Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy (belated) Holidays


Our holiday traditions usually include a ripping game or two of The Settlers of Catan; somewhat of a mix between Risk and Monopoly. The picture shows one of the Seafarers expansion variants. In this particular scenario, players explore uncharted territories with ships; a cool twist where gambling with resources doesn't always pay off. We were introduced to the game a few years ago and immediately bought it. We've since introduced it to a few couples that have themselves immediately bought the game. A great time!

I wish for you and your loved ones to find peace and abundance this holiday season and into the new year!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Discussion of the Week

My five year old son: "Dad, where do babies come from?"

(Dad, recognizing the significance of "a moment")

Dad: "Well, a mommy and a daddy love each other, and one day they loved each other so much that they made a baby."

(Dad thinking he nailed that one!)

son: "Yeah, but where do they come from?"

Dad: "Well, they come from Love."

(quit asking questions kid)

son: "Noo! But which body parts?!"

(hmmmmmmmm, give me a second here)

Dad: "Well, a mommy gets a baby in her belly then the baby is born through her vagina."


End of discussion. I figured that buys me at least another year or two.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Henry


Our close friends' dog, Henry, passed away last week. Henry was the only dog I can imagine me being comfortable with letting my (then 10-month old) son lay on while he was sleeping. Henry was the most gentle knucklehead ever... We love you guys.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Get the Skinny on Your Town

An interesting little resource worth checking out: ZIPskinny.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Link: The Right Brain vs Left Brain test

Clockwise!? How I reconcile that with a certification in Java and eleven years of writing enterprise software I (now) have no idea. Interestingly, I was able to switch the dancer but it took me a while. Then it took me a while to switch her back!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Welcome to the Food Chain

The other night we sat down as a family and ate dinner watching a show on tv. This is something "special" that the kids ask for from time to time and we grant on an even more limited basis.

This night my wife made her amazing salmon. I don't remember the show. But the show had animal characters and something came up about eating animals. One of the smaller animals said something to the effect, "Simple policy: never eat anything with a face."

With that, my three year old daughter looked at me and said, "we NEVER eat anything with a face"

and I said, "Yes we do baby, fish" pointing at the salmon.

And she said, "No, that doesn't have a face."

And I said, "Yes it did babe. That was a fish..." (pointing to the plate) "that's why we call it 'fish'."

You could see it register... she stared at the plate, then looked at us with utter disgust mixed with terror and disbelief.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Life and Music

Thank you to the folks at Cold Hard Flash, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone for introducing me to Alan Watts!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Silversun Pickups

I caught Silversun Pickups (and here) at the Ogden Theater last night. Great show. Most seem to compare them to Smashing Pumpkins but that doesn't seem quite right. To me their music is like Grunge refined for 2007. Almost a mix of Elliott Smith and Smashing Pumpkins... For me, Grunge defined college times and something with Silversun Pickups definitely resonates.

The pinnacle of the show, absolutely, was Lazy Eye. My favorite though was Dream At Tempo 119. Kissing Families also blew me away.

This band definitely has that IT factor. I felt fortunate to experience the performance though I'm not quite sure they're a band that should sellout even the Ogden (yet). Drummer Christopher Guanlao was absolutely incredible. He is a freak. I guarantee you have never seen a performance like the one Guanlao puts out on the drums! If you have a chance to go see them I highly recommend it.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

New York I

An amazing trip...

Thursday was Stamford day. Thursday night karaoke at Bradford's is a tradition with my brother-in-law (Bron) and his mates so I couldn't say no. Besides, why do I carry a list of "do-able" songs in my phone if it wasn't for this opportunity to take my show on the road and perform out from under the safe warmth of Armida's? The crowd was young and Bradford's song list was relatively shallow - two qualities that tend to make me less comfortable at a karaoke bar - but I knew I had to step up and represent for the posse. I introduced myself with a familiar standard I'm still trying to dial in: Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass. One quality of a great karaoke bar is the crowd knows its role. Bradford's was exceptional. After a handful of singers (and corollary drinks), the entire bar was singing just about all of every song. It was easy to set 'em up and knock 'em down. Bron slayed with Vanilla Ice's Ice Ice Baby. I followed-up with a heartfelt rendition of Santeria by Sublime (because there is no other karaoke rendition of that song). At one point, the crowd was so loud that I wondered if my mic was on..! So it may sound strange that Stamford Connecticut was a highlight of my New York trip but it definitely was. Stamford is like a small Midwest town that got big - kind of like a Madison - and I really appreciated that I got to experience it. And a tip-o-the-cap to the Bradford's crew... don't stop believin'. Then to bed at 3:30 in preparation for our big day in the city.

