Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Work = GOOD = Slippery Slope of Stuff

Work continues to be a ride of epic highs and lows. On the high side, I am comfortable with the MSI fix and have been testing it daily on my PC to make sure it still works. So far, so good.

Outside of work, my father gave me his Canyon truck and we are going to take my car to a place that will give us $200 for it. In a sign that my mother is growing older, she is not going to drive anymore. We went to the Johnson County court house yesterday morning and the truck is now mine.

I will miss the car as it was my grandma's and I will miss thinking of her each morning when I get in. I will not miss the lack of heat, air conditioning, the driver's side window not working, the 'check oil,' 'check gages' 'brake,' and 'anti-lock brake' lights lighting up when I start it up. I will not miss the dome lights not working. I will not miss the lack of a door opener face on the driver's side. The Canyon is a sharp truck and I am grateful to replace the car with a vehicle that is as sharp as it looks. The truck has a blue book value of $14000, so it's a tremendous gift.

On the low side, work continues to be crazy. Any project I get this upcoming week gets scheduled for the week of 6/29. That's five months behind in work. Yes, it's job security, but at the same time, it's absolutely crazy. As I was telling our friends last night, I am trying to do two jobs at once. The reality is that 6/29 is even later because, unfortunately, I will not work on much documentation this week. We are going to send out the Mass Release of our software and there is work for that I must do. I also have to work on some UI changes and get those out the door by Friday. There are enough of them that I cannot safely wait until Wednesday or Thursday to begin working on them - I need to start on Monday.

Super Bowl prediction? I think the Steelers will win. Not that I want them to, but that's my gut instinct. I think that both teams had good seasons and, maybe, the Cardinals are hungrier for a title because no one expected them to be where they are now. Do I really have a strong feeling for either team? No. Most of my friends are talking about Kurt Warner. He is originally from Iowa and worked his way up to where he is now. He is a Christian and has followed his principles to arrive where he will be tomorrow.

I took Alex to the Iowa v. MSU game on Thursday night. Iowa got clobbered and today they play @ IL. I expect another clobbering in Champaign. Tough year for the team. Just wait until next year...

Started watching "The Dark Knight" last night but fell asleep. Karen thought the Joker was creepy. Not a kid movie at all.

Alex has work to do - a report about Dr. Seuss - and that is the objective for the morning.


It seems the members of Techwr-L are a sensitive bunch. If *anyone* suggests that there is something wrong with *any* TWer, the razors come out. My comment below is just an observation. How can you criticize a group of people for one thing and then, while criticizing them, do it? It doesn't make sense, to me, and erases their credibility.

-----Original Message-----
From: Me

Anyone else notice the humor in using "aggrandizement" in a paragraph that criticizes writers that do not bother "to fish for a plain-English word"

-----Original Message-----
From: CL T

One paragraph from this is especially true.

Tech Terms to Avoid
"Why tech writers use so much jargon, I don't know. Maybe it's
self-aggrandizement; they want to lord their knowledge over everybody else.
Maybe it's laziness; they can't be bothered to fish for a plain-English
word. Maybe it's just habit; they spend all day talking shop with other
nerds, so they slip into technospeak when they write for larger audiences."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Productivity Gains

A question was asked regarding how to write goals to show that you have had productivity gains.

On Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 11:37 AM, Geoff Hart wrote:
One really good solution that you haven't a hope in Hades of implementing would be the following:
"If we made the interface more intuitive (for example, by using user-centered design combined with usability testing and by embedding help and affordances in the interface), we could reduce the amount of documentation required by 20%. That would have obvious implications for productivity."

I nearly spit out the Pepsi in my mouth.

Let's just drive *THROUGH* that IA state....

More bands, on tour, skipping Iowa. SuidAkrA has these Midwest dates:

03/18/2009 Riot Room - Kansas City, MO
03/19/2009 Station 4 - St. Paul, MN
03/20/2009 Pearl Room - Mokena, IL
03/21/2009 Peabody’s - Cleveland, OH
03/22/2009 Blondie’s - Detroit, MI

Clutch has these Midwest dates:
Feb 15 2009 @ The Canopy Club Urbana, Illinoisw
Feb 17 2009 @ The Majestic Theater Madison, Wisconsin
Feb 18 2009 @ The Double Door Chicago, Illinois
Feb 19 2009 @ The Vogue Indiannapolis, Indiana

Meanwhile, Lotus has these dates:

March 31 Vogue Theatre Indianapolis, IN
April 1 The Crofoot Pontiac, MI
April 2 The Canopy Club Urbana, IL
April 3 Majestic Theatre Madison, WI
April 4 Vic Theatre Chicago, IL
April 5 The Intersection Grand Rapids, IL

What the heck is wrong with playing in Iowa?!? Disturbed knows where the good fans are: IOWA!! Disturbed will be joined on the 38-city, nine-week trek, which kicks off March 20th in Madison, WI, by Killswitch Engage on the main-stage, as well as Lacuna Coil, Chimaira, and other acts to be announced on the second stage.

20th Madison, WI Alliant Energy Center (Feb 6th @ 3PM)
21st Waterloo, IA McCelroy Arena (Jan 31st @ 10AM)

1st Wichita, KS Hartman Arena (Jan 31st @ 10AM)

2nd Detroit, MI Cobo Arena (Feb 13th)
3rd Cleveland, OH The Wolstein Center (Feb 27th @ 3PM)
5th Columbus, OH Value City Arena (Mar 6th @ 3PM)
6th Peoria, IL Peoria Civic Center (Feb 6th @ 3PM)
8th Minneapolis, MN Target Center (Jan 30th @ 3PM)
****9th Des Moines, IA Balloon Classic Field (Feb 21st) *****
10th Green Bay, WI Resch Center (Jan 31st @ 10AM)
12th Lacrosse, WI Lacrosse Center (Jan 30th @ 3PM)
13th Evansville, IL Roberts Stadium (Jan 31st @ 10AM)
*****15th Council Bluffs, IA Mid America Center (Feb 21st @ 10AM) *****
16th Chicago, IL Charter One Pavilion (Jan 31st @10AM)


Sad day. Lynyrd Skynyrd's keyboardist Billy Powell is dead at 56.

Getting rid of the Office ribbon

Grahame is a member of the HATT list that I respect. I do not share his distaste for the Ribbon interface, but the sites he lists below may be worth exploring. After nearly a year with Word 2007, I'm doing okay.

From: Grahame Fuller
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 4:03 PM
Subject: [HATT] OT-ish: Getting rid of the Office ribbon

After being forced to use Office 2007 for a while now, I am just about ready to shred the ribbon into little pieces and grind it into the carpet.

Googling reveals a variety of add-ons and techniques for customizing it or returning to the classic menus and toolbars, e.g.:

Before I try these, I was wondering whether anybody else on this list had tried them or any others?


Monday, January 26, 2009

Don't Judge me by the Title

I admit I was reluctant to look at this website:‏ but after reading the header of this site - where the owner talks about this cult mentality of following our newly elected leader, I gave it a bit more attention. I DO NOT endorse of the website.

MP3 Kingdom II & Never Enough

Here's an atypical night. It's before 8 PM and I'm sitting @ the PC.

