Browse Month: December 2013

The Piano Man

Today I decided to listen to Billy Joel music all day.

billy-joel

It’s been a while, but it’s like visiting an old friend. I love music by the Piano Man.

Frozen

This evening we decided to go out as a family and enjoy a movie and some pizza. Based on input from several people, we chose to see Frozen.

frozen

It turned out to be pretty good… a nice light-hearted movie with some funny moments and fun songs. Afterward we had dinner at Marco’s Pizza, conveniently located right next door to the theater. Mmm.

Merry Christmas

Ahh, another Christmas has come and gone. We had a good time opening some presents in the morning, enjoying our traditional cinnamon bread for brunch, and then playing a few board games in the afternoon.

Of course the gifts were fun:

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I bought an untested board game, Small World, because it had good reviews online and was recommended by my friend Mark.

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It turned out to be a good game, although we realized about halfway through that we were playing it wrong. Next time we’ll do better.

I made some lasagna for dinner and we spent the evening watching It’s a Wonderful Life, which is of course a classic.

All in all, it was a nice relaxing low-key day together as a family. You can’t ask for much more than that.

Providence

I do not see coincidence. I see providence.

— Morpheus

Something happened tonight that some might see as coincidence, but that I saw as providence. Pretty cool. Merry Christmas.

Git rules

Let me geek out for a moment to say how much I love working in Git. It’s a source code control system, used to track parts of a software development project and retain a history of every change made to every file. In any development environment, source control is absolutely essential, and in a team environment I think Git is the best choice.

For almost twenty years I used CVS for source control. It was great, and it seemed to do everything I needed. About a year and a half ago, a few guys on the Zing team started pushing pretty hard for us to switch to Git. We had a decade of code history in CVS, and I was really comfortable with it, so I was pretty resistant to the change. But finally I acquiesced (hey, what’s the point of having a really smart group of guys if I don’t listen to them?) and after a bit of a rocky start as I figured out how Git worked, I fell in love.

Now, as I sit here on Christmas Eve slamming out some code, I’m reminded of how awesome it is to be able to work on multiple code branches, hopping between them as I implement different features, and look at the complicated but detailed version history to figure out where something came from, and who wrote it.

Thanks, Linus, for making my development world a little brighter.

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Space Empires

Back in the early aught’s, I played a 4X strategy game called Space Empires with a bunch of friends. It’s a turn-based galactic conquest game, and after each turn you can send a game file to the next player who opens it, plays his turn, and passes it along. The games take a long time to play– sometimes months– but they’re a nice distraction every few days.

Last night Alex and I were talking about computer games, and I thought it might be fun to fire up ol’ Space Empires and see if it still worked. Yep.

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It’s a Windows game from 1999, but using Wine on Linux it’s possible to run it flawlessly. I poked around a bit, because I don’t remember much of it, but it came back pretty quickly. Now I need to see if any of those friends would be interested in a game for old times’ sake…

The beauty of the universe is truly amazing. I was looking at some photographs from NASA’s archives and saw this beautiful one of Saturn:

saturn-from-above

Of course Saturn has always held a special place for astronomers since the first sighting of its magnificent rings. There are many other things in the cosmos– moons, stars, nebulae, entire galaxies– that are both mesmerizing and mysterious. I love it.

Those objects are out there, they exist, but it is our joy of seeing them, knowing them, understanding them, that makes this such a noble endeavor. And when we see them for the first time, let the light that has traveled so unimaginably far enter our eyes, we too become part of what we study.

Ad aspera ad infinitum.

— Chris Arnade

Pinterest

This is your brain on Pinterest.

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White Elephants

No one knows quite why these parties are called “white elephant parties”, but regardless, they’re a hoot. We went to our friends’ house tonight for their annual Christmas party. Every year the crowd seems to get bigger; this year there were almost fifty of us crammed into the basement.

