free html hit counter

Monday, July 31, 2006

Home Sweat Home

We went down to Little Rock this weekend for a brief visit with our families. Fun, but man it was hot! I've gotten spoiled by the relatively low humidity and temperatures up here, so it's always a bit of a shock to go back to Central Arkansas this time of year. Spending half the trip in the hot car didn't help. We had a great time, though, and overall it was a much-needed respite from our daily routine.

Now we're back at home, settling back into that routine. :-)

I'd love to say that I have some deep, insightful thoughts to post, but I'm tapped out tonight. My only reliably coherent thoughts revolve around a shower and bed.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Shaving Control Test

After a few more shaves with the safety razor and brush, I think I have finally gotten the hang of it. Since I got past the first couple of rough cuts, so to speak, I've been getting consistently close, comfortable shaves. In fact, it seemed like they were better than I remembered from my Gillette Fusion razor. Going into tonight's shave I still had some unanswered questions, though:
  • Is it the razor or the brush that's making the biggest difference?
  • Is it just my imagination that the old razor is doing better than the Fusion, given that the last time I used the Fusion was with a well-worn cartridge?
  • Would the gentler, wetter technique I've learned with the old Gillette improve my shaves with the Fusion as well?
So, with those questions in mind, I decided that I needed to perform a control test, using the new brush and cream along with the Fusion razor (yes, I'm aware that I need to test several more combinations -- let it go). For the record, I hate the stupid power vibrating crap on the Fusion, so I didn't use it.

In order to make the test as fair as possible, got a new set of Fusion cartridges. I consider it a justifiable expense not only in the name of science, but because we're going out of town soon, and modern cartridge razors really do travel better. Plus, if it really worked better, I'd be able to keep using them.

While picking those up ($12 for 4 - ouch!) I noticed that Wal-Mart does carry blades for safety razors ($2 for 10 - nice!). I'm not sure what the quality is like, but given that basic razorblade manufacturing probably hasn't changed much in about 50 years, they should be about as good as anything else.

My expectation was that, using the same techniques, the Fusion would produce a better shave. After all, there had to be a good reason that everyone quit using safety razors in favor of cartridges, right? Yes, the article that inspired all of this did make the point that safety razors are the same type of razor that "Cary Grant, Lee Marvin, JFK, and John Wayne used." That sounds impressive, but it's also pretty darn silly. Why? Well nobody is claiming that the old razors are sissy, quite the opposite in fact, so it's kind of a straw man to present paragons of masculinity as proof that the old ways are best. Plus, JFK didn't exactly have a choice. The other guys did, though, and I kind of wonder what they used toward the ends of their lives. Teddy Roosevelt probably used an old folding straight razor. Well, bully for him, but I ain't gonna!

Therefore, since nobody I know who lived during the safety razor era still uses one, it seemed reasonable to expect better performance from a five-bladed modern marvel than from a 50 year-old antique.

So when I got ready to shave tonight, I followed the same prep procedure I had used with the safety razor (hereafter referred to as simply "the Gillette"): long pre-soak, wet brush, good lather, and plenty of water. I also adopted the same slow "light touch" style I've learned from the Gillette. I took my time, kept my face wet, gave the Fusion a chance to work, and....

....I'd call the shave I received from the Fusion completely inferior to the Gillette by nearly every conceivable measure: it was less comfortable, not as close, missed more hairs, irritated my neck more, and left my skin stinging far more than the Gillette.

I was shocked.

Now, admittedly, there are some more variables at play here. For one, the Fusion wasn't really designed with the light-touch, letting the razor work method in mind. It expects and demands a little more pressure. I also wonder if the Fusion might not actually do better with a modern aerosol shaving gel, since I certainly don't remember it ever hurting that much previously.

Where did the Fusion win? Well, the flexible head is nice when it comes to the jawline and chin. I suspect that may be a temporary advantage, though, since I've been getting better at handling the Gillette around those areas, too. The other great thing about the Fusion is the little single blade on the top, which makes it really easy to trim under my nose and around the corners of my mouth. I still have a hard time executing detail work with the Gillette, but more experience may help that, as well.

Where did the Gillette win? Everywhere else. It cut closer, it cut cleaner with less tugging, and afterward my face hardly stung at all. It even won on speed, since I wound up having to go over my face twice with the Fusion (and it still wasn't as close).

