Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Up at Copper


Here's a shot of Delaney and I from yesterday.

And video of D going down.


video

A Nice Run

Tia said it was beautiful as I came downstairs with running clothes on. I was looking forward to seeing what happens next in Star Trek: The Next Generation, I got season one from Santa :), but decided to walk outside and see. I had on a short sleeve t-shirt and shorts, and it was nice, so I took off for a run. I went longer than normal, but I wanted to be sure I did the mile. I made it to the 2nd bus stop, 27 minutes out and back, and feel OK, a nice pace, not too fast, not too slow.

I hate the cold and wind, and was slightly chilly on the way out with a 4-5mph wind in my face, but with the sun shining, I was actually warm on the way back. It was a nice way to close out the year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Copper Mountain

Today we finally got back to the mountains to ski. I'd worked late Sunday and yesterday trying to get stuff done so we could go up. Kyle wanted to hang with friends and Kendall was still sick, so Delaney and I packed up and left after I checked on email this am.

We grabbed my iPod and Kendall's Nano, then lost the Nano when Kendall woke up and refused. So I grabbed Tia's and then just as we were pulling out of the garage, Kendall came out and gave us her Nano again. Headphones don't go in there, so we were thinking that there was a different size plug, so we stopped at Target, but couldn't find anything. It wasn't a big deal, and Delaney and I took turns with my new Giro audio helmet, listening to my iPod. On the way back we stopped at Best Buy and they confirmed it's the same plug. Then we realized that something was stuck in there. We think Kyle broke headphones in there and then traded with Kendall, but who knows.

In any case, we were just outside Idaho Springs when traffic ground to a halt. We managed to creep to the exit and get off for coffee (yes, I made it to Idaho Springs without coffee), and we checked the Internet on my Sidekick to see what our options were. No news on an accident, and when we checked Eldora and Echo, both just behind us, they were closed. How crazy is that?

We drove through town, got back in traffic, and around the bend at St Mary's, we saw there was a 5 car accident in the left lane. They were towing things and we got past and then raced out to Copper Mountain.

We were there late, about 11, and quickly geared up, got Delaney's ticket and got in line. The first lift had a really long line and when we got to the front, my 4 pack was invalid. This is a blackout week, so we had to get out of line, go buy a ticket (I still got the $20 discount) and then jumped back in another long line. Fortunately we got through it and made it to the top.

It was a great day, sunny, very little wind except near the top, about 34F, and we had good snow. Delaney struggled the first run, very nervous and worried, especially on a narrow patch, but we ate lunch and then went back up and he did great. I took a few pictures and then decided to chase him with some video. So I held the camera in my hand and rode down behind him. The video is downstairs, but I'll upload some tomorrow. It's pretty cool.

Adding Value

I went to get new business cards from VistaPrint today. There are lots of choices and it took longer than I expected. I almost bailed out from the choices, but I had an issue recently with mine.
I needed to get some books sent back to my house, so I wrote out my address, printed labels, and then I handed out a business card at a trade show to a shipper. I got a call later asking if I was sending things to the Florida address. That threw me until I remembered the company used to be in Florida. I corrected them, but it made me realize my business cards were woefully out of date.
And I just realized that despite my quick design, they're still out of date. I got the main brand on there, but forgot one of the others. Oh well, after the holidays I'll get my artist working on a new one.
In any case, I started as I always do with a quick Google search and picked Vistaprint, who was the first result, I've used them before, and they had a special on the front page, $3.99 for 250 cards. That's more than I need, and so I opted to go over there.
After working through the designs, I ended up clicking "checkout" and they showed me what I saved with their special, however the total was $22, which surprised me. I'd opted for some labels, but those were around $5. I didn't think a lot of it, moved on, and on the next page I saw shipping at $14, which all of a sudden made me rethink things.
A couple interesting observations on the process.

Things I like:

From a business standpoint, I thought VistaPrint did a good job upselling me. They presented a number of options at each point of the selling process. An example below:

vistaprint_b

A few times I missed the red upsells, but that was my rush, and it could result in more sales for them.

They added additional, related products, with my customized logo. Here’s a couple they had:

vistaprint_d

There were many more, probably 3 or 4 pages worth of goods and services, including Google Adwords and a website, which made sense. This is a good time to add value for a customer, and since people probably don’t get business cards too often, the extra annoyance probably doesn’t hurt too much.

Things I Didn’t Like

There were a few things that I think bordered on sneaky or unethical. This might seem like a great deal:

vistaprint_e

but when I go to checkout on the next step, I see this:

vistaprint_f

Nowhere in the process was I ever informed of shipping costs (I went back and looked) and to offer me a deal of $4 for cards, but check $10 for shipping, something I might overlook, seems a little sneaky and disingenuous. I feel a bit like this is a markup on a service that makes no sense. A package like this should cost about $2-3 to ship, and even doubling that for handling doesn’t get me to $10.

It’s about managing their Q and I’m sure you’re paying for priority on the presses, but they present this as a shipping item, which seems a bit unethical. In the order for color cards, which I did the first time, the cost for Standard was over $13.

I checked a few other places and their prices aren’t too far off from what you might pay elsewhere, but the presentation is different. They make me think like I’m getting a deal, I’m not, and then I feel a bit deceived. If I plan to pay $20 for cards from somewhere else, I’m happy. Here I planned to pay $10 and feel ripped off when I end up with $20 of charges.

Lessons for Business

More and more people are becoming more informed shoppers. The average person that might hit your site has likely ordered something from Amazon or another online retailer and so they know what to expect with shipping.

While I like up-selling and convenience, deceiving people likely won’t pay off in the long run. People will move on to other businesses.

The exception might be if you have a niche like Vistaprint and you don’t look for a ton of repeat business. I likely wont’ go there again and will look for other companies to service my needs.

Monday, December 29, 2008

90%

I took Kendall to the doctor this morning, between 5-6 days of low grade fever and a couple weeks under the weather, we wanted to get her checked. While I was there I asked if she could have a physical, because of course, she was feeling OK this morning.

So they checked her and she's about 90% for height and weight, on track with the way she's been. She has some infection, so we got antibiotics and she got 3 shots. Since she was getting 2 anyway, I went ahead and let her get a flu shot as well. I'm not sold they work, but I figured we'd check and see.

She put up with them well, but didn't like them and had some tears by the third one. She cried a bit as we got to the car, sure the pain wouldn't go away, but by the time we got back here she was fine.

Now we just need to schedule Delaney to get a check up and a few shots of his own.

LED Lighting

I got some LED bulbs from the C Crane Company and tested them in a few places. I actually have a few running on a regular basis in the house and they’re OK, but not great. The light diffusion isn’t great. I think there’s still work to do here on this technology, and perhaps some work for me to figure out where these make sense.

I see LEDs working well in a few places. Flashlights are a great place since power is a concern and LEDs shine in one direction well and use very little power. However we don’t waste a lot of power with flashlights, so this is a convenient place to use them, not one that impacts the world.

Auto makers are using them more and more in headlights. That’s OK, but they bother my eyes and I wish they weren’t being used. However that’s probably something I have to learn to live with.

I saw a note that in North Caroline there are tests going for these bulbs in streetlights. That’s not a bad idea since we burn a lot of KW every night in those lights for safety and convenience.

Surprisingly these work well because they don’t disperse light. They shine directly down. That’s interesting since I thought the idea was that it would brighten an area. Maybe it’s a way to get kids back together in a single, safe spot at night.

And save money. Between the power savings and the life of the bulb, there’s some good savings in labor and potentially smaller government. Always a good thing.

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The Archives

I moved the blog from my personal site to blogger a few months ago and I have to say that I really like it. The ability to use Live Writer (as I’m doing now) to write offline, or partial post and then post that is key. Tagging and the feeds are also a big deal to me.

However one thing that I miss is the One Year Ago section that I’ve had on my home page. It goes back one year from today and grabs any entries and displays them, reminding me of what was going on then. It’s one of those neat things that I really like.

Blogs tend to work by listing the last xxx posts, letting you catch up, but they miss out on a couple of things. One is the daily listing, which I understand might not work for most people . After all, most people don’t post daily, much less multiple times.

The other is the ability to look back in time and remind yourself. It’s nice to have an automatic way to do this. I’ve heard there’s a decent API for Blogger, so I might need to look into that. Looks like this might be a good project for me.

