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Showing posts from 2008

Year in Review

Stolen from Susan

* * *

1. What did you do in 2008 that you’d never done before?
Traveled to both coasts--New England and Kalifournia.


2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Didn't make any, so yep.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
One of the founders of our church died, but no one too close, no.

5. What countries did you visit?
United States of America. New England ("That's, like, in America, right?")

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
A hobby.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory?
10 February -- my daughter's first birthday.
17 September -- 3rd Anniversary!
01 October -- sold my White Elephant. Gave up being a car guy.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Learning to love my family and live a genuine life free of contempt.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Gaining 15 pounds. Mmm...food.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Yeah, …

On Finding it Impossible to relax...

I don't know if this is common or not, but when I have prolonged time off work, I find it nearly impossible to relax. I always feel like I should be doing something or working towards something, even if it's at home.

Take right now, for instance. Whitney and I are granting one another some alone time today. Joey's in Louisville until tomorrow night, and Maria's enjoying her post-Christmas toys. She's taking the morning shift watching Maria, and I'm taking the afternoon.

So, I've got hours to myself. HOURS. Not stolen moments sitting at the library playing hooky from my family duties: Honest-to-God downtime.

It's like my brain won't accept it. It doesn't compute. On the way over here, all I could think about was how much I wanted to be changing the oil in the Camry, sweeping-up the back yard, and generally...working.

The first 15 minutes over here, I got all excited about some mortgage refinancing stuff I heard on the radio, so I spent tha…

Quote of the Day: On Lawyers

Don’t get me wrong, lawyers serve an important function, but like e. coli in the body politic, too many will kill you.

Whimsy from the Great White North

How do you know you're a wuss? When 5" of snow shuts down the state for a week.

Linky

I particularly like:


Area Roads: In light of the continuing snowfall and icy road conditions, most local roads are snow-covered and slippery and will remain that way until March. For information on current road conditions, please look out the window.

Sci-Fi: Recruitment via Dreams

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What follows is a little tinfoil-hat, I admit...



Okay, so the other night, I had a dream about working at the NSA or some other government agency where "We're smarter than you can imagine..." No doubt, this came from two things:

I just read Dan Brown's turdly book Digital Fortress
I had a really great discussion about my industry with my #1 consultant--my wife. Whitney observed that programmers are paid an obscene amount of money, and that I should expect a downward trend. Pointedly, I said at the time--well yeah, I didn't exactly graduate from M I T


So, the other night, I dreamed I was in a large lab staffed with uber-smart computer scientists: Cryptographers, cryptanalysts, etc. These guys DID graduate from MIT. And Oxford. Sometimes both. It was my first day on the job, and it was your typical "I'm late for class and forgot my homework" scenario--I felt stupid and I thought everyone else there didn't like me. People in the lab kept askin…

Great love story from a local fellow...

Linky

Never forget to say goodbye.

Beautiful stuff.

Joining the 21st century

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Ah December, the time to give, receive, and splurge on a really neat wireless plan.

For the last 3 years, in true Dave Ramsey fashion, Whitney and I have been prepaid Virgin Mobile users. I'd say subscribers, but there's no subscription--you pay-as-you-go, and pay only for the calls and text messages ("TXTs") you use.

On the whole, it wasn't a bad system. The phones were chintzy and low-tech, but they worked reliably for voice and text. Between the two of us, we were averaging $42 / month. Thing was, Whitney wouldn't carry her phone--she didn't like it, and wouldn't have it around for emergencies.

What she wanted was one of these puppies:



Yep. An iPhone 3G--the neatest thing since sliced bread.

Thing was, we didn't want a contract--felt too much like debt to us.

Let me summarize what happened this weekend:


Me, Saturday morning: "Hey, why don't we get some new phones?"

Whitney: WOOHOO!!!

And then...

...running around to 25 different wire…

Quote of the Day

I'm trying to keep things moving here; I get bored easily...


Bruce, you're my hero.

GO BOBCATS!!!

(Yes, they whipped Belfrey. Again. On the Road. Muhahaha)

Story about my uncle and his three sons

Once again, the Breathitt County Bobcats find themselves in the championship game, this time with All-State running back Channing Fugate.

I don't think they have any shot of winning, since they're essentially one-dimensional (GIVE CHANNING THE BALL!)

Meme: Transformed corporate logos

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Quickies...

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I'm happy today--I'm really into the Christmas season. Some random thoughts:

On the blog
Has my blog fizzled? I see none of the fire and angst I saw in posts 2, 3, 4 years ago. I'm not controversial (provided I say nothing about Southeast Christian Church!), nor am I writing about substantial things--news, computers, cameras, cars, politics. My posts about industrial decline and the rise of personal debt from 2004-ish seem appropriate now, in the land of the $8 trillion bailout.

Still, what's there to write about? Once upon a time, I'd air all my personal struggles on the blog, because it was the only place I felt at home. No judgement, no context, just my own thoughts and feelings (rather emo, no?).

I'm not that guy anymore. I have a wonderful wife who'll listen to me, friends to talk to, and kids to play with. Hard to sing the blues or write angsty screeds when you're feeling content!

On car lust
The E39 5-series is the perfect car, and I keep findi…

Review: "The Secret Marriage" at Georgetown College

WOW!

Whitney and I attended the Georgetown College's production of Cimarosa's The Secret Marriage last night, and I was blown away.

Understand, this is a college of ~1500 persons. The curriculum's "Opera" class hasn't been taught in recent memory. The college has no orchestra, only a concert band.

So here, amid the rolling bluegrass, they staged a full, 2-Act Italian opera.

Was it perfect? Of course not...all performers could sing, but only two stood out operatically: The rich-voiced Count, and the delicate soprano playing Carolina. I could've listened to Carolina sing all night long--her arias delighted, and her acting was properly melodramatic.

