Archive: March, 2010

Two-fisted photography

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 10:03 PM | comments: 0

I decided that I'm likely going to stick to photography this week at Kings Dominion. I thought about doing video-only, as I did at Kings Island last year, but I can't easily bring all of that gear. I also don't have the extra goodies to do video right on the SLR. I mean, I'll probably get a little video here and there, but it's not primary goal.

I'm also going to shoot with two camera bodies, which I've never done before because, well, I never had two. I'm going to put the 24-105mm f/4 on the 7D, hoping that the field crop isn't too serious, and the 70-200mm f/4 on the 5D. I know pros do this all of the time, but we'll see how well I handle it. I would, after all, like to actually ride the thing a few times. :)

I'm really starting to want to shoot more stuff, and that's something I really haven't done in probably five or six years (no doubt a shock to my dear siblings-in-law who likely think I was born with a camera in my hands). Back in the day, I used to snap off a half-dozen rolls of film at a family gathering or amusement park. Heck, it's the reason that PointBuzz even exists. But I haven't really exercised it as a creative endeavor in years.

I give a lot of credit to Tyler, who has been fun to watch the last couple of years as he just keeps getting better at the craft, and not just because he shot my wedding photo-journalist style. He sees a lot of things that I stopped looking for at some point. Like him, I have a beautiful wife who puts up with me shooting her, fairly regular access to a baby, and an incredibly interesting new city with stuff that wants to be photographed. There are plenty of opportunities to get back into it.

So we'll see what kind of stuff I get this week. A lot will depend on where they let us go, and I have no particular idea how this new ride is positioned in the park. Heck, I haven't been there in nine years. I don't even remember how to get there!

The family cold

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 5:25 PM | comments: 0

Last week, I had the fever and congestion, this week it's Diana, and now poor Simon has a cold. Poor little guy. His seems to be a head cold, and we took him to the doctor just to be safe. When he does his grunting because he's hungry or squeezing out a deuce, it sounds all rattly and gross. Other than that, he doesn't seem particularly uncomfortable or anything. Obviously it just feels worse for us because we project on him.

He's still the cutest little thing ever.

Roller coaster polls, popularity and experience

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 12:48 AM | comments: 3

A couple of months ago, I opened up the track record feature of CoasterBuzz to everyone, and put a rating mechanism in place (not to be confused with a ranking mechanism). For better or worse, people really care about polls. They're always a hot topic when they come out. For that reason, I decided that I should probably do some kind of poll, because regardless of my feelings on it, clearly our members have a great interest in them.

With this concession, I still have some of my own requirements. The first is that it can't be annual, because in the Internet world that just seems as stupid as printing a newsletter. It should be real-time, or something nearly real-time. The second criteria is that members shouldn't have to over-think it. Ranking your rides is easy if you've only been on 20, but we have members who have been on 600 or more. Even with the drag-and-drop ease that's already in place, it's still a deterrent. I've got a little over 150 and have zero desire to ever order them. I'm content that you can rate a ride as among the worst, below average, average, above average, or among the best. That's good enough for me, and it requires very little thought to arrive at a conclusion.

So with that in mind, people have been rating coasters, and there's a shit-ton of data to draw from. Now I have to figure out what to do with it. The straight popularity contest is bullshit, and I decided that I wanted to avoid that. Experience is important, but if it can overcome a total lack of popularity, then that's bullshit too. One of the issues I've had with the Hawker poll for years is that a half-dozen uber-enthusiast assholes could travel to Zimbabwe to ride some obscure ride, rank it highly, and suddenly it's a top-5 ride. That's nonsense. The selection bias and warm fuzzies of those people having the travel experience taints the results, and the sample size is simply way too small to be statistically significant.

That leaves you with a need to somehow balance popularity and experience. A popular ride deserves a certain amount of weight, and that's why something like Millennium Force (rightfully, in my mind) ranks high no matter what. At the same time, an experienced rider's opinion definitely deserves more weight, meaning they wouldn't put Raptor, for example, as high up relative to other coasters that haven't seen as much action.

My first stab at this data was simply to apply experience and popularity factors, on a scale of 0 to 1. The person with the largest track record would get the full 1 for an experience index, and the person with the smallest would get zero (or .0001 or whatever). Conversely, the coaster appearing in the most track records would get 1 (Millennium Force, in case you were wondering), while those not appearing would get 0. The math looked something like:

(User rating * user experience index)/SUM(user experience index) * popularity index

The truth of the matter is that these results look pretty good after the first 20 entries. Unfortunately, the top 20 are mostly Cedar Point and Kings Island coasters, with two from Magic Kingdom, including Disaster Transport, which is a steaming pile of shit working off of a high popularity index. But beyond that, you see a pretty rational distribution of good rides, including The Voyage, Montu, Superman/Bizarro, X2, Phantom's Revenge, etc., despite having lower popularity indices.

The problem is probably with the popularity index. With it being linear, it gives far too much advantage to well-riden rides, and goes too far to penalize those that don't see as much action. It over-compensates for the problem I described. I don't remember anything from high school statistics, and didn't take any in college, so I'm not sure what to do. It feels like the linear experience index actually works really well, as rides like The Voyage fall somewhere in the middle of the popularity index and still come up pretty high.

Any suggestions?

Virginia trip missed opportunity

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 30, 2010, 12:02 AM | comments: 0

I realized this week that if I wouldn't have been so eager to keep my trip to Virginia brief that I could have called in a favor to go to Busch Gardens the day after Kings Dominion. Duh. Diana would have been particularly cool with it too.

More real estate anxiety

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 29, 2010, 8:48 PM | comments: 0

As I sit here paying all kinds of bills for houses I don't live in, I'm getting more and more anxious about real estate in general. This anxiety was antagonized today when Wells Fargo, who doesn't know their head from their ass, made up some shit that Diana should be delinquent in her mortgage to get the short sale rolling. Nevermind that they've put in writing that she's been approved for the program, or that they had an offer that was $10k over their own estimation of the house's value. They've been fucking around for months, with a real buyer who is now going to split.

So that means I'm going to try and use one of my work benefits to hire a lawyer, and hopefully they can help us out and it's covered. I will not be fucked with by a bank.

Meanwhile, my house gets very little action since it's been on the market now for five months. There are a couple of other houses in the neighborhood who are also low-balling, and this no-basement thing is biting me in the ass because people have no imagination. I never wished it had a basement, and few people out here in the NW have one either. Today I got the contract for summer mowing, which I hoped I'd never have to deal with. The landscaping is a mess, and I don't want to spend money on that either.

To top it all off, we're already annoyed with living in an apartment. It's nice enough, totally adequate, and has a great location, but we're tired of all the noise from neighbors and the kids running around constantly. We were thinking today that maybe we should have taken one of the townhome units instead, even though we couldn't actually see them. They're at least a little more isolated.

It's one of those things where I wish lightning would strike twice, and out of nowhere I could sell another domain name for $100k or something. If it meant pissing it all away to get rid of the houses, I would actually be OK with that. How screwed up is that? I'd be willing to lose all kinds of money just to be free of the worry.

Patience is hard. The truth of the matter is, I can't remember any time in my life where I've been this happy. I have this beautiful little guy to cuddle with, the best partner ever to help raise him, and for the first time in ten years, a job that I like and that has a future I can see. Life is pretty awesome, overall. I just want this one troubling part to go away.

Simon meets Sleep Sheep

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 28, 2010, 10:29 PM | comments: 1

Here's the lad at about two weeks old, meeting his white noise companion (which happens to help me sleep as well). In HD, if you want to watch it full-screen.

Simon meets Sleep Sheep from Jeff Putz on Vimeo.

Need a different project

posted by Jeff | Saturday, March 27, 2010, 12:03 AM | comments: 0

I'm embarrassed that we came up with the idea for MouseZoom two years ago, although then it didn't have the "hook" to make it different because the technology didn't exist yet (well, it wasn't public). It's turning into the self-loathing thing that leaving CoasterBuzz the same for six years was. And the worst thing about it is that it's actually pretty damn close. If I could put a solid three days into it, I would, and I think it'd be launchable.

But one of the things that has come out of me reading magazines and Rework the last few weeks, is how badly I need to do something remarkably different. I mean seriously, how many fucking forum and photo apps am I going to write? I've had this awful feeling that it's all I've done in ten years, and that's not a good feeling. And now I work on a forum app at work, which is pretty rewarding given its scope and scale, but I don't want to to it for myself again.

Well, with one exception. I do still want to port my forum app to an MVC app, and from what work I have done on that (starting back in August), it went pretty fast. I don't want to change any data structures or anything, just port and go. That's the next step to making CB something I can continue to grow and maintain.

So what about truly new projects? I've got a shit-ton of domain names that were hatched out of ideas, and some of them are really good ideas. I don't think I'm really giving anything away by sharing them, but here's a list of the most promising names:

  • - OK, I'm not sure why I still have this. Before the Xbox 360 launched, I thought about doing a site either by girl gamers or for girl gamers or something like that. I never finished it.
  • - Maybe a simple app to log your miles.
  • BugOMeter - Maybe a simple bug tracking app for devs.
  • - I'm not even sure why I have this, but I have for about ten years.
  • (and, - I've had at least a half-dozen ideas around this one.
  • - I actually used this as a blog for about a week before I got bored doing it. The really sad thing is that sometimes the AdSense ads on that, getting a hundred views a week at most, have made as much as five bucks.
  • - Community powered fact checking?
  • - Self-serve score keeping for your recreation center leagues?
  • - Automated event registration. This is actually for myself, for events. It's sad that I'm still using paper for this.
  • - Waste of money. No idea why I have this.
  • - This was actually the home of Subdivision Cam and my blog before they called them blogs.
  • - My other favorite theme parks.
  • - Exists, but never had the follow through.

Looking at that list makes me feel like I'm too much an idea guy and not an action guy. It also makes me feel like I need to diversify my leisure time, and get back to other things I enjoy, like coaching volleyball.

Wearing a little thin

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 26, 2010, 11:40 PM | comments: 0

I hate to admit it, but we had kind of a tough time today. We took Simon for one of the customary tests today at the hospital, where unfortunately they had to stick him in the foot to get blood samples. He was not pleased. This was after a torturous 15 minutes in the car where he needed food in the worst way. That causes Diana huge anxiety. She gets very panicked when he cries hard.