How Car Dealerships Cope

From Denis Gobo’s blog, hopefully this is a misprint.

I wonder how they will cope. Tia’s sister just bought a new truck, got a great deal, and we see some good deals out there. Tia wants a nicer truck, but I think we’ll pass for now. I still think that things are just too expensive and they need to drastically re-think their business and retool.

I Ride

I write on a daily basis, and while I don't find it hard to come up with things to say, it is hard to write something great every day. Actually it's probably hard to write something great ever.

I try and I think there are some great things I've written, but in trying to get something done every day, I find it hard to write something that will stick with people. Something that is inspirational and touches people. And it's not just me. I find it hard to find anything out there in the hundreds of pieces I read each week.

I Ride

I found this one from an unlikely source: my wife. I read her blog regularly, mostly to just keep in touch with how she's doing with horses. Typically she writes about how she's doing this or that with the horses, how the ride went, etc. It's one way that I learn more about her and see what she's doing in life. Most of the time when I follow her writing I think it's more for her clients and people working with horses than anything.

However when I read this post, I had to stop and read it again. I could feel the passion and it really meant something. It really touched me a bit, not because it's my wife, or because I like horses (I don't), but because the intensity of someone's emotion came through.

It's the type of passage I wish I could write more often.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Super Insulation

Did a wind survey online and our house shows Level 2, barely adequate for wind energy. I wonder how accurate that is.

As I edited the December Energy Update, I was doing a bit of research into other wind power, super-insulated houses, and what we might be able to do here. I'd like to experiment a little, but I'm not sure how economical it is.

I have been thinking larger scale, but perhaps I should go smaller scale. Maybe I should build another smaller building, go with small scale and try to do low level heating, maybe see if I can make a solar collector that heats one water heater, or even add another shed, a small scale workshop, that's super-insulated, and see if I can drastically reduce the power usage on a small scale.

NFL Rewind - Slice and Dice Viewing

With my daughter sick today, laying in my bed and watching her horse movies, I was thinking that I wouldn't be able to watch any NFL today. It's the last day of the season, and while there are playoff games coming, it's a bit exciting with 3 division races and about 10 or 12 teams in the race.

So I wondered what options I might have for seeing the games on my computer while she watched her movies. I checked out DirectTV, and they were happy to sell me the Sunday Ticket for $289. That's not horrible especially as it includes next year, but that's a pretty good spend when I'd probably watch 2-3 games a week. If it included the computer streaming, I'd be interested, but it doesn't. I have to spent another $70 for that, which isn't terribly exciting. To me it's a good opportunity for them, but that seems like they've priced themselves out of the market for many people.

I'd be curious see how many people subscribe, and then I wonder if they'd be willing to break up the package a bit, maybe let people buy a 1 day (or 1 week) access. It should be trivial in today's world to easily have people purchase a day, get access, and then turn it off after Monday night.

I checked out the NFL Rewind as well. I've heard it advertised a bit as well as the NBC streaming for the Sunday night game. The NFL Rewind is interesting, but it doesn't get you live games. It gets you a recap of the week, so I could watch a bit over the week of the games from today, but it doesn't help me if I'm sitting here with my daughter.

I can't quite understand why the NFL goes to such lengths to protect local markets. Almost every game sells out, and if it doesn't, blacking out the local games doesn't necessarily mean that I will buy tickets the next time. It means that I have less of a reason to get excited and follow the team.

In my mind, you'd be better off slicing and dicing your products. Sell access to a game online, or on cable/satellite, do it for a reasonable number. $4.99 for a single game? Technology makes it easy, and you can make money outside your local market. I'd be tempted to grab the Cowboys games a few times a year. And if the local game doesn't sell out, sell it everywhere in the local market as well. Split with the owners and let them make back some money.

And give us more camera angles. I don't get how after years and years of NFL, and growing popularity, that we don't have multiple cameras available on each game, even different channels. Let us choose how to watch it and especially if we get streaming.

To me the NFL is really missing out here. They're very popular, but forcing these large bundles, trying to get larger payments is an old way of doing business. The new model should be to have a more flexible model. They could even pilot this in certain markets, let people on the waiting lists pilot the access, see how many might actually purchase additional "products" and then redo the ROI calculations on wide-scale deployment.

The Goldfish Experiment

I was corresponding with a friend a few weeks ago and mentioning what a pain it is to clean out the horse water tanks this time of year. Typically every week or so we let one of them get close to empty, dump out the remaining, spray it a little and then use a stiff bristled broom to try and scrub away the algae that’s accumulated. With a tank that’s nearly 5 ft long, 3 ft high and 2 wide, that’s a chore and it’s not fun when the weather is really cold.

So my friend suggested goldfish. He said that he knows people that have put them in the tanks, they eat the algae and you don’t have to worry about cleaning the tanks as often. I wasn’t sure that sounded OK, but I searched around and found some articles where people put them in, like this one.

I sent it to Tia and yesterday when I was going to run errands she asked me to buy some. So I bought 30 and she dumped them in the tank last night when she went to feed.

Today she said there were 8 floaters, those that didn’t survive the night. I figured some would have shock and die, but that’s nearly 1/3, so not a great sign.

We’ll see over the next week or so if they make it and if they actually make a difference in tank cleanliness.

Still Sick

Kendall seemed like she was feeling better in the evening, wanting to play a bit in bed, but then started coughing and deteriorating near bedtime and it seemed like she was getting a bit of a fever. So we gave her Motrin and she dropped off.

This morning no fever, but she’s a little tired and feeling sick. Upstairs watching a movie with apple juice.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bowling and a Movie

It almost didn't happen. Both little kids were complaining about something, Kendall couldn't find her camera (which we found this morning stashed in our remote holder) and Delaney didn't want to bowl, but we got there. While the adults sat with a drink, except me, not in a drinking mood lately, the kids played some games. I was ready to pack Delaney and Kendall up and come home, but Tia said let's get them food and give it a try.

It worked, the kids cheered up and we set up 2 lanes with another family. We should have put kids on one lane and adults on the other because our 5 went really slow. After starting with 2 strikes in a row, I cooled off and Kyle caught me with some good bowling on his side. He had a couple strikes and a bunch of spares regularly spread through his frame.

Kendall got a few spares using the frame the helps kids roll the ball, kind of a hill you set up. Along with bumpers, that helped. Tia's wrists are just too week and she tried palming a ball, but it doesn't work well. I think our bowling days might be close to done. Between that, my fingers being sore from my throwing too hard, and my back feeling the weight, I was done after one game. Actually everyone went too slow and I didn't get to finish my last frame.

Afterwards we played a little air hockey in which Delaney beat Kendall a few times and I beat Tia once. Up 5-0, she came back nicely and made it a 7-6 game. Just luck on my part because she's pretty good once she gets going. We hit the movies, Delaney and I seeing Valkyrie, which he wanted to see and everyone else going to Marlee and Me. They did a good job, but the whole Nazi thing really isn't my bag. Not that interesting, though a little sad at the end when Cruise and the conspirators get shot in front of a firing squad. At least they're honorable.

Marlee and Me was supposed to be sad, but Tia and Kyle said it wasn't that emotional. Kendall said she almost cried, but apparently lots in the theator weren't bawling. Maybe it's us? Life on a farm? Lots of animals dying around here? Who knows.

In any case, it was a nice night, but Kendall came in our bed sick last night, having trouble breathing, so likely a day or two letting her recover. Not sure we'll get to snowboarding tomorrow. Maybe I'll take Delaney and call it a day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Stories

I’ve been reading various things on the Kindle recently, but more business and true stories. UPS, Warren Buffet, The Long Tail, and others. The other night, however, I’d had enough. It had been a week or so since I’d read a story, a fictional account, and I browsed through my lists, stopping no The Forgotten Man, an Elvis Cole novel Tia snagged in Winter Park.

So raced through it over the last couple days and loved it. It felt good to get away from the real world.

After that I went back to Snowball for a bit, but then picked up Cross, the book Delaney got me for Christmas. It’s been awhile since I read a Patterson novel, well, I read Cross Country recently, but before that it’s been years.

I missed that and I feel the excitement that I felt back with Along Came a Spider years ago. I might need to go back and re-read the series.

