Browse Month: April 2014

Zing bowling

At Zing we’re always on the lookout for an activity to do as a company. We’ve gone skiing, whitewater rafting, go-karting, and even enjoyed dinner in the Pope Room. So when Josh suggested we go bowling, it seemed like a great idea.

This afternoon five of us left the office a little early. We headed over to Centennial Lanes and played a few games.

Brent had the most consistency of anyone. Unfortunately he consistently put the ball in the right gutter.

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Josh looks sad after this shot.

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After the first game, Brent decided it was time to get serious. He started surfing bowling sites on the web and found some tips that really improved his game. The tips included things like “do not bowl if you have an arm injury”.

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We all agreed that Nick had the best form, including the professional-looking “put your right leg behind your left after release”.

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We also agreed that the shoes really made the outfit. Where else does thirteen bucks get you five pairs of hot-pink-and-fluorescent-yellow shoes?

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I should point out that, despite not having bowled in well over a decade, I was the champ of the first game with a very impressive score of 140. Honestly I was surprised to break 100.

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All in all, I’d consider this another successful Zing outing.

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Butt text

So everyone’s heard of “butt-dialing” where you get a phone call and hear nothing but strange rustling noises. The caller has their phone in their back pocket and accidentally hit speed dial or redial or whatever to call you.

Until the other day, I’d never received a “butt text” before. My friend, who shall remain nameless, started sending me a bunch of cryptic messages.

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Until he sent the final one, I was wondering if it was (1) a photo or something that hadn’t been encoded properly, or (2) a secret code that I was supposed to decipher to find a prize. I was a little disappointed to discover it was neither.

Shaken, not stirred

When we go to thrift stores, we often look for unusual glasses. We have a set of standard 8oz glasses we bought at Walmart however long ago, but over time they tend to crack and break. Since we’ll never match them anyway, we’ve decided it’s more fun to have a bunch of random completely unmatched glasses. We have shot glasses, tall skinny ones, short fat ones, curvy ones, and on and on.

While in Utah a few weeks ago, we went to a thrift store and Alex, Zack, and I all chose glasses for ourselves. I found a sweet martini glass. We didn’t have any of those, so it seemed like a good fit.

It’s fun to drink my orange juice from a martini glass…

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Shaken, not stirred, please.

Stoichiometry

Kyra’s been struggling a bit with chemistry of late, so we sat down this evening to work together on some problems for her upcoming test.

It’s been a long time since I did any serious chemistry, but I remember being quite fond of it. Balancing chemical reactions is very much like algebra, where you solve for unknowns and figure out ratios and so forth. Plus it’s called “stoichiometry” which is an awesome name.

So we looked at a lot of reactions like this:

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We talked about molecular weights, limiting and excess reagents, theoretical yields, carbonates and oxides, moles and grams, and on and on. Fun stuff.

She wasn’t nearly as excited about it as me. I think I was just happy that I remembered how to do it. And hopefully I explained it well enough that she’ll ace the test now…

Ahh, LinkedIn, how I love to hate thee

Does anyone actually like LinkedIn? It seemed like a good idea a decade ago… well, maybe not a good idea, but not the most terrible idea in all of history. But over time it’s morphed into a monstrous network of spammy resumes and irritating invitation emails.

I created a profile years ago because I own a business and, well, people expect business owners to have LinkedIn profiles. But I’ve never really done anything with it, so it’s pretty void of meaningful content. My only real interactions with LinkedIn are the occasional invitations I accept from people I haven’t heard from in years.

This evening, as I clicked to accept another such invitation, I couldn’t help but notice the incredibly useful list of potential contacts that LinkedIn presented to me.

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Let’s summarize this stellar group of businesspeople who will certainly help me to grow my “network”:

A health coach… from somewhere in the Denver area.

The outsourcing director of a company in India.

Someone who works at a credit union.

Someone… who lives somewhere in the United States and does non-descript work. This is perhaps the most puzzling of all.

A postdoc in South Africa.

A creative director at a company I’ve actually heard of. This is, by far, the most promising lead of the group… and it’s still horrible.

I must admit, with these pickin’s, maybe I should just roll the dice and hook up with “United States” guy. Or gal? This could be my ticket!

Estimates

Software development is a tough business when clients want to know how much something will cost. It’s certainly reasonable for our clients to want to understand how much budget they need to allocate for a project, and I always do my best to provide them with estimates to the best of what we know.

However, sometimes it’s hard to convey to them that (1) an estimate is almost never right, and (2) there are certain things where it’s actually impossible to estimate what it’ll take to accomplish their goal. Sometimes this is because we’ve never used the technology; other times it’s because they just don’t know quite what they want.

Just now I got hit with the latter. Here’s part of an actual client email:

At high level I see you will have to perform following tasks (and probably much more)…

[bullet list of three things]
 
For budget purpose, can you please give me a high-level cost estimate to make these changes (as well as other changes)?

This happens to be a fairly major project that will affect an entire product line. My client has managed to collapse the entire thing down to three bullet points, and “probably much more”. And I’m supposed to estimate this…?

Perhaps I should give my standard reply:

One million dollars will certainly cover it.

Chewbacca Roar Contest

It’s a good thing Laralee never reads this blog, because I think I’m going to do this on April 1, 2015.

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Ye Olde Rice

We have a tin can of rice in our pantry. It’s fifteen years old.

Every now and then I break it out and cook some rice, either plain steamed rice or stir-fried with vegetables. It always seems fine, even though the rice is older than at least one of my children. Honestly, I can’t imagine that rice actually “goes bad”… I envision archaeologists uncovering an ancient Buddhist temple in Japan and finding a container of rice, then throwing it into the wok for dinner.