I think my preliminary conclusion is that, while the Fusion makes it really easy and fast to get a mediocre shave, it makes it much harder to get a really good one. The Gillette, on the other hand, makes it somewhat harder to shave overall, but it doesn't take much additional effort to improve from a mediocre shave to an exceptional one, just better technique, which is pretty easy to learn, at least in my experience.

As I was rubbing on some aftershave, this was the synopsis that I came up with, although it will only appeal to my fellow geeks (a similar analogy using cars is an exercise left to the reader):

The Fusion is like Java or .NET: It is easy for users with average skill to do an average job, but it makes it harder for users with great skills to do a great job.

The Gillette is like Ruby or Python or Smalltalk: It's a little harder to learn how to use, but it allows a skilled user to do great things.

For the record, I'd say that electric razors and classic straight razors are like Visual Basic and Lisp, respectively. An electric razor makes it really easy and fast for absolutely anyone to do an adequate job, but nearly impossible for anybody to do better, while a straight razor makes it possible for a master user to do some incredible things, but it's also possible to cause a staggering amount of damage with one. ;-)

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Kudos to Microsoft

Like nearly everyone else, I do have some problems and gripes with Microsoft. I don't really dislike them, though, and I have to give them credit when it's due.

I've been researching tools for a couple of different technologies at work lately, and I've been shocked how common royalties are. Maybe that will fly for a huge company that has either a few big clients or the manpower to deal with the royalty issues, but neither case fits us. We're too small to dedicate staff members to handling the details, but we have thousands of sites that we'd have to pay for. No thanks.

What I've been discovering this week is that this sort of hidden overhead for developers is
far more common than I previously knew. Are there a lot of carpenters who have to pay a per-house royalty for their saws and hammers?

So this is what I have to give MS credit for: generally speaking, they make it pretty easy and cheap for developers to use their tools. Yes, Visual Studio and MSDN are notoriously non-cheap, but they are also mercifully free of hidden costs and royalties.

They also provide a range of prices from free to several thousand dollars, depending on the developer's particular needs. I appreciate the non-commercial versions that many companies offer, but if that's the only alternative to the full price (which may be several thousand dollars), then it's a hard sell, especially for startups. And if your website says we have to call or email for a price quote, then you can rest assured that you won't have to worry about having me as a customer, except in extraordinary circumstances.

So, props to Microsoft for making things relatively easy, transparent, predictable, and cheap when compared to other products, especially for startups and small companies.

Tomorrow we'll return you to your normal, everyday random thoughts and MS bashing. ;-)

Is it really only Tuesday?

This week is going sooo sloooooow. Theoretically that's good, since I have a ton of stuff to do, but unfortunately I seem to be moving in slow motion, too. Oh, well.

Here's my tip for the day to anyone publishing stuff on the web: put a freakin' date on it! I was researching some statistics today, and I finally found a reference to them in a press release from a trade organization on their website. Were those the current stats? I have no idea, since the release didn't have a date. It did have some helpful references to things happening "next week" and "on Wednesday," though. Gee whiz, thanks. I wonder if the group has any idea how completely useless relative dates like that are.

If you publish something online, assume that it's going to be accessible forever. And ever. Even if you don't like it. It's likely going to be in Google's cache and local disk caches and in server backups and a thousand other places you don't expect for the rest of human history. If the format and software you use don't automatically add a date, then just put one in yourself. Please! If I can't put your information in a time context, I'm probably just going to ignore it.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Out of It

All day today I felt like I was coming down with something. My head just felt fuzzy, and I couldn't concentrate. It may have just been sleepiness, combined with the fact that I mowed the yard yesterday without taking any antihistamines first. Whatever the reason, though, I wasn't terribly productive all day, and I think I'm going to go to bed now.

Sorry for the boring, lame post. I promise I'll do better tomorrow. I've got a couple of really good ones in draft form, so maybe I'll finish one of those up.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Happily Ever Aftering

Heather Marie and I went to see Camelot this afternoon at the Arts Center of the Ozarks. It was a really good production, and for us it was a nice break from the hustle and bustle we've been stressed about lately. We have some friends who were in it, and it was a blast to see them performing.

I have mixed feelings about Camelot itself, though. I've known the music all my life. When I was little, my mom put an old stereo record player in my room, and I fell asleep every night listening to old albums, most of which were classic musicals. Camelot was my favorite, but I never actually saw the musical itself until a few years ago, and I was really disappointed.

