Archive: April, 2010

Facebook is getting stupider

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 30, 2010, 11:05 PM | comments: 2

I've long defended Facebook in terms of its privacy features, and had little sympathy for morons who post compromising photos to be found by their employers. (Hint: Don't join the network for your employer so your boss can see your profile, dumbass.) The utility of keeping in touch with people through Facebook has been nothing but awesome, particularly since I moved.

But I'm kind of stunned at the complete stupidity around the decisions they're making lately, and the total lack of QA. For example, I recently posted a comment reply on a mobile photo from my sister-in-law. When I went back, it was gone. At first I thought, wow, does she not like me? But then I went back to find that it was in fact there, but despite the proper time stamp, appeared after later comments. How does a bug that obvious get into production? Do they even have a QA process?

Then there's this ridiculous fucking need to categorize and cross-link the whole fucking universe. (One more "fucking" for good measure... thank you for your patience.) This stupid profile conversion really f'd up all kinds of people, when presented with a mess of check boxes to approve everything from your work experience to the music you liked. My first impression was, fuck you, Facebook, I don't need to link all this shit, I just want people to know where I worked and what I listen to. At no time was there a message that said, "Answer incorrectly, and we'll blow all this shit away." So I didn't check anything, and what do you know, my profile was essentially naked. On a whim, I back-buttoned and let it check everything, and found everything preserved, though with annoying links to pages that often have nothing to do with what I would like to. For my employer, Microsoft, it links to some kind of student recruitment page, for example. WTF?

When Facebook gets in the way of just wanting to share shit with my friends, it instantly loses huge amounts of utility. What Facebook is "offering" (read: giving it to you in a naughty way) does not align with the reasons people use it. I don't care what their critical mass is, this will in the long run come back to bite them in the ass. Internet users are too fickle.

As for their "Like button everywhere" strategy, I've been mulling that over in my head ever since they announced it. The struggle in my head, as someone who publishes content and facilitates a micro-community, is that I'm not entirely sure I want or need to let my visitors let Facebook know every little thing about what they do. My revenue model is three-fourths advertising, so it does me little good to have people drop by only when a "friend" decides they like something and that shows up in their feed. Perhaps that's short-sighted in the realm of every page view pays, but one of the ways you score higher CPM's is having repeat audiences that spend time on your site. I'm not saying I won't experiment with it, but I'm really, really skeptical.

Mark Zuckerberg gets on stage and tells everyone how this is good for the Internet, and good for Facebook users, but all I see is an arrogant prick who doesn't think things through. Then there are pundits dripping all over him with virtual inappropriate touching as the savior of the Internet. I'm still not buying it. Facebook's goal is to have everything you deem social route through them, and that feels dirty. I don't feel threatened by it in any way, in terms of the communities I run (they've only gotten bigger since the non-college launch of Facebook), I just find it disturbing that people are OK with it. As much as Facebook may allow you to be the gatekeeper to what you share, their lack of QA and constantly changing privacy schemes make me uncomfortable.

Maybe I'm just being a grouch, but Facebook scares me a little. And that makes me sad, because it has managed to enrich my life greatly over the last few years, reuniting me with countless people that I couldn't keep up with pre-Web. It would be quite a loss if that were to change.

RAM it home

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 30, 2010, 10:16 PM | comments: 0

I'm not sure what happened, but running my dev stuff via Parallels on my laptop is not the snappy awesomeness it was a year ago. (That reminds me, I should re-review my 17" monster after a year in the real world.) I wonder if it's because I've gone from using Windows XP with Visual Studio 2008 to Windows 7 with Visual Studio 2010, or because of changes in the new version of Parallels itself. There appears to be a lot of disk thrashing.

Or maybe it's because I'm used to the performance on my iMac. That beast has 8 gigs of RAM, and I can give Windows 7 4 gigs while happily using Photoshop or Aperture or some other memory hungry monster. It "feels" faster than my desktop at work, which is no slouch. My laptop, a 17" MacBook Pro from about a year ago, only has 4 gigs of RAM, so I typically run the Windows VM with only 2 gigs. I think the issue is Parallels itself, because the disk thrashing is in OS X, not the VM (there's a virtual hard drive LED you can see).

I'd like to upgrade, since I spend a lot of time using the laptop these days, because it's often easier as Simon requires attention. The upgrade is still a little expensive though, and I'm trying very hard to be disciplined and pay down the rest of the business debt that stacked up during my "self-employed" days.

When will RAM be 100 gigs for $50? :)


posted by Jeff | Friday, April 30, 2010, 8:59 PM | comments: 0

I've been suffering from something cold/flu-like the last few days, which is weird because it's the second time in two months. It's rare for me to get this twice a year, let alone twice in close proximity. Maybe Seattle has different bugs, or mom brought something from Florida.

In any case, being on my ass and not able to really engage in anything has caused me anxiety. I've noticed that this anxiety is rooted in a need to contribute (which is hard whilst on your back). It seems like a new thing in my personality, or at least, not one I was previously aware of. I think it started after moving, which kinda makes sense as everything about the move represents a new start.

Successfully contributing to the world is certainly gratifying, though I don't necessarily seek praise for anything I contribute (which is not to say I don't like a little praise now and then). I think the desire in some way is connected to making good on the new start. The thinking goes that contributing means getting the most out of life's crazy reboot of the last year.

Some of that comes from work, where I want to have impact on what we do yesterday. I find myself struggling to understand some days how to do that. Maybe it's the interruptions of the holidays and the parental leave. Maybe it's the giant scope of the company. More than likely, it's that I've become so used to working in small companies or consulting, where you encounter people so clueless that the bar for achievement is a lot lower than you realize. (No, former co-workers, ICOM isn't one of those places. :)) I've started to have conversations with my boss about how I can ratchet things up.

I have even more anxiety at home though. Being not-well put me on Simon probation for a couple of days, which is the worst when you look at how cute he is. But I also hate that Diana has to take on more Simon time than me, even though in the obvious sense I have to be at work. I can't even tell you how amazing of a mother she is, undoubtedly because of her incredible independence. But I want to do more whenever I can, to be the hero dad.

It's funny how you change your approach to life. Right after college, the goal was to achieve as much as possible, as fast as possible. Now I just want to be a contributor toward awesome things. The common thread is that if you spend all of your time worrying about [current life goal], there's a good chance that you might just miss enjoying life as it stands today. I have to make it a point to let go of anxiety and take Ferris Bueller's advice.

Negative scanning

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 9:59 PM | comments: 0

My friend George blogged about a nearly catastrophic loss of his wedding photos. He got me to thinking about my own stash of negatives from the pre-digital days.

Back in 1998, when I started Guide to The Point (which became PointBuzz), I had a real live Nikon negative scanner, which cost something like $800 at the time. It was fairly awesome, even if I had no idea about what I was doing with photos at the time. Many of those photos are still on PointBuzz, in fact, including all of the constructions photos of Millennium Force. But even with that sweet hardware, there were still about eight years of negatives dating back to high school, and a few years after, that never made it into digital form. I've always wanted to remedy that.

I got my first digital camera I think in 2001, and a few years later, my first digital SLR. Since then, I have amassed about 124 GB of photos totaling around 15,600. That's probably not all that much, but consider that many in the first few years are JPEG's scarcely a megabyte, while the average raw file to come out of my 7D these days is around 25 MB.

While not foolproof, I have a pretty good backup system in place. Locally, my photos all get backed up to a drive on my router via Time Machine. They also get backed up to Amazon's S3 service via JungleDisk. Combined with my entire music collection, documents and backups from my Web server, I'm using about 168 GB at a cost of about $26 per month. I happen to think that's a pretty good value, because if my computers were to go up in smoke in a fire, I wouldn't lose any of that data... which to me is a lifetime of memories.

