Thursday, April 30, 2009

Another Short Day

It's looking like another short day of work today. I woke up, tired, but OK and then got kids ready, and drove Delaney to school. As I was driving away, not sure why, but my neck started to ache. It's the same pinched nerve thing that I've never found any help for, other than my special pillow.

It hurt all day, even while swallowing at Kendall's lunch, and finally I laid down around 1:30, trying to do a little work. I got up at 2:45, eyes tired, thinking I needed to finish a couple things and call it a day. So I did a quick run, struggling through 14 minutes on the treadmill, then picked up kids, and back to bed.

It's probably pretty comical looking. I'm lying down, laptop keyboard on me chest, vertical, and the screen horizontal above me so I can see it, flipping through most things one handed. Not a lot of fun and it slows me down, but I can get a few things done. And I'll probably be fine tomorrow.

Lunch with my Girl

I took her to school at 9:15, and went back at 11:15 for lunch with Kendall. With a sore neck today, a late start with work, I was tempted to blow it off. Especially as I’d already gone on a field trip on Tuesday.

But I couldn’t. As I was dropping her off, she reminded me I was supposed to have lunch with her. I’d missed last week for some reason, and the week before, so even though I’d spend a day with her, I decided that I should go.

She was very happy, as were her friends. Parents are a big deal with the kids, and it was nice. Now I need to go lie down, my good deed done for the day.

Vampire Power – Energy Update

I have read quite a bit about Vampire energy over the last year, and it seemed like leaving your XBOX, laptop, etc, plugged in was a bad idea. Based on a few things I have read, it seemed that I was losing a few dollars a day from having my various adapters plugged into the wall, but not into my devices.

A couple months ago I decided to finally get a Kill-a-Watt and start some testing of my own. I've been gathering data and recording various notes in Excel and am almost ready to write up some detailed testing along with the costs of things, but I did notice a couple very interesting items.

With a couple of cell phone chargers disconnected from the phones, I plugged them into the Kill-a-Watt and found that they didn't draw any measureable power. Now the Kill-A-Watt might not be measuring this, but if it's < 1watt draw, that means not a lot of power being used. Even at 1 watt, across 24 hours that's 24 watt-hours, and a $0.10/kw, that's 1 penny every 4 days, or about $0.08/month. Not a lot of power.

I also tested my laptop charger, thinking that might be an issue. After all, I disconnect at times, but leave the adapter plugged in. Was there a significant amount of vampire power being used?

No. That also drew 0 watts according to my measurements.

The XBOX 360 was a different story, pulling a steady 2 watts after it was shut down. That's still a fairly insignificant amount of power, not enough to get me to unplug anything on a regular basis.

I've got more testing to do, and more measurements to make as well as some number crunching to evaluate power usage here at the ranch, but from what I've seen of a few IT related devices, they're pretty skimpy on vampire power.

Bloody Nose

It was the strangest thing. Kendall woke up with a bloody nose, apparently Tia got her some tissue, she went back to sleep, but she kept waking up every hour or so with fresh blood. I slept through it, but woke up this morning to find tissues all around the bed.

It wasn't horrible, but we weren't sure what to do. So she lay in bed, watched a movie, drank some water, and it seemed to stop by 9, and so I took her to school late.

We think she's fine, but it was a strange morning.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Beat Up

I was feeling sore today, had a good 2 mile run, and then went to karate, thinking that since Kendall had tutoring tonight, we should go tonight and take tomorrow off. I did OK, but it was a slow class, slow self-defense, and my back tightened up more and then all the up and down didn't help my elbow. I must have hit it the other night because it's slightly sore when I full extend it. I managed to go slower and not push too hard, but it's still sore.

Afterwards I talked for awhile with the lady that is teaching in Shihan's absence. This is her first karate school and I think she's a little put off by the lack of intensity, especially after looking at some shows on TV. So we talked a bit about some things we think were lacking in the school. I lost track of time, and our kids were playing. When I finally got in the car, it was 9:30, yikes!

I apologized to Kendall, and I feel bad because she's going to be tired in the morning.

A New Door

The garage door guys were supposed to come today and install new doors for us. We didn't quite find one that matched well for the big door, so we went ahead and replaced both for a couple hundred more than replacing the big door from Home Depot.

I am very much disappointed with Home Depot on this one.

We had chosen a nice door, a high R value one, originally for both doors, running about $2400. I wanted more insulation, but the guy called last week the day after we'd talked and said that door was backordered for about 3 weeks. He had some less insulated ones, R-8 v R-16, that he could do this week, and I said just do it. Dropped the price down to $1900 and change as well.

I hadn't heard from him since last Tue or Wed, so I was curious to see if he'd show up. My experience with people doing home improvements has been hit and miss and I wouldn't have been surprised if he didn't come or call, and then call tomorrow.

Instead, while I was on a call this morning, he called and said there was an issue. Apparently the guys doing the fabricating of the doors here (adding Windows), made a mistake and gave away two of the panels (there are 4 or 5 in a door) yesterday and he can't get more until the 9th. Did I want to get just the big door today or wait.

Since we have no covenant, and the big door isn't doing well, I said just do the big one today. No complaints, no excuses, he said he'd be over in a few hours. I worked a bit more, then went running in the basement, then showered, and when I went to get lunch, they were outside. The old door was out, the track down, and they were scraping away the caulk. I was gone 15-20 minutes, I come back and the new door is up, the track getting screwed down.

Pretty cool. I have to say that in the Denver area, I'd highly recommend Mike and Pro Garage Solutions. He's a local firefighter that runs the business on the side with his sons and he did an outstanding job, both in the quality of the job and the customer relations.

So we have one door replaced. It looks good, rolls smooth, meets the door frame well, and seems just to be a better quality job than we had.

Google G1 Update - Protecting the Screen

Well it didn't take long. On a conference call a couple weeks ago, trying to juggle the phone, the laptop, and grabbing a cup of coffee, the phone slipped out of my hand and hit the hardwood floor. I ended up with a crack in the screen, but it hasn't affected the phone operation. It looks bad, but it's not raised (you can't feel it), and the touch screen seems to work fine.

However, the screen protector wasn't doing a great job, getting fogged, picking up scratches, and more. At times it was hard to read the screen and things blurred or were somewhat illegible from the screen protector. I've had devices with no protection and that doesn't work well.

When I bought the G1, I grabbed a case and a screen protector from eBay, at the same time as I bought the phone. I applied the protector right away, accidentally bending it, but with some plastic covers, that was easily covered and it wasn't an issue.

It's been about 3 months, and that screen protector has gotten quite scratched. I was going to just buy another one, but then I noticed something. The screen protector on my iTouch, from Zagg, has held up well. The kids are constantly using that thing in the car, but the screen is still highly visible and looks unscratched, unlike the Google screen.

Over the week I was debating about what to do, Zagg sent me a mailing. They must realize that they're not in the high volume business, selling screen protectors and earbuds. You're not likely to buy something every week, or even every month, so sending a mailing too often just gets annoying. Once a quarter, however, isn't too bad, and in this case there was a 30% off coupon.

I checked, and sure enough they had a G1 screen protector (and a larger back, side protector) and ordered one. With the 30% off, I added a Zune cover for my son and I was still ahead on terms of cost.

The screen protector lists for $14.95, which is similar for the iPhone and other devices. It's an investment I highly recommend for your devices. In fact, I'm going to order one for my daughter's Nintendo DS as well.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Little Patience

Today was windy. Crazy windy, with stuff blowing around, howling audible inside the house, and not much fun. It was probably only 20-25mph, but it felt worse. And it was out of the Southeast, which was weird. Usually it's out of the North.

This morning when I went to feed horses I struggled through a bunch of mud, walking away from the barn with 1/2" or so on the bottom of each shoe. I slogged around, getting bins on the west side of the barn so the hay wouldn't blow away. That's always a struggle, and I think having Gemini locked on the North side helped.

As I ran errands tonight our to Kiowa and Elizabeth, it was still blowing like crazy, flags whipping around at the ends of their tethers. The whole time I shuttled kids to Scouts, I was dreading trying to feed tonight, working out in my head how I'd separate horses and get them into stalls.

However a few hours later, 8:30 as I walked outside, it was almost calm.

A little patience, not trying to feed them early, and giving it a chance to calm down worked. Feeding was still muddy, but not too bad.

Tuesday Travels

I've been from my house, to downtown Denver (about 40 miles), back to my house, then out to Kiowa (about 25 miles), back to the Elementary school (2 miles from the house), back out to the middle school (12 miles) and back again.


It's been a kid day and I am  woefully behind on work. It started with Kendall asking me if I was coming to the field trip since Tia was out of town. Apparently she'd signed up to go and then had to go to Seattle last night. So I got stuck doing it, and drove down to the Science Museum. It was a pain, I might have been able to skip it, but Kendall really was happy to see me, and I think I made it a good trip for her.

Then I got home, worked for an hour and headed out to Kiowa. Kyle had lost the registration for the Cavalier and he has court in the am for not having it. Since the car is registered to me, I had to go. I packed up the little kids and drove out there. It was a nice drive, but long, about 30 minutes. We get there and it's $2.20 for a new registration and it took me longer to write the check than it did to get the registration.

