Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Latest Happenings

It's been a busy January - I can't believe it's almost over. I remember when I was in high school. It would be Tuesday, and my friends and I would be sitting in the basement, up to no good, thinking about how it will be SO LONG until Friday when the next big social happening was going to take place. Three days that seemed like an eternity. Now, I check my email and see that a message from a friend that I had determined I would respond to after I 'finish this one thing' is now so deep in my inbox, and the date on it has somehow changed to last week. I had an incredible time in high school, but if there was one thing I would want to get back from that time, it wouldn't be the freedom from responsibility, or the joy of doing everything for the first time, but the ability to bottle time - the ability to slow down the day and make it actually last 24 hours, or in some cases seemingly 36. Right now it seems like the day has dwindled down to about 13-14 hours at best. Ah well, all the more reason to truly savor the special moments. That's my rant about getting older.

Speaking of which, good lord, I turned 30, yes, 30.


So, I must say I have taken it well, but it's a big number. When you are young you set these goals for yourself and the 'due date', as it were, for all of them is "by the time I turn 30". Looking back, I really wasn't much of a forward thinker when I was setting all these goals. I would say that I was more concerned with scrounging change so I could buy a 12-pack than I was charting the course for my young adulthood. Despite my rudderless existence, I certainly had some ideas about what I would be doing, how much money I would be making, whether I would be married, how many kids I would have, the places I would have been, etc. I can say happily that despite my lack of real effort towards making these artificial goals a reality, I have come kind of close. When you look at it that way, you can't help but be proud of where you have gotten yourself.

I have a wonderful fiance who takes great care of me. She makes me a better person, and every day that I wake up with her is a wonderful day. I have a small family, but one that I have really started to reconnect with over the past few years, after regrettably allowing them to grow so far apart from me over the years. In addition to the family I was born with, I have a new family that I am marrying into. They have shown me so much love, and treated me like I belong, and in the months after my father passed away, their support was invaluable. I have sort of stumbled into a profession that I really enjoy, that I am pretty good at, and that allows me to live comfortably. I am living a far more healthy existence than I was a few years ago - I have shed pounds and become more active. I feel better waking up as a thirty year old than I ever did as a 20 year old, that's for sure. So I feel good. Things could be so much worse.

We had a party for my 30th. I don't usually celebrate my birthday in any organized fashion - it comes shortly after Christmas, and it's generally pretty anticlimactic. I figured turning 30 called for something. Most of my best friends who are in town made it, and we had a great time. Any excuse to get everyone together is welcome. I have been lucky to be blessed with such a great group of friends. Not many people can look around on their 30th birthday and smile knowing that many of the folks you are sharing the room with have known you almost half your life (or in some cases, more). New friends and old had a great time, especially me:

We drank lots of good beer, ate lots of yummy snacks, and I shotgunned a beer for the second time ever (not sure why). We even got this great group shot of all the old school fools pretending like they can still party:

I obviously couldn't have done it all myself - I had the best hostess with the mostest, and she threw me a great party that I won't forget. I think I'll keep her.

So that's what's new for now. I finished Wikinomics. Not bad, not great. I also finally finished my Herding Cats book. Today I started This Is Your Brain On Music, by Daniel Levitin. As an avid music-lover, and aspiring music player, I am fascinated by the relationship between the human mind and music. I am excited to see how it turns out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fresh + Clean

Well, I finally got my new laptop. I think it's pretty incredible how far this technology has come along. I ended up getting a Toshiba, as the feature-to-price ratio seemed to be in line. I got the Core 2 Duo 5450, which is not ideal, but still WAY better than my single processing Pentium M that I have in my current laptop. It's pretty light (5.3 lbs), has a big (200GB) disk, and 2GB of RAM, which I haven't come close to taxing yet.

It's a relatively attractive machine, with a nice quiet keyboard, great bright video, and pretty decent speakers (not the Harman-Kardon speakers that the more pricey Toshibas come with), but I don't honestly use the laptop speakers very often. The complaints I saw in reviews centered around the touchpad, but I think it's really just fine. Maybe the one I have now sucks so bad that I am preconditioned to think that touchpads always suck.

I got subversion setup for my side venture this week. I used wush.net, which offers plans costing only $20/quarter. This gives you a web client, RSS feeds for changelist tracking, and a pretty decent amount of space and transfer bandwidth. So far it's been plenty fast, and they offer unlimited user access to a single repository, which is good enough for us.

