This makes me laugh, in light of tech pundits who overstate the importance of Twitter.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Jeff Goldblum Will Be Missed|
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
Gideon (a.k.a. Basement Cat, Thunderpaws, Big Sexy, Fatty, etc.) has grown fond of me since his mum hasn't been around much the last few weeks. He's a big pussy, literally and figuratively. He weighs at least 18 pounds and he's scared of everything. He also squeaks like someone kicked him in the nuts, if he had any nuts to kick.
But in the absence of his primary parent, he stays close by most of the time. That's a big change from when I first started dating Diana. I barely ever saw the bastard unless I was feeding him. He's hard to read, and if you pick him up or pet him, he goes into what I call "rape victim mode," basically shutting down and probably thinking he's somewhere else.
There has been progress lately. I've picked him up a couple of times and got him to purr. He also greets me in the morning, though I think that's more because he's hungry than anything else.
I officially need to get out more. I'm blogging about the cats again.
Still a day and a half left in the month, but with the usual Monday housekeeping, I thought I'd get the picture of where I stand.
Admittedly, I have some anxiety. April and May in particular were better advertising months, but the accounting is such that I won't see it for awhile. I'll probably have to borrow a little to keep the cash flow, even though I'd rather not do that. Still, I've come to accept that I'm essentially funding my own start-up at this point. I have relatively clear goals in mind, rough time lines, and measurable results for what I've been able to do so far. The risk, at this point, is tolerable.
I really started to dig into metrics for CoasterBuzz last week. Winter was terrible in terms of traffic and revenue. However, dozens of tweaks have had significant impact, and I can associate every boost with something I did. The end result is that page views and views per visit are both way, way up over last year, which compensates for a decline in visitors. The visitor count is trending upward though, fortunately, and it seems mostly search related. I'm still navigating that issue, but if I can get back to the same level of visitors without diluting the pages per visit, that would be magic. Home page tweaks are likely what I need to think about the most.
Of course, this all compliments the new product in the pipe line. I'd like to have something usable by the end of July (so would Walt, I'm sure), but I'll have to really buckle down to make that happen. Right now I feel pretty confident, but only because I don't see a ton of obstacles. Yet.
I have an unlikely but possible lead on some contract work, and if that becomes real, I'm going to take it. I need the mental stimulation and social interaction in the worst way, and it would be with people I know and like. Like I said, it might be a long shot, but it would be more than ideal. A couple of months on that and I can pay off the honeymoon.
So anxiety aside, I feel relatively comfortable. I'm not going to do the Williamsburg trip (sorry, Ken!) because the timing just isn't very good. I have a sense of purpose and plans sketched out, and I'm hitting milestones. Here's hoping they lead to a more sustainable "salary" by the end of the year, if not sooner.
I was really into Pitchmen on Discovery, and oddly enough, seeing that Billy Mays died makes me far more sad than Michael Jackson. The guy was a real human being, over the top and I think genuinely interesting as a person. What a bummer.
We expect to see a video tour from your iPhone. (And horizontal, please. I'm already tired of iIdiots shooting vertical video.)
With Diana sleeping in a hotel for much of the last two weeks, you can imagine that her desire to replace the crappy mattress at home has only been reinforced. So we ventured out to the store where I've bought all of my furniture to see what we could find.
As the sales woman said, pretty much everything is on sale these days, because stuff won't move otherwise. We ended up getting a Stearns & Foster mid-range bed, which was around $1,500 after tax. More than we wanted to spend, but as people who sell that shit are fond of saying, you spend a third of your life in bed, so you might as well be comfortable.
I think the mattress I bought in 1996 cost $350 at most. It's some cheap Sealy, I think. It wasn't until I started to travel more a few years later that I realized it wasn't a very good bed, and it was simply adequate. With Diana's lingering muscle issues related to the vertigo last year, we really can't mess around with crap this time.
So we're in another same-as-cash deal, along with my bike and some amount of carpet money still remaining. But you know, even in what is either a crappy job hunting time or true transitional period for me, we're going to be a little more careful about spending, but we're not going to stop either. One way or another, things financially will improve over the course of the next year. I also need to remember that I'm not expected to be the ultimate breadwinner in this relationship, since Diana is quite employed.
A week from Tuesday, we'll finally get a good night's sleep.
I decided after weeks of beating myself up for questionable productivity that I would stop and actually count the hours I worked on stuff at the end of this week. The news is better than I expected.
I spent about ten hours on administrative and daily task stuff, which includes junk like accounting, mailing club cards, posting news and other stuff that I've basically been doing for years. I'm actually a little surprised that it was that much time. In addition to that, I spent about 20 hours on programming stuff (plus whatever I do still tonight or tomorrow). So that's a little over 30 hours in a work week, scattered about through whatever times I was motivated enough to concentrate. That's not bad. When I think about all of the time in every day job I've ever had spent dicking around at the water cooler, surfing for porn or updating Facebook, I'm easily hitting that same level of productivity. And for people who believe in four-day work weeks, I'm there. And Monday was spent at Kennywood!
As far as tangible results in the programming hours, it has actually been a pretty good week. Getting the trip report association bits up into the forum was a good start. Then cracking open my multi-file uploader went relatively well. I spent quite a bit of time refactoring it for general use, so it can be for whatever file transfer scenarios I want, and not just images. Funny how sometimes you write yourself into a corner and do the wrong thing. I kept having the control be responsible for redirecting you to some other page when it was done, which was stupid for a number of reasons. Once I realized that should be delegated to the page the control sits on, duh, everything went smoothly after that.
Now if I can get the hotel chain that asked about buying ads on my sites to place an order, I'd get my financial shit together too. That would be nice!
With Diana having to go back to Buffalo through Wednesday afternoon, it looks like Jeff Putz week will run Wednesday though the next Tuesday. It's actually fairly action packed, even though we haven't nailed down specifics. Since the little woman has a few days off, we're planning some mini-adventures and such. There will be eating, drinking, shopping and a graduation party. And probably a fair amount of sitting around, which Diana needs more of, I need less of, but we need more of together.
There's a great story about Congress passing a military spending bill with stuff that the DoD doesn't want and thinks is wasteful. The Pentagon doesn't want to spend on this stuff, and yet in a bipartisan stroke, Congress passed the bill. Now the president is taking a little heat for saying he'll veto it. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Why would legislators try to force the military to spend on something they don't want? That's completely bizarre.
Apparently they're playing Michael Jackson music videos on MTV. Remember MTV? The M used to stand for music. Today, I couldn't even tell you what channel it's on. Amusing how MTV is actually trending high on Twitter, mostly because they're actually playing videos.
You'd like to think they'd get the message, but I wouldn't get my hopes up.
I remember back in 2000, when Penton moved us into a new building and cubicle hell, I developed symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. The new desks and what not did not agree with me at all.
That was about the time that I started using natural keyboards, and I've had one at every job, as well as at home. I'm most comfortable when I can be in a corner of some kind, able to get my arms up on the desk. This goes against the conventional wisdom about having it lower and all, but it's something that has worked for me for years.
But lately I've been spending more time on my laptop than anything else, and it's clear that my body is not pleased with this arrangement. I prefer using the laptop because the screen is higher resolution and much brighter and contrasty. I need to suck it up and use the desktop more.
I've been trying to process the Michael Jackson death story today, and I'm fascinated by the reaction. The fact that he's dead, honestly, isn't something I feel anything about. He hasn't been relevant in music in 15 years or more. He's been a tabloid side show.
The public fully embraced him in the mid 80's, and chalked up his eccentricities to growing up famous. Even in the years after that, I thought he was mostly getting a raw deal from critics and the press. His talent was certainly at the center of his popularity.
I think most people want to remember him as one of the best entertainers in history. I think it can be argued that he is.
However, I can only be sympathetic to his weirdness to a certain degree. I've met a lot of celebrities, and even the minor leaguers have strange lives that put them in messed up situations daily. But there comes a point when your own personal decisions reflect on you beyond your circumstances. Michael Jackson played the shy card but at the same time couldn't achieve enough. A statue of yourself on an album cover is messed up. Then there was the constant surgeries, a backyard theme park, inviting kids over to hang out... there comes a point where the departure from reality is the result of bad choices, not external pressures.