That's really where we're struggling at the moment, because it feels like we're feeding him constantly. He never got to wear newborn clothes (well, we tried the first few days... they didn't fit), he's at the top of the range in size, and man can that kid put down formula like it's his job. I did some quick math, and I think he was eating fully 6 out of the last 24 hours. Again, the doctor says he's healthy and tip top, just a bit ahead of schedule.

I think there's a silver lining though, in that he at least seems to have two long stretches of sleep the last few nights, usually the first crossing midnight, and the second crossing 3 a.m. I've been trying to cover those, since I've had trouble sleeping, and Diana has been taking two morning feedings.

He still has many cute and sweet moments, fortunately, even though the poor kid has the bad baby acne right now. And he's definitely getting chubby in the face. It's all normal, and maybe the scariest thing about it is just how fast he's cycling through all of the normal stuff. He'll probably start college next week.

Meanwhile, Diana is having sore throat issues, when concerns me since that's how my sickness went last week. She's exhausted, and even when I'm covering Simon, isn't getting solid sleep. She's such a light sleeper to begin with, and the last five or six months of getting up a half-dozen times to pee or attempt to be comfortable didn't help. I'm so thankful that her aunt will be here next week to help out a little (and so begins a parade of people visiting, which in some ways causes stress).

I'm finding myself mostly just tired, and still not respiratorily correct (I think I just made up a word). I can't turn off my brain. You know what the dumbest concern is? Worrying about getting the sleep cycle right for my return to work in a week. Plus I find that some of my hobby/business ideas are unsatisfying (a topic for another post).

Things will get easier. We know this.

You know our first wedding anniversary is a week from Sunday? What a first year!

New car story

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 25, 2010, 10:52 PM | comments: 1

Yeah, I caved. I wanted something new and shiny. With Toyota taking a beating in the press, now was definitely the best time to go for it.

I was prepared to walk away if I didn't get what I wanted. The plan was that I wanted to not spend more than $250 a month on a car, regardless of the actual cash flow or payment involved. My Corolla was six years old, but it was overdue for some of the bigger maintenance events like the timing and serpentine belts, and I was concerned about some of the problem body areas after five winters of salt and brine. In particular, there were a few points around the windshield that were showing rust. I've wanted a Prius for years, and for the first time since it has been around, people are getting them close to invoice and they have financing deals.

But there were two factors that had me considering a lease. The first is that Toyota is reportedly pushing for a plug-in or all-electric model in the next few years, or at the very least, planning to switch to higher capacity lithium-ion batteries. Not sure I'd want to commit too long if that's on the horizon. The other issue is that there's no way I could buy a $24,000+ car at a true expense of $250 a month. Even no interest at 60 months that would be $400. Given these factors, a lease not only made sense, but I'd almost be silly not to with the amped up residual prices and crazy low money factors.

I hate negotiating, but especially in Bellevue, they're used to dealing with educated people, and I think they understood that they're generally not going to get crap passed people. They're also one of the high-volume dealers like Metro was back in Cleveland, which always helps. With my credit rating, I was able to get the .00075 money factor (equivalent to around 1.8% APR for traditional financing), and the residual percentage was 69%, meaning the car is their estimation is worth 69% of sticker after three years. That's nuts. So with those things going for me, it was going to come down to the price of the car and the trade.

I got the new car down to a couple hundred over invoice. I'm not convinced that I couldn't go lower, but folks on the Intertubes seemed to be generally reporting something half-way between sticker and invoice. Most of those were people not trading in, so I suppose it's not an apples comparison really. I really wanted about $500 more for my car, but just could't get them to budge. Doesn't look like they deal in a lot of low-end (i.e., Corolla) trades, and they turn them around quick to auction and wholesalers. I feel like I should have stuck to my guns a bit more, but I don't feel bad about it.

The final deal put me at a total cost of $259/month, meaning my monthly payment, money down, tax, plates, and the value of the trade, so I missed my target by a little. But from a cash flow perspective, the payment is only $108, which is pretty kick ass. If I would've got the next $500 for my trade, I might have flirted with $100. Again, I'm pretty content with the deal. Oh, and as a repeat Toyota customer, I've got two years free scheduled maintenance, plus another year's worth from the dealer, so no cost for oil changes, filters, etc. for the life of the lease.

So all things considered, +1 for Toyota of Bellevue. Ask for Gus if you shop there. I think they still got a healthy little profit from me, but as with anything else, I don't have a problem paying for something if I feel I get what I want, and I'm treated with respect.

And the car? Got a black one. The 2010's are pretty sporty looking, and this is far more car than I've ever bought before. It's one of the "III" models, which is more than adequate. The "IV" and "V" models all have the navigation systems, rear-view cameras, radar assisted cruise control and maintain-your-lane steering, which are all neat, but really? I just can't justify another $10k worth of car for that stuff. At least, not when I'm trying to unload houses and save for another. The one I got still has perks I probably wouldn't actively pursue, like a disc-changer (what's a CD?), alloy wheels (never understood the appeal) and the Bluetooth phone deal (actually a plus since it's illegal to drive with hands in Washington).

If you don't have the tech/nav stuff, it doesn't have the big LCD in the middle of the dash, which I actually kind of like better since it seemed distracting in the other people's that I've been in. It still has the energy plant diagram and the other mpg-gaming stuff, but it's in the LED display up next to the speedometer, cycled through with buttons on the steering wheel. I drove a little out of the way to do almost the route of my normal commute, and the fuel efficiency for the trip was 70 mpg, so I can't wait to see what it is with regular use.

Lots of little interior features that I like, even if the wrap-around dash and center console is a little odd. It's really comfortable. It doesn't feel as cheap as some of the 2nd-generation cars I've been in. I can't believe how enormous the cargo area is when you put the seats down.

The driving is interesting too. It's still wild that they put a bigger engine in it, and yet it gets better fuel economy. They have several modes you can use to cheat. The EV mode let's you go all electric for a few miles at a time in stop-and-go traffic. I don't know what the "eco" mode does yet. The power mode gives it more balls for aggressive driving, and oh my God does it jump when you push the gas (insert runaway Prius joke here).

Overall, I'm happy with the deal I got, even if it could've been slightly better, and I really look forward to seeing just how much I can squeeze out of a gallon of gas. Tomorrow we'll take the boy out for some lunch and another set of usual tests at the hospital.

How could I possibly be bored?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 25, 2010, 12:45 AM | comments: 0

I've been waffling on the whole buy a car thing, in part because I worry that maybe I'm bored. Shiny things make me less bored. Of course, if you're anyone that isn't me, you probably wonder how I could be bored given our new arrival.

Boredom for me isn't a lack of stuff to do. There's plenty to do. Simon occupies all kinds of my time, and I'm probably not doing enough laundry or dishes. The boredom I'm referring to is rooted in brain stimulation. Being busy ins't the same as not bored.

Since Simon was born, I've had one evening where I wrote some code, two engaging movies, a few decent DVR'd TV shows (daytime makes me appreciate how much I don't need TV), a hundred pages of light reading, and a little catch up on some magazines. That's not a lot of intellectual stimulation. I gave up trying to keep up with the technology stuff.

I think my body is annoyed with me being inside so much as well. I get the whole "restless leg" thing pretty much every night. I've gotta figure out how to get some exercise that I don't hate. I'm surprisingly not boredom eating, and I'm actually down two pounds since Simon's birthday. Some if it might have been the few days of being sick.

What's the best solution? Boredom reduction involving Simon and Diana, if I can figure out what that is. Unfortunately, the weather for the rest of my leave is basically going to suck, it would appear (not counting the overnight in Virginia, which at least for now is forecast to be perfect).

Destruction of a Cleveland landmark

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 6:38 PM | comments: 0

One thing I've noticed about the Pacific Northwest is that the amount of "old stuff" is not quite as high. Or stuff that is old isn't quite old enough for you to say, "Wow, that's old." What makes that such a surprising observation is just how much history there is in Cleveland.

Case in point, a church back home, near the Cleveland Clinic main campus, was destroyed by fire, apparently started by lightning. Very sad. Cleveland seems to have a lot of those really beautiful, old, century plus stone churches. There are a lot of neat old structures like that, many of them standing in stark contrast to the also beautiful new museums and such.

Some of those places are small and seemingly unremarkable, too. Like the Winking Lizard in Peninsula, in the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. This place was a small dance hall in the rural area between Cleveland and Akron a hundred years ago. Or the Coliseum building at Cedar Point, host to countless radio broadcasts and concerts during the early big band era.

In traveling around, it's actually remarkable how the age and density of historic stuff is so much higher as you get closer to the Atlantic Ocean. I'm not suggesting that's a surprise, seeing as how that's where European settlers started their conquest there. 

Two and a half weeks of parenthood

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 24, 2010, 12:57 AM | comments: 1

I talk a lot about how Simon is doing, but I thought it would be interesting to talk about how his parents are doing. For the record, he had a doctor visit today, and aside from his baby acne and way, way above average size and eating habits, he's "perfect," as the doctor puts it. In addition to being physically advanced, I swear he's doing other developmentally advanced things like smiling already, but that might be my imagination.

Diana is generally doing well, and like most new moms I suspect, always feeling that she's not doing enough for him. She tends to measure her adequacy on her ability to calm him and vanquish crying, and there are times where no amount of love can stop that, unfortunately. Physically, she's had some strange pains, is still bleeding (normally) and her incision looks damn good. She also seems to be falling into a much better sleep rhythm than I am. She doesn't seem nearly as tired as often, and is squeezing in leisure activities like knitting and surfing for porn. (And for the hundredth fucking time, "surfing for porn" is a figure of speech, referring to the relative low value of content on the Internet. She's not looking at naked people.)

One of the things I was thinking about recently is how well we work together when working with Simon. I don't think anyone thinks about how well they'd work with someone as a parent when they're dating, and wow is that scary shit. I don't care if it sounds like bragging, we've got our shit together, and we're like a machine. We just work. And I don't believe there's much margin for error here. I think the slightest bit of toxicity in a relationship would make raising a child, especially in the first few years, a train wreck. We know people dating today who have trust, maturity, manipulation, guilt and other toxic issues that would be bad for them and bad for a kid. If your'e shopping for a spouse, you've gotta ask yourself, is this person someone I could work with under those intense circumstances. If not, move on. Your future child will thank you.