Karen is watching "The Bachelor."
Megan doesn't (apparently) have any more homework so she took our bedroom and is watching Disney Channel.
Alex missed 13 words (out of 25) on his spelling list tonight so I cut him a break and have him writing each word 5 times, instead of 10.
Me? I'm sitting @ MP3 Kingdom, charging each kids' MP3 player and passing time until "24" begins @ 8.

Work was okay. I did a lot of user interface design today. I am starting to get more comfortable with designing the UI and making the Windows interface for our software. The underlying green screen keeps getting fuller and fuller so it becomes a regular challenge to design the panel to where the new field makes sense.

On my commute up I-380 today, I heard a song by a band called Five Finger Death Punch. The song is called "Never Enough." As I listened to it, and reflected on the lyrics, I tried to pick out a person or group of persons that I could take these words as a rally cry of sorts, like I did with the Staind song "For You" and the Linkin Park song "Numb." Both of those songs were motivational, to me, as I struggled to navigate through relationships that I can honestly say have repaired themselves. So, for once, I do not feel angry with anyone. It's kind of an odd feeling. Things are okay. Really. My wife, kids, and I are doing fine & the majority of my other relationships have not hit any recent snags. In fact, those that used to cause me to internalize their words and find fault in them... I don't feel that way anymore. I am in a better place than I was even a year ago. There's more calm, even considering the 90+ list of projects to do @ work, than in previous years.

Now, I have to say, this band's bass player is one scary guy. He's the one with the long beard and the mohawk.

I'm so fed up with everyone around me
(No one seems to care)
I'm just so far gone and nothing's gonna change
(I'll never be the same)
It's always do this, do that,
Everything they want to
I don't want to live that way
Every chance they get their always
Pushin me away
It's never enough
No it's never enough
No matter what I say
It's never enough
No it's never enough
I'll never be what you want me to be
It's all so messed up and no one ever listens
(Everyone's deranged)
I'm just so f up and I'm never gonna change
(Wanna lay it all to waste)
Their always say this, say that,
Nothing that you want to
I don't want to live that way
Every chance they get their always
Shovin me aside
I'm Done
In the end we're all just chalk lines on the concrete
Drawn only to be washed away
For the time that I've been given
I am what I am
I'd rather hate you
For everything you are
Than ever love you
For something you are not
I'd rather you hate me
For everything I am
Than have you love me
For something that I aint
It's never enough
It's never enough
No matter what I say
It's never enough
No it's never enough
No matter who I try to be
It's never enough
No it's never enough
No matter how I try to taste
It's never enough
Never never enough
I'll never be what you want me to be.

This band has played in Iowa recently and now that I associate a killer song like this one with them, I regret not seeing them in concert.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Just Don't Spend that $7.50 All in One Place

You can go here if you want to know who won the 2009 Royal Rumble match.

My in-laws, wife, and I went to the Riverside Casino on Saturday for my favorite mother-in-law's birthday. Gambling is not really my thing. I mean, I don't mind it, but I think there are other things I could spend my money on that would have a longer term benefit for me. But since I was there, I went to the blackjack table and laid down my $20. I got a blackjack early on and that gave me my $7.50 in winnings. I won a couple of hands, lost a couple of hands and ended up at $7.50 ahead. There were two 20-somethings that came and joined the game and I took that as a sign to go. I went with my wife to watch her play the slots and then grabbed a beer and went to the giant bar in the center of the casino and watched college basketball until it was time to eat lunch.

After lunch, I returned to the comfy chair, had a couple more beers until it was 4:30, which was our agreed upon time to leave. I stopped at the cashier and got my $27.50 back - my original 20, plus my 7.50 winnings - and walked out.

Am I anxious to return? No, not really. Looking ahead, the only thing that would willingly get me to the casino again is seeing Heart. Yes, Ann & Nancy Wilson's band Heart is playing there on a Friday night - an outdoors concert in June. It would be a fantastic first concert for the kids is what I told Karen. Tickets are $35 so for the three of us, it's $105, plus tax. And while it would be gorgeous to be outside on a Friday night, it could rain and be miserable. I think it's one of those 'wait and see' things that if the forecast is good, go, but if it's not good, stay home.

Oddly, this upcoming week is not looking too crazy. There's a new 24 tomorrow night and I still haven't watched the first 4 episodes on tape - and starting it now at 10:45 is not an option. Wednesday is a Dudes game - the 4th out of 7 we play. If we lose Wednesday, we will not have a winning record. I know this is only 4th grade basketball, but who wants to lose all their games? Not me. I'd like to be a winner. So, hopefully, the 10 team members pass the ball, score when they shoot, and put together 36 minutes of basketball. I think the team we play Wednesday can be beaten - it's just a matter of executing it.

Other than that, not a lot going on this week. Maybe something will present itself.

MP3 Kingdom

In our house, we have two PCs, plus my mother's laptop (don't get too excited as the laptop has Windows ME on it). The PC I'm sitting at is the only one in the house with an Internet connection. Sitting here is like sitting high atop a mountain looking down. On one side of the mountain is the aforementioned laptop, which is mainly used by the kids to play games, and on the other side is the kids' main PC. This PC has Windows 98 on it and no Internet connection. It is used primarily for playing "Roller Coaster Tycoon II" and that's about it. Sometimes "Free Tetrix" gets fired up as well.

So, when my daughter or son want additional MP3s on their players, they have to wait for me to do it for them because I don't trust that they will do it right. Hence, this PC is like a MP3 kingdom.

Time for 11 Mass so I'm out.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More Word 2007 Hate

There has been a long and involved thread on the Word-PC list that has been, for the most part, anti-Office 2007. The complaints about it have made a lot of sense to me, especially Don Funkhouser's comments below:

This is the very reason why Office 2007 is such a poor piece of software. Anyone who was fairly proficient with previous versions of Word in the past could sit down at a computer with a newer version and within a very short time be productive. Sure there were changes with each new release, but the bulk of it remained close enough to the previous version that re-training wasn't necessary for most users. This all stopped with 2007 and that's why it will never gain a strong enough foothold. Even a hard core WordPerfect user (except for the die hard WP5.x Dos users) could sit down at previous versions of Word and be productive. Even users who have been trained extensively on 2007 aren't nearly as productive as they were with previous versions, and I doubt that very many of them ever will be. It isn't that they don't want to, it's that the abysmal format of 2007 prevents them from doing so. There is a reason why a fairly standard Menu system was adopted by most better software programs (and I can't believe that I am going to classify Microsoft programs as 'better' since most are inferior second tier programs at best) and that was to keep the learning curve to a minimum. Microsoft has always pushed that gentleman's agreement concerning anything to do with standards, but they went way overboard with 2007.

Office 2007 was a mistake from the get go and will remain so until the ability to return to normal "Standardized" menus is returned to the user. And I don't consider having to pay extra for what should have been included in the package to begin with as acceptable.

I think with every piece of software, even if you've used previous versions, you have to adapt. Should Microsoft allowed you to show the old menus? Maybe. They have a track record of that because you could have "Classic" XP instead of the fancy UI. But... here's the thing. With every new version, I'd bet that there are fundamental coding differences that must happen. When you have to support the old version, you probably cannot take advantage of the technology you are switching to which, I'd imagine, Microsoft felt they needed to do.