Culturally, the world over was interested in the freak show life of the man for the last decade, and now that he's gone, the focus seems to quickly shift to his achievements as an entertainer. He was a real human being, after all, and one that contributed more to the world than most ever will.
For me though, I can't say I care very much. I can't sympathize with 20-year-old girls crying on TV (who are barely old enough to remember when he was a bona fide star). We watched the world put him on a pedestal, tear him down and now, celebrate his life, or at least the good parts. It's a shame that his life played out more as tragedy than triumph.
Oh, and I'm kind of bothered the way the Farrah Fawcett story basically just disappeared, and I'm probably a year or two too young to really appreciate her fame. And don't even get me started on how the Intertubes "killed" Jeff Goldblum today. That's a topic for another post.
I haven't had the kind of issues that Gonch had with my air conditioning, but for as long as I've lived here, the air conditioner's breaker would trip now and then. Meanwhile the furnace would keep blowing, but not cooling.
I'm pretty sure it only happens when there are brown-outs, since that's what happened today. It's just annoying because there's no way to tell until it starts to get warm. Last summer it didn't happen at all, which is surprising, but in the general sense, I've noticed the quality of electrical service has been much better the last two years.
I have a confession to make. I love Sandra Bullock. I'm finished being ashamed about that.
I went out to see The Proposal this morning, and I enjoyed it. Yes, it's just another romantic comedy. It's not particularly deep. It's not even believable to cast her as an evil bitch boss. I mean, she's f'ing Miss Congeniality. But what can I say, from the time I saw her in Demolition Man, I've been in to her. She doesn't have to be an Oscar winner or anything beyond what she is: A charming actress who entertains. And I still think she's hot as ever.
If the trailers didn't make it obvious, Betty White steals the show. That woman is going to be funny forever. She is a gem. Also was surprised to see Malin Akerman, who looks like someone different with blonde hair (she was Silk Spectre in Watchmen). There is quite a bit of beautiful photography in the movie too, which is supposed to be Alaska, but as the credits indicated, is actually New England. Oh, and there's a completely hilarious scene with Bullock singing "Get Low" (the Lil Jon song) with Betty White. If you've ever heard the lyrics to that song, you know why it's funny.
So yeah, I'm a Sandra fan. Sue me. I'll go see that other romantic comedy she's in this fall, too, and you'll have to suffer through me blogging about that as well.
Apparently, some of the Republican Congressmen are annoyed with ABC's big Obama health care program from last night. They're basically claiming that the network is biased in his favor or whatever. Personally I like how Westin responded about trying to rise above sound bites. My thought is that if you can get the president in front of a camera, you do it. This isn't the election, where we have candidates debate each other. Congressmen get to do that every day on the house floor, and ABC (along with everyone else) covers it. I'm impressed that ABC did a series of posts on their site calling out the president for conflicting things he's previously said.
I did watch it, and I wouldn't call it a bunch of softballs. Charlie Gibson went after him several times asking for more details, for which Obama didn't have very good responses. These exchanges I think exposed the one area where I fear he can't be an effective president. Some things are complex, with complex solutions, and he gives people too much credit that they'll try to understand the complexity. Maybe that's not his fault, as Americans seem content to see politics as sound-bites, but it definitely weakens his ability to lead.
I'll admit, I don't have strong feelings about health care, other than the cost is getting to be ridiculous. I like the care I've had available, but I'm annoyed at how much it costs Diana now that I don't have an employer paying for my insurance. The only thing I can do is hope that I can trust the president to tap the right minds (of economists, doctors and researchers) to do the right thing. That's not easy trust to place in a president.
I've been considering a brief solo trip down to Busch Gardens Williamsburg in July because I can get the hook up, and flights to Richmond are around $150. But the more I think about it, the more I both don't want to spend the money and the more I want to go. I'm torn. But you know, I'm not rolling in cash these days. But I can get the hook up. But hotel rooms aren't cheap.
Drew Carey recently started a blog. He only has a few posts, but I have to say that I'm interested in what he has to say. I especially like his distaste for rabid "fans" who dirty up the Internet with bullshit. Not that I've ever seen anything like that before (rolls eyes).
When he started on The Price is Right, I thought, wow, he's awful, but on a recent episode I saw, he's really settled into the gig and I think he does a nice job. The show is still as classic as ever, and I think it makes for good background noise at least. I don't watch TV during the day, but I've seen it a few times while traveling.
And you know, his initial post about working on the show reminds me that TV's dark art, the thing that really make the medium exciting, is live (or live-on-tape) multi-camera production. It doesn't matter if it's a game show, sports or even the evening news. It's still one of the most interesting forms of video to watch, and it's even more fun to make it. I dig that.
I didn't finally get to bed last night until about 3 a.m., but it was one of those instances where I couldn't stop. I don't why I don't have these productive code writing streaks in daylight, but I just don't.
Some time ago, last fall I think, I started to put together a Silverlight-based uploading control, so you could select a bunch of files in your Web browser and upload them, with progress bars and all of that nonsense. There are things like this already available, based in Flash and Java, but I really wanted to do it myself (and not pay anyone to license it). The problem with my early attempt was that it was tied to a specific use case, and frankly it was a mess of code.
My intention last night was only to get familiar with it again since I hadn't looked at it in so long. But inspiration hit and I found myself refactoring and making a ton of progress. I stripped out the data access stuff entirely, which made the biggest win.
I doubt any of it sounds impressive to anyone but me, but the point is that I have a lot of inner satisfaction that I can use this thing in other places now, especially in the next big project. One less road block.
I read a good post today about the silly wars that go on in versus debates, in this case the arguments about whether to use Webforms or MVC for ASP.NET. I kind of saw this storm coming when people started describing themselves as part of the alternative "movement" in the ASP.NET community.
The truth is that MVC gets me really excited, for a thousand different reasons. My win comes from the fact that I feel like I'm no longer fighting the statelessness of the Web by conforming to a framework that simulates statefullness. Maybe I never really realized I was doing that. But the nice thing about MVC is that it has forced me to break down what I'm doing into simple actions. There are two benefits developing that I had not previously considered.
The first is that the stripped down nature of the MVC pattern causes you to back off if you're someone who does UI development. It can be argued that many of the apps out there now that get all of the press and attention are ridiculously simple and easy to use because they don't try to do a lot, and, by no coincidence, happen to be developed on another MVC framework, Rails. Whether it be Twitter or my wife's favorite site, Ravelry, there is a simple style that seems representative of sites developed using this design pattern.
The second benefit is that adhering to a strict seperation of concerns, whether it be for reasons of testability or the desire to decouple your pieces parts as much as possible (or because "they" said so), makes your code infinitely easier to maintain.
That said, when bouncing back to a Webforms project, I'm amazed at just how much cleaner everything I write is in terms of keeping the moving parts minimally coupled to each other. It's not that I had 10,000-line code-behind files before, but my mindset has changed enough since spending time in MVC that I'm a better developer now when using Webforms.
And when all of the crazy zealots go on and on about how awesome MVC is, I'm not writing that image gallery control for the hundredth time, because I did it once years ago. The simple content management apps, handlers and diagnostic pieces are all there still for me to use, and now I'm wiring it all together in a much cleaner way.
I love MVC. I mean I really dig it. I can't wait to get some of my projects based on it out into the open (other than my personal blog, anyway). But the truth is that the value already built into years of ASP.NET Webforms is not trivialized or bested by the new framework. Instead, there's a great compliment in place now where I can use which ever gets me to market the fastest. At the end of the day, rewriting things for the sake of science doesn't get me paid. Shipping stuff is what puts food on the table. Now my toolbox is a lot bigger.
Today has been one of those strange days where something wasn't right from the beginning, like there were errors in the program that had to be fixed.
For me, it started with a dream that was incredibly disturbing and upsetting. That was made worse by waking to Gideon howling as if her were in pain at 5 a.m., only to find he was just howling at the stray cat that keeps visiting the back door. I was all out of sorts right from the beginning.
Even after I got up for real a few hours later, getting out to bike never clicked, and my typical morning duties seemed to take forever. Finally something positive happened just before dinner time when Jeff P. invited me out to meet him. But there was no hitting a groove today.
