Sunday, January 31, 2010

If Not for the Kid Alarms...

I wasn't sure what to do today. I had considered skiing, but after Tia and I went to see a movie last night, and got home at 1am, I was exhausted. The idea of getting up early to go skiing seemed like a bad idea. It was still a bad idea when I got up at 7am.

Why did I get up? Kyle's alarm was going off, the alarm that should get set for school, on weekdays, was going off on Sunday. After 5 minutes of hearing the beeping, I got up to shut it off. As I was walking back to bed, Kendall's alarm went off and I turned around to shut that off. I lay back down, but then thought I should just go skiing. The kids were out with their Aunt, Tia had horse stuff. I could putter around the house and do things, but skiing seemed like a good idea. The weather was supposed to be nice, so I got up, dressed, kissed Tia good bye and headed for the slopes.

Not much traffic, but Keystone was crowded when I got there around 9:30. The gondola had a huge line, so I got through it, hit the top and immediately went off the back side again. I spent the day cruising around the Outback and North Peaks, sticking to the sunny areas where it was easy to see. It was colder than Thur, upper 20s, but no wind, and not too crowded. A great day to ski.

10 runs in, I headed back around 1:45, thinking I'd get a few things done at home. However traffic was bad and it took me an extra hour to get home. A few errands on the way made it later, so I got back, did my run, and now am going to cook a little food.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Shuttle Bus

I've been to Parker twice today, and Elizabeth twice, racking up about 80 miles so far moving kids around and now Tia and I are looking to go out since the kids went to their Aunt's for the night.

This morning Kendall had a cheerleading camp for 3 hours. I ran her out to Elizabeth, happy to have her doing something active. She did this a few years ago when she was in the cheerleading program and enjoyed it, and she agreed to try it again. I'm glad, since she had  a good time and she'll get to cheer during halftime of the high school basketball game next week. However after dropping her off, I had to come home and get Delaney to his Scout event.

There's a teen court in Parker, where I guess they actually hear cases and resolve various disputes. Kids go through training and learn to be bailiffs, judges, and lawyers, working with kids that have really gotten into trouble with the law. Delaney said it sounded interesting, so I dropped him off, looking good in his freshly ironed, Class A uniform.

Then I shuttled to get Kendall home, and back to Parker for a few errands. I got the car cleaned and oil changed, and then went to watch the end of court. I just missed Delaney, but 3 parents told me he did a great job as a lawyer for one of the sides. It was the chance for them to experience it and work on their law merit badge. He said he liked it and maybe it's something he'll want to do later. Once he's 14, he can go through the training and actually be in the court.

A long day of driving, but good to get the kids out and about after sitting around the house a lot the last few weeks.

More Cleanup

Puttering around the garage this afternoon I ended up cleaning up a bit. I had wanted to get a few things done, but I kept getting vapor locked on projects. I did start by fixing the doggy door, adding spacers to support the frame, which was loose, as well as move it away from the wall so that we could easily put the block in to prevent the dogs from leaving.

But then I couldn't get started on anything. I was going to work on the miter stand, but I need some solid wood that's about 3/4" or so thick and I didn't have anything close. I also didn't feel like resawing a 2x4 to get the thickness. That's what I should have done, but I didn't want to set that up and I don't have a good fence for resawing.

So I thought about cabinets, made some measurements, but couldn't decide what to do. I kept looking around, thinking about things, but I wasn't able to decide what was a good project. I almost started on some melamine cabinets, but the pieces I have aren't think, and I was hoping to get some wider, 18" cabinets on the wall instead to store things. I ended up spinning in circles, partially because I didn't want to pull out a bunch of wood and work on something this late in the day.

However I did clean up a bit more, and I ended up getting the bandsaw on the mobile base so that I have a bit more space to start getting organized as well as a bandsaw I can move around as needed.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rock Band Night

The kids were doing homework and I went to cook dinner. Since it was quiet, I decided to play a little Rock Band while things were cooking. I played a few songs and then Kendall wanted to join in and sing, so we did some of that.

She left, so I tried singing and playing guitar both, which actually worked out OK. On medium I could actually get time to see words on some songs and ended up with a few where I had 90% on both guitar and singing. At one point Delaney ran over to join in and he ended up singing some songs with me.

A good time.

Snow and Sun

I had wanted to go snowboarding today, thinking to get away from work and back up to the slopes. However once again bad weather was forecasted for Thursday again. It’s the best day for me to go, but it seems every week that I plan on it, there’s snow in the forecast. Friday was calling for sun, so I tentatively planned on going then.

However after dropping off Kendall and coming home, I checked the weather and cameras. There had been a light dusting here, and Keystone was calling for afternoon snow, but it was a good day otherwise and I decided to go. So 9:15 and I was packed and driving off in the Prius.

I started to regret things when I reached Golden. Heading into the mountains there was a ton of fog, people going slow, and I slightly worried about the Prius making it up there. However things cleared up near Idaho Springs and by the time I got to Keystone, it was a glorious day.

Sun, no clouds, no wind, and a beautiful today. I headed right up to the gondola, went up and across to start on Mozart.

And immediately fell.

Well not immediately. I was about a third of the way down when I cut hard to the right and hit a patch of ice. The board slipped out from under me and I bounced on my chest. Everything was fine, and I didn’t fall the rest of the day. I cruised around the back side of Keystone with sun on my face and no wind.


I actually went up the far South lift, and it ended on top of a low mountain. But it felt great, like you were on top of the world.

From 11 to 1:30 I managed ten runs, a quick lunch, and then it was time to head back. I thought I’d be back in time to get Kendall, but I was about 10 minutes late and Tia got her.

A great day, and now I want to try and convince the kids to go Sunday.

The Little Stick

In the end, that was what made the difference. I was typing along one night on my spare Acer and the cursor kept jumping. I was getting too close to the touchpad, and it kept picking up my hands, jumping the cursor. I type rapidly, and it kept causing me to get text in different places in the document, which is really frustrating. It slows me down while raising my blood pressure.

So in looking at laptops, that got me thinking that I want a 15” machine again, not a smaller one. Having more space for my hands to work on the keyboard was important. But I remember having issues at times with the Toshiba, especially as I work in bed quite often.

I was debating between the Lenovo and the Dell, spending more time than I needed considering things, but then I noticed the little sick in the middle of the Thinkpad keyboard.


I had a Thinkpad years ago when it was IBM, and I really liked the trackpoint pointer. I know lots of people didn’t, but I found it handy. So I was sure that a Lenovo was the way to go. I could use the Trackpoint and turn off the touchpad. That will help me be much more productive.

Then my wife said she had a trackpoint on her Dell. Sure enough, she does, though she’d lost the rubber cover and never used it. I checked for other machines, and there are a few that have them, but not many. So I chatted with a Dell rep and found that they have a few Lattitude models with them. Unfortunately those seem to be older technology, with DDR2 memory and limited options. I’m not an extreme performance person, but I want to be sure that I can process video and I didn’t want to go with older technology if I’m spending $1500.


So I decided on a Thinkpad W510. It’s got the trackpoint and plenty of power, and the same price as the Latitude or the Thinkpad T510.

Because of the little trackpoint.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Long Day

Got a lot done for work, but not quite enough. I also ran to town to get an oil change over lunch, thinking there might be a chance I’ll ski tomorrow, but I forgot my wallet. Luckily I had a little $$ in my pocket for gas and a couple groceries, but that’s annoying. Might need to actually wait until Fri to ski so I can get that oil change.

I think I’m almost caught up from a week of being gone, but not quite. A few more things and I’ll then be back to pushing things forward and getting my pipeline going. I definitely need to get there as I have a presentation or two I need to work on and time is getting short. I have some travel in February, so I need to get going.

I almost feel normal today. Getting back onto Denver time has been hard, with my schedule messed up and feeling worn out at different times. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, but I’ve been struggling to get through each day at some point. Nothing a couple more nights of sleep can’t cure, though now I realize that Sat will be a little busy with kids. Most likely no one will want to ski on Sun :(

Lenovo W510

I finally ordered a new laptop, a Lenovo W510, that caught my eye. I was thinking the T series 510, but once I added a few things it was the same price as the W510, but had 2 fewer cores. Since I do a decent amount of video stuff, the extra cores should come in handy.