Of course I knew the basic gist of the Arthurian story when I was listening as a child, but I didn't know the specifics of the musical's version. All I had to go on was basic Arthuriana and the bits and pieces my mom told me of the musical story so that I would know who was singing what and why. Based on that information, my mind filled in the gaps with a suitable version of Camelot. When I finally saw the actual musical, I was underwhelmed because the actual dialog and story weren't nearly as good as my imagined version.

I'm not talking about the vague, dreamy mental versions of stories that we construct based on things like movie trailers, I'm talking about what basically amounted to a full-scale production, with dialog, sets, costumes, and blocking. When I finally got to experience the real version, I found that I preferred mine.

So, I'm off to bed. I think I'll put our Camelot soundtrack in the CD player, and replay my version as I go to sleep.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Combo Day

Today wound up being a weird combination of more or less random activities, and even though it never seemed like it at the time, somehow as I look back on the day, it seems like I accomplished quite a bit.

After dropping Heather Marie off at the museum, I went to the gym for a while. From the gym I went to the cable company to pick up a DVR, followed by a trip to the barber, then a few hours at work. Finally we met some friends for supper, then came home and watched a show we'd recorded while we were out.

Really just lots of little stuff, but more or less productive, overall.

Sorry, no shaving report today. I typically only shave a couple of times a week anyway (I have been loving the "three-day beard" fashion trend the past couple of years), so two days in a row would've been a little painful regardless of the implement used. I'll probably give it another shot tomorrow.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Start of the Weekend

Well, probably not really much of a start to much of a weekend. I worked late tonight, and both Heather Marie and I are working most of the day tomorrow.

We did start looking for things to do and places to stay for our sixth anniversary in August. Right now the most appealing scenario looks like a two-night stay in Eureka Springs. Nothing too far or too expensive, just a nice, relaxing weekend away. Plus, a couple of the hotels have wifi now. ;-)

During a break from work tomorrow I may go by the local Cox office and see about adding a DVR to our cable service. Yeah, a Tivo would work just as well (probably better), but the ease of setup for the Cox-provided one, which incorporates the digital tuner, wins out over a Tivo, which would have to be setup alongside the tuner (thus adding yet another box and remote to our TV gear).

The extra cost is minimal, and I'm sick of missing things we forgot to record and pausing conversations so as not to miss what we're watching. Let the TV get paused for a change! Plus, the instant replay option is nice. Since we've started watching lots of series episodes on DVD, we've gotten really spoiled by the ability to rewind and replay when we miss dialog.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blogathon Interrupted

I'm calling off the Blogathon, at least temporarily. Heather Marie has just got too much going between now and when the museum's new exhibit opens on July 31. Maybe we'll give it another shot after that. Besides, it's really not as much fun when it's just the two of us. I'm still planning to post every day, but it's all optional.

After a few days of working with them, I've decided that I prefer CopyWrite to Ulysses as a writing program. It's not a price thing, it's just that CopyWrite seems to click better for me. Nothing against Ulysses at all, in fact, I think it may be slightly more Mac-ish than CW, which might explain my preference, having come from a Windows background.

The drawing program is a tougher call. I've been trying out Manga Studio, hoping that the cheaper debut version would suffice. I say "trying out," but it would actually be more accurate to say, "trying to try out." For some reason, nothing that I draw with it is showing up anymore. It's either a bug or setting that I accidentally messed up, but either way I'm frustrated and unimpressed. All problems aside, though, it seems like it should be a fantastic program for drawing black and white comics, especially if print is their final destination. That's not quite what I want, though. The real killer is that it's apparently impossible (or at least uselessly hard) to do anything in color.

That leaves Sketchbook Pro. At $200 it's a lot more than Manga Studio Debut, but it's less than the pro version. It doesn't have any tools specifically for comics, which isn't a huge deal, especially since Manga Studio is targeted completely at manga comics. No, that shouldn't be a surprise, but somehow it was. $200 is a little out-of-budget at the moment, though, so I guess I'll be waiting a while on it. No rush -- I've still got paper and pencils.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Shave and a Haircut....

Go on, say it. You know you want to.

Actually, I didn't get a haircut, although I need one. I did have a very interesting shave tonight, though.

A couple of months ago, I saw a link to this article on shaving on either Digg or Reddit. It hung around the front page for a day or two before I finally decided to check it out. I was intrigued, to say the least. The whole concept sounded like a cool retro, macho thing.

