Archive: August, 2010

Oh what a precious moBLEEEEEEEEH! SPLAT!

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 31, 2010, 11:28 PM | comments: 0

Something that makes me ridiculously happy is that Simon is finally getting back into cuddling. From about two months on, he got into the habit of not really sleeping with you or hanging out with you in a peaceful way.

Tonight he got up a little after 10 in a screaming fit of hunger. I pulled him out, and he sleepily drank his bottle. Then after, I pitched him over my shoulder, and he kinds of hugs now. He put his head down on my shoulder and was super peaceful. It was just one of those warm moments that you soak in and could enjoy for hours.

I took him to his room to do a quick diaper change, and just before I put him down, he hurled an impressive spit-up of formula, with a great deal of force. It was one of those that when it hit the floor, it made a very satisfying splat. Scared the crap out of me too! He managed to not really get any on himself, but my shirt was toast, and the floor wasn't much better. But I set him down, and he gave me a little giggle.

Simon also did his first in-bath poop today, which he found amusing.

But for all the shit and spew that comes out of that kid, there are few places I'd rather be than with him. That's love, baby!

New office view

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 30, 2010, 8:54 AM | comments: 0

I'm all out of sorts, finding my junk in an entirely different building.

Goal failure, but it's OK

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 29, 2010, 10:12 PM | comments: 0

I planned to reach another milestone this weekend with the forum app, so I could post another preview. It didn't happen. I did zero coding this weekend.

And that's OK.

I've spent a ton of time on personal projects lately, and I wonder if that's part of the reason I've been getting burned out at work as well. So this weekend, I figured that if I felt like it, I'd work on it, and if not, whatever. It does have some momentum, and I'm surprised at how many people look at it or have downloaded it on CodePlex, but I can't sustain the effort constantly.

It's not the only thing that had to give. The Windows Phone 7 app I was building I have put off as well, so I won't be entering the contest at work (it wasn't quite that interesting anyway). I'll still do it, absolutely, but I'll wait a bit. The final version of the tools come out next month, and there's one key feature that'll be in there that I'd like to use.

Setting these more realistic expectations is part of a bigger effort to balance myself out a bit. On weekends, I like spending time with Simon and Diana (even when the little guy isn't feeling great, like the last week). I like writing recreational code. I like coaching, and I'm trying to figure out how to do that again. I like reading magazines, however silly that seems. I can't use all of my free time to write code.

Food and pounds and such

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 29, 2010, 5:13 PM | comments: 0

I decided awhile ago that I needed to get my shit together and stop eating like a moron. So far I'm down six pounds in seven weeks, though I really hoped to be further along. The last week or so I ate like a moron. It's those damn tater tots. I can't get enough of them. Actually, it's not just that, but I'm sure they don't help.

Most of my issue, as has been the case for the last four or five years, is just portion. Not that I'm eating true health food or anything, but in terms of weight I simply tend to eat too much. The good news is that my body remembers pretty quickly. After a week or two of smaller portions, I can't deal with eating too much.

As long as I stick to the plan, I suspect I can get back to the fall '05 weight by Thanksgiving, which is a definite start. Beyond that, we'll see. I might just be coaching again by then, which would certainly help.


posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 29, 2010, 11:35 AM | comments: 0

Simon's teething story just keeps getting better. First there was the one, maybe two teeth trying to get out from his bottom gums during the last week. They've still not quite made it, but you can tell they're there. Then there was the surprise the other day about his two top teeth on the left side coming through. Today I looked, and found that two top teeth on the right side are well on their way as well.

That's right, he's been working on six teeth at the same time. Six! And he's had two now for a couple of months.

He had his moments yesterday, but wasn't totally miserable. He woke up this morning pretty happy (both times), but before his current nap in progress, he had a bit of a pain meltdown, grabbing the ears and screaming. We Orajel'd him and gave him Tylenol, and he seems to have chilled out a bit. Since the teething started to get serious, he has started to whimper, which is just about the worst thing ever. He sounds so pathetic.

One positive side effect: He seems to be warming up to cuddling. I suppose it goes with his overall loosening requirements about his sleeping conditions. I really enjoyed having him sleep on my lap on the plane.

Away We Go

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 27, 2010, 10:46 PM | comments: 0

We watched Away We Go tonight, and it completely exceeded my expectations. I remember seeing the previews, but never thought a ton about it, since those were before we were pregnant.

It's a coming of age movie, so you know on that alone I'm going to like it. It explores a lot of very relevant themes to me, about figuring out what home is, what family is and what it means to truly have an excellent relationship. I could get all analytical about it and tell you about what I think its lessons are, but whatever, take what you will from it. My take away was simply that you're only as much of a "fuck up" (as the movie puts it) as you allow yourself to be.

The performances were amazing. Yes, folks, Maya Rudolph can in fact act, really well. She's funny, charming, sweet and wonderful, almost in spite of her SNL upbringing. Allison Janney gives what might be the comedic performance of her lifetime. Maggie Gyllenhaal is brilliant as usual. Even the relative nobodies and B-actors are great. I think part of that is just that the screenplay is so good. I absolutely loved it.

And the opening scene is true. I knew before we knew, and I'll leave it at that.

Buy one, get two free! (Teeth, that is!)

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 27, 2010, 10:29 PM | comments: 1

Diana discovered the reason for Simon's general crankiness and mouth pain. Sure, we were looking at the tiny lump and white spot on his lower right gum, but this morning she found not one, but two teeth coming in on his upper left! We weren't even looking there! So that means he's been cutting at least three teeth in the last week, and that's why he's been so miserable. I say at least, because it appears that a fourth might be trying to breach on the lower left as well.

This evening, he has been extending out his lower jaw and making strange faces, probing his mouth with his tongue. I think he's as surprised as we are, because he's not sure what to make of these things in his mouth. The faces are absolutely hilarious, and we'll have to get some photos.

As much as I hate to see him all miserable like this, it might be a relief if he does a lot of teeth quickly. I don't think any of his PEPS buddies have any yet. I've heard horror stories of continuous, one at a time teething that took forever, so perhaps this is a good thing.

Happy Simon was back this evening. :)

It hurts to see him hurting

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 26, 2010, 8:55 PM | comments: 0

Simon has been crabby on and off for what we assumed was another tooth on the way. His first two came in so easily, and it was as if they were just not there one day, and present the next. This next one (or two) are coming in a lot slower.

Diana took him to the doctor yesterday because he seemed to have other symptoms that implied a cold, and he was grabbing for his ears. But there were no infections to be found, and they said the ear grabbing is probably related to the impending arrival of more teeth. I realized today that when I had braces, sometimes I'd get ear pain too, kind of connected to the jaw pain, so I can kind of understand what he's going through. Diana hasn't been feeling great either since yesterday, so last night I left work early to help out. He was whiney, but showed signs of being happy.

Today wasn't a good day for Simon at all. He was cranky all day, and didn't eat particularly well. He was down for a short nap when I got home today, and there was no gradual wake-up, just a wake-up and screaming. He immediately got into a routine of pulling his ears and rubbing his head, and it was just awful to watch.

I've mentioned before how Diana has always had a very visceral reaction to his crying. Well, my reaction to this is pretty intense. I can handle crying, because it's typically because he wants or needs something he isn't getting, and eventually you figure that out. But this is terrible, because he's in pain and there isn't anything you can really do about it beyond cold teething objects, some Orajel and baby Tylenol.

Seeing him so unhapp really upset me. It's the first time since he was born that I felt that helpless. I know that it's all normal and part of being a baby, but it doesn't make it suck any less. But team Puzzoni did its best to make him comfortable, read to him before bed and give him lots of love, and he went to bed pretty quietly. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day for him.

