Ty's post about his reunion really got me to thinking about scale, in everything. Size is not everything (insert "how you use it" joke here), but it certainly can work for or against you.
In social situations, less is more. Whether it's class size, party size, family size, whatever, I think there's a lot more value to be had when you aren't spread thin. I went to a family reunion once that had more than 100 people at it, and it was kind of pointless because no one got any attention except the babies.
It's funny that in business, bigger is generally better because it means more revenue opportunity, and this is the bane of existence for public companies. I've worked for the entire scale, and it's a lot easier to work in a small company. You don't give that much of a shit about the big ones, and they're easy to walk away from (maybe that's a good thing). At the very least, I think you're driving toward a higher purpose in smaller companies.
It even matters for roller coasters (dork). Maverick is ten times the coaster Dragster is, and yet it's a fraction of the height.
A big house means more to clean. A big car means crappy gas mileage. A big budget film means more pressure to not suck.
I wonder how people became so fascinated with bigger things.
I've had a lot of conversations lately about burnout. With friends, co-workers and even in discussion forums. Burnout is the condition in which you no longer have any brain cycles left to devote to something. It's a mental phenomenon, which unfortunately can manifest itself physically in the form of fatigue, stress symptoms and the like.
And it's not something that comes from one particular source either. It's usually a combination of things. It can come from work, friendships, relationships, domestic tasks, and when you think about it, even the things you do in your leisure time. You have a finite amount of brain power to process it all.
Naturally you want to give up the things that take up the most CPU cycles if they don't particularly feed your soul. Most of those times it's work related, but you can't exactly just toss that aside if you enjoy eating daily. You can find another job, and I've been there, but that process is itself exhausting.
Me, I just want to take a break from people sometimes. Unfortunately, that's not very easy unless you intend to be a farmer in Idaho. That and, really, it's usually people who can enrich your lives in ways that "things" can't. So that's no option either.
So I'm starting to wonder, can you avoid burnout the way that you diet? Or I mean, the way I diet? I don't give up any one particular food (well, red meat, yes, but that's for different reasons), I just eat less of everything. Is it possible then to just back off a little on everything and have a net gain in available brain matter? The thinking goes that if you pay attention to everything just a little less, you avoid burnout.
I know this is some goofy psychological or philosophical bullshit, but still. I've burned out before, I've watched it happen to people I'm close to, and I can see it in my future again too. It starts when you start to feel overwhelmed, but you can't really pin it down to one specific thing. I feel a lot of happiness right now, and I'd like to maintain that for as long as possible.
What do you do to avoid burnout?
I know that I've spent a great deal of my life fighting change, but lately, I find myself embracing it. Not change for the sake of change, but just change.
Let me just put it out there (since more than one person IM'd me about it) that yes, I changed my Facebook booty call status to "in a relationship," with Diana. We first met about two months ago, things seem to be going well, and I'm not afraid to say that I really dig her. We talked tonight for about an hour and a half about "serious" stuff and mundane work stuff alike. We've subjected each other to family and friends, she seems not to mind my coaster nonsense, and we find certain things about the other's lives fascinating. Did I mention that I really like her?
Meeting someone new has caused me to explore new things, or old things I want to do more of. Chief among these are cooking and reading for pleasure, of which I find myself doing more of. In many cases I can do both. For example, I'm reading Alton Brown's I'm Just Here For The Food, which is exactly the kind of book I can get into. He's not about all of the arbitrary and subjective shit, he's about the physics and chemistry. That's interesting to me!
I think I also mentioned that I'm going to read all of the Potter books. Yeah, I got the hardback box set, because they look nicer on the shelf. I finished the first, and I'm sure I'll start the second one tomorrow.
I'm revisiting some of the more sciencey programming books I have too. Frankly, I feel like now I understand them. That's a bonus. I'm not writing a ton of code right now, but I do bang out some stuff when the mood strikes. I can't bring myself to impose the sense of urgency I had during Jeff Putz week though, and I'm OK with that.
I'm feeling better about my weight too. I didn't lose any this week (well, maybe I did, but in the half-pound range which I can't see on my scale). I ate like a pig this weekend, so maybe I just need to bust out the DDR and skip a burrito this week. I'm not sure what my appearance is like, but I'm feeling better, and that's what's most important.
My house feels under control. The landscaping is neat (more or less), the most offensive Luna pee carpet is gone, my office/lounge is pimp and I'm generally keeping the place more tidy than I used to. I feel like a real homeowner!
I just got a text message from Stephanie, and I'm excited to share that she bought a condo tonight! Having her own place has always been a priority, and she finally just did it. And she gets to see mountains every day. I'm really happy for her. Her journey might have gone a very different path from mine, but it makes me happy to hear hers is becoming a happy one.
So as I sip some wine before bed, which is also something new for me, I conclude by asking myself, "Self, why do you write about this shit online? Who cares?" Well, I know I've mentioned that there's something therapeutic about writing out your thoughts, but I've also come to realize that there's some value in documenting your life for yourself. And bits are cheap, so why not? Besides, we have kind of a support group where we jerk... I mean, look out for each other and give each other encouragement. It's pretty swell!
I think I've mentioned before that I've always felt just about one step ahead of where I really need to be in terms of my programming career. My book was written to address the previous step, in fact. (I sure would write it differently today.)
At work I did some of the more secondary coding for a framework in our application. The guy who mentors me was the architect and challenged me to think better, and work smarter. I'll freely admit that my involvement in that project, however limited in scope, really changed my way of thinking for the better.
Today I walked through a solution to a problem with a younger developer. What seemed clear and obvious to me, both in its intent and its design, was not to him. I could see him getting very frustrated by this, and I didn't know exactly how to react other than be patient and try to explain things. The problem was, I wasn't sure how to explain it exactly, because I never really intellectualized the rationale behind the design myself. I didn't blindly accept it from the architectural guy, I just felt like I "got it" and left it at that.