No word yet on my Toshiba, and I don’t even know what to do with that. It’s been nearly two months, and I’ve missed some things at work without having a machine I can use while traveling and away from my desk.

It’s a Toaster

I had to install WinZip the other day, having the need to unlock a .RAR file. There’s no native support in Windows for those, and I turned to Winzip. I posted a note on Twitter and got suggestions from people for WinRAR and 7-Zip, but this is one of those areas where I don’t think it matters. Or as my business partner says

“It’s a toaster”

I know there are all kinds of toasters, some fancy ones, some cheap ones, but for the most part they’re a generic. I don’t know many people that spend more than 10 seconds thinking about what type of toaster to buy. They just buy one.

Toshiba Laptops – Do I Hate Them?

It’s been a long ride with this laptop.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the customer service and effort I’ve from Toshiba is sub-standard. I think that many larger companies have pretty crappy service, and this isn’t unusual. I’ve seen too many reviews, and I’ve ready hundreds in the last month, from all brands. There are plenty of horror stories about every manufacturer, and I see them in other areas as well. I think that my laptop has failed miserably in a way that isn’t as simple as replacing a part. So I’m caught in a bad spot.

I’ve had this laptop for 2 years, and here’s my impression of this Qosmio machine. This was the F40, which upgraded to the F45 fairly soon after I got this one. It then became the X505 now, which is a nice quad core, 18” beast. More than I want.

My impressions of this laptop were that it was of pretty good quality. I like the keyboard, the touch pad isn’t too sensitive, there isn’t a lot of flex in the machine. I’ve traveled to the UK and back, Seattle 4 or 5 times, Orlando, Pensacola, Washington DC, Indianapolis, and a few other places in 2 years with this machine, not to mention numerous trips around Colorado. It’s help up well, and I haven’t had any issues. The battery doesn’t have a great charge after nearly 2 years, but it still works for a couple hours.

The laptop ran Vista, which isn’t Toshiba’s fault. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t horrible either. There were a few flaky things, like a 6GB interview video I did with Buck Woody that I couldn’t delete. However that was a likely a Windows problem, not hardware related. On the hardware side, things haven’t been as smooth.

About a year after I got this laptop I went to reboot it at one point the the POST screen froze. I know this because there’s a status bar that runs across the screen as it starts. I rebooted 4 or 5 times and finally it completed, but it had me nervous. I ran the laptop for a few months, ignoring Microsoft patches, afraid to reboot it. That has continued to the present day and I rarely reboot the machine if I don’t have to. About half the time the POST will freeze and I’ll spent 10-20 minutes rebooting over and over to try and clear it up. 

Last summer, about  18 months into ownership, the internal hard drive died. It sucked because it was on a trip, but I had a decent backup of stuff and managed to stick a new 320GB drive in there. The old one was about 160GB or so. Drives fail, no big deal, and I’m not sure it’s a failing for Toshiba.

Other than that, no memory issues, the CPU has been fine. The fan appeared to be dying at times, rattling around in the case, but it worked OK. The keyboard has been nice, and the trackpad working fine. Overall, everything is great.

As far as the hardware, other than the POST issue, Toshiba has done well. Customer service, however, leaves a lot to be desired.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Another Keyboard Down

I don’t know if they’re making them cheaper and shoddier or what, but it seems that I’m going through a keyboard or two every year. I used to have one that I’d keep for 2-3 years when I got the big old, heavy duty beige ones. Now these cheaper ones die.

How am I typing this? My wife gave me hers since she was done working for the day. That and I slammed my hands onto my keyboard, hitting it and making things on my desk jump. It was really, really, annoying me.

It started right before vacation, sending constant spaces to the keyboard. I thought it was a stuck key, so I messed with it, and tapped the space bar a little hard. That seemed to fix it, but this week it’s been doing it on and off. Having spaces start sending at times has really messed me up in a few places. Especially as I tend to highlight things and copy them. A space sent at the wrong time has cleaned out some my work.

I’d had enough just before I hit the keyboard this afternoon. So now I’m off to grab another one tonight. I’ve had 2 expensive ones and 2 cheap ones in the last couple years and there doesn’t seem to be any difference so I think I’ll go with another cheap one.

Bill Gates and the Gates Notes

An interesting interview with Bill Gates on C|Net. It’s broken up into 5 segments, and it’s interesting to hear what one of the world’s richest men is up to. He’s also started getting back into the digital world after leaving Microsoft and has a new site at

Amazing, but Gruesome

Not sure this is for everyone, and it’s a little bloody, but it was listed as the “Most Amazing Car Crash Ever”


Jet Lagged

I'm not sure it's jet lag, but I am definitely having trouble getting back on Denver time. I was up late Sun traveling, not getting to bed until after midnight Denver time, which was 3am in St Maarten. Then up early to get kids to school and I was feeling run down. I managed to get through the afternoon, but then fell asleep as I was trying to work in the afternoon, waking up just in time to get Kendall from the bus.

Then I struggled to sleep last night, waking up constantly, and being wide awake at 5am. I struggled to get a little more sleep and finally succeeded, just as the alarm went off. Fortunately Tia got Delaney going and I managed a little more sleep.

Feeling run down. Like someone said, I need a vacation from my vacation.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Book #18 – Altar of Eden

51aZWaosJbL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA115_[1] I enjoy James Rollins, with his science fiction books that are based on the real world with a twist. Very much like Michael Crighton used to be. In Altar of Eden, we have scientists trying to build a new type of soldier, or a weapon, through biotechnology.

When a boat crashes in the New Orleans bayou, Border Patrol Agent Jack Menard calls in animal specialist Lauren Polk.  Their pasts are tied, but they haven’t seen each other in years. This case, with genetically mutated animals, brings them together. As they try to determine who created these animals and why, they come under attack from the group who wants to retrieve the animals and kill everyone that knows about them.

It’s a great read, well written, and non-stop action as alligators, guns, and saber tooth tigers collide. It’s likely not possible, but it has just enough notices about the science to make you consider it. This was a lot of fun to read.

Book #17 – The Informant

41oVTm%2B9hjL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_[1] I was expecting another Jack Swyteck novel, but he isn’t in this one. It’s Mike Posten, writer for a Miami paper, that really stars in The Informant. A serial killer is on the loose, and someone contacts Posten offering to “predict” murders if he gets paid. Posten says it’s against paper policy, but with the FBI, his paper decides to move on, and gets information about new, or recent, murders and runs stories.

The murders are seemingly unconnected, all over the country, and all kinds of people. The descriptions are a little graphic at times, making me twinge, but overall it was exciting and hard to put down. The story weaves in and out of a few characters viewpoints and it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

My second Grippando, and I’m looking forward to the next one.

Book #16 – Only the Ball Was White

5150GXRPZTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_[1] It’s a history book, Only the Ball Was White looking back at Negro baseball. I’ve had this for a few years, but lost it on a shelf and only got back to it when I went on vacation.

Jackie Robinson wasn’t the first professional black player playing on white clubs. As I read this book, which dwells a lot on the state of baseball in the late 1800s, I learned that there were a few players that made it onto white clubs in the late 1800s, even as there where Jim Crow laws being enacted. That died out in the first part of the 1900s, and the racial prejudice came into stronger bearing until 1947 when Jack Robinson broke into the major leagues.

Interestingly enough, the book doesn’t really look at the racial aspects, but goes into more of a history of how Negro players lived, developers, and starred. The most well known players, Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and more are barely mentioned. Instead it’s more time on other more prominent, less well known players.

The book is hard to read, it’s slow, and it drags, but it provides a fascinating account of the Negro leagues, which are a big part of baseball in America.


My nose was running when I got up, and sneezing followed as I was trying to work. The change from humid island air to dry Denver has aggravated my allergies. I took some Benedryl, but it’s hard to concentrate when the nose is acting up.

Back to the world after St Maarten

A long day traveling yesterday as we returned. We awoke, exercised, checked out, and then had breakfast. Our bill for the week was $112, most of which was one night of room service. Other than that, the rest of the week was covered by Tia’s company. not bad for 6 days in St Maarten. I guess we also went offsite one night and spent about $100 on dinner, but otherwise, that was a good deal. Even with the nanny cost, it would have been much, much more.