A Little Work

Tia came down and asked if we should do something with the kids, bowling, movies, etc. I told her I wasn’t skiing with the bad weather in the mountains and would be up for something, but I needed to do “a little work” first.

She said I always need to do a little work.

I think that’s true, and probably something I need to work on, though I have been taking a bit more time off lately to ski and do other things. I’ll work on it, but some of it is trying to finish the year strong, meet goals, and get ahead so I can play hooky on other days.

Grrrrr

I want to snowboard today, but checking the weather when I woke up showed it to be a bad idea. Windy, 20mph+, blowing snow, roads look icy, not a good day to head up and I bet the kids wouldn't have fun.

It looks better for Mon, so I'd like to go then, or even Sun.

Perhaps I need to treat this like surfing when I was younger. You check in the am, and if things look good, you go. I think I should get ahead today on work and adopt that policy next week.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Skype Across the Room

We were hoping for a Skype call with my Mom, brother, and the little cousins today. I'd given up on it as we tried for a movie. That failed, with the movie sold out and so we came back and got a phone call that they wanted to try. We did and they could see us, but we couldn't see them.

So while my brother is trying to figure things out, Delaney wanted to test things here. So he's in the other room, literally around the corner, and we Skyped each other and things were working fine. So we ended the call and while we were waiting, Delaney wanted to chat, so we started chatting.

I've been giving him silly things to respond to and I can hear him giggle as soon as I hit "enter".

The Sore Back

After my run I went to stretch and put a little ice on my knee and felt my lower back stiff and sore. That was a little worrisome since I thought maybe the running is getting to me and I needed to lay off for awhile. I don't want to, but this is a long term goal, so keeping a streak going while damaging the body isn't what I want to do.

It was still sore after shooting video for Tia and so I lay down with more ice and watched some TV. Actually I got to watch about 5 possessions of the Lakers/Celtics before Kendall complained, so I let her watch TV and I read on the Kindle. Eventually I nodded off for an hour or so and got a good nap.

When I woke up, the back was stiff, but not too sore and I remembered. We wrapped presents last night for a few hours. I sat on the floor, we wrapped things and I felt it stiffening up. I had to move around a few times, but I was definitely sore last night.

So mystery solved. Next year we need to coordinate and wrap things earlier, not wait until the Eve to get everything done.

Videographer

Maybe that's a new career for me. Tia had me go out and try to video some of her remaining horse stuff for her level 3 assessment. It was fairly windy and we weren't sure it would work, but we decided to give it a try.

First she made me come to the barn, put down the camera and headphones, and she wanted my opinion on Cowboy. He's our 6th horse, a gelding that a friend owns, but has struggled to work with. So Tia agreed to take him for 6 months and try to work with him. Not sure how she'll fit that in, but she wants to try.

So we got Zarah out and Tia ran her around, trying to work through things. It seemed to be going good, but one of the tasks is a 3ft jump, and Zarah did not want to clear the jump that's been set up in the front yard for a few months. We even moved it to a flatter spot, but the ground is slippery and damp as the snow melts, so we eventually gave up.

She did go in the round pen and shoot two more things, which we hope move her forward. I pulled off the video and when Tia comes in, we'll see if it's good enough. Right now I need to thaw out my hands and feet a bit.

In any case, I'm sure Tia will have her own take on the day on her blog.

Making Christmas Cards

We struggled last year with getting our letter done and actually never sent out cards. Last night we decided to get things done, we finished the letter and got everyone involved in getting them ready to go out.

I shot a touch of video as we were doing it, so here's how cards get put out in our house.


video

A Quiet Christmas

The little kids were pulling us out of bed early. Delaney shook me and then informed me that it was 7:17, so he could now shake me. Kendall was likewise working on Tia and they managed to get us and Kyle downstairs by 7:45 or so.

It was a fairly quick, quiet Christmas, everyone excited and happy with gifts, a few surprises for everyone, including the adults. Tia and I had wrapped some things separately, so we both weren't aware of a few things that were coming.

I shot some video, and I'll process it soon. I hate to be so slow getting things up on the web, but I'm going to work on Christmas video now since we don't have a lot else to do. Breakfast at 9:30, but I couldn't convince anyone to move out for skiing. I did tell them I'm going tomorrow, no matter what anyone else does.

I made out pretty well and I'm happy with the gifts. A few things that I probably wouldn't have gotten otherwise. I ended up with

  • A new snowboard helmet with integrated audio
  • A snowboarding backpack
  • Books (of course)
  • A book light
  • A new light for the bedside (Tia got a matching one, hmmmm, Santa's thinking)
  • A new sealable water bottle that might get me to drink more.
The kids made out well, though nothing amazing. However Delaney's already used birthday money to get some new Legos and another Xbox game. Kendall has a bunch of games for her DS and a lot of stuff to color, including a T-shirt and a mug that she's already working on.

It was nice to see the kids getting gifts for us as well. Delaney took some of his money and bought me a book. Kendall made a couple things for us herself, got Tia a book, and got me a small knick knack, snow globe of Santa. Our kids are fairly spoiled, which we somewhat regret, and somewhat enjoy, but it's good that they're thinking of others a little. They were definitely a little disppointed with no big thing for either of them, but they handled it well.

Now time to process some video, read a bit and relax.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pictionary at the dkRanch

What more can I say? We had a great time.


video

Finishing Up

Most everything was done for Christmas yesterday, with the last few packages coming today. However Tia wanted a couple last minute things from the store. She says we spend too much, but she never wants to be short at all, so after a 1/2 day of work, we packed up the little ones and headed out to get some lunch and a bit of shopping.

We'd neglected (read that I) to empty the back of the Prius, which had a couple things Tia had gotten yesterday, so we were fairly full from the beginning. I tossed a coat over things so the kids wouldn't notice anything they shouldn't, but they're fairly oblivious to what's in the car.

As we got lunch and drove around, I had my iPod to keep them occupied. Lately we've been passing it around, letting each person pick a song and listen to it. It's worked out well and I got them to do Christmas in Hollis first after buying the video on iTunes today.

It was almost a mistake when we made Wal-Mart and had to split up. The kids didn't understand why Tia walked away and why we couldn't go with her. I mumbled some excuse about getting things done quicker, which seemed to work. Or maybe they just don't bother to listen to me anymore.

In any case Kendall saw a Crayola box in the bags when Tia came out. Tia said it was for a friend, but we'll see what happens. Actually I'm not sure who they're for, so maybe the excuse was real.

In any case, we're hanging out, I finished a touch of work (check out my horrible poem and podcast for tomorrow)

What Have We Learned?

I got this quote from my Mom today in email. What have we learned in two thousand years? Apparently nothing:

 

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."


Cicero - 55 BC

Sleep Schedules

Are all whacked here at the ranch. Delaney went down about 7 last night, then woke me up around 3, crawled in next to me and slept until it was light out, no idea of the time.

I got a headache and crashed between 9:30 and 10, with Kendall and Tia still awake, though Tia took a nap from 5-7 or so. Not sure it was a great nap with a little girl rolling around in the bed and making noise, but she was laying there with her eyes closed.

Kendall got up earlier, hopefully that will continue.

Kyle, well he’s a teenager, no idea what his schedule is.

With relatives in town and a break from school, everyone’s schedule is a bit whacked. It’s not a huge deal, though I do worry about how bad things will be when school starts back up.

Building an Infrastructure

As we try and evolve our automotive industry, and perhaps our energy policy, to move into the future in the US, one of the big things that is being looked at is electric cars. Now I am a car guy, and in many ways I think electric cars are a good idea. I think my Prius performs really well, and I'm really happy with my half-electric car.

I found an interesting article that talks about the plans to move forward with more electric cars. With this very high price of oil in the US this past summer and the automotive bailout after our economic woes this fall, moving to a new technology to reduce our oil dependence is important. It might not be the most efficient thing we can do, but from a PR standpoint, it's important to move this forward.

Years ago I worked at Virginia Power, owned by Dominion Resources. They had some electric cars at the headquarters in Richmond and specific charging stations set up. The cars weren't for IT peons, and I'm not sure who they were for, but I thought that was cool and that it would take off. You couldn't necessarily commute with them, but you could run errands or go have lunch.