But I still want all of that old stuff. I've become sensitive to this when I think about how little is left from my childhood in my mom's collection of photo albums. My dad actually has quite a few slides from when I was a kid, and he's looking through that stuff now. I want to make sure Simon has a solid record of his childhood, still around when he's a grown up.

I don't know how many negatives I have. George used ScanCafe and was pretty happy with the results. At 29 cents a frame, it would cost me $290 for a thousand photos. Considering the cost of a scanner, and more importantly, the cost of my time, that might very well be worth it. I have to see what I've got. In the film days, I wouldn't generate nearly as many photos because of the cost of film and processing. I suspect my "keep rate" was probably as high as 75%.

Today sucks

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 9:29 PM | comments: 0

I don't like being negative, especially in a public way, but today sucks.

Starting last night, I started to feel kind of crappy, in the respiratory sense. It felt like a sore throat, but by morning it had developed into a full-blown and miserable head cold. A couple extra hours of sleep didn't help. Diana was good though, so she was able to do her normal stuff.

Simon, however, had a different idea. After some of the most epic spit-ups in his life thus far, we hoped he'd be better today. In terms of keeping his food where it belongs, he was, but he was cranky on and off all day. Aside from a few 20-minute naps, the kid was up all day long. With my nose dripping constantly, it seemed like a pretty bad idea to help out, which put the burden entirely on Diana. He had some fun awake time, happy as can be, but he spent so much time being as upset as can be, without any obvious reason.

That's a shitty feeling. I stayed home from work so as not to infect people there (though honestly, that's probably where I got this in the first place), and then at home I'm of no use because I can't risk exposing Simon to me. It makes you feel useless. For someone who likes to think he solves problems, that sucks. I hate it when our team dynamic is broken.

Now that I've got that out of my system, I know that perspective will set in, and tomorrow will be better. I just hope that Simon sleeps more than he's awake tonight.

Diana is back on the air

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 28, 2010, 11:28 AM | comments: 0

If you haven't seen it already, Diana is back on the air with her blog.

Visitors and thoughts of Cleveland

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 27, 2010, 8:19 AM | comments: 0

The visitor rotation has ended as of this morning, when I dropped my mom off at the airport. Simon has now met all of his surviving grandparents, plus one aunt and a BFF. Now we get the little guy to ourselves for a very long time.

While parents are people that you expect to see in these situations, I found that having Diana's friend Sherry in for awhile to be the biggest reminder of Cleveland. It's the people that you frequently see in a social context that make you think about it the most. We've talked about it, and it's not that we wish we still lived there, but we still miss it for a great many reasons.

I'm having a hard time with spring, because it reminds me of Cedar Point, and the excitement of opening weekend. I haven't missed the mini-golf tournament or an opening day in something like 11 years, and that makes me sad. We probably aren't going to get out there until October. Even though I mostly avoided the place every July and August, it's just killing me to not have a chance for spring visits, and the usual reconnection with my friends who work there. Plus there's a new ride, and I'll miss the opening of that too.

I think it would be easier if we didn't have those damn houses. I feel like those are keeping us somehow rooted there, only without the ability to actually go there.

And yes, I'm going to miss thunderstorms and 90 degree days.

Jamie Oliver's TED talk

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 26, 2010, 3:56 PM | comments: 0

This is definitely worth watching...

Extra days off

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 26, 2010, 10:23 AM | comments: 0

In recognition of a lot of product launches, relaunches and other stuff, our division GM is calling us all off for the two days before Memorial Day weekend. That's awesome. Five day weekends are good for morale. So are cash bonuses, but I'll take this just the same.

Mommy's little monkey boy

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 25, 2010, 6:46 PM | comments: 0

I love this sleeper...

Exclusive Simon Time

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 25, 2010, 2:50 PM | comments: 0

I'm sure getting a lot of EST this weekend! Yesterday he was a little cranky because we weren't feeding him enough. He's definitely going through another growth spurt (he did 9 ounces in about four hours yesterday). That meant more awake time though, which meant playing and interacting.

Today Diana wanted to go to the mall to use some coupons for baby clothes at JCPenny (three or four little outfits for about ten bucks!), so we brought mom along and bought her lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, since she loves the cheesecake. I finally got a chance to sling Simon into the Baby Bjorn, and we walked around the mall while they shopped. We looked at iPads and video games... real boy stuff! Actually, Simon mostly slept, but we got some awesome bonding time. Now he's sleeping along side my leg while the ladies went to a few local shops looking for jackets (mom can't find them anywhere in Florida).

Spending quality time with Simon makes me think of two things. The first is that even though it can feel overwhelming, kids spend the rest of their lives needing and wanting to be with you less, so you better take advantage of the situation. The second thing is that people who give the "advice" that your kids dominate your lives are doing it wrong. Diana and I have been doing our tag team thing, and we're both finding the time to do other stuff. This doesn't surprise me at all, as I've made the case that you have your life in addition to, not replaced by, your kids.

I'm so thankful to be having this time with him. I completely appreciate the dilemma that people have with choosing to work full-time with young kids. It's hard to not be around them.

A long but very solid day

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 24, 2010, 11:32 PM | comments: 0

Wow, I'm crazy tired tonight. I feel like I achieved quite a bit though. I think I had Simon in the early morning. I don't even remember. I went out with mom for a Target run. I can't get out of there without spending eighty bucks (and shockingly, no diapers, though cat litter and cat food is about at the same level). Mom was good enough to buy Simon some clothes, which is a plus since he spent a lot of time barfing his way through his wardrobe today, and very little fits him anymore.

Much of the afternoon and early evening was a blur, given the frequent clothes changes and constant feeding. I'm totally convinced he's in a serious growth spurt now. I also spent a good quality hour playing on the Xbox, which is something I haven't done in about a week.

Once I got Simon down, and mom and Diana watched an old movie, I sat down to try and at least do a little refactoring of the blog style to copy and launch as Diana's, which will return soon. She lost interest before I closed CampusFish, but now feels like she'd like to get back to it. So I did some color scheming, but no graphics to speak of. It's good enough to get out there at least. Also fixed a few minor bugs that were, well, bugging me.

It was a good day, and now I'm ready to pass out. :)

Xbox drivin'

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 24, 2010, 9:22 PM | comments: 0

For a very long time, I've thought about getting a steering wheel/peddle controller for the Xbox. The week before last, I saw them in the company store and decided to buy one. That's probably my weakness there, is the hardware. And the cheap Xbox Live subscriptions.

Anyway, the only driving games I even have are PGR3 and 4, but I love 4 for all of the real Las Vegas tracks. Driving with the wheel is a totally different experience, in part because of the force feedback. It's really difficult, not that driving with the controller is much easier. The PGR games are also a bit different because you "score" largely for sliding around turns and such. I didn't even remember at first that a major part of the game is power sliding with the hand brake, which is the "A" button.

The only games we have at work are those published by Microsoft, so I may consider getting Forza 3, which also has a great deal of eye candy and generally gets good reviews as more of a straight driving sim. Not that PGR isn't a lot of fun, but some tracks and objectives in the career mode seem a little silly when you can't "win" without doing some arbitrary sliding where it isn't necessary.

Official giggles

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 24, 2010, 7:29 PM | comments: 0

If he was vague last weekend about giggling, Simon definitely did it today. In fact, between his odd crying bouts (we think he's working out a poo), he's been very smiley today. My mom is doing her best to spoil him a bit with new clothes, which is graciously accepted given the fact that he pretty much needs 3-6 month clothes, even though he's only seven weeks. My boy is a champion grower!

I'm still having a hard time reading him because he's changing so fast, but Diana is actually keeping up better than ever, and compared to even a week ago is feeling super capable. I'm in awe of her problem solving ability when he's unhappy. He doesn't always fall in line to sleepy/happy boy, but most of the time she figures it out.

