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Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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03/20/2014

I may be ready to shut down this blog in its current incarnation...

Category Everything Else
So I'm thinking about calling an end to this version of duffbert.com in its Notes-based design... as in burn it all down and start fresh.

I've been going through a dry spell with my writing, so this hasn't gotten as much attention as it has in the past. Over the last 10 years, it's changed focus and direction a number of times... job-related, technology-related, personal revelations, "random musings", and book/product reviews. "Random" has been the key word in that period of time.

I played with some of the Lotuscript agents that others have used to migrate over to Wordpress (which is where I will end up), but the dates in the comments were screwy, and there was a ton of clean-up I'd end up having to do. I'm just not sure I care enough to bother with it. I've been wanting to cut my last remaining use of Notes (my blog and personal reading list), and my hosting arrangement will be ending soon. I'm leaning towards letting that be the "start over" event, much like getting my content deleted from Google a few years ago got me moving to clean up my domain name issues.

Duffbert.com has been important to me in many ways over the years, and it was a significant part of making me who I am and what I was able to do both personally and professionally. While I stand behind any and everything I've put there over the years, there's a big chunk that's just not relevant any more (like tech notes for versions of Notes no longer supported). My book reviews end up on Amazon (and FB and Twitter and ...) so I'm not sure if the duplication on my blog is as necessary as it once was to me. My "random thoughts" end up on Twitter or FB in most cases.  In short, if I were to kill off the old content, now would be as good a time to do it as any other.

What I may do is start the new version of duffbert.com, and copy over select content with the dates of the original posting. I may consolidate any comments for that entry into a single comment (or add it to the bottom of the post). That way I can keep some of the "duffbert.com classics" and weed out content that just doesn't matter any more.

So... all that to say there will be some changes in April, and I'll come into the 21st century of the blogging world. :)

10/05/2013

How (or does) gadgetry (like FitBit) help me in trying to start a consistent workout program?

Category Everything Else
A few days ago, I posted some information on my attempt to get started on a consistent workout program. I'm grossly overweight (or grossly undertall), and I need to start doing something about it. Part of the plan has been to use FitBit to track steps and flights of stairs, and RunKeeper to track a planned fitness activity each day.

My friend Rob McDonagh posed an interesting question in the comments:

Rob Donahue McDonagh: I'd love to see your opinion on the ways the gadgetry like Fitbit et al helps (or doesn't, if that turns out to be the case) with motivation or consistency. Short term vs long term. 20/20 hindsight. Seems like a great blog post (says the guy without a blog anymore).

So here we go... :)

Given my mindset, mentality, and habits, I think the FitBit/RunKeeper combination has helped tremendously. I think the "social" (I hate that word) aspect has been key also...

It's far too easy for me to say "I'll go to the gym tomorrow" or "I'll start walking on Monday" so that it'll start at the beginning of some unit of time. I chose September 1st as my starting date for this effort (see? start at the beginning of a week/month), and I set the goal to have 10000 steps, 10 flights of stairs, and one tracked RunKeeper activity each day. As I mentioned in my Facebook posting, I was able to do that for every day in September except for one (I was away at a conference), and that level of commitment is very rare for me when it comes to fitness stuff. Even though I missed one day, I picked it up the following day and just kept going.

I'm finding that things work best for me if I don't give myself a way to break a streak. That's why it's "every day" in order to make it happen. FitBit is necessary in that I have some concrete way to measure overall activity (because I *really* don't move around much during the day if I don't have a reason to do so). Unless I have a very long walk as part of my RunKeeper activity, I have to do some "pacing" in the evening to get to the 10K. My basement-to-main floor steps gets a few more usages to get to 10 flights. But without the FitBit, I wouldn't do it. RunKeeper is useful in that it gives me something to measure against. Did I walk faster? Did I walk a longer distance? How much did elevation come into play? My wife tried to tell me that it really didn't matter how fast as the calorie burn would be about the same. I just told her the internal competition was a guy thing...

The other element of the equation that helps keep me on track is the sharing on Twitter and Facebook. I don't do it as a "Hey look at me I'm exercising!" thing. I generally work from the assumption that most people just don't care what you're doing (to be bluntly honest). But by putting it out there for others to see, those who do know me and who do care add a level of accountability to what I'm doing. If I stopped for a week, I'm guessing that a small number of people would ask what happened and tell me I really should get back to it. I also have some fun with the online sharing and conversations, whether it's patterned walking that shows up on RunKeeper or humorous (at least I think so) comments on how it went.

About the only part of this I haven't made public is my actual weight. Part of me wants to take the "burn the boats, no retreat" path, post my weight, and know that I have no way of hiding it. For someone who doesn't have much of a problem sharing my struggles, it wouldn't be unusual for me to do that. But oddly enough, I look at that number (and myself in the mirror) and I'm embarrassed/disgusted that I've let myself get to this point. When I get to a point where the number shows I'm "just" overweight (and not "morbidly obese" by medical definition), then I'll probably add that into the "public" space to keep myself accountable in that final area. Then I can say "I've lost xx pounds" and you can do the math.

So Rob... for me, the gadgetry is working (at least at this point in time). It's only been six weeks, but I have other friends that are also using FitBit and RunKeeper, and seeing their efforts (and reporting my own) makes me feel like I'm part of a group that's trying to do something positive for their health. Will they stick over the long term? I certainly hope so, but I do have to keep in mind I've killed off two prior FitBits by running them through the wash.  :)
 

02/26/2013

At what personal point does the cost of healthcare outweigh the cost of life?

Category Everything else
A warning up front... this is a rather depressing blog post on what many will find a disturbing topic. If you don't want to think about death vs. the cost of healthcare for whatever reason, don't read any further. I know a number of people for which this would be very painful to think about... so just stop here if there's any reason you don't want to go down that path.

Time magazine ran a story last week that I haven't been able to ignore and forget...

Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us

It certainly isn't a quick read (it's *really* long by internet standards), but it's something that every American who cares even one iota about the cost of heathcare should take the time to read and understand.

The focus is on how medical charges are determined and billed, and it's grotesque (in my opinion). It highlights the use of what's called a "chargemaster", or each hospital's list of what it charges for everything. From page 2 of the article...

Stamford Hospital’s chargemaster assigns prices to everything, including Janice S.’s blood tests. It would seem to be an important document. However, I quickly found that although every hospital has a chargemaster, officials treat it as if it were an eccentric uncle living in the attic. Whenever I asked, they deflected all conversation away from it. They even argued that it is irrelevant. I soon found that they have good reason to hope that outsiders pay no attention to the chargemaster or the process that produces it. For there seems to be no process, no rationale, behind the core document that is the basis for hundreds of billions of dollars in health care bills.

I could probably riff on this for hours, on how the argument about the cost of healthcare has been deflected to focus on *who* pays for things, and not *why* nearly all aspects of the health care system are (in many cases) obscenely profitable for those who provide the services and equipment. Full disclosure... I do work for a healthcare insurance company, and that industry is not blameless in this mess either. But if hospitals are able to have markups of 200%, 300%, and more on common items like generic tablets of Tylenol (not to mention cancer drugs that run into the tens of thousands of dollars for a course of treatment or even a single dose), who ends up paying? Even for "non-profit" hospitals, the amount of profit that's made each year (which is then spent on things not always associated with cutting costs) is staggering. Our capitalistic system (basically, Wall Street) expects and rewards businesses that produce major profits and rapid earnings growth. Obviously, reining in costs and making things affordable goes contrary to that, and profit will rule all.

BUT... I'm getting completely off-topic for what I wanted to say here...

Page 6 of the article, under item 3: Catastrophic Illness - And The Bills To Match:

When medical care becomes a matter of life and death, the money demanded by the health care ecosystem reaches a wholly different order of magnitude, churning out reams of bills to people who can’t focus on them, let alone pay them. Soon after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2011, a patient whom I will call Steven D. and his wife Alice knew that they were only buying time. The crushing question was, How much is time really worth? As Alice, who makes about $40,000 a year running a child-care center in her home, explained, “[Steven] kept saying he wanted every last minute he could get, no matter what. But I had to be thinking about the cost and how all this debt would leave me and my daughter.” By the time Steven D. died at his home in Northern California the following November, he had lived for an additional 11 months. And Alice had collected bills totaling $902,452.

The question I'm left with is this... at what point is the cost of prolonging one's life too expensive? Is having to pay (or burden your survivors with) one million dollars in medical bills for an additional year of life an acceptable decision?

The general nature of people is to want to live as long as possible. With today's health care options, things that were certain death sentences a decade or two ago are now treatable conditions with a reasonable chance of survival. If there's a chance of a cure, many people will take it. The thought of who will pay for it (successful or otherwise) is secondary to the discussion. But in the example above, I personally believe the discussion of who has to deal with the bills is primary. They apparently knew that a cure was not possible, and that it was only a matter of time before he would die of the cancer. But to him, it was survival at all costs, and who cares about the financial carnage after you die?

I know it sounds crass, and some people would probably call it an immoral choice to have to make. But in my view (and again, this is *my* personal view, not one to be imposed on others as a rule), the cost of survival has to be weighed against the cost of living with the crushing debt that will be left behind. Someone will have to pay that, and it's likely to be the person or persons most ill-equipped to do so... your loved ones who have to continue living after you're gone.

I've actually thought about this even before I read this article... if I were diagnosed with a disease (let's call it cancer) that had a relatively low chance of survival, would I choose treatment or would I choose to let it run its natural course? My mom was diagnosed with cancer after ignoring some symptoms for a number of months. By the time the results came back, the chance of survival was very small. She chose to not fight it, and to let it play out... knowing that it was a matter of weeks at that point. It turned out to be six weeks. Realistically, she could have maybe prolonged life a few more months... but at what cost, both physically and financially? Everyone will die at some point... is another two months before saying good-bye worth the cost? For her, it wasn't. And if that decision were to ever face me, I think I'd probably go the same route.

I know that each situation is different... do you have young children? Do you have excellent insurance (but even then there will still be costs)? Are your kids grown and independent? It's always going to be painful to die and leave others behind, but do you add to that pain by leaving bills that will affect the lives of those left for years?

This isn't an easy question, and it is so wrong that we as a society are faced with these types of issues given the current state of healthcare in America. But I don't see the situation improving, and I think more and more people are going to be faced with the painful choice, which is...

How much is my life worth to those who will have to pay the bill when I'm gone?

11/30/2012

When you look in the mirror and hate what you see...

Category Everything else
This is one of those introspective, "likely more dramatic than it really is" personal posts.  If you're here for book reviews or technical info, you can safely ignore this and move along.  But writing is how I deal with things, and "my blog, my rules"...

Over the last few months, I've come to the realization that I'm really struggling with who I am.  More accurately, the question is probably... who am I?

I don't like what I've let myself become physically.  Body image has always been an issue for me as far back as I can remember.  Being "the short fat kid" was a defining factor growing up (on a number of levels), and that has never disappeared.  Even after I lost a lot of weight in my late teens/early twenties, that mental image of being "the short fat kid" still defined me.  Now at the mid-point of life (with the associated re-finding of the lost weight), I've just dropped "kid".  Everything else remains the same.

I grew up trying to meet expectations of others.  I was the good student.  I was the good child.  I was interested in the things that people around me liked because that was expected. The goal was to "fit in" to be accepted.  But I'm not sure I ever figured out what *I* liked and what *I* wanted.  I know that on more than one occasion, I dealt with resistance by assuming I must not really want something since someone else didn't think it was a great idea.

I look at what I do in many areas of my life, and I realize I know "about" things, but in reality I don't often make the jump to actually *knowing* those things... experiencing and mastering them on a deep level.  It's like I'm a mile wide and an inch deep, and I feel that after ten minutes it would be obvious to everyone that I'm not really all that interesting after all.  In a three-dimensional world, I feel very one-dimensional... and it's not even an interesting dimension at that.

On a rational level, I can explain all this to myself.  I'm probably having my mid-life crisis, everyone struggles with who they are, no one feels like the person that everyone else thinks they are, there are things I'm good at...  I know all that.  I also know that depression plays into this, and that's been a documented issue I've discussed in the past.  For various reasons, I've backed off my meds.  It's not because I think or thought I'm "cured", as that will never be the case.  It's more along the lines of letting some level of emotions come to the surface so I can figure out what's inside.  

One analogy that fits somewhat is to imagine myself standing on the edge of a large puddle.  My current self looks at that puddle and thinks... that's wet.  I can't see the bottom, and it looks dirty.  It's probably safer to walk around it and stay dry.  I can tell others about the large puddle I saw.  I can read books about puddles and look up puddles online.  I really know a lot about puddles in general...

What I really want to do is to just say "screw it" and jump in.  I'll get wet and messy and dirty and I'll probably stub my toe or cut myself and very possibly look pretty stupid in the process... but when I get done, I'll *know* that puddle and it'll be part of me.

I'll have actually lived life instead of just reading about it and experiencing it through someone else.

2012 is winding down, and 2013 is growing larger on the horizon.  I don't know what the future holds, nor does anyone else.  What I do know is that I don't want to keep doing things based on what I think others expect of me.  My comfort zone has become way too small.  I need to trim out things I've been holding on to because they feel "safe" or "expected."  I need to find the things that *I* want to do, that *I* want to make part of me because they're of interest to *me*, not someone else.  I need to step out and try new things knowing full well that I'll make mistakes and look stupid when I first start.  I will fail and not measure up to those who I see as "experts", but I'll ignore that because they too had to start and fail along the way.  I'll find that some things I try won't be things I want to continue doing, but I want to at least say I gave it a shot.  And along the way, I'll find some things that make *me* happy because *I* like doing them.

I'm not about to quit everything and hike around the world in search of myself.  There *are* things in my life that make sense and that are part of me at a deeper level.  But I do plan on changing things around in order to "know" things that interest me instead of just knowing *about* them.  Instead of collecting information, I want to collect experiences.  I don't want to scrape off the topsoil of my existence to make it look like I'm doing something.  I want to take the shovel, start digging, get dirty and sweaty, and pull a few muscles in the process of finding out what's really under the surface.  I want to move past knowing to doing.

Maybe that's my new motto:  Knowing != Doing

Or maybe: Less Knowing, More Doing

10/16/2012

The Rise Of Women In Tech...

Category Everything Else
In my technical circles, I don't give a second thought about the gender of my colleagues.  In fact, for the longest time I never released there was even an issue of bias against women in technology.  They were my coworkers, and they were female... so?  It wasn't until a few high visibility incidents in the larger tech world opened my eyes, that I became aware of the larger problem and the inherent sexism that's constantly in play.  It's not a matter of whether a female tech worker is good... it's that they end up having to be significantly better than others to be perceived as equal.  And unfortunately, that's just a mild version of the problem.  Some of the vile slander and sexism that can be found in the male tech community is truly disgusting.

But thankfully, things are changing...  This infographic from MBAOnline shows positive trends that give me hope that one day gender may really not matter when it comes to IT:

The Rise Of Women In Tech

For my Nerd Girl friends and colleagues... thanks for pushing back and making us aware of the changes that are needed.

09/27/2012

Packt Publishing reaches 1000 IT titles and celebrates with an open invitation

Category Everything Else
Packt Publishing reaches 1000 IT titles and celebrates with an open invitation

Birmingham-based IT publisher Packt Publishing is about to publish its 1000th title. Packt books are renowned among developers for being uniquely practical and focused, but you’d be forgiven for not yet being in the know – Packt books cover highly specific tools and technologies which you might not expect to see a high quality book on.

Packt is certain that in its 1000 titles there is at least one book that everyone in IT will find useful right away, and are inviting anyone to choose and download any one of its eBooks for free over its celebration weekend of 28-30th Sep 2012. Packt is also opening its online library for a week for free to give customers an easy to way to research their choice of free eBook.

Packt supports many of the Open Source projects covered by its books through a project royalty donation, which has contributed over $400,000 to Open Source projects up to now. As part of the celebration Packt is allocating $30,000 to share between projects and authors as part of the weekend giveaway, allocated based on the number of copies of each title downloaded.

Dave Maclean, founder of Packt Publishing:

“At Packt we set out 8 years ago to bring practical, up to date and easy to use technical books to the specialist tools and technologies that had been largely overlooked by IT publishers. Today, I am really proud that with our authors and partners we have been able to make useful books available on over 1000 topics and make our contribution to the development community.”

http://bit.ly/RXnAMc

07/11/2012

An adjustment...

Category Everything else
Based on an email exchange I had this evening with someone whose input is important, I've decided that talking about GBS is something I'm going to shelve.  I haven't changed the way I feel about GBS as a company or the direction it's headed.  What I feel *was* a valid point is how my comments were interpreted.

To be clear... I do not wish ill will on the employees of GBS, nor will I be (nor am I) happy that the company is having financial difficulties.  

I went through the Enron debacle, had part of my severance pay tied up in court bankruptcy proceedings, and I got laid off 11 days before September 11th.  Emotionally, I was convinced I would never get another job again.  I would not wish that hell on anyone.  I was fortunate in that things worked out well, and the changes I had to make put me on a path that was far better than what I ever dreamed.  Many others didn't end up that way.  That experience is why I started tweeting about Lotus job openings and why I update and post the lotusjobs.wordpress.com site.  I'm not looking for Lotus jobs, and I'm very happy with what I'm doing and learning with my current employer.  I do this because being unemployed and feeling like you have no options is one of the worst experiences I've ever had.  If I can help one person avoid or escape that, then the time I spend posting those jobs is worth it.

One of the few things I've figured out about myself is that when I take a shot at someone or something, quite often it's because someone or something I care about about is being threatened in some way.  In this particular case, many people I know and respect will end up getting hurt if GBS has to take drastic steps to change their situation.  I bristle when corporate happy-talk about exciting opportunities in the market ignores the fact that the bottom line tells a completely different story.  If the livelihood of people I care about is threatened, I push back.  

I commented on Volker's blog about the announcement today regarding the change in GBS leadership.  I was told that there *are* personal reasons for the change, and that I was wrong in calling it corporate-speak for resigning instead of getting fired.  After thinking about that, I realize I *do* owe Mr. Ott an apology.  I don't know him or the situation, and my comment was based on far too many corporate press releases where "personal reasons" is a general phrase that means someone left not of their own accord.  I know I would be furious if I left to deal with medical issues in my family (not a stretch) or something similar, and it was suggested that I was forced to leave.  I'm sorry for that comment.  

The reason I'm shelving the GBS topic is that when it comes to the bottom line, the ultimate success or failure of GBS as a company doesn't affect what I do.  I'm not converting Notes applications to XPages, I'm not a business partner, and I'm never going to be working for GBS in any of those capacities.  I still care deeply about my friends and colleagues who *are* affected by the company, and I'll always be there to help them in any way that I can regardless of where they work and who they work for.  Others who are more inclined and qualified to dig through the financials can analyze and offer opinions.  The numbers are what they are, and time will tell as to how it all unfolds.  In my case, this really is one more area and topic that I can eliminate from my circle of distraction.

So... to the person who emailed me, thank you for the input.  I may well appear to be and act like an @$$ at times, but I *will* listen to feedback (in most cases).  You were right, and I was wrong.

07/04/2012

Looking for advice/input...Does anyone have experience in sponsoring a cycling team?

Category Everything Else
So here's the deal... If you've followed my blog/Facebook/Twitter account, you might know that Cameron (my 24 year old son) is an avid bike racer.  His speciality is track racing, and in the three or four years since he's been racing as part of various teams, he's worked his way up to being a highly competitive category 3 rider.  There are three other riders who are constants on the team, comprising a mix of gender and racial diversity.  All of them are committed and continue to move up the ranks, and I'm a proud dad when I look at how hard he's worked and on some of the decision he's had to make to stand up for others.

But's here's the rub... he and the team have done most everything on a self-funded basis.  They buy their own bikes, pay their own fees, design and buy their own skinsuits, etc.  Cycling isn't a cheap sport, and what Cam and his team have accomplished with 2nd-hand equipment while also trying to live on his own as a delivery person (on a bike, naturally) is nothing short of amazing to me.  However, they've reached a point where to make the jump to the next level, they really do need to get sponsorship at some level.  Many of the local teams here in Portland Oregon have sponsors that provide new bikes (*that* isn't cheap).  Sponsors can also cover race fees, provide outfits and kit, and so on...  Some sponsors are local (like local pubs and restaurants), some are tied to the sport (various bike shops), and some are even names that would be known internationally (like being sponsored by Guinness, but likely through a local distributor).  Even the local power company here in Portland sponsors a bike team.

I would love to work with Cam's team to try and secure solid and tangible sponsorship.  On the other hand, publicity and marketing are not my forte.  On top of that, I can't sit down right now and rattle off a sponsorship plan of what it would cost, how many levels, what that would be used for, and how the team would promote the name.  That's the stuff I have to learn if I want to help him out at all.

I know there are a number of people who read my writings who are cyclers and/or who are part of teams with sponsorship.  I'd be very interested in getting some feedback on your experiences in this area, and any recommendations on how to test the waters.  If you want to drop me an email using my duffbert AT gmail.com account to start a conversation, I'd be forever grateful for the education.

And while it wasn't the *main* idea of this post, if you own or work for a company who would love to have a cycling team that you could hug and squeeze and call George, *please* get in touch with me.  

Their need for sponsorship is very real.  My role is helping them secure some part of it may or may not work out.  But in this case (biased as I am), I'd love to see all their hard work, effort, and commitment take them up to the levels I know they're capable of.

Thanks...

07/02/2012

This is why I reject *both* parties in American politics... (rant coming... change the channel if you'd like)

Category Everything Else
Politics is one of those topics you're not supposed to discuss in polite company because it's divisive and often generates more smoke than heat.  It's also right up there next to religion in terms of beliefs that people will adhere to and identify with regardless of whether a particular element makes sense or has been shown to be completely false.  It's why we can have a thousand cable and satellite channels of programming... people will do anything to get their daily dose of confirmation bias.

However, now that I'm into my second half-century of life on earth, I'd like to think that I'm finally questioning more and blindly following less.  I know there are still values and beliefs I hold true, but I'm more open to realizing that no one group has the right, adequate, or practical answers to everything.  There are times when you have to admit and accept that answers that address the "greater good" can come from anywhere, even from the groups that you claim to despise and that you decry as idiots.

I've been feeling this for a while now, but it clobbered me over the head this evening when I read this:

PolitiFact's Lie of the Year: 'A government takeover of health care'

Let's get some housekeeping out of the way first... I'm registered as "non-affiliated" as an Oregon voter.  It used to be "independent", until someone had the bright idea to create an official Independent Party in Oregon, and the government thought it'd be a good idea to let people think that non-affiliated and independent were synonymous terms.  I work for a health insurance company.  I think the current system is horribly broken and unsustainable.  I have a son with a life-threatening condition who will be uninsured in a few weeks unless I find something to replace his coverage on our insurance.  And finally, I believe that a certain baseline level of universal coverage is a moral obligation of a society... not "I deserve access to have access to $100K treatments to survive three more months", but "someone shouldn't die because they can't afford insurance for type 1 diabetes *and* buy food".  Also, spare me the libertarian "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" crap.  Sometimes life deals someone a really shitty hand through no fault of their own, and "too bad, I guess you die" isn't what this country was morally founded upon.  I realize there's a line that needs to be drawn somewhere in that "baseline universal coverage" belief.  No, I don't know where it is, nor whether it's stationary and doesn't ever shift.  I'm also not sure I trust anyone to be wise enough to determine the line's placement.  Sometimes decisions are like that...

Now, back to the topic at hand...

Read the article I linked to (since you chose to read this blog entry in the first place).  Read the whole thing.  It's more than 140 characters, but hang in there.

Get down toward the end to this part:

"When Obama proposed his health plan in the spring of 2009, Luntz, a Republican strategist famous for his research on effective phrases, met with focus groups to determine which messages would work best for the Republicans. He did not respond to calls and e-mails from PolitiFact asking him to discuss the phrase.

The 28-page memo he wrote after those sessions, "The Language of Healthcare 2009," provides a rare glimpse into the art of finding words and phrases that strike a responsive chord with voters."

The paragraphs following that are mind-boggling to me.  Republican (and I'll argue that you can generalize this to "Political") leadership is not trying to solve the issue of health care.  They're not trying to do what's best for the country or for society.  They're focusing on one frickin' thing... getting elected in order to stay in power.  Mind you, it's not an attempt to get elected (or stay elected) so that they can *then* focus on the larger problems.  To them, the only larger problem is how to stay in power and keep their jobs.

I'm sure there are Republican (and political) officials who truly believe the lies (yes, *lies*) that were exposed in this article.  It's not as if we haven't seen plenty of examples of stunning stupidity from city, state, and federal senators and representatives from *both* parties this year.  Unfortunately, that means we either have sheeple (sheep people) leading sheeple and doing what they're told by *their* leaders, or we have leaders who will lie at any and every opportunity to have power and the money that comes with it.  I'll be drastic and let you amputate a finger of mine for every honest and selfless politician you can find who is doing that job because they are willing to sacrifice and labor to better their constituency.  I'm guessing I'll still be able to use my keyboard quite well when you're finished.

And in case it appears that I'm beating up on Republicans for sport, let me offer the following in counterpoint:

Obama says under Mitt Romney, "Medicare could end as we know it, leaving Julia with nothing but a voucher to buy insurance, which means $6,350 extra per year for a similar plan." (FALSE)

"Under the Romney/Ryan budget, interest rates on federal student loans would be allowed to double." (FALSE)

I could keep going, but hopefully you get the idea.  And if you want to argue that PolitiFact.com is biased (in which case you missed the *entire* point of this post), then check out FactCheck.org (they also don't trust either side).

Bottom line... this "politicians lie" is not a new revelation for me.  It's just appearing much more pervasive and blatant now (thank you, Internet).  And I don't want any sympathy over insurance woes that I may have.  Ultimately, it *is* my crap to deal with.

If I could wish for anything good to come from this post, it's simply that you stop parroting stories and statements from Democrats, Republicans, Fox, MSNBC, CNN, or any other source that condenses an intricate and complicated issue into 300 words, 3 minutes, and a sound bite for a 30 second story on the radio.  THINK FOR YOURSELVES!  These are problems and issues that will determine the world that you and your children live in for the rest of your lives.  Do you really not think that deserves more than 60 seconds of thought and effort on your part before you form an opinion and take action?

04/20/2012

If your blog content appears on PlanetLotus, LotusLearns.com is likely infringing on your copyright...

Category Everything Else
LotusLearns.com is a site set up by Kellie Smith as a "resource" for the Lotus community.  But, unlike PlanetLotus (which points to the sites that host the content), she is copying the entire content onto her site with only a small link back to the site it came from.  This is a blatant violation of copyright laws, in addition to being extremely inconsiderate of those in the community that create and post the content on their own site.

In communications with a member of the Lotus community, she states this is a "service" that she provides for countries that have bandwidth issues.  Somehow she believes that getting all this content from her site is less bandwidth-intensive than going directly to the original sites.  In my opinion, this doesn't hold much water.  A site like PlanetLotus allows someone to quickly see what content is available, and only click through to the content of interest.  Her method means they would be forced to load everything that she steals from other sites.  Even subscribing to RSS feeds is a better solution for these bandwidth-challenged sites than reading through everything on LotusLearns.

While sympathetic to the desire to aid other areas that do not have access to reliable communication infrastructure, that does not give her the right to ignore copyright law and repost content.

LotusLearns is a site hosted on Blogger.  If you'd like to notify Google of this infringement and ask for action, you may do so by using their Report Abuse link.

04/02/2012

My interview for Blogworld: Getting Free Review Products from Amazon with Thomas Duff

Category Everything Else
I was interviewed via email yesterday by Alison Boyer for her BlogWorld column.  The topic: Getting Free Review Products from Amazon with Thomas Duff

Thanks, Alison... that was a lot of fun!

02/12/2012

The Companion

Category Everything Else
The Companion

Never far way, the companion follows.
An unwelcome traveler, tracking my steps.
I know the shadow is there, but I never know where.
I run fast, but not always fast enough.
I'm caught, and the shadow surrounds me.
All is darkness, direction is lost.
I know light exists outside the shadow,
but how deep is the darkness?
Will I break out into light with the next step,
or will the journey out of the dark be long?
I'll keep moving, keep hoping that the next step...
... will bring light.

11/22/2011

A way to say "thank you" to a blogger via Amazon purchases...

Category Everything Else
As you've possibly noticed, occasionally I review a book or two here on my blog.  

In each review, there's a link back to Amazon where the book is listed.  And if you look at the URL format, you'll see the string "duffbertsrand-20" at the end.  Chris Miller has (I think) a string of "idonotes-20" at the end.  So what's that mean, and why do I do that?

Well, I'm enrolled in the Amazon Associate program.  It's a free referral program run by Amazon whereby I get a small commission on any sale from their site if the purchase was made after clicking through one of my links.  The most common type of purchase would be where you see a review that looks interesting, you click the link, and you decide to purchase the book.  In addition to that, anything else you buy during that session also earns a commission.  You can even click through one of my links, immediately go to some other item on Amazon to buy it, and I *still* get a commission.

There are a couple different fee structures, but the most common one is called the Performance Structure.  Each quarter, you get a percentage of the total sales based on the number of items purchased.  If I drive 1 to 6 sales for the quarter, I get 4% of the purchase price.  If the number goes up to between 6 and 20, the percentage increases on all items to 6%.  Then the ranges start getting larger, and the percentage jumps get smaller.  I'm happy if I get over 20 items for the month and get up to 6.5%.

The associate site allows you to track what items have been purchased, and it's always fun to check out what the account might hold for you each day.  I can't track *who* purchased any particular item (unless you tell me you did it), but I can see what was purchased.  For instance, a fellow blogger asked me about my Amazon links because he wanted to say thanks for some help I gave him.  He clicked through a link to a particular book he wanted to buy, and also bought an iPod while there.  *That* was a nice thank you!    Recently, someone bought three copies of a particular book, which I assume they are giving to fellow staff members.  Granted, not a lot of money, but it all adds up.

In my case, we're not talking thousands of dollars each quarter.  Nor hundreds...  $50 would be good...    I won't be quitting my day job any time soon.

So...  If you're out on a web site that you enjoy and they have a link to something on Amazon, there's a good chance they're part of the associate program.  Instead of going to Amazon to buy whatever via the normal Amazon link, use their site link to start your session.  It won't cost you anything extra, and it's an easy way to express appreciation for their work.

(P.S. - Don't read that last paragraph as a plea to use my links to buy stuff from Amazon.  I was really trying to speak in the general sense of showing appreciation.  But don't let me stop you, either....)

10/02/2011

Our cruise vacation in review...

Category Everything Else
Edited 10/18/2011 - link to our pictures on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/duffbert/sets/72157627689085891/

On September 24th, my wife and I took a cruise on the Royal Caribbean International ship Jewel of the Sea.  It was a NE/Canada cruise, with the thought that we'd see some of the fall colors.  We didn't see many leaves turning (actually, the weather was incredibly good), but a good time was had by all.  I don't expect too many people to be interested in this journal of our trip, but it'll help me remember it better down the road...

Day 1 - Off We Go
So today was our first day of the cruise. We hung around the Boston hotel (Omni Palmer House) until 11:30, and then headed over to the pier. There sat our home for the next 7 days... NCL's Jewel Of The Sea. Getting checked in sucks, as it's usually in a big hot warehouse (and this was) with long lines (check) and longer waits (actually, not too bad). We left our luggage with a porter, got checked in, and only ended up waiting around 15 minutes to actually board the ship. It was around 1 pm by now, so we headed up to the Windjammer buffet to grab lunch and wait for our room to open up. 1:30 and it was ready, and miracles of miracles, our luggage was already there!  That NEVER happens.  I'll be happy to leave Boston, as it's been wet and muggy.  I just hope the weather is better going forward...

The room isn't too bad. It's an inside stateroom, so no windows or balconies for a view. The only drawback is that you have no clue as to what time it is in the morning without a window.  Ship cabins are small, but overall this one is a bit more than we anticipated size-wise. I lost the closet and drawer war (to be expected), but I actually have all my clothes hanging and put away in drawers rather than living out of my suitcase. Exploring the ship came next, as the first scheduled event is the 4:30 pm muster drill. We did a tour of the spa area, which is very nice. The coolest thing is the heated tiled reclining lounges. You lay back on this thing, and it feels great. The heat soaks into your body, and it's surprisingly comfortable. May have to investigate that further...  The muster drill is usually NOT a fun event, as it's hot, you're on deck with your lifejacket on, and you're crunched up among everyone else. To our surprise, they didn't require the lifejackets, so that took some of the pain out of it. Still hot and muggy, but at least not awkward. And with that, we sailed at 5 pm.

With dinner at 5:30 pm, we decided to book some shore excursions. Our first choice in Portland was filled up, so we had to settle for a second choice. We also booked Bay Harbor's excursion for whale watching. The Bay of Fundy Top Ten tour only had one slot left, so we're going to play the odds and hope someone cancels. And for Halifax, we'll probably end up doing the Titanic Mystique tour. Dinner was good, and again we lucked out by having two other couples who are very nice and easy to talk with as our table mates for the week. I think we're the youngest of the group... imagine that! The prime rib was excellent, with the  strawberry palavone (think meringue) with strawberry sauce.

Only one stage show this evening, and we were a little late leaving dinner. Given our lack of sleep in Boston (just couldn't drop off), we decided to call this an  early night and go back to the room and read (and journal with my iPad and ZAGGmate keyboard which I'm doing now). Great ship, comfortable surroundings, and good times ahead. Let's see if I get get up in the morning and actually hit the fitness area before we have breakfast and leave for our tour of Portland... the OTHER Portland.

Day 2 - Portland Maine
Not a wonderful night of sleep, as Sue wasn't sleeping well and I was afraid I was snoring and keeping her up. I had my alarm go off at 5:45 am to do some gym time, but I almost talked myself out of it. Fortunately, no... 30 minutes on elliptical machine to get the day started. Came back, showered, and we headed to breakfast. It would be nice to have that sort of food selection every day. :)

Our tour of the Portland lighthouses started at 8:30, so we headed down to the bus. After a tour of Portland with some incredible views of the fog over Casco Bay, we ended up at the first lighthouse named Bug Light. Small little thing... Then we headed over to the Springpoint Ledge lighthouse. Again, not what you think of when you imagine the windswept lonely lighthouse. Finally we got to the third and final one, the Portland Headlight lighthouse. This is one that shows up in many of the Maine lighthouse pictures and has been around since the late 1700's. Interesting history there. We got back onto the bus and headed back to the ship to get some lunch and take a nap. After a couple of hours of reading and dozing, it was time to start getting ready for the formal dinner. Shirt, tie, and slacks. I haven't worn a tie in a *very* long time. :) The roast duck was excellent, as was the escargot for starters. nom nom nom...

8:30 pm was the start of the show by the singing and dancing group on board. It was a show titled West End to Broadway, with musical numbers from a great many Broadway shows. The set and costume changes were incredible, and the dancing was fabulous. After taking dance lessons, I have a great deal more appreciation for what it takes to do a show like that.

And talking about dancing... I actually was on the dance floor in the Vortex dance club for a few numbers after the show. I'm not sure we ever got a good rumba number to dance to, but we actually looked normal out there.  Major kudos to our dance instructor for making us look semi-coordinated.

Day 3 - Bar Harbor, Maine
Today was our day at Bar Harbor in Maine. Again, weather to die for at the end of September. 75 and sunny, which was good as we were going to be on the open water... We slept in until about 7:30, which means we didn't set the alarm and get up at any particular time. Our excursion didn't begin until 1 pm, but we thought we'd like to wander around the town a bit before that. So we got dressed and grabbed a quick breakfast before getting in line for the tender. Even though the line stretched up the stairs, it went quickly as each boat can take 150 per trip. A quick five minute shuttle, and we were into Bar Harbor by around 10:15.

Bar Harbor is a cute little town, with a main street of shops and restaurants serving the two Maine staples... lobsters and blueberries. We decided to grab a quick lunch around 11 before things got really crowded, and I can now say I've had a lobster roll. Tasty!  After a bit more wandering, we headed back to the pier and boarded the twin hull catamaran for our whale watching tour. After about 45 minutes and 25 miles, we ended up in the area where the shelf drops from 300 to 600 feet and the whales often feed. It was rather slow at first, with only the occasional porpoise showing up. But towards the end, we got pretty close to a smaller humpback that was surfacing about 20 yards away. Spectacular animals! Unfortunately, our time ran out, and we had to head back in to get those of us on the cruise ship back by the last tender run at 4:30. We *just* got back by that time (knowing they couldn't leave without us), but it wasn't a worry... the line for tender back to the ship was around 300 deep. Needless to say, they ran tenders long past 4:30... It was a good time, but I think I'm wearing a fair amount of salt from the boat spray.  I also should have taken a jacket along, as a boat kicking up spray at about 25 mph is cold no matter how you cut it.

What was interesting was the tides. I know that tomorrow's trip to Saint John in New Brunswick, specifically the Bay of Fundy, is known for their incredible tide changes. But Bar Harbor is no slouch in the tide differential measurements. We arrived at a higher tide level, and I must admit I wasn't seeing the "harbor". But when we got back from the whales, it became clear. One whole end of the harbor was now dry land, as the tides had dropped around 10 feet and exposed rocks that weren't there before. Much the same with some other areas around the harbor. It was rather stunning.

So, back on the ship and just about time to head to dinner. But as we got in line, Sue felt underdressed for the dining room, so we got to try what I wanted.... the cafe on deck 12 that served reubens. And they are GOOD! Not large, but very good. Furthermore, the buffet area had sushi on the evening offering, so I picked up a few sushi rolls there. Needless to say, I think my dinner was better than what the dining room was offering.  We decided to skip the show, as it was a comedian who didn't sound like he was going to be all that funny.

Besides, I need to get my last emails and tweets in before I go cold turkey on internet access until we get back to Boston.  :(

Day 4 - Control is but an illusion (Saint John, New Brunswick)
So we made it to Saint John. We were an hour late, and that should have given us an idea as to how the day was going to go...

First off, we were supposed to be here at 7 am. But at that time, we were still approaching the port. Around 7:45, it looked like we were finally here. But "here" and "off" are two different things. First, it was the announcement that we hadn't cleared immigration. 8:30 comes, and we have an excursion that's supposed to start at 8:45. But since no one on the ship is getting off, no big deal. Then it was a crane malfunction with the gangway. Then the ship had to move about 10 feet in order to get the gangway to line up and for us not to be affected by the tides. So around 9:15, we finally were released to go ashore. We found our bus for the Bay of Fundy/Saint John Top Ten tour (yes, we did get lucky with a cancellation). We did the bus ride around parts of the city, and also saw the river that runs in reverse. More on that in a bit...

After that, it was a 45 minute drive to St. Martin on the Bay, where we could look at the caves, have some chowder, and hit a few local craft shops. Lo and behold, our bus now has issues. We're an hour outside the main city (and from where our tour is to resume with lunch and lobster rolls), and they're going to send a bus... all while we wait in an area that really has nothing more to see. Ugh! Sue and I were fortunate enough to volunteer quickly to take two of six spots on a different bus (same tour) that had room. So off we go to continue our tour. And fortunately, things were OK from here on out.

We then made it back into town, where we saw the river had now started its reversal. We got to the restaurant for the lobster roll, loaded back onto the bus, and hit a park with a fort/tower, the city center market, and O'Leary's Irish pub for a free Moosehead Light beer (bottled in Saint John). We were only 10 minutes late for dinner, and joined one of our table mate couples (Beverly and Wayne) for a very enjoyable meal and some soft-serve ice cream for dessert. Since it's been a long day with a number of "unscheduled events", we decided to just head back to the room where we are relaxing. Here's hoping we sleep better tonight. Tomorrow's a full day at sea, so there's no schedule or need to be anywhere. YAY!

So the Bay of Fundy and the reversing river... The Bay of Fundy has some incredible tidal shifts... like 28 to 30 feet. At high tide, the bay is higher than the river, so the water flows out of the bay and the river runs inland. You then hit what's called the slack tide. At that point, everything is level, and the river just stops going anywhere. Imagine a long lake... Then when low tide starts occurring, the river is higher than the bay, so the river reverses and runs back into the bay. Strange stuff...

I'm glad we went on the tour, as we got a broad exposure to the history of the area, as well as seeing some interesting things. But some things are out your control, and you can either fret and worry, or just smile and go with it. We chose the second and didn't let the problems bother us. In fact, the tour guide on the second bus was really entertaining.  We even learned how to do moose-calling. Yes, that's an actual pastime up there.  You take a large juice can (metal) and a flat shoelace.  You punch a small hole in the bottom of the can, tie a knot in the shoelace, and thread it through the hole.  Wet down the shoelace.  Now you simply use your thumb and forefinger to slide down the length of the shoelace.  The resulting sound drives the male moose wild.  A word of caution... Once the male moose shows up, you're on your own as to what you do from there...

Day 5 - Just Floating Along (At Sea)
Today was our first "day at sea." Those are the days when you don't have a port of call, and you have plenty of time to just kick back, relax, and do some shipboard activities. After yesterday's comedy of errors, it was a welcome change to have nowhere we had to be.

We got up around 8 am and headed up for breakfast. A detour to the casino cost us a bit of money on the slots and video poker, but no big deal. After that, a walk around the decks for a bit. Surprisingly, we saw whales off the starboard side about a quarter mile away. It was hard to mistake them, as they were breaching with large splashes. An incredible sight, even if they're not overly close. Back to the room for some reading, followed by lunch. An exciting life. :)

One of the things I wanted to do this trip is take some time to sit, think, and set some goals for myself. In the day-to-day rush of life, it's hard to take the time to escape to a quiet place with no demands. On board the ship, they have a place called the Solarium, which is a covered pool area for adults only. It's decorated in a Buddist temple decor, with plants and bird noises piped in. The covering is glass, but surprisingly it's not overly hot. I found an open deck chair and got my quiet time. While I was able to find four things I wanted to work on for the next 12 weeks, I also realized I had a hard time coming up with a list of things I wanted to do, be, or accomplish. I think that's a problem in itself, but that topic is for a different time and place. After around 90 minutes, I went back to the room to put on the dancing shoes and head up for a "Latin Impact" dance class. It was 30 minutes of learning a salsa routine. Between all the people on the floor and the impossibility of seeing the person up front showing the steps, it wasn't as good as it could have been, but I was able to make it through. :) Back to the room, some more reading, and then time to get dressed for the 2nd formal night and LOBSTAH! nom nom nom...

To end the evening, we went to the stage show where they did a production called City of Dreams. Some good dancing and singing, and a few excellent stage backgrounds, but the storyline was somewhat non-existent. Oh, well. And with that, it's back to the room for, what else, reading before I get tired and drop off. It's been nice to get some uninterrupted time for reading, as I've read far fewer books this year than any time in the last 15 years. Part of it is writing, and part of it is just not focusing as much (too much time wasting).

Day 6 - Halifax, Nova Scotia
Today was our final port of call in Halifax, Nova Scotia. We signed up for the tour titled Titanic - The Mystique. With a 2 pm start, it was a laid-back morning. A semi-late sleep-in along with meals, relaxing, and reading. We then wandered down to the pier to catch our tour.

The guide, dressed in full kilt regalia, was quite knowledgeable. He gave us a tour of Halifax, along with the story of the explosion of 1917 (I think that was the date) which was the greatest man-made explosion ever seen to date. It was only surpassed by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Two ships, one loaded with armaments, collided in the harbor. They caught on fire, and the resulting explosion leveled houses for a quarter mile, burned a significant amount of the city, and broke windows 17 miles away. We then focused on the role that Halifax played in the story of the Titanic in 1912.

When the Titanic sunk, Halifax was the closest port city that could send out ships for the recovery of bodies. They ended up finding 338 bodies that were brought back to Halifax on board three ships. Actually, 122 of them were buried at sea. The White Star line refused to ship the bodies back home, so only 54 were returned to Europe by those who had money. The remainder were buried in Halifax with full funerals.  White Star didn't come out of this accident looking very good, either.  They only had enough life boats and rafts for about 1/4 of the people on board (they actually weren't required to have more than that by law).  They only paid the crew (or the families of crew that was lost) 1/4 of their paychecks as they figured the cruise only made it halfway through the first half of the cruise.  They even had the gall to charge the family of a band member for the non-returned uniform.

We toured the main cemetery where most of the bodies are buried, many of them still unidentified to this day. We saw the grave marker for Jack Dalton, the character played by DiCaprio in the Titanic movie. We also saw the grave marker for the unknown child. All very moving and sobering. We then ended up at the Maritime Museum where they had more Titanic information on display. Overall, it was a very good tour, and one that made you think about how temporary life is.

As we got back to the ship, it finally started to rain. Incredibly, the weather has been extraordinary this week, and tomorrow (our last day at sea) is supposed to be 77 and sunny. Coming back from a NE/Canada cruise with a tan was NOT an expected side effect. :)

Day 7/8 - At Sea/Boston
All good things have to come to an end.  The final full day of the cruise is spent at sea, so we had one last day to try and cram in whatever we felt we'd missed.  In my case, I didn't feel that was too much.  A little time in the casino made enough money for me to feel less guilty for buying a small globe made up of colored gemstones.  I've seen them in Caribbean ports, but I always talked myself out of buying one.  Didn't happen this time. :)

I spent some quiet time doing some writing, walked the decks, and visited with some of our table mates.  We decided to have dinner in the main dining room for the final night, as that's when you normally give the gratuity envelopes to the dining staff.  Then it was back to the room to do the dreaded task of packing up and leaving the suitcases out in the hallway so they can be picked up and moved off the ship for pickup.

When we got back into Boston, we still had one more tour.  Our flight wasn't out until 4:30 pm, so we took a two hour tour of Boston.  Once again, we had a great guide in the bus, and we got a good drive-by tour of Boston and Cambridge.  Although it was pretty foggy, we could still see most of the sights (I'll assume the John Hancock building *is* 66 stories), and I think I'd like to come back some day to explore the history of the city.  It never ceases to amaze me how far back the history of cities on the east coast can go, when on the west coast it's an entirely different story.

Overall, it was a nice cruise and a good week of vacation.  RCI is a very good cruise line, and it's nice to have a ship full of crew who are there to make sure you have a great experience.

09/05/2011

The Great Dashboard Cookie Experiment...

Category Everything Else
I've read blogs and posts before about people using the interior heat of a car during the summer to bake things... like cookies.  For some reason, I kept thinking "I gotta try this!", but I live in Portland Oregon, where hot days don't always coincide with when you want to bake something.  Arizona we ain't...

We finally hit our hot spell of the year, with highs around 90 today.  So off to the store I went to buy some Nestle Toll House cookie dough in the refrigerated tube.  Yeah, I could make my own, but why go to all that trouble for something that may not be edible when I get done?  But on the other hand, cookie dough is *always* edible!  Guess I'm in a no-lose situation here...

Most internet stories recommended about 2.5 hours of "baking," but since I could only get the car up to about 96 degrees F, I went for 3.5 hours during the afternoon.  In at 1:45 pm, out at 5:15 pm.  I also put the sunscreen silver-side-up on the dashboard to try and get some reflected heat going on.

Verdict?  Not too bad!  You don't get the browning effect, so visually they look a bit strange.  But they came off the pan pretty well, and after sitting for a few minutes on the rack, they should have enough structure to pick up and eat without falling apart.  If you're looking for a crunchy cookie, this isn't it.  But if you like your cookies with a soft, somewhat gooey center, dashboard cooking actually works.

A picture named M2

To see the process from start to finish, check out the Dashboard Cookie Experiment 2011-09-05 collection on Flickr.

07/18/2011

From Joe Konrath: Be Deliberate

Category Everything Else
I stumbled across this blog entry from indy author Joe Konrath: Be Deliberate

Write deliberately.

Taste is subjective. But very few people are able to separate their feelings about something from the value it might actually have (as evidenced by the thought that went into it), simply because they can't perceive its value, or don't bother trying to perceive it.

Which is lazy. Or ignorant. Or outright stupid. Or some combination of all three

We can offhandedly say "That TV show sucks" simply because we don't like that type of show, or don't care for one of the actors on that show, or it didn't provoke emotion. But chances are high that the show doesn't actually suck, because there was a lot of work that went into it, by a lot of people who did their best. It takes a lot of dedicated folks a lot of hours to create a television show. That doesn't mean the show is automatically excellent, but knee-jerk or cavalier dismissal of something that took so much time shows little understanding of the creation process, and devalues it.

All opinions are valid, because you can't argue with subjectivity. But just because something doesn't work for you doesn't mean it doesn't work.


This sums up so many of the issues I have with people who comment, blog, review, and otherwise express their "opinions" online.  It also helps me understand why I generally don't react well to people who tend to express very strong opinions.  It's far too easy to write off something as useless, wrong, and stupid if it doesn't work for you.  Since it's now a trivial matter to "share" your views and opinions either via an original post or a comment on someone else's work, people think they hold far more sway than they actually do.  And if you don't agree with them?  Then it's "game on" to explain how *you're* stupid for not understanding the wisdom of their thinking.  

As Konrath explains, putting a lot of work into something doesn't mean it's wonderful and perfect.  And if you're expecting *everyone* to love what you've done, you're in for some major disappointment.  If your audience consists of more than one person, you will never be able to please 100% of them.  But understand that a lot of work went into any creative endeavor, and just because you don't like it doesn't mean that others won't either.  You are not everyone, and everyone has different motivations, needs, and likes.

Be deliberate.  State your opinion but explain *why*.  Just because something doesn't work for you doesn't mean it doesn't work.

05/26/2011

Some expansion on my "irritating" tweet from last night...

Category Everything Else
Admittedly, yesterday was a very long day with lots of emotions and such twirling about in my head.  Since writing helps me clarify things to myself, here's what was going on...

I'm not terribly confident or adept in social/public settings.  There have been numerous times where after some gathering (or even during), I've gotten "the look" from the wife (guys, you know the one) or the kick/nudge which is the "shut up or die" indicator.  Since I also deal with self-confidence/self-image/depression issues, I tend to become hyper-aware of trying not to offend/irritate/put anyone out.  At least when I'm at home, I can mitigate some of this by retreating to my basement man cave and existing in my own world, where online words are the main source of my image.  That's not to say that I don't screw up with words, either.  But at least I feel like I'm on a more level playing field there.

One of the ways this manifests itself is how I react in crowds.  You know how you feel when you're in a line expecting everything to keep moving, and you end up stuck behind the person who acts like they've been dropped from outer space and has no clue as to how things work?  You go from not noticing to wondering what the problem is to "OMG WILL YOU JUST MOVE OUT OF THE WAY SO EVERYONE ELSE CAN GET ON WITH THEIR LIVES?!?!?"

Well, touring in a different country makes me the space alien...

All the social cues I depend on are gone.  All the past experiences of "this is how things are done" become a hindrance (because that's not how other cultures do things).  I fumble for my transit card at a turnstyle while others are queuing behind me (and in a rush to actually get somewhere on time).  I get to the bottom of an escalator, faced with a decision to turn left or right for the correct tube platform, and I don't know the answer.  But I can't stop where I am, as there's a thousand people behind me who DO know where they're going.  I try to push against a wall to get out of peoples' way to read the choices, but even then I seem to be in the way.

An example from last night...

I needed to take a bus from Richmond to get back to Tim and Gab's place.  So many unknowns for me there.  Which bus to take?  Which stop? Which direction? What's the fare? What's coming up in terms of where we are and where we get off?  So we get on the bus and need to figure out the fare.  In Portland, you need exact change or else you forfeit the extra money.  We're trying to ask the driver for the fare and get something reasonably close to the right amount.  Meanwhile, I'm in the way of others behind us.  I pull out coins, and end up staring at them trying to figure out what denominations I have.  Oh, and I'm still blocking the way.  After that, I need to find a seat (of which there aren't any) without clobbering people with my bags.  When someone wants to get off the bus, who is the person in front of the exit?  Me... and so on and so on.  And when I *do* try to make a decision or choice, it's reasonably good odds that it's the wrong one.  And of course, that just adds to the "I'm an idiot" feeling on top of everything else.  Doesn't matter that it's not true or that it was a really trivial thing.  It was yet again another "mistake."

After a long day of walking and the emotional experience of the War museum, it all adds up.

I know all the "right" answers as to how it really doesn't matter, people are not feeling that way, let it go, etc.  But if you struggle with those things, you desperately just want to fold in on yourself to occupy as little space as possible so as not to irritate any more people.

And hence my tweet from last night...

So now after a night's sleep (and a dose of my meds which I may have forgotten for a day with travel and such), I put yesterday behind me and start again...

05/09/2011

Musings on turning 50...

Category Everything Else
I'm not normally introspective, and I don't spend a lot of time looking back or forward.  But I suppose when you turn 50, a little introspection is called for.

50... that sounds so... old.  I remember when my dad turned 50, and I signed his card with "Now you're half-a-hundred."  He reminded me of that card yesterday, so what goes around comes around. :)  50 sounded so adult back then, and it sounds so adult now.  But surprise... sounding adult and feeling adult must be two different things.  In fact, I'm starting to think that the whole "feeling like an adult" thing just doesn't exist.  Everyone I talk to seems to feel like a kid playing make-believe in an aging body.  I don't think we ever get to the point where we feel like we're competent to be a grown-up.  It just happens, and we're along for the ride.  All those others who look like they are grown-ups don't know any better, either.  It's just a bunch of kids making up the rules as they go along.

Looking back, I've done some things I never thought possible.  Writing a book, speaking to hundreds of people on stage, being successful in my career...  I've always felt intimidated by a lot of those things, as I never had the proper "credentials" that said I was qualified to do what I'm doing.  I just did it with the help of friends, and we figured it out as we went along.  I've been a sounding board for friends going through hard times, and I've been the one doing the crying on occasion.  You don't make it through 50 years of life without a number of dings, dents, and fender-benders.  I've been fortunate to get to this point with things relatively intact, but I know it's not due to my extraordinary skill at navigating life's currents.  I'm still the kid making this up as I go along...

So what happens in the second half of life?  It's strange to think that the odds are that I've lived well over half my life.  The number of days left is likely less than the number of days lived.  And what story have I written with my life?  Are there still things I want to do?  Is that novel I've talked about writing actually getting written?  Am I trying new things and learning new skills, or am I just repeating the same old things as the sand continues to flow through the hourglass?  Is spending "a few spare moments" playing Solitaire on the computer really a good use of time and talent?  

Going forward, I want to remember this phrase... Try It

It's time to try new things (like teaching an ewok to dance).  It's time to step out of my safety zone and feel free to fail.  It's time to try getting my body back in shape where I can actually enjoy what's left of life in good health.  It's time to try new experiences and visit new places... being open to adventures that may be scary or uncomfortable.  Some things will be fun and I'll do them again.  I'll fail at others and laugh at the results.  But I will try them.

It's been a good 50 years, but there's so much more I could do.  I'm tired of limiting myself as to what I can accomplish and experience.  Here's to life after 50, and all that I want it to be.

04/20/2011

It's OK to suck when you try something new... it's how you learn!

Category Everything Else
Like many people, I'm often intimidated when trying something new, something I haven't done before.  Sometimes that intimidation is so large that I don't even bother to try it, as I know I'll look stupid or suck at it.  But then again, you have to start somewhere, and you can't be good at everything right out of the starting blocks.

For instance...

My wife "suggested" recently that we take dancing lessons.  If you've ever met me before, this idea should either amuse you or cause you to ask for eye bleach.  Imagine one of the ewoks from Star Wars (preferably one that is overweight) out on the dance floor, and you start to get the image.  It's not pretty...

Our first lesson was a group lesson where we tried to learn to cha cha... operative word being "tried".  What looks simple in a video, isn't.  You're trying to remember what step comes next, how to hold your body, how to position your weight, how your hips should be moving (mine do NOT move like that!), etc.  Oh, and you get to do all this while someone is holding your hands in front of you.  And then horror of horrors, they have everyone shift one person over... Now you get to injure ANOTHER person in the class!

After the hour lesson, we decided that perhaps cha cha and/or group lessons weren't quite our cup of tea.  After my wife talked with the instructor afterwards, we found out a few things... such as cha cha is NOT a beginner's dance, and the group lessons are often populated by people who have already taken private lessons and are supplementing their practice time.  So the fact that I could even keep up might have been a minor miracle.

So this week we went back and tried again, only this time with private lessons and a different dance... the rumba.  That's a four-step box movement, it can be done to quite a few songs (anything in 4/4 time), and it's a common dance step that you might actually *do* when at a wedding or out for an evening.  You can still imagine the ewok on the dance floor, but this time I actually started to "get it."  My drumming background had me comfortable with the beat, and I could actually start to let some of the movement flow instead of having to concentrate on every little step.  No, I'm not an expert, but I didn't feel completely out of place, either.

So now taking this off the dance floor (you're welcome) and into life in general...