That didn't take off, even though I heard from CA utilities were doing that as well. I'm sure the cost of so few cars made by GM and so few places they could be used limited the usefulness of the program, but that's an area you have to invest in, not look at a few quarters and give up. And you have to partner to make these things sell.

I think utilities have a great interest in moving these things forward. They could set up charging stations in shopping malls, park and rides, etc. and then charge people by the minute to top off their cars. If you set it up in smaller areas, selling the program on high density areas, perhaps incentives to families that might be willing to try and support the infrastructures, and grow the program.

Electric, hydrogen, or any alternative fuel vehicles, including natural gas, are in a chicken-and-egg situation. Neither car manufacturers nor utilities want to invest in infrastructures or cars without the other. Which means we need government helping to promote these ideas. It's not just about profits for these companies, it's about moving the entire country forward.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Timing is Everything

I got up this morning, wanting to go through the forums, check on Database Weekly, etc. as a Sunday morning check. If I have time, I try to do this and be sure everything is working and it’s a fairly quiet time around the house for me to get some work done.

As I was answering some posts, I saw an email come in. It was from a user that felt her thread had been hijacked with people arguing about her solution. I responded that I’d take a look and sent her an email back.

And I got one back immediately! She was surprised at the speed I responded.

I tend to task switch more often than I probably should. It definitely makes me less efficient, but since I could be here at the computer any time of the day or night, it often really adds to the site to have me answer something right away.

Not that I want a ton of emails, but I do try to get to them quickly when I can and at least give you an answer.

The Pillow Works

I was feeling sore again last night, overdoing things a little at karate, but I feel much better today. Since we're skipping skiing, or I think we will since no ones awake, I should be good to go for Friday.

Do No Evil

One of Google's tenets is to "do no evil" as they run their corporation. This article questions their motives as they've changed the agreement for Chrome, their browser.

I don't necessarily think that Google is evil, and in many ways I think they've learned from Microsoft in how to not appear so. They're a corporation, striving for profit and trying to do a better job, but they're going to stumble. Naturally they want to promote their own products, which makes sense, and tie them tightly together.

That's what Microsoft wants as well, though they sometimes go too far in preventing alternatives from being adopted.

It's a fine line that you walk as a corporation, trying to grow, trying to make a profit, and it's hard sometimes to know if you're skirting the line and perhaps doing something unethical. In my ventures we've tried to be fair, but there are plenty of people that have disagreed with our decisions.

Personally I think this is where capitalism fails. As entities grow larger, become more popular, they gain power, and it's hard to not take advantage of that power to grow more. I think many times the most successful companies sometimes appear evil because they continue to do what has worked for them. And those practices often shut out or prevent smaller companies from competing, making them appear evil.

There's no shortage of evil companies, however, with plenty of people willing to make decisions and engage in practices they know are illegal or immoral, all to make a few more shekels.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Purple

Well, I'm over the halfway point for sure now. Tonight I and 2 classmates got our purple belts, the 6th of 10 in our school. Not sure we all performed great, and I know I messed up Red form like 3 times, but our teacher isn't too big on formal testing until we get to red and brown, so we'd really have to mess up to not get belts.

I don't know what it is with Red form. I know what to do, but that last kick, switch, kick just messes me up over and over. I think I need to walk through it a couple of hundred more times to get it down.

The Miracle Pillow

I'm not sure what the pillow I have does that nothing else does, but it really helps my neck.

Saturday night I must have slept on my side too much because my neck was a little sore. I could feel it going through my run, and then at the game, when it was cold, it got much worse. By the time we got home from the game it hurt to swallow sometimes and definitely hurt to turn my head. By the time we finished games and I was ready to lie down, I was in pretty constant pain from the pinched nerve.

I've had it checked out and there's nothing they can do. I've seen chiropractors, acupuncturists, and nothing seems to help. Those guys give me some relief, but they don't help it heal quicker. However one night on my pillow, sticking to sleeping on my back, and I feel much better. I knew it felt better this morning, but until I actually went running here a few minutes ago, I wasn't sure. I feel much better and it didn't bother me on the run.

A good thing since I have a purple belt test tonight in karate and I didn't want to miss it.

Back to Normal

or semi-normal. The kids are home from school for the holidays and Tia and I are struggling a bit with work, or at least I am.

It was good to see the sisters-in-law, and this was a short trip. One, Chrissy, is thinking about moving out here. Her boyfriend definitely wants to and we've offered to help them get on their feet here, but we'll see.

At least Christmas is mostly done. I realized today that one gift I thought I'd ordered didn't get done for some reason, so I had to put a rush on it today. An extra $20 for rush shipping over night, but it's worth it for Christmas.

Changing the Way We Build

I’m not sure this superinsulated home is the best idea, but I am glad that someone is trying it. It sounds like a good idea if you consider the ideas of a “sick building” and properly managing airflow and I need to bookmark this guy and see how things work.

Actually, I just did it. He had a blogspot account, so I’ll follow along and see how it goes.

Building smarter is something that I think we really need to address. We build so many new buildings and houses that not accounting for energy up front is, IMHO, a bad idea. I know it costs more, but we have to start considering the long term effects of some of these things.

Another Use of XML

XBRL is yet another use of XML, this time for financial reporting. It is supposed to be in place for large companies, and like most other requirements, it will eventually migrate down to smaller companies as more tools become available and cheaper. Putting the onus on large companies to implement new standards makes sense since they can better afford it and they often have the most complex reporting, so the standard and process truly gets tested well.

Mark Cuban had a great idea in that it should be used to track the bailout, which I tend to agree with. Make this information public, put it in a standard format like XBRL and then anyone can consume it, build reports, make it easier for the citizens of this country, who are funding this bailout, to understand what is happening.

More and more I am seeing new uses of XML, which are really just subsets of the structure that XML provides. A decade after I first saw XML being pushed at the 1998 Microsoft PDC in Denver, it truly is permeating information technology more and more. I thought it was an amazing idea, much like the ATM protocol in networking, but both of them seemed to have a lot of overhead and I wasn't sure they'd get truly widespread adoption.

I was wrong, at least for XML. ATM is used, but pretty much only by large, backbone telecoms, while XML is everywhere.

I think XML isn't suitable for all applications, but it makes great sense as an interface, especially an expandable one that exchanges data between systems or applications and needs some flexibility. It hasn't been a focus of mine over the years, but more and more I think I should dig more into XML and better understand how it works since it's likely to become integral in some part of most applications in the future.

Hiring Your First Employee

It’s my boss, or rather the owner of the company I work for (yes I work for someone in addition to owning a company), but it’s still an interesting post.

Hiring Your First Employee

I don’t know when Neil hired the first person to work for Red Gate Software, but I think he’s got a great memory and he really gives you some good things to think about in this post at 47 Hats.

Some of the items are in making the decision to hire someone, but there are some good ones about picking the person as well. I especially agree with the part of getting a domain expert to help you (use your network to find someone) and also test the person on the task they’re being hired for, don’t ask them to talk about it, make them do it.

Worth the read.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Disappointing

I heard all week that the Dallas O-line would be an issue with Baltimore and it certainly was. They didn't do a great job of protecting Romo, at least not until the receivers could get open.

And a horrible job of play calling from Garrett. Whatever wasn't working with the routes should have been changed. You have T.O, Williams, Creighton, Austin, Whitten, and you can't get one open? Horrible job of modifying the game plan.

We'll see if they make it now into the playoffs. There's a chance since quite a few teams have looked shaky lately, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them miss.

Off to see the Broncos / Bills today. This is one of those games I'd be happy to watch in TV, but my sister-in-law and her boyfriend wanted to so, so I got tickets. Need to run and then get Delaney and up dressed up for 20F weather.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Game Day

A nice, lazy, quiet day playing games with the sisters and brothers-in-law-to-be. We hung out, played some Apples to Apples and Pictionary, having a quiet day.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Am I Swollen

The left knee has been a bit sore for a couple weeks. I thought I stained it snowboarding and then with karate as when I bend it, it feels a little sore. And when I wake up in the morning, it's definitely stiff and doesn't want to move.

So am I swollen? Can you tell which one it is?



It's the left one, which is on the right in this picture. It hasn't bothered me when running, as long as I stick to a straight line, so it hasn't slowed me there. We'll see if I make karate next week and snowboarding after that.