As for me, I'm having sleep issues. Last night, or this morning rather, I finally got to sleep around 5 a.m. That sucked. I went down tonight at 11, and got back up. I figure, any time not 5 is an improvement. I just can't turn my brain off, and I'm not even sure what it's thinking about. It's very frustrating, because I don't like sleeping until 10 or noon. Plus, when I'm really out in the morning, Diana assumes exclusive Simon duty, which isn't fair.

I think some of what's on my brain is just thinking about the big picture stuff. Not in a stressful way, really, just me scheming. How do I get rid of my house (because God knows Realtors add no f'ing value at all in this market), am I investing and saving enough, what does Simon need short and long term, what would we do if Diana wants to return to work, where can I get reflective privacy film for my apartment windows, etc. Again, none of this is stuff that stresses me out, it's just stuff I wanna think about.

I'm also very much looking forward to going back to work. I feel like I can really make meaningful engagement without some huge life event on the horizon. I felt so useless the last two or three weeks before, constantly distracted. Now Simon is here, he's not going anywhere, and work can be more routine. It'll be an adjustment for both of us, Diana getting EST all day, and me getting to see him less, but he actually creates a higher purpose for me to be there. I was kind of energized by my mid-year review because we talked a bit about what kinds of things I might do in years to come. (Obviously not much to talk about in terms of my own job performance at this point.)

I do have this strange desire to buy a new car, which is so not me. I think it's me trying to make up for the fact that I dislike apartment life, and I just want something nice that's for me. And yeah, I still very much want a Prius. I hear they really take off. ;)

Today, after a major spit-up event that drenched us both, Simon and I had to disrobe down to the undies, and while calming him down, he fell asleep on me. Dads don't get those opportunities as much as moms, but it was nice to feel that closeness, with his breath on my shoulder and his desire to cuddle in to my neck. I still can't believe we created that little guy, and we need to work really hard to enjoy these moments with him being tiny. They won't last much longer.

On health care reform

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 23, 2010, 2:31 AM | comments: 7

I'm still slightly shocked that Congress managed to pass the health care reform bill. It was interesting to see that even a party majority didn't guarantee it, as even some Democrats voted against it. I'm also shocked at how toxic the debate was, and frankly disappointed. More on that in a minute.

While I'm not convinced that the bill was entirely the right thing for the right time, I think it does do a lot of things that make sense, and that are long overdue. It's just that I'm not sure if the make sense parts should've been bundled with the other parts that are a bit more questionable and don't really address the underlying issues.

So the good stuff: All of the middle finger gestures toward insurance companies. These are things that aren't even moral issues to me, but rather basic consumer protection. Denying benefits to those with pre-existing conditions, or cutting them off and dropping them, putting caps on benefits, etc., these are all WTF's in the first place. You participate in an insurance pool to spread the cost of care, so it seems to me you should get something for that in return. Forcing them to pay for preventative care, which doctors have long advocated as money saving in the long run, is also a huge plus. That the insurance companies have been able to deny this, making the decision instead of doctors, has bothered me for a long time. One would argue that's a win for doctors and hospitals making more money, but I think that's bullshit.

First off, a great many hospitals are non-profits, and the industry average profit for hospitals is only 3% at best. That's a shitty business to be in. While anecdotal, I know a lot of doctors, and I've seen many, and these are not people who strike me as the greedy type. We keep hearing about how many drop out of the profession because of the insurance and lawsuit nonsense.

Meanwhile, insurer WellPoint, at the center of the California controversy, reported profit of around 8%. I don't have a problem with that margin at all, but when you want to boost premiums by 40%, with lives literally in the balance, they've got some explaining to do.

So that's the good stuff, which I would classify as being in the consumer protection space. The other provisions of the bill (or let's call it law, since it will be by the time you read this), I'm not sure they fix the right problems. There are three issues for me:

  • Requiring insurance: Economists and proponents of the bill suggest that having more people "in the system" increases the pool by bringing more healthy people in and contributing, thereby bringing individual cost down. I'm not interested in a debate about whether this is socialism or redistribution of wealth or whatever, because I truly don't think that ideological debate matters. Right now, someone eats the cost for the uninsured and you're going to pay for it one way or another anyway, with higher care costs for you or by local taxes for government supported hospitals. At issue is whether or not the larger pool actually reduces the cost of coverage overall. Economically, I would think yes, but only if there is specific regulation in place that forces the insurers to adjust accordingly. I'm skeptical.
  • Requiring employers of 50 or more people to offer insurance: I hear a lot of bitching and moaning about this already, but frankly I think it's the right thing to do. I don't consider a 50+ head count a "small business" at all, so the attack ads suggesting this would bankrupt mom-and-pop typewriter repair shops is bullshit. I worked for local government for a long time, and I'm fully aware of the breaks, incentives and tax abatement that companies can get just for choosing to open in a particular town, usually at the cost of school districts. This law doesn't even require you subsidize the full amount of insurance.
  • Subsidizing insurance for the poor: I don't think you can not do this if you're going to require everyone to have it. I hate to sound like a politician, but this should be in place for the kids who don't get to pick their parents.

Much of the biggest criticism comes around the cost, and justifiably so. The Congressional Budget Office estimates a reduction in the deficit over ten years, which I suppose is only real of the estimates are true. I still think of it relative to other government spending. The seventh anniversary of the Iraq war just passed, and it has cost $700 billion in that time. These reforms will cost around $950 billion over ten years. So for the price of war, you can get this, which is designed to help people instead of kill them. I'm not entirely willing to justify the expense just because of that comparison, because I think deficit and eventual debt reduction is critical, but I'm just not sure why the most vocal critics seem to be OK with one but not the other.

The issue of additional taxes, which apply to families making more than $250k, and apply to their investments, I actually am OK with. I see it this way: I don't make that much now, and I live a very comfortable and high quality of life. That extra .6% (or .8% or whatever it was) wouldn't harm me now, let alone if I made that much. Did I earn that money? Yeah, I did. But I don't have a problem having to pay for something like that, given my stance on the morality of it all (which I'll also get to).

So if I were to pick a position on this, I'd probably say that the cost parts of the law are probably not in our best interest... right now. And I'm also willing to concede that Obama's question of, "If not now, when?" is probably valid. See, it's too complex of an issue for me to apply some dogmatic ideology and pick a side, which is precisely what the folks in DC (and political pundits) do.

The bigger question is whether or not this fixes the bigger problem: That we now spend 16% of our GDP on health care. Advocates of the law aren't arguing that it does, but why not? Canadians spend only 10% of their GDP on health care, with a significantly smaller economy of scale even. The US government spends more of its budget, as a percentage, than Canada does, and it doesn't even cover everyone. Think about that. And don't start telling me about how much their system sucks, because you'll be hard pressed to find a Canadian who thinks so (ask Captain Kirk), and Canadians live to be 2.5 years older than we do. I'd be 100% OK with moving to a similar system, having researched it, and I have pretty much the best private insurance in the galaxy. Wipe out billions in wealth from insurance companies. I don't care. :) The only two negatives in the Canadian system are longer average wait times for scheduled stuff (four weeks for a family GP visit, compared to around three here), and they don't typically cover prescription drugs (though they're cheaper anyway, and most people do have private insurance for that).

While this isn't a government takeover, and there is no public option for insurance, I'm not sure why people were so against it. Well, yes I am. Our culture right now believes government can't do anything right. And yes, they do suck at a lot of things. So do individuals and companies, but it doesn't make any of these entities inherently prone to failure. The feds put people on the moon, and local municipalities have grown thriving private and public enterprises that contribute to their communities. I guess I'm not that jaded. It would seem to me that if you are jaded, you help drive the right change by supporting elected officials who align with what you think is right.

Central to the debate, particularly as it applied to what was once called "universal health care," is whether or not there is a moral obligation that everyone have access to health care. This is where I get annoyed with those who take a staunch and inflexible ideology and apply it to this issue. I believe there is a strong obligation that health care is available to all, for many of the same reasons that I believe education should be generally available. We as a nation owe much of our rise to economic domination because of education. Say what you will about the failures of public education, because we'd be nowhere without it. (For the record, the drop-out rate did not start to rise until the late 90's.)

It stands to reason, in my mind, that if we as a nation find it prudent to foster a healthy mind, it only makes sense that we foster healthy bodies. I don't think very many people agree with me, but I'm also not sure that those who disagree have ever spent any time without health insurance, or worse, paid for it out-of-pocket. I have, far more than I would have liked to. And that wasn't even good insurance, that was save-you-from-bankruptcy-if-you-get-hit-by-a-bus insurance. It was useless for basic preventative care, minor injury or even serious flu treatment. Even "typical" insurance is inadequate. We're still paying for Diana's treatment around her vertigo issues, from a year and a half ago. That changes your perspective.

Do you still pay for it if it were a true government-run system? Yeah, of course you do. But going from a 16% of GDP rate to 10% sure sounds like a win to me. And again, we would even have an economy of scale benefit that Canada could never match, given our population.

But again, there's the vocal opposition that starts throwing around words like socialism, which stupid people start applying as a Nazi tactic (because, you know, covering everyone's medical bills is just like slaughtering millions of Jews). The thing is, I'm for smaller government, lower taxes, etc., many of the core beliefs of every political interest, but not about this. I can't apply a rather basic ideology to every complex problem. It doesn't make sense to me.

As I said early on, one of the things that I found troubling is how toxic the debate has been. And there are already video clips on YouTube of protesters being interviewed who can't tell you even one reason why anything in this law is bad. I mean, shit, I can find plenty of things, and I was leaning toward hoping it would be passed. Then you've got these ignorant fucks standing on the Capitol steps shouting "nigger" and "faggot" at representatives. Classy. Of course, it doesn't set a good precedent when peers start shouting "baby killer" on the floor of the house either.