How often do you avoid trying something new because you know you'll look stupid or fail?  Do you avoid learning a new technology because you won't know it as well as the one you currently use in your job?  Do you avoid trying new activities because you don't want to be laughed at?  Do you not even *try* something (like writing a book!) because you know you "can't" do it?

It's OK to suck when you start something new.  It's OK to fail.  It's how you learn.  Bestselling authors get dozens of rejection letters before they're "discovered."  Top musicians had to learn basic scales and chords before they became what you hear today.  Speakers had to talk in front of small groups (and likely bomb) before they could captivate a roomful of listeners.  The important thing is they tried, they practiced, and they didn't let failure or fear cause them to quit.

Step out and try something new.  Embrace the awkwardness, the flub-ups, the mistakes.  Know they'll happen, learn from each one, and keep moving on.  Then you'll have that moment in time where you suddenly realize that you're no longer trying... you're doing.

And you'll be that much richer for having taken that first step.

02/23/2011

This is why going to the source is far better than copying others...

Category Everything else
I ran across two blog entries in the last couple of days that are quite revealing...

A Sequence Of Circles Traced By 500 Individuals

A Sequence Of Lines Traced By 500 Individuals

In these two videos, Clement Valla used Amazon's Mechanical Turk service to have 500 individuals use their mouse to trace a simple pattern... a straight line and a circle.  But instead of each person tracing from the original source drawing, they did their tracing from the person just before them.  So each tracing was the tracing of a copy.  As time elapses in the videos, you see how the shape gets more and more distorted with each tracing, finally ending up in something that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original.

What an apt metaphor of life...

We can attempt to be someone or to follow a plan by looking to the source or by following others.  But by following a copy, we will end up incorporating all the errors and flaws, both known and unknown, that have been introduced with each passing cycle or generation.  And what's worse is that others following us will add *our* errors to their attempts along the way, making the deviation from the original ever wider.

This is a good reminder to me... in whatever I do, strive to get as close to the original, as close to the source, as possible.  It may not look like what everyone else is doing or interpreting the "correct" way to be, but the result in my life will be infinitely closer to what I intended.

02/08/2011

Thank you to Volker Weber for capturing Marie and I at our book signing...

Category Everything Else
At Lotusphere 2011, Marie Scott and I had a chance to do a book signing for our Sametime User's Guide book.  I asked Volker if he would do his magic with a camera and give us something to remember the event.  As always, he did an outstanding job...

A picture named M2

A picture named M3

01/28/2011

Back in October, I blogged about our government having an "internet kill switch"...

Category Everything Else
... in a post titled: Should an Internet "kill switch" worry you if you've moved your company to the "cloud"?

With the recent events in Egypt, we have a real-life example of what could and has happened.  Imagine what could/would happen if dissent broke out in China and their government took the same actions?  IBM's touted massive cloud data center that they're building could be nothing more than a large parking space for information going nowhere at that point...

Another risk to consider...

01/16/2011

When you tie your public blogging personna so closely to your employer and professional life, choose your words carefully...

Category Everything else
Taking someone to task for a perceived fault, and doing so with a "satirical" slur that is offensive to many these days, doesn't do yourself OR your employer any favors.  It may have felt good for you to "score points", but Google doesn't forget and blog entries generally reappear without context at the worst possible times.

01/06/2011

Need help... does anyone have links/papers on social media interactions ties to revenue value?

Category Everything Else
I believe it does, but would like to get some industry references in addition to my hunches...

12/26/2010

An observation about the YellowSpat this week...

Category Everything Else
"Earning and maintaining the customer's trust has always been important in business.  But social and mobile networks have changed the equation, tipping the balance of power considerably toward the customer.  In our highly connected world, practically speaking, a brand is defined more by how people experience it, and what they say about it, than what the company says about itself."

-- The Mesh by Lisa Gansky

10/12/2010

Amazon Kindle Singles - Interested to see how this plays out...

Category Everything else
Yesterday, Amazon announced a new program labeled "Kindle Singles":

Amazon to Launch “Kindle Singles”— Compelling Ideas Expressed at Their Natural Length

Kindle Singles, Which Can Be Twice the Length of a New Yorker Feature or as Much as a Few Chapters of a Typical Book, Coming Soon to the Kindle Store

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)--(NASDAQ:AMZN)—Less than 10,000 words or more than 50,000: that is the choice writers have generally faced for more than a century—works either had to be short enough for a magazine article or long enough to deliver the “heft” required for book marketing and distribution. But in many cases, 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages) might be the perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated—whether it’s a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event.

Today, Amazon is announcing that it will launch “Kindle Singles”—Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book. Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book. Today’s announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.

“Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. “With Kindle Singles, we’re reaching out to publishers and accomplished writers and we’re excited to see what they create.”

Like all Kindle content, Kindle Singles will be “Buy Once, Read Everywhere”—customers will be able to read them on Kindle, Kindle 3G, Kindle DX, iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Mac, PC, BlackBerry, and Android-based devices. Amazon's Whispersync technology syncs your place across devices, so you can pick up where you left off. In addition, with the Kindle Worry-Free Archive, Kindle Singles will be automatically backed up online in your Kindle library on Amazon where they can be re-downloaded wirelessly for free, anytime.

To be considered for Kindle Singles, interested parties should contact digital-publications@amazon.com.

On the surface, this appears to have a number of interesting possibilities.  You could self-publish at shorter lengths, target the electronic reader audience, and hit most of the eReader platforms out there.  Not only could you write novellas and get them published, but also think about shorter, more targeted tech topics.

I'm going to email Amazon to get more information.  I'll let you know what I find out.

09/20/2010

Finally back from our Disney vacation, and the Keys to the Kingdom tour at the Magic Kingdom is highly recommended...

Category Everything Else
I'm back home now, and the magic that is Walt Disney World now becomes a memory from our nine day vacation.  Normally I would have tried to blog stuff I saw/learned/experienced, but Twitter changed that.  I found pictures that reminded me of certain friends, and those got snapped and sent as tweets from the iPhone and Tweetdeck.  Along with the vacation goings and doings, I had a bit of finish-up work to do on the book to get it uploaded for (hopefully) quick availability on the different book sites.  Fortunately I only got pinged once from work, and that was a very basic question from the department lead.  Of course, when I go back tomorrow, Notes mail is dead and Exchange/Outlook is now the standard.  I'm sure there will be plenty of emails and questions surrounding how our Notes applications are interacting with the change.  But that's tomorrow... :)

Probably the only thing that deserved a separate blog entry was the Keys to the Kingdom (KttK) tour we took at the Magic Kingdom last Thursday.  In all the years I've gone to WDW, I've never taken any of the "behind the scenes" tours, so this was a first.  And had I known what these were like, I'd have signed up for one every trip.  It was fantastic.  KttK starts off at City Hall on Main Street, and then goes through Adventureland, Frontierland, into the Cast Members Only areas, and finally ends up in the Utilidors.  The tour guide gives you the history and concepts behind why things are as they are, and shows you a number of things you've likely never noticed before.  

While the content of the tour would probably be good regardless, I quickly noticed that the person leading your tour could make or break it.  Our tour guide was Meghan, and I was amazed at her skill in doing tours.  You could tell she well and truly loves working for Disney, is a major extrovert, and walks the perfect line between "this is the company history" and "here's the Meghan view" of things.  And if you give her a hard time (jokingly), she'll dish it right back.  It was perfect.  We all had fun, learned a lot, and saw things that very few people ever get to see and experience.

Her goal was to get everyone to have a "gee whiz, Meghan!" moment.  Those are the moments when you see something for the first time and go "gee whiz, Meghan, I never knew that!"  Mine came early at the end of Main Street.  The park had just opened for regular hours, and we had made it down Main Street to the end.  Meghan was having fun mouthing the words to the announcement (that she's probably heard a thousand times before), and then said "ever wonder where all the sound comes from?  Here's something I bet you never noticed.  Look at the windows on the second story of the buildings and just watch..."  First off, the windows were open, which isn't normally the case.  Ah, the speakers are in the windows!  But since you can't just leave the windows open all day, they slowly close themselves about seven seconds after the announcements and music finish.  The show facade is back to normal, and the show can continue.  :)  

Ever wonder why the water looks green and not terribly clean in the Jungle Cruise?  They inject dye into the water to disguise the fact that the water is only about three feet deep.  The hippos in the river?  They're not hippopotamuses... they're hippobottomlesses, as they have no bottoms or undersides.  The water hides that fact, so why build what can't be seen?  And listen carefully to the African characters and their war dance...  You *will* hear the phrase "I LOVE DISCO" in there.

That only begins to touch on many of the things I saw for the first time.  I was again reminded of the power of imagination, vision, and attention to detail.  If you haven't ever taken the KttK tour or wondered if it was worth the time or money, you owe it to yourself to go on it.  

06/11/2010

Useful visibility into your Windows boot times - Soluto "Anti-Frustration" software

Category Everything Else
Like all Window environments, my boot times have gotten slower as more and more software gets installed.  You can dig into the logs in Windows 7 to check into what loads when and what can be changed, but it's not overly easy or intuitive.  I ran across something today that looks like it takes a lot of that hassle out of the equation, however...  Soluto.

Soluto monitors your boot process and figures out what exactly is going on during that period.  It then presents a clean, intuitive interface to allow you to either pause or delay certain programs to get your computer to a useable state more quickly.  By mousing over the colored bar, you get a dropdown of the application, the time it took to launch, an explanation as to what it does, and a recommendation for pausing, delaying, or leaving in the boot sequence.  It also shows you what others chose to do, so you have an idea as to what the conventional thinking is on particular applications.  

A picture named M2

I have this running on both my desktop and laptop computers now, and I like the results.  Some of the applications, like QuickTime or Adobe Reader just get paused, as I don't mind the extra few seconds when I want to actually use them.  Others I just put into a delay status so they can start up when the computer goes idle.  

It's a free download for Windows, so if you want to streamline your boot process without too many headaches, give this a try.

05/02/2010

A bit of an update...

Category Everything Else
So, I know I've been posting a lot less in this blog in terms of personal info, tech info, and other various and sundry things.  Funny how that happens...

Part of the reason is I've been doing a lot of writing of late, and at times I've just felt a bit "writed out" when it comes to blogging.  The Sametime Users Guide that Marie Scott and I are writing is coming along well, with chapter 9 finished up yesterday, and only three more chapters and a set of appendices left to go.  When I compared what I thought it'd be like vs. reality, it's been somewhat easier.  It definitely helps having a great co-author, as you have someone to bounce things off of.  And it's surprising how much you learn when you're writing about something.  I've had more than a couple of "wow, Sametime does that?" moments.

I've also been doing a number of webcasts that have kept me busy in terms of preparation.  Kathy Brown and I did a webcast for the Lotus Educational Community group on Discussion Forum Etiquette, as well as a different webcast on developer tips for the Consultant In Your Pocket series.  Marie Scott and I worked on repackaging our Tivoli Directory Integrator information from Lotusphere for two webcasts in the CIYP series.  The first one was TDI from a developer perspective, and the second one will be from an administrator perspective.  They've all been fun to do and give (again, having good co-presenters helps), but they do take time to set up and prepare.

On the health front, it's been... interesting.  I'm working on weight loss, which is a critical item right now.  I got the results back from my blood draw a short time back, and the doctor said I'm in a classic pre-diabetic scenario.  As he put it... "party's over".  So I have that to focus on.  And then there's my latest adventure in trying to chew gum and walk at the same time... except I wasn't chewing gum at the time.  I was walking to work at dark-thirty in the morning a little over a week ago, stepped on a sidewalk crack, and rolled my ankle while taking a tumble...

Funny how when you do that, the first thing you wonder is whether anyone saw you...

Anyway, I was able to walk when I got up, and just though I probably sprained it.  But after a week, the puffiness hadn't gone down, and the pain really hadn't subsided.  To appease all the people who said I *really* should go to the doctor, I did.  He was about to say it was just a sprain (as I expected), until he pinpointed the pain.  After xrays, it appeared that there was probably a chip fracture, and that I should wear an air splint just to be safe for a couple of weeks.  Two days later, the doctor called back, informed me that the radiologist found a deeper fracture, and to come back in for a boot cast.  So now I walk and sound like Frankenstein when I move around the house...

So for those who were wondering where I might have disappeared to, that's it.  I'd like to say the writing and presenting projects are almost done, but they're not.  I have one more webcast this month.  The book should be finished for first draft by the end of June.  There are two presentations I'll be involved with at a user group in August.  And sometime after that, it'll be the kickoff for Lotusphere abstract submissions.  And of course, there's always the two articles a month for the Lotus Developer Tips newsletter.  And my book reviews.  And Twitter.  And the day job.

Hmmm... I might just be a bit busy. :)

01/28/2010

Suggestions on capturing a screen-sharing session for playback by others?

Category Everything Else
I'm in a position where I have to work with an off-shore support group for our Notes applications, and our hours don't overlap well (actually, at all!)  I have no doubt that there will be help desk calls where I will need to ask the user to demo the problem for me, and then will need to explain it via email to the support people.

What I'd like to be able to do is record these screen-sharing sessions (or even my own screen session) on my PC, then package up the video in a reasonable size/format to send off via email.  That way I don't have to rely upon the written word and possible miscommunication to extend the back-and-forth email exchanges any longer than they have to be.

Any suggestions on software (Windows-based) that would help me do that?  Bonus points if I can run the software on my side, and then the person on the other end does NOT have to have the same software installed to run the video (as in the video gets created in some standard video format)...

And MAJOR bonus points if I don't have to spend anything on it, as I'm reasonably sure work probably won't pay for it...

12/23/2009

Some people *deserve* to have their identity stolen...

Category Everything Else
I tweeted this yesterday, but I'm *still* in utter amazement at the stupidity of the person sitting next to me on the bus yesterday...

So I get on the bus to head home yesterday, and at one of the downtown stops this guy gets on... probably mid-20s, looks a little nerdy, probably not overly high on the social ability scale.  He apparently knows the bus driver, and there's a short "haven't seen you in a long time" exchange.  He plops down right next to me and makes himself comfortable by pulling out his cell phone and making a call.

Now, I'm still "old school" in that I really don't want to hear your one-sided conversation, even if it's semi-quiet.  But in this case, he bordered on "look at me I have a cell phone!" volume, so I found that pretty irritating.  But what happened next went from irritating to jaw-dropping wonder...

He starts by telling the person on the phone that he had signed up for some account, the information had come back, there was supposed to be some sort of holding period, but someone had changed the routing number without his permission.  OK, we're apparently on the phone to some financial institution and he's having account issues.

Over the course of the next 10 minutes, he pulls out paperwork and proceeds to read off account numbers, routing numbers, his birthdate, who and when he talked to people at the bank, etc.  I'm sure he could be heard by 3/4 of the bus, and the bus was crowded.  I literally was shaking my head as I heard this... I (or anyone else) on the bus could have hacked his account with no problem.  And when he told the person on the phone that it was as if someone had hacked his account, it was ALL I could do to not take the phone out of his hand and hang it up.

I struggled with whether I should "educate" the kid or not after he finally hung up, but I couldn't help it.  I tapped him on the shoulder, and in a voice only slightly less loud than his, said "Let me give you some advice... don't EVER have that conversation on your cell phone on a bus again.  You gave out account numbers, routing numbers, your birthdate, and various other pieces of information that would allow me to steal your identity before you even get home.  That was incredibly stupid."  The guy across from me looked at him and said "I've had my identity stolen, it's not fun."  Some other 20-something a couple rows back just said "yeah!".  The guy got up, looked at me, and got off the bus without saying a word.  Nearly everyone around us who had been in on the "conversation" just started chuckling and shaking their heads...

This was SO blatantly obvious that I wouldn't be surprised if someone was filming it secretly as a test to see if anyone would do or say something to him.  Or, his account will be hacked again, he'll complain to Tri-met, Tri-met will review bus vids, and I'll be a "person of interest" in an identity theft scam. :)

I know I should feel sorry for the guy (or I should feel *something* on the sympathy scale), but I honestly couldn't help feeling he had some major lessons in life that still need to be learned...

11/16/2009

Have YOU tried to read and understand all the rules in hockey?

Category Everything Else
Short of my son Ian (no pun intended there) who is a hockey referee, there's few people I know who has tried to read AND understand all the rules in the hockey rule book.  I can now add a coworker, Samantha Meese, to that rare category.  She has a blog, 87 in 107, that is an interesting project:

It’s pretty simple, really. I have avowed to learn all the official rules to hockey. There are 87 rules in the NHL 2009 – 2010 rulebook. There are 107 days until the opening of the Winter Olympics at Whistler on February 12. 87 in 107 is my attempt to learn all of the rules before I depart for Vancouver to see the games. I have the NHL Network in hi-def and the NHL Center Ice package, so be warned you may be reading the highlights of more than one game.

So when she gets up to Vancouver in a few months, she'll be able to yell at the refs with *authority*!!!

I'm adding this one to my RSS reader, and I have no doubt that a few of her entries will end up as argument material between Ian and I...

10/17/2009

When business cliches lose their meaning... a new "paradigm"

Category Everything Else
How many of you have sat in a meeting, eagerly anticipating a parade of buzzwords to fill out your buzzword bingo cards?

Yeah, I thought so... most all of you.

Overused business cliches are so common as to be jokes now.  New paradigms, synergistic approaches, etc.  Most often, those are the moments in the talk when you can zone out and figure out what's for dinner tonight.  It usually means someone is trying to inflate one of their ideas to take on an importance that they'd lack if described in one syllable words.  When you can program this same verbal misdirection on a website via a buzzword generator, you know it's time to find something else to do.

But I'm noticing there are another set of phrases, also often used in the business world, that are starting to lose any link to reality.  These are the "motivational" phrases.  These wordbites are used to spur the workforce on, usually during times of stress and pressure, to deliver ever-higher levels of output and productivity.

"We have to work smarter, not harder."

"We have to become lean and mean."

"We have to learn to do more with less."

Here's my problem with them...  Nearly everyone has heard them ad nauseum, so they no longer convey any new, revolutionary concept that cause you to sit back and say WOW!.  Furthermore, they are often used *after* some event has occurred (like layoffs) which mean you really have no choice because the work is going to keep on coming anyway.  You're just going to get more of it than you did before.  And finally (and the most frustrating), the statements are repeated on a regular basis, unfortunately after yet another event has occurred (again!) to make the workload even heavier.

The reality is plain... The economy sucks, cost pressures are high, business survival (or worse, Wall Street expectations and executive bonuses) are in doubt...  Any marginally-engaged person with a job should understand that.  People are usually one of the highest costs of doing business, and it's one of the areas that will always be under pressure when it comes to reduce those costs.  Instead of throwing out motivational phrases that aren't, let's instead just put it in plain language.  We can't afford the levels of staff we currently have and still meet our budget.  Those remaining will need to pick up additional work.  Where possible, stop doing things that don't matter.  If you disagree on what "doesn't matter", push back.  And ultimately, it's up to you to either make your personal resource cover as much as you can (set limits), or opt for another environment where you think you can do better (other opportunities).

So what other motivational business phrases have ceased to have any real meaning for you?

10/03/2009

So... night #1 with me and the CPAP machine...

Category Everything Else
Yesterday I had my appointment at the medical device company to pick up and get trained on my new best friend at night, my Resmed CPAP machine.  The session was actually enjoyable, as the company (NW Medical) is very impressive in their customer service, and the guy doing the training was pretty fun to joke around with.  When finished after an hour, I had a new computer bag-like piece of luggage hanging on my shoulder, and was out the door.

Last night I set the device up (painfully simple), put the straps around my head, got the nostril plugs placed, and turned it on.  Voila!  Air!  There's a ramping feature that you can set to have the flow start off light and then ramp up over 5 to 30 minutes to the prescription setting (which in my case is 11 cubic whatever meters of airflow).  I read for a bit, and got to the point where I was having trouble keeping my eyes open.  I figured that was the best time to turn off the light and try sleeping (without drugs) with this for the first time.

And by and large, I did!  :)

I woke up when Sue came to bed a couple hours later, and there was some adjustment that was needed at that point.  Condensation from the humidifier had built up, and I was getting a gurgling/popping noise when I breathed.  Took me a couple minutes to figure out that the moisture causing the sound was in the hose curve that was hanging off the bed.  When I pulled the hose up, I heard the water drain back into the tank, and the noise disappeared.  I turned down the humidifier setting at that point, and we'll see if we can get a better setting to prevent that going forward.

The rest of the night wasn't too bad.  I wasn't sleeping totally soundly as the nose was starting to hurt a bit from having this "thing" on it all night.  The verdict from the spousal unit was that I wasn't snoring, but there were more breathing noises when I slept on one side than the other.  I think that was due to hose placement.  Facing the unit (the "quiet side"), there was no pull on the mask.  Turned over (the "noisy side"), the hose was across my body and the weight was probably causing the mask to sit slightly differently on my face.  

I think tonight I may try clipping the hose to where it goes over the top of the head.  That might alleviate some of the facial shifting and allow me to roll over a bit more.  As everyone has told me, it'll take time to get used to the machine, to figure out what works and what doesn't, and so on.  That's OK, as I'm committed to making this work for me.  I'm tired of being tired...

I'll follow up on this in about a week or so and let you know how it works in terms of making me more alert during the day.  Right now I feel OK (11 am in the morning), but I'm not expecting overnight miracles on that front until my body gets used to sleeping with the device in place.

09/08/2009

Day 1 - Travel to Orlando... NOT a Magical Experience

Category Everything Else
So here it is just a bit after midnight, and we're at the Boardwalk.  Granted, I didn't expect to be here until very late, and we're only here for one night as we head to Vero Beach tomorrow.  But what a travel "experience"...

Portland to Seattle was fine... a bit late getting into Seattle, so we didn't have a lot of time between flights.  But the gates were close, so no big deal.  Got boarded, and even had the middle seat open between us.  Comfortable,  relatively speaking.  And we took off for the five hour flight to Orlando.

Then the farter started...

Whoever s/he was, they were ripe... every 20 to 30 minutes, we got the aromatic experience of whatever they previously ate.  And we weren't the only ones getting grossed out.  They were getting good "air cover" with their biowarfare.  It was bad...

We arrived about 10 pm, got to the gate around 10:10, and headed off for the Magical Express... where the NEXT breakdown occurred.  We got to the B side and walked up to the guy from Disney at the foot of the escalator... only to be told that since we arrived after 10 pm, our luggage wouldn't be transported to the resort this evening.  They stop luggage service at 10.  OK, would have been nice to know that beforehand.  But we could live with the luggage getting here at 8 am tomorrow morning.  We went over to the check-in for ME, where they asked us if we had our luggage. Now the story was that we had to get it off the carousel ourselves and hoof it over.  This meant back to the A side where the Alaska luggage was.  We got there, only to find that most of the luggage was off, and ours wasn't there.  

NOW I'm really not happy...  

We got another Disney "greeter" on the A side, who tried to tell us the luggage would be delivered next morning... or it would be on the carousel.  I was less than pleasant explaining that I was VERY tired of going back and forth, and that I didn't care which answer was right... just pick one.  Then another Disney person tried to take us over to American (who apparently handles Alaska luggage) to check for lost luggage... where the line was VERY long.  "Magically", our single bag then appeared on the end of the carousel...  just waiting for us.  Sigh... whatever...

BACK to the B side with all our luggage now, onto the bus... where we sat for about 25 minutes waiting for a handful of other people.  I suppose I'd want them to wait for me if I were late, but I was not feeling the Magic by this time.

So we're here now...  I have a diet Coke (WITH caffeine... tough!) and I'm starting to unwind a bit.  A quick check of email and twitter should do it.  

I'd like to say it'll get better from here, but I'll refrain from testing those assumptions. :)

09/05/2009

Reading Addiction - a humorous web search today that I can't quite let go of...

Category Everything Else
So today I was surfing around the 'net, letting different ideas take me various places, when I stumbled on this item:

Learn More About Reading Addiction

Reading Addiction is arguably a real phenomenon. A person can, in fact, be addicted to reading.

This is not so much like chemical addictions, however, in which the body becomes physically dependent on a particular drug or substance. Nor is it like gambling or food addiction, either, where chemical processes occur in the brain when people engage in the addictive behavior.

No, reading is an addiction when it is used as a mechanism to avoid reality. A person can avoid facing life by reading all day. A person can also avoid facing themselves by reading all day. This is the only time that reading really becomes a problem.

At first I found this somewhat humorous... yeah, I must be addicted, I read 180 to 200 books a year... ha ha ha.  But no, I don't read all day long, so it must not be an addiction.

But is that true?

As I sit downstairs in my mess of an office, how many times have I told myself I'd clean it up, only to spend another 30 minutes reading stuff off my RSS feeds?  How many projects do I have floating in my mind that I haven't done because I've taken a nap after getting into another good book?  How much stuff have I said I NEED to learn, but instead end up just reading about it without applying it?  Exercise or relax with a book?  Look in the mirror, I'll tell you what wins 95% of the time.  What's the first thing I take if I'm going somewhere for an appointment?  Something to read while I'm waiting.  Do I really obsess about which books to take on vacation, and most importantly how many?  Yes, I do.

In the last year, I can tell you the number of days I've gone without sitting down to read a book of some sort at any point in the day...  the answer is one.  And I remember it vividly as it struck me a day later that I couldn't honestly remember the last time I had done that.  

I don't subscribe to the popular notion that every little personality quirk and oddity deserves its own ICD-9 diagnosis code.  But in my case, I really do think there's more than an element of truth behind the concept of "reading addition" as it applies to me.  Many things are useful and beneficial in moderation.  But I may well have passed that point quite some time ago.

I think as I leave on vacation for the next two weeks in Florida, I'll be spending more time thinking about this and how it plays out in my life and relationships.  I'll have to take a notebook along to record some of my thoughts... packed right next to the 7 to 10 books I'll also take along with me...

No need to rush into these new concepts too rashly...

08/15/2009

The update on better living through pharmaceuticals...

Category Everything Else
A short time back I shared that I was going to switch from my generic Proxac (fluoxetine) to the generic version of Celexa (citalopram).  I had been on fluoxetine for about the last six years, and its effectiveness seemed to be waning.  After consulting with my doctor, he agreed that a switch might be in order, so we decided to stay in the same family of anti-depressants and give citalopram a shot.

Well, after about two months, I can say that citalopram isn't the right answer for me.  

Nothing dramatic or dangerous, mind you.  I just seemed to still be in that "struggling" pattern that fluoxetine had seemed to eradicate.  Granted, there's been a lot going on at work and such, and so it might well be that things would have been disastrous without the citalopram.  Still, I kept thinking things could be better.

I'm now in the tapering down period for the next 10 days, and then I'll start ramping up on the generic version of Effexor, also known as venlafaxine.  My guess is that this is going to take effect (or *have* an effect) much faster, and is a different class of med.  Hopefully this will get me back to the effective and motivated Duffbert I was used to...

08/13/2009

Got the sleep study results back yesterday...

Category Everything else
... and the answer is...  YOU SUCK AT SLEEP!

ahem...  

The writeup report I got is pretty cool, actually.  Numbers all over the place.  The diagnosis is moderate sleep apnea with breathing stopping on average 16x per hour.  Probably the more telling number is the REM sleep percentage.  Normal is 20 to 25%.  I had... 2.6%.  

So everyone who's asked over the years if I ever sleep?  I guess we know the answer now...  no.

I'm going to go back in late September for another sleepover with the CPAP machine hooked up.  Oh, joy.  Yes, I know I've heard from many who have assured me it's not as bad as it looks, and it's made a world of difference.  Still...

I also should lose weight (duh!) and... cut down/give up caffeine.  GASP!  That magical drug that gets me through the day! And apparently guarantees that I won't make it through the night, either...  I could "cut back", but this is probably one of those decisions that would be better as black/white.  I know... heresy on par with never having read LOTR... and I call myself a geek.

I'm still laughing at the EEG results, though...  It measures the number of times your sleep is interrupted or you pop back up a level.  They call this an "arousal."  Mine were "spontaneous" in nature and no reason could be found as to why my "brain was arousing."  I was having 53.7 of these "arousals" per hour.

I'm glad SOME part of me seemed to be having "fun"...  :)

08/07/2009

Murdoch's ultimatum to Amazon: Give us Kindle subscriber names or else

Category Everything Else
From Daily Finance: Murdoch's ultimatum to Amazon: Give us Kindle subscriber names or else

I had seen reference to this story a day or so ago, and didn't have the time to read it.  But I ran across it again in the Twitter stream and clicked through to answer my curiosity...  What makes Rupert Murdoch think that Amazon owes him the names of any Kindle users?

On News Corp.'s fiscal-year-end earnings call with analysts, the notoriously  shoot-from-the-hip mogul suggested that The Wall Street Journal will cease to be available on the Kindle e-reader unless Amazon starts offering a more generous revenue split and more publisher-friendly policies.

Murdoch acknowledged that the Journal recently negotiated a slightly larger share of the revenues Amazon gets from selling Kindle subscriptions to the paper, "but it's not a big number, and we're not encouraging it at all because we don't get the names of the subscribers," he said. "Kindle treats them as their subscribers, not as ours, and I think that will eventually cause a break with us."

Ah... so Murdoch wants the name of Kindle subscribers to the WSJ.  That narrows down the headline a bit, and makes a bit more sense when viewed that way.  I'm guessing when you purchase a subscription to a magazine using Amazon's website, the actual order is fulfilled by the company who owns the magazine, and hence they have your name.  If that's the case, I could see where a publisher like News Corp. would figure they own the subscription, not the group who makes the paper the content is viewed upon.

I could be convinced the Kindle's subscription model is different, and that Amazon owns the subscriber instead of News Corp.  It's a bit of a new model, and I'm not sure which old school or new school mindset would prevail.

But setting that aside, here's the quote I found fascinating...

"As I've said before, the traditional business model has to change rapidly to ensure that our journalistic businesses can return to their old margins of profitability," Murdoch said. "Quality journalism is not cheap, and an industry that gives away its content is simply cannibalizing its ability to produce good reporting."

"Tradition needs to change to get back to owning the news and making money."

So what does he want to do?  Start providing a chargeback system on sites that provide content.  Make sure all content is locked behind glass.  You go ahead and deploy that model on electronic web-based fee-for-reading, Mr. Murdoch.  I'm sure you'll have the "right answers" to return to the good old days of large margin of profitability.  Never mind that few (any?) sites have successfully pulled that off, and that you don't have a monopoly on the news.  People will just go elsewhere to get the news.  And given your particular editorial slant on things, I might also venture to say that's a good thing!

And this "return(ing) to their old margins of profitability"...  You have GOT to be kidding me.  I'm sure buggywhip makers wanted to return to their old margins of profitability when the automobile started to catch one.  I'm sure computer makers would like to return to old margins of profitability that they used to have in the 80's and 90's.  Car makers?  You have only to read the newspaper to see their desire to return to old margins.  

Yes, Mr. Murdoch, your business model DOES need to change in order to not collapse completely.  As it stands right now, you're in danger of becoming completely irrelevant in the online world.  But changing the model by charging for things others give away for free is NOT the answer.  It's been tried.  It has failed.  The world where you made your fortune is dead and gone.  You're going to need a LOT of help to figure out how to make it all work in a world you're not familiar with or comfortable in.

08/04/2009

Sleep study last night... strange stuff...

Category Everything else
So last night I went in for my sleep study to see what they could find out about my less-than-stellar sleep habits.  I already know a fair amount of the story... fat, out of shape, too much caffeine, etc.  But getting a baseline with actual observation would be a good place to start, so I got the referral and had the actual study done.

The experience was different, to say the least.  I was shown to the room, and it's like a decent hotel room... TV, cabinet for all your stuff, comfy bed, positive ion fan, and best of all...  AIR CONDITIONING!  I love cold rooms for sleeping...  Anyway, after watching a video, they brought in the cart to start hooking me up.  

Side note on the video... I think they are using one of perhaps a thousand different versions of the same story.  In the one they showed me, the patient was a 48 year old male, software developer, overweight, with glasses...  I kid you not...

Anyway... I have a pair of shorts on.  Two leads get threaded down the shorts to hook up to the legs for restless leg monitoring.  A couple go on the chest.  Two elastic straps around the stomach and chest for breathing.  She drew all kinds of lines on my head, and must have stuck about 10 contacts in my hair after scrubbing each spot to the point of pain.  Then contacts on the jaw (each side), next to the eyes, and two breathing sensors under my nose and over my head.  All those wires converged to a pigtail behind my neck, and THEN you get to try and sleep...

Yeah, right...

They film and listen to you all night long.  If you have to go to the bathroom, you just talk to the "voice in the sky", she comes in to detach you, and then hooks you back up when you get back in bed.  I took an Ambien, read for awhile, and then slept from about 9:45 to 2:30 (the time she told me she came in).  Then she asked me to try and sleep on my back as I'm a stomach sleeper.  That didn't go well, so I tossed and turned (and finally rolled over) until about 5 when I decided a bathroom break was in order.  I tried for another hour of sleep after that, but I don't think I was too successful.

They then came in, removed all the wires, I took a shower to get all the stuff off my head, and packed up and went home to start working.  I'll find out the answers and results next week.

I'm glad I took the study, as I'm sure this sleep problem is responsible for a significant degree of my emotional and physical turmoil right now.  I know everyone says the CPAP machine, if prescribed, is a really good solution (even thought it looks like the most awkward device ever).  I was encouraged that they didn't wake me up mid-study to have me wear one, as that's a sign that you're REALLY suffering from severe apnea.  I'm hoping that the wake-up call (sort of no pun intended) will add to my motivation to get in shape...

08/03/2009

Sleeping while wired for action...

Category Everything Else
Another step in my "get my act together" takes place this evening as I head in for a sleep study.  I've been told by reliable parties (and they have video... rotten children!) that I can peel wallpaper when my snoring gets started, and that there's definitely some apnea taking place.  So, I made an appointment to undergo a sleep study, where they'll wire me up nine ways from Sunday, and then somehow expect me to relax and fall asleep.  Don't quite know what to expect, so it should be "interesting."

All I know is that going through the day yawning non-stop isn't a good thing...

08/03/2009

Week 12 of "Project Buffbert" - by the numbers

Category Everything Else
So I've been asked how the Kinetix program was going in terms of "Project Buffbert"... I did get an eight week body comp test, but I didn't get around to blogging it (partially busy, partially not the news I had hoped for).  So in order to get back on the right track, I'm blogging the Week 12 check-in which took place today...

2009/05/06
start
2009/06/05
week 4
2009/07/06
week 8
2009/08/03
week 12
Overall Weight (pounds)
246.7
238.5
240.5
239.6
Lean Body Mass (pounds)
129.4
129.6
129.4
130.3
Body Fat Mass (pounds)
117.3
108.9
111.1
109.4
Body Mass Index (BMI percentage)
42.3%
40.9%
41.3%
41.1%
Percent Body Fat (percentage)
47.5%
45.6%
46.2%
45.6%



So this was one of those "bad news, not quite as bad news" stories.  As I shared recently, my stress levels have been really high over the last month or so.  I've definitely been stress eating, and I've repeatedly talked myself out of exercising due to being tired or being too lazy.  All that showed up in the week 8 results when I gained weight (fat, not muscle) and started to slip.  To be honest, I really did expect week 12 to be more of the same...  In fact I was starting to wonder if I had perhaps taken myself back to the starting line...

So the "bad" news is I'm still up from week 4.  The not-so-bad news is that I'm down from week 8 in good ways. I'm at my highest lean body mass of the program (which is saying something given how flaky I've been of late), and I'm only a 1/2 pound up from my low body fat weight.  And I've got some people who have been given express permission to keep kicking me in the posterior to not let me slide.

So, I've mentally regrouped a bit, and it's onward from here...  really.

07/30/2009

For those who have asked and wondered, yes I'm OK... just struggling a bit right now...

Category Everything Else
I've gotten pinged on the side from a number of people asking if I was OK or if I was doing OK due to periodic stretches of radio silence.  The short overall answer is "thanks, I'm OK", and the longer answer is I'm working through a stressful period right now.

There are numerous things going on at work that make me feel like I'm trying to do far too many things and not being terribly successful at any of them.  I've always lived in multi-task mode, with various things going on, while still responding timely to questions and such.  It seems to have magnified of late, and I'm even letting emails slip that normally would have gotten same day responses.  For someone who used to feel on top of stuff, delivering good customer service, and knew what he was doing, it's been hard.

The anti-depressant med change is still in flux.  I dropped the generic Prozac after about six years to control my dysthymia.  I was starting into the "Prozac poop-out" phase, where the tolerance builds up to such a point that the effects start to diminish.  We switched to generic Celexa at a low dose, and that didn't do much.  The dose was up'd, but it still really hasn't kicked in.  We're going to give it two more weeks.  If at that point it's still not making a difference, then we'll take a different approach.  I'm starting to miss the person I knew I was with the Prozac.

I'll be undergoing a sleep study Monday night to see how bad my sleep apnea is.  I can only keep up these 5 to 6 hour nights for so long.  I know it's weight-related (or at least that's a large part of it, no pun intended).  I really don't want to go down the CPAP device route and look/sound like Darth Vadar every night.  We'll deal with that once we get the results back.

On the fitness front, the stress has taken its toll.  The work facility has been closed down for a remodel, which means I have to use alternatives (which I *do* have available to me).  But I talk myself out of stuff far too easy due to fatigue, and I end up missing stuff.  And stress eating has reared it's head.  I'll have my 12 week check-point on Monday, so I'll report back here, good bad or otherwise.

I'm not even writing as much as I used to (and my reading volume is down)!  I have about four books to write reviews on, and each night after work it's close to all I can do to just settle down with a good book and read.  Forget about trying to put down coherent thoughts on a page about a book I've already read...

Given all that above, you can see why I may not be too inclined to be sympathetic to all the sniping in the Lotus community right now...

Anyway... such is the life of Duffbert at the current time.  Thanks for all who have expressed concern.  I'm not looking for sympathy here.  It just helps me when I can dump my thoughts and struggles out here to get them out of my mind and give them some space of their own...

07/20/2009

Pictures from the Tucson Air Museum and Boneyard, along with the Nuclear Missile Silo Museum

Category Everything Else
You can find them out here on Flickr...

A picture named M2

06/05/2009

My first four weeks of "Project Buffbert"... by the numbers

Category Everything Else
So yesterday marked the end of my first four weeks on the Kinetix program.  This means I'm eating six times a day (3 meals, 3 snacks), the food is targeted for 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat, and I'm doing both strength training and cardio on a scheduled, consistent basis.  At the end of each four week period, I can step on their fancy hi-tech scale, key in my employee code, grab the handles, and let it do a body composition analysis.  This is *very* important to me, as it breaks me out of that obsession with that single scale number denoting weight.  Instead, I learn what's going on inside, even if the overall weight isn't changing as fast as I'd like.

Listed below are the starting numbers and the 4 week numbers for comparison:
2009/05/06
2009/06/05
Overall Weight (pounds)
246.7
238.5
Lean Body Mass (pounds)
129.4
129.6
Body Fat Mass (pounds)
117.3
108.9
Body Mass Index (BMI percentage)
42.3%
40.9%
Percent Body Fat (percentage)
47.5%
45.6%


Some commentary...
  • Since my BMI is still over 40%, I am still classified as "morbidly obese".  But only a fat person would understand my initial goal of being simply "obese". :)  I'm getting close.
  • Losing slightly over 2 pounds a week is a perfect pace.  Yeah, it'd be nice to magically drop to under 200 pounds by the end of June, but this is a journey and not a destination.
  • My coach was impressed with the results, but was *most* impressed with the Lean Body Mass numbers.  Apparently when people first take a body comp test, their muscle weight is artificially inflated.  This is because the muscles have a lot of carbs due to a typically high carb diet, and they appear to be larger than they actually are.  So after 4 weeks of better nutrition and exercise, that number usually drops at the first checkpoint.  The fact that mine not only held steady but *gained* .2 pounds surprised and pleased him (and me!).
  • For general purposes, a "normal" BMI is between 18.5% and 25%, while a normal Body Fat percentage is between 10% and 20%.

    Overall, this is working out VERY well for me.  I feel better (if you discount the sore muscles from the strength training), my emotional state is positive, and I don't feel like I'm on a "diet". I truly feel like I've *changed* my lifestyle, not just patched a few holes to reach a goal, thinking "when will this end so I can get back to normal?"  "Normal" is what got me to this point, and "normal" is not an acceptable option any longer.  "Normal" needs to be redefined to what I want to become, not what I was.  What I *was* was abnormally fat, out of shape, and killing myself.  Only in America would we consider that "normal".

    I'd also like to thank all of you who have encouraged, challenged, and held me accountable.  As you can probably tell, I have little ego in terms of putting the brutally honest truth out there for all to see, regardless of whether its pleasant or not.  Knowing I have the support of my friends and colleagues keeps me honest.  It also helps knowing that someone else might read this and think about their own situation.  

    I'm trying to live my life as a teaching hospital.  Experts don't run the place, and mistakes will be made.  But if others can learn from what's going on here, then I'm moving in the right direction.

06/03/2009

Saying goodbye to my faithful friend fluoxetine tomorrow...

Category Everything Else
So my switch to a new SSRI anti-depressant hits a new stage this week.  Tomorrow will be my last day of taking a lower dose of fluoxetine, also known as Prozac.  I've been on that medication for dysthymia for the last five years or so, and quite honestly it probably saved my life.  I wasn't suicidal or anything, but life certainly wasn't much fun.  And in terms of writing, speaking, and all the other professional things I've done since that point in time?  You could just forget those ever happened without Prozac.  The fear would have been too overwhelming, the cost much too high to risk putting myself out there for others to see.  If I look at dysthymia as a hormonal imbalance (seretonin), then for me Prozac was nothing more than a medication that stabilized my hormone levels.  No shame, no stigma...  I realize not everyone is as successful as I was on my first foray into those types of meds, but for me, it was a lifesaver.

But over time, the body builds a tolerance to SSRI drugs, and you have to take more to get the same effect.  While I wasn't at the high-end dose yet, I could tell I was starting to slip a bit.  The doctor and I discussed a med change last year during a rough patch, but it was right before I headed over to ILUG in Dublin.  One does NOT want to be playing around with depression med changes while they're out of the country, in an environment that is largely outside their control.  I got through that, things calmed down, and I just let it go until now.

Friday and Saturday I'll be med-free to finish the tapering process.  Given that it took about seven weeks for me to see the full effect of Prozac on my personality when I first started to take it, a 20 day tapering off isn't going to clear my system entirely.  But that's probably a good thing, as I'm not sure I'd want to be entirely med-free again.  Sunday I'll start on the Celexa (actually, the generic version - citalopram...  have to learn how to pronounce that one...  I was just getting good at fluoxetine).  The half-life here is considerably less than Prozac (about two to four weeks), so I should know whether I can make this change work as well as the Prozac by mid- to late June.  But given my good reactions and tolerance to SSRIs before, we're both cautiously optimistic that the changes should be minor.

I think the fitness stuff I've been doing over the last four weeks has likely helped the tapering off effects to be infinitely more mild than they might have been otherwise.  Some might say that getting more fit would negate the need for the meds at all.  While true for some, I would argue that's not the case for me.  The melancholiness of dysthymia has been something I've had since my teen years, always considering that to be a "normal" state of existence.  I had the same struggles with that form of dysthymia even in my early and mid 20s when I was doing serious weight training and was toying with the idea of competition bodybuilding.  Yes, fitness is good, but it's not a panacea for every physiological and psychological ill.

I'll continue to share my med experience as I start up the new routine.  I know a number of people have found my posts on this via Google, and have been helped.  And since I'm looking at my life as a "teaching hospital", I want to make sure others can learn as much as possible before they start their own journey.

06/03/2009

An idea for GM as they offload/sell parts of their business (yes, a serious idea!)

Category Everything Else
So General Motors is selling off parts of their business that don't work in their new "streamlined" model.  China is taking the Hummer brand off their hands.  We'll see where the other parts end up at.

But there's one thing they do that seems like it would be easy to sell off, and would be a natural fit for another company...

What if GM were to sell off their OnStar offering?  You know, that magic feature that allows you to call for help, directions, and whatever regardless of where you are...  in a GM car?

What if satellite company XM Radio were to purchase it?  Giving them another in-car offering...  AND allowing them to market to ALL car brands for a monthly fee?

I haven't run numbers, looked into who owns what, etc....

But it seems as if that would be a natural business to drop for GM, and a natural pickup for XM (or for some major cell carrier like Verizon or  AT&T)...

05/16/2009

Life can change in an instant...

Category Everything Else
Yesterday I got a call from my wife as I was waiting to catch the bus home.  She called to say that she wasn't going to the movies after work, as a coworker and close friend had found out that afternoon that her daughter had been killed in a traffic accident.  http://www.katu.com/news/local/45166892.html  In less than one day you go from having a daughter who is a senior in high school with bright plans for the future, to planning her funeral.  

It's a reminder that every moment is tenuous, and nothing is guaranteed.

Side note...  looking at the comments, I never cease to be amazed at how utterly crass and uncaring people can be under the cover of anonymity.  I hope I am constantly reminded that behind every posting and story there is a real human being with feelings not unlike my own.  Understanding and caring is such a rare commodity these days...

05/15/2009

So are you EVER going to be healthy, Duffbert?

Category Everything Else
Normally in the past (pre-Twitter), I'd have blogged a number of times about being sick, hurting myself, etc.  It's built-in blog material!  But when you can throw out updates of 140 characters at a time, somehow the longer blog post doesn't happen.  A few people have asked if everything's OK, and the answer is yes.  Just an accumulation of things all at once, none of them serious...

About a week before swine flu was all the fashionable rage, I got one of those flu episodes with achy muscles, no energy, cough, congestion, the typical stuff.  After about three or four days, I was left with the nagging cough that wouldn't go away.  Fine, been there, done that...  And in fact, many coworkers seemed to have the same crud a couple months earlier...  sick for a few days, and a cough that hung on for weeks.  Time for me to join the club...  All of last week, I was still "Mr. Hack" as I couldn't seem to get over the cough.  And I'm typically male, in that going to the doctor is not a considered option, as I figure I'll be told "you got that thing going around...  nothing much to do but ride it out."

After a week of coughing and less-than-stellar sleep (like THAT'S anything new), I decided to do a Saturday trip to the doctor "just to be safe".  The sleep issue was getting critical, and I was starting to wonder if we had progressed to something like bronchitis.  The doctor concurred that I didn't sound well (yay! one for my team!), but also said there was a chance of it being the bug that left you coughing for weeks, much as my coworkers had.  He prescribed a five day azithromycin regimen, and said I'd either be a new man in 36 hours or I'd be working on the cough over time.

36 hours later, not a new man...  welcome to the next month of hacking and coughing...  :)

I could have handled that, except for Monday morning when I was going through my early morning emphysema imitation.  During one particularly hard coughing fit, I felt a pop in my upper ribs.  OH JUST GREAT!  Now not only was I still coughing, but it REALLY hurt to cough.  I worked through the morning at work, and went home early to prep for an evening change control (that didn't end up happening, fortunately).  After explaining my situation to the wife and kids, I was forcefully told in no uncertain terms (by ALL of them) that I *would* be going to the doctor for xrays, I *might* have dislocated ribs, and I *could* end up with a punctured lung.  My arguments were of no avail, and I ended up at the clinic again (two times in three days - a record for me).  They took xrays, explained that Sue, Ian, and Cam *were* right to be concerned, and promptly found...  nothing.  Intercostal strain, will hurt like h*ll, try not to cough, take it easy...  sigh...

Tuesday...  Mucinex and prescription cough meds are my friend.  Still hurts, still trying not to cough, as it hurts too much, and nothing is accomplished anyway.  Coughing becomes a conscious choice of pain vs. congestion, not to be decided lightly.  Tuesday night I'm watching NCIS...  during a commercial break I stand up from the chair and try a few deep coughs to clear out my chest.  Next thing I know, my wife is standing in front of me, yelling my name, asking if I can hear her... I told her I was there, to which she replied "you weren't a few seconds ago!".  Seems I collapsed back, twitched a bit, and did the blackout thing for a few seconds.  Called the on-call doc just to be safe, and he concurred.  Of course, now I'm under the intense scrutiny of everyone in the house to make sure I'm not about to die.  :)  And yes, it was a bit scary.

Thursday, back at the doctor...  It's getting to feel like home.  This appointment was actually planned for a couple of weeks.  Blood draw for a check-in on a new cholesterol med I'm taking, so I was fasting all day.  Talked to him about a scaly spot on the back of my neck that showed up about two months ago.  He tested for ringworm, but it was negative.  Steroid creme for that little spot.  Brought up the idea of a sleep study, as I've been told by those who would know that I have rather dramatic apnea at night.  Most of this is probably due to my current fitness (or lack thereof), and would improve if I get that under control.  The doctor agreed, but felt a baseline might also be a good idea, as my sleep patterns really do suck.  So I have a referral there I have to schedule.  And finally, my depression meds...  Shared here before, I've been on Prozac for a long time to battle dysthymia.  It has literally changed (and probably saved) my life.  But you build up tolerance over time, and I think I'm definitely getting to the point of diminishing returns.  I could present a laundry list of reasons *why* things have been stressful of late, but bottom line is that the meds are not having the same effect.  So, I'm now starting to taper off the Prozac over the next 20 days, will have 48 hours totally off, and will then start on the generic version of Celexa.  So, if you see me write stuff more bizarre than normal, or if you are physically close to me and see strange stuff, let me know...  I'm going into the med change with much more information than I had when I first started SSRIs in 2003, but it's always good to have others aware and watching out for you...

OK, so much for all the body breakdown stuff...  I actually *am* doing something to get healthy, though...

At work, they sponsor a program called Kinetix (you can find out more at http://www.kinetixliving.com/).  It's a solid program of eating correctly *and* exercising correctly to get "in the best shape of your life".  As posted a couple weeks back, I realize I just turned 48 and am in the worst shape of my life.  I was chosen for one of the four week supervised programs starting on May 11th, so my "line in the sand" has been drawn and steps are underway.  I've had to back off the cardio piece this week because of the ribs, but the weight workouts have moved forward.  I've been going lighter than I know I can, in order to try and keep from becoming crippled with post-workout muscle pain.  Generally speaking, that's worked except for legs.  My calves are on fire from Wednesday's routine, and I can barely get my heels to touch the floor without pain. :)

So where am I starting from?  Might as well throw that out here too, so that I have no escape from group accountability.  I weighed in at 246.7 pounds, obviously not good packed on a 5'4" frame.  117.3 of that is body fat, putting my percentage of body fat at 47.5.  Morbidly obese, any way you roll it.  Can't fool myself into thinking any different about that.  No wonder I struggle with things like stairs and walks and such.  The good news is that the journaling and food program of Kinetix is clicking with me, and the attention to working out is a key component I ignored with Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, as I was more interested in that weekly weight number, not what it was composed of.  In Kinetix, I'll now be able to find out what exactly that .5 pound of weight loss was.  That'd be an emotional crusher before, but now it might well be that 2.5 pounds of lean body mass was gained and 3 pounds of fat was lost.  Yes, I know all of this already, but I'm now emotionally ready to accept it as truth.  I have personal short and longer term goals, and I'm Ok with the the process being part of the journey, not just the quest to arrive at the destination.  

So, for those who have been concerned that I'm falling apart or that I'm about to take some extended medical leave for something serious, thanks for your concern.  Everything is OK, and I'm just making some deposits to correct a severely overdrawn physical health account.  Even though I'm not solely in the Lotus world any more, I'm still hoping that I can figure out a way to make it to Lotusphere 2010 on my own again, where some of the work of the upcoming months should be obvious.  And if *that's* not putting it out there on the line, I don't know what is...  My goal would be to make it from check-in to my room, through the Dolphin rotunda, with *nobody* yelling out "hey Duffbert!"... not because you're not there (I spotted the group), but because Duffbert doesn't quite look like Duffbert any more...

05/03/2009

Time for one of those "line in the sand", things have to change posts...

Category Everything Else
OK...  this is one of those non-technical, personal, "I'm sick of my status quo" posts.  If you're looking for book reviews or off-base technology analysis, you're free to move on.

So I turn 48 in less than a week.  Mentally, I still feel like that 14 year old awkward teenager who doesn't quite know how to fit in to the world he finds himself in.  Physically, I keep thinking that all those workouts I did in my late teens/early twenties are still evident.  And then you see the pictures...  and you find yourself breathing hard after doing something that you think only old people should have problems with.  You see people who you consider overweight, and then you check the charts, only to find that you would be diagnosed as "morbidly obese".  Couple all those things together with all the stress at work and other areas, and the picture isn't pretty.

Basically, I'm 48, I'm in the worst shape of my life, and I'm killing myself.

Starting next Monday, I start a program at work called Kinetix (http://www.kinetixliving.com/home.php).  It's a comprehensive program of eating and exercise, designed to get you to a healthy state.  Within that program, our work has a number of "lottery slots" for four week programs where you work with a personal trainer for an hour a day, five days a week.  I could sit here and tell you I know everything they're going to tell me about cardio and strength training, as I've been there before.  Sad that I've let that all go to waste.  During the upcoming week, I'll be getting "assessed", body comp analyzed, and all those other things that make you come face to face with the fact that...  well...  you're fat.

I normally bemoan the tendency of media and people in general to use ever-increasing hype and sensationalism to make points or to get attention.  Therefore, to sit here and say "this is a last chance" would probably be overly dramatic.  On the other hand, It's not a stretch to look at my current state and say I'm living on borrowed time.  

Kinetix won't fix all my other problems, such as my pigpen of an office, lack of focus, feeling pulled in 20 directions, etc.  But if I can at least get something moving on my health, I would hope that it would translate to more energy to clean up other areas.  And to say I *know* this will work would be a lie, as I've said the same thing about weight watchers, jenny craig, and every other attempt to battle my weight over the years.  But I've not undertaken those at apoint in life (likely fewer years looking forward than back) and realized that the 3rd quarter is clicking down, and the score doesn't look good for the home team.

So if I seem a bit withdrawn over the next few weeks, you'll know that my mental state isn't the greatest.  Either that, or I'm unable to move after the trainer has gotten done with me...

03/17/2009

The Flickr photoset of our cruise...

Category Everything Else
A picture named M2

Click the photo above to head over to Flickr and see the whole set...

03/17/2009

Recapping the rest of the cruise (a few days late, but who cares?)

Category Everything Else
So as I left everyone in the last installment, I was relaxing in the room with a number of bruises, cuts, and scrapes from my "up close" experience with the rocks in Samana...

Antigua followed Tortola, and we had nothing planned for there.  Sue was rather toasted from her day in Tortola, and was not up for anything major.  I was watching various spots on my body turn colorful shades of black, blue, and yellow.  So it ended up being another rest day...  I must say that I'm missing not being able to take morning and afternoon naps every day now.

Barbados was next, and Sue and I took the Flavor of Barbados tour.  It started at a mahogany craft factory, where all the pieces are done by sanding (no saws or chisels).  They demo'd the process for us (quite fascinating, actually), and then we wandered the gift shop to support the local economy.  I ended up with a very nice mahogany pencil/pen holder in a matte finish.  It looks classy and smells wonderful.  For a stop I thought would be a throwaway location, it was one of the best stops.  Next was Sunbury House, a plantation house from back when they had a full-scale sugar plantation there.  And finally, the Foursquare Distillery, where they make RUM!  Again, interesting stuff to see how they've automated and computerized the whole process, and how it is a carbon-neutral cycle.  I had a hard time not comparing it to the Scotch Experience in Edinburgh, where you see how things are still very much handcrafted.  I think I appreciated the history of Scotch much more than the history of rum...

Our final stop before the two days at sea getting back to Miami was St. Lucia.  That was a highlight!  We hired a van and driver who had rave reviews on the 'net, and paid the extra $20 per person ($75 total per person) to keep it to the four of us (another couple that Sue knows from work).  It was incredible.  The driver used to be a police officer on the island, and now does tours and taxi services.  He stopped at places we normally wouldn't give a second thought to (roadside banana groves where we had bananas straight off the trees), but he knew the people and we got exceptional service.  We went to a waterfall area, had some great jerk chicken, went to the sulfur springs which are part of a volcano (*really* smelly!), visited beautiful beaches, etc.  The best part is that we really felt like we had visited the island and gotten to make new friends rather than just be herded along as part of a tour.

The last two days on board were our final chance to get our sun and relaxation in.  The highlight of those two days was the stage show that the ship had the final night...  Cirque Bijou.  It's modeled after the more well-known Cirque, but it was one of the most adventurous shows I've seen a cruise ship attempt.  Gymnastics, aerial routines with fabric streamers hung from the ceiling, a contortionist who was painfully flexible, singing, dancing, etc.  I would have been entertained had it been a regular theater production in a fixed location.  To pull something like this off on a moving ship in a confined area was incredible.