Grrrrr, not sure why this can't be online and they mail one out.

Then it was a quick stop at Sonic to get the kids something to eat before dropping Delaney off at the middle school. He has to take some type of music next year and he wants to do band. So he has a drum test tonight and didn't want to miss it. He got dropped off, and there's a friend there with his parents, so I'm not worried about him.

My next stop was the middle school, where Kendall had Girl Scouts. I stopped there, with my laptop, and did some work while she had her meeting.

After that, back out to Elizabeth to get Delaney and run by Boy Scouts. I'd skip that, but he has to get a book before his merit badge college on Saturday and he needs to read a few things.

I'd have skipped Girl Scouts, but we had snacks, and I didn't have anyone to leave them with. I couldn't skip the Kiowa trip, and I couldn't send Kyle. I could have skipped the field trip, but I felt that most of my work could have been done later. I had planned to hit Kiowa during the day, but I didn't have an insurance card, and so I had to wait for Kyle to come home. I'd pinged the insurance lady, but she didn't even reply to my email until nearly 2 and I wouldn't have left then for Kiowa with kids coming home.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pizza for Lunch

After a win and a home run yesterday, I kind of wanted to celebrate a bit. So I stopped off for Papa Murphy's pizza, a pepperoni for the kids and a lite chicken/spinach thing for Tia and I. I wanted some Fat Tire as well, but I knew there was one left at home and I wasn't in the mood to stop again.

So I'm driving home, it's about 4, I can almost taste the pizza when Kyle calls. He's just picked up Delaney from scouts and wants me to look up a recipe on the Internet. I'm confused, but he says he wants to cook for the kids, but doesn't remember what he needs to buy and he's at the store.

I was thinking to tell him to forget it, but it's a nice gesture, and I couldn't. So I pulled over and told him I'd call him back. So I Google'd the recipe, wrote things down, and called him back with the list. I was tempted to just cook the spinach pizza last night when he got done cooking, but he called us down to eat, and so I figured I'd just do it today.

He had done a good job with his Cheeseburger cassarole, even Delaney liked it, and so I waited until lunch today to cook the pizza. Just finished, and it is great.


Delaney woke me up early this morning, about 6:05, asking if school was going to be delayed. I was starting to rain last night when I came in, and it was cooler, but delays?!?!!?

He said there was snow, I told him there wouldn't be delays, and went back to sleep. Or I tried to. About 6:30 I got up, looked outside, and was stunned. There was snow on the ground, all over the ground. At least a couple inches.

I checked the school and there was no delay, then got Delaney going. Today was the day I start transitioning him to making his own breakfast. I like to have him ask me, and I'll do it sometimes, but I want him to grow up a bit more as well.

I took the kids to school, and it's easily 2", maybe even 4", but outside of our road (gravel), the roads are OK. They're wet, but all the snow is off the roads and no slippage.

Glad that we got some snow. It's great for the lawn, and it should be gone soon. Supposed to get to 50F today!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Advancement Camp

This weekend was Delaney's Advancement Camp, the first real camp out for the new Boy Scouts in his troop. It was at Casey Jones park in Elizabeth, just a little South East of us. We got Delaney ready this week and then headed out Friday afternoon to the camp site.

My first instinct was to bring a second tent and spend Friday night there, coming home Saturday night before baseball. Instead with the call for rain, a lack of warm sleeping bags, a general dislike of camping, and most importantly, missing Tia a bit, I decided to come home each night. It's about 12 miles, so it's not too far.

Delaney was supposed to buddy up with someone and he chose George, a kid from his Cub Scout group. When we arrived, about half the people were there, and we get Delaney going on his tent with George. Me and the other Dad gave them hints and told them what to do, but we didn't do the work, letting them get their tent set up.

The troop sets up this first camp out to help the new kids get their Tenderfoot rank, and learn how to camp. It's the chance for kids to make mistakes, learn from them, and parents to bail them out if things get bad. However it's also supposed to be the boys doing most things.

Some dads has signed up for specific things to teach (knots, cooking, first aid, etc.), but me and a few others were roaming, just doing the things that needed to be done. I ended up helping out cooking quite a bit during the weekend, and cleaning up the kitchen tent.

This troop does things a lot different than I remember as a kid, where we always backpack camped. It's also different than the troop that Kyle was in when we lived in Highlands Ranch. For this camp out, the dads did a lot of things, like cooking and cleaning the general stuff, letting the kids spend time learning. Kyle's old troop seemed to really have the patrols doing more work for themselves, but they were mixed patrols of all ages. Here all of the new scouts are in their own patrols.

Friday night there was no dinner, so after getting Delaney set, and letting him run around with friends, I headed over to Cheesies in the nearby town, ordered us a pizza, and then came back. Delaney and I shared it, giving a few pieces to George as well. His Dad had brought cold fried chicken, which didn't look nearly as good as pizza.

I stayed through the campfire, and then headed home around 9. I was tired, Delaney had confiscated my chair, and I wanted to get home to spend time with Tia. Unfortunately Kendall was feeling sick, and so I brought her up to our bed, and she fell asleep with us.

Sunday I was up at 6, ran quickly, and then was back to camp by 7. That was just in time to help cook food with breakfast. A couple other Dads and I cooked the food for everyone and then cleaned up while the scouts moved off to the various stations and worked on learning things. I cleaned, hung out with Dads, talked about scouts, learned a few things that we could do to help, and monitored the cooking class. I liked that the older scouts were teaching the younger ones about cooking, but they needed some monitoring to ensure that they stayed on track and that the younger ones would pay attention.

It was a cold, misty, hazy day and we kept expecting it to rain or storm. It started to mist a little in the afternoon and the temperature dropped enough that we thought it might even snow. It ended up holding off and we got some late afternoon run, but it was a fairly miserable day. Sticking in the cooking tent was a good idea, with it being about 10F warmer than outside.

By the time we got to campfire, however, my lower back was very tight and sore. I think the standing around, not moving a lot, just back and forth in the kitchen tent, wasn't good for me. Along with the cold temperatures, I sat and somewhat suffered through a drug talk, and then walked Delaney to the bathroom and told him I was leaving before the campfire. He was OK with it, spending most of the time with his friends, which was good to see.

I made it home, but found Tia and Kendall and Kyle gone. By the time they got home, it was late and I didn't even really see Tia.

I woke up at 6, but was tired, and went back to sleep until almost 7.  I ate a bar on the way to camp, and found Delaney eating breakfast and a little cold when I arrived. He was glad I'd left him a knit hat, something he'd insisted he didn't need. He was a little miserable, which was good. I think he learned a few things about being prepared.

After breakfast, we sat through a short service run by the kids. I'd talked to Delaney a bit about praying and services, wanting him to be able to fit in. I think he probably needs to explore spirituality, and Scouts is a good way to push him. Not sure how he views things since he's a little unsure of the whole God and church thing, but we'll figure it out.

After that they divided the kids up into 7 groups to compete in various areas. I helped with the cooking area, but was really an extra since I needed to leave before 11. I stuck around, helping the kids get going, and then left before 11, when I realized that I wasn't really needed. I did walk around and watch Delaney set up a tent by himself, get a fire going, and clean up a little, learning dish work.

I kept meaning to bring a camera, and kept forgetting. I figure I'll get to some other ones and get some good shots of Delaney doing things. This time I barely saw him.

All in all he said it was a good weekend. Camping worked out well with me, and I'll definitely avoid some of the outings, but I know I need to get myself set up a bit to get to a few of the camp outs with him. And stay with him.

Opening Day

We finally had opening day for the 2009 old man's baseball league. It was dicey, and I think we finished just in time as it started raining lightly as we were walking to the cars. However we got it in.

This was my first game with a new team. They're a good bunch of guys, but nowhere near as close as my previous team. We only have 14, and only had 8 show up today. A couple injuries, a couple guys out of town, I'm glad I came. We managed to get one guy from the previous game to stay so we could have 9, but I think we would have been fine. After the game we had a 5 minute meeting in the dugout and then everyone left. The weather didn't help, but the Shack would have at leas spent a few more minutes talking over the game and chatting. I think I talked with the Twins (our opponent) as much as anyone on our team.

I played right field, which was OK with me for today. We never switched pitchers, and nobody changed positions, so I can't complain. I got an early fly, then a couple short bloopers I couldn't get to, a grounder, and then a one hop line blooper that I threw to short and he cut a man down at 3rd.

At the plate things were better. I hit a good grounder to first (out), a high pop out to 3rd (out), another sharper grounder to first, and then with 2 or 3 on, I hit a home run to deep right. It was a fast ball, a little high, off the second pitcher, and I caught every bit of it. As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone. That was a good way to start the year as I've been 0-3 a few times.

The game ended 14-2 in the 7th, but if they'd scored a couple more I'd have come up again, so things were working out well.

A good start to the season, and I'm looking forward to more.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Grading a driveway – Part 1

I got a new rear blade (7’) for the tractor this week, half hooked it up last night, and then decided to get a little grading done today. I’d never hooked up a blade before or graded a driveway, so this was an experiment.

I researched last year how to grade, learned a few things (go slow, small cuts), but that’s a long way from doing it. I don’t have the links right now, but I need to research some more links, learn a bit more, and give it another go.