We grabbed a bus at 11:30, got to the airport, checked in, ate some lunch, and then waited. We said good bye and talked to some people. A minor worry when power went out in the airport, but that’s the islands. No one panic’d, and we ended up loading the plane on time. It was strange that despite being through security, they had us line up and run through another security check manually. Tia and I were singled out, and the guy rifled my bag, but it seemed more to be a formality. No real effort. He also searched my body, which seemed strange to me.

Then the delay. Without power, we delayed while customs processed some things manually, and we waited for some people that were stuck in security. Not sure how they were processed, but the final annoyance was a lady getting on with a dog. Some small annoying thing, and not only did she struggle to get “it” and “its stroller” on the plane, she apparently didn’t want to keep it in a carrier and put it on her lap. There was a big ruckus while a bunch of people had to change seats.

We were only 20 minutes late, but it jammed up some people in connections. Fortunately we had time, and Tia and I managed to get through immigration and customs without an issue. We even had time to sit, eat some BBQ, and watch a little of the Vikings/Saints game. Tia wasn’t feeling well, so it was a pair of long flights to Charlotte, and then Denver.

We finally landed around 10:45 Denver time, 1:45 our time. Bags were slow coming out, and it was a long time driving home, but we made it and the house looked great. Patti, our nanny, had changed sheets, organized things, and had us ready to call it a night. Tia talked with her a bit on the turnover for how the week went, but it seemed like it went great. The kids enjoyed her, had a great week, and nothing unexpected really happened.

Now I just need to get back to wearing long pants

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book #15 – Helfort’s War Book 3: The Battle of Devestation Reef

51IT5cZ8Q7L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_[1] Book 3, following the career of young Helfort, with things not going so well for him. You definitely need to read Books 1 and 2 before this one, though the author does do a lot of summary to try and ensure it makes sense.

A new command for Helfort, this one a series of un-manned, or lightly manned dreadnaught heavy cruisers. Apart from 10 crew members on the main cruiser, including Helfort, the rest of the 10 ship squadron is un-manned, using AIs to manage those ships. Why? Extra armor and shielding to allow the crew to survive and anti-matter missile and the radiation from its explosion.

Helfort undergoes tremendous training, often failing in the simulations, but persevering. He does at times question whether he’s the right person for the job, especially when he must do extra sessions with Fleet psychologists to recover from the trauma in book 2. He does, and embarks on some missions, single handedly destroying a number of Hammer facilities.

However it’s not all easy. Lots of people within the Fleet are not happy with unmanned ships and there is a limit to how many they allow. 30 in all, 3 groups of 10 with Helfort bringing along two other officers to command those squadrons.

The book covers a lot, including the battle at Devastation Reef, where the Hammer anti-matter factory is. It’s an epic battle, and afterwards, Helfort receives even more scrutiny. The book ends suddenly, however, and somewhat predictably. Anna, the love of his life, was captured by the Hammers when her ship was destroyed. They realize who she is and at the end, use her to try and lure Helfort out. It will make for an exciting book 4.

A great read, but it depends on the other books for background, and it deals with many of the non-military aspects of Helfort’s life. It’s also the first time we get to see the religious leader of the Hammer worlds.

Book #14 – Helfort’s War Book 2: The Battle of the Hammer Worlds

51dzXV9tnoL._SL500_AA240_[1] Another re-read for me, and a great one as I work through the series. In Book 2, Helfort, now awarded medals for the battle near Hell, moves on to a new command as a warfare officer on another ship. It’s a bad posting, with a bad captain that accuses him of mutiny after he developers a simulation that makes her look bad.

It’s short lived as his ship is attacked by the Hammer and he becomes a prisoner of war on one of the Hammer worlds. The new chief of the Hammer, Polk, is a brutal man, and is planning on waging war on the Fed. His has quite the plan that develops  as the book continues.

It’s a good read, spanning months, with the hero, Helfort, suffering and dealing with his captivity in which he’s brutalized. He manages to escape, and return to the Fed, with promises to avenge his shipmates that died. The book ends with the Hammer having the upper hand, with a blistering attack on the Fed Fleet. Fortunately there’s hope as Helfort gets a new assignment.

Definitely a great read, but read Book 1 first.

Book #13: Helfort’s War Book 1: The Battle at the Moons of Hell

51-2c0Hwx-L._SL500_AA240_[1] A re-read for me, and still great. I grabbed book 3 of Helfort’s War recently and wanted to get back through Book 1 and 2 to remember more details.

Newly graduated Michael Helfort, barely after an incident in his last year, gets posted to a deep space scout. He’s the son of two well known fleet officers, and struggles to begin his career in the Fleet, opposing the Hammer of Kraa, another human group of planets that seems to be a mix of a religious cult and Stalin’s regime. Brutal oppression, a secret police (DocSec) and a series of councilors. Their chief has a plan to hijack a Federated World ship on it’s way to terraform a planet. The Hammer is in need of economic help and while at a truce with the Federated Worlds, they do not allow the AIs, artificial intelligence agents, on their planets. Unfortunately the AIs help the Fed build a planet in a decade instead of a century.

Unfortunately for Helfort, his mother and sister are on the ship when it’s taken. Tasked with a few missions, Helfort’s ship plays a part of rescuing his family, along with starting another war with the Hammer.

It’s a well written, enjoyable and believable story. It takes place over months, as would any military exercise and the technology seems to be possible at some point. They jump through space, but it takes time, they still fire missiles and slugs, and often can’t dodge the enemy, having to deal with impacts from rounds. The Feds have neuronics, which seems to be embedded computers in their mind that they can communicate with, with limitations, and while the Hammer cannot hack in, they can detect them.

A great series, and I enjoyed re-reading this book.

Book #12 – Dark Pursuit

511H-BW5zvL._SL500_AA240_[1] I grabbed this one from Amazon’s top seller’s list because it was free. I was searching out a few new authors to try, and this one was rated high, so I grabbed it.

Dark Pursuit is interesting, especially the way it starts. A prison scene, a prisoner talking with a psychiatrist and all of a sudden there are strikeouts of words. At first I thought that the author had done it themselves, leaving in some edited portions of the books when they formatted it for Kindle. I almost left the book at that point.

However I kept going, and it turns out to be part of the story. The opening is a scene in a book that one of the characters is writing. He’s the “Master of Suspense”, an author that had written 99 novels, very popular, before he got in a car accident, and now he struggles to write.

There’s also his estranged grand-daughter, who stumbles on a body in her apartment and immediately thinks that her boyfriend, a patrolman, is a serial killer, and this is his third victim.

From there it’s a suspenseful couple of days as the granddaughter flees to her grandfather, and they reconcile, trying to find a way to trap the boyfriend. It’s well, written, and enjoyable. I read it quick, and it was definitely worth the free price for the e-version. It would be worth buying as well, if you prefer paper.

The Last Day

Our last full day on St Maarten with an 11:30 departure fo the airport tomorrow. It’s been great to get away and relax, and I’ve taken advantage of it, hardly using the computer at all, but it’s time to go back. I’m ready to move on and get back to life, get back to being productive.

The last two days we’ve done nothing, or almost nothing. We skipped kayaking, and laid around by the pool both days, taking time to exercise and swim in the ocean briefly, but for the most part we’ve just relaxed, talked, read.

Dinners were better the last two nights, with a memorable one I need to describe from last night. I’ve met new people that I enjoy, and it’s been great.

Not a lot of pictures, but we just haven’t done that much. And it’s been great.

500 Days

Another milestone, this one passing with less excitement than the others. In fact, I had the day wrong, thinking it was today and not realizing it until I got ready to log that it had been yesterday.

Still, it’s been a nice journey that’s become a part of my life, and it feels great. 500 days done, a lot more to go.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not a Running Paradise

When I got up yesterday, I was tempted to go run outside. Tia was almost done with her team building, and I wanted to get down there, so I didn’t want to be gone too long. I also would be running on the street, so I’d have to pay attention, which didn’t sound too exciting as I was slightly hung over.

So I hit the treadmill and I think it was a good idea. We were bussed last night to a restaurant, and watching the bus drive around the island of Saint Marteen, I think this isn’t the place for runners to go. The roads are narrow, and I’m amazed sometimes how vehicles pass each other without scraping off paint. I think a run around the island, especially from where we are, would be an adventure and slightly dangerous.

And I don’t want to get hurt trying to get a run in on vacation.