Reality intruded on Sunday when we had to make the long flight home.  Everything was relatively on time, but eight hours on a plane is not fun, especially when you know you'll get home at around 9:30 pm and have to head to work at 6 am the next morning...  Oh, well...  such is life.

Looking back at the cruise, I think I can say it was a successful vacation.  I came back rested and relaxed, albeit with a few more scabs than I arrived with.  I think I read about nine books, which was about what I was expecting (most of them were in the 150 - 250 page range, not very long).  But I think most importantly, I was again faced with the reality that no matter how bad or "rough" I think I may have it at times, it is nothing compared to what many others deal with on a daily basis.  I don't spend 75% of my day without electricity, nor do I have to go out searching for water sources for the day.  I have a job that pays me very well, far in excess of what one needs to meet bare essentials.  I have a perfectly adequate home, with an abundance of extra space compared to what others have to live in.  No, our health care in America is not free, but it is available and and well-equipped.  And I have opportunities to experience things that others can't even conceive of.  Yes, while compared to others around me, I may be "middle class".  But compared to much of the rest of the world, I have wealth and abundance beyond measure.

It's a reality check that we all need to experience more often than we do.

03/09/2009

Cruise recap - days 1 through 3

Category Everything Else
Ah, yes... life is now grand.  :)

Monday morning, 10 am'ish...  Like time matters on a ship.

The overnight flight to get to Miami was smooth, the luggage arrived with no issues, and we got checked into the ship on Friday.  Our room is great!  Aft with a balcony, 9th floor.  You truly can sit on the balcony and watch the world go by.  And the beds are an upgrade from last time with memory foam toppers.  I've slept more in the last three days than I've slept in the last three weeks.  :)

Saturday was a day at sea in full relaxation mode.  Read, napped, read, napped, ate, read, napped...  The evening show was called Band On The Run, a retro stage show covering those hot tunes of the 70's.  Funny that I can't remember to take out the trash, but I knew almost all the words to the songs.  I also sat in on a digital photo lecture, with one of the most obnoxious lecturers I've ever listened to.  In his seventies, sounded half-tanked, off-color "jokes", and material that could have been covered in 5 minutes instead of 45.  He's supposed to do two other lectures on the last days at sea, covering digital editing.  No *way* am I subjecting myself to that (more on Mr. Obnoxious in a bit).

Yesterday was the stop in Samana, and a tour of the highlights as well as a beach stop.  Now, to be fair, they *did* say the roads would be "rough".  That was an understatement.  We were in safari type vehicles, on "main" roads, and seldom got above 20 mph because of all the ruts and ditches.  And when we *really* went off-road, it was even worse.  Two hours or so out, another two getting back, and every bone in your body was moved to places they've never been before...

We saw a place called the Devil's Mouth, a rock formation where the sea shoots up through blowholes.  Quite stunning, as you could walk right up to the edge.  I can tell you from first-hand experience that the rock formations are very sharp, as I took a tumble and sliced up my knee and leg pretty well.  Yes, pictures will be forthcoming when I get back to locations that have better internet connectivity than a 56kb satellite uplink.  The beach was spectacular, and that will be a memorable stretch of sand and waves.  

Oh, and Mr. Obnoxious?  He decided to take the same tour, and unfortunately was in the same safari truck.  He was acting like he was the tour guide, complete with stupid, off-color, AND offensive jokes.  Imagine the nerdy kid in school who keeps repeating the same stuff until someone acknowledges him, and he thinks he's the funniest person there...  Never have I felt the need to comment to management about someone's behavior, but this will be a first.  It was bad enough to listen to him at a lecture.  To be subjected to him as a fellow tourist who thinks he is special because he works for the ship is just too much.  By the end of the trip, everyone was trying to make sure they didn't talk with him or sit next to him....  Other than that, it was a unique trip.  :)

We're in Tortola today, and my wife is going out exploring with the other couple we know on the ship.  My knee is rather stiff from yesterday, so I'm going to take it easy and rest up for the other ports (Barbados, Antigua, and other locations).  I'd love to spend more time on the net, but it's 250 minutes for $100, so it's compose offline, upload, check for emergency emails, and then get off. :)  Yes, I'm going cold-turkey (almost)....

Last observation...  If you think your life is tough, and that the world events are completely overwhelming, consider a visit to a place like Samana.  It's not built-up much, and the poverty level is staggering.  Houses that would be declared "uninhabitable" in the States, housing large extended families.  People sitting around as there's not much else to do.  Goats, chickens, dogs, horses wandering around (no offense meant there, Francie!)  Gas stations are roadside shelves with green wine bottles filled with gas.  Stores are as big as your kitchen, and that's all you have to choose from.  While the tour guide said people are happy the cruise ship stops here now, I couldn't help but think that there was resentment as trucks full of white tourists drove by, brought there by a cruise that costs more than they earn in a year, and we'll be back on board that night eating lobster.

I'm pretty sure that losing 50% in the stock market is irrelevant to them...

02/11/2009

Take 2... and action! Today I accomplished a major financial milestone... The mortgage is history!

Category Everything else
OK...  So back on January 11th, I excitedly blogged that we had paid off our mortgage.  Celebration ensued, and joy spread throughout the land...

Now, think about those stories where Bob and Sally have been married for 20 years, only to find out their papers were never filed, therefore making their marriage legally invalid.

Fast forward to this week...

I received notice from the Post Office Monday that they couldn't deliver a piece of certified mail from Wachovia.  Hey, must be our title to the house!  So on Tuesday, I took a couple different busses, stood in a rain/snow mix, stopped at the post office, and eventually got home with the letter.  Only to find...  my returned "final" check, and a form letter stating that a payoff of a mortgage had to be via "certified funds".  Furthermore, the final payoff amount they needed (including fees and per diem interest) was only valid through February 6th, and the letter arrived on the 10th.

You mean to tell me that you've taken my money for nearly 20 years, with some lump sum payments being larger than the one for our final payment, and all of a sudden my check isn't good enough for you???

<insert all sorts of evil thoughts and rantings about banks who take billions in bailout funds, blah, blah, blah>  

Needless to say, I was *not* a happy camper when I called them this morning asking for an updated payoff listing...  now.  Rather than mess with "certified funds", I had my local bank wire the payoff today.  It was worth the $25 wire transfer fee to know it was there, electronically acknowledged, and much harder to ignore.

So...  as of TOMORROW, we will have paid off the mortgage once again.  Celebration will once again ensue (albeit somewhat more subdued), and joy will once again spread throughout the land (with the exception of North Carolina, where the carcass of Wachovia rests)...

01/27/2009

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit in on a tech interview for a potential candidate...

Category Everything Else
I obviously haven't been on a full-fledged job interview in quite awhile, so it was interesting to be sitting on the other side of the table while coworkers asked questions to gauge the technical expertise of the applicant.

As I watched this transpire, I had the same feeling I get when I sit in a session at Lotusphere with some of the top-end gurus of our community...

Never assume you've arrived, and that you know all you need to know.  There are always people out there that know far more than you, and reputation can only take you so far.  You need to know the basics, and have them down cold.  And you better be able to explain how you got to the answer you arrived at.  It may not even be right, but there should be a train of thought that got you there.

I came away more humbled and educated than when I went in.  Not only was I challenged to know my art and profession as well as I can, but I also learned valuable skills in how to interview people.

A crazy day it was, but very profitable...

01/26/2009

This is just nuts...

Category Everything Else
A picture named M2

A picture named M3

I realize for a Brill or Vowe, these counts would be closer to hourly totals for them.  But in my little pond, the ripples are rather impressive.  And here I thought I'd have my first 1000 hit day while I was at Lotusphere.  :)

01/11/2009

Today I accomplished a major financial milestone... The mortgage is history!

Category Everything Else
Three or four years ago, we attended Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University series at a local church.  While we weren't financial basket cases, we knew we could be doing so much better with what we had.  Bills were paid, food was on the table, cars were paid off, but I can't say we felt financially "secure"...

Within a short period of time, my wife and I got on a budget that we've kept up consistently.  That in itself was a major stress reliever, as Susan knew what money she had to spend, and I wasn't worried about "cash flow".  We put together the start of our emergency fund (the $1000 goal for those who know the DR method), and we reviewed what we had in the way of debt.  No car payments helped (one of the few good things financially that came from Enron), and the credit cards were pretty minor.  Within six months, we were working on our 3 to 6 month emergency fund.

Fast forward to now...  Ian's tuition at Portland State is part of our monthly budget, so no loans there.  We use cash for the categories that Susan manages (groceries, household, etc.) and one credit card for bill payments (the stuff I take care of, like utilities, tuition, etc.), but we record it in the checkbook as a debit expenditure.  The bill then gets paid off with no interest charge, and we get our air miles.  The 401K is at the max for company match.  I could be doing MUCH better there, but I got a late start.  I *can* retire some day...  when I'm 87.  :)  

The only real debt that we still had was the mortgage.  We refinanced back in the late 90's for a 15 year loan, so it was always the plan to have it paid off around 2011 or so.  But still...  to be *sooo* close to having it over with.  Some of my side gigs with writing have paid off well, and I've been making some chunk payments to bring the remaining balance down even more.  With a writing check I got at the end of 2008, I decided to use most of that to give myself a late Christmas present...  no debt and a paid-off mortgage.

Where do we go from here?  Now we start to build up the emergency fund to a true six month level.  Of course, not having a mortgage as part of your budget makes that a lot easier (more money to put towards it, and less monthly expenditures to save for).  We really need to be putting more away for retirement, too.  But getting the buffer fund fully built up will be a nice feeling, especially in this economy.

We've been truly blessed to be in this position.  I would strongly recommend Dave Ramsey's program to anyone who is struggling to get on top of their financial life.  It's not smoke-and-mirrors, and it requires some hard decisions if you've overused credit in the past.  But even taking the first step towards financial freedom is a great feeling, and the momentum builds quickly...

01/09/2009

Is there a morality of "acceptable profitability" in these tough economic times?

Category Everything Else
Something that's been rattling around my brain for the past few weeks...

A few months back, I remember a news item about Starbucks warning of a challenging 2009, and that their growth was going to be less than projected.  They were still going to grow, mind you, just not as much as during the last few years.  Companies that are used to profits of 7 - 15% are considered to have "dismal" results if growth was only 1 - 2%.  Compare that to auto companies and banks that are reporting true losses of billions every quarter, and *any* growth appears to border on an epic win.

The normal Wall Street view is that companies must continue to maintain solid growth, or the stock gets hammered.  With that same mindset, companies look to trim expenses and lay off staff so that they can somehow attempt to achieve something close to what Wall Street expects.  In many cases, it's not a matter of avoiding losing money, but a matter of trying to maintain some level of growth.

In the face of job losses that come close to setting records, should we as a country set aside the profitable growth goals and attempt to "break even" instead?  Granted, this isn't a viable long-term position, but breaking even and providing jobs seems more responsible than cutting jobs to continue to grow and turn a profit.

Extremely simplistic, but I just wanted to get that out of my head and on "paper".

12/27/2008

Looking forward to our vacation cruise in March...

Category Everything Else
After our two weeks of snow, my mind has turned to our cruise in March.  I was looking at the invoice, and decided it might be nice to know where I'm going.  :)  In our house, my wife plans the cruise a year in advance, and I start paying attention about three weeks out.

In this case, I knew it was a southern Caribbean route, but I would have been hard-pressed to tell you exactly what that entailed.  So here it is:
 
Day          Port          Arrive          Depart
Fri         Miami         -         4:00 PM
Sat         At Sea         -         -
Sun         Samana         10:00 AM         6:00 PM
Mon         Tortola         10:00 AM         6:30 PM
Tue         Antigua         8:00 AM         5:00 PM
Wed         Barbados         9:00 AM         6:00 PM
Thu         St. Lucia         8:00 AM         5:00 PM
Fri         At Sea         -         -
Sat         At Sea         -         -
Sun         Miami         8:00 AM

I think I can handle that...  :)  

A picture named M2

11/04/2008

An incredible night in America...

Category Everything Else
In past elections, I watched with a certain feeling of detachment...  a feeling that it really didn't matter one way or another who won, because nothing would change anyway.

Tonight's the first time I actually teared up for an election result.

Obama won't be perfect.  The honeymoon will be short, I have no doubt.  But for the first time in years, I have hope that things will be different.  

And for once, I was there to listen to a speech that will become a classic...  one that will not be forgotten with the passage of time.

Perhaps there's a chance that we really can move past our differences, and join together to improve America.

10/20/2008

Surviving the Pink Slip

Category Everything Else Software Development

From Kurt Cagle on O'Reilly's website: Surviving the Pink Slip

An excellent article on surviving when your job is a victim of today's economic crisis...  It won't make the pain go away, but it can help you start to move in a positive direction.

Everyone's been nervous for months, watching the market numbers, the stock prices, the declining sales figures. In the IT department, it's not uncommon to see programmers with one window open on code, the second on the app the code's supposed to generate ... and the third on a steady stream of plummeting financial indexes and bad news about the economy. Then, about two in the afternoon, your project manager taps you on the shoulder - special meeting in ten minutes. When you stand up from your cubicle and look around, you notice that there are several security types idling in the hallway ... and you know, instinctively, what that meeting's going to be about.

The message is usually the same - sales have dropped precipitously, management's cutting back everywhere they can. The project you're working on is important - you knew it was important when you signed on for it six months ago, but it's completion is still a few months out, and they haven't even ramped up marketing for it.

It's an all too common scenario, one that is happening more and more frequently as the economy continues its decline. The tightness of credit, the decline in disposable income and the uncertainty about the future all contribute to an environment where job losses are becoming far more frequent, even in supposedly safe areas like high tech.

There are, however, a number of things that you can do both before and after getting that pink slip to ease the transition into a new opportunity, especially if you're in IT. How to handle losing a job is something that a lot of employment agencies (and unemployment agencies) for that matter, special in, but its also worth keeping in mind that the way that you deal with jobs is a lot like the job market itself - it evolves over time, and what may have worked earlier may not be as applicable in this day and age.

Thus, the first steps towards becoming gainfully unemployed is to keep the following in mind:

more

10/16/2008

"Think Globally, Act Locally"... does that apply to our Presidential elections?

Category Everything Else

One of the "green" sayings that is often quoted is "think globally, act locally".  Normally this is applied to making wise personal decisions that show responsible behavior towards the global ecosystem.  But lately, the same phrase has been echoing in my mind in terms of our Presidential elections.  Should we be thinking globally when we vote locally?

The article that triggered this post today was from CNN titled Europe mocks 'half-baked Alaskan' Palin.  The journalist gets bonus points for the creative food reference.  But this quote struck me as critical:

 For Europeans, who were alienated during George W. Bush's first four years by a president who showed little interest in their continent and patently cared nothing for the opinions of its leaders, the turning point probably came with the appearance on the Katie Couric show when Palin confessed to not having had a passport until 2006.

Europeans are appalled at the thought that someone who wants to be vice president of the most powerful nation on earth had so little interest in the rest of a world which is so vitally affected by the decisions of the man, or woman, in the White House.

If we were a nation of a million people tucked into the corner of some continent, I would think that no one much would care *who* we elect.  But for better or worse, the United States exerts a huge amount of influence on the world stage.  While tempting to say it's nobody's business who we elect, I would beg to differ.  Our decision to invade Iraq has had ramifications for the entire Middle East.  Our system of capitalism and "big business" has contributed mightily to the current financial crisis engulfing the world.  And the leader of our country is one of a small handful of people who could end life as we know it on the planet with a simple command to launch a missile.  Do you think that the world has a stake in who we elect?

I think I first became exposed to this "global" responsibility when I read and reviewed the book America Misunderstood.  It was the first time I had been exposed in large part to non-American media views on our Presidential process.  I guess I could consider that a major step in my political maturation process...  coming to the conclusion that it's not "all about us".

To be clear, I'm not advocating that we open up our election process to six billion people.  It's still important and vital that we elect a leader who can guide our country, understanding that there will always be times where we're not in agreement with our allies.  But electing someone who only has "Joe Six-Pack" as their target constituency is a recipe for disaster in our global interactions.  In addition to having a leader that we can be confident in, we also need a leader who will not be dismissed on the world stage.  

And yes, I personally think we're in danger of doing just that if we're not careful...

10/04/2008

I work with a great community of people...

Category Everything Else

As part of my Articles of Interest project, I'm going back through over a year of tagged RSS entries to pull out things that mean a lot to me.  What quickly became interesting is how often certain names and blogs appeared repeatedly.  Chris Blatnick shows up quite often, and I think everything Andre Guirard ever blogged has been copied over.  :)  All in all, I think most of the Notes community makes an appearance (or 10) in my new repository.

Thanks to everyone who shares what they know.  It's this collaboration that makes us so strong and freaky-smart!

10/04/2008

So do you keep an electronic "Articles of Interest" database?

Category Everything Else

I finally spent some time this week starting a project that's been gnawing away at me for awhile.  It started when I looked at my Starred category on Google Reader and found there were over 500 entries out there.  Some items were Notes tips I wanted to look at later, some were great posts on public speaking and presentations, tech how-to's, cool software...  you get the idea.  But listed as they are in a single category in Google Reader, they might as well have been missing in action.  I decided I had to fix that.

My new "Articles of Interest" application is nothing more than a database in Notes based on the Personal Journal template.  Going through my starred entries starting in June of 2007, I pasted the title link, date, and content of the RSS feed into the body of the document, added the title and date to the fields up on top, and then categorized it by name of poster/site and the type of content (Notes Tips, Cool Software, Personal Improvement, etc.)  I'm up to May of 2008 now, and in the next couple of days I hope to have my Starred category count down to zero.  Then I can use this new database to see what I actually have, and try out some of the tips I had forgotten about.

If you don't have something like this, you should really consider doing so.  You may only have two or three entries a week you want to keep, but those keepers could be what bails you out of a problem down the road.

(Yes, I know you can always search via Google to refind the information.  But if you forgot the tip existed in the first place, what's going to jog your memory to know what to be looking for?  I'd rather just quickly peruse a view to find it.)

10/02/2008

The Workspace Picture meme...

Category Everything Else

Since my home workspace is a real mess (and doesn't have any cool toys compared to the rest of you), you get to see my Cubeville location instead...

A picture named M2

A picture named M3

It's quite amazing how much cleaner this space is than my home space...

Actually, it's quite sad...  sigh...

09/19/2008

Approximately one year from now, someone's going to ask me to review a book titled...

Category Everything Else

... something like The Great Depression 2.0: How America Avoided Financial and Economic Ruin In 2008.  In it, they'll tell the "inside story" about the events leading up to the last two weeks on Wall Street, as well as an hour-by-hour account of all the backroom deals and discussions between the government and major financial institutions.  

I'll likely criticize the book for having 20-20 hindsight, making some events look much more momentous and significant than they were at the time, while making other decisions look obvious now that the events have run their course.

But there will be one part of the book that I think will be chilling and scary, and will come as a surprise to the vast majority of the American public....

... and that's how close we likely came to a full-blown economic meltdown that would have made the bank runs during the Great Depression (1.0) look tame by comparison.


Of course, all this assumes that we actually *make* it through the next year relatively intact.

08/30/2008

Thanks to everyone who commented on my "down in the dumps" post on Monday...

Category Everything Else

It's always a great reminder that you're not out there, going it alone.  

I *have* actually said no to a couple things this week, instead of offering up the "let me know if you need help" trigger statement.  I also got on top of a couple issues that were kicking my butt.  Overall, I'm feeling much better about things.

It's not possible to just snap your fingers and restart at a baseline of zero, but I'm making progress.

08/25/2008

I can't do it all...

Category Everything Else

I'm finally coming to the conclusion that I can't do it all.  I continually think that one more thing can be added to the pile.  "Sure, I can do that!"  

Until the point when my "underpromise, overdeliver" motto comes crashing down to "overpromise, underdeliver".

And of course, the faster I run trying to get caught up, the more room I think I have on my plate to do other things.  And the cycle perpetuates itself.

Contrary to what others may think, I *don't* have 28 hours in my day.  I'm not even doing a good job anymore with the 24 that I *do* have.

All those things I *want* to do, both personal and professional, end up getting tossed to the side as good intentions, bullied out by the "urgent".

I need to step off this carousel, sit on the bench for awhile, and really think about what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Because the logical outcome of the path I'm currently on is not one I care to be part of...

08/24/2008

This is why I have such a hard time donating blood...

Category Everything Else

As Mr. Litton well knows, I'm not a huge fan of needles.  Back *many* years ago, I attempted to give blood at a company blood drive.  After about five attempts on both arms, they thought that perhaps they should stop trying as I was not looking exactly well.  That was the last attempt at blood donation for over 20 years.  

I decided to overcome my fear a couple years ago and tried again.  The first three sessions went OK.  But the last two have been less than successful.  Even after letting them know I'm overweight, my veins don't behave, and I don't like needles, they still think it's all OK.

Instead, they get no blood, and I get this:

A picture named M2

Bleech!

07/24/2008

For those who wondered about the caffeine table in the Maker's Notebook...

Category Everything Else

... here's the low-down:
Substance
Ounces
Milligrams
Coca-Cola Classic
12
35
Pepsi
12
38
Sunkist
12
41
Dr Pepper
12
41
Diet Coke, Tab
12
47
Yerba Mate tea
8
50
Tea, green or black
8
50
Mountain Dew
12
54
Red Bull
8.3
80
Foosh Energy Mint
1:100
Espresso shot
1
65-130
Coffee
8
65-120
Yerba Mate, traditional
6
110
Full Throttle
16
144
Rockstar
16
160
Monster Energy
16
160
SoBe No Fear Super Energy
16
174
Jolt
23.5
280
Cocaine Energy Drink
8.4
280


Let's see...  given this chart, I get approximately...  450 to 600 milligrams a day...  on a "normal" day.  It has gone much higher than that.

And I wonder why my caffeine tolerance is so high...  as I finish off the two liter bottle of Diet Dr Pepper.  :)

07/21/2008

Had to pick up one more .me domain I uncovered today... proveitto.me

Category Everything Else

Now if I can find a couple companies to buy it and youwantapieceof.me from me for a bit o'cash...  :)

07/13/2008

Will Americans ever "sacrifice" again?

Category Everything Else

A picture named M2

Back in the 40's, World War II was something that galvanized our country in a way that I don't believe has been seen since.  It was considered patriotic to sacrifice your own needs so that more material could be allocated to the troops overseas.  Goods were rationed, and people were encouraged to buy war bonds to finance the effort.

These days, the average citizen is completely disconnected from any "war effort" that may be going on.  Other than to follow the news and have opinions as to the rightness/wrongness of it all, nothing much changes in the lives of John Doe, unless Mr. Doe was called up from the National Guard and Ms. Doe and children are now left on their own.  There's no thought as to conserving for the war effort, nor do we give financially in a way that ties directly to the war effort.  Yes, I know we give in terms of "national debt", but it's not as if we go out and buy bonds like they did back then.

I'm curious...  will America ever voluntarily sacrifice like that again?  Will there ever be a movement in our culture that calls upon everyone to pitch in and contribute to a greater good?  Is there any connection any more to what we spend/do and what the government does?  Or do we all just assume that the government will spend as they please, and we really don't need to do anything different?  Could it be that we've not had an enemy since World War II that *truly* threatens our shores with armed conflict and battle?  Or have we just become so jaded and cynical as a society that we really are more concerned about "getting ours" than "giving to others"?

Just one of those things that always run through my mind when I see photos from the 40's, and try to imagine how Americans would react to being told they *had* to ration goods in order to win a war somewhere.  

06/17/2008

Thanks for the Twitter help with cameras last night, everyone...

Category Everything Else

Due to some unexpected generosity, I find myself with an Amazon gift certificate of substantial worth.  (Thanks!)  I've decided that I'm going to use this to help offset the plunge into the world of digital SLR cameras.  I was looking at a package for the Canon Digital Rebel XSi with 18-55mm lens for around $850.  But I was also pointed in the direction of the Nikon D60.  I can get that one with *two* lens (18-55mm and 55-200mm) for less than $800, and that seems to be a far better deal for someone like myself who is looking at entry level options.

I know there are a ton of really good photographers in the Lotus community, and I have no doubt there are strong Canon vs. Nikon vs. Olympus vs. whatever arguements on both sides.  But it sounds as if we're at the point of most of these cameras being very high quality, as well as being very acceptable for a photo noob like me.

I think I'll mull it over while working today, and then pull the trigger tonight.  I know I'll have to get an SD card for it (4 vs 8 gb?), and I'll probably buy a UV filter to protect the lens (those are pretty cheap also).  And with that, I think I'll have enough to launch myself on a hobby that will suck up any discretionary income I might find lying around.  :)

06/12/2008

A Green Door

Category Everything Else

A Green Door

An old city of hills, of stairs,
And on one street, a green door.
On my own, I'd pay it no mind,
too concerned about my destination, my task.

But this time, the green door was the destination.
Not knowing what to expect, I stepped through the entry,
to find myself standing at the base of a winding stairway, looking up,
climbing steps of stone, worn smooth by the travels of many before me.

The journey up takes effort, both physical and emotional.
But at the top of the climb is another door.
One of friendship, of acceptance, of laughter.
Of sharing, of openness.
Of talks, of silence.
A feeling of being home, half a world away.

Tomorrow I'll wake up in another place known as home,
surrounded by the comfortable and familiar.
But things will forever be different.

I've learned that a home is more than a building and possessions.
It's family and friends that accept you for who you are.
Relationships that transcend country and culture.

How many green doors have I ignored in my life?
How many stairways have I passed by,
thinking the climb to be too much of a risk?

One anonymous green door in an old city of many doors,
of many different colors.
But now it's the door in that city that means
more to me than all the others.

05/17/2008

Time to step away from the keyboard for the day...

Category Everything Else

While spending most of the day at the keyboard was not my first choice in Saturday activities, I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in about six months.  I caught up on a number of book reviews on stuff I had finished but that were piled on the corner of my desk.  I wrote two articles for the June issue of the LotusUserGroup.org Developer Tips newsletter.  I reviewed a number of items on another writing project I have going.  Getting all these things done today means that I can focus tomorrow on my ILUG presentation.

Add in a mowed lawn, small grocery store trip, picking up some meds for Ian, and I feel like I actually did something rather that fritter away the day, only to feel swamped on Sunday.

I don't think I quite grasped how much mental drain these things have been placing on me over the last few months.  Once ILUG is done, I'll actually be free of any upcoming writing assignments or demands other than the monthly newsletter.

Oh, when are the abstracts for Lotusphere 2009 due?

It never ends.

04/15/2008

My feelings aside about the whole polygamous issue...

Category Everything Else

(for those of you not in the US, here's but one of many links to the story...)

The officials are claiming they got a call from a 16 year old girl who was forced into an arranged marriage in the sect, and was subsequently abused.  Now that they've removed over 400 children from the ranch, they still can't figure out if they have the girl who originally placed the call.

I can't get rid of this nagging feeling that perhaps the whole call was a ruse or set-up, designed to give officials the reason they needed to raid the ranch.  It is a tricky situation, pitting religious freedoms against federal law and potential child abuse issues.  If indeed there were cases of child abuse (and 13 or 14 year olds being put into arranged marriages might well qualify), then someone does need to step in.  But if this was a case of manufacturing "evidence" in order to "legally" act, then everyone loses.

And it's for sure that we've seen enough manufactured evidence over the last seven years...

04/13/2008

Are political journalists falling prey to technological misdirection?

Category Everything Else

From Nieman Watchdog: Are political journalists falling prey to technological misdirection?

David Gewirtz is the ZATZ editor who sort of uncovered the major "missing email" scandal in the Current White House administration, and has done an excellent job in turning over stones to get at the real truth behind this story.  This article does a nice job in consolidating the major points of what's going on, and why it's a problem...

Here are five important points – somewhat self-evident to e-mail experts -- that journalists are overlooking.

#1: The White House’s e-mail archiving system is wildly inadequate to the point of negligence.

#2: The White House apparently had no good reason to switch e-mail systems in the first place.

#3: The Hatch Act has made it much too easy to bypass the Presidential Records Act.

#4: Insecure messaging puts national security at risk.

#5: And what about all those amazing gadgets?

If you haven't followed the story to date, or you're struggling to explain it to others, this article should cover both of those scenarios easily.

03/26/2008

Getting old, looking old, and *acting* old...

Category Everything Else

So about a year ago I did some physical therapy for a neck issue that started out as a stiff neck after a day of computing and spread to agony down the left arm.  Imagine someone digging around with an ice pick, and you're somewhat close.  There was nothing significantly wrong with the neck...  just a small shift in a vertebra putting pressure on a nerve.  The therapy involved some neck traction to open up the area a bit and relieve the pressure.

Fast forward to now, and I'm dealing with the same issue (yes, I've started to slouch at the keyboard again...  I'm a PROGRAMMER!)  Rather than spend the next three weeks going to therapy, I decided to get one of those soft neck collars you see Jerry Springer-types wear to convince the world they have severe whiplash and should be awarded $3 million in damages for the fender bender...  I refuse to wear it outside the house or at work, but it *does* make a difference.  Picked it up at the pharmacy this afternoon and put it on when I got home.  This is the best my arm's felt in days.  Of course, I look like a total idiot with this big white thing around my neck.  On the other hand, I'm probably two inches taller now.  :)

Surprisingly, Ian didn't give me too much grief for it.  It's only because he's dealing with his own shoulder injury (possible rotator cuff tear), and he understands how important pain relief is (regardless of how ridiculous it may look).  

I can now empathize with how those African women feel...  those ones that wear the rings around their necks.  :)

02/21/2008

Cool... he even got his own press release! Binary Tree Appoints New Vice President of Research / Development

Category Everything Else

 Binary Tree Appoints New Vice President of Research & Development

NEWARK, N.J., Feb. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Binary Tree announced today the appointment of their new Vice President of Research and Development. Mr. Bob Balaban comes to Binary Tree after a long and successful career as a technical expert on IBM and other collaboration technologies.

Most recently, Mr. Balaban worked for IBM's Lotus Notes and Domino development organization as Programming Services Architect, where he led efforts to revitalize Domino Web application development. Mr. Balaban was also lead architect for Notes/SAP integration.

Prior to his stint at IBM, Mr. Balaban spent 8 years as President of Looseleaf Software, Inc., an IBM Business Partner specializing in advanced development work for Notes/Domino add-ons and for J2EE product integration. While at Looseleaf, Mr. Balaban was responsible for a number of innovative products and advanced training courses, and he was also the author of a book, 'Programming Domino With Java.'

Before founding Looseleaf Software, he spent 10 years as a Senior Developer with Lotus Development Corp. and Iris Associates, creators of Lotus Notes and Domino. Among other things, Mr. Balaban created the Notes object model, and was the author of the Notes 'back-end classes.' He was also the lead architect for the Notes Agent Manager.

Mr. Balaban's role as the new Vice President of Research and Development at Binary Tree will allow him to focus on new product development, refining internal development processes, and contributing to overall company development and business strategy.

"As the first Vice President of Research & Development in Binary Tree's 15-year history, Mr. Balaban brings rich experience in helping Binary Tree expand its presence in the market-place through the establishment of a professionally-designed and executed Research & Development program," states Henry Bestritsky, Co-CEO of Binary Tree. "We are honored to have Bob join Binary Tree. He is an excellent fit for assisting us in taking Binary Tree to the next level."

Go, Bob!

02/15/2008

Interesting new virus/trojan/whatever delivery technique met me at home today...

Category Everything Else

I had this sitting on my Skype client when I came home from work...

A picture named M2

Sneaky!

I see out on Google that a few others have started getting this from onlinemon.info also...

02/09/2008

I have often lamented that cars today all look the same...

Category Everything Else

Nearly every sedan looks like every other sedan.  Even Cadillacs have downsized and have started to take on the look of everything else.

But as this picture from Shorpy shows, it's not a new phenomenon...  :)

A picture named M2

01/17/2008

All in all, a very nice day at DisneyWorld

Category Everything Else

The day started off early with our Segway tour at 7:45 am.  I thought it was Friday, but that's why I'm not the planner of these things.  Bottom line...  Segways are cool!

A picture named M2

The rain held off long enough for us to be able to do the full tour.  Then as we were exiting World Showcase, we stumbled upon the Dream Team, the group of Disney employees that hand out the gifts as part of Disney's Year of a Million Dreams.  We ended up with a FastPass card for six Epcot rides.  It's not a night in the Castle, but it still works...  I also got a great video of the Jamitors doing their Epcot gig as well as the Beauty and the Beast preshow put on by Four for a Dollar.  If I can figure out how to scale them down far enough, I'll post to YouTube.

Nice dinner at Coral Reef...  A couple of issues handled with Disney Magic flair...

This is why I have so much fun here...

01/15/2008

The Mac-boys are closing in around me...

Category Everything Else

Most of my close colleagues are using Macs.  I've been the PC holdout.  Hate Vista, XP works, etc., etc...

But now, Ian (my son) purchased a laptop for college work, and he opted for a Macbook.  It arrived yesterday, and he's loving it.  I have this sneaking suspicion that I'm going to have to consider that option seriously the next time I upgrade laptops.

Meanwhile, I'll just have to be happy with the fact that I beat Ian to the iPhone 1.1.3 upgrade.  :)  He's not taking that one well...

01/01/2008

One more Christmas YouTube video...

Category Everything Else

The Little Drummer Boy - Twin Lakes Church

As my boss put it...  "Little Drummer Boy meets Stomp"...  Excellent stuff!

12/12/2007

I'm getting old... Things are changing...

Category Everything Else
You know (hope!) that someday the nestlings will leave and strike out on their own.  We had a sneak preview of that when Ian went off to Orlando and DisneyWorld for internships.  Now it's Cam's turn.  He's decided to move in with a number of his friends in a large house not too far away from where he works.  It's something he's been talking about for the last six months or so, and now he's decided that the time is right.

I thought he was going to move this weekend, but Sue helped him take his belongings over to the new place today.  I don't know if he's entirely cleaned out, but it's probably close.  He's excited, and I'm happy for him.  I'm not nearly as stressed out about this one as I was with Ian going cross-country.  Something about only being about five miles away and not being diabetic, I guess.  Cam can live on peanut butter and Top Ramen if he has to.  :)  I've also made it very clear to him that if it doesn't work out, he's welcome to move back home.  We're not planning on changing the locks...  yet.

With Ian vacationing until the 17th, Sue and I are nearly "empty nesters".  

Strange stuff...

12/09/2007

Post to claim Technorati for http://www.duffbert.com

Category Everything Else
Technorati Profile

12/09/2007

Welcome to the new home of Duffbert's Random Musings... www.duffbert.com

Category Everything Else
I took some time to clean up a number of configuration issues, domain name issues, etc.  The net result is that the old twduff.com site is going to route to here now, and the main URL I'll be claiming is duffbert.com.  This is also running on a new host and server, so let me know if you see anything somewhat strange.

So please update your RSS links as well as your bookmarks to this new site...  Thanks!

11/23/2007

A nice view on Thanksgiving Day...

Category Everything Else
From my sister-in-law's place on Lummi Island, Washington

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - A nice view on Thanksgiving Day...
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - A nice view on Thanksgiving Day...

11/17/2007

Went and saw Beowulf last night in digital 3D... amazing graphics

Category Everything Else
My wife wanted to see Beowulf when it came out, so I took her on a date last night to see it in the digital 3-D version.  While I'm not a huge fan of that time period/genre, I will say that I enjoyed the story more than I thought I would.  In addition, I was blown away by the animation and graphics...  And it had nothing to do with the "naked" Angelina Jolie.  :)

It struck me that this level of detail in computer-generated/motion-capture movies is a leap along the lines of what Pixar did with their releases.  The realism was stunning, and there were only a few moments when the animation seemed to lack the "real life" quality.  Adding in the digital 3-D aspect, it was hard *not* to become immersed in the story and events.  There were also some very humorous scenes, such as when Beowulf strips down to bare skin to battle Grendel.  Every potential frontal nudity shot had a strategically placed arm, leg, beam, or something else.  It actually reminded me of those types of scenes in the Austin Powers movies.  :)

If you're wondering how true they were to the actual story, I couldn't tell you.  As I said, I'm not into that time period, and I haven't read the story (yes, there *are* things I haven't read).  But from the perspective of someone who was just looking for a couple of hours of entertainment, Beowulf was very good.  And if you're a geek when it comes to computer animation in movies, it's a must-see.

10/29/2007

OSX Tiger vs. Vista vs. Ubuntu Security: A 15 Point Report Card

Category Everything Else
From Virtual Hosting Blog: OSX Tiger vs. Vista vs. Ubuntu Security: a 15 Point Report Card

Here's a nice summary of the high points of security issues related to the three major operating systems out there.  You may disagree with one or more points, but overall it's one of the better comparisons I've seen when it comes to readability...

10/22/2007

A warm fuzzy from book reviewing...

Category Everything Else
I received the following email today from a tech book author, and it made my day (yes, it didn't take much given the way the day was going!)...

Hi!

I'm the author of Blogging For Dummies, 2nd Edition, a Wiley book due out in Februry 2008. I'm writing because I would love to use a screenshot of your blog as an example in the book.

The book covers everything from what a blog is, to setting one up, to customizing it with photos and podcasts. The book is a real how-to for all levels of computer users.

I've used a screenshot of your disclosure statement in a section of the book that is concerned with blogging when you have a job. It's a neat blog that I think people will enjoy visiting.

I can't offer renumeration, but you might get some traffic!

If you have questions, please don't hesitate to contact me by email or by phone at <removed>. If you are willing to give your permission, please let me know ASAP so that I can send you the official form required by the publisher.

Many thanks,
Susannah Gardner.

I reviewed her book Buzz Marketing With Blogs for Dummies (very good), as well as the first edition of Blogging for Dummies (by a different author).  I thought it was rather cool that I'll have a link to Duffbert's Random Musings in a book on blogging.

While this isn't the reason I write book reviews, nor do I go out looking for these types of things, it still seems a bit unreal when I break outside my core reader audience.

As Mr. Litton said...  I guess this now makes me the ASW poster child.  :)

10/18/2007

OK... so *that* wasn't on the evening agenda (but technology rocks!)

Category Everything Else
So yesterday, I was prepared for a somewhat quiet evening.  But you know the definition of "life"...  that which happens between planning and reality.

Sue came downstairs around 5:30 pm saying that she just had a rapid onset of pain on her right side, complete with nausea and chills.  After 30 minutes, it was getting worse, so we called the doctor.  His instructions were to head to the emergency room post-haste.  Turns out she has a kidney stone of the 4 mm variety.  After some hydration and pain control, we got home around 11:15 pm and I took off to the pharmacy to get the prescriptions filled.  I think I finally turned out the light around 1 am or so, after sending the obligatory "I won't be into work today" email to all the people who were on my calendar.  Fortunately, she's in considerably less pain now, and with any luck all will pass (or has passed, pun somewhat intended) without any additional intervention.  But I'll be around, trying to stay awake and be available for anything she needs (such as the already-early-morning-run to the store for some fluids).

Ah, but now the inner geek takes over...  To diagnose/confirm the problem, they gave her a CAT scan.  I got to stand with the tech as the images came up on the console.  Talk about cool!  I now know my wife inside and out...  literally.  We saw the meds she had been given about 30 minutes prior (at least the ones that hadn't come back up yet).  Then we sliced through layer by layer until the stone showed up...  front to back, side to side, etc.  I think he was having just as much fun showing off as I was asking questions and watching.  In fact, when the doctor came in, he asked if I had a medical background, as I was answering some of his questions on diagnosis and location of the stone like I knew what was going on.  :)

Anyway...  today is going to be one of those days where the craving for a short nap will take over at least one.  I haven't looked in the mirror, but I'm sure the bags under my eyes have bags.  And talking about strange dreams last night...  All hospital-based, of course...

10/14/2007

Pictures and commentary on our Hawaiian vacation...

Category Everything Else
First off, here are the photos I took...  Yeah, I realize I don't take a lot.  I also have a video from the Flip camcorder I got before I left, but I haven't looked at that one yet.

I did start out with plans to blog the day-by-day vacation for our future review and enjoyment.  But I had absolutely *no* interest in writing or blogging much of anything this trip.  It was more important to veg out, relax, read, and nap.  That's what I needed more than anything, and it was delivered in large quantities.  :)

Some random thoughts and observations...
  • I really didn't know where we were most of the time.  We didn't go with a "must see this" list, as we've never been to Hawaii before.  But after 11 days, all the Hawaiian names start to run together.
  • The iPhone rocks...
  • Some of you might have noticed that I had a number of book reviews I posted yesterday. It might be reasonable to assume that I spent a great deal of time reading.  You'd be correct in that assumption, but wrong in the total number of books I read.  There are still more reviews I need to catch up on.  :)
  • All the native tour guides have a great deal of fun trying to get you to pronounce the name of the Hawaiian state fish.  It's humuhumunukunukuapua'a, also known as the Reef Triggerfish.  I opted for the second version more often than not.
  • They aren't Hawaiian shirts...  they are Aloha shirts.  They are considered standard clothing for men at all levels except for lawyers in front of the court.  Regardless, I won't be trying to wear one in Dublin again.  It doesn't translate culturally.  :)
  • The iPhone takes great pictures and really rocks...
  • Most cruises have non-American crew and staff.  Since Pride of Aloha is strictly cruising Hawaii, the staff and crew is almost entirely American.  While they did a good job and weren't nearly as bad as some veteran cruisers lead you to believe, there *is* a noticeable attitude difference between the two sets of workers.  
  • On the other hand, it's nice to make an observation on American society and have your waiter or bartender know exactly what you mean.
  • Sue and I spent some time in an outrigger canoe.  It's amazing how fast they can go, and that they were used for month-long trips to migrate to Hawaii.
  • It was *wonderful* to not leave the ship and be immediately set upon by taxi drivers, "tour guides", hair braiders, and drug dealers.
  • Security getting into American ports was much tighter than I expected.  We had to show personal ID and cruise ID while still on the bus, then we had to go through a full metal detector and scanner to get onto the pier to enter the ship.  And of course, you have to have your cruise ID scanned when you get on and off the ship.  On the other hand, who knows *what's* in all those shipping containers within 100 yards of the ship?
  • I thought celebrating our 25th anniversary would put us in a unique group.  Nope.  There were plenty of geriatrics on the ship, and I'm not sure 25 years would have gotten us into the 50th percentile.
  • Did I mention that I really liked my iPhone?
  • Visiting Pearl Harbor is a sobering experience.  You can "feel the ghosts" as you imagine the wave of Japanese fighter planes coming over the hills...  walking on the deck of the USS Missouri...  peering down into the underwater grave of over 1000 people on the USS Arizona.
  • As usual, the white man destroyed yet another beautiful culture.  
  • We saw the hotel where Elvis filmed Blue Hawaii.  He's still quite the personality there.  What's strange about the hotel is that it was decimated in 1992 by a hurricane.  It was abandoned at that time, but nobody has vandalized it.  Windows are broken out from the hurricane, as well as roofing that's no longer present.  But other than that, it still stands.  Rather eerie...

If/when we go to Hawaii again, we'll probably pick an island, fly there, rent a car, and stay in one location.  The cruise was a nice way to get the "buffet-line" view of the islands, but it was hard to get into much depth or detail.

But even though we didn't do as much as we could have, it was just what the doctor ordered.  Now I just have to get out of the habit of afternoon naps.  :)

10/11/2007

Back in the saddle again...

Category Everything Else
The vacation is over, I'm back at home, and tomorrow I venture into work to see what horrors await me there.  :)

As you probably noticed, there were no blog entries while I was gone.  Nor did I buy the internet package aboard ship!  Of course, my new iPhone got a major workout, and it really rocks!  While I wouldn't want that to be my sole connection to the 'net, it's perfect for keeping an eye on things, answering emails that can be answered with a short reply, and texting people who need info.  It was absolutely perfect for keeping in touch with Ian and Cam while we were gone.

And even though I had the laptop with me, I didn't blog or type anything.  I think that's the longest I've been away from the keyboard in quite some time.  Frankly, it's something I should probably do more often.  Step away, recharge, and come back a bit more refreshed.

We had a great time on the cruise.  Lots of rest, relaxation, and just hanging around with no agenda and no demands.  Now I just have to get out of the afternoon nap habit that developed over the last 11 days.

09/29/2007

Off to get lei-d...

Category Everything Else
Catch you all on the flip side!

:)

09/25/2007

3 more days, 3 more days, 3 more days...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - 3 more days, 3 more days, 3 more days...

Yes, I'm taking my laptop.

Yes, I'll probably blog my vacation.

No, I'm not planning on buying the internet package on-board ship.

Yes, this will be the longest I've been disconnected in years.

No, I wouldn't place bets on me sticking to the aforementioned plans.  :)

(unless you were betting that Duffbert fails)

09/24/2007

Some cool Hornitos swag...

Category Everything Else
As part of a buzz marketing promotion, I received a package of swag related to Hornitos tequila.  Being the tech geek that I am, I think this was my favorite item in the package...
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Some cool Hornitos swag... Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Some cool Hornitos swag...



A 128 MB USB memory stick!  

While I don't think it'll make an appearance at work (would raise more questions than I care to answer), I have no doubt it'll make an appearance at Lotusphere in January...  I think I'll make sure to pick up a bottle of the real thing and bring it to Joe's Monday Night gathering.  I'm sure he can turn it into something wonderful with his bartending skills.  :)

09/19/2007

Looking for a Project Manager job working for a cool company?

Category Everything Else
I was pinged by someone at O'Reilly Media about this job, and I told them I'd post the info to see if anyone was interested...  If I didn't break out in hives when I try to herd cats, I'd be interested myself.  :)

O'Reilly Media, Inc is seeking to add a dynamic Project Manager to the team. Ideal candidate has a solid software developer background in web based, open source technologies using Perl, Java and/or Python, XML, and MySQL. Must have 3 or more years experience managing small to medium sized projects using project methodologies. Work closely with the software development team and non technical business units to define requirements, realizing milestones and deliverables. Position located 65 miles north of San Francisco in Sebastopol, CA. For more info go to http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/j/142 or email your resume to jobs@oreilly.com.

09/11/2007

So he's not starting the fights any more...

Category Everything Else
He's trying to break them up once they start.  :)

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - So he's not starting the fights any more...
Ebert Photography ©2007

Ian's been refereeing for awhile now, but this last weekend was his first opportunity to work a Norpac game at the Tier III A level.  I'll hand it to him, he has no fear when it comes to putting himself between two players who are (usually) taller than he is.  :)

09/09/2007

I tempted fate today... and WON! :)

Category Everything Else
I've been very open about the fact that home repair chores I attempt don't normally end up well.  I either hurt myself or spend hours doing something that should take 15 minutes.  And you would think that with a cruise coming up in three weeks, I'd steer clear of anything that might endanger that trip in any way...

You'd think...

So what was on tap today?  Repainting the peeling shutters on our gable window...  2nd story...  on a ladder.  After reading two prayer requests at our church for people who are recovering from injuries...  after falling off ladders.

We were able to reach the one shutter from inside the room, but the other shutter was on the opposite side from where the window is hinged.  So we got out the ladder, extended it to the full 17 feet, and I cautiously climbed to the top to start the scraping and painting.  This was after I was emphatic that my wife would not be going up the ladder.  The neighbor across the street is over 90, and he climbs up and down his ladder all the time.

Yeah, it's a pride thing.  :)

Surprisingly, it all went flawlessly.  The scraping was quick, and the primer went on quickly with me on the ladder and Sue holding the paint from inside the window.  One more time up to repaint with the trim color, and I was done.  No one got injured, nothing broke, and I felt like a normal person doing a home repair.

And I won't be doing anything that risky again before our trip.  :)

09/02/2007

Countdown to the Hawaiian cruise begins...

Category Everything Else
On October 8th, my wife and I will have been married for 25 years.  And yes, that's 25 years *to each other*, thank you.

To commemorate this increasingly rare event, Sue and I are going to take a cruise to Hawaii.  It'll be just the two of us, floating around the islands for 11 days, sitting on the balcony, and having a grand time.  Norwegian Cruise Lines, Pride Of Aloha, leaving Honolulu on 09/30 and returning on 10/9.  Hopefully the boys will keep the cats well-fed and watered while we're gone.  :)

Sue does all our vacation planning, so she's been living this event for about the last year.  I, on the other hand, start thinking about things three to four weeks ahead of time.  So it's been good to have her pushing me to make decisions on shore excursions, specialty dining, etc.  We've never been to Hawaii in all our vacation travels, so this'll be a new experience for both of us.

And because I know someone will ask the question...  Yes, I will take my laptop along, but at this time, I am *not* planning on buying an internet connectivity package like I have on every other cruise.  Having the laptop means I can download the pictures from my camera, still record thoughts and memories of our trip, and in case of emergency, still have the means to interact with Ian and Cam if needed.  But what we found last time is that the ship has cell phone service, so if we absolutely do need to be reached, there's that option.  

I'm looking forward to this vacation...

08/28/2007

Does Duffbert *really* read that much?

Category Everything Else
So a question I get asked (all too) frequently is...  how do you read so much?

Fair question, and one that I thought might make for a decent blog posting...

I read around 180 to 210 books a year, cover to cover.  By all accounts, that's a bit over the national average.  :)  But the strange thing is, I don't think I read exceptionally fast or anything.  It's more a case of how much I read, and what I choose not to do instead.  Waiting for the bus in the morning along with the bus ride in ends up as 20 to 30 minutes of reading.  For lunch (if I take one), I'm likely to be found at my desk, reading.  At night before I turn off the light to go to bed, I end up reading for 30 to 40 minutes.  Coming home on the bus?  Another 15 minutes or so.  In the evenings, instead of watching TV, I'm normally on the computer, or...  reading.  All told, I probably read for an hour or two a day.

I also have a number of books going at any given time.  There's usually a "recreational read", like a novel, in progress.  There are also a number of books scattered around the house that are in varying states of completion.  Right now, there's two on the nightstand, two downstairs on my desk, and one in my gym bag.

Is this unbalanced or abnormal?  Yes.  I'll be the first to admit that I could stand to have more of a life.  I could be spending more time around the house doing repairs and such.  I could be out visiting friends or interacting with others.  But the truth is, I find reading relaxing and entertaining.  If given the option between an hour of American Idol or reading, I'll read.  I purposely don't seek out network or cable shows to watch on a regular basis.  That's not to say there aren't good things on TV.  I just don't watch it much on purpose.

This also ties in to some of the productivity sites I've read recently. People who accomplish unusual things are not normally known for "balance". People like Einstein or Edison were definitely not balanced, but they were extraordinary in their areas of interest.  A-List bloggers are not "balanced" in the time they spend writing.  But look at where that led Scoble.  An Olympic gold medalist in sports like biathlon or archery are not balanced by our definitions, but they have spent the time and effort to accomplish something that's important to them.

I don't consider my reading habits or reviewer rank on Amazon something "extraordinary" or important.  But I enjoy the process, the time is well-spent in my opinion, and I've received a number of benefits that are important to me.  Are there things I'd like to do differently?  Yeah, but apparently not so much that I've felt the need to change.

As Volker commented the other day...  "Duffbert should chew before he swallows".  I agree, but there are so many good things to chow down on.  :)

08/07/2007

Follow-up on my Social Media presentation at work...

Category Everything Else
Last Wednesday I gave my Social Media & Web 2.0 talk to the Strategic Communications department at work.  All in all, it went well.  There was a good level of interaction with the attendees, and many of them were being exposed to this material for the first time.  I've had a number of follow-up conversations with various individuals who were at the meeting, and I think this may have been a catalyst to get them thinking seriously about how the company can start using things like blogs and wikis to reach the market and start conversations.  

Good stuff, and I have a feeling that it won't be the last department or area I end up presenting for...  :)

07/25/2007

I think the Versus network Tour de France commentators should give up the gushing accolades...

Category Everything Else
... about any particular rider this year.  It's been rather funny...

Because of the time difference, I don't watch the Tour broadcasts live.  But the last couple of afternoons, I've caught one of the rebroadcasts.  And on both days, they've ended the telecast with glowing descriptions of the "brave rides" of the stage winners.  And *right* after each stage, both riders were disqualified and sent home for doping or suspious behavior.  Sorta makes your accolades ring hollow...

Today was especially funny, as they were wrapping up talking about how Rasmussen had a fabulous ride, how he showed the spirit of a true winner, and how inspiring it was after Vinokourov left a black mark on the sport and event after yesterday's disqualification for doping.

Oops...

:)

07/20/2007

Had the chance to give my "Web 2.0 & Social Media" presentation today to a smaller audience...

Category Everything Else
Our eLearning group at work caught wind of what I was going to be doing for the Strategic Communications group later on, and wanted to have me cover the same material.  So using Sametime and a conference call, I got to present to them, albeit with a bit more of a technical slant.  But the core presentation was the same, and I got good feedback on it.  The live presentation on August 1st will be more focused on the effects of social media on a company, so I plan on having some fun with that angle.  Plus, presenting live is a lot easier than presenting at your desk, on a call, with *no* visual feedback from the group.

Little did I know that when I started this blog over four years ago, it would lead me in the directions it has.  As I mentioned on the call, most of the really cool professional things I've done over the last three years (writing, speaking, etc.) can either be traced back directly or indirectly to this blog.

And to think I started it merely to keep up with Mr. Litton.  :)

06/30/2007

Just got back from seeing Ratatouille this evening...

Category Everything Else
My wife and sister-in-law didn't go this afternoon like I thought they were going to, so after I got home from a BBQ at Bruce Elgort's place, we all trooped off to the theatre.

Bottom line...  Ratatouille is one of the best movies I've seen in a long time.  The animation is superb, the story line is engaging, and many moments are laugh-out-loud funny.  It's one of the few movies I could see myself watching a number of times.  While a Pixar animation, it's more (in my mind) targeted for adults than kids.  I can't see that there will be many "rat" merchandising opportunities for kids.  :)

Feel free to take your kids along if you have them, but don't worry if it's just you sans children.  Well worth the money...

06/18/2007

So let's review this incredibly long two days from Orlando to Portland...

Category Everything Else
OK...  I've had a couple hours of sleep, and the fingers are working relatively well again.  No promises about the mind, however.

For the sake of argument, we'll round the trip off at 3000 miles.  The odometer was at 125572 when I got an oil change on Friday, and it reads 128668 right now.  The GPS unit is constantly changing, depending on how far off course you might be at any given time.  :)  I think it stated 3502 at one point *very* early in the trip, but that was an overstatement.  Although it probably looked at the stretch through Nebraska and Wyoming and just freaked out...

Ian and I didn't start out with the plan to try and "see America" in two days or less.  I figured we'd drive through the night on Saturday, get to somewhere around Cheyenne Wyoming by mid-afternoon Sunday, stay overnight, and then get in later on Monday night...  still a long trip in a short period of time, but at least there would be sleep and a shower mixed in.  What we didn't count on was the car packing.  The addition of his hockey bag added a (lack of) space element that was not a factor going down in January.  It went down with Sue under separate cover after he was already down there.  By the time we packed the car on Saturday, the trunk was full, the back seats were very full, and it was not going to be a good idea to leave the car in a hotel parking lot overnight without emptying it out.  And neither of us wanted to do that.  So, we thought that perhaps a three or four hour stop at a rest area would be sufficient to take the edge off after the long drive.  But I'm getting ahead of myself...

On Saturday at 11:30 am, we locked his apartment door for the final time and set out.  We set the GPS for destination "home", shortest time.  GPS units are a modern miracle.  It was incredible to think that wherever we were at, we were never lost.  Confused, but not lost.  The route took us through...
  • Florida - flat swampy areas, and hot.
  • Georgia - OK.  That was the only area we hit traffic slowdowns.  Some accident south of Atlanta...
  • Tennessee - dark.  Some "interesting" truck stops.  That was the only place we stopped that was memorable.  One truck stop was "full service", with condoms in the bathroom, a washing machine and dryer outside the bathrooms, a smoky room that contained video poker and slots (and was packed at dark-am in the morning), and truckers all smoking away in the restaurant.  Very strange place.
  • Kentucky - also very dark.
  • Missouri - seemed to go on forever.  At least until we hit Nebraska and Wyoming...  Saw the St. Louis arch in the middle of the night.  Also saw the "last rest area in Missouri" (an actual sign) twice.  And Ian and I were both alert enough to have remembered the sign from a few hours back.  :)
  • Iowa - just clipped a bit of Iowa on the way to Nebraska.
  • Nebraska - a green version of Texas, and just as freaking long to get through.
  • Wyoming - a green version of New Mexico, and just as long as Nebraska.
  • Utah - Saw Utah in the middle of the night, so I guess we can call Utah "dark".
  • Idaho - Nearing the end.  Actually some pretty lights with towns laid out across the horizon when you'd come over some dark hill.  We cleared Idaho sometime right before dawn this morning.
  • Oregon - never so glad to see home.  I-84 took us up through the entire length of the Columbia River Gorge.  Some impressive scenery with the sun rise and stuff.  But that last two hours were painfully slow.