Hooking Up

I’d never hooked up a blade, but it’s a standard 3pt attachment. I hooked up the bottom arm, just holding the blade up and slipping them in, but when I went to hook up the middle arm, the extensible one, it didn’t reach.

I’d gotten the assembly roughly level, which is a mistake. I went in the tractor, lowered the rear arms, and then the blade bent forward. From here I could easily hook up the top, middle arm, then start the tractor, raise everything, and work on getting things level. I left the blade slightly leaning forward for today.


On the right rear arm of my tractor there’s an adjustment to raise of lower that part of the 3pt harness. I lowered mine so that the right side of the blade was lower, giving me an angle to dig in with the edge. My thinking here was that since I had some ruts in the middle where the tires go, and stuff has pushed to the side that I’d first set myself up with a little ditch there (1-2” deep) and then gradually smooth things out.

I also adjusted the blade so that the outside (right here) was further forward. That should push things into the middle of the road, which is where I want to build up to get the crown.

My first start up the right side of the driveway dug in a bit much, even going slow and fiddling slightly with the height, so I got out and made it less of an angle and then went down again. That pushed some stuff to the middle, but not nearly enough. That’s OK, I didn’t expect two passes to do it.

The 2nd time I came back down the left side, again trying to cut my ditch as a point of reference. This side has some worse places, but I didn’t want to get crazy. I also changed the blade to be more level and went up the right side again. 3 passes on the S upslope of my driveway and that side started to look a little better, but I’d guess I want 5-6 more passes on there at least.

The next trip I angled the blade the other way, left side lower, changed the forward angle so it was left side forward, and went up the S upslope like that. It appears to cut in more, but this side has quite a rut and rivulet, so I'm not sure where to go from here. I’ll read up a bit more before I cut too much in there.

Things I Learned

Aside from hooking up the blade, I learned that I can’t jerk the wheel. I found some nice swoops that made it look like a drunk was driving in places. I need to look back and forward, swiveling my head, but not adjusting the wheel unless I’m looking forward.

I think I also need to get more level blade and evenly push more to the center. Right now I’m so angled that after a foot or two the dirt falls under and doesn’t get to the middle.

Next Steps

It’s supposed to rain Sat and Sun, so I might a bit more tomorrow and then I might be stuck until Mon or Tue.

I also should take some pictures and diagram a little of the property. With a driveway running into a valley, I have multiple upslopes going both ways, so it will be a lot of starting in the middle and working my way up.

The Car Was Gone

Tia had a dentist appointment this morning and had to leave before I took the kids to school. As she was leaving, she asked which car to take. I said the Prius, thinking that taking the trash out, 5 cans worth, would be easier in the truck. It was, but as I packed up the little kids, Kendall asked

"Where's my homework?"

Normally I don't answer that question, telling her she's responsible, but we'd taken her home work to karate last night and I made her do it in the car. She kind of got penalized because she had tutoring testing and then I had karate, so she was out of sorts. She fell asleep on the way home, I had to wake her up to get out of the car, so I understand why her homework was still in the car. I should have grabbed it last night, but I didn't want to go back outside.

I told her we'd bring it to her and to tell her teacher what happened.

I ran it up to the school after lunch and talked to the teacher. She had believed Kendall and didn't keep her out of recess. Nice to know that the teacher trusts her a bit.

Stood Up (slightly)

I was running late and hurried to lunch, only to find that a few of my companions stood me up. Actually they had gotten a bounce when the appointment was sent my way, so they assumed I wasn’t coming. Not sure why they didn’t call, but it worked out.

Another friend from JDEdwards showed up and we had some great BBQ.

The Twitter Ripples

I saw this post on The Business of Software Blog about a use of Twitter to spread the word for a marketing guy. As an aside, I attended the 2008 Business of Software conference and it was outstanding. I’d recommend it to anyone in the software business.

It’s an interview with Dan Nunan, with whom I used to work, and it talks about how he handled a recent trade show. Pressed for time, they created a reconstruction of the Huson River plane crash that had occurred recently. What’s interesting, is how he used Twitter to spread the word and have a fairly wide reach.

It’s unclear if it was successful, and I think for many marketing efforts it’s a cumulative effect over time that determines if you’re successful, not the immediate response. Still I think it was a creative use of the medium, and a recognition of how the ripples can spread out from Twitter to mainstream media.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Working Hard

Not too hard, but I had a pretty good workout at karate. Our Shihan is our of town, down in Brazil training in jujitsu, and so we have some of his student teachers running the class. I wasn't expecting much, so I did a 3 mile run at lunch, a nice steady jog, and thought I'd take it easy.

I did for awhile, but then got going on some drills and I have a hard time not going all out. Hopefully I wasn't too crazy and won't be sore tomorrow. A lack of sleep last night and then the run today; I don't want to be exhausted tomorrow.

The Tutoring Club

I took Kendall tonight to The Tutoring Club, a local tutoring business in Parker. She's a little behind in reading and we thought that some extra help might help her. She had an hour long assessment and we'll get the results tomorrow and see how she's doing.

The Unusuals

IT seemed that so many shows I love are ending this year. Friday Night Lights finished their season in Jan on DirecTV and went to reruns on regular TV. ER recently had their final episode, and it was the best one I think they ever had. Scrubs ends soon. Tia and I have been searching for other stuff to watch, and I started a few new shows recently.

The Unusual's is one show that had a great set of trailers, and so I set it to record on the TiVo. Tia and I tried to watch the first episode, but fell asleep a few times. Finally I had some time last week and get through the pilot and the 2nd episode.

I think it's great, partially Hill Street Blues, partially a comedy, partially a Law and Order show.

I watched the third episode last night and it was another great one. I expect another great one tonight as they move the show to Wednesdays. Looking forward to it.

A Writer's Royalties

Someone posted this link to a blog by a writer, in this case, Lynn Viehl. She wrote Twilight Fall, a vampire novel that made it onto the New York Times Bestseller list. It debuted at #19, despite as the author mentions, not doing the things she was told were required.

Her earnings?

About $26k from this statement, but after a $50k advance, the actual payment was $0.

So earnings for the year for a best selling author, $50k, of which Uncle Sam and an agent took a good portion. Not a great year, and not what I'd want, or could live on for now. It would be a nice second job, but not necessarily one to support the family.

Granted earnings lag the sales, so perhaps she will get a nice payment on her next statement (slated for Oct 2009).


Struggling to get going this morning. Both Tia and I must be beat, we were tired last night, dropping off to sleep together, and when my alarm went off, I didn't hear it for a couple minutes, and she didn't push me to turn it off.

Glad I bought coffee last night. Definitely need some this morning.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pens and More

I got a catalog from Penn State Industries last week in the mail and over the weekend, with the snow, I opened it up and glanced through it. I tend to get 4-6 of these a year, which might be a lot, or feels like a lot, but this time they hooked me.

There were some specials in the back, if I bought some pen kids they'd give me a few things to make the pens. I've never made anything other than a 7mm pen, not really wanting to invest in more barrel trimmers and bits to make larger ones, but this time the special got me.

So I ordered today about $67 worth of stuff, going above the $59 limit to get free shipping. A few pen kids, some sandpaper, and a magnifying glass kit. If I can get those made, I might go for the peppermill next month.

FedEx'ing Easter Eggs

My wife has had a hard week. Actually a few weeks where she's worked a lot of hours, lots of phone calls, computer work, all trying to get a big contract going with a customer. It's been stressful and hard on her, making her question this job a few times.

Apparently her boss has been paying attention and wants to let her know that he appreciates her and he's aware of how hard things have been. This morning, while Tia was on a conference call, the FedEx guy came and rang the doorbell. He dropped off a small box, about the size that a cell phone comes in. It was from her boss, so I took it in to her.

She opened it up, and inside was an envelope that contained 4 or 5 small chocolate Easter eggs and a handwritten note telling her that he appreciated her hard work and to hang in there as things would slow down soon.

It made her laugh, and made her morning.

That's a great sign that a manager is paying attention to how his direct reports are doing. Even doubly so since she's a remote employee and only sees him a couple of times a year.

Prius Update – Smells Like New

We got the Prius back yesterday. I dropped Kyle off and he drove it home. Today was my first time to get in it when I took the kids to school. As we were walking out, Kendall told me it smelled “new” again and sure enough when I got in there it was almost like a new car.

Sure some of our junk was spread around inside, but it kind of smelled clean and like a new car. Well detailed, something that I don’t know how to do well.

It was good to be back in there. Tia’s truck is nice, and I love my Porsche, but I’ve come to enjoy driving that Prius around. Glad it’s back in front of the garage. Now if we can just get the garage door fixed, we’ll be in good shape.

I win!

I was working along today, my Twirl client running so I can keep up with Twitter during the day. I’d just posted a note that I had gone to Subway for lunch, and I saw that I had a few replies. I scrolled down, and the first one was a congratulations.

Needless to say I was puzzled, so I checked the next one, and apparently I’d won a 250GB HDD from Penton Publishing. I have seen the daily contest note by people, and I’d RT’d (re-tweeted) it a few times, but didn’t think much of it. Kind of a fun win for me.

