Archive: September, 2010

Weird month for the business

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 30, 2010, 9:08 PM | comments: 0

This has been the strangest month for the sites I've seen in a very long time. Traffic was down a bit compared to last year, mostly I suspect due to the timing and general lack of exciting ride announcements this year. That varies year to year, and I just kind of roll with it. Truth be told, I certainly haven't put the kind of work into any of the sites the way I would have liked to this year, mostly because I have a day job, and maybe a little because I have a baby.

But what's so weird is that ad revenue has been nearly double despite the dip in traffic. I haven't seen anything like it in about four or five years. On one hand, I'm skeptical that it will last, but on the other hand, we're heading into the big retail season, so I assume it might actually continue. I won't have a good idea until probably early next week, since the month is starting on a Friday and weekends are often soft.

It does seem like a great time to launch the other site that has been a half-baked idea for two and a half years now. You have no idea how tired I am of doing sites with forums and photos. :) But still, if ad revenue is rocking out this well, we're in that weird eyeballs == money cycle.

Frustration is high

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 30, 2010, 5:34 PM | comments: 0

Today has been suboptimal. A hundred different things are frustrating me, all at the same time. I do well with things like conflict and challenges, and maybe even thrive in those situations, but frustration, the act of things affecting you that you have little control over, that gets to me at a certain level of volume. Frustration volume is high.

I can't really give specifics, though I do have the frustrations sorted out in my head. They come from all over life and work. Individually, I would probably have no issue processing them and moving on, but the aggregate has me feeling beat down. That's a shitty feeling.

Fortunately, things change, and it all gets better. Frustration is a part of my personality that I still don't deal with very well, and I need to work on it more. Self-awareness can be a blessing and a curse for that reason.

Epic business theater

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 28, 2010, 9:10 PM | comments: 0

We had the massive company meeting today, where about 20,000 of the full-time employees from the area bus in to Safeco Field for product demos and speeches. Of course, we're not supposed to talk about what we saw there, though there are plenty of other places you probably can read about it.

What I wanted to talk about was business theater, which is kind of a weird cross-business industry that falls somewhere between live TV production and rock concerts. Around the time I was graduating from college, I know a lot of my friends worked into freelance gigs for these things, one of the biggest being the big company meeting for The Limited brands in Columbus. These days, I see this kind of thing mostly at conferences, usually for keynotes.

Our meeting was definitely the most epic example though. I mean, most rock concerts use smaller stages and rigging. It's a pretty neat experience to go to a company meeting with that many people, and even more amazing when you consider that the people in the building are still less than a fourth of the company.

Also interesting is Safeco Field. What a nice baseball stadium. The outside with the big steel truss to support the retracting roof is a little ugly, but the other sides are nice. I love that from the main concourse you can see the field. It's a great design. It's a shame the Mariners apparently suck. I'd still like to go see a game there, and I don't even like baseball.

I will say that the company has had some pretty amazing success in the last year, and I'll drink that Kool-Aid®. There are a lot of good things about the company, and I wonder if the press and various haters will ever come around to see it. Time will tell, I suppose.

Alternative to slacking: Simon watching

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 26, 2010, 9:29 PM | comments: 1

I had one of those days where I just couldn't engage in anything because I was tired. I got up with Simon this morning so Diana could get a break. It throws off my sleep, but it's worth it because few things are as precious as Simon when he first gets up.

So while I could have sat around watching TV all day, with one hand in my pants like Al Bundy, I spent a lot of time on the floor with Simon. Instead of being a slug, I can be horizontal and interactive at the eye level of my little guy!

Today was an unusually long day for him, because he didn't nap particularly well. His eating cadence was weird too. But we had some nice moments, like a quick roll-over (finally!), and some chatting on video. Good times.

I'm trying to really make it a point to spend time with him in situations that, as an adult, might seem boring and uninteresting, because there are so many little things that a baby does that you can't imagine he'd do a month earlier. It's completely fascinating to me, and you don't get a second chance at these moments.

Disturbing dreams and that which I really fear

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 26, 2010, 12:02 PM | comments: 0

Usually I'm happy to have dreams, because it often means I've had enough sleep. They tend to be an interesting realm of fantasy, but sometimes they really bother me. For years I had the dream about failing a radio shift with dead air (which I haven't had since I went back to my college station almost a year ago to do it in real life). This morning I got up with Simon early, and once I put him back down, I went to sleep for another two hours of very intense sleep, with dreams.

The first dream started out as me being in a sort of 24 situation, where a bad guy had a bomb he was going to set off in some building. I told some woman in charge and started to get my distance. When I saw the building start to explode (in slow motion, of course), from afar, I seemed to transition into a new dream where I woke up after years of some kind of suspended animation of cryogenic freezing. What played out was almost a cross between three movies: The Island, Idiocracy and Demolition Man. The world was a place with some kind of control in place, and those not fitting in were either killed or made into zombies or something. I only witnessed them killing robots, but I guess the rest was implied. It was completely strange.

I can see immediately where it comes from though. It's a fairly obvious manifestation of the things I fear in more complex ways. The death thing is irrelevant, as it's only a consequence I think for story telling purposes, but the rest fits into a number of things that I fear or loathe. The most obvious one is being a part of a system that exerts some kind of control over me. In real life, it comes in many forms, like rules about what you can do where you live, things you have to do at work, etc. Related to that is a desire to only do the things I want to do. I hate jumping through hoops.

This aspect of my personality is strange, because I'm generally at peace with things that I can't control. Death, world conflict, disease and the like are not things I spend a lot of time worrying about. In the heat of a difficult moment (say, child crying on a plane while beverages are being spilled), I roll with it because there's little I can do about it.

But when things or people are trying to exert some kind of control over me, wow does that mess with me. I think that started in college, for a bunch of different reasons. It's probably why unemployment the first time was so hard to take. When someone cuts me off in traffic, I feel like someone is trying to control me. When Microsoft makes me take some silly business conduct training every year, it annoys me. When the housing association wants me to cut my grass, I get angry.

I suppose being self-aware about stuff like this at least helps me process it and reduce its impact. It's amusing that it surfaces in dreams though.

Our new (rental) house

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 25, 2010, 8:30 PM | comments: 0

It's done... we've signed the lease and we're moving in the second half of October. I'm kind of excited about it, but my excitement is a bit tempered, as you might expect, because I still have that damn house in Cleveland. I hate paying for two places.

The biggest win is really that Diana is excited about it. While our apartment was certainly adequate, shared living spaces suck. Facing a retaining wall to the north sucked (though it was easy to beat those 90 degree days). Not having any reasonable amount of storage space was particularly terrible. So the criteria for a new place was that it had to be a house or townhome, or something in between. I also wanted it to be not more than a dollar per square foot, and not more than $1,800 a month. I know how ridiculous that sounds to anyone living in the Midwest (considering my mortgage for an 1,850 sq. ft. house was only $1300, with taxes), but believe it or not, that's fairly reasonable out here when paired with all of the wins of living here (higher salaries, no income tax, low energy costs, and what not). The commuting distance also had to be not more than a half-hour by car, but I compromised on that by about two minutes.