The beaches aren’t built for running either. Our beach extends from the hotel about 1/4 mile until it hits rocks that run down to the ocean. It’s almost like cliffs as you look around, so a run there would be laps along the beach. That might work as there aren’t a lot of people on the beach, but it might seem a little silly going back and forth. I might try it one of these days, but we’ll see.

Very different from Mexico, FL, VA, CA beaches where you could run for miles along the ocean.


We’re just laying around, and it feels good. Scheduled for kayaking this afternoon, but I’m not sure we’ll go. We might end up sitting around, having a few cocktails, and reading. Tia’s gotten hooked on e-reading, and so she’s happy to sit around with both of us getting lost in stories.

Yesterday was a nothing day for me. Other than waking up and running on the treadmill first thing, I pretty much sat around and had cocktails, a few every hour near the pool. Tia was up early, for an employee meeting and teambuilding. They created sand castles on the beach, or sane sculptures, which came out pretty well. I wish I’d taken the Flip down for pictures, but we did get some on her camera.

Then it was lunch and laying by the pool, where we both fell asleep. Relaxed, just reading and sleeping all day. After getting our gift of new sunglasses, we hit the room for more of the same. Reading and falling alseep. A very quiet afternoon.

Dinner was a bit of an ordeal, waiting in line to be bussed to the other side of the island, the French side, to some restaurant. That wasn’t great, as were separated out from people we knew, the service was lousy, and the family style portions surprisingly small. Not a great event, but we caught a bus back early. The plan was to hit the casino, so we came to the room for a cup of coffee, and lay down to read for a few minutes. The next thing I knew Tia was asleep, so I didn’t bother to wake her. Between the long travel day, time change, and early day for her yesterday, I knew she was tired and let her sleep.

I did check email, and forwarded off one thing for someone to handle, but otherwise, didn’t do anything. Other than delete a bunch of SPAM rolling through. I was proud of myself. I could have fixed the thing in about 10 minutes, but I didn’t, forwarding it on to the rest of the team.

It’s nice here, a little cool at times, and rain rolls through regularly, but not for long. It’s relaxing to just let go and not try to get anything to happen, and it is nice to just lay around and read. This is probably what retirement is like, and it feels good, though I think we both need some projects to keep us going. Just something to work on. A couple days in and I’m relaxed, but I feel that slight itch to do something productive. Make something with wood, fix something, write, just doing something that keeps my mind active.

Last night we talked with another couple here from CA. The husband was talking about how much he enjoys skiing and said it would be nice if this club trip was in a winter destination sometime. Tia and he both agreed that it wouldn’t work. Too many people don’t want to “work” on vacation, and most of the winter activities involve work, effort, some physical-ness. I think that’s one of the things that separates us out. We’d be happy to do some physical work, and we would like skiing instead of laying by the pool.

I think I agree. Mexico was great, just laying around reading, having a drink, swimming with Kendall, but it was 2 years ago, and I don’t miss it enough. I’d have been happy to spend this week in the mountains, working hard, and enjoying the slopes.

It’s a good time to relax, and I miss the kids a little, but only a little. I’m glad they didn’t come, and that it’s just Tia and I laying around together.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I can’t believe it, but I’m slightly hung over after Tia’s  welcome reception last night here in Saint Marteen. I definitely had 4 or 5 drinks, and wasn’t drunk, but I felt tipsy when we went to bed, and then slept from whenever that was until 10:00am local time. That’s still 6am Denver time, but still. Tia was up at 7:30am for a meeting.

I did manage to get up and run, no food, no coffee, since I wanted to get down for lunch and get some Pina Coladas going. However today I think I’ll take it easier and slower, and just relax.

Monday, January 18, 2010


We’re packed, or at least I am. The kids are asleep, the nanny’s here, and shortly Tia and I are heading to the airport for our long journey to the Caribbean.

It’s a little nerve wracking leaving the kids, but Kyle is here, and Tia’s sister said she’d come over every day, so things should be fine. It’s a quiet week, the weather forecast is good, and I think we’ve prepped things nicely.

It’s exciting for us, a honeymoon and trip away, something we’ve rarely had. In 15 years, we’ve basically had 3 where we’ve left kids, and none since we’ve had Kendall and Delaney. This is long overdue, and I’m looking forward to doing more of these if it works out.

It’s exciting to think about getting to the beach and relaxing there with no one to manage and very little on my schedule. I like the beach, and I can’t wait to hit the hotel, run, and then order a few cocktails.

A long journey ahead of us first. We have 1 am red-eye to Charlotte, and then we fly to St Martin early tomorrow morning. It’s going to very early in the morning Denver time when we arrive, but I’m sure we’ll feel great a couple hours later.


At least work is done. I'm knocking off, going to pack and then do the Monday routine with kids before heading to the airport late tonight with Tia for our trip to Saint Martin.

Getting excited.....

A busy Morning

With a flight tonight, it’s a last busy day trying to get through some content before vacation. Feeling the pressure.

Should You Achieve All Your Goals?

So many people wrote posts at the end of 2009 analyzing their goals and what they achieved. I did the same thing, and it was a great exercise. It allowed me to look back at what I’d planned on, and see how well I’d done over the year. I’ve known about the power of goals for a long time, ever since I saw the founder of the Discovery Channel, John Hendricks, speak at a corporate event. It was inspiring, and it’s stuck with me for years.

But should all your goals for the year be achievable?

I would argue that they should not. If you have actually accomplished all of your goals, or exceeded them, you probably did not do a good job of setting the bar high enough. Especially as you look across a year. Your interests will change, you will enjoy some things more than others, and likely you will exceed some goals and not attain others.

That’s OK, and as long as you have made some effort and improved yourself, it was a good exercise. I failed miserably at one of my goals in 2009. It was on my mind, but I kept putting it off, and by November I didn’t have the time, energy, or desire to focus on it. And I didn’t want to half-ass it just to check some box. However I exceeded a few other goals, and that made me feel that it was a successful year in terms of goals overall.

As you set your goals for 2010, and it’s certainly not too late, be sure that you pick some things that will make you work. Things that will stretch you, and things that you want to accomplish in your life. You might not achieve them, and you can analyze that next Christmas, but keep them in mind, and as long as you are moving forward, you’ll be accomplishing something.

What Three Things Brought Me Here

I was tagged by SQL Rockstar, aka Tom LaRock, after this thread was started by Paul Randal-not-Paul-Tripp (I wonder if Kim disagrees?). It’s an interesting, introspective question. What three things got you going.
I could go with getting a computer early, or something in education, but the truth is I don’t think those things shaped me. They were the result of a high curiosity in math and computers, of wondering how the world works, having ambition, etc.
I could go with the fact that I spent part of my childhood fairly poor and hated that. It definitely drove me on to work hard, but it wasn’t a fundamental change. It did, however, keep me from trying to pursue a career in music since I hated the poor struggling band lifestyle and I could have given that up at any time to have a regular paycheck.
Instead I’m going to go with three events that I think fundamentally moved my life in the direction it’s taken, and prevented me from going in another direction.

rugby Rugby

I’ve always enjoyed sports, and to the dismay of my Mom, often violent sports: football, martial arts, and in college, rugby. I picked up the game in Hyde Park in London, and when I returned to the US, I joined the University of Virginia team.
It was great fun, and I moved from a 2nd row grunt on the “A” team to the scrum half on the “B” team. A move I was happy to make as I got to run free, touch the ball, and often got to make the first tackle on ball movement out of the scrum.
My senior year, early October, we had an off week. So as usual we were practicing in Madison Bowl on campus, scrimmaging each other. I picked the ball up out of the scrum and took off to the right, coming around the scrum and moving into open space. A quick fake toss and I turned back inside, only to be caught by the other scrum half. Not our “A” team scrum half, who was about 5’ 8” and 160 lbs, but our “A” team eightman, who was 6’ 2” and 220lbs, a little larger than me.
Unlike the tackle above, I got dropped down on my left shoulder and it separated. A grade-III separation that put me in a sling for 24x7x8 weeks and that was the last rugby play I was ever a part of. It also changed my life.
At this point I had been an economics major, and had just started signing up for interviews with many investment banks. I wanted to go to Wall Street to work for Shearson Lehman or Bear Sterns, in true 80’s fashion. The realization that I wasn’t invincible, that life was hard, and that I might be seriously hurt changed my priorities that October. I cancelled interviews, put rehab first, and by May of the next year, when I graduated, I was able to finally do push-ups again.
I decided to move my life into a direction that was more enjoyable to me, even if it meant less money.