He's going through another growth spurt, I think, as the various books suggest often happens after six weeks. He's eating like crazy, and I have to remind myself that babies his age don't emotionally eat, they just eat when they're hungry. He's really putting away the stuff!

Advertising as an economic indicator

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 23, 2010, 10:30 AM | comments: 0

There are all kinds of ways you can get a feel for how the economy is going, not the least of which is whether or not you have a job. Now that I have one, I've been looking at advertising.

My "chain" for CoasterBuzz is to give FM first dibs, then Google, then everyone else. FM has been up and down, and always has been. It just depends on whether or not they include my site in a large buy. Google seems to be growing constantly. Their fill rates and CPM's seem to be trending upward, but I can't really know since I'm only looking at one site. They do magic to match the "right" advertising to each site, which is the reason you see lots of Disney advertising. But that itself might be an indicator. If Disney is aggressively advertising its resorts, can we assume that things are on the up and up? One might argue they're really trying hard to make up for slow travel.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see how ad dollars are allocated this year across all forms of media.

The Microsoft campus experience

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 22, 2010, 10:05 PM | comments: 0

I was curious about some of the growth and expansion around Microsoft, and found this article from 2007 in the Seattle Times. It's mostly where I bring out-of-town visitors, because the whole Commons and surrounding buildings are only about year old. Lots of new and shiny. I'm actually kind of surprised that they didn't bring me there during my interview. I do remember seeing the construction though on my first trip out in 2008.

There is something kind of interesting about working for a company that is so big that it has some 70 buildings. For me at least, it takes me back to that college sense, where there was something bigger and exciting going on (well, except weekends, since Ashland was a bit of a suitcase campus). And the funny thing is, I don't even mind being in one of the oldest buildings there, in part because there's some real history there. BillG had an office in my building.

That article is interesting as it describes the culture, particularly the famous office culture. That was one of the things that immediately struck me as odd, actually, on my first visit a few years ago. Walking through Building 42, I was in awe that there was just office after office, as far as the eye could see. While I think that for certain roles, an office is actually pretty kick ass, it's definitely not ideal for a lot of jobs. The teams in our group pride ourselves on not having offices. It's not entirely ideal in every case though, due to space configuration issues. My team (forums) does not have a team room, so we're split between three adjacent offices and just yell to each other when we need to. The galleries guys are all in a "cozy" space that I think was BillG's office (or maybe that was above them). The Codeplex guys have a true team room.

There are more experimental spaces here and there as well. The Office Labs guys have a big room in the original buildings that is gutted, open space called "The Garage," due to the garage doors at the hallway. The newer classrooms and training areas, which I think were part of that project in the article, are largely open and flexible spaces.

Probably one of the greatest things that I've noticed is that having all those tens of thousands of people there means having cafeterias. This is the first place I've ever worked where people regularly go to lunch together. Sure, sometimes it gets too geeky and the last thing you want to do is talk about code some more, but other times we cover hair coloring, baby poop and paying $30 for a movie.

I've been in 15 buildings so far. As I said, even with all of the new shiny that I take family and friends to, I like the old buildings and their very green setting. It's pretty neat to go to talks and such where they make stuff in the headlines. Like, "Oh, they're working on Windows Phone 7 there," or you see a gi ant Halo Master Chief logo in some window, or maybe a giant signed SQL Server box in a lobby. You start to realize how big the company is, and yet it feels smaller for some reason.

It's a lot of fun to come to work every day.

Venus Hum live DVD trailer

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 22, 2010, 8:41 AM | comments: 0

Definitely on my list of stuff I'd like to buy!

Less stress means living to be old

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 10:59 PM | comments: 0

There was a story on the news tonight about a woman living at 101, still playing piano for audiences and generally enjoying life. They talked to a doctor who studies the "century club," and he said that one of the big things they all have in common is the ability to let things go and not hold on to stress.

That got me to thinking about my own level of stress. I was really tweaked out for the first few months we were here. It was such an adjustment in so many ways (though oddly enough, work itself did not cause any stress to speak of). I feel much more calm and relaxed now, even though I have this little person who now depends on me. Although seriously, he's so damn cute most of the time that I can't be stressed.

Last weekend was an exception. Between Operation Nastygram and my Realtor's solution to everything being paint or a lower price, I really, really got worked up. Angry, even. I'm just so tired of more than half of my income paying for places that I don't actually live in. With any luck, we might be on the right track for Diana's, but I'm really not sure what to do with mine.

There are so many things that really smooth out life for me a bit. Coming home to a loving wife and cute little boy sure helps. Lunch with folks at work (a nice side effect of on-campus cafes), followed by my walks around campus, also keep me grounded. There's even something relaxing about driving lately, and I've spent most of my life hating commutes.

I guess it also helps to see people who can't relax, if only to realize you don't want to be that person. Time moves so quickly. Very little is accomplished by letting the world get to you.

Figuring out my hobbyexperimentfun time

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 11:11 PM | comments: 0

One of the most critical things to my career development, as well as my own desire to exercise my brain, is to find time to build stuff purely for fun or the business or whatever. It's very different from work coding (especially the next month or two, as we won't be doing anything particularly new or exciting), because there are few constraints other than what I'm interested in.

Well, that and time. It's hard to tune in and buckle down on something now that we have Simon. And mind you, I'm not complaining about that at all, because I love to play and cuddle with him. But it's also hard to commit to the time, in part because I can't just flip a switch and be interested. I have to be in the right frame of mind. I've usually got a good two or three hour window in the evening, but I like to spend it doing even less engaging things or spend the time with Diana.

I think it's just another thing I have to feel out and adapt to. Life is a lot more full now, in a good way. I'd say that I have to invoke my college era time management skills, but as I recall, I pretty much just did what I wanted and got mediocre grades, so that's not a good example. If in the long run I do develop my career at the company managing something and writing less code, working in the code writing stuff will be even more critical so I can understand what's going on with the projects and people I'm involved with. That's a bridge to cross later.

It is definitely easier to work on stuff from my laptop, though I can sometimes bring it to its knees with lots of stuff open (especially Parallels) with 4 gigs of RAM. I'd like to upgrade to 8, but I'm kind of watching as the prices come down. Lately it's been a rate of almost ten dollars a week!

When we get to the famously sunny Seattle summer, I wonder how I'll be able to sit in front of a computer at all!

Simon's changing cues

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 9:46 PM | comments: 0

Our hyper-developing son has become a little harder to read as of late. Basically, he's no longer a simple creature of pooping, eating and sleeping, and that has been challenging. Diana in particular beats herself up over it, since she's with him more, including overnight feedings. I think it's natural to feel frustrated and inadequate when you can't figure out how to calm your own child, and it takes a great deal of will for me to not react to his cries emotionally. My rational self knows his cries aren't the result of discomfort or discontent, but rather the only way he knows how to indicate that he needs something.

But we get some goodness out of this as well. He's starting to develop personality, with smiles and interesting facial expressions, not to mention the baby kicking that is endlessly funny to watch. Tonight we saw the Snoqualmie babies, and it's fascinating to see the stages of development. Mason, at four months plus, is able to sit up and do stuff with his head and hands. Nina is 2 now, and her communication skills are amazing relative to a year ago. It's both exciting and scary to see that Simon isn't that far off from these stages.

I think the hardest thing about parenting at this stage, aside from the sleep issues, is the ability of us to learn. Advice from other people is hit or miss, since they have different kids. It's just hard to generalize, and there are things you just have to feel out for yourself. Fortunately, he's just so cute and cuddly, that it's not too hard to forget his more difficult moments when he's being cute.

Shooting with the Redrock rig

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 7:13 AM | comments: 0

Sunday afternoon, I had a chance to take out my shiny new Redrock Micro rig to the tulip festival. As it turns out, it's a great opportunity for still photography, but not so much for video. The only thing that really happens there is people getting their picture taken in front of tulips. If that weren't bad enough, I was in dire need of a neutral density filter. You just can't shoot video at 1/50th and f/4 in bright sunlight. Duh. You'd think after shooting with pro cameras for 20 years that this might have occurred to me, but then again, these SLR cameras weren't built with video in mind.