And it was FUNNY, with comedy in each scene.

The only downside is they're only holding two performances, the final being tonight at 7pm in the Georgetown College Hill Chapel. Seating is General Admission, with tickets at $15. Even if you don't like Opera, GO! English subtitles provided, above the stag…

Death knell?

linky


Given the budget numbers, the United States has already chosen a path of far bigger government. The trap has been set. It's unlikely America can escape without a VAT.


- Replace income tax with a national sales tax? I'm all for it.

- AUGMENT the multi-tiered "simple" income tax with a VAT? HUH?!!!

If this passes, turn out the lights--we're a socialist nation.

* * *

(FINALLY) New England Photos

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New England Vacation Album

Yeah, lots of pics of hotels and airplanes, I know...

Random: QOTD, weather, T-Giving

Quick hits on a few things:

* Quote of the Day: "We have two speeds of development: Fast, and Scalded Dog. Which is appropriate here" (no, that was NOT LXK ;-) )

* It's a fabulous day outside, if you're a duck. And, it's supposed to snow tonight. What month is this, again?

* Thanksgiving: Looks like we're doing the Combs/Brentzel shuffle again this year. Thursday at the Combs family. Friday at the Brentzel clan.

Looks to be a quiet week--lots of folks out, fewer meetings and distractions.

Now, this is a bit scary...

Haven't snoped this yet, but this seems a bit troubling.

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up in case you tend to give gift cards around the holidays. Stores that are planning to close after Christmas are still selling the cards through the holidays even though they will be worthless as of January 1. There is no law preventing them from doing this. On the contrary, it is actually referred to as "Bankruptcy  Planning." below is a partial list of stores you should be cautious about.


Circuit City (filed chapter 11)

Ann Taylor - 117 stores closing nationwide

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, and Catherine's - 150 stores closing nationwide

Eddie Bauer to clothes 27 stores + after January

Cache will close all stores

Talbots closing down specialty stores

J. Jill closing all stores (owned by Talbots)

Pacific Sunwear (also owned by Talbots)

GAP closing 85 stores nationwide

Footlocker closing 140 stores + after January

Wikes Furniture closing all stores

Levits closing all remaining stores

Bomb…

Pics from MAX 2008

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Adobe Max: It's a wrap

Well, my abbreviated trip (Sunday->Wednesday instead of Saturday->Thursday) comes to an end today. Some highlights:

- I saw a guy in a kilt & cod-piece yesterday. Yes, he looked alot like Henry VIII, jowls and all.

- Had a nice dinner with Mark at Sam's Seafood Grille. Pretty good, overall.

- The breeze shifted to a sea-breeze yesterday, and the temps plummeted. Imagine it being 72 and warm in the morning and 50, damp, and chilly by the end of the day. Lots of folks in shorts & t-shirts weren't happy.

Not looking forward to that 7 hours on a plane...

Max Session Notes, Day 1

Notes writeup:

---------------------

"Top Performing Mobile Applications"

Panel:
- Allesandro Pace
- Darren Osadchuck
- Dale Rankin -> Moket
- Scott Janousek

Alessandro (BORING)
1) Keep UI simple
2) Keep memory below 70%
3) Use name/value pairs in lieu of XML where possible
4) XMLSocket where possible

Daren (very low-key and monotone but obviously competent):
1) Optimize loops
2) Prefer the deprecated function calls ( in lieu of Math.* ) functions
3) Remap your keypad
4) Record Keystrokes on CS4 using Device Central's device set

Scott (seemed nervous):
1) Demote on-device testing--Nokia RDA or www.deviceanywhere.com
2) Device Profiling -- use FPSMonitor or ASProf Component
3) Work with data informats that make sense--loadVars, SWX,
4) Buy my book (pfft!)

Dale Narnkie (natural speaker/entrepreneur):
Summary: Here's how to monetize and be successful.


"Developer/Designer Deep Dive"

Summary: "Developers and Designers are different, but share many of …

Found out what 'TL' is

Turns out, it's The Tenderloin

Savory, and only a few blocks from here.

I particularly liked the stuff about it being resistant to gentrification...

Adobe Max 2008: Keynote blogging

8:47am -- Moscone center, West

Well, public WiFi seems to be a pipedream. I sit here on the 3rd floor...it's wall-to-wall people, seems like a mix of folks--guys in french blue business shirts, Bohemian guys with messenger bags, and lots of fat guys with ponytails.

Male to female ratio: 5:1. Better than I expected, but we'll see how things turn out in my sessions.

Somehow my Adobe Login got hosed, and I can't log-in to my account on Adobe.com to change it (again, no WiFi out here)

I feel vaguely sore and overful--scarfed roughly 2000 calories during the continental breakfast.

Again, the "don't know a soul" factor is bizarre. Maybe that'll get better once I get into some sessions this afternoon.

I'm listening to this guy beside me (whose voice reminds me of Paul Upton) go on about SF (San Francisco), talking about how it's past the "TL"...I have no frickin' idea what "TL" is...perhaps it's some line past which you don'…

Review: Quantum of Solace

Ah, Bond is back!

Whitney and I watched this at the Stoneybrook Cinemas de Lux (in assigned seats no less!) last night. Some thoughts:

* I now have epilepsy from watching 27 cuts per seconds during each action scene
* Like the other good Bond, Daniel Craig is going bald.
* The "Bond Girl" is awesome.
* The homage to Goldfinger (dead girl, prone on the bed)
* Judi Dench reprises as M, and she's fabulous.

If you watched "Casino Royale" and wondered at its lack of falling action, wonder no more...the whole of "Quantum of Solace" is falling action. Bond is out for revenge, seeking to uncover the organization Le Chiffre was financing.