So I went over to Classic Shaving and looked at their wares. Old school shaving is expensive! Far too expensive to try on a lark, and I had the feeling that cheaping out wouldn't really give the correct impression, so I set the idea aside.

While we were down for Father's Day, though, I happened to mention it to my dad, and I asked about an old Gillette safety razor I remembered being around there. It turned out the one I was thinking of was a lady's razor, but he did have a really nice adjustable Gillette safety razor similar to this one. As it happened, there also happened to be a practically unused shaving brush around their house, and he told me I could have them both if I'd actually try to use them.

And I think he smirked as he said that. Not a good omen.

Another trip to Classic Shaving, and I had a new set of blades and a tube of Proraso Shaving Cream, the best-selling shaving cream in Italy for something like the past 60 years. All that was left was to lather up and shave.

Going in, I was fully-prepared to completely debunk the original article. Yes, it was true that this was the type of razor used by my father and grandfathers, but I also know that all three of them stopped using them in favor of more modern devices. To my surprise, though, the actual experience wasn't quite so clear-cut.

First the brush and foam. Wow! There's a reason Proraso is a perennial favorite! It's cool and tingly, and after I got the hang of the correct cream-water mixture, lathering up with the brush and a nice cream was a really fantastic experience. Very soothing and relaxing.

So there I stood before the mirror, my face dripping with expensive Italian lather, staring at a very big, sharp blade. Through my head were running memories of every famous person I could think of who died from an infected shaving cut. Those were suddenly looking like far less embarrassing deaths than I'd previously considered them to be. I took a deep breath, put the blade to my cheek, and... wasn't half bad! Oh, don't get me wrong, I cut the hell out of myself in several places, but fortunately the soothing quality of the Proraso was such that I hardly noticed. (I did begin to regret not getting any styptic powder, though.)

The razor actually did a great job, for the most part. The biggest problem was trying to get the small, sensitive areas around my nose and mouth, just because of the size of the razor. The other thing that struck me was the weight of the razor. It really wasn't necessary to use any pressure at all, since the razor itself could do most of the work. I did have some trouble getting around my throat and jawline, though, without the pivoting head I'd become accustomed to. Suddenly the stereotypical contorted faces that we all jokingly associated with shaving during the 50s and 60s became not only non-humorous, but necessary.

In fairness to tradition and the designs of our forefathers, I feel like I ought to stick with the razor for a couple of weeks to give myself a chance to really get the hang of it, by my Gillette Fusion Power 5-blade Hummer H2 of a razor is sitting on the bathroom counter calling my name.

In my final analysis, I think I'd have to say that the entire experience was really nice, though. The old style equipment forced me to take my time and relax more than I have in a long time, and it actually helped me rediscover one of the lost rituals of manhood, which was good because -- let's face it, guys -- we don't have too many socially-acceptable rituals left.

So if you have access to the gear, I'd recommend giving it a try. Even if you don't rediscover a classic way of shaving, you may at least rediscover a lost piece of masculine mystique.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Late Post

Fun surprise dinner with family and friends tonight.

Had to login to work to do some late assignments, but work computer was frozen. Drove to Fayetteville and back to reboot it. Now trying to finish assignment before tomorrow. Hopefully it won't suck too bad.

More details tomorrow.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Jessica Fletcher -- Criminal Mastermind?

Heather Marie and I were accidentally watching Murder, She Wrote tonight during supper, and it was a typical episode: someone has been murdered, Jessica Fletcher's niece is a suspect, and Jessica manages to nab the real killer...or so it would seem.

At first we were just laughing about how often Jessica Fletcher's nieces and nephews get accused of murder, and exactly how many nieces and nephews she seems to have. Strangely, viewers never see her siblings (or siblings-in-law) that we know of, so we have no way of telling if all these relatives are the progeny of a few extraordinarily fertile siblings or the only children of dozens of brothers and sisters. And if her nieces and nephews aren't actually shady, unsavory characters themselves, they at least run with some dangerous crowds.

That was a funny thought, and it lead to the obvious discussion about how murders seem to follow TV detectives around like a bad smell. That's pretty common in the mystery genre, and it forms the basis of a long string of obvious jokes about how danger it is to hang around with free-lance detectives. What's different about Murder, She Wrote, though, is how frequently the most obvious suspects are friends and relations of the main character.

That's when the pieces started falling into place.