The purpose of buying the rig was two-fold. The number one and obvious reason is to create something a little more ergonomic for shooting video. SLR cameras just aren't friendly for that, unfortunately. The good news is that the shoulder arrangement works pretty well once you figure out where to balance it. Longer rods might be better, to get the counterweight further behind you and the handle further out in front of you, but it's not bad at all. The only real side effect is that you end up obfuscating the camera controls a little. Provided you save your shooting settings to one of the dial presets, this isn't a big deal.

The follow focus is what makes all of the difference. Redrock's is generally fairly smooth (not as smooth as turning the barrel directly, but not bad). In a real cinema situation, particularly with a whip on it, it'll make a huge difference. The LCD hood works pretty well, though it's tough to get it aligned just right (the kit came with a mount for the Hoodman, which I'm sure isn't as nice as the Zacuto). I think for truly critical focus in tripod situations, an external monitor would still be preferable.

The secondary reason for getting the kit was to lay the ground work for a true cine-style setup. That means a matte box and places to mount an external monitor or anything else. The carbon fiber rod system is so simple, but infinitely versatile as well. If I wanted to, I could get a 35mm adapter and use my HVX on there, which I suspect would be quite stunning, given the lower compression rates of DVCPROHD. Above all though, the point is that I now have tools, and there are no physical barriers to being creative.

The build quality of all that stuff is super solid. I never felt anything flex or rattle. Of course, for what it costs, it better be solid! A few photos...

It's always about poop

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 19, 2010, 5:58 PM | comments: 1

Simon had another scary poop this morning. There was the blood again, plus some solid poo. As every baby book seems to indicate, that's very serious. Solid poo can be caused by anything from organ failure to bad food, apparently.

Fortunately, his next poo was normal, so the going theory by the medical professionals was let it go and see what the next one was like. We think that maybe the formula he was on, for just a few bottles on Saturday, may have been the issue. It's striking though how everything is about poop when it comes to babies.

I have to admit now that I'm starting to understand how parents can go completely off the deep end when it comes to kids. Diana's intense reaction to Simon crying in the car even seems reasonable. I hate my already-parent friends for this, because they were right... it's just different when it's your own kid. And it only gets more intense now, as every week he becomes more of a personality. Just this weekend, he's made smiling his m.o., and he even let out a giggle today.

Prius review: One tank

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 18, 2010, 11:04 PM | comments: 0

After about three and a half weeks, I finally had to put gas in the Prius. We took a little field trip north to Skagit Valley for what's left of the Tulip Festival (read: not much). I figured I'd wait at least this long to give some impressions, after a couple of weeks of commuting and some longer distance driving.

The big exciting thing to talk about is of course gas mileage, and it did pretty well on that first tank, at 50 mpg. Honestly, I think it might have been higher, but that first week I was still on leave and mostly putting about town. Even then, the efficiency was around 42, but there does come a point where all of the starting and stopping means little opportunity to charge the battery, shifting reliance to gas. Since filling it, on the drive home, I had no problem ending on 53 mpg.

The rules for driving on that first tank of gas were simple: Just drive like I always do. I didn't play the "Prius game" (watching the display that tells you when you're accelerating like an asshole), I just drove. That includes my more aggressive Midwest driver merging and what not. My work commute is about 12 miles or so, more or less flat with some hills at both ends, keeping speeds between 30 and 40. Every day of the commute, the efficiency kept rising.

Driving is a lot of fun. The neat thing about the car that I had not really thought about is how quick it is. In fact, when you put it in "power mode," it seems to just dump gas into the gas engine and push the electric motor. It's not efficient, but holy crap does it move. At the other end of the spectrum, there's an eco mode which moderates your acceleration a bit, but I haven't tried it. I've used the power mode to launch out of turns and various aggressive freeway moves. There's an EV mode that will keep it electric up to 25 mph, provided there's adequate charge. Used that today actually, stuck on the country roads in a sea of cars. Ended up doing about a mile and a half without using a drop of gas. Despite the various modes, mostly you just drive and let the computer figure this shit out.

The interior is like a cavern. I've never been inside of a relatively small car that is so enormous inside. The back seat can actually handle a couple of adults with lots of room to spare. The hatchback is actually something I decided I really like today, as we were able to spread out with Simon, his gear and my camera stuff. I like it much better than a regular trunk, and I suspect that with the seats down, those early Ikea runs we made when moving would've gone a lot smoother! Mike (djonceler) said that in his second gen car he was always amazed at the room, and this third gen seems to stick with that.

I'm somewhat fascinated by the science, balancing the gas and electric motors. At first, the default display that shows the flow of energy is neat, but I find myself putting it on the 1-minute interval graph showing fuel efficiency. Particularly in downhill areas or where there is a lot of coasting, you just get these solid 100 mpg bars on the display. It's also to interesting to see how much energy is recovered in certain instances. For example, out of work, I go down a hill, about 50 feet of elevation, and the braking down the 35 mph road makes for significant battery charging. Once up to speed on the next two miles on flat road, it's almost entirely electric to maintain speed.

The car does have a lot of things in it that I've never spent money on, and some of them I could do without. Alloy wheels seem silly to me, but four-wheel disc is impressive for braking (and charging the battery!). Bluetooth phone is a plus, especially since you can't talk with your hands in Washington. I'm really digging the XM radio, and will probably subscribe once the trial runs out. Also nice to finally have a car with an auxiliary input, so I can plug-in my iPhone and listen to anything I own. Lots of cubbies and drink holders, though the center spaceship console is probably a little unnecessary. I'd still prefer an analog speedometer, but overall the displays are pretty easy to read, and controls comply to human factors in the way I'd expect for a Toyota. The whole wireless key thing is so cool too. They revised the touch sensors on the driver door handle, so putting your hand inside the handle while putting your thumb up top locks the doors.

So far, I'm really enjoying it, and I'm maybe slightly willing to not just view the car as a utilitarian object the way I typically would. The gadget factor is cool, and since it literally has a "high score" for fuel efficiency, you can bet I want to see what I can get out of it. I'd be happy with a 60. For the amount I drive, I'm really only looking at perhaps $260 in gas savings per year compared to the Corolla (at $3/gallon), but it does feel good to use less regardless. That the car is sporty and peppy is fun.

Simon: Exhausted after a day of sleeping through tulip viewing

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 18, 2010, 9:50 PM | comments: 0

How adorable is he?

Finding the formula

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 18, 2010, 12:21 AM | comments: 0

You know, I realized that since returning to work, I'm not blogging about Simon as much. That kind of bums me out. But anyway...

We tried some new formula with him today, which was super cheap at Costco, but made by someone else (apparently only three companies really make the stuff, due in part to the crazy government regulations, I hear). Well it turns out that the spitting up of this stuff comes out weird, like almost a grainy solid. Gross. I don't know what's up with that, but we went back to what he was getting before.

And that stuff seems to work well. Before that we were trying yet a third kind, which seemed to work fine except that it made his poo stink like sewage. Now he just has "cute" bad poo smell.

You really can't talk enough about shit when you're the parent of a newborn. :)

Updated and upgraded

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 17, 2010, 1:14 PM | comments: 0

Finally... the blog is updated to run on .NET 4 and ASP.NET MVC 2. Hooray!

Box O' Bostons

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 16, 2010, 3:28 PM | comments: 1

This was too good not to share. I sure miss "my" puppy!

Cute Baby Animal - Box O' Bostons

King of the nastygram

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 15, 2010, 11:09 PM | comments: 3

As I've mentioned previously, there is an ongoing battle to get Wells Fargo to move along with Diana's short sale. Understand that she was already approved for it, they just needed a buyer and would negotiate a price. We had a buyer. They were willing to pay more than the bank thought it was worth. But they dicked around, handing the case from one person to another, and never allowing the negotiators to talk to her directly.

