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Journal Journal: Update... 1

It sure has been a while since I've been writing a JE. I am still lurking here and there, though not as much lately.

I'm not packing up and leaving, but I have started a blog on another web site that I am putting more of the day-to-day type stuff on. Such as church / spiritual things, family things, etc. Even so I still plan on journaling the geeky/techie stuff here on slashdot. And of course, dropping comments here and there and keeping up with all the "Drama". Sometimes it's a bit much to keep up with, but I can't help but keep coming back for more.

If anyone wants my new blog site, let me know.

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Journal Journal: Upcoming .NET UG Presentation 2

I will be presenting in Toledo at the Northwest Ohio .NET User Group ( on Tues, Sept 27. The topic will cover writing .NET applications using XML. I'm going to be talking about the differences of using some of the more popular .NET XML classes including XmlDocument, XpathNavigator, and XmlReader. After that I'll introduce a shared source framework and the Microsoft shared source concept. The particular framework/classes I'm going to introduce is the XpathReader, which allows for streaming XPath queries (and thus scalable XML based applications). I have also been contributing to this on the GotDotNet workspace and will share my experiences. This framework/library is a great way to use XML in your application. Slides will be posted for those of you who cannot make it :)

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Journal Journal: Update 2

Just thought I'd post an update as it's been a few weeks. There has been quite a bit going on lately, especially at work. Being a new manager has been keeping me busy. This week it sort of hit me- especially after I had a few meetings with my new boss. I like it but I admit I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed with all the potential projects looming and having to meet with executive level managers. Being a global company means a lot more paperwork, too.. Lately I've been wishing our team could cut out the paperwork and get busy writing software :)

Anyhoo, enough about work. Other interesting news: my daughter got tubes put in her ears this morning at the hospital. The procedure went really well- no problems. It's a relatively simple procedure, lasting only about 15 minutes and that includes the anesthesia. Praise God it went well! She was on her 5th ear infection in the past year and it wasn't going away. When I was 12 I had tubes in my ears so I can relate. My sister had them twice when she was 3 and 4. I guess it must be something that runs in the family.

On a related note, I've also been fighting a sinus infection for the past 3 weeks. I missed a day or two of work. At one point my ears were so stuffy that I couldn't hear out my left one very well. That was very disorienting and I about went crazy. I'm fine now, though there is still a tad of pressure / fluid in my ear. Ugh, not something I want to deal with again. I'm thinking about going to see an allergist to see if there is anything that can help that is somewhat minor (as opposed to shots every week- which I definitely don't want to do no matter how good it makes me feel.. mainly due to the inconvenience).

Not much else new. The house is going pretty well though we are feeling the pain of payments now... Our new grass is starting to turn yellow due to a fungus called "rust". The guys who put it in are supposed to come out and put some fertilizer down which should green it right up. We also have a landscaper coming soon to plant some shrubs, trees, etc. around our house. Window treatments just came in and I'll be spending some time putting those up tomorrow. After doing that the only major projects left are unpacking my tools in the garage, and organizing the basement. I made some progress on the garage last weekend but still plenty of work to go.

Have a good weekend!! Go Bucks!!

User Journal

Journal Journal: Ugh. Rebates coming to a grocery store near you...

I was at Kroger yesterday, picking up my perscription (I've got my yearly sinus infection) and I saw "5/$5 for all pepsi 12 packs"! I thought that was a great deal, so I picked up two packs. A few minutes later I saw another display that said "$1 per pack after mail in rebate! Sale price $2.50".

Inside myself I was screaming. Noooo! Kroger has been hanging around Best Buy for too long! I really am not looking forward to having to fill out rebate forms to buy groceries. It's been about a month since I've been to Kroger anyway- they seem to have significantly higher prices than Meijer (which is closer to me now anyway). I hope this isn't a trend... I can just imagine walking the isle and seeing everything on sale with a "after rebate price" and having to send in like 20 different rebates, each for 50 cents. No thanks, I'll just start growing my own food. I hope Joe Consumer doesn't put up with the rebate crap. By the time you factor in the stamp, the hassle of filling it out, finding an envelope, the time value of money, etc. it's just not worth it (and of course that kind of thinking is what they are relying on)!!