He doesn't *quite* do it, but then again, if Dr. No hadn't been so helpful, Connery and crew would've sat on S.P.E.C.T.R.E. for a few films. At least in this installment, Bond uncovers a few more bigs inside "Quantum" (whatever that is...).

It's a good film, action-packed, and full of Bond-isms. However, …

Adobe Max: Trip out on the 767-300

9:15 am
Nervous. I'm nervous...I get chatty when I'm nervous, but I don't have anyone to talk to. I'm in seat 46A, which is the last window seat, port side of the plane. At the moment, I don't have anyone to talk with.

The 767 I'm on is NICE. Seems very much like the one I flew on to Zurich, Switzerland 3 years ago. Minus the smelly Eurotrash, of course.

* * *

Never seen so many laptops in a terminal before. These are Adobe MAX folks, all herding out to 'Frisco.

Guy from an ad agency closed-down his whole shop for a week...funny though, a sycophant guy w/o a job (he's "freelance") sat down in the terminal and chatted him up. The guy wouldn't take the hint to leave, and was still yammering away as I boarded.

So, for now, no one in the seat beside me

9:40
"we have a mismatch on how much cargo weight we have, but don't worry, this is a Good Plane we're on. We've requested about 2000lbs more fuel..that'll take some time …

Adobe Max: The trip out--report from ATL

Off to Adobe Max 2008, I guess. Left Whitney asleep (or, groggy, at least) at the Airport Courtyard by Mariott. Flight from Louisville was cramped and cold on an MD-88 that sounded like a cuisinart from takeoff to landing. Glad Whitney wasn't there...wasn't quite so bad as the Embraer we suffered on from Philly to SDF, but bad enough.

The Transcontinental leg has me on a767, seat 46A. I can't seem to get free WiFi at either airport; guess those innocent, available days are long gone...perhaps at Frisco.

Can't say I was looking forward to VPN'ing into work, anyway. That can wait until Frisco.

I've been very keyed-up about this trip, mostly in the negative--I feel out of place. This is a conference for designers and managers, not hardcore coders. That's the other thing...sitting here, I'm NOT A HARDCORE FLASH/ActionScript coder. I'm an expatriated Java Network Server-side coder, who did some time in Win32-land. For the last 3 months, I've be…

Fun times...show cancellations

TV Cancellations thrill me. Stinker shows go circling the drain, and we all get to cheer.

First big one to go: My Own Worst Enemy. Terrible show, poorly executed--just painful to watch, really.

Sad thing is, most things on network TV these days aren't that much better. Grey's Anatomy jumped the shark years ago, as has every single reality show.

Overall, TV's just ceasing to exist for me--I like House, though its formulaic nature and current shark sighting (House and Cuddy?! Hello Moonlighting!)

Armistice Day, and Citi cries UNCLE!

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linky

Banks helping out borrowers...

...dogs and cats living together. Mass Hysteria!

LOVING the new iPod

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:-) NANO!!!!



Every time I hear Paradise City, I'm apexing a curve in my old SE-R, Goodyears howling, somewhere just south of 6800 rpm in 2nd gear.

The moonroof's back, it's 85 degrees outside as the sun sets in the West, and I'm headed to Louisville to see Whitney. Speed limit be damned, that car loved to MOOVE.

Going viral: A Cogent Look at Chrysler/GM Merger

link


Cerberus should acknowledge the financial reality and either file a Chapter 11 case for Chrysler or have a federal receiver appointed so that the value of the Chrysler assets can be maximized in an orderly sale procedure.


Obligatory snarky comment: "Where's the *reality* in finance, buddy?!"

Sleep is a good thing...

I drove home last night and plopped on the couch around sunset. I mumbled something to Whitney about not wanting to go to church, so she grabbed the kids and went. Then I went to bed around 6:00.

I got up around 6:15 this morning. I'm still exhausted and this cold just won't leave me alone.

Memoir: 21 Months and loving it

Wanted to snapshot this so I remember it when Maria's 30, has kids of her own, and they keep her up all night.

So, Whitney and I watched Mr. Holland's Opus, then tuned-in the election coverage at 10:20 pm to get some returns (at the time Obama only had 200+ of the 270 needed). Maria was a bit fussy, but fell back to sleep around the same time.

Then, the fun began.

By 11:30, she was up, and Whitney went in to console her. I fell back into a cold-meds-induced stupor until she came back to bed at 12:45.

Against wise counsel, I went in myself to console Re-Re. She seemed to respond well, and I rocked her to quiescence, and put her back to sleep. Whitney was not happy: "Okay, YOU get to get up with her the 6 more times she gets up tonight."

Pfft, I thought. I've got this covered...she'll sleep through the night now because I'm AWESOME SUPER DADDY!

Yeah...'bout that...

So, that was 1. By 1:10 she was back up, screaming. I finally came around to Whitney'…

Repocalypse, the Morning After

Two decent things came out of last night:

1. McConnell's still our Senator. Yay, Kentucky!
2. There's not a Democrat supermajority in the Senate. At least there's a *little* checks-and-balances remaining :-)

* * *

Congrats to John McCain on a solid campaign.

VOTE!!!

Well, today's the day. Either way it goes, we make history--the first African-American president, or the first female vice-president.

Whitney got up and voted a little after 6, and faced a long line at our polling station. I went a little after 7; while there were lots of folks, I was done in 10 minutes. Everyone was chatty and "up"--we know this is a big deal today.

I guess that ever-present barrage of advertising (particularly in the vitriolic McConnell/Lunsford Senate race) is good for something!

