Browse Month: January 2014

Hard drive guts

My main data drive failed a few weeks ago (fortunately I have backups) so I wanted not only to get rid of it, but to make sure all of the personal data was unrecoverable. That meant, of course, cracking open the hard drive casing and trashing the disks.

For some reason I find the guts of hard drives to be fascinating. Terabytes of data stored on silvery magnetic platters, delicate motors and read heads that can position themselves to micrometer accuracy, the ability to stream hundreds of millions of bits of data per second… cool stuff.

Permit me a few macro shots.

hard-disk-1

hard-disk-2

hard-disk-4

hard-disk-3

After I had everything out, I took the platters outside, set them on the sidewalk, and smashed them with a hammer. Laralee pointed out that in the movies, all data seems to be recoverable no matter how bad the fire/explosion/chemical spill was. But I’m pretty sure I took care of this stuff…

Winter wonderland

We woke up this morning to find about 10″ of snow on the ground. The kids were disappointed that school hadn’t been cancelled (the roads were pretty slick) but after all of the days that were cancelled due to the September floods, I suspect it would take a snowpocalypse to get out of school now. Or a polar vortex, whatever that is.

Anyway, I walked Zack to school and it was pretty cool to see everything in quiet white. I took a few pictures on the way.

snowy-bridge

snowy-branches

snow-fence-red-building

Dude, Colorado

I had to pay my state employment taxes today so I went to the State of Colorado’s home page at www.colorado.gov. I don’t know who they have handling their graphic design, but…

dude-colorado

Wow. Stay classy, Colorado. Dude.

OK

I just purchased some software from a well-known security vendor. I’m not sure what I did wrong on the form where I enter my billing information, but I guess I’ll never know. They have an amazing error message:

umm-error

Undaunted by this display of web programming prowess, I perservered and re-entered the data. Now I get something slightly more helpful:

umm-error-2

A new favorite food

At dinner Laralee remarked, “My new favorite food is whipped cream.”

That was kind of shocking coming from the woman who makes “green drinks” from horrid mixtures of juiced vegetables and some kind of crazy powder that contains all the tasty goodness of chlorophyll. Maybe we’re entering a new era of dining at Casa del Schroeder…

Socks affect my pong game

I lost a couple of ping-pong games against Brent this afternoon. During the game I kept feeling my socks sliding around under me. These are new socks I just bought because I’ve worn holes in a few other pair.

Back in my office, I discovered the reason they felt strange. Both socks had literally rotated 180 degrees around my feet and were upside-down. What the heck is this:

incorrect-sock-rotation

Much better:

correct-sock-rotation

Clearly this was the reason for my loss. I’ve appealed to the U.S. Table Tennis Association to find out the ruling for “rotated socks”. I believe that’s in the rules somewhere.

Brrr… lava

My basement office is always a little cooler than the rest of the house. On a hot summer day, that’s a wonderful thing. On a cold winter day, it means I have to bundle up a bit more as I venture downstairs to work.

Today it was cold enough that the lava in the lamps beside my monitors couldn’t muster up the courage to actually float.

coldlava

The lamps were on all day but only managed to make huge blobs that sat morosely on the bottom.

I had to explain to Kyra and her gaggle of friends that lava lamps work by heating up the waxy “lava” material, which then floats up in the liquid where it cools off and then sinks back down. The cycle repeats, and the mystical beauty of lava lamps is created.

It’s kind of a bummer that today I just saw fat blobs.

Uptime

It seems like kind of a shame to reboot a server that’s been running non-stop for six and a half years:

09:54:27 up 2392 days, 19:50, 3 users, load average: 0.26, 0.41, 0.22

Old School D&D

Zack’s friends have been playing Dungeons and Dragons with him lately. It’s kind of funny because he comes home after a six-hour marathon gaming session and tells me all about the excitement: “So we opened the door and there was a group of orcs and I cast a level-ten spell of orc-slaying and took out their leader with my Sword of Magical Stuff (+5 against orc leaders) and then we found the mystical Orb of Seeing Things and…”

So for Christmas I gave Zack my ancient collection of D&D manuals:

d-and-d

These are vintage early-80’s books that have been gathering dust in our crawlspace for a while. I remember buying them and reading about all of the rules, abilities, monsters, and so forth. But then Dirk’s mom decided that he couldn’t play D&D because it promoted satanism and killing people with swords. We ended up playing Star Frontiers instead, which is basically a science-fiction version of D&D where you kill people with laser blasters instead. Oh well.