I think we left things in a pretty good place, and I'm fairly confident that he'll code the solution the way we'd like. It just left me in a somewhat strange place because I wasn't able to teach the way I had been taught, and that frustrates me a little. My mentor is out of the country, so I have to keep the keys to "our" kingdom. It's strange having that responsibility.
Anyway, while Mondays generally aren't that fun, I have to admit this one offered some challenges.
After a couple months of having Bobby in my Netflix queue and feeling as though it may never be less than a "long wait," I finally said screw it and bought it myself.
I've gotta tell you, it has been a very long time since a movie really stirred up my emotions and got me thinking. I know that the critics couldn't agree much on whether the movie was good or bad, but probably half of them didn't get that it wasn't about the assassination itself, but rather a snapshot of American culture at the time, as seen through people working in or staying at the Ambassador Hotel.
Emilio Estevez seemed to want to further memorialize Bobby Kennedy and what he stood for. The way he did that was with a lot of stock news footage and audio from speeches, very much in long form, not as sound bites. What I found remarkable is that all of the characters, regardless of background, were ultimately people that Kennedy was looking out for. There was so much hope in a time that seemed pretty hopeless and horrible. The only thing that maybe I could fault the movie for is trying to take on too much including issues of racism, immigration, poverty, depression, war... that's a lot to take itn.
The performances by most of the actors is simply amazing. None of them really stand out as leads per se, but each is amazing. Laurence Fishburne has a couple of great scenes.
Of course you now how it ends, and it brought me to tears. Part of it was the sadness that someone who really spoke from the heart, who frankly had to run for president, was gunned down for no good reason. The thing that makes me more sad is that we've never had a leader in that league in any part of my lifetime. You'll never hear these assholes running now use words like peace or love.
You just stop and wonder, what the hell happened to this country? Why have so many people turned off their brains, closed their heart and just stopped giving a shit about anything outside of their own lives?
Anyway, if you've never seen the movie. Get it. Five big stars.
Another party in the books. The food was fantastic, and a real hit, as was the giant mai tai (not hard to please with that). It was a fairly small group, but I'm mostly OK with that.
I expected more people, and I won't lie when I say I'm hurt that some people said they were coming, and then didn't. I take it very personally. It's just not cool to say that you're in, and then blow it off.
But on the flip side, it was fun to cook, and having Diana there to supervise cutting stuff was a big deal. I'm not a gourmet kind of guy, but she was very supportive in my culinary endeavors. I'm also now aware that she has a cheese fetish, and I think if we're going to date long term, I better start getting more cheese in the fridge. Yet another food subject I don't know much about!
Thank God that the weather was nice too. The day started out ridiculously humid, but it really cooled off and dried out by late afternoon.
Good times, good food, good drinking, and most importantly, good friends.
While out on the south side of Brunswick to visit the liquor store, I stopped in the government and public access cable TV studio. I used to work for the guy who runs it back when there was no cable access, and before I went off to start a facility for the next town over. Haven't talked to him in probably two or three years.
It's amazing how much stuff they can produce these days, and how much automation he has. He has a four-camera robotic system now, computerized, that one person can throw in the trunk of a car and record a city council meeting on. That's amazing.
The visit reminded me of a lot of good times doing that job even part time. I liked doing it full time in Medina too. What a shame that those assholes there had to ruin it for me (and subsequently the program I started there was never fully realized). But even though I had to move on from it all, it reminds me what a good time I had, and I'm grateful for it.
I also talked to Stephanie today, who has been approved for a mortgage for a condo in Boulder. I'm really happy for her that she's moving toward getting her own place again, because that's the one thing that she really appreciated the most post-separation.
We talked quite a bit about our cats, cooking, decorating, dating and whatever. While getting divorced was never in the plan, and it was painful to go through, I'm glad that we both seem happier now, and we're both still very thankful for the experience we had together.
And that all brings me full circle to the future. I'm excited about pretty much everything going on right now in my life, as it's an extension of the mostly good run I've had so far. It's easy to wallow in sadness that things have changed, but I simply can't. Why mourn the loss of things when it feels better to cherish that you had them in the first place? When you look at it that way, you can truly appreciate that there's more to come.
Things don't always go according to plan, and I might even go as far as to say they almost never do, but what seems like the alternate plan, maybe even the better plan, is pretty cool too.
I settled on a recipe for my marinade that will (or I should say is) flavoring the chicken for the skewers I'm making for the big luau Saturday. The last part of the equation was to figure out what kind of wine to use, because I was totally clueless.
Naturally I had to find out why you'd cook with wine in the first place. The most obvious reason is flavor, and I doubt there is any substance in the world that varies more in flavor than wine. You don't even have to be a wine snob to appreciate that. But I also learned that the acidity of wine tends to tenderize meat as well, which I've learned is incredibly important for grilling in particular.
I wanted to go for tropical and fruity, so naturally pineapple juice was going to be the starting point (and since there would be pineapple on the skewers, it just makes sense). A lot of recipes I found also include soy sauce, though I couldn't find the brand that comes from Hawaii, so I had to skip on authenticity. I can't even describe what soy sauce tastes like, aside from salty, but I like it. I've noticed too that when you cook with it, it has a stronger taste. I also wanted to use a little garlic powder and a fair amount of ginger for a good kick.
Fortunately, we have an amazing organic food store around here, Mustard Seed Market. They also have a restaurant at both locations that make some pretty amazing stuff, including milkshakes. If you doubt the difference in organic ingredients, have a milk shake. It will blow your mind.