Will I ever do that again?  No.  I'm too old for those types of trips.  Generally speaking, Ian and I would trade off at each gas stop (every 225 to 275 miles).  He can sleep sitting up while Dad drives.  I 1) don't sleep when he's driving (unless I've reached physical exhaustion) and 2) can't sleep sitting up (see #1).  We did pull into a rest area in Idaho Sunday night around 11:30 pm to catch a few hours of sleep.  I couldn't drop off sitting behind the wheel, and after an hour or so, we started back on the road again.  I reached the point of "I can't go any further" around 2:30 am this morning, when I handed it off to Ian in some forgettable truck stop.  While I still only slept for about two or three hours from there until we got home, it was enough to at least allow the eyes to uncross.

Random observations...
  • I find it interesting that the West is considered liberal, the South conservative, but yet it's the South that has the billboards advertising "adult stores" for 50 miles before you even get there.
  • Would it be too much to ask to put those little reflective thingies on at least every *second* center line on a freeway?  When you're traveling down the road at 75 miles per hour, at 2 am in the morning, in the middle of "we-just-got-electricity-last-year" small-town America, I really don't like having my reflective reference point being the right edge of the road separating you and the ditch.  
  • And to all those Utah Department of Transportation workers who place the barrel dividers cutting you down to one *very small, narrow* lane marked for 65 miles per hour in the middle of the night...  Do you place every 10th barrel or so further out in the traffic flow just for laughs?
  • Senior tour busses that pull into a rest area at the same time you do, when you are desperate for relief, are a very scary thing.
  • There *is* such a thing as too much Red Bull and No-Doz tablets...
  • I can go for about 44 hours until caffeine ceases to have the desired effect.  Unfortunately, the trip lasted 49 hours...
  • I probably have more insect samples on front of the Saturn than does the entire Ireland Museum of Natural History...  although they aren't as old.  :)
  • Best radio station we found on the trip...  A Celtic fusion/jazz/modern sound show in the middle of...  NEBRASKA!

And the best thing that can be said for a trip like this...
  • Not having a "memorable" trip is the best you can hope for in something like this.  :)

06/18/2007

So is it possible to go from Orlando Florida to Portland Oregon via car in less than 50 hours?

Category Everything Else
Specifically, 49 hours and 10 minutes?

Yes, you can do it, but it's not recommended.

We left Ian's place in Orlando at 11:30 am on Saturday morning.  We pulled into our driveway this morning at 9:40 am.  Add in three hours for the time difference, and there you have it.  In between, we had Florida, Georgia, Tennesee, Kentucky, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.  We are such idiots...

I'll recap later, but right now I just want to brush my teeth, take a shower, and catch up on some sleep in my bed.

All this because, to borrow a phrase from my favorite AV Bloke...

"I'm broken..."

06/14/2007

Made it to Orlando (*very* early this morning)...

Category Everything Else
No more free food or anything like that...  :)  The plane boarded early for our 9 pm departure to Orlando.  And then we sat...  and sat...  and sat...  A combination of weather and some sort of computer malfunction in the control tower led to a delay of about an hour before we pushed back from the gate.  At one point I called my wife to look up the airline site and give me an update.  According to her and the site, we were "taxiing down the runway".  Funny, but it still looked like the same gate to me.  :)

Anyway, got in around 1:30 am.  Ian picked me up, we headed home, and got some much needed sleep.  Today is his last day.  While he's doing the work routine, I'll do some stuff with the car to get it ready for the trip back.  Then I'll just bounce around a bit until he's ready to get off of work.  We'll pick up some sandwiches and other groceries on the way home, and then try and get a full night of sleep before we start "the adventure" tomorrow.

I'll have to see who I can "charm" today.  :)

06/14/2007

Must be the "cute and huggable thing" again...

Category Everything Else
So I'm on my trip to Orlando to pick up Ian.  The layover is in Houston, and I'm thinking a vanilla frozen yogurt with M&M topping sounds good.  The one place I could find stuff like that in the Houston airport was out of toppings, so I ended up over at a fast-food place for some dinner-like food.  I place my order and she asks me what kind of dipping sauce I wanted.  Of course, the one I choose is out, so she has to go back into the back to get my other choice.  Meanwhile, there's someone else who is still waiting for their order...

She comes back with the chicken nuggets, the dipping sauce, and the drink.  I haven't paid yet, so I'm waiting for her to ring it up.  She's "interacting" with the other people in the back over something with the other guy's order.  She looks over her shoulder at me, and mouths something along the lines of "just take it and go".  Knowing that I must have misunderstood, I just stood there.  It took two more times of her doing that before I quietly said "just go?", and she nodded...

I don't have a *clue* as to what that was all about, but I guess there is such a thing as a free meal...  :)

06/13/2007

Happy birthday, Rocky...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Happy birthday, Rocky...

AN ITZ SMEELZ LIK CAKE!  :)

06/08/2007

"Normal" is like the "good old days"...

Category Everything Else
It's just a figment of your imagination...  selective "rememory".

Or as a quote in a book I read the other day stated:

"I've learned that 'normal' is just a setting on my washing machine."

I thought I had divided my life into pre-ILUG and post-ILUG, and that life would slow down in the post-ILUG phase.  Yeah, right...  I'm now looking at pre-Orlando and post-Orlando, with FAR too much that needs to get done on the work, professional, and personal front in the pre-Orlando phase.  As such, that's why you haven't seen much of me here lately (and why Fluffy's MySpace page isn't being updated much).

I leave to go get Ian from Orlando next week.  I fly out of Portland around noon, get to Houston around 6, hang around until 9, and then get into Orlando around 1 in the morning on Friday.  Ian works his last day on Friday, we'll pack on Saturday, and then start driving early Sunday morning.  I'm due to be back at work on Thursday, so we'll be pushing hard.  For those who offered places to stay on our return trip, thanks.  But I really don't know where we're going to stop and how long we'll drive on each leg.  I plan on plugging in the GPS unit, saying "Destination Home", selecting "Shortest Trip By Time", and then driving off into the sunset.

The laptop will be packed, but I'm unsure as to how much (if any) blogging will be done on the road.  I thought I'd make a real production out of the trip down there, but that didn't transpire.  Now with one less driver coming back (just Ian and I) and one less day (but we're going direct this time), who knows if the laptop will even see the light of day...

05/20/2007

A few new software sites I'm playing with...

Category Everything Else
Over the last week in between other things I was doing (or should have been doing), I incorporated a couple new websites into my regular computing routine.

The first is my new primary RSS reader, Google Reader.  I've been using SharpReader for some time, and generally it's worked out well.  But it seemed like I was doing a lot of clicking to mark things as read, and I had to click through on more stories than I generally wanted.  A couple of friends had posts on RSS readers, and I decided to try out an on-line version.  This solves a big problem for me when I go mobile, as I run my feed reader on my desktop machine.  After exporting my feeds and importing them to Google Reader, I quickly became hooked.  Response time is great, and the interface is very clean.  If I want to keep a post around, I can star it.  And my favorite feature...  You can display the posts in expanded mode, and automatically have them marked as read as you scroll by them.  That's a big convenience for how I tend to work with readers.  I've shut down SharpReader, and I don't miss a thing.  Google Reader is worth a look if you're searching for an on-line site for gathering your RSS feeds.

The other site I'm getting hooked on is Jott.com.  This free beta service allows you to dial a toll-free number and dictate a message, or "jott".  This message is then automagically transcribed into an email and sent to the recipient.  You are allowed to set up an address book of recipients, and the service will do voice recognition to determine where it goes.  So if I'm in a bookstore and find a title that looks interesting, I can call Jott, say "me", and then give the title of the book.  When I get home, the email message will be waiting for me.  The transcription might not be perfect, but it will be enough to remember what I was thinking or seeing at the time.  This may be one of those services that I pay for when it comes out of beta...

05/15/2007

At what point do you say "this isn't working?"...

Category Everything Else
I didn't know whether to label this "Everything Else" or "Humor"...  There's a local semiconductor company here called MathStar.  I know nothing about them, have no ties to them, and have no axe to grind.  The only reason I've heard of them is that their "earnings" showed up in a local business newsletter I get.  Something about them losing $15 to $20 million last quarter on revenue of...  $80,000.  And then there's this story from today's news, about their top sales exec leaving (I wonder why???)...

MathStar announced last week that it will sell $25 million worth of its stock by mid-June. The stock now trades at about $1.70 per share.

The Hillsboro-headquartered company has been consuming cash at a high rate, developing a new type of programmable logic chip. As of March 31, MathStar had $6.5 million in cash on its balance sheet, enough to last through Labor Day, according to CEO and founder Doug Pihl.

MathStar moved to Hillsboro from Minnesota early in 2006. The company first sold its stock on the public market in October 2005.

MathStar has raised almost $93 million through selling stock, notes and warrants since it was founded 10 years ago. The company's total revenue during that time has been less than $1 million. However, recent contracts with a major electronics manufacturer and a major electronics distributor should bring in $2.5 million to $3 million in revenue by the end of this year, according to company statements.

Bold italics are mine...

You've been in business for 10 years, sold $93 million in stock, and have less than $1 million in revenue for that entire time???  And now you want to find some sucke...  INVESTORS to put in another $25 million?

Guess there *is* one born every minute...

05/09/2007

To squelch an ugly rumor being spread by a certain blogger...

Category Everything Else
I did *not* turn 60 today...  Although one of those number *is* part of the truth.  :)

And thanks to all who sent me birthday greetings via email/snailmail.  I was a bit stunned that anyone remembered!  I know I'm horrible about those things...

05/08/2007

I can't even do simple home repair in my *dreams*!

Category Everything Else
So last night, things are going along just fine.  I decide to cut up some treats I'm taking into work on Wednesday, and I notice there's a puddle of water on the floor in front of the sink.  Since Sue was just there, I figured it was just spill over.  I wipe it up, step back to the counter, and it's wet again.  Being the swift person I am, I decide that something must not be right.  I open up the cabinet under the sink to find out that the drain is leaking.  This was *so* not on my agenda for the evening...

I tighten all the connections, but the leak looks like it's coming from the actual drain connection to the pipe.  After struggling to get the drain OUT of the sink (hammers cure everything), I had to make a trip to the store to buy stuff to replace it (hoping that I choose the right size and stuff).  I come back, replace the drain, tighten everything, and no leaks!  For my track record with home repairs, this is a good thing...

So last night, what do I dream about?  Sue and I are on some long road trip, and we stay at this house (don't know if they were friends or not).  Their sink is leaking, so I decide to fix it (IDIOT!).  Then another part of the sink leaks...  and another...  and another.  Pretty soon, I have the entire sink structure out of the cabinet.  I go to a nearby store to find parts, but of course I'm over my head.  We have to call some repair place to make an emergency visit to put things back together...

It's not bad enough that I'm inept when it comes to real-life repairs...  Now I have to suck at them in my dreams, too!

05/06/2007

I think I'm nearing the end of my shoulder saga...

Category Everything Else
What shoulder saga, you ask?  Well, I haven't said much about it...

A little over a month ago, I spent a fair amount of time over a weekend banging away on my laptop.  Like *that's* anything new...  By the end of the day, my neck was a bit stiff, but nothing that a night or two of sleep wouldn't cure, or so I thought.  Over the next two weeks, the pain moved into the left trapezius area and down into the left deltoid.  By the end of each day, I was in agony.  Over-the-counter pain-killers didn't even begin to address the pain.  Figuring that I couldn't continue to "let it work its way out", I went to the doctor.  X-rays showed no structural issues, so they recommended physical therapy.  Isn't that something you do after surgery or after an accident?  Admit it, Tom...  You're getting old.  :)

I'm now down to the last two (out of six) sessions, and I must say it's helped a lot.  This last weekend was the first one I've had where I would almost consider my shoulder pain-free.  I've had to give up my "geek slouch" posture as I sit at a keyboard, but that's probably a good thing.  The PT sessions have been enjoyable, as my therapists have been very good at what they do.  And considering much of the treatment was massage-based, it's not as if I was pushing myself across some pain threshold.  :)

So as I approach the end of year 46 this week, I'm not doing so feeling like I'm 70.  And with ILUG travel in a couple of weeks, followed by the cross-country drive next month to get Ian home from Orlando, the timing couldn't be better.

It's good to know that I've stopped considering amputation as a viable pain relief option.  :)

04/10/2007

Seems like we're not the only ones questioning Mr. Lyons' ethics and techniques...

Category Everything Else
From Groklaw:  SCO Moves for Summary Judgment on Slander of Title in Novell Case

This would look like a relative snoozer of an article (unless the whole SCO thing lights your fire), but further down PJ gets into the latest "reporting" by Lyons on his blog.  Like we haven't lived through *this* experience with him?

If you were to assume that Lyons is also on the SCO team (you might find this account of a conversation between Dan Lyons and journalist James Turner of interest, where bias against me on the part of Lyons shines through), then you could also now understand the likely purpose of Lyons' effort to rehabilitate O'Gara in the article he wrote about how bloggers are from the devil and all that. Remember how we puzzled about why he defended her in that article? Could it be because SCO knew it needed her to be a credible witness in the case down the road? A credible witness. Now that, methinks, will be an uphill slog.

Well worth reading if you need convincing that a leopard doesn't change its spots...

03/28/2007

The Chicken/Pig commitment story... a *bad* way to motivate your staff...

Category Everything Else
Perhaps many of you have heard some variation of the story about the chicken and the pig when it comes to involvement vs. commitment.  Just randomly searching the 'net, here's a basic version of the story:

Think about a meal consisting of eggs and ham and consider the contributions made by a chicken and a pig. A chicken provided the eggs and a pig provided the ham. It can be said the chicken was involved, because the chicken continues to live as it lays more eggs. It can be said the pig was committed, because the pig gave its all to provide the ham and other pork products.

This is one of those "motivational" stories that sounds real good when you read it, and I've seen it used by management at various companies to motivate their staff towards being committed as opposed to just being involved.  But continuing to follow that analogy probably isn't what management had in mind, nor is it what most workers want to do with their lives.

The chicken is contributing at a long term, sustainable level.  She's able to keep giving, as her output is renewable.  The pig, however, is screwed.  He gives everything at a single burst, and that's it.  No more pig, and he needs to be replaced.  While the "farmer" gains from both levels of contribution, the pig isn't around to see the benefits.  The farmer's out looking for another pig.  And the chicken?  She's just sitting there, laying more eggs, and continually providing for the farmer.

I don't think there are many employees who want to be the pig.  Everyone who is part of the team would much rather be the chicken.  And the next time a motivational speaker uses that analogy, think about it...  Do you want to go down in a blaze of glory, or do you want to produce over the long term?

03/28/2007

Follow the money when it comes to "research"...

Category Everything Else
From IS Survivor: An Important Fact About Nutrition

This is an excellent article on "connecting the dots" when it comes to "research" and who sponsors it.  The IT angle in the story is about Accenture claiming big things for SOA, with a veiled reference that they've invested close to a half billion dollars in it.  Think they have a stake in the outcome?  

Connecting these two dots matters to those of us who toil in the trenches of IT management, or more generally in the trenches of business management, because un-sponsored research is hard to find and harder to distinguish from the other kind.

Accenture's financial stake in SOA is stated. That isn't usually the case. Take a look at any industry publication and see if the publisher clearly identifies the stories that started life as press releases. They don't, but they should.

The research firms are no better. When the vendors they rate also subscribe to one or more of their very expensive services, any claim of impartiality must be considered questionable at best and disingenuous at worst.

And the situation is deteriorating. Once upon a time, independent test labs routinely compared the performance and features of just about every technology you can buy. These comparisons are becoming a faint, quaint memory, the victims of end-user license agreements (EULAs) that prohibit publication of performance data. That means in many cases the only data you can get comes from the manufacturer.

So the trade press publishes one sponsored study showing Windows is more reliable than Linux, followed by another sponsored study demonstrating the reverse. Yawn.

So the next time someone touts the latest "research" report, ask who backed it in the first place...  Follow the money.  And that goes regardless of which technology you place your bets on...

03/07/2007

A thank you to everyone who has ordered from Amazon through my referral links...

Category Everything Else
I wanted to take a moment and say thanks to everyone who has used my book review Amazon Associate links to shop at Amazon.  Here's how it works...  If you click through to Amazon by using one of my book review links, then I receive a small referral commission on everything you purchase in that session.  That's not restricted to just the book link, either.  *Anything* you buy in that session counts.  Even if you don't order the book that was linked but just use that as your starting page, it still racks up the referral count.  It's not retirement money, but it provides a little guilt-free spending cash.

The referral commission works on a sliding percentage scale.  It used to be that the payouts were quarterly, and the counts were accumulated during that whole quarter.  Now they've switched to a monthly payout, so the numbers they use are based on 30 days, not 90.  The commissions start at 4% for the first 1 to 6 items, then jumps to 6% for 7 - 30.  It can go clear up to 8.5% for 3131 items for the month (not that I'll ever see *that* one!).  

I had been receiving order counts between 40 and 60 for the quarter over the last two years.  But since the start of this year and the monthly stats, things have taken off.  I've been hitting around 50 per month, which has been very nice.  In fact, just yesterday there were over 12 items that were ordered!  

And in case you're wondering, I can't tell who is buying what.  I do see what items were clicked through as well as purchased, but they are not tied back to a specific buyer.  So unless you email me and 'fess up, I won't be able to associate anything you're buying with you.  Which is probably good, as Amazon *does* sell some of *those* types of items...  :)

So anyway...  Thanks for using the links to do your shopping.  I appreciate that you've chosen to do that, and to say thanks in a easy, painless way.

02/28/2007

"Trial run" on the next phase of our life...

Category Everything Else
This has been a somewhat strange week...  Ian, as you probably know if you're a regular reader, is working at an internship at DisneyWorld until June.  Cam, our 18 year old, left for Orlando on Monday to spend a week down there visiting his brother.  He hasn't made the last couple of Disney trips with us, and I guess he felt like he was missing out.  So from Monday night until next Tuesday, it's just me and the missus (and the two cats)...

Very strange...

The dishes actually stay in the kitchen (instead of half the kitchen ending up in Cam's room).  The trash doesn't fill up nearly as often.  No thumping down the stairs at all hours of the day or night.

And I know where the remote is at all times now!  :)

02/16/2007

If you're looking for a book author to speak to your user group meeting, here's an offer...

Category Everything Else
I received this email today, and I got David's permission to post and share here...

My name is David Platt. I've just published a book for computer users, entitled Why Software Sucks … and What You Can Do About It. It's not a how-to book; it's the world's first "why-you-shouldn't-have-to" book. "I was reading this on the train to Ottawa last week, and laughing so hard that the other passengers were all looking at me like I had three heads. This is the first time I've gotten real belly laughs from a computer book," said reviewer Shane Schick (audio at http://www.itbusiness.ca/OutLoud/11132006_platt.mp3). You can read a free sample chapter online at www.whysoftwaresucks.com.

I'm offering a free 1-hour presentation to any computer user group or book reading group that would like to feature it. All you need is 10 attendees at a meeting. The closer you are to Boston, or someplace else I'd like to be, such as Hawaii in February, the more likely I am to show up in person. Otherwise we can run any sort of remote link you like, from a simple speaker phone to Internet video. I promise you an enjoyable and rewarding evening.

The book has been featured in the online editions of such media as Fox News (
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,241578,00.html) PC Magazine, and the New York Times. I have been featured on a number of radio shows and podcasts, with excellent reviews. For example, I was on the syndicated show Let's Talk Computers (audio at http://www.lets-talk-computers.net/asx/2006/10_oct/10-21-06/102106a.asx ). Phil Windley interviewed me for his ITConversations show, http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail1694.html.

If you're interested, feel free to contact him at newsl <at> rollthunder.com.

And just because someone will ask...  No, I haven't reviewed this book, and I'm not quite sure how it slipped under my radar.  I *do* have a copy being mailed to me now, however...  :)

02/15/2007

I'm finally doing regular backups with Carbonite...

Category Everything Else
I've been notoriously bad about backing up files.  I have a few CD backups of a select number of files I'd really miss if they were lost with a drive crash, but by and large I've been flying without a net.  So I was interested when I was contacted by BzzAgent about a promotion for an on-line backup service called Carbonite.  Bottom line, it works really well!

I run the Carbonite software on my computer, and the files/folders I designate get encrypted and backed up during slack times on my system.  No fuss, no bother, and I know I'll never have an issue with losing important files...  like my obsessive reading log.  :)  Once my free trial is up, I'll definitely become a paying customer.

If anyone is interested in trying this out, the following line was in one of the emails I got from BzzAgent...

And, if you haven't already, try Carbonite now by visiting http://www.carbonite.com/bzzagent. Remember that your friends can receive a 30-day trial by visiting the site and entering in the Offer Code "Bzz".

I don't get any deals or kickbacks for people signing up...  I just put it out there for anyone who is interested.

02/01/2007

I conquered a long-term fear today... I donated blood.

Category Everything Else
Me and needles don't get along.  It's all in the mind, I know, but it doesn't matter.  I've been known to come close to passing out with a simple blood draw.  

It didn't used to be that way.  I used to be able to watch nurses give me injections and such.  But then there was the second time I tried to give blood, 20+ years ago...

I'm overweight, my veins tend to not be overly visible, and they roll.  When they tried to take blood last time, it took three attempts in one arm, two more in the other, and then the blood quit flowing after about five seconds (flesh plug in the needle).  When they saw how white I was, they decided that perhaps another attempt wouldn't be a good idea.

Ya think???

Ever since then, blood drives, flu shots, innoculations, you name it...  major stress points for me.  Ironic that I have a son with type 1 diabetes that injects himself every day.  Doesn't matter...  I still focus on the needle.  Oh, and the guilt...  I'm type O negative.  Universal donor.  

Two weeks ago I decided that it was time to put this behind me (or at least see if I still pass out).  I signed up for the blood drive and couldn't find any good reason to back out today.  After answering all those highly personal questions they are required to pose to you now, I told them they had one chance to get this right.  Any problems with finding veins, and it would be the last time I'd ever see the Red Cross chaise lounges again.  Armed with that knowledge and challenge, they started me out completely flat so that I'd have little chance to get light-headed.

And it worked.  The initial stick wasn't bad at all, and she nailed the vein on the first try.  A slight adjustment about five minutes in got the blood flowing at a swift rate, and it was done before I knew it.  I stood up with no ill effects, the volunteer didn't have to catch me, and I was able to enjoy my water and cookie without wearing it.

Of course, now I have no reason not to be donating every couple of months...

01/30/2007

Never expected to start getting referers from Wikipedia...

Category Everything Else
I was scanning through my non-search referers today, and I found one that stopped me dead in my tracks:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enron

I wasn't sure at first if that was a good or bad thing!  Had I been tried and convicted without knowing it?  Was I accused of financial shenanigans?  Was I about to take a perp walk?

Nope...  Down in the Trivia section of the entry, I'm listed as a blogger who commented on the on-going scandal.  Very cool...  I wasn't a Houston-based employee as it states, but that's a minor point.

So...  guess I can cross "get mentioned in Wikipedia" off my list of life goals now...  :)

01/15/2007

Two phrases you don't want to hear at the Orlando airport...

Category Everything Else
"Code Bravo East" and "Code Bravo West"

When flying back last Monday, I was sitting in line waiting to board my Southwest flight to Portland.  An alarm tone sounded three times over the loudspeaker, followed by the phrase "Code Bravo East...  Code Bravo East..."  This went on for about 30 seconds, and we all wondered what was going on.  This was followed shortly by our Southwest gate attendant telling us the inbound flight had arrived, but there was a "security situation" that would not allow boarding or unboarding until resolved.  From what I could piece together, someone had gone through security "incorrectly", and they had to find the person before anything could move.  After about 30 minutes, they tracked down the person and all was well.  

Not so well was my wife's experience on Saturday...  same airport, Alaska Air flying back to Seattle.  While I was on the phone with her, I heard the warning alarm followed by "Code Bravo West...  Code Bravo West..."  I laughed and said "you're not going anywhere for awhile."  I don't know what her situation was, but it required a full evacuation of the terminal for rescreening.  For those who know the Orlando airport, the security line was about three across and was backed up *past* the food court.  That's a very long line...  She didn't miss her flight, as it was already over three hours late coming inbound from Seattle.

So...  if you're at the airport this week and you hear those dreaded words, you might want to see if the Hyatt has any spare rooms.  :)

01/12/2007

U-Haul customer service gets my "Hall of Shame" award...

Category Everything Else
As mentioned in the blog entry for Leg #1 of our Road Trip, the Bully cartop cargo carrier didn't fare very well with us.  One of the four straps snapped less than 500 miles into our trip, and the front was starting to shred from the wind resistance.  Here's a picture of the overall shredding:

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - U-Haul customer service gets my

And a close-up of the damage...  We're talking see-through on a bag that is supposed to be waterproof:

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - U-Haul customer service gets my

So...  Armed with the receipt ($49.95) and bag, I returned to the U-Haul outlet at 1327 NE 82nd in Portland Oregon.  I have never been made to feel like such a criminal scam artist by any company in my life.

I pleasantly explained the situation and asked for a refund.  The first guy behind the counter was amazed that there was that much damage, and had never heard of a failure like that before.  He called the manager over, and that's where things got ugly.

The manager said that no one else had ever had that problem, and he didn't think a refund was in order.  Looking at the shredding, he first said "so how fast were you driving?  200 miles per hour?"  I said it was irrelevant how fast I was driving.  The bag was tearing due to wind resistance.  He then asked if perhaps I hadn't made sure there were no folds or creases facing the wind.  Like it's necessary to pack every square inch to account for aerodynamics???  I told him it was packed full, but I couldn't control what happened to the front of the bag when it faced the wind.  He then said again that he'd never seen something like this, and he couldn't refund my money.  I looked at him and said "So you're basically saying that I'm trying to scam you and that there's no way this could happen."  "Oh, no...  But I've never seen something like this before, and I don't think a refund is warranted.  You can try contacting the manufacturer, though..."

The guy behind the counter did offer me an in-store credit coupon for $10 and said he'd mail me another $20 coupon if I left my address.  Whatever, but it doesn't make up for the scummy way the manager handled the whole situation.  I could have seen it if I turned up with just the bag and no receipt.  But it was obvious that I purchased it, and it was obvious that it didn't perform, regardless of whether the manager had ever "seen" that happen before.  I'm not even sure I minded the "no refund" stance.  It was the insinuation that I was trying to con the store.

I'll do my best in the future to avoid that particular U-Haul outlet, and I'm not necessarily feeling much like patronizing *any* U-Haul store in the future if that's the way I can expect to be treated...
 

01/03/2007

Road Trip 2007 - Leg 2 (Tucson Arizona to San Antonio Texas)... I only *thought* it was uneventful...

Category Everything Else
... until the last four hours.

We got started at 7 am this morning, facing about a 12 hour drive to San Antonio.  We had a fantastic time staying with my family, and I'm really glad we did that.  A good time was had by all.  Ian and I did rock/paper/scissors to see who would get to drive first, and I won (it's a control thing...  I don't like to let others drive.)  I did the first couple of hours, then Ian and I shifted after the first gas stop.  After the second gas stop, I took back over and drove the rest of the way.  11 hours in the driver's seat seemed like a walk in the park after yesterday.  :)

All was going just swell until about 200 miles out of San Antonio.  I was making great time, and dusk had just set.  Then we got weather...  heavy rains punctuated by prolonged periods of torrential downpours.  And in Texas, they don't believe in highway lighting until you get to a real city.  And there aren't any of those between El Paso and San Antonio.  By the time we got into the city limits, I was doing 50 miles per hour, trucks were passing me left and right, and 50 seemed to be a major risk.  It was NOT fun.  When we pulled into the Best Western parking lot at 9:45 pm, I was never so glad to arrive somewhere in my life.

Texas wasn't quite as flat as I expected.  Granted, there's a 200 mile stretch from about mile marker 200 to 400 which is really nothing but flat horizon.  I have some cell phone camera pictures I'll post next week (titled "Life Through The Windshield").  Not great stuff, but you'll get the idea.  But for all who told me that Texas goes on forever?  I'm sorry if I didn't understand that before.  I know now what you mean.  I've never quite seen so much...  nothing.

The plan for tomorrow is to check out around 11 am, and then do the final leg into Orlando.  It's listed at 17 hours, but we're going to take it real easy and make it about 24 hours or so.  That way we'll get into Orlando around 9 or 10, and Ian can take possession of the apartment.  Then we can crash.  :)  There's supposed to be wireless access in the apartment, so we'll see how that goes.

More tomorrow, I'm sure...  And thanks for all the comments on the previous entries.  If I wasn't so tired, I'd try responding.  :)

01/02/2007

Road Trip 2007 - Leg 1 (Portland to Tucson is in the books)...

Category Everything Else
... but not without trials and travails...

The day got off to a slower start than I hoped (I wanted to be driving by 8 or so) because "certain members" of the traveling party (not your daughter, Sue) didn't get their laundry done the night before.  By the time we got everything jammed into the car, it was nearly 10 am.  The softside cartop luggage carrier was the first problem.  We got that loaded and tied down in a fashion, but it was not terribly aerodynamic.  As a result, we wondered if it was going to be a casualty somewhere along the way...  more on that later.

The first problem was heading over the mountain pass into California.  Ian had plugged the laptop into the AC adapter, and within five minutes the adapter started flashing overload.  I wasn't sure where the electrical smell was coming from, but it didn't look good when the "Service engine soon" light came on shortly thereafter.  Mentally I pretty much figured the car was trashed and Ian's internship was over before it got started.  Knowing nothing about cars, I was guessing we'd burned out the alternator and the battery wouldn't start the car the first time we stopped for gas.  But after much prayer and worry, everything started fine in Redding when we finally stopped, and the light went out.  It was likely either a bad fuel batch or a loose gas cap.  Either way, that didn't do much for my emotional well-being to start off the trip.

Next up, the carrier.  We stopped in Sacramento for gas, and I checked the condition of the bag.  A couple of the straps were already showing signs of fraying, and the front end facing the wind resistance was torn up pretty badly.  About five minutes after we resumed our trip, a strange sound started up from the roof.  You guessed it...  one of the straps snapped.  Now comes the big question...  How do you pack an already full car with even more stuff?  Very creatively...  Needless to say, there wasn't any room for two in the back seat, nor did the driver have any extra leg room.  I'm going to try and get my $49 back on that dud.  Again, another blow to my already fragile self-confidence.

I've been off caffeine for two months prior to this trip to get the max "Red Bull" effect.  The good news it that it worked very well.  I earned my "iron butt" award by logging time behind the wheel from about noon on Monday until 9 am on Tuesday.  Couple that with very little food (I was trying to avoid carb comas), and I was a bit ragged by the time we got to my dad's place outside of Tucson Arizona around noon today.  Needless to say, a VERY long day.

We've decided not to try the Tucson to Orlando leg in one shot.  Our 24+ hours today cured us of that idea pretty quickly.  The logistical support of Team Duffbert (thanks, dear wife!) got us a hotel reservation in San Antonio for tomorrow, leaving us with "only" a 12 hour drive.  San Antonio to Orlando on Thursday is 17 hours, but again, that seems "short" by comparison.

My dad and Lila have been great hosts, and we had better food today than we've had our entire trip so far.  Good company and lots of laughs, and they got to meet Ian's girlfriend, too.  It's nice to have a place to call home, if only for a few hours.  Showers are a great idea, too.  :)

The trip wasn't all bad, however.  We hit the Arizona border just as dawn was beginning, so I (as the only awake member of the group) was treated to an awesome sunrise.  And the GPS navigation unit my wife bought me for Christmas?  That thing is a freaking miracle.  If I had known how useful and convenient they were, I'd have purchased one a long time ago.  After just one day, I can't imagine traveling without it now.

I'd type more and try to be witty (for once), but my mind is just about toast.  I'm going to try and stay up a couple more hours, and then crash for (hopefully) a good long time....  I'll see if I can do a "day two" from San Antonio tomorrow.

12/31/2006

Time to wander off and prep for Road Trip 2007...

Category Everything Else
Tomorrow morning (hopefully relatively early), Ian, Helen, and I will start the great adventure...  We'll be off and running on our road trip from Portland Oregon to Orlando Florida.  And if all goes as expected, we'll pull into Orlando sometime either later on Friday or early Saturday.  With three drivers, we should be able to do this without too much pain and agony on the part of any one person.  The initial goal is to drive straight through from Portland to Tuscon Arizona, arriving sometime Tuesday morning.  My dad lives in Green Valley (right outside of Tuscon), so we'll stay overnight there and then hit the road again on Wednesday...  In theory, we could be in Orlando late Thursday night, but that would be *really* aggressive.

The laptop is going along for entertainment, so blogging is possible (but not promised).  That's the nice thing about a blog based on Notes/Domino, however...  I can blog all day long from the back seat if I want, and then a single wi-fi connection will catch family and friends up on our progress.

Anyway, Happy New Year to everyone, and I'll catch you all "on the road"...

12/31/2006

Looking back at 2006...

Category Everything Else
So it wasn't a terribly eventful year, but looking back through my blog I've noted the following...
  • Ian came back from his DisneyWorld internship the first week of January.  He was so ready to be back, but there was the matter of the girlfriend he met down there.  Helen's from New York state, so guess where Ian went for the summer?  New York...  And in a textbook case of revisionist history, Ian decided that Disney wasn't too bad after all, and he leaves tomorrow for a six month internship working in their HR department.  Should be an interesting road trip...
  • Cam's continuing with his quest for his high school diploma, and he hopes to find a job one of these days.  :)  He has a girlfriend too, so Sue is finally not the only female in the house most days.
  • I spoke at Lotusphere 2006 with Julian, and that went very well.  I also had the very special opportunity to speak at the Ireland User Group meeting in June.  It was my first time overseas, and I loved it.  So much so, in fact, that I'll do it again in May of 2007.
  • I did plenty of writing, too...  There's this blog (563 entries this year), the LotusUserGroup.org Developer Tips newsletter, and a local business publication that will run an article of mine early in 2007.  They found me through my blog and through my Amazon reviews.  You never know where your words will end up...
  • And speaking of Amazon reviewing...  I read 212 books this year cover to cover (so much for "read less, do more") which is a new high for me.  The Amazon review total for the year was 303 books, putting me at a ranking of #97, 984 total reviews, 7721 positive review votes, 9285 total votes.  I could say again that I'll read less and do more, but why promise the impossible???
  • Work was more challenging than I usually experience.  It wasn't the technical aspects, thankfully.  It was just a lot of long hours doing technical writing that I wasn't terribly adept at.  But in terms of my Notes/Domino projects, I'm still having a lot of fun...  Nice to love what you do for a living.
  • Vacations?  Two of them...  There was the Alaskan cruise that was timed just right for decompression from work.  No expectations, no rush...  just lots of rest.  A couple weeks after that, we went down to DisneyWorld for a few days.  And as always, we loved it.  
  • And in the "I'm getting old" department, I had my first significant surgery experience.  Surgery for "bilateral inguinal hernia repair" put me on the shelf for awhile in September.  Even though the doctor said full recovery would take six weeks, I thought for sure I'd be back in a couple of days.  Yeah, right...  It was a good three weeks before I was moving semi-normally, and it *was* about six weeks before all feel relatively normal again.

Not a lot to write home about, but sometimes normalcy is good.  In this case, I'll take it.

Looking forward to 2007 and the continued interaction here...

12/04/2006

Being poor...

Category Everything Else
There but for the grace of God go I...

Being poor

12/03/2006

Spent far too much time with computers this weekend...

Category Everything Else
I pretty much have had my butt planted in front of computers all weekend long.  I was assisting on a work project, so I was logged in remotely from morning 'till late evening.  It wasn't 100% focus, more of a monitoring for activity when scheduled.  I rebuilt my desktop machine over the last two days also.  I've been having problems with computer locking up numerous times a day, but I can't recreate the exact situation that causes it.  I thought that perhaps by restoring to the original factory condition, I'd eliminate any software issues causing the problem.  It's still happening, so now I have to suspect something in terms of hardware...  

I hate hardware issues...

11/28/2006

Seriously looking to improve speech quality and patterns...

Category Everything Else
I find that lately I get really bugged by verbal "tics"...  Those nasty speech habits that you hear in others and hope that you don't use yourself.  

"um", "uh", "um OK", "OK", "so" (at the end of every sentence), "and" (*connecting* everything into one long sentence), "I'm like", "and I'm going", "you know", "it's kinda like", "basically" (starting off far too many sentences).

And there's the speaker that has every sentence go up at the end?  Like a question?  Like everything they say is a question?  

I must be getting old...

Anyway, I understand the importance of being able to speak well both one-on-one and in groups.  I've never been thrilled with the tone and sound of my voice, but I can at least work on eliminating those tics that are annoying to others.  To that end, I bought an Olympus WS-300M 256 MB Digital Voice Recorder so that I could start understanding how I sound to others.  Today was the first time I've used it, and it's really helpful (once you get past the fact that no one likes listening to recordings of themselves).

I let it run while I gave someone a phone demo of an application that they are looking to use as a template for a web site.  It's a one-sided conversation, but I'm able to listen to myself and start noticing trouble spots.  The good thing is that I wasn't quite as bad as I thought.  A few ums and uhs I'd like to get rid of, but my demo wasn't one long "and" run-on sentence.  I still sound like I'm about 12, but one thing at a time...

I doubt I'll use this every day, but I can see it becoming a solid aid in improving my communication skills...

11/26/2006

Just ignore them...

Category Everything Else
A local columnist in the Oregonian, Steve Duin, had a great blog posting today, and it puts into words one of the things I've been trying to do more of lately...

When my children used to ask why I didn't respond to an obnoxious driver by leaning on the horn, I pointed out, "If the guy was the type who didn't hesitate to cut me off in traffic, why would he be bothered by the squeal of a car horn?"

<snip>

There is no reason to consider Ann Coulter, much less to quote her. She isn't worth the bother. If you are strangely motivated by the dire need to put the woman in her place, the best revenge against Coulter -- or Lars Larson, Michael Savage or the other Paul Allen radio all-stars, for that matter -- is to ignore her. Deny her the attention that fuels her self-serving crusades or pays her mortgage. Forget about her. Focus on the things that matter, not the malcontents who don't. Lay off the horn. You'll be amazed by how consoling silence can be.

Before you respond about how important Coulter and company are, stop.  I don't follow any of them, and the names (for me) are irrelevant here.  It's the concept of not giving attention-seeking whores what they are looking for...  I'll be the first to admit that sometimes the urge to wade into the fray is overwhelming and I fail to heed my own advice.  But still, it's much less taxing on the emotions to just walk away and ignore them all.

11/25/2006

It's a... uh... *large* tree...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - It's a...  uh...  *large* tree...

11/15/2006

So guess who's going back to DisneyWorld to intern?

Category Everything Else
Two words...  "revisionist history"...

Ian applied for and was accepted for an advanced internship at DisneyWorld this week.  Yes, this is the same Ian who was pretty burned out after his last tour there.  But to be fair, this is different.  He'll be working in an office doing security and background checks, which actually ties in with his major in Criminal Justice.  The pay is better, too.  1500 applied for this position, 75 were interviewed, and apparently he was the top candidate.  Good job, Ian!

The matter of logistics starts to fire up now.  The main one is transportation.  College interns can live in Disney housing and use their buses to get to work and back.  Not so in the advanced intern program.  You're on your own.  He's already lining up roommates and a housing situation, but there's the matter of the car.  As it stands right now, it looks like Ian and I will do a *major* road trip the first week in January to drive from Portland, Oregon to Orlando, Florida (those locations are about as far away as you can get from each other in the continential United States).  Yahoo says total drive time is 47 hours...  Then once we get down there, I'll take a one-way flight back to Portland.

While I'm not thrilled about 47 hours in a car over x number of days, there *is* a certain adventure-quality to it.  Maybe I'll take the laptop and do a "road trip diary"...  Two guys, four wheels, and a whole lotta pavement.  At least the trip back in June should be better weather than in January.  Actually, we'll be heading down to San Francisco and then cutting over to try and avoid winter weather in January.  In June, we'll probably take the mid-America route.  At least it won't be 47 hours of the same thing each way.

11/15/2006

"If I Did It"... this is a new low in publishing and promotion

Category Everything Else
O. J. Simpson is out promoting his new book "If I Did It", which takes a hypothetical look at how he would have killed his ex-wife and her friend "if he did it".

Is anyone else appalled by the audacity and greed at work here?  I don't care if the publisher considers this "his confession"...

What's worse is that with the legal concept of "double jeopardy", he can't be tried criminally for those murders again.  So the final chapter could be "guess what?  I *did* do it!", and there's nothing much that could be done about it.

Society is so screwed up...

11/11/2006

Open an ING DIRECT Orange Savings Account and get a $25 bonus...

Category Everything Else
I received an email the other day from ING DIRECT, an online bank that I use as our "emergency" savings account.  They are running a promotion where they will add $25 to your account if you open an account of $250 via referral.  Not a bad 10% interest rate right out of the box...  :)  And in the interest of full disclosure, I'd be credited with a $10 "referral fee".

ING DIRECT is a online bank that links your account with any other banking account you might have.  In my case, I have the account linked to my personal checking account, and all the withdrawls and deposits are done via online transfer.  What I really like is that they currently pay 4.40% interest rather than the measly .75% you often see with regular passbook accounts...

I got started with ING DIRECT via a friend on this type of promotion, and it's been an extremely profitable way to park the money I don't want to use on a day-to-day basis.  If you're interested in taking advantage of this opportunity, send me an email at duffbert+ing AT gmail.com and I'll forward a referral email to you.  Normally I wouldn't bother with something like this, but I've been really impressed with their setup and service...

10/31/2006

Digging my new setup at work...

Category Everything Else
Since I started at my current place of employment awhile back, I've had a Toshiba laptop that was OK but not wonderful.  I pretty much left it plugged into the docking station, as my home machines are better suited to what I want to do, and I can remote in through those.  But lately I was getting really tired of waiting, and waiting, and waiting any time I wanted to do more than one thing at once.  The RAM wasn't too bad (about 3/4 GB) but the processor was a tired 933 Mhz.  Didn't take much in the way of background tasks to slow things to a crawl...

So the other day I pinged a friend in desktop support and asked what the specs were for desktop boxes being rolled out.  Since I don't go mobile much, I figured it wasn't going to be a significant issue logistically compared to the gain in processing power.  I found out that the laptops were significantly faster though, and I got placed on the upgrade list post-haste.  As of last Friday, my life just got a whole lot better...  :)

I now have a Thinkpad, dual processor running at 2.1 Ghz, 1 GB of RAM, blah, blah, blah.  Still not what I have at home, but a huge upgrade to what I had on my desk at work.  Even better is that I set it up with a dual monitor arrangement.  I have a flat screen as my main monitor, but I'm leaving the laptop lid open and using that screen as the second.  I've done dual before, but never really found it that accommodating to what I was working on.

Until now...

Doing web dev in Domino is really nice now...  I have Designer running on the flat screen, and my browser is over on the laptop screen.  I make a change in the CSS file, save, slide over, refresh the page, and see the results.  No switching tabs, no moving things around...  Just instant gratification.

I'm really sold on "dual-ism" now, and wouldn't want to go back to a single monitor for anything.  I was hoping to get a flat screen for home use to replace the clunky old monitor I currently have.  Now I'm starting to wonder if I can fit them both on my desk...  :)

10/28/2006

Cleaning, updating, and getting around to all those nagging "should do's" on my computers...

Category Everything Else
The last week or so has been one of those "stop putting it off" times.  There were a number of software upgrades I needed/wanted to do, as well as a couple of Notes database repositories I wanted to set up to store things of interest...

I've now got IE7 running on the desktop (leaving IE6 on the laptop so as to be able to test both), Firefox is now up to 2.0, Zone Alarm's been upgraded, and both machines are now running the latest and greatest Notes/Domino 7.0.2.  I also set up a Notes Journal file or two to start collecting some of the interesting technical blog posts I've seen of late (and left as "unread" on my feedreader).  In the process, I ran across two or three Notes blogs that I should have been following but for some reason hadn't flags in my reader.

Once I fire VMWare up and let Ubuntu do some upgrades, I'll actually be doing pretty well...  

10/23/2006

Well, that pretty much wraps up the Enron saga for me...

Category Everything Else
Fastow got 6 years (*far* too lenient, in my opinion), Skilling just got 24+ years today (well-deserved), and Lay's dead (the ultimate sentence).  I've received the occasional settlement check here and there, and anything else at this point (if anything at all) would likely not top $100.

I know there are plenty of ex-Enron people who think that Skilling got off "easy" with 24 years.  Realistically, it's a life sentence, people.  *If* he serves most of it, he won't see freedom until he's over 70.  And for someone who lived the type of life he did, this has got to be killing him inside...

10/23/2006

Our company is looking for a Notes administrator...

Category Everything Else
If you're interested in working for a large health insurance firm in Portland Oregon, feel free to head on over to our Careers site and check out this posting...

Lotus Notes Administrator II or III

Other than having to work with developers like me, it's a good gig!  :)

You can apply for this career at: https://www.regence.com/careers/servlet/com.lawson.ijob.QuickCandidate?vendor=100&jr=4320&fullmode=true
Here is the description:
Lotus Notes Administrator II or III DOE #14179

Open until filled, Level 17 or 18, Reports to:  604067

The Software Administrator is an analytical, efficient problem solver responsible for installing, maintaining, upgrading, maintenance and testing new and existing software applications.  He or she is accountable for researching and solving highly complex software issues and collaborates with vendors and other support teams in regards to product or Infrastructure problems.

Teamwork is essential as the Software Administrator may be required to train users on and modify software programs according to requests from the customer.  
  
Additional responsibilities include administering the integration of licensed and/or in-house developed applications and writing programs and/or scripting to integrate with other systems.  The Software Administrator will research, analyze and submit analysis and recommendations for software development, enhancement, replacement or purchase. This individual may lead project teams based on experience and knowledge. Must be willing to work overtime as needed and to be on-call as necessary.

Qualifications:
•    BS degree or equivalent experience in Computer Science or related discipline with focus on Information Technology
•    At least 4 years relevant work experience in the Information Technology field, preferably in the implementation, operations, development and maintenance of IT systems and administration of Software functions.
•    Highly proficient understanding of design, implementation and sustainnment activities of Information Technology systems.
•    Experience with infrastructure management techniques such as change management, problem management, release management, configuration management and system lifecycles
•    Strong understanding of the MS and/or Unix environment including common suites and core business applications.
•    Strong skills in understanding the appropriate environments for assigned applications
•    Demonstrated ability to work well with peers and business teams
•    Excellent written and verbal communications skills and the ability to interact with variety of customers and stakeholders
•    Ability to work cooperatively in a group to achieve common goals
•    Able to establish and maintain productive working relationships with co-workers
•    Strong customer service attitude and skills
•    Commitment to professional growth
•    Experience in project management techniques and the ability to lead projects to a timely successful outcome
•    Experience in understanding/translating business requirements into technical solutions.
•    Experience in mentoring and providing technical direction for team members
•    Ability to project/forecast time allocation for project completion

10/20/2006

Note to self... take book review work seriously...

Category Everything Else
Alan Lepofsky recently had a post about a new Notes/Domino development book that's coming out...  Lotus Notes Developer's Toolbox: Tips for Rapid and Successful Deployment by Mark Elliott.  I actually had the opportunity to do some editing on the manuscript awhile back, and I got my review copy yesterday.  I plan on running the review in the November LotusUserGroup.org Developer Tips newsletter, so I'll link to that when it's published in a couple of weeks.

But what surprised me were a few of the thread comments in Alan's post, such as:

May this inspire all the other Notes heavyweights out there to finally finish that last chapter, get it over to twduff.com for a proofread and flood the market with more and more of these.

and

[DuffBert] I would be curious to know what you think about the book. I will be awaiting your review.

and

Just a little prediction that I think this book will do extremely well... whether it is good or not (no pressure, Duffbert).

This whole reviewing thing started out as a "gee, they send me free books?" lark, and really has taken on a life of its own.  And I am still a little stunned and humbled when someone mentions that they look to one of my reviews as a recommendation for getting their own copy.  

Yes, I made this bed and I'll willingly lie in it.  Fortunately, I find it pretty warm and snuggly.  But it's a good reminder to me that people *are* listening, an author's income and reputation is something to be considered, and I can't take this task lightly or flippantly...

10/19/2006

Had the special opportunity to see Kim Peek this evening...

Category Everything Else
If you're like me, you might be thinking "who?"  Kim Peek is the person who inspired the movie Rainman with Dustin Hoffman.  My wife's place of employment sponsored his appearance at a local hospital, and we were fortunate to have been able to attend and see a living miracle man...

Rather than try to recap his life, just click on the Wikipedia link above for the bio.  All I can say is that it's incredible to watch him interact with the audience and to watch his recall and mental tracking from one subject to the next.  It's amazing to think that he's read well over 9000 books (there *is* someone who reads more and faster than I do!) and can recall every one.  And to watch his father who cares for him, and to think how difficult his life has been over his 75+ years...

If you ask the doctors, they'll tell you that someone with his brain formation (absence of the corpus callosum) should be barely functional.  While his physical abilities are somewhat impaired, his mental abilities are unexplainable.  People talk about how the average person only uses 10% of their brain.  Compared to someone like Peek, 10% is far too generous...  1% is closer to the truth.  The brain is truly a great mystery...

If you ever have the chance to see him and his father, you must do so...  an incredible message and event.

10/18/2006

Last (I hope) post-surgery update...

Category Everything Else
I had someone ask me how things were going, and I realized I haven't posted much about the recovery since about week 2 (other than falling off tables).  Today marks the one month "with patches" point, and I figure I'm pretty much 90 to 95% of the way back to "normal" (however that's defined in my life).  Doctor said about six weeks, it's been four...  good enough.

I went back for a follow-up with the surgeon about two weeks after the initial event, and he asked me how things were going.  The right side incision was feeling fine...  no real pain to speak of, and the ridging beneath the incision was pretty minor.  The left side was a different story, however.  It still stung quite a bit, there was a bit of redness, and the ridge underneath the cut was quite pronounced.  After the exam, he explained to me why that was.  I guess when he went into the left side, they found a enlarged lymph node.  He didn't quite know what to make of it given the circumstances, and his speciality is cancer surgery.  So, to be safe, they removed it and had the node biopsied.  It came back benign, so there was nothing to worry about, other than the fact that the procedure on the left side was a bit more invasive than the right.  While he's explaining all this, I'm looking at him and thinking...  "and you were going to tell me WHEN???"

I guess there's always the chance that he told my wife they removed it after the surgery, and she didn't tell me to keep me from worrying.  But when I told her the story, she had nearly the same reaction I did.  A small part of me thinks I should be outraged, and the much larger part figures "play on!"  :)

So, to all those who have sent emails and pinged me, thanks...  It's nice to have the care and concern of an extended "family".

And to those I've ignored, bailed on, and generally been reclusive towards since the end of May (between work and the surgery), I really do apologize.  You know you've gone too far when you ping someone online just to say hi, and they ask "What's wrong?  You aren't the type to ping me for no reason...".  I realize that life has been far too out of balance this year, and I'm working on correcting that...

10/08/2006

And this is why Tom doesn't do home repair or play with power tools...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - And this is why Tom doesn't do home repair or play with power tools...

Now that the embarrassment factor has subsided a bit (and I didn't do any permanent damage), I'll now share my latest "klutz-du-jour" story...

Last weekend, when I *should* have been recuperating from the surgery, I was putting in a new light fixture in Sue's quilting area.  We purchased it earlier in the day from Home Depot, and she was really excited to get the benefits of quality lighting in that workspace.  In theory, this is a no-brainer...  Shut off power, unscrew and detach old light fixture, reattach wires to new light fixture, secure to outlet, and we're done.  But it was the environment that was the issue...

Sue's work area is on the second floor, and the fixture is right over the stairs.  She has a couple of tables placed over the stair dividers, so it's not as dangerous as it might sound (but I can fix that!).  She was wary that I would step incorrectly and cause the tables to shift, thereby falling and hurting myself.  Me, being "Mr. Man", knows better, and proceeds to tell her so.  

You can see this one coming...

Towards the end, I stepped back and put weight on the end of the table that was overhanging the divider.  The table started to tip up, and I started to fall backwards.  It was a slow motion ballet of "stay to the right, as the left is the drop of 10 - 15 feet for the stairs, while the right is just three feet to the floor".  Sue's freaking out, I'm trying to save myself, and nobody can do much of anything to stop it.  Fortunately, I did end up on the floor (not the stairs), and I didn't injure the area where the recent surgery was done.  Sue's crying, the boys are running up the stairs, and I'm on my back...  "Everything's OK...  I'm fine...  Move along...  Nothing to see here..."

The worst part is that I scraped my leg on something on the way down, and it started off as just an abrasion on the backside of my calf.  But over the course of the last week, it's bruised up pretty nicely, from the back of the knee clear down to the ankle...

And *this* is why I'm much more at ease behind a keyboard or a book...  :)

10/08/2006

24 years ago today...

Category Everything Else
... Sue and I were having breakfast together, exchanging gifts, and getting ready for our wedding later that evening...

Thank you for a great 24 years, Sue...  Don't know how you've put up with me for so long.  

Love you.

10/08/2006

OK... HDTV is cool...

Category Everything Else
We recently purchased a wide-screen HDTV to replace our failing TV in the main living area.  Nothing huge or fancy...  30-some-odd inches, relatively cheap, blah, blah, blah...  We hooked it up to the cable outlet, and was pretty much underwhelmed.  Using an HDTV for normal viewing (as in wide-screen mode) wasn't anything to write home about.

I did a little investigation on our cable system website, and found I needed to buy a HD box for the TV.  Better yet, I didn't need to subscribe to digital cable to do so...  Just an extra $5 a month for the converter box, and I'd start to see high definition shows.  I hobbled to the cable office yesterday and picked up the box, brought it home, put it on the coffee table, and went back downstairs to put my feet up.  True to form, my kids woke up, saw the box, and did all the installation without me.  I knew I was a hero when Ian came downstairs and simply said "Dude!  You have GOT to come see this!"

In a word...  WOW!

The non-HD channels are still as they were before, but we *did* eliminate a major issue with ghosting on the over-the-air stations.  But the cable company has a series of channels in the 700 range that mirror the normal channels between 2 - 99 if the show/station is HD.  Heading up there to watch baseball and football yesterday, I was absolutely blown away.  You could see pores on players faces.  Actual blades of grass show up.  Team logos on jerseys nearly appear three-dimensional.  And the colors were stunning...  Nature shows had me looking at the animals in a whole new light.  Apparently last night, Sue got up late and both kids were in the front room, glued to a documentary about...  Chinese gymnasts.  Not a subject of interest to them, but in hi-def it was a must-see...  :)

Of course, it probably helped my "hero" case that all the movie channels are currently available too, as well as the In-Demand movies.  Being we don't subscribe to any premium channels, this was a huge draw yesterday.

The only downside to all this?  As I sit downstairs in my basement office typing this, I'm watching my regular non-HD TV, and the picture quality now looks like those old sporting event films from the 60's.  Ian came down yesterday, took one look, turned to me and simply said "Sucks now, doesn't it?" before heading back upstairs...

He's right.  :)

09/30/2006

I understand the word "addiction" a bit better now...

Category Everything Else
Sometimes you have to go through an event to have a bit more sympathy for what others deal with in their lives.  This surgery incident helped me to understand how addictions start and evolve...

Because I had two 4 inch gashes decorating my groin after surgery, I was sent home with the standard pain killer prescription to keep things bearable.  In this case, it was oxycodone...  5 milligram tablets, take 1 to 2 every three hours as needed, etc, etc, etc.  Pretty much the same thing I've seen when I've had the odd occasion to take something stronger than Tylenol.  I took them on schedule for the first three or four days, occasionally letting more than three hours lapse during the night, and paying for it later as I tried to catch up with the pain.  I got a refill that Friday, because I was going to be running out during the weekend, and I wasn't comfortable enough to want to continue on with just regular acetaminophen.  We're not talking about getting dopey or happy while taking this stuff.  Just "the incisions don't hurt much right now", and I could carry on normally (or as normally as one does after surgery).  I had tapered down to only a couple doses a day by Sunday, and thought it was all fine.

And the body says...  NO!

Wednesday was the first day I tried to go without taking any.  By the end of the day, I felt as if I wanted to jump out of my skin.  I was also really tired, so I took a couple of the pills to dull the ache and tried to go to bed.  Guess who was now wide awake but not feeling jumpy any more...  Hmmm...  withdrawls?  Yesterday I tried again to do without.  Again by the end of the day, I was edgy.  I may be slow, but I *can* put two and two together and get four more times than not.  I rode that out and stayed with it today.  And while my injury feels fine, I still have that "can I stretch really hard and shed my skin?" feeling.  It would be tempting to "just take one" to stop this minor irritation.  But then it would come back tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after, and eventually the remaining four or five pills would be gone.  And I'd *still* have to deal with this...