Diana didn't have a very good day either. It started with a lack of hot water in the morning, work issues during the day and then the hotel thinking she had checked out or otherwise being incompetent.
Days like this don't genuinely cause any real harm, but they throw just enough weirdness into life to catch you with your pants down. And that's only fun if the right people are there. This was not one of those days.
With Tyler in Pittsburgh for a conference, it seemed like a good excuse to get out there and visit Kennywood. With Red Delicious in Buffalo, I need opportunities to get out more to maintain my sanity.
Love that park, as usual. I got there in the late afternoon, and Tyler joined me after he got done with conference stuff. It wasn't terribly crowded, though it frustrates me the way some crews are glacial in loading and take no pride in what they're doing. Food pricing is not horrible, and there are a lot more deals to be had when you look around. Plus it's generally yummy.
The thing I was most excited about was the return of the Bayern Kurve, which despite its relatively simple dynamic, is still one of my favorite flat rides. It's speedy and pulls some nice G's.
The retracking of Phantom's Revenge mostly has no impact, with the exception of the top of the second drop. Morgan did some weird shit up there, with a strange roll to the right before flatening out after the train has started down the drop. A little alarming in the back seat.
Tyler and I talked about coaster stuff and programming and weird Perl people. And tattoos and laser removal. Good times.
I'll make a general announcement later, but you can now associate your trip reports with parks. Each park page will list TR's for that park, and at the top of each TR, a linked list of parks the author was talking about. You can go back to your old TR's and add the park listings. I did a few recent ones just to demonstrate.
It's funny to read about this on the official site's forums. A lot of people question why this was an Amazon "bonus track" and not a first-class citizen of the album. Others also wonder if it'll ever see the light of day in live performance. I still think it's the strongest song on the record, regardless of whether or not it's an official part of it.
Before she left for Buffalo, I got Diana out on the bike for a little under four miles of riding. I inflated the tires on my old bike and dropped the seat (and moved it forward and rotated the brake handles... there was a lot of adjusting to do). When I got on and peddled a little to make sure the shifting wasn't totally out of whack, I instantly remembered what I hated about the bike. It was the seat. The seat is miserable. I logged at least a few thousand miles on that seat in the early 90's. I can't believe I never changed it!
So she had no problem keeping up, though she's still figuring out cadence and shifting. Just need to get her a good gel seat for women. Perhaps if she digs it enough, we can make it a more regular thing.
Part of my normal Monday routine is to catch up on bills and reconcile statements and look at cash flow and all of that kind of nonsense. With the Buffalo "aside" this week, I just didn't get to it until today.
On one hand, I feel pretty good about the incoming ad revenue from April and May, but because of the long accounting cycle with "real" ad agencies, I'm not sure when I'll see that actual cash. That's a bit frustrating. But still, it was nice to have a couple of really good months like that. June won't be quite as good, despite rising traffic, but things are still better than they were in the winter.
August will be tight for cash, and in September I'll probably have to borrow a little money, which sucks. I'm at an interesting point where I feel like the work I'm doing will eventually generate revenue, particularly with projects that seek a larger audience. It's just time to develop and then develop an audience that makes it feel hard in the long run.
The truth is that I'd probably jump at the chance to get back to a day job, not so much because of the regular income, but just because of my aforementioned desire to get out of the house. Not that it matters, really, because with today's unemployment figures in Ohio exceeding 10%, yeah, this is a shittier-than-usual place to be. It's not that I'm not getting interviews, it's that there's nothing to even apply for. What a reverse from a year ago, when the phone wouldn't stop ringing and I could pick and choose (and chose poorly, twice).
The thing that the accounting does not show is the "sweat equity" that I've been building. In two months, or more like one when you consider the traveling and miscelaneous dicking around, I've made myself a quasi-expert with a new Web framework, written parts of a book that may find its way to some form of media, increased CoasterBuzz page views per visit by 16%, wrote a new blogging engine on the platform I've been learning, become an expert on Google Ad Manager, and most importantly, teach myself how to work at home. While most of this doesn't translate into instant income, it's a whole lot of ground work that may in the long run.
So yes, looking at the numbers out a few months is a little scary, but if this sort of thing were easy, everyone would do it. Living in this market, and we're stuck here until we can shed both of our houses, I can't rely on getting another job any time soon, so I've gotta develop the things I've already got in motion.
Early this year, I started refactoring POP Forums to include a plug-in system of sorts that would allow some interaction of external pieces of code and UI to interact with topics. It's not the most elegant thing in the world, but the idea was to be able to drop something in without having to do a bunch of edits on the code and cause a divergent code base. I have specific ideas for plug-ins, and it occurred to me today that as we head into the peak season, I need to get this shit in place for CoasterBuzz or miss an opportunity.
So I deployed the updates today. Even with all of the style changes in the CB forum, it actually went pretty smoothly looking at diffs and adding in the new parts. Most of the changes were in the code library, which involves just replacing the compiled assembly, but there were enough changes to have to be careful about how stuff went in. There are also a bunch of minor changes here and there, like RSS feeds for recent topics and forums, minor style changes (page links are now "x of y") and some performance fixes no one will ever see. This version (v8.5) will not likely ever see any public deployment. I'm done putting v8.x stuff out into the world for free.
First task is to remove the hard-coding for the news forum that drops the news item in there, as that's a good starting point to see if what I built really works the way I intended. After that, there are at least three plug-ins I have in mind. One is really easy: Some extra UI to explicitly link trip reports to the park database. That's long overdue.
Meanwhile, when I get tired and disconnected from this, I can always work on something else. I'm surprised at how well this works, and I'm not sure why I never realized it. If I get stuck on something, my instinct is to go do something else, when if I just close one project and open another, I stay in a groove and get stuff done. Duh!
Thinking about CB and the forum app of course makes me wanna rewrite everything in MVC, which would be infinitely more maintainable, but then I get back into the rut of not every getting anything new out there. Rebuilds have extremely low ROI, and right now, ROI is important because it's paying the bills. I am doomed to rewrite that damn forum over and over for the rest of my life! :)
The Jammie Thomas trial ended, and the jury found her guilty of willful copyright infringement. For that, yeah, she probably deserves it. But here's the insanity: She's supposed to pay $1.92 million for illegally downloading 24 songs.
Clearly the people on the jury have no common sense. The minimum amount under the law is $750 per song, which is already insane for something that costs 99 cents. But what the hell were they thinking here?
There are two things that I see happening next. The first is that the RIAA will be further demonized to an extent we haven't seen yet, and frankly, they deserve it. They've bullied countless people out of court with absurd settlements, and now they got what they wanted with this silly jury. The second thing is that some Congressman somewhere has to wake up and realize how broken copyright law is for this to even be possible. It defies logic.
Understand that I'm not justifying stealing content in any way at all. I've worked in media my whole life, and I know that shit doesn't get created for free. I'm 100% behind people who create intellectual property and their right to be compensated for it. What I'm not behind is laws that don't make any sense.
The whole story is made worse by the recording industry's unwillingness to adapt (and I suspect wouldn't have at all if it weren't for Steve Jobs). While piracy isn't right any way you might slice it, it likely wouldn't have been a problem if they would have evolved sooner. Now the big story is that music sales in 2008 were up 10% over the previous year, driven largely by legal digital sales, which jumped something like 28%. Suing single moms for millions of dollars is not likely to score any sympathy points for starving record companies that screw the artists as much as they do the consumers.
It's possible that they may settle for a lesser amount, but the whole things shows just how much copyright reform is necessary.
When they shut off all of the analog TV transmitters last week, apparently that allowed them to all move around to different physical channels and more powerful transmitters. Our NBC affiliate started on 2 with a crappy little 4kw transmitter or something silly like that, but they just moved it to 17 with a much higher power transmitter. That means, finally, both of my over-the-air tuners on my DVR can pick it up. Our Fox affiliate moved from 31 down to 8, where its analog channel was.
I guess I never realized until I started plugging in these tuners that digital TV would map physical channels to their former numbers, similar to the way digital cable does. I'm not even sure how it works, except the assumption that ATSC TV's are just smart enough to scan the signals and find them. BeyondTV, which I use for my DVR, was smart enough to send me an alert saying that the channels moved and that it changed its mapping for me. That's what clued me in to see if the NBC affiliate was now attainable over the air.