Anyway, their wine selection is massive, and they frequently have a "wine guy" there to answer questions. He's not one of those pretentious assholes from Sideways either. So I explained what it was I wanted to do, and he started to steer me in the right direction. He pointed out several fruity wines that were low in alcohol but big on flavor, and I settled on Moscato d'Asti. It's made from muscat grapes, which are known for being fruity or flowery smelling, he said, depending on who you ask. This particular wine is semi-sparkling, so it's a little fizzy, but not like that "other" Asti, which tastes like shit.
Of course I tasted it before I submerged a dozen cut up chicken breasts in it, and it was exactly what I was going for! Once I mixed it in with the other ingredients, it was the taste I was hoping for, almost. I added more ginger. I pussed out on getting fresh ginger because I don't really have anything to grind it with, so I bought the powdered stuff. I really like it.
And the bonus of cooking with wine? You can tie one on while you cook! :)
This is really fun. Tomorrow, I cook a pizza on the grill on my new stone.
Amazon just said in its quarterly results that it's kicking ass, in part because of the new Amazon Prime service. Basically, for $79 a year, you can have absolutely everything shipped to you 2-day with no additional charge. You can get things overnighted for $3.99 per item.
When they announced this, I thought it sounded like a dumb idea. But the one developer I work with gets a lot of Amazon boxes, and he bought the membership. So I started to think that if this smart guy thought it was worth it, maybe I was missing something.
I looked at my order history and discovered that I spent extra on faster shipping. A lot. Almost every time, in fact. Then I remembered from the early e-commerce days that one of my chief objections to buying online was the lack of immediacy, which I didn't like despite a lower cost in most cases.
So I figured, what the hell, let's try it out. One of the perks is that if something isn't in stock, so what, they'll ship whatever they have and there's no additional cost. No need to group stuff together. In fact, turning on the "1-click" actually makes sense when you don't care how many boxes get shipped since there's no additional cost. Suddenly, I find myself knee deep in Harry Potter books, cookware, DVD's and cooking books. It's just dangerously easy now to get what you want quickly. It's empowering to see something and be like, "Yeah, I can have that in a day or two, and it costs less and there's more variety than conventional retail."
I think I'm done for awhile. Christmas sure will be super easy!
I mentioned previously that I ripped season 2 of Veronica Mars for viewing at lunch on my iPhone. Can I just tell you, I love the way that show is written. Seriously, it pains me that I didn't see season 3, and now I can't wait for the DVD release in a few months.
Oh God, did I just quote JC Superstar? The weirdest shit pops into my head sometimes...
I decided I'm taking Friday off so I can not be tweaked out prior to entertaining party guests. The whole point is to enjoy time with friends, so stressing over it would be kinda stupid.
So far, the best marinade recipe I've found, or combination thereof, involves pineapple juice, soy sauce, red sherry and ginger. Sounding very yummy. I've also seen a lot of suggestions that marinating for a full 48 hours is a good idea for maximum flavor, so that's what I think I'll do.
I've decided that the giant Mai Tai will in fact be made and mixed on a smaller scale so as not to waste any. I don't have a very precise estimate on the visit count since people suck at RSVP-ing. At worst it sounds like around 30 people will make an appearance, which is a good manageable size.
The extra day off will also allow me to catch up on mundane things like laundry, and plucking out the carpet padding staples from the former office. It's already smelling much better.
Tonight I get to have authentic chicken piccata prepared by an authentic Italian. I'm stoked. :)
I look at my post from earlier today and think that sometimes I'm a whiny bitch who needs to suck it up and deal. That's what my inner grown up says, anyway.
I think I found the root of our problem, but had to defer it to the senior developer that wrote those couple lines of code. Microsoft was useless as it turns out, or at least their support folk are. What a bummer.
But despite crappy traffic and rain on the way home, I managed to really unwind on the way home. The right music, knowing my former office was de-stinking, and making up my mind that I simply wasn't going to even try to do anything other than relax tonight really helped. In my careful retrospection, I've come to realize that I feel more invested in the company than I used to, which is new territory for me. Not sure how to feel about that.
I'm dealing with an issue at work where I have to work with Microsoft, and it's not going well. The problem has to do with how their AJAX framework is working (or in this case not working) in Safari.
The support guy is asking me basically to do his job, in which case there's little reason for us to be paying them. He won't escalate the problem to the product team, who wanted me to open the ticket in the first place so it was all documented. So what am I supposed to do? It can be frustrating enough when someone you work with isn't cooperative (which is rare, fortunately), but what do you do when it's that far out of your control?
I'm just not in the mood for this kind of frustration. I've retreated to the Winking Lizard for lunch.
Pulling the carpet from that room upstairs was difficult. There was damage down to the wood floor, which was actually starting to rot in one place. Luna has been gone for almost four months.
What bummed me out about the experience was just a lot of smelly reminders that no amount of money and doctors could "fix" her. That makes me sad. Then to augment those feelings, cleaning out the office had me crossing a great many reminders of a life that is long gone now.
I feel very fortunate that I otherwise had a pretty good day, and in fact a better than average couple of weeks. I really feel in charge of my life for the first time in many moons. Sad as this final chapter in the Luna story might be, it's also a reminder that I've made a lot of improvements to make home feel like home.
I'm down another two pounds this week (has CF become a weight loss support group or what?). I have to admit that the Monday morning weigh-in really sets the tone for the rest of the week. Given the list of things I'd like to accomplish this week, I need all the help I can get.
First thing on the agenda is carpet removal in my former office. I need to start letting it air out, especially since not using it seems to cause the stink to get worse. No open window, no open door, not good. So I got lots of garbage bags to toss many old boxes in the closet, a plastic container for many things in the old filing cabinet (like the manual for my stove, for example), and a knife to cut that carpet right down the middle, creating two four-foot wide sections for the garbage man to take away. All of these items came from a morning trip to...