Me, the quasi-accidental entrepreneur

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 9:50 PM | comments: 0

I read a blog post today from Nate Kohari about his experience building a product, launching it and later getting acquired. I first heard of Nate something like a year and a half ago as the author of a dependency injection framework, and because he was from Akron.

His story is interesting because he deliberately made something interesting, that he cared about, and made money with it. He's very much a deliberate entrepreneur, whereas in many ways I just kind of fell into it. Sort of. I was 27 when I started my LLC with the intention of selling my forum app, and I think in the two years it was viable that only added up to about $20k. That was kind of accidental for me, and I never knew that ad revenue could ever be substantial at that point either, so I still put myself in the accidental category.

But one thing that Nate wrote struck me like Lohan on a frantic crack binge behind the wheel:

"It made me remember what it was like to build something because you loved it, not because nameless customer X needed it for generic business process Y, and not because it was the next story or defect in the backlog."

I keep reading that over and over because it's so profound to me. I've never quite been able to summarize the difference between working for yourself, and for The Man, but this is it. Wow. I'm not suggesting that it's a binary condition, because I've "loved" things in every programming job I've ever had, but the parts that seem to bore me or annoy me always fall under these categories.

Doing the things you love is sometimes harder in a day job, and in my current position, I'm trying to figure out still how to do the things I love. The business has requirements and things that just have to get done. That's why we have jobs. I'm still not used to an environment, however, where we're generally trusted to find the balance ourselves. The HR culture stifles that exploration, however unintentional that might be.

I had an interesting conversation with our director the other day. He was asking about the sites I run and what not, and said that he found it surprising that more people in our line of work didn't also have these kinds of things going on. He runs some projects on the side as well, only he donates the revenue to charity (something I'd happily do if I had his salary ;)). I asked my boss (who now answers to the director) what he thought about this non-phenomenon of revenue generating side projects, and he said that for him at least it was an issue of time. But countless other devs I know simply don't engage in the side projects, and I too find that surprising. It causes me to wonder, what makes me and this director more the exception than the rule, and does this create opportunities for me that I haven't identified?

I was very surprised to see today, when I was looking at finances (again), that POP World Media has generated about a quarter-million dollars since 1999, not counting the $100k I negotiated for the sale of That is nuts. Granted, the profit on that has only been about $50k over the decade, but still. Why couldn't I have had this "hobby" in college? I could've had my own place, paid my tuition myself without loans and be fat with all of that beer money.

The guy that I worked for very briefly in 2008 told me I was only an accidental entrepreneur because I didn't apply the knowledge I actively used to make other people money, and I didn't have the right idea yet. I think he was generally full of shit, but he might be right. It felt like such an underhanded comment that it motivated me to substantially turn around CoasterBuzz in 2009, and even now those actions continue to pay off.

So the bottom line is that I have to keep in mind that I've been around so much success and failure that my experience is very broad and robust, and I need to reclaim some of that 27-year-old drive and remember that I can make things happen. I've done it before. Being a little naive and idealistic has its advantages, and I hope get some of that back.


Burnout factors

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 25, 2010, 8:11 PM | comments: 0

I've got a brain dump to make, actually two, and I'm trying to figure out how to tackle them. As is often the case, blogging about something forces me to look at it honestly and at least somewhat more objectively, since people are likely to call bullshit on anything I'm not being honest about.

I'm feeling burned out right now, and there are two things I have to do. The first is to identify the causes, and the second is to act on mitigating those circumstances. As if often the case in life, many things can lead to a single result.

The first cause is obvious: I need to take some time off. Outside of some long weekends, I haven't really taken any time off since I went back to work after my Simon leave. That's five months. I can't remember any time in my professional life that I've gone this long. That in itself triggers all kinds of thoughts, about how it must mean I generally don't find my job to be an irritation as I have previous gigs, that time is moving really fast and I'm not happy about that, or I'm not prioritizing my time right. I have wanted to bank some vacation time heading into next year, so that's part of it. If I'm at Microsoft for the long haul, it sure would be nice to have a good two weeks at any given point.

Somewhat related, I feel like my Simon time is a lot more limited than I'd like. During the week, I get an hour, maybe two at best, in the evening with him. It's not like I'm staying late at work either, because most days I'm out by 4:30. He does new and cool things every other day, and I don't want to miss those moments. I don't have any good solutions around this, but thinking about it causes anxiety.

I'm also dealing with another form of anxiety, and you don't have to know me well to understand that's coming from the non-sale of my house. Nine months, two Realtors, zero offers. Fuck. The news this week about existing home sales taking a dump in July only reinforces the anxiety. It's like I'm imprisoned by a house I don't live in, 2,000 miles away. Here I am starting a family, finally working in a place where I see a future, and the strong desire to do some nesting is on hold indefinitely. Even when it does sell, I'm still starting over from that point. It's a constant distraction.

Partly in response to the housing thing, I often find myself trying to figure out how to make more cash. I've never had better cash flow in my life, and yet I wish there was more, in part to get around the house problems. Non-mortgage debt is almost gone, aside from our very tiny car payments ($183 for hers, $103 for mine). The cash we've had to hold on to for the taxable "income" on Diana's short sale is spoken for, but we still aren't headed in the future-down-payment direction. Heck, I have to account for likely negative equity on my house.

The business is doing extraordinarily well right now, though travel expenses for the events causes some angst. I've done a great deal to get it there, but I still accept that the sites as they stand today are not likely to ever rise into six-figure income. I'd really have to do something totally new to grow it in a meaningful way. That's a different blog post, I think.

At work, it's hard not to get drawn into the potential for corporate ascension. I mean, my Prius is surrounded daily by exotic cars. Heck, Porches cease to be exotic when everybody has one. While I have no interest in ever buying a non-practical car (partly because I think it's pretentious, partly because I think it's a waste of money), I do see the corporate ladder as a means to a comfortable house, college for Simon and a means for Diana to not worry about money for as long as she chooses to be a stay-at-home mom.

But the ladder is weird. I think in the general sense, my current reporting line works as it should, that if you're qualified to be a certain level, you will be. I think we've got the managers in that line that work that way. But in parallel lines, I find it to be less than ideal because of Microsoft's obsession with levels and ranking. If you want to cross the lines into another discipline, your'e somewhat bound to your current status. For example, if I wanted to cross over into a test or PM role, it would likely have to be the same level. (Unless I quit and came back, which apparently happens from time to time.) It makes zero sense. If I went to a test role, I'd be less qualified, and as such would probably put myself one or two levels lower. If I went into a PM role, frankly I think I'd be more qualified and suitable for a level or two higher, based on my experience. In fact, the first gig I interviewed for a few years ago was a level higher than mine. But even then, while I know from my history I could execute in such a role, I haven't done it "the Microsoft way," which in some groups is slow, ridiculous and inefficient, but would still work against me. That drives me nuts because I think it might be where I want to go, if dev management isn't my future.

So the ability to move quickly, and exploring those options, has me a little burned out too. I think there is an obvious opportunity where I am now to execute on something, and I'm trying to focus on that. The truth is that switching jobs or even leveling up in record time isn't going to fix my house problem, no matter how much I think it will. I've gotta stop chasing things that don't matter as much.

I feel like I've got a pretty good grip on what's making me tired, and getting away for a little while would help me sort it all out. I have to decide when that will be.

What I'm coding

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 10:35 PM | comments: 0

One of the guys at work pointed out that I essentially spend my time writing code for three forum apps... POP Forums, the MSDN/Technet forums and a third kind of quasi-forum skunkworks project at work. That makes me sad. But at least I didn't touch anything from Thursday night to Monday morning.

