's a Duran Duran song, right? Meh, if I have to explain it, it's not funny.

I had a breakthrough at work today (actually, I was at home, but whatever) around this integration project that has been kicking my ass on and off for the last two weeks, when it would come back and stuff would be broken. It was starting to suck my will to live. I suppose there are some obvious take-aways from the experience, namely to bother people more until you have what you need. I'm still trying to feel that out at work. It's like, I don't wanna be the guy who bitches and moans all of the time, but I also have to accept that there are things I'm just not going to get done without help whilst swimming around in 80,000 lines of code.

Integration stuff is either really cool or a pain in the ass. I got to do several integration projects while at ICOM, which is not surprising since the business runs on collaborating with a metric-assload of third parties and internal systems. I liked all but one of those projects. The big wins all shared some very obvious characteristics:

  • They had well-defined, well-documented interfaces. That seems obvious, right? Some of those systems we owned, but the third parties would tend to have such a huge customer base that they had to get it right. It's like magic when you call out and get something back.
  • Each had a series of excellent environments to test with. Dev, test, QA... all able to bubble up through the chain pretty quickly.
  • Minimal configuration issues. Things that are not fragile tend to not get bogged down in setting them up. With Web services, it's not hard to roll an integration project because you just point your junk there and go. It's a lot trickier when you have black box code libraries or some weird and proprietary thing to hit.

I was always amazed at how easy it was to integrate pretty much anything with Amazon, for example. That was the first time I really "got it" when it came to using services, before "SOA" became a trendy acronym. Fast forward to today, and I still scratch my head when I look at Facebook. It's not well thought out at all.

On a side note, you may have seen that we (well, people in the same division) released an RC for Visual Studio 2010 out in the MSDN downloads today. Everyone else will get it Wednesday. People are really excited about it from what I gather on the Twitter. I honestly haven't used it yet, because I just haven't been able to jump into early adopter mode. But I'm downloading now (10 mbits, finally!) and will play with it this week.

Blue Man Group theatrical show is touring!

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 8, 2010, 9:12 AM | comments: 1

They better be coming to the Emerald City!

Shirley spent a week with Butch, Duke and Steve

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 7, 2010, 11:28 PM | comments: 0

Shirley Manson posted on Facebook that she recently spent a week with the other members of Garbage. If they managed to actually put out a new album at some point, that would pretty much make my life. Of course, the expectations would be so high that I worry it might be impossible to like it.

I'm still very willing to take that chance. You can never have too much Garbage in your life.

Finally, a good day, with anxiety answers

posted by Jeff | Sunday, February 7, 2010, 12:00 AM | comments: 0

After a lot of bad days for Diana, today was finally something like normal. She wouldn't describer herself as comfortable exactly, but for once she wasn't plagued with the bathroom issues and gases and pressure on organs she didn't know she had.

With another beautiful day here, we realized it was pretty critical that we get out of the house. I was in dire need of some distractions as well, feeling constantly anxious (more on that in a minute). I wasn't really able to make the decision to go out, so Diana made it for me. She said we'd get a quick bite and go out to a park to do some photo experimentation, since I've been talking about it for awhile.

First stop, a quick burrito at Chipotle. Having decent enough food at work, I rarely go out anymore, and I haven't had a burrito since the week of Christmas I believe. Sadly, I've been an addict since 2004 or so. It's the cilantro-lime rice and the hot salsa. It's delicious.

Next we figured we'd hit a park that wasn't too far away, and not toward the city. The park down the street is fairly bland, so we decided to go to Snoqualmie Falls nearby. That's a pretty spectacular valley, and you get an appreciation for how amazing the Cascades are from there, compared to, say, Redmond or Bellevue. You could see Mt. Baker today pretty clearly, which is "almost Canada" as Joe likes to say. It's something like 70 or 80 miles away, eyeballing it on the map. The idea was that I wanted a green background for some photo experimentation.

The 7D has a built-in flash, which means that it can fire off another Canon flash not on the camera. The built-in flash is kind of useless with my big lenses (they cast a shadow from it), but controlling one off-camera is sweet because I don't have to settle for crappy flat lighting. Getting the exposure right and the correct ratio (plus sun) was a bit of a challenge, but I did get a few that I really liked. Next time I need to bust out the 50mm and see how that goes.