Meanwhile, I finally got the ClearQAM tuner working again after a driver failure, and combined with Time Warner moving the physical channels around, got it tuning the locals again. Cable channel numbers are completely arbitrary, and the cable box just knows to map them to physical channels. The only thing they send you in the clear are the locals and home shopping, but they don't tell anyone if they move them around. So with this computer based tuner, if they change stuff, I need to have it scan everything, and then manually map the physical channels to the cable channel numbers so it matches up with the program guide it downloads. Fortunately, now that everything is available over the air, I won't need to rely on it unless there are three shows I want to record simultaneously in the fall.
EDIT: Here's how TV knows which channel to use...
I know I already ranted about how the new 311 record Uplifter is pretty damn good, but I would add that you need to get it on Amazon MP3 because it includes the track "Sun Comes Through," which is surprisingly good for a freebie add-on B-side kind of track (much like "Simple Things" on Armin van Buuren's Shivers).
Like I said, never been much of a 311 fan, with much of their stuff qualifying as mediocre junk, but this album is solid start to finish, if you throw out "Jackpot."
The change of scenery with a couple of nights in Buffalo was good for me, especially since the weather pretty much forced me to hang out all day. I feel like I got a lot of code writing done, did a lot of reading and research related to code writing, and generally felt accomplished. I really needed that, as the monotony of daily life at home was getting to me.
I'm starting to finally feel like the things I'm doing today are laying ground work for something bigger, which for all of the times I've done this, I've never felt. I need to figure out how to bottle that, because it's a great motivator.
I also need to figure out something else to do with some of my time. Not getting out is taking its toll. I feel lonely and disconnected some days. Last weekend we went to a small party at Freeze's house and it was good to be around people, even if I didn't know most of them. I'm not nearly as anti-social as I paint myself. I need to do some volunteering or take up tennis or something. (Former co-workers, let me know when you're going to the alley!)
I need to get some things on the calendar for next week or I'll be certifiably crazy. I think I've got Monday covered, so that's a start.
We were having dinner when we heard someone at the next table describe someone as "very opinionated." What exactly does that mean? When people do it, they generally imply something negative. But doesn't everyone have opinons? And why exactly would that be bad?
You don't get "breaking news" with Twitter. You get "breaking observations". Did those people that saw the plane splash into the Hudson know WHY it had to land in the river? Did they know the flight number? Who the pilot was? What his conversations with the tower were? What options he was given before having to land in the Hudson?
If I see a car crash, and I blast it out on Twitter, I'm not "reporting", I'm observing. I have no idea if one of the person in ths crash was drunk, they had brake failure, or anything relevant to the cause.
Have you ever seen a reporter trying to "report" something "real time" on TV? They are HORRIBLE. Because all they are doing is telling you what they are seeing. They are giving you no context, no insight, no background, nothing. That is what Twitter provides when people think they are "reporting" on something. Not saying it's bad. Just different from real news reporting. Those that believe that it is just as good, or better than actual reporting are delusional.
That's an even better distinction than the one I made about quality vs. immediacy. As media continues to evolve, I hope that this distinction is not lost, because it's too important to understanding.
I followed Diana out to Buffalo so we could soak up each others awesomeness and reduce the lonely factor of the week, and also because I needed a scenery change, however brief.
So far, the productivity is already helping. The hotel has some very nice decor that challenges the way you feel, which is pretty odd. It has bright colors and hardwood floors. I really dig the way it looks. This sort of thing goes a long way in stimulating your head, without being too distracting. Tonight I squished a few bugs and I'm doing some reading.
Unfortunately, I wanted to push a minor blog fix up, and I can't. Their firewall seems to block everything that I could use to copy up files, including FTP, WebDAV and the file transfer built into Remote Desktop, oddly enough. I guess it'll have to wait.
Diana was given a Ford Focus for a rental for her business trip. One of my frustrations with American cars has always been the complete disregard for ergonomics and human factors. So check out this center console...
If this were a Web site's UI, it would be the equivalent of a 90's GeoCities page. It seems as though no consideration was given to design at all. It's a grid of buttons, with a few dials stuck in there (which are also poorly designed).
Start with the numeric buttons. First off, does anyone really need 10 of them? If so, having a row of six, then a row of four flanked by identical buttons, is completely unnatural feeling. They also have no hints to feel your way around while driving, requiring you to look. For example, many radios have a notch on the middle two buttons, much like those found on your "F" and "J" keys on your keyboard.
The next group of buttons are not clear at all, and then the next group of function buttons are spaced out in a way that doesn't make sense.
Then what's up with the climate controls? Why is there a power button, and how do I even know it's for the heat and A/C? Every other sensible arrangement has "power" associated with the fan speed, which makes more sense. The six blowing combinations as buttons doesn't make sense either, and a knob would be more logical. Then there are more random buttons below it.
The key to successful car controls is to make them as simple as possible, and navigable by touch as much as possible. This is a ton of clutter, it's ugly and hard to remember by touch.
I spent much of the afternoon and evening working on the text parsing stuff for the blog, which will eventually migrate to the forum as well. Even after ten years, dealing with regular expressions and parsing correct HTML is the biggest pain in the ass I've ever had to deal with. I just have a hard time getting regex for some reason, as any of my programming friends would tell you.
Meanwhile, I'm solo in bed tonight with Diana working in Buffalo. It's pretty weird, given the amount of time we've spent together for the last few months. I guess I kind of take her for granted in that respect, especially since I go to bed later than she does. But hey, the cats are thrilled to have extra room on the bed!
I don't know what the deal is lately, aside from my crappy bed, but I have not been sleeping well lately. When I don't sleep well, it makes it really hard to stay conscious during the day, especially since I have no obligations other than to myself. I might need a nap today.
Scoble has a rant about how much CNN sucks because it wasn't covering the Iranian election aftermath the way that it was "covered" on Twitter. I'm not defending CNN or indicating that they're some bastion of journalistic integrity, but what annoys me is that Scoble and other techie/social media nerds launch into these masturbatory tirades to champion "their" new media, and I think they're somewhat full of crap.
The core problem that I see with this is that immediacy is confused with quality. In the case of news, it's a lot like a gossipping knitting circle. Things on Twitter can fester into facts without any verification, and when someone figures out they're not facts, no one is accountable. Short messages offer no context, there's no filtering mechanism, there's no verification. What you're left with is a series of possibilities in a sea of noise.
Mainstream news outlets will take longer to get the story. I don't understand how that makes them less effective for any news short of something that puts my immediate safety in danger (nuclear war, checmical attacks, etc.). God forbid the day that fear and panic is spread via social media for something completely untrue.
And honestly, this immediacy versus quality thing is not limited to news. There's irony in Scoble's post that, in the very same post, he rants about how awesome it was to meet up with Twitter's founder. If he put these in the same post, that says to me that these two topics are of equal importance to him. There is little question in my mind that the quality of face to face human interaction is far greater than the trivial and immediate virtual contact that comes from online social media.
I started a thread in the private CoasterBuzz Club member forum about pricing for the club, which has been $20 since it started in 2001. Eight years is a very long time to go without a change in price, but it has been on my mind with rising credit card fees and postage.
I figured if anyone would give me the straight opinion, it would be the current members. To my surprise, most declared they'd pay as much as $25 and still consider it a good value. That's pretty shocking to me, given the Internet's tendency to want everything to be free. And I know from the data that a relatively small number of members actually attend our events or even post in the forum, so they apparently do it simply to support the site itself.
The club will certainly never make me rich, which is fine, but it does provide at least some measure of stability against the advertising market, which is in a constant state of sucking or sucking less. That people are willing to pay for something they can otherwise get for free really pleases me. The Internet has not killed a sense of value afterall.
As some of my closer friends know, I was seriously considering suing my former employer when they cut me loose. I spoke with an attorney friend who thought I'd have a pretty good case for "implied contract" if I found the right attorney (he's way out of state), which would entitle me to a year of salary, but honestly all I wanted was vacation time, which would've been a slam dunk in small claims court due to a number of factors.
Because of the way I was treated, and others before me, it seemed like the right thing to do, but it was mostly because I was angry. Eventually I let that anger go. Over time I cared less about being right, and more about moving on.