What I find interesting is that other software tools I use - mainly thinkng of Snag-It - have adapted the Office 2007 look and feel. And know what? I like the new UI. I used a reference guide on the MS site where it tells you where stuff is in Word 2007 by clicking a menu option in Word 2003 and then it shows you where it is in Word 2007.

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from a Word 2003 user. He was on a tight deadline and said, "I cannot find where to change the font color. Can you help me?" This is in Word 2003, the version before the UI redesign, and there was a user who couldn't find how to change the font color. I directed him to Format ==> Font. Word 2003 is not the perfect UI that some - not Don above - would have you believe.

I've been using Word 2007 for nearly a year - I think 3/1 is when I got my current PC at work. I am using Word 97 at home (sheepish grin) and will continue to do so until I get a new PC - which I don't see happening for a few yers as my XP box works fine. There is a marked difference between Word 2007 and Word 97 and anytime I write music reviews at night, after writing end-user documentation during the day in Word 2007, I'm reminded of the differences!

Crap job

With regards to my friend in the previous post, there are definitely bad jobs and then there are crap jobs.

More Chaos in this Economy

I had lunch with a friend of mine. We worked together 10 years ago - started at the same time where I am now. We've maintained our friendship since he left because we both like good music, have wives and children, and think along the same lines on a lot of things. He has had multiple jobs since he left - the number doesn't really matter. He's been laid off from previous jobs and consistently is always looking to better himself.

Our conversation yesterday was a lot about where he is now. He works for a company that sounds like a hellhole. He absolutely hates it, but he feels powerless to do anything about it. He is doing work he hasn't been trained to do, every one else is too busy to help him, and he's being evaluated on work he can't do efficiently. The working conditions are awful. He desperately wants to return to his former job but b/c he left, came back, left, came back, his former manager won't talk to him about coming back.

So, in this economy, what do you do? This site says to put on your game face. I think the problem with the whole article, though, is summed up in this line:
"An economy in recession isn't new and won't last forever, she notes, so people shouldn't worry excessively. But they shouldn't be surprised if they are unhappy in a job, and may have to simply hunker down and take it."

Just accept that you're in a crap job and live with it? What kind of hope can be found or motivation in that kind of statement?

I often felt kind of helpless in the conversation yesterday. In my career, I really haven't hated any job I've had. Listening to my friend, I've been lucky in that regards. My career history has been marked with long stays at employers.

I liked working @ the Spring House restaurant in Cedar Rapids and was there 7 years.

I worked @ a toy store in the warehouse and as the "industrial maintenance engineer" for ~3 years. While I didn't like my boss in the summer of 1990, in hindsight, I learned a lot from him.

I worked as a telemarketer for 3 months. That was my shortest stay. I got to talk to different people. My boss was a female dog who I didn't click with at all but I also think she was going through personal stuff of her own. I don't think it was my fault.

I left there to go to a different company as a temp. I never went back to the telemarketing firm, though I had made that arrangement in case the temp situation didn't work. I was a temp from 11/92-2/95.

From there, I went to my first tech writing job. I was there 3 years.

I left there to join a different software company and stayed there 9 months. That was to work with a college buddy of mine and my first exposure to online Help. I would have gladly stayed there longer except we used to sit around the lunch table and wonder if a check from a client would come in so payroll could be met. I was shifted from tech writing to data entry and I guess that kind of made me worry.

I left that company at the right time because everyone else abandoned ship shortly after I left.

I've been where I am now for 10.5 years. I like what I do. There's challenges, of course, like the MSI issue (that is SOLVED!!!! YEAH!) and there are little bumps in the road that come up. Overall, though, I like what I do and I like the people I work with. On Thursday, I talked to a client about some issues she was having. On Friday, I sent her a long e-mail message with a summary of what I had found out about her issues and she said:

I have reviewed your other items on my issues and I understand. I look forward to seeing the proposed resolutions on those outstanding solutions when they are available. Thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure working on this with you.

Not to toot my own horn too loudly, but that's a very nice ego stroke.

I did go through some more of the projects that showed up in my inbox and, actually, brought home a lot of folders to go through. From those folders, I expect my to list to top 100. Seriously. I left with 88 items on my list. I was just reviewing the folders and I have, easily, 12 more items to add to my list. I will process those folders later this weekend so that I know exactly what I'm dealing with on Monday.

This upcoming week should be interesting. The update that was to be shipped by the end of the week may be pushed back due to some final changes to the system. A project was sent to QA on Friday that has 45 hours of testing associated with it. It's number 80 on my list. Should be interesting to see how this all goes down.

But back to my friend. He said that he had been praying a lot lately, asking for answers to his situation. I hope he gets an answer and I hope that he finds his way through this chaotic time in his life. Something perfect is waiting for him and, I think, it is only a matter of time before it presents itself to him.

Thursday, January 22, 2009



Where to begin? This week flew by. I have not sat at my PC since Monday night. It was a crazy week but not without some major accomplishments.

At work, first and foremost, I finally solved my MSI issue! You may recall that when I went to install version "2," "version 1" displayed in the title bar. I worked with the original trainer that set up the MSI and he removed the version from the MSI. But the other problem was that the MSI was being referenced, somewhere, so no matter what I did, you always saw "version 1" when you were trying to install "version 2" and there was nothing I could do except uninstall "version 1" which was not an acceptable solution. Hence, it seems really strange to have been dealing with this since 12/23/08 but today, the month of not being able to get the new install for the new version of the software to work ended. Ultimately, it is the following VBS that fixed my issue:

' execute commandline and get result into strResult
Set oWsc = CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
Set oExec = oWsc.Exec("msiexec /x ""\.msi""")
' wait until finished
Do While oExec.Status <> 1
WScript.Sleep 100
' get output from StdOut and StdErr
strResult = oExec.StdOut.ReadAll() & oExec.StdErr.ReadAll()
Set oExec = Nothing

So, what happens now is that you double-click the setup.exe for "version 2" and the first thing you see is a window that asks if you want to uninstall. Click "Yes" and version 1 is uninstalled, then version 2 is installed. It's a difference in how things work, normally, but I don't know how else to do it without requiring a manual uninstall of the previous version / install of the new version.

Secondly, it was pointed out to me that spelling is very important:

Third, a video that was supposedly very funny has been removed from Youtube so I can't link to it. I found a funny Eddie Murphy video but there's just so many curse words, I don't feel right posting it. So I found some street drumming. The chops are amazing!

Also found this awesome 2:20 track:

Back to work. I have 20 weeks of work sitting on my desk or shortly arriving on my desk. It takes me to mid-June. Once again, I did not spend a lot of time writing doc. I don't know when all of it will get done so I'll just keep plugging away. The 20 weeks doesn't include the table-layout to tableless layout conversion project or the 9 new systems. Should be interesting!