Predictions:

* Mitch is toast. The $700 Billion bailout killed him. History will show it to be the correct move, but Kentuckians disapprove of Republicans who make tough calls. Ironically, it's probably the move *I* respect him for the most.

* Landslide victory for Obama, close to the 1984 Reagan landslide.

* Absent his benefactor McConnell, David Williams, president of the KY state senate, is deposed in a palace coup come January.

* The second coming of the Carter Admini…

LOL!!!

link


I said FULL SPEED!

It's a blimp, sir.

401(k) watch

As of today, down 30% YTD.

:: sigh ::

Great open letter by Orson Scott Card

Article


If you do not tell the truth about the Democrats — including Barack Obama — and do so with the same energy you would use if the miscreants were Republicans — then you are not journalists by any standard.

Meeting Chaos -- 10,000 foot view

So, here I sit, amid a meeting with 14 people, trying to achieve a consensus on a topic with two sides...

...and no one here can make this decision. And no one will. What remains is for Daddy to berate the misbehaving children back into line.

Atop all that, there's 14 people talking OVER one another, emotionally.

::sigh::

Quickie: "Quid pro quo" is dumb

Quid Pro Quo

On the surface, it looks so innocent. "Something for something." Equality. Fairness. "I got my share." "S/He owes me that." "It's my due." "I know my rights."

Yes, friend: You can know your rights and your due right back into your cave, where no one will lament your passing into eternity. If every action you take is ticking off a chit on your list, it means nothing. If you love someone only enough to do up to your responsibility, you love them not at all. Love may not keep a record of wrongs, but it ought not keep a record of "rights," either.

I've learned that lesson over the past month--doing out of obligation, fear, or resentment is no love at all. Doing for others out of genuine consideration is a feeling of peace, contentment, and simple joy. Grasp that, and never let it go. Love, laugh, and serve.

That really has its own reward, if you can overcome pride and fear and just do it.

Weekend--moving bedrooms

No, for those of you scoring at home, this isn't about me moving out of the bedroom; this is about Whitney and I moving our bedroom upstairs.

Since I moved into the house in June of 2005, my bedroom's been in the suite, on the Northeast corner of the 1st floor. Yes...the dreaded (or desired!) first-floor master. Atop our story-and-a-half house are 3 bedrooms: One for Joey, the nursery for Maria, and what had previously been the playroom/guest bedroom.

So, this weekend, Whitney and I switched the playroom downstairs and moved all our bedroom furniture upstairs. Whitney is a MACHINE, people--we had the room painted in very little time, and she did the trim herself. It took us the better part of two days, but we have a much saner arrangement--sleeping quarters upstairs, living quarters downstairs. We're much closer to the kids, and we can sleep during the spring and early fall with the windows open upstairs and the fans on (allergies permitting).

It's not all roses so …

Review: Fireproof

IMDB Link

My father-in-law surprised Whitney and I last night by offering to watch the kids while we went to the 6:30 showing of Fireproof in Lexington. Fireproof is another Christian-centered offering from Sherwood pictures, the same folks who made Facing the Giants.

In this film, Kirk Cameron stars as Caleb Holt, a fireman in Albany, Georgia with a darling house, a very attractive young wife, and aspirations of buying a boat. He seems to have the perfect life until you peel back the surface--underneath it all, he and his wife are virtual strangers, with enough resentment and hurt feelings to split apart Minneapolis and St. Paul. He's hurt (yet unsurprised) when she starts talking of a divorce.

Caleb is a model of self-sufficiency (and self-righteousness). As the film opens, we see his team of fireman carry a car with two trapped, screaming teeny-boppers off railroad tracks, avoiding an oncoming freight train. While his Christian best friend is shaken by the experience, thankfu…

Quote of the Day

Come on, Harriet!


Todd Crone, wishing I'd come out with the guys.

Thanks, DB. :-P

Some days, you just feel like this...

article


Zero fell into the same moat 15 years ago and stayed there for nine days.


Yep.

Requiem: Now two cars at home

The Beamer that Vicki never got to drive is no more, sent on to its new owner Grady from Indianapolis.

Overall, it was a tremendous selling experience, with a detailed ad via craigslist (for free) and the buyer contacting me via email asking intelligent questions throughout the following week.

This has been on my heart for some time now; glad I finally manned-up and did it.

Maybe selling the BMW today...

I've got a guy driving in from Indianapolis this afternoon; perhaps this is the BMW's last day with me.

Part of me's not taking this so well...I got up nauseated and I was very cranky, right down to being very mean to Joey at the breakfast table. Which caused Whitney to get really mad at me (rightly so). I apologized to him on the way to school for it, but still...I'm just OFF today.

Exhausted, dull, punch-drunk really. . .I'm trying to snap out of it and heal all the crap I caused this morning, but so far nothing.

Armchair Sociology

While musing on the inevitable decay of our debt-ridden society, Chuck and I happened upon an hypothesis today: Entrepreneurs aren't first-born children.

Think about it...first-born kids in families are dedicated, responsible, typically over-parented. They live quite well within rules. They're not interested in rebellion or "changing the game". Instability scares them.

Yes, those are broad generalizations based upon no hard data. But, if you'll let me assume these as true, the consequence is:

First-borns like stability and rules so much that they're happy to remain in a mediocre (yet stable) job while other opportunities are out there, especially those that involve "being your own boss". Kids that were scheduled, coached, and parented their entire waking childhood have NO IDEA how to operate in a vacuum.

(Note, I'm not saying I do, either. I'm an only child. That means I have a first-born's need for stability and boundaries crossed …

Quote of the day

I still love you man!!! In a non-Clay Aiken way of course.

Depressing article on the Depression

....or "This is what Susan's Been Saying since High school"

Nice personal interest piece in the Herald-Leader about what an economic depression might be like.