Anyway, work on PF9 is coming along, though not as fast as I'd like because I just can't find enough time for it. I really wanted to have a strong beta version out in November, but that might be hard to hit.

Tonight I was wrestling with trying to use TinyMCE as the text editor. It's super powerful, and generally pretty sweet, but it's a bitch to get it working just the way you want, and integrated it with your app. There are also a billion files you don't need, so I'm trying to weed those out too. Since I'm open sourcing this, it just makes sense to use other open source stuff (it also uses Ninject, NUnit, Moq and jQuery). If I can get this cleaned up and working, I'd be happy to do another preview release.

Having the balls to better your situation

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 8:39 PM | comments: 0

In a strange but pleasant coincidence, I heard from two friends who are bailing on their jobs and moving up and on to better things. Both had previously done their share of complaining before about where they were, but I wasn't sure if they'd ever act on it.

It sounds weird to say it in this economy, but I'm convinced that bettering your situation is still possible, especially if you're not a clueless idiot. I can't remember any time in my post-college life that people were so scared to do anything. But I do understand also how it's easy to just get sucked into suckage. I spent a year and a half at a completely shitty job once, and it took getting laid-off for me to realize it.

I think being truly happy with what you do is one of the hardest things in life. At least, it is for me. Not to say there has been anything trivial about the triumph and tragedy of my life, but really being into what you do is really hard. My current gig is the first one I've had in ten years that I really like. That's not to say there aren't times where I'm bored with it, but those situations tend to be short-lived.

You have to ask yourself some fundamental questions now and then. The first is simply, "Am I happy doing this?" Then ask, "Is there a future for me in this?" I'm not talking about "leveling up" in income or whatever, but whether or not you see yourself growing. If not, then you have to ask yourself if there's something you can do about it in your job. I'd say in most cases there are things you can do, without killing yourself or throwing off your work-life balance. But if there isn't something you can do, or you feel your employer is run by morons, then by all means, why hang out?

So to those two friends... good luck! I'm sure you'll succeed in your new gigs.

48 Hours in Los Angeles

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 23, 2010, 7:31 PM | comments: 0

(Subtitle: Half of those hours spent in a car!)

The first Puzzoni Flying Vacation is in the books, and we learned a lot from it. Much of what I expected was true with regard to what I would not like about LA, namely the traffic and smog, but I can't deny that the scenery is nice in a lot of places.

Diana's bother Joe went with us, which was absolutely awesome because we very much needed a coach for traveling with baby. Simon's cousins are three months and almost two years older, so Joe is all-pro.

We got off to a rough start. We had to leave a bit before 6 a.m. to get our flight, but since we expected to be in our hotel before noon, we thought there would be plenty of time for rest before the wedding. Simon started to really chill out once the plane got moving. We got a few hundred feet down the runway, when the pilot aborted the take-off. As it turns out, a bad switch that detects the position of the air brake handle thought that the handle was up, and that triggered an alarm. It took the repair folk awhile to fix it, and we had to refuel, so we were delayed a little over an hour. Fortunately, the real flight was smooth, and Simon spent most of it sleeping. He even slept through the decompression and landing (where we bounced).

The delay screwed up all of our timing, however, and instead of going from Burbank to Thousand Oaks, where our hotel was, we had to go directly to LAX to pickup Diana's dad. If we were on time, he would have gone out solo to pick him up. Because LA traffic sucks so much, we didn't get to the hotel until almost 4. At this point, Simon had generally been a real trooper all day, and handled the inconsistent sleep pretty well, but he was flirting with a meltdown. Even though the wedding was the whole point of being there (and so Simon could see more of his grandpa), I made the executive decision to stay at the hotel with him, and Diana went to the wedding with Joe and her dad. I had take-out from the Chili's across the parking lot.

Simon did wind down a bit, but he wasn't really falling asleep in the portable crib, in part because of the TV. I tried to put some blankets around it to so it wasn't a light show, but I eventually just turned it off and tried to occupy my time on the laptop. I watched a movie I had on it too. I was bored out of my mind, but I was really happy to spent a little private time with him. He is pretty much the most adorable thing when he's sleeping. Taking him to the wedding would have been a mistake.

Saturday involved a big party on the beach in Malibu, instead of a traditional reception. Mike and Alejandra (cousin and now-cousin-in-law) I guess staked out a place really early there. This is why we stayed where we did, because of the proximity to the big party. Others got a hotel closer to Pasadena, where the wedding was. What never really occurred to us was to do one night near the church, and one night near Malibu. Sigh. That would have made more sense.

The drive down the PCH was just beautiful, almost in a martian kind of way. These parts of SoCal are so brown, with a strange mix of desert and ocean. I also couldn't help but feel like it was totally familiar, probably because all of LA has been used as locations in eight seasons of 24. (For example, we drove through some oil fields that I'm pretty sure have been on the show more than once.) The ocean on the West Coast is so different from anywhere else, mostly because it's so cold. From LA up to the Oregon coast, it's all so cold! It's not like the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, or, my favorite, Hawaii. It was cool and lovely though there in Malibu. Simon seemed to like the warm sand, and even the cool wet sand didn't bother him. He did shriek a bit when a wave came in though.

Simon was a lot more fussy. He was teaching us the lesson that scheduled things don't mix very well with a baby. We spent almost two hours at the beach with him strapped to my chest, met some interesting people from Alejandra's family, then bailed. Simon got a second wind back at the hotel, so we decided to try out this floaty thing Diana got, and took him to the pool.

Simon's visits to the apartment pool did not go very well. He likes super warm water. He was a little apprehensive about the pool, but with the hot air and warm water, he got used to it pretty quickly. The floaty with a seat in the middle is designed for a 9-month-old, but he's nearly that size. He wasn't sure at first what to do with it all, but eventually we got some smiles out of him.

After pool time, we took a much needed family nap. As evening came, it was clear that we'd have to get take-out again, which was OK. Joe and Dad went out to have dinner with some of the other family members, and we didn't get to see them again in the evening, which was a bummer. I was really hoping Simon could spend more time with him.

The Sunday travel went pretty smoothly, though the TSA folk at the tiny Bob Hope Airport (Burbank) are exceptionally inept. First they ignore me waving at them to indicate the stroller had to be manually inspected. Yes, these are people who are trained to look for disruptions and danger at the security checkpoint, and they can't see me jumping up and down. When this fossil of a woman finally acknowledges me, she says to try putting it through the other X-ray machine. They're the same kinds of machines. Idiot.

For whatever reason, the flight back involved more harsh pressure changes. Simon was already fidgety and unhappy most of the flight, but he was all kinds of uncomfortable for the last half-hour, grabbing his ears as the cabin pressure changed. Poor little guy. I tried to feed him, so he'd at least keep swallowing, but between him having constipation and teething issues, he was just miserable.

The drive home was easy enough, and Simon passed out as soon as we got to the car. Joe has a strong ability to make him laugh, so he had some nice giggles in the airport.

All things considered, it was a pretty successful test in terms of air travel. We traveled reasonably light, I thought (Diana is the packing czar), but see where there are opportunities to go lighter. A smaller and more practical stroller is probably at the top of the list. We also learned that building in time to do nothing has to be found. The schedule in this case was too tight to make everything work. On the next one, we'll have most of the mid-day to be flexible, and tons of help at all times, so I think Simon will be much better off. And for longer trips, like the one we've not yet booked for Orlando, the plans will be almost entirely fluid anyway.