So it looks like we probably lost the buyer, but then they started asking for more paperwork, namely stuff that they already had, twice. Jumping through more hoops is not an option. I got the impression that since she was not defaulting, they just assumed she'd pay forever. It seemed like willful dicking, if you will. I don't like to see my little woman upset, so it was time to do what I unfortunately do really well... be a dick.

First step was to find as many Wells Fargo e-mail addresses of vice presidents and what not as I could. Then I crafted a carefully worded e-mail that basically said that:

  • I have a legal benefit plan, and intended to use it as much as possible.
  • That we felt there was willful screwing around to get her to keep making payments.
  • That we'd not only sue, but press the enterprising attorney to seek class action status, and get the Ohio AG involved.
  • Use social media to wage an all out campaign to let the world know of their dicketry.

An hour after I hit send, Diana got a call from a new negotiator directly, with phone and e-mail.

It bothers me that to get anything done anymore, you have to be a dick and threaten to sue people. What a load of crap. That's where I think many businesses have new opportunities: Just do what you promise and you'll have happy customers.

I hate being an effective asshole. It's not a skill I pride myself on. I'm just frustrated that it's necessary at all.

Silverlight 4 Facebook client

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 15, 2010, 2:42 PM | comments: 0

Check this out!

This is pretty bad-ass. Not revolutionary, but the grid view of photos is a pretty cool discovery too to see photos from friends you never knew they posted.

Exceptionally frustrated

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 15, 2010, 10:26 AM | comments: 0

Today is sucking ass. Everything is frustrating. Wells Fargo is fucking with Diana endlessly and we're going to have to resort to threatening them with lawsuits. Actually, it's not even a threat, because we have a legal benefit at work and Diana is already talking to lawyers.

Work is just... annoying me today. It feels like we're buried in irrelevant bullshit, and I don't know that I'm in a position to do something about it. As fast moving as my group is, I feel like we still get bogged down in the big heavy of old school Microsoft at times.

And then I'm getting the wild IBS swings, which makes me uncomfortable and moody, and I don't wanna be that guy.

I look forward to the weekend, looking at tulips with the family and shooting some video with my new shoulder rig, maybe piecing together a short film. I need a little escapism.

The standards that fail us and the intellectual bubble

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 13, 2010, 11:12 PM | comments: 5

There has been a great deal of noise in the techie community about standards, and a sudden and unexplainable hate for Flash. This noise isn't coming from consumers... the countless soccer moms, teens and your weird uncle Bob, it's coming from the people who build (or at least claim to build) the stuff those consumers consume. If you could survey the position of consumers on the topic, they'd likely tell you that they just want stuff on the Web to work.

The noise goes something like this: Web standards are the correct and right thing to use across the Intertubes, and anything not a part of those standards (Flash) is bad. Furthermore, the more recent noise is centered around the idea that HTML 5, along with Javascript, is the right thing to use. The arguments against Flash are, well, the truth is I haven't seen a good argument. I see anecdotal nonsense about high CPU usage and things I'd never think to check when I'm watching Piano Cat on YouTube, but these aren't arguments to me. Sure, I've seen it crash a browser a few times, but it's totally rare.

But let's go back to standards. Yes, standards have played an important role in establishing the ubiquity of the Web. The protocols themselves, TCP/IP and HTTP, have been critical. HTML, which has served us well for a very long time, established an incredible foundation. Javascript did an OK job, and thanks to clever programmers writing great frameworks like JQuery, is becoming more and more useful. CSS is awful (there, I said it, I feel SO much better), and I'll never understand why it's so disconnected and different from anything else. It doesn't help that it's so widely misinterpreted by different browsers. Still, there's no question that standards are a good thing, and they've been good for the Web, consumers and publishers alike.

HTML 4 has been with us for more than a decade. In Web years, that might as well be 80. HTML 5, contrary to popular belief, is not a standard, and likely won't be for many years to come. In fact, the Web hasn't really evolved at all in terms of its standards. The tools that generate the standard markup and script have, but at the end of the day, we're still living with standards that are more than ten years old. The "official" standards process has failed us.

The Web evolved anyway, and did not wait for standards bodies to decide what to do next. It evolved in part because Macromedia, then Adobe, kept evolving Flash. In the earlier days, it mostly just did obnoxious splash pages, but then it started doing animation, and then rich apps as they added form input. Eventually it found its killer app: video. Now more than 95% of browsers have Flash installed. Consumers are better for it.

But I'll do it one better... I'll go out on a limb and say that Flash is a standard. If it's that pervasive, I don't care what you tell me, it's a standard. Just because a company owns it doesn't mean that it's evil or not a standard. And hey, it pains me to say that as a developer, because I think the dev tools are the suck (more on that in a minute). But again, consumers don't care. They don't even pay for Flash. The bottom line is that if I put something Flash based on the Internet, it's likely that my audience will see it.

And what about the speed of standards owned by a company? Look no further than Silverlight. Silverlight 2 (which I consider the "real" start to the story) came out about a year and a half ago. Now version 4 is out, and it has come a very long way in its capabilities. If you believe, more than half of browsers have it now. It didn't have to wait for standards bodies and nerds drafting documents, it's out today. At this rate, Silverlight will be on version 6 or 7 by the time HTML 5 is a ratified standard.

Back to the noise, one of the things that has continually disappointed me about this profession is the number of people who get stuck in an intellectual bubble, color it with dogmatic principles, and completely ignore the actual marketplace where this stuff all has to live. We aren't machines; Binary thinking that forces us to choose between "open standards" and "proprietary lock-in" (the most loaded b.s. FUD term evar) isn't smart at all. The truth is that the <object> tag has allowed us to build incredible stuff on top of the old standards, and consumers have benefitted greatly. Consumer desire, capitalism, and yes, standards ratified by nerds who think about this stuff for years have all played a role in the broad adoption of the Interwebs.

We could all do without the noise. At the end of the day, I'm going to build stuff for the Web that's good for my users, and I'm not going to base my decisions on a techie bubble religion. Imagine what the brilliant minds behind the noise could do for the Web if they joined me in that pursuit.


posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 13, 2010, 11:40 AM | comments: 0

It's weird to see a series of numbers mentioned so often in the tech press. These digits, 3.3.1, refer to a new clause in Apple's SDK license agreement for iPhone development that essentially says you can only use their published stuff to write software for the platform, and not any third-party frameworks or tools. The irony is that a great many apps are already written using third-party frameworks.

The immediate fallout of this is that Adobe is ready to ship software that packages Flash into something the iPhone can understand, making apps portable. That's a huge win, not just for Adobe, but I think for every person who owns the phone. While not a huge fan of Flash development, I'm certainly OK with having more people capable of developing for the phone, because it makes it more likely cool things will make it into the wild. Ditto for things like MonoTouch, which uses a derivative of .NET.

Apple justifies this (and the most religious of fanboys talk out of their ass and agree) by saying that there are performance and experience issues around this policy. If you've written code for anything, you know this is bullshit. Countless apps are already in the app store using third-party frameworks. Countless apps that suck and crash using only the approved tools are in the apps store. Even phone hardware can efficiently use good software.

What's interesting is that Apple will probably get away with it in the short term. You wouldn't think that would be the case. Consider the long-standing mountain of suck that Sony has been when accommodating developers for the various PlayStation models. Eventually, that caught up with them, when the PS3 came out and devs said it was too hard to write for and weren't getting support. Meanwhile, Microsoft was helping out shops for the Xbox, and Nintendo was just cranking stuff out themselves. The PS3 got off to an enormously slow start, and even now, most of the action is elsewhere.