Target. To quoteth Mr. Jandes, I love me some Target. I suspected I'd do some damage in there today, but escaped for $140. I picked up and put down a new toaster, some tacky bamboo party lights, a hose reel and some stainless steel grill tools. That stuff would've easily put me over $200, and those were things not on the list.
What I did get was a little rattan trunk, which was $50, but you know that Crate & Barrel would've charged $200 for it. I needed something functional, light and at least slightly not cheap for the new office/lounge/makeout room, where I could put a beverage or book or whatever. Using the stool from the pinball machine wasn't cutting it.
I also got stuff for my party this weekend. I bought two folding lawn chairs (I now have four), a metric asston of tiki torches and something else I can't remember. I feel that I'm in a pretty good place to pull off this party. I'm trying to find a place that can ship Maui chips to me (taters taste way different grown in the soil in Hawaii), but I don't think there's a reasonable shipping arrangement.
I've managed to lure Diana into helping me prep for the party by telling her she could use my new knives (foodies are drawn to the strangest things), which is a load off my mind because I don't even know where to start cutting a pineapple.
Still on the list is grocery shopping for said pineapple and marinade supplies (not sure what exactly that will entail), and a trip to the liquor store for the 12-litre mai tai. I decided to scale it back from 16, because my gut feeling is that it wouldn't be entirely consumed. That, and two litres each of rum and amaretto won't empty my wallet.
Overall, things are shaping up, and I'm looking forward to the big gathering!
I don't know how many people that read my blog know Julie, Kara's college roommate, but she posted some pretty amazing pictures from India on Facebook. It's a really crazy mix of civilization, both modern and third-world all at the same time. Pretty amazing stuff.
Yesterday I had one of those most-of-the-day kind of dates. Obviously you only do those kinds of dates with someone you've at least gotten to know a bit, in case they turn out to be crazy or something. So I've been out with this very sweet woman, Diana, several times, and she had a few suggestions. Her aunt and cousin were in town, so they were there too.
First we spent a few hours at the Irish Cultural Festival out at the fairgrounds. This immediately made me think of one of my former volleyball kids (second favorite) because she was into all things Irish, and visited Ireland at least once a year. More on that in a minute. Diana is actually Italian, but being a redhead, I suppose she can pretty easily fake it.
Naturally they have all kinds of Irish stuff to buy, food, and lots and lots of music. There were at least five stages that I counted, and it appeared most of them were entertaining continuously. The first one we spent time really watching was pretty good. Lots of guys with guitars, a young lass who could tear up a violin, and a guy on bag pipes who pretty much blew my mind. They played a lot of what sounded traditional to me, but also did some very rock-n-roll style stuff (think Ashley MacIsaac, circa 1995) that I thought was pretty cool.
We also saw a band that was kind of a cross between Barenaked Ladies (with an actual lady) and that couple who did wedding singing on SNL (Will Farrel and someone else). They were pretty entertaining though.
I realized while watching these bands that I really can't get enough live music, and I don't understand why I don't endeavor to see more of it. Recorded music causes me to feel a great deal of emotion, but when it's performed live that's multiplied by ten. Sure, it makes a difference when it's something I know, but even when it's not, I really love it.
It was at that point, seeing the second band, that I ran into Katie and her mom. I haven't seen either one since I was coaching at The Elms, almost two years ago. Katie has really grown up. Her mom quit coaching basketball for much the same reasons I wanted no part of coaching volleyball. I swear the parents at that school are the equivalent of small-town assholes. Anyway, I miss them. They both contributed quite a bit to my sanity when I was coaching.
Diana's brother and his kids were also there, and after a few hours we went back to her house for pizza before the part two, of our day, seeing the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom, conducted by Howard Shore, the guy who wrote the music for the Lord of The Rings movies. They had a pretty huge chorus too.
I can't even count the number of times that I've been to Blossom. I've seen a great many shows there, including my first rock concert, and first date (Def Leppard, 1988, don't laugh!). That said, orchestra shows are so strangely different. Not only are people not searching your shit when you come in, but you can bring as much alcohol as you can carry. It was interesting to see people there with coolers and candles and such.
We brought chairs, but because of the slant on the lawn (we were about 200 feet up from the pavilion), it wasn't very comfortable, so Diana and I abandoned the chairs for the ground at the intermission. Good decision, because lying on our backs, taking in the music, the stars out in the middle of nowhere were pretty intense. It was a little cool and damp, but otherwise, it was a bit more romantic than any other date I've been on in a long time.
The music was pretty amazing. I don't remember there being so many chorus parts in the movie, but I guess that shows how good it all was, that it was so seamless with the overall movie experience. Well done, indeed. A crying baby or two aside, it was a pretty amazing environment to take in a concert like that.
So that was my day. Definitely ranks up there as one of the better I've had in a very long time. I'm crossing my fingers on this one, so let's hope I don't screw it up! :)
A blog post from Gonch expresses some annoyance on his part when people ask what he does for a living. To help you fill in the blanks, he's a stay-at-home dad who gets to do all the shit that most people do in their free time.
Would I trade places with him for that freedom? In an f'ing heartbeat! Imagine being there to watch your kids grow up in a way that your parents probably couldn't. You get up and go to sleep mostly when you feel like it. Your hobbies can very nearly be full-time pursuits. And if you run a little Web site, you may even make a couple of bucks from it. Which part of that is a problem?
Gonch gets the impression that people ask him for the purpose of judging him. While I'm sure that there is a segment of the population that would in fact do this, I think it's a minority. Talking about what you do, that's a great starting point for getting to know someone. It has nothing to do with being a measure of success. Some pretentious professions may be a little heavier in this area (i.e., doctors, just ask Cath), but most people aren't like that.
For example, in my dating experience this year, it comes up pretty early. I can sympathize with Gonch's positiong somewhat, because my eHarmony profile was slugged as, "Internet programmer, wannabe film maker, coach, author," because I didn't want to be pigeonholed. But then, you also find out some pretty interesting things when you go a little deeper. You learn quickly that a current job has little to do with who a person really is.