As for LA, truth be told, I didn't like it for the sheer volume of people and cars. I do want to visit Disneyland someday, but I won't go out of my way to spend time in the area. The San Francisco, Las Vegas and Portland areas are higher on the list, as is Hawaii with a number of non-Oahu direct flights from Seattle available.



Control Room... amazing documentary

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 20, 2010, 11:08 PM | comments: 0

Several years ago, before Netflix did streaming, I got Control Room and never watched it. I got busy or something, had it for ages, and finally just ripped it and sent it back. It was directed by the same woman who did, which I also loved (and the subject matter was near and dear to my heart, for obvious reasons). This one documents how the war in Iraq was covered in the first year or so, mostly from the perspective of how al Jazeera did it, but with quite a few bits from some of the American and UK media as well.

The politics of the war are certainly a backdrop for the doc (and it's no secret that I think we should have never started it), but the real themes of the film center more around the bigger issues: What is objectivity? What is truth? What are the standards that journalists must uphold?

For al Jazeera, these are fascinating things to think about. While Bush and his morons would ramble about how nothing they did was true, the Iraqi press minister simultaneously accused the agency of being a voice for the US military. The film points out that here you have people trying to conduct real journalism in a part of the world where some states are ruled by dictators or oil billionaires. There was one point at which a US press officer talks about how angered he is by their decision to show dead US soldiers, but how he didn't think much of it when they would show dead Iraqis, and it bothered him. Indeed, it was ugly on all sides, and you never saw that from US media. (Which is why, to this day, I still put their English feed in my RSS reader, as it's the only true "world" news in terms of its breadth).

Now if in 2003 you were keeping up with al Jazeera, and reading something like the now famous "Salem Pax" blog, it would probably not come as a huge surprise to hear that things were much worse, and far more ugly than any US media would lead you to believe. The realization I never had at the time is how horribly the US media was played by its own government. It's just generally embarrassing to the profession of journalism really. While no one sold out like Fox did, I really feel like most US media didn't think we could handle the very bloody truth.

There were absolutely some bright spots though. The guy from CNN was pretty critical of the military from the start (and that was when CNN really mattered). When the US "accidentally" killed an al Jazeera reporter, and I remember this shift vividly, however brief it was, there was a very sudden level of criticism in the news business that wasn't previously obvious. The staging of people tearing down the statue of Saddam was not something I ever considered either.

I think the film is more relevant today than it was in 2004, because it was filmed when journalism truly started to take a turn for the worse, and we can see that more than ever today. It's the uniquely American duty of the press to question everything its government does, but it simply hasn't. Fox News (when will some enterprising lawyer sue them for calling it "news" as false advertising?) is certainly the worst of the bunch, to the extent that they not only avoid questioning the government (unless by "government" you mean the black guy in the White House with a funny name), but starting in 2003 they were flat out endorsing it with a constant flag waving on screen. Literally. The other networks, and to a lesser degree the big newspapers, have also been reluctant to question anything too strongly in the fear that it would be unpopular and they'd shed audience. That's where I wish they were more like al Jazeera. That they might enrage much of the Arab world with the truth, and be saddened by it (as several people in the movie are), they accept that reporting reality may in fact piss off governments and their people.

Like I said, it's fascinating stuff.

Why must consumer video suck?

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 19, 2010, 8:35 PM | comments: 0

In early 2006, I was fascinated that HD video was finally in reach for consumers, at least at the TV end of things. That's when I bought my TV, in fact, an LCD from Westinghouse that wasn't 1080p in the sense that it did component 1080p, but it did in that it could accept a computer input at 1920x1080. Looking for HD stuff to watch on it was a little more tricky, beyond the stuff on the Xbox 360 that I bought the same day. Actually, I bought the TV for the Xbox. But whatever, there still wasn't much to watch other than over-the-air for me at that point, which was still awesome.

In early 2008, I was planning to coach again (that didn't happen), so I wanted a small, tapeless camcorder to record games with. I bought a little Panasonic unit that recorded AVCHD. Keep in mind that I already had my pro camera by then (also in early 2006), and it recorded glorious DVCPRO HD at 100 mbits, so while not high end, I understood broadcast quality. The camera didn't have to be that, but it shouldn't suck either.

But I knew the risk going in. AVCHD is basically the H.264 we all know and love, but it records at a tiny 17 mbits. For reference, consumer DV, on tape, recorded standard definition video at 25, so that's a whole lot of compression going on. Now consider on top of that the interlacing of 1080i, the insane gain so you can shoot practically in the dark, and the automatic (and annoying) high shutter rate, and you've got a disaster on your hands. It just falls apart under anything less than ideal. But on the upside, at least it's pretty straight forward to use. Diana shot this stuff of Simon today.

I still have to wonder, why is consumer stuff always so shitty? I remember when I got my first DV camera, it looked like we were getting closer to equal compared to broadcast gear (which I was especially familiar with at the time). Then we went to HD, and it almost got worse instead of better. Look at the new iPhone 4... it makes awful video. The Flip cameras are good enough, but not great. I don't even know what else is out these days.

I suppose good enough was always good enough. I mean, I was the guy who at 16 started tweaking TV settings as a guest in other people's living rooms (occupational hazard). That my mom can't see the difference between HD at my house and SD at hers should tell the story. Heck, I saw something that surveyed HD owners, and the majority thought that just because they had an HD TV, everything on it was therefore HD.

For my creative endeavors, I'm thrilled about the Canon DSLR's. I've only really shot stuff that I felt was pretty once (Cheese Festival), but it was delicious, film-like and enormously clean. I would say that I'm actually pretty comfortable with the idea that I could shoot a technically solid short film with it (if I could figure out the sound).

The consumer curve will get left behind again, if they ever figure out how to start distributing 4k content. The cameras exist today, and they're shooting movies on it. No telling when it'll trickle down to the masses.

Simon mention

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 11:24 PM | comments: 0

I haven't mentioned Simon in a blog post since Saturday, so...

Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon Simon.

And aside from some teething induced crankies, he's doing well. That boy can giggle with the best of them.


If you build it, they will come

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 8:29 PM | comments: 0

On and off since... I'm not sure, maybe February... I've been prototyping something at work for shits and giggles. My intent was more to experiment with UI ideas than anything else, but it has also been a nice distraction from the boring and soul sucking work that is fixing problems someone created a year ago or more. I've not really spent as much time on it as I would have liked, but it's something.

I mentioned it just as an aside to our new director, and he wanted to see it. So he stopped by with the two guys who are now his number 2's and I showed them what I had so far. We had a nice conversation about what our opportunities were for the app, what might be most neat-o, etc. The director in particular apparently really digs building stuff and showing it to people as a means to say, "Hey, don't you think we should do this?" And I dig that because the single most frustrating thing I see happen at work is endless discussion and planning (or guessing) instead of just building something. It's particularly frustrating when you see how some of the most well-planned things are failures.

I feel like I got some much needed validation today. Not for writing code (this thing is not production worthy, yet), but for taking a little initiative to do something that I think is important. I can smell the start of a little bit of buzz, and if it can be cleaned up with some key scenarios fleshed out, perhaps we'll have something new and exciting to move forward on. That would be really good for my job satisfaction.

Deep human interaction

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 16, 2010, 11:44 PM | comments: 0

Tyler had a pretty great post on his desire to engage in more meaningful social interaction. This really, really resonated with me.

Different people require different levels of social interaction. I've always been someone who "knew" a lot of people, but rarely had more than two or three deeper friendships at a time. I'm pretty content with that. While I've been able to maintain some level of richness with friends back east, it has been hard to start over meeting people here.