Bad ears

In 1991, a couple years out of school, I was wandering around life. I’d enrolled back in a local college to do some graduate work, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I’d spent a year managing a night club and having fun, but it became boring. My girlfriend at the time was from California, and we moved there, thinking that it would be a change, and a way to move forward. Living in San Diego was nice, but trying to get my life going was not. So I decided to enlist in the Navy and enter their nuclear submarine program.
I’d always wanted to serve, and had seriously considered applying to the Naval Academy in high school. So I met a recruiter, we talked, and with great grades, especially in math and science, it looked good that I would be accepted into the Officer Candidate School and the Navy Nuclear Program. I signed papers and early one morning I went downtown into San Diego for my physical.
That’s an interesting experience, including the drug testing where you urinate while someone watches you. I felt like I was doing great in all the programs until we reached the auditory lab. They put me into a soundproof box, headphones on, and I had to click a device when I heard a sound. I knew this was an issue, and when I got out, I moved on to more tests. Eventually the lady running the lab found me and brought me back. She showed me the results, which have my left ear down to about 20% of normal. She offered to let me take the test, and hinted that “looser headphones” might help. I took it, slipping both sides of the headphones up to listen, and this time got to about 60% on the left ear. Enough to pass.
However I knew this would be an issue in the service, and might be dangerous in a critical situation. I told her to submit the first results, and then went to meet the recruiter, informing him I couldn’t join.
That changed my life in that I was disappointed, but I realized that I should just get on with my life. I moved back to Virginia, enrolled in grad school, and started driving forward with a higher level of intensity.

dosimeter-for-x-rays-gamma-beta-radiation-213486 Bad Software Engineering

While I was in graduate school, with every intention of becoming an electrical engineer, I got an internship with the Surry Nuclear Power Plant in Virginia. The plan was that I would work a semester there and a semester in school. I did this a few times and eventually moved into the network administration group, which was more interesting than the Electrical Engineering group. And safer! No getting close to 1000V wires that were an inch in diameter.
Eventually they hired me to work with them and I dropped back to part time in grad school. One of my first assignments was to help deploy a new radiation monitoring system that would integrate with dosimeters (shown to the right) and record radiation received by workers in the plant. It was mandated by the NRC and I arrived at work Dec 31, at 6pm to help get this installed for the new year.
I finally left the plant on Jan 2 at about 3 or 4pm, exhausted and ready to get home, but due back in about 15 hours for a week of almost 8 hours on, 8 off as we tried to stabilize this system that was constantly failing. That poor software engineering effort, not written well, nor tested under load, changed my life. It was written on SQL Server 4.2 on OS/2 1.3. I migrated through versions, spending hours reading about SQL Server and the OS, until we stabilized on Windows 3.1 Advanced Server. From there I developed a great interest in RDBMS’s and moved on to one SQL Server job after another.
I think without this project, I might have become a network administrator instead of a DBA.


That’s it, the three things I think most influenced where I am today. I’ll tag these people.
  • Gail Shaw
  • Jack Corbett
  • Glenn Barry
  • Marc Beacom
Please link back to me, and to Paul’s post.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Book #11 – The First Rule

reI was browsing for books just a couple days ago and this one popped up on my list. I have really enjoyed the Elvis Cole series from Robert Crais, and liked the new Joe Pike novels as well. I didn’t hesitate and grabbed this on my Kindle reader immediately.
I had a hard time putting it down, and zipped through it. Joe Pike is the main character, though again a few chapters come from Elvis’ perspective. Here a friend of Pikes is killed, a former mercenary that Pike had hired. He was the only one that had gotten a family and moved on.
Pike begins investigating, and finds some twists and turns, getting further along than the police, being interested in revenge. It’s a great read, exciting and action packed, covering only a few days in the life across hundreds of pages. I would recommend reading some earlier novels first, to get an idea of the characters, but it’s not necessary for the plot. No real references, but I think that the characters grow deeply in Crais’ writing, and it helps to see them develop along.
One of the more entertaining books I’ve read in awhile.

Go For It


I was listening to the Jets /Chargers game today in the workshop, thinking that the Chargers would pull away, but they never did. So I found myself rooting for the Jets to somehow come back. They did, took the lead, and with 2 minutes to go, the Chargers pulled within 3 and kicked off.

I ran upstairs.

This was going to be a good finish and the Jets just needed one first down. I got up in time to see a 2nd and 10 play that netted 3 or 4, and then another run on 3rd down that got them to a 4th and 1. A timeout ensued, and I listened to the announcers talking about it. A long, but makeable field goal, but if you miss, the Chargers have a minute and the ball on the 36. A punt, but how much further can you push them back from the 28. You could easily end up with a touchback, and a net gain of only 8 yards. Or, with a great running attach, you could go for it.

I watched as the debate continued through a timeout, and then the Jets went for it. That’s big boy football, ending the game on that one play, a fourth down run that got 3 or 4 yards. At that point I didn’t care because the Jets had won.

I thought it was cool, and exciting. This was the game I expected to be easy for the Chargers. I thought the other games would be hard, but they weren’t. Most of the other games were one-sided, even the low scoring Colts/Ravens. I taped the Cowboys today, and watched some of it, but I think it will be a disappointing game for me to get through as the Vikings killed them. At 2:00, I was sure this was going to be two #1 v #2 matchups next week, but it wasn’t close. Instead we have a great Vikings/Saints matchup, where I think it’s great no matter who wins, and a Colts/Jets matchup that should be all Colts, but you never know. I’ll tape them and see how they go when I get back.

Making Sawdust

I don’t get out to the garage often enough, or at least I haven’t made time. I’ve had lots of excuses over the last year: it’s cold, it’s a mess out there, no spare wood, etc. So a few weeks ago I made it a point to start going out there. It’s relaxing, and I have no shortage of things I need to do. Day 1 was mostly cleaning, but last weekend I spent some time working on a miter saw stand but ran out of parts. Today it was time to get more done.

First stop, Home Depot. That’s always fun and I got a few things I needed to move forward and headed home.

I’d gotten the base cabinet built, but couldn’t attach caster or get the upper shelf on. Today I did both those things, first getting casters on with #10 screws. I was worried they wouldn’t hold, but they did fine. Next I needed to drill the holes for the bolts that hold a shelf above the cabinet. The shelf is lifted up with the bolts, allowing me to level it and also adjust the shelf height for different saws.

It felt good to get that done, and I was tempted to then iron on the birch trim, but I needed to sand things down first. It would have been a good day to do this outside, but I decided to do a couple other things.

I am constantly looking for space to set things down. Or looking for space to hold things and keep organized. I decided awhile back that the french cleat system would be best for me on the walls, and so today I added a french cleat to the side of my workbench. Mainly because I was looking for a place to hold my drink and also a small project bucket.

So those were my next things. I cut a hole in a piece of plywood that could hold  a water bottle or drink, and then screwed another piece below that to give me a holder. I attached it to a french cleat and it hung on the side of my bench. It needs some finishing and a clear coat so moisture isn’t a problem, but this is good enough for now.

Next I used a similar design, building a 1’ x 4” shelf that also hangs on a French cleat, allowing me to dump all the project pieces for the rest of the miter saw cart in there. That means I don’t have stuff in bags all over the place, and since this is a removeable bucket, I can hang it on a French cleat on the wall and put another one down for the next project.

I had more to do in my last hour, but I ended up tackling a little more cleanup, separating out some boxes so that I could see more of the North wall, and then blowing out the filter for the shop vac. It was clogged and wasn’t sucking things up, so it was good to clean that out.

The garage looks much better, especially after I put in 4 new bulbs in the lights above the workshop area. Lights work much better when the bulbs work.

A good day, or a good 4 hours out there. I’d like to get out tomorrow, but I’m guessing that I’ll have more than enough to keep my busy getting ready for our vacation.