One could argue that the Democrats have abused their majority, which I might be inclined to agree with (though I'm not sure how having a majority is an abuse exactly), but wow did the Republicans miss a huge opportunity here. Instead of making any kind of critical or rational statements about why any of this was a bad idea, you've got people like Boehner saying it's the end of our country, and shouting "hell no" like a teenager on the house floor. (Seriously, dude, like Ohio needs any more reasons to be embarrassed.) At no point did the Republican leadership come out and say, "Yeah, health care is broken, but these are the things that we would change." Unless they just don't believe it's broken, but if that's the case their problems are far deeper. The party is in dire need of new leadership that leans more to the center. That's what got Obama elected, and honestly made Democrats hesitant about putting Pelosi in as speaker (which is odd since it obviously helps them).

The biggest issue with the toxicity isn't even that much of it isn't rooted in any actionable points of debate. So much of it is rooted in the opposition mentality. That there's a complex issue in front of people doesn't matter. If so-and-so is for it, I'm against it, and that's that. People vote for the dog catcher now based on their party affiliation, instead of whether or not they can catch a fucking dog. And I'm under no illusion that much of it is a race issue in middle America. You don't see a lot of black protesters at these things. There was never this toxic of an opposition for Bush or Clinton, and the former barely had the votes to get elected, twice.

So yes, I have mixed feelings about the passage of this bill, but I also have the confidence that it can be revised, and the crappy parts can be repealed. I don't believe it's the end of the world. And a part of me is even optimistic that eventually enough people (and maybe even political "pundits") will actually talk about real issues in detail again, and not treat everything like a for or against, black and white thing.

My car non-accident

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 22, 2010, 11:46 PM | comments: 1

So there I was, fresh off a bank run in Diana's car, where they finally got the new envelopeless check eating ATM's. The branches here were all Wa-Mu until Labor Day or something, and they all had these ancient and slow ATM's that took upward of five minutes for a simple deposit. I can do it in under a minute with the new ones, which we had in Cleveland nine months ago. I was waiting to turn out into the street, excited at the efficiency enabled by new tech, when BAM! Some fuckhole dickweed rams me from behind.

My first reaction was utter disbelief that anyone could hit a stationary car that had been there for upwards of a half-minute, and anger that anyone could be that much of a fucking moron. I put the car in park, got out and began a stream of obscenities that probably didn't even make sense. I looked quickly at the car to see that the bumper appeared only scratched, but his car was fucked up on at least three sides. He was probably late 50's, early 60's, with his wife in the car. He rolled down the window and said, "Come on man, I just got out of the hospital." I could only reply, "How the fuck do you hit a stopped car, moron?" I whipped out my phone, took pictures, called the police, and for my own good (and his) got back into my car to chill out.

We were on private property technically, so I figured, fuck it, people can go around us. I'll wait for the cops. When the officer got there, he looked at the scene, surveyed for injuries, then had us move the cars.

He explained that because the damage appeared insignificant and there were no injuries, he wouldn't issue any citations but would facilitate the exchange of information, and that would be the only official record that there was an incident at all. I was kind of pissed about this, because seeing the guy's banged up car, with a bent hood, smashed in door (sans handle) and scuff marks on the bumper, it was clear that this was not the first time this asshole hit someone. I got in and pushed around on the bumper and checked around the seams to see if there was any true compression, and it looked clean, in part I suspect because it was full-on contact and the impact was pretty evenly distributed. I'll look closer tomorrow.

Anyway, when the officer asked for the other guy's stuff, I thought there was a breakthrough. He only had the temp license (Washington issues a paper license, and mails you the plastic version), and the officer said he'd have to check the validity of his permanent one. For a minute I thought maybe he'd get him on driving without a license, but it didn't pan out.

My calmer self started to get more angry by filling in what-if's. Like what if Simon was in the car. I don't feel like life has changed for me all that much, sleep issues aside, but when you put the boy into that equation, it's a whole different fucking ballgame.

I suppose I've been lucky, as the only other close call I had was weeks after buying (or leasing, technically) my first new car after college, in late 1995. Some asshole turned left in front of me and just grazed the side of the car as I swerved to avoid him. He drove off, and I nearly hit a utility pole. In any case, this only reinforces my strong distaste for the inability of drivers here to do even the basics right. People with nice cars, and there's a lot of money and fancy cars here, tend to at least drive annoyingly conservative, but everyone else just doesn't fucking pay attention. I can't tell you how many times people have made skidding stops behind me since I moved here, and it was only a matter of time until someone hit me. But in a fucking parking lot?

In the end, it was probably a non-event, and I should be thankful, but I'm still pretty angry about it.


posted by Jeff | Monday, March 22, 2010, 4:59 PM | comments: 3

Tumblr blogging friends: I feel like I can never interact with your blogs because of the non-comments. But then, perhaps you prefer it that way.

Simon and Holidog!

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 22, 2010, 4:39 PM | comments: 0

Look at what came in the mail for Simon! Looks like he's already a Holiday World fan.

Calacanis vs. DHH

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 21, 2010, 11:47 PM | comments: 0

This is all kinds of awesome...

The video starts 47 minutes in, and I think it's worth watching. I've called out Calacanis before as being out of touch, and this shows it too. The idea of just having a sustainable and profitable company is totally lost on him. And he tries to blow off DHH's opinion as just inexperience, which annoys the piss out of me. Calacanis also likes to use the tech giants as examples of why his Silicon Valley startup mentality is correct. What he fails to accept is that those success stories are all fringe cases. For each one of those there are thousands of failures. Who cares if you're solving the "big problem," just solve "a problem" and ask for money in return. Why is that so hard?


posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 21, 2010, 10:19 PM | comments: 0

I noticed today that I have 300 Facebook "friends." Before moving, I sat at a comfortable 250 for a long time. I've always been pretty nuts about turning down friend requests, because I post a lot of photos and stuff that I frankly don't want people to see unless I know them. Since moving, obviously I've got new folks from work (though my policy is never add friends up or down your reporting line), and I've finally got family starting to come on board. Shit, even my mom is on Facebook now, though only so she could see photos of her grandson.

For all of the hysteria and nonsense about privacy, I'm pretty happy with the way Facebook keeps things limited.

Simon's first ER visit

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 21, 2010, 8:32 PM | comments: 0

Well this was a day I thought would come much, much later in Simon's life. Fortunately, we probably don't have much to worry about.

Last night, my own sickness got pretty brutal. I thought I already had a minor fever and was ready to move on, but that was not the case. By 1 a.m. I was in full shiver mode and the fever was kicking my ass. On one hand, you like to sleep through that nonsense, but when you have all kinds of f'd up dreams as a result, it blows. I had some tunes on softly to kind of ground my semiconscious self in reality, but it didn't help.

Needless to say, Diana had exclusive Simon duty. She was coping pretty well from what I could hear of her talking to him. By morning, I was beyond the worst of the fever, but standing for more than a few seconds had me wanting to yack. I was dehydrated and really hungry (and down two pounds in two days). Simon woke up at around 8:30 or so, and despite multiple feedings and diaper changes, never went back to sleep. That's unusual.

Noon rolls around, and still, no sleep for him. Diana was nearing meltdown status. I got up, got in the shower, and despite not feeling great, took the boy. I wasn't dripping snot or sneezing, so I figured touching him (with lots of hand washing) probably wasn't any more risky than being in the room with him. Diana went out to run some errands.

And he still would not sleep. Then the scary moment after 3: Wiping after a diaper change included bright red blood. My first instinct was that it was probably something like a chapped ass or maybe a little tear or fissure in his anus, but nothing to be too concerned about. Being bright red, it's a lot like what they describe around hemorrhoids. But with his inability to sleep going on eight hours, we figured we better call.

The on-call nurse asked lots of questions, and though she couldn't be sure, suspected he was probably going to be fine. She suggested getting him checked out at the ER anyway. I think everywhere else we've ever worked, you have it hammered into you to not use the ER unless there's imminent chance of death, but this is a newborn, and frankly this insurance is so good that I don't care.

There's a local ER just down the street, part of the hospital chain where Simon was born. This place was just immaculate, and the first medical anything I've seen here that felt Cleveland Clinicish. The doctor assured us that bringing him in was the right thing to do, because you can't practice medicine over the phone, and you should trust your instinct in those first six weeks. It's also funny that he was asking the nurse if he should see Simon or just wait for the next guy coming in ten minutes, but of course Simon charmed him.

Fortunately, Simon was both hungry and took a massive dump, so the doctor was able to see everything that normal babies do. Only minor blood this time, so he wasn't concerned about it. Most of his questions were around feeding, since that has been the most difficult thing for us. Last week, we finally decided to stop breastfeeding since he just couldn't get enough. The blocked ducts and the swollen lymph nodes and the pain she was enduring was frustrating her and Simon. All of the conventional advice wasn't helping. I'm convinced, especially after reading up a bit, that breastfeeding is simply a lot easier when you're 20 than it is 40. He got a good 10 days of colostrum and at least some milk, and the doctor suggested that was probably a good base for his immunity in the near term.

The amount he eats is pretty unusual, and he's just shy of 10 pounds now. He'll generally put down three to four ounces every three or four hours, but then he has these mid-course snacks of another one to three in between. He's definitely over-achieving, gaining about two pounds in two weeks. The average is something like 4 to 7 ounces per week. But he isn't doughy or marshmellowy, and the doctor says everything else looks normal. He's already trying to vocalize, exhibiting good head control and really good hand strength. At this rate he'll start college next year.

So what was the reason for him being up all day? Probably some combination of discomfort from his butt problem, gas and inadequate burping. He's been out cold now for almost three hours since we got home, along with Diana. I tried to sleep, but after an hour kept choking on my own drainage and opted to let them sleep.

We've been very fortunate to have a pediatrician and an ER doctor now with great bedside manner not just for the boy, but for the parents. We haven't been neurotic yet (at least, I don't think so), but the lack of sleep messes with your judgment. If he's going to over-achieve, I hope the first thing he considers is falling into some predictable patterns. Selfish thinking, but we could use his help!

A day without

posted by Jeff | Saturday, March 20, 2010, 9:52 PM | comments: 0

Today has been certifiably awful. I was starting to feel pretty miserable last night, but I was good enough at least to get Simon settled down and sleeping after something like three hours of activity. Diana then took him during the two (or three) overnight wakeups, and I slept.

And I woke up feeling even shittier. On the up side, the sore throat and chest congestion was gone, but it had all solidly moved to my head. It was non-stop drainage, but this was the worst I've felt since this started fucking with me two or three days ago. Where I was cautiously avoiding too much Simon contact yesterday, today was an outright ban.