I think one of the worst things is that we're somehow programmed to not even consider that we need deeper relationships, as if it's some kind of weakness. Group that sentiment with not wanting to ask for help or asking for something you want. I know I catch myself doing that periodically. But like Janet said in Singles, "People need people, Steve." And we're all Steve.

I also like Tyler's last statement, giving himself a call to action. Ultimately, we're all responsible for our own happiness, and that includes the depth of our friendships. It's easy enough to bitch and moan about circumstance, or judge our self-worth as others fail to meet our expectations or whatever. Those destructive things don't help. We have to act on what we want.

If you don't read his blog regularly, you should. If only for the photography. Which you don't actually read. You knew what I meant.

America: Because we've gotta hate someone

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 16, 2010, 11:11 PM | comments: 0

Do you ever feel like our country is doomed to make the same mistakes over and over? With this whole mosque/community center thing in Manhattan, it sure feels like it. That people stand and wave a flag while denouncing freedom of religion is troubling. That people associate an entire religion (and the billion and a half people who practice said religion) with a terrorist attack is scary and stupid. It's a lot like blaming me for snow in Seattle because I moved here from Ohio.

On one hand, I think the president was stupid for even getting involved, but making a statement to uphold one of the most fundamental rights of the Constitution, and frankly the basis for founding the nation in the first place, is probably his duty. That the Republican mayor of New York has also spoken up is encouraging as well. I was relieved today to see on the news some outspoken family members of 9/11 victims speak out against the madness.

What's crazy about it is that the darkest parts of our young nation's history just keeps repeating over and over. Settlers moved west and kept pushing back the native "savages" early on. Black people were kept as slaves. Women weren't allowed a voice in government. A hundred years passed and we were still segregating people by race. In recent decades it became fashionable to beat up gay people and treat would-be immigrants that wanted the work no one else would do as criminals. Today, in difficult economic times, the most obvious choice of people to hate has become Muslims. Sadly, some things never change.

The really ironic thing is that some of these haters are the same people who will cheer on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are/were primarily raised for the purpose of liberating Islamic populations from dictatorships (Iraq) or extremists and terrorists (Afganistan). The same senators giving the president crap right now are those insisting we stay involved in those wars until the job gets done. Irony at its best (or worst).

In some cases, it feels like we've come so far. That I had no concept of color growing up in the inner city is a win. If Simon grows up here in the Northwest, he'll be no stranger to diversity, and that's a win. That I have friends who can be out with a reasonable degree of safety is an improvement. Sometimes I need to remember that it shouldn't be taken for granted that 50 years ago your skin color designated your seat on the bus. It's important to keep some healthy perspective.

But I don't care for the divisiveness in our culture at all. There's a very big difference between political discourse and difference for the sake of difference. When people are motivated by fear and uncertainty, they do stupid things. We don't need that.

As a side note, I know I've mentioned before that I'm actually rooting for the Republicans to get their shit together, to bring balance to The Force, but it looks like they're failing at that again with this whole thing around the president's statements. You can't keep screaming "Constitution!" only when it's convenient. How these guys haven't already painted themselves as bigots is beyond me, but there's little doubt that it's only going to hurt the party more.



posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 15, 2010, 11:58 AM | comments: 0

Friday night, I checked in some code for the next version of the forum app that caused much anxiety... the text parsing stuff. It's no secret that every previous version has had bugs, and while this probably will too, it's much better than it was. It's about a third less code, and there are nearly a hundred unit tests around it. At the very least, I feel a lot better about it. That I only spend about seven hours on it is certainly a plus as well.

It's still not an ideal way to handle things, because I don't really address the issues around block elements and non-block elements, or the differences between them. But after hundreds of thousands of posts, the approach seems to be "good enough." The important thing for me was just getting valid HTML, without overlapping tags and what not. I also convert everything to cleaned up "forum code" first, and then convert to HTML. That seems like an extra step, but the benefit of this approach is that it limits what gets through, and accounts for both plain text and rich text boxes.

It was a good one to check off the backlog (which is itself incomplete). I feel like I might actually get it done this year. It's the first true re-write in seven years, and I'm really appreciating the difference between evolving something and starting from scratch. It's very time consuming!

House stuff makes me sad

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 14, 2010, 11:26 PM | comments: 0

We went out again today to visit the PEPS group (unofficially the hot moms club apparently, since I wore my I <3 Hot Moms T-shirt today). As Diana put it, getting out like this makes her feel normal, which is weird for me because I don't know what my normal is anymore, or what it was before. But despite the daily struggle to feel comfortable in my different life, it is in fact nice to get out and be social, and they're a pretty cool group full of interesting people.

But once again, when we get out to someone's house, it all comes rushing back that I have one, thousands of miles away, and that even when that one is sold, we'll still be a good year or more away from buying one here. It sucks, and I'm tired of it bringing me down.

I think the thing that a house represents the most for me is a place to be comfortable when other parts of the world are more chaotic. In fact, given all of the chaos in the last five or so years of my life, my house was the one constant, and I felt safe and at peace there. Divorce, relationships, unemployment, marriage, pregnancy... but just one house. It was just so damn comfortable.

A house here would be my chance to recreate some of that comfort, starting with a real room for Simon, an office/man cave room for me, a library and knitting room for Diana, a hot tub, real furniture not from Ikea... you know, a place to nest. There's a sense of urgency because this is just about the best time to get into a house you could possibly have.

I lose a lot of sleep at night trying to come up with some scheme to bank huge wads of cash in a short period of time. None really come to mind. It'd be nice to sell another domain name for $100k, but this ain't 2000, and lightning rarely strikes twice. I have some ideas that I think are solid, but making them happen with a day job and a baby is hard.

In any case, it's easy to get ahead of myself. First thing is first... I gotta get rid of that damn house. I don't want to see it when I visit Ohio in a couple of months.

Microsoft is...

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 14, 2010, 6:25 PM | comments: 0

It sounds like something to write in a one year anniversary post, but I have to say that I get slightly annoyed at what people say Microsoft is. It's the typical news story and blog comment noise, and I probably shouldn't care, but it still annoys me. The company is simply too huge and diverse to make a lot of generalizations.

I don't entirely understand what motivates the haters. What is it about the company that makes some people get so angry about it? On one comment thread about Windows Phone's developer scene, for example, people are going on and on about how the tools will be terrible (without having used them) because "Office sucks." That's about as valid a connection as saying that they suck because "MSN sucks." I mean, the only person shared in those organizational reporting lines is the CEO. They have almost nothing to do with each other. How can you make that conclusion?

Don't get me wrong, I can tell you now more than ever that I don't think Microsoft is perfect. I've seen it first hand, and there are things that drive me nuts about the company. Parts of it are just as slow and dumb as people assume, but there are other parts that execute so fast, with lightweight, agile processes in place and excellent releases. And just as there are people who are apologists for the company and refuse to use anything not made by Microsoft (which goes against the company mandate to avoid the "not invented here" syndrome), there are iPhone lovin', open source using technology enthusiasts like me who see the bigger picture and believe the company can work hard and make its products world class. I'd like to think I'm in that group, and like minded people all over the company have a very loud voice. That's what's exciting about it.

In about three months or so, I can write that "first year" post, but even then, my experience could hardly be described as generally similar to everyone else's. The company is too big for that generalization.

Friday the 13th was my bitch today

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 13, 2010, 6:35 PM | comments: 0

Work was good. Our new director wants to see the prototype app I've been working on (guess I better make a sincere effort to make it semi-functional between now and then). I had a good one-on-one with my boss about another process I've not adequately challenged myself. In this case, it's around code reviews, and how formal code review is less constructive than just improving what's already there, perhaps pairing with the person who wrote the code. So it's nice to be learning at work.