This leads me to a "Wow technology is cool!" moment:

It's always amazing to me when you can sit on your couch on your laptop that costs half as much as the laptop you bought 2.5 years ago that sucks in comparison, programming in a free IDE like Eclipse or Netbeans that is full-featured and full of neat little tools that someone donated to the world out of pure nerdness. Finish your work for the night on the laptop that is not tethered by any cords, and commit your changes - then sit back as the changelist floats through the air to your router, where somehow those packets of data start their enchanted journey to an IP address that is mapped magically to the DNS name you specified. It gets there and checks itself in to this repository in god-knows-where using source control technology that is open source and freely available. You can then hop on the internet and see what you just did. Now we, as 'Web 2.0' users, do this every day, like this blog. I just take for granted that what I wrote before hitting "Publish Post" will show up exactly as it was when Iwrote it. That's a testament to the amazing intellectual creations over the past few decades - that you just know it'll get there, because all the incredible technology that is involved in that data getting from your fingertips to its destination is nothing to sneeze at. Fascinating.

Hmm, what else is there to talk about. Well I finished my Dick Francis rag, and now I am onto the next batch of books I just got from Amazon (they take A LOT of my money). First up is Wikinomics, by Don Tapscott. So far it's interesting in a "Tipping Point-like" well-done statement of the obvious. I will let you know when I get further into it if it's as good as people have told me it is.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What's New, 2008!

Well, since I last wrote, it became 2008! I went to Denver, where I did some sightseeing, and a whole lot of snow shoveling. It was great to finally get out to Colorado. My mom, myself, my Aunt Mary, Uncle Al, cousin Stacey, and her husband Tony spent a lovely White (10 in) Christmas together. Sadly, it was too cold and windy to get any skiing in, but we still had a good time and it was good for my Mom to be around family. Before we left, Jena and I had Christmas with my mom in Arlington. We got a lot of great gifts (not least of which was a bunch of stuff to get us ready for our Italian honeymoon), and had a great dinner. Once I returned, it was finally time to have our Christmas. We exchanged gifts, figured out we both went WAY over our predetermined spending limits for each other, and had a great night.

I have always loved Christmas. It's a great time to think about how you can really make the people around you smile. My dad always loved Christmas, and I think it really rubbed off on me. Watching him every year as he started the shopping ritual, and kept on buying little stuff here and there, right up until the stores closed on Dec. 24th. Then coming down in the morning, seeing all those presents, some of them from Santa, some from the Elves, and some from Rudolph himself (my dad took great license signing the to/from cards). The stockings filled to the brim with gimmick gifts, bizarre stuff, odd foods, and the like. The smell of breakfast and coffee. I hope to be the kind of dad and husband who makes Christmas great for his family like it was for me every year.

We got an awesome Christmas tree this year. It rivaled the awesomeness of the tree from last year. We are lucky because the guy who sells trees at Eastern Market has reasonably priced, fresh trees, and he's a really nice, friendly and helpful fellow. I will continue to buy trees from him as long as we're here and he keeps coming to the Market. The tree was still completely alive when I finally took it out last Saturday.

What else is going on. Geez, I have read a lot of books...I finished Manhunt - great book, I really enjoyed it, and it's no often I read a history book where I don't know the ending - definitely an added bonus. I also knocked out a couple of Pelecanos books, and DC Noir, a collection of Noir short stories that take place throughout DC, edited by Mr. Pelecanos himself. I also finished Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain on the airplane on the way back. I am now reading a book by an old fave of mine, Dick Francis, who writes mysteries that center around racehorses, and a book by David Baldacci, The Winner, which I must say hasn't been the page turner that the others I have read were. Can't win em all. I am also most of the way through the programmer management book Herding Cats, which is reasonably educational.

Jena and I settled on a band for the wedding, which is exciting. Radiant is their name, and they survived the grueling selection process that included four booking agencies, a few trips to some odd places to watch bands play weddings and holiday parties, and quite a few hilarious sample DVDs. I am excited, as I think they will keep things fun, and they seem to be good singers and musicians. In a perfect world, I would have just packed my Nano full of old favorites from my music collection, but I have to admit that having a band just adds some cool factor to a wedding.
Geez, what else - the primary season is in full swing, and Hillary has already been beaten out of the race and won New Hampshire in the same 24 hours. The press is really something to behold during the election year. I for one can't wait til the contenders emerge and we can get the election done. I am not sure who I am for, but I do know who I am against, and that's a good start (please no Hucklebee theocracy for this guy). My resolutions this year include learning enough Italian not to be a complete buffoon when we travel there, and to keep learning guitar, and to get married without screwing it up!

In my nerd life, I have been doing a bunch of scripting language exploration, diving into Scala, Groovy, and Ruby. I must say that Scala doesn't seem to quite be 'there', but it is really nice. Ruby and RoR are fantastic, but I have to admit a predisposition to Groovy, as it runs in a JVM and can be mixed and matched with Java code.

So that pretty well sums up what's been happening from this guy for the past month. I turn (gulp) 30 in one week, so next weekend promises a bunch of fun and festivities (and annoying jokes). Enough rambling for now...