The thing that makes Apple different is the enthusiasm of end users and the core use of their products. Sure, I love my Apple stuff because it's shiny, but I as an end user, the big reason is because the shit just works and does what I need it to do without a lot of hassle. The iPhone in particular has scored such critical mass that cheesed-off devs aren't going to create a dissatisfaction ripple up to end users.

I'm annoyed, because as much as I don't care for Flash, it's a lot easier to learn and use than Objective-C. Yeah, I want to go to the party too. I'm not going to take the time, however, to learn a shitty and antiquated language and muck around with a substandard tool like Xcode. If I build any mobile apps, obviously I'll give it a whirl on Windows Phone 7 since I already have those skills.

I love my iPhone, but this is disappointing if they actually enforce it. I hate having them be gate keepers to every damn thing about the phone.

A fantastic day for product announcements

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 12, 2010, 10:33 PM | comments: 0

So much excitement over stuff that I'm interested in.

For Microsoft, today was a big day with the release of Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Framework 4.0. I've been using it for a couple of weeks, and I've gotta say that I like it for a number of reasons. I haven't really looked up close at the meat of all of the improvements in the framework, but the tooling has made some great strides. First of all, you can pull out windows and drag them anywhere you want, on to any monitor. Not an issue on the 27 inches of iMac love at home, but at work it's nice to pull of the solution explorer into an adjacent window. The Intellisense for Javascript feels less hackish. The historical debugger, while I haven't used it, shows promise if it works as advertised. And finally, with much rejoicing, we've finally got the Silverlight tooling with a functional designer. Oh, and the code is more readable too.

And with all of that goodness, ASP.NET MVC 2 has been out for a few weeks, and Silverlight 4 is part of this release. Good "old fashioned" ASP.NET Webforms finally has non-chaotic icky-ID markup. There are improvements in WCF and some of the other bits too, all of which I haven't yet read up on. It's a huge release.

Jetbrains got the final version of Resharper 5.0 out today as well.

Meanwhile, along with this product launch in Las Vegas, the video world is getting rocked with the NAB show. Panasonic finally did what everyone in indie circles has been waiting for: Introduced a "real" video camera with a big ass sensor that can use SLR lenses. The 4/3" sensor won't have the aliasing problems of the DSLR's. The only disappointing thing is that it uses AVCHD instead of one of their pro codecs (like DVCPROHD or AVCIntra), and at a low bit rate at that. If it's priced wrong, I doubt it'll get traction. Still, one has to wonder how it is that Canon hasn't already done something this, seeing as how they already make SLR's, SLR's with video and actual video cameras already.

Also exciting, if a little out of nowhere, Redrock Micro is showing a follow focus remote control thing for use with iPhones and iPod Touch. I really dig the stuff that company has put out, and ordered a shoulder rig for my 7D. I'm tired of having an SLR that can shoot video and not having the proper stuff to do so.

Meanwhile, I already mentioned the release of Panasonic's HPX370, so it'll be interesting to see what else gets announced this week. Adobe is pushing CS5 of course, and the big video news there is that they've somehow managed to do realtime editing of H.264. That seems like a bad idea, but I suppose if it means sucking in files and going, and rendering or converting at the end, that's probably OK.

It's fun to see lots of technology news about stuff I care about, and that isn't about the Twitter or Facebook.

House finale shot on Canon SLR

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 12, 2010, 11:52 AM | comments: 1

Philip Bloom says they shot the season finale of House on a Canon 5D Mark II. That's awesome, and really is a kick in the nuts to all of the haters who can't let go of film or think that the bit rate is too low or the resolution is inadequate or whatever. Show airs in mid-May. Can't wait to see it.

Weekend accomplishments

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 11, 2010, 10:30 PM | comments: 0

Despite my frustrations with Simon this weekend, he did sleep enough that I was able to accomplish a few things.

It sounds so ridiculous, but I've had a bunch of frames sitting in our kitchen table since a few weeks before Simon was even born. I've had some Cedar Point photos in unmatching frames for years, but I snagged some inexpensive but attractive frames at Ikea to hang in the apartment. I had three landscape and one portrait, so to create some symmetry, I got five frames. I need to find another horizontal one to complete the look.

I also started working on some minor changes for the blog software, before I spawn a branch for Diana's. It seemed like a good time to upgrade it all to .NET 4 (launch events tomorrow) and MVC 2, and I did most of that. I also wanted to apply time zone adjustments, so I'm baking in some of that to keep everything stored as UTC (something the forums have done from the start, but I wasn't that interested in for the small and simple blog).

We're learning that you just have to make the most of the time that the boy is sleeping. You can't just say you'll do it whenever, because whenever is probably not going to be a good time. We find this is true even for more routine things like grocery runs or even one-on-one married people time.

Parental regression

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 11, 2010, 3:20 PM | comments: 0

I've had a really tough weekend with Simon. After a month of feeling like a champ, I feel as though I've regressed in terms of my ability to read him and provide. I'm overlooking obvious things like he needs a diaper change, or that he's hungry. I'm easily tired and frustrated.

I'm sure I'll hit a stride again. I think a part of it is that he's had his aunt here and I've mostly come home from work to do little other than feed him a couple of times.

Not Hawaii

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 11, 2010, 2:09 PM | comments: 1

There was a thing on Travel Channel about Hawaii's top ten beach resorts, and I'm still surprised at how different most people to view Hawaii.

My position is this: Waikiki is not Hawaii, it's Daytona. Why would you travel that distance to stay in an area that looks like any town on Atlantic coast of Florida? I'm also not a fan of the completely manufactured resorts, like the Hilton Waikoloa Village, which is carved out of the middle of a lava field. To me, Hawaii is tropical and exotic, and while I like nice places to stay, I also appreciate some privacy and getting away from mobs of people.

To their credit, the show did plug both the Grand Hyatt on Kauai, where we did part of our honeymoon, as well as the Princeville resort on Kauai. But I just don't understand the desire of people to fly there and not leave Oahu. The middle-of-nowhere bed-and-breakfast we stayed at on the big island was so beautiful and remote. The little restaurants and places around Kauai were amazing, to say nothing of the stunning natural diversity of everything from Waimea to the Na'pali coast.

I feel like people just miss out on the "real" Hawaii.

HPX370 sure is nice

posted by Jeff | Saturday, April 10, 2010, 7:12 AM | comments: 0

Philip Bloom posted a video review of the new Panasonic HPX370, a replacement for the 300 (see the last part of his video with edited video from it). I am seriously impressed, particularly if he's impressed. Looks like the pricing is still under $10k with lens and battery kit as well.

There's a lot going for "real" video cameras still. While I've enjoyed messing with the 7D, SLR's still have some serious flaws when it comes to shooting. The first is of course the form factor, which absolutely sucks for shooting motion. There are rigs you can buy to compensate for this, but it's not the same. The other thing is the lack of proper connectivity. You're not going to find XLR connectors for audio on an SLR. That in turn messes with the form factor, when you've gotta strap some audio piece to your rig.

I was impressed with the narrow depth of field he got in the stuff he shot, with the stock lens no less. If this thing was around four years ago, I would undoubtedly have it instead of my HVX200 (which is still for sale, by the way). When I was in Virginia, the photog from the Fox affiliate let me play with his camera, the big brother to this camera, and it just felt nice to have that big thing on my shoulder.

iPhone 4: Meh

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 8, 2010, 10:48 PM | comments: 1

OK, so first the iPad doesn't excite me, and now I'm indifferent about the forthcoming iPhone 4.0 update. There is really only one thing that I'm glad to finally see, and that's support for multiple Exchange accounts. Things I really would have liked to see was a calendar that didn't suck (not to mention gave some indication when it was syncing to Exchange) and something, anything, useful on the lock screen other than wallpaper of Simon.