Meanwhile, I'm really happy about our dev team. We lunch together pretty much every day, and even our director joined us today. We do our games of HORSE, and everyone is actually shooting better. Even though we work in three or four different teams, we've got a nice social thing going on, and that's a nice feeling.

I left work about an hour early so we could go out for dinner a little early, as a family. We tried a new local place, and though I wasn't impressed with the decor, it was really delicious. And one entree was free with my Microsoft Prime card. Simon enjoyed it, and we sat outside (the only ones, as people here seem very 80's averse).

Diana is winding down with some Xbox action, I'm surfing for porn (in the figurative sense, since no one seems to appreciate that Internet humor), and Simon is sleeping. Today has been a very good day.

The manifestation of thought

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 12, 2010, 10:09 PM | comments: 0

We were having one of those silly lunch time discussions at lunch today, when I mentioned that someone on our team was not there with us because he was busy and important. One of the guys asked if I was busy and important, and I said yes. I began to make the case that you are what you believe, that your hands manifest thought.

It has been my experience that this gets you where you want to go. If you believe you're important, you will be. I'm not talking about acting like you're important. That's not the same thing. A lot of people act important, but they don't believe that they are. It's a lot like the you are what you eat concept... you are what you think.

I've needed to remind myself of this lately. It's easy to slip into a negative mindset sometimes. I can blame the weather, a crying baby or whatever, but when you think poopy, you are poopy (to use the parlance of a new father).

Do emoticons even matter anymore?

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 11:08 PM | comments: 1

I actually got back to writing some forum code for the first time in about a week, and I decided to start tackling the text parser. Long time users of my sites know there are several bugs in the old version, and it has been the single worst thing to maintain evar. I loathe it. On one hand, I'm going to use an open source rich text editor, so what goes in will at least be a bit cleaner. I also don't have to worry about weird browser variations. On the other hand, I'd still like to support good old fashioned UBB-style code, and in fact it makes a really good intermediary step to validate what's allowed and what isn't.

That said, I was thinking a little bit about emoticons. You know what I'm talking about... the little graphical smiles and winks and what not. In this day and age, are they even worth trying to implement? I mean, people know :) when they see it, so why bother?

The thing that has become a pain in the ass over the years is that they're so damn hard to track. Over the years, the path to these things has changed, there have been variations on the underlying <img> tags, and they're just generally a pain in the ass. They could be parsed in real time, but I'm worried about the performance.

So I'm wondering if I should just eliminate them entirely. Any strong feelings?

The secrets of Microsoft

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 6:42 PM | comments: 0

I made a status update on Facebook about how every other e-mail I got lately at work was about something that was supposed to be not public. I hate keeping secrets about stuff like that, though I've been bound by that stuff for years since I had access to pre-release stuff when I wrote my book. And honestly, part of it is my own doing, since I'm participating in two big deal beta programs (neither of which has anything to do with the phone, by the way).

Fortunately, we do have some stuff that's pretty out in the open. The ASP.NET MVC team is practically an open book on virtually everything short of hopeful ship dates. Their PM, Phil Haack, blogs pretty regularly and they put out preview versions of stuff. I love that. Even the Windows Phone 7 tools came out as an early preview, something like six months before the thing will even come out.

Still, I don't like secrets!

Facebook vs. Blog

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 10, 2010, 1:37 PM | comments: 0

Gonch made a post about posting on his blog and Facebook. Tyler has expressed his frustration how there isn't one place to really do it all in terms of photos, content, link sharing and deep thoughting, er, thinking.

I started syndicating my blog to Facebook (when it works) because I know more people are likely to see it that way that I'd ordinarily share with, and I don't have to explain to them what an RSS feed is. The thing I initially struggled with is that I no longer "own" the comments, because if Facebook goes away or I quit it, I can't take them with me. I'm at peace with that at this point. There's a part of me that would still love to build what Tyler dreams of as the perfect thing to do all of these things, but that's hard with a day job and a baby.

But to Gonch's point, I find Facebook useful for sharing stupid shit, and that stupid shit, while often capturing some moment of pop culture, is different from things I blog about, which are generally deeper and take more thought to get down, and/or read. And of course, I don't see a huge need to publish 50 family vacation photos in a public place either, so FB is good for that. I still own the originals, so that documentation of my life is still just as available to me as ever.

I think in some ways you have to decide what your online identity is really composed of, and what your motivation is. I regularly post content to my blog, Facebook and Vimeo. The blog is reasonably filtered in terms of what I post, but I think it's enough to capture my general state for historical purposes (even if I'm the only one who really cares about it). Vimeo is similarly public. Facebook is simply a stream to keep friends in the loop, and I treat is as such in both directions.

I guess I'm pretty much OK with this arrangement. If something isn't meeting my expectations, honestly I'll write some piece of software that will. I suppose most people don't have that ability.

How long will the good ad times last?

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 9, 2010, 11:07 PM | comments: 0

I know I've mentioned it a couple of times, but I'm still finding it remarkable how well online ads are doing for me right now. Over the years, I've just accepted and become used to the fact that this is never a consistent phenomenon. And yet, for four straight months, I've seen some incredible CPM's. They're not as hot as they were in 2000, mind you, but nothing to sneeze at.

I'm crossing my fingers that these big payments keep coming at least for a few months, because I'm getting really close to getting the business out of debt again. Needless to say, most of last year, the business paid me before it paid itself, since I had no day job. Our big consumer credit card is very nearly paid-off as well. It looks like the entire recovery process will take almost a year since I started the job in November, which is much longer than I expected. Of course, I haven't sold my house, either.

I have lots of angst over that. If my house would have sold around the time I moved, and I didn't have to dig-out from credit cards, I'd have something on the order of $35k in the bank toward my next house. That hurts. Add in money being banked for taxes on the short sale of Diana's house, the full replacement of stolen plumbing there, and then you're in the neighborhood of $45k. So in a sense, while my financial future wasn't exactly looking peachy in Cleveland, it is taking an entire year just to get to a break-even point, and that's assuming that my house actually sells soon.

The ad income won't last forever, and I know that even from the seasonal nature of thing. Page views on the year are still up 7%, while visitors are flat, but starting late this month, people will go back to the business of not going to amusement parks as much, and traffic will slide. It's just how it goes. Clearly I need to get into some different businesses! I need to use that sweet Las Vegas inspired domain name I have. :)

Somebody buy my damn house!

Venture Bros. is coming back soon!

posted by Jeff | Monday, August 9, 2010, 9:52 AM | comments: 2

This trailer is full of awesomeness. So I'm pretty much the only person I know who enjoys this show, but whatever. It's f'ing hilarious.

What a difference 10 years makes

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 8, 2010, 2:37 PM | comments: 0

More from the video computerization front... I'm shocked at how I'm still generally in touch with most of the people recorded on video ten years ago. I mean, there are volleyball kids who are grownups, friends and people who dated and/or have since divorced. It's pretty nuts.

Everybody poops (eventually)

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 7, 2010, 7:50 PM | comments: 0

I need to get that book before Simon is old enough to understand it. It's a classic.

Unfortunately, Simon had not pooped for some time, and it made for one of the hardest days we've had with him probably since that first month. He's generally been crabby lately since his napping has been suboptimal all week, since we started not swaddling him. He's been sleeping pretty well overnight, and even waking up happy for his overnight feeding some of the time, but napping has been hard, and he's been super grumpy.

