Browse Month: March 2010

03/30/2010

Day One of spring break: western Colorado (awesome drive along I-70), Arches National Park, and an evening in Moab.

The drive was uneventful but good. Lots of snow in the mountains, but traffic was moving smoothly and we enjoyed cruising past ski resorts and through the gorgeous Glenwood Canyon area. We hit Arches in the early afternoon and spent many hours hking around the park. Despite a beautiful sunny 70-degree temperature, the wind was howling constantly at probably 20mph with gusts upward of 30 or 40. Sand was blowing off the exposed sandstone, getting grit everywhere.

The photos don’t show it, though: they look nice and calm.

It’s always humbling to come to Arches (this is my fourth visit) and see the vast sheer walls of smooth sandstone rising 300 feet from the ground, or the amazing rock formations. Although I always enjoy the granite of mountains, the sandstone of the desert has an undeniable appeal as well.

Moab was a lot of fun. The wind died and it was a really pleasant evening. We walked a few blocks around town and had Italian for dinner. This week happens to be some kind of Jeep celebration– the town was literally overflowing with people driving every kind of Jeep imaginable. At the stoplights, if there were five vehicles lined up, four of them were Jeeps. It was almost comical how many there were. It was like being in South Dakota during Sturgis weekend for the Harley crowd, except for Jeeps.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to take a turn for the cold, with potential rain and snow. I’m crossing my fingers that it won’t, and we’ll be able to enjoy Bryce Canyon as we continue heading toward southwest Utah.

03/29/2010

Woo hoo, I bought a new car tonight!

Well, technically it’s used. A 2008 Civic EX-L coupe… the top of the Civic line. It’s got all of the options. And I mean all of them. I’d been checking Craigslist and found a few Civics here and there that were close to what I wanted, and there was one at a local dealership which didn’t have a lot of details in the ad but was at least the right model. So I dropped in after work, drove it a bit, and loved it. Not only did it have the leather seats (absolute requirement), sunroof (very important), and upgraded stereo (also vital) , it even had a manual transmission. And that’s actually really rare in Civics– in general manuals don’t sell well so they aren’t very popular. When I test-drove a 2010 model on Saturday, the guy at the (different) dealership said they have to special-order the manuals.

I figured it was a sign.

I took it home so Laralee could drive around the block a few times, and the kids all hopped in back to join the fun. She liked it, but in the end said it was really up to me. I really hadn’t planned on buying anything– I was just window-shopping– and we’re leaving for spring break tomorrow so there really wasn’t time to work out a deal. Still, a sign’s a sign so I went back to the dealership and played The Game with them, insisting on a price that was enormously lowballed. After a bit of haggling they said they really couldn’t meet my offer, and I thanked them for their time and was ready to walk out. The manager asked me to wait a moment while he made a call. The way he acted, he might have been calling Soichiro Honda himself and getting him out of bed at 3am Japanese time or something.

After a quiet conversation the mysterious guy on the other end agreed to the price, and it was a done deal. I filled out reams of paperwork, wrote the check, and drove away. The only bummer is we’re leaving for spring break so I won’t get to drive my new baby until next week.

It’s been thirteen years since I changed cars, so this is a big day. I plan to drive this puppy for another thirteen too. Luckily it’s a sweet, sweet ride.

03/28/2010

It’s been many years since I last wrote any science fiction, but it’s something I intend to take up on a pretty serious basis when I’m retired. Which will be in two years. Or maybe three. Or maybe ten, I’m not so sure any more.

Anyway, when I mention from time to time that I enjoy writing and plan to do it someday, people inevitably ask if I hope to be published, and show up on bookshelves at the neighborhood Barnes & Noble or whatever. And I always answer no, that’s not really my goal.

Seth Godin summed it up neatly in a blog post today:

If you love writing or making music or blogging or any sort of performing art, then do it. Do it with everything you’ve got. Just don’t plan on using it as a shortcut to making a living. The only people who should plan on making money from writing a book are people who made money on their last book.

(And here’s a shout-out to Thom, who is always thinking about putting together some music but seems to find reasons– just as I do– to put it off a little longer. Just do it.)

03/27/2010

We’ve got eleven bookshelves in our house, scattered amongst all three floors. And yet we continue getting more books and now find ourselves with no room for them. So they’re stacking two and three levels deep.

In about a month the library is having their annual book sale, which means La and I will both pick up about twenty or thirty more books apiece. Awesome.

03/27/2010

As I sit here this afternoon slamming out some code for my latest project, it made me chuckle to realize I was wearing my geek shirt:

03/27/2010

Car shopping today.

The Honda Civic coupe is looking pretty good right now…

03/19/2010

Today marks the seventh anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

Seven years. And what have we accomplished?…

03/16/2010

Brian burned me a DVD and I loaded it in my (Linux) system, only to find that it couldn’t be read. I kept getting errors about a missing UDF header or something. As it turns out, it’s because he burned the DVD on a Windows system, and Microsoft decided not to implement UDF (the standard for DVD-ROM data) the same way as the rest of the world.

Why, Microsoft, why? Is it really so hard to read the standard and use it?