What we got was a 1,750 sq. ft. duplex on the ridge in Snoqualmie. It's not far off I-90, east of Seattle. It's about a half-hour to the airport, and only a block away from the main road. It's walking distance to the library and the stop for the Connector bus to work. The views are all mountains. Most windows face southeast, so winter not withstanding, it should get direct sun at least half of the day. It's a pretty solid location, even if it is further out.

The layout of the house is kind of strange, because technically there are really only two bedrooms. The master, which is quite large, is off the downstairs area, where the kitchen and living room is, and it has a master bath from there that's quite giant. The upstairs has a nice sized bedroom and the secondary bathroom, and a strange "bonus" room. I'm not sure why it doesn't have a door, but it's where our spare bed is going. I suppose if we have people over, we'll get some kind of Asian-style privacy screen or something. The windows are high because of the roof outside. It's strange, but far from a deal breaker.

If you come in the front door (rare for us since there's a two-car garage), the office/den is to the left. It has four windows and double doors, and I think it's a wonderful space. The foyer also has the half-bath, a coat closet, and the stairs, and it has high windows that let in all kinds of light. To the right is main living areas and kitchen.

I used to like the idea of a distinct kitchen area, but not so much anymore. I really like the mixed kitchen/dining/living room concept because people so often do stuff in those places independently of each other. It makes sense that everyone can do their thing and yet be able to communicate. I think it's one of the reasons people always hung out in the downstairs room at my old house, because of the connection to the kitchen.

The living room has a big vaulted ceiling and a gas fireplace. Why it doesn't have a ceiling fan I don't know. Above the fireplace is a huge "well" for a TV, like CRT style TV. It's a little high for my tastes, but I suppose we'll try to make it work. Some amount of cables going up to it is unavoidable, which is the thing I'm most annoyed by.

The kitchen only has marginally more pantry space compared to our apartment, but it has a real, ice-making fridge and a better dishwasher. The stove is electric, which I hope I don't hate. The sink and dishwasher are on an island, so overall the configuration makes it easier for more than one person to move around. There's also a closet under the stairs that we can put some shelves in for more pantry space, I think.

While I'm not sure that the layout of the house is very well thought out, it does suit our needs particularly well overall, and I'm sure we'll be happy in there for the next year or two. Like I said, the upstairs is weird, but considering it's primarily Simon space, it'll work pretty well. I'm looking forward to living there.

"It's not the years, honey, it's the mileage"

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 23, 2010, 9:35 PM | comments: 0

I'm not sure what prompted it, but I had a strong desire to watch Raiders of The Lost Ark this evening. I can't tell you how many times I've seen it, but it's likely one of the first movies I remember seeing, at the age of 7. (Home video didn't exist back then.) There were scenes that really creeped me out as a child, namely Marion in the room of corpses in the Well of the Souls, and the face melting bit, but it was just so epic.

What surprises me is that it's still quite epic, and really stands up to time. It's classic Spielberg. The sound effects are over the top, he uses shadows and off-camera action to tell the story, it has a John Williams soundtrack... it's the definition of an adventure movie.

The casting is brilliant too. John Rhys-Davies was the perfect Sallah (and who knew he'd be Gimli in LoTR?), able to be a screen presence as well as a sidekick. Karen Allen was a believable love interest, understatedly attractive but not Hollywood pretty. And of course, Harrison Ford is one of the biggest movie stars in history, and I think it's well deserved.

Such a great movie. I can't believe it's been around for almost 30 years now.

Transitions and science projects

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 7:36 PM | comments: 1

We're transitioning our focus right now at work, handing off one project and starting a new one from scratch. The new one really, really has me excited, partly because we're not bound to any legacy, and partly because I feel like I can do new and innovative things.

I've also spent some more time on my work science project lately, though that has been slow moving. The experimentation requires porting millions of records in different databases into something a little more sane and manageable, and it has taken me longer than I expected. I feel like I made some real progress today.

This is the big thing that I've noticed about development work and me: I need to change it up now and then. I get bored if I get into repetitious crap work. I also get annoyed if all I get to do is try and fix crap someone else did wrong. I think these might be reasons that, prior to working there, I was much happier managing some kind of development process. Unfortunately, the culture seems to imply that if you haven't done it there, you don't know how, and that annoys me. (This seems to be true across most disciplines.)

Speaking of science projects, I haven't got back to my little phone app lately. I need to do that, because it's so not complicated, and it's free to publish since I'm an employee. Can't wait to get the actual phone.

Rant: We're not some lame 50's couple

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 22, 2010, 1:16 PM | comments: 6

Diana worked her entire adult life up until we moved to Seattle. Since my income was/is adequate, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom for an indefinite amount of time, and I'm 100% behind her. While one might consider this "traditional" gender roles, there's nothing more to read into.

That's why I get annoyed when someone suggests on Facebook that she has to check with me to buy something, or otherwise suggest some kind of authority. It annoys me because it implies that I'm some kind of '50s breadwinner dickweed archetype (get me a beer, woman!), and that she's the little obedient homemaker. What year is this?

I trust Diana to use her own judgement and do whatever she thinks is right. It doesn't matter where the money is coming from. That's just how we roll. I'm sorry that some people have relationships that are toxic, not respectful, or otherwise shitty, but don't project that on to us.


posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 21, 2010, 9:42 PM | comments: 0

I'm bored lately. The Internet is boring, work is boring, my surroundings are boring (that'll change in a few weeks), eating is boring... I'm boring. I'm even too bored to develop a plan of action to stop the boredom.

I feel like I do should do something important. I have no idea what that is. It's like I need some bigger thing to shoot for or something. I've found a great deal of peace and happiness lately by enjoying the moment and living in the present, but I'm also feeling like there has to be some bigger picture.

Perhaps tomorrow will provide some answers.

Fall Affair weekend was too awesome for words

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 20, 2010, 11:51 PM | comments: 0

I won't lie... the thought of traveling cross-country on multiple flights with a baby and all of his gear, with one day in between, brought anxiety and dread. While the trip was in fact hectic, it was very much needed.

Yes, riding roller coasters is certainly a part of what makes trips to Holiday World great, but I associate the place with nothing but great times with great friends. I've come to learn that there is a group of people I've known for years that, regardless of how often we see each other in person, seems to have my back, and enjoys seeing me as much as I do them. Our contact in between is often little more than Facebook pings, e-mail and Skype calls, but when we get in the same room, it's like we're picking up from yesterday. As much as I may complain that maintaining long-distance friendships is hard, this small group of people make it feel effortless.

The only down side in this case is that there just wasn't enough time. Last year, we had the chance to hang out with most of these people at different times, so we had adequate time to spend with each. This weekend, we had to try and spread that out, and that kind of sucked. I mean, I got home to find I had zero photos of Mike and Artemisa, and we shared the RV with them!

But aside from that, it was well worth it, and provided us with a sense of normalcy that hasn't come easy since we moved west. Best of all, we got to share our little man with everyone, and I loved how he interacted with them. He was such a part of everything, to the extent that I even carried him with me when I spoke to the group at dinner.

Our flights were relatively painless, flying through Denver to Louisville. Simon didn't sleep much on the way out, but didn't whine or complain too much. On the way home, he slept almost all of the first flight, and about half of the second. Aside from some snafus with bottle pressure changes causing leakage, it all went pretty smoothly. Diana and I do a pretty good job of tag teaming and keeping him happy. Our first experience with Frontier wasn't terrible either, even though we had to do goofy things like pay for snacks (though they were extra delicious).