It is a strong coincidence that murders seem to coalesce around Ms. Fletcher, and eventually it would raise questions among the authorities, except that all those cases have been solved and the killers identified. Right? Maybe not. Suppose you were a murderer who needed to cover her tracks. What better way than to help catch the "real" killer?

Wouldn't that start to become suspicious itself, though? Eventually the police would put two and two together: "Hey, she's around a lot of murders, and she's always pretty eager to pin it on someone else. There's something fishy here."

One good way around that would be to arrange the crime in order to frame not your real patsy, but yet another suspect...a suspect whom you would have an obvious reason to help a well-loved nephew, perhaps? Ah, now we're getting somewhere!

This approach would allay the suspicions of the official investigators, since the answer to their questions about her involvement would be that she's concerned about her brother or sister's child. How good of her! How kind! And she always gets her man! Of course she does -- she's the one who framed him!

This revelation led us to consider how frequently her nieces and nephews are the prime suspects because they stand to benefit in some way from the victim's death. My, that's certainly convenient, isn't it?

So, consider this hypothesis: A friend or relative calls mild-mannered mystery writer Jessica Fletcher with a problem. She pays them a visit and while there kills the person who's standing in their way. In order to cover her tracks, she deeply frames the "real" killer, while superficially framing her loved one, then apparently clears them in the process of catching the real killer. Crime's solved, the innocent are cleared, and justice is served. Very nice and tidy.

In exchange, she gets some killer mystery novel plots (pun intended) and possibly a small kickback from the person she helped in order to support her until the royalties start coming in. In fact, such support probably constitutes her primary income, since the typical 60-something mystery writer isn't exactly rolling in dough.

But what about all the people who confess when confronted with her apparently irrefutable evidence? Sadly, it would seem that false confessions are uncomfortably common. What's more, most of the suspects (or should we begin referring to them as victims at this point, instead?) would stand trial for capital murder, and in many states a voluntary confession precludes the death penalty, so they could merely be bowing to defeat at the hands of a superior foe and salvaging whatever small victory they can.

Seen through the lens of this theory, Jessica Fletcher begins to look less like a kindly old aunt, and more like the Godmother, head of a criminal empire.

Needless to say, we'll be watching Murder, She Wrote with an entirely different attitude from now on! Cabot Cove suddenly looks like a much more sinister place.

And, yes, it was a very slow night at our house....

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Hot Time in the Ol' Town

Holy cow it was hot today! Poor Magaidh just moved from one cool spot on the floor to another all day long.

We were more active today than yesterday, but only by a little. We tried to wash a couple of comforters, but apparently the laundromat in Lowell has gone out of business yet again. I guess instead of waiting for it to reopen and trying to take advantage of another brief period of solvency, we'll just take them to a dry cleaner and be done with it.

Other than the failed laundering and a grocery run, the only other thing we got done today was some audio editing. Some of it was for the upcoming exhibit at the museum, but the other bit was more fun, at least for me: I got to sit in with Heather Marie on her podcast, providing a male perspective to her question of the week. I wish it was something we could do more often, but alas, we haven't thought of a suitable podcast topic for the two of us together.

Nothing big happening at work this week, as far as I know, but things will be really busy since Heather has the exhibit opening soon. At the very least, maybe we can take some more time for ourselves, separate from work, and cram in a little extra rest.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Uselessly Hot

Heather Marie and I didn't accomplish jack squat today, unless you count watching a DVD from Netflix. We talked about going to a movie or something, but it was just so freakin' hot we didn't even want to leave the house.

We finally decided we might give a shot to being "Creatures of the Night" for the weekend, by taking a nap from about 4 to 8 pm then staying up late into the night. Things didn't cool down that much, though, and when we took Magaidh for a walk at about 9:30 it was still hot as blazes outside. Besides, there's not much to do after midnight anyway, so we'll probably just head off to bed soon.

We do have things that we're going to have to go out to do tomorrow, but we're dreading it, since it's going to be even hotter then. :-(

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Relief

Wow, do I ever need a weekend! I worked late last night, then worked some more from home, then put in another hour between 12am and 1am when the stuff I'd done earlier apparently broke some other work (turned out to be completely unrelated to what I'd done, but I didn't find that out until this morning).

Then on the way to lunch with a couple of friends from work, the car we were in broke down. Thankfully it wasn't mine, since the engine basically just totally locked up. I never found out what the details were exactly, but the solution is going to be a whole new engine, to the tune of $4000 or so. Bummer!