The challenge of a white elephant gift is that it should be something that’s interesting and sort of cool, but also somewhat cheesy and dumb. It’s a tough balance to strike. After a suggestion from Alex, we decided that our first gift would be a nice towel that was conveniently labeled to avoid any awkwardness after your shower.

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Our second gift was a cool reindeer oven mitt with a matching holiday cooking apron. Since it was actually a decent gift, we had to spice it up a bit with some mystery. We whipped up a batch of instant mashed potatoes and mixed in some black beans:

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Throw them on a pan…

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… Then cook for about 20 minutes to make something that looks somewhat like chocolate-chip cookies:

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We put them into a nice cookie tin and added them to the gift. At the party, we sat back to see who opened our gift and what would happen to the cookies. Our friend Mark picked it, but he was immediately suspicious because they didn’t look quite right. We were across the room, laughing pretty hard because he kept sniffing them and asking the people around him, “Do you know what kind of cookies these are?”

After the gift exchange, Mark wandered the room, hoping to get someone to try one of the cookies. They ended up being sort of squishy and floppy, and he suspected they were made from Play-Doh. Our friend Kurt, who we’d let in on the secret, grabbed a cookie and took a big bite. He had hoped to convince Mark they were really delicious so Mark would follow suit, but it turned out they were, in fact, pretty horrible. Kurt immediately ran upstairs to the bathroom. Priceless.

By that time Laralee and I were laughing so hard we were crying, so we had to admit to Mark that they were mashed-potato cookies with black beans. He shrugged, took a small bite, and agreed they were awful.

Surprisingly, we ended up with a couple of gifts that weren’t half bad. Laralee has a new book that’s supposedly quite good, and I have a goofy monster hat. Hey, we’ve done worse.

Zing Christmas party!

Yesterday we had an office Christmas party. We finished working around 2pm and ordered some pizza for a late lunch. A friend of mine who works at a pizza place in town said that it seemed like every company was ordering a ton of pizza as well. We opened some presents from Santa, then got down to some serious work.

There was a ping pong tournament (congratulations to our champion, Nick):

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We also had a foosball tournament (congratulations to Duncan):

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There was some Rock Band:

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We played some card games, including Dominion and Munchkin:

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A few of our neighbors dropped in, and a few others peered through the window, probably wondering why Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” was blasting so loud and people in Santa hats were playing ping pong.

All in all, it was a great time and nice way to get ready for a holiday break.

I want my two dollars

I’ve always liked two-dollar bills. I think one reason is because they’re unusual. There are always the funny stories about clerks in stores who refuse to accept them because they’ve never heard of a two-dollar bill, and so on.

I keep a little hoard of cash in my car, because now and then I need to split lunch with some friends, or pay someone for gas, or just come up with a few bucks for some activity where a credit card isn’t going to work. My stash is running low, so I thought it would be fun to replenish it with some Thomas Jefferson bills.

In the past when I’ve gone to the bank and asked for a few bucks’ worth of twos, they typically only have a few on hand. But this week, Laralee went and they had a whole stack (the teller had to go back into the vault, though). So I now have a nice stack of 50 two-dollar bills, about half of which are fresh, uncirculated ones.

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These will probably last me for six months– I don’t really use cash much– and it’ll be a good time.

Thanks, Comcast!

Today’s Comcast bill included this little gem:

Effective 1/1/14 you will receive a $5 per month loyalty discount for the next six months for the MultiLatino Package you subscribe to.

Umm… this is for the business-class internet connection at my office.  I wasn’t aware there was a MultiLatino Package in internet service.  But hey, five bucks is five bucks…

Copper

Yesterday I woke up well before the sun (ugh) and headed up to Copper Mountain for a day of skiing with some friends.  Dave, Mark, Franz, and I all piled into Dave’s BMW and hit the road.  We managed to get on the mountain just after 8:30 when the slopes opened, and by the end of the day I think we managed to ski nearly all of the blue runs.  The weather was almost perfect for skiing: around 25 degrees, sunny, and no wind.