It sucks for so many reasons. I miss being able to hold him, comfort him, feed him, and even change his stinky diapers. I don't like being a spectator. Having everything be on Diana is even harder for me. She is totally wiped out, which can't exactly be good for her own immunity. We've been lucky today in that Simon did a whole lot of sleeping today, and not the ravenous feeding of yesterday. The kid has not settled into any patterns yet, which isn't surprising exactly, just more frustrating than when the kid books warn you of it.

I feel somewhat better right now, though I've still got a minor headache and plenty of drip. I'd feel a lot better about contributing again if I could at least lose the drip.

At least it was about 70 and sunny here today. Although I'm increasingly concerned about air quality where we are, because wind is so rare. I'm also really hating our apartment, because it's like a fishbowl. I can't get rid of my house soon enough.

Above Skywalker

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 19, 2010, 3:02 PM | comments: 0

Philip Bloom shot another scenery short at Skywalker Ranch with the 5D Mark II's new 24 fps ability. Watch it full screen... I can see why Lucas chose to build where he did.

Thinking about cars (can't sleep)

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 19, 2010, 12:26 AM | comments: 0

How screwed up is it that I can't sleep? Because of my respiratory distress that I feel like I'm finally kicking, I took some NyQuil, but I'm up like it's my job. Sigh.

I got out of the house for the first time in three days this afternoon, to go to the bank and acquire supplies at Target. I got to thinking about how much I still want to replace my car. I don't need to. Well, I can come up with a few bullshit excuses, like it's six years old and spent its life in Cleveland winters, and all of the body damage from snow and salt you can't see is already starting. That's pretty much all I've got.

And I'm not much of a car guy either, but I am still fixated on the Prius. It's the gadget factor. Whenever I get in one of the cars in the Microsoft Shuttle fleet, I think, gosh, I could watch that damn display all day. And you know, there are some nice deals they're putting out there since Toyota is apparently suffering from an image problem or something.

I have a feeling those deals aren't going to last, either. Mr. Runaway Prius in California is apparently a fraud, and they called out that professor's simulated runaway car demo as bullshit they could do with any car. I suspect that reality will probably settle in about how uncommon the problems really are.

Still the deal I made with myself was to wait until my house was sold, but at this rate, I'm not that optimistic about it. That there are two other houses in the subdivision going lower on a per-square-foot basis isn't helping (fuckers). I just feel like I deserve to buy something for myself that's new and shiny. Perhaps if Diana's house really does sell in the next month or so.

Get off my lawn!

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 18, 2010, 6:27 PM | comments: 0

I've mentioned a couple of times about how I'm getting annoyed with this one kid in the neighborhood in particular who hangs out in front of our windows looking in. He also likes tossing rocks up at the windows above us to try and get the attention of the kid who lives up there. I'm pretty sure he's either not allowed out for homework or until his mom gets home or something. Or maybe he just doesn't want to talk to the kid. Upstairs kid is probably about 13 or 14, and probably already attracting the ladies, whereas annoying peeping kid is kind of overweight and, well, annoying. It's like having him in the living room with us.

Me and Diana have asked him several times to stop loitering around, looking in. When Helen Ann was here, she had words with him too. Then today he tosses a rock up, and Diana asks him to not do that. So he goes around to the other side and does the exact same thing. Keep in mind we already have a mysterious crack in one of our windows. I dished off Simon to Diana and went out and just verbally kicked his ass.

If Simon were older, I would've never done it, because I don't want him to see my angry and being a douche. But given my own lack of sleep and intolerance for this kid's repeated disregard for personal space, I let him have it. I swore at him. A lot. I'm not proud of it, but I had enough. He walked away, and I let the apartment office know what went down.

Like I said, I'm not proud of it, and I know better. With all of the prior failed attempts at getting this kid to get lost, I pretty much snapped. It got to be particularly annoying when we first got home from the hospital, and Diana was topless virtually all of the time, to have someone at your window constantly.

And hey, it gives me another thing to put on the to-do list: Teach the lad about appropriate personal space and respect for privacy.

Tough day

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 18, 2010, 12:00 AM | comments: 0

Today was not easy for me or Diana. I think for Simon, it was generally a pretty easy day, so that's a huge plus.

I started to feel the whole achy thing along with a sore throat last night, and took NyQuil to knock me out. I crashed on the couch, where I was out cold for about seven hours, completely missing one of Simon's feeding/changing moments. I was a mess when I woke up, but assisted in feeding/changing, and then sweated out a fever with a couple more hours of sleep. I've felt suboptimal all day, and have tried to at least avoid breathing on the boy. Now toward midnight, I'm surprisingly not tired, and that sucks because Simon just went down.

This shifted the burden of care heavily toward Diana, who is dealing with all kinds of physical issues along with the hormones taking her on a wild emotional ride. Diana is definitely a fixer. She absorbs as much information as she can, measures whenever possible and attempts to repair whatever needs it. Unfortunately, Simon isn't predictable, and it's hard to quantify everything he does, putting Diana in a difficult place. She's a great mom who does all of the right things, but for the last day or two feels defeated when he just won't settle or can't be satisfied. It's tough for me because I can't reassure her enough.

Things get better, and of course, we know this. Sometimes it's hard to realize that some days are better than others since they all start to run together. I seriously didn't know what day it was today. It's fortunate that for what little time Simon is awake, he does do some interesting stuff. He makes new faces every day, and his curiosity is fascinating. There's a personality coming together very quickly, and we're mindful of that. He won't be tiny much longer!

The things I miss

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 17, 2010, 3:15 PM | comments: 0

Being home for a couple of weeks, I've started to really notice some of the things that I miss about Cleveland. Don't get me wrong, I love it out here. The weather is better, the scenery is breathtaking and, most importantly, for the first time in a decade, I have a job that I'm really into.

But it doesn't mean that there aren't things I really miss. It's made worse right now by my need for comfort, because I'm fighting a cold and want desperately to feel better and not put Simon at risk. The biggest thing is just having a house. I can't stand having neighbors above me and kids loitering in the parking lot. I miss having the space for an adequate refrigerator and stairs that divide the spaces for rest and daily living. I'm also tired of hearing my Realtor tell me why she can't sell my house.

There are small and big things about the house that I miss as well. I used to love the sound of the siding rubbing around in high winds, and the faint noise of I-71 a couple of blocks away. I really miss the hot tub. There was something spiritual about being naked in that thing under a clear sky full of stars. Few things offer perspective the way your size relative to the rest of the universe does.

I miss the delicious comfort food of the Winking Lizard and Buffalo Wild Wings. I think the Midwest in general has a very practical and simple approach to food that you don't see here in the Northwest. There's something to be said for simple American food made with great ingredients.

There are a lot of things here in our life in the Seattle 'burbs that are becoming familiar and routine, not the least of which is the little burrito-wrapped guy next to me. Like much of life, I think of these things as additive, not replacements for each other. I'd like a little of what I miss along with what I have.

Not at Mix, but still pretty excited about the phone

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 5:16 PM | comments: 0

I miss not getting to go to Mix this year, but I've started watching some of the video, starting with the day 1 keynote. (For some reason there's some kid with a yo-yo, then some video, before you get to the actual thing.) When you get into some of the app demos (the eBay one is dull), it's pretty exciting to see the potential of the new Windows Phone, especially from a developer perspective. I love that I can take something like CoasterBuzz Feed and easily put it on the phone. I'm even more excited with any mobile dev platform that doesn't require an awful language like Objective-C and underbaked tools like X-Code and the interface builder.

Will I switch to that phone? Probably not in the first year, as I've got some time left in my iPhone/AT&T contract. The difficult thing for me is more the music integration. I'm not tied to iTunes DRM (all of my music is now DRM-free), but that ecosystem that includes iPods and the AppleTV make it a little harder to simply bounce off of it. I think in that interim time, there's a good chance that some enterprising developer will figure out how to do sync with an iTunes library, in which case I'd probably be all-in, provided the hardware OEM's come up with a solid design with great battery life. I love the idea of being able to develop apps for it with the skills I already have.

The physical toll

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 15, 2010, 11:44 PM | comments: 0

The last couple of days have been pretty difficult for us both. We're doing our best to get sleep when we can, but the physical manifestation of sleep deprivation is starting to show.

It's much worse for Diana, as you would expect. She's got all kinds of abdomen pain, and the Percocet is gone. Worse, she's still got swollen lymph nodes and blocked ducts that just won't clear, risking infection. To top it all off, the hormones are so extreme that a sappy TV commercial makes her cry. I know she'll be fine in the long run, but I hate seeing her so physically and emotionally a mess.

Meanwhile, last night I had the strange inability to sleep. Simon gave us a nice four-hour window, and I squandered half of it looking at the ceiling. I didn't nap during the day at all. How you can be so tired that you can't sleep is beyond me, but I'm just about shot. On top of that, I'm getting acid reflux and that strange rash I had last summer has come back, though it's at least confined to my leg.

Fortunately, our moods are generally improved when we get some play time with Simon. He's awake enough now that we can kind of talk to him and play with his appendages while he looks around for a half-hour or so. He makes new faces every time, and has even eeked out a few new noises that strike me as the start of actual non-crying vocalization. He's such a beautiful little kid, and we're thankful to have him. Hopefully this week things will get a little easier.

Son of DVR

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 15, 2010, 4:57 PM | comments: 0

After about five and a half years, I finally retired my home-built DVR. Mostly because of the ridiculously expensive case, I spent around $600 I think on it, including the various tuners and the BeyondTV software. Overall, I'd say that I got a lot of mileage out of it.

But there were several issues, not the least of which is that the various fans in it were dying, causing heat issues, and it was already on its third power supply. Still running Windows XP, driver support was sketchy with the newer tuner that does ClearQAM, and I was getting random lockups as well. Given the fan issues, it sounded like I was running a wind tunnel in the apartment.

Cable company DVR's universally suck, and the one from Broadcrap is no different. In fact, we need to get it replaced because it won't actually record anything, and I think overheating causes it to just start dropping audio now and then. While I think TiVo is cool enough, I'm not fond of subscribing to them essentially just for show data, and they don't do true SmartSkip like BeyondTV (finds the borders of commercial breaks, one button to skip). Naturally, the only alternative is to build another BeyondTV box!