Point taken--in our relativistic society, if people get down on their luck, they're not going to just sit and starve to death. They're going to start stealing and causing anarchy to survive.

That's the joy of living in a "globalized" economy--global points of failure. We don't MAKE ANYTHING in this country anymore. Ugh.

Review: Grey's Anatomy "Dream a Little Dream"

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To paraphrase a wise imaginary character:


Last night's "Grey's Anatomy" was, without a doubt, the worst episode ever! Rest assured I was on the internet within minutes voicing my disgust throughout the world.




Yeah, yeah...Comic Book Guy FTW.

* * *

Well, that was special. Two hours of shoddy camera work, confusing storylines and bad acting later, I yearn for season two and three. As this episode opens, we find our favorite band of 237 interns gathered around Miranda Bailey, awaiting their new rankings as a teaching hospital. Apparently, their ratings have fallen significantly since their glory days...

..hmm...just like Grey's Anatomy: Once proud ratings leader, now in decline...

So the remainder of the episode is about recapturing former glory, staunching the slide into mediocrity.

Like most GA episodes that are > 1 hour, this turd was boring, overlong, and uneven. Certain scenes were brilliant. Yet, whole subplots dragged on.

Quote of the Day

"Hello, my name is David Hay, and I'm from Eastern Kentucky."

Quote of the day

GO SARCAMS!!

(sic)

I believe she meant "sarcasm"

My baby's up for sale...

Taking a leap out there today.

Listing for the BMW

I don't need to carry 3 cars through the winter, particularly since I have my eye on getting a 5-series come Spring.

Pray for me guys...this is really hard for me, but it's what needs to happen.

Amen, brother....

Jeff's Post

Seven-hundred billion dollars.

Seven hundred thousand million. (edit: math > me)

Give or take, that's $2333 for every man, woman, and child in America.

* * *

Per my understanding, absent this package, we'd be heading for breadlines, soup kitchens, and anarchy. Viewed through that lens, it's a bargain at any price. However, it sets a dangerous precedent for the silent majority who go to work and actually pay their mortgage they signed-up for.

Responsibility? We've now moved irresponsibility from a societal disease to a national mandate. The government will save me; I'm too big to fail.

Funny after-the-fact...

Q: How do you know you're nuts?

A: When your insurance broker drags his feet getting a quote for you on motorcycle insurance, hoping you'll come to your senses.

To Maria: A Father's Prayer

Beneath the walnut trees
I sit amid the grass.
I stare aloft, and gape
At those confined in glass.

The hum refused to cease.
The din goes on each morn.
Oh whom shall break away?
That bairn might now be born.

To find a place of peace,
Reprieve from cage and mark.
Discover life's true course!
Ignite her Holy spark.

Maria, art thou mine?
I know thy path is wide.
God, grant me skill to give
You compass deep inside.

How to predict a massive market decline...

How can you predict a massive market decline?

A: It will occur 1 day after I rebalance my 401(k).

Ouch.

What happens when you get what you want...

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...or "Whitney gets car fever"



So Saturday, before Ike started tearing through our area, our intrepid family went a-Cincinatti'ing. Yep, swimming pools, movie stars, and the best MINI dealership in the world.

I hadn't been to Cincy MINI since last August, when a mishap with my radiator drain plug had me driving 120 miles roundtrip for a $2 part. Whitney hadn't been there since spring of 05, when we had the Pup in for its last dealer service.

Turns-out, Whitney missed the place. Before my first test drive, she proclaimed that Maria, Joey, and herself were remaining in the Odyssey.

"Okay, I'll be back," I replied. I dragged the family this far. Might as well get on with it, as the British would say.

The dealership hasn't changed at all...same friendly folks (though new faces), same user-friendly attitude towards test drives: "Which one do you want to start with," Motoring Advisor Emily asked.

"Oh, something with a 5-speed"

&quo…

Quote of the Day

...A well-managed organization in a "dull" organization. The "dramatic" things in such an organization are basic decisions that make the future, rather than heroics in mopping-up yesterday.


Drucker, Peter. The Effective Executive, p. 42

I couldn't agree more.

Movie Night...the REAL Italian Job

Now this is a movie.

It's 1968; hipster counter-culture is ablaze in Europe. Somewhere, Austin Powers is out there in his Shag-u-ar telling the birds, "Oh Behave." And, as our story opens, Charlie Croker (Michael Caine), the world's best thief, has just been let of of prison....

Actually, as our story opens, a Lamborghini Miura is tearing up the Alps out of Turin on its way to Switzerland, driving up roads that look 2 feet wide at something like 120 mph. I got car-sick just watching it.

* * *

As I told Whitney last night, this film was beautiful, intelligent, and exciting. It provided a perfect snapshot of the times, much as Grand Prix did for the Formula 1 circuits at the time. And, it's just FUN. Seeing those guys block-up the streets of Turin, Italy then escape in Mini Coopers...awesome.

I really liked the modern version, but really, for scope, beauty, and intelligence, the original 1969 work is the masterpiece. Grab the special edition DVD, and enjoy it!

Take that, Yegge!!

From here: Stevey's Blog Rants

Just took a typing test 106 wpm, 99% accuracy.

w000t!!!

Quote of the day

Dan: "I'll be transitioning off the project at some point"

Bruce: "Do you still have a job?"

Dan: "I check every-other Thursday."

Well, on the bright side...