In the months between the iPhone announcement and launch, the thing I considered the least was that it was in fact an iPod, and one with a really big freakin' screen. I've played with video before on my other iPod, but it never struck me as something I'd find particularly useful.
And that's where the phone has really surprised me. I ripped some episodes of Veronica Mars season 2, and put them on the phone. I went to lunch, clipped the phone to my sun visor, and enjoyed an episode right there while eating lunch. It was pretty sweet. (And by the way, I missed season 3 entirely, because when WB became CW, my DVR lost track of it and didn't record it.)
I don't watch much TV. Most of it is crap. But what I do like tends to have a running story, and I end up getting it on DVD as well. The problem is that I don't always feel like sitting down in front of the TV to watch. This solves that problem.
There has been a lot of criticism of the iPhone by tech journalists and the like, but clearly if you focus on what it does do, it does it well. And if you're a general non-tech consumer, it's the best piece of electronics you've ever owned.
I was chatting with a friend at work who is still adjusting to her divorce. Mind you, her situation is a little more complicated because she has a 7-year-old girl, but it's funny how many things I can identify as common to the post-divorce process.
You start out feeling that independence is the key to being happy, and become hell bent on achieving it. Then you hopefully start to reconcile the good and bad of a relationship, and hopefully put into perspective that there were good times. Later you start to feel that, hey, emotional and physical intimacy sure does feel good. The whole process is interspersed with the occasional desire to give and receive orgasms, which probably interferes with your judgment a little.
The one thing that does match, or should match the pre-marriage thing, is that establishment of independence. What I struggle with is the idea that the independence can't co-exist with the feel good part of being with someone. You can have both, but only if you can honestly say, "I'd be OK even without this other person." It's pretty hard to muster up the courage and true belief that's true, especially if you've had a long-term relationship. The only reason I can believe it now is because I survived, and I'm better than OK.
Anyway... nice "light" conversation this morning at work. :)
The White Stripes most recent album, Icky Thump, has saved rock-n-roll for me. I listen to it over and over. With all of the crap out there, it's a serious breath of fresh air.
While not testosterone driven music, it does help me feel less like I've misplaced my testicles, given my recent preference for female vocalists like Joss Stone, Tracy Bonham and Jill Cunniff. And hey, the Stripes are half female, so it's a good compromise.
I can't understand what happened with their last album. Get Behind Me Satan seemed to be lo-fi for the sake of being so, and was generally not very inspired or interesting. Quite the change from Elephant, which had three of the best guitar solos ever, in the same song!
So if you're looking for some great, straight forward rock music that isn't too glossy or over-produced (i.e., Nickelback), this is the record for you.
I learned this weekend that I have shitty stuff in the kitchen, especially when it comes to knives. I have one chef knife that is fairly new, but already quite dull because, and I didn't know this, I'm cutting on a glass board. Oops.
I've come to realize that the thing that gets me into food is making it myself. I think in the last two years the only thing I've really endeavored to make is a burrito. But it was a pretty exciting "discovery" to mix certain things and come up with what I did. The next incarnation may even involve, gasp, peppers!
But it was the toys that started to inspire me. A rice cooker, a method to warm tortillas (wet paper towel between them in the microwave)... pretty simple stuff really. Seasoning elements are like toys too. In this case, cilantro and salt. All very simple, but I get to create something, and that motivates me.
So when I learned that I had shitty tools, it made me realize that I'd probably be more motivated to experiment if I had better tools. This has been true in most other areas, like video (camera), podcasting (good audio gear, 81 episodes to date), computers (more code), vacuuming (Dyson, baby!)... and I'm sure I could come up with more examples. So it stands to reason that if I had better tools (or toys, if you will), I'd push my limits more with food.
I started reading up on knives as the first point of entry. Read some reviews, chose a starter set, and I'll be on my way. I'm going to hold off on cookware, because it's a whole lot more expensive, and I want to understand how to take care of it first. As much as I like to buy toys, I'd rather not buy toys I don't understand. Knives are a lot less expensive.
Partial motivation is my forthcoming party too, because I want to make some things that kick ass for my guests. I'm not a gourmet, but I can fake it a little.
I am absolutely struggling right now at work. I just can't stay engaged. This happens every summer now for me.
The usual yearning for working on my own terms is of course a factor. But what makes it even more extreme this year is the fact that the weather has been mostly perfect. When you work inside with no windows and stinky air, it wears on you. Then there's also having other things (or other people) on your mind constantly.
As is the case every other year, I just need to work through it. Gotta enjoy what I can, because fall is just around the corner. In the mean time, I'll enjoy lunch away from the office here at the Winking Lizard.
OK, so a local landscaper with many resources is gonna tear my shit up this afternoon and finish up in the morning. It won't be cheap, but they have power tools, several guys, and the ability to spread five yards of mulch faster than I ever could. By tomorrow afternoon, you will no longer cut your legs on the bushes as you walk up to my front door!
Some of my friends have given me crap for paying someone (or in this case a hoard of people) to do my landscaping. Last summer, or the summer before, I would agree that this would be fairly lame, since I wasn't doing much else with my time at home. But this year, I am legitimately busy and involved in my own projects. The scope of the mess is so great right now that one guy doing it all himself would take most of the summer. Plus I can barely keep my indoor plants alive. So what the hell, if I can find the cash, why not?
I think I might have to pass on the San Francisco trip I mentioned previously. I was looking at the financial state of the world, or the business at least, and decided that perhaps it's not a good idea if I'm going to make any real meaningful business debt progress this year.