Hurrah for me! I just filled up my PASS one, so having a 2nd would be nice.

Hopefully this is a real random win and not a suck up by them to get me to mention them.

The Death of Email Questions

One of my policies is not to answer questions from people about SQL Server in email. That includes emails to me, the webmaster, or in private messages. It’s not that I want to be a jerk, but I have a couple reasons.

  1. I’m busy, and if you need custom help, you ought to pay for consulting. One on one answering is time consuming, and it leads, or has for me, to a regular amount of “you’re my expert now” follow ups.
  2. It’s inefficient. I rarely have people ask questions that are unique. If you have the question, likely others have it as well. Let them see your issue, and more importantly, the answer.

I have a standard signature that I paste into email questions, either directly to me, via Private Message on the site, or the webmaster inbox. It directs people to the forums politely, letting them know email isn’t the appropriate place.

Not everyone feels this way, and I know some people on the site will take questions in email, or direct a people to email for more detailed follow up. I get that, and if you want to do it, that’s fine. However it’s not something I think is widespread, and I think fewer and fewer people use email.


I think some of it is the overload of email, especially SPAM, that makes people shy away from more. However I think that both me and the MVP program in the Microsoft space are partially to blame as well. The MVP program looks at contributions from people to the community, and a lot of the awardees depend on regularly answering questions in forums like SQLServerCentral and MSDN to prove they are helping the community. That means that every question they answer in email is one less point they get to the community at large.

Why me? I have been giving a presentation on branding over the last year, encouraging people to build a bit of a brand for themselves. I don’t address this, but reading between the lines, if you want to build a brand for prospective employers to see, you don’t want your work to be private, as in private email conversations.

Is it a problem? After all, I don’t answer things in email. I’m not sure. For me it is, since I can’t handle a large volume of questions in email, and I’m trying to continue to promote and build my community. In doing that, I push people to the community and public asking (and answering) of questions.

However there’s a drawback. Not everyone wants to post publically. There are people that don’t want to post something since they think they’re showcasing their ignorance. Or they’re private people. Or they just don’t trust advice they get from some anonymous person on the web. I have friends that IM or email me directly with SQL questions. They want “the Steve Jones answer", which might not necessarily be the best thing.

I get that, and I try to push them to post, saying I’ll answer in a forum. Or that they aren’t stupid for posting.

I don’t know how things will evolve. The advent of social networking, with real time questions and answers on Twitter, semi-private networks like Linked In and Facebook, means that there’s a push to be more social and more open online. That’s not for everyone, and I worry that those people who are more private as losing out.

Not because they don’t participate, but because less people are willing to help them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Muddy Mess

Our property is a mess. When I got up this morning I saw that the sun was already doing a job on the snow. Places on the driveway looked really low, so I went out with the truck to try and get out. I made it out, though it was slippery, and headed down to the local gas station to see how the roads looked. Once you left out our cul de sac, the roads were fine. Most had no snow, and were dry, like it had snowed days ago, not 24 hours ago.

I came back, and as I made it down our street and driveway, I could see places where the snow was still a foot or so high, rubbing on the transaxle of the truck.

So I fired up the tractor and went plowing. It was slower going when I thought, with the tractor slipping in places and I had to slow down and push a bunch of snow off to the sides. Eventually I got it pretty low, and went up and down our street a couple times as well. I like to get as much snow pushed off the gravel as I can since it's less to melt and erode.

When we left it was a little slippery, but it was also 50F, and I thought it would melt and evaporate quickly. Kyle drove the Prius home, and it must have done well because when I got back with the truck, the Prius was at the house, and the driveway was even dry in places.

I'm betting by Tues most of the snow will be gone from everywhere.


After plowing out the driveway today, I headed to the townhouse with the kids and we cleaned out the desks and misc stuff that was in there. Our rental is finally ready for someone to move in and this was the last bit of stuff we needed to do.

Afterwards we headed out to Wal-Mart and Dick's Sporting Goods, getting groceries as well as a bunch of stuff for Delaney to go camping. He has to show up Tues night with his stuff packed and ready for the campout so he can be checked out. He was excited to get a backpack, and surprised that we spent $100 on one. As we were looking, there were only a couple models that had external frames, and the cheapest one was $80. He thought we wouldn't spend it, but I said it was worth it.

I remember going out with Kyle and getting him set for Scouts. At the time he had wanted to quit after Cub Scouts, and so we weren't sure he's stick it out. His troop allowed a duffel bag, and so we went with that, thinking that he could use the duffel even if he quit. He made it for 6 months or so, but then decided it wasn't for him, and that was fine. It's not for everyone.

Delaney's excited, and he wants to be a military soldier someday, so I'm hoping I haven't made a bad investment here. We'll see, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he does at camp this weekend.

Snowed In

Yesterday was a very lazy day for us. We got up late, made breakfast for the kids, and I was just trying to decide what to do. It was a white out, snow coming down almost sideways, and starting to pile up. We'd been without DirecTV since Friday, and I suspected that the dish was covered in snow and it wasn't working for that reason.

I'd gone up Friday from the back side, partially because I didn't want to drag that ladder around front, and partially since I thought I could go up next to the chimney and the wall. So I went up with a small shovel and cleared snow off the shingles. I took my shoe off and pressed it down, but it didn't stick well to the roof. I should have realized it was a bad idea then, but I didn't.

I started up on my hands and knees, clearing off snow, but it wasn't working well. About 3 or 4 crawls up, I started to slide down, heart racing, and I got worried. I managed to stop, and decided then that I should just get down. I did, blood pressure falling with each step down the ladder. I decided that I was not that concerned with the TV.

However on Saturday, I didn't want to miss the playoffs (NBA) and we were definitely snowed in. It wasn't looking good, and so I tried a new tactic. I shoveled off the front walk, and moved the ladder out through the Porsche door and set it up front. I then took the pole I was planning for the wind aeromoter, which was 10 feet long. I grabbed a mop and taped it to the pole. I took them up the ladder and could just reach the satellite dish. I managed to knock snow off and then went inside and things were working. I tried plowing the driveway then, but it was too deep and I felt I was just wasting fuel.

I went out to the barn, hung out with Tia a bit as she watched horses. She needed some time with them after being gone all week. We hung out for awhile, just the two of us, which was nice. When we went inside, nothing was happening, kids hanging out, and we joined them. Watched TV, relaxed, I did my run, and then nothing else for the rest of the day. I didn't even get on the computer all night.

It snowed until sundown, and we had a quiet evening with kids. Today it's sunny, and the snow is already melting quite a bit. I think I might even be able to get the truck out without plowing, and I want to give it a try. After that, cleanup day.

Friday, April 17, 2009


My baby's back!

The garage already looks better!

Snowing Again!

When we got up this morning it had snowed, maybe 3-4", and Kyle wanted a ride. So Kendall and I drove him to school, it was slushy and a mess in our county, but not too bad by the time we got to Kyle's school. By the time we got through with errands and headed home, the roads weren't bad at all and we made it home in 2WD all the way.

Tia called, and so we went to go meet her for lunch, and it was fairly clear. The roads after we got off the cul de sac were clear, snow on the sides of the road, easy driving. The kids were thrilled to see Tia, and we had a nice lunch.

Delaney was happy to get time with Mom

After 2o minutes with Mom, Kendall was happy to come sit with Dad.

On the way home, it had started raining, which turned to slush and snow. By the time that I got to our neighborhood, in the 911, it was coming down and a good inch on the ground of wet slushy snow. I slipped and slid, but made it to the garage.

I had Delaney clean the sidewalk for the UPS guy this morning, and I ran over it when we got home, it has already started accumulating again. And here's the view from the front steps.

I think we're in for the night. That driveway above was completely white when we left this morning.

Bad Things in Threes

I hope that’s the case. This morning was Kendall’s third orthodontist visit in two days. Snow on the roads, Kyle not comfortable with driving, the little kids’ school cancelled, so I packed up Kendall and we drove Kyle to school. As soon as we dropped him off and were heading back, she said that her wire was poking again.

Grumble grumble, I questioned her, thinking this might be another “Kendall event” where she was making a big deal, but she said it spontaneously, so I figured it was an issue. 8:15, I hadn’t worked more than 10 minutes so far, and was 20 from home. We drove over and fortunately they were opening.

We got in and they replaced the wire, bending it more so it shouldn’t be an issue for the next 4 weeks.

Quite an ortho journey for us these last couple days and hopefully that’s it for a few more.

Priceless – Prius Repair Update

I went to pay for the Prius this morning; it’s finally done!

Front seatbelts (2) - $412

Rear seatbelts (2) - $260

Front door panel - $450

Rear door panel - $660

Add in labor and misc parts, the total was $2148.

Insurance deductable out of my pocket - $500.

Insurance is priceless for cars. Not that I’m quite getting back what I paid in, but with a few claims and not having to come up with $2k right now, it has worked out well.

I was surprised that the repair company hadn’t called, though maybe that was on the agenda today. I called them as we finished at the ortho this morning around 9 and they said it was done.

I just glanced in there, but it looks good. It will be nice to have that back.