We're not talking high doses of painkillers over months of serious injury, and then trying to stop.  Minor usage, low dosage, 10 days.  That's it.  And *still* there's the small discomfort of withdrawl (or at least that's what I'm calling it, as I see a cause and effect here).

I don't condone illegal acts and crime to support an addiction to medication.  Nor am I suggesting that people addicted to medications bear no responsibility and are to be pitied.  What I *have* learned is that it's far more easy than I expected to find oneself in a difficult situation without realizing it.  And if my experience is what it's like to start down that road, then I now understand that the path back could look impossible to those who have traveled it far longer (and with more need) than me...

So next time someone you respect relates problems with an addiction to some sort of substance, stop a moment to understand...  It's not necessarily a recreational thing that got out of control, nor is it a sign of weakness or irresponsibility.  The original issue may be long gone, but sometimes the cure brings with it a greater set of challenges than the disease.

And those last five pills I have remaining will never see the light of day again...

09/23/2006

And today's Get Fuzzy translation for 09/23

Category Everything Else
Here's the one from today...  http://www.comics.com/comics/getfuzzy/archive/getfuzzy-20060923.html

Thanks to Stan and Ben for the last translation and insights...

I actually understood most of this one...  although the "china plate is a bit gormy" doesn't register...

09/23/2006

Just call me "Franken-groin".... :)

Category Everything Else
Last night I decided to change dressings, remove the steri-strips, and basically open up the area to some air.  Once I finally got everything gently removed, I found that I'm now the proud owner of a couple of four inch soon-to-be scars "down there".  Now I could follow in the tradition of Mr. Litton and post pictures of my injury, but I think I'll forego that.  I'd have to fuzz out some "small artifacts" in the picture, and I'd prefer not show off my photo-editing "shortcomings"...  :)

Although things are still tender and I'm moving slowly, I think I'm over the significant pain portion of the recovery.  I don't feel like I'm chasing the pain with my meds quite as much, and I can actually walk for short distances without feeling like my incisions are on fire.  Perhaps in another week or so, I'll actually be back to relative normal.  

All I can say is, when the doctor says it's going to hurt quite a bit (and more than you'd expect), he may just know something that you don't know....

09/20/2006

Command Central during surgery recovery...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Command Central during surgery recovery...

If I wasn't actually *forced* into this arrangement, it wouldn't be half bad...

09/19/2006

I'm back... but moving VERY slowly!

Category Everything Else
Apparently the surgery went well...  I didn't pass out when getting the IV (though the nurse was a bit nervous), and there's about two hours of my life missing from the time I was wheeled into the operating room until I woke up in recovery.  I thought I was doing quite well pain-wise until last night...

The staff is really big into ranking your pain, and I was at about a 1 - 2 (10 being unbearable) while I was recovering.  Then I think all the remaining painkillers wore off, and now I'd put myself up around a 7 to 8.  This HURTS!

I'm walking around like I'm 80...  hunched-over waddle.  Ice is my best friend.  The oxycontin is barely keeping things at bay.  I realize the day after is supposed to be bad, but I completely underestimated the effect of this surgery on my mobility and pain tolerance.  My wife is earning bonus points left and right for being there for me.  I feel like an invalid...  

I finally moved out to the front room in the recliner, as the bed's getting old.  She's taking a nap, as I don't think either of us got much in the way of sleep last night.  She goes back to work tomorrow, so I think I'll set up "command central" out here in the front room...  Air conditioner remote, TV remote, laptop, table for meds and books, and my access device for work.  Not that I'll be up to top speed for working, but sitting around and contemplating my pain doesn't work well either...

Anyway...  Thanks for all the words of encouragement and prayers.  Now if I can make it through this first week, hopefully things will be OK.  And yes...  I've already completed one book.  :)

09/17/2006

Well... see you all on the flip side...

Category Everything Else
Since I have to be up and moving *really* early tomorrow, I think I'll shut down my pre-surgery blogging now.  Go take a shower, get comfortable in my Disney Boardwalk bath robe, and try and sleep a bit.  With any luck, I won't spend most of the night staring at the ceiling.

Of course, if you see another blog entry around 2 am, you'll know I wasn't successful at that last item...

See y'all on the flip side in a couple of days...

09/14/2006

Sometimes it's best not to know...

Category Everything Else
When presented with a new situation I know nothing about, I tend to gravitate towards reading as my learning tool (like *that* surprises anyone!).  And since I'm facing surgery for the 2 inguinal hernias on Monday, I went out to the web and started digging a bit to see some images of what to expect.

Sometimes it's best not to know...

It's one thing when you're looking at an illustrated drawing of how an inguinal hernia looks.  It's another thing to see photos of men with huge bulges in areas best not talked about.  And seeing some draped off groin splayed open during surgery isn't exactly a calming image, either...  

I think I'll just go back to the text descriptions of the condition and the cartoon drawings, thank you very much...

The positive side of all this is that I was taken off the documentation project at work that was consuming my life for the last three months.  There was no way I could work the type of hours I was putting in, while at the same time trying to recover from surgery.  And much of the work over the next two to four weeks would involved a lot of face-to-face meetings.  If I'm working from home during that time, that wouldn't be too feasible.  It's a strange feeling to be doing *just* Notes development this week...  I'm actually having...  <gasp!>  FUN!

09/13/2006

Funny Ambien reaction while on vacation...

Category Everything Else
I forgot to mention this in previous vacation blog postings...

We left for DisneyWorld Saturday, September 2nd at 11:55 pm.  Being that we were taking a red-eye from Portland to Dallas (and then to Orlando from there), I thought I'd use an Ambien to help me sleep on the plane.  Normally, I head straight to bed when I take one, read for 30 minutes or so, and then turn out the light and go to sleep.  Nothing dramatic...  just an "I'm tired now" feeling...

So, we were to board at 11:25 pm, and I figured that taking an Ambien at 11:10 would give me more than enough time to board, get seated, and drift off after take-off...  At least that was the plan...

Here's what I remember...  :)

Around 11:20, I'm standing in the waiting area, eyes closed, swaying back and forth.  Sue said I appeared drunk (and no alcohol was involved here...  honest).  I'm told that she asked me where we were sitting (10A and 10B) and I said we were in 10A and 18B.  I'm told I was having a difficult time figuring out the seat belt concept (I sorta remember that one).  I'm told I was having a horrible time with the inflatable neck pillow and my hat (don't ask... I don't even know how it got inflated).  But I do remember waking up about an hour outside from Dallas...  :)

Ian's observation that "Ambien makes you goofy" is starting to look more plausible now...  :)

09/11/2006

Well... Looks like I'll be going under the knife in the near future...

Category Everything Else
All the years of weight training, being overweight, etc., have taken their toll, and apparently my lower abdominal wall is rebelling.  The condition has been there for awhile, but the DisneyWorld trip sort of aggravated things with all the additional walking.  I've gone from "that's probably not good" to "OK, this is getting uncomfortable".  Today's doctor appointment confirmed that it's definitely a hernia condition, and I need to call the surgeon tomorrow to set up an appointment.  It'll be interesting to see what he says as far as how the repair will be done.  My doctor's parting words were somewhat ominous...

"Remember that this type of surgery will probably take you longer to recover than you'd think..."

This will be a new experience for me...  With the exception of a cyst removal from my wrist 20+ years ago, I've had no surgery, no broken bones, no hospital stays...  nothing.  My needle phobia will make the whole IV thing an adventure...  And drifting off to la-la land knowing you're about to be sliced gives me something to think about.  I've always wondered how I would handle recovery and rehab from a medical procedure.  Guess I'll get to find out now.

45 and falling apart.  :)

09/10/2006

So I guess it's back to reality now...

Category Everything Else
No more vacations scheduled...  No more ways to dodge those nasty documentation projects at work...  In theory, I'll be done at the end of the month...

Right...

sigh...

09/10/2006

I'm not a big fan of sports "analysts"...

Category Everything Else
... in that far too many of them end up stating the obvious or they explain the play as if they know exactly what was supposed to happen.

Then you have the ones that need to hype a situation to incredible levels...  Like today...

This is week 1 of the 16 game National Football League schedule.  The Seattle Seahawks were playing the Detroit Lions.  Seattle made a play that preserved the win.  In the game highlights, one of the announcers described it as a play that "may have saved Seattle's season"...

THIS IS WEEK 1!!!!!!

And I thought discussing the playoff picture after week 3 couldn't be topped...

09/09/2006

The DisneyWorld vacation photos are up...

Category Everything Else
... although I'm sure they'll mean more to me than they will to you...  :)

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - The DisneyWorld vacation photos are up...

http://www.flickr.com/photos/99544917@N00/sets/72157594276744672/

09/06/2006

What a great way to spend the evening...

Category Everything Else
After visiting parts and sweating all day, we made it back to our room at the Disney Boardwalk.  There, I was able to sit on our balcony for nearly two hours watching an incredible lightening storm followed by the fireworks from Epcot.  Even got to observe a spider spinning a web, just for good measure...

This has been so relaxing...

09/04/2006

Just checking in... Having fun and relaxing...

Category Everything Else
And in news that will be received with much amazement and disbelief...

I've only read one book since I left Portland three days ago.  :)

09/02/2006

Time for the *fun* vacation...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Time for the *fun* vacation...

This time tomorrow, I'll be back in my "happy place"...  The Boardwalk at DisneyWorld...  

Can't tell you how much I've been looking forward to this vacation.  That is, when I had time to even *think* about vacations...

There's a much better chance you'll see blog entries from this vacation, but again I guarantee nothing.  :)

08/31/2006

Still here... sorry for the outages...

Category Everything Else
Chris Miller and I have been trying to resolve some strange server issues, a symptom of which looks like my blog is getting spidered really hard.  If you see some of the missing accoutrements on the sides, it's because we're trying to narrow down potential problems.  The password boxes some of you have gotten is when Chris has locked out my blog to see if that resolves server response times.

Anyway...  hang in there, and we'll get it fixed soon...  I'm sure...

08/26/2006

Finally got the cruise photos cleaned up, renamed, sorted, and...

Category Everything Else
... uploaded to Flickr.

It's amazing what cropping and tossing out the *really* bad ones will do.  :)

08/24/2006

Oooohhh.. the reviewing gig is getting interesting now...

Category Everything Else
I was emailed by Amazon a couple of weeks back about participating in a "sneak preview" of some new Logitech item.  I'm sure it had something to do with my reviewer ranking as well as the type of reviews I do.  So, like a good geek I said "of course"...

The box came today, and this'll be fun!  It's their new Logitech MX Revolution "rechargeable cordless laser mouse".  

Now if I can keep it out of the hands of Cameron (my 18 year old "gadget geek"), I'll enjoy trying it out.

I'm now understanding the fun that Volker has...  :)

08/22/2006

Enron settlements... the gift that just keeps on giving...

Category Everything Else
I don't even try to keep up on the latest Enron settlements any more.  Once I got my severance settlement, I figured anything over and above that would be long in arriving and meager if it ever did.  About the only one I was even remotely aware of was the class action suits related to the savings and stock ownership plans of former employees.  I received the settlement notice in the mail yesterday, along with the calculated allocation totals.

Let's set the stage first...

At the height of the Enron stock run-up, I was holding options and restricted stock that, if fully vested, would have meant potential retirement at 42 and a substantial annual income on interest alone.  I *wasn't* fully vested, so it was a paper fantasy.  In addition, it was all based on awarded options and stock grants, so it's not like it was my hard-earned retirements dollars at play.  By the time the carnage was complete, it actually cost me more to sell the stock than the stock was worth.  And the value of the options were long since worthless...

So how do they determine if you're a "damaged party"?  Here's the first bullet point:

If you are a class action participant who lost value attributable to Enron stock in the Savings Plan

Sounds like I might be in play there...  I can hardly wait to continue reading to see how this sizable settlement will help correct the horrible wrongs that were inflicted upon me and my retirement (yes, that's *very* tongue-in-cheek)...  Next line is the payoff:

Your Savings Plan settlement allocation has been calculated at...

ready???

$166.04

That's before IRS withholding, and I have to roll the remainder over to an IRA to avoid the early withdrawl penalty and additional taxes.

sigh...

I'm sure glad I came to grips with the fact that I lost a fantasy and dream, and not 30 years of pension funds that was supposed to carry me through my golden years...

08/21/2006

Can someone explain how come it takes a week to ...

Category Everything Else
... get one's attitude reset and refreshed on a vacation, and less than one freaking workday to destroy the whole effect???

I know...  whine, whine, whine...  

08/19/2006

And a good time was had by all... I'm back from vacation #1...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - And a good time was had by all...  I'm back from vacation #1...

I think that's the least amount of time I have spent on a computer over a week in a *very* long time...

We're back from our Alaska cruise on the Norwegian Sun.  It was a wonderful time of rest, relaxation, and general slug-like behavior.  Go to bed early, take naps during the day, sit around, read a lot (7.5 books, if anyone's counting), and watch the water and world go by.  I went with no expectations except to recuperate from some heavy workload of late, and the cruise was perfect for that.  We stopped in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and Prince Rupert (having left out of Seattle).  It was great just being able to throw the luggage in the car and drive home afterwards (no "liquid search" in the airports).  

I do have some pictures (none probably as excellent as Volker's stuff), and I'll get them posted up sometime soon.  Right now, I'm simply catching up on email, snail mail, blog feeds, and all the other stuff that accumulates over a week.

Ah, and why was I "absent without leave" on the 'net?  Well, we bought the internet connectivity package on-board so we could stay in touch with the kids if necessary.  I also took the laptop with intentions of reading blog feeds, posting book reviews, etc.  But my first foray into their wireless network was painfully slow and riddled with disconnects and stalled page loads.  I ended up just using their terminals to check my Yahoo/gmail accounts, and that was about it.  Strangely, I felt little compulsion to do anything more than that...

Perhaps there's hope for this geek yet...  

Now I'll pound out a couple weeks of work, and then head off to vacation #2...  DisneyWorld!  

08/12/2006

And I am now officially... "ON VACATION!"

Category Everything Else
Whoo-hoo!

140 hours of work the last two weeks, and there will be absolutely NONE for the next nine days.  I finished up the last three book reviews I had sitting on the corner of my desk (not work...  that's fun for me).  The suitcase is packed and ready to haul upstairs.  I just have to put the camera (and accessories), the phone (and accessories), and the laptop (and accessories) in my computer bag, and I'll be ready to rock.

Nice to know we just have to drive to the port rather than fly in today's crazy restriction-happy environment.  But I'll get my share of that when we head off to DisneyWorld the first week of September...

For those I've ignored over the last couple of months...  sorry about that.  For those I'm going to ignore over the next nine days...  sorry about that.  :)

I'm looking forward to rest, relaxation, reading, 'riting, and all those things that I enjoy doing but that have put on hold since I got back from Ireland.

My laptop is sync'd up in Notes for the blog, and in SharpReader for the feeds...  Yes, I'm a geek and proud of it, thank you.

Anyway, enough babbling and rambling...  The road is calling...

08/10/2006

An American "thank you" to the British authorities...

Category Everything Else
... for breaking the latest plan to use planes as terror weapons.

While my cynical nature wonders about the public story vs. what really was happening, I think it's safe to say that a 9/11-scale attack was in the works and excellent work by the British authorities prevented a tragic event and worldwide disruption.

And for that I say...  thank you.

08/06/2006

Google directions via SMS... pretty cool!

Category Everything Else
One of the Google tech books I recently reviewed had a clip about how you can use Google Maps over text messaging to get directions.  I tried it at the time, and it seemed to work OK.  I tucked it away for future reference, and got the chance to use it today...

I was having sushi with my dad and sister, and he is getting ready to drive back to his home in Arizona.  He asked me if I could do a "mapquest" to find out how far it is from Bend Oregon to Twin Falls Idaho, Twin Falls Idaho to St. George Utah, and St. George Utah to Phoenix Arizona.  Rather than try and remember all that on the way home, I decided to try out the Google SMS option...  perfect results!

I typed in "bend oregon to twin falls idaho" and sent the message to 46645.  In less than 15 seconds, I got a response back telling me the distance and time it would take.  No directions were given because it said the route was too long.  I then typed in "twin falls idaho to st george utah" and sent that one.  Again, 10 seconds later I had a four part message returned with driving directions, distance, and time.  Same thing with the last route, and five messages later I had directions from "st george utah to phoenix arizona".  Sweet!

Now I could do the same thing with specific locations, but it'd be a bit of a pain as I'm not terribly adept at phone text messaging.  Still, it's a great option when you're somewhere unfamiliar and you need a way home...

08/03/2006

9 more days, 9 more days, 9 more days...

Category Everything Else
Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - 9 more days, 9 more days, 9 more days...

07/29/2006

Nothing like seven day work weeks to make you appreciate weekends...

Category Everything Else
While I'm not ready to drop yet, these seven day work weeks are starting to wear on me.  The last "I'm not logging on and it's not expected" was the July 4th holiday.  Things start to return to a semblance of normalacy starting in August, and I also have a couple vacations coming up between now and the week of Labor Day (first week in September).  My wife and I are taking an Alaskan cruise in less than two weeks, followed by a week down at DisneyWorld in September.  The cruise was a point of contention when my wife first booked it back in January (long story), but now the anticipation of a week away is the only thing keeping me sane...  :)

07/26/2006

Nice evening at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON) meeting two key people...

Category Everything Else
After some late afternoon appointments, I dropped by the O'Reilly Open Source conference being held here in Portland Oregon.  They have a Wednesday night reception that's free, and you can wander the exhibit hall.  The main reason I go is to meet up with my publishing contacts at O'Reilly and Apress.  Marsee from O'Reilly wasn't able to make it this year, but Julie Miller from Apress was there.  As usual, I had a great time talking with her and commenting about the (at least!) 10 to 1 ratio of men to women at this event...  *really geeky* men...

But a big surprise was getting the chance to finally meet Kathy Sierra (of Head First fame) in person.  We've emailed each other a number of times, but we've never been able to meet up.  I knew she was going to be speaking and attending Monday and Tuesday, but I really didn't expect her to be there this evening.  Much to my astonishment, I saw a short blonde lady in the lobby, talking to a couple of other women about horses, standing next to someone who looked like Bert Bates.  I was able to read her name tag, confirm it *was* her, and I just stood off to the side of the small group until there was a break.  She looked over, read the name tag, and said "TOM!"  :)  They were off to the airport to catch their flight home, but it was a nice 15 minutes of chatting.  Rather cool when a virtual friend finally is able to bridge the gap to "f2f"...

And after a long day of work, networking, errands and appointments, and taking the other car in for service, I'm all tuckered out...  Off to bed...

07/19/2006

Can someone explain world events to me?

Category Everything Else
A few months ago, OPEC was unable to control prices as there was no excess capacity to be had.  Their official statements were that they were concerned about the prices, but were unable to do anything about it.  Now yesterday one of the oil ministers expressed the same concern, but stated that they were ready to increase the supply to help control prices, as there is plenty of capacity.  When oil prices shot up to over $60 a barrel, gas prices climbed to well over $3 a gallon.  Oil is now setting new records around $78 a barrel, and gas is about 15 to 20 cents a gallon cheaper...

Which is it, folks?

And in the Middle East...  The US is blamed (and probably fairly) for invading Iraq, for imposing its will in the region, and for generally being somewhere where they aren't wanted and don't belong.  But yet, what's the first thing that's called for after the Israel/Lebanon conflict breaks out?  For the US to send over troops and/or to help broker a cease-fire...

‘We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
And you did not lament.’

Bonus points for source and citation...  :)

Now, I realize that we're probably considered to be one of the few countries who backs Israel and who might be able to influence that country's actions.  I don't think we're being asked because of our stellar track record in the region over the last decade.  But look at our leadership...  He's already said, quite colorfully, that this isn't Israel's fault, and that Hizbollah (or insert your favorite spelling variation) is to blame for it all.  You think we're going to be the most unbiased source for a peace agreement?  Or are you looking for an additional scapegoat?

07/07/2006

*This* doesn't happen very often...

Category Everything Else
I dropped Sue off at the airport, and she's going to DisneyWorld for a week with friends from work.

Ian is in New York visiting his girlfriend.

Cam decided to go camping with friends.

So I have the house all to myself, all weekend long...

What am I going to do?

Work...  :(

07/05/2006

For those who wonder how I find the time for everything...

Category Everything Else
... you may be pleased to know that Duffbert is mortal after all!

I kept telling you all that I was, but you just didn't listen...  :)

Anyway, the month of July promises to be one long push at work for some technical spec writing projects.  You know you're in for it when the work week is officially defined as seven days a week, and availability for the process goes into the evening.  Fortunately, I can work the evenings from the home location in most cases (and hopefully on weekends), so it's not quite as bad as it could be.

Still...  If you see a drop in posts or a lag before I respond to an email, that's why...

I'm here, but just using all 30 hours a day that you all seem to think I was blessed with...  :)

07/01/2006

I'll show my soccer ignorance here...

Category Everything Else
Why was the inclusion of Rooney such a big deal to the England side?

06/28/2006

So why *are* Europeans more svelte than Americans?

Category Everything Else
In response to my recent post about Americans being fat, I got the following email from a long-time reader...

"I was just wondering, after reading your stream of conscience post, why do you think that Europeans are more svelte that we are? Less 'fast food?' More exercise? Or are those over generalizations?

Curious In Cleveland"

Dear Curious...

Any answer I could come up with to defend my assertions would be just that...  over-generalizations.  Even the statement that Americans are fatter than Europeans is a generalization.  

True, but a generalization...  :)

I suspect it's due to a number of reasons.  Our society is one of convenience, of abundance.  We want to be comfortable and entertained, whether that be with TV, movies, or food.  Why walk a half mile to the store if I can drive there?  Why deny myself the joys of ice cream when the freezer shelf at the supermarket has 100 varieties?  We have no responsibilities, just "rights".  And it's my "right" to have whatever I want, whenever I want it, and I don't want to have to deal with any potential consequences to getting my way.  And if something bad happens in that pursuit, I'll just sue...

Keep in mind, that this comes from someone who is quite comfortable, who is about to go drive to the store (a half-mile away), and who still is 40 pounds over a weight I'd like to be at (which is still 30 pounds over what charts would consider "normal").

My over-generalization is that Americans have lost their drive to excel and to lead.  We've grown complacent and sluggish, and it's happened over a long period of time...  Like the frog who boils to death because they adjust to the slowly rising heat, we've become blind to the predicament we've put ourselves in.  Our world image of ourselves is stuck in the 40's and 50's, and that's not us any more.  We wonder why countries don't react to us as they did back then.  We still want to lead, but no one wants to follow any more.  We've marketed our way into a slumber, while the "third world" countries have ramped up capacity to take over things we used to do.  They are us, 50 years ago.  We are the Roman empire...  a feeling of entitlement in a decayed world that is about to crumble...


And don't ask me how I got from "svelte" to "decayed world"...  reading back over what I just wrote, I don't have a clue...  It just appeared on the screen...  :)

P.S. - "Curious in Cleveland" did not sign his email that way.  He's not from Cleveland.  He's probably not even curious.  I just took artistic license, because I always wanted to answer an email "Dear Curious"...

06/25/2006

I'm doing better at letting Ian go now...

Category Everything Else
Last time Ian took off from home for his DisneyWorld internship, I was a mess...  Once he got there and I got used to the fact that he was going to be OK (probably), I was able to relax a bit.

Yesterday he took off for Walden, New York.  That's where his girlfriend lives, and he's going to spend the summer out there.  He's living in an "apartment" that's part of the funeral parlor that her father owns and runs.  And with any luck, he'll find a job there too.

In Walden...  not necessarily the funeral parlor...

And how did we handle it this time?  Just dropped him off at the airport, wished him well, and then went shopping for groceries...  :)

06/10/2006

So my cholesterol results weren't quite as bad as I thought they'd be...

Category Everything Else
Reading Joe's post about his high cholesterol led me to think about getting mine checked out.  I had been monitoring my blood pressure with one of those wrist cuffs, and I was consistently running in the moderately elevated range. I also had my cholesterol checked years ago, and the ratio of good to bad cholesterol was all messed up.  I chose to ignore it that time, but I'm getting older and (hopefully) wiser.  My 50+ pound weight loss notwithstanding, I was pretty sure the results of a test would be ugly.  So I did the all day fast and went in to have my blood drawn last Friday (I *hate* needles!)...

The results came back in today.  Surprisingly, my overall number is 180, which is lower than I thought it would be.  LDL is about 15 points over what would be considered normal, and HDL is about 11 points under what is considered optimal.  The triglycerides are also over the desired range by about 35 points.  So while not the picture of perfect health, I'm not the walking heart attack waiting to die, either (apparently).  These are numbers I can work with and work on...

06/02/2006

Take. The. Freaking. Drug.

Category Everything Else
One of the blogs I follow is called Pumplandia, which is one person's chronicle of managing diabetes with an insulin pump.  In her latest post, she was talking about her struggle with depression and how she's deciding whether to take medication or "grow out of it".  I thought it was a great metaphor for how we all view these types of problems all too often...

Then I thought about my other thoughts, the nonbloggable ones, and I came to understand that sometimes you reach a moment when you have, say, a large and gaping hole in the roof of your home, caused maybe by the antics of squirrels or your roommate's fondness for illegal fireworks or the mediocrities of bargain-priced shingles or the little kid next door who likes to hit his baseball up onto your roof several times every Saturday--the cause is not the point; the point is that the hole is there--and outside the thunder is clapping and the lightning is sparking, and you know that the rain on the way is not just any ordinary storm but the kind that generates Significant Media Attention. At such a time you do not look into your toolbox and say to yourself, I will work alone, using only the small nails and the small hammer to repair this hole because by doing so, I will grow immeasurably in my knowledge of carpentry, and that will make me a better person. No, you pull out every tool that might help, small, large, and in between, and you give one to your roommate, another to the kid next door, and whatever remains to the squirrels, and you all go to work on the damn hole.

In other words, you Take. The. Freaking. Drug.

05/28/2006

Ambien is a great thing...

Category Everything Else
I normally don't have much of a sleeping problem, but occasionally work-related stress can lead me to sleepless nights.  The bigger problem is when I travel on a red-eye flight.  As hard as I try, I can't seem to sleep on planes.  With my upcoming flight to Ireland stretching over 36 hours and 8 time zones, the prospect of even being aware of where I was at once I got there was dim.

So, while at the doctor on Thursday I asked about possible sleeping aids. He wrote me a prescription for Ambien.  I've tried over-the-counter stuff with not much success, so I figured trying something a bit more powerful was called for.  Rather than use it for the first time on the trip, I decided to try two trial runs over the weekend.

Friday night...  I took the Ambien around 8 pm and started reading in bed.  Around 8:30 my eyes were getting heavy, so I turned out the light and slept until 2:30 or so.  A good six hours (pretty normal), so it sounded OK.  Talking to my wife, she said I was snoring like a chain saw.  She literally had to smack me a number of times to get me to turn over...  Me?  Don't remember a thing...  perhaps this *is* pretty good stuff!

Saturday night...  I wanted to know whether the snoring was a constant, so I decided to try one more dose before the trip.  This time, no snoring.  I also got a good six solid hours before I woke up the first time.  The strange thing was how I apparently drifted off.  The phone rang around 11:30 and it woke me up.  But what I realized was that the light was still on, my book was on the floor, I didn't have my earplugs in, and my glasses were still on.  Again, I can't remember any conscious decision that said I was tired...  :)

Bottom line is that I'm moderately optimistic that I will be able to get some level of sleep on the way over (and back).  Couple the Ambien with eye shades, ear plugs, and a back cushion contraption my wife bought me, and I might even be relatively rested when I get there.  I just have to be sure not to *take* the Ambien until I get on the plane.  Otherwise I might still find my self sleeping in the Portland terminal when I should be in New York...  :)

05/25/2006

So Skilling and Lay are found guilty...

Category Everything Else
I was in meetings most of the morning, so I didn't get a chance to check out my Google News Alerts, one of which trolls for Enron stories.  I found out the news from Ben Langhinriches via email, then Chris Byrne via email, then my wife via cell phone, and my son Ian via text message...  :)

I don't feel any great sense of justice or relief, as that chapter of my life is over and done with.  I do feel good that (in my opinion) justice was served, and that the "I didn't know" defense fell flat.

I'm just waiting for them to start paying claims on the class action lawsuits for retirement program members and former stockholders.  They are running up a nice chunk of change there ($7+ BILLION!), and I might see enough for *2* super-sized McDonalds dinners...

That is, if I were still *eating* McDonald's, and I'm not, because I'm on Jenny Craig...  

no siree bob!

05/18/2006

You know you're in tricky territory when...

Category Everything Else
... your wife starts out a conversation with "For some reason, I was thinking about <your old girlfriend's name goes here> today...".

I don't care if you *have* been married for nearly 24 years...

I kept hearing the following refrain cycling through my head...

"Beware, maties...  Ahead there be dragons..."

05/17/2006

Thank you, everyone... You are part of my successes...

Category Everything Else
I got my annual review at work this week, and it was nice.  There was an interesting trend in many of the sections, which I thought I'd share and thank you all for...

A number of references were made to my blogging activities, book reviewing, writing gigs, and my Lotusphere speaking.  There was even a reference to my upcoming trip to Ireland to speak at their user group meeting.  All these "non-work" activities have led to an extensive world-wide network of expert IBM Notes/Domino professionals that I can (and do!) call on for help and input when needed, both for work and personal projects.

I'm extremely fortunate that my passion is my profession, and "work" isn't something I dread or avoid.  It's also rewarding knowing that work feeds my personal interests, and my personal interests feed back into my work successes.

So again it becomes clearly obvious...  My success "at work" is not wholly my own, but a result of those who have helped me, harrassed me, challenged me, and encouraged me.  If anyone'd suggested that blogging would have been this beneficial so many years ago, I'd have dismissed them as being overly optimistic.  In my wildest dreams, I would never have figured it to be this important...  

So to everyone who's been part of the "Duffbert network", thank you.  I'm able to do what I do because of you, and please know that I value you all more than I can say...

05/08/2006

So is 45 officially middle-aged?

Category Everything Else
If so, I'm there today...

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - So is 45 officially middle-aged?

04/18/2006

Addicted to ear plugs...

Category Everything Else
A few years back, I started sleeping with ear plugs to help "mask out certain noises" (and that's all I'll say in order to preserve my marriage).  I've gotten to the point that even when I'm sleeping alone, I still end up using them because any background noise tends to wake me up.

Which brings me to work...

The area I sit in has a number of people who have to spend a fair amount of time on the phone.  As a result, I know far more about certain software systems that I don't support than I ever wanted to.  I envy those people who can zone out everything around them and not get distracted.  Me?  I tend to have this radar system going, and I end up focusing on any conversation that drifts my way.  Perhaps that's the "bright shiny object" distraction tendency of my attention.  Putting on headphones and listening to music doesn't seem to work for me, as I end up focusing on the music.  Sometimes it works, but often it's not much better in terms of concentration.  The solution?  My trusty ear plugs!  I pop a pair of those puppies in, and it sounds like everyone moves about 100 feet away.  The only drawback is when someone approaches you from behind and thinks you're aware of them, and you're just blissfully cranking code...  :)

I may have to start buying two packs each time I restock...  one for home and one for work.

04/13/2006

Taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University course...

Category Everything Else
Based on reading the book The Total Money Makeover, my wife and I decided to sign up for a 13 week seminar called Financial Peace University put on by Dave Ramsey (actually, his organization...  not him in person).  This may be the best time commitment we've ever made...

If you head over to his web site, you can find out about the plan.  It basically involves building up an emergency fund, then eliminating debt, and so on through "building serious wealth".  It's all information you've likely heard before in various forms, but his motivation and focus are infectious.  I appreciate the fact it's not "gimmicky", in that you're following some "get rich quick" scheme.  It's hard work, but it's solid advice.

Fortunately for us, we're not a poster child for a turnaround story.  We're actually in relatively good shape, comparatively speaking (although looking at our finances, that's a scary thought).  It's just that I know we could be doing so much better.  And I don't want to retire with a review copy of 101 Ways To Prepare Alpo (And Love It!).  Although we're only starting week 3, we've already made major strides.  And last night was the first time my wife and I have had a money discussion in a LONG time (ever?) that didn't push buttons and fan flames.

And who knows?  Perhaps discipline in this area will lead to better discipline in other areas...  like home maintenance...  :)

04/12/2006

Never know *who* you'll find in a book!

Category Everything Else
While reading IBM Workplace Services Express for Dummies (for a review in next month's LotusUserGroup.org Developer Tips newsletter), I ran across a screen capture that the author (Stephen Londergan) had of his People Palette.  It's a little fuzzy in this scan, but look who appears?  Our own Alan Lepofsky!

Image:Duffbert's Random Musings - Never know *who* you'll find in a book!

04/07/2006

When your profession is your passion, not your job...

Category Everything Else
Bruce Elgort posted a short LCTY entry yesterday, and he touched on how few people read blogs and/or know what RSS is in the tech audience.  It also dovetailed with a conversation we had on the way to the event.  We both assume that since we run in circles where blogging and RSS is nearly required, *everyone* must view it that way.  Not the case, but why?  Julian posted a *great* comment (in that it sums up my feelings exactly) about this situation:

I think the key to understanding the low number of people who read blogs or know anything about RSS is to understand how few people actually think of their jobs as anything more than... a job.

For most people, they're in the technology business because that's what they're getting paid to do. Ideally they have some knack for understanding technology too, but that's not a given (based on people I've met). But in any case, they're not going to spend their free time reading about technology any more than a fry cook at McDonalds is going to go home and read forums and blogs about deep frying potatos (I have no idea whether or not there are forums and blogs on such a subject, but the Internet continues to amaze me).

Anyway, point is that most Notes people aren't going to read Notes blogs because they don't find Notes (or any technology) especially interesting in the first place. Why on earth would they torture themselves by reading about the Notes community in their spare time? When they'd rather be watching DVDs or going to bars or something?

That's my take, anyway. I know plenty of computer professionals who don't even go home to check their personal e-mail at night. Their attitude is: I've been sitting in front of a computer all day, I'm not going to go home and do it some more.

Sorry for copying your comment in its entirety, Julian, but I really liked it.

I've often wondered what I would do if I didn't work with computers.  And the answer is...  I don't know.  This is what I'm wired to do.  This is where I get my kicks.  I read and review tech books because I LIKE TO!  I write about technology because I LIKE TO!  I don't drag myself to work each day, dreading yet another eight hours of programming.  I like what I do!  The thought of shutting down my work computer and not touching a keyboard until the next morning is something that doesn't even click with me.  Why wouldn't you work to improve your skills or learn new stuff on your own time?  I realize that there are times in life when you can't free up the bandwidth to do as much as you'd like...  young kids, other commitments, etc.  But to say you don't have time to read a tech book or study something because you have to watch American Idol, Survivor, and the new episode of Lost doesn't cut it.

The only place I disagree with Julian is where he says "I know plenty of computer professionals".  I think I would have just said programmers.  I reserve "professional" for us "losers" who "don't have a life".  :)

03/14/2006

End of an era... no more Marquam Group/Boom Vang account...

Category Everything Else

After I got laid off from Enron in 2001, I ended up working for Boom Vang Consulting (later to become Marquam Group) for a few years before ending up at my current place of employment.  When I left Marquam Group, I negotiated to keep my connection into their network, my email account, and access to the Business Partner Forum and the KnowledgeBase.  I also ran the Portland Notes/Domino User Group email from there....

But as of now, I've decided to close that account down.  I've transferred the Portland Notes user group mailings to a separate gmail account that seems to be working well.  The only mail I still got at that account (other than spam) were Microsoft Certified Professional newsletters (yes, I *do* have a Microsoft certification!).  And I found that weeks would go by between visits to the Business Partner Forum.  Not that I was really active there anyway, but still...

Just one less thing to keep track of or be responsible for should something go wrong...

Feels strange to shut down an account that you've had for 5+ years...  :)

03/08/2006

Have I angered the book gods?

Category Everything Else

Have I committed some unforgivable offense against my UPS driver?  Days, even weeks have gone by with no visits...  no bundles of gifts from my friends at the publishing houses...  My piles of books to review shrink to where I have a toe or two left over when I count the remaining volumes...  Why has life dealt this cruel blow of fate to me???

<hold on...  someone's at the door...>

OK...  never mind...

A picture named M2

03/06/2006

Lotusphere DVD already paying off in unexpected ways...

Category Everything Else

So today I'm scrolling through the company electronic bulletin board, and I see a notice for a training video.  They need an office person, a customer, a narrator, and some extras.  Sounds like something that might be fun...  sit around as an extra, read a book, and see myself in a company video.  All film personalities have to start somewhere, right?

I send off an email to the guy doing the coordination and let him know I'm game to play an extra.  I also sent him a clip from the Lotusphere DVD so he could see what I look like on film.  Figured it might be good to let him know that I have a "face for radio".  :)  He sent back a quick email saying I was on his list, followed quickly by a second email.  In *that* one, he said he really liked the video, and would I please consider auditioning for the narrator role?  See?  A face just made for radio...  

I got the script, and the narrator actually appears in person, not just "in voice".  I certainly didn't think "narrator" was an idea, because I really don't think my voice is a strong point.  But perhaps the ability to move around and look natural in front of a camera might compensate.  Who knows?

Anyway, there'll be auditions next week, and we'll see how it goes.  Hopefully IBM will still be able to afford me next year at Lotusphere...  :)

03/03/2006

My "Guilty Pleasure" blogs that I follow...

Category Everything Else

You know you have a few...  those blogs on your feed reader that don't quite make it to your blogroll for fear of what others might think.  You just quietly look forward to new posts in order to laugh it up or shake your head...

Mine are:

Go Fug Yourself - Fashion faux pas by the stars with some of the best writing I've seen out in the blogosphere.  
FuckedGoogle - The "mini-Microsoft" of today's internet darling.  I feel like we've been down this road before...

And two I just added today...

Overheard In The Office - Yes, people really say these things in the workplace...
Overheard In New York - Same as OITO, but out in the wild with people whose parents probably should have practiced safer sex...

02/19/2006

World class juggling...

Category Everything Else

http://www.sonnyradio.com/chrisbliss.htm

Check out the Watch This link...

02/12/2006

Close to joining the VoIP revolution for our home phone...

Category Everything Else

One of the benefits to reviewing books is that I end up with exposure to a lot of different technologies that I might otherwise ignore.  One of those exposures has been to Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, phone service.  Basically, it's running your phone service over your internet connection instead of over the traditional phone system.  Skype is the freebie example of this, and Vonage brought the concept home to ordinary consumers.  Now it seems that every broadband provider is more than willing to take your money in this area.

For me, I'm a Comcast subscriber for both analog cable and high-speed internet.  I've been real happy with the results, so I don't have a problem with service levels.  My wife saw an ad for switching to digital voice with Comcast for $29.95 a month for the first three months ($39.95 after that).  I've sort of ignored our personal phone situation, since our Qwest bill doesn't run much more than $45 a month.  Most of our long distance is done via cell phone, so our long distance charges are negligible.  But now Ian has a girlfriend...  in New York...  3000+ miles away...

And you don't want to know what the last cell phone bill was...

I finally convinced him to load up Skype to talk with her, but this was at the same time as my/his old laptop died.  So now he's back to weekend talks and IM'ing from various computers around the house.  If I get Comcast digital voice, the problem is solved.  I talked with a friend from hockey last night about it.  He switched to Comcast voice awhile back, and has nothing but good things to say about it.

So...  I may not be a bleeding edge adopter of new technology, but I know enough to determine when it will be stable enough to benefit me personally.  And I think that VoIP just hit that point...

02/10/2006

Major kudos to Rob Novak and company...

Category Everything Else


One of the highlights of my Lotusphere session attendance was BP303 - The Great Code Giveaway by
Rob Novak and Viktor Krantz.  One of the techniques and code giveaways involved an Ajax-based web-enabled calendar.  The reason this was so cool is that I had a project waiting for me at home that was asking for that exact same thing (minus the Ajax, of course).  I knew what I was seeing on the screen was basically my new application with a new style sheet.  Couldn't wait to get back...  :)

So, I finally got to the point of adding in the proper elements from the code example and firing up my DWA calendar app.  The good news was that the functionality worked perfectly.  The bad news is that I was getting no style sheet info.  After a bit of digging, I noticed that the URLs that were being built to grab style sheets from the design were not formatted correctly.  What was worse is that I couldn't figure out why!  After running out of ideas, I emailed Rob and Viktor at
SNAPPS hoping that I could get some sort of answer in a couple of days...

Probably no more than 30 minutes later, I got a response back from Rob explaining exactly why I was seeing what I was seeing.  With his suggested workaround, I was able to get the calendar styled with CSS and delivered the application for testing to the user later that day.


So...  my public thanks to Rob and Company for 1) giving away such cool code, and 2) responding so quickly to questions related to it.  A real credit to the Domino community...

02/09/2006

A plea to anyone accused of something in the media...

Category Everything Else

With corporate corruption, financial mismanagement, and general criminal activity running rampant in society today, it's not unusual for the media to get ahold of a story.  And the knee-jerk reaction of all the accused individuals, either personally or through their lawyers, is to loudly proclaim "I didn't do it, I'm innocent, there's nothing to see here."  And to that I say...

Society ain't buying it any more...

We've become far too jaded as a society to believe just about anyone when they protest their innocence now.  We're cynical from being lied to repeatedly, from the highest levels of government clear down to our sports heros we've put on pedestals.

Take the latest gambling scandal in the NHL.  Potential ties to organized crime.  Wayne Gretzky's wife implicated.  And what does he do?  Hold a press conference proclaiming how confused he is about it all, how he's trying to figure out what's going on himself, and how he's not involved in any of it.  And what happens today?  News of wiretapped conversations where he's discussing the gambling ring and how to keep his wife from being named.  Guess you *lied* to us, Wayne!  And if you lied about that, are we to believe that you weren't placing any bets either?  And don't tell me you were unaware of her involvement...  We already know you know.  And I don't think a wife dumps $500K and easily hides it from hubby...

From now on, can people accused of something just issue a simple "no comment"?  You look *really* stupid when facts show otherwise...

02/07/2006

Yeah, but we still hate you...

Category Everything Else

Back in the early '80's, my wife and I used to follow the Portland Winter Hawks, the local major junior hockey team.  At that time, Portland was one of the first American teams in the CHL, and our owners had money.  While the other teams played in small towns, in arenas that would seat 4000, we played in the same arena as the NBA Portland Trailblazers, often to crowds of 10000 or more.  We became the first American team to win the Memorial Cup, major junior's equivalent of the Stanley Cup.  Needless to say, the 'Hawks weren't necessarily the most popular team in the league...

When we'd go on road trips to "happening" places like Medicine Hat and Lethbridge, the small group of boosters would be harassed endlessly by the home fans, and the chant of "Portland Sucks!" was heard at least one during the game.  The funny thing was, the "Portland Sucks" chant was also heard at games where Portland *wasn't* playing!  Didn't matter if we were there or not...  Portland sucked, and the fans wanted to make sure we knew it.

Why do I share this?  I was reminded of this when I was reading a story about the cartoon protests raging in Denmark and other places.  For once, it wasn't "the Great Satan" that did something to evoke worldwide protest.  And what did the protesters chant outside the Danish embassies?

"Death to America"

:)

01/28/2006

I think we just had an earthquake...

Category Everything Else


I heard a thump and my basement area was shaking a bit.  I went upstairs to ask Sue if she felt it, and Ian came down from the upstairs to see if we had one...


I'll have to troll the news sites and the TV news to see what it was...  Probably 3.0'ish...


Update:  Yup:  http://pasadena.wr.usgs.gov/shake/pnw/STORE/X1290200_06/ciim_display.html

Apparently centered pretty much in the Portland area and registered at 2.9.

01/04/2006

I only *thought* Ian was coming home today...

Category Everything Else

I guess the Orlando airport was a zoo with flight delays from the Northeast, and the security gate was a huge backup.  He got to the gate just as they closed the doors, and him and 37 others missed the flight.

So now he's booked for tomorrow morning at 6 am, due to arrive home at 12:15 pm.  Hopefully we'll see him them...

12/31/2005

The obligatory end of year review for 2005...

Category Everything Else

This is the time when one is supposed to look back and contemplate their journey of the past year.  So just what *did* I do of note this year?
  • In November of 2004, I broke into the top 500 reviewer ranking at Amazon.  By February, it was 298.  June, 198.  September, 149.  And finally, two days before the end of the year, I hit my goal...  I'm ranked at 125.  And what does that get me?  Even more books to review...
  • I had a goal to read a bit less this year.  Reading 182 books last year seemed to be a bit much.  So what did I end up doing this year on the reading front?  201.  I *definitely* have a goal this year to "read less, do more".
  • My writing gig with e-Pro ended when the electronic newsletter remnant went belly up in May.  But I was back writing again for LotusUserGroup.org in the last quarter of this year.  Between this blog and my official writing jobs, it seems like the keyboard is my mistress.  I'm sure my wife thinks that more often than not...
  • Lotusphere 2005 and the Java Jumpstart that Joe Litton and I did went very well.  The evaluations were very good, and I was given a chance to do it again in 2006 with Julian Robichaux.  Great fun...
  • Compared to my 747 blog entries last year, I *only* posted 668 times in 2005.  Guess I'm learning to hold my tongue better.  :)
  • I did a webcast on the new Notes/Domino 7 features for e-Pro before it died.  It's hard to talk to a wall and have it sound natural...
  • Since my old laptop from 2001 went south with Ian to DisneyWorld, I had to replace it with a spiffy new one.  
  • And speaking of "went south", Ian survived Disney.  Today's his last full workday there, and he flies home on the 4th of January.  I don't know that he's ready to come home, but he's *really* ready to not be working for The Mouse any more.  The "magic and pixie dust" is pretty well gone.
  • And it was a year of loss...  40 pounds worth, to be exact.  I joined Jenny Craig and started taking steps to get healthy.  I'm still not where I want to finish at, but I'm halfway there.

Those are some of the basic blog highlights.  Of course, there's a ton of other stuff (lost a cat, gained a cat, etc.) that would probably bore you all even more than this did.  But it was fun to scan back over the 2005 blog entries and relive some of the highs and lows.

So...  onward to 2006.

And remember...  READ LESS, DO MORE...

12/28/2005

So what's on *your* list of professional goals for 2006?

Category Everything Else

I'm a firm believer in setting professional goals for myself...  learning new things, stretching my comfort limits, etc.  I think that habit has served me well over the years as an IT professional, and it's taken me in directions I never dreamed I'd experience.  Talking in front of hundreds at Lotusphere, writing as a paid "sideline", high visibility as a book reviewer, etc.  Definitely some good stuff there...

Looking back at the last couple of years, I've noticed that I've ended up in a bit of a rut.  Since I spend so much time reading and writing, I end up knowing a lot *about* different technologies, but I don't really *know* any of them deeply.  Sort of the "jack of all trades, master of none" syndrome.  While it has some advantages as far as being able to keep a wide view of trends, it frustrates me that I don't have that skillset that I can "hang my hat on", so to speak.  Sure, Notes/Domino is my expertise, and I do quite well there.  But once I venture out of that niche, the knowledge becomes less experiential and more "book smarts".  Information technology can be a brutal profession these days, and I really don't want to lose my edge.

So with that in mind, I have set some very lofty goals for myself this year...

I want to master:
  • AJAX
  • Ruby
  • Linux

I want to better understand:
  • Perl
  • Microsoft's version of collaboration software

This can all be summed up in four words...  "read less, do more"  :)

By "master", I don't expect to be in a position to get a full-time job doing any one of those skills.  But I do want to be able to write programs and routines in those languages without trepidation.  I also want to feel comfortable running Linux under my VMWare partition.  By "better understand", I want to have a decent working knowledge of those technologies.  For Perl, I want to be able to write a simple Perl script and know when I might be able to use it in my day-to-day activities at work.  And as for Microsoft's collaboration technologies, I want to be able to know what application development skills compare to what I do in Notes/Domino, as well as understanding a basic application development cycle.  This will probably be one of the hardest ones to reach, as not only do I have to figure out *what* matches up, but then I have to figure out how to *get* the software to install it in my home environment for study.  At least all the other goals I have involve open source and free software...  :)

An aggressive list?  Yup.  Reachable?  If I remain focused.  If I apply myself.  If I quit launching Hearts and Solitaire in the evenings...  :)

So what's on *your* list?

12/22/2005

So how did Radicati do on her annual predictions?

Category Everything Else

I don't have the original list of prognostications, and I won't be able to get to this until after I get back from Christmas holidays.

But I'm sure one of you would relish examining the accuracy of one of the industry's most "vocal" analysts...

I think we can pretty much figure that her blogging prediction was wrong...  :)

12/19/2005

So how did we fare weather-wise?

Category Everything Else

Guess it depends on how much the weather affects what you do...  :)

The weather system moved in a lot faster yesterday than was predicted.  The thought was that it'd all start between 4 and 6 pm.  In reality, the roads were covered with ice pellets by 2.  Things got progressively worse throughout the afternoon and evening, and I was glad that I was safely at home with nowhere I needed to be.  I woke up this morning expecting a thick layer of ice on top of everything, and that wasn't the case.  Temperatures stayed right above freezing and the rain, although freezing in places, really turned things more into slush.

The wife's happy, as her place of business shut down for the day.  My company doesn't open until 10 am, but I'm just going to work from home.  No use trying to spend hours getting to work to only spend half a day there...

12/18/2005

Gonna be an interesting next couple of days here weather-wise...

Category Everything Else

The city of Portland (located in the United States, state of Oregon) has a geographic placement that makes wintertime somewhat interesting.  The city sits at the end of the Columbia River Gorge, which runs between the states of Oregon and Washington.  We're at the west end.  During stormy conditions, you can get strong east winds as the high pressure situated in the east pours down into the low pressure weather system in the west.  So far, no big deal.  Unless it's 30 degrees outside with 30 mile per hour winds.  Wind chill sucks!

Generally speaking, it doesn't get really cold here.  Many winters, you'll have nothing more than maybe a handful of days where the temperature drops below freezing.  No big deal.  It's the extended cold snap that causes issues.  This last week, we've been experiencing one of those in our area.  The nighttime lows have approached 20 degrees, and the daytime highs haven't gotten over 40.  The transition *out* of this pattern is where we find ourselves right now...

There's a storm approaching...  wet and warm.  The east part of the state is still cold and clear.  East winds are gusting up to 50 miles per hour right now with sub-freezing air.  We have a high wind warning that's been issued by the weather service.  Later today, the storm will get here.  The front will ride over the top of the sub-freezing air, meaning that the rain will turn to either sleet (frozen rain pellets) or freezing rain (rain that freezes on contact with the ground).  We have a weather warning issued for that, too...  Then we have to wait for the warm air to flush out the cold and turn everything to plain old rain.  The problem is that no one know how long that will take...

Two years ago we were in a situation like this, and the forecasters figured it'd transition in about 12 hours.  It took 3 days.  Other times the forecasters have called for "gloom and doom", and nothing happened.

So long as we keep our power (and our internet connection), I'll be happy...  :)

See what you're missing, Joe?

12/14/2005

Wow... My pinnacle of blogging success...

Category Everything Else


To be
Ed-dotted and vowe-dotted all in a 24 hour period...

It's all downhill from here.  :)

12/13/2005

I've become a (i-)Pod Person...

Category Everything Else

I'm not really into music like many of you out there.  I have a few CDs, a few music files, but overall it's pretty meager compared to the volume that most of you write about.  As a result, the whole iPod phenomenon really passed me by with nary a glance...  Podcasts didn't even capture my attention much until Bruce and Julian started their Notes-based podcasts at Taking Notes.  I finally decided to break down and get a portable MP3 player so I could listen to stuff without being at my desk...  in other words...  

I finally bought an iPod.

A black iPod Nano with 2GB.  I didn't need a 30 GB video model (or at least I don't think I do at this point in time).  Ian also got one for Christmas.  Christmas must fall on December 13th this year, as he got the package we shipped and didn't bother to wait until the 25th to open it.  :)

I must admit...  It's an engineering marvel to be able to get that much stuff in so little and light a package.  

Of course, Cam is now convinced I'm totally whacked because I don't have any music on there yet...  just podcasts...  :)

12/06/2005

I'm finally taking the plunge and buying an iPod...

Category Everything Else

I'm not a huge music fan who wants to listen to tunes as much as possible.  I enjoy music, but I just don't listen to it much.  In the car, I'm more apt to be listening to sports talk radio or nothing at all.  But the rise of podcasting has put me in a position where I don't have the flexibility to listen to them during times that are convenient (like 15 minute commutes).  So, after mulling things over and getting some advice from Bruce, I decide to buy a black iPod Nano (2 GB model).  It will be more than enough space to allow me to store and listen to audio files I have backed up, and I was able to use $150 in Sharper Image gift certificates that I had lying around.

Now comes the hard part... waiting for it to show up.  :)

12/04/2005

I'm B-A-A-A-C-K!

Category Everything Else

The cruise is over, and we're back home now.  Fortunately I have a day to catch up on stuff...  :)

We had a great time.  Ate somewhat more than I should have, exercised less than I planned to (but I *did* do some exercise), slept more in a week than I probably have in the last three weeks combined, and read a lot of books (like *that's* any big surprise!).  I "tried" to go scuba with a "Discover Scuba" excursion.  Emphasis on the word "tried".  Not being comfortable in the water didn't help, nor does the concern of taking a mouthful of seawater.  Couple that with a very short lesson before a short 30 ft dive, and I decided this wasn't working well.  I think I needed more time to become comfortable with the whole thing.  Besides, we were diving with an instructor and three other people.  The last thing I wanted to do was panic at 30 and force everyone else up.  But at least I can say I've tried it, and perhaps it's out of my system now...  :)  Other than that, didn't do a lot of memorable things, which was fine.  The ship was a bit older than some of the posh mega-cruise ships being built now, so there weren't all the high-end amenities I've come to expect on prior cruises.  I just had a solid block of time to recharge with no schedule or commitments.  Liked it a lot...

Expect a number of postings in the next couple of days as I catch up on book reviews and news stories I'd like to comment on...  

11/24/2005

Yes, I'm a Mechanical Turk addict...

Category Everything Else



It used to be when I wanted a break on the home computer, I'd pull up Hearts or Freecell.  Now I tend to call up
Mechanical Turk, Amazon's experiment in having humans do things that computers don't do well (in return for micropayments).  It's not a matter of making three cents every time I pick out a picture that matches the address and business they specify.  It's more the diversion and the interest in seeing small slices of other places.

For instance, I love doing MK tasks for New York.  The small storefront businesses, gratings pulled down, graffiti all over the place...  Seeing these 10 foot storefronts that have probably been in the family for years, and have had generations be born, raised, and buried with the store as the focal point in their lives.  Chicago seems to have some of that same element.  Berkeley in California was more "pseudo-old"...  Storefronts made to look old and quaint, but they probably turn over ever few years.  Other places, like Santa Monica are more like strip malls and mega-malls where you can't see specific businesses...


I find it much easier to make the match for older cities, as the businesses are right on the street and it's easy to identify them.  Newer cities are more "faceless" in nature, and the businesses are further away.


When it first started, Portland (my current location) was one of the cities being covered.  I even ended up with the entry for the consulting company I used to work for (under their former name and former location).  When I forwarded the page (I saved it) to them, they laughed and then asked if I had so much time on my hands could I do some work for them...  :)


I know I won't get rich doing this, and I don't expect to.  But it *does* pay far better than Solitaire, and it's more educational.  :)

11/24/2005

What part of 24/7 did I miss???

Category Everything Else


I make it a habit to call our credit card companies when we go on vacation to have them note that we'll be outside our regular spending areas.  No sense in dealing with rejected card purchases because you're not where you normally are.


Chase card services are great...  I can call two or three days before, the person who answers the call can take the info, no problem.


Bank of America card services are less than wonderful...  Can't place the call until 24 hours before you leave, and they ask me like 20 questions to confirm I know about the card (my current balance, my credit limit, what purchases I'll be making, etc.).  How should I know exactly what purchases I'll make???


But today was the kicker.  I called BofA, waded through the options, went into the hold queue for a few minutes, and then got transferred to a recorded message.  The message was:


Our customer call center is closed for the holidays.  Our call center hours are 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Please call back after the holiday.  Thank you.


What part of 24/7 did I miss there???

11/24/2005

Almost ready to vacation!