This morning he seemed OK when he woke up, but got cranky. Then when Diana got up with him a few hours later, the cranky got worse. He had some awful, awful screaming fits, the kind that upset you because you can't quite understand if he's just being dramatic or genuinely uncomfortable in some way. As I've said before, Diana's reaction in particular is very visceral. This was not a happy place to be.

We tried taking a shower with him, because it sure chills us out. He really seemed to enjoy it, and doesn't even object to getting water in the face. We hadn't tried it in months, and he's too heavy to hold for long periods of time. I brought in a little plastic stool to sit on, and we had some fun in the water.

I've been in a minor funk of not feeling like myself, or being bored with myself, or something strange like that, so I felt like a little retail therapy might help. I needed to replace the LED lighting on my desk (lights my audio mixer) since, after 3,000 straight hours of being on, it died. I also wanted to take up Diana on getting a new desk chair, since it's long overdue. To Ikea we went.

Simon wasn't too bad in the car, considering traffic on the 405 sucked. People can't drive, merge or keep things moving here, by the way. Ikea itself wasn't that busy. We started off by getting some food, which was free for the baby (even though Diana eated it). Simon was flirting with some 6-foot blonde in line, and then had some mashed potatoes for the first time. He was all about that. Daddy was just there for the yummy chocolate cake.

I strapped up the Beco for the boy, and carried him around. It's a little more comfortable than the Bjorn, and did not cause nipple chafing either. It's a win. Simon slept through most of our shopping. It's funny how there's so much cheap stuff at Ikea, and I end up getting really high-margin stuff like LED lighting and this awesome star projecting hanging lamp for Simon's room (don't judge, it's awesome to behold).

He started to get cranky again on the drive home, and it was pretty clear that he was uncomfortable still. I wanted to think it was teething, but while there was much drool, he wasn't obsessively rubbing stuff around in his mouth like he did last time. But we did know that he hadn't taken a good dump in more than a day, and even his last one was unimpressive. Maybe that was it.

Getting him down for his last nap before going down for the night was not fun. More of the super intense screaming. He was just so angry and upset. His last feeding was filled with squirming and he wouldn't sit still. While tired out of his mind, it was pretty obvious that wasn't the whole story.

Then, just as I went to change him, diaper off, the pooping began. Three diapers worth. Yeah, it's pretty gross unless it's your own kid, but it was pretty amazing. And just like that, our happy little boy came back (it did take ten minutes). He was still tired, but happy again. We read him his books, put him in the crib, and he was good to go.

These kinds of days really test our ability to stay rational, help each other out and try to figure the little guy out.They don't happen often, but they're not easy when they do. I'm glad I've got such a good partner who is an excellent mom.

Food sickness

posted by Jeff | Friday, August 6, 2010, 7:59 PM | comments: 0

Lunch made me sick today. I won't say that it was food poisoning, because you need a bona fide hurl for that, but I got damn close. They have a "wok" station in one of the cafes, and they frequently have chili chicken and teriyaki chicken. When I first started, they were both pretty yummy. Today, they were vile, rubbery and primarily dark meat. They were nasty.

I was fine right after, shot some hoops (poorly), but by 1-something, I wasn't feeling right. I kind of dry-heaved, and honestly wanted to let go just to feel better. I went home.

The next two hours sucked, because I felt like I was always on the verge. Eventually I worked through it (with all kinds of discomfort), but it was not how I hoped to start the weekend. I find myself being very angry when something I ate makes me sick. Like someone else made something and I trusted that putting it into my body wouldn't do me harm.

The quality of the food at work has been going down hill lately, or at least, at the two nearest cafes. I wish we were closer to the other side of campus, near The Commons, where there's so much variety that you can generally land something good. It's disappointing, because I thought the stuff we had was pretty good when I started. The grill cook at the one is pretty good, and the other one has good pasta on Wednesdays, but generally it's become shit.

Simon at five months

posted by Jeff | Thursday, August 5, 2010, 7:50 PM | comments: 0

Our little guy is five months old today. Five months! That doesn't actually seem like a lot of time, and my read on it is more that it seems unlikely that he would be so huge and have a personality.

We're in a bit of a challenging phase with him now as I've previously mentioned. While he's sleeping pretty well at night with his arms free, and the occasional re-binking, he's not sleeping well in naps at all. My happy little boy has been mostly Walter Cranky as of late. (See video... "guh... gastroenteritis." :)) But as one of his aunts reminded us today, it has only been a week, and he's having to unlearn months of habit. The one thing we're hopeful about is that he does seem to be more likely to sleep in other places, and he's showing signs of cuddling too. We like that.

As far as life goes for me with him, I don't really get enough time with him during the week. I try to leave work by 4:30, but even then, he's only awake for an hour or two. On the weekend I try to take ownership, so to speak, and spend a lot of time with him, and working on my pet projects or playing video games or just hanging out with Diana while he's sleeping.

Diana's life with him is obviously far more involved, and while she doesn't really complain, she spends a lot of time being tired, and I wish I could do more to combat that. But she also gets to see some of his special moments too, and can more closely monitor his development.

He's still not rolling over, which bothers us a bit, but it could be partly because he's just so chubby. On the other hand, he already has two teeth, and the amount of drool indicates more are on the way. He can stand with assistance pretty well, and he's starting to prefer sitting up when someone or something will prop him up. As our Facebook friends know, he's a real talker, and will sometimes just hang out and make all kinds of noises. That never stops being amusing!

Even with the challenges though, I get so excited when I get home from work and he gives me a quick smile and giggle. He always reacts when one of us comes back from somewhere, and that's pretty neat. And of course, as much as we want him to be mobile, we also know that it won't be long before we're longing for the time that he wasn't!

First nerd dinner

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 11:44 PM | comments: 0

I went to my first Nerd Dinner today. For those of you not aware, our fearless community ninja manager, Scott Hanselman, organizes get togethers for code monkeys and the Microsoft folk that love them. It's a great chance to get out and meet people, find out what they're doing, swap stories, and get a little insight into what's going on around Microsoft as well.

Scott made this a "daily build" meeting, encouraging people from The Empire to bring the absolutely latest bits of whatever it was that they were working on. I didn't get up long enough to find out what other people had, but there were quite a few laptops (and Windows Phone 7's) out. Since the latest build of the MSDN/TechNet forums ins't exactly something to marvel at (we've been concentrating on a lot of back end optimization stuff), I brought POP Forums v9, my open source project on CodePlex, to show and tell, mostly because I've ported some of the more interesting bits to MVC 3. MVC is not "my" product, but it was a lot of fun to share with folks how this new version, even in the preview stage, makes MVC so much easier to test and decouple, with less code! I hope to get some of that code up to CodePlex very soon.

It was really interesting to hear about how people are using our stuff, and it really makes me appreciate the wide range of people involved. I was also very surprised at how excited people are over Windows Phone 7, and we were lucky enough to have one of the WP7 PM's there. There's a lot of excitement over some of the newer and forthcoming stuff too, like IIS Express and SQL Server CE for Web apps.

I really enjoyed meeting some of you! If you're not from the Puget Sound region, but plan to visit, check the Nerd Dinner site to see if there's a meet-up. You can even take your picture with Hanselman!

July traffic

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, August 4, 2010, 11:51 AM | comments: 0

Interesting traffic trend: CoasterBuzz visitors were down 5% from last July, but page views were up 7%. The difference? A search engine driven traffic spike at the time of the Disney monorail accident. The take away is what I've said for a long time for content-driven sites... SEO isn't always a true win if the visitors you acquire don't stick around and do something.