Lake Rudolph came through again as adequate with the RV rentals, and for an extra charge, they hooked us up with linens so we would be warm, dry and pillowed. Mike and Artemisa brought one of their pack-and-plays for Simon to sleep in, and that worked exceptionally well. The convenience of location, and splitting the cost, makes the RV totally worth it. That, and the Jandes girls are completely adorable.

I ended up getting to the ticket booths slightly late, but I don't think anyone got really bent out of shape over it. The whole registration process this year did not go as smoothly, which was partially my fault because we did very little preparation compared to prior years, meaning no name tag write-ups or pre-counted envelopes. I didn't even have tickets shipped to me because we were trying to travel light. But I also let way too much shit go, including several late registrations and phone-ins that made the catering count a moving target and we seemed to lose one of the registrations on my desk (I'm talking about you, Althoff! :)). Diana could not go with me to the ticket booth either because Simon just wasn't ready, so that probably hurt my organization as well. Having credit cards available for use was a huge win this year though, with around $350 in on-sites paid for that way, meaning very little cash for me to carry and deposit. We had well over 130 people.

We finally got into the park a little after 11:30, and headed straight to the Thanksgiving section for lunch. It was a lot more crowded this year, because the water park was still open, and it was around 90 degrees. It didn't prevent any fun, but it was different from what we were used to. Initial feedback seemed to indicate people liked having the water park open, especially with Wildebeest being open this year.

Carrie and the Neus (sounds like a band) joined us for lunch, and we'd see them off and on (mostly on) all day. Lunch was delicious, and Simon nom'd some cottage cheese for the first time. When we were done, I was surprised to see the Grahams, including future prom date candidate for Simon, Louisa, who is 10 months already. What a great year for Mike, with the baby and his new trains coming to life.

We walked through the water park, and ultimately did not change and do water park stuff. I knew I'd slightly regret that, but the really honest truth is that we would've been so rushed with the clothes changing and all of that. It might be easier next year with a more sane event registration process, which I've been neglecting to do now for years.

Our first ride of the day, late as it was, was Liberty Launch, a small S&S double shot tower. Diana screamed like a little girl, and actually woke up Simon who was down the midway a bit sleeping in his stroller under Beth's watchful eye. It was the first ride (not counting dark rides and Soarin') that we had been on together in well over a year.

After getting blue ice cream, we met with the Grahams and we took our babies on the carousel. Simon got his first amusement park ride! He seemed to like it at first, but I don't think he was comfortable being so high up with just me to hold him. Half way through the ride, he started to slouch inside against the pole. But still, we had our moment, and I was very excited to have it, even if it was mostly for me!

We left everyone else to have some quiet feeding time with Simon in the shade, and spent the next hour really walking and relaxing with him. He was such a trooper all day, not sleeping nearly as much as he was used to. I do wish I would've had more rides on stuff, but it was pretty special just being in the park with my little family.

Before dinner, we racked up some Skee-Ball which Simon thought was reasonably fascinating for a few moments. If I can have a 300 game or two, I'm pretty happy, and I did. I still don't like the non-wood balls in those newer machines.

At dinner, it became very clear that we doubled last year's attendance. We filled the banquet hall completely, and left very little pizza. You know, it's not spectacular, but the park consistently makes decent pizza, which seems rare anymore for amusement parks. I always enjoy it. Paula told some jokes, Mrs. Koch thanked everyone for their kindness following Will's passing, and Mike Graham talked a little about his new trains.

We didn't get that extreme during the ERT, basically getting in a lap a piece. The Voyage was of course insane and awesome as always. But it was still the action on the midway that I was really longing for, and I'm so glad I had the opportunity. Being among friends like that, for the first time in almost a year, was so overdue and necessary.

After they closed down the ride, Mike took me up to get a closer look at his train. It was a dirty mess, covered in corn dust mixed with water dummy leaks and random oil sprays, but wow was it impressive. There are messes of wires connected to strain gauges. They've made some modifications here and there after collecting mountains of test data, so they still need some paint, but they're still beautiful. The restraint system is elegant. The chassis is light. The wheel system is way overdue for wood coasters. They've done so much to reduce the wear and tear on the track, and made maintenance of the trains themselves so easy, that the trains will pay for themselves in a few years. And it's completely epic to see Mike and his three partners grow their business the way they have. I can't tell you how much respect I have for those guys.

The evening brought the campfire, with a different vibe than in past years. No one got drunk, and there kids and a pregnant woman around. But once again, it was nice just to enjoy the company of these people, and I'm grateful that so many of us were there.

By the time we got up and moving in a meaningful way on Sunday, the Jandes clan was already heading back to Chicago, and we left right at check-out time, around 11. Simon was a little cranky, but I can't say that I blamed him. We picked up Carrie (who was also in and out from Louisville), and had lunch there before heading to the airport.

"Aunt Carrie" went with us to skip the TSA line with her "family," which seemed ridiculous in size given the scope of the airport. She enjoyed a few more cute moments with simon before we boarded. Having an extra person at the airport makes it so easy to roll with a baby.

Overall, the trip was short, and 20 some hours were devoted to flying, waiting to fly or driving, but it was definitely worth it. Simon has six flights now at six months of age. I think we've broken him of his requirement for ideal sleeping conditions, too. I'm so glad we took that trip.

Best weekend ever

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 19, 2010, 10:45 PM | comments: 0

What a great weekend. The 20 combined hours of travel sucked, but it was totally worth it to see a great many people I care about. More tomorrow... I desperately need sleep.

Piercing hole #5

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 16, 2010, 10:27 PM | comments: 0

I finally got around to going to the piercing/tattoo shop, having planned to for weeks. It's the only place on the east side, and the piercing guy only works a few hours part of the week (and rarely at a convenient time).

Wow, it's been five years and change since I got the industrial (and about three and a half since I took it out). While I wasn't really talking about it at great length, my life was in total chaos back then. These days, I wouldn't say things are chaotic, but they're not exactly orderly either. Funny how that goes. In any case, the keloid mess that used to be my ear has been pretty stable now for almost three years, and I kind of liked having something in my ear (I'll stop short of singing "I Feel Pretty" here). And shit, even grandmas have visible piercings in Seattle.

I briefly considered doing the industrial again. The piercing guy talked me out of it, suggesting that the keloids could have been caused by either my disposition or some kind of irritation. So a small ring in a single hole seemed like a better idea, and it's even a gauge smaller (16g, I think). God knows it'll be easier to sleep on.

All things considered, this one didn't hurt at all. I'm not sure if it's because I knew what to expect, because there was less tissue to cut through or some other reason. It still had that satisfying pop and rush of adrenaline, but it wasn't painful. I think I might be a closet masochist if I was really hoping for more pain.

Regardless, I've got my reminder again to take care of myself. Hopefully I'll be satisfied with it for awhile and not want more.