Driving down there means passing all kinds of houses that have those wonderful views, which combined with the houses I pass on the way to work with wonderful views, makes me very anxious to be living in a house. That's really the thing that has been the hardest thing to adjust to. I don't hate our apartment, but I don't like living in it either. It just feels so transient. The problem is that I just don't see being able to buy a house until, at best, the end of next year, and even that assumes we can sell both of our Cleveland houses yesterday.

When I got to thinking about that, I realized that my anxiety was only half coming from the birthing issues. Much of my behavior lately revolves around making a better living to get us back to home ownership. At work I'm thinking about what I might be doing there in two or three years (though that's something the company wants you to think about, it's just distracting when you haven't even hit a stride in your current position). At home I'm thinking about getting that next Web site up to generate a little more cash. I find myself obsessing about how the future graph looks in my budget and how much of a tax refund I might get. It's all rooted in wanting a house.

So that's the trade I had to make. I finally work for a company that actually has career potential, something I haven't experienced ever in my professional life, plus I get a mild winter and killer views. What I've had to give up is home ownership (though that's tricky when you can't find work anyway), real estate hell and no place to put a hot tub. The trade is definitely worth it, and there's no question that my life is infinitely better. I just want to make sure that I'm providing for Diana, Little Puzzoni and myself. Listen to me, it's like I'm nesting or something!

Here's a few shots...

Lego Carousel

posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 6, 2010, 5:50 PM | comments: 2

I finally shot a little video of the Lego Carousel. I gotta tell you, as much as it felt like a frivolous purchase, it was a joy to build.

Growing up, I had several medium sized Lego sets. The two I remember the most were a police station and a series of space sets (rocket launcher, command center, Galaxy Explorer and another one I can't find a link for). I could never build those enough, and I was always meticulous about keeping track of the parts and getting them back to the right places in their boxes. Even when I'd build something by combining the sets, like my own home-roller Transformer, I'd still manage to be very careful about how I took care of it. I'd never let my brother touch the stuff either. Yeah, I was that kid. :)

Over the years, I've bought little sets, mostly as stocking stuffers. The little sets during the Star Wars prequels were fun. I'm not sure what exactly happened to them. I know those I had at work, circa 2000, were in a box in the garage, but I don't know how much of that junk got here and how much got tossed.

In early 2008, when me and Walt headed out to Disney World on a photo expedition, I hit the Lego store in Downtown Disney and was blown away at the stuff they had. And to this day, I'm particularly impressed with the giant Millennium Falcon set. It would be hard to justify buying that, but the Grand Carousel was actually in a sweet spot with a ton of pieces.

It was a pretty easy build, with a lot of repetition. There's something very satisfying about building stuff with your hands, especially when you spend most of your time building software with code. It's neat that something as square as Lego makes something round like a carousel. The way the drive motor engages is pretty smart, as are the crank shafts that move the horses. There is a ton of decorative detail in it too.

Having a Lego store locally is gonna be dangerous. :)


posted by Jeff | Saturday, February 6, 2010, 10:09 AM | comments: 0

Gonna play a little blog tag here. Carrie made a post about embracing regret. Gonch made a post about how he doesn't regret stuff. Both are interesting and valid points of view. I tend to agree more with Gonch though, and maybe not for the reasons you'd expect.

Yes, there's the point about how things today may be radically different if you could change the things you regret. For example, if I had not built up such a strong desire for an uber-serious relationship in college, I may not have had the series of epic love stories I've had in my life, and that would suck.

But the bigger point is that despite all of the hindsight and negative impacts of things I might otherwise regret, the truth is that I would've never learned anything if it weren't for those failures. I'm not sure if everyone rolls like that, but I'm pretty sure most people do.

I'm fond of giving younger friends advice about careers and relationships. Most of the time, they imply that I can go fuck myself by doing exactly the opposite of what I suggest, which is precisely what I would've done at the time. When you're vetting life, you have to see for yourself. That means you have to make a lot of poor decisions, like taking a shitty job for the money or getting into a relationship with extremely toxic elements, because you don't believe you're wrong. You have no data to indicate otherwise. You have to learn that for yourself.