I started to price out components, and I kept coming to the same conclusion: It would cost around $500 to build out a new machine that would have the same kind of four or five year staying power as the old one. That realization kept steering me back to the Mac Mini, which I knew would be more than adequate, would not require me to build it, and above all, would be virtually silent. So I busted out my employee ID at the Apple Store, got the discount and walked home with a tiny box.

It does feel a little dirty using Windows on it as the primary OS (not a knock on Windows so much as it is that OS X just feels more connected to the hardware), but installation went pretty well. I have three USB tuners, one doing analog cable, the other two grabbing the network stations over ClearQAM on the cable. The tuners are all connected to a splitter with barrel connectors, so as not to introduce more cables into the mess.

I feel like we got our apartment back. It's so quiet. First test was to just record three shows simultaneously, and it worked fine. The UI is a bit more responsive too, which is not surprising since the old box was an old Athlon XP with 512 MB of RAM (remember measuring RAM in MB?). And now we have a computer hooked up to the TV that can actually handle full-screen Hulu (the only one could not). It wasn't the cheapest solution in the short term, but I have a lot of trust and good feelings about BeyondTV. It served me well all these years, and I'd like to stick with it.

Sleepy little guy

posted by Jeff | Saturday, March 13, 2010, 11:27 AM | comments: 0

Simon is swaddled up next to me on the couch sleeping, and it's pretty adorable. Diana is getting some much needed sleep in bed, and I hope we can stretch this out into a three hour nap for her. Probably wishful thinking.

For me at least, last night went pretty well. I slept in chunks of one hour, two hours and about three and a half. I'm still a little tired, but more or less functional. And I got just enough rest that getting up to change him or otherwise entertain me was something I actually was excited about. I'll freely admit that I wondered if this joy would ever come, because most of the first week was about being exhausted, or irrationally staring at him for hours to make sure he was breathing. Isn't that ridiculous?

But every day he seems more durable, more aware and exhibits personality. There's a part of us that wishes he'd stay small even. Alas, he's gonna get big, probably sooner than later, given his over-achiever status.

ASP.NET MVC 2 and Ninject 2

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 12, 2010, 9:05 PM | comments: 0

For a geeky, non-Simon related pause, I'd like to mention that Microsoft released ASP.NET MVC 2 today (or yesterday, I'm not actually sure). This is my super favorite flavor of Web development right now, and probably will be for some time to come. I guess the only true production app I've solo developed with it is my blog, but we use it at work, and of course I'll migrate POP Forums, CoasterBuzz, etc. to it eventually. I figured it wouldn't drop until next week at Mix, which I sadly won't be at, but I haven't been paying attention to work much in the last week. :)

So why do I care about this framework? Mostly because it uses the Web, and HTTP, the way it was mostly intended. Using it instead of Webforms just feels cleaner, more simple and crazy easy to test, especially if you're using a dependency injection thingy.

Which brings me to my next plug, for Ninject 2. I might be accused of giving props to the guy who wrote it because he's from Akron, but I really do like how simple and clean it is, with no ugly XML configuration nonsense, and no external dependencies. I already plugged it into some projects, and it sure makes testing and wiring up stuff a breeze.

Both frameworks are open source, delicious and good for you.

ItzBeen One Week

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 12, 2010, 3:59 PM | comments: 1

Simon turned one-week-old this morning. What a crazy experience it has been so far. The biggest challenge has honestly just been the feeding, and the fact that it never seems like you can give him enough. The lack of a routine isn't easy either, but according to everything I've read, babies don't do routine until a few weeks old.

We have this thing called an ItzBeen, which we learned about from Joe and Kristen, as they have actively used one for both of their kids in the last two years. It's pretty cool, but I'm not sure how useful it really is the first week or two. I mean, if he's hungry, he tells us, if he poops he tells us, and if he's not awake, he lets us know. We started using it even in the hospital, kind of just as practice. It's slightly useful if we're trying to determine what it might be that he's unhappy about, but it'll be more useful when he's in a routine. Right now, I think it actually affects Diana adversely, because she very much likes to keep score on things, when Simon is more about being as unpredictable as possible. That frustrates her.

What I did not feel at first was all of the "what a miracle" rainbows/puppies stuff that people describe. Granted, I described the horror of the operating room, but even after that, I think we were both more in a survival mode than anything. It wasn't really until the last few days where we started to feel real joy and peace with him (not coincidentally, when he was feeling joy and peace). Seeing these "giant" kids at six and nine months at the doctor's office also forces us to appreciate just how little and precious he is right now. Plus, every day he does new things that are kind of cool, even if they are kind of gross, like farting, belching and making funny faces.

Introducing some amount of normalcy and balance into our lives also helps. We've actually watched a couple of TV shows, Diana has caught up on the FAILblog, I'm making a little headway through my RSS feeds/friend stalking. I even checked my work e-mail, though that was mostly just to delete stuff that would never affect me. (No, Matt, I've not yet watched Ellen.) I don't know how the hell anyone goes back to work right after having a baby. I've been out one week and I can't imagine going back just yet. And it's actually less about the baby and more about making sure that Diana has the necessary support. As Simon's 24/7 buffet, she's with him more by default than I am, and getting less sleep.

Pheeding Phrenzy

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 11, 2010, 1:24 PM | comments: 0

Yesterday was a really interesting day in the Puzzoni household. Earlier in the week, the doc put Simon on formula to supplement the breastfeeding, which at that point was still colostrum only. He dropped 15% of his body weight, which pushes what they consider comfortable weight loss, apparently, so she wanted him getting more. And lo and behold, it also made him much, much happier and easier to manage.

Yesterday, the milk came in, and with it, a flood of hormones that really messed with Diana. I was just dozing off on the couch while Simon was sleeping, and I woke to find Diana hysterically crying over me, still not clothed out of the shower. That triggered some panic for me, but looking around, everything seemed OK. Turns out, she just started crying in the shower, and her lymph nodes were really swollen, causing her to further freak out. But it was also that moment that she realized she finally had milk.

And so the lad fed for real, for the first time. For about an hour between the two breasts. This helped with a great deal of Diana's anxiety as well. We went into this feeling, you know, if breastfeeding works, great, if not, no big deal. Most of our closer friends and family in recent years have not fed that way, so we don't perceive it as something broken. But I'll tell you, once you start that battle, you want to win, and that's where Diana has been for some time.

The boy slept for many hours after that, and hopefully Diana's body was getting the signals to kick into high gear. It was a happy time. But as the night wore on, he started to act as a crack addict. He couldn't get enough. This is when we learned yet another lesson: Being tired out of your mind can cause you to not think rationally, and you can't deal with solvable problems.

The solution was already suggested by the doc, that even when the milk came in, it probably won't be enough to satisfy him, so supplementing is OK. Instead, Simon's frustration was a kick in the pants to Diana's morale, and it took us until 2 a.m. to figure that out.

I have to say, the hormone effects are nuts. It makes sense when you think about it though. When a woman gets pregnant, the changes are a bit more gradual, but in the span of a few days around the birth, the body has to go from supporting something inside to repairing the carnage and sizing of the uterus, and get the breasts producing milk. That's a pretty radical change in a very short period of time. Diana started crying over a story on the news about a dog that was nearly starved to death, and she was completely aware of how much she was over-reacting. It's wild.

It's still pretty fascinating (when you're not tired) how every issue the kid has, there's likely a solution. The key is really having all of the variables considered.

Ready to be Intimidatored

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 10, 2010, 8:36 PM | comments: 0

I booked the trip to Virginia for the opening of Intimidator at Kings Dominion. I really flip-flopped on it, but Diana encouraged me to go. All things considered, I'll be gone for only about 30 hours, but I didn't want to leave Diana and Simon, even though her aunt will be here.

As part of my re-evaluation of what I was doing with CoasterBuzz last year, I started scrutinizing what I was spending money on. The biggest story last year was within driving distance (Diamondback), so travel expenses were not huge. The only real travel expense I had was to Fall Affair. But this year's big story is Intimidator, and I'd like to deliver for it. The question was really what kind of return on that investment I'd get.

Generating content still has an expense, and as much as I love roller coasters, I can't easily let it dominate my life, as I have way too many other things I'm interested in (not to mention a family now). The journalistic aspect is still what I dig, given my education, and it's getting easier to produce high quality stuff. The audience is too small to really generate the kind of revenue to live off of and finance content, software and bandwidth, so at the end of the day I have to ask myself what I love and what meets the budget.

But you know, I also need a roller coaster ride. My last one is Space Mountain in December. This is probably the best I can do until we get to the fall events.

Looking for the groove

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, March 9, 2010, 9:50 PM | comments: 0

Adjusting to parenthood has been reasonably easy in most aspects, except for the overnights. I've been struggling more than Diana, because I'm pretty much non-functional from 2 to 7 a.m. We were talking about it a bit today, and Diana observed that I've always required more serious and deep sleep, whereas she can get by as a light sleeper. Of course, she's been sleeping an hour or two at a time for at least the last four months. I've always been an impossible-to-wake sleeper of six to eight hours, often augmented with a nap during the day. When I wasn't working, that was pretty typical, six hours overnight, plus an hour nap during the day.

Last night got close to being manageable, though I had a near meltdown around 3:30. My brain just shuts down and I don't know what's going on around me. That scares the hell out of me. I'm doing the bottle feeding as a supplement after breast feeding, per the doc, until Diana's milk comes in. The little guy put on a solid five or six ounces, fortunately, by doing this yesterday, and he's much happier and sleeping longer. Diana got up once with him, but I don't remember it at all. So I slept from about 3:30 to 8:30, and then I had a two-hour nap in the afternoon after doing a little shopping. I was remarkably functional all of the rest of the day.

I suspect that once I really adjust, he'll be sleeping longer anyway. I've been reading up on it, and of course it's hard to generalize what babies do. There are some methods to get him moving toward a normal circadian rhythm, which partly involve keeping him active during the day, but that probably isn't gonna happen much the first couple of weeks since he's so busy growing. I saw his cousin Mason today for the first time in a few weeks, and I couldn't believe how enormous he is at only three months. It's a little sad that Simon won't be tiny for very long!