Old video, new smiles

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, August 3, 2010, 10:42 PM | comments: 0

Shortly after Simon was born, I started to think a bit about all of the old video tapes I had and what not, and how I really wanted to get that stuff into computerized form. While it's hard to say what kind of video formats we'll still have around ten years from now, the longevity of tape is something I question even more. The point is that I'd like Simon to see some of this old stuff, of his younger dad, his great grandmother, and frankly all kinds of things he may find silly.

In any case, I busted out the tapes this evening since I was doing installation stuff and otherwise tying up my laptop, and tried to at least get started. With 1999.

I had just bought my first personal DV camera, and I was working at Penton Media. I had the thing out constantly. It started with Thanksgiving, where it seems crazy now to see Stephanie eating meat, and our two would-be bridesmaids joined us. Extraordinary amounts of video were of Cosmo, of course. I also recorded antics around Christmas, including a trip to my childhood church.

Then there was the trip to Darien Lake, where I wanted to ride Superman as a preview of what to expect for Millennium Force. I went with some of the other Cedar Point nerds, including a couple of girls who were on the Magnum crew that year. Aside from my chubby ass and hilariously long hair (no wonder the execs at Penton wouldn't take my word for it that this Internet thing would be huge), I couldn't help but smile at the sheer excitement of it all. We really were at the start of an unprecedented coaster building spurt then.

Also neat was video from the MF construction site, and us driving around on the midways through the park. It's staggering just how different it looks today. I just can't believe how excited I was, and I feel like I may have lost some of that because I've been around so many ride openings. Granted, that ride was the start of something special, but still.

It seems like a lifetime ago, and it was barely ten years. Yet another reminder of how awesome my life has been so far.

Stuff I need to write about

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 1, 2010, 10:21 PM | comments: 0

I noticed that my blog entry count for July was the lowest it has been since I was between girlfriends about three years ago (how many posts could I make about how f'd up dating was?). I'm not sure the reason right now, but part of it I think is just sheer exhaustion. So here's stuff I either will write about or won't because it's not really blog worthy...

  • Being exhausted. I have been. Part of it is that I haven't been sleeping well, but I can't pin that to any particular reason. I passed out for two hours straight on the couch this afternoon.
  • Weight loss. Annoyed with my eating habits, I started tracking WW points again two weeks ago on my phone, and have since lost two pounds. I'd love to get to my 2005 weight or less by Thanksgiving. I don't want to hate food anymore.
  • Lego Harry Potter. Could account for the lack of sleep and lack of blog posts. Best of the entire Lego video game series, hands down.
  • TV lookback. We watched a surprising amount of TV this season, despite cancellations. Of course, it took us until a few weeks ago to finally catch up. We barely watch anything in the summer. Less TV is good.
  • Life at Microsoft. I'm starting to really get into working there in a meaningful way, and have even entertained a job change that at this point doesn't look likely. Related: the forum app for MVC and recruiting a former fellow ICOM'er.
  • Missing the old scene. I sure as hell have no desire to move back to Cleveland, and yet I'm really feeling isolated lately. July was hard, more than I expected.
  • Houses. I still own one 2,000 miles away. I want desperately to get rid of it and buy one here. We want to move, even if it means another rental. This apartment sucks.
  • Volleyball. I'm not doing anything to make coaching next JO season a reality, and it'll be tryout time before I know it. Shit. I gotta start talking to clubs.
  • People dying. This one I've mostly processed out, but there was a time where it seemed like I knew too many people that were unexpectedly dying. Emma back in Cleveland was especially hard to hear.
  • Windows Phone 7. We all get one for free. I'm trying to think of an app to build for launch. There's a contest at work if you build one that's particularly awesome. I don't have enough ideas.
  • A day off for me. I want to take a day off, but just for myself, where I can work on code projects, read, whatever, but I can't be that selfish. I'd rather spend the time with Diana and Simon.

So there you have it. That's a brain dump. Perhaps I'll sleep better! See, there is more to my life than just Simon, though he sure is the most interesting part of it.

Sleep adjustment update

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 1, 2010, 9:37 PM | comments: 0

A day and a half in to Simon's sleep situation adjustment, it has been a mixed bag. The naps have been mostly awful, though he did get a good one in around lunch time. The afternoon effort was a disaster, as it was yesterday. Last night, he actually slept a really long time, not getting up until 3 something. Tonight he went to sleep after minimal protest, but I also figure that he was exhausted out of his mind.

The other complication, particularly for those afternoons, is that if he goes long enough without sleeping, and just crying, he gets closer to the next time he's hungry. He might even be getting there faster given the energy he uses to cry and scream. We think he's doing a little acting too, because he's all smiles once you pick him up.

It's hard to hear him scream, and it's even harder for Diana. But I do think we're making real progress. And really, with all of the time he'll spend on airplanes in the coming months, he needs to be as flexible to sleeping as possible, or he'll make us and lots of other people miserable.

I spent a lot of time this afternoon just observing him. The way he analyzes his hands is pretty fascinating, and I wish that translated to him putting those fingers in his mouth when he "needs" the pacifier. Diana is a little worried about his overall development, but I think he's up on some things, and behind on others. We'd love it if he'd roll over, but on the flip side, I think he's an exceptional babbler and noise maker.

So tired of the pessimistic whiney bullshit

posted by Jeff | Sunday, August 1, 2010, 6:53 PM | comments: 0

One of the most annoying aspects of people who endeavor to have an opinion about things these days is that they tend to just bitch and whine about how awful everything is even when, as best I can tell, they lead pretty decent lives. They aren't stupid either. It led me to post this in a thread on CB...

I don't believe there has been any time in human history as interesting and transformational as the one we're in now, save perhaps for the Industrial Revolution. When I graduated from college 15 years ago, no one had cell phones, let alone instant access to almost any piece of information in the world.

And while the Chinese are fighting for access to that information, Americans squander it by believing any ridiculous sound bite about the people we elect, making asinine generalizations about a billion people and their religion, and not learning about how to take care of their fat ass so they can get strapped in to Millennium Force. You want to be annoyed with something? Be annoyed with that, because at least those are things we can control and do something about. No president, congressman or asshole on TV are going to change that.

I sincerely believe that. So much energy is put in to whining, hating and being pissy, in one of the most fantastic times to be alive, ever. It's completely ridiculous.

And it's not just about politics or the topic of the day. I see it at work, too. People go on and on bitching about Steve Ballmer. Seriously? What day to day decision that he makes is really affecting anyone unless he chooses to shut down a product group? About zero. Concentrate on making the product you do influence the best it can be, because that's what you can control.

I realize the economy still generally sucks, but what are you going to do about it? I don't want to hear, "Whatever, you're 'lucky' and work at Microsoft." Bite me. This is the longest I've been at a job in more than two years, and in that time I was "self-employed" for half of it, not taking a dime of unemployment. Diana had to sell her house as a short-sale and mine has been on the market nine months. Don't f'ing lecture me about the economy. I did something about it, as best I could given the situation.

We have it so good in this country. Technology has enabled us in ways we could not have envisioned even ten years ago. The looming energy crisis is spawning new businesses and technology. Movies can potentially be whatever a director dreams up. I can talk to people anywhere in the world, and see their face, using a 3.5 pound laptop, without wires. Hundreds of photos of my baby are shared instantly with my family. I drive a car that gets 57 mpg. In the last year I've been able to ride roller coasters, see faces carved into a mountain, sip drinks on a beach and have a camp fire under thousands of stars. And best of all, my 40-year-old wife was able to safely give birth to a perfect baby boy. Most of this was inconceivable when I was born, and yet, here we are.

Let the bullshit go. You're missing your fucking life.