My first taste of New York began with chili and sangria in Grand Central Station. There's obviously more culture and atmosphere outside of the train station but it was a nice choice to start the long journey. And although it wasn't recognized formally, I had to stop for a moment and take in as much of the grand terminal as I could - it may have been the greatest indoor space I've experienced. As we exited the terminal onto 42nd street, Bron pointed out a pretty amazing event that was taking place. I estimate 20-25 police cars with their lights and sirens on "sweeping" 42nd going about 20 mph. He said the first time he saw this he estimated roughly 100 emergency vehicles. He said the sound was deafening. Bron has a close friend (Deanne or "Dean") who's lived in the city for some time - she said this "parade" happens nearly every day in different random parts of the city. Our common belief was that this is a show of presence and force by soldiers in the trenches. I've never seen anything like it and I believe it creates its intended effect.

Our goal for the evening was dinner with Bron's second cousin Alex and his wife Marie. Between Grand Central Station and then was filler for the city to provide - wandering was our goal. So we wandered into the public library and (I'm ashamed to admit) wandered out without seeing the great reading room. We wandered through Times Square which I believe had less of an impact on me since I had already experienced London (but hey, it WAS Times Square and it WAS amazing). We wandered through FAO Schwarz, which I very much appreciated as a retail experience, and wandered into Apple's incredibly cool glass box storefront. From there we wandered along the south edge of Central Park, catching great Friday afternoon street acts along the way. And finally made our way to Greenwich Village for drinks, dinner, and a museum.

Alex grew up in Greenwich Village and has been there his whole life. We ate dinner at a sushi place across from the White Horse Tavern - a place Alex and Marie call the best value in the village. Alex is a retired day trader who spends a lot of his time reading, especially about spirituality. We took the long way to the restaurant so Alex could give us some history about the neighborhood. After sushi, we made our way over to the Rubin Museum of Art - the first museum in the Western World dedicated to the art of the Himalayas. Friday evenings are free. It's a very cool space filled with beautifully intricate mandalas backed up with the subtle east-Asian sound of a live DJ. We had to cut this visit shorter than we wanted though because of an impromptu invite to Deanne's.

Deanne went to high school in Michigan with my wife and Bron. She's worked with a financial and banking services firm since college, with most of that time being served in Hong Kong. Suffice to say that Deanne has managed her finances well and owns an incredible apartment in the Tribeca neighborhood. Deanne's was the first time I've ever greeted a woman with a double-sided cheek kiss... or whatever that is. Deanne had a couple friends over for drinks, the first of which I met was a 42 year old retired Aussie who lives in Hong Kong and who had just sailed a 70-foot yacht from Australia to some other island that I can't recall... mostly because I couldn't help thinking I have nothing to add to this conversation! He did say some nice things he's heard about Denver, so I guess that was something. We did manage to acquire an improbable invite to a rooftop party that next night so we held onto that as a backup plan. Deanne and her group were off to see an "edgy" show at 11:30, so we decided to depart and call our Friday journey a complete success. Back in Stamford in bed at 1:30 to refuel for another adventure in the city.

Saturday's plans were set to begin with Lucie's 30th birthday party later that evening so we were pretty laid back. We took a little time to find a great burger for lunch in SoNo - South Norwalk (kind of a sleepy Pearl Street). The drive was nice and I got a good feel for Connecticut's beautiful country. We got back in time to get dressed and drive to Manhattan. Bron's favorite driving motto is "the goal is not to drive into Manhattan, the goal is to drive into Manhattan without paying a toll." And that he did with a series of roads that I cannot accurately describe other than we drove past Yankee stadium and crossed some bridge that is the toll-less key to whole journey, I think leading into the city near Harlem.

The celebration began at Medina. We simply found a parking spot without a meter and walked. If I had to guess, I'd say we were around the Chelsea neighborhood and Meatpacking District. I was impressed with the way women were dressed in heals and somehow managed to navigate those cobblestone roads. Once at Medina, we settled in with our group of 22 enjoying great conversation, great drinks and hookah smoking, and fabulous belly dancers mixed with (yet another) smooth east-Asian sound coming from the DJ. My clique included Bron, Carla from Brazil, Helena from Russia(?), and Kevin from China. Medina turns to dancing at some point and at that point we settled our bill ($140 worth of mojitos for Bron and I) and walked over to Earth to continue our evening with some dancing.

Earth was cool but I've been more impressed at other clubs, including here in Denver. My first impression as I walked in was "this is all Asians". I navigated the entire club to the restroom and back to the bar and again thought "this is all Asians". As I was standing at the bar, Kevin (from China) walked up to me and said, "you know what I love about this place? The mix of people!" I said, "really man? Because I thought this place was all Asians." and he said, "oh no. There are places here where it really is all Asians." I loved it. It's funny because I was actually slightly overdressed with black dress pants. The standard man's uniform was nice designer jeans, nice button-down shirt with rolled up sleeves (tucked optional), and nice designer shoes with maybe a nice watch thrown in. I was under the impression that jeans Saturday night were out. In many ways, I've thought Denver does Manhattan better than Manhattan! Maybe this was just another example of a flat world. Then again, it was hot and people are probably just tired of dressing in uncomfortable clothes.