I actually have some follow-up info on the car thing from yesterday, as well as some interesting stuff from work, but I'm just too tired to mess with it right now. Gotta go get some sleep.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Car Wishes

I want a new car. Not a brand new car, or even a new-to-us used car, but a new type of car. Something fun and inexpensive.

Let me follow the whole train of thought....

We're a one-car family. That's really not as bad as it sounds. Before Heather Marie got her driver's license last year, we obviously didn't need two cars, and since then we've gotten used to only having one. It's only a hassle on the rare occassions that we need to be two dramatically different places simultaneously, which isn't very often. Still, though, there are times that it would be nice to have some supplemental transportation, so I think about options occasionally.

Last week one of the discs we had from Netflix was The Long Way Round, a documentary about a round-the-world motorcycle trip. It aired on Bravo here in the US, but we missed a couple of episodes, so the DVDs gave us a chance to get caught up. And every time we watched it, I found myself thinking, "You know, a motorcycle wouldn't be a bad extra vehicle."

Then I pictured the horrors of a sudden, brutal, bone-crushing, bloody, painful death on the grill of a gigantic SUV and the urge passed.

After thinking about what I wanted in a combination of size, performance, and safety, I decided that what I really needed was essentially a Tron Lightcycle -- basically a motorcycle with a roll cage.

So that's what I started looking for, with some expected variations, and that leads me to my primary question: Where are all the futuristic cars? All promises of flying cars aside, where are the new, innovative designs?

I did finally find a few, but none of them are really very realistic financially. The Carver is pretty intriguing. Too bad it's $48,000. (Looks like a whole lot of fun, though!) Then there's the Smart Car. They're really cute, and look like they might fit the bill. Oh? What's that? They're how much? $16,000? Thanks, I'll just get a Civic.

The Tango Commuter Car looks like it would also be really good, since it's electric on top of everything else, but it won't be available until 2008...and it's practically a steal at only $40,000. Sheesh.

Here's the big clue for people looking to sell ultra-small cars: you've got to make them cheap. If I could get any one of these for $10,000 or less, I'd probably do it. Unlike Europeans, though, we don't have serious space constraints and we have to drive relatively long distances, so most of these are never going to be primary transportation in 90% of America. Most people don't have the extra money necessary to pay that much for a secondary (or tertiary) car. For an idea, look at the mass market penetration of motorcycles that cost over $20,000 -- that's the market.

I've also spent some time looking for kit cars I could build (probably modified to run electric), but that market seems to be dominated now by classic style cars, not single-seat, cock-pit style futuristic experimental cars. I guess I could try to design and build it all myself, but that's really a little more effort than I'm interesting in investing. I could still wind up doing it, though.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Here it is, 11:57 PM, and I'm logged in to my work computer trying to get something to build so I can check it into source control and go to bed.

Naturally, Visual Studio is driving me nuts! It's insisting that Constants contains no definition for ServiceID.ContactsGuid, despite the fact that if I right-click on the reference and select Go To Definition, VS will take me to the freakin' definition!!! What the heck?! It obviously knows where the definition is!

Sheesh. And so I'm still awake, and still banging my head against this wall.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blog Fast

I didn't stay at work late today, but I did have to login from home and work a couple of hours anyway, so now I'm running a little late and blogging under the wire.

We started the ping pong "season" today at work. I played two of the seven games I need to play this week, and lost both of them. I played pretty well in the second game, but not quite well enough to win...or make up for how rotten I played in the first game. I'm all about finding weaknesses, though, and I think I've got a couple now that I can use during the real tournament.

Whether I'll actually play well enough to exploit them, though, is a different question....

Monday, July 10, 2006

Typical Monday Night

Nothing much interesting today. Typical Monday morning stuff at work -- catch up on email, figure out what's happening this week, etc. I'm about to go back and finish off a couple of projects that had to be temporarily left undone last fall pending completion of other pieces of the program. Getting them done will be good, since it will mean I get to do more actual programming and they'll represent two big steps toward finally completing and shipping our next version.

We're starting a ping pong tournament in the office tomorrow, and that promises to be fun. It's going to consist of two weeks of round-robin play to seed our bracket, then a double-elimination tournament. That's good, since it means I'll get to play two games in the tournament instead of just one. Most of the guys in the office are considerably better than I am. There are a few I can beat about a third of the time, but it's tough. Our table setup favors hard-hitting, fast play over finesse and stamina, which definitely works against me. I don't typically go for many kill shots, preferring instead to move the ball around my opponent until he makes a mistake, but it's often hard to keep him out of kill position long enough.