I'm having lunch with one of my friends tomorrow. He was in the group of 4 of us that went to Memphis in May in 2007. He used to work with me, but left a long time ago, yet our friendship is one that I cherish. He's a good guy with a lot of the same ideas regarding music and what sucks and what doesn't. I look forward to lunch tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I Can't Go On / Deflate the air from both of my lungs

As I mentioned, I am putting the final touches on two Bayside reviews. I came across this video that includes the lyrics I am using as a title of this post. Nope. Not inspired by the title to do anything. I just like the assembly of the words to perfect Anthony Raneri's emotion.

And, by the way, it's 12:30 AM, my bedtime is midnight and I'm going to be up @ 6.

Linkin Park's Numb

Heard this song on the radio on the way home. Like Staind's "For You," I believe it is a great song.

Vintage 70s

James Simpson, on this site posted his list of the greatest Hard Rock/Heavy Metal songs of the 70s. The ones that have <== are ones I could hum a bit of. I've heard of most of these songs but may not recognize them by name. There are 41 I could hum. "Please Don't Judas Me" or "Razzamatazz" (both by Nazareth) should have been listed as well! At least "Beth" is excluded!
1.Stairway to Heaven-Led Zeppelin <==
2.War Pigs-Black Sabbath <==
3.Child in Time-Deep Purple
4.Victim of Changes-Judas Priest
5.Paranoid-Black Sabbath <==
6.Highway Star-Deep Purple
8.Black Sabbath-Black Sabbath
9.Highway to Hell-AC/DC <==
10.Iron Man-Black Sabbath <==
11.Smoke on the Water-Deep Purple <==
12.Beyond the Realms of Death-Judas Priest
13.N.I.B-Black Sabbath <==
14.Rock and Roll-Led Zeppelin <==
15.Sabbath Bloody Sabbath-Black Sabbath
16.Space Station Number Five-Montrose
17.Gates of Babylon-Rainbow
18.Burn-Deep Purple
19.Kashmir-Led Zeppelin <==
20.Symptom of the Universe-Black Sabbath
21.Detroit Rock City-Kiss <==
22.Runnin with the Devil-Van Halen <==
23.Children of the Grave-Black Sabbath <==
24.Rock Bottom-UFO
26.Search and Destroy-Iggy and the Stooges
27.Sails of Charon-Scorpions
28.Rock and Roll all Nite-Kiss <==
29.Lights Out-UFO
30.Immigrant Song-Led Zeppelin <==
31.Kill the King-Rainbow
32.Into the Void-Black Sabbath
33.Black Dog-Led Zeppelin <==
34.Easy Livin-Uriah Heep
35.2112-Rush <==
36.Don't Fear the Reaper-Blue Oyster Cult
37.Overkill-Motorhead <==
38.Dreamer Deciever-Judas Priest
39.Docter Doctor-UFO
40.Working Man-Rush <==
41.Tyrant-Judas Priest
42.Let There Be Rock-AC/DC <==
43.Sweet Leaf-Black Sabbath <==
44.Sinner-Judas Priest
45.Toys in the Attic-Aerosmith
46.Hell Bent For Leather-Judas Priest
47.Achilles last Stand-Led Zeppelin <==
48.Exciter-Judas Priest
49.I'm Eighteen-Alice Cooper
50.The Ripper-Judas Priest
51.Dream On-Aerosmith <==
52.Whole Lotta Rosie-AC/DC <==
53.Emerald-Thin Lizzy
54.Stranglehold-Ted Nugent
55.School's Out-Alice Cooper <==
56.Sweet Emotion-Aerosmith <==
57.Cat Scratch Fever-Ted Nugent <==
58.Deuce-Kiss <==
59.Welcome to my Nightmare-Alice Cooper
60.Black Diamond-Kiss <==
61.Speed King-Deep Purple
62.Faires wear Boots-Black Sabbath <==
63.Virgin Killer-Scorpions
64.Rock the Nations-Montrose
65.Cities on flame with Rock and Roll-Blue Oyster Cult
66.It's a long way to the Top-AC/DC <==
67.Billion Dollar Babies-Alice Cooper
68.Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap-AC/DC <==
69.Gypsy-Uriah Heep
70.Mississipi Queen-Mountain <==
71.Love to Love-UFO
72.Man on the Silver Mountain-Rainbow
73.Sin City-AC/DC
74.Jailbreak-Thin Lizzy <==
75.Megalomania-Black Sabbath
76.Bad Reputation-Thin Lizzy
77.Atomic Punk-Van Halen <==
78.Hair of the Dog-Nazareth <==
79.Dissident Agressor-Judas Priest
80.Hole in the Sky-Black Sabbath
81.When the Levee Breaks-Led Zeppelin <==
82.God Save the Queen-The Sex Pistols <==
83.Walk this Way-Aerosmith <==
84.Godzilla-Blue Oyster Cult
85.After Forever-Black Sabbath
86.The Writ-Black Sabbath
87.Bad Motor Scooter-Montrose
88.The Wizard-Black Sabbath
89.The Green Manalishi-Judas Priest
90.Don't Believe a Word-Thin Lizzy
91.Riff Raff-AC/DC
92.Snowblind-Black Sabbath
93.The Boys are Back in Town-Thin Lizzy <==
94.Gimme Danger-Iggy and the Stooges
95.July Morning-Uriah Heep
96.Astronomy-Blue Oyster Cult
97.Anarchy in the U.K-The Sex Pistols <==
98.Supernaut-Black Sabbath
99.Speed King-Deep Purple
100.God of Thunder-Kiss <==

Monday, January 19, 2009

Translations Gone Bad & One for the Books

There was talk on Techwr-L about idiotic logic. Richard Hamilton spoke on the topic through the following post to the list, which I find hilarious.

My favorite falls into the category of bad translations. While traveling in China, I saw a hot air hand dryer ina men's room with the following text in English:
#*$& the hand machine
The expurgated text is in fact the in"f"amous word you might have guessed it was.

According to a native speaker of Chinese, the character for "dry" in Chinese ("gan"), when simplified (as the People's Republic does to many characters), looks like a character used in the Taiwanese dialect as slang for #*$&. Hence, "gan so ji" or "Dry the hand machine" (itself clunky, but otherwise uninteresting) becomes much more notable. Though this might have been an honest mistake, the connection with Taiwan makes me wonder if it wasn't a "plausibly deniable" political statement by the translator.
Richard Hamilton
Managing Writers: A Real World Guide to Managing Technical Documentation

His web site is if you'd like to read more about his writings that are available.

In other less interesting news, I am finishing up three reviews tonight for submission to and, frankly, I'm really excited about them. Two of them deal with one of my favorite bands: Bayside. I find their lyrics and musicianship very appealing. Their approach to music is not technically amazing or anything like that. In fact, their music sounds like music anyone could write. I think that, perhaps, is what draws me to them. The vocals sound like heartaches, captured in time on digital media. I was going to write "on tape" but I don't think anyone actually records "on tape" anymore.