Anyway, shelling out $12 for a beer really started to lose its charm so we decided to pull the rooftop party invite card. Somehow Bron got us to the building and the doorman did the rest. We found ourselves closing Saturday night down on the 11th story rooftop of some amazing lower west-side apartment building - looking out over the river at New Jersey and back at Manhattan. Unbelievable. Back in Stamford at 4.

So it maybe wasn't the typical first trip to New York. But I don't know that I would have had it any other way!

I feel so incredibly fortunate. One, to have a wife that decides to send me on adventures. And two, for the incredible people that surround me and enable these adventures.

Cheers!

Monday, June 18, 2007

NYC

In a couple weeks I'm going to visit New York City for the first time. Life has led me to some great places so far: London, D.C., New Orleans, Kauai, Anchorage, Portland, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, Toronto, Boulder, and even Lake Placid... but for whatever reason, I've never had reason to go to New York. My brother-in-law lives in Stamford so I'm going to spend a couple days with him in typical whirlwind fashion. We manage to have a great time going out in the U.P. so I have a feeling we'll find a way to have a good time in Manhattan.

I get in Thursday and leave Sunday. Saturday night is apparently accounted for. Lucie doesn't know it (or me) yet, but it sounds like we'll try to help her celebrate the big 3-0 in Queens. Other than that I have no agenda. Of course, I've solicited a few recommendations but I'm asking for a few more... anyone out there have any good NYC ideas or tips?

Thanks in advance. I can't wait.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Biggest Mistake I Ever Made


And Bingo was his name-o.

On New Year's Eve, my son was nipped on the face by a chocolate Lab. He was already nervous about dogs and the event basically pushed that nervousness over the top to full-blown phobia. Having grown-up with dogs my whole life, I couldn't imagine what life would be like if one were terrified of dogs. So I decided that we would get a puppy to help my son with his fear. My logic was that you can't learn to handle a dog by being around cats or guinea pigs... you learn to handle a dog by handling a dog. Secondly, I figured that a puppy would be more appropriate because he would grow up in our family with our kids being a normal part of his life. Conversely, our kids would be around the growing puppy and wouldn't have to deal with an adult-sized dog from the beginning. And I didn't want to worry about leaving my kids in the room with a rescued dog, not really knowing its history.

I still think my logic was sound but the actual implementation was incredibly more difficult than I imagined.

Since Bingo was a puppy, he nipped and his teeth and claws were sharp. Day one went very well because he was still figuring out the lay of the land around the house. But that's where "happy puppy experience" ended. I believe he nipped and scratched both kids on day two, which essentially ended "happy puppy experience" in our house. From that day, and for two months, Bingo was either completely separate from our family, or if he was loose in the house, the kids would literally lay on the very top of our couches to be away from him. This sounds funny, and some day it might be, but it was truly Hell while it lasted. Because my wife and I couldn't overlap time with the puppy and time with our kids, we basically had no time to ourselves or peace in our home. From 5:45 in the morning on my first walk with him until around 11 at night, my wife and I were busy looking after someone. I have never been so exhausted.

So we found an incredible home for Bingo (our dog trainer took him) and chalked that one up to the biggest mistake of my life. At least we learned that we're not dog people and that, if I have to stand up for my son during every encounter with a dog, it will be hundreds of times easier than trying to live with a puppy!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Shout-outs

One: To my brother, otherwise known as Somashine.

Two: To Sunday and her amazingly accurate Oscar predictions.

Three: To my close friends at Pink Pumpkin, Ink.

Cheers!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ten

Today marks ten years for me as a software professional.

On January 6th, 1997, I walked through the doors of the Corporate Express corporate headquarters in Broomfield for the first time as a Systems Analyst. I had four similar offers coming out of the College of Business at CU-Boulder. My starting salary at Corporate Express was $37,500 and I received a $5,000 signing bonus (which was taxed at nearly 50%)... remember 1997 in programming folks?! I had worked as an intern (code monkey) for about 10 months prior at a company called BDM Technologies, which folded into Avitek, which folded into BEA in Boulder (and subsequently Rally Software).

On my first day, I attended a SQL brown bag session put on by our DBA's. They had worked with large systems with Sprint and Andersen. I can't remember which version of Oracle we were working with but it was the rules-based optimizer and I was taught, literally from day 1, how to write optimized SQL for Oracle. I still see some of those guys almost weekly and they've graduated on to terabyte systems at Level 3.