Book #10 – The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

51qFd1oBZjL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_[1] I read this book as a kid, or at least I thought I did. After grabbing this from Amazon (free for e-reading), I wonder now. I must have read a biography instead because the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is tough to read.
Apparently Mr. Franklin didn’t believe in chapters as this book appears to be one long section of writing. I tended to read 5-10 pages at a time and move on because the language and style is dry, and old. It just feels like it was from another time.
However it’s interesting to hear his perspectives on his life and his accomplishments. He talks about his early life, and his attempts to be a more moral/perfect person. He reminds me of some of the people I know that are very driven to change the world, and it makes me feel like I’m lazy and not doing enough in the world. The book covers most of the 1700s, his childhood apprenticeships through his work just before the Revolutionary War.
I don’t know if I’d recommend this as general reading, but if you like history, there are interesting accounts of the world at that time in America.

I’m an Idiot

I was thinking that I didn’t have any sandals to wear down in the islands, so the other day when I went to Bass Pro Shops, I grabbed a pair. Some BPS branded ones that are like Tevas and strap on, but were half the price.

Today I’m looking for shoes and I look under the bed and see my Five Fingers. The perfect shoes to wear in the islands! I am a knucklehead, and I think I’ll set the BPS ones aside to return the next time I go up there.

Inconvenient – Reading on Paper

I woke up this morning to find Tia reading an actual paper books. That’s become a rarity for both of us, each of us tending to read on our phones and not with real books.

I reached over and held her hand, just laying there. We do that a lot, and it’s very relaxing. I like holding my wife’s hand. I felt her move, and opened me eyes, and saw that she had tilted the book so she could read the right hand page and I could now see the title. I closed my eyes until a minute later when she said

“This is so inconvenient”

She was referring to the fact that she had to hold the book up, it’s heavy, no light for night reading, and she can’t turn pages with one hand. At least not easily.

I’d agree with most of those, and reading in bed was one of the main reasons I like e-reading. I can do it with one hand, I don’t disturb my wife, and it was easy. I had all my books with me, and enjoyed it. With the Kindle I needed a reading light, but with the iPhone I don’t, and in that sense it’s superior. It’s also smaller, lighter, and one less thing to carry.

On the other side, I can’t easily read in bright sunlight, and I wonder how my trip to the islands will go. I am planning on taking 4 or 5 paper books along that have been sitting on the shelf and I want to get through. This is a great time to do it, plus being gone for 6 days, and not sure about my Internet connection, I don’t want to spend $100 or so on books.

The book my wife had was one our son recommended, and she said she’s just going to buy it from B&N to make things easier.

Friday, January 15, 2010


My boss gave me an assignment, asking for 200 words on the history of SQLServerCentral. This is what I came up with:

Nine years.

It's been nearly nine years since SQLServerCentral was started with a poor business decision on the part of Database Journal, for whom I still could be writing. I remember walking around my basement, talking on the phone with the other founders, looking for a quiet spot with toddlers upstairs that seemed to find the exact spot over my head before jumping up and down. I made it through the call and SQLServerCentral was born.

The early days consisted of a lot of coding, constant writing and answering questions. It seemed that each of us was working two jobs, working long hours, and often feeling the pressure to get an article done for a newsletter.

A few months into the job I felt it was a grind, and I tried something creative. Instead of putting an announcement in the middle of the newsletter, I wrote a short piece on some aspect of SQL Server. There wasn't much to it, but it became the daily editorial. I was never sure if anyone was reading it since I had no place for feedback. Needless to say I was stunned at the PASS Summit when quite a few people mentioned it to me. Since then I've grown to enjoy it as my favorite part of my job.

Friday Night Lights

At least for me. Tia out at the Stock Show, kids relaxing and watching TV, and me finally finishing work. I worked late after running some errands this afternoon.  So now I'm watching Friday Night Lights, catching up on a couple weeks I've missed.

Fizzy Fruit Cobbler

41uBiOMuDBL._SL500_AA280_[1] After returning Tia’s necklace to Bass Pro Shops, I decided to look around a bit. It’s such a cool store, and despite the fact that I don’t want to camp, fish, or hunt, there are some neat things in there. I did want to look for some good long handled tongs or gloves for dutch oven cooking, and decided to just grab a nice set of the Lodge Red Oven gloves. I added in a pair of sandals for the upcoming trip to St. Martin.

I returned the necklace for $150. Got out of there only spending $50. A good day!

Tonight I decided I’d try this Fizzy Fruit Cobbler recipe as my first one in the dutch oven. I have a chimney, but I elected not to try charcoal today. Mostly because I still had work to do and it is cold outside. I didn’t want to be in and out in the dark.

Here’s me getting ready:


So I heated up the oven to 350F, and then followed the recipe. Kendall thought it was really cool and helped me pour in the grape soda. We did blueberry filling, white cake mix, and grape soda. I lightly mixed things up and then dropped it in the oven for about 45 minutes.


It came out great, and it’s sweet. Almost too sweet for me, but I think the Scouts will like it on one of the campouts this year.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Barbacoa Wins

I cooked a large batch of barbacoa beef last Sunday and it’s gone. I had also made some carnitas, but those are still here. I’ve been eating a bit of both this week, but Tia and Kyle have joined in on the barbacoa, so I think that was more popular and a better meal.

I think I agree, so I’ll have to make some more when I get back from vacation.

Book #9 - Dearly Devoted Dexter

51p3DBJRqSL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_[1] The second in the Dexter series, Dearly Devoted Dexter starts out with him stalking in the bushes. It’s a well written description, similar to the others until you realize that he’s playing with kids, Cody and Astor.
This book picks up shortly after the last book, and diverges from the series. I can see why because to show these images would really disturb people. Doakes is stalking Dexter, sure there is something wrong with him and following him around. Dexter backtracks to the point where his last victim, a killer of children, was caught and disposed of. However Dexter realizes there’s a partner and is anxious to find him.
However Doakes has made it a point to follow Dexter. On the way back from an errands, Dexter realizes that Doakes is behind him and almost panics. He doesn’t and realizes that he needs to work on his cover, and spends more time with Rita and the kids. He finds himself enjoying it, and that’s an interesting subplot to the book.
However the main plot is disturbing. A body is found, alive, but missing all it’s limbs, tongue, and even eyelids. Payback from a former army doctor that was betrayed in El Salvador. Doakes was a part of it, as was another official from Washington that takes over the investigation. He also begins dating Dexter’s sister and things get strange.
Stop here if you don’t want to know any more plot.
Dexter ends up helping solve the issue, but is himself rescued at the end. I was disappointed that this book likely marks the end of Doakes as a character with injuries he sustains. That’s sad as I like the constant tension between them in the series.
Oh well, looking forward to book 3.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why not play my cards?

Still no work on my laptop. It’s been over 24 hours since I left a message for the customer escalation team and no return call. I haven’t tried to call them back because, well, I’ve been busy. Trying to get things done to get off on vacation next week has me jammed up. I should have some time tomorrow to call and I’ll see what happens then. I’d like to record the call, but we’ll see how that goes.

A few people have asked why don’t I threaten Toshiba with a mention in my newsletter going out to hundreds of thousands of people? Why don’t I play that card to get some service? I haven’t done it, but the story, or at least a take on it, is going out in tomorrow’s editorial as Dodge, Dip, Dive, Duck, and Dodge.

I have a few reasons why I haven’t done that.

  1. I’d feel like an ass if I did
  2. I don’t want or like special treatment
  3. I want to know what Toshiba will do for everyone else.

I don’t really like special treatment, or being recognized. I guess I’m still a little shy, but I also don’t really think I’m any better than anyone else. Someone who pulls the “do you know who I am?” when they get in trouble always bothers me and I don’t want to be the one doing that. So I don’t threaten, or mention my job, in cases like this.

There’s also a curiosity factor. If I wasn’t able to communicate to lots of people, how would I get treated? Or how will everyone else get treated? I was irate, and still am, but I wanted to get the regular guy experience. Heck, I might be a regular guy that doesn’t write a daily column at some point.

So I’m now just wondering what will happen. Tomorrow I’ll actually order something else, hoping that it will arrive by the time I get back from vacation.

Maid Day

I am amazed at how much stuff can accumulate in our house in two weeks. It's maid day, and for the most part that has meant Tia (mostly) and me (somewhat less) cleaning up things around the house and straightening up. It's a hassle, but it just surprises me how quickly there can be things piled up all around from the five of us.

