Browse Month: January 2013

01/28/2013

Josh brought in a little two-seater couch for his office today. He’s making everyone jealous. Now we all want to go into his office to “ask a quick question” or something, just looking for an excuse to enjoy the couch.

01/26/2013

I have a bunch of little Lego minifigs on my desk in the basement. I especially like King Arthur, complete with the Holy Grail.

I also enjoy my little Star Wars heads: Admiral “It’s a Trap!” Ackbar, Darth Vader, and of course a stormtrooper.

01/26/2013

Yesterday we had our Zing “company offsite” meeting… at the top of Peak 7 at Breckenridge.

The weather was just about perfect, it wasn’t too crowded, and we had a fabulous time.

Brent and James are excited about a lift ride

As usual, we had to wait for the snowboarders to strap up

01/19/2013

This would be a sweet view out of the bedroom…

01/17/2013

Laralee was pulled over by the police twice today. That’s pretty funny.

The first time, she was driving without license plates. In truth, she’d just been to the DMV to register our newest car and she had the plates on the passenger seat. She was driving home so she could install them on the car, since she didn’t bring a screwdriver with her. Of course the car was legal, so after a bit of explanation the cop let her go.

The second time, she was driving the same car (with plates now!) and taking Zack to gymnastics. She was running a little behind, and there were two cars waiting at a stoplight to turn left ahead of her. She wanted to go straight, and there was a right-turn lane so she veered into it– without signaling, of course– and sped past the cars. It was dark so she didn’t notice the police car right behind her. Fortunately the cop was in a charitable mood, so she let Laralee off with a warning.

I don’t know how many speeding tickets I’ve had in my life– maybe a dozen. Laralee probably speeds more than I do, and she has one to her name. I’m pretty sure women get warnings more often than men…

01/12/2013

It’s getting to be that time of year again: tax time. That means I have to set up a Windows system, since the H&R Block software I use will only run on Windows. Oh joy.

Rather than “waste” a computer on an operating system I use once a year for taxes, I set up a virtual machine and installed Windows 7. I created a virtual disk of 25GB, thinking that would be plenty of space for the operating system and the handful of software packages I’ll need to install.

Boy, was I wrong.

Holy freaking crap. This is nothing more than Windows 7, Firefox, Chrome, and TaxCut. I’m pretty sure the latter three take less than 100MB combined, meaning the Windows 7 operating system requires over 19GB of space all by itself. What in the world…?

I guess I’m just spoiled by my Linux systems. The OS itself takes 40MB (I just checked my system) and even a fully-loaded system with all of the software I use in my daily work is less than 5GB.

Maybe I should go back to Windows XP for this; apparently TaxCut runs there too. Ugh.

01/11/2013

I’m downloading Adobe Acrobat Reader (yeah, I know) and I was amused to see they provide download estimates…

… for people using 56k modems. Wow, thanks Adobe, for telling me what I might expect if I was using technology from 1994!

Also, who on earth has a T1 line any more? Back in the day they were the bomb because they offered 1.5Mbps symmetric speeds (they also cost about $1,000 a month), but these days my phone can move data faster than that.

01/10/2013

For some reason I find macro photography to be fascinating. There are so many everyday things that take on new life when examined up close.

For example, my stack of Galaxy, Nexus, and HTC phone:

Screens

Or my alarm clock:

910

How about the inflatable exercise disc used to develop better balance:

Pips

Finally, pieces of a puzzle I’m building:

Joined

01/08/2013

For reasons beyond my ken, Zack sat down and drew some sketches in a little notebook. They were entitled, “How to Be a Better Person”.

I love how “watch bad things” features a television show called The Bad Word Show. But my favorite part of being bad is probably “pass bad gas”. Ahh, potty humor.

01/08/2013

Tonight Zack learned that dish soap is not the same as dishwasher detergent. His chore was doing the dishes this evening, and the box of (granular) dishwasher detergent was empty. Looking under the sink, he spotted a big jug of soap and poured some (liquid) into the dishwasher. Away he went.

A little while later, I was beating Kyra at Mario Kart and Zack said, “Uhh, Dad, you might want to come look at this.” Suds were gushing out of the dishwasher, spreading all over the kitchen floor. Quite a sight. He explained what he’d done, which was really just an honest mistake because sometimes we have liquid dishwasher detergent.

Cleaning it up proved to be interesting. The dishwasher refused to drain, and since it was in the middle of a wash cycle all we could do was cancel and run a rinse. Well, that made things worse. It’s pretty amazing how many bubbles a quarter-cup of concentrated dish soap will make. Finally, I pulled out the shop vac and literally sucked up all the bubbles. A rinse cycle later, things seemed almost back to normal. The dishes still had a coating of bubbles, which probably means we’re going to taste soap in our food for the next few days.

Zack worked hard to help me clean it up, asking several times, “Am I in trouble?” I assured him he wasn’t, but hopefully he learned a lesson. Funny stuff.

01/05/2013

Yesterday, while making dinner, La and I were talking about college. Of course we want– and expect– all of our kids to attend college and get a degree. We have several adult friends who didn’t do that, and now due to various circumstances in their lives, they find themselves looking for a new job and having a hard time of it. Without a college education, it seems like most people end up stuck at a certain type of job with a certain salary ceiling.