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In the early afternoon we ran into our friend Norm, and he joined us for the rest of the day.  Here are he and I at the peak, somewhere around 12,500 feet:

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We skiied right up to 4:00 when the lifts closed, amassing an impressive eighteen runs in all.  After grinding through traffic on I-70 for a while, we stopped for dinner at Beau Jo’s in Idaho Springs.  Man, I love that place.

All in all, it was an awesome day.  Good friends and good times.

A little bit Smaugy

Alex and I caught a matinee showing of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug today.

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He was out of school a bit early, and I wanted to beat the opening-day rush.  As it turned out, I’d read the wrong showtimes online so we arrived at the theater well early.  We ended up seeing it in 3D, which isn’t a real draw for me, but it turned out to be nicely done (and Alex had never seen a 3D movie before).  Surprisingly, there were only six other people in the entire theater with us.

The show was quite good, as long as you completely suspend any notion that it’s like the book.  I think it would be better to advertise the movie as “based on characters by J.R.R. Tolkien” because there were all sorts of made-up scenes and even a magical new cross-species love story.  Of course in the books there were not only very few female characters at all (excepting Arwen and Galadriel, who were still very minor).  I guess Peter Jackson felt like we needed at least one strong female, so he introduced Tauriel, who’s a beautiful elf who totally kicks orc butt throughout the movie.

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I liked her character, although the love story was a bit stretched.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I completely missed the fact that she’s played by Evangeline Lilly of Lost fame.  Like all guys who watched that series, I was a big fan of Kate.

All in all, both Alex and I thought it was a good flick– arguably better than the first movie– and we’re excited to see everything wrap up in the third movie next year (or are there plans for a fourth? sheesh).

Me and myself

Attention, people who want to sound sophisticated:

It’s almost always grammatically incorrect to use “and myself” in a phrase.  For example,

… This document contains feedback from Steve and myself.

I think people are so afraid to say “and me” that they look for anything else.  Even worse than the above is the inevitable, “… from Steve and I”.  Aieee!

Happy birthday, Doom

The classic PC game Doom was released 20 years ago today.  Ahh, I remember many long hours in the campus computer labs blowing the smithereens out of low-resolution monsters, and using the rocket launcher in ambushes against my friends.

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So many things about that game were amazing: the 3D textured walls, the fact that you could play against other people over the network, the ability to create your own maps (WAD file, anyone?),… truly, it was a landmark in the world of computer gaming.  Kids these days take all of that stuff for granted because pretty much every game since then has incorporated those things.

I remember that Doom became so widespread that the campus IT team would actively search student accounts (on the Novell Netware system, no less!) and delete the doom.exe file.  Of course, being the clever guys we were, we’d simply rename the file to something innocuous like unicorns.exe.

Good times.  I should install it on my system and fire it up, just for old times’ sake.  Happy birthday, old friend.

 

Christmas audio CD

Since both Laralee and I are terrible at coming up with gift ideas, it was great when she thought of something pretty cool for her mom.  As a family, we all sat around reading classic Christmas stories while Alex recorded them on his Mac.  He then did a little audio cleanup, converted them to MP3 files, and we’ll burn them to a CD for mom.  She can then listen to her grandchildren telling stories– many of which are from a collection of Christmas tales that she gave us many years ago.

I, of course, picked the most classic Christmas story of all:

Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot.
But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, did not

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Christmas cards

Today we worked on mailing our annual Christmas cards… all 221 of them!

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White elephant gift ideas

Last year at the annual white elephant Christmas party we attend every year, someone brought an amazing gift: a Blankeez family-size snuggie. It was absolutely hilarious.

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As it turned out, it was just an empty box because the whole thing is a gag.  This year, as I consider what to bring to the party, I’m wondering if a similar gag gift would be appropriate.  I found the Extreme Chores video game pack, as well as Connect-a-Cord:

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But I feel like the best one is going to be the iArm:

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Apple fans will especially appreciate it.  Hah!

 

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