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Journal Journal: PMI is teh suck. 2

So we're finally getting settled in our house, and the bills are rolling in! I had an interest only construction loan that is supposed to be converting to a conventional mortgage. This is fine and dandy, except for the sad fact that the bank only goes by the "appraised" value of the prints on the house back before it was even constructed. This just so happens to = the contract price of the house + the cost of the lot. They won't take it to consideration the 10,000 + additional we put in to stuff such as irrigation, landscape, lighting upgrades, etc. The down side is, since I don't have 20% equity based on the loan amount, I have to pay the dreaded PMI.

Or maybe not... Today I spoke with my mortgage broker (who got us the original loan) and we can get a slightly higher rate (5.75% instead of 5.625) but fixed for 30 years, and not have to pay PMI because we'd be taking out a 2nd mortgage for the amount we need to make up to have 80% equity on the first. The nice thing is, my payment goes down about $50 a month, and I am not throwing away any money on PMI! Based on a loan calculator, I'd be paying PMI on the current loan for about 8 years (unless the bank reappraised me for and gave me the necessary amount, which is probably somewhat likely if I did so in a year, but I doubt my PMI would go away, it would just reduce).

Anyway, I just thought I'd JE about it. I'm not 100% sure I'm going the re-finance amount yet, still have to review the numbers. Right now it seems like a better option-- unless I could somehow get my PMI removed on the other loan.

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Journal Journal: Thoughts on XBOX 360 5

I was reading the front page article today on XBox 360 interview. Dare I say it, but I am honestly starting to have second thoughts about it. I think MS is making a few strategic errors.

Error #1) Not including the hard drive. This is obviously one of the biggest items of controversey. Reasons offered:
    a) We want to make a cheaper option for the entry level gamer! ME: OK, this may be a good reason.
    b) Hard core gamers are really the only ones that want a hard drive.ME: Not true. Especially because of the other comment: it says that in order to have backward compatibility, you will need the hard drive. By that logic, does that mean that only hard core gamers want to play their old games on Xbox 360? I don't think so.
    c) You'll be able to "add-on" later if you become a hard-core gamer. ME: True, but for $100 that is an awful lot for a 2.5" 20 GB hard drive and some cables, which is essentially what you are getting.

Error #2 - HD-DVD) This is not 100%, but if MS goes HD-DVD then I think they are making a mistake. Blu-Ray will have significantly more storage space, and will probably be the PS3 choice. Of course, Blu-Ray is a Sony technology, so it is should be no surprise that XBOX doesn't want it.

Things going for it:

1) Xbox 360 live - definitely a great experience. This will be a huge seller.

2) Game titles like Halo 3... 'nuff said.

3) Media Center capability - another big seller in my opinion. I run Media Center 2005 and to have it on an Xbox 360 would be great, especially if it is a richer experience w/ HDTV.

Anyway, I think there will be a lot of good things about the Xbox 360, but I think when PS3 makes its debut people will think long and hard. If MSFT has it's way, everyone will already own an Xbox and be having too much fun with it. I still plan on getting one, but I hope to see them offer change on a few of the above issues. Namely, including the HDD. I think this ought to be standard, period. I'm not even sure how they would do Xbox Live w/o a hard drive. Maybe burn your info to a DVD? Otherwise you'd be typing your info, downloading contacts, etc. each time.

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Journal Journal: Ask a (subset of) Slashdot: Paintball? 3

I am thinking about getting into paintball. I have some friends from church that play (same ones I play Halo 2 w/ online). I have played in the past, but it was quite some time ago (high school age). "Back then" it was pretty expensive, I remember paying like $20 for 200 balls and I had to rent the gun. Now days it seems like things can be a bit cheaper.

I want to buy a gun, but not top-of-the line per se. I want something that I can enjoy and has decent accuracy. If I really get into it, I can always upgrade later.

I saw this gun and it looks pretty cool, though it is "spring based". Ideally I'd like to get a gun that uses compressed air, especially if I can refill it myself (with an air compressor).

Any tips would be appreciated. A friend of mine wants to sell me his Tipson M-98 for $175, which includes the case and everything. However, that is a little too much right now. I'd like to spend no more than $100 for a gun. Ideally I'd like to get everything needed (including a couple hundred paintballs) for around that price.

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Journal Journal: Pointy Hair? 2

Today they announced my new position at our staff meeting: "Manager of Interactive and Operations Business Systems". Which basically means I am a day-to-day manager of software development for business units in those categories. I have 5 people that report to me (same team I was working with as a Lead Developer). I've known about the change for several months now.. Glad it is finally out of the bag.