It was a strangely rewarding and simultaneously awful experience, working for two incompetent owners who had no experience doing, well, anything. One was a college drop out who never had any other job, the other was an older guy who didn't respect anyone and didn't know anything. Both were concerned with appearance, whether it be by way of motorcycles or floor seats for Cavs games, and they placed no value in the people who worked for them at all. I was appaled at what some of the guys were making there. I was constantly annoyed that the owners often couldn't be troubled to attend their own meetings.
But the worst thing about it was that it was simply the most unprofessional environment I have ever worked in. There was no process, no source control, no QA, no requirements, constant slipping schedules, pissed off clients... every day was dark. Despite all of that, I built a ton of process and standards in a very short time, right up to an automated build process, and at least set the stage for future development (which is now gone with all the people who left or were cut). I also led, with a fellow former ICOM'er, a project that delivered on time with a high degree of quality for a fairly important client. I held on to that as some indication that client work could indeed not suck, but that opportunity went away.
So in the long run, I had to let go of making a couple of incompetent douche bags pay. It was a waste of mental energy. The lesson learned this time was to be aware of the difference between a good job and a bad job, which was abundantly clear in this case.
I've been out of ICOM for about a year, and I have to say that I really miss the place. Getting laid-off there seemed like an opportunity, and in many ways it was, as my experience since has been valuable, if not ideal. I've since had lunch with and/or talked with my former bosses there, and we agreed that perhaps I was not utilized in the best way there, which is partly my own fault. Regardless, it's an example of how professional, high end people conduct themselves. The fact that I'd still talk with them regularly demonstrates the level at which they operate, even if the company has seen some ups and downs over the last year.
At the end of the day, suing someone wasn't the end game that I needed, it was the hindsight that I did the right things and better understand how to identify a sub-optimal situation.
Today was the day (second try) to end analog television. For most people, it probably makes no difference, since they're already getting their TV from satellite or cable (or whatever you call AT&T's digital service over copper). The estimates are something like 14% of people still get TV over-the-air, and they're the people who are affected by this, which is something like 15 million houses.
Even though this gets almost no attention, NTSC has been transmitted since 1941, or shortly thereafter when it was approved. When they tacked on the color subcarrier a few years later, it was still basically the same TV standard. For more than 60 years, this is how broadcast TV was transmitted. Turning it off is a big deal.
NTSC has been a fairly reliable video format for a very long time. It has been with us through tube TV's of various sizes, video game consoles, VCR's, video cameras, etc. It wasn't until the last ten years though that we started to see differences in the way we moved that video around. DV (and the DVCPRO and DVCAM pro derivitives) brought us digital recording. MPEG-2 based DVD came along, and introduced us to 16:9 aspect ratios and 24 fps recording. A huge mess of incompatible formats surfaced for Internet delivery. It has all been pretty crazy to see the demise of analog video tape.
I got to touch 1" tape, 3/4" U-matic, VHS and S-VHS 1/2", a little Hi8, and once or twice, the good old news gathering standard, Betacam.
ATSC, the new broadcast standard, is still important. The thing about broadcast, which so many people think is irrelevant, is that there's still a local, public service aspect to it that I think we need to retain. It is still free.
The future is pretty exciting. Transmission and format means so little in a world where software ultimately has the job of getting pictures on the screen. And the screen's number of pixels is really the only limiting factor to what we can view. At the other end, camersa like the Red One can shoot countless formats. Heck, my HVX200 can do everything from 1080p at 30 fps down to old fashioned 480i (our old friend NTSC).
Analog television, as a platform, has likely done more to shape and mold our culture than anything else. It deserves a moment of silence.
OK, now we can move on. :)
I managed to double the distance I did on my last longer ride, hitting 12 miles. My original intention was just to hit 10, but something kept pushing me.
I went down to the park again, starting at a downhill position going up to the east (route here, distance on trail is longer than road). When I got close to the five mile mark going out, I knew I was starting to close in on what I call the invisible hill. After 130th, there's a slight uphill grade that goes for at least two miles (that's the longest I've gone), and you almost don't realize it until you find yourself down shifting and getting insanely tired. That last mile because a struggle, and I actually dumped into my granny gear, just trying to keep spinning. At six miles, I got off the bike and drank half of my bottle of water.
The positive is that you get to turn around and go down hill at that point. Fast. I peaked at around 27 mph, and that first mile going back was done in no time. In fact, the trip out was 30 minutes and change, while the trip back was about 25.
With three miles to go, I started to feel some cramping, which is not unexpected considering how out of shape I am. I resisted the temptation to stop because I knew that would be certain death. Before I knew it, I was back at the car.
And honestly, I didn't feel that bad. I think the key is to find a distance that's easily repeatable so I can condition myself for more. I'd like to get to a steady 15 mile circuit if I can, because if I do it frequently enough, that feels like a significant workout.
I think I need to raise my seat just a little, as I feel like my knees are coming up too far. I also need to get the toe clips on there, because my feet came flying off on a few bumps. I need to think about some gloves and proactively not holding a death grip on the handlebars as well, because I find my hands falling asleep a little now and then.
But this is progress, and I need to really keep with it. Again, I really want to reclaim the fitness I had in 2005, and keep it.
Both of our bed mattresses are around 13 years old (Diana's is in our guest room). While hers sags in the middle, making it difficult for two people to sleep in, mine is plagued by uneven springs that make funny noises when you roll around.
The outcome of this bed tragedy is that we're both waking up with funny aches and pains all of the time. It's particularly bad for her given the previous vertigo-induced string of neck and shoulder pains.
So between the honeymoon and carpet debt, I'm obviously in no hurry to shell out for a bed, but as soon as Diana pays off the debt she incurred for the wedding, she vows to buy a new mattress. I feel bad because I'm used to being the provider, and if I were making day job money I'd just run right out and we'd buy one.
Here's one of the reasons I'm not in that big of a hurry to upgrade my iPhone. Even after two years, I get crazy good battery life. Granted, I'm not a heavy phone user (obviously), and I do my best to let it drain significantly before recharging.
I started to take a stab at cutting the Starlight Experience video that I shot at Cedar Point last weekend. I know that I've said before that one of the freeing things about the Internet is that you're not bound by television editing standards. If you're serving a niche audience in particular, you can show a lot more and worry less about the pace of what you're cutting.
My first pass was 20 minutes, which is way too long, if only because I don't intend to be serving a file that huge. Lance, the guy who also walked us through the Halloweekends stuff last fall, gave me a ton of good material of various levels of geekiness. In the end, I cut out about five minutes, mostly stuff that got into more specific programming for lighting that would probably not interest most of our audience.
It's still hard for me to let go of the TV standards sometimes, and I find myself being critical of that. I keep reminding myself that the audience doesn't care.
One thing that continues to be difficult with that rig is the non-shoulder position, as I've said before, which indirectly has me not focusing quickly depending on how I'm trying to brace the camera. Non-focus in HD is really bad. Fortunately I was able to cover most of that up with B-roll.
Not sure when this will post. I still need to add graphics, and I suspect Walt will post photos first. Then we can let the bandwidth onslaught begin!
I finally got around to reconciling the business account today. Aside from the strange ending balance (2,222.22), I'm horrified at the amount I'm shelling out for merchant account fees associated with accepting credit cards. Because I do very low volume, and it's online, it's not easy to get a good deal.
I just did the math, and between the discount fees (3.61%), per item fees and various surcharges, I'm pissing away on average 9.5% for every transaction. That means a $20 CoasterBuzz Club membership sends $1.90 to the banks and credit card companies, before I even print or mail the card. How ridiculous is that?
Someone has gotta be able to do better than that.
I just read the JJ Abrams essay in the previous issue of Wired. This essay really struck home about where we get joy out of life, and how we seem so eager to overlook it. This quote sums it up for me:
"True understanding (or skill or effort) has become bothersome—an unnecessary headache that impedes our ability to get on with our lives (and most likely skip to something else). Earning the endgame seems so yesterday, especially when we can know whatever we need to know whenever we need to know it."
That is true on more levels than I can describe. While the Internet has done so much to facilitate communication and bring people together, it has also managed to trivilaize knowledge and the process of acquiring it.