The really good news, though, is that a couple of the guys tried tennis during their vacation last week, and they really liked it, so I'm hopeful that we'll be able to get some matches together and maybe even join the tennis club at our gym. Since tennis is the only sport that I'm really genuinely any good at, I'm looking forward to playing them, if only to demonstrate that there's something to me besides the awkward clumsy doofus who can't play basketball, softball, or ping pong worth a flip. (I'm pretty good at racquetball, too, but only a couple of them know it.)

And, frustratingly, I still haven't had time to try out the drawing and writing programs I have demos for. In a way that's good, though, since it kind of answers my question: If I can't even find 30 minutes to test them, there's no way I can justify buying the more expensive ones. Now I just need to decide if it's even worthwhile to get the cheap ones.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

It's been a quiet week...

We went to see A Prairie Home Companion this afternoon. It wasn't unpleasant by any means, but it also wasn't a particularly good movie. Not bad, but not great. I'm a big fan of the radio show, though, so I had pretty high expectations. If I had the choice, I'd spent most Saturday nights from 5 to 7 sitting someplace quietly listening to KUAF. Since I seldom get that chance, though, I prefer to listen to the replay on Sunday afternoon, usually while either napping or browsing the paper. Ah...good times.

The primary problem with the movie was that it was weird to see other actors playing the characters that I've known from the show for years. Kevin Kline is a great guy, but he's not Guy Noir (although he did look a bit like Dabney Coleman). Woody Harrelson has turned into a pretty good actor, and John C. Reilly is always enjoyable, but they were not Dusty and Lefty.

I tried to figure out if they and the other classic characters were actually supposed to be figments of Garrison Keillor's imagination, but if that was the case, I missed it. In fact, I feel like there was a lot I missed. I left with the feeling that it didn't entirely make sense because I didn't understand it. I'm not at all bothered by movies that don't explicitly explain everything to the audience (in fact, I kind of like them), and I usually clue into that sort of thing, so I tend toward the movie-just-didn't-make-sense explanation.

There were some cute, funny parts, but most of them involved in-jokes from the radio show. Since people who don't listen to the show probably wouldn't go see the movie either, that was probably pretty safe.

Personally, I would've enjoyed staying home and listening to the show more. I think my preference for a movie version would've just been setting up cameras and recording an episode of the radio show, maybe interspersed with some backstage stuff and interviews. Since it's doubtful I'll get a chance to see a live show anytime soon, I'd pay good money to watch it in a theater.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Half a Weekend

One day down, one to go.

Not much going today. I got up early (well, early for me on a Saturday, anyway) and got the yard mowed before it got too hot, then I ran down to the museum to help Heather Marie with some stuff. After getting done at the museum, I had to run pick up a friend from work at the airport.

He was gone to NYC for a week and didn't want to pay to park his car at the airport for a week, so he left it with us. We'd been talking about getting a second car since Heather Marie got her driver's license last summer, and we figured that having two vehicles this week would be a good taste of that.

As it turned out, it was slightly more convenient, but hardly the life-style-altering event one might have expected. Granted, one week is hardly definitive, but when we think about it, there just really aren't that many occasions when we both have to be totally separate places simultaneously.

We'd still like to add a second car for some very good reasons, but convenience fell way down on the list. This week also gave us a good idea of how often we might really have to use both cars, and the fact that it apparently won't be much means that when we decide to get one, we won't necessarily have to shop for something intended for everyday use.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Week's End

Was this a good week? Well, it's over now, and that's good.

Actually, it wasn't half bad, especially since it was only four days long. Next week may be tough, though, since it'll be my first full work week in two weeks.

Hopefully this weekend will be nice and restful, with a chance to catch up on some some software trials I have installed that I haven't been able to actually try yet.

Whew! Cutting it close on today's post, too! I worked late, then Heather Marie and I went out to dinner. Looks like I made it by the skin of my teeth!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Quickly Going Slow

I've never felt like a very fast guy. Physiology aside, I've never felt like I react efficiently to fast-moving situations. From sports to dance to video games, when things start moving quickly I can't keep up. It's not that I can't move fast enough, it's more like I feel as if I can't control my movements fast enough.