I am planning on being a "working manager" at least for a while. I'll still be doing a lot of software design and probably even some coding, though I'm sure that will probably slow down once I get sucked into the swirling vortex of never- ending meetings. To stay technical I am still going to be doing user group stuff and working on pet projects, so no fears there. I'm pretty excited about the new position- I enjoy the people side of things as much as the technology. Hopefully that will stay true for a while :)

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Journal Journal: Post-weekend Update 1

The weekend was pretty busy. My parents came up to see the granddaughter and help me install the garage door openers. It took my dad and I about 6 hours total- which included a trip to Anderson's to get some angle brackets to hang them. There wasn't anything overly difficult about doing it- but it took a while. I did most of the wiring while my Dad assembled them. Worked out pretty well.. We got them both up without screwing up anything major.

On Sunday I spent the majority of the day cleaning the garage so we could park our cars in it. I moved a bunch of boxes around, but still need to unpack them. By the end of the day I had both cars parked inside. What a great feeling.

Not much else new. Our grass is starting to poke through the straw, especially in the front. It looks pretty good and I bet I'll be mowing it in a few weeks. We're using something called "Fairway" grass. I'm guessing based on the name it is the grass they use on golf courses, but it may just be the brand name. Seems to be fine, my only complaint is that the birds really like eating the seed.

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Journal Journal: Snake Pics & Other 7

Here are the snake pics as promised (see my last JE if you missed the story).

In other news, we had an interesting meeting at work yesterday. Apparently, our competition is undercutting our sales and the big reason for this is work being done in India. We had a meeting and it was said that we basically have to start levarging India for resourcing our projects... And no new hiring in the US for entry level people. I think it came accross a little more harsh than it should have. A lot of people were pretty uncomfortable afterwards, and the question was even asked at the meeting- "How do I stay competitive as an american IT professional?"... I think that was on a lot of people's minds. It begs the question- why should anyone pay me 10x the salary that my Indian counterpart is making if they can do the job? Especially if the competition is cutting prices?

Anyone else running into this sort of thing at work? I was just reading in a trade mag how demand for talented IT workers are going up in the US. WHERE?? :) Also, we had a project that we tried to use India for last year that went terribly- all the US based people ended up working twice as hard and redoing a lot of the work because of the poor quality. I'm not saying that is the norm, but it's what happened. Granted, it was a pretty complex project with pretty complex business rules, but everything was documented well and communication was a high priority.

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Journal Journal: Welcome to the jungle, baby!

Welcome to the jungle... err, maybe the country...

Last night we were coming home from our Church- got home around 9:45 or so. As I was pulling into the driveway, there was a HUGE snake slithering accross the driveway (it just seemed huge- it was probably a little over 3 foot)! My wife and daughter were with me. We just sort of stared at it for a few minutes (with the headlights from the car shining on it). My neighbor was out, so I asked him to come check it out. He has a few boys and they were interested as well. So there are about 8 people looking at this snake slither accross my driveway. My neighbor and I went to grab the digital cameras and started taking pictures of it. Unfortunately I didn't post them to my server yet, but I will post an updated JE when I get a chance so you can check it out.

After downloading the pics to my computer, I tried to identify it. My first guess was a timber rattler, which happens to be the most poisonous snake in Ohio! It actually was shaking its tail and it seemed to be rattling- but it turns out it was shaking it right by a plastic trash bag, and it was hitting the bag. I e-mailed the pic to the ohio wildlife department and they got back to me this morning. It turns out it was an eastern fox snake, which is about as harmless as a dove. Apparently you can pick them up and they won't bite (not that I'm going to try). They are considered a threatened species and are often confused for copperheads. My wife was actually disappointed it wasn't the timber rattler, since those are endangered (and she's pretty big into wildlife).

I suppose with having our lawn recently seeded and hay on top it makes an attractive nesting place for snakes. On top of that we have a huge field on either side of us, along with a corn field in the back. I'm guessing the critter was wandering around and looking for some food. I'm sure there are a ton of mice and shrews out in the area, so it probably eats well. By the pic I am thinking it is either pregnant or just had a meal. Again I will post soon.

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Journal Journal: It's already august 4

Amazing how we are only 5 months away from the end of 2005. Looking back on this year so far and I can say time has flown by, and I'm about where I was hoping to be (house, family, church, career). I'll probably post another JE about that in the near future.