03/14/2010

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03/13/2010

Check it out: a real nickel that’s been cut in half and hollowed out, so you can hide a Micro SD card inside. It’s been dubbed a “spy coin” (although it doesn’t really do any spying).

I guess what interests me about this is the fact that you can easily hide many gigabytes of data inside something as innocuous as a nickel. We’re a long way from room-sized disk arrays that held a few megabytes…

03/13/2010

Last night was the Boulder Dodgeball Benefit Tournament, which raised money for kids in Rwanda. Since I play pretty often with a bunch of friends, I figured I’d scrape together a team and have some fun. I struggled to get the six people needed for a team, so Rob and I decided to join forces.

I never told the tournament coordinator Therese what our team name should be, so she took the liberty of naming us (wait for it) “Jeff and Rob’s Team”. There we were on the brackets, while all of the other teams had cool names like Total Domination and Rockin’ Red Pod (whatever that means). Ah well.

While driving down there, my friend James called and said he and my other friend James (collectively they’re known as James #1 and James #2) were able to join us after all, and they were waiting at the gym. So I called Rob and told him if there was another team that needed players, he could hook up with them. Therese had been struggling to get enough teams, and I figured it would be best to divide up players as best we could.

Thus Rob went off to play with The Misfits, and the six of us became just Jeff’s Team. Our first match was a tough one– we split the first two games of the best-of-five match, and then the deciding game came down to one-on-one. Adrian pulled out the win for us, and we advanced. We handily beat The Misfits, even though Rob managed to gun me down a couple of times. Our next match was another win, pushing us into the semifinals.

Rob’s team had been soundly defeated so he was ready to head home, but I asked if he and his friend Joe would join up with us as we’d originally planned. Thus, in a happy reunion, we became Jeff and Rob’s Team once again. We crushed our next opponents to advance to the final round.

Photo props to Rob

By this point my arm was like quivering tapioca; in retrospect I shouldn’t have played the hour and a half dodgeball game on Wednesday– I hadn’t fully recovered yet. Dang this old age.

The team we’d played in the first round had won all of their games in the loser’s bracket, and we faced them in the finals. Once again we went to 2-2 and had to play a final deciding game. We lost. Since it was a double-elimination tournament, it meant we actually had a second game against them again (both of our teams had only lost once total) for the true championship.

Again, we split the first four games and it came down to a high-pressure game for all the marbles. Things went back and forth, and in the end we emerged triumphant: the tournament champs. They were a great team, and clearly we were very well-matched. Good times for all.

So I went home with a sweet, sweet trophy that probably cost $3.95 at Bob’s Corner Sporting Goods. But hey, the money was for the kids, so it’s all good.

03/12/2010

So for many years I’ve been using Konqueror as my default browser, but it’s not being maintained very heavily, so over time there are more and more web sites that don’t work well in it. As a result I’ve had to rely on Firefox more. Sites seem more compatible with Firefox, and the web developer tools are simply amazing for programming work. However, it’s slow as molasses and just doesn’t feel as slick as Konq.

This week I installed Chrome and have been messing with it, and I must say I’m impressed. It’s very simplistic– not many options or controls– but it’s noticeably faster than Firefox and seems to handle everything I throw at it. It even has some decent development tools to aid me in my programming.

So Chrome is now my new default, and we’ll see how it goes. I even installed it for Laralee, who’s been whining about Firefox for a while now.

Rob sent me a hilarious browser comparison, created by Caldwell Tanner over at CollegeHumor:

03/07/2010

Holy form 1040, Batman!

I’ve finished my 2009 taxes and packaged everything up to send tomorrow, and it looks like I’m actually going to get a refund! After about ten years straight of owing money every time, it’s sure a nice change to get a little back from the Gov. Now I can buy that candy bar I’ve been saving up for…

03/05/2010

I’m in the market for a new Bluetooth earpiece for my phone, and I really like the Motorola one I’ve had for a few years (until it gave up the ghost a few months ago). So now I’m poking around Amazon and reading reviews of the newer models, and found some awesome product photos.

Really. I guess this particular model is a top choice of suspicious-looking secret agent guys, and hot astronauts-in-training who also happen to wear biking gloves.

Sold!

03/04/2010

Talk about a busy day at the office… I worked on 17 different client projects. Not to mention all of the “internal” stuff like new business, a few conference calls, payroll, and fixing some application code.

At least I found time to play some ultimate. 50 degrees and sunny, yeah!

03/02/2010

Topeka, Kansas has officially changed its name to Google. As in, Google, Kansas. The city council voted in favor of it, although the name will only persist for the month of March and will then revert back to Topeka. Does that mean third-grade kids learning their state capitals this month will have to memorize it as Google?

Strangely enough, twelve years ago Topeka renamed itself ToPikachu, in reference to the Pokemon character. Yes, seriously.

03/01/2010

Today’s science factoid:

The Chilean earthquake (among the most severe ever measured) shifted the earth’s axis by eight centimeters and shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds.

03/01/2010

“It’s worth recognizing that there is no such thing as an overnight success. You will do well to cultivate the resources in yourself that bring you happiness outside of success or failure. The truth is, most of us discover where we are headed when we arrive. At that time, we turn around and say, ‘Yes, this is obviously where I was going all along.'”

— Bill Watterson