Simon comes home

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 8, 2010, 1:23 PM | comments: 0

It has been an interesting, and stressful, 24 hours coming home from the hospital. The good news is that Simon's fourth day is going pretty well.

The first mess was just trying to get out of the hospital, due in part to a lot of incompetence. First off, the doctor's didn't get Diana's meds instructions into the discharge paperwork, so as we were ready to leave, we had no idea what she was going to need, or even that there was a prescription for Percocet. I'm kinda willing to give the doctors a pass on that, but the day staff at the hospital should know better. No one explicitly told us we could even go (though Simon was in the clear after a visit from the pediatrician's practitioner earlier that morning), or thought to cut Simon's security tag off. Then we were supposed to "wait 30 minutes" for the hospital pharmacy to get the Percocet, which turned into nearly three hours. On one hand, that meant the three of us could get a nap, but it only made the frustration of wanting to get out worse. We said screw it, and took it to Walgreen's on the way home. The day shift people were no Nurse Stephanie, that's for sure.

Not surprisingly, Simon loved the car ride home, and was out cold the whole way. He started to get hungry, almost in the desperate sense, thereafter, and just wanted to feed over and over. This went on much of the night, and that was difficult. He passed out on me for about an hour starting around 1, and Diana got a nap in there. Then I got up at 3 and 4 for short periods as he wanted to eat some more. This was the point where I finally started to fall apart, for the first time really since any point in the pregnancy. I just didn't know what to do, and got frustrated that the techniques I used at the hospital weren't helping him to settle down. We briefly got to reverse roles, and Diana got to be the straight-thinking one. The dad role at this stage is a lot like coaching. You're expected to be the strong leader and guide your team, but you don't really have anyone who can prop you up.

There was also a difficult moment when we tried to get the gauze around his circumcision wet enough that we could get it off, but it just didn't happen. His poor little penis is all red and the gauze of course looks terrible at this point. When we failed to get it moist enough, all we could do is feel bad.

I somehow ended up in bed, and some time after 6, Diana dropped Simon off in my arms, where we both slept for about two hours. The constant desire to feed continued on during the morning, and I eventually got him to settle by letting him suck on my thumb. I was in awe. He won't take the pacifier at all. I understand now why Diana's feeling a little pain when he first latches on, because wow can that boy suck.

He saw his new pediatrician for the first time at 11:30 today, and she's absolutely wonderful. I liked her within the first minute. She was concerned about his weight a little, and had us supplement his breast feeding with a little formula. He f'd up half a bottle in almost no time, and passed out immediately after. In fact, he's still sleeping. The doc said it's absolutely no problem to supplement at this point, and that once Diana's milk starts up, he should get enough of that in a couple of days and his weight will swing back the other way pretty quickly. She was very reassuring, and impressed with his strength and general vigor. Diana in particular felt immediately better. She also told us to keep lubing up the gauze on his penis, and that should get it moist enough to get off.

There's a wonderful peace in the apartment right now. It might not last long, but that's OK. We got to see the cute baby again today for the first time in about 18 hours.

Simon's birthday weekend

posted by Jeff | Sunday, March 7, 2010, 9:23 AM | comments: 0

By now, I suspect most of the people who know us have seen photos of Simon Jeffrey Mattoni (the child formerly known as Baby Puzzoni). What a day. I'm gonna try and peck out some thoughts, or at least an account of the day, while it's still fresh in my mind. Naturally this is largely an account from my perspective.

I got up at 6 a.m., Diana got up slightly earlier. The hospital is about 25 minutes away, and we were there by about 7. We checked in at the reception and were in our pre/post-op room shortly thereafter. Nurses Tiffany and Shain, the latter of which is a U-Dub nursing student, along with Karen, who I think was a senior nurse tending to paperwork and such. The room is a typical birthing room I think, with the baby warmer and stuff. Haans, the anestesia doctor, explained what he'd be doing and how it would feel. I thought his analogy that it would feel like her entire lower body was encased in concrete was interesting. I got all covered in scrub stuff, Diana got her IV line, and we walked next door to the OR.

This was the point where I started to panic a little. There were already four or five people in there being busy and doing stuff. It was typically cold, with typical harsh lighting, and the room just made me feel incredibly uneasy. As I said many times, this was the part that gave me the most anxiety, no matter how routine it was.

The first part was getting the needle in place to deliver the spinal block meds, which involved Diana trying to lean forward sitting on the table, braced against Karen. I could see the fear in her eyes, which scared me, but Karen quietly kept talking to her close while I kind of looked at nothing in particular. The drugs hit fast, and Diana was on her back in no time. Another doctor came in to assist Haans, and Dr. Block's fellow (they need a different name for women!) also came in. With everyone in masks, it was hard to distinguish people, but I remember her because she had a pierced eyebrow. Seattle is so gloriously liberal in that sense.

In terms of observations, that's largely where they ended. Next there was a lot of talking, suction noises, and some serious wrestling to get the little guy out. My focus turned to waiting for the first cry. When Haans said he was out, and I didn't hear anything, that concerned me. While I was looking at the floor at Dr. Block's feet up on a stool (she's only five feet tall), someone said, "Look at that red hair!" The next thing I knew, he was over at the table getting toweled off, his little blue feet in the air.

They invited me over to see him, and he let out a few little cries, and that's when I took the first photo. Knowing he was in good hands, I went back to Diana, who was looking over toward him. Momentarily, they brought him over to me, and Diana was able to rub his face a little. Because of his size at nine pounds, they were a little worried that he might be using a ton of energy to stay warm, so they checked his blood sugar, which he absolutely didn't like. It was pretty low, so they said we'd get some formula in him as soon as we got to post-op.

About fifteen minutes later, they were finishing up with Diana, and I kind of trailed back and forth between her and Simon. They had dropped the curtain, and as I was standing there, I happened to look over when someone pushed on Diana's belly, which pushed out a massive gush of red fluid from her vagina. As upsetting as it was to see, my mind was largely blocking things out like that. Earlier I had seen clear plastic things hanging out that could have been filled with placenta or intestines for all I know. I just blocked it off and was switched off emotionally. Right up until the time they wheeled her out, I was terrified that this could be the last place we ever talk, even though rationally I knew that was not likely.

Me, Simon and Nurse Shain were last out of the OR except for a few people cleaning up. Despite being just around the corner from our room, and seeing Diana be wheeled out then right, I got into the hall and didn't know where to go. That's how disengaged I was because of the fear.

But once we got back to the room, everything felt better. The warm sun coming in the window and the inviting view of the Cascades grounded everything. The excellent bedside manner of the nurses helped too. We took some more photos, and I gave Simon a quick feeding of formula to get his blood sugar up. I remember thinking at the time, wow, he's never done this before. Ever. How does he know? He figured it out pretty quickly, even though a lot of it dribbled out the side of his mouth. Before we left, we even had our first shot at breast feeding, which wasn't a remarkable success, but we're pretty sure he got a little colostrum to get him started.

We ended up being in there for about three and a half hours. In addition to lots of foot poking to check Simon's blood sugar, which he hated, he also got a little bath and some super toasty time under the warmer. Diana was the primary reason we were there for that long, as she has a lot of blood clotting that wasn't coming out. So there was more of the pushing, with lots of clumps of blood. That this didn't bother me still surprises me. I mean, it's hard to put into words the quantity of blood we're talking about here.

The walk to our room didn't take long, and we were in at 12:30. Simon didn't really crash into some serious sleep at all most of the day, and we had a great many people in and out during the day. Diana was still bleeding, as expected, though she had one gush that was again pretty substantial. She felt it and asked me to look, and she was just swimming in it. I must have been into helper mode because I still can't believe this didn't cause me to freak out.

I escaped for a short breather down to the cafeteria, and got a really mediocre turkey burger. I didn't care that it sucked, since I was so hungry. I also made some phone calls to my parents. I was missing the Cleveland Clinic at that point, partly because most every facility was so nice, and also because we missed Dr. Bowersox. It wasn't that we questioned anyone's ability here, it was just that Dr. B-sox made us feel like everything was possible.

Feeding Simon was a little challenging the first day. It's easy for the baby and mother to get easily frustrated since they both have to learn how to get it right. Plus Diana is extremely well read and we took the class, so expectations were high. By midday Saturday though, they're both doing pretty well. We've had a couple of lactation specialists help too. He latches on harder each time, so when the full milk comes in the next day or two, I suspect he'll have no problem at all.

As Friday went on, and it seemed to go very fast, we started to get into a pretty good rotation of tending to him and feeding. There really hasn't been any time that he was completely out of sorts. If he gets upset, he either wants to be wrapped up, eat, or have his diaper changed. At one time it was all of the above.

Simon is an overachiever in many ways. While "they" suggest that one poopy diaper in the first day is about normal, he had at least six. He demonstrates amazing muscle control with his head when he's not tired, and has a hell of a grip.

Last night, after a lot of somewhat irritating turnover in nurses, we got Nurse Stephanie, which is pretty much Simon's third favorite person. He goes out of his way to be charming to her, and she just loves him too. Not even a day old and he's already into pretty blondes! I keep telling him that she's married, but he gives her the big blue eyed stare and stops crying anytime she's around.

As it turns out, we like her too, because her bedside manner is just off-the-chart awesome. We were lucky enough to have her the second overnight as well. She knows her shit, is extremely helpful even for the gross parts of nursing and has gone out of her way to help us feed and be comfortable. I can't say enough good things about her.

Last night, I wrapped up Simon and propped him up in the Boppy pillow next to me on the fold-up bed while Diana fell asleep. He slept like a champ for several hours, but I did not. I was too worried about him accidentally suffocating or something. As it is, I found myself always wondering how babies keep breathing, so all I could do is watch him. By the time 5 a.m. rolled around though, he had moved to Diana or something and I was out. A bunch of people came in before and after the shift change, but I only kinda remember any of it. All told, I think I got about four hours of sleep.

Poor little Simon had to go off to get his circumcision, and he was clearly not happy about that. The positive side is that he would sleep for much of the afternoon. During that time, I headed home to feed the cats and what not, and Diana encouraged me to just stay there for a bit, get some real food and take in a nap. That added another two hours or so to my count, and it helped immensely. That it was such a beautiful, 60+ day helped. It was a little hazy, but you could see Baker to the north and Rainier in a wonderful self-cast shadow.