Volleyball conundrum

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 11:08 PM | comments: 0

As planned, I've been looking into coaching volleyball again for the next J.O. season. I've talked to several clubs so far, and two were about as non-ambitious and competitive as possible. (The entire region is not really at the level that OVR was, unfortunately.) The one that I've actually met with pretty much guarantees me a spot with a national team, but I'm pretty hesitant for a number of reasons that maybe I shouldn't worry about. After getting burned by my long-time club, I'm still a little gun shy about trusting club directors.

But there's a bigger issue as well, that I'm very deeply concerned about the impact on my time with Simon. Practicing two nights a week basically means not seeing the boy at all two days, and of course one or both weekend days are tournament times. That doesn't exactly sit well with me, because he'll never be this age again.

I haven't made any decisions yet, since I'm still waiting to hear what team they want to put me on, but at this point I'm a little hesitant. I wonder if perhaps I should wait another year or two, when Simon is a bit more routine and has more waking hours. I really miss the coaching though, so I'm not sure. I think I've got a good month or so to really think about it.

Moving (again)

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 8:19 PM | comments: 0

As much as moving is one of the single shittiest things one can do, we need to move. Apartment life blows. In terms of the space itself, our place isn't bad. It's a reasonable size, if somewhat less than ideal. However, we're tired of the close quarters of people and kids, and views of a retaining wall. The reality is that we won't be buying a house soon, so it's important that we find a place we can actually live in and be comfortable.

Diana started looking at rental houses and townhomes and what not. It'll be a little pricy, but if Diana's job is homemaker, she should work in a nice place. She found several places with potential already, and we went to look at one late this afternoon.

So here's the dilema... The place is pretty awesome but has two issues. The first is the distance, because it would bump my commute from 23 to 35 minutes. I shouldn't care that much... it's still one of the shorter times I've had. It also costs more, by about $400 a month. The flip side is that there are so many ideal things it's not even funny, not the least of which is that we could actually have people over now and then. And you can see mountains from most of the windows.

If we can find a company that does local moves for a reasonable price, I'm pretty much sold. Moving was actually not that big of a deal last time around when someone else is doing it for you. It takes at least three or four weeks to feel settled, but in this case, perhaps it'll be worth it.

I just dread the idea of moving again.

Today's cute

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 3:11 PM | comments: 0

This makes me giggle...

Stay-at-home dad day

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, September 14, 2010, 2:55 PM | comments: 0

Diana felt it coming last night, and it hit hard this morning: Diana is officially sick. It seems on the scale of bad cold, and not outright flu, so hopefully it's not serious. We've got a plane to catch this weekend!

In any case, she's on Simon probation, so I called in a sick day to look after the boy. As you might imagine, I hate it. ;) He's been really good today so far, aside from some too-short naps. He did stay asleep long enough this morning for me to shower and go out for formula (and Cherry Coke). But he's eating well, waking up happy, and playing happily.

Some of his new big-ticket items arrived today, coincidentally. First was a new stroller that's a bit more portable for travel. The big Graco did OK going to LA, but it's a certifiable pain in the ass going through security with that thing, since it can't be X-ray'd. The new one is lighter, collapses smaller and does fit in the X-ray machines. It also has a nice cover so it won't get grossed up in the cargo holds. With three more plane trips this year for the boy, I think it's worth it. Plus, it won't be the only thing you can put in Diana's trunk.

We also got a new car seat, since he's getting real close to not fitting his original one. Simon is still 90th percentile on length, which is a pain in the ass. The new seat works forward and reverse facing, but developmentally, I believe he has to stay rear facing until he's a year old. His current seat will never last that long at the rate he's going.

The classic parent stories tossed at you are about how they grow so fast and grow out of clothes and what not, but wow, it's a lot worse when you have an enormous baby. He's outgrowing expensive things like car seats, sure, but this six-month-old is wearing 12-month clothes. I was prepared for the cost of formula when the breastfeeding didn't work out, but the equipment costs continue to surprise me.

That sounds like bitching and moaning, but it's not. Every penny we have to spend for that little guy is totally worth it. The "work" involved with caring for him doesn't feel like work most of the time (unless he's exceptionally crabby), and I smile a lot more because of him. I can't get enough of him, and will happily use my sick time for him as needed!

First annual review

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 13, 2010, 10:08 PM | comments: 0

It's review season at Microsoft, with fiscal year 2010 behind us as of July 1. I've seen a lot of people get really stressed out about this period of time, but my thinking is that if you've got the right managers around you, there shouldn't really be any surprises.

My review was exactly what I expected. I play nice with others, am a good cheerleader and generally know my stuff, or learn what I have to. On the down side, I'm also not as productive as some of my peers, which is also not news. The bottom line is that I'm remarkably average, in the "achieved" category, which is something I'm OK with.

Sort of. It's an accurate assessment, but I am somewhat disappointed in myself that I haven't done more. Yes, the stress of moving after getting married, changing my entire life around and having a child are certainly "distractions" when it comes to being effective, but it doesn't feel right to make those excuses either. I've had to really go back through my various career points to draw on experiences and remember what kind of impact I was truly capable of. Oddly enough, my experience at Penton Media was some of the strongest experience I had, even though that was ten years ago. Maybe my confidence in those days came from not knowing any better, but honestly, I don't really know any better now, so I'm not sure what's holding me back.

I had some breakthroughs in recent weeks that I think will help. My immediate team is changing focus a bit, which means I'll get away from the soul-sucking and uninteresting bug fixing crap that bores me (and therefore causes me to disengage). I also did a demo of a prototype something or other I was building, and that resulted in a mess of interesting ideas that could truly be a big deal if I follow through. I really want to jump on that as time permits.

Overall though, I've had a pretty good time so far. I'm not always getting the growth out of it that I'd like, but I have a better feel now for how to do that. Plus, it's a neat time to be at the company in general, given the enormous year we're having with the new dev tools, the phone, Kinect and the continuing wave of success from Windows 7. A company that size that does that many things still has its failures (like the Kin, wow), but overall there are a lot of success stories. Plus it's fun to test new stuff before it comes out. I think I've been in four beta programs now.

Sometimes you read some pretty serious criticism about the overall HR scene at Microsoft, often from disgruntled people. I'm sure much of that criticism is justified in their own orgs, but you can't really generalize. At this point, I've been told what I need to do to "level up," and if I were to achieve that and then not advance, sure, I'd suspect something was wrong. That the company has a strong emphasis on continuing advancement is a little weird to me, as I think some people are content to be "stagnant" worker bees. That the big financial scores over the long haul tend to also be from stock awards is also a little odd. But it seems like the pay rates and benefits are so above average to begin with that it's hard to be overly critical. I just want to make enough to keep up with the rising cafeteria food cost. :)

So yeah, my review was kind of a non-event with no surprises, and adequate compensation changes. I know what I have to do to score higher and move up.

Canon PowerShot S95 impressions

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 13, 2010, 12:05 AM | comments: 0

The week before last, I bought a Canon PowerShot S95. This was not something I needed at all, but I wanted it for a couple of reasons.

As you might guess, it's not entirely practical to be carrying around one of the big SLR's and the lenses, especially on vacation, so I've always had a little digital to compliment the big cameras. About three and a half years ago, I bought the Canon A710 to replace an even older Canon S400 that was starting to fail after having to replace the screen I broke, and several drops (and parts left over when I replaced the screen). The A710 was bigger, but the motivation for that specific model was the manual controls. Manual makes it easier to shoot stuff at night, and I tend to do it at virtually every amusement park, and at concerts. It's bigger because it uses standard AA batteries, and has a pretty long zoom.