I wonder what basement bands do nowadays. In the glory days of when I played in bands, I always had a blank cassette tape ready for capturing whatever musical mischief came out of my parent's basement. I now have a lot of cassettes of me playing drums with various guitarists over the years. Honestly, a lot of it sucks. In 1989, I was in my first "real" band. We had a singer whom we never heard sing. I work with his dad now and was telling him this story the other day. He would come to rehearsal and say something like, "Yeah, man. I need to get a mic." Our bassist ditched us at least once to mow the grass instead of rehearse. The two guitarists often had trouble getting through songs and me? I wasn't that good on the drums. None of us were that good but we had the right attitude. We talked about renting a storage garage so we could "rehearse anytime we wanted!" and prepare for our first gig. At the time, the parish I belonged to had a church festival in the fall and we were convinced the band should play on the stage at the festival. Consider that we got together July 8, 1989, and we were going to play our first gig in September. We gave ourselves 2.5 months to learn a bunch of songs. We had a grocery list of songs we wanted to play and we could barely get through any of them. I have the cassettes to prove it!

The reason this whole thing about "tapes" came up is because I got some more information about the USB cassette deck. Christopher Thelan, the founder of, pointed out that the nice thing about the USB units from ION is that you can use them as your "regular" stereo pieces. That alleviates my concern that I purchase a $150 piece of equipment, do the conversion and end up with an expensive paperweight.

The other thing I have been thinking about is this. Bear with me - numbers are not my strong suite. I have 1009 cassettes. For the sake of argument, let's figure that I have 1000 tapes I want to convert. Just for the sake of argument, assume that 1000 tapes have 90 minutes on each side. I have a lot of handmade cassettes. I made mix tapes of ballads, of heavy metal songs, & of college answering machine messages (which also include songs that I liked at the time) that later changed into "Life Tapes" and which are now "Life CDs" that I make occasionally from the CDs I routinely spin. So, for the sake of argument, and to pad the estimate, let's say I have 45000 minutes of cassettes to convert. If I worked really hard and stayed away from the TV (and this blog), I *might* be able to devote 2 hours a night to converting these cassettes - so 120 minutes / night. It would take me 375 days in a row - so that means two hours on the major holidays like Christmas, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, & Easter - and assuming I never spend a night in those 375 days in a row in a different city. Well, I know I'm going to Chicago in May so I can safely say doing this project 375 days in a row is not realistic. So, realistically, I'm looking at a 3-4 year project. This is all because cassette to CD-R has to be done in real time. Unlike the days of dubbing high speed, there is no high speed with this type of conversion.

There are other aspects. The major aspect that throws up a red flag is the deficit between the media types. A lot of my cassettes are on 90 minute tapes and, well, I checked and there is no such thing as a 90 minute CD-R. I found this site that talks about standards and such. This site includes a link to a site that talks about overburning a CD to get 90 minutes on it. Why 90 minutes? Well, a lot of the blank cassettes I bought are 90 minutes.

That means, unfortunately, that I have to somehow crop 10 minutes off of each 90 minute cassette I want to convert, if I were going for a 1:1 conversion. Broken down further, it's 5 minutes a side. So, after converting 10 x 90 minute cassettes, I would have 900 minutes but because I would be working with 80 minute CD-Rs, I would have 100 minutes that wouldn't fit onto 10 CD-Rs. I could have a 'junk' CD-R that would contain all the songs or files that didn't fit, I guess. Or I could burn MP3s and not even mess around with the 1:1 ratio idea. The only negative with that approach is that I would need a media device, like a flash drive or portable hard drive that would be large enough to include all my songs.

That leads me to what is the point of the conversion? If the band from 1989 is as awful as I portrayed them above, why do I want them in a MP3? What possible good could come from that? NONE! How self-indulgent would this project really be? I mean, say I were to start this project 1/1/2010 - just for the sake of argument. Those tapes from the band from 1989? They would be 21 years old! I mean, our toy poodle was alive back then and could be heard barking when we stopped playing. What possible good could that really have?

Thus, the more I digest a cassette to MP3 conversion, I'm leaning more and more toward not doing it. I also can't see hiring someone to do it for me because, frankly, how could anyone possible know what 10 minutes to cut from my "Best of Old Stew" cassette? How would they know which 10 minutes to cut from my "Ballads XX" cassette or from "College Tape: Spring 1990" without listening to the entire cassette at least twice so they would know when to cut a MP3? I mean, I know this material better than anyone ever could want to know it because I own it - I owned the creative process that went into assembling these mix tapes so I know what should be included/excluded. No one else. It's my burden.

Speaking of burdens, I really like "Burden in My Hands" by Soundgarden.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Tidbit I didn't really Need to Know is what I remember

Funny. I requested a copy of the 9 CDs that were played at the Casino Night from the other week. There's a song called "Afternoon Delight." I found out, on one of those VH1 "One Hit Wonder" shows that the song is about getting some action in the afternoon. "We can make a lot of lovin' before the sun goes down."

In general the 9 CDs seem to be really cool with a great wide of artists. There's some Tom Petty ("American Girl"), Abba ("Dancing Queen"), & Staind ("It's Been Awhile"). I won't have a complete song listing any time soon.

Speaking of Staind, I really like this instrumental version of "For You."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How to get Old to New

Here's my question. I have 1009 cassettes and a lot fewer records. What happens if I buy this and say buy an external HD to store all the cassette songs on and all the record songs on and then I'm done. I have converted all of my cassettes and all my records to MP3s. What do I do with the piece of equipment now? It's worthless - I'm not going to record anything on new cassette tapes and I'm not going to buy any new records. It becomes worthless.

NOW... if you could rent these things for a couple of years - and that's being realistic as far as how long it would take to do this process - and then give it back to someone else when you are done - that would be something I'm interested in. I don't want to send my cassettes and records through the mail because I don't want to take the chance anything would happen to them.

The cassettes I want to really convert are recordings of the various basement bands I was in. I would like to be able to skip ahead of the crap version of "Rock You Like A Hurricane" and go directly to the next time we tried it where we all nailed our parts (or nailed them as much as we could in 1989).

So can you rent a record-to-MP3 recorder and/or a cassette-to-MP3 recorder? - $99 on eBay

And maybe, economically, I should just buy one, do the conversion, and then sell it on eBay. But I really wish there would be like a communal place that you could borrow one of these from, do the conversion, and wham! give it back. As it is right now, I wouldn't be able to handle a piece of equipment like this anyways. I would never, ever, be able to store all the MP3s this type of conversion would create. Ever. I'd have to invest in either a bunch of CD-Rs where I would burn a CD-R when I had enough MP3s to fill it and then delete the MP3s from the HD or buy a new external 1000 GB HD and put all of them on that. Either route is a lot of $ for a basement band that never heard their lead singer sing in a mic.

The Rock Doesn't Stop Here

Two upcoming concerts I am not attending: Rock Gone Wild in Algona, Iowa.

And the upcoming Lamb of God tour is not stopping in Iowa. There are 5 warmup acts. Why not? Didn't you like their last concert, nearly two years ago @ Hawkeye Downs. Why yes, I did like it. However, once again, a tour's schedule skips Iowa.