So was it worth it? Financially it was for sure. Parts were north of $1500, and the labor wasn’t that much. It was better than the dealer, who wanted $200 per seat belt for the install, but I might have saved $500 off the total cost.

If it affects our insurance, I might regret not paying now and doing it myself, though someone had a good point about accidently setting off the seat belt explosive charge. They mentioned if I did that the front airbags (or sides) could potentially deploy, which wouldn’t be good.

However I don’t really have the time, and I wouldn’t have had a garage this week to do it, so all in all, going with an insurance claim and repair made sense this time.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Citizenship in the Community

One of the requirements for Delaney's Citizenship in the Community merit badge is that he has to attend a city council or school board meeting. I thought the school board would be more interesting, especially as they have been debating a four day school week. It's also at his school, so it's close. City Council is 12 miles away in Elizabeth.

So tonight we didn't get home until 6:15, and I was thinking of cancelling. I was tired, it was raining, and they put off the four day week debate. But I also hate putting things off since I know next time won't be any less inconvenient, and I would have gone to karate instead. I miss enough Thursdays, so we packed up 30 minutes later and went.

Afterwards Delaney said it "wasn't very interesting" and he was right. It was a fairly dry meeting, and we had to search around to find something where there were differing opinions. But he has something to talk about and he's ready to get 3 or 4 of the requirements knocked off next week.

Teeth Torture Thursday

I was trying to finish work this afternoon, hungry, having subsisted on a bar all morning after taking Kendall to the ortho this morning to fix a wire. I had to leave the house in 10 minutes to go grab a sub and then get the kids for a trip to the dentist.

The phone rang.

The school nurse was calling, which usually has me worried Delaney is throwing up. In this case Kendall's wire came off the brace and the nurse wasn't sure if it was broken. I was thinking that lunch was cancelled, but she said it wasn't an emergency.

So I grabbed lunch, ate in the car quickly, and then grabbed kids. We went to the dentist, who was unusually slow today. Good checkups for the kids, although Kendall needs to brush more. After that, we immediately went back to the ortho, and got Kendall seen. That was slow as well, with a busy office at the end of the day, but we did get in and Kendall got a new wire. Her teeth have moved a lot, which is probably why she's had trouble chewing.

All in all a long, teeth-torture day, and too many trips around town for me.

Disk 6 Dead

Or it appears to be. My disc 6 of Star Trek: TNG, which I got for Christmas, isn’t playing. The first episode was flaky, episode 2 barely watchable. Most of the last 3-4 chapters I watched at 2x speed or broken up, unable to hear, but watching subtitles.

I tried cleaning it this morning, but it won’t play at all. So, it’s been 4 months. Do I ask for a replacement? Take it back to the store? Or do I live with it? 2 episodes on there I haven’t seen.

Jammed Up

I am buried in work today. Lots of stuff to edit, and I’ve been avoiding editing for a couple days. The last thing I needed this am was Kendall’s braces to give her trouble. She complained during breakfast it was poking her, but she complained lightly 2 days ago and then nothing for two days. I couldn’t decide if she was just playing for sympathy or not.

However my day was slightly shot with the dentist, so I decided to take her. We ran up there before school and got them to adjust the wire a bit. Kendall was happy after that, so maybe it was bothering her a lot.

In any case, lots of work left to do today.

Better Backup

I’ve been managing backups of my video files using USB hard drives for a year, and I’m fed up. I currently have 3 drives, with video, and pictures, spread across all three, none backing each other up, and files off my various machines. To add more hassles, I also have issues with my XP desktop not allowing people to log in remotely and access files. My wife used to back up onto my desktop, or grab photos off there. I’m sure that’s not something that’s too hard to fix, but I don’t want to spend a few hours digging in there.

I also needed an external drive for my VM work, wanting to put SQL Server on one of my disks, but they’re all almost full. So that spurred me to look at solving both problems at once.

Last year I asked Cali Lewis, of Geekbrief, what they did for backup. They shoot a daily podcast, generate more formats and storage than I do, and I was curious. Since Drobo is a sponsor of hers, I should have figured it out, but obviously they use a Drobo.

This morning I tweeted my followers asking what they thought. I mentioned I was considering a Drobo and wondered what other people did. I got a couple of USB drive responses, even with NAS add-ons, but those don’t really help. What I really wanted was:

  • Something with data protection (RAID)
  • Multiple drives and expansion. I think 4 drives is plenty for me.
  • Network access
  • Ability to schedule backups.

Drobo_ProductPage I was considering a Drobo with 4 drives, since it looks like a nice device. I can add drives as I need them, multiple sizes, and allow the Drobo OS to balance the data across these drives and provide protection.

The base Drobo only has Firewise and USB ports, but I can add network connectivity if needed. However the Ethernet addition is $200, on top of a $500 device, so I’m at $700.

That’s not too expensive for protecting my data, but it’s a bit more than I’d like.

I also get a basic backup device that I need to use the Windows backup to schedule data moving from my machines or the iMac to the device. There are some apps that will stream media off this device, so it would be a nice central solution for the family.

However one thing that concerns me is that if the Drobo goes down, those drives aren’t readable anywhere else. I’d need another Drobo to access the data.

HP MediaSmart Server

Someone tweeted back, actually a few people, that I should look at the MediaSmart server from HP. My first reaction was really, a Microsoft Home Server? I haven’t heard great things about them, but to be fair I haven’t heard much at all.

So I Google’d and asked a couple questions on Twitter. I found a few reviews, but this was one someone sent me from SlashGear.

As I read it, it seemed like they really had done a good job with this product, and it supports MAC OS as well.

It’s a 64-bit CPU, albeit Celeron, and it has 2GB of RAM. At $500, the price compares favorably with other servers I’ve priced, and this one has lots of features. I verified that it saved sata on multiple drives, and that you can add drives of different sizes. I also l like that it has Amazon S3 backup integration. I’m not sure if I want that, but it’s a good option.

It also has a lot of options for streaming data from other computers, especially media (pictures, video) and sharing it. I really like that since that’s a lot of what I deal with these days. All my writing can be backed up on a USB key since the text is small, but the video and pictures, especially pictures, are important and too big to manage effectively.


My other choice, is NAS of some sort. I had this D-Link 2 bay NAS enclosure recommended as well. It has a network interface that allows FTP and SMB access (file shares) and can handle RAID 1. It has a USB printer port as well, which is very interesting. We could use some printer help, especially since ours wants a new network interface ever time the power cycles.

This device is $157 from Amazon, but without drives. I could add 2 1TB drives for

about $200, so this is basically a $350 solution. The other thing is that this is a completely manual solution. I’d have to script the backups, and manage them going to and from the machine. I’m not sure about streaming stuff, though I suspect that I could let each machine access it as a file share and pull data off it.


The MediaSmart server is $500, but that’s with one drive. Adding a second for protection gives me $600, or $250 more, but I get a lot more, management of files to prevent duplicates, streaming access for more devices, including iTunes, and it automatically looks for new media files. That’s an interesting plus.

It’s a business cost to me, and $200 doesn’t seem like a lot. I’m really leaning towards a Windows Home Server, both for the testing and the convenience. I’ll do more research, but that’s my first thought.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Del Gato

Today is Wed, which means that Kendall is "Del Gato", the dog from Beverly Hills Chihuahua. It's incredibly cute, and at the same time, very frustrating when she acts like an animal. She barks, crawls around, and talks about the dog in the third person, acting like the dog, who is her, can't do things like wash himself (don't ask my why it's a him) in the bath.


Another Excellent Lunch

I was heading to my massage today at Massage Envy and I heard an ad on the radio. I scheduled this one to get back on track since my monthly payments got ahead of my every other month visits. This two weeks in a row, and I feel better. This was a good one and I think I’ll schedule another in two weeks.

The ad was for Mion de Real, a Mexican restaurant near our old house. I went there once before, but I had a hankering for Mexican food and the advertisement got me. So I drove over for a quick meal after the massage. An excellent Burrito Fajitas!

Slow Going

I’m struggling to get going today a bit. I stayed up too late editing some chapters for a book and I’m paying for it now. My eyes were aching when I heard Delaney padding into my room, asking for eggs.

And there was no Kendall in my bed. She’d slept the whole night in her bed! That’s less often that we’d like, and less than she crawls into our bed. She’d even given me “Whitey”, one of her stuffed dogs, to put into my bed.

After a big cup of coffee, kids in school, I managed to feed horses and make it to my desk.

Tax Day

A reminder of one of the downsides of working is today. In the US, income tax filing is required, though like the last two years, I’m filing an extension today. We’ve procrastinated the gathering of all our information, and as a result, our return isn’t ready.

Taxes are a burden, and I’m not sure how inequitable they are in the US. Personally I’m grateful for the opportunities to succeed in the US, and I feel that paying taxes is part of having the opportunity. Even though I don’t necessarily like everything my tax dollars fund, it’s a balancing act, and I think the US does an OK job of using many tax dollars. As with everything, there’s room for improvement.

This is different from tax freedom day, the day on which you’ve been working all year to meet your tax obligations. that was Monday, Apr 13, for most people. After this day, you’re working the rest of the year for yourself!