IAAPA in November is gonna be a somewhat expensive trip (though I've got an upgrade coming to the club level at Royal Pacific... free beer here I come!). It's just the number of days that will be a bit much. Combine this with the iPhone and buying the Adobe products (coming tomorrow, yay!), and that's a lot of negative progress, I think. All this in a year where I thought I wouldn't have any major capital expenditures. Ha! Not the way I like to have toys!
In prior years I would tend to borrow against what I figured I'd make on the year, which probably wasn't the greatest idea, but it has always opened doors for me. That's why I'm second guessing the conference in San Francisco. I mean, I still have half the business debt that I had last year. I just never do a real budget because ad revenue is so freakin' unpredictable. But how can I do the "right" thing when year after year the "wrong" thing has produced great results?
I need to get into a more logical business!
Kara's post got me to thinking about living on your own. I remember when Stephanie moved into her own apartment after the separation that it was the first time she lived alone, and she loved it. I didn't think much of it at the time, but realize now that I really dig it too. Carrie and I have had a lot of conversations about it too, sharing divorce stories. The truth is, there's something very powerful about the arrangement.
Most everyone that I know has rushed into living with someone. I can't say that's universally a bad decision, but in terms of relationships, I feel like I really fucked up not getting the chance first. Being able to spread your wings, establish your own domain and have time to yourself can start out being pretty scary when you first get the chance, but the payoff in the long run is enormous.
Why didn't someone tell me this shit when I was 20?
Granted, it's a lot more fun when you can pluck a sexy-ugly couch out of the furniture store, or tie the deck together with an outdoor rug. But even just knowing that you're the only one who gets the toilet dirty is a good feeling (though for the record, I will probably always put the seat down).
I didn't touch a line of code this weekend, and it was awesome. What I did do is have some pretty exciting interactions, thoughts and general well being moments.
I got to hang out with Cosmo (the dog) while Cath was in town for a wedding. I totally nailed her in the eye with her tennis ball and felt horrible about it, but I think she will forgive me. She sure was glad when her mom got back from the wedding! It's very cool to see Cath again too, and I can already see the weight loss she was blogging about. Glad I can still be friends with an ex-girlfriend.
I had a pretty sweet date that went really well. It included seeing Harry Potter (where some giant woman spewed half-digested popcorn on my date), and then dinner and hot tubbing at my place. I know the last part is cheesy, but whatever. I think she's a real keeper, and I hope she thinks the same thing about me.
Today was filled with a whole lot of slacking, which was very nice. Took a nap, watched a movie, watched the Star Wars episode of Robot Chicken (from a few weeks ago) and it was f'ing hilarious. Recorded the podcast with the analyst from The Motley Fool, and it was very informative.
I also had a dream and some other thoughts that, for the first time ever, actually led to a theoretically good idea for a tattoo. I've said countless times that I could never think of any really meaningful concept that I'd permanently put on my body, but this one I like. I have this fascination with finding myself, and by way of that peace, love and happiness, right? So what if I somehow combined those elements with one of those old map legends, the kind that looks like a compass (think the Islands of Adventure logo). It's more of a loose concept than a design, but given that I'm always trying to find my way toward those things, you can see how it's a neat idea. If the execution is right, and I can get to my goal weight, I'll do it.
I just feel generally good right now about the direction of life, and it has been an awful long time since I've felt that way. The uncertainty actually doesn't bother me. Looking ahead this week, I'm excited that my Adobe CS3 stuff should be coming Wednesday (unless it's delayed again). I'll probably take a short break from coding and come up with some basic page template for CoasterBuzz that I like.
Forgive me for "Jonesing" a bit...
I think it was Cath who suggested to me I rent Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), though I don't remember under what context. Being a Kirsten Dunst fan, it's strange that I never saw it in the first place. It was hilarious!
First off, it takes place in Minnesota, so seeing Kirsty Alley, Kirsten and others doing the accent is hilarious. There are a whole lot of people you'd recognize, like Brittany Murphy (pre-anorexia), Ellen Barkin (Oceans 13, still hot over 50), Allison Janney (The West Wing), that woman who played Frau Farbissina in Austin Powers... all great performances. I mean, there's a lot of good comedy. The one let down is that Denise Richards didn't do the accent. Lame.
It's basically about a beauty pagent in rural Minnesota, leading up to a national event. Loved it. Very funny. Many quotable lines all over the place. I wonder how this one just slid under the radar and I never saw it.
This one is less dramatic, with only the start showing any real story element, but the rest shows game footage. Pretty sweet looking.
I still think that this is really stuff that should have been in the second game, but considering this gets to be on the 360, I'll take that compromise.
There is one particular type of spam message that comes into the mail server that hoses the shitty-ass POP e-mail component I bought for Campusfish to read e-mail for the moblog, and the only resolution is to manually go in there and delete the e-mail. It's seriously annoying.
So my apologies for those of you who have a bunch of crap now in your blog. Feel free to delete the extra entries. Next time I build this thing, I'll probably write my own.
As I see if there's anything I need to erase from my old phone before recycling it, I found that in the two years I had it that it did 2,205 calls that took 8 days, 20 hours, 19 minutes and 51 seconds. That means that I spent about 1.2% of last year on the phone.
I can't even imagine what Cath has spent on the phone in the two years she had her phone. ;)
So as it turns out, Federated Media has managed to not sell any bug money campaigns for me. They have provided some better-than-average remnant inventory for me though, so I'll certainly take the extra couple hundred dollars a month if that continues.
What FM has done for me though is keep me in the loop on some pretty exciting stuff. The latest thing is that, as one of their authors, I can go to their "conversational marketing" summit for free in September in San Francisco (as in the conference is free). This is a big deal because Digg's CEO will be there, and probably some of the senior people from Facebook and MySpace, among others. Not to mention various FM authors (hoping for the Ask a Ninja guy ;)).