The good news is karate closes for two weeks after Monday, so I'll get a break to rest.

iPod 2nd Generation

I was wishing I had one, but not after reading this announcement. Apparently the iTouch 2nd Generation doesn't charge with older accessories. It would be one thing if you had to buy a new wall charger to make this work, but it's quite amazing that all those iHomes, those speaker docks, etc., won't charge it.

Dumb move on Apple's part. It might excite some people, but I predict a whole lot of people that will end up returning iTouches this Christmas to get a regular iPod that works with their alarm clock, speakers, etc.

Wii Sports

Delaney wasn't feeling good last night, so I had him in our bed with a cloth on his head (a headache) some water, and I lay with him a bit, feeding him some pizza. After about an hour he felt better, so we headed downstairs and he perked up.

Chrissy and Kris, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law-to-be were hanging out with the Ks and Tia playing some Wii sports. Kris was learning how hard tennis is with a 7 year old as Kendall was beating him. She's surprisingly good, beating people in baseball, tennis, and bowling. Even Delaney dropped a bowling match to her. Kyle was tired and watched, as did Tia and I. We let the little ones entertain the relatives.

It was fun and everyone laughed quite a bit. We haven't used the Wii enough and I think I might rent a couple games for the weekend and see how it goes.

Young Marines

Just saw on a post that a friend has a kid in the Young Marines and sure enough there's a group close to us. I wonder if Delaney will be interested?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Busy Morning

Relatives start arriving today, maids may or may not come, Tia wants things clean, trailer needs service, work to be done. Ugh, a busy day.

Trash out, #1 on my list done.

The December Car Update

I missed the November Car update, but I was too busy with the PASS Summit to get one done.

However last night I got gas for the Prius and got inspired. Delaney, my son, was in the car with me and he was asking about how much gas the Prius takes since I was trying to calculate the cost as we drove up.

I know gas is cheaper, we paid $1.59, but still it was cool to fill up the car for $12.70 We weren't below the "add fuel" warning, but we were on one bar.

It's not a complete fill up since the Prius isn't like other vehicles. The gas tank is a flexible membrane to cut down on the vapor that gets in there. So whereas my other vehicles have a fixed size tank, the Prius tank contracts as we use fuel and then expands as we fill back up.

Supposedly I have an 11 gallon tank, but with it being so cold (1F as we drove home tonight), I think it's not expanding quick enough and it cuts off the pump. The other day it was low, the add fuel warning coming on and I drove another 10-15 miles in the mountains and still only filled up 8.7 gallons.

After nearly 21 months and 38k miles,  I still think this was a good deal for us. It's not as beneficial with gas so cheap, but still it's nice to fill up rarely and get 50mpg or so while driving around. I don't think we'll get to 50k miles in two years, but you never know. If the weather stays mild on the roads in the mountains, I'll be taking this car skiing quite often.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Long Day Skiing

But not a lot of time on the slopes. We left this morning, Delaney, Kendall, and I in the truck, heading to Loveland. We stopped for breakfast, I grabbed some Halls and Daytime Nyquil for the high altitude (still a little sick), and got going up C-470.

Then just as we were getting up to I-70, Kendall's wire came out of her braces. It was very annoying, and we sat on the side of the room for about 5 minutes while we debated what to do. It seemed like it wasn't bothering her too much, but she was nervous and I was worried, so we turned around and headed back to the ortho. I was thinking our ski day was cancelled, Delaney was upset, Kendall was sad, and we drove in silence for awhile.

Fortunately the ortho was good, and they got her a new wire and got us through the checkup so we don't have to come back tomorrow. We got out of there before 10 and decided to try skiing.

So we got up there and were on the slopes by 11:30 at Loveland. Delaney was a bit nervous at first, but he started to get a bit better. However it was really windy and cold, probably 20F and a good 20-30 gusts, so we ended up skiing for about 3 hours and calling it quits.

We made it back, and I got through my run, and now it's time to shower and relax. Not a great day on the slopes, but it beats working and I think the kids had fun.

Breaking the Body Down

At our annual Christmas party for ex-JD Edwards folks, a few friends asked me about my running. They were wondering about my motivation and how I was doing. Was I worried about my body.

Absolutely I am.

I'm a big guy. I have a large upper body, thick legs, not exactly built like a runner. More like a linebacker. I've had issues with ankles and knees most of my life, though I think a lot of that is that I've pushed too hard in my training, harder than my body can take. Typically I've broken down after a few months of running.

My ankles hurt as often as they don't when I first get out of bed and limp around. My right knee is sore as we speak, stiff after some nights of karate. I've pulled lots of hamstrings over the years.

But I felt that way before I started this running streak and I don't really feel worse. And as I've run through some nagging injuries or pains, I've started to feel better. They've healed themselves even as I'm using them.

One of the reasons that I typically go 1.25-1.75 miles is that I don't think that's a lot more than I might walk, and I walk every day of my life. I figure an extra mile isn't really breaking things down too much and I do slow down on those days when I feel worse. I do try to listen to my body.

If I tried to build up to running 5 miles a day I don't think my body could take it. Even if I took 2 years to get there. Instead I'd like to build up to an average of 2 miles, perhaps doing 1 mile on days I have other stuff planned, save 2 for the off days, and still give myself a nice easy 1 mile day with nothing else going on.

I'm amazed that I have gotten as far as I have, and I'm looking forward to going further.

The Best Thing About The Kindle

You might think it's the e-ink screen. It's not.

You might think it's the ability to carry around hundreds of books in one device. It's not.

You might think it's the lower cost of brand new books. It's not.

So what is it? The best thing about the Kindle is the delivery mechanism from Amazon. It's called WhisperNet, and it means that I can buy and download books to my Kindle without ever using a computer.

Not sometimes, not rarely, never. And while I have an SD card in mine, I never need to take it out and stick it in my computer to transfer content either.

The way it works is that I just turn on my wireless chip in the Kindle. That's done with a small switch on the back. I tend to leave mine off because I rarely buy books and it does affect the battery life. With it off, I can leave my Kindle on for a week or more between charges. I read 100-200 pages a week, and most of the time the Kindle is in screen saver mode, but I have rarely run even below halfway on the battery.

When I want a book, I can easily select "The Kindle Store" from the menu and it connects to Amazon.com and allows me to browse, search for, and purchase books. I have a credit card linked to my account, and can, and have, change that if I wish. I also get gift certificates that I apply to my account, and they are used for purchases from the Kindle before my credit card is charged.

Once I find a book I want, I click "buy" and it downloads to my Kindle in literally a minute or two. It's often downloaded by the time I go back to the home screen.

But I rarely browse the store and buy a book. Typically what I do is get a "sample" from Amazon, which is about 30 or so pages of a book. I just grabbed The Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt recently and it was 60 pages! That's a long time to decide if it's worth getting the book. I had the font size set at "2", for those of you with Kindles.

For the rest of you, not sure how this compares to the real book. I'd have to purchase a real copy of something on my Kindle and compare. For the Teddy Roosevelt book that was all of chapter 1 and partway into chapter 2, which seems about what I find for many books. I get 2-3 chapters unless chapters are really short, like a James Patterson novel.

This "purchase on the go" is amazing for me. I can actually buy things when I'm out and about, and don't need to store up books on the Kindle. I typically have a few samples on there I haven't gotten to, or which looked interesting, but I can buy new books almost anytime, so I grab them as I run out of stuff to read. I even bought two books when I was in an airplane in Houston, sitting on the tarmac and I was almost finished with a book, so I grabbed two more before we took off!

There's one other thing that amazes me as well. I can buy Kindle books from Amazon.com, on my computer, and the next time I turn on the Kindle wireless connection, it will download those purchases.

Even more amazing, I can send samples of books to my Kindle from the computer. Today I was looking at something and got interested in Theodore Roosevelt, so I browsed over to Amazon.com, searched, and then picked 3 or 4 from the Kindle store and sent samples to the Kindle. When I went upstairs, I turned on the wireless and walked away. Later I was working a bit more and wanted to get some science fiction as well, so I sent 4 or 5 more samples of new authors over to the Kindle and by the time I'd walked upstairs to check on my Kindle, the samples were downloaded, and I turned off the wireless.

Amazon has a fairly captive audience, and it's likely that the majority of my book purchases from now on will be from Amazon. Since I read about 50 books a year, that's a decent amount of money they'll be getting from me.