I liken this to a suggestion that a friend made to me last year when I was in the midst of writing code for one of my sites. He asked, "Why don't you just use all of the free stuff out there and stictch it together to make a site?" Aside from issues of integration, I asked what I would get out of that as a developer. The "skill and effort" is important to me. Deeper understanding is important to me. It's the same reason someone may build a table instead of buying one from Ikea. Indeed, sometimes the end product is less interesting than the journey required to get there.
My summer thing, especially sans a day job, is to go see lots of movies. This year, I haven't really done that, because there haven't been that many that I wanted to see. But I figured I'd go see Up, the 3D version, to see what that was about. I'll get to the 3D in a minute.
First of all, I still don't get the flack that people gave Disney/Pixar for Wall-E. I mean, there were people who genuinely hated that movie. I thought it was brilliant. The Pixar era has largely shed marketable characters for strong storytelling, and I think that's a step in the right direction. Up goes that way as well.
The story begins with a very moving story that sets things up, and plays with themes of discovery, regret and loss from start to finish. More importantly though, it explores how we perceive our lives in terms of the adventures we have, or haven't had, and whether or not it matters. I think ultimately they were trying to impress upon us that your life is so precious in nearly every way, that no matter what you do with it, your life is as fulfilling as you make it.
Of course, that's something that's probably lost on a lot of younger kids, so they've drawn some excellent characters that have some very funny moments. It's certainly not preachy the way that Wall-E was, but it attempts to be every bit as deep. If it doesn't make you, as an adult, think about your life, and how awesome it was, is and will be, then you're not paying attention.
As for the 3D thing, I almost bailed to come back for a later non-3D showing. My local theater was charging an extra $3.50. Fortunately it was the first showing, so the base price was five bucks, but holy crap. I sucked it up and paid it anyway, figuring that since I'm a movie enthusiast, I'll see what this 3D nonsense is all about. I suspect what it's most about is subsidizing digital projectors where they didn't have them before.
It's clearly a gimmick that is packing them in, because five of the six previews were in 3D for forthcoming movies. And for an 11:30 movie on a movie on a Wednesday, there were a ton of people there.
The quality of the projection and the glasses is surprisingly good. It still uses two projectors, but it doesn't seem to mess with your head or cause headaches. In fact, ten minutes into the film, I stopped consciously realizing that I was seeing a 3D film. It doesn't have any 3D gimmicks to speak of, it's just 3D. The only thing that this format suffers from is that your eyes don't get to choose what to focus on, so backgrounds will always be blurry even if you want to look at them. Still, the animated genre is well-suited to the format, as the various animated previews demonstrated. Rodriguez's next kids movie is also 3D, and it holds up pretty well in the previews.
So with the decent quality and such, is it worth paying extra for? Honestly, not really. It doesn't really add anything to the performance beyond the initial fascination. Maybe that's one of the faults of the technology being as good as it is. If it's good enough to forget you're watching 3D, what's the point? It's hard to say. If it was a buck more, not $3.50, I'd probably say yes, it's worth it. Still, I'm impressed to see how well the system works.
I don't know what changed in browsers, but for some reason, many threads on CB are getting stuck in bold or italics due to unclosed tags. I didn't change anything, but clearly a bug in the parsing code has been found by a change in some browser.
Last Thursday, I shut off my DVR computer in the living room, and it was really quiet in the room. I really liked that situation. Even though I tried to buy relatively quiet fans, it's still a bit noisy. The power supply fan in particular is bad.
I fired it up tonight because I know there's an episode of Mythbusters to record, and the silence is gone. Before I became self-employed, I had the intention to buy a Mac Mini and use that with the USB tuners, but that's obviously not going to happen now. But alas, it's the "off season" for TV, so I can try to make it a point to shut it down now and then.
I have to say that since the last Facebook refresh, when they wanted it to work more like Twitter, it's harder to discover stuff. It used to be that if you commented on someone's photo, it showed the photo and comments in your feed. Now that they don't do that, it's hard to see what a friend may be participating in, and that blows. It's driven the focus to status updates, which are often mildly amusing, but not what I really want.
I'm starting to feel like I need to put the book project on the backburner. On one hand, this makes me feel exceptionally shitty, but on the other hand, it frees me from feeling exceptionally shitty most of the time for not doing anything with it.
The problem is simple. I just generally feel when I look around at my world that writing the book right now is not the thing that best serves me. It doesn't have certain and tangible benefits that I feel are within reach. The other things that hold my interest right now, like the other site projects, bicycling and what not, seem more beneficial to me in the long run, both financially and emotionally.
The plan for now is to just let it sit for the time being. I think I'd like to go back to it, perhaps when there's a new release of the platform or something, but I can't keep convincing myself that I can pull it together when I'm just not into it.
I spent much of my afternoon looking at all of the in-progress stuff I've messed around with in the last year, and it's, well, a mess. I guess I'm not surprised, because it's that scatter-brainededness that has been the source of so much inaction in the first place.
But it has to be cleaned up for this next big project. If there's one thing that I've learned from CoasterBuzz and PointBuzz, it's that it's easy to organize your content poorly. You get into a trap of having a database for this, a database for that, and it gets difficult to connect it all in a meaningful way.
What's funny about this is that it's a problem that the print world solved a long time ago. At the back of books, they had something called an index, and in that index, there would be an alphabetical list of important words and phrases that pointed you to another place in the book where you could find those important terms.
Today we call that tagging, really, as it achieves largely the same thing. The only down side is that it rarely applies to different kinds of data. Search engines index everything without a preference for any data type, but they don't have the accuracy that comes with a person who says, "This photo here is about elephants, and this news story is about antique bicycle kickstands."
And that is what I've been thinking about. Categorizing and organizing stuff isn't as straight forward as it should be, but since everything on my sites is custom built and not random free (crap) ware thrown together, I have an opportunity to get it right. That's what keeps me up late.
The Intertubes are awash with declarations of hate and loathing toward AT&T following the new iPhone announcement. Some of the hate stems from the lack of support for two new features, MMS (late summer) and tethering (maybe never). Even more hate comes from the fact that people are pissed they can't just upgrade to the new phone because they haven't had enough time on their current AT&T contract to fully subsidize the older phone they have. That means shelling out $500+ to "upgrade."
There's a part of me that secretly hopes that the exclusivity really ends next month. It has never been confirmed as far as I can tell, only reports of "people familiar with the situation" and execs from AT&T saying they "like their arrangement." The fact that they weren't mentioned by name in the keynote today makes me hope that by some chance they did not get a renewed exclusivity contract, and we'll be surprised in a few weeks.
Either way, my two years is up at the end of the month, so I could upgrade without additional cost if I wanted to. Truthfully, I'm in no hurry. I'll hang out for awhile and see if by some miracle other carriers get their hands on the phone.
Well, the most rational iPhone rumors turned out to be true, with a new 32 gig model being a part of the line up. What's annoying is the lack of MMS support or tethering for AT&T, at least for the moment. I really wish they didn't have that exclusivity. What a bummer. Still, you know I'm going to eventually buy one, though I don't have run out right away.
Overall, there's a nice combination of new hardware and software features for the 3GS. I think the killer app is obviously the TomTom accessory because it's not just GPS, but also a total hands-free enabler and radio transmitter. That'll be cool.
I was surprised to see a spec boost and price drop on the laptops already, which is only to be expected since I just got mine a few months ago. You can never stay ahead of the curve for very long, but that's OK. God knows it has served me really well so far in Vegas and Hawaii. Really smart move going to the longer life, internal batteries on the rest of the line. Makes even the 13" really attractive.
I know I've blogged about how, when I've had a job I didn't like, I would absolutely dread Sunday nights. But now, not having a job, obviously I don't have that dread. That feeling has been replaced by a sense of slight anxiety though, and it's something I'm trying to come to terms with.
The anxiety is rooted in the, "What do I do next" thing that I'm continuously going through. I'm starting to realize that I'm already doing "it," it just doesn't pay as well as what I'm used to. Right now I'm sketching out an actual execution plan for my next project, and I feel a great sense of urgency since it has been on the drawing board for more than a year. And it actually exists in various incoherent pieces that I need to figure out how to glue together, and finish the parts that aren't done. I have to uncomplicate the complicated.
