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Journal Journal: It's been a while since my last post 13

It's been a while... Thought I'd hop over on to /. and say hello and post an update.

First the big news- we are expecting our second child early April. We found out that we are having another girl! Very exciting. I told my wife that I'm definitely going to have to make a "man room" so I can get away from it all. But before that I have to get something done for the baby's new room. We're pretty behind right now- don't have any idea what we are going to do for her bedroom. And we don't have any names picked out yet, either.

The pregnancy was a little tough right around the beginning of the second semester. We found out my wife had a bit of a torn placenta (she had some real light bleeding). Fortunately that tear healed up well.

Lately, work has really been eating up my time. I've had 3 bosses over the past year, and the latest one started last week. Our company has been in a turn around situation but it seems like we are making progress. Despite all the crazy stuff, I have a really cool opportunity with a project coming up. We're going to be implementing some enterprise technology and I'll be overseeing the project (and it's probably not going to be Microsoft technology). I've been in management for about a year and a half now (As of last July I stepped into the Director of Software Development role)and so far it has been a good challenge and very rewarding. Getting away from the technical side has been tough, but I still am spending a lot of time on technical architecture and get to mentor developers on my team. I try to spend some of my spare time writing code, but there isn't as much spare time as there used to be- and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Well that's about it for now. If you have any questions, drop me a comment. I promise I'll check slashdot for at least a few days to see if anyone is still reading :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Bi-annual update... 4

It's been a while since I've updated, so here is one for the fans who are still with me.

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, just not visiting slashdot as much lately. I check in about once or twice a week to read journals, mostly lurking in the shadows. Seems like a lot has changed, but a lot has stayed the same :) With the new site, it now renders OK in Internet Explorer, so I may be checking it more often. I usually hit Digg now for my technology news, as most of the stories on Digg show up on slashdot about 2-3 days later.

I've also been blogging on Xanga (I refuse to go to myspace) mostly. If you know my first name, the first letter of my last name, and my the answer to the universe, you can easily find my xanga if you want to see what I've been up to.

Lately, work has been kind of interesting. They announced some layoffs, primarily due to changes in the business and our prices/costs being high. As a result we are going through a pretty big cost cutting strategy. I'm a little nervous but despite all that, there are actually some pretty good opportunities opening up. Unfortunately there just isn't much at all in the Toledo job market if I want to move on. The good news is that Google just announced building a large facility in Ann Arbor which is only a 45 minute drive or so. So that may open up some opportunities, as much as I would hate to move to / work in Michigan. However, it could also encourage high tech companies to move out this way. If things don't work out here, I'd probably be looking for something in a different area all together. My wife and I discussed this a little bit and we would like to stay in Ohio, but would consider Cinci and Columbus (my parents being in Columbus).

In other news, I have been getting involved with geocaching. It is a ton of fun. I highly recommend you check out the web site to learn about it. The idea is to use a personal GPS (GPSr), punch in coordinates found at the geocaching web site (that happen to be all around the US and even world), and go on a "high tech" treasure hunt. A friend of mine has been doing it at work and got me hooked. I've found about 7 caches so far. It is a great excuse to get outside- something I've enjoyed doing since I was a little lad.

Well that's about it. See you in January. :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: So what have I been up to?? 7

It's been several months since I've last written, so I thought I'd give a quick update. Did you miss me???

Things are going pretty well. I have been busy with work, the holidays, etc. On the work front I have been getting my feet wet with managing the day-to-day software development. It's definitely a change from being a developer, but a pretty good one. I still get to stay technical but I spend a lot of time on the "people" side of things too.

On a related note, I think the IT industry is starting to bounce back a little bit, which is a positive thing. Now days a developer really needs to have the ability to learn the business.

Outside of work I have still been doing a lot with .NET development. Even more so now as I feel the need to keep my coding skills up-to-snuff since I don't get to develop as much. I am now in the process of playing around with AJAX, Atlas (Ajax + ASP.NET), continuing my adventures with Media Center, and now doing some work to get add-in applications working on the Xbox 360 extender. I did end up getting an Xbox 360- right after Christmas. Got pretty lucky and scored one at best buy (long story).

Xbox 360 has been great. I'm really impressed with the xbox live part of it... The game downloads are great. Lots of cool "arcade" type games that you can get cheap (to the tune of $4). I have downloaded just about all the demos and so far my favorite arcade game is called "Geometry Wars". It's actually a game that they put in Project Gotham Racing a while back, and decided to make an HD version and release it for the 360. Really addictive and I will most likely end up downloading the full version. Another cool thing about Xbox live is that you have a profile, get awards for doing certain things in games (that then updates your profile). You can chat with anyone at any time, and even have actual chat rooms. The wireless controllers are also really slick. Can't say there is much I don't like about it so far.. I have had absolutely no problems with lock ups, overheats, etc.

Anyway, hope everyone else is doing well. I will be out in Cincinnati the 20th and 21st. If anyone is in the area and is interested in coming to a code camp, please let me know. If you are intersted, check out the link. In addition to .NET, we will also be covering non .net development stuff like Python, Ruby on Rails, Oracle, etc. I will be co-presenting on Media Center development and Xbox 360 integration.

User Journal

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.

User Journal

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 :)

User Journal

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)!!

User Journal

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.

User Journal

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.

User Journal

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.

User Journal

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 :)

User Journal

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.

User Journal

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.

User Journal

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.

User Journal

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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Just go with the flow control, roll with the crunches, and, when you get a prompt, type like hell.