However I have to say that not carrying around lots of books, not needing to find time to get to the bookstore, or having something out of stock is a fantastic convenience for me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kindle Update - Encouraging the Kids

I remember when each of my boys started to read a lot. There was a time when both of them picked up books devoid of pictures, with 50 or more pages, and would sit and read and really enjoy it. Kendall has done some reading on her own, but tonight she really to move into the reading stage on her own. She's mostly picked easier books to read, often with lots of pictures, or repeat ones that we'd read with her.

However we were out tonight, and heading to karate. While we were eating dinner, so asked if I could find her a book on the Kindle. I wasn't sure, so I fired up the wireless connection and started looking through the Kindle store. Searching returned too many results, but browsing down through the kids section, then animals and horses found us about 24 books. She wanted me to buy some, but since they're all about $10, I wasn't in the mood to experiment too much. But I did grab 3 samples for her to look through. I figured she'd try to read and then put it down and play with kids.

So I started stretching, saw her reading, and all of a sudden she came over saying she'd finished the sample and wanted the book. So I asked her about the story, she knew some things, so I bought the book. As we worked out, I snuck some glances over there and sometimes she was reading, sometimes she was playing, but as we got ready to leave, she was reading, continued in the car, and just before we got home she showed me she'd finished the book. It was on the last page and she was proud of herself.

I thought that was cool, and Delaney is definitely asking me often if he can read some of the sci-fi I have on the Kindle. I'm sure I'll know have Kendall asking as well. As much as I enjoy my Kindle, I'm happy to share if it gets the kids reading more.

Busy, busy

Got some writing done, started a few editorials (2 or 3, can't remember), and finished one off. Add in shooting 3 podcasts to get ahead and then editing 2 to get tomorrow and Thur ready and I am beat.

Then I have Tia stressing since her company is apparently a bit of a mess with quoting and she needs to get something done for ATT.

Getting ready to pack up the kids and leave for karate, give her a bit of peace.

Learning From the Past

Delaney loves the History Channel and the Military Channel, learning about the past and especially war and weapons. He was watching it in the morning on our skiing vacation and there was a show about armor back in England, and how it resembles the same way we armor modern tanks. Apparently there are things to be learned from the past.

He pointed that out to everyone, but it got me thinking. How much of what we do today or work on today is built on things from the past. Arguably all of it, but are we consciously aware of that? How much knowledge, how many problems solved in the past, are we struggling to solve or solving again?

It's hard to know, though I'd like the think the Internet reduces some of the duplicate work as we can share so much of what we've done before.

It's also a balance where we try to figure out when we use knowledge from the past and when we discard it, trying to do things a different way and be more efficient or do a better job of solving the problem.

Working along

Or trying to. My wireless MS keeyboard is flaking out, not typing letters or even spaces at times, so I eventually gave up and came upstairs to work for awhile.

Tia's in bed, though not working, more trying to square away Christmas.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tired

It's hard to even type after a rough night of karate. I didn't think I was going to work that hard, trying to slow down on the warmup a bit as my knee was a touch sore. Once we started the boxing drills with partners, however, I found it hard to slow down, keeping moving, bouncing on my feet and running out of breath.

A good exercise day.

Better

I got a bunch of sleep and am doing better today. Not 100%, but better.

A good thing since it's cold outside. The thermometer on the back porch said -10F when I came downstairs. Not sure how accurate that it, but it is cold. Luckily there's no wind, which prompted Kendall to comment that it wasn't that cold. It's not if you walk 50 ft from the car to the school, but if you stand out there for any length of time, it is cold!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ill

I woke up yesterday morning feeling a little sick. My throat was sore, eyes tired, just feeling run down, but I had a busy day and got on with it. I'm still a little down today, but I got lots of sleep and stayed in bed until about 11:30. Tia must have felt a little sorry for me since she brought me some breakfast in bed.

However I got a call that we needed to unload our food at the food back of Elizabeth today and I figured if I could get up to run, which I planned to do, I could go unload food. So I drove down the Elizabeth, without Delaney as he was feeling sick as well, unloaded a bunch of food and while I'm still a little sick, I feel good about that.

It's amazing how much we collected, but even more that all that work will help a lot of people. It makes me really feel lucky with how successful and lucky we are. I need to take the little kids down there sometime to help out and see what life is like for other people.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Food Drive

We had to get out of the house early this morning for the Cub Scout food drive. We were in charge of getting set up at a local supermarket and I needed to shoot a podcast, run, and pack the car for an all day outing.

We grabbed breakfast on the way there, and then got set up with another Dad and his kids at the StoneGate King Soopers market. It was a little slow at first, and the kids were shy. But we helped them get started, showed them how to greet someone and hand out a shopping list of stuff that was needed.

In an hour we'd filled up 3 full shopping carts of stuff and I think the boys felt good about it. By the time we left at 11, we had over 5 carts overflowing with food and we packed the Prius in back as well as another truck that was there.

I hope Delaney realizes how lucky he is and what a good thing this is to do. Take some time out of our day to help others. I need to schedule the drop off with the food bank when I can take he and Kendall to experience a little bit of helping others.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bolt

After scouts tonight Kendall and Tia wanted to go see a movie, so we packed up and headed out to see Bolt.

It was hilarious. I recommend it, even for adults.

SQL Quiz #2 - Toughest Challenges in my Career

I finally got tagged for the SQL Quiz, which I've been following. Michelle Ufford, aka SQLFool, tagged me following her answers.

So here goes. I think I might look at this a little differently than some others, but I'll give you my thoughts, which are also going out in the Database Weekly editorial for December 15, 2008.

#1 - Gaining Control

I took a job with a small company at one point as a senior DBA. They were a small company that specialized in wealth management and we had about 25 people in the company and it had been around for 6 or 7 years when I started and had been successful. They were making money and I thought they had one of the best business plans and niches that I'd encountered to that point.

I soon learned, however, that they were immature in many ways. Other than a few senior people that had started the company, all the technical people were 20-25 and in many ways causing more problems than they solved. I was a lot younger than I am now, but almost the oldest person in IT and from out of town. Our three primary developers were from the same town, another was good friends with some of the main customer service people, and my other DBA had been there for 4 years, some of that under the last senior DBA. To top it off, my network administrator (did I mention that on day 1 I got put in charge of the network), was a personal friend of the CFO, which is how he got the job. And he wasn't qualified to run the network.

My first week I observed multiple fires every day, and I hardly had a chance to breathe. However I soon learned that our developers were "fixing" these issues live in production and causing others. None of them had built a web application, but they were giving architectural advice to our 18 year old web developer and they would "try things" to fix network problems, often patching one thing but not solving the problem.

The company had been successful, however, and these developers had built the main applications that were being used. I was new, and from out of town.

My biggest challenge here was in convincing the senior managers that I had to gain control of this environment and that these developers couldn't be trusted. I had to argue with the developers and present reasons to management with the developers present as to why they should listen to me. All of this while being aware of issues with past employees. Apparently I wasn't the first person to try and corral IT, and no one had been successful to date. I learned that in the first month I was there.

I was new in town, my wife still in our old house, trying to sell it so we could move, I didn't have a great track record in some of these areas, though I had management experience. When two developers threatened to quit, it took a lot for me to continue to challenge them. I knew I was making my own life difficult because if these developers quit, I'd be even more shorthanded and still have the fires.

I'd like to say that I improved things, and I think I did, but there was still more to be done and it was one of the worst jobs I ever had. I was glad to leave 18 months later. Still I learned a lot about standing up for my convictions and arguing for what I thought was best for the company.

#2 - Learning to Interview Companies

In the middle of trying to straighten out the company above, I became very frustrated. When my developers quit, I ended up very short-handed, and worked a lot of hours. I literally kept a blanket and pillow in my office and spent 4 or 5 nights in the office during my first 6 months trying to solve problems. Not coding to get an application done, sitting on the phone, running queries, and trying to keep our SQL Server v6.5 server alive.

I had a new baby at the time and I was fed up with the issues. So I decided to look for another job. This was the perfect time to look for a job, since I had a job, and so I decided to make my situation better. I didn't want to get caught up in another bad situation, so I decided to tackle things differently.