So do I go? I think it might be a pretty good networking opportunity, even if I'm not sure how interesting the content will be. Well, that's not true. Perhaps it'll get me thinking about how to better monetize my sites in a way that's not so damn per impression or per click. I guess the only real negative is having to take a couple of days off, and the expense of staying in San Francisco.
I know someone who couldn't buy one somewhere is crying about this...
Moving my office to the red room and refurnishing it was one of the best things I've done probably ever to really create a comfortable environment for myself. It's crazy just how much something like this can affect your mood and motivation.
The old office was much smaller, smelled like cat pee, and on the north side of the house, so it never saw direct sun. The new office is on the south side of the house with six-foot windows, is much bigger, and now has a great couch I can sink into to relax. It's also the first room I see when I come in through the garage, so that makes me happy as well.
Aside from watching some DVR'd episodes of The Daily Show while eating dinner, I haven't spent any time in my living room in probably a week or so. So now I know: If your environment isn't facilitating positive feelings, change it!
I unfortunately have a 40 minute commute, which sucks given my tree-hugger ways. I feel that at this point in my life it's not practical to move since I'm not "settled" in a relationship and could end up moving again anyway.
I have a ten mile stretch on I-271, a "bypass" that starts well south of Cleveland and goes northeast toward Erie. I use the word "bypass" in quotes because frankly it touches most of the east side. Anyway, there is only one exit in between my start and end, SR 8. That interchange is under construction with a massive interchange project. The bridges over the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are also being replaced. Basically, it's mostly construction. Then add to the fact that I-480 also merges with it, and you suddenly have the most ridiculous section of highway in Northeast Ohio, and it's mostly rural.
Traffic this morning was backed up to the valley. Not good. The construction at 8 puts it down to one lane, with the other lane forcing you to exit on 8. I actually got out of the house early, but clearly I was going to be late. It's always a gamble continuing on past 8 because you never know what the traffic will be like.
Then I realized that my iPhone does now. I pulled up the map, turned on the traffic overlay, and sure enough, a big red line on the remainder of that freeway. I got off at 8, and likely saved half an hour in the car. Given the value of my time, at least to me, I think I paid for a small percentage of the phone. :) Sweet.
Well, it wasn't the slam dunk progress I was hoping for, but I also can't say that it wasn't productive. My goal was to make some decent progress on the next version of CoasterBuzz.
As it turns out, I pretty much spent my time on just one page and around 400 lines of code (and by code I mean C#, not HTML, which isn't code at all). This page doesn't seem like it's all that complicated, but throw in enough use cases and you realize that it kind of is complicated.
The good news is that the hardest part is probably done and ready to go. I think I can safely move forward now by breaking off some of the use cases to another page. That will make life a lot easier. I would say that I generally feel pretty accomplished.
I don't have any time frame in mind, still, but at least I have some forward momentum. Tonight I'm just stopping because I can't do it anymore. I'm looking forward to experimenting with some graphical looks, though my CS3 still doesn't ship for another week. I really wish I could find a designer that I like who could do some work for me.
As I've said many times before, one of the biggest reasons I took the job at Insurance.com was that I needed to be challenged and given the opportunity to learn. While I didn't get a lot of that at first, and there are lulls from time to time, I am aware that I am getting better at what I do. I give a lot of credit to the guy I work most with in that he gets me thinking the "right" way, and can explain things in a way I understand.
So last night I finally started to hit a coding stride. I got back to working on CoasterBuzz code for the first time in probably two or three months. I had a problem that was somewhat complex, and I realized a very elegant way to solve it. Most impressive to me was that I used delegates (something I've struggled to understand in C#) to handle an otherwise ugly and complex formatting situation. A week or two ago I broke out permission issues for the photo gallery app in an abstract way that makes it "pluggable" into various sites or applications.
The point is that I'm writing less code to do more, in a way that is very reusable. It has been a long road to get to this point, and you can only get there by learning. It's kind of a rush to get this far along and feel like you've entered another league.
Perhaps, at least for now, this really is what I was meant to do.
In the wake of the iPhone launch, and after 700,000 of the little guys landed in the hands of geeks like me, and teenage girls listening to music in the Millennium Force queue, I feel like responding to some of the criticism toward the device.
One of the biggest problems with any of this is that geeks in particular seem stuck in their ways, and Apple tends to challenge convention. Remember when everyone said that an all-in-one computer like the iMac would never sell because it wasn't expandable? Obviously, it has done quite well. What the geeks don't understand is that regular people could give two shits about things like that. It's why most consumer electronics devices, and especially wireless phones, suck, because the people designing them are geeks instead of regular people.
So here's why the objections don't matter...
1. The battery isn't user replaceable. I've had five phones in my life since 1997 or so. I've never replaced a battery on any of them. A quick survey of teenagers, soccer moms and even geeks will probably yield a similar response. With normal use, i.e., not the first day where I locked myself in a dark room with the iPhone and played with it all day, the phone ends up having a healthy charge at the end of the day. I can plug it in while I sleep.
2. It doesn't have removable or expandable memory. Er, OK, neither has any other phone I've had. Or any Palm device I've owned. My cameras do, and with 2 GB or larger cards, they never leave the device anyway. Again, survey the masses.
3. No physical keyboard. OK, so I admit that this was a concern of mine. I'm happy to report that after hacking out a few dozen text messages and some posts here, that I really don't care. The phone seems content to fix most of my typing mistakes if I trust it. It's not perfect, but it beats the crap out of T9!
4. AT&T's EDGE network sucks. I'll agree that it isn't that fast, but I have to ask... what the hell are you browsing? Yes, the Safari browser is better than most any mobile browser, but what the hell are you doing browsing on a 3.5" screen? That's what comprooders are for! If you're doing anything more than buying movie tickets, looking up on IMDB the actors' names and Googling for song lyrics while out in the world, you don't belong in the world. Get a life! Kiss a girl (or boy)!