The camera has been awesome for me, and particularly with the dents, I'm really impressed with how well it has held up. I've always been a little unhappy with the size though. Since it often lives in the lower pocket of cargo shorts, it's bulky and heavy to be hanging out that low (although more props to it considering how many objects it has been banged up against). The other negative is that it only records images as JPEG's. Raw files are the saving grace of over/under exposure and poor white balance on the part of the camera. Sure, they're five times the size, but it's totally worth it.

The Canon Sxx-series of cameras has been that middle ground between the high-end G-series and the A-series for a long time. They've also had remarkable cameras in the Sxxx and SD series, but those were strictly point-and-shoot affairs. The G's just seem like too much given that I have "serious" SLR's, and they're slightly larger, so the S-series seemed like the place to look. The S95 satisfied both of my "upgrade" needs: It was smaller and it recorded raw image files.

It does neat things in full auto mode like tracking faces for focus and exposure, but I use it in P mode. The controls just keep getting more and more refined on Canons, yet they use similar conventions and menus on every generation of camera. They aren't that different from the menus on the S400 I bought seven years ago. The trickiest part is that the screens keep getting bigger while the cameras get smaller, so the room for controls keeps shrinking. This model has a dial on the back, and a big ring around the lens that you can assign to a number of functions (I'm using it for ISO setting). It's just on the edge above being too small for average male hands, and I bet someone with bigger hands than me wouldn't like it. The flash rises out of the body in a mechanical fashion, and feels surprisingly sturdy. The body is the same finish as the SLR's, which feels great in the hand.

The S95 has a 10 megapixel sensor, which is overkill for most things, but very welcome when you want to crop. It uses an optical image stabilizer, with a 3.8x zoom (the only real "loss" compared to the A710). The screen is positively giant on the back, bigger than 3" I think. It also shoots 720p/24 video, compressing (with audio) at around 18 mbit/sec., a little too crunchy for my tastes.

So let me get that comment out of the way... the video is definitely a nice to have, but as best I can tell offers no manual control (I haven't actually opened the plastic bag with the manual in it). At 720p, I rather it shot at 30 fps. Since the lens can only stop down so far outside, and there's no neutral density filter, it jacks up the shutter into action movie rates, which looks completely unnatural. Indoors, it's not as bad, but even a little noise looks bad at the low bit rate. We'll probably stick to using our 7D and Panasonic video cameras for video most of the time. Recording video also sucks the life out of the battery in an enormous way.

Image quality is just outstanding. So far I've shot indoors at a gathering of our new parent friends and their babies, and outdoors on an overcast day at the zoo (photos of the latter here). The flash works remarkably well in interior spaces, and despite being so close to the lens, doesn't seem to generate a lot of red eye. The only odd thing I've noticed is that it tends to over-expose by about a third or half-stop almost all of the time, so I've rolled the exposure adjustment back to compensate. I'd like to back off all sharpening as well, but not sure if I can (I know, RTFM), even though I can always adjust the raw files. White balance indoors is probably the best I've seen on any small camera I've had, and maybe even better than the SLR's in some cases.

So while the video performance is slightly disappointing, the still image performance is top notch. A longer zoom would've been nice (shooting animals at the zoo with a short lens isn't productive), but for the kinds of social situations and big landscape opportunities I typically use it for, it's awesome. I love being able to adjust the ISO with the big ring on the front too, as that seems to be the setting I change most often in changing lighting conditions. What a great design.

One small complaint: Apple is too damn slow supporting new raw file formats. This one is particularly annoying, because the S95 uses the same format as the S90, just with the different name in the metadata. So once again, early adoption means having to wait to use Aperture, and that sucks.

Still wondering if I'll bring just the little camera or the 7D to Holiday World. I think getting some nice HD out of the 7D would be nice, and I can get some Timberliner porn with Mike if I ask nicely.

What we have to deal with

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 12, 2010, 8:50 PM | comments: 0

Over ten years ago now, when we started our sites, we set a tone early on in what I'd consider the "wild west" of the Internet. Sure, how to behave online when interacting with other people was something that wasn't well defined, but we managed to cultivate an audience that generally at least kept things interesting and readable. It didn't matter if people disagreed with each other (or us), so long as they could communicate like humans. Today, most of that takes care of itself, and you can count the number of people we've bounced in the last year (from CB and PB combined) on one hand. But sometimes, when you do, I get gems like this...

Why am I banned ?  ,, For speaking the truth ? I understand this website is 'Privately Owned'  I guess you just promote Gossip ,, Unless you have inside Information that the public wants to hear  (('WHICH YOU DO NOT',)),,,,,, I suggest you enforce your rules on others that continually BANTAR about a Company and 'RIP IT ' overtime they speak,,     Rather Defeating  for us that own Stock ,and have been visiting for over 40 Years of my life ! ,,, Get Real ,, [name removed]

See what we deal with? The sad thing is how personal it is for this guy. I couldn't even tell you what he got bounced for (I'm sure it was profanity or name calling), or if it was me or Walt that did it. Come to think of it, I'm not even sure which site it was.

The great roll-over controversy

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 12, 2010, 2:45 PM | comments: 0

Simon has been reluctant to roll-over. It troubled Diana. Dr. Cargo Pants said it didn't matter, particularly given his ability to sit up for long periods of time. Only Simon really knows what's up.

Or does he?

I left him sitting up and went to the kitchen. I could see from the sink that he did a face plant, but there were no screams or protests. I watched him immediately roll himself over. I think he's toying with us.

The credit card scam continues

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 12, 2010, 12:49 PM | comments: 2

There's a lot of action in the press about how banks screw people with credit cards, and how people get fee-ed to death. Well it isn't one-sided at all, as merchants are getting screwed as well. If you're a low-volume, online merchant like me, it's even worse.

Take for example a single CoasterBuzz Club membership, at $25. Here's what it looks like:

  • 3.66% discount rate: -92 cents
  • transaction fee: -44 cents (average)
  • That brings it down to $23.64. Now divide the other monthly fees by the total number of transactions (let's say 20, for roundness, since it depends on the time of year), and subtract another $1.50.

So before I even print a membership card or put a stamp on an envelope, it's down to $22. When I started the club in 2001, the total fees averaged about 70 cents per membership at the old $20 annual rate.

The latest is a monthly $12 fee to ensure that merchants comply to security standards. You know what that involves? The merchant going to a Web site to say that it's compliant. Twelve bucks. Every month. That's total bullshit, as statistically speaking, the physical in-person use of your credit card is far riskier than online.

When does it end? I can't believe some enterprising law firm hasn't figured out how to sue these assholes, particularly since it amounts to price fixing, since all of the card companies (Visa, MC, Discover, AmEx) are in on it. It's staggering. What's particularly ridiculous about it is that it should be cheaper than ever to move money around, since it's so electronic.