I’m glad these books will finally go to good use.

Classics

A few weeks ago I shipped my entire collection of old photo negatives to a company called ScanCafe. Today they were returned safe and sound, along with four DVD’s packed with the high-resolution digital scans of those photos. There are 4,044 in all.

I’m just poking around right now, but in the next few days I’ll probably sit down with the kids and we’ll walk through all of these on the bigscreen (our TV can show photos from our collection). I’m sure it’ll be an absolute riot as we remember some hilarious moments. Heck, moments aside, it’s just funny to see how my friends and I looked twenty years ago.

I’ll probably post some of them here in the coming days, partly to share stories but partly to embarrass anyone else in the pictures who happens to read this blog.

Sportsing

Yep, this pretty much sums up professional sports.

sportsing
Props to VectorBelly

Chicken nuggets

For reasons beyond my ken, Brian and James have been talking for weeks about having a grand chicken-nugget-eating competition. James insisted that a real man would be able to down sixty nuggets at a sitting.

chicken-nuggets

Today, finally, was the day. They went to McDonald’s (purveyor of the finest nuggets) and each bought a box of sixty nuggets. The cashier handed Brian a slip of paper and told him next time he could call ahead for an order like this.

Back at the office, they went to work. They both managed to put down thirty-some nuggets before deciding sixty was a bit too ambitious. Brian finally managed to polish off forty, but James had to call it quits after a mere thirty-one.

Real men, indeed.

Vinz Clortho

I received an error email from Ben’s development machine, where he’s doing some work for a client. In the email I can see his computer’s hostname, vinz_clortho. I didn’t know what that meant, but a quick internet search revealed that Vinz Clortho is the Keymaster of Gozer, and the alter-ego of Louis Tully.

louis-tully

Now it all makes sense. Ben has proven once again that he’s the king of obscure cultural references.

Lava lamps!

Brent and I stopped by a client’s office today to talk briefly about a little project they have. We dropped off a Zing lava lamp as a token of goodwill.

lava-lamp

The women working there literally shrieked with delight. They were ecstatic about it, and kept going on and on about how this was the “best schwag ever!”

It’s fun to give a nice little marketing gimmick (Brent’s idea) that makes people so excited. Then again, these lava lamps are pretty cool… I have one on my desk.

Morning person

One of my resolutions this year is to get up earlier. Laralee and the kids are all up and going by 7:00 every morning, and I would tend to sleep until 8:30 and then roll into the office by 9:00 or a little later. I’ve always enjoyed staying up late and sleeping in, but I felt a little guilty snoozing for more than an hour after everyone else was already at school.

So this year I’ve decided to be in bed by midnight and up at 7:00 at least four days a week (I get one day to sleep in). Last night I was engrossed in some research and ended up staying up until about 1:00am. Not surprisingly, this morning I decided to make it my sleep-in day. I finally rolled out of bed around 8:30. But I felt pretty groggy, and didn’t have the usual energy I’ve felt the past few weeks as I’ve been rising at 7:00.

Clearly I ended up with roughly the same amount of sleep, but the late start was kind of a drag. I hate to admit it to myself, but I may be slowly turning into a morning person. No, not one of those people who rises with the sun and dances about, talking about what a beautiful day it is and insisting that everyone else be up with the birds as well. But still, perhaps there’s something to getting an early start on the day and going to bed at a reasonable time and not 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.

We’ll see how this turns out…

Random names

Udi’s is one of our clients, and as part of their buyout and business shift, they’re renaming the company. They’ve invited “vendors and friends” to help with the renaming effort, so I just received an email invitation to a web site where they’re asking for suggestions.

There’s a $1,000 party for the person who suggests the winning name. The rules say this:

“Enter early and often and YOU just might be the one who renames Udi’s.”