One thing I will mention is that there are definitely opportunities for IT folks to get some more deductions. Invest in yourself, educate yourself, any money you spend to improve your career, say a personal laptop, should be deductable, so keep track of things and note where you might be able to save a few dollars.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Garage Door Chronicles - Part 2

After the garage door broke last week, I ran by Home Depot before karate one night to order a new one. I figured they're a big box retailer, they should get the best prices, right?

Wrong, as it turns out.

I picked a basic, short panel door, chose white, and ordered it with insulation. No opener, no windows, and Home Depot priced this out as "installed" for $1600. Seemed high to me, but not necessarily outrageous. This was a Martin Door, and supposedly with a number of features that other doors don't have.

Last night I heard from the installer, and they said that I had until Thur morning to verify the color, and that someone would come to measure the door this week. So I grabbed a brochure from Home Depot (they never offered one the first time) and came home last night. I tried to look at it, but I couldn't tell. Then at 11:00 last night I had Tia come down and try to look at it, but she wasn't sure.

Today I then had Kendall look with me again before she went to school and we picked a color that seemed close. I called the installer and left a message with the color code. A couple hours later they called me back to say that color would cost $700 more!!!

Only the 5 basic colors were included in the price, but that means that a third of the cost of that door ($2200) would be the @#$%^%#@$ paint!

So I tried to get a hold of Tia, couldn't, and decided to call a few people for other estimates. I sent out a quote request through Service Magic, and got 3 calls in 30 minutes. That in and of itself was amazing. All of them were in the $800 range for an insulated door.

I grabbed my receipt and went to Home Depot, cancelling the order, which was easy. One nice thing about the big boxes is that they have pretty good customer service and return policies.

Now I need to pick someone and have them come out with paint chips when Tia's home.

Custom Lunch

Today the little kid’s school is serving corn dogs. I checked so that I could get lunches from the store if they weren’t interested. There are 2-3 things a month that each of them really don’t like, and I want to be prepared.

Kendall told me that she couldn’t eat them since she still has trouble chewing with her front teeth and the ladies working there won’t cut them up for her. Then she asked if I’d make her soup for lunch. I agreed, but we didn’t have time this morning to do it.

So I had a quick run and then raced up to make her a lunch of soup, applesauce, and crackers that I could take to school. She wanted me to stay for lunch, but I’m buried today. Made my feel a little guilty since I haven’t had lunch with her in awhile. Need to schedule time later this week for that.

Bob the Dog

Either Tia or I usually lay with Kendall in her bed for a few songs on her iPod until she falls asleep. Last night she was excited from piano, having just shown me a few things she learned, and was restless. As I lay next to her, so first pulled the collar off Bob, her big stuffed dog, deciding to use him as a pillow, then realizing he’s not that comfortable to lay on (too big) , so she put the collar on.

However she didn’t say he was uncomfortable. She told me that she needed to put the collar back on Bob because he runs away at night. Apparently he runs to her imaginary friend’s house (her words) and plays. It’s day at the imaginary house while it’s night here, and they have to drive him back. They just know his name is Bob, not Jade (as the collar says), and he always goes there, but it’s good that he has a collar.

Apparently the escapades of our real dog, Deuce, are wearing off on her. He runs away, and that somehow gets back to our imaginary stories.

Monday, April 13, 2009


We got to karate tonight and I realized that I'd forgotten my pants. A busy weekend, I ran this afternoon, so I decided I could miss it. After Delaney's class we packed up and headed home.

Tia was out with the Ks for piano lessons, so I decided to do a few things. With a 6:00am flight, I knew Tia wouldn't have had too much time, so I went out and cleaned the stalls, mucking them out after the bad weather over the weekend. With the waterers filled, it not too windy, I decided to get the weather station mounted.

I straightened the step ladder and put it up on the chimney. It didn't reach as high as I'd like, so I decided to mount it up there and see how the data logging went. I got one screw in, but I couldn't get leverage on the second one, and was nervous about falling, so I bailed.

I'll get it to log some data over the next few days and then I'll get it mounted higher.

Easter Skiing

We checked the weather, and with snow in the forecast for the mountains and an Easter Egg hunt at Winter Park, we decided to go up. We got everyone up early, and we were almost ready to go, but the little kids were asking about a hunt here, and "where was the Easter Bunny?"

So while I distracted them with some packing and trekking things to the truck, Kyle and Tia put some baskets together and hid some eggs. When the kids walked in, we were getting another load and walked into the kitchen. Kendall saw her big stuffed dog sitting on a chair and asked "What's that?" and then realized there was an Easter basket under him and screamed. She grabbed him and started running around the house to show everyone. That clued Delaney in and he got his basket with a shirt in there saying "The Perfect Day...Eat...Sleep....Play Video Games."

The little kids then ran around, grabbing eggs that were hidden in the house before we finally packed up and left. It was a pretty easy drive up, the boys fell alseep, we listened to music, and things were smooth until we got to the top of Berthoud Pass. From there we had to slow a bit as the road was snowy, but it wasn't bad.

I'm glad we got up there by 11 because we had to register the little kids quickly for the Easter Egg hunt. It was on a green slope on the mountain, so we headed up, did a couple runs and then lined up. You can see Delaney and Kendall here:


When the hunt started, with hundreds of kids, Kendall was ahead, and managed to ski down slowly, picking up eggs. I walked down with Delaney, and tried to help him, but it was hard, and the wave in front of us picked up so many eggs he hardly got any. He was disappointed, and a little upset. We comforted him a little, and a man whose daughter had gotten a lot gave us a few.

We skiied around a bit, trying to stick together, but Kendall kept getting ahead of us. It was a little icy, but still fun. There was a point where Kendall wanted to go through the Terrain park again, but Tia and the boys didn't. So we split up and got separated.

Kendall and I went through, finding the SuperPipe open. It had been closed earlier, so I couldn't show off my skills, but this time Kendall and I went through it. She's a little nervous, but she did some side to side. The pipe isn't huge, but it's got to be 10ft high at the deepest and I made it most of the way up the side. No air, but getting more comfortable.

At that point Kendall was done, so she and I went down to the bottom, had some Starbucks, talked a little, played some dog games (she'd had two stuffed dogs sticking out of her backpack all day), and then she did a little sledding at the bottom of the hill. A little with my snowboard, and a little by herself.

We stayed until close, and then Tia and the boys made it down. They posed for a picture.



as did the adults,

and then headed home. A rough drive over the pass at 25mph, but we made it safe, and things cleared up nicely on I-70. A great Easter day.

A few more pictures in our album.

Composing a Picture

I took Delaney to the bus this morning, and we were running late, so we missed his regular stop. Fortunately the bus loops around and there's a second stop a 1/2 mile down the road. Actually it's a good place for me to run, about 1.5 miles from here.

Anyway, we stopped, put on the blinkers, and were talking a bit about things and I noticed the moon up in the sky to the Southwest. Then I looked down and saw that there was a horse, white, standing right below it. I though, this would be a cool picture, wish I had a camera. I also thought it wasn't cool enough to go home, get one, and come back.

Delaney got on the bus, and I turned around and started thinking. We'd gone skiing yesterday, hadn't really done much unloading when we got home. So I stopped and looked around in the backseat, and sure enough, Tia's camera was in there. So I backed up a bit, put the blinkers back on and got out.

I took 4 or 5 pictures, trying a few different ISOs, and then I cropped this one down. Not sure if it's the best one, but it was one of the first times I've really "seen" a picture and taken it.

I've subscribed to the newsletter and feed from Digital Photography School, and it might be paying off. I've learned a few things from the weekly posts.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Do You Have to Write a Blog?

I have a variety of things that you can do to build your brand: blogging, authoring, speaking, and more. I tell people that you can do one or more of these to raise your profile, but do the things you're comfortable with. If you like mentoring people and presenting information to others inside your company, then do that.

Lots of people don't really like to write. I can understand that since I hated writing all through school, and then for some reason got the bug after I left college. However most people in a professional occupation, or even in business for themselves, need to learn to write, and blogging is a great way to build those skills.

But if you don't want to blog, don't want to put out your thoughts for others, then don't. Blogs aren't required, and if you don't have good writing skills, you can make yourself look bad with a blog that's consistently poorly written.

Use some other way to raise your brand if that's important to you. Pick some other way that you are more comfortable with. IT can be managing, leading, speaking, or some other way of showing off the skills and knowledge that you have.

I do urge you to spend small amounts of time documenting things, learning to express yourself through writing, but you don't have to create a blog. Create a private journal, and learn to express yourself better.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eagle Scout Project

Not Delaney's, though I had a glimpse of what might be coming. This morning Delaney and I got up early and headed out to the house of an Eagle candidate in his troop. He's requested help in getting his project done, which was building a series of benches for a local school.

We got there, along with 4 or 5 other parents and about 10 boys. I had planned to drop off Delaney and then head to baseball practice this morning, but when I woke up Delaney he asked if I'd be staying. I told him my plan and he was a little upset. I think he was nervous about being alone there, not knowing too many boys (he ended up knowing only one) and so I agreed to stay with him. By the time I knew he was comfortable, with the wind and likely rain, I decided to skip practice and just stay with him.