On the bright side, after nearly 7 months and 8.5 gallons of stain, I finally completed staining the last section of our fence yesterday, while waiting for the tow truck to arrive and cart off Beamer.

sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY

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Come on down to the Combs household, folks, where you can witness (very) amateur mechanic Harold working on the old iron, attempting an amazing feat--an OIL CHANGE. That's right...for the first few minutes, we'll warm-up with the draining of the oil. Then we get to the feature presentation--the Two hour slog of...TRYING TO REMOVE THE OIL FILTER HE OVERTIGHTENED IN March!. You'll gasp as you see him try the end-cap socket, followed by the Strapwrench. You'll cry as you see him pound a screwdriver through the filter six separate times praying he'll get it to loosen. You'll sigh in relief as he the filter finally comes of, and swim in nausea to witness its mangled carcase.

For the first 200 ticket-holders, we have the special behind the scenes extra after the feature where you can witness Harold snap his oil drain plug in two trying to tighten it. The final act includes a call to Triple-A for the ignominious tow to Paul's Foreign Auto, the engine having…

Quickies: The weekend that was...

Quite a busy weekend...I'm expecting to crash sometime today around 10am, actually.

High & Lowlights:

Friday, Whitney tore a ligament in her right arm. Best quote from that belongs to her doctor: "I can either tell you you've got a torn ligament, or I can take X-Rays and tell you you've got a torn ligament." So, she's on restricted duty for a couple of weeks.
Praise report: Mom's CT scan came back clean...the doctor said she was doing fine and had no indications of cancer almost a year after her surgery. Woohoo!!
Saturday, I took Maria up to Louisville to spend the night with Cathy. On the way back, I noticed that Bessie had lots of wheel shake at 75mph. After a quick trip to the new NTB location in Georgetown, they diagnosed two unbalanced front tires.
Saturday evening, while the rest of Kentucky was at the Norfolk State thrashing, Bella and I went to Portofino's, Serge's favorite place to eat in Lexington. I enjoyed the whitefish risotto, a…

And Charlie said...

"You need a hobby...that you can WALK to."

Yep.

Anatomy of my week

These days, my weeks look like this:

Monday: No meetings...WHEE!!!
Tuesdays: One meeting at 3pm. Impending sense of doom for Wednesday approaches.
Wednesdays: Meetings all day. Meetings to discuss the outcome of other meetings.
Thursdays: Meetings to discuss the outcome of those other meetings from Wednesday. Find project-killing roadblock. Sit and ponder roadblock. Send email to vendor asking why roadblock exists in the first place.
Friday: Managers nowhere to be found. PM takes half-day. WHEE!!!

Labor Day from Hell

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Hoo boy, September is off to a great start.

Miserable, utterly miserable.

The "Net-net" (that execrable phrase our PM's and managers use at work):

When I'm tired, hungry, and fed-up, I need to SHUT THE FUCK UP (STFU).



I didn't do that. I didn't do that TIMES 10. I "tore my ass" (lovely phrase my Mom taught me) 3 times for no good reason. I didn't sleep well. I relaxed nary a moment, twisted up in knots for 15 separate reasons.

To A Microwave

Once there was a microwave
Who served his family well.
Three long years he toiled
Forgotten, giving, serving

He showed some cracks along the way;
They patched him best they could.
But then one day, he broke.
They knew that he was done.

To fix it? Five hundred.
To buy anew? The same.
The decision was made right then:
It was time for him to go.

Now unplugged, now unlatched,
Daddy lowered him to the floor.
How grimy, greasy the underside!
How dusty the parts behind!

Removed now from his rightful place,
Carted to the outside,
The greasy, dusty hulk
Awaited his destiny, silent.

The family gazed at the vulgar hole
where once he'd been:
"Meh, we always have a stove, right?"

Quickie: "Frugal" is...

...going into Williams-Sonoma expecting there to be free food, just like Saturday afternoon at Sam's Club.

Alas, it was not to be.

We did get out of the mall with a brisk walk, some family time, and $4 under budget. w00t!

Quickie: One Family, under Allergies, with sniffles and Kleenex for All

Among Joey, Maria, Whitney, and myself, we must have every allergy going. Nuts, milk, pet dander, pollen, mold, cigarette smoke, dust. If it's a biggie, we have it.

And we live in the allergy capital of the world. Arizona keeps looking like a good second option.

Trying out 'Jott'

Something caught my eye on TechCrunch the other day: Jott

Jott is a free voice-to-text transcription service. You sign-up, confirm your email address, then pair it to your cell phone. After that, you can dial the Jott Number (1-866-JOTT-321) then dictate an up to 15 second note. It then emails that note to you (well, a link to it in the free version). You can also schedule that note to be forwarded via SMS as a reminder to you.

Very slick little service. I had a couple of ideas for blogs yesterday while Bella, Maria, and I were shopping and I just hit my Jott speed-dial, said "Jott Notes" and then dictated the topic reminder. Simple and very useful.

They're just out of Beta...I'd look for these guys to get acquired by one of the big dogs (Google?) any second now. The technology and user experience is that good.

Quote of the day

"Geeze...I can barely walk."

Quote of the Day

"Hey, I may be an asshole, but at least I was on time for my interview."
-- Jamie

I Can't....be a Troll anymore

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"I can't" is the hardest phrase for me to deal with.

"You can't" is much easier; it's someone else telling me what's not possible or not allowed. You heart it from infancy onwards. You become accustomed to its boundaries and its structure.

"I can't," though, is the phrase of capitulation, self-limitation, and self-doubt. It is at once the hallmark of maturity and wisdom and the harbinger of mediocrity and decline.

I can't; I'm broke
I can't; it's wrong
I can't; it's too far
I can't; my knees won't take it
I can't; it's too dangerous
I can't; it's too risky
I can't; I'm afraid

There's a mishmash of both wisdom and mediocrity in those phrases.