I don't know if there's a way to manage this better, or if I care, but it seems that I lose an hour of my day every other Wed getting ready. On the flip side, it is nice to have a clean house when I come home from karate on Wed night.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Predictioneer – Book #8

51Mp8N23MUL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_[1] I’m not sure how this book got on my radar, but it turned out to be fairly interesting. It’s written by a professor at Harvard that uses Game Theory and readily available information about the world to both predict what will happen in a general sense, and to guide his consulting clients to make decisions based on those predictions.

It’s an interesting idea, kind of unbelievable, and smacking of the way predictions are made in Foundation. However as I read, and learned about both big predictions on the world stage, as well as small ones in a lawsuit, it seems that there is possibly some value and truth here.

The book talks about using insights into how people behave, along with good guesses about their beliefs, to simulate how they behave in rounds of negotiation. By simulating their interactions, and even randomly shocking the system, Prof. de Mesquita seems to be able to do a good job of predicting outcomes. Not exact dates or times, but general events, like if I offer to do X instead of holding out for Y in a lawsuit, what is likely to happen from the other side. Or how can North Korea be convinced to shelve nuclear armament plans? How can Israel and Palestine find peace?

It tends to delve into the bigger world stage issues, but it’s also very current, having been completed in the summer of 2009. If you are curious about how BI could help, and how game theory could be used, it’s worth a read. No technical details, but enough information to pique your interest.

An early morning

I feel like daylight savings came early, like last night, and someone changed my clock while I was sleeping. When the alarm went off to get Delaney going, I was beat. Delaney was as well, up late trying to finish homework. Tia not much better, and Kyle, well, he was up and waiting for Tia to drive him to school.

Kendall seemed to be the only one that was up at her regular time and not tired. Course she slept in the car on the way home.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Choir Concert

Kyle had a concert tonight downtown at the Performing Arts Center in Denver. Since we don’t know how many more he might have, and since he wants to move out in May, we wanted to get the family down there to see him. It was a joint concert from a number of high schools, and included orchestra as well as choir.

Our plan was to go down there and watch some of it, but get the little kids back for bedtime. We wanted to meet Kyle beforehand and have dinner, but traffic slowed us down and we ended up sitting with him for a few minutes before he had to leave for the concert prep. We also found out that the kids had gotten rides down there with the school, but they had to get their own rides home. So we had to watch the whole thing.

I had visions of the little kids falling apart, but they actually enjoyed it. It was a little long, but while the orchestra was playing, Kendall was entranced, actually recording some of it on her DS. I tuned most of it out since I’m not much of a symphony guy. I did listen when the choir sang with Kyle, but once the stringed instruments started, I shielded my iPhone with a hand (we were in the nosebleed sections) and read through the rest of that concert.

It was a nice hall, and I wish that I enjoyed the music more, but to me it’s background noise. I’m just not thrilled with most symphonies.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter – Book #7

51sIhab6uIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_[1] I was never that into Dexter on Showtime, despite many people saying it was a great series. It seemed a little dark, and strange to me. Then last year I was alone at night, Tia out of town, and bored, and it came on after something else I’d watched. It was a re-run of the first episode and I decided to give it a few minutes. It was strange, but then there was a scene early on with Masouka and Angel making a joke that actually had me laughing out loud.

After that I watched the first season on DVD and enjoyed it, though I haven’t gotten back to it. So when I was searching for something recently to read on vacation and this book popped up, I decided to try it.

This is the first book in the series and it covers about all of Season one of the show. Dexter trying to fit into life in Miami as a blood spatter expert even though he’s a serial killer. The book has lots of introspective parts, where Dexter talks to himself, trying to decide how to act and how to deal with his life. It deviates from the show, which I think is better. The writers on the show do a great job of drawing out the story and injecting some humor, but Jeff Lindsay does a good job and I actually was interested enough to start the next book.

If you like the show, you might like this. If not, this is pretty good. The writing is OK, and sometimes Dexter gets too wound up in his own mind at times, but it’s a great premise.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Follow Directions

I’ve been working on building a miter saw stand for the workshop. Slowly, as I try to get organized, that means I need places for the tools. The miter saw has been on my workbench, which is inconvenient. It’s in the way, and I can’t easily use the workbench. It’s also heavy, and a pain to pick up and put down below the bench. On top of that, I’d like to better control dust from it.

I have a plan that builds a nice rolling stand with fold up wings on the sides. I bought some plywood a few weeks back to get started, and finally had time on Saturday to start. I cut the top, bottom, and sides, and was about to screw it together, but I didn’t have the right screws. So I planned to go Sunday morning, get some parts, along with other hardware, and then work on it Sunday.

When I got to Home Depot, I looked at my list, which had “stove bolts” listed on it. I wasn’t sure what they were, but decide that hex bolts would work fine.

They won’t.

So I was close today and had to stop. This plan calls for a wooden platform that sits above the case top, on 4 bolts that you can raise and lower to get the saw set to the correct height for the wings. However the hex bolts don’t have threads all the way along them, which means that I can’t properly set the top on.

So I stopped. However I did get some things done. I screwed the case together, including the back, and added a shelf inside that goes back halfway. Behind it will be where the dust collection hooks up and the small saw hose goes.

I’m pretty happy with it. It’s not perfect, but it’s a long way towards being done. I needed to get a few more bolts for the casters, so it won’t be an unnecessary trip back to Home Depot, though I should have had the entire list with me and ready to go. I was running out the door this morning and didn’t copy everything down.

I should have learned that I need to follow the instructions for now. I’m not experienced enough at woodworking to take short cuts. I didn’t want to cut rabbits on the sides, but I’m glad I did now. Fitting things together was harder than I expected, but it feels very sturdy, and I’m looking forward to getting the wings on it and having a real miter saw station that I can roll around, even outside, and make straight cuts.

I’m still drooling over the Rigid 12” miter saw I saw at Home Depot, but I’ll live for now with this one. I built the case slightly larger, thinking that I’ll upgrade my saw this year, so I’m ready to go.

I also was pleased with the way I built the cabinet. Now I need to get a few more built out of the melamine I have and get some storage on the garage walls.

Chef Steve

I’ve been wanting to cook a little more, and I’ve been doing some in my cast iron skillet. I got a dutch oven for Christmas, and was going to make something in there, but I’m waiting on amazon to deliver my chimney for getting coals going. It’s so much cleaner and easier with one, so once that comes I’ll do some type of cobbler.

In the meantime, I had a hankering for some carnitas yesterday after trying the new Barbacoa beef from Subway yesterday. It was pretty good, so I googled some recipes last night as we were lying around and printed a few. I had to hit Home Depot this morning, and on the same trip I swung by Wal-Mart and loaded up some ingredients.

I thought carnitas would be harder, but they turned out easy. I cut up some pork sirloin and added beef broth and salso to it, simmering it for about 3 hours in a saucepan. Then I baked it for 20 minutes, and I think it came out great. Tia said it was a little dry, so maybe I’ll keep some of the stock when I put it in the oven.

Barabcoa was more difficult. I dropped in a few things into the crock pot and let that go for 6 hours. However then I had to remove the beef, shred it, and put it back in, minus the stock and onions, with some tomato sauce and spices. Two more hours, and it’s still going.

Neither was very hard, though it’s a long day when you have to keep everything on your mind. I passed the time watching some football and working in the garage, so it wasn’t bad. Looking forward to trying the beef later.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Gymnastics Day 1

I took Kendall to the first day of gymnastics class that I signed her up for. I was worried that it would be too easy, and it was. But she got to move, including a few laps jogging around the gym, and she had fun. Makes me think that I need to get her into a real gymnastics class.

Fortunately there’s one nearby, and it trains the girls for our local high school. The ones that won the state championship, so she ought to get some good work there starting in Feb and get much stronger.

Stuck Again

This morning I went to boot my laptop and it came awake from hibernate, but had a cursor in the upper left, and would not every boot back up. Nothing seems to work, and once again it is DOA. I am really starting to think that this laptop is a waste of time and it’s time to move on. It’s been 30 days, I will be in trouble when I have to travel, and my workflow is interrupted. I’m struggling to write, and I think that my next step is to just buy another laptop.

I had made arrangements to buy a space, one of the PDC Acer tablets from someone, but they haven’t responded to messages lately, or made arrangements to ship it out. At this point I’m starting to think that I need to just get a new laptop, a 15” and write off the Toshiba for now. It’s become a constant headache, and if I have to send it away for 2 more weeks, I’m going to really be struggling at work.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Hybrids are Popular

Is that really what people want? At least in the US? This note talks about how KPMG surveyed executives and while biodiesel wasn’t on the list, hybrids and electric power were. They seemed to think that was the important thing to focus on to make sales.