Their take on multitasking is I think the right thing, but it really supports the edge cases more than anything else. The only time I've ever really needed it was for Pandora, and that was only when I could use it on a Wi-Fi network at previous jobs. That it silos apps for only specific functionality into multitasking, while essentially freezing everything else, was a good move. Although, so many apps learned to save state when they were shut down anyway, that I'm not sure how much value this adds.

I think that, going forward, iPhone OS updates are going to be a lot like OS X. Sure, we'll get it, but all of the incremental stuff isn't as revolutionary as, say, the jump to 2.0. Bummer though for people who don't have a 3Gs though, as the multitasking won't exist.

iPad unboxing porn

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 8, 2010, 10:24 PM | comments: 0

This is all kinds of awesome, and funny too. Well done, Revision3. It actually points out one of the things I had not thought of as particularly problematic, the lack of Flash. On the iPhone, I really don't think it matters, because the kind of things I use it for "in the field" rarely require it. The iPad, on the other hand, for random couch surfing, would be a seriously deficient experience without it.

Relearning work-life balance

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 8, 2010, 9:44 PM | comments: 0

This week has been surprisingly hard to adjust to, going back to work. Diana started taking Simon for his overnight feedings starting on Saturday night, but I've still had an awful time trying to sleep normally through the night. Last night, finally, I hit a good continuous streak from midnight to 7. It might be because Simon never got restless enough for me to hear, whereas Diana wakes up at his slightest noise.

Tuesday was particularly awful. It's not just that I was used to not sleeping overnight, it was also that I was used to sleeping some amount during the day. My solution has been to be careful about how much I eat at lunch, avoiding the soda and the associated sugar swings, and getting out to walk around campus after lunch. That has mostly helped.

The evenings after work are also harder than just doing the 24/7 Simon routine. I'm kind of surprised by this, because while my line of work does require a lot of mental engagement, and it can be exhausting, caring for Simon doesn't take much thought. It's largely instinctual. But I still find it hard to really give him the attention I want to give him. That there are things I want to accomplish after work, even mundane things like reconciling bank statements or taking care of CB club cards, makes it even harder. I feel like since Diana has him all day and overnight, I need to take him, but the day at work is still work.

So I think it'll take awhile to strike a balance again, and with that time, I also expect that he'll help even things out as he gets into longer sleep cycles. That he isn't predictable right now is what's hard, especially for Diana.

As hard as the transition is, I still smile every night when I get home, because he's just too cute for words. I miss seeing him during the day, even though most of his daily life is still eating, sleeping and pooping. Tomorrow he gets to visit me at work though. Hooray!

TP flap

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 8, 2010, 12:49 PM | comments: 2

The toilet paper flap on the roll should be on the outside, away from the wall. How is that even something to debate?

Servers, rent vs. buy

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 10:05 PM | comments: 0

I planned to have the sites on a new server by last Christmas. It still hasn't happened. Making a baby has pushed it down the priority list even further, despite the fact that I fear it's destined to fail, as I mentioned before. Today I had another kink in the thinking. We were talking about the architecture of StackOverflow (mostly that it's remarkably light considering that it does 37 million page views a month), and there was an article that made the observation that buying a server is often cheaper in the long run than renting one. Crap, one more thing to consider.

The sites lived on a co-located server that I built back in 2000 for about a year. Then they lived on the same box for two more years at my house on a T-1, which by the way would be totally inadequate now since it's only 1.5 mbits, and the sites routinely require more. These were expensive arrangements.

In today's world, the server I'd really like to get, from any of the decent companies providing such services, would cost about $200 per month. Consider that the box the sites are sitting on now has cost about $8,000 since it was born, and I doubt very much that was mostly paying for bandwidth. Going forward, there are deals to be had, but as soon as you want more RAM, the monthly cost is more than buying the RAM outright, and that feels dirty. Ditto for extra hard drives. They lure you in with cheap base machines, then stick you for the good stuff.

I've been looking around at co-location, with the idea that I could probably buy a sweet server for under a grand, and keep it for years. Then it's just a matter of the space in some rack. So far, the one quote I got was $129/month, which seems a little high for a 1U server that isn't sucking much bandwidth (relatively speaking).

So once again, I'm not sure what I'll do, but I've never had a computer run this long continuously without a hard drive failure. And I know it's just some generic white box in some room in Dallas, probably with cheap parts. It's begging to be retired.

I'm not sure how I got so cheap, but I just don't want to spend more on a box, regardless of the long or short term accounting. Maybe the right way to approach it is that four extra CoasterBuzz Club memberships a month pays for the upgrade. But then, that's 48 a year, and that seems more daunting.

Gotta make a move soon.

Simon at play

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 6, 2010, 11:44 AM | comments: 0

Hard to work when Diana sends me the daily cuteness!

Anniversary date: Gold Class Cinemas

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 5, 2010, 11:15 PM | comments: 3

Saturday, technically the day before our anniversary, we decided to go out for a little date, while Aunt Kathy watched the boy. It's still hard to believe that our wedding was a year ago, and that we partied on a boat. I've been to a lot of weddings, and I've largely been jealous of most of them. Not ours. It was the best wedding I've ever been to, hands down. We talked about it, and I think the only thing we might have changed is to make it earlier. Have the three hour tour all in day light, and leave more time for partying in the bar in the evening. But then again, you know, the lighting was just right on that beach!

With Simon being so young, the truth is that neither one of us spent all that much time thinking about the anniversary, and we're fortunately not huge gift people who judge the value of the relationship on gift size. But on Friday night, I was thinking a bit about the dinner-and-a-movie thing, which is not original, but it's pretty easy, and we both like movies and eating. :) Then I remembered that Redmond is home to a Gold Class Cinemas location. The premise is pretty simple: Pay up to see a movie while people kiss your ass and bring you shit. Watch the video tour on their Web site. It's impressive.

We decided to see Hot Tub Time Machine, which sounds pretty silly at $30+ a ticket, but whatever. We only got there about 20 minutes early, unfortunately, but the lobby is basically a trendy looking bar with a gas fireplace. It reminded me of the kind of thing you'd see in Vegas, where no club has anything older than six months in it (exaggerating, but you know what I mean). It had a nice vibe to it. The bar service was a little on the slow side, but not to a fault.

Inside the theater, you've got powered recliners with a table in the middle, including a call button. The menu is pretty much all finger food, seeing as how you can't really fumble around with silverware in the dark, in a recliner, but it was pretty top notch. They make their own chips, and we both had pretty good food. I got an Anchor Bar chicken sandwich, which is exactly what it sounds like: Chicken with wing sauce from Anchor Bar in Buffalo, where Buffalo wings were allegedly born. It was delicious, though I wish they would've had a spicier sauce. Diana had some other chicken variety, which she really liked. I had a couple of beers, and she had a couple of really strong margaritas. The food and drink pricing was pretty much in line with any other slightly nicer restaurant or bar.

So what do you get for an extra $20 on the movie ticket itself? No kids (it's 21 and over), better seats than you have at home, theaters that only hold 40 people, pillows and blankets if you so desire, and most importantly, people bringing you stuff. Yes, the outing cost us around $130 for two, but I think it was totally worth it. The next time something comes out that I really, really look forward to seeing, I'll totally do it there.

The only negative is that alcohol has its way of moving quickly, so you might miss a scene if you have to pee (as I did). Fortunately, the restrooms aren't far away, and they're pretty nice as well. Though as Diana pointed out, it's hard to see if something ain't right in a black toilet.

With all of the nice cars driving about the east side, I can't think of a more perfect entertainment venue, where people can obviously afford it. I think we'll likely do it again in a few months. Again, totally worth it. It was exactly what we needed after four weeks with our little man.

The Intimidator 305 Experience

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 5, 2010, 10:43 PM | comments: 0

OK, better late than never, right?

About a month ago, I decided to go to the Kings Dominion media event, because Intimidator 305 simply is "the" coaster story of the year. Generally speaking, I've tried to not be in the content creation business with CoasterBuzz, as the whole point has always been to link to it (thus "portal to the thrill"). But I figured screw it, since ad revenue in December was off the charts awesome, and these things generally work well as a networking opportunity to build relationships.