* * *

Phew...on a brighter note, I find the more I move "I can't" from "someone told me I can't" to "I told myself I can't", the better I deal with it. The latter is self-control, and that's a fruit …

Bucket List

Watched the morbid, buddy-comedy The Bucket List last night. I enjoyed it...literally one of those "I laughed, I cried" kinda films, but for weird reasons. There are some genuinely good one-liners in the film, particularly the running gag about "The world's most expensive coffee. Worth watching, but not if you're in a bad mood. This movie is DEPRESSING.

I was sad much of the time I watched this film, for lots of personal reasons. My family's on intimate terms with cancer. I hate hospitals. I haven't travelled and seen as much as I'd like in my life. I've got alot of broken relationships and estranged friends in my past. The memory of Maria's dramatic birth via C-Section is still with me, so any scene where a couple says "goodbye" and operating room doors close is tough for me to watch.

Yeah, I'm a softie. Sue me.

I'd love to take a pass at my own bucket list:

Hold my first grandchild and know s/he is a blessing from Go…

Guest Editorial -- Enter Pampered Chev

Welcome back to school! Time to start the process of turning impressionable youngsters into marketing machines. Thankfully, we don't participate in that as I COMPLETELY disagree with it.

But wait! This year marks a first. The legislature slashed the budget for public schools so THIS year even tho Joey's attending a public school, there are classroom fees, art fees, etc that have to be paid.

Enter Pampered Chef. Everybody LOVES pampered chef (tho I'm personally sick of it - mostly because I lust after it badly and can't afford most of it). However, if you happen to have disposable income:

Joey is selling Pampered Chef. 20% of what he sells goes directly to cover HIS PERSONAL fees and classroom costs. So....if you can help us out, please see us directly before Labor Day. You can pay by check, cash, or credit card when you place the order and then we will deliver it to you once it's received from the school (approximately the middle of September). However, if you don'…

Not so Jazzed--135i Convertible

First things first, let me say--my wife's Skyline Chili recipie is DELICIOUS.

* * *

I got Jeff to come with me to the event ("I need an adult. I NEED AN ADULT!!") to ...ahem...keep me grounded. Plus I figured he'd enjoy it.

So we headed down there, and I got right into a 135i convertible, including iDrive. We tooled around Lexington on the prescribed course for a half-hour, then returned.

Highs:

What an engine. That twin-turbo 300hp beauty...wow...liquid power from 1500rpm all the way to redline
The cockpit has that snug feeling of an E30, right down to the instrument panel.
Initial turn-in is astounding. I believe my E30 has perfect steering, but when this little beast is given steering input, it changes directions RIGHT NOW. No weight transfer. No suspension loading of any kind--it's like the car knew where you were thinking of going and had predetermined the fastest way to get there.



Lows:

Too much crap: iDrive, automatic transmission, Sirius radio, display scre…

Dave Ramsey: Down in the Valley

Anyone who's known me for more than a week knows I'm a Dave Ramsey fan. In 2001, I discovered Dave's book Financial Peace in the bargain bin of a remaindered-book store and bought it for $4. (Appropriate, given Dave says "Never pay retail"!)

At the time, I had an awesome job right out of college and no student loan debt. I had a 2 year note on my yuppie-mobile Volkswagen (but hey, I *deserved* that car, right?) I did pretty much anything I wanted, anytime, by simply swiping a credit card. However, I kept wondering where all my money went. I didn't have a budget, and I had nary a wisp of a financial plan. Money just flowed like water into, then out of, my hands.

Dave set me straight. I got on a budget, still had plenty of money to play with, but I started saving. I paid off the VW, then bought my next car with cash.

* * *

Fast forward 7 years. I see some of the darker, more difficult sides of the Dave Ramsey plan, and I'd like to talk about them. The…

Jazzed

Well, today's the day. At 11am, I have an appointment to drive a BMW 135i in the Susan Komen Drive for the Cure at Don Jacobs BMW.

Let's hope for my sake it doesn't turn out like last year

I've never even *sat* in a 1-series, but it's supposedly the reincarnation of the E30...

...though, no E30 came from the factory with a twin-turbo 300hp engine. Tee-hee.

* * *

In other news, Maria decided that 4:30 was the proper time to get up this morning, and refused to go back to sleep. Whitney took her from 4:30->5:30 and I got her from then on. Nothing quite like your daughter smiling at you, looking out the door and going, "Slide?" when it's 5:45 am.

Thought: Beach vacations with Re-Re are going to be FUN. "MommyDaddyItsAlmostDawn...canwegodowntothebeach'n'lookfershells? Huh?! Canwecanwecanwe? huh?! How 'bout now?!"

:-) Oh well, I'm a morning person, too.

Lunch Hour

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I sit beside Toner Creek on a bench, regarding building 082, or as I call it, The Crystal Palace. It's chilly (!) in the shade today. A light Northerly breeze combined with a persistent cold front--we had a record low of 53 degrees this morning.

Lunch today is a banana and some ABC-123's...yep I'm on the Dave Ramsey diet again.

Decided last night to plow some more money into the E30. As Whitney said, "It's something you love. Enjoy it!" So, I've planned:

A new set of Powerflex Control Arms
Some offset Control Arm Bushings (CABs)
A set of Team Dynamics Pro Race 15x7 wheels:
Some sticky performance rubber of some sort...haven't decided.
A new set of springs & shocks all round


Whitney reports the Beamer's running very rich at startup...need to look over the diagnostics in the Bentley manual again. I've had a niggling suspicion the coolant temp sensor's not telling the ECU the engine's warm.

Maria's 18 months and 1 day old today, and…

Reflections: Second Grade

Today, Whitney and I await reports from Joey's new school and his new teacher. He's moving into the 2nd grade at his new school, and we're hoping this is a new beginning. Joe didn't have a banner 1st grade year--by Christmas break, he'd been branded a troublemaker by his teacher, and by Spring Break, he was living up to that moniker. He seemed bored, unengaged, and lethargic.