The dates for the No Fear Energy Music Tour are, coming from Colorado:

April 29, 2009 – Uptown Theater – Kansas City, KS
April 30, 2009 – Myth – St. Paul, MN
May 1, 2009 – Congress Theater – Chicago, IL
May 2, 2009 – The Pageant – St. Louis, MO

and then they're to the east in Indianapolis. Now... the only funny thing is that I could be in Chicago on May 1st. It's a Friday. My nephew's 1st Communion, in Chicago, is May 2. It is *possible* that we will go over the night before, depending upon the time of Mass. That is my only less than .0000000001% shot of seeing Lamb of God on their tour with As I Lay Dying, Children of Bodom, God Forbid, and Municipal Waste. Maybe there will be a second leg where they decide to play in Iowa again. And you should recall, Chris Adler plays amazingly. This clip is from a DVD I have:

Days like this are bittersweet. On one hand, sure, I'd love to see more shows. On the other hand, ticket prices are outrageous.
One final concert note. It was announced that Heart is playing an all ages show at the Riverside Casino in June on a Friday night. $35/ticket. Over $100 to take Karen and the kids. Maybe not that show. Karen would rather be in the casino (I think) than to see a concert by Heart. I think it would be awesome to hear them in concert.

Or not. This is from 10/17 in Canada

Just because you have a product to show for it in the end doesn't mean you succeeded

The development process, no matter what anyone says, is a constant push and pull affair. In my experience, what I think is a good design decision is a negative decision by someone else. What I like, as a user, is brought to the table when I comment on designs and weighs heavily in my impression. For example, I think an Exit button shouldn't mean "go back to the previous screen." It should mean "Quit the program." I've lost track of the number of times where an Exit button, to someone else, means exit the page and return to where you were. I don't understand their perspective and, from the glazed looks I get when I talk about renaming "Exit" with "Cancel" or even "Previous," I often get blank stares.

This whole idea of tug of war in the development process is especially evident in the following e-mail I received from a member of one of the lists I'm on, who will remain anonymous. Bits of what this person wrote sound familiar. I have some comments at the end so read the whole thing:

Subject: Status Update

I am really tired of all this BS. I mean, seriously. We keep on chasing our tail and it's really pathetic. In our last demo, all I heard were complaints about colors. It was announced that we couldn't sell this without a change in the colors. No one liked them the way they are.

I distributed screenshots of the system we were discussing on Monday.

We needed those back on Thursday in order to make our Monday deadline. After a couple emails to remind people about our need for the screens in order to proceed, I finally got a call around 2pm on Friday (Delay #1), asking me to clarify again what I wanted.

I said the screens were there so "quick changes" to the forms could be marked. I said that all we wanted were color changes, wording changes, field positioning/order changes, and anything else simple like that, but no large functionality changes if we were to be able to get this done. We used screenshots for a couple reasons. One reason was to document suggestions and the other was to allow independent work and from the comments received, make a final decision regarding colors.

This approach backfired. Shortly after that call, a member of the Team was pulled from working on his tasks - which are critical to getting test data so we can verify our calculations are correct - and told to meet to talk about the screens. Pulling him from working on his tasks means a delay (Delay #2)

As of Friday at 5:10 pm I had not received a single screen. And the revisions are due on Monday. I went over to the meeting they were having. They were arguing about functionality - nothing to do with colors - and had not yet finished talking about it. I was able to extract about 9 screenshots (1/2 of the total) from their hands with a lot of comments on them.

They told me that for the rest, I would have to wait until they were done meeting on Saturday. (Delay #3) Yes, Saturday.

A meeting among the same people was held on Saturday. It was scheduled for 8 AM. I know for a fact that two of the attendees - including the member of our team - were there for the meeting at 7:45 for the meeting. However, others came @ 9:30 (Delay #4)

Finally, I got the screen shots back around 2 on Saturday - 2 days late.

Here is what they did:
  • First, they didn't do the assignment right. There isn't a single color change specified.
  • Some screens are being reverted back to the ones the team had done back months ago that were rejected.
  • Two screens have a big X through them and the words "Don't Need!"
  • There's some notes about new functionality that must be added. That's *not* a color change!
But far and away the two that really got me were:
  1. These are major changes that they want. The database needs to be changed. In the same breath that I take heat for not meeting our deadlines, we are given changes that will only add more time. I don't know if anyone really gets this: if my deadline is Thursday, and I get the information I need to do my job on Saturday, the deadline has to be extended. It still takes the same amount of time to do my work as it would if the Thursday deadline was met!
    • The program can be released and will work, but doesn't need most of these changes. They are ones that are not critical to our users using the product! BUT they are being made to be critical. I do think these changes absolutely should be done at some point - I agree with them. But why now if our collective goal is to release a product? Does anyone really believe version 1 of these systems will be perfect? There is no reason to think these new systems will be perfect with version 1.0. We haven't even put it through the validation team ringer yet. They will have changes.
    • On a side note, I really have a problem with the way this project has been going. I asked for specs and documentation as a requirement to getting this project done. I have asked repeatedly to have this information. Whenever I mention the word specs or documentation, it seems to be mistaken for a curse word. It's not. They are essential to having a marketable product!
Last week in a meeting, when we discussed this for the umpteenth time I again got the answer, "You asked for specs and I gave you a member of the team that knows the system."

Is this working? The answer is "NO!" This approach to software development is based upon a single perception of the functionality - yet, there's arguments about what functionality needs to be included in these systems?

You know thte biggest kicker? After years of designing and coding for a PC-based product, I'm asked to make it browser-based.

We went through this years ago. No one liked browser-based. There's no way to make a browser-based app act exactly like a PC-based app out-of-the-box without extensive coding. Coding takes time and we're already past our mandated deadline. So, heck, let's just add more things to do before we get these systems to market! There are radically different design considerations, not to mention functional differences between a PC app and a web app? When developers were sent to training, they had a class on PC apps. Who is going to rewrite all this stuff to be a web app? Are we hiring people I don't know about?

This brings up many, many issues:
  • Are we really saying to scrap the UI that was being argued about in the Friday and Sat meetings and redesign all of this as a web app?
  • Why is this being changed now? Why at the END of this project!?!?
  • Why didn't we train people to do web apps if that's what we wanted to do?
  • Why have we not received clearly defined goals and decisions on direction?
And you know, honestly, I'm all for a web product. That's fine. I'm all for the suggested changes too. In fact, I'd be more than happy to scrap the entire front-end and all the code I've spent nights and weekends writing to make development easier if the final decision is that we want a web product.

I'll even do it all without a single complaint. But this nonsense of changing priorities, pulling team members from their tasks, and making these late-in-the-game decisions is not helping us at all. It is making the success of the project in jeopardy.

When such prolific indecisiveness has plagued this project since the start, I'm not seeing any signs of it letting up. I mentioned the other day that if we don't actually plan things, we would fail. Isn't it obvious yet? When I said that lack of planning and documentation would cause us to fail, I meant it to be understood that failure can come in many forms. Sure, it could mean the project doesn't get completed, which would be the most obvious failure, but it can also mean that we miss our time-to-market, we spend too much time on some aspects and end up spending more money for developers to program those aspects than we ever should have. Just because you have a product to show for it in the end doesn't mean you succeeded.

My jaw hit the floor many times while reading that e-mail. I have a few questions:
  1. Will there ever be a version 1.0 in the market of this product?
  2. How long will testing this product in the validation department take?
  3. Will the users like it?
  4. How is a person a replacement for specs? What if that person leaves or is, God forbid, hit by a bus?
If I get any other info re: this person's situation, I'll be sure to pass it along.