My first project was implemented with Pro*C, Tuxedo, and Oracle stored procedures. It was an optimized version of an existing EDI 850 processor. It was also my introduction to heads-down coding, sitting at my desk when the vacuum lady visits, and late night Chinese food.

Since that day and project, I've worked on countless lines of code, created and fixed countless software bugs, worked on and solved some interesting problems, worked with interesting technologies, and worked with a whole bunch of really good people. Some of which I've managed to stay close with over the years...

Here are some other bits of reflections that help sum up my 10-year professional experience:

  • I've worked for four companies. Corporate Express is the largest. Since then, I've worked for three dot-coms. The majority of my experience, approx. 66%, is from within small dot-com environments.
  • My average tenure at a company is around 4 years. I had one anomaly of 6 months...
  • I've worked on UI's for three installed applications: one in Visual Basic, one in Java, and one in C#. I liked the C# client the most.
  • Most of my time has been spent within the confines of cubicle walls. I've had one office to myself. I once worked in a single office with four other developers - which was one of the best times I've had on a team.
  • I've experienced three layoffs. All of which I survived and wished maybe that I hadn't. After one, I negotiated my own exit.
  • In total, I've gone on three out-of-state business trips: once to PL/SQL training in San Francisco (by Steven Feuerstein no less), once to JavaOne in San Francisco, and once to Houston for a sales presentation.
  • I've been sent to training classes for third-party technologies a total of four times, or six days: SQL, PL/SQL, XML, and Java.
  • I've been certified on a technology once, as a Java developer.
  • I've pretty much always been an application developer. But that role's held six different titles: Systems Analyst, Technical Architect, Senior Analyst, Java Developer, Software Engineer, and Senior Software Engineer.
  • I'd approximate that 75% of my development has been done on Unix/Linux, and too much of that in vi or some other plain text editor.

So what will the next ten years be like..? I've said that by the time I hit 40 I don't want to be coding any more. To be honest, I don't know what that looks like right now. I suppose I can only hope that I get a chance to work with people as great as I have in the past and on problems as challenging and interesting. Bring it on!

Cheers!

Friday, January 05, 2007

My 2007 Word

Instead of a list of fleeting New Year's resolutions, I choose an action verb that I intend to incorporate into as many facets of my life as possible over the course of the new year.

For 2007, that word is Execute.

Given last year's craziness, it could easily be misconstrued as "hang" or "behead"...

Seriously though, I tried less harsh synonyms such as "achieve" or "accomplish" but those don't hit the mark like Execute does. After a few years of performing this exercise - 2006 was Create, 2005 was Rise - I've found that the word just sort of comes to me from my gut and separates itself as an obvious choice.

One of the obvious personal experiences from 2006 that drove this word, I think, was keeping two stocks on a watch list and not pulling the trigger. I watched Marvel Entertainment (MVL) for months. It met all of my criteria... I called a broker when it hit $13 and he recommended against buying. Of course, now at $27, I sit kicking myself and cursing the broker. The other stock was Herman Miller (MLHR). I was actually sitting with a broker when I told him I'm interested in the stock but I wasn't sure. Literally the next day it jumped from $27 to 36$ on earnings news. Could'a, should'a... Execute. Maybe my relationships with brokers are earning the other form of "execute" this year.

The beauty of Execute is that there's a prerequisite planning that's built in. Plan and Execute.

My son is starting Kindergarten this Fall...
Plan what I what him to have going in: some reading, some writing, some math.
Execute in the form of flashcards taped around the house labelling items, a grocery list on the refrigerator with pictures and words that he adds to when we run out of something, a game that we made up called speed numbers involving up to 6 dice that we roll and figure as fast as we can, etc.

My house built in 1974 needs some love...
Plan small projects monthly and one or two large projects this year.
Execute in the form of listing priorities and budgets (more planning... recursion is very powerful), schedule time to take classes on home improvement, secure the tools or professional help and DO IT.

My body built in 1973 needs some love...
Schedule time to continue with yoga classes and consistent gym visits. Eat breakfast and pack my lunch.

My portfolio needs some love...
Research my options and pull the trigger on an index fund or services like Sharebuilder.

Set a morning routine to stay one step ahead of the daily madness.

Keep Java fresh.
2006 was a good year that involved CruiseControl, Spring (and Spring.NET), C#, .NET interfacing with Axis web services, RESTful vs. SOAP api's, XSLT transformations, interesting patterns like Strategy and Template Method, and JMX.
I need to keep the mo, possibly with the likes of Java 5, annotations, clustering, and Ajax.

And finally, (ironically) enjoy peaceful and love-filled time with friends and family. And I wish that for you as well.