My diabolical brain thinks “Hmm, it’s just an HTML form. I could write a script that submits thousands of random names. That would overwhelm the rest of the competition, and greatly increase the likelihood that I’d win!”

I’m convinced that rock bands and startup companies just use random name generators that combine two dictionary words.

face + book
linked + in
green + day
smashing + pumpkins
etc.

Why not Udi’s?

Heh heh heh.

2014 means laundry

It’s official– as of this year, all of our kids are responsible for their own laundry. Zack was doing his first load in the washer the other day and he told Laralee to take a picture of him.

laundry

He was so proud. Now it’ll be interesting to see whether he manages to actually do his laundry weekly. He’s the kid who would go for a week without showering if he could…

Honor band, take 1

Tonight we headed up to UNC to watch Kyra play in an honor band. There were about a hundred students selected from 18 high schools in northern Colorado, and they did a great job.

There’s my girl, the floutist:

kyra-flouting

No bathing in the sink!

Seen in a restroom at UNC in Greeley tonight:

no-bathing-in-sink

I guess there were problems with people bathing in the sink…

Money and wealth

Last night I read a thought-provoking article by Daniel Tenner about the difference between money and wealth. Having a big pile of money, he argues, is not the same as being wealthy. Rather, wealth is the ability to create money.

Money, everyone knows, is simply a way to facilitate the exchange of things of value. I can buy a candy bar or a house with money, and the recipient of my money can then use it to buy a book or a game console or whatever. In the end, it’s the candy bar and the house that have value to me; the money doesn’t have intrinsic value. Daniel says:

Money is not a net income generating asset. Money is not wealth. Money is a medium of exchange. By reading about rich people, you’ll notice they generally try to avoid having a load of cash lying around, because money is not a place to store wealth. It is and has always been, historically, a very, very poor store of wealth. Currency, since its invention, has been a fantastic tool to facilitate exchanges of things of wealth. That is what it is, nothing more, nothing less. Our economy could not function without money, but its value is not in the money. The relationship between value and money is like that between a community and a message board, or a bicycle and its tires. The first can exist without the other, but the second without the first is mostly useless.

He goes on to talk about creating wealth:

Having piles of money may occasionally happen on the way to getting rich, but it’s not the goal, nor a desirable thing. To get rich, what you want is net income generating assets, including the skills to generate those net income generating assets. Learning how to turn business opportunities into functioning businesses is an invaluable net income generating asset. But the fundamental pillars of wealth seem to me to be health (including youth, energy, endurance), education (including work ethic, general knowledge, wisdom, self-knowledge), intelligence and relationships (connections to useful people, trust, reputation, power).

Instead on focusing on how to accumulate money, you should instead focus on how to turn money (or other things) into things that create more money.

And finally, the whole point of having wealth:

Wealth is highly relative to the person. You are wealthy not if you exceed some social threshold, like being a millionaire or a billionaire, but simply if you have enough wealth to meet all your needs.

I find all of this to be interesting, particularly at this point in my life, because I’m now almost a year beyond my self-imposed goal to retire at age 40 and I don’t have a solid “exit strategy”. Back at the tender age of 26, when I made this wild plan, I had decided that having two million dollars in the bank would allow me to retire and live a nice comfortable life by earning 5% annually on that money.

Well, here I am, with nowhere close to two million dollars in the bank, working nearly as many hours every week as I did a decade ago. Something needs to change. I’ve set some resolutions for myself this year; amongst them is the desire to work fewer than 40 hours every week and generally taking time off on Fridays. We’ll see how that goes.

But that still leaves me wondering what my “retirement” is going to look like, and when I might be able to ease into it. This essay has let me view it in a slightly different light: rather than having a pile of money in the bank, perhaps I should instead focus on how to have enough money to meet my needs and continue generating this money for the next sixty years or more.

Owning two businesses is certainly a big step toward this, so long as I can ease back on my involvement in both of them, allowing the businesses (and ultimately the employees) to keep me in the lap of luxury. Heck, after all of the long nights and weekends building up my businesses for the past fourteen years, I’ve probably earned it.

It’ll be interesting to see how things change this year and whether I can take the next step toward retirement (and, more specifically, wealth).

  • 1
  • 2