Got to go to the zoo over the weekend. It was a lot of fun. Our daughter was feeling a little sick toward the end of the day and threw up twice after we got home. We think she was teething. Our sister-in-law had some homeopathic tablets that she gave her (that supposedly work great- but I'm always a little hesitatnt about that sort of thing). I'm wondering if that caused the vomitting or if it was something else. She had a low grade temperature the day before so it could have been a virus or something.

Overall the weekend went well. We had an irrigation system installed in the front / side lawn. Had two truckloads of dirt delivered today so the lawn should be final graded and seeded this week. I'm trying to find some good sprinklers for the back yard since we didn't irrigate that (would have blown our budget). Any recommendations? Ideally I want to buy one or two sprinklers (100x100 area) that I don't have to move.

In other news, I'm trying to get some more memory for my PC so I can install Virtual PC and Visual Studio .NET Beta 2. Unfortunately I need about 2 GB to run it in the Virtual PC, but I only have 256 MB ram. I am told I can get by with about 800 MB (slowly), so I still need to buy a gb memory ddr. I got a gift cert for $50 at tiger direct and I'm hoping to find some decent memory there.

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Journal Journal: Credit Cards... 4

I have a credit card with a 0% interest rate until March. I generally don't like using credit cards (especially when carrying a balance), but if you're responsible they can be pretty useful- especially when you're building and money is flying out the window :).

At any rate, I had an interesting experience starting about last week. I was looking at my records of bills paid, and I noticed that I hadn't made a payment to this credit card company (the one with the 0%) for about a month. We've moved twice since April, so I figured I either didn't get the bill at the correct address or it got lost in the move. I went ahead and made a decent sized payment as a "hopefully this will make it in time" effort about a week ago. Yesterday we finally got a bill- and it had all kinds of fees on it. To top that off, they dropped my 0% interest rate and raised it to 13.75% (Oh, and they also upped my credit limit on top of that... ???). I went from a $0 finance charge a month to about $80 if you go by the fees.

This morning I just called them and was ready to pay it off and close the account (I had time to "cool down" from the night before). The person on the phone took off all the fees and reset my APR to 0%. I was half expecting them to do that, but it still kind of surprised me. I was told if I missed a payment again I would not get the fees waved. I just think it is interesting that credit companies use those kinds of tactics. A co-worker told me he's seen it where you miss a payment on one card, and the other ones see it and raise your interest rates accross the board. I hope that never happens...

Anyway, I'm glad I called, we can certainly use the 0% right now. I'll be glad in 6 months when (hopefully) all this stuff will be paid off.

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Journal Journal: A few updates 5

Had a pretty good weekend. Got to go to the Ann Arbor Art Fair. We looked around at a lot of booths but didn't find anything that we wanted to get for the house (well, at least nothing we could afford!). It was a pretty hot day. In my least favorite section (where all the non-profit groups are) of particular interest were some JW's (wearing ties and white shirts in 100 ' weather) and a guy at the nudist booth was overly friendly (while I was walking by, he piped up with an emphatic "HI!")

Nothing to exciting on Sunday. Went to Lowes to get some stuff so I can get the garage door opener's installed. After looking at the manual I'm a little nervous about doing it. There are 16 steps, and the opener is at a funky angle that you're supposed to get by sticking a 2x4 above the door. Definitely won't be a one person job... And Sears charges $109 to install. Not something I really want to have to pay for, so I'll probably figure it out myself.

Landscape is the next thing we're trying to get figured out. It's going to cost quite a bit to do irrigation and grass, which we are most likely going pay to have done. Of course, I didn't budget enough (about 1/4th). To save money, my wife and I are going to slowly do the bushes / plants when we can get to it (at least that's the plan right now) but we are planning on setting the beds in place before we do too much. We have a friend from our old church that does landscaping and want to talk to him before we get going with some guys who "do it on the side".

In other news... We've got a .NET User group meeting coming up tomorrow and the topic is on Microsoft Team Server. It looks like a pretty good product especially for integrating life cycle type stuff in software development. I'm going to start playing around with Beta 2 some more pretty soon but I need to get some more ram first. Looking forward to that- there are plenty of new features that I want to check out.
But playing with .NET 2.0 is kind of low on the priority list right now with all the unpacking and misc. projects I have to do on the house.

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Journal Journal: Updated Pics

Pics from the last week of building have been posted in case you are interested. Check here.

Cable co came out a little late tonight, but I am now up and running. Things are running quite well, and the upload speed is now 368K so it's a bit kicked up from what I had before.

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