My biggest question mark is still that damn book. I don't know where it fits. I want to finish it, but the practical side of me isn't sure if and when it will benefit me. Everything else on my plate I see an obvious set of potential outcomes.
But hey, my fate is my own at this point, so let's see what I can do with it.
I bought Fanboys, because at twelve bucks, it was not high risk despite the mixed reviews. It was annoyingly only released in "select cities," despite some fairly widespread promotion back in 2007. Reading the Wikipedia entry, I guess there were a lot of changes, then reversed changes, then reshoots and a long string of crap, but it's still odd that given that long road it wasn't more widely released. Regardless, I'll see anything with Kristen Bell. She's too charming to resist.
And it was pretty good. You know pretty much everyone in the movie, even if you don't know their names. It really pays homage to Star Wars, and slightly makes fun of the fandom. They take some serious shots at Trekkies, which is good stuff. More cameos than you can stand. It's a buddy movie, a road trip movie, a nerd-gets-the-girl movie, and generally entertaining. I think if you dig Star Wars, you'll dig the movie.
I've found them difficult to open after the first pour lately, and I've managed to cut my forefinger several times in doing so. After decades of more or less being the same, did they change the bottle cap on a 2-litre bottle?
Opening day was a total wash-out, with rides on Power Tower and Paddlewheel. Last night was more about "work" to shoot video about Starlight, though we did get a spin on Maverick. Diana got all dirty pulling crap out of the back yard landscaping, and we decided, what the heck, let's go back. We'll do Soak City, and then I'll shoot the other video that I needed later. We arrived a little before 4.
I haven't been to Soak City since, I dunno, 2000 I think. It has been a very long time. The thing is, it hasn't changed since then, aside from the addition of rental cabanas. It was totally new for Diana. Unfortunately, it was a bit cooler there, but it wasn't busy at all. With the heated water and all, it was still a lot of fun. The midges were pretty bad, but we managed. We jumped in the wave pool, Eerie Falls, the "interactive" lazy river and Bubbles. The drinks are ridiculous in price, and midges were seriously bad, but whatever, we can say we did it. That whole adult area is in dire need of some paint and general clean-up, and not just because of the bugs.
After an hour, we had enough, as the sun decided to hide. We thought we'd hit the Japanese place in Breakers, but felt the pricing was a total rip-off, and we passed. Hibachi food is not exactly gourmet, and especially not at $20 a plate, without drinks. But then, Cedar Fair food pricing is generally out of control anyway. Even Midway Market is up to $16.75.
We crossed the park and went to our favorite place, Famous Dave's. Famous Nikki, one of the bartenders, has a fabulous new haircut since opening day. Service was decent, food was as expected, and the pricing is only slightly higher than the outside world. And of course, we didn't leave hungry.
We got up to the front of the park for the first time, and hit the gift shop to find nothing particularly new and eye catching. I did see a black Maverick shot glass I'd like to add to the collection. We also went to pick up our Coastermania T-shirts at guest services, only to find they didn't have any left. Fail.
Our first ride of the day was Sky Ride, or, as Diana puts it, "the buckets." I don't know if it was because they had more tubs on or what, but it seemed like it was going extra fast. Next up, we hit Iron Dragon and Wildcat, neither of which has much in the way of lines. In fact, the park was uncharacteristically thin on crowds for a Saturday.
Our next ride, again with short lines, was Dragster. I hadn't been on the thing since 2005 I think, because I just can't justify waiting for it. I think Cath and I got in line for it in 2006 only to see it go down mechanical. It was also Diana's first time. We did it front seat. For me, it felt familiar despite the years since riding, and while certainly enjoyable, I maintain my feeling that it's just not interesting enough to wait for. Diana loved the launch, but really freaked out on the way down and grabbed me. Almost bought the on-ride photo! Alas, we finally got our credit on that ride.
From there we hit Power Tower, which was a one-cycle wait. I'll always love that ride. From there, we headed back to the car for a little break. I had impractical shoes, and Diana had a weird blister, and frankly we were both a little beat from the previous day and various instances of exercise/yard work. But we wanted to hang in there to get that Starlight video.
I've gotta tell you, now that I've spent some quality time just viewing it, Starlight Experience was definitely the right move. They've clearly only scratched the surface of what they can do with it, but even now, it gets a ton of oohs an aahs as soon as people come out of that Millennium Force tunnel. The winter section is easily the most spectacular, and it's the place where they do the most animation with the lights. Down at the other end, they installed some lasers, which I assume are low power so as not to blind people. They have a little fog to show them, but not quite enough. I think starting from Frontier Town is best, because it gets better as you go.
Overall, it was a nice half-day at the park. Got a bunch of rides in, had food and generally took everything at a relaxed pace. And we finally got the water park!
Maverick was down maybe most of the day, and as we were leaving, we noticed a small army of Ohio Edison people there. My guess is they hosed the electrical supply to the ride, and that's why it was down.
Tonight we got a show-and-tell tour of the Starlight Experience at Cedar Point. As is often the case, Walt did the still photos, I shot video. Unfortunately, I need to go back and shoot some B-roll to edit in between the parts that had our subject talking (Lance, the guy who did the Halloweekends stuff last fall). He was mic'd with my wireless, so while I would have him talking to the group and I was recording, the camera was not pointed at him.
This sort of thing is where shooting with the HVX200 is hard, because it's not a shoulder-mounted camera. Now toss on my light panel and the wireless microphone receievers, and it gets crazy heavy to be holding on your one arm alone. I've thought about getting a Stasis Flex, but it has mixed reviews. I do miss shooting with a shoulder camera. I can shoot for hours with that. It's a lot harder when you do run-n-gun stuff where a tripod isn't practical. I really wish I could trade up to the HPX300.
And this literally required running. I followed Lance as he ran to get the show underway. They try to get the three float displays out as fast as possible. Tonight they did it in nine minutes.
This was also a good opportunity for Diana to talk shop with someone who knew a lot of the same people as her. Of course she was all about the lighting control, which is pretty standard theater gear at this point. It's neat how it's all wirelessly connected with banks of dimmers throughout the trail.
The downside is that she misses working in theater, which is one of the many reasons that it would be beneficial to live in Central Florida. Strangely enough, three different people asked us when we were moving down there, including Lance, as if there was some announced plan for us to do so. Did we do that?
As for the show, it's pretty cool, espeically once it's truly dark. They have lots of opportunity to improve it as well, and they work with a lighting designer who will undboutedly continue to tweak and improve the show. It's cool like that, in that once the lights are up, they can continue to evolve and change just by reprogramming. I was skeptical, but it's a pretty cool rig and people seem to really love it.
I met Leo down in the park to ride bikes. He's the one who dragged me into cycling in high school, so it seemed appropriate to get him out there. He's out of shape too, maybe more than me.
Did six miles. It's getting easier, but I still feel it when I get off the bike. I'm not getting out there as frequently as I'd like, because of weather and a lack of time management. Yet I know it's helping, as the Hawaii glutony is slowly going away, and I generally spend less time feeling tired. There's a whole string of good weather in the next week, so I'm going to do my best to get out there more. I want to recapture how I felt in the fall of 2005.
The tough part about having links to pages about me on my blog is that I actually have to put something there. Writing about myself in third-person amuses me because it's so silly. But I've basically got stuff on all of the pages, though I need to dig up a bunch of media samples. I'll get to that eventually. It'd be fun to put my old radio airchecks and other such nonsense in there.
Next up, I have to dust off my old PC and see if I have the original CampusFish code base somewhere, so I can write a redirect module for all of my old blog posts to 301 over to here. Some of them have link juice, so I might as well hold on to that.
As it turns out, I'm not much of a designer. Duh. I was thinking about what I wanted my blog site to look like, and I couldn't think of anything, so I took a picture of the things I wrote down on Post-It notes to put up here, and that's the design. It's my way out for now. I've got work to do!
Yesterday was one of those strangely negative days. I woke up in the morning after a troubling dream about moving into a dorm, and the clouds or something just kept me down all day. It seemed like negativity was everywhere. Then Diana got home and indicated she had to go to Buffalo for work for a couple of weeks, twice, and that sucked. Even messing with the cats made me think of Luna. Why does your brain do that kind of thing to you?