5. No third-party apps. Again, I start to wonder what it is you really are doing with this thing, or rather, what you need it to do. I've already seen some nice Web-based apps tuned to the iPhone that are pretty amazing. The whole concept of installing something on the device is so 1999. Good year for partying, bad year for thinking about a connected world.
6. Can only sync with the cable, not by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. OK, think really hard about that one. If it can be exposed to the air, it can be hacked. Do you want your list of call girls or Wall Street insiders to be stolen?
7. You can't organize your files on the phone. Is it a phone or a hard drive? Don't be a moron. That's like saying you can't organize your toothpaste on your cat. It makes no sense.
8. The front of it is glass, and that's asking for trouble. Please. Watch this. The last truly durable phone I had was a Motorola Star-Tac that I finally retired back in 2003. It lasted me about four years! This new device has no significant moving parts and is actually made with metals and glass.
9. I can't make songs into ring tones. At first I thought that bothered me, until I realized the ring tone market is gigantic and dominated by kids who will pay three bucks for a ring tone but won't think twice about stealing the entire song on the Internet. Thus, I hurl a hardy "tough shit" to those critics!
10. It's too expensive. OK, so a new hot phone comes out and typically costs $300. A new iPod costs around $250. A Windows-based "smart phone" or Blackberry isn't cheap either. The iPhone does most of these things, it's certainly more durable, and it does things that actually make life on the planet easier, starting with the mapping stuff that is, quite frankly the best in class. $500 ain't cheap, but with those other devices you're going to pay at least $30 more for the data alone every month, let alone the voice. It all balances out.
I'll be the first to admit that the thing isn't perfect. Not being able to send picture messages sure is weird, and iChat would've been nice for, I guess chatting when I'm on the bus (if I actually rode a bus). But the truth is that for most consumers, the phone does the things most useful to you 95% of the time. You can be a poopy pants all you want, but this is pretty close to the device that consumers have been asking for since the dawn of time.
One of the things I loved most about my non-working summers was getting up on a summer morning, under a clear sky and going anywhere. This morning, I've decided to go to a movie. I'm first in, got some popcorn, and I'm checking e-mail.
I realize that the feeling I enjoy is one of freedom. It's hard to get that feeling when you have to go to work, unless of course you feel the freedom to not go!
The really great thing is that I'm more inclined to work on my projects after I've had time to goof off. It should be a good day!
Well, I'm half way through what I've been calling Jeff Putz week, and for the most part it has been a fairly relaxing affair. I hated being at work for Monday and Tuesday, but whatever.
Friday night I saw a community theater production of Big River with Diana (a woman I've been out with a couple of times), and I really enjoyed that. Saturday and Sunday were fairly chilled out, with Saturday being the iPhone quest and hot tub water replacement day, and then a movie on Sunday.
Monday was the actual day, which included BWW with Kristin and Jeff, the Transformers. I think I mentioned that movie is the tits. I might go see it again tomorrow morning.
Tuesday was uneventful, though I cleaned up the house a little since fellow CF'er Carrie was crashing here so we could hit Cedar Point. It occurred to me that I really need to get another bed for one of the spare rooms, because it's silly to make people crash on my couches, however comfortable they might be. I think that will have to wait until the carpet is replaced in those rooms.
Carrie and I spent a surprising length of time at CP, which makes sense since she had not been there since '89, the year Magnum opened. It's fun to go with someone who gets all giddy and isn't used to the place. I'll write a trip report if I'm motivated enough today. She was blown away by Maverick, and underwhelmed by the fireworks. Crowd was manageable given the threat of rain all day.
This morning the new couch was delivered. It's enormous! Why do they always look so much smaller in the store? I did measure, to make sure it would fit, but man is it big. I love it! I had to do some furniture rearranging, but I was surprised to see how easily I could fit the pinball machine behind my desk. The room feels very functional now as a lounge, office, place to read, and even a place to party. I'm so happy with it.
I bought myself a year subscription to Entertainment Weekly for ten bucks, thanks to Jeff who found a sweet link to do so.
The rest of the week will hopefully involve a great deal of writing code. That's my plan. I really want to buckle down and make some shit happen. In between, I hope to start ripping up carpet from the upstairs so I can get rolling on that, even if it's only a couple of rooms at a time. I want to reclaim that space.
Overall, it has been nice to spend time with friends, by myself, and doing what I feel like doing. And I'm managing to do it without a great deal of travel!
I was definitely nervous when I heard that there would be a transformers movie because, well, those characters represent some of the best portions of my childhood. The teaser trailer got me excited, but still nervous. The full trailers were pretty, but who knew how they'd treat it? Then there was a part of me that felt that if Spielberg was producing, it couldn't suck (forgetting for a moment that he let Jurassic Park 3 get made, which was a steaming pile of shit).
Well the verdict is in, and they FUCKING NAILED IT! It became obvious as the movie began that they realized it had to be treated with a balance of action and a certain campy factor that acknowledged that this is, after all, a franchise built on toys. So in that respect it was very true to the original TV cartoon, with a plot line that felt more like the comic book. Most of the actors were total unknowns, so there was very little distraction from the robots, who are the stars.
The amount of humor really surprised me. There were some really classic moments in there that really match the absurdity of these giant robots hanging out in the suburbs.
This is the first movie in ages where I can remember the audience actually clapping at the end. I'm pretty sure I'll have to see this one again in the theater. I enjoyed it that much. And considering that much of the applause came from kids who weren't even born when the cartoon was on, that's saying something.
I heard Amy Winehouse somewhere, and I thought, "What the hell is this? I love it!" It's like faux Motown (Fauxtown? I could be a music critic!). It's kind of dark but yet kinda sexy. Little did I know at the time that she looked like someone right off of SuicideGirls, but that's a plus I suppose.
How can you not like someone who uses the word "fuckery" in their lyrics?