Category Everything Else

If postings slow down a bit over the next week, it's because I'm not in my normal rut.  The wife and I are leaving the kids behind and taking off on a cruise to the Western Carribbean.  Don't know quite what the ports of call will be after the hurricanes went through the area, but it's *supposed* to be Rotan(sp?) Honduras, Belieze City, and Cozumel.  Honestly, if we just float around for seven days, I'd still be happy...

The laptop *is* going with me (yes, I'm a geek, but at my wife's request) so we can be contacted by the kids in case of emergency.  Ship-to-shore calling is a magnitude worse than hotel phone charges, so my wife figured that spending the money for the internet wireless access on board the ship was a good idea.  And who was I to object?  :)

So...  There will probably still be postings, but we'll have to see how the access pans out.  

I'm so looking forward to the time away.

11/16/2005

Major milestone reached...

Category Everything Else

A picture named M2

199.8 pounds at this evening's weigh-in...

http://lessduffbert.blogspot.com

11/15/2005

Ooohh... A bright shiny object! Konfabulator...

Category Everything Else

Konfabulator...

I think I'm gonna regret finding out about this.  I had vaguely heard about this software, but always in context of Macs.  I was blissfully ignorant until I read the 43Folders blog and saw reference to a widget that did a countdown.  I clicked on the link, and saw that Konfabulator is cross-platform...  

Guess I know what I'll be doing at work tomorrow morning...  

11/05/2005

Went and saw Chicken Little today with the wife...

Category Everything Else

If what they say is true about Disney possibly buying Pixar and the success of Chicken Little determining how bad they need to make the purchase, then the answer (in my opinion) is that they better pay whatever Jobs asks...  Disney's first foray into CG animation after the death of their hand animation department leaves a bit to be desired.

The technical aspects of the film were OK.  Nothing that I was blown away by, but definitely on par with films like Madagascar.  While I marvelled at some of the stuff that Pixar did with Monsters, Inc., there was nothing in Chicken Little that made me sit up and take notice.  I think the main problem with the film was the story.  There are some funny sight gags, and a number of funny lines of dialogue.  But the story itself really didn't go anywhere.  The first thing I said to Sue when we left the theater was "that movie had no soul".  And this coming from someone who doesn't do "subtle"...

It's a film that kids will like, and they'll probably stay involved the whole 90 minutes.  But if you're going for your own enjoyment, you won't miss much by waiting until it comes out on DVD.  At least then you'll get extra features that may make it a bit more interesting...

10/20/2005

Time to fire up for high school hockey again... Cam's team is 1-0.

Category Everything Else

Yes...  Time for that 16 game odessey known as Oregon High School Hockey...  They even have a website now!

This year Cam is playing for Tigard, as Grant didn't have enough kids go out to field a team.  Heck, Cam doesn't even go to Grant any more (another blog entry for another time), so no big deal.  He wanted to stay with a couple of other kids from last year, but Tigard didn't have a goalie, so Cam didn't have a lot of choice.  

However, after watching the Tigard team play Mountain View last night and win 8-1, I think he's perfectly happy with the "net" results (yes, pun intended).  Tigard totally outplayed the other team, and Cam looked pretty good on the few shots he had to face.

Of course, trying to get him to be a bit more humble was nearly impossible after this piece in the game story on the website:

The Tiger highlight reel continued early in the third as goaltender Cameron Duff stoned a bewildered Mountain View shooter on a breakaway.

Oh, well...  I'm sure there will be nights where he can't stop a thing, so I guess he better enjoy the good ones while they're out there.

10/18/2005

To whoever bought Devil's Halo through a link here...

Category Everything Else

... and then apparently bought a boatload of of other books while they were over there?

 

Thanks!  :)

10/12/2005

Is it just me, or are those Burger King commercials with the ...

Category Everything Else

... character dressed as a king and a stationary mask getting creepier with each new one?

If someone looking like that shows up outside my window holding a hamburger, I'm either shooting or calling the cops.

10/09/2005

The likely reason I have so many problems with my main printer at home...

Category Everything Else

A picture named M2

10/05/2005

Opening night in the NHL...

Category Everything Else

Yes...  life is good again!

Even better...  Comcast Cable picked up OLN as part of their basic package this week, so the move of the NHL broadcasts from ESPN to OLN doesn't matter any more to me.  

09/17/2005

A new acronym from our vacation... NAGL

Category Everything Else

NAGL...  rhymes with "bagel"...  and it stands for...

Not A Good Look

And there were *far* too many NAGL sightings in the last week down in the parks in Orlando...

Listen up, people...  just because you're on vacation does *not* mean that you're forbidden to use a mirror.  Being a thousand miles away from home does *not* mean you can subject your fellow park attendees to a new fashion style you've been wanting to try out because you'd be too embarrassed to be seen wearing it at home.  And just because a celeb was wearing your outfit on the cover of some glamour mag does *not* mean it looks just as good on you.  It doesn't.

If you're from Brazil, are image conscious, and have a great beach body (and there were a few that fit that category), knock yourself out.  You can get away with just about anything.  

If you're an American with a white (or sunburned) front or back, I don't want to see that exposed hunk of flesh between the bottom of your top and the top of your shorts.  If you had to suck in *anything* to put on the pants to wear that midriff-exposing outfit, just stop right now.  It looks *really* bad.  Yes, we're looking at you, but no, we're not thinking good things...

If you're wearing an off-the-shoulder tube-style top, can you spare us that fashion if your boobs sag into your stomach region without support?  The fashion looks good if the top fits snugly under your armpits, not if it's halfway down your body and still doesn't show anything.

I know it's hot out, but bikini tops don't work on a large number of body types.  And if there's any question as to whether you have a belly-button piercing, that's a sign that perhaps you shouldn't be playing that guessing game with total strangers.  Just put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.  

And guys?

Black socks with dress shoes and shorts?  It'd be a capital offense if I had my way...

09/17/2005

I was *wrong*... Barry Bonds did come back...

Category Everything Else

... and he hit a home run last night.

I will admit to being really surprised.


Update:  09/17/2005 - On ESPN.com, there's an article about how Bonds is looking to become "skinny" and lose 28 pounds for next season.  While the reasoning (his knee won't hold up under the strain of his current weight) is sound, I find it "interesting" that it also becomes a perfect rationale behind why his body type will change during the off-season, as well as how he can explain away his "non-use" of steroids.  

09/17/2005

I'm BACK!

Category Everything Else

Our vacation in Orlando is officially over...  We arrived back last night around 1 am in Portland, and I'm still a bit jet-lagged.  Add to that a large number of Google news alert emails to wade through, blog stuff to read via RSS, and other such miscellanea, and I've got plenty to keep me busy today...  

09/08/2005

Gee... could media and government leaders have been... *wrong*?

Category Everything Else

In a follow-up to my Katrina death toll post, we have this from Yahoo News:  Katrina death toll still a question

Estimates of the death toll from Hurricane Katrina have run as high as 10,000 but the actual body count so far is much lower and officials who feared the worst now hope the dire predictions were wrong.

The recovery of Katrina's victims speeded up in the last two days. As of Thursday, Mississippi had recorded 201 deaths and Louisiana 83, while other affected states had much lower numbers.

"I am thinking we are better off than we thought we'd be," said Louisiana state Sen. Walter Boasso, who represents St. Bernard Parish near New Orleans, parts of which still sit under 8 feet of water.

In the first week after the disaster, officials and politicians discussed the possible death toll reluctantly, often only after being pressed by journalists.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin offered up a figure as high as 10,000 under such questioning. Louisiana U.S. Sen. David Vitter said his "guesses" started at 10,000, but made it clear he had no factual basis for saying that.

"No factual basis for saying that"...  But it didn't stop him from saying it, did it?  And every media report since then has offered up statements like "perhaps up to 10000 deaths expected by officials".

It's still bad, and it's still disturbing to find 30+ people dead in a location like a nursing home.  But it's also irresponsible to report estimates that are no more than SWAGs ("silly wild-@ss guesses") as if they were fact...

09/08/2005

Gotta love progress like that...

Category Everything Else

As of last night's weigh-in...

A picture named M2

09/06/2005

I'll probably get flamed, but can we tone down the media "reporting" about dead bodies left by Katrina?

Category Everything Else

When it comes to the media, I'm pretty cynical anymore.  When public officials start throwing about large numbers and terms like "catastrophic", I start to wonder...  Is that reality?  Is it the person trying to get noticed above the rest of the media din?  Is this an attempt to focus more government aid?  Will the media only listen and quote things that register higher on the hype scale?

Real numbers about deaths related to Katrina seem to be hard to come by.  It's almost as if no one wants to try and come up with a full account to date.  I know if I were a government official in charge of emergency preparedness, I'm not sure I'd want to see those numbers either.  But officials have thrown out statements about "thousands" of bodies yet to be found, and now every news story reports on those thousands as if it's a reality.  It may well be the case, and it wouldn't be totally unexpected, but I'm starting to tire of media reporting of "facts" that aren't yet so.

I'd much prefer to see real counts and reports on the progress of recovering the missing.  It's been said that we need to "prepare" ourselves for the large number of deaths that will come from Katrina.  True, but all the hype that is currently out there in the media is just numbing us to the reality, whatever it might be.  It's almost as if we want to report on "potentially 10000 or more deaths" so that we can feel relieved if there are "only" a couple of thousand.

Any way you approach it, Katrina has caused more devastation in a populated area than anything in recent memory.  While this part of the ordeal is bad, I still think the worst is yet to come with health concerns about the water toxicity and the mass demolitions of housing that will follow once the city is drained.  This is a disaster that will continue to have repercussions for years to come...

09/03/2005

My new "toy"...

Category Everything Else


Since Ian took my old laptop to Orlando with him, I decided I didn't want to be "unplugged" when we travel.  Therefore, I bought a new laptop last weekend and finally got a chance to set it up today...  It's *so* nice...


A picture named M2

09/02/2005

Katrina's Half

Category Everything Else

Rocky Oliver has come up with an interesting and intriguing concept...  Katrina's Half.

Basically, it's a pledge to share half of your lottery winnings to Katrina aid and relief should you be the lucky jackpot winner in a national or state lottery.  All it would take is for one or two winners to do this, and a huge dent could be made in the misery and despair of the hurricane victims.

Check it out and make your pledge...

09/02/2005

Ian's fun with lightning at Epcot today...

Category Everything Else

So I get this call from Ian today on the cell phone about 4:30 his time...

DUDE!!!!  I am in the *worst* lightning storm I've ever experienced!  I just had a bolt hit the ground 10 meters away from me!  There are about 10 strikes every minute!

And I as a parent 3000 miles away would want to know this why???

Even better...  he calls again about five minutes later once he got on the bus to change his Epcot outfit at the end of his shift.

DUDE!!!!  A bolt just struck the bus!

The only thing that makes me feel better is that it officially freaked him out just as much as it would have freaked me out...

08/31/2005

So I guess I'm not "l33t"...

Category Everything Else

I was text-messaging on my phone to Ian yesterday about some bank deposit.  I normally start my messages to him by using the T-Mobile website where I can just type via the keyboard to send a message.  I really hate using the phone keypad to reply as it takes too long. 
 
One of the replies I sent to him yesterday using the phone was the sentence "That's what we thought.", only I spelled it "That's what we thot" just to make it shorter.
 
Here's the reply I got back from Ian...
 
"Thot?  Good god they even have pros like you using middle school short hand... poor guy theyve brain washed you."

08/28/2005

Saw "The Brothers Grimm" yesterday in the theater... Save your money.

Category Everything Else

I was coerced into taking the wife to see The Brothers Grimm yesterday.  It's not the type of movie I'd voluntarily go and see, but I figured I might be surprised if I gave it a chance.  

No such luck...  Even the wife hated it.

It's a convoluted mess of a story, a plot line that eluded any of my attempts to follow it on anything more than a broad level.  I couldn't tell if it was supposed to be a parody, a comedy, or some semi-serious attempt at 18th century storytelling.  The characters are strange and I wasn't sure what half of them were doing in the movie anyway.  

I'm not sure I would have even watched this when it comes out on DVD.  Knowing what I know now, the answer would be resounding "no".

08/27/2005

Well... life without a laptop didn't last very long...

Category Everything Else

No, Ian didn't come home...  :-)

I decided that I really didn't like not having a laptop if I'm going to be on the road (i.e., vacation).  So I went out to Fry's today to just "look around"...

Shoulda known *that* wasn't going to work too well!

I came home with a Toshiba S213 laptop, Pentium 4 3.33GHz HT, 15.4" screen, 1GB RAM, 100GB hard drive, DVDRW, and 802.11b/g built in.  And all for the low, low price of $1299!  :)  Throw in a $50 Canon printer that's free after rebate, and I think I did pretty well.

Now if Joe and I present again at Lotusphere this year, I won't end up cutting out the last part of my presentation (Eclipse as an alternative Java IDE for Domino) because my machine was painfully repainting the screen...

08/23/2005

We'll miss you, Ian...

Category Everything Else

A picture named M2

(and I promise to try and make Cam give you back your mini-fridge when you come home...)

08/22/2005

Ian leaves for his DisneyWorld internship tomorrow...

Category Everything Else

He'll be fine...  He'll be fine...

I'll be a mess...

He'll be fine...  He'll be fine...

08/18/2005

Whoever ordered the six Linux/Knoppix books from Amazon by clicking through on a link from here?

Category Everything Else

Thanks!

08/10/2005

O'Reilly has a new professional networking site...

Category Everything Else

It's called O'Reilly Connection, and you can find it here....  http://connection.oreilly.com

Considering that it was launched at OSCON, you probably have a good chance of hooking up with O'Reilly authors and techie gurus.

Check it out, and feel free to add me as a contact (search on Thomas Duff).

08/05/2005

Michael Sampson's analysis of the latest Radicati "study"...

Category Everything Else


I really tried to ignore Radicati's attempt at entering the fantasy/fiction market.  I really did...  


But I just can't let
Michael Sampson's analysis of the Radicati report go without mention...

Nice job, Michael!

07/30/2005

It's early, but let's do July's strange trails that lead to Duffbert's Random Musings...

Category Everything Else

I have a bit of free time, and this post takes forever to generate.  So let's take a look at the search term referrals that led people here during July.  I'm in the mood to see what warped personalities are allowed to use the Internet...
  • chihuahuas dog toilet - I've often wanted to flush one or two of those breed down one...
  • Tom Duff executive compensation - I am happy with what I make, but it's not *that* large...
  • sleeping beauty picture - I laugh every time I see that, as I know it takes them to a pic of Bruce Elgort sacked out at Lotusphere...  :-)
  • hello my name is thomas wilson - Hi, Thomas!
  • why does your gynecologist leave the room as you get undressed? - Good question...
  • what's been googled - Seeing this term while making this post is like getting caught in an infinite loop...
  • just naked - O... K...
  • thomas duff marine corps - You'd be looking for my dad, not me...
  • bruces chums for free - And all this time I've been paying...
  • hops and barley tattoo - *That's* a hardcore home brewer!
  • barry bonds slimmer - Amazing what "lack of supplements" will do in that regard.
  • knoppix shred cat - Knoppix can do a lot of things, but that's one I haven't seen...
  • Stuff par Duff - I don't know what this means, but it has a great cadence...
  • get comfortable not knowing - That's how I feel about my kids sometimes...  I'm more comfortable not knowing...
  • instructions wiping arse - Wow...  the guy has some catch-up to do...
  • i had hair - A long, long time ago...
  • guy on guy spanking - OK...  *that's* warped!
  • phallic world - I hope all you Lotusphere people are happy now.
  • ooohh - aaahh...
  • guy maxi pad stories - I know what caused this one, and it's not as warped as it sounds...  :-)
  • steve ballmer weight - With all that monkeyboy dancing, he shouldn't have a problem...
  • tom breaking legs - Just remember that the next time I ask you for a "favor"...
  • damien katz x-rated - I don't think he's shared that link with the rest of us yet...
  • naked barbie coloring book picture - Some people really scare me, and this would be one of them...
  • how to improve sharepoint - Switch to Lotus?
  • duff blows - Apparently another happy reader...
  • why tai chi sucks - Because your attacker has to be moving in slow motion!
  • creating a duff shoe - Short and wide, dude...  short and wide.

And my favorite for the month...
  • whoo whoo weight loss - That's *exactly* how I've felt this month!


Enjoy!

07/29/2005

"Duffbert's Latest"???

Category Everything Else

A dear friend of mine (thanks, Chaz!) sent me an email with a link to a site that includes the random phrase "Duffbert's Latest"...

http://www.lumens.nm.ru/viagra_commercial.html

Strange stuff...  :-)

07/28/2005

So it's official now... Ian's heading off to the land of the Mouse...

Category Everything Else

He's been accepted into the college internship program at DisneyWorld in Orlando, and he's really excited.  He leaves on August 23 and won't be back until early January.  

And in case you're wondering, I'm doing better with the idea (or I'm still mentally blocking it out at some level).  I've had a week or two to come to grips with the idea.  I'm still concerned, and probably will be continuously for the next five months.  But he needs this (and wants it), we need to let him go, and we'll have to deal with life as it happens.

At least I can talk about it now without getting all choked up.  :-)

07/28/2005

The 2005 Alka-Seltzer US Open of Competitive Eating?

Category Everything Else

This is labeled "a great American event"????

What does that say about us as a society?

In the first five minutes, I watched two grown men attack plates of cheese fries with their hands.  *Pigs* look better than they do...

I can't believe this...

07/23/2005

Lance Armstrong... what a Tour...

Category Everything Else


After riding more than 3400 kilometers over 19 days, Lance was able to beat Ullrich by over 20 seconds in the final time trial over 55.5 kilometers.  Even better, he added nearly two minutes to his lead over Basso.  


What more can you ask for in your parting competition?  You win a stage, your team wins the team time trial, you have two teammates take stages for the first time ever, and you go out wearing the yellow jersey for the 7th straight year.


Sipping the champagne riding into Paris tomorrow will probably be the most fun he's had as a professional rider.  

07/18/2005

Book Review - Knoppix Pocket Reference by Kyle Rankin

Category Everything Else

If you've had your eyes opened to the power of Knoppix as a Swiss Army knife of administration tools, Rankin's latest book will be the quick reminder guide of how best to use it...  Knoppix Pocket Reference.

Contents:  Introduction; Cheat Codes; Special Knoppix Tools; Install Knoppix to the Hard Drive; Image or Erase a Drive; Linux Security Response; Linux System Repair; Windows System Repair; Remaster Knoppix; Experimental Features; Final Words; Acknowledgements; Index

Pocket references are small (this one is less than 100 pages), so they are not good introductory guides to the subject at hand.  This one is no different.  If you're simply playing with Knoppix in order to see what desktop Linux is all about, you can easily pass on this book.  You'll get a bit more out of it if you're looking to run Knoppix a bit more regularly (by installing it on your hard drive or saving configurations between reboots).  Still, Knoppix Hacks would probably be a better title to better understand those techniques.  Where this book shines is when you decide to use Knoppix as a bootable OS to allow you to administer and repair systems that are no longer working correctly (both Linux *and* Windows).  Since you don't have to have a bootable sector on your hard drive to use it, you can get Knoppix up and running from a CD and then use it to repair the underlying hard drive.  If you have a virus or rootkit installed, a Knoppix boot will allow you to get a clean system up and running which can then check out the hard drive for repair.  Knoppix Pocket Reference will help remind you of the steps you need to take to accomplish some of these tasks.  You're only getting the core commands with very little fluff, so you can quickly hone in on the trouble spot.

This is the book I'd recommend as a follow-up purchase to Knoppix Hacks.  If you decide to use Knoppix in the ways that the Hacks book reveals, Knoppix Pocket Guide will be the volume that you refer to until the commands are burned into your memory.

07/17/2005

Back, rested, relaxed, and ready to go...

Category Everything Else

We had a great four days at our family reunion...  lots of rest, relaxation, and reading...  It's a great group to spend time with, as no one has any agendas or expectations.  And we *like* each other! :-)

Talked a lot, got caught up with what's going on in the family, read, rode bikes, etc...  We even had a visitor who dropped in to check out the festivities.  And if you think he's as close as it looks, you're right...

A picture named M2

07/14/2005

Off for a long weekend and family reunion...

Category Everything Else

Catch you in a few days...

07/13/2005

Thank you one and all for the care and support...

Category Everything Else

It's amazing how much better one can feel when they have some sleep under their belts...  :-)

I've been much more together today.  I really appreciate all the words of support left on yesterday's emotional dump post.  I got a really nice email from a good friend with some perspective, and I even just got off the phone with Chris Miller who called to see how I was doing.  This is a great community, and it never ceases to amaze me how one can feel supported from virtual friends worldwide, many of whom I will never meet face to face.

Thank you, one and all.

07/11/2005

Ian heading off to Florida to be a Disney intern? Probably...

Category Everything Else

I'm a little shellshocked this evening...  

Sue's been reading about the DisneyWorld college intern program and she's convinced it would be a good thing for Ian.  Since he didn't go away to college (partially grades, partially his diabetes), she's concerned that he's missed out on a key part of growing up.  Ian understands the Disney "magic" from all the trips we've taken down there, and he's often thought that working there would be an interesting experience...

So, we found out that they were doing a presentation at Portland State today, and Ian filled out the app.  Sue was thinking that enrolling in the spring session (starting in January) would be a nice start.  He arrived an hour early due to a miscommunication, and was able to get a mini-presentation by himself.  He also interviewed on the spot (normally not done for a couple of weeks).  It sounds like they offered him a slot on the spot.  He'll have to get official confirmation and such, but so far it looks like a very real possibility...

Starting in August...  *AUGUST*!!!!

I'm not ready for this!  There are so many "what if's".  He's never been out on his own before.  What if he has a problem with his diabetes?  He'll be 3000 miles away!  

Realistically, this is probably a perfect way for him to get an "away from home" experience.  It's a pretty controlled environment, he'll have roommates, he'll be working a lot and attending classes, etc...

Still...  My oldest will be leaving home for five months, and I won't be there to protect him.  My eyes are getting just a wee bit damp thinking about this.

And like a true geek, I'm wondering how he'll be able to have internet connectivity for the five months he's down there.  Anyone have a low-end laptop they'd like to loan us for 1/2 a year?  :-)

I think I knew this would happen some day, but I didn't expect it to happen in a matter of weeks.

07/11/2005

Stop! An IT Spending Manifesto

Category Everything Else

Michael Sampson has written a great piece on his Shared Spaces blog titled Stop! An IT Spending Manifesto 2005 - 2007.

It's time for CIOs, IT Managers, and IT Professionals to stop wasting money on technologies that are mature and that offer limited opportunities for business improvement. That means immediately stopping spending on: ...

This should be required reading for every CEO...  Nice job, Michael!

07/04/2005

Live 8... Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest...

Category Everything Else

How can we as a society say we care about hunger and poverty, when we support "competitive eating circuits"?

The ability to stuff 50+ hot dogs into your body in 12 minutes is *not* a sport.  You may "train" for it, but it's not a sport, and you are not an athlete.  Add in the other "champions" like donut eating champs, hard boiled egg eating champs, sweet corn eating champs...  

*Sweet corn eating champs*...  that's a claim to fame???

I'm still convinced that people who do this have a moral, ethical issue...

06/30/2005

Went and saw War Of The Worlds this evening...

Category Everything Else

My wife was wanting to see it, so I (of course) made sure that was in the plans for this July 4th weekend.  Without getting into any commentary about Tom Cruise's erratic behavior of late, the best I can give the movie is a "so-so"...

It doesn't take long for the creatures to make their appearance, so it's not like you're waiting half the movie for something to happen.  That was a positive.  The special effects were OK and fit the movie, but nothing that just made you sit back and say "whoa!".  The plots a little thin, but there's a fair amount of suspense going on most of the time...

I guess my biggest gripe involves a number of "how come" moments.  Now, I'm not terribly astute on picking up obvious disconnects and such.  But for instance...  These creatures make their presence known with freak lightening storms that create an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that fries all electronics.  Every car in Cruise's neighborhood is disabled...  except the Caravan that he "borrows" from the neighborhood mechanic.  The pulse even takes out his wristwatch, but some idiot is using a camcorder to film the monster during the first rampage.  Huh?  There's "creative license" and then there's "how wide was that plot hole?"

Relatively entertaining, and it will probably do OK on opening weekend.  But I don't think it's going to have much staying power past that.  It's a "see once" movie...

06/26/2005

Ah, yes... When I had hair...

Category Everything Else

We had dinner with a couple last night we've known for 25+ years.  Her father is the minister that married Sue and I, and they recently did a photo retrospective of his 25 years of ministry at that church.  In the process, they found some pictures of Sue and I taken back in 1982.  Here's one that must have been taken in late 1981/early 1982 as Sue doesn't have her engagement ring on (February 1982).  

As you can see, I *did* have hair at one point in my life...

A picture named M2

06/23/2005

Getting the Netsky virus from... Radicati!

Category Everything Else

I receive a number of Netsky viruses (at least that's what I think they are) in my Yahoo account, and they always get routed to my bulk mail folder.  Sometimes I recognize the address/domain they come from, and sometimes I don't.  But today's latest delivery of a Netsky email was just too rich...  I'm not knowledgeable enough to tell if it actually came from Radicati or if it was forged...  Still, way too funny to get something like this from such a "respected analyst in messaging systems"...  

From announcements-mailer@radicati.com Thu Jun 23 04:08:43 2005
X-Apparently-To: twduff@yahoo.com via 206.190.38.137; Thu, 23 Jun 2005 03:55:06 -0700
X-YahooFilteredBulk: 82.193.12.209
X-Originating-IP: [82.193.12.209]
Return-Path: <announcements-mailer@radicati.com>
Authentication-Results: mta141.mail.re2.yahoo.com from=radicati.com; domainkeys=neutral (no sig)
Received: from 82.193.12.209 (EHLO yahoo.com) (82.193.12.209) by mta141.mail.re2.yahoo.com with SMTP; Thu, 23 Jun 2005 03:55:06 -0700
From: announcements-mailer@radicati.com  
To: twduff@yahoo.com
Subject: Delivery failure notice (ID-00000326)
Date: Thu, 23 Jun 2005 13:08:43 +0200
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary="----=_NextPart_000_0008_000005A4.000062B9"
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
Content-Length: 18187




--- Mail Part Delivered ---
220 Welcome to [yahoo.com]
Mail type: multipart/related
--- text/html RFC 2504
MX [Mail Exchanger] mx.mt2.kl.yahoo.com
Exim Status OK.

New message is available.


06/16/2005

A new blog to chronicle a journey... lessduffbert.blogspot.com

Category Everything Else

I launched a second blog this evening as a personal chronicle of a journey I set out on today...  http://lessduffbert.blogspot.com

As may be evident by the title, I've decided to get serious about weight loss.  I'm reaching some danger points that aren't good, and my wife still insists she'd like me to hang around a bit longer.  So long as I quit snoring...

Less Duffbert will be the site where I put down my thoughts and feelings about this process.  I didn't want to make Duffbert's Random Musings be a "watch me lose (or fail to lose) weight" site.  Besides, if it doesn't go well, I can always just delete the blogspot site and pretend nothing ever happened.  :-)

I'll get the RSS feed going in the next day or two, but for right now I've at least got the basic structure in place.

I promise no "before" shots that will cause permanent retinal damage.  At least until I can put a decent "after" shot next to it.  :-)

05/27/2005

A question on the "drama" that is the Michael Jackson trial...

Category Everything Else

What's the deal with the gold armband that Jackson wears to court every day?

And why do the reporters continue to add a paragraph on what he's wearing each day, as if that means *DIDDLY SQUAT* on the legal proceedings?

He's a strange duck, and his mama dresses him funny...  move on.

05/22/2005

Remember how I put my foot down about a replacement cat a month ago?

Category Everything Else


Remember how I said that Snoogie would be the only remaining cat, and that we wouldn't get a replacement for Patches?  Remember how I asserted my rights as husband and father of the household to make this edict?


Boo-Boo arrived yesterday...


A picture named M2

05/21/2005

Guess I'm the exception... The new Star Wars movie didn't do much for me...

Category Everything Else

My wife and I went to see the Star Wars movie this afternoon.  We used Fandango to order the tickets on-line for the noon showing, then just walked into the lobby and picked up the tickets without waiting in line.  Very nice...

The second part of the movie was better than the first part, in my opinion.  The dialogue between Padme and Anakin was rather stilted and hard to watch.  The whole "conflicted Anakin" theme seemed to get old and whiny until he actually pledged allegiance to the dark side.  And while many loved the lightsaber battles, I got bored rather quickly and kept hoping that someone would get killed so we could move on...

The ending sequences that tied into the very first Star Wars movie were very well done.  Darth Vader's surgery and helmet fitting.  Watching the Death Star being built.  Luke going off to be raised "on the farm"...  You actually feel you could immediately start episode 4 with no continuity break.

On a scale of 1 (awful) to 5 (must see), this was about a 3.5 for me.  Glad I saw it, but I didn't walk away with any "wow" feelings...

05/14/2005

OK... Lyons is still kicking around, it appears...

Category Everything Else

A couple of days ago I wondered what had happened to Daniel Lyons over at Forbes since he hadn't been heard from in nearly a month.  It appears that not only is he still writing, but his type of questioning hasn't changed.  Colin pointed out a posting related to a major journalistic brouhaha over at SYS-CON publications (like LinuxWorld) that has caused a number of editors to resign in protest.  In the posting, he talks about how Lyons contacted him with questions for a story, and the questions are in the same flavor as what Chris Byrne got hit with.  In effect, Lyons has his story slant predetermined, and the mean old bloggers need to be slapped down.  James Turner took the same route as Chris did, and made sure that his side of the questioning was shown early as to blunt the effect of any slant that will appear in Forbes.

So, we IBM/Lotus fanatics shouldn't feel picked on.  Lyons doesn't like bloggers in general, doesn't like IBM specifically, doesn't like Linux much either, and the open source movement is a bunch of tree-hugging radicals who live in a fantasy world.  

But in his book, Microsoft certainly rocks!

05/12/2005

Boy... Daniel Lyons over at Forbes sure went silent...

Category Everything Else

After his "opinion-editorial" piece about IBM being in denial over Notes, and after riling up the Notes faithful back in early April, he's done one article since then (another IBM piece about sputtering growth engines).  It's been nearly a month since his last article of any sort that I can find on Forbes online, and he didn't even cover the IBM earnings shortfall (which should have been a dream assignment for him).

He had contacted a number of bloggers asking questions that indicated another follow-up article was coming and/or was imminent (Lotus bloggers and Radicati).  The tone of the questions indicated that he had already reached his conclusions (not pretty), and Chris Byrne went so far as to post and answer his questions publically to ensure that both sides got told.

I'm just curious as to what happened to him...  Is he just off editing stories for others?  Is he off writing another novel?  I certainly feel he violated journalistic boundaries by inserting himself into the "Denial" story by contacting Bruce Elgort's employer to complain about Bruce's "letter to the editor".  

Having written this, his next story will probably appear tomorrow...  :-)

05/08/2005

Yes, I'm another year older today...

Category Everything Else

Since Joe Litton decided to spread nasty rumors about me being nearly 50 (he is, I'm not), I figured I needed to chime in and correct any misconceptions...  I'm 44 today.

Just type slow and loudly so I can hear you.  :-)

05/06/2005

I still say that Barry Bonds isn't coming back to baseball... ever.

Category Everything Else

So now we have the third knee surgery this year.  I have no doubt that it was a legit infection and such, but that's a whole lot of cutting on a knee that's past 40.  And with the additional steroid testing in place, it will likely be harder to get around the rules barring such substances.  Right now, Bonds is relatively "safe" because he's not playing and probably isn't being tested either.  If there was any illegal 'roid use, he's getting an excellent chance to clear his system.  

And on the off-chance I'm wrong (it *does* happen occasionally) and Bonds *does* return, I'd look for a slimmer physique, explained away by the change in workout routines forced on him by the extended layoff.  And I wouldn't be surprised to see his numbers dip to a mere fraction of his previous yearly totals, once again explained by his lack of knee strength affecting his swing and timing.

And *still* we'll hear no admission of any sort of illegal substance usage...  :-)

04/30/2005

At what point did I cease to be the man of the house?

Category Everything Else

At what point did my edicts from on high simply become meaningless babble to the other occupants of the house?

Did I *ever* have that role???

A week ago, we had to put one of our cats to sleep.  This was Patches, the one with the kidney issues.  My wife and I have talked about how the furniture we buy right now is transitional...  to bridge the gap from now 'till post-kids/cats.  Then we can get nice stuff that won't be slept on, scratched up, puked or pee'd on...

So after I got back from the vet's place, I said we weren't going to replace Patches.  Snoogie would be the only cat (and he seems to be liking the return to that status).  Sue agreed.  Ian wanted another cat, but life's tough.  He's nearly 19...

So I come home yesterday to find *what* on the refrigerator?  A picture of the kitten we're getting in two weeks...  Ian's already named him.  When I asked Sue where he got that picture, she sheepishly claimed to have no knowledge of any of this.  Except for the fact this is one of the kittens from a lady at her work whose "hot tub kitty" had babies...

sigh...

04/28/2005

I hereby promise to release a new version of iWatch to OpenNTF this weekend...

Category Everything Else

Bruce Elgort made me the proverbial "offer I couldn't refuse" and basically bought my time and attention this weekend...  :-)

04/26/2005

Don't like a particular book? Ban the publisher from your store...

Category Everything Else


From Reuters:  
Apple Pulls Jobs Bio Publisher's Books From Stores

So...  Steve Jobs is apparently miffed over the new unauthorized biography called
iCon - Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act In The History Of Business.  So, what do you do when you don't like the content you read?  You throw a fit and ban the rest of the publisher's books (in this case, Wiley) from your store.  Either that, or you sue teenagers running web sites that are scooping your latest moves...

I can see a company (and an individual) being less-than-thrilled with someone's portrayal of them in print.  Such is life in the limelight.  I can even see making the decision not to stock that particular title.  It's a free country, and you shouldn't be forced to sell something you don't agree with.  But to take the punitive step of removing useful reference titles by the same publisher "just to show them who is the boss" is a bit much.


It's no secret Apple is a very image-conscious company.  In many ways it's like Disney...  There's the reality, and then there's the "authorized" reality.  In my opinion, Apple overstepped their boundaries when they went after the websites that report on the company.  Unless you're breaking nondisclosure agreements (which I think Apple is contending they've done second-hand), you have a right to monitor and report on a public company.  The Apple image got hammered pretty hard over that fiasco, and now they step right back into the frying pan.  


It's my personal feeling that Jobs probably just gave Wiley the biggest publicity boost they could have dreamed of.  Since I'm not a Mac user, I really had no inclination to read and review this book.  Now after this PR misstep, I'm much more tempted to check out the book and see what Jobs is so upset about.  


And the other Wiley titles?  Talk to me when you can get Amazon, Borders, or Barnes and Noble to pull copies.  Until then, thanks for the controversy.  It sells well...  :-)

04/26/2005

Funny jury duty moment for Ian...

Category Everything Else

Ian was called for jury duty yesterday for the first time.  Where we live, you show up for one day.  If you get on a case, you follow it to completion.  If you don't, you're done.

 

Anyway, he was initially called for a jury having to do with an assault case.  The lawyers were asking jurors if it's ever OK to hit anyone.  He got to Ian and asked when was the last time he was in a physical confrontation with anyone. 

 

Ian simply looked at him and said, "I play hockey."

 

The lawyer said he didn't want to go there, and dismissed for cause.  :-)

04/25/2005

Can someone translate this for me?

Category Everything Else

Looking through my referrer logs, I've gotten a lot of hits from this URL:

http://www.pelit.fi/keskustelu/keskusteluboard.asp?ryhma_id=3&amp;alue_id=35&amp;ketju_id=2970773&amp;x=3643

I don't have a clue as to what it is (looks like a Finnish gaming site?), and I'm really curious as to what was linked to in my blog...

Any one "game" enough to tell me what it was I wrote that's so popular?

04/23/2005

With fond memories... good-bye, Patches...

Category Everything Else


A picture named M2

We had to put one of our cats to sleep today.  Patches, who lately could more aptly be named Puddles, had been having urinary issues.  When Sue took him to the vet about a month ago, tests showed that the kidney function was down around 25% which is about as low as a cat can go before their health takes a dramatic downturn.  We tried special food to delay what was most likely inevitable, but it didn't seem to be working.  Over the last week, he seemed to be finding it harder to get comfortable.  Never having been a large animal, he had also dropped even more weight and seemed to weigh next to nothing.  He had gone from 8 pounds to 6.5 in the month since the last vet visit.  


Sue decided that we had reached that fine line between life and suffering, and asked me to take him in today.  She was a mess just sticking him in the carrier.  I was doing relatively OK until I walked out of the office with an empty carrier.  That's when it struck home...


As frustrated as I was over some of the damage and hassles we put up with, he was an entertaining critter.  It's strange walking through the house with all the doors open now that we don't have to restrict him to specific areas to minimize damage.  He will definitely be missed...

04/23/2005

Focus, phishers... FOCUS!!!

Category Everything Else

Today I got a phishing attempt in my gmail account (nothing new there)...  But it was designated as coming from eBay to update their new security system, the alternate text on the graphic was from wamu.com (Washington Mutual), and the last line was the motto from Washington Mutual...

One thing at a time, phishers...  FOCUS!!!  

"-)

04/17/2005

My neck is sorta getting better...

Category Everything Else

I don't know what I did to my neck while sleeping Thursday night, but I certainly did a number on it.  Friday, it was really painful.  I spent most of the day taking Tylenol and putting heat on it.  I was able to find some comfortable positions for sleeping Friday night, which was a step up from Thursday.  Yesterday I had a bit more range of movement, but I still had to take a few breaks to stretch out and nap (life's rough!).  I'm still in some pain this morning, as I think I'm holding my head and neck somewhat differently, putting stress on back muscles that normally don't get it.

The worst part is that I tend to turn my head thinking that everything is OK, and I hit that pain point without warning.  Ouch...

04/14/2005

It SUCKS getting old...

Category Everything Else

Sleep...  one of those blissfully unaware times when you're allowing your body to recharge itself so that you can wake up and conquer another day...  Right?

Yeah, tell me the one about the Easter Bunny, too...

I woke up at 11:30 pm with a pain in my neck that won't quit.  This is different than waking up *AS* a pain in the neck every morning...  After trying to position the pillows to go back to sleep, I decided to just give in and get up.  Easier said than done when the pain-free range of motion of your muscles attaching your cerebellum to your torso is around 10% of normal...

I can turn my head to the left OK.  Forget looking over to my right...  ain't happening.  Look down?  OK.  Look up?  Don't think so...

I turn 44 in less than a month...  Is *this* what I have to look forward to in my golden years?  Blogging at 2:26 am because I can't sleep due to rebellion within the bodily ranks?

Might as well go upstairs and do something I think I can still do OK...  read! :-)

04/14/2005

The gift that keeps on giving... Enron settlement checks! :-)

Category Everything Else

I mentioned awhile back that I had received a settlement check from Enron for the allowed claim amount of my remaining severance pay (one month's worth before they declared bankruptcy).  Even though that still left a little over $2500 above and beyond the claim limit, I figured that getting 100% of that base amount was better than 11% of the whole thing.  

Well, today in the mail I get another envelope from Enron.  Thinking it was another one of those endless updates on some aspect of some class-action suit that will never pay out, I casually opened it.  Voila!  An 11% payout of the amount over and above the initial allowed claim amount!  

Now, after taxes and withholding (they *are* wages, after all!), we're talking less than $200.  But still...  

04/13/2005

I don't *EVER* want to hear again that hockey is a rough sport with rowdy fans...

Category Everything Else

Soccer is the hands-down winner for that title...

04/07/2005

Life with (and I'm sure *as*) a Type 1 diabetic is hard...

Category Everything Else

We get a call last night from our son who is a type 1 diabetic.  He's at a meeting about 20 minutes away from our place, and he says the car won't start.  When we try to tell him to call AAA (a car club that can offer jump starts and such), he mentions that it won't work, the keys are in the car, he's out of the car, and other equally strange stuff.  It finally starts to come clear that he's having a low and isn't quite with it...

Fortunately he had gone over to a bingo hall and gotten a carb drink to bring his blood sugars back up.  After 15 minutes of conversation and making sure he was coherant, all was well, his blood sugars were back in line, and he was able to get home.  But needless to say, mom and I were a wreck...

It could have been so much worse...

04/01/2005

Remember Grant hockey? Play-off game #1... 1-0 victory!

Category Everything Else

I realize I've been remiss in not posting anything lately about the Grant High hockey team.  The season wasn't over, as you might have thought.  It was just that after Christmas, the team had fallen into a big-time pit.  It was like Jekyll and Hyde.  No offense, scrambling defense, Cam was facing 30 to 40 shots a game, and it was pretty safe to assume a loss most nights.  And this from a team that had been 7-1 before the Christmas break...

Well, last night was game #1 of the play-offs.  Since *all* teams make the play-offs (this *is* hockey, remember!), there's nothing special about being there.  But I sensed that the focus of the team was sharper than it had been in a long time.  Cam was actually nervous, and there was some energy there before the game.  So on with the game recap...


The first two periods were well-played by Grant.  A significant amount of time was played in the attacking end, and shots were being put on goal.  Cam wasn't seeing hardly anything in net, and what he *was* seeing was being handled well.  After the end of two, it was still 0-0, and I was getting nervous that we were looking at a potential overtime shoot-out.  Just what the parent of a goalie doesn't want to see...


The third period continued with good play on both sides.  Then with about 7 minutes left in the game, there was a massive scramble in front of West Linn's net.  I think all 10 skaters were there, and no one could freeze or clear the puck.  Finally, Charlie got the puck on his stick and sniped a shot into about a 2 inch clearance.  1-0, Grant!


Gut check time...  Would the team retreat into a defensive shell and allow Cam to be pelted with shots, or would they continue to push the play, knowing that you risk giving up odd-man rushes?  Fortunately, Grant didn't panic, and the play was still offensively-minded.  While they weren't pushing quite as hard, there was a focus on making sure at least one man was back.  Things didn't get dicey until the 2 minute mark, when Grant was called for a minor penalty.  They'd skate the rest of the game down a man.  West Linn called a time-out at the 1 minute mark and pulled their goalie...


One minute of 6 on 4 hockey for the right to move on in the play-offs...  Grant continued to track the puck well, and even nearly scored on the empty net with a clearing pass.  But the puck stopped about two inches short of the goal, and West Linn came back for one more rush.  The game was decided when Bertalot went down in front of a shot at the point with about 10 seconds left.  The puck left the zone, and that was the game.


Excellent effort by both teams, and I'm extremely proud of the Grant team.  In three years, they've gone from an 0-22 season to actually advancing in the play-offs.  As Ian left the ice after helping coach the team to victory, he summed it all up perfectly...


"Only three years in the making..."

03/29/2005

I keep waking up each morning, hoping that Terri Schiavo has passed away during the night...

Category Everything Else

I realize this is a highly emotional subject with people who hold very strong opinions on both sides of the issue.  For her sake, I wish it would just be over.  I don't think anyone realized it was going to be this long of an ordeal, and it's tough to see someone's passing be drawn out like this.

I don't know the full history of this case other than the "he said, she said" stuff that goes on in the media.  But I am *really* tired of both sides (particularly the parents) using the media to try and manipulate public opinion with grossly outrageous statements.  Like the family spokesperson who said the other day that Terri's survival to date was proof that she wants to honor the subpoena issued by Congress and should be allowed to live.  So even in a vegetative state or minimal state of consciousness, she's up on the current news?  I have a hard time buying that.

Or the now famous "Ah...  WA..." utterance proclaimed by the parents to be proof that she was trying to communication "I want to live".  Even assuming it was a coherent attempt at speech, "I want" is open-ended and the parents are reading into it whatever their emotions want to believe.

And now we have Jesse Jackson jumping into the fray to demand Terri's rights.  Please.....

How often does this go on every day and nobody but the immediate family is involved?  Why does everyone want to get some political mileage out of this?  Can't we please go along with over 25 court rulings that have sided with the husband's version of the story that Terri didn't want to live like this (for around 15 years now)?

03/29/2005

Looking for a class browser for LotusScript? Check out the Teamstudio site on Wednesday...

Category Everything Else


I had the pleasure to get an early peek at a new tool about to be released by Teamstudio.  It's a LotusScript class browser that is to be called Script Browser, and it's set to be released on their site on Wednesday.


Oh, the price?  Free...


The lack of plans to integrate in a class browser to Designer was one of the biggest disappointments for many at Lotusphere this year.  Teamstudio has stepped into that gap and came up with a very nice tool to meet those needs.  


http://www.teamstudio.com/ScriptBrowser

03/29/2005

Potential Notes job opportunity in Portland, Oregon...

Category Everything Else
Are you in the Portland, Oregon area or have you always wanted to move here but needed to have a job lined up first?  I am aware of an organization (not the one that I work for) that is looking to contract a Notes developer for some upcoming work.  The focus is primarily on the Notes client, but I'm sure that solid web development skills in addition to that won't be frowned upon.  Proximity to this location is important, so offers to work remotely won't work too well in this situation.
 
If you're interested, send me an email at twduff using my yahoo mail account (you should be able to figure out how to do that!) along with your resume.  I'll pass it along to the firm and let them get in touch with you based on their interest.
 
(Just in case anyone is wondering...  I have nothing to do with this position.  I'm not getting any sort of referral fee, nor am I starting a sideline as an IT recruiter.  This is strictly being done as a favor for someone, and I have no stake in the outcome.)

03/22/2005

Bonds done for season? I think he's done for good...

Category Everything Else

Barry Bonds underwent knee surgery in the off-season to repair some damage, and then "reinjured" it when he accidently hit it against a table or something.  The MRI showed more tears, so he went back in for a second operation.  Now he's telling the press he may be out until mid-season or perhaps for the entire season.

 

If you ask me, I think you've seen the last home run by Barry Bonds.  I think he's done, and will announce his retirement before he ever plays another game.

 

Let's face it...  He's taken steroids, either knowingly or (wink, wink) unknowningly.  The public image of baseball has taken a beating over the last year with all the steroid talk, the congressional hearings, etc.  As he approaches the most revered record in baseball, there's no way he'll be able to get the record without the stigma of having "cheated" his way to the top.  So, given the current climate in baseball, how can he salvage his reputation in the public eye, assuming he even cares?

 

Quit now.  Claim a permanent injury, claim old age, leave everyone wondering "what could have been" by walking away from the game while you're third on the list of all-time homers.  Everyone knows if you played one more season, you'd eclipse Ruth.  Two more, and you'd probably knock off Aaron.  But just as Aaron never really got the respect that Ruth had, Bonds will probably never get the respect that Ruth OR Aaron ended up with...   Too much controversy.

 

So remember...  you read it here first...  Bonds is done with baseball.

03/17/2005

Call to action for ISPs - Don't deliver phishing emails!

Category Everything Else

It used to be that I received a phishing email from a "bank" or eBay once every week or so.  Now I receive three or four a day, both in my Yahoo and gmail accounts.  Heck, I even get some in my mail account for the consulting firm I used to work for...

Now, Yahoo and gmail seem to be adept at figuring out that these emails are frauds, as they get routed to my spam and junk mail folders.  And there's no possible way that I'm going to respond to any unsolicited email from a bank or eBay asking for account information.  But there are apparently far too many people who don't understand the concept of identity fraud.

So...  rather than try to warn people about this problem, let's just take the logical step...  DON'T DELIVER THEM!  If the ISP can determine that they are spam and phishing attempts, just drop them.  I realize that this might be a slippery slope to start down...  Today they are phishing attempts.  Tomorrow they are emails from "hate groups".  Then they are emails from groups that don't support the government...  etc.  

But let's get real...  The phishing problem isn't going away.  Gramma and Grampa Jones aren't going to figure out that a "bank" they don't even use wants their information for identity theft.  Act in the best interest of the public and stop abetting felonious activity.

If it smells like phish, stop it at the borders...  toss it out, stop it cold, don't even let us see it.  

Gramma and Grampa will thank you.

03/16/2005

Time to take it easy for awhile...

Category Everything Else

I've been asked on more than one occasion how I get everything done, do I sleep, am I cloned, etc....  The answer is, I'm really lazier than you'd think, and there's a wall somewhere out there that I'll hit one day as far as taking on new stuff.

And even though I haven't made contact with the wall, I'm close enough to read the writing on it.

I've been prepping for presentations (Lotusphere and today's webcast, plus two user group meetings) since about October of last year.  There's also the monthly e-Pro newsletter stuff that I have deadlines on.  Book reviews, emails, yada, yada, yada...  And I don't feel like I've done as well as I could have because I've had too many irons in the fire.

So, now that I've finished the webcast, I plan on "relaxing".  No more speaking prep for awhile.  Just having the newsletter to focus on will seem like a vacation.  I can blog about things that come up instead of putting it off until the weekend, and then finding I don't remember why I thought it was relevant in the first place.  I can read some novels I just got at the library and not feel guilty.  

And I won't be spending every evening online as I fight to keep up.

sigh...

Yeah...  this feels nice.  :-)

03/10/2005

Request from a reader...

Category Everything Else

I got an email from a reader yesterday asking if I knew of any way to get a Lotusphere backpack from LS 2005.  I'm not parting with mine because I love that thing!  But if you have any ideas (websites that sell them, willing to part with yours, etc.), she'd be happy to hear from you...

Contact Kelly Keesee at mkeesee [AT] ccrtc.com.

We now return to your regularly scheduled blogging...

02/28/2005

I guess Microsoft can ice those plans for IE development now...

Category Everything Else

There have been a spate of stories in the last couple of days about the "slowing growth" of the Firefox browser.  Let's just take a sample article from HardwareGeeks.com...  Firefox Growth Rate Slips

Most the articles dwell on how the growth of Firefox is cooling down, and how this could be the zenith of the Firefox revolution.  But let's look at some of the material in the article...

According to a report released by WebSideStory a web analysts company, the growth rate for the Firefox browser has slowed down.

Firefox 1.0 which made its debut in November with a two page ad in the New York Times, saw its market share grow 34% in the first five weeks of its release. Since that initial surge the growth rate for Firefox has slowed down and in the past five weeks ending February 18th the market share growth was just 15%.

Since the release of Firefox the market share has grown to 5.9% while Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has fallen to 89.9%. This will be the first time that Internet Explorer is under 90% in years.
       
According to stats gathered at the Firefox website there have been well over 25 million downloads of the browser.

It was expected that the Firefox growth rate would slow down but many users and fans of the browser were hoping that Firefox would hit a 10% market share by mid-year. At the current growth rate that seems unlikely, however it may hit 10% by year end something which Mozilla expects.

So in reality, Firefox has helped push IE under 90% usage for the first time in years, 25 million downloads have occurred, and they could still hit 10% by the end of the year.  On, and they "only" grew 15% this month...  "Only"?  Most software companies (or any other company for that matter) would kill for a 15% increase in a month...

Media sheep...

02/27/2005

So far so good on the new box...

Category Everything Else

I got both ND 6.5.3 and ND 7.0 Beta 3 loaded this morning, and they both seem to interact OK.  I took this opportunity to move over all my blog stuff to the ND 7 client, so we'll see how that goes.  I just have to load DB2 on the ND7 server, and I'll be set.  I don't think I did it right before, but it wouldn't have mattered as it was slow as molasses with just the server.  

I'm really liking this new box...  It's really fast, and it's sorta cool to have Winamp playing some internet radio station that's shaking your desk because you have the volume turned up high.  I may actually get into music again at this rate!

02/26/2005

What a day... jackhammers and new computers...

Category Everything Else

Well, it was a pretty productive day.  I was finally able to remove an old basketball post from the front of our house that had been a fixture from the prior residents.  I started out last weekend with a 12 pound sledgehammer, which started to look adequate for the job.  But all that did was crack the first layer that was about three inches thick.  The rest went down about two feet (on a 3' x 3' pad), and it wasn't breaking for nothing.  I finally rented a jackhammer today, and after about an hour I was able to break it out.  I'm convinced I'm not cut out for construction, that's for sure...

Then the fun stuff began.  I bought a new computer from Fry's today.  3.2 Ghz Pentium whatever, 250 GB drive, 2 GB of RAM, and a bunch of cool speaker and multimedia stuff that Cam ended up assisting me with.  I now have surround sound 5.1 speakers and all sorts of stuff that rocks the basement.  I was more concerned about the drive space along with the memory, as my laptop is over three years old and just wasn't pulling the load any more...

02/24/2005

All is right in the world... Mayflower Software/InsideDomino/DominoFiles is back and better than ever! :-)

Category Everything Else

You know, I was a bit disappointed after Lotusphere this year.  The prior two years, InsideDomino awarded SpamSentinel from Mayflower Software the "Best In Lotusphere" award.  Nice, except that the editor-in-chief of InsideDomino was/is also the president of...  yes, you guessed it, Mayflower Software.  After being raked over the coals on my blog over that, they took things to new heights by stealing content for the InsideDomino ezine and starting a spamming service with Domino Files.  This year, no awards for SpamSentinel.  Perhaps they've learned their lesson and are turning over a new leaf as a responsible software vendor and member of the Domino community?

I'm happy to report, that's not the case! :-)

If you'd like to keep up with the latest from the company that gives marketing a bad name, let me point you to...

Bruce Elgort - on how to tweak Google AdSense to keep their ads off your site.  You'll also find links to a number of the other misdeeds over time.

Chris Toohey - on trying to get off the spammer's (aka DominoFiles) list...  here, here, and here...

and finally, we have today's installment from Brian Benz...  behavior that all good spammers use to avoid filters.

The spam blasting just blows me away.  They are running a spamming service, no question.  And don't tell me it's opt-in, as Chris has tried to get removed multiple times with no success.  And whether you buy the tie between the companies, it's still disturbing that the head of Mayflower Software is using a spamming service (which I contend they own and run) to advertise their spam prevention software.

Here's a free business idea for them...  Buy or license some highly-respected anti-virus technology or engine.  Wrap it up in a thin veneer of your own branding.  List complementary reviews of that engine as endorsements for your specific package.  Make sure every other content piece in InsideDomino and DominoFiles is about virus prevention that points back to your own product.  Award yourself a few Editor Choice awards for best Domino virus prevention solution on the market.  Then open up some offshore subsidiary (hide it well, we're good at tracking ties) to create viruses targeted for Domino that your solution can detect...

No need to thank me...  you inspired it.

02/24/2005

Whither The Wall Street Journal?

Category Everything Else

A *very* interesting journalism article from Wired:  Whither The Wall Street Journal?

Basically, a print journal with no easily accessed online service becomes irrelevant in today's world.

(I)t might be hard to believe that The Wall Street Journal is in danger of becoming irrelevant, but it is.

(T)he Journal faces an intractable problem. Because you have to subscribe to access both current news articles and the archive, the Journal is leaving only a faint footprint in cyberspace. As with The New York Times, which insists that readers register to view news and pay $3 per article in the archive, the Journal barely shows up on Google or any other search engine. I googled "Enron" -- an issue the Journal covered exhaustively, and which two of its reporters even wrote a book about -- and not one article appeared within the first 25 pages (250 results.)

Then I rigged the test by plugging in "Wall Street Journal" and "Enron" and still struck out (although I did pull up a couple of Journal stories specially edited for high school classes.) If you can input the name of your publication into a search engine and not come up with any stories, you must be digitally tone-deaf.

And in the rare event a Wall Street Journal article does pop up and you click on the link, you will likely encounter a message that informs you, "The page you requested is available only to subscribers." To access the article would cost you $79 a year, or $7 a month ($39 a year if you also subscribe to the print edition).

Since most people refuse to pay for WSJ stories, most bloggers are reluctant to link to them. It also has an impact on anyone who uses the web for research -- and there are a lot of us. As importantly, the next generation of readers is growing up by accessing news over the internet, and one place they are not surfing to is WSJ.com. With their habits being formed now, there is little chance the Journal will become part of their lives, either now or in the future.

Wow...  blogging and online media has really changed the way journalism is practiced, and this is just another example...

02/17/2005

More thoughts on mixing IT analysis and taking stock options as payment for services...

Category Everything Else

As I was trying to get to sleep last night after being up too late, I ended up spending more time thinking about the whole issue of being an IT analyst firm while also running a venture advisement arm of your business that takes stock options as payment.  Specifically, the whole Radicati Ventures thing...

The more I contemplate this, the more I believe that there is no way the analysis part of the firm can remain untainted by this...

It's become very common for financial media sites and columnists to disclose when they may have a vested financial interest in a story or an entity in the story.  For instance, if CBS Marketwatch reports on something related to another network's financial situation, they usually reveal that CBS is the owner of the Marketwatch site (or something like that).  A financial columnist writing about an industry will often reveal that they do or do not hold stock in companies affected by the story.  Granted, we have no way of telling if it always occurs (and I doubt it does), but groups committed to high ethical standards take that approach.