Purging a bit

Towards the end of the week, I didn't post a lot so as it's Saturday AM, I have some catching up to do.

First of all, a joke was passed along to me that I found funny, even though I had read it before in a slightly different format:

Making a baby!

The Smiths were unable to conceive children and decided to use a surrogate father to start their family. On the day the proxy father was to arrive, Mr. Smith kissed his wife goodbye and said, "Well, I'm off now. The man should be here soon."

Half an hour later, just by chance, a door-to-door baby photographer happened to ring the doorbell, hoping to make a sale.

"Good morning, Ma'am," he said, 'I've come to...'

"Oh, no need to explain," Mrs. Smith cut in, embarrassed, "I've been expecting you."

"Have you really?" said the photographer. "Well, that's good. Did you know babies are my specialty?"

"Well that's what my husband and I had hoped. Please come in and have a seat."

After a moment she asked, blushing, "Well, where do we start?"

"Leave everything to me. I usually try two in the bathtub, one on the couch, and perhaps a couple on the bed. And sometimes the living room floor is fun. You can really spread out there."

"Bathtub, living room floor? No wonder it didn't work out for Harry and me!"

"Well, Ma'am, none of us can guarantee a good one every time. But if we try several different positions and I shoot from six or seven angles, I'm sure you'll be pleased with the results."

"My, that's a lot!" gasped Mrs. Smith.

"Ma'am, in my line of work a man has to take his time. I'd love to be In and out in five minutes, but I'm sure you'd be disappointed with that."

"Don't I know it," said Mrs. Smith quietly.

The photographer opened his briefcase and pulled out a portfolio of his baby pictures. "This was done on the top of a bus," he said.

"Oh, my God!" Mrs. Smith exclaimed, grasping at her throat.

"And these twins turned out exceptionally well - when you consider their mother was so difficult to work with."

"She was difficult?" asked Mrs. Smith.

"Yes, I'm afraid so. I finally had to take her to the park to get the job done right. People were crowding around four and five deep to get a good look."

"Four and five deep?" said Mrs. Smith, her eyes wide with amazement.

"Yes," the photographer replied. "And for more than three hours, too. The mother was constantly squealing and yelling - I could hardly concentrate, and when darkness approached I had to rush my shots. Finally, when the squirrels began nibbling on my
equipment, I just had to pack it all in."

Mrs. Smith leaned forward. "Do you mean they actually chewed on your,"

"It's true, Ma'am, yes.. Well, if you're ready, I'll set-up my tripod and we can get to work right away."


"Oh yes, Ma'am. I need to use a tripod to rest my Canon on. It's much too big to be held in the hand very long."

Mrs. Smith fainted.

Well... now. What can I write to top that?

June 1st isn't that Far Away...

This post is pure speculation on my part as to what the next 6 months will bring me at my job. It is based upon this premise: yesterday when I left work, I had 760 hours of work on my desk <78 data-blogger-escaped-tasks="">. Spread out and divided by 40, I will be busy for the next 19 weeks. I am scheduled with documentation changes from now until June 1st. Any work I receive next week will not get touched until the week of June 1st or, perhaps, later.

Why later?

Keep in mind, I have two full time jobs. I write the doc and I create the UI for our Windows product that lays on top of a text-based screen. The above schedule - taking me to June 1 - does not account for UI. I know for a fact there are new screens coming and many changes to existing screens. Those will have to be done - somehow.

I will be curious to see where I am on June 1st. I am hoping to make better progress than what I have scheduled myself for because then I'll look like a miracle worker. I am hoping the projects that I have estimated to take 40 hours take 32 or 36 so I can get started on the next week's work on a Friday afternoon.

I am looking forward to the next 6 months. I think there will be a lot of smiles.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Late-Breaking News

Okay, so I logged on to my work PC and Development is working on a major change to the way a specific process functions in our system. It is one of the central processes that our clients purchase our software to do. And it's changing. I am now scheduled through the week of 4/27, thanks to this project. I am estimating 40 hours but it may take longer because it is that big of a project.

And you have to keep in mind that this schedule I talk about - it doesn't include the tables to tableless CSS design change or the 9 systems that are being rewritten in a different language.

There is some serious snow piling up outside and I am going to need to shovel Karen out of the driveway so I am cashing in.

My Father-in-Law's age + 1

I now have 70 tasks on my to do list. That includes 40 hours of work for projects that haven't even arrived in the department! I'm now scheduled through 4/20. My ultimate goal is to never be scheduled out 6 months in advance. Right now, it's only 3 months so I'm hoping that's the extent of my scheduling. 14.45 weeks of work either currently or within the next week will be sitting on my desk.

I did manage to finish the first week of work I wrote about (incorporating the changes my co-worker LMY had made) last week. This week, I was to be comparing a system to the doc but that got bumped to a lower priority. Pretty much at the end of the day yesterday, my manager and I met. She pushed what I was going to work on to later so that I could work on two projects that changed a system that has two client call reports that need to be fixed. The idea was to work on those two projects today so that the setup.exe file could be recut Wednesday AM and released later this week.

Then reality struck me between the eyes.

Today, I worked on zero documentation. I was on the phone with a client early this AM (the same one I spent time on the phone with last night at home) and then, when that issue was resolved, a client sent an e-mail with another issue so I spent some good (read: frustrating) hours on that task. By the time it was finally time to work on the doc, it was 4.

I started playing around with the system to evaluate where I needed to make changes and I barely got the RoboHelp project open before it was time to go home @ 5. The changes I have to make are not all that difficult. The issue is that there were fields added on multiple pages (this is a web app) so I have to make changes to multiple files. I also am done with fighting the way the links to graphics were being done. They were split up into a buttons and an icons directory. No longer. I am dumping them into a single "graphics" directory to make my life easier. Who remembers if a graphic is a "button" or considered an "icon" anyways? NOT ME any longer.

SO... tomorrow, assuming no other major deals creep up, I need to work on those two projects, review the client call reports, and get that system's documentation updated for a recut.

No One will See this coming

Dilbertisms & the Beatles

Monday, January 12, 2009

Political Nonsense or Truth

I came across this website: and I found it interesting. I think there's a real danger in every one not using a critical eye to watch our next president. Did I vote for him? I'll be very clear: no. His views on abortion are pro-choice and I am pro-life. I could not vote for the man. Do I want him to be successful? Hell yeah. I want him to bring our troops home when there is no danger to my family or those I care about and I want him to bring us out of this slumping economy. As I mentioned the other day, a friend of mine was laid off after 12 years. I am hopeful that is as close as this recession crap hits me.

In other news... WWE is on tonight but I'm not watching it. Megan somehow sweet talked her mother into letting her watch a Disney Channel movie that ends at 8:30 and Karen is watching the Bachelor. I watched a couple of minutes and nearly gagged from it all. Not my cup of Pepsi. That's fine: Karen doesn't like "Lost" or a lot of the other shows I watch so she can have her show.

I actually need to write some reviews tonight so maybe I'll tackle that task.

Editor's Note: is no longer what it was on 1/12/2009 so the hyperlink to it has been removed. It is useless to visit as it is content written NOT in English, which is the only language supported on this blog (sorry!).