The first thing I did was inform our COO that I wasn't happy and we had problems. At this time there was a senior DBA/network admin (me) and a senior developer, Mark, but no one running the show, no one coordinating with sales or dealing with clients. We needed a CIO, and I couldn't tackle it, mainly because I couldn't handle another job. I wanted to be open and up-front, and let the COO know I was interviewing and I'd give them notice, but unless some resources were acquired and things more organized, I was going to find another job.

This was before the big dot-com crash and so there were lots of jobs. I started sending out resumes and talking to recruiters and would get 2-3 calls a week for interviews. I didn't want to get into another bad situation, jumping out of the frying pan/into the fire, so I made it a point of asking lots of questions and pushing back in interviews.

My goal was to be as hard on companies as they were on me. If it was a large company, I insisted on seeing the working environment and meeting all the people I'd work with, including the director or VP above my group. If it was a small company, I wanted to meet the CEO and as many people in the company as I could.

Surprisingly it worked well and I got quite a few job offers, but I also ended up learning a lot about the companies and I found reasons not to accept. And I really wanted another job! I did get an interview with the CTO of Travelocity, who had just left them after a successful IPO to go work at a financial firm and I was ready to accept his offer. However the day after he made it to me, he called back to say that the company was moving to LA. Sadly, I had to decline.

I projected an air of confidence, or I think I did, and I'm sure that helped, but it was quite a challenge for me to do so. I'd always learned and been taught to impress people in an interview, be willing to do what is needed, and basically show them you'll be a great employee. Being a little difficult in interviews and challenging executives, those people that would make the decision to hire me or not, was against my nature and I struggled with that. More often than not I had to take a deep breath before or after meeting with someone and deal with constant butterflies as I asked questions.

Stretching Yourself

I think challenges in your career are about stretching yourself and getting out of your comfort zone.

With that in mind, and continuing the circle of tags, let's see if Andy Warren and Brian Knight, my business partners, can continue Chris' challenge.

Running

I did my day 94 run today, but it seems like my entire day has been running around. I didn't have time to run to the scout store, but I hate to let the boys down. I know when Delaney didn't get awards last year I was a little annoyed and even if it's the den leader's fault for being slow to get things to me, the boys shouldn't suffer.

So I went down there, burning two hours I didn't have, though I did get a present for Tia out of it.

Fortunately when I got home things were fairly quiet with the kids and I was able to knock out the Database Weekly editorial as well as polish off two other editorials that have been dragging on.

I'd write more now, but I need to get ready for scouts and still find time to shoot a podcast.

My Interview is Up

I meant to post this the other day, but I went down the Colorado Springs recently to be interviewed by Eric Johnson and Josh Jones, who have a weekly how.

You can listen to Building Your Brand Online. I have some video I shot, but I’m woefully behind on getting things edited and uploaded.

Stressed

The holiday season is upon us and despite the fact that I have a few things done, there’s lots to do and we have people coming into town, the trees not done, we need to get ready for a party tomorrow, it’s a busy day.

Photography and Skiing

I took off yesterday for solo snowboarding with my camera and learned a couple things.

First thing is that those Energizrer rechargable batteries don’t handle the cold well. I had some freshly charged ones off the charger I put in as I was packing. They lasted through 4 shots and then kept dying when I wanted to set up a nice shot from the top of the mountain.

20081211_soloboarding

Here’s my one self-portrait from the lifts. The others were just scenery.

So I need to a) pack extra batteries and b) pack real batteries, not rechargeables.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Music in Paradise

When I locked up the car, I had just started my iPod with headphones on under my helmet and started walking towards the lifts at Loveland. It was a sunny day, fairly warm (30F), a little breeze, and not crowded. It was kind of surreal, music playing in my ears as I walked through the light flurries coming down.

I've never boarded with an iPod before. Typically I'm with someone, and since I can't listen to music and also communicate, I've never taken mine. Back in the day when I used to go alone at college, portable music wasn't as easy to tote around with those big CD players.

So this was a new experience for me and I really enjoyed it. Letting the iPod pick songs randomly as I went up and down the mountain was a good time.

I took today off to go skiing and had planned to take Kendall, but with her missing Tues from a snow day and we didn't practice spelling last night, so I was a little concerned about her missing another day.

So I dropped her off at school and took off for the mountains. I was halfway around the E-470 loop when Tia called that she had landed in Denver from her trip to Atlanta. I thought about turning around, but I rarely get to go up boarding, I had the day off and decided to just go.

I rarely waited for more than 1 or 2 people to get on a lift, and just spent the day going up and down, riding down and taking a lift right back up. Most of Loveland is open, and I go the chance to go up a bunch of lifts I'd never been on before. I mostly rode blues, and zoomed around with only a couple falls. One was when I got into some powder and couldn't get the board to turn since it was packed too much. No air, still too chicken, but a fun day on the slopes.

Loveland

Posting while taking a break from skiing.

I go so much faster without kids

Rosetta Stone

Does it work? Conflicting reports at 37Signals in the comments.

We bought the Russian version for Delaney. It doesn't seem to work great, it's boring, and it's confusing. Not a lot of guidance in the software, which I found un-intuitive. Not sure I'd recommend it.

It might help if you have someone speaking the language, but the whole picture/voice thing didn't work for us.

Just Do It

I was recently reading Joel Spolsky’s column in Inc. on management and I thought it was an interesting story. In general you want to be efficient with your time. You don’t want to waste it doing things that someone else could do better and possibly cheaper. Time management is a skill that you need to do well to succeed.

If you don’t want to succeed and just work for someone, that’s fine too, but time management can still help you.

In any case, I think it’s a balance that you have to find. Recently I asked to have someone else take over some of my duties on a part-time basis, mainly to give me more time for other things. I wasn’t sure how well this would go over with the boss since I’d been doing things fine and I was essentially asking for someone else to make my job easier. But I had a few arguments:

  • Someone else needs to know how to do this, since the proverbial bus could strike me down at any time.
  • I’m fairly expensive, and this isn’t really a good use of my time.
  • I could take on other tasks.

I wasn’t exactly emphasizing the last item since I’m fairly busy, but I don’t mind taking on other tasks periodically. Mostly I was hoping to get more vacation in (I’ve never taken my allotment) and get ahead more on my writing.

In any case, I did get someone that helps out, but I still try to go and handle some of those duties, primarily processing email to the webmaster, on a regular basis. It helps me to keep in touch with my customers, but also to show that I’m not above performing duties.

I have a story similar to Joel’s, but with the opposite effect. I was working in an office early in my career, in a small company, and we had a break room. In it was the large printer that was shared by everyone in the office. One day I walked in right behind the President of the company and we were waiting for things to print. His job was ahead of mine, but stopped in the middle as the printer was out of paper, but I didn’t know that.

He asked if I would add more paper, I did, and the printer started back up, printed his job and then mine. Now I didn’t mind loading paper in there, and I might have felt differently if he had gone to get a cup of coffee or talk to someone while I took a couple minutes to locate paper and load the printer. Instead he stood there and watched me.

My impressions of him took a further turn for the worse when I witnessed him doing the same thing to someone else at the coffee pot, asking them to make him more coffee while he stood there. Needless to say I didn’t stay there very long.

I’ve always pitched in when needed. I’ve had CTOs help pull cable and make patch cables with me, and I’ve been happy to handle permissions issues as the senior DBA when I made probably twice what others in the office did.

It’s not always about efficiency. Sometimes it’s about showing that you’re a leader and willing to do whatever it takes to get things done. And you’re no better than the others in the company.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Smart Kid

Delaney came home and told me that he had his MAP testing today in school. He scored a 248 on math and his teacher told him that was the highest score she'd seen. He was pretty proud, and Tia and I are as well.

Even on the Quiet Nights

Things get busy. Fortunately Kyle drove himself to work and I didn't have to shuttle things around. Then I took Kendall to girl scouts, came back, fed horses, edited a podcast while making Delaney fries, then back to girl scouts, take a picture and wait for them to finish.

After that I got back, got kids clean, or they got themselves clean in the shower. I'm glad we're past the place where we have to manage that process so completely. I folded laundry while they did that and uploaded podcasts.

I even enlisted Delaney for a bit of help, and that helped. After that it was time to work a bit more (doing that now) and relax with some Scrubs re-runs.