It worked out well. I watched the boys try to work, helped the other dad organize them and keep them focused. Apparently the scouts aren't allowed to use power tools, so we had to do the cutting and drilling to put the benches together. They benches were think, like 4 or 5" thick tops and bases, and when we got to a point where the circular saw wouldn't cut through, the other Dad wanted to chain saw through. He did one, but I'm glad I convinced him to stop and let the boys use hand saw to get through the last 2" or so. They worked hard and did well.

We got one bench together, mostly stained, and the second one almost complete when we had to leave to come home. It was good work, no complaints from Delaney, and I think it showed both of us there's nothing to be afraid of with this project down the road.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Today I was hurting when the alarm went off. I think that I've run more in the last week, close to 14 miles as opposed to the 9 I usually do, and that combined with 3 days of karate had me sore last night when we did push-ups and squats. It was "A" week as well, so lots of boxing drills, using my back and arms.

I decided it was a good day to get a massage as well, so I called and booked an 11. As I took Kendall to school, I thought that I'd messed up since I was aiming for 11:30 for lunch with a friend. Fortunately my buddy could move back to 12, so we were fine.

A good massage, hard, but it felt good on the body, and then lunch. I had a short, late run this afternoon, doing a minimum to not push too hard on the muscles.

Data Logging

I'm a data guy, so it makes sense for me to think about tracking my data here at home. Recently I acquired two new devices, both of which I'll use in my Energy Updates here in the future.

The first was a Kill-a-watt, which is a device for measuring the power usage of appliances. I've been wanting to get one and finally decided to do it a few weeks ago. The plan is to test the power consumption of various things here, both while in use and idle, and then do some comparisons to publish. It makes me really wonder what the payback might be in unplugging things as well as switching to more efficient devices. Look for an update in April.

The second is a weather station. We've considered installing a windmill, and even though my neighbor has one, I'm not sure what the wind speed is on our property. So I have a La Crosse station that will connect via USB to my desktop and log the weather and wind here at the ranch. I'll likely get this into the update in June.

No Opening Day

For the second year in a row I didn’t purchase opening day Rockies tickets. I had a nice streak of 6 or 7 years, including a couple with my son, of watching the opening day game of each season. This year, for a few reasons, I won’t be going, but it did make me think about why I didn’t get tickets for any games.

A Random Chance

It used to be that I would see the ticket order form each February in the sports page of the local paper. That would trigger me to order 10-12 pairs of tickets to go see a variety of games with my kids or friends. With the local paper gone for me, that’s no longer something that could happen.

I don’t get the paper anymore, partially because it’s 1/2 mile to my mailbox/delivery point, and partially I’ve gone to the Internet. With a laptop in the bedroom most of the time and a desktop I look over while having coffee on the weekends, I don’t really get much out of the paper.

The delivery of information has changed in my life, and while I still like the information, I don’t miss the paper.

However I wonder how much I’m missing out on. I target certain sites, missing others, I don’t get the off-topic local article that I used to see. Perhaps I just get others, but I wonder if I have a slightly less “random chance” of finding something new that might interest me.

Or inspire me.

Or teach me.

In the data world we get so focused on things, we have filters, we have RSS feeds, we look to limit out those extraneous, distracting elements, that I wonder if we’re missing something in our lives by not just taking in more of what’s presented to us.

Of course, I didn’t have control over that. The Denver Post (and the Virginian  Pilot before that) chose what to show me, often with no regard for the importance as much as the chance it would interest the greatest number of people and keep them as subscribers.

I worry sometimes that Business Intelligence systems fall into this trap. They look for patterns, models, and present information in an organized, structured way. That means that they also influence thinking, and perhaps, retard the ideas that might occur to analysts if they had to slog through more things on their own.

There were other reasons, some of which I won’t go into in this blog, but I’m skipping opening day again, and it’s a little sad, but not enough to get me down there.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Prius Repair Update

We decided to let the pros replace the seat belts and do the other repairs and file a claim on our insurance. We called our agent, who’s a good friend, and after talking with her, it made more financial sense to actually file the claim, pay our $500 deductable, and get everything fixed. Between the seat belts and door panels, I’m probably looking at $1000 in parts, so this works out better. Supposedly it won’t affect our insurance, but who knows.

My wife called the other day to file the claim, and what was interesting was that this wasn’t the strangest claim filed. Some woman had a rat eat her electrical wiring, and ended up with a fairly large fill getting things rewired.

Sick Girl

Kendall woke up at night with a fever, so even though she’s better this morning, she’s home. I suspect that the fever is after her ortho visit where she had the wire changed and a new bracket put on, but better safe than sorry.

Her visit was interesting. Apparently her top front teeth are too low, hitting her bottom front ones and not moving forward. She got some build-ups on the back teeth to prevent that, to keep her teeth separated and it looked like booties or complete covers on those back molars. Definitely made it hard for her to close her mouth.

But this should move things and in the next 2-4 months get them to the point when she’ll get things off until she’s 12 or so.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In the Mirror

After my run today, I showered, grabbed a shirt and happened to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It looked something like this:


Not what you want to read and see in the mirror

Clean Bill of Health

Well, maybe not overall health, but I had a dental checkup this morning and everything was fine. A few 4s on the gum examination, but almost all 2s and 3s.

The hygienist cleaned my teeth, and I was checking my watch because I had a call for work. She said it looked fine and I didn’t need to wait for the doctor. Nothing she saw to be concerned about, floss more, blah blah, so I left.

Good to know things aren’t falling apart. I really like this dentist. One of the best groups of people working there. They’re friendly, efficient, quick, I almost don’t dread going.

The Dead Door

Our garage door has been giving us trouble for a year. I think the track is worn out, and likely bending. When it was cold last winter it didn’t want to close, and I’d manually close it. Opening was no issue. This past winter the same thing happened, I sprayed it with lube a few times, and it was doing OK until this morning.

I started it closing, it stopped, I hit the button to freeze it from going up and then the button again. Normally if it gets about 1/3 of the way, getting past the curve, it will close. So I walked out back, intending to spray my weather station again and get it ready to mount later. As I was shaking the spray can, I noticed the garage door noise was going on longer than expected. Sure enough, it had re-opened.

After I sprayed a little paint, I walked in hit the button, and realized the wise that helps control the one side of the door had gotten tangled up and was unwrapped from the spool. I disconnected it, but soon realized it provides tension to get the door to go down evenly. Something that wasn’t happening.

So now we need a new door. I could possibly get this one to work a little better for the summer, but it won’t work well in the winter, and a new track is needed. I watched my neighbor replace one years ago by himself. While it was a chore, it looked interesting, and I was thinking I’d like to try it.

But I have no time. Between fertilizing, wanting to build a few wood things, rocks to move, I’m deluding myself into thinking I can find time to replace a garage door, and then deal with the waste.

Sadly, I’ll have to let this project go and call someone.

My Mini Identity Protection

Last week, on April Fool’s Day, I woke up to find quite a few birthday congratulations in my email. I was surprised for a minute, and then I realized that quite a few of these were coming from Facebook. When I signed up, I used Apr 1 as my birthday, and so it triggered on a bunch of other people’s pages.

I’m not overly concerned with Identity Theft, but I do try to be prudent. One of those things that people use to validate identity is your birthday, so I hesitate to actually give mine out. It’s also that I don’t make a big deal of my birthday. Last year I actually went to a scout meeting with my son that night instead of celebrating.

For years, when I’ve been asked for a birthday, on ESPN, Facebook, almost anywhere, I’ve used Apr 1 as the date, and then a year that’s close to my own. Sometimes I got a year older or a year younger, but I want to try and prevent my birthday from being released when one of these places loses data.

And I’m sure one of them will.

So it was a fun surprise, and I’m sure that there are some downstream BI systems collecting all this data that are struggling to match up this Steve Jones with that one. :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Skipping Opening Day

I had a great streak of 7 Opening Day's of Rockies baseball, but once again I'm not going this year. I missed last year, and I'll skip this year as well.

I think I'm still mad over the ticket fiasco from last year. After the 07 World Series, they limited opening day tickets initially to those people that purchased 25 game packages or season tickets. Eventually they dropped that requirement, but I'd already gotten annoyed and skipped out on my 10-12 games I usually buy.

In fact, I skipped all Rockies games last year. I did see the Mariners play, but that was it.

This year, I'm not going to buy any tickets in advance, though I might go see some afternoon games.

Weather Station

I ordered a weather station recently, getting the La Crosse 2316U from eBay. At less than half the price of Amazon and other places, it seemed like a deal for me. I checked a few places and it got good reviews. Not as good as the Davis stations, but I wasn't willing to spend $500 on this, even though it's for business.

I got it the other day, and over the weekend plugged it in, powered up the sensors, and made sure the base station was receiving information. I didn't have time to set it up outside and mount the sensors, so I just put the thermometer sensor on the front porch.

Today I got moving on it. Since I was running errands, I stopped to pick up a metal pole for mounting the wind sensor up on the chimney. I've been thinking about it and I decided that was the best spot in the property. I didn't think the flagpole would support the 3 sensors on top and they all need to be within about 10ft of each other since they're wired together.

This has to survive outside, so when I got home, I grabbed some wood, laid out the sensors on it, screwed in a platform for the rain monitor, and then painted it. My plan is to mount it up high on the chimney either tomorrow or Thursday, depending on time.