Nine years later

posted by Jeff | Saturday, September 11, 2010, 11:50 PM | comments: 0

For anyone old enough to have turned on a TV nine years ago, there's no denying that seeing September 11 on the calendar takes you back to a very scary day. I saw a photo of a woman in New York today holding a sign, that indicated that the remembrance gathering at the WTC site was "only" about the innocent people who died that day, including one of her own family members. I was really glad to see that, as it demands appropriate focus.

The strange thing about that day, and coming to grips with it, is that very little focus was ever given to the actual people who carried out the attacks, and it was just something that kind of happened. The stories told have been about survival and people helping people. If you can find one thing good that came out of the tragedy, it was a desire from people to look out for each other.

Things are different this year, as the economy continues to struggle, no politicians on either side of the aisle are favored, unemployment is still high, and people are just generally fearful. Whether or not the fear is rational probably doesn't matter, but a lot of people are scared anyway. While it's important to remember this day, tomorrow I think we're long overdue to start understanding what's going on, and why, in terms of what seems like a meltdown of American culture.

The "how" of 9/11 is well documented, but the frustrating thing since that day is that so few people ask the "why." A band of radicals coordinated to hijack and crash planes because they felt that our government was a tyrant against Middle Eastern, primarily Islamic nations. Decades of one-sided support for Israel, and the refusal to lift sanctions on Iraq were ultimately the things that pushed the desire to organize the attacks. It certainly does not justify killing thousands of innocent people, but it's important to understand where it comes from.

Did the US government or its people (which by our own definition are the same thing) declare war on an entire religion? Of course not. But can reasonable people believe that we have? I would say absolutely. You can debate whether or not we should be proud of the actions we take, but I would warn that pride unchecked by humility puts you at great risk. Our selectivity about where we get involved (i.e., non-involvement in the conflicts and genocide in Africa) don't paint a great picture either. Whether or not we believe that our own foreign policy has brewed radicalism isn't relevant, because perception is reality.

So what does the United States do with that perception? The reaction of our elected officials after 9/11 would have a huge impact, but it was not considered carefully. The first actions were absolutely right: Find the terrorists hiding in caves in Afghanistan. Politically, this was unsatisfying to the public, unfortunately. The George Bush solution to the lack of political satisfaction was apparently to "liberate" Iraq, which had zero connection to the attacks, and zero capability to produce "weapons of mass destruction." One could make a case for genocide that had taken place there years before under Saddam's reign, but again, the US has had selective hearing on those issues, so why now?

So we rolled into Iraq and took out a dictator who was more of a threat to himself than anyone else by that time, and in the process, sacrificed thousands of our own people, tens of thousands of Iraqis, and plunged the development of that country back 50 years. At home, the was cost pushed our GDP lower and lower, likely contributing to the fear and uncertainty of the current recession. When we heard "mission accomplished," the perception in much of the Muslim world was, "Look, the Americans are now occupying a Muslim nation." When kids get blown to bits and people can't find food, they're generally not feeling very liberated. The west is viewed even more negatively as this went on. The London train bombings in 2005, in retrospect, seemed inevitable.

(And by the way, we put our soldiers in harms way over there to defend Muslims from a dictator... a point I'll get back to.)

So that gets us back to the present. As I said, times are tough, people are scared. People want to blame someone for what they perceive is the decline and destruction of our country. We have a long history of doing this, whether it's black folks, Jews, gay people, Mexicans, Canadians and their damn hockey, or whatever. Muslims seem like the easiest target I suppose, since many of the deadliest acts of terrorism are done in the name of Islam.

That this sentiment had risen in the United States of all places is tragic in its ignorance. First of all, as I mentioned, we've been in a war in Iraq for seven years, defending a population that is 99% Muslim. It strikes me as extraordinarily disrespectful to write off the Iraqi people given the high cost in American lives we've endured to defend them. The politics of the war were bullshit from the start, but the cost of our own people is very real. I can't see dishonoring that loss like this.

Furthermore, making the leap from "terrorists were radical Muslims" to "all Muslims are terrorists" is completely irrational. I can understand that people fear what they're not exposed to. For example, I grew up going to primarily black schools, so the likelihood that I have racial biases is going to be lower just considering my environment. A kid growing up in the rural Midwest on a farm will not have that opportunity. But there comes a point where you're old enough to either choose to be an unapologetic product of your environment, or make your own decisions.

And that leads me to the biggest problem we as a nation have: We just don't do the fucking work. Despite having thousands of times the information at our fingertips compared to even ten years ago, people don't use it. A frightening number of people will take what they hear from an entertainer like Glenn Beck and consider it the holy truth. In the Islam issue, no one ever bothers to talk to other actual humans who practice the religion. That's a scary world to live in.

So where are we, nine years later? It's hard to say. That crazy fucker in Florida seems to have had a late-breaking and surprisingly positive effect, in that his own radicalism has shown Christians what not to be, that being radical. It's also caused a number of moderate (read: majority) Muslim leaders (as well as Jewish and Christian leaders of various denominations) to step up and reach out to people in their respective faiths to chill people out and encourage them to learn.

As much as I fear for our culture and the hate that flows through it, I'm often optimistic, because I can't be anything else. I've struggled with my faith for a lot of different reasons, which is one of the reasons I've found great comfort in getting to know many Muslims, Jews and Hindus. I'm fascinated by people who grew up with different religions, and particularly surprised at the overlap in the Abrahamic religions in particular.

9/11 taught us how to work together to solve problems. We saw it again after Katrina. We see it yearly during tornado season and during harsh winters. I don't think we're doomed. When it matters, issues of race, religion, gender and sexual orientation matter little. It will, however, take a great deal of effort by moderates in politics, religion and the fairly nebulous media to get us to a happy place. Divisiveness and mistrust in the face of diversity will lead us nowhere.

When vampires were trendy last time

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 10, 2010, 9:02 PM | comments: 0

I just watched the Underworld prequel. I was not optimistic since what largely made the other movies interesting was the modern setting and, above all, Kate Beckinsale (her character doesn't exist yet in the prequel). Much of the back story had been filled in by those movies anyway, so the last one didn't add much. Though I have to wonder: Could Rhona Mitra beat Angelina Jolie in a lip fighting contest? She was, after all, the first Lara Croft model.

But before all of this Twilight nonsense, there was Underworld. There was also Blade. The thing that I always found intriguing about these vampire stories is that they were mostly the total opposite of the typical monster movie thing. Vampires were like high society, and they'd hang out in plush, yet gothic rooms, being sexy and aloof. It was like, except for that whole sunlight is deadly thing, being a vampire would be really kick ass.

I have to wonder, will zombies ever get this treatment? I suppose not, since by definition they're just dead people animated by some virus. And as long as Milla is around, they don't stand a chance.

Dear World

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 10, 2010, 11:24 AM | comments: 0

Dear World,

It appears you're pretty pissed off at the US right now because of what some moron in Florida said. But rest assured, most of us aren't that stupid. OK, well, many of us are, but generally speaking, most of us do our thing and try to stay out of each others' way. I can see why you'd want to generalize, especially since morons like this one generalize, but it's not really like that. I mean, we have a president with a funny name who invites people to the White House for beers and burgers. Does that sound like a country that takes itself too seriously?

Us non-morons still believe that the US is a good nation that accepts people of all religions, cultures and ethnicities. That's how we roll. Don't let the loud minority lead you to think otherwise.