Striker

I called around a couple places this morning and soon realized that the hood striker bar for Kyle's car is a GM only part. So I called the dealer and they had one in stock and I decided to run up there at lunch.

First I checked Kyle's car, and I'm glad I didn't let him drive it last night. The hood was tied down with rope, but the loop was over the broken part, not secured through something that would keep it from coming loose. The headlights are tie-wrapped in there, not real secure, but I think they'll be OK for the short term. Ordered new ones today.

I also realize by GM is having issues. When I was getting the part I asked about the screws and speed nuts that hold the undercarriage to the front end. They didn't have any in stock, but the amazing thing was they wanted to charge me $3.20 per screw, for a #8 screw and speed nut. Lowe's cost: $0.84.

That type of over charging for something as simple and common as screws and speed nuts is dumb. It makes the dealerships look bad.

Criticize the President

Yesterday’s quote was from Teddy Roosevelt. It’s reproduced again so you can see it.

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

I support President Bush in that he’s the President of the US and if there was something I could do to help the country, I would. I don’t believe he’s intentionally trying to hurt the US and I was glad to see him send troops to Afghanistan in 2001.

However I think he’s been a little absent from his duties over the last few years and has not managed the country well. He has not led us, and while he has been resolute in Iraq, he has not done a good job ensuring the country had a steward that was looking out for it and it’s people.

I Agree: The Bailout is a Bad Idea

Prof. Lessig has a good rant about it.

Detroit needs a shock, and that may mean GM, Ford, and Chrysler die, or get replaced by someone else. The one thing I do agree with, and I want to ensure doesn't happen, is that the retirees get screwed. Let them go bankrupt, but protect the pension obligations first.

As far as jobs, the unions can dissolve and help people and then most of these people can get jobs with whoever decides to continue manufacturing cars. Someone will, so it's not like there won't be any jobs.

It will be a shock and ripple, but to some extent that's what's wrong with this industry. Every time a shock occurs, cheap oil has bailed them out and they run to high profit, not high efficient cars.

Sore

We did self-defense last night at karate, and despite me trying to take it a little easy in places (sore knee), I ended up falling a bit more than I wanted to. Cory, who I usually work with, is getting better and starting to throw me quicker.

So between that, burpies, and running yesterday, I'm fairly sore today.

Working On My Goal

One of my goals for SQLServerCentral this year was to post 400 times a month in the forums. I slacked off after January, but worked on it more after April and was doing pretty good.

All the travel in Oct and Nov, however, messed me up a bit and I've been in the low 300s for the last few weeks (on a rolling 30 day count).

So over the last 3 days I've been working to get back to 400. I'm at 394 now and I'm sure I'll find 6 more things to post on today. I try not to just post to post, but I look for things I can answer and need a post.

I'm at 4454 for the year, which is well off the 4800 I'd like to have. Not sure I'll make the goal, but I'm going to try.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More Burpie Nightmares

At the end of karate tonight, we ended with the burpie/ab workout. 5 Burpies in and around our 4 part ab workout. Even though it wasn't a really hard workout (lots of self-defense) the burpies were hard. I guess running a mile and a half this afternoon didn't help.

I had Delaney in the class with me and he did well, working with one of the other adults. He said our class is much harder than his leadership class, but he had fun. However he didn't like the burpies.

I can relate. For two years of rowing, we would get up and arrive at school at 5:30 and start our warmup with burpies, in and around push ups, sit ups, etc. Those were so hard, and I used to have a love hate relationship with them. They were incredibly hard, but at the same time I know I got really strong from them.

Snow Day

Kendall was just waking up and Delaney came upstairs around 7:15. Delaney asked if they had a one hour delay like Kyle. When Tia said it was a one day delay and school was closed, they both jumped up, Kendall started dancing and saying "awesome."

Why can't we get that movement on regular days?

Gonna be a long day here with no school for little ones.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Motivated

Delaney had Cub Scouts tonight and they worked on their Artist pin, something I never thought he'd bother with. However he enjoyed it and got through it.

The den leader had a chart up with all the pins that kids have earned, and for the most part the kids are ready to move on to Boy Scouts, having earned the Arrow of Light. No one, however, has earned the Showman, Sportsman, or Communicator. So after we got home he finished his homework and came upstairs to my room with his book and wanted to work on that one.

We got 3 things done, with more to come over the next day or so.

Inspiration

This is on the wall at our karate studio:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." - Teddy Roosevelt, 1920

From his "Citizen in a Republic" speech.

Big Brown

This is an interesting book. I’m reading Big Brown, the story of UPS, and I didn’t know who the founder of the company was. Jim Casey, if you’re wondering.

In any case, I didn't realize that throughout most of the 20th century, only the US Postal Service could deliver packages anywhere. UPS had to fight for those rights state by state over the years.

There was a time that UPS could deliver packages from retail stores (how they started) inside cities, like Denver, but couldn't deliver packages from Denver to Colorado Springs, even if they could deliver packages in CO Springs from retailers.

Amazing!

Merry Christmas

We started the tree last night. Kendall was having fits, wanting us to get it up and we were trying to get some of Delaney's project done as well as food on the table, so we didn't get started until 7:30. By that time I wasn't really into it, but did help drag up the tree and ornaments from the basement.

20081207_tree_b

Really, I did. Tia and the kids helped, of course.

We got the tree up, the lights turned on, but that was about it. Kendall managed to put a few ornaments on as Tia and Delaney were plugging things in, but that was about it.

20081207_tree_c

Likely we'll do more tonight. And we need to get the Christmas letter done as well.

Working Hard

While I was in Seattle for the Pass Community Summit, I took a couple hours one night to attend an aikido class with Gail Shaw, and Kalen Delaney, fellow MVPs and both sho-dan (black belt) in aikido. Gail is next to me and Kalen is a couple down from her.

 

It was a good class, good to fall and get thrown a bit since that hasn’t happened in years. It reminded me of how much I enjoy aikido, have missed it, and how frustrating it can be.

I did work up a sweat.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Car Repair

Kyle asked if we could go work on his car, so I went with him and we sorted the parts and started to try and get them attached back to the car. It didn't seem like it should be that hard, but as always, it was a pain to make them fit back in there.

We got the bumper reinforcement on there, bending a few pieces of metal to get it attached, but the front trip was a pain. Once that was on, then I couldn't find the screws that were there to attach the panels. Not that it mattered since we couldn't figure out how to get the headlights attached.

So I called around looking for a manual, but no one carried any. The NAPA people said they could order one, but the guy told me about alldatadiy.com, which is an online site. I logged in, thought the samples were OK, so I bought a year's subscription for $23. It has part numbers, some diagrams, and instructions for many of the  things you need to do to attach or detach parts.

Digging through there showed me that the headlight assemblies are broken and we need new ones. I also figured out that we needed a bunch of screws to get things to fit together. I don't think that this will be that hard to do, but we are definitely looking at another $150 to get the headlights going.

Router Issues

Not our router, but the Qwest network is acting up again. It started today and when I got home from picking up Kendall, I ran a speed test.

  • Upload 748kbps
  • Download 104kbps

Needless to say that's not conducive to us getting work done.I called Qwest and spent a very, very annoying 30 minutes on the phone with a CS girl that frustrated me, and I'm sure she thought I didn't know what I was talking about, but since I've been through this before, and I know a thing or two about computers, I don't think I'm wrong.

They're sending someone out tomorrow morning, which is probably a wasted trip, but not sure what else we can do.

Friday, December 5, 2008

My Current Feed

As seen by Wordle:

wordle_20081205

Keeping Shorn

One interesting thing about doing the podcasts and working from home is that I tend to shave a bit more often. I’m not overly concerned about my appearance, but I tend to look pretty bad on video if I haven’t shaved in the last 24 hours.

So my routine on video days, usually 2-3 times a week, is to run before lunch, shower, shave, and then shoot video.

I almost feel like I’m back in an office with all the razor work.

Keeping Shorn

One interesting thing about doing the podcasts and working from home is that I tend to shave a bit more often. I’m not overly concerned about my appearance, but I tend to look pretty bad on video if I haven’t shaved in the last 24 hours.

So my routine on video days, usually 2-3 times a week, is to run before lunch, shower, shave, and then shoot video.

I almost feel like I’m back in an office with all the razor work.