By the time I got back, Sam and Helen Ann were in visiting (they've been staying with Joe and Kristen since yesterday). They left shortly thereafter, and the three of us actually had some nice quiet times together. Diana needed an iron IV because of all the blood loss yesterday, which sucked because it was really starting to bother her. At least she got the catheter out last night, and was freely urinating on her own terms and walking around, if very slowly.

Once Nurse Stephanie returned for the evening, of course Simon was at ease, and he's learned the skill of belching. There is only one other family in the unit tonight, so it's very quiet. Simon slept a lot today after his little surgery, but he's doing OK. Diana is pretty exhausted, and I'm starting to burn out, but I think we'll find some time to sleep tonight.

So how am I feeling about it all? It's hard to say. I haven't had a lot of time to think about it. The truth is that on my drive home, I didn't even feel like Simon was my kid. We definitely need more bonding time outside of the hospital, where I get EST (exclusive Simon time). After two days, much of my effort has been placed toward just getting enough rest to put up with his ridiculous cuteness. I think the leave time will be great for making adjustments, and frankly just reconciling all of the change from the last year.

Welcome, Simon, to the family!

Hey baby, wanna park up on the ridge?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, March 4, 2010, 10:03 PM | comments: 0

Diana went out with her dad and Helen Ann last night to a seafood joint around the corner (I was suffering from the intestinal discomfort and opted out), and was turned on by the promise of a chocolate lava cake dessert. So when I got home for work, she suggested we go there to get it after Sam-in-law and Helen Ann made dinner.

It was delicious, and it was nice to have some quiet alone time. Wanting more alone time, she asked if there was anywhere I could go. I suggested we go up to the Microsoft park-and-ride lot where I get the Connector. When I was taking it more frequently, it was still dark, so I knew what to expect. You can see the outline of Tiger, Squak and Cougar Mountains up on the plateau, which is about 400 feet up. I-90 has a stream of lights that you can see almost to the 405, with a church steeple in Bellevue. It's a lot more interesting at sunrise or sunset, but it's still pretty cool.

We had a good talk, getting out some of the things we've been thinking about, but not saying out loud. One of the weird things is that we feel as if we never had "us time" here in Seattle, which is kind of a bummer. It's not that we have any regret or don't want the lad, but he's a part of this huge atomic unit of work that's hard to reconcile... the move, new job/no job, the house selling (or not selling), new socializing, nesting in a new place... it's just a lot to handle at the same time as having a baby.

But we also have the mutual assurance that we're going to handle whatever comes our way. That certainly makes it easier to sleep at night. And by the time I make the next blog post, we're going to need whatever sleep we can get!

Calm before the storm

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 3, 2010, 10:55 PM | comments: 0

The in-laws checked into bed about an hour ago, stuck on Carolina time, and it's strangely quiet in the apartment. With people here now, and having spoken to both of my parents today, it feels remarkably real now. We're going to be parents in about 33 hours.

I feel bad that I've had it remarkably easy up to this point. Not that observing Diana's crazy mood swings and cravings was always fun or easy, but I wasn't barfing, bleeding, and brought to tears when I couldn't even sit comfortably. Even going forward, if breast feeding works out, there's still some physical burden on her greater than my own.

But I realized today just how much the anxiety I mentioned recently has been fucking with me. The physical manifestation has really messed with the IBS as well as my already questionable diet. I've been binge eating for about a week now, something I haven't done in years. Isn't it weird that fear causes me to eat less (last endured in the post-separation era of my previous marriage), and yet anxiety has me eating crap on a constant basis.

Mentally I've been nearly useless too, much to the dismay of my coworkers I'm sure. Fortunately, this week has involved our go-karting, an all-hands meeting, and TechFest, so even if I'm not making strong contributions, at least I'm absorbing. I mean, I saw some stuff today that completely blew my mind. (We can't talk about what we see, unfortunately.) The weird thing is that I'm actually already looking forward to going back in April, I think because I treat the baby as part of the bigger transition of moving.

Tomorrow is more TechFest, and the in-laws are coming to campus for lunch. I have a lot of concern that it'll be impossible to sleep tomorrow night, but we've gotta be at the hospital at 7 a.m. By 9, hopefully we'll be in recovery and marveling at what we made. The next four weeks have little on the agenda beyond endurance and adjustment. Exciting times!

Money matters

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, March 3, 2010, 8:02 PM | comments: 0

Interesting day on the financial front just as we're about to have a new tax write-off. :) Refund this year will be fairly substantial, and that's good. Not paying state or local taxes for a very long time going forward is also good. Diana's short sale arrangement looks like it's on the right track, so here's hoping that all follows through. Still not comfortable with our level of debt, but it's getting better. It's nice to see investments slowly creepy upward, and it feels really good to make meaningful contributions again. I've even been able to donate.

My Realtor® made a completely ridiculous suggestion about dropping the price of my house, and that ain't gonna happen. I'm starting to get fairly annoyed in part because I don't feel like I can do anything about it. Being far away does not help. I'm not sure if my frustration is with her or the situation. If it's not sold by early summer, I'm gonna be super pissed.

But I'm thankful for the tax refund. Chances are pretty good that we'll be rolling that right back into taxes next year once Diana's house is sold. The loss for the bank is considered income for us.

Electric slide

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 1, 2010, 11:24 PM | comments: 0

We had a team building/morale event today for the devs that report to my manager (and some who have a lead in between), I think 14 of us. We went to an indoor electric go-kart track called K1 Speed, and it was fairly insane.

Electric carts are pretty much all torque, so despite a relatively small course, you went really fast, braked really fast, and really accelerated out of the turns. It's the first time I've ever done something like that where the lateral G's in the turns were something you really had to fight.

I think we all agreed that the cars unfortunately had a lot more variation in them than you'd expect, though not more than their gas-powered cousins. The condition of the batteries and tires made a real difference. During our practice laps, I had a hard time getting a good time, and I wasn't getting much drift at all in the turns. Then in the qualifying laps, the wheels were free and loose and it was like driving a totally different car. My second lap, I smacked the wall so hard at turn one that one of the dudes watching said I had two wheels off the ground. Fortunately there was no one there to get wedged under me. After that, I really settled into a grove, and found my line in all except the first hairpin.

The final race was actually the least interesting part. I had the sixth best time overall, so I was in the top pool, but racing against each other directly on that small course was kind of silly, and even a little dangerous. They did open up the cars another ten miles per hour, so that meant that, yet again, the cars behaved completely differently. The two straights were insane, but you had to brake hard. Because you had so much torque available to you, you could actually come out of the turns a lot more cleanly provided you had the car pointed in the right direction.

There were two crashed, the first of which was scary. Glenn, one of the guys from the forums team, got clipped and hit the wall hard, head on, while Aaron, the guy I pair with the most, got wedged under him. He had some minor scrapes on his arm, but was otherwise OK. The second crash happened in the first hairpin, which was low enough speed anyway that it wasn't that bad.

Eventually, I went from 6th to 4th, but Glenn's car was clearly slower, and me and several others stacked up behind him. As long as he was driving a clean line, there was no getting around him because of the size of the course. Finally, with three laps to go, he took a turn a little too wide and I got around him on the inside headed into the long straight. There was no catching the other two, but I finally got to see how the car would perform at the higher speed, and I had a hint of how well the cars might perform if you were just racing the clock. They weren't my best laps, but again getting a feel for the "new" cars again, I felt like I could've done pretty well. Third place was definitely acceptable, and I got a very heavy trophy.

Most of the time, if there aren't crashes or disadvantaged cars, I suspect the order you qualified in is the order you'll place. I think the race is truly won in the qualifying laps, assuming the cars are equal. That some of the guys with the best times in the practice laps didn't do as well in qualifying, I suspect that's not the case either.

Still, what a blast. It was good to meet some of the cats from the other teams that I hadn't previously. I was physically exhausted, and my back is still killing me from the time I tagged the wall. Most amusing was getting into my car and not being used to power steering! I'd definitely like to do it again, but only if it's people I know. Racing with strangers I doubt would be that interesting.

Preparatory achievements

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 1, 2010, 11:00 PM | comments: 0

After today's electric go-kart outing for the dev team, I split and headed out to nail down some errands. Heading back to the office for an hour would have been pretty pointless unfortunately. It feels shitty, but I'm not contributing much at work right now. I can't tune in. I guess on the up side, there are a lot of events going on internally, so at least I'm getting my knowledge (and team building) on, even if I'm not writing the next great piece of software.

But at least with the errands (and a rewarding burrito), and some stuff around the house, I feel like I'm making progress in preparation for the boy, and our guests. That's strange to think about that we're adding to the family and having people over. I need to remember that our obligation is not to entertain them, but to accept their help as needed. But you still don't want them wallowing in a dump of an apartment.

Tomorrow we'll pick them up from the airport, and I'm also planning to sneak in a hair cut (it's been almost five months). With that, I feel like some of the anxiety has been lifted. Really, it's just the surgery and immediate recovery that stresses me at this point. That fills my mind quite a bit. If the baby is healthy, really the terror for me should be over by then.

Meanwhile, Diana is definitely at a breaking point, literally. She can't really drive anymore, and she's getting all kinds of new pain and soreness she's never had before. He hasn't dropped lower, but her body is clearly prepping for birth, and that adds to the anxiety because I worry he might want out early. It doesn't matter how routine this is, because it's not routine for us.

Diana is also trying too hard to be accommodating. She's sleeping on the spare bed because she can flop around more freely, surrounded by supporting pillows, yet feels bad that she's not sleeping with me. She's even been saying that if the hospital situation sucks that I should go home to sleep. And she's not creating some bullshit test for me or anything, she's actually thinking of my comfort. How f'd up is that? I'm thankful that I have a wife who doesn't treat every action as a measure of how much I love her, but I'm certainly not going to leave her and my new child alone in the hospital the first night.

So I'm taking a floating holiday on Friday, and then the four weeks of leave. That'll put me back to work on April 5 (day after our first anniversary, holy crap), by which time I suspect I'll be anxious to get back. I already feel like I'm going to be missing something important.

Three nights to go after tonight.