In other words, it sounded just like me when I was in 1st grade. My teacher, Mrs. Moore was a stern woman with a round face, a rounder body, and a beat-the-drum teaching style. We sat for 2 hours straight everyday learning phonics. Mrs. Moore had this peculiar style of using a white and red piece of chalk in the same hand. I can still see her writing on the (green) board, showing us how the 'e' on the ends of words like 'pale' and 'sale' made the vowel a long sound.

So yeah, 1st grade was painful. I didn't get into trouble like Joey; I practiced nonviolent res…

:-) Joyous day

10:45 am: Remark that things look like vaporware, and that functionality and scope has been cut enough that HALF THE ROOM questions the usefulness of the thing we're discussing.

But hey, so long as we're on time and under budget, right?

Thank Heaven I only have 1 of these turdly meetings today.

Quote of the Day--Harold Repellant

Mark: Hey if you guys need me to get rid of Harold, I can do it in 3 minutes flat. Just let me show up and start talking.

Well, that was special....

[Life] is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.


(Macbeth V:5)

I'm not buying a motorcycle.

Those of you who had "He Comes to His Senses" and "Aug 4th" in the pool, congratulations.

On Responsibility

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This is not a rant. This is simply a question:

Aside from Jeff, and my Mom & Dad, people hate the idea of me getting a motorcycle:

"Do you know how stupid you'd look on a motorcycle. Poooooo-ser!"
"You don't strike me as the motorcycle type."
"You really ought to let this motorcycle thing slide."
"What does your WIFE think of all this?"
"Harold, I really think a man should do what he wants, but I really hope you don't get a motorcycle. We like you an awful lot."
Insert sound of MIL biting her tongue


Well, point of fact, my wife is a study in dichotomy: She loves to talk with me ABOUT motorcycles--different styles, how the ride, pros/cons, etc. She just won't consider me on one as a practical matter. Loves the idea; hates the thought.

Then there's the other group, encouraging me the same way you might encourage a snipe hunt: Simply for the trainwreck factor. They want to see me fail, spectacularly, preferably wit…

Three hundred miles, 3 dealers, 1 awesome tiring day

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I was up at 7 at Dad's house with one mission for the day--Bike shopping. So, Joey, Dad, and I piled into his 2008 GMC truck and headed for Gateway Cycles in Mt. Sterling.

As I'd learned earlier in the week, Dealers just don't give Test rides. Well, pish-tosh--Gateway DOES. Worked with Robert and he set me up with three very interesting cycles that I tooled around the parking lot for the better part of an hour.

First up was the Kawasaki Versys:



This bike was a real sweetheart--lithe, responsive, fuel-injected, and balanced. It's a 650, so there's enough oomph there. Dad hated it after his test-ride, but I thought it was GREAT. Great to the tune of $7000. Yay.

Next up was the 650 Ninja. Same engine, just wrapped in a true sportbike chassis and tuned for more high-up power:



I liked it, but I didn't like the sportbike positioning much, and Dad DEFINITELY didn't care for it.

The Ninja 500 felt like I was riding a toy--no torque down low and the bike was ju…

GM: Functionally bankrupt?

GM Loses $15.5 Billion in 2Q

...or "What does it look like to lose about $2000 per second?"

Alfred P. Sloan is rolling in his grave somewhere. GM has the financial equivalent of flesh-eating bacteria, cannibalizing its own funds to stay afloat, mortgaging its own brands and capital to operate.

The estimates I saw yesterday were in the $7 Billion to $9 Billion range. Wow.

We need some moniker besides "The Perfect Storm" for this automotive maelstrom...this is more like that 200 ft Tsunami at the end of Deep Impact

Cyclefever '08: Finally went to a dealership

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Finally cowboy'd-up and headed to a dealership to sit on some bikes.

Went with Joey to Bell's Honda here in Georgetown, and it was a pretty decent experience.

I didn't have salesmen climbing all over me or pressuring me. I did find out that they do NOT give test-rides until they're sure you're capable of buying the bike, and in fact that if you wreck the bike on the test-ride, you've bought it automatically.

Nice.

So, anyway, I finally got to see an Suzuki SV650-S (the one with the fairing on the front) and I definitely found it wasn't for me: The handlebars were VERY forward and down, like a true "crotch rocket" sport-bike, and it wasn't comfortable. By contrast the GSX650 to the left was like slipping on a glove: Comfortable and natural, right down to the way my thighs grasped the tank on both sides. NICE!



* * *

And now the ranty-part: It seems motorcycle dealerships are like a car dealership with only two models: a Lamborghini Gallardo and …

Some handsome bikes

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Kawasaki Versys:


Suzuki SV650:


Like both of these because they're 'Naked' and seem like capable all-around bikes--more comfortable than a sport bike, more sporty than a cruiser, can carry a passenger if desired.

They're both pricey (relative to what I'd like to spend) and they're > 600cc's so that probably means higher insurance rates. Yay.

Sermon response: "Killing yourself"

Heard a wonderful sermon from Warren French, our missionary-in-residence at Northside on Sunday. It was about how to deal with the relationship you have (or don't have) with God--this was a sermon aimed at "comfortable" Christians, who've let Satan come against them without realizing it.

Full Disclosure: I believe in divine (and infernal) intervention--that God and Satan are in a tug-of-war for people's soul, and that it's a battle that continues all one's life. I understand little of the 'why'; I just know what I've seen with my own eyes.

Anywho, Warren preached on two small passages from Matthew, chapter 7. The first is 7:13-14

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.


It's easy to get lost, and hard to get to Heaven, even for "believers". Scary stuf…