Apple musings of late

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 9, 2010, 9:37 PM | comments: 0

Apple has been in the news a lot lately, and they've definitely had some things to be excited about. And others not so much.

First of all, the new iPods are amazing. The touch models are just logical upgrades, but holy crap on the Nanos. While the loss of video is slightly disappointing, but logical given the size, it's pretty crazy that they're squeezing that little touch screen in there. If they had a 32 gig version, I think I would, without hesitation get one as a dedicated iPod for my car. That is just all kinds of awesome.

Meanwhile, they've completely turned the AppleTV into something I find incredibly useless. It's a dumb streaming box. I've already got several of those (Xbox, computer). The old AppleTV, the one that I have, is essentially an iPod for your TV, and that's awesome. We can control it with our phones. If you get one of these new deals, you need a computer somewhere to stream the music to it, and that's lame. I'm really scratching my head over this.

The new 27" Cinema Display is shipping, and it's drool-worthy. I completely don't need this, but it sure would look nice next to my 27" iMac. Fortunately, common sense kicks in here. No one really needs 54" combined of computer monitor.

While the iPhone 4 announcement left me feeling indifferent (and remains "meh" after seeing them in real life), it's about time they reversed their completely asinine decision on what development tools you had to use to develop apps. That means Adobe is back in the game with their Flash compiler, and presumably MonoTouch is back in too.

This is really something I've never understood about Apple, the way they treat the development community. Their attitude tends to really be, "This is how we do it, and if you don't like it, go fuck yourself because we're where it's at." Of course, I work for the part of Microsoft that does everything it can to make sure people understand our tools and can give us feedback, so my view is a little skewed. I suspect the momentum of Android was a real wake-up call. I know or follow a lot of people so turned off by Apple's process that they literally ran to Android. Hopefully things are smooth sailing with Windows Phone as well. Without a doubt we've got the best tools, so here's hoping people buy the damn phones!

Great design

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 8, 2010, 9:23 PM | comments: 0

"Great design does not come from great processes; it comes from great designers." -Fred Brooks

If I could just get that through the heads of some of the process-heavy people I know at work...


Six-month doctor visit

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 8, 2010, 12:14 AM | comments: 0

As miserable as Simon has been for the last week, I hated to think about how he'd be after a doctor visit with shots. All things considered, I think he came through as a real trooper. While the teething seems to have leveled out, he's extra tired and his legs seem itchy and sore. Poor little guy can't catch a break! Diana had a dentist visit this afternoon, so she's feeling suboptimal too.

The doctor told us just about everything we expected regarding his development so far. 95th percentile for weight, 90th for length, 70th for head size. His motor skills are all good, even though he's not that willing to roll over. That he sits up and can play, can two-fist toys, etc., means he's doing just fine in that arena. He did a good job standing for the doctor and making a nice array of noises for her (with a little raspberry encouragement). He's getting the right amount of foods and such, and Diana has been super proactive with that, making a lot of his food with this little steamer-masher thingy. The boy is definitely getting his vitamins! Apparently, he's also more likely to lose his baby teeth by kindergarten, and the other kids will be jealous. All around, he's healthy, if a little chubby.

The unfortunate thing about the teething, especially in such a huge wave of four simultaneous teeth, is that he's been a bit picky about the bottle. He was a little better the last two days, but he's not packing it away the way he used to. The plus side of this is that for much of the last week, he's been getting up before midnight to eat. That's good because it increases the likelihood of him doing an eight-hour stretch of sleep, and because it means I get to have some nice one-on-one time with him. The feeding goes really smoothly, and then he's all sleepy and sweet as I change his diaper and he tries to cuddle a little. It's the most adorable thing ever, and I could just squeeze the crap out of him! With all of the crankiness and whimpering, it's nice to see him so happy and chilled out, if only for a few minutes.

Adventures around Issaquah (and other nearby places)

posted by Jeff | Monday, September 6, 2010, 6:54 PM | comments: 0

Had another PEPS groups get together on Saturday, and it was a lot of fun. There's one couple in particular that I really identify with, having a late start of sorts to parenting, and frankly the level of cute in the room with all of those babies is staggering. I love the host's, Dana's, house.

Sunday I went out to get some stamps so I could get some club cards in the mail. I'm pulling into a spot at the post office, when the moron in the next spot, on her phone, flings her door open in front of my car. I get angry, but stay composed, and tell the lady that maybe she should get off her phone. Didn't think anything of it, but the woman doesn't follow me into the post office. At my next stop, I noticed that her door did indeed hit the plastic part of my bumper, not denting it, but scratching it. This is karma reminding me not to get too attached to my car.

We've been watching a bunch of the US Open, which has been relatively non-interesting this year, compared to last. The match between Caroline and Maria today was pretty good, though the score doesn't necessarily show it. I'm hoping the rest of the tournament is more exciting.

I've had some good naps. I miss naps. I didn't really take very many last year when I wasn't working. I instead went to the park for bike riding, went to movies and kept busy. But I've noticed now and then that I'm getting the dark circles under my eyes again (see: any photo from Simon's first month), so I'm not getting enough sleep.

This afternoon we went to get pizza at a local place called Zeeks. It was delicious, and the best we've had out here. I long for something as good as Pizzazz, but that's such a tough act to follow.

Simon was much better today, eating more and taking longer naps. I think he might be through the worst of it for those top four teeth, which I suspect will be visible in smiles before too long. Tomorrow he gets to impress Dr. Cargo Pants with those chompers.

We went out for a walk in the rain today to fetch some Krispy Kreme treats. Simon was well covered in his stroller, though nearly taken out by a driver making a right turn without looking. I've had more incidents with people driving here, doing half the mileage I did in Cleveland.

I got doughnuts to go, opting for a chocolate shake. It was remarkably ordinary and not worth three bucks. Lame. Speaking of lame, the kid who rung me up had a cheap tattoo of the Linux penguin on his wrist, with 0's and 1's around his wrist. I suspect he's destined to be a doughnut slinging virgin the rest of his life for that. Unfortunate.

The rumors were true, and the signs are up... they're putting in a Best Buy across the street. I love Best Buy, even though I never really buy anything there anymore. I used to buy my electronic gear and CD's and DVD's there, but now it's all Amazon and MP3's. It's still fun to browse, though.

They've been painting the trim on our apartment buildings. Ours is hunter green. That's the color of our rent going up if we stay here.

Happy half-birthday, Simon!

posted by Jeff | Sunday, September 5, 2010, 5:02 PM | comments: 0

It's hard to believe, but six months ago, a doctor in Seattle made a small incision in Diana's belly, and wrestled out a nine-pound, purple baby with red hair that we named Simon. Not much later, I was holding him in my arms, feeding him a bottle for the first time to get his blood sugar up, and not much time after that, Diana was breast feeding him.

That day was one of the scariest and most wonderful of my life so far, but the times in the hospital those first two nights didn't really have the, "Aw, look what we did," moments you see in movies. They leave out the parts about the mother bleeding in huge quantities and the complete exhaustion of the parents. But I will say that it's the first time I've ever been in a hospital that I didn't view it as a depressing and awful place.