I flew out of Seattle on Wednesday afternoon, and was pleased that security was a non-issue. I really dislike flying out of the S terminal, because it's always crowded, as are the underground shuttles. It's funny how the airport mostly reminds me of interviewing at MSFT. It'll take some getting used to as "my" airport, and the origin instead of the destination.

My stop in ATL wasn't horrible, though you still spend so much time taxiing there because of its size. At least you don't have to wait in line on the runway as you do at ORD. RIC is a nice little airport, and I just barely made it at quarter to midnight to pick up my car. Seems Travelocity managed to make my pick-up time 8 a.m., so they weren't even expecting me.

I stayed in the Country Inn across from the park, which seemed nice enough. Being on Pacific time, and newborn time on top of that, I was skeptical I'd get much sleeping done. I was right. At 2 a.m., a freight train passed by that literally shook everything. The pen on the night stand was moving. That's the first -1. I got up at 5, getting maybe two hours of sleep, and planned to meet Ken (ridemcoaster) to go in early. Wasn't expecting to ride or anything, but thought it'd be neat to take some "night" photos. As I contemplated just waiting for the regular start time of the event, I noticed something on the floor near the bathroom. That something started scurrying toward me. It was a giant cock roach. We're talking small rodent size. Gross. I'm still trying to get my money back, because that's unacceptable.

In any case, my Simon-induced sleep deprivation made it pretty easy for me to be awake, and I really had no issue, even if it was 3 a.m. Pacific time. We met up with John, the PR guy and his new intern (her first day), and we met up with some folks from the DC Fox affiliate back at the ride. Some ride mechanics appeared to be testing electrical restraint stuff on one of the trains. I got some nice photos of the lift at night, some of which are on CoasterBuzz.

We spent some time shooting the shit with the TV folks, and Ken and I were going to do a live hit with them after sunrise. Had lots of really good conversation with the photog about gear, and how the attitudes were slowly changing about what constitutes "real" equipment. It was also quite validating to hear about how much his station had bought into using P2-based gear. I can't believe I've had a P2 camera now for four years, and a part of me wishes that I could have brought it with me.

We also spent some quality time talking to the Ernhardt kids who were there. Good people. There are few things I could care less about than NASCAR, but they were still interesting to talk to.

Our first ride was actually televised. Ken got to ride with the anchor in the front, the Ernhardts in the second row, and just then Tony and his friends showed and we filled the second car. It was pretty cool later to see our first ride captured by helicopter. I've done a lot of live stuff over the years, but that was definitely a first.

The first thing you'll notice is how fast the lift is, which instantly made me confident about their ability to move people. It's even faster when they only run one train. There are so many things mechanically that have evolved about the ride system since they built Millennium Force, and the handful of other rides using the cable lift. For all the crap I give Intamin, it does at least appear that they're learning.

The first drop feels exactly like MF. It was virtually indistinguishable. After that, it's like you're riding a much taller Maverick. The first turn pulls serious G's the entire way around, and unless you do the defensive pilot muscle squeezing, you will get tunnel vision. It's so strange how your field of vision just keeps getting narrower until you hit the release point up the next hill. The airtime there is ejector air, and surprisingly brief.

The next part of the ride is a series of quick turns and direction changes, again, much like Maverick only with a much longer train. Turns 4 and 5 are very abrupt, and I worried about the head banging potential. And yes, for my height at least, there is some head action if you don't ride it defensively, especially toward the front. This is really the only part of the ride that I think holds it back, and it just seems so unnecessary. It could be the greatest steel coaster in the world if it weren't for this.

After those turns, you climb another tall hill, which has some magnetic trimming on it that enthusiasts are already bitching about. I don't think it detracts that much from the ride. This hill and the one after it again create strong pops of brief airtime, followed by a right then left turn into the final brakes. There's another crazy pop of air as you hit those brakes, mostly in the front.

By the time we rolled back into the station, Tony and I pretty much agreed that this was the love child of Maverick and Millennium Force, and that indeed means all of the awesomeness it implies (assuming you love those two rides). Total slam dunk, and it puts Kings Dominion into the big leagues in a way that I think it should have been years ago.

People are anxious to ask me if I think it's better than Millennium Force, and I have to say not quite. It's SO close though. If you have to ride defensively on a steel coaster, I dunno, it just takes me back to the Arrow days. If you pull those damn shoulder bars off, which don't act as active restraints anyway, this is the best coaster in the world, no contest. But for as much as I like to point that out, I also don't want to appear that I'm dogging the ride at all. I mean, close second still means better than most everything else out there. It really is that good. It's just frustrating because it could be the best evar, not second place. Of course, some people don't think that highly of Millennium Force, but any ride where you don't have enough fingers and toes to count the seconds of airtime sits pretty high on my list. I happen to like lots of B&M's that other people find "boring," so to each his own.

They had the Eiffel Tower open as well for some hot photo action. It's so weird to go up there and not see Kings Island! The park really looks fantastic, much more than it did during my last visit nine years ago. Cedar Fair has done a fantastic job giving it the polish and fit it needed. Dominator looks just beautiful there, and locals say it has been running much smoother than it ever did at Geauga Lake. I have to say, that if their operations match the feel for the park, it has absolutely "arrived," and the DC and Richmond areas are better for it. It's really lovely.

At the end of the day, it was totally worth the trip, and I look forward to a day where I can bring Diana along (who was later there in the 70's or something), and perhaps even Simon some day!

Resident Evil: Afterlife

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 5, 2010, 10:03 PM | comments: 0

These movies are a guilty pleasure of mine. And I <3 Milla in every way.

Simon is one month old, return to work

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 5, 2010, 9:38 PM | comments: 0

Simon is one month old today. He's feeling much better after last week's head cold, fortunately, and he seems much happier now that he can breathe.

What a great month though. The lack of sleep and the scary doctor visits and what not have been totally worth it. He's just so... neat. Every day he does something new and interesting. I missed the little guy while at work today.

Work was mostly me just getting caught up on what the other guys have been doing, and they've done some pretty awesome work. I also endeavored to take a walk after lunch, which was going well until the sky opened up. I ducked into the next building and ended up taking a shuttle back to my building (by which time the sun came back out).

This week will be a serious adjustment for Diana and Simon. The team isn't together all day, every day!

iPad meh

posted by Jeff | Monday, April 5, 2010, 3:56 PM | comments: 0

Now that I've had a little time to come up for air, and realized that the iPad has indeed launched, gosh, I'm not sure I care that much. When they announced it, I was sure I'd run right out and buy one. Now, I see it as something that adds very little to my life.

Crazy, eh?

Blog behind

posted by Jeff | Sunday, April 4, 2010, 1:21 PM | comments: 0

Wow, I'm so behind. I still want to do a write-up on the Kings Dominion trip, our anniversary date and a Simon update. I've been mostly catching up on sleep, as Diana has generously instructed me to get to a normal rhythm so I don't die at work. I feel like I've barely done anything else since getting back from Virginia.

Simon seems to be better, or at least, the worst is in the past. He's actually napping next to me right now and generally breathing a little more clear. Even with Aunt Kathy here, he's been a lot harder to manage because he sleeps less and you have to keep him propped up.

Up next, easter at big brother's.

Intimidator 305 video

posted by Jeff | Friday, April 2, 2010, 11:38 PM | comments: 0

This is the only video I shot at the park. I did not have my pro video gear. Hopefully it does give you an idea about speed.

I'm on the tele

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 1, 2010, 5:44 PM | comments: 3

Thanks to Ken for getting me the plug. :)

My boy misses me

posted by Jeff | Thursday, April 1, 2010, 1:08 AM | comments: 0

Simon got a hold of Mommy's phone and sent me this...