One might argue that you live a life of suffering this way, but I think that's a little dramatic. I've had so much failure in my life that the successes are that much better. Failing spectacularly seems to lead to spectacular success.

I suppose the point is that I firmly believe the positives in life are born out of the regrets, so if that's the case, what point is there in regretting negative past events? You sure can't change them anyway. Three cheers for spectacular failure!

Breastfeeding boob

posted by Jeff | Thursday, February 4, 2010, 11:49 PM | comments: 2

We went to a breastfeeding class tonight. It kinda filled in the gaps in terms of what I understood about the process, most notably the part about how exactly the baby is supposed to attach. Not that I have to know that in particular, but still, interesting stuff.

However, there was one girl there who clearly was going to screw up her child. She asked a million questions, many of them common sense, but she was also looking for a concrete, black and white answer to everything. She could not operate in shades of gray. The instructor said a hundred times that every baby and parents are different. She also suggested that laboring over what the "right" thing to do in every parenting situation would make you miserable (and kinda implied it's not good for the kid).

If I could summarize the experience of conception up through eight months, it would be that none of the generalizations are true, except perhaps that there's a baby at the end. But all of the stuff about what you'll feel or do or whatever, it's never the same from one person to the next. That only validates what I've been saying about all of the generalizations about raising a child as well. Your mileage will vary.

Meanwhile, Diana just keeps getting more and more miserable. We've got four weeks to go, but they're very much looking like they're going to suck. I've seen her put up with allergies without a complaint. She's battled vertigo. In the time I've known her, she just rolls with stuff like this. But this pregnancy is really testing the limits of what she can endure, and that's probably made worse by the wacky hormones. If the lad isn't pressing on some vital organ, he's trapping gas. It really does suck, and there isn't much I can do. At least for the moment, we've pretty much decided that if there's a baby #2, it'll be an adoption.

Working late

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 3, 2010, 12:43 PM | comments: 0

This is all kinds of awesome...

Imminent server failure

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, February 3, 2010, 12:06 AM | comments: 0

I forget now how it came up, but the other day, some dudes at work were talking about geeky comprooder shit, when I indicated that my Web server was now about six years old. They looked at me in horror and couldn't believe I didn't have a hard drive failure or something by now. So now I live in fear that it's going to happen. (Thanks, guys.)

It's true that I've been considering an upgrade for awhile now, especially with the forthcoming new site adding to the mix. I've been putting it off in part because the new site wasn't even a Visual Studio project (it is now, about 70% functional but entirely style free), and also because I had some legacy "customers" on there. I use the quotes because I wasn't actually charging them anything. They're off now, so I can in earnest consider pulling the plug on the old box once I settle on a new one.

And that's the real big question, the where and what. I'm still paying December 2003 dollars for the set up I have, which is awesome. I won't be getting that kind of deal going forward, and will probably pay nearly twice what I used to. The upside is that I'll also get about four times the hardware, so I suppose it all balances out. I'm currently with The Planet, and I guess I'm mostly satisfied with them. I'm also considering SoftLayer, as someone recently suggested them to me.

While I don't think anything will break tomorrow, I'm not sure how much longer I can really tempt fate. I just don't want to spend more on a box. I don't feel like the return on investment is very good when the current one is working just fine (for now).

Just Breathe

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 9:31 PM | comments: 0

This lyric from the Pearl Jam song always sticks with me...

"I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love 
Some folks just have one, yeah others, they've got none"

That always brings me comfort when I question the quality of my life so far. I think it has been pretty remarkable.

Roller Coaster Junkie

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 7:48 PM | comments: 0

I love this. Particularly the part where he drools and gets the glazed-over look. I admit it, I've been there.

How old are you again?

posted by Jeff | Monday, February 1, 2010, 1:29 PM | comments: 0

I've been accused of being immature, sure, but this little nugget from Beth really has me scratching my head...

"I haven’t talked to this dude since I was oh say 16 and 1/2. He asked about the 'club' scene and if I was cool or 'lame' because I was married... I was trying to be helpful, but he keep dropping phrases like 'that’s sick' and 'fucking sweet.' Yeah, well let me try and come up with something we have in common. I’m all for reminiscing, but I really don’t plan on going back to the way I was at 16."

Seriously, don't people generally grow out of that after college?