I worked out of it with clear sky hot tubbing and getting this blogging app up last night, and I'm determined to make this an all-positive day.
If you're reading this, then you found the new home of my blog. And yes, it's super hideous. Don't freak out about that (especially if you're a certain designer who does certain amusement park Web sites), it's not permanent. My initial goal is just to get the code tested and working before I start trying to make it attractive.
The app is running on ASP.NET MVC, so I guess that makes this the first production app I've done using the framework. It's not huge, maybe 1,100 lines tops if you don't count the generated data access code. It has a little AJAX stuff, like comment posting and minor junk in the admin area. It's not complex at all.
Note the new URL for the RSS feed, and notice that the feed includes the entire post. That doesn't mean you can't drop by and read the comments though. :)
I'll eventually roll Diana into this app as well, once I feel pretty good about where this one is. She'll be excited I'm sure to use a decent text editor.
I was talking today to a friend who has always had plans about the way her life would go, and expressed frustration and regret that it hasn't all worked out. I know it's not much condolence to say I've been there too, but I've been reflecting on the topic a lot lately.
A recent topic on CoasterBuzz that related to radio really took me back. In 1993, I was sitting on my college advisor's deck with another friend, sipping beers, when I expressed my desire to run a radio station. My friend said she wanted to own one, and we entertained the idea of doing that. My advisor bluntly said that it would never happen, and that we wouldn't even know each other in five years. As it turns out, he was right on all accounts (and the friend ended up being a psycho, so that's OK).
Plans are like informal contracts that we make with ourselves. They are rigid in nature, rarely include an "out" and do not account for the fact that the world around us changes continuously. These characteristics make them inherent failures from the start, resulting in a great deal of sadness and disappointment.
Our life plans tend to be the same, and usually involve going to college, finding the best job ever, finding the best mate ever, making babies and retiring. The problem is that sometimes people don't finish college, their jobs aren't what they expected or they change careers, relationships crumble, children get put off and retirement may end up being something we can't or don't want to do. These are in fact the basis for the classic mid-life crisis, but I find that people go through it several times. And it sucks regardless.
The coping strategies are often more destructive. We enter into relationships for the wrong reasons, for example. My therapist believes that Stephanie moved in with me to escape her family, the result of which manifest itself as resentment toward herself and me many years later. I'm responsible too, because I felt like that kind of relationship was comforting for the career crisis I was having, and ignored the problems that I'd later learn were always there.
In fact, we work in careers or jobs we find aren't at all what we wanted, because changing would break the plan-contract and indicate failure. I pursued radio even after I left it, which was ridiculously stupid. And when I did jobs I didn't like, I tried to compensate by committing to a relationship that I refused to believe was broken, because I couldn't deviate from the plan.
The single most destructive act of pursuing the plan is doing so at the cost of our happiness in the moment. Some people live their entire lives chasing the next thing in the plan, and end up being miserable. I did it for years, seeking the next bigger paycheck or title, the next relationship, the next step, all the while ignoring the evolving world around me, and the fact that my happiness was suffering.
So where does this leave me today? Well, I try not to have a plan that extends more than six months out. I can't predict how the world will change, how the people around me will change or how my profession will change. My own happiness is not rooted in what these things can do for me. The joy that I find in life every day comes from knowing that something I did is having impact on the world and people in it. The more I focus on that, the more everything else comes to me, and the more I am happy, right now, in this moment. The joy is rooted in what I have to offer, not what I crave to receive.
This attitude is hard to maintain. It takes practice, and there are a lot of days where I can't do it. But ultimately, I've learned that this is where happiness comes from, in what I can offer, not the externally influenced things in life's great unobtainable plan.
It's true, our front yard no longer looks like a vacant lot. In fact, surprisingly enough, our grass is even greener than most, including the anal crazy woman next door. Go figure.
Diana gets pretty much all of the credit. She started by yanking out all of the out of control crap around the light post, then the "island" with the tree, then the worst part, up around the front of the house. It's not a total weed removal, as some of that crap was rooted pretty deep, but hopefully it's adequate to get us through at least another year and a half. There were actually dead bushes amongst the weeds.
I ordered two yards of mulch, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it was one huge steaming pile of shit. Even after we spread it around this evening, there is quite a bit left.
I can't even tell you how much waste we've pulled up, and by piled up I mean on the side of the house. I can't in good conscience have that shit hauled off to where ever the county takes it. Last fall I tossed pieces of a teed (tree-like weed) out there, and winter was fairly brutal on it. This time, I've covered the heaps of crap with a tarp, I'm keeping it wet, and hoping it'll decay at a meaningful rate.
The tree hugger in me even hates to use any kind of fertilizer, but I put down one $40 bag a year to kill of the dandelions, and the grass gets nice and green. (I tried the "natural" crap and it does nothing at all.) I'm tempted to use that spray weed killer for near the drive way and the edge of the beds, but I don't think I can do it.
The back yard still looks like a disaster, and in retrospect, we probably have too much landscaping there. And more dead bushes. The tall bushes on the side for privacy seem to be doing pretty well, as is the holly, but the rest, not so much.
But we're no longer pissing off the neighborhood Republibots, and it looks like a guy married to someone who likes gardening lives here, instead of a divorced guy who hates it.
The other day, me and Diana were talking about the concept of "supported" browsers, and how big corporations often restrict their online applications for use only with certain browsers. This is a throwback to the days when you needed ActiveX or certain IE-only features, and is rooted in old school corporate IT nonsense.
But there are still a lot of financial institutions in particular that keep telling you what browser to use, and that's just stupid. I was looking at the stats for my sites today, and it shows that 15% of visitors are Mac users, and only about 55% are IE users. Even the iPhone is closing in on 1%, which is crazy.
That's the world we live in. If you blow off 15% of your audience, can you afford that? Imagine if Amazon did this. Their holiday quarter did $225 million in profit. Do you think they'd be OK with leaving $33 million on the table?
I ran into another support issue today, when trying to view the video clips for the Halo prequel and the body control stuff for Xbox. I'd love to watch them, but they use some goofy stream that's presumably Windows Media based and I can't watch them on the Mac. Technologist apologists seem hell bent on declaring that this kind of thing is OK, but especially for marketing intent, why would you exclude any percentage of your audience?
I'm not suggesting we all need to test for IE6 at this point, but come on man... with the standards and frameworks we have, it isn't that hard to reach 99% of your audience.
Last week I mentioned that I've never really set any kind of agenda, and that's one of the biggest things to hold me back every time I'm forced into self-employment. Well I spent some time looking at my list of ideas (and domain names), projects and other goodies that have been sitting around in unfinished chaos, and I feel like I've got direction now.
This gets me motivated. My blogging app has largely come together in the last two days, and it's feature complete now, requiring some CSS work to make it presentable. It's still the basis for the book (which I'm not sure how to proceed on), and will also run this blog.
The next project is based on audience and earning potential, and has been on the radar for more than a year. It gets my full attention next. Connected to it are a number of little projects that haven't evolved enough science projects, including some Silverlight stuff and a proper tagging framework.
The funny thing about this stuff is that I tend to not apply the things that have worked for me time and time again in day jobs. The key to making any project manageable is to break it down into smaller parts, and for whatever reason, I don't do it in my own business. Duh.
Tonight I'll start with the blog styling and data migration and see where that takes me. In a day or two, you might be reading this on jeffputz.com.
My Zyrtec coma finally started to break after lunch, and I made my best effort to settle in and do some code work. Surprising myself, I stuck with it throughout the afternoon and in the evening, and I felt like I got a lot done.
On the agenda was the "simple" blogging app. This is still my first project using the MVC framework, so I don't have a serious rhythm for it. But I did get a lot of features done in a relatively short period of time, and I feel accomplished.
This particular app is largely the basis for the book, which I'm still feeling rather overwhelmed about, and I'm questioning over and over if it's the best use of my time. To follow up on my previous comments about setting an agenda, I've sketched out the various projects and products I've got in my head, partially finished or way out there, along with ideas about potential audience, revenue and effort for each. When I look at all of that, I'm not sure where I place the book.
Future questions aside, I'm really happy with the progress. As it comes into a truly usable state, I want to migrate this blog into it, and then do Diana's.