We both agreed that there are definitely exceptions to the rule. Some who attend college end up in dead-end jobs anyway; some who don’t attend manage to have successful and lucrative careers despite a degree on their wall. But we both feel like college is a key element of success, at least in the working world. Coupled tightly with that is a drive, an ambition to do something more than work at Taco Bell or whatever.

Coincidentally, while reading my nightly news feeds, I stumbled across an article where someone had posted a question about whether or not he should attend college. He’s 19 and has been working on web and computer stuff for a few years, making a decent wage. He’s been attending a local community college to pick up a few credits here and there, but feels that it’s kind of a waste of time and money. So he asked the group (the Hacker News community) what they thought. Keep in mind that the audience is almost entirely made up of self-professed computer geeks (like me, hah) so there’s definitely a bias in the answers.

I thought the first response was perhaps the most insightful:

Go to college.

Take science to discover something you’re good at.
Take humanities to discover something you may love.
Take at least one art or music class.
Take at least one advanced math class.
Join a fraternity.
Learn how to play bridge (and play all night sometime).
Learn how to play foosball.
Get drunk.
Learn how to play foosball while drunk.
Play an intramural team sport.
Get a part time job.
Eat something you never tried before.
Get high.
Do original research.
Take a class you think you’ll hate pass/fail.
Do 5 minutes at a comedy club on open mike night.
Hang out with a professor you like.
Get laid.
Do a web start-up on the side.
Make a few friends for life.
Go to at least one party each week.
Pick a major you love whether it makes career sense or not.
Get someone who has written one of your text books to sign it.
Blog about your college experience.
Enter a college talent show.
Meet as many interesting (and boring) people as you can.
Read good books.
Go without shoes for a week just for the hell of it.
Graduate.

If you don’t go to college, exactly when do you expect to do all of this?

Although I don’t necessarily condone everything in that list, I did most of it in my college days. I think the reason I liked the comment so much is because it encapsulates exactly what I think college provides: a life experience. It’s so much more than books and classes and studying. It’s four or five years when you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience things you’ve never done before (and may never do again) while figuring out not only what you want to do for a career, but who you’re going to be for the rest of your life. For me, five years at UMR was absolutely life-changing. I saw new things, met new people, and in the end became a different person. I have lifelong friends from those few years. I keep in touch with a couple of professors and advisors. I cherish the things I learned and the experiences I had. For me, college was an amazing experience: one I’ll never forget or regret.

Yeah, maybe I’m thinking back on those “glory days” with a little more nostalgia than they deserve. But I really hope all of my kids elect to go to college and have those kinds of experiences for themselves.

01/05/2013

One of my 2013 resolutions is not to work on Saturdays. For the last decade I’ve generally worked every Saturday and most evenings (late into the night). I’ve decided it’s time to stop that, and trust that my business will soldier on even if I’m not putting in 50 hours a week year after year.

Today is the first Saturday of the year, of course, so I put the resolution to the test. I went down to my office because I had to do a few things on the computer this morning (not related to Zing). While there, I opened one of my desk drawers and noticed the hundred hanging file folders with old client files. There were actually two drawers with files like these; the newest ones date back to 2006. I thought it would be good to clean them out. So I went through each folder, looking for anything that might be worth saving for some kind of later purpose. I ran a few things through my scanner: receipts for big-ticket items, some tax and legal stuff, and a few other things that might come in handy one day. When finished, I tossed everything into the recycling bin. I brushed my hands, heaved a happy sigh, and felt good that my desk drawers were now empty.

I also cleaned out my inbox– a physical inbox on the desk, not a digital inbox for e-mail. In it I found an old letter from Zack to Santa. I think he wrote it several years ago; I’m not sure how it ended up in my inbox and sat there for years. But anyway, I got a chuckle out of it and thought I’d scan it for posterity. Here it is:

Handwriting aside, it clearly shows a well-thought-out logic. Introduce the topic, list the things you want, mention how good you’ve been, and finish with a little bit of flattery. Nice!

01/03/2013

Ahh, ’tis the season to start on taxes. Since payday is today, I’m researching the changes in IRS rules regarding withholdings and tax rates. Congress still doesn’t have its act together, so some of the numbers haven’t even been decided yet. Thanks, guys.

In my research I came across a site that explains how to calculate employee withholdings, and I had to laugh at this part of the page:

Yeah, right. Taxes are so easy! I remember the days when I was sixteen working at a grocery store and could fill out a 1040EZ form. Since then, things have only become more complicated…

01/03/2013

Obscure unless you used a computer in 1990.

01/03/2013

We were the Magnificent Seven. Me, Dirk, Aron, Morgan, Bech, Mat, and Derek. Best of friends in high school, we spent every weekend together and kept in touch after we went our separate ways to college, then careers and families. This year, for the first time since the early 1990’s, all seven of us were back in the St. Charles area. Well, technically all six of them were, and when I heard about it I decided to buy a plane ticket just to fly back for a few days and see everyone again.

We hooked up for some pizza and then went to Derek’s house for long hours of talking, laughing, playing poker, and reminiscing about the old times. The jokes and stories were all still funny, even if they were 20+ years old.

Derek is taking the picture, which is why he isn’t shown. Also, Bech’s iPhone camera is a piece of junk.

Yeah, it’s hard to find friends like these. Thanks, guys, and hopefully we won’t wait twenty years to do it again.