Companies that have different divisions that could potentially have conflicting interests will often establish what are called Chinese Walls.  These processes are put in place so that there are no shared responsibilities that would allow one side to control or manipulate a market so that the other side can benefit.  Again, in the post-Enron corporate world, we all know it didn't happen as often as it should.  But again, it's proper business compliance and control.

Now to the IT analyst situation...  The head of the company is often quoted and is the authority behind the studies and reports that are issued by the company.  And based on their own website, the same head of the company also is personally involved in each of the venture deals.  The deals can be conducted on a cash basis, or part of the payment can be in stock options.  It's the stock option situation that creates a conflict that I can't reconcile in my own mind.

I wouldn't expect a venture firm to list all their customers.  Legitimately that is competitive information.  But we also don't know if those same companies and customers are involved in areas (like messaging) where analysis reports are issued that try and influence the market.  Unless those stock option holdings are disclosed, it's impossible to know if a message could be influenced by potential financial gain.  It'd be like me writing an article for Forbes trashing a company without revealing I had shorted the company's stock.  The information I write may be valid, but the readers have the right to know whether bias might exist.  Conversely, if I write a glowing story about an industry niche and/or a company in that area, it's important to know if I might financially benefit from that company's success.

The corporate scandals of the post-dot.com era have made me cynical.  I worked for Enron.  Although I'd like to believe a company is totally open, I also am not surprised when it's found not to be.  Having potential financial stakes in companies or IT areas where you do analysis calls into question your bias in opinions backed by your company.  Unless those potential biases are revealed as a regular course of action, the IT public has a right to call into question the outcomes of said analysis.

02/16/2005

Analyst Ethics - "I have nothing against those people"...

Category Everything Else

The latest Radicati "analysis" shows up in Messaging Pipeline: Radicati's State Of Messaging Software Market Is Optimistic

I'm not going to talk to the rather obvious attempt to hype MS and downplay IBM's impact in the market in this report.  We've all gone over that before.  You can read the actual report here at
InternetNews.com.  The quoted parts of that study in the article make me wonder what fantasy and convolutions the analyst at Radicati had to go through to make the facts fit his message.

No, what I want to deal with is this quote in the MP artice...


When asked to elaborate, Sara Radicati said that she sees IBM/Lotus Workplace as an end-of-life strategy for Notes/Domino. Confronted by strong evidence, including a survey by Messaging Pipeline, and even stronger feelings from the Lotus Notes/Domino community that the product has a long life ahead of it, she said, "I have nothing against those people, I wish them well. But they are wrong."


This, coming from the analyst firm that tried to astroturf negative comments about their analysis in the Domino blogging community.  This, coming from the firm that tried to anonymously get one blogger fired and who demanded that IBM fire someone else who disagreed with them.  This, coming from the head of the company who stonewalled any admission of guilt in their unethical behavior until the furor got too loud to ignore, and then brushed it over with one of those "it's an internal matter that we've resolved" statements.  Check out
Volker's wiki outlining the whole sordid affair.  

We also have
Radicati Ventures, with Sara's own personal involvement in each deal, offering due diligence, aid in raising venture capital, etc. for tech companies.  Given today's corporate scrutiny and oversight, does anyone else see a problem with this?   This quote at the end raises my eyebrows:  "At completion of a successful transaction we will charge a 5% commission fee of the value of the deal minus the amount already paid in retainer fees. Half of the commission fee may be paid in stock options."  Attempting to influence a market while having a vested stock/securities interest in the outcome of the market is...  problematic.  In some cases, I think the SEC has even called it illegal.

Sara does have something against "those people".  She's proved it with the actions of her firm.  She's accepted money from Microsoft to commission reports painting Microsoft as the winner in comparisons with dubious analysis techniques.  She attempts to influence decision makers with her analysis based on these paid, commissioned reports.  And then she attempts to offer finacial guidance to companies based on her expertise in the industry, based on these reports.  Impartial financial guidance?  That's a hard mental stretch for me to make...  Sorry.


Oh, and John Dickinson?  The guy who wrote the lead article in Messaging Pipeline?  He's the one who wrote this Radicati puff piece
Notes Users: Watch What IBM Does, Not What It Says back on February 3rd.  While he at least semi-challenges her view ("confronted with strong evidence, including a survey by Messaging Pipeline"), he still apparently is content to have his IBM world view shaped by an analyst whose prescription lenses are due for a revision...

01/29/2005

Don't you love going to the doctor, paying your co-pay, only to be told...

Category Everything Else

... Yup, you're sick!  Everyone here has it, it's viral in nature, antibiotics won't help, blah, blah, blah...

I did get a prescription for some industrial-strength cough medicine that I can take that should help me sleep some.  

My sincerest apologies to everyone I coughed around last week...

01/18/2005

First Enron, now Krispy Kreme...

Category Everything Else

From AP:

The man who shepherded failed Houston-based energy giant Enron through bankruptcy reorganization is the new head of Krispy Kreme.

Stephen Cooper succeeds Scott Livengood as chief executive officer of the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, doughnut chain.

Livengood is leaving the post as Krispy Kreme faces regulatory scrutiny and shareholder lawsuits. Livengood -- who'd been C-E-O since 1998 -- has been criticized for his handling of the company's recent financial problems.

Krispy Kreme also says Livengood retired from his positions as president, chairman of the board and as a director of the company. He'll become a consultant on an interim basis.

Krispy Kreme is under a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of its franchise buybacks and earnings outlooks and is facing shareholder lawsuits.

I remember when I was working for Enron during the dot.com days, when everyone in the company had a stock ticker/tracker program running during the day.  I was trying to cash in on some high-flying IPO, and I read the latest weekly list of companies going public.  The only one on the list I laughed at was Krispy Kreme.  "Why would a *doughnut company* go public?"  Of course, being on the west coast, I knew nothing of the KK mystique.

Fast forward, and now KK is reeling from a series of accounting scandals.  They bring in a CEO, a turn-around specialist, the same guy who took over Enron and brought it out of bankruptcy proceedings.  This should be a lesson to companies who don't take their reputation and marketplace image seriously.  KK had an excellent reputation, one that was worth as much as their stock price.  Now they're lacking both.

01/17/2005

At 43, I don't like icy weather any more...

Category Everything Else

This last weekend was an interesting one weather-wise in Portland Oregon.  As often happens when we are getting out of a cold spell, we ended up with freezing rain over the Portland area.  That's when a warm wet air mass overrides a cold air mass that hasn't been pushed out.  The precipitation falls as rain until it hits the cold air (around 500 feet or so) and then freezes on contact with the ground.  Pretty but treacherous...

It hit on Saturday morning around 7 am, and it was supposed to turn above freezing around 1 pm.  But the winds coming out of the Columbia River Gorge (which provide the cold air) are unpredictable, and Sunday morning wasn't much better.  By 11 am or so, it had finally jumped above freezing, and Ian was able to drive to work by 2 pm'ish with no problem.  Everything was just wet ground by then...

Except for our porch...  which was still icy...  and I didn't know it...

Cam and I went to leave the house to go to his hockey game.  I stepped out on the small porch which has two steps to the pavement.  Within moments (and completely by surprise), I ended up on the pavement butt-first, laid out over the steps, with the back of my head serving as an ice-breaker.  Cam, his usual observant self, summed it up quite well...  "That looks like it hurt."  And of course, he was right.  If I could watch it on video, I'm sure it would be funny.  

So, I'm taking a sick day to let the body complain about the abuse I put it through.  At 23, body would have been amused at the whole thing.  At 43, it's gotten a bit more pragmatic and cranky.  And it's *definitely* not amused this morning...

01/17/2005

The direction of media and reporting?

Category Everything Else

EPIC 2014...

It's an 8 minute "movie" about the demise of journalism through the rise of current trends.  While I may not agree totally with the outcome, it is *very* interesting and challenging.  

Well worth viewing...

01/10/2005

Bad start to the 2005 part of the Grant hockey season...

Category Everything Else

Last night was the first 2005 game for Grant, and the first one that Cam played in nearly a month.  There was one game that was played while we were on vacation, and apparently Grant won that one.  Last night they played Tigard, a team that this year that is struggling through their season.  We've beat them quite easily in the past, but last night was not to be one of those easy games.

For whatever reason, Grant came out flat, had no offense, and lost 7-0.  Obviously it's the worst loss of the season, and strangely reminiscent of years gone by.  Cam didn't have a bad game in goal, either.  It was just one of those nights where he faced a lot of shots, some went in, and there was no pressure in the offensive end.  

Hopefully they will learn from that and come back out and play to the level I've seen them play at earlier in the season.  I don't expect them to win every game, but they are far better than a 7-0 loss...

01/06/2005

I finally got my car back home!

Category Everything Else

Well...  I braved the weather today and drove up to Everett Washington to pick up my car from the repair shop.  Sue and I had considered doing it on Saturday, but the weather forecasts were not encouraging.  Rather than risk it, I took a day off from work, rented a car one-way, and headed north.

Now, halfway up there, I was seriously questioning the wisdom of the whole trip.  The Seattle traffic reports talked about all the horrible accidents from the frozen conditions, and Olympia wasn't any better.  I did hit a couple of areas where the traffic on the freeway was down to 10 miles per hour (or less), but the main roads were fine.  I got up there about five hours after I left Portland (normally you can make it in about 3.5 hours).  It was just starting to snow in Everett, so I grabbed the car and started back right away.

They seem to have done a great job on it.  Everything works, it drives fine, and the trip back didn't uncover any issues.  Of course, you could get high from the paint fumes inside the car, but I'll count that as a benefit.  :-)

The funny part was getting into the car for the first time in over six weeks.  It felt like some sort of preserved archeological site.  The bag of peanuts Sue was eating at the time of the accident were where she left them.  Some paper garbage from the trip up was still in the side door panel.  And I'm sure the back seat area had remnants of Cam's residence back there.  

01/05/2005

We have our first 2005 Mayflower Software pig detector alert!

Category Everything Else


An astute and observant reader pointed out the latest in a long series of "less than ethical" behaviors from Mayflower Software, our favorite poster child for "truth in advertising"...


Check out this link:  
http://www.maysoft.com/web3.nsf/ByKey/FPAO5GLQYA

This appears in a Google AdSense listing for free Lotus software.  On this page they are touting a Notes Document Viewer template they are giving away.  No problems there...


Now check out the left column of reviews...  PC World, PC Magazine, and some website called HelpMeRick.com give outstanding reviews to a spam filtering product.  Keep going down, and you see links for Mayflower's SpamSentinel product.  Put two and two together, and it looks like SpamSentinel is getting positive press.


BZZZZZZ!  Wrong answer!


You have to look carefully at the words in the third review to see that they mention something called SpamNet.  Weren't we talking about SpamSentinel?  Maybe you were, but the reviewers for HelpMeRick.com and PC Magazine weren't.  They were reviewing a product called SpamNet from a company called Cloudmark.  


A little confused?  Don't worry...  The fine folks at Mayflower clear it up for you on the first link to PC World's review...  


The PC World review link is actually a press release from Mayflower that talks about how SpamNet, the underlying technology that powers SpamSentinel, received rave reviews from PC World.  The PC World reviewer quotes never mention SpamSentinel, however.  They just talk about SpamNet.


So let's recap...  Mayflower uses a side navigation bar as an advertisement for their SpamSentinel product, and uses quotes from three reviews that actually talk about an entirely different product.  Using that convoluted twist of logic, I could easily take any review of Notes/Domino 6.5 and use it to describe how my recent Notes website rocks and got top awards from the leading industry press.


The people at Mayflower never cease to amaze me with this type of slimeball behavior.  Since they've never directly responded to any of their misdeeds ("ignore them and they'll go away"), perhaps a few carefully chosen words to their booth representatives at Lotusphere(!) might bring them up-to-date on their current standing in the Notes community.

01/04/2005

I really hope to see my car again some day...

Category Everything Else

Remember our eventful Thanksgiving?  The one with the eight car chain reaction accident we were part of?  The weekend I had to take...  <shudder> Greyhound </shudder> home?  

Yeah, that one...

An update...  Our car is still up in Everett Washington being repaired.  They couldn't get it done before we left on the cruise, so we know they'd end up having it the entire month of December.  I've been in touch with them this week, and my original plan was to drive up there this weekend and get the car.  The problem is that our weather pattern is starting to look nasty for snow around that time.  I'm tentatively planning to pick it up this Thursday before the snow hits, but it's still not clear if they will have it fully repaired by then.  Today's call brought to light that there might still be some damage to something in the steering, and they want to make sure it's completely fixed before I get it.  sigh...

The original estimate was $3000, but I'm guessing it's higher than that now.  The good thing is that car #5's insurer (Geico) has accepted responsibility for liability, and they'll pick up the charges.  Now I just have to figure out how they want me to submit bills for deductible/car rental/etc...

I hope we get it soon, as this tiny Hyundi we have is like driving a sardine can...

01/02/2005

My year in review...

Category Everything Else


In many ways, this blog is like a daily "status report" of what's happened to me during the year.  I keep weekly status reports at work (my choice, not required) that allow me to easily go back and recap what I've done at the end of some period of time.  Let me take a look back over the last 12 months and see what happened to me based on my blog entries...
  • January... It started out with a nasty snow and ice storm here in Portland that virtually shut down the city for a number of days.  While I like snow, the whole thing got to be a little old after awhile.
  • I also got my first "print" article published in January with e-Pro.  That was a significant accomplishment for me in my fledgling writing career.
  • My friend Joe Litton moved to Tampa to take a consulting job.  It bummed me out to lose his companionship, but it had positive implications for my career (more in a second).
  • I started concentrating on reviewing books for Amazon and my blog.  I started out with a reviewer ranking of around 25000.  In January, I made it into the 12000 area.
  • Lotusphere 2004 and my first speaking gig in front of 600+ people.  Joe and I had a blast, and the reviews were very positive.  It's amazing what fluoxetine will do for killing nerves and fear.  :-)
  • February...  I hit my first year anniversary of blogging.
  • Joe's departure leads to me landing a new job taking over his place there.  It was tough to leave Boom Vang/Marquam Group, but it was a positive action for everyone.
  • Our Saturn was broken into and Ian's stereo was ripped out.  That's the first break-in of any type I've gone through.  It does have a sense of violation to it.
  • March... I did my first webinar for e-Pro and their online conference for Lotus technologies.
  • April... I released iWatch to the OpenNTF website (thanks to Marquam Group for letting me open source it).
  • My Amazon reviewer rank is now up to 2500.
  • May...  Ian graduates from high school and is now officially an adult.
  • June...  I take over the technical editor role for the new e-ProWire: Lotus Developer Tips newsletter!  I now have monthly deadlines and an audience.
  • I got to attend the Penton editorial conference in Westminster, Colorado.  It's great to be a part of that publishing family.
  • August... The Radicati incident plays out in the blog world...
  • I join the world of PDA users with an iPaq.  I can now sniff out wi-fi access points anywhere.
  • September... I break into the top 1000 reviewers at Amazon.
  • Ian starts college...  I'm getting old.
  • October...  The high school hockey season starts again, and Cam is the starting goalie.  Little would we expect, but they end up with only a single loss on their record by the end of the year.
  • November... Another webinar with e-Pro.  This time it's A Domino Developer Looks At Eclipse.
  • My Amazon goal is reached...  I break into the top 500.
  • We're part of a chain-reaction accident on Thanksgiving Day.  We were car #2 in a string of 8 cars, and it looks like car #5 (and Geico) will end up paying the damages for all the involved cars.
  • December... We get official notification that we (Joe Litton and I) will be presenting again at Lotusphere 2005!  Whoo-hoo!
  • We finish the year with a Caribbean cruise and DisneyWorld vacation for the last 14 days of the year.
 
747 entries in the blog for 2004 (wordy little twit, aren't I?).  Books read over the year?  182.  Yes, that's a record.  Yes, I'm a little embarrassed.


2004 was a very good year for me.  A lot of professional and personal development, and I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now.  If I could only drop about 75 pounds...  :-)


And how was *your* year?

12/12/2004

*Now* the winning streak is officially over...

Category Everything Else

This evening was the rematch from Friday's unofficial scrimmage between the Grant and Lincoln hockey teams.  Having missed what could best be described as an ugly game, I wasn't sure what to expect this evening.  Even though Grant lost 4 - 2, I was very pleased with the play of Cam and the rest of the team.

Grant actually led at 1-0 and 2-1 before Lincoln went ahead 3-2 just seconds before the end of the 2nd period.  They scored once more on a defensive breakdown to go up 4 - 2, and Grant was unable to score again to catch up.  For what could have been a brawl after the last match, both teams played tough hockey and the skating was very even.  If they were going to have their unbeaten streak ended, it was best to lose it this way.  They learned they could play head-to-head with the best teams out there, and this should give them confidence in the second half of the season.  There's one more game before the Christmas break, but it's after we leave on vacation so Cam will miss that one.  

And with that, we'll bid adieu to hockey for 2004...

12/10/2004

I don't know who's clicking through to Amazon from here, but THANKS!

Category Everything Else

For all my book reviews, I provide a link to the book on Amazon using my Amazon Associate ID.  That means if anyone buys something on Amazon after clicking on that link, I receive a small referral commission.  We're not talking big bucks here...  perhaps $15 to $30 a year.  Still, not bad.

But over the last week or so, someone bought a PalmOne Zire 31 after clicking through to Amazon from a link of mine.  And yesterday, someone bought a RhinoSkin Tungsten aluminum case for their PDA.  Since I haven't ever linked to those items directly from my site, it means that someone went over from one of my reviews, and then decided to purchase during that session.  Sweet!

So...  whoever you are...  Thanks!

12/09/2004

The Grant hockey team streak continues to 7-0... barely...

Category Everything Else

Last night Grant played Mountain View for the 3rd week in a row.  Since the first two games were convincing wins, I was worried that they wouldn't take this one seriously.  And I was almost right...

Grant came out hard and scored early to make it 1-0.  Towards the end of the 1st, there were signs that the team was slacking off and the intensity level was dropping.  Ian was coaching and made it very clear during the first break that things were going downhill if they didn't pick it back up.  Midway through the 2nd, the lead increased to 2-0.  Then is when things started to get dicey.

Everyone started trying to get fancy and started going solo with rushes.  This led to blown plays and counter-rushes down the ice.  Cam's shutout came to an end about midway through the 3rd when Mountain View scored on a breakaway.  About three minutes later, the defense disappeared and Cam was at the mercy of two shooters.  That tied it up 2-2, and things didn't look real good for the home team.  Grant brought their level of play up enough to score with about four minutes left, and they literally held on for dear life to take a 3-2 win.

While the win was nice, the effort was horrible.  They didn't play like a team that was 7-0, and they could have easily lost a game they should have dominated from start to finish.  I have a feeling the streak is going to come to an end tomorrow night when Grant plays Lincoln.  Lincoln is the west side powerhouse, and Grant is going to have to be at the top of their game to win this one.  On top of that, Cam is going to probably face more shots (and more difficult ones) than he's seen all season.

I'll check back in on Saturday to let all three of you who care know how it turns out.  :-)

12/05/2004

Nice surprise yesterday... I got my Enron settlement!

Category Everything Else

When I worked with Enron, I was due one more severance check (on December 15th, 2001) before they declared bankruptcy about 10 days earlier.  When I filed the claim for the remaining amount, it appeared that payroll claims were in some "preferred" class that would move to the head of the list, but it was also capped at $4350.  That sounded all well and good, but I had emotionally divorced myself from ever seeing any of that money.  On top of that, it also appeared that my overall claim would be subject to the 20% or so projected settlement of payoff amount.  And hopefully it would all happen sometime before I died.  :-)

Well, yesterday in the mail was a large manilla envelope from Enron.  Expecting it to be more legalese court documents telling me of the latest rulings that would prevent me from seeing money, I wasn't too enthused to open it.  But my wife insisted.  Page one outlined the fact that my $4350 claim could be paid off due to Enron emerging from bankruptcy last month.  And even better, that class of claim was to be paid at 100% (minus all the regular payroll taxes that applied.  And on page 2...  A CHECK!!!!

So...  Our vacation this month will be more relaxed without worrying about dipping into savings.  The wording of the page one document makes me wonder if the amount above the $4350 cap may fall into the 20% settlement amount, but I really don't care.  This is far more than I expected to see, far sooner than I expected to see it.

And thus my Enron experience officially draws to a close...

12/02/2004

They keep going and going... Grant team now 6-0 with another shutout

Category Everything Else

Last night the Portland high school hockey league resumed play after the Thanksgiving hiatus with Grant playing Mountain View.  I think this was originally scheduled as Skyview, but that's the team that folded early on.  So we have a 8:45 pm game instead of the 7:15 timeslot.  And since I was sleep-deprived from waking up far too early Wednesday morning, I begged off and my wife went to this one.  Too bad, as it sounded like a good game.

The Grant team skated to a 4-0 win, and according to Ian it was pretty one-sided.  Ian's doing a lot more ref work in the leagues now, so he was a linesman for last night's game.  Other than taking a hard slapshot in the chest (*that's* gonna leave a mark) from the guy with the hardest shot on our team, he apparently had a good game.  Apparently there was only about 3 1/2 minutes of play down in the Grant end, and Cam only had to make a few really good saves to preserve the win and shutout.  

I know this will end sometime, but they are sure enjoying it right now.

12/01/2004

I just can't do this type of writing...

Category Everything Else

As you all well know, I read a lot.  

"Hello, I'm Tom, and I'm a book addict." ("Hi, Tom!")  

That love of reading has, I feel, made my transition into a writer a little easier.  I recognize different styles and forms, and I have a lot of examples and styles I can draw from.  But there is one type of writing I just can't pull off...  It's the "story/short story/novel" type of writing.

My boss sent me a link to a story he wrote for pay some time back (his one and only foray into professional writing).  It's a short story set in a seedy bar and does an excellent job of painting the scene and putting the reader right there in the midst of the characters.  I can't do that.

Then there's this instant classic...  Ben's first(?) installment of Mike Midas, Ace Developer.  I was hooked right away:

The low sexy voice came over the phone with the kind of invitation that grabbed you by the scruff of the neck and dragged you three thousand miles through the ether, no matter the consequences.  I'd never met the dame, but you could tell by her first words that I'd never walk by her in a crowd.

"Mr. Midas? This is Annika from Uppsala, Sweden, and I have a problem", she purred, and right then she could have asked for a light and the phone would have burst into flame faster than a cheap firecracker on a hot 4th of July.

"What can I do for you?", I asked, measuring the possibilities the way a jockey measures his steed.


I'm sure part of it is knowing someone that can write like that, and part of it is knowing it's not Ben's full-time occupation.  But I just love it when someone can pull off something like this.

Generally I like my writing...  I mean, *somebody* should.  :-)  But when it comes to this type of creative work, I don't have those skills.  If I attempted a 300 page novel, I'd be done in 75.  This is why when people ask me "are you going to write a book?", I just smile, shake my head, and stick with my shorter articles.

Mike, Ben...  great work, and I'm glad someone out there can cater to my reading likes.  

12/01/2004

Guess we won't see our car until after the new year...

Category Everything Else

We have a vacation planned later this month, and I was hoping that we'd be able to drive/train/...bus... up to get the car before we left.  After checking with the body shop today, no such luck.  The frame is bent, the parts need to be ordered, so on and so on.  It's all legit stuff, but it's just going to take awhile.  On top of the body work, there's some engine damage, the extent of which won't be fully known until after the body is taken care of and the car is transferred over to the Chrysler dealership up in Everett.

I'm glad we have insurance...

I *am* a little less-than-thrilled with the claims adjuster so far.  When I first talked with him, he went on about how hard it is to assign blame in a multi-car accident, how long it will take to sort that out, how difficult it is to recover the monies, etc.  I'm sorry, but my Thanksgiving sucked too!  I also asked him today about reimbursement for my deductible, rental car, and transportation from the other insurance company once they get it sorted out.  He said they'd submit those costs when they went about getting their charges back, but they really couldn't force anything.  Huh?

I'll let it all play out, but depending on the outcome, it might be time to reexamine our insurance company options...

11/30/2004

Screensaver Strikes Back At Spammers...

Category Everything Else

From Scotsman.com:  Screensaver Strikes Back At Spammers

A way of turning the tables on internet spammers was announced today.

New software allows recipients of spam to band together to target known websites behind the messages.

The idea is to bombard the sites with messages, slowing them down and making them more expensive to run.

Lycos, the entertainment and communications site, has now designed a screensaver that can launch counter-attacks.

The software waits until the computer is not in use and then sends HTTP requests – technical messages – to known spam sites.

The sites are selected from a blacklist of spammers used by portals such as Lycos and internet service providers.

The Make Love, Not Spam software relies on the principle of distributed computing, which harnesses the power of computers while they are idle.

Similar technology has been used for other challenges which require enormous computing capacity, such as finding a cure for cancer or sifting through the data gathered by SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

Lycos Europe is inviting its 20 million users to download the screensaver, although it is available to anyone with an internet connection.

However, not everyone is convinced the screensaver is the best way of battling spammers.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at anti-virus firm Sophos, said: “If you do manage to swamp the spammers then you set yourself up for more attacks in return.

“The initial target would be Lycos, but anyone installing the screensaver would be classed as an internet vigilante.

“Having this screensaver in a large company could slow down your internet connection. And what is to stop a mistake happening and the wrong number going on the list?

“Our advice is to have the most up-to-date anti-virus software and not to respond to anything which arrives as spam.”

The Make Love, Not Spam screensaver can be downloaded from www.lycos.co.uk

The killer grid application...  :-)

I think what surprises me most here is not the fact that someone built it, but that a company with the size and reputation of Lycos is actively pushing it.  On the surface it seems to be an emotionally appealing way to deal with the issue, but realistically this opens a can of worms.  What if you *do* make a mistake on a site which isn't really a spammer?  You've in effect launched a DDoS attack, and I would think that by doing so you could be held legally liable for damages.  I'll venture out on a limb here and guess that within a month, this software will no longer be available or there will be a court injunction prohibiting its distribution or use.

11/28/2004

As this Thanksgiving weekend draws to a close...

Category Everything Else

... here are a few things I am thankful for...
  • that the car accident on Thursday had no injuries involved
  • that our relatives drove to pick us up an hour away so that we wouldn't have to find a place to stay overnight
  • that Ian was at home through all this so that we didn't have to worry about his diabetes
  • that why we *were* gone, Ian didn't have any problems staying here in Portland
  • that we were able to find an economy rental car for under $100 for the next week
  • that they upgraded us to...  get this...  a PT Cruiser!
  • that Ian's diabetic seizure at 7 am this morning was heard by Sue
  • that between her and I, we were able to inject him with glucagon and get him back under control
  • that I was able to contact someone to cover his hockey refereeing duties he was supposed to do at 9:30 am

and most of all...

That this Thanksgiving weekend is over!  :-)

11/27/2004

Greyhound Bus Lines... a different "class" of travel...

Category Everything Else

OK... So we had to get back to Portland from Lummi Island after the car accident.  It's about a 5 hour drive, so we started examining options...

Option #1 - rental car in Bellingham.  That would cost us around $250 - $300 for the week, we'd have to return it to Bellingham, and we really don't know if one week will be enough to fix the car.  Any other choices?

Option #2 - puddle-hopper plane from Bellingham to Portland.  Horizon Air runs shuttle flights on that route, but it's like $210 a person.  I don't think we're *that* flush.

Option #3 - Amtrak train.  That sounds like fun.  I've never taken a train before.  Problem:  no seats from Seattle to Portland either Saturday or Sunday.  OK...  The final option...

Option #4 - Greyhound Bus.  The price is right: $106 for all three of us to get back.  6.5 hours.  And I've never taken a Greyhound bus anywhere.

And I'll try never to do it again.

The terminal in Bellingham is small but nice.  The bus was coming down from Vancouver BC and was about 15 minutes late.  We all ended up sitting next to people that were already on the bus.  I ended up sitting next to a 300 pound mountain man that smelled like a brewery and mumbled like he had already polished off at least one six-pack.  And it's not even 9 am yet!  I sat halfway out in the aisle until we got to Everett (another nice terminal) where the lady next to my wife got off and I moved over.  There was also a stop in Tacoma (nasty little dive of a terminal) before we got to Seattle.  I would have expected Seattle to be relatively upscale, but no.  It was everything you come to expect from a stereotypical bus terminal.  Surly help, run-down building, diesel fumes in the air, and vending machines and video games which had seen better days.  

And then the people...  I'll tread lightly here, as it would be far too easy to stereotype passengers.  It's cheaper transportation for the masses, and we met quite a few of the masses today.  I really didn't want to know anything about the 22 year old guy who is dating a 30 year old woman because he doesn't go out with "children", won't ever get married, will retire at 40, and whose prior girlfriend claimed she was pregnant to get him back (and that's happened to him eight times before).  I didn't want to sit next to the guy who must have been testing a new hi-carb beer diet.  I really didn't want to listen to a bus driver who acted like we were all three year olds who couldn't follow instructions.

I now know why I fly whenever possible.  I'd still like to try Amtrak sometime, and I may get to when I head back up to get the car in a week or so.  But I will NOT do Greyhound again unless there is absolutely no other alternative.  

11/27/2004

Thanksgiving Day multi-car accident (which we were part of)...

Category Everything Else

My wife, one of my sons and I all headed up to Lummi Island for Thanksgiving to stay with her family for a couple of days.  Things were going fine until we got to Everett Washington and a tricky part of I-5 where there's a left lane exit only that causes significant bottleneck slowdowns.  Traffic started slowing down rapidly,  I came to a hard stop about a foot away from the car in front of us, and then got rear-ended and pushed into the lead car.  Multiply that by eight cars, and you have an idea of how my Thanksgiving went.  

A picture named M2

The damage doesn't look that bad, but it did something to the engine which prevented me from restarting the car and driving away.  The back has nothing more than a broken reverse light in the bumper.  Six of the eight cars were trucks or SUVs, and they were able to continue on.  The other car about five back was a Honda Accord that got the worst of it.  Major accordion effect there.

So...  We got a taxi to take Sue and Cam to the body shop, then AAA got a tow truck to take the car there (about 1.5 miles away).  Sue's brother-in-law drove the hour or so down to pick us up and take us the rest of the way, so we had some place to stay.  We had to leave the car in Everett (about 3.5 hours away from Portland), and will have to head back up there in a week or so (hopefully).

So...  I'm thankful that no one was hurt in the accident, and that all went OK so far as getting the car dropped off and such.  Now we just have to figure out how to get it repaired, work with the insurance company, etc.  

Sigh...

11/19/2004

Some wisdom from Tom Peters...

Category Everything Else

I have always been a Tom Peters fan, and now that he's blogging I can get a daily dose of his rantings.  There have been a couple of entries this week that I really liked...

100 Ways to Succeed #27:

OUT-STUDY THE BASTIDS!

Tennis coach Brad Gilbert was once the #4 ranked pro in the world. He was not a natural. His breakthrough, after a very spotty career about to tank, came when he acknowledged to himself that he wasn't a natural. His response could have been to turn in his racquet. Instead it was to hit the books. Or, rather, write one.

Gilbert was the guy, who when the other guys went for a beer after a match, hung around watching more matches, talking tennis with anyone and everyone ... and writing it all down. He began his black book, and took notes on everything, especially other players he'd faced, or might face. The result: that eventual #4 ranking, and then a superb coaching career, working with the likes of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.

No surprise, one of Gilbert's coaching secrets is continuing his own studies, as well as converting his players into Students (sometimes no mean feat with those "naturals"). Coach Gilbert acknowledges that there may well be a few, like John McEnroe, who can get away without hitting the books ... but for us mortals that's scant consolation.

Needless to say, all this translates one-for-one, to the World of Work you and I participate in. I loved the line from New York Times columnist Tom Friedman: "When I was growing up, my parents used to say to me: 'Finish your dinner—people in China are starving.' I, by contrast, find myself wanting to say to my daughters: 'Finish your homework—people in China and India are starving for your job.'" Age 12, 22, or 62 ... tennis or finance or engineering ... this "simple" lesson bears repeating.


100 Ways to Succeed #28:

REMARKABLE POINT OF VIEW/R.POV8!

I suppose I've said this before, but I'm willing to suffer the charge of repetition. I've just finished seminars with 500 law partners, then a couple of hundred investment bankers. The people I addressed are what I call "scary smart." And they've missed some kids' soccer games ... that is, 12-hour days are the norm. But "talent" and outrageously hard work are not enough! Why? Because there are a lot of talented people around who work long days.

So what's the secret-differentiator? Marketing guru Seth Godin said, "If you can't state your position in eight words, you don't have a position." I choose to interpret this not as a "marketing tip," but as a profound statement. I spent my two seminars hammering on "Remarkable Point Of View" ... or R.POV. Or, stealing from Seth, R.POV8 ... a Remarkable Point Of View ... captured in 8 words or less.

Seth, however, must make room for Jerry Garcia: "You do not merely want to be the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do." And for founder Tom Chappell, of Tom's of Maine: "Success means never letting the competition define you. Instead you have to define yourself based on a point of view you care deeply about."

The problem: Developing, maintaining, and refreshing a R.POV is excruciatingly difficult. I'll leave that to later; right now my point is simply to insist that smarts and hard work, even effective hard work, is not enough. The query that must never be far from your consciousness: IS WHAT I'M UP TO REMARKABLY DIFFERENT, AND CAN IT BE CAPTURED IN SIMPLE, COMPELLING LANGUAGE?

What we're talking about here may explain in part John Kerry's loss. A few weeks before the election, a Washington Post analyst, Kenneth Baer, penned: "To win this race, Kerry needs to stop focusing on Election Day and start thinking about his would-be presidency's last day. What does he want his legacy to be? When sixth-graders in the year 2108 read about the Kerry presidency, what does he want the one or two sentences that accompany his photo to say?"

Presumably those two sentences would have maxed out at eight words!

11/18/2004

The streak continues... Grant hockey team now 5-0!

Category Everything Else

Or if you want to count last week's "technical win" properly, it's probably really 4.75 - 0.  :-)

Last night was the first time we've seem Mt. View, and they've improved quite a bit.  They were as bad as we were two years ago (actually, *nobody* was as bad as Grant two years ago), and they've steadily gotten better over time.  Last night's game was pretty tight in the first period, and I thought that Cam was going to have to be pretty active in goal to keep Grant in the game.  But the floodgates opened up in the second and Grant ran off to a 5-0 lead before coasting to a 5-2 win.  Cam is back to sporting a 1.0 goals against average, which is incredibly low.  And considering this is the total number of wins we had all of last year, things are going well.

I would have liked to be a bit more intensity to start the game, as well as not seeing the drop-off that occurred after we got the 5-0 lead.  With hockey at this level, the only safe lead is the one you have at the final horn.  On the very positive side, the team is showing a lot more maturity in staying out of fights and retaliation penalties.  There were two instances last night where a Mt. View player was seriously trying to provoke one of the Grant skaters into a fight.  Last year, Ian would have come crashing in and taken the player out.  Funny, but with him just coaching this year, the team is much more sedate!  :-)  Anyway, the Grant team avoided the fight and got power plays out of the incident.  It's nice to see things coming along like that.

Once again I'll say...  this won't last forever, but it's a great ride while it does!

11/12/2004

The Grant hockey team is now 4-0... sorta...

Category Everything Else

When we left the team last week, Cam had a shutout in goal and Grant was sitting at 3-0 on the season.  This week they played Beaverton, who has humiliated them in prior years.  I was hoping this would be a good indicator of how far Grant has come.  We suited up the normal contingent of players, and Beaverton showed up with six...  five and the goalie.  So much for bench management!  They did get an extra skater a couple minutes into the game, but we're still talking seriously outmanned.  And unfortunately, I think that Grant thought the same thing...  Even thought they had no spare skaters, the ones that Beaverton *did* have were good, and they have a goalie who is outstanding.

Grant opened the scoring in the first with a goal to end the 1st period at 1-0.  Beaverton tied it up at 1-1 by the end of the second, and Grant wasn't looking good at all.  No spark on offense, and they were playing in their own end far too much.  In the third, Beaverton scored to go up 2-1, and their goalie was looking unbeatable (along with us not putting any pressure on him).  With about six minutes left, the first fight of the season broke out and Beaverton ended up with an extra double minor, making it 5 on 4.  Then Grant got called for a minor, making it four each.  Beaverton had no one on the bench, a player in the box, and their fighter called for a game.  At the 2:49 mark, another pushing match broke out, leading to matching minors.  The players had to go to the box, but rules state that you stay at 4 on 4.  But Beaverton didn't have a fourth player to leave on the ice.  So according to league rules, they had to forfeit the game and Grant was awarded a 1-0 win.

Neither side was too happy with this...  Beaverton felt cheated (they probably could have won by skating 3 the rest of the game) and Grant wanted a chance to tie it up in regulation.  But rules are rules.  Actually, Grant lost their last game of the season last year in this same fashion.  But they were tired, the season was over, and they just wanted to end it.  

So, the record shows that Grant is still undefeated and Cam has two shutouts with a .75 goals against average.  But there's a large asterisk next to that one...

11/09/2004

I'm sad to announce that Arafat is dead... I AM NOT!!!!

Category Everything Else

Am I the only one that thinks either:
  • This is a bad Monty Python skit ("Bring out your dead...")
  • Bagdad Bob has found a new job as spokeperson for the French medical establishment...

11/06/2004

I went and saw The Incredibles last night...

Category Everything Else

... and as usual, Pixar has done a phenominal job of computer animation and story telling.  This is more of an "adult" feature than their other films, in that most of the themes will resonate with adults, such as middle-age crisis and marital trust.  The fight scenes are also a bit more graphic than past features, but not such that you'd have to worry about taking your kids.  The characters are so very believable (within the superhero motif, of course), and the dialogue will have you rolling.  The scene with his wife visiting the costume designer is absolutely hysterical...  Once Pixar finishes their Disney arrangement (Cars is their next (and last) Disney film partnership), they can start working on The Incredibles 2, as the sequel is set up perfectly at the end.

While this probably isn't my favorite Pixar feature, I'd defintely sit through it again (and again).  When it hits DVD, I'll definitely rent it for any special features.  My only complaint is that I forced my family to sit through the ending credits wondering if they'd stick any surprises (like "outtakes") at the end.  They didn't, I lost $5 to Ian, and I had to listen to both him and my wife gloat all the way home.  The only redeeming thing is that my name appears in the Pixar credits...  OK, it's actually this guy, but still...

11/04/2004

PIG DETECTOR ALERT! Mayflower/Inside Domino/Domino Files

Category Everything Else

My favorite resident of the software company ethics hall of shame is at it again.  For the full story, head on over to Brian Benz' blog at Software Soapbox to check out the latest marketing missteps of DominoFiles (aka Inside Domino, aka Mayflower Software).

Basically, DominoFiles sends out a email (it appears to be spam, but I didn't get it and maybe Brian did sign up) touting their email marketing program called an email "blast".  It's supposed to generate all these leads that make people flock to your site and buy or download your product.  For one, that sounds incredibly like spamming, but I won't get into whether their list of Notes professionals are opt-in or not.  I didn't get the email, so I can't say.  

Now, it would have been nice had they bothered to spellcheck their ad copy.  How seriously do you take an offer to

SEND YOUR EXCLUSIVE PRODCUT MESSAGE THROUGH THE LARGEST NOTES LEAD GENERATION DATABASE IN THE INDUSTRY TODAY!

"PRODCUT MESSAGE"...  sounds painful...

Ah, but wait...  this isn't the "best" part...  They have actual "testimonials" on how effective this program is...  One of the glowing reviews:

"I Love DominoFiles!
Our server downloads increased to 25 times our normal daily rate (from 4 downloads per day to 100 so far today), and we haven't even gone a whole day since you sent our blast. Thanks!!!"

Frank Paolino, MayFlower Software

If you've been following this saga, you'll know that MayFlower Software is the company that runs Inside Domino and DominoFiles.  Of course, that's the *only* way you'll know that, because they seem to go to great lengths to hide that fact.  As a result, Inside Domino does such wonderful stuff like give Best Of Lotusphere awards to SpamSentinel software, a product which is produced by, you guessed it, MayFlower Software.  This is also the group that lifted an article by Bruce Elgort directly from his OpenNTF site and used it on their Inside Domino site as content.  

It just blows me away that MayFlower continues to pull these stunts.  I don't think I've ever seen a small company like this be totally oblivious to the opinion and reaction of decision makers and influencers when it comes to their behavior and ethics.

Thanks for flagging this one, Brian...

11/04/2004

Break up the Grant hockey team! They're 3-0!

Category Everything Else

Last night was week 3 of the Portland high school hockey league season, and Grant was up against Sherwood.  We came into the game 2-0 and looking more like a team than we ever have in the two prior years.  Due to one of the league teams not having enough players, they folded the squad and divided up the players.  For the first time I can remember, we had enough people to come close to skating three lines!  What a concept!  Substitutes!

Anyway, we have Cam between the pipes and Ian on the bench coaching.  Sherwood is better than the first two teams we've played, and the overall play is more even than it has been in the past.  Cam looks solid, the defense is keeping the pucks away from him, and the forwards are flying.  The first period ends 0-0, and so we go to the 2nd.  Grant finally knocks home a goal to go up 1-0.  Cam has a few nice pad saves, and still looks solid.  Midway in the third, Grant once again knocks home a rebound and we're looking good at 2-0.  Things get a little dicey when Cam has a race for the puck with an on-rushing Sherwood forward, but he gets there first and clears it.  With the pressure increasing, Sherwood is swarming in our end and Cam is scrambling.  With about 3 minutes left, he makes a spectacular glove save that definitely robs them of a goal.  The Grant team successfully rags the remaining 3 minutes off the clock, and Cam has his first shutout of the season.  Way to go, Cam, and way to go team!

I know this won't last forever, and next week Grant plays Beaverton.  Beaverton is a perennial powerhouse run by the owner of a different ice rink, and he tends to...  "load up" his roster with kids who play at a higher level than most high schoolers.  That game will be a real test to see how far Grant has matured as a team.

11/04/2004

Yes, I'm here... Yes, I'm fine...

Category Everything Else

I've had a number of things going on of late (just typical life stuff), and so my blogging volume is down.  I also haven't been on top of my email very well.  So I get a ping from someone I know asking if everything's OK...  :-)

I don't know if that's good or bad...  Are people missing my writing or are they pleased that I'm not wasting as much bandwidth as normal?

11/03/2004

America didn't "make a mistake" yesterday...

Category Everything Else

Cruising through a number of blogs today, many of them, especially non-US ones, seem to have the overwhelming opinion that America made a mistake yesterday.

No, we didn't.

We have a democratic form of government that says everyone of a certain age is allowed to vote.  Whoever gets the most votes, wins.  Except for that ugly little electoral college/popular vote thing, but I digress.  We had more people vote yesterday in terms of voter turnout than we've had in over 35 years.  Bush won the popular vote by around 3.5 million.  Bush also won the electoral college vote by the required 270.  There were no Florida debacles (at least that we know of) this time around.  The American public spoke, and this is what they said...  We want George Bush to be president for the next four years.

That may not have been the candidate I wanted.  It may not have been the best choice in my opinion.  I'll even concede that it may not have been a *wise* choice based on your point of view.  But was it a mistake?  

Not if you believe and participate in a democratic form of government.

My response would be to take Joe Litton's advice...  Get involved and stay involved.

And turn off those insipid reality shows...

11/01/2004

Why Measure What Can't Matter?

Category Everything Else

From Peter Coffee at eWeek:  Why Measure What Can't Matter?

Developers have a duty to focus stakeholders' attention on relevant metrics and technologies.

I was talking with someone about this year's presidential election, when I said that it was silly for polls to report anything other than predictions of the Electoral College votes. I argued that a poll purporting to measure, for example, "a 51-to-49 lead" for one candidate versus another was meaningless—since there's no such thing as a "popular vote" for the Presidency.

"What do you mean?," came the reply. "You count up all the votes in all the states for one candidate, you count up all the votes for the other, that's the popular vote."

"OK," I said, "Imagine it's the end of a football game, and the announcers say, 'Well, our home team carried or passed the ball for a total of 1,100 yards, and the other team only moved the ball 980 yards, so our team is the real winner—but a technicality in the rules only gives points for moving the ball across the lines at the ends of the field, so the referees have declared the other team the winner.'

"Would that make sense?," I asked—"Because it's exactly the kind of language you hear on election night if the 'popular vote winner' is different from the Electoral winner. There's no such thing as a 'popular vote winner': The rules are the rules, and you either win by those rules or you don't."

"Yeah, that's not a bad point," was the answer. My point here, though, is not political but technical: It's necessary for people to focus on measures of the actual achievement of a goal, rather than being distracted by other related measures that may be easier to compile but really have nothing to do with success or failure.

Yeah, I realize there's the technical point here, but the whole election angle thing really got me.  Over the last month I've seen the daily Yahoo headlines stating Bush is ahead by a point, then two, then it's a dead heat, then Kerry's ahead...  All within the "statistical margin of error".  And the entire time I keep thinking...  Yeah, and Gore won that measure, too...  :-)

10/29/2004

The day after the elections can't come fast enough for me...

Category Everything Else


I've pretty much stayed away from election blogging over here at Duffbert's Random Musings.  A few years ago I was offhandedly pegged as the person anchoring the right-wing side of the political spectrum where we worked.  I've never been that vocal about political matters, but I've been more conservative in nature than liberal.  Based on all the stuff that's been going on lately, I've moved more to the center and have surprised a few people with my choices this year.  I still need to fill out my ballot and drop it off at the library, but a brief note to all those people running the machines that call me soliciting votes...


JUST FREAKING STOP IT!!!!!


I had three voice mails when I got home yesterday.  All of them were automated calls asking me to vote one way or the other (most from the Republican party).  Last night I was really tired and tried to go to bed early.  Three calls between 7:30 and 9...  all automated machines.  


I'm tired of the commercials.  I'm tired of the calls.  I'm tired of listening to commentaries that focus on a single issue.  I'm tired of both sides lying.  I'm tired of pundits pointing out how "the other side" is lying.  I'm tired of the mistrust and cynicism that has permeated our society.  I'm tired of seeing "election observers" sitting by ballot boxes, making us look like some third world dictatorship.  


I'm ready for November 3rd so we can start letting the courts decide who won...  :-)

10/28/2004

Week 2, and Grant is 2-0...

Category Everything Else

Last night was the second week of the Portland high school hockey league season, and Grant was playing Tigard.  Ian (my son the coach) was rather concerned about this game, as Tigard had two or three skaters that he knew were pretty good.  So the game got started, Grant pretty much dominated play in the 1st, Cam was solid in net, and the score was 0-0 after 1.  Midway through the 2nd, we got an additional player when one of the Grant members finished up his bantam practice on the other rink and came rushing over to play in the game.  He skated the next shift, and about 30 seconds in he scored on a sweet little feed in front of the net.  That opened things up and motivated everyone.  While we gave up a couple of good goals, Cam came up big as the pressure increased, and at the end Grant won 4-2.

The thing that still impresses me about this year is that we actually look like a team.  This is the second (and in some cases 3rd) year that some of these kids have played for Grant, and it's all starting to gel.  Ian and the two adult coaches are into the game instead of just taking up space on the bench, and there's actual game strategy being mapped out and executed.  And believe it or not, there hasn't been a single fight so far this season.  I think by this time last year, Ian had already surged into the league lead in penalty minutes and was facing his first game suspension for fighting.  :-)

10/21/2004

It's not the NHL, but the high school hockey season started last night.

Category Everything Else

With the current NHL lockout in effect, it's getting harder and harder to find my hockey fix.  At least the high school hockey season started last night, so it's back to the weekly trek to the arena to watch my kid play (and my other kid coach)...  There's a different dynamic this year in that Ian graduated, so he's no longer skating (and fighting) for the Grant team.  But Cam is still between the pipes in goal.

Last night's game was an opening season victory for Grant.  They were playing a new team from West Linn, and I was surprised as how decent we looked.  Remembering back two years ago to the 0-22 fiasco of their first year, they've really matured and improved.  The West Linn team looked like we did on a bad night last year, and most of the play was down in their end.  If not for an outstanding performance by their goalie, the score would have been 10-0.  As it was, we couldn't get anything past him, and Cam wasn't having his most solid game in goal.  Coming to the end of the game, the score was tied 1-1 and we couldn't get the winner in the last minute.  The teams immediately went to the overtime shootout format, where I wasn't terribly confident that Cam would do well given the way the night had gone.  

Boy, was I wrong!  Cam completely shut them down on all the shots, and Zack Kintz (our team captain) was able to slip one by West Linn's goalie.  So, Grant escaped with a 2-1 victory, and Cam looked like a hero by stopping all the shootout attempts.  Way to go, Cam!

10/18/2004

So how would that look on the front page of your local paper?

Category Everything Else

I read an article today talking about a controversy over the annual pay for a president, CEO, and chairman of the board for a not-for-profit company.  In this case, the total annual compensation including salary, bonus, and perks was over $500,000.

Generally speaking, I'm not adverse to CEOs making substantially more than the rank and file.  When you've got the success of an entire company resting on your shoulders, you should be compensated for that.  I don't know what that "substantially more" amount should be.  I'm a bit more cynical about compensation since my Enron days, but still...

In this article, the person in question leads a not-for-profit organization.  $500K seems to be a bit steep, considering the type of organization and the fact you're dealing with a sensitive public concern (yes, I'm being purposely vague here, and no, it's not my company or any company I've ever worked for).  But when the newspaper article starts to outline some of the perks, you start to get the idea that there's a little excess going on.  Base salary was $345K with a $70K bonus.  Um...  marginal.  Cashing out $25K in unused vacation... OK, as I could do the same (but not for that amount).  Paid life insurance premiums...  You can't pay for your own with that type of salary?  Travel first class to meetings...  OK.  Allowance to take your wife on trips, also at first class?  No.  $2500 a month "personal dining allowance" in lieu of country club membership?  $30K a year to entertain and eat out?  I wish.  The company pays $25 bucks a day for someone to watch the dogs while they are traveling?  Come on!  There's also a benefit restoration plan covering retirement that calls for him to make 100% of his average salary over the last five years, and his wife gets 75% if he dies first.  Rather generous, especially since this benefit costs the company over $700K a year on top of his other benefits.  And he's not the only one covered by this...

My point in all this?  How does the management of any organization expect the rank and file to follow and sacrifice (or even commit to the company values) when it's obvious that management is doing little sacrificing themselves?  And if a compensation plan and benefit selection were to be spelled out on the front page of your local paper, could it be reasonably justified?  Or would it appear that the shareholders or the employees are paying for your comfortable or even lavish lifestyle?  Did the CEO of Tyco *really* think that spending $6K of company money for a freaking UMBRELLA STAND was a fiscally responsible use of corporate funds?  

With the emphasis on cost-cutting at all levels of a company, with the constant threat of outsourcing/offshoring eating away at American jobs, with the ever-increasing health care costs eating away at the paycheck of the American worker, ethical leadership at all levels of a corporation is increasingly important.  And ethical leadership demands that sacrifices be shared equally at all levels, and all levels of a company need to be following the same values.  

I'm glad that the concept of servant leadership is practiced at our company...

10/17/2004

Either really geeky or proactive...

Category Everything Else

On my desk, we have this arrangement currently...

A picture named M2

On the laptop (my primary machine), we have W2K with all the stuff I do on a normal day-to-day basis.  On the right, we have Cam's $40 computer (now mine) running Linux Fedora 2.  I'm now keeping them both up full-time, and I'm starting to force myself to use the Linux box for tasks.  For instance, the Linux box is running Gaim for instant messaging, so I'm not bringing up Trillian on the laptop any more.  It's not much, but it's a start.

10/08/2004

Not too much blogging this evening...

Category Everything Else

Today is our 22nd wedding anniversary.  :-)

Sheesh, I'm getting old...  I work with people who haven't been *alive* that long!

10/02/2004

"A Fond Farewell"...

Category Everything Else

Bruce forwarded me a link to a musical artist named Ari Hest and a clip to his cut A Fond Farewell...  Here's the link to a video performance of the piece:  http://www.redmusic.com/video/AriHest/CarsonDaly_FondFarewell_large.asx

And the words...  Been there...  Thanks, Bruce...

A Fond Farewell

My mother once told me
The thicker your skin
The better off you'll be when this world brings you down
Well it's trying to control me
And leave me without hope
In the past I've been burned
But I've lived and I've learned

Beneath the shelter of the pouring rain
In the absence of this fear and pain
I will finally bid my ball and chain
A fond farewell

On the road that leads me to my place
I will rid my heart of past disgrace
I will finally bid this sluggish pace
A fond farewell

When I heard their reservations
When I read their bitter words
I shined a light upon their wisdom no matter how absurd
And it broke my heard to pieces
And I questioned my own beliefs
My dignity was gone
But it's time to move on

Chorus

Say goodbye to feeling sorry for myself
To begging others for far too much help
This is my hand, these are the cards that I've been dealt
Only I can make these changes, nobody else
Say goodbye to those sleepless nights
Those corridors with no end in sight
A driven man with these words I write
I'm making peace with my soul tonight

Chorus

09/27/2004

Nice examination of the Radicati Ventures situation by Christopher Byrne...

Category Everything Else

Yesterday I talked about the Radicati Ventures webpage and how something like this could be rife with conflict of interests.  But Christopher Byrne, our resident business controls expert, took an even deeper look at the situation of research analysts writing "sponsored" reports while also offering venture capital expertise.  Turns out it's more complex than I thought, and even more fraught with peril for everyone involved.  

This is the type of stuff that can make you roommates with Martha Stewart...  :-)

09/16/2004

The National Hockey League season in jeopardy...

Category Everything Else

My son forwarded me this Nike commercial...  It says it all...

A Dark Day - Bring It Back

09/10/2004

Remembering the day before 9/11...

Category Everything Else

Tomorrow is the 3rd anniversary of the 9/11 attack on America.  And while I'll look back and remember that fateful day, my thoughts are drawn to September 10, 2001.  People woke up and went to work just like any other day.  They did the things they do during the course of a normal workday.  They went home, had meals, and interacted with friends and loved ones, just like any other day.  Some probably had fights with husbands or wives or kids, and went to work the next day feeling bad and thinking they should apologize and make amends...

The next day, over 3000 people never got that chance.

09/06/2004

I'm back!

Category Everything Else

I made it home last night (actually early this morning) around 1 am from Everett, where Ian and I were watching a pre-season WHL hockey exhibition wiht six different teams.  9 games in 3 days...  :-)  But a good time was had by all, and I'm glad to be back.  I was unable to find any convenient wi-fi hotspots in the areas we were in, so I actually went *THREE WHOLE DAYS* without email...  Sad, but that may be a personal record.

09/01/2004

Don't Expect Privacy On The Web...

Category Everything Else

From eWeek:  Don't Expect Privacy On The Web

This is an interesting (and scary) article on how lax controls over content on your web server can expose critical information to the world via Google.  By using some of the Google search syntax, it's extremely easy to search for credit card numbers within a given range, and pick up files that are truly keys to the kingdom.

Definitely worth a read to make sure you aren't putting yourself at risk.

08/30/2004

Just curious... how many books do *you* read each year?

Category Everything Else

I know I'm an oddity when it comes to reading...

OK...  Fine...

I know I'm an oddity in many ways, but especially when it comes to the amount of reading I do...

Is that better?

Anyway, I know I read a lot.  Some of it technical, some of it recreational.  For me, this is just "normal".  But I'm curious...  How many books do *you* read each year?  Estimates are fine, as I don't think anyone is quite as strange as me for what I'm about to reveal...

I have an Access database I built back in late 1995 to track my reading.  It was a small project to teach myself PC software at the time.  And since I read so much, I have a tendency to forget what a book was about two or three weeks after reading it (novels, primarily...).  If I get into a string of books by a given author, it's a real pain to try and remember if you've read his 23rd book or not.  So, I have this database...

And I've kept it going since January 1st, 1996.  It's about the only data file I'd *REALLY* miss if it somehow got corrupted and died.  Want some numbers to show how strange I am?

Total books read per year...  1996 - 103, 1997 - 123, 1998 - 112, 1999 - 119, 2000 - 159, 2001 - 169, 2002 - 180, 2003 - 146, and so far this year...  117.

That amounts to 404753 pages, average book size of 330 pages, largest book was 1127 pages, smallest was 40.

I used to justify my addiction by saying that I read a lot when I was stressed.  2001 and 2002 were really stressful with the Enron layoffs and the start of consulting.  But that doesn't explain 2003 or 2004.  Actually, the book reviewing on the blog has caused me to ramp up the technical reading more, so that's the excuse I'll start using...  :-)

08/19/2004

Disclosures of financial interest and analyst reports

Category Everything Else

Yes, I'm still sorta stuck on the disclosure issues related to reporting.  Specifically, financial disclosures when it comes to analyst reports.