Laralee, on the other hand, thinks it’s ridiculous that I eat food that old. Every time she sees me pull out the can, she reminds me that she buys rice now and then at the store (which she uses). And every time I shrug and use the old stuff.

Anyway, today I had a hankerin’ for rice so I opened the can to find…

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Ha! Well played, Laralee.

I used it anyway.

Heartbleed

Well, it’s been one of those weeks.

On Monday, internet security researchers reported a flaw in the OpenSSL software that underlies almost every open-source security package in the world. Any web server or login account that relies on the software was vulnerable to an attack that would allow the bad guys to steal user credentials, decrypt financial data in browser sessions, impersonate secure sites, and so forth. It was generally agreed this was a Bad Thing– Bruce Schneier himself remarked, “On a scale of one to ten, this is an eleven”.

It was dubbed “Heartbleed”, and it’s such a big deal that it even has it’s own… logo?

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So, starting on Tuesday, I went to work patching the software on all of my servers. I currently own 115 of them at my hosting facility, and I manage about 20 more for various clients. Although the patch itself wasn’t all that complicated, it required manually updating every server, rebooting it, and confirming that it came back online okay and all of the services were running normally. Yeesh.

Every night this week I went down to my basement office after dinner and camped out there until about 1:30 in the morning. After three days of that, I was pretty beat. Then, today, I updated the login keys my team and I use to access all of our servers. This was more a precautionary measure than a necessity, but we all agreed it was prudent. That took most of my afternoon. The next step– which will wait until next week– is to revoke and re-issue the security certificates we’re using on various web sites.

Of course I’m not alone: I suspect almost every system administrator in the world was putting in extra hours this week to mitigate Heartbleed. Since this was completely unexpected, all of the projects I’d planned to do were sidelined, and next week will be a game of catch-up. Hoo boy.

At the end of the day, though, I feel pretty good about updating over a hundred servers, communicating with my clients about it, answering their questions, and keeping everything running. This afternoon I commented to Laralee:

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Her response (because she’s awesome) was “That doesn’t sound too hard.”

Zing disc golf

Today at lunch, five of us at Zing went out to play some disc golf. This was my first time ever playing, and I felt a little intimidated by Noah (who’d played in college), Brent (who’d played before someone’s wedding?), and Ben (who seemed to know a lot about the game). Nick hadn’t played before but brought his own collection of discs, as did the others. I was the only one without the specialized “drivers” and “mid-rangers” and “putters”. I brought one of my standard 175g ultimate discs, but was politely informed that it’s not kosher to use those in a game of disc golf.

There’s a little course in a local park, and about half a dozen other people were already there playing. It was a beautiful day. The game began, and we all laughed as various throws veered way off course or splashed into the nearby creek or hit trees.

I took a few pictures with my phone (ugh) but none of them quite captured the true thrill of the action.

Nick watches his drive soar, although if I didn’t know better it looks like he’s testing some hip new dance moves:

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I almost got the shot of the disc leaving Ben’s hand, but instead it appears he’s casting a spell or something:

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Noah demonstrates good technique shortly before clobbering a tree:

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We played for about an hour and had a great time. Although it’s certainly not the same as ultimate, it was fun.

Blinkenlights

Today I was at BitRelay, upgrading a few servers. Every now and then I take pictures of my 100+ servers so I can remember where everything is, what’s plugged into what, etc.. So I took a few creative shots as well… ahh, blinkenlights…

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Spring break 2014

Last week was spring break for the kids. A few days prior, we’d been talking about what to do. The leading plan was to head down to southern Colorado and do some hiking, then find a hotel with a pool and hot tub and enjoy an evening soak.

Our plans changed when Laralee’s sister Cil called to announce her engagement, and the wedding date of… a week later. Wow, talk about a quick engagement! Luckily the wedding was the week of spring break, so instead of Colorado Springs we found ourselves loading up the van for a trip out to St. George, Utah.

Despite the fact that it was April, the mountain passes were pretty snowy and I-70 was treacherous in spots. There was apparently a bad accident a little before the Eisenhower Tunnel, and it backed up traffic a long way. This was the view we had for nearly an hour:

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We followed this Jeep at a snail’s pace, and in fact we were third from the end of the miles-long line of cars because the State Patrol had closed I-70 behind us and diverted traffic to side roads. Good times. However, when I get stuck in traffic due to an accident, I always remind myself that the guy in the accident is having a much worse day than I am.

Eventually we crawled through the Tunnel and made it to the western slopes, where we stopped at the awesome Hanging Lake rest area and walked along the river for a bit.

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Continuing west, we drove through the San Rafael Swells in central Utah. I really like the geology of the area, and we stopped at all of the scenic views.

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All told, the 700-mile trip took almost fifteen hours. To their credit, the kids endured that time in the van well and we had a lot of fun. Kyra’s best friend Hannah joined us because she didn’t really have anything else planned for spring break– it was fun to have her along for the ride.

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In St. George the weather was really nice: mostly sunny with temperatures in the 60’s. We went walking around the neighborhood, played ultimate at a local park, and even did some service work at the church. Saturday was the big day, and the wedding was held in the backyard of a house a few blocks away. Here are Cil and Jim saying their vows as Cil’s kids and grandkids look on:

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And of course in the end, the happy couple smooched:

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Today we drove back and made much better time, arriving back in Longmont after only eleven hours. Although it wasn’t quite what we’d had in mind for spring break, it was a lot of fun to see the family and celebrate Cil’s marriage.

If only more of our society felt this way…

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