Then I need to hook the base station up to my computer, and we'll begin monitoring the local weather, especially the wind. This should let us know how feasible a windmill is.


A grind today, working through articles and submissions on the site. Not much fun, and more to do tonight after running errands and helping out my father-in-law for part of the afternoon.

This is one of those heads down days for most of the morning that had me thinking that this wasn’t much fun. Not sure I could be a full time editor and not write.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Modifying the Routine

Tonight Delaney banged his hand on the counter and cut the back of it up. He was really worried, but it wasn't that bad. There were just a couple small gouges in his hand. So I taped him up and we went to karate.

He ended up working with the teacher tonight in the adult class. With band-aids and tape on his hand, he only wore one glove. He modified his routine, and ended up doing the punching with only one hand.

Afterwards he was proud of himself. He worked through the irritation of his hand, getting a good workout in. I think he felt good about being pushed a bit.

I had a good workout, but was gassed a bit. I ran at 5pm tonight, and even though I didn't run that far, I felt tired when we got to karate. The wrist was still sore and even though I wrapped it, it hurt a touch at times. Definitely need to take it easier in class.

Healthy Boy

Delaney had his checkup with the pediatrician this morning. He hasn’t been in 4 or 5 years, so this was a good chance to get him caught up on shots and checked out. And I needed a shot record for Scouts :)

All the kids have been healthy, so we haven’t worried. Kyle went last fall, and that spurred us to get Kendall checked and finally Delaney. He’s 94% in height and weight, aiming for about 6’ 1”, about Dad’s size, though perhaps (and hopefully) slimmer.

He got two shots, will need another next year. Overall, doing well.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Wet and Wild

After my run, Kendall and I headed to the pool for an afternoon of fun at the Parker pool. She and I are the two that seem to love the water more than anyone else in the family. We drove down, and it started to snow on the way, which meant we had a great time in the lukewarm pool with snow falling outside the windows.

Kendall wanted to be "Rescue" the dog again, and so we played some fetch, then rode the slide for awhile, then diving off the board, and we repeated a couple times. She never really found any friends, but we had a good time just the two of us. I kept asking her if she wanted to leave, but she was in no hurry.

I did a bunch of dives for her off the diving board, but those weren't fun on my head, and some tall jumps hurt my feet. I think that I'm more sensitive to the impact as I get older. Fortunately she didn't complain too much when I quit.

More snow today, covering the roads nicely. Some good moisture for the area. It didn't seem to be doing much while we were swimming, but as we drove to get Delaney, it was really sticking. Hopefully the roads aren't bad in the morning, but I'm glad we're getting snow on the ground. Now I know I need to fix the sprayer as soon as I can when it warms up and get fertilizing.

Prius Repair #1

I’m aborting for now. I think I could replace the seat belts, but I don’t have the right part at this time, so I’m going to stop and not do this halfway.

After our incident with Deuce, I called a couple dealers this week to get an estimate. One didn’t bother to call back, and one told me it was $226 a seat belt and then $200 install for each one.


Apparently these seat belts have some electronic integration and an explosive charge that goes off when an accident occurs. And then they have to be replaced. I wasn’t sure I believed him completely, sounded like large-car-manufacturer FUD to me.  I’m sure there is some charge in there, but I’m not sure it’s needed or that it works substantially better than older seat belt technology. Maybe, but I’m not convinced.

We decided to try it ourselves. After all, we’re engineers, geeks, we can do-it-ourselves!

So today, after a lazy morning, doing some playing with Kendall, I went out to try and open up the old seat belts and see what I was dealing with. I started on the back, thinking those were simpler, but the trim was a bigger pain, so I moved to working on the front driver one. After wrestling with trim for about 30 minutes, I figured out how to get it loose. Actually I could have done it sooner, but I was tentative about breaking things. Once I pried a little and could see around the edge, I realized what I needed to do and applied a touch more elbow grease to get it loose. Once I did that, I saw this:


Once inside, I could see a seat belt integration mechanism, and sure enough there’s an electronic connection. My guess is this works something like the Saw-stop wood saws. However it’s still about 4 bolts that need to be removed and replaced. I called Tia out to look since I didn’t think the generic replacement belts we’d gotten would work and she agreed. Likely they wouldn’t fit in the space and allow the trim to close.


I couldn’t get the electrical connection to come off, and wasn’t even sure how to get it. Since I didn’t want to a) break it or b) leave it hanging loose), I bolted the belt mechanism back in and decided to leave it for now.

Tia’s going to call the insurance agent and discuss the impact to our policy if we just have someone fix it. If that doesn’t sound like a good idea, I think I’ll order the $226 parts myself and just bolt the belts in.

We did debate having someone sew up the belts. I didn’t think anyone would do it because of liability, but it’s something to ask about. Looking at how the belts are put together, they’re sewn anyway at the connection point, so maybe someone would do it. Or at least do the middle one in the back.


For the second week in a row, no baseball. It blew and snowed too much, and while I'm not sure how the rest of Denver looks, we have white ground out here.

On one hand I'm disappointed. I'd like to get out and play. On the other, my wrist could use the break and with Easter next weekend. I have two more weeks to heal. Now I just need to get out and start swinging a bat a few times.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

An Ugly Day

Windy, light snow, just a nasty day. I took Delaney to karate, but I was ready to call it a night and hang out inside, but I'd forgotten my wallet earlier, so I couldn't get some groceries we needed.

This is the type of day that makes you hate Colorado. Windy and cold, the wind just ripping through you and constant. It's blown snow in the garage and made the barn a mess as well with horses staying in as much as possible.

Hoping tomorrow isn't as bad.

Friday, April 3, 2009

New Years Resolutions 2009 – Q1 Update

How am I doing on my New Year’s Resolutions for SQLServerCentral? I decided to make another update as Q1 has ended. Here are the goals from my first post and an update to my status.

  1. Continue with 400 posts a month – I’m doing better here. 399 in Feb, but well over 400 for March. I’ve over 1200 for the quarter.
  2. Blog Daily – My blog count for March is 32, so I did well there. 81 for Q1.
  3. Speak at each Denver area user group – I’ve spoken to the Denver (Jan), Boulder (Feb), and Colorado Springs (Mar) groups, and also remotely to the Charlotte group in March. Complete!
  4. Speak at one SQLSaturday – Pensacola is scheduled for June. I might do another one.
  5. Comment on blog posts that I think are interesting. I comment regularly here when I see something I like. I haven’t commented on all blog posts, but I’ve done most of them when I have something to say.
  6. Update my blog roll to show who I think is interesting. I should at least do this monthly. I’ve done this twice. I updated my list in March to add a few and removed a couple as well.
  7. Grow the SSC audience to 1.4mm members by the end of the year. We are at 1.05 at the end of March. That puts us more like 1.2 by EOY. I think I was counting on growth, but with the economy, I might not see as many people coming here on a regular basis. Lots of other new sites as well.
  8. Give all new articles a first review within 7 days. I am failing here. I am still getting too many articles. I tracked this two weeks in March. One week I got 12,on eI  got 17.
  9. Not miss sending any newsletters. I think I missed 3 this year. so far so good.
  10. Build something useful with .NET/SQL Server. It needs to be for SSC.  I’m thinking of redoing my personal site, but I’ve been looking at Dot Net Nuke, so that wouldn’t qualify. Still need a project.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Quiet Night

We were thinking to go to the local school board meeting tonight. Delaney needs to attend one as part of his merit badge for citizenship, but it was down in Elizabeth. So after we got home from the ortho and errands, we decided to hang out. I worked a bit to get things out the door and then took a bath with Kendall.

We then watched a few sitcoms waiting for Tia to get home. A nice quiet night, something we don't have a lot of with our busy lives.


Delaney had an ortho appointment today and when we got there, they said he could get his wire removed. He's had one behind his upper teeth to keep them from moving back. He's down to 4 baby teeth, so they decided to remove it and he's without any hardware in his mouth for at least six months.

We'll see after that.

Mailing Day

I need to take the kids to the orthodontist this afternoon, so I’m combining it with a trip to the post office to mail stuff off. I have books, shirts, returns, a bunch of stuff to send back.

I  also need to ship Delaney’s XBOX back for support, but the wonderful XBOX site apparently is down and I can’t connect. So I can’t get the shipping label. I had planned on doing this last week, but with Spring Break, Delaney wanted to keep playing.

So today is a great time to do this, but apparently it’s not likely to happen.

Wordle Your Blog

One of the things that I see often on blogs are the tag clouds, which show the various tags that you’ve used for your posts. The sizes vary according to how much you have used those tags, so at first glance it’s an interesting way to see what you’re writing about. This blog had a cloud that looked like this as of this writing here:


There are alternatives out there for your basic tag cloud. One very interesting one I’ve seen is Wordle, which shows my cloud like this:


What’s interesting is that Wordle looks through the text from your posts and builds a list based on the text found in your feed.

It’s a little fun, a little silly, but it also lets me know what I’m writing about, and it tends to help me to focus on which topics I might not be seeing listed enough in the blog.

I’d urge you to check out your own blog and see if you’re actually writing about what you think you are.