To a large extent, most reputable news sources go out of their way to reveal any involvement of their company that might be seen to create a conflict of interest in what they say and report.  For instance, if MSNBC has a Microsoft article on their web site, you'll almost always see a statement that refers to the partnership of Microsoft and NBC in running MSNBC.  Regardless of what is said in the article, you at least know that the potential conflict exists.  That doesn't prevent certain stories from never seeing the light of day if they reflect negatively on the company, but at least we pig detectors don't have to work as hard on the fluff pieces.

Now, an analyst firm is not a news agency.  It's a private company and they can really do whatever they please.  BUT...  unless a report is written for a specific client, the firm is attempting to either sell their research or show their expertise in a particular area.  And being that these reports are used quite often in news stories, I don't see it being a major leap to expect analyst firms to be completely and totally open about any financial relationships that exist for a given report.  

For instance, a report comes out saying that Microsoft Exchange will kick IBM/Lotus' butt in the messaging market (I know it's an unlikely stretch, but work with me here...  :-)  ).  Another analyst firm, looking at the same landscape, comes to a completely different conclusion.  Could they both be accurate in their methodologies for arriving at their conclusions?  Yes, they could.  But if Microsoft "sponsored" analyst A's report, and IBM "sponsored" analyst B's report, it's very likely that there was influence in some degree.  The readers and potential customers have an absolute right to know that....

So, I would like to see all analyst reports include a standard "disclosure of financial and technical sponsorship" section.  In this section, absolutely any assistance, either financially or technical from any vendor, would be revealed.  If Microsoft paid for the report, tell me.  If IBM provided the lab setting and technical assistance in configuring software, tell me.  Don't give me a "our research is a compilation of our views gathered over blah, blah, blah".  If that's the case, I want a flat-out "We received no vendor assistance or financial compensation for creating this report."  

Think of it as the Sarbanes-Oxley act for the technical analyst firms...  :-)

08/15/2004

Easily distracted by bright, shiny objects...

Category Everything Else

OK...  So I went to CompUSA and took Cam along in order to get some hard drive screws and a couple computer fans.  And while there, I was going to do "research" on handheld devices...  Look and touch, ask questions, come home, research options, check prices, etc...

You know where this is going, don't you?

I'm now the proud owner of an HP iPaq H4155...  Nice unit with built-in wireless...  Now if I can only pry it out of Cam's hands...

I'm such a sucker for bright, shiny objects...

08/15/2004

Mama... Don't let your babies grow up to be... adults. :-)

Category Everything Else

OK...  Ian (my oldest) just turned 18 last week.  And to commemorate that event, he went out and did something he's been thinking about for over two years...

He got a tattoo...

A picture named M2

Yes, an honest-to-goodness permanent tattoo in a tattoo parlor and all.

This whole incident was interesting in our household.  My wife was really against it.  She wouldn't forbid it (he *is* an adult now), but she was hoping he'd somehow not get around to it.  Cam, his brother, thinks it's cool, if a little large.  Then there's Dad (that would be me).  I've got a phobia about needles.  As in I come close to passing out when dealing with them.  How cool for the father of an insulin-dependent diabetic!  :-)  So, I wouldn't/couldn't do a tattoo.  But I supported his right to get it.  I was also impressed with the fact that the design does have symbolic meaning for him, and he thought it through.

The funny part has been watching Ian go through the healing process.  He's been in quite a bit of pain over the last few days.  He's threatened to remove certain, um..., "body parts" if anyone touches his arm.  We went to a soccer game the other evening, and someone there doesn't know how close they came to getting decked.  The guy saw Ian's baseball cap and said something like "Great team!" as they popped him on the shoulder.  Fortunate for all involved, it was the *other* shoulder.

So...  for all of you with young children...  See what you have to look forward to?  :-)

08/14/2004

Well... It looks like Elgort's and my evil plan to reassert Northwest blogging superiority has failed...

Category Everything Else

It appears all the Florida bloggers are still online....  :-)

Seriously, glad that you all pulled through with what seems to be minimal damage.

08/13/2004

Need advice on purchasing a hand-held computer...

Category Everything Else


I'm thinking that I really want to purchase a hand-held device like a Pocket PC.  I'm getting tired of lugging my laptop around, or going without computing access if I don't bring the full laptop and paraphenalia.  


I really know very little about those devices.  I know I want something other than a Palm Pilot (done that been there).  I'm thinking I want something that runs the micro version of Windows XP, has built-in wireless access, and will allow me to do basic word processing and such.  A device that recharges when in the cradle would be nice, as well as the ability to sync stuff from another PC.  Costwise, I'm thinking something in the $400 - $500 range...


Any suggestions?  Any devices you use that you really like?

08/09/2004

Why, yes... Yes, I *can* assemble things!

Category Everything Else

It just takes me a lot longer than the *normal* male...

There's a reason why I don't do home repair jobs...  I suck at it.  Give me a keyboard, and I'm fine.  Give me a wrench, and something's going to get broken or someone's going to get hurt.  Given that as the backdrop, I'm proud to show off our latest do-it-yourself job...  Our backyard gazebo!

A picture named M2

It's 11 x 11 feet, bronzed iron, and the sucker weighs a ton.  It was all we could do to get the package home in our PT Cruiser.  Sue and I started putting it together yesterday, and we actually finished in one day, with no leftover (or missing) parts, and we're still speaking to each other.  Though it was 98 degrees yesterday, my arms are sunburnt, and my legs ache from all the ladder climbing.

08/05/2004

Yes... It's that time of year again!

Category Everything Else

A picture named M2

08/01/2004

Haven't been in this much pain in awhile...

Category Everything Else

Last night I decided I was going to sleep on the futon in the front room in front of the air conditioner.  Too many warm nights of late, and I wanted to be cool for a change.  I went into the bedroom to grab my pillows.  Standing flat-footed, I leaned over the bed, tugged on a pillow, and heard two distinct pops...  Then the pain started...

I think I pulled/tore something in my calf muscle.  According to some online sites, this is a "common" injury to be treated with ice, rest, compression, and elevation.  The good thing is I don't have bruising or swelling, so I don't think it was as ugly as it could be.  The bad thing is that with my leg straightened out (painful), I can't put any weight on it (even more painful).  Fortunately if my knee is bent, I can flex the foot with no pain.  Not so with a straight leg.

So, I'll be sitting around with my leg up on ice today...  Man I hate being immobile.  

07/25/2004

I'm ready for the World Poker Tour!

Category Everything Else

The hottest new talent in Texas Hold'em Poker is about to hit the circuit...  it's the killer father-son duo of Tom "Duffbert" Duff and his son Ian "The Kid" Duff...

:-)

OK...  back to reality.  Ian and I played in a poker tourney yesterday held by a small local group called the Westside Poker Club (http://www.westsidepokerclub.com).  This is a number of friends who enjoy poker and play together on a regular basis.  Ian's really into the game and wanted to play in the tourney, and I decided to contribute my entry fee to the cause as "dead money" (the term for people entering a tourney with no hope of winning or placing).  I understand the basic rules, but I've never played except electronically or online.  All I wanted to do was not be the first one out and to not embarrass myself.  Fortunately, I did neither!

In a case of dumb beginner's luck, I actually held my own and knocked a couple people out on all-ins.  Ian, meanwhile, was pulling some incredible luck on the flops and was creating havoc on the other table.  After about 1.5 hours, the group was whittled down to eight and we reorganized onto the final table.  Ian and I were side by side, looking to see if either of us would place in the money (top five placings).  Ian held up well, and ended up taking 6th.  After some additional action, myself and three others were left.  Talk about being in far over my head.  Then the absolute unreal run of luck began...

I was down to what was realistically my final hand.  I started to fold out of turn, which prompted the guy ahead of me to call me all in.  To end my agony, I decided to call him just to bow out.  I took the hand on the final card.  I pulled the same type of luck over the next three hands, and ended up with possibly the chip lead.  We continued to trade blinds and chips for quite awhile with no one able to deliver a killing blow.  One of the players proposed we chop up the prize money four ways since we had been playing for nearly four hours.  We all agreed and called it a day...

So...  Ian and I left feeling extremely good about the day...  I graciously gave Ian his entry fee so the day didn't cost him anything.  I covered my fee, we stopped for a pizza, put gas in the car, and I still had a bill or two left over.  I can definitely see the rush that people get from playing the game, and it was a great bonding time for Ian and I.  

I do feel sorta bad that players who actually knew what they were doing got killed by cards that I had no right to be playing.  To try and fold, and then to win the hand on an all-in call is the epitome of dumb, stupid beginner's luck.  I have no doubt that if we were to do it again today, I'd be a spectator in short order.  But still, it was a great time...  Thanks, guys (and Suzie!).

07/24/2004

Life seems to be one major blur right now...

Category Everything Else

I'll be the first to admit my life isn't terribly exciting.  I have a number of routines and ruts that seem to work for me, and life proceeds.  But overall, I like it that way.

But occasionally, a dynamic changes that makes everything a little off-center...  like this last couple of weeks.

We recently had the vacation in Sun River.  That was a nice variation.  Broke the routines a bit.

Came back on Sunday, and on Tuesday Sue (my wife) took off for California with Cam to visit her sister.  That really alters the dynamic.  One car instead of two.  Sole responsibility for watching Ian and his diabetes instead of shared effort (or Sue would probably say that it's still "sole responsibility", just a different parent).  It's freaking hot outside (over 100 yesterday, and slated to be over 100 again today).  And sleep...  or the lack thereof.  

Thursday evening, Ian went to play hockey and we miscommunicated as to when he was going to be home.  I assumed (incorrectly) it would be earlier than it was.  When your kid still isn't home by 11:30 pm and there's no answer on the cell phone, you start getting a little "concerned".  All was fine, but I didn't get to bed until about 1 am, and was up at 4:15 am like normal for work.  Then last night...  Ian had to work, and I expected that I'd see him around 11:30 or so.  At 1 am, I woke up (sleeping in the front room where the air conditioner is) and called to find where Ian was.  He was just wrapping up at work as they were short-staffed at the ice arena and cleanup was nasty after a dance there.  He got home at 1:30, and then we had one of those rare "heart-to-heart" talks about life, direction, and such.  It's nice to hear that your kid thinks you do a great job of raising them, but then again, he was having low blood sugars and will probably disavow any knowledge of those 3 am revelations....  :-)

So...  we made it to Saturday, Sue and Cam won't be back until Tuesday, I'm still running a major sleep deficit, there's a number of chores I need to do, and Ian and I are participating in a Texas Hold'em poker tourney today.  Ian's really into poker, I'm just dead money who has no experience but who needs to be there anyway, so why not give it a try?  

I want to sleep for eight solid hours, I want it to be 70 outside so I can sleep in my own bedroom, and I want to have a car at my disposal again for the times when Ian has the other one.  :-)

07/22/2004

Terror In The Skies, Again?

Category Everything Else


From WomensWallStreet.com:  
Terror In The Skies, Again?  and Terror In The Skies, Again? Part 2

This is a first person account of Annie Jacobsen, a writer for WWS, and what she experienced recently on a flight from Detroit to Los Angeles.  It's hard to imagine that this was anything else but a "dry run" of a terror attack using airliners.  I will admit to being somewhat sceptical when I first read the story.  Such is life when you're optimistically cynical.  But the followup article by WWS, along with the uptake by mainstream media has me convinced that it took place as stated.


I think what bothers me most about this is that no one in a position of authority will confirm or deny that this is taking place.  But yet, we are supposed to be "vigilant and aware" whenever Homeland Security decides to issue a terror threat based on non-specific information.  Leaders...  If you want us to buy into Homeland Security, make us aware of the real threats like this.

07/18/2004

Back from vacation...

Category Everything Else

I took a short vacation (four day weekend) to go to a family reunion at a place in central Oregon called Sun River.  Every year (or pretty much every year) we rent a vacation house over there and have a number of the Duff side of the family show up.  This year my dad and stepmom couldn't make it, as he had to head back to Arizona to look into probable hip replacement surgery.  But most of my family made it (Ian had to work), plus my sister and her family.  The new addition was her son's new wife Jennifer.  Poor girl...  subjected to the weirdness that is the Duff family, and nowhere to hide.  :-)  Actually, she fit in perfectly, and we all have a great time over there.  Nobody is expected to do anything in particular, and it's just a nice time to relax.

But I have to admit to some level of geekiness here...  Driving through Bend (right outside of Sun River), Cam had my laptop going in the backseat.  He plugged in the wireless card and I had him start Netstumbler.  We then proceeded to wardrive through the town.  I went back on Friday to see if I could snarf an open hotspot to check my mail.  I found one outside a small computer shop.  Even chatted with Ed Brill online, who agreed that sitting in an air-conditioned car outside a computer shop using a wireless hotspot is right up there in geekiness...  :-)

07/04/2004

Competitive Eating contests... This just seems *wrong*...

Category Everything Else

Every year on the 4th of July, Nathan's Hot Dogs holds a competitive hot dog eating contest at Coney Island in New York.  It's been going on for nearly 90 years.  The goal is to see how many hot dogs you can eat in 12 minutes.  A new record was set today by a Japanese guy (small little dude) who has held the title for the last four years.  He downed 53 dogs in that 12 minute period.  53!  ESPN covered it live and was hyping it like a major sporting championship.  I hope much of it was tongue-in-cheek, as there was far too much enthusiasm being displayed for people stuffing their faces.

I suppose this is similar to the country fair pie eating contents of Americana lore.  But at least that was a one time shot.  These hot dog eaters compete and "train" year around.  There's a competitive eating sporting association that sponsors these things.  And it's not just hot dogs.  There are hard-boiled eggs, peppers, burritos, and just about anything else you can imagine.

This just seems wrong on a number of levels.  For one, "training" your body to consume 17,000 calories in a 12 minute period?  And for another...  with hunger being a problem in many parts of the world, how do you justify "competitive eating"?  Activities like "extreme ironing" are funny, but competitive eating seems to be morally suspect.

06/24/2004

Time to reevaluate my email accounts...

Category Everything Else

At the start of June, I had three main personal email accounts (one on Yahoo, two in Hotmail) that delivered up a whopping 54 MB of storage.  I tend to keep my mail files pretty small and clean, so I never really maxed them out.  The Hotmail accounts are pretty much throw-aways, and I've gone to only checking them once every two or three days.

Now, I'm sitting with four email accounts (add in the new Google account), and I have a whopping 3.5 GB of mail storage.  Now, just *what* am I going to do with that much space???

First off, I'm going to phase out my Hotmail accounts.  I've got a couple of MyPoints accounts that are about ready to reach a reward level that I'll cash in on.  At that point, I'll shut them down.  The Google account is quickly becoming my central point of reference for writing interaction and industry news.  The Yahoo account will still hang around for when I want to give out a real email address but don't necessarily want to take a risk on spam.  I know I can't keep the Google account spam-free forever, but we'll see how it all goes.

06/22/2004

Living with a type 1 diabetic...

Category Everything Else

Ian's been diabetic since he was 8, and he's nearly 18 now.  He graduated from high school this week, and we gave him a trip to Disneyland with two of his friends.  It's tough to let him go, as what happens if he goes low or has an episode?

We know the answer now.  It's been quite an evening...

He took a nap, which is something he shouldn't do as it messes up his blood sugars.  His friends noticed he was not quite coherent, and tried to get some glucose gel down him.  No go.  They had to draw and deliver a glucogon shot to his leg.  He's back up and alert now, and they don't want me to make a rush flight down there to watch them.

Calls to the doctor, the hotel, the pharmacy, the cab company, and the kids...  It's hard enough watching (and letting) your kids grow up.  Lessons like this are even harder.  I think I'll feel much better once he's back Friday night.

If you happen to remember, say a prayer for his safety.  

06/15/2004

I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about SpamSentinel, Mayflower Software, and InsideDomino...

Category Everything Else

No, I haven't changed my views related to their unethical behavior and underhanded journalism...

I'm just amazed that they still have Elgort's article on the front page, even with the negative feedback on the article and a few blog entries.

So, they either don't care about their ethics (that's bad), they don't read their feedback (that's bad), they don't feel they are in the wrong (that's bad), or they are that desperate for content that they'll risk bad press and potential legal action to get it (that's bad).

If anyone *ever* thinks I'm behaving in that type of manner or am pushing the envelope of what's ethical, *PLEASE* hold me accountable!

06/15/2004

Yahoo's rough day, but let's cut them some slack...

Category Everything Else

Today was the first day of Yahoo's new mail offerings.  Free accounts at 100 MB, and paid accounts upgraded to 2 GB.  The paid accounts have a bit of an interface change too.  I found out later in the day that Akamai had a denial of service attack, and that affected the Yahoo mail system.  So that explains how come the Yahoo mail service has been iffy at best today.  Sometimes I get a response, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes the delete button works, sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes I can reply to an email, and sometimes I can't.

Now if this were the new state of things, I'd be majorly miffed.  But I'm sure they are pulling out all the stops to get things cleaned up.  And being I got a size increase on the order of several magnitudes over what I had before, I'm feeling that a little patience and understanding is in order.

06/14/2004

Bah! I *scoff* at your 1 GB email accounts!

Category Everything Else

I woke up this morning and went to check my Yahoo mail account.  I paid for a 50 MB account a few months back, since I use that as my primary email account.  I wondered how the GMail situation would affect that.  Now I know.

There was a notice in my mail file this morning telling me I had...  *TWO* GB of mail storage now!

Whoa!

06/14/2004

Well... *That* was a productive weekend, in a geeky sort of way...

Category Everything Else

While some might consider it just another sign that Tom needs a life, I considered it pretty productive...

First off, I fixed the BlogSphere template to stop the horrendous load times you all had to put up with.  I'm still surprised it was nothing more than a view indexing setting.  It should have been obvious to me, but then again, all things are easy once you know the answer.  That single event would have been more than enough to call it a great weekend...  Boy, I'm *such* a geek...

Next off, I finished a tech review for a book that Addison-Wesley is working on.  This was a significant step in my book review "career", in that they contacted me asking if I would be interested in critiquing the working draft.  And they paid me...  :-)  I always wondered if something like this would end up happening somewhere down the line.  I'll be interested to see how my input is viewed and/or incorporated.

I also bought a new computer this weekend.  I want to start working with Linux, but I don't have an extra box around the house (and I don't want to dual-boot my laptop).  Cam had a machine that would be fine, but of course that's *his* computer.  I found a refurbished eMachines computer at Frye's for $400.  80 GB hard drive, 512 DDR memory, CD-RW, DVD, blah, de blah, de blah.  I gave Cam that one and I'll get his machine.  Everyone's happy.  Hopefully next week I'll start working with Fedora.

And later this week (Thursday/Friday/Saturday), I'll be part of the Penton editorial conference in Colorado (the group that puts out e-Pro).  I'm looking forward to meeting with my counterparts as well as meeting some of the other people who influence my writings.  Little did I think when I first had an article published online in 2002, I'd end up with my own newsletter with e-Pro.  Perhaps I'll write a book sometime and call it "The Accidental Writer".  :-)

06/10/2004

What are we coming to as a society?

Category Everything Else


I'm sitting here writing some content for the e-ProWire newsletters, watching game 3 of the NBA playoffs.  ABC is advertising two new series to debut soon.  One is called WifeSwap.  The other shows a woman crossing off items on her to-do list, and the last is "cheat on husband".  The series is called Desperate Housewives.


I don't know if these are dramas, comedies, or reality series.  All I *do* know is that this is just plain wrong.

06/09/2004

Random Wednesday Musings...

Category Everything Else
  • Yes, I know this blog loads as slow as molasses...  no, I don't know why yet.  Yes, someday I will probably fix it.
  • Heard a great new project management metric today...  Truck Number -- the size of the smallest set of people in a project such that, if all of them get creamed by a truck, the project is in serious trouble.
  • I got an email today that referenced an event at this year's USENIX conference:  "*PUBLIC DEBATE: Scott Charney, Microsoft's Chief Trustworthy
    Computing Strategist, will debate Dan Geer, Chief Scientist at Verdasys, on the security threat of a Windows monoculture.
    "  Imagine being Microsoft's Chief Trustworthy Computing Strategist...  That's gotta be a position that sucks.

06/07/2004

Random sports-related musings on this fine Monday...

Category Everything Else
  • Tonight...  Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals (hockey for those who don't follow sports), Calgary vs. Tampa Bay in Tampa Bay.  This has been a great playoff year, and it doesn't get much better than a game 7 of the finals.  I'm torn on who to root for, however...  For Tampa Bay, you have Dave Andreychuk, a 22 year veteran who has never played for the Cup, much less gotten his name on it.  Great guy, and I'm a sucker for a good personal interest sports story.  On the other hand, It's been 10 years since the Cup was won by a Canadian team, and come on...  This *is* hockey!  I'm just hoping for a close, physical game...  Maybe even an overtime or two...
  • Although I watch the finals, I find basketball continues to bore me more and more.  I don't even like to follow the Portland Trailblazers, the hometown team.  The only thing I liked about last night's game 1 of the finals is that all the sports analysis "experts" were *so* wrong.  I really don't like the Lakers with their attitude and all.  I'd like to like Detroit, but I just can't bring myself to root for Rasheed Wallace after all the garbage he pulled in Portland.  Here he was an underachieving head case who wouldn't talk to the media and racked up drug convictions.  Now he's the greatest thing since sliced bread in Detroit...

06/03/2004

IE disaster recovery...

Category Everything Else

A colleague sent an email out with a tip on recovering from some malware that nailed his browser...  I'll pass this along in case it can help anyone else...  Thanks, Bas!

----

Some piece of malware changed my home page on IE to their particular page which locked up IE beyond redemption.  Restarting IE would try to open their page and bingo! that's all she wrote.

Knowing that Tools/Internet options has a button to set the current page as the home page or a blank page, the task became how to get there from here.


Drawing on the good ole DOS days I thought "what the hey!"  In a command prompt window I CD'd to the IE directory and tried the following: "IEXPLORE http://www.basex.com" and whaddaya know.... it opened the home page.  Then it was a simple matter to get rid of the offending lockup URL.


If it ever happens to you..... now you know

06/03/2004

Nasty people...

Category Everything Else

This should be required reading for all Human Resource departments...  From CIO Insight:  Nasty People

We've all worked with or for nasty people.  Fortunately, my last two employment situations have been "nasty-free" zones, and a pleasure to work at.  Enron Broadband, however...  That's a different story.  While there were some brilliant people who worked there, there were also some absolute emotional nasties that terrorized the place.  Managers and directors who would yell and rant at staff in open door offices for things beyond their control.  Project managers who threw hissy fits if they didn't get their own way, no matter how unfeasible or unreasonable their request was.  People who felt that burning out staff was a badge of honor.  The longer I examine that situation, the more unhealthy I realize it was.

There is sometimes payback, however...  Recently I was asked about a person I had known of in a prior employment life (I'll hide the details here).  It wasn't a reference or anything, but more of a "do you know this person?" question.  They were a major nasty, and I was able to relate that information to the inquiree.  While they were probably qualified for the job, the employer was more concerned about the fit with the group.  Needless to say, that was probably a death blow to that job opportunity.  It was a vivid reminder to me that in this area and industry, burning bridges and staff can bite you hard down the road...

05/29/2004

Saturday morning random musings...

Category Everything Else
  • I'm sitting here on Saturday morning, paying bills and watching the college lacrosse playoffs on ESPN2.  I just have one question...  Is there any more useless position in sports than the goalie in lacrosse?  The goalie in hockey can make or break a game.  The goalie in soccer is critically important.  The goalie in lacrosse seems to be there to dig the ball out of the back of the net whenever a shot happens to be on goal...
  • We saw the movie The Day After Tomorrow last night (that can get confusing if you think about it too hard)...  Not too bad.  Stunning visual effects and camera work.  So-so acting and plot line.  I know there's been a lot of talk about this being a political statement about the current administration and global warming.  To that I say...  it's a weather catastrophe flick...  sit back and enjoy it.  Oh, and whoever was responsible for the wolf CGI work in the ship....  that was really bad.  They didn't look real, they didn't move right, and you could have lost that whole scene and improved the movie.

05/23/2004

Cool arrangement... I get free books, I get to read and review them, and I learn stuff in the process!

Category Everything Else

Just the other day I finished up the review for Digital Photography Hacks.  One of the hacks involved doing panoramic shooting with your digital camera.  Take a series of pictures, overlap them by a 1/3 or so, and then use a stitching program to turn the results into a wide-angle composition.  Since it sounded so easy, I downloaded a couple of stitching packages from the web and just took a quick sequence from my messy office basement.  The results...

A picture named M2

That's three of the four pictures in the sequence.  I cropped the first one as the coloration didn't allow the program to integrate it too well.  The little yellow blotches are the watermarks from the shareware version of the software I used.  Not that I'll do this with all my shots, but it could be a lot of fun to add this to my digital bag o' tricks.

05/19/2004

The Oregon Primary was held yesterday...

Category Everything Else

It doesn's surprise me that Kerry won the Democractic side for President with 81% of the vote.  It scares me that 2% of the voters (8365) cast a ballot for Lyndon LaRouche.  <shudder />

05/18/2004

From Riding The Internet Boom, To Not In Demand...

Category Everything Else

Bob Congdon had a link to an article on his blog the other day...  From Riding The Internet Boom, To Not In Demand

This article made me stop and think...  I'm more sensitive to being laid off now since the Enron experience.  As I was looking for work, I had more than one moment where I wondered if I would ever be able to get a job in IT again.  Reading this, I was reminded that everyone has a story, and you never know how or why someone is doing what they do to earn a living.  And how often do *I* conveniently "not see" people who are working in service jobs that are deemed unimportant by society?

Does it really cost me anything to say hello and offer a genuine smile?  To notice that they exist and do a job that in some way makes things a little nicer for me?

05/16/2004

Persistent customer service...

Category Everything Else

Today I decided to close out one of my credit cards I was no longer using.  All part of Ed's admonition not too long ago to not let dormant cards lie around.  So I called FirstCard and told them to close it out.  "Why?"  Because I'm no longer using it.  "Why?"  Because I don't need a card I'm not using and that could possibly be a victim of identity theft.  "Would you like to buy a special package that..."  No.  I want to cancel the card.  "You wouldn't like to just keep it open?"  NO!  "OK...  Let me transfer you to special services..."

Dum-de-dum-de-dum...

"May I help you?"  Yes, I'd like to cancel my card.  "Why?"  Because I'm no longer using it.  "Why?"  Because I have another card I use instead.  "What features does it have that makes it more appealing?"  It's a Disney card, and I just want to cancel this one.  "We could convert your existing account over to a Disney card."  No, I just want to cancel the card.  "Would you like to hear any of our programs to enhance your account?"

NO!!!  JUST CANCEL THE FREAKING CARD!!!!!

"Thank you.  It's cancelled.  Bye."

If Cam hadn't been laughing so hard listening to my end of the conversation, waiting to cut up the card, I might have gotten upset.  :-)

05/11/2004

These phishers *so* need help...

Category Everything Else

I've said it before, and I'll say it again...  If you're going to run a scam, at least use a spellchecker first!  While I wouldn't want anyone to be defrauded by something like this, I also feel that anyone falling for this particular email has no one to blame but themselves...

------
X-Apparently-To:
twduff@yahoo.com via 206.190.39.129; Tue, 11 May 2004 12:17:15 -0700
Return-Path:
<itay@ezagenda.com>
Received:
from 80.37.211.214 (HELO 214.Red-80-37-211.pooles.rima-tde.net) (80.37.211.214) by mta359.mail.scd.yahoo.com with SMTP; Tue, 11 May 2004 12:16:52 -0700
Received:
from ezagenda.com (ezagenda-com.mr.outblaze.com [205.158.62.181]) by 214.Red-80-37-211.pooles.rima-tde.net (Postfix) with ESMTP id 8A3B6E0A08 for <twduff@yahoo.com>; Wed, 12 May 2004 03:07:24 -0400
Message-ID:
<101101c437ef$318953bf$cc1fbb17@ezagenda.com>
From:
"CitibankOnline" <itay@ezagenda.com>  
To:
"Twduff" <twduff@yahoo.com>
Subject:
Citibank e-mail Verification - twduff@yahoo.com
Date:
Wed, 12 May 2004 03:07:24 -0400
MIME-Version:
1.0
Content-Type:
text/html
Content-Transfer-Encoding:
quoted-printable
X-Priority:
3
X-MSMail-Priority:
Normal
X-Mailer:
Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2800.1158
X-MimeOLE:
Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2479.0006
X-Virus-Scanned:
Norton
Content-Length:
825


Dear_ Citbiank _User_,

This_ LETTER was sentt by_the_ citi_bank _server_ to veerify _your E_Mail adderss_.
You must complete this process by clicking on the_ link bellow and enttering
in the little _window your Citibank Debbit full Card number and Pin that
_you use in_the Atm Machine. That_is donne for your protection -2- becouse some of_our
_members_ _no_longer_ have access to their EMAIL _address_es and we must verify it.

<link clipped out>

To verify your_ E_MAIL adress and acces your citi_bank
account, clic on the_ link bellow.

5OtVfPGWKJegNE1c MYEkLryX RfM95DoWkT4AYTe

05/08/2004

43 years old today...

Category Everything Else

Sometimes I wonder if I'm getting too old for all this stuff...  :-)

A picture named M2

But seriously, it's been a pretty good year.  I took steps to deal with my dysthymia, and I feel more alive than I have in a long time.  Life around the family is much better without me being a grouch all the time.  My freelance writing continued to grow, both in magazines and with my book reviews and blogging.  And there was the speaking engagements at Lotusphere and with e-Pro.  That's stuff that would have terrified me a year ago, and now I look forward to it all.  I'm at a different job than I was a year ago, and it's working out well.

All things considered, I can't complain.

So let's see how year 44 shapes up.

05/08/2004

The Disney/Michael Moore story: The Other Side

Category Everything Else

Most of my more liberal friends are all twitterpated over Disney's "censoring" of Mirimax and the Michael Moore film "Fahrenheit 911".  But according to this article, Moore isn't exactly lilly white in this controversy...

Michael Moore Lied About Disney Ban

Apparently the decision about the film was made over a year ago, and Moore knew about it all along.  And Mirimax's role in the film was financing, not distribution.  Most of the New York Time's information (the "source") was from Moore's agent.  Sounds like someone's trying to generate some heat prior to the Cannes Film Festival.

I'm not saying that Disney was right or wrong in deciding not to back the film, nor whether the decision to do so was politically motivated.  Let's just not hold up Michael Moore as the "defender of truth" that so many want to make him out to be.

05/07/2004

Oh, just wonderful...

Category Everything Else

On cnn.com, Rumsfeld's talking about more unreleased photos that are worse than what we've seen:  "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/05/07/iraq.abuse.main/index.html

I can only imagine how much "worse" it's going to get.  It wouldn't surprise me to see the UN put the US on a list of countries that don't respect human rights.

Another excerpt from the story:

"The American public needs to understand we're talking about rape and murder here. We're not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters after Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"We're talking about rape and murder -- and some very serious charges."

Um...  I'd hate to see what's more "serious" than rape and murder.

05/07/2004

The latest offshoring opportunity... "medical tourism"

Category Everything Else

The following item was part of our company newsletter this week...

Apollo Hospital Enterprises has set up private hospitals in India to attract "medical tourists," according to the Wall Street Journal. The chain has 37 hospitals with more than 6,400 beds and it capitalizes on the high cost of health care in the United States as well as consumer demands in other countries for medical services that are fast and inexpensive. Apollo has treated more than 60,000 foreign patients in the past three years. One example of the contrast in price for services is cardiac surgery for about $4,000 compared to about $30,000 in the United States.

I found a link to a non-subscription article referencing this setup:  http://www.indolink.com/displayArticleS.php?id=050104034529

That should be something that strikes fear into the entire medical establishment.  Indian doctors, most likely educated as well as US doctors, treating US patients in Indian facilities at a fraction of the cost of a US establishment.  Far fewer litigation/malpractice issues, less overhead, lower salaries, equivalent care.  There are so many places this could end up going.

US healthcare starts to become an emergency-only and office visit care service.  Insurance companies offer to fund the travel costs of a patient to a foreign hospital, knowing it will still cost them less than half of what a US procedure would be.  Major downward price pressure on hospitals as beds are empty and high-dollar procedures are being done offshore.  Doctors and the AMA lobbying Congress for federal protection against "unsafe foreign medical practices".

Yes, I've blown up some of those issues...  somewhat...  Just goes to show that in a global economy with open boarders, nothing is sacred and no one is safe.

05/06/2004

Hello... My name is Tom, and I'm a book addict...

Category Everything Else

... and I can quit any time I want...  just not today...  :-)

I really did have a goal to not seek out any more books for review until I whittle down my backlog.  Really.  Then today happened...

I am part of the StudioB mail list.  That group is made up of tech book authors, tech publishers, and various people who are interested in that field.  Lately the talk turned to publicity and reviews, and I got involved.  The people on the list are aware of my reviewing, and a few of them have been mentioned by StudioB.  When the talk turned to specific publishers and review copies, I mentioned my favorites and my "won't return emails" companies.  Wiley was in the latter group, which is too bad.  I wanted to take a shot at Rocky's book...  :-)

Anyway...  The executive editor of Wiley contacted me today via email and told me he'd be more than happy to get me whatever I wanted for review.  That led to an exchange with another editor over there, and I now have about 8 to 10 titles due to be shipped both immediately and when they make their debut over the next couple of months.  Then, Apress contacted me to let me know they'd be happy to work with me.  I'm holding off for a month there so that I can get my pile taken care of.  And on top of that, three different authors emailed me with specific titles I could review.  Yes, I accepted.

So...  Don't be surprised if my reviewing goes into hyperdrive for the next few weeks.  Yes, I do have a gear above what you see here.  I was thinking six hours of sleep each night was too much anyway...  :-)

05/04/2004

I don't think I can support our involvement in Iraq or the administration any more...

Category Everything Else

Yes, I'm straying into one of those areas you aren't supposed to discuss in polite company...  So be it.

Until now, I have been relatively supportive of our efforts in Iraq.  While our reasons for getting involved appear to have been manipulated or bogus, deposing Saddam was a good thing (and I still feel that way).  It is starting to feel more like Vietnam all the time, but I still thought it was probably necessary.  

That all changed with the Iraqi prison scandal.  What *Americans* did over there to prisoners is no different than what Saddam's henchmen did to the population.  And we are their *liberators*?  On top of that, the military tried to get the media to sit on the story so as to not endanger our troops.  What about the endangered people being abused?  And today we have the gall to walk out of the UN during Sudan's inclusion into the human rights committee.  And we now have room to talk?

No administration is without deceit and corruption.  We're dealing with power-hungry people.  But the lies and abuses have gone too far for me to continue to support the current administration.  I'm not sure that makes me a Kerry fan (and no, Barry, I will *not* vote for Nader).  But I'm not pro-Bush/Cheney any more.  The "war on terror" does not justify these abuses.

And for those who have loved ones serving in Iraq...  No, I was never a soldier, and I never served time in a war zone.  I'm sure what goes on in a situation like that changes you.  And I'm confident that most soldiers are *not* like the criminals who were running the prison over there.  I just feel it's time for us to be out of that region, and that there is nothing we can do to improve the situation.

04/24/2004

Life... It's the difference between what happens and what you had planned on...

Category Everything Else

Well, today was one of those Saturdays that I was going to relax...  The wife was back after three days at a conference, and I was going to just putter around a little...  A little reading, cut the lawn, work on iWatch a little, probably have dinner with Bruce Elgort...  So I planned...

The reality of it was spending a significant amount of time in the emergency room with Ian.  He woke up around 10 am and Sue said he was pretty out of it.  After asking what day it was for about the 4th time, she started to get a little freaked out.  He was throwing up and achy, and he couldn't remember anything from yesterday.  His blood sugars were dropping rapidly and we couldn't keep any liquids down him.  With diabetes, the margin for error is really thin, and his doctor told us to get to emergency.  We spent about six hours there with him getting an IV and glucose, a CAT scan and blood work.  Other than low blood sugar which we seem to have somewhat stabilized now, everything appeared fine.  Perhaps a viral bug of some sort...

On the positive side, I finished up Patterson's latest novel 3rd Degree in a single day...  :-)  Review to come later.

04/21/2004

Barry Bonds and the steroid controversy...

Category Everything Else

I'm not a huge baseball fan until the playoffs, but I do spend too much time watching ESPN and following sporting news.  And if you do that, you of course are aware of the BALCO trial and the possibility that Bonds was using steroids provided by his personal trainer.

Now, I am not so naive to think that since someone said they haven't used a substance, it must be the truth.  I think that Bonds has built in his "alibi" when he states that he never "knowingly" took illegal substances.  That gives him deniability if it turns out his prior samples test positive.

But here's what I'm *not* seeing reported currently.  Testing is now in place (not stringent, but it's there).  The focus is on the non-detectable designer steroids that may have been used before.  But Bonds is still as big as he was before.  He's still as strong as he was before.  And he's hit home runs in seven straight games.

Either he's still taking and masking the juice (unlikely with the increased scrutiny), he's taking but being protected by the league (highly unlikely unless you're into conspiracy theories), or maybe...  he really does work out hard, is really gifted, is legally supplementing, and has been telling the truth.

04/19/2004

So far, mostly good on the new cable internet setup...

Category Everything Else

So far things are going relatively well on the cable internet front.  The installation guy arrived today at the promised time, which was good.  My plan had been to have them install the outlet upstairs, and we'd connect wireless from that machine.  But due to placement of the entry point to the house and the number of feeds we already have, it would have been messy.  The alternative (which I hadn't considered) was to hook the modem up to Cam's machine in the basement (near a cable outlet) and just run wireless on the upstairs box (and my laptop).  That worked out much better.

After the guy left, I installed the the Netgear router as recommended by Runtbert.  This is a wireless router with four ethernet ports to plug into.  At first, Cam's box was running *really* slow with the router providing the firewall services.  But after a couple of reboots, his response time seemed to pick up, and the Intel bandwidth check site showed him running between 2.7 and 3.0 MB.  I configured the WEP encryption and tried my Orinco Proxim wireless card.  But I couldn't seem to get over 48kb speed.  Not real good.  I went back to a wired connection to the router, and after a short while the speed started to pick up.  I was able to download both the ND7 server and client betas at the same time at just around 310 kb.  Pretty good.

Cam is upstairs right now trying to install the wireless PCI card into the upstairs machine.  We'll see how that goes.  Hopefully since that card is a Netgear product, it will produce decent speeds.  Once we get that connectivity going, then I can cancel our DSL and MSN accounts.

04/15/2004

I need to keep remembering... I have an audience... :-)

Category Everything Else

I had a cool but slightly sobering experience with my blog today.  I got a comment on my review of the book Mumbo Gumbo by Jerrilyn Farmer.  The comment was from the author herself!  She thanked me for the nice writeup, and we had a few email exchanges.

Now, it's cool that an author of a book you wrote about would take the time to comment about it.  But it was a little sobering to know that if I had trashed the book, she would have seen that too...  :-)

Hopefully the author of Understanding Disney won't stumble across this site...

04/13/2004

We have a trifecta! All our home computers have now been rebuilt! :-)

Category Everything Else

I've chronicled my travails in rebuilding the home desktop machine over the last few months due to, ahem, shall we say, unknown downloads from unidentified members of the family.

Saturday morning, I woke up to some bizarre error message on my laptop which I couldn't recover from.  So, Saturday was "rebuild the laptop for the first time" day.  At least I had the opportunity to delete some programs I wasn't using any more.

And now, I sit watching Cameron rebuild his $40 desktop machine.  His video card appears to have gone wonky and prevented a full bootup.  Rather than try and repair the install, he decided he wanted to reformat the drive and start over.  He now has Windows reinstalled, internet connectivity restored, and has switched back over to the on-board video connection.  

I'm impressed...  :-)

04/07/2004

Misadventures In Indian Outsourcing

Category Everything Else

BusinessWeek Online:  Misadventures In Indian Outsourcing

An excellent story about how an attempt to offshore some development for a small firm nearly cost the start-up everything.  It also points out that the monthly cost per programmer isn't your only expense, and there is plenty of risk analysis that needs to occur.

04/07/2004

Offshore Opt-out

Category Everything Else

In Baseline Magazine:  Offshort Opt-Out

A few companies are starting to offer customers an opt-out option for offshore processing of their information.  If the customer opts to use onshore processing, their work may take longer or be more expensive.  It will be interesting to see if this gains any momentum in the marketplace.  It also should make for some interesting system changes to route processing based on a customer's preference.

04/06/2004

I'm so disappointed... My Lotusphere 2004 bag just bit the dust!

Category Everything Else

I think of all the Lotusphere bags I've had over the years, the 2004 version was my favorite.  Nice backpack design, roomy padded slot for my laptop, lots of pouches and zippers to hide stuff, comfortable to wear, and not at all gaudy like the geeky yellow backpack of 2001.

But alas...  today I had to bid a sad farewell to a close friend.  One of the straps started to fray where it attaches to the base of the pack, and it finally worked all the way through to separation.  While I could just just use the remaining strap for my right shoulder, it really limits the usefulness.  And since it ripped out right at the base, there's nothing to sew it back onto.  

I really liked that backpack.  It was easy to travel with and held quite a bit (probably too much in retrospect).  The 2003 pack already ripped out before I left Lotusphere, so that one is out.  The yellow backpack is OK, but it doesn't ride very well on my back.  I'll have to see if I can dig out the pouch version that had the metal plate on it.  That one worked OK.

Bummer...

04/05/2004

Is gephyrophobia a common ailment?

Category Everything Else

Yes, I had to look it up to figure out what the technical term is for fear of bridges.  

In Portland, we have a river that runs through the middle of the city separating the east from the west side.  The bus I take to work crosses the Burnside bridge, which is a couple blocks long, a drawbridge, and pretty open.  It looks like a city street with water underneath it.  Now, on a number of occasions, I've seen people board the bus two blocks before the bridge, pay their fare, ride across the bridge, and get off at the first stop after the bridge.  

They probably walked more than three blocks to get to the bus stop to begin with.  I've seen people cuss out the driver because he wouldn't let them ride over the bridge without paying.  Granted, some of these people looked more along the lines of street people than office workers, but still...

I've never quite understood why people would pay $1.25 to go four blocks.  Is the fear of bridges a common ailment that I'm not aware of?

04/05/2004

A little self-promotion...

Category Everything Else

Today was one of those fun days when you see your name and/or work show up in a number of unexpected places.

To start with, I got my email copy of CLiPpings, the Lotus certification newsletter.  Each month they list two or three e-Pro articles in that month's issue, and my Application Development Tool Roundup was one of the three.  Very cool...

Then, out on SearchDomino, I saw an article by Brian Mahoney on LotusScript vs. Java.  Being that Joe Litton and I have lived in that area for awhile, I started reading.  Lo and behold, at the end of the article, Brian pointed out our Team-TSG site along with our Advisor articles and personal web sites.  That was pretty cool too!

In the mail today, three copies of this month's e-Pro arrived, so I can file those in my clipping file.

And finally, I was able to check out my recorded session on e-Pro's site from their online conference.  I need to listen to learn from my mistakes, but still, it was nice to see that available to registered attendees.

All in all, a pretty good ego day!

04/04/2004

ASCII Generator...

Category Everything Else


From Bas...  I always wondered who had enough time to figure these things out...


http://www.network-science.de/ascii/
(____ \        / __)/ __) |                _    
_   \ \ _   _| |__| |__| | _   ____  ____| |_  
| |   | | | | |  __)  __) || \ / _  )/ ___)  _)
| |__/ /| |_| | |  | |  | |_) | (/ /| |   | |__
|_____/  \____|_|  |_|  |____/ \____)_|    \___)
                                             
______        _            _
(_____ \      | |          | |
_____) )_   _| | ____  ___| |
(_____ (| | | | |/ _  )/___)_|
     | | |_| | ( (/ /|___ |_
     |_|\____|_|\____|___/|_|


03/31/2004

I guess there are two types of "living"...

Category Everything Else

In the Houston Chronicle:  Some Of Ex-Enron Accountant's Funds Unfrozen

Rick Causey petitioned the court to unfreeze $225K of his $6 million in frozen assets for "living expenses".  Listed among his expenses was his membership at the local country club.  Needless to say, the judge refused that part of the petition.

I guess there's "living expenses" and "*LIVING* expenses".  How stupid can these people be?

03/31/2004

Hey, Prozac-bashers... get a life!

Category Everything Else

Over the last few weeks, there has been a load of negative publicity about SSRI medications, such as Prozac.  Because some studies have shown an increased suicide link for people on those medications, there will now be warning labels on the bottles.  Doctors have said they overprescribe the medication to people who want to "feel happy".  And then there's this article in the Arizona Daily Wildcat:  Brain Decay: One Less Crutch For False Happiness.  

Now I'm sure this University of Arizona student got a good grade on her journalism paper.  But I'm betting she knows nothing of what it's like to suffer with depression.  Towards the end of the article, we have this:

When it comes to being down, many people choose to be depressed. Perhaps they’ve given up or they’re too pessimistic, but in many ways, they don’t want to be happy anymore. That brings the desire for false happiness that apparently only a crutch like antidepressants can give. But maybe the feeling that medication gives is only brought on by the acknowledgement that the person actually wants to be happy. Maybe it’s a momentary awareness that people can be happy on their own.

It’s time to reach for self-help books. Go on amazon.com, look up Iyanla Vanzant and do some “mental housekeeping.” Go for a run. Keep a diary. Even vegging out on the couch sounds like a better alternative to pill popping (depending on what’s on).


Let me tell you...  I've read a ton of self-help books, and they only go so far.  There are some people who are looking for an easy way out, sure.  But for others, there are real chemical imbalances which will affect their outlook no matter what they do.  And for those people, SSRI drugs can be lifesavers.  There's no amount of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" thinking that will help.  I know...  I've been there.  

So, to all the "Prozac is evil" people out there, I say to you...  get a life!  There are abuses, just like there are abuses with alcohol or painkillers.  And yes, the drug is not for everyone.  But just because it didn't work for you doesn't mean that you have to get it taken away for everyone else.  There are people out there for whom fluoxetine has opened a whole new world.

03/27/2004

Tax Cuts - A Simple Lesson In Economics

Category Everything Else

This was forwarded to me by a friend (thanks, Bas!), and it makes more sense than a lot of other more "technical" explanations...  
----------------------------------------

Sometimes Politicians can exclaim; "It's just a tax cut for the rich!", and it is just accepted to be fact. But what does that really mean? Just in case you are not completely clear on this issue, we hope the following will help.

Tax Cuts - A Simple Lesson In Economics

This is how the cookie crumbles. Please read it carefully.

Let's put tax cuts in terms everyone can understand. Suppose that every day, ten men go out for dinner. The bill for all ten comes to $100.

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh $7. The eighth $12. The ninth $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, the ten men ate dinner in the restaurant every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily meal by $20."

So, now dinner for the ten only cost $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes.

So, the first four men were unaffected. They would still eat for free. But what about the other six, the paying customers? How could they divvy up the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share'?

The six men realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being 'PAID' to eat their meal.

So, the restaurant owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so: The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to eat for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man "but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than me!"

"That's true!!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!" The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for dinner, so the nine sat down and ate without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The ones who get the most money back from a reduction are those who paid in the most. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up at the table anymore. There are lots of good restaurants in Europe and the Caribbean.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D Distinguished Professor of Economics 536 Brooks Hall University of Georgia

03/25/2004

This has got to strike some fear into Jeff Skilling's heart...

Category Everything Else

And this guy didn't even get much of a kickback from it all...  When you compare this crime to what Skilling presided over during the Enron collapse, "life imprisonment" seems appropriate...

-----------------------------

Ex-Dynegy Exec Gets 24 Years for Fraud

By C. Bryson Hull

HOUSTON (Reuters) - A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former Dynegy Inc. (NYSE:DYN - news) tax executive Jamie Olis to 24 years in prison for his role in an Enron-style scheme to burnish the company's finances by disguising a $300 million debt. The 38-year-old lawyer and accountant was convicted in a November trial of six counts of criminal conspiracy and securities, wire and mail fraud for his role in the complicated 2001 financial transaction dubbed "Project Alpha." U.S. District Judge Sim Lake also fined Olis $25,000.

Lake, who presided over Olis' trial, said he took no pleasure following the federal laws that dictated such a stiff sentence for a first-time white collar offender.

"Sometimes good people commit bad acts, and that is what happened in this case," Lake told Olis. He permitted Olis to remain free on bond and turn himself in to prison.

The judge said he was required to give Olis a sentence of between 24 and 30 years, five years shy of the maximum, based on the massive losses Dynegy shareholders suffered as a result of Project Alpha's repercussions.

Olis, who was already choked up as he stood before the judge, had no visible reaction to the sentence, read in a courtroom filled to capacity with his family, supporters and ex-Dynegy colleagues.

New laws enacted last year in response to a wave of corporate chicanery, and in 2001, stiffened the penalty range for white collar crimes, putting them equal with offenses like bank robbery.

Michael Shelby, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas said Olis' harsh punishment was deserved, since thousands of investors lost their savings over Project Alpha.

Shelby said the investigation into Alpha is active, but would not say if the probe was focusing on six unindicted co-conspirators named during the Olis trial, including Dynegy's former chief financial officer.

Olis' attorney, David Gerger, criticized prosecutors for focusing on a lower-level executive like Olis instead of on his bosses.

"The government is on a witch hunt, and today the witch hunt netted a very small fish," Gerger told reporters. He said he had not yet decided whether to appeal.

NO SLAP ON WRIST

The fate of Olis, one of the first executives to go to trial and be sentenced in an Enron-style fraud case, demonstrated that the days of a slap on the wrist for business crime are over.

David Adler, a Houston criminal defense lawyer, said the sentence was "far beyond the average for white collar crime."

"But the other tragedy of this case is that it may convince people who have done nothing wrong to plead guilty instead of go to trial, as the lesser of two evils," he said.

Adler said he expected Olis would serve at least 20 years, with time off for good behavior.

Olis, who worked in the Houston-based energy merchant's tax department, was a key engineer of Alpha. The deal dressed up a $300 million loan as a five-year gas trade to help boost cash flow and hopefully, Dynegy's stock.

Dynegy's cash flow had been lagging earnings, causing consternation -- and a lower share price -- on Wall Street. The deal also helped Dynegy claim an improper $79 million tax benefit, later rescinded.

Dynegy's stock lost more than half its value on April 26, 2002, the day after the Houston company disclosed a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (news - web sites) investigation into Alpha.

It also had to reclassify the $300 million as debt, pay the SEC a $3 million fine and restate its 2001 earnings downward by 12 percent. The total losses to investors were in the billions.

Two other Dynegy employees, Helen Sharkey and Gene Shannon Foster, Olis' boss, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Lake is due to sentence both on Aug. 19, and each faces a maximum of five years in prison.

03/16/2004

Final game of the hockey season last night...

Category Everything Else

A picture named M2

Cam (left) and Ian (right) played their last game of the hockey season last night.  It was the first round of the playoffs, and they were matched against one of the strongest teams in the league.  We gave up three goals in the first period, and then it started getting ugly.  We only had three people on the bench to begin with, and with a couple of game misconducts on our players, we were down to the five players on the ice and the goalie with about five minutes left in the second.  The question then became not "were we going to lose", but "would the game go the distance without Ian getting in a fight and the game being called because we didn't have enough players left".    To their credit, they made it until five minutes left in the game.  There was a scramble in front of the net.  Someone ran into Cam, Cam crosschecked him to the ice, the ref called the penalty, and Ian grabbed ahold of a kid and tried to go with him.  No punches got thrown, and that was the game.  

So, the season started out with great promise but didn't end as it could have.  Still, there *were* highlights this year (wins and even a shutout!) where last year's record was 0-22.  This picture will be the last one of Ian and Cam playing together on the same team, as Ian graduates this year.  Rather sad to see another passing event in their young lives, but they *are* growing up.

03/10/2004

Great regular season ending to the hockey league last night...

Category Everything Else

Last night was the last regular season game for the high school hockey league.  And even if my kids team goes nowhere in the playoffs (always a distinct possibility), it will be a memorable season....

The Grant team scored their first shutout ever, an 8-0 win!  And of course, this means that it was Cam's first ever shutout.  It's rather poetic justice, as it was against the same team that beat us 30+ - 0 last year...  of course, a *lot* of teams did that to us last year...

Ian had a very good game.  He didn't score, but he was hustling out on the ice and had three nice shots on goal.  Cam was dead on in goal.  He had some beautiful saves and was solid.

Now, a minor disclaimer...  We had about 12 players suited up, and they had 7.  It's very difficult to skate for three periods when you only have two people sitting on your bench to give you a breather.  I felt sorry for the other team, as it looked far too familiar to what our team did nearly every week last year.  But still...  it was nice to see a dominant win (and a shutout!) to end the season.

I'd have pictures, but I got roped into running the scoreboard at the last second.  Talking about all your mistakes showing up on the scoreboard for everyone to see...  :-)

03/01/2004

A big hockey night for Cam Sunday evening...

Category Everything Else

The season is winding down, and with it comes the annual East-West All-Star game.  There are four teams in each division, and they pick the top players for each side to play a game to highlight their skills.  Cameron (my goalie son) was chosen as one of the three goalies for the East team.  He's been playing for about two years now, and he was a little nervous to be playing against the best in the league.  He really has played well considering the defense (or lack thereof sometimes) in front of him, and I felt it was a well-deserved honor.

A picture named M2


So, he got to play the second period last night, which suited him just fine.  It meant he wouldn't get blown out early if the teams were mismatched, and he wouldn't have to win the game if it was tight going down to the end.  He came in with the score tied 1 - 1 and left with the East holding a 3 - 1 lead.  Shutout period!  The East team went on to win 4 - 2, which means that Cam was the only goalie to hold the other team scoreless...  Needless to say, he was pumped!


A picture named M3

For someone who was never interested in sports growing up (he turns 16 this year), he's done a remarkable job in a short period of time (2 years) at arguably the toughest position in sports.


Great job, dude!

02/27/2004

Journalistic integrity and sham awards...

Category Everything Else

There's one thing that will cause me to forever ban a company from my "will recommend" list.  Deceptive business practices.  And now that I'm a freelance writer, deceptive business practices coupled with journalistic integrity issues really frosts my socks.  And based on a heads-up from a respected fellow blogger, I now have a company that falls squarely into that category unless and/or until they explain otherwise...  MayFlower Software and the Spam Sentinel product.  I won't even link to them here.

Last year InsideDomino, a web site "reporting" on Notes/Domino news, awarded an Editor's Choice award to the best products out there.  They gave that "prestigious" award to Spam Sentinel.  So far, OK.  BUT HOLD ON THERE, BUCKO!  The editor-in-chief of said website e-zine was none other than the president of...  MayFlower Software.  So, not only do your awards go to your own products, but your journalistic integrity sucks.  Based on that episode last year, I'd never recommend Spam Sentinel.  Nor did I have any inclination on wanting to write for their publication when they had a call for authors.  No freaking way I want to associate my name with that type of "reporting".

But it gets better...

I didn't get a copy, but a number of IBM Business Partners reported receiving an email in the last couple of days from InsideDomino, once again awarding Editor Choice status for the best products of Lotusphere, and once again, guess who won?  You got it!  Spam Sentinel.  The link that was posted about the award has mysteriously ceased to work now....  Hmmm...

If there's anyone from MayFlower Software that stumbles over this blog entry, feel free to post a response and enlighten me as to the truth if it differs from what is listed above.  If we're missing part (or all) of the story, I'd like to give you a chance to explain.  But as it sits right now, InsideDomino, Spam Sentinel, and MayFlower Software are firmly entrenched in my personal Hall Of Shame.

And I worked for Enron Broadband for over three years, so I *know* about halls of shame...

02/25/2004

Not a good evening...

Category Everything Else

This was not a good evening, and not what I had planned for it...

First off, Cam calls me on my way home and informs me that the home desktop computer won't boot up past a blue screen of death.  Some KMODE error in ntoskernal or something.  Since that's the main machine that provides our internet connectivity for the house, it's imperative that I get it running.  So I ended up reinstalling W2K and the modem stuff.  The graphic card software and printer software still needs to be reinstalled, but at least I'm back out on the net.

Then...

Ian took a nap after school, which is not a good idea as it seems to cause havoc with his blood sugars.  I finally got him up around 5 pm so that he could start getting ready for hockey.  He was acting strange, so we had him test.  Turns out he was at 43 (normal is 80 to 120), and that's dangerously close to having a seizure.  He was upstairs aimlessly sorting through his hockey bag, and I was trying to get him to drink some orange juice.  He kept calling me mom and saying he was fine (when he really wasn't).  We had to physically get him down the stairs (Cam pushing and me pulling), into the kitchen, and almost had to force his mouth open to drink.  We were finally able to get through to him and not have to resort to the glucogon shot