I wonder if that’s true. Is this a case of the industry focusing efforts in an area that may not be that popular, but raising awareness and using advertising to influence people? Or is it really what many people want?

It’s a hard thing to decide. Looking at many businesses, and reading about them, it seems the line between success and failure is often a good amount of luck. So many executives guess at things and steer the company that way. If they succeed, they’re smart. If not, they’re fired.

I like my hybrid, and it has some great qualities, but I’m not sure it’s worth the extra $$ for many people. Especially if you don’t drive a lot. So convincing people to spend the extra $$, is that good for consumers and what they want? Or just good for the auto industry?

The Laptop is Back

I finally got my laptop today. I had to drive to the local Shell gas station to get it, but I was happy to since UPS helped me out. I had called yesterday and complained and the local office called to let me know it was coming. At 6:40pm, I had to leave for karate, frustrated that it hadn’t arrived.

I know my local driver pretty well, and we’ve become friends. I’ve even been to his house for a party, so I had assumed he was off the last few days. Instead he called a little after 7. His route had run long and when he drove by, our gate was closed, so he left me a message that he wouldn’t send the package back (this was the third attempt), but to call him.

So I sent him a text this morning, worried that he might be driving and not wanting to call. He called back and said today was his day off, but he had called the other driver and she would be swinging by the local gas station on her way out to other deliveries. I said I could go by, so I drove up there and met her. She got me the package, and it was great to finally get the laptop back.

Kudos to UPS for the extra effort, and that’s where business is more than just work. It’s a relationship and I appreciate the help I got. I owe Kent a few beers.

I got it back, and had to spend 5 minutes walking around to find my AC adapter. I haven’t used it since Dec 2 when I sent this laptop back. I powered it up and got the wonderful Vista setup screen.

Thanks Toshiba, for wiping my drive. I had copied off the data, but now I have a project in front of me that I wasn’t wanting. I ran through and left it at the “Checking Windows performance” screen since it looked like it would take awhile and I wanted to run.

I’ll go check it now and see if it actually works. And if I still have my 320GB drive and extra 2GB of memory or if they’ve removed that as well.

Tired Today

Back to karate last night, which was modified fairly heavily with a sore knee. I did OK, just avoiding a few of those moves that would strain things. I also got my first stripe as a brown belt, which moves me along. 11 months to black belt.

Delaney couldn’t find his bag, so he went to class without a belt at the end the teacher called my name to come up, but everyone was still clapping from the previous person, so Delaney only heard Jones and ran up there. It was a humorous moment. Of course as soon as I was done, he called Delaney up there, but he had no belt, so he couldn’t get his third stripe. That will come tomorrow.

We got home, I’d missed my laptop again, and I was frustrated and tired. I fell asleep, not sure when, and tossed and turned, waking up a bunch. I got up at 6:15 to get Delaney, but I’m tempted to take a nap. Unfortunately I have a lot of work, and a bunch of things to try and get done today. I’m thinking I’ll sleep in tomorrow.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Too Much Data – Idiocracy or Star Trek?

I used to think that too much data was never a bad thing. That having more information out there is good. However I’m starting to wonder if moderation might be in order here.

I’ve been thinking of getting a spare laptop since Toshiba isn’t too concerned about getting mine fixed. So I’ve been looking at other ones, and I think that I settled on an Acer 1420P tablet. PDC attendees got them for free this fall, though they are supposed to go on sale soon here in the US. It’s a good deal from a developer that doesn’t need it, but I’m getting off track.

As I was trying to decide if I wanted this one, I ended up searching out some other ones, including a nice ASUS from Amazon that had a good price and long battery life. I went looking for reviews, but outside of those posted on Amazon’s site, what I found was a bunch of blogs.

And NONE of them had reviews. It appears that someone, or a bunch of someones, copied the specs from Amazon, either with the graphics or without, and then posted it as a blog, generating rankings that made them appear on the first and second page of results. I checked a dozen or so and none of them provided “information”, they just repeated what Amazon had shown.

I’m sure this is a way to gain some Adwords traffic, and it might make you some money. I guess if you’re a programmer and you get $50 a month from Google on something like this, or even some Amazon Affiliate money, it’s worth doing. After all, how long can it take to copy and paste stuff up there?

Especially when it’s free on so many blog sites.

I’ve had a couple similar experiences lately when researching things, and slowly it appears that there are places where the Internet isn’t useful because there is too much of this “speculation”  taking place and hiding information. I’m not willing to search through 12 pages of results to find another nugget of information that ought to be on the first page.

With so many affiliates and opportunists, it seems some days that we’re moving closer to Idiocracy than Star Trek.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I was hoping that 4 days in the mountains would be a nice time to recharge. Unfortunately, with my wife needing to work some of the time, Kyle coming back early for school, and me getting hurt, it seems that I didn’t get a lot of time up there. I barely feel like we got away, as opposed to some of our long weekends last year.

It’s important to recharge, and get away from work. I’ve balanced things pretty well over the last few years, working from home, but I’ve also not taken a lot of vacation. And I’ve found that taking a day here and there hasn’t helped since I still get caught in the grind of working more the day before and after. A little of that happened this time.

I think that I might take a note from some of the people I listen to on the radio, like Jim Rome, and shut things down for a week at a time this year. I’ll be picking out some low traffic times and then trying to take a whole week off here and there. We’ll see how that works out.

One nice thing about the condo we hit in the mountains. It didn’t have free wi-fi available, so I was offline most of the time. It didn’t make sense for me to fire up my netbook and check mail or anything and pay a fee each day, so I left it off until the last night. That was a nice chance to get away from the site for a few days.

#6 – Relentless

51t6owq%2B72L._SL500_AA240_[1] The Lost Fleet finally makes it back to Alliance space, and while the book doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, it does leave you wondering what’s next. A journey back to fight the Syndics? A dictatorship for Black Jack Geary? An encounter with the aliens? Relentless is as great as the others in the Lost Fleet.

I can’t wait for book 6 to come out this spring.

This book has the fleet low in supplies, but making the final run to Alliance space after defeating the Syndics at Lakota. It also has Black Jack questioning himself, his tactics, and his relationships with the women in his life. The traitors in the fleet are also revealed.

You don’t have to read the others, but I highly recommend getting Dauntless and starting from there.


I had trouble sleeping last night, though I tried valiantly to drop off. I woke up to hit the bathroom at 4am and Tia was reading on her phone, so I wasn’t the only one.

However I am really dragging today, struggling to get work done and concentrate. Despite a few cups of decaf, and plenty of work, I’m ready for a nap. I’m going to try to run shortly and see if that makes things better.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back Boarding

The knee is still sore, but the run was OK, and we had a good day on the slopes.

Books 1-5

I didn't do a good job tracking my reading last year, and I regret that a little. I might go through my online reading and note them somewhere, but I decided that I'd keep track of things for 2010. So here is where I stand so far.
  • Alex Cross' Trial - Started in 2009, finished Jan 1
  • Dauntless - The Lost Fleet #1 (reread)
  • Fearless - The Lost Fleet #2 (reread)
  • Courageous - The Lost Fleet #3 (reread)
  •  Valiant - The Lost Fleet #4 (reread)
I'm into Relentless, the Lost Fleet #5, which I've read once and this is my second time. I've had a lack of connections for most of the time, so I haven't been able to get new books and decided to just reread these. I did get a few more, and Tia finished a paper one I want to read, so I'll move on those once I finish the Lost Fleet series again. That one is really exciting to me.

A good start to the year, and I wonder if I'll read more this year with a few more writing commitments.

Last Day

We're about to head to Keystone for our last day up here on this vacation. I suspect I'll be back next week, but for now we're heading home. Instead of 4 days of skiing for me, it will be 2, I hope. We got up too late Saturday to go, or at least we didn't feel like going, then I fell on a jump Sunday and decided that I would be better off skipping Sunday. Glad I did with a sore knee. It feels better, so I'll give it a try and see what happens.

On the positive side, it's been fairly relaxing, and I've read a lot. 4 books completely, finished a 5th, working on a 6th. Not a bad start to the new year.