Since we started playing ping pong during breaks at work, though, I'm learning to move differently. In tennis and Aikido, I never had problems, but I think that was because I knew those things. The motions were comfortable and, more importantly, engraved in muscle memory. Not so with ping pong, though. It's fast-paced and unfamiliar.

What I've learned, though, is that if I try to rush and move quickly, most of my motion is useless and erratic. If I force myself to relax and move slowly (or at least what seems slowly in the moment), though, then my movements are much more efficient and effective. Not only that, but I feel like the play itself moves more slowly so that I have time to think as well.

None of this is a huge surprise, of course, but it's nice to actually experience it.

Not to mention that it translates directly into more wins against my coworkers. :-)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Long Night

I didn't really feel like I got home tonight until nearly nine o'clock. I actually left work at about five, but I needed to login from home to finish some stuff up, and I didn't get done until about 8:50. Interestingly, though, I got more done in those few hours than when I stay at work for the same amount of time.

And now it's off to bed. For some reason, we didn't realize that the stuff on TV was running 30 minutes behind, so I feel like it should be 11:15, but now I discover that it's more like 11:45. Yawn.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

On Independence and Liberty

A great essay on the responsibilities of freedom and liberty.

The history of America's Revolution and war for independence really is inspiring, and it's good to remember what we've inherited because of it. That's why liberty is one of my favorite words, and why I prefer "Indepence Day" to "The Fourth of July."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Holiday Rehearsal

It's nearly midnight here, but the fireworks outside sound like the attack on Fort McHenry. If this is what everyone is doing the night before Independence Day, then the displays should be pretty exciting tomorrow night. Of course, for Magaidh's sake, I hope tonight has been the worst of it -- she can't stand fireworks.

As for me, though, I'm off work tomorrow, and I have a long day of sleeping in and lounging around planned, so I'd better head off to bed so I can make sure I'm good and rested. :-)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Lazy Day

I'd love to say that we were really active today and got tons of stuff done, but I don't want to lie. We didn't do jack today. Well, that's not strictly true. We got some laundry folded, we got our flag put up for Independence Day, and we got some testing done with the new mixer Heather Marie got for her podcast, but that was about it.

I slept late this morning, and Heather napped most of the afternoon. Lots of sleep around our house this weekend, in fact, but I think we really needed it, and I feel pretty rested now...right before bed. :-)

I also downloaded CopyWrite, Ulysses, and WriteRoom, three writing programs that I'm trying out. Not to be confused with word processors, which are primarily concerned with formatting and layout, these programs are tailored specifically to the task of writing as a creative process. WriteRoom is free, but is basically just a full-screen text editor. Of the other two, I'm afraid I may prefer Ulysses, which would be bad because it's a full $100 more than CopyWrite.

I'm also working with demos of a few art programs, and I'm afraid I may run into a similar pricing/preference situation with them. :-(

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Blogathon II - Revenge of the Bloggers

Since we lost the first Blogathon to Lance on what I like to think of as a technicality (if completely forgetting to post can be considered a technicality), Heather Marie and I have both fallen out of the habit of daily posts.

In many ways, it's been good to have a break from the pressure, but it hasn't had quite the effect that I'd hoped. During the contest, I often found myself skipping good post topics since I felt like I didn't have the time to do them justice before midnight. I anticipated that without the pressure of a daily deadline my quantity would decrease slightly, while the quality would increase. A quick look through my May and June archives will demonstrate that the quantity has dropped off far out of proportion to any possible increase in quality. In fact, I think my quality has started suffering as well.

The one big piece of advice that all writers and artists give is to write or draw or whatever at least a little bit every day, and that improvement will inevitably follow from the regular practice. It sounds simplistic and naive, but I'd have to say that at least in my limited experience it seems to absolutely be true.

So now we're back to the Blogathon. Lance has decided to pass on this one, but he's welcome to join in soon if he wants. So is anyone else we know who's interested, for that matter. For now the only rule is one post per day, between midnight and midnight, although after a couple of weeks we may alter that somewhat. The possibilities for variations include defining a day as 6am to 6am (since we're nightowls who tend to post late) or allowing one day off per week. The weekly break is especially attractive since it would allow Heather Marie to take a break on the days she produces her podcast.

For now, though, it's just one per day every day until one of us misses a day, with the winner claiming the knowledge of a job well-done. Let the games begin!