Once Simon was home, we had plenty of those "aw" moments, almost on a daily basis. That first month was exhausting, but by the end of it, we at least had a pretty good rhythm taking care of him. Of course, his needs were changing almost daily, but we managed to keep up with him. Even when he was tiny, he seemed to surprise us every day with new things. When I got sick, and then he got sick, that was not fun, and the challenges of breast feeding weren't either. But by the time I went to work, we had an adorable, fast-growing little boy.

The physical changes in the first three months were pretty dramatic. You look at photos and it was like he was different every week. Since then, he doesn't look that different, though he's grown like a weed. From the start, he has been three to six months ahead of schedule in clothing. And now his latest trick is six teeth, six months after he was born.

The cognitive and motor skill changes have been continuous and absolutely fascinating to me. While he could do little more than his Jedi mind trick hand wave at first, today he can sit on his own (if you put him there), hold toys in both hands, kind of get his pacifier in his mouth and roll over on the rare occasion he feels like it. He just started throwing things too. His repertoire of noises gets bigger just about weekly. In fact, he seems to be developing a new laugh now.

The changes for us have been huge as well. Diana's full-time job after we moved was chief nesting officer, and there's no question that she made our apartment a home and a place for our new little guy. Her reading and research about everything from strollers to formula to sleep training has been thorough and amazing, to an extent I could never do. Yes, I often suggest that she should relax more and roll with stuff, but I can't deny that she has been an ultimate mother and the true head-of-household. For someone who has worked a regular job for 20 years prior to our moving and parenthood adventure, she has adapted in grand style.

I've changed too, but mostly in internal ways. With the "breadwinner" role, I feel like it's my duty to bat clean-up during the week, in part to give Diana a break and so I can make up for the time I can't be with him. Simon's routine involves me feeding him for dinner and giving him his bath.

Being a parent, for me, has made me look a little more constructively at my life, and how to change and balance it. People are fond of saying that your priorities change, but that hasn't been my experience. I have additional priorities, but the old ones haven't gone away. In fact, many of the preexisting priorities align well with Simon's. I would say that I'm even less likely to tolerate suboptimal aspects of life because if I'm unhappy, I can't be an effective parent. So for example, I want to enjoy my job and have upward momentum, because that makes me happy, and happy me is happy daddy. And as a bonus, happy daddy can provide for his family.

Simon has brought out a great deal of team work, too. Diana has kind of always done her thing, I've done mine, and we've managed to live together in a sort of harmony like that. We've both just stepped in as necessary, when we ask for help. Our communication is not perfect, but I'd wager that it's generally awesome. We never play the game, "If you love me, you'll just know I want you to do this." If one of us exhibits this or some other toxic behavior, we call each other out on it. When it comes to specific things about Simon, sometimes we don't have to say anything, because honestly, most of the time you want to be around him! I feel bad for any set of parents who are not as awesome as we are in our ability to help each other out.

At the half-year mark, in a lot of ways we just wish Simon would almost slow down a little. He's growing up so fast. We, and especially Diana, have had some really hard days lately, because of his quad-teething bout, but even the briefest smile and giggle from him makes it better. I can't imagine not having him in our life. He creates so much love in our mini-family.

Hunger v. Pain

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 3, 2010, 11:14 PM | comments: 0

Imagine that you're hungry, but eating hurts. That's where Simon is right now. With his first two teeth, the lower middle, he was definitely hurting a little, but a little Orajel and he could still suck down a bottle in record time. With four teeth coming in at the same time on top, not so much. He's lucky at times to even get an ounce down before he just flips out. These are taking a lot longer to slip into place, with two that have breached, and two that are really close. I fear he's got another two weeks or so. And by then, he'll probably start pushing out some more!

One side effect of this is that he gets really hungry late in the evening. While it sucks for him to get up after only three hours, it does mean some nice sleepy cuddle time for us! Tonight he got up a little before 10, and took a whole 7 ounce bottle in almost no time, and with his eyes closed. I think that he stays relaxed helps, and I'm sure the hurt comes in waves. When he was done, I put him in the burping position, and he put his head down, and fell asleep almost instantly. It reminded me of his early days, when he could sleep anywhere.

But I put him on the changing table, and he was super mellow and sweet. Again, we both sat there staring at him and smiling, impressed with our genetic contributions. :)

While I don't worry that the kid isn't getting enough food (you've seen how chubby he is), I do worry about his general misery. He's not unhappy 100% of the time right now, but he's not exactly charming 100% of the time either. The whimpering is just awful. It's not crying, it's just pathetic moaning. I have to remind myself that he's not doing it on purpose.

Goals for super long weekend

posted by Jeff | Friday, September 3, 2010, 9:16 AM | comments: 1

I'm taking an extra two days off next week, for a five-day weekend. I desperately need it. With that in mind, I have some goals I'd like to achieve:

  • Let go of having so many goals. I spend way too much time feeling like I need to be doing something, and that's leading to the burnout. If I'm not motivated, I will veg, and be OK with it.
  • Spend quality time with Simon and Diana. Obviously if I'm not at work, this requires no effort. I just hope Simon can level out a bit with all of the teething that's making him miserable lately.
  • Work on projects, but only if it feels right. I've got some momentum on the forum app, and that makes me happy. It's liberating to write code for something from scratch, instead of scratching through an endless backlog of uninteresting crap.
  • Get my ear re-pierced. I've only been talking about that for like two years. It healed up pretty nicely within a year of taking out the industrial, and the little keloids went away. I thought about doing the industrial again, but bumping one end irritates the other and it never heals, so a single ring in the cartilage will be fine.
  • Go somewhere we haven't gone yet. If Simon is up for it, I'd like to do something touristy, weather permitting. Maybe it's a zoo or aquarium, maybe the Space Needle.

Coding strikes and gutters (to use the parlance of our time)

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, September 1, 2010, 10:31 PM | comments: 0

I've seen 24 hours of coding stuff. Some good, some bad. And when I'm done writing about it, I'm gonna find something else to do for what's left of the evening.

Last night I zipped up a build of the forum app and posted it on CodePlex. It's getting there. Not as fast as I'd like, but it is starting to feel like a real application. 10k lines of code (55% of which is test code), 400+ tests, and almost no style to speak of. As much as I bitch about writing this thing over and over for the last 12 years, I don't mind it too much this time. Going to MVC is a huge improvement, and I feel like I can actually innovate on the UI now. But once it's done, I really want to shift focus to any of a bazillion projects in my head.

Coding efforts at work were not nearly as fruitful. I spent some time pairing with our "new" guy (he's just switching from a parallel team), poking around and trying to fix some weird stuff on our backlog. That didn't go particularly well. As much as I feel like we've reduced complexity in some areas, there are places where it feels like we've added to it as well. We did quasi-resolve one problem, but I didn't agree with the prescribed resolution. It was also a battle I'm not interested in getting into.

When I got home, I fixed a problem with CoasterBuzz that broke the Twitter. I ranted about this on my tech blog. Idiots. It's no wonder that they can't keep the service up, seeing as how they can't even get the sequence right between sending out a notification and then acting on it.

I printed out some CoasterBuzz Club cards this evening, when I realized that I use a funny Microsoft Access app to do it. I hope it never breaks, because I have no idea how I did that nine years ago. Nine years!