That YES Sensation Returns during This Last Breath

When I hear a band I've never heard before and they don't make me cringe or run away in horror, I think "YES! Good song! Good music/lyrics/individual musicianship or something to that effect. Witness the latest YES band that has crossed my path" This Last Breath. The Detroit-based group has a full-length CD coming out soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

21, Beer, Bunco, and Bars

On Friday night, we went to our friend Julie's holiday party. The theme was Casino Night so Karen and I (and others) were asked to be dealers. I dealt Blackjack for the first time ever. That was fun. I was an English major and, seriously, numbers make me nervous. I did okay and I just said to the people I was dealing to "English major here" and then they were nice to me. I don't think I could ever deal at a casino, though I suppose if I did enough of it, my math skills would greatly improve.

There are four things that have helped me along the way make my math skills better than I would have guessed:
  1. a job as a cashier at the Spring House restaurant in Cedar Rapids where I had to use math to count change back,
  2. college girls tutoring me throughout junior high and high school. I used to FLUNK math tests. Side note: I remember sitting in math class and someone would say, "I did bad on this test," and show me a B-. I'd say, "I did bad on this test," and show them a D or F.
  3. college math where I actually got a B on a test
  4. going through flash cards with Alex.

I digress.

After the casino night broke up, we went to have a drink at the Marriott Hotel and sit with some friends. It was a good wind-down.

On Saturday, we played @ 5:15 Mass and then went downstairs to a potluck/Bunco night in the basement. Really good conversation and that was really cool. There were 5 tables of 4 and we played 3 games x 6 so 18 total things you can win or lose. You keep track of how many games you win, how many games you lose, and how many buncos you get. I won a giant Kit-Kat bar because I had the most losses (13). I couldn't roll what I was supposed to roll for the first 6 rolls so I started out 0-6. Alex won a candy bar and Megan won a candy bar. Joel, who was spending the night, won a prize for newcomer since it was his first night.

Karen didn't win anything.

For my surprise 39th birthday, my brother-in-law Dave gave me a 12 pack mix of Samuel Adams beer. For the first time in Bunco night history, there was beer available as we played bunco. There were 3 unopened bottles when I came home so it wasn't a wild and crazy night but it was fun.

Today is practice @ 2:15 and then we are taking Karen's brother's truck up to the Cedar Rapids Airport because they are flying in today from Orlando (Disney World). Rumor is that we'll have McDonald's for supper - there's one by the airport - and miss the season premier of "24" which may be okay since the Gazette had a story on it that said it wasn't very good.

I didn't sign in to my work PC this weekend. I slept in both yesterday and today. And, if you're caring, I shaved after 5 days. I looked bad with a beard/mustache and I could tell I wouldn't like the way I looked.

Now, I'm going to clean the basement for a 1/2 hour before we leave for practice.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I am taking a break from the Internet and this PC tonight.

The Iowa Men are playing MN so that's on until 8.

A new Grey's Anatomy is on from 8-9 and a new ER is on from 9-10.

I don't need to be like someone I know. He works on work stuff on the PC until 3:30 AM, then sleeps until 6:30. At 6:30, he gets back up and comes in to work. CRAZY.

I had a good meeting with my manager. We went through my 13 weeks of work. Some of the things, she is going to assign to others. She asked me what she could do to make this (pointing to my list) go faster. I said let me work on it and not work on anything else. Not more than 5 minutes later, a week got assigned to getting the Mass release of the release I was just working on out the door. The release after that will cut ~2/13 and I'll start the UI work the following Monday and then, the Monday after that, work on getting it out the door. So, I have 6 weeks to work on doc but 1/2 of tomorrow and the last week of January are reserved for the work to release the next version.

At least I have a goal to shoot for. After the 2/13 cut, I will be very interested to see what happens next.

But for now, Iowa men are beating MN so I'd better go cheer them on.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Shouldn't be Surprised

Yes, I did reach 61 projects on my to do list today. I have to say it was pretty much uneventful. A program had 3 requirements. Now it has 4. I have to update a single HTML file and a single Word doc (that is then converted to PDF) in order to incorporate that project's change to the system into the documentation. I am giving myself 2 hours to do this change but I never estimate lower than 2 hours because about the time I do, I run into something unexpected.

I should be surprised, though, that I only had a $28 bill coming out of Linder Tire. I have a power steering leak and 3 places where oil is leaking. Dave said I could either put a bunch of money into a 16 year old car I bought for $5 from my grandma or I can keep an eye on the fluids and not get in a tizzy about some fluid on the ground. I vote for that second option.

I would like this car to last another 3 years, which is when the truck will be paid off. I would like it a lot if it lasted beyond 3 years so that the funds for a truck payment could be used for our daily life. It'd be nice to have an extra $500 / month, especially considering that Megan's tuition @ Regina will increase.

Not to spout off about this economy slowdown but it has definitely impacted how I think. We talked about taking the kids to the Grand Canyon. Not sure if we want to spend the money on a vacation with every thing so shaky. Case in point: my friend was laid off Monday after 12 years of loyal service. He was there longer than I've been at my employer! Granted, he worked in a different industry but the thought of being told "you no longer have a steady paycheck." Wow. I can't imagine.

Actually, I can. I worked as a temp for a company. I went to a different department to do software testing . That work is seasonal and slows down in the fall. When I accepted that job, I had asked my current manager if I could come back after it was done and was told "Yes." That was good because in the fall of 1994, I was laid off. I got a glowing letter of recommendation from my manager so it was definitely helpful to have a) the experience and b) the ability to return to my previous position. If I recall correctly, I was laid off on a Thursday and started at my previous position the next day.

But in today's economic situation and to not have a clear idea re: where the money for rent, monthly bills, and living expenses is going to come from... that must be scary as hell. That's why it's imperative that I continue to do a good job at my employer. I already feel like I'm giving more to my employer than is expected. I am a good worker and I am always trying to make the work I do better. I am pulled in multiple directions each day and asked to complete several sub-tasks throughout the day. I do not sit and write 100% of the time - I wish! I also have my other full time job to keep up with so that involves time that I would normally spend on writing. I also keep an eye on the project system and the documents that the programmers write so as to have at least an idea regarding what is coming to my department. I hate being surprised. I find it so frustrating to have decisions being made that directly affect me but to not be asked how it impacts me. Even if I don't have a better option, just to be asked is a good thing. It makes me feel that I am more than the one who has to figure out what no one else wants to deal with. There's enough of that going on that I don't need anymore.

My friend's band is playing at the local bar (Drink's) on Friday night. I think I may be able to go hear him. Some things need to fall into place, but it should be okay.

This week has definitely flown by. I can't believe tomorrow is already Thursday. I have some work that has to be released on Friday (FT Job #2) so I don't think I will be doing any writing until that is done.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Yes, I hit 60 today & some Nightwish / Sinergy / Sirenia tunes

Yesterday, when I left work, I had 58 things on my to do list. Keep in mind that those 58 neither itemize out the 32 e-mails with doc changes from my co-worker LMY nor the 18 e-mails that have been sent to my "documentation" address with suggestions for improving the doc. So, what happens today? Number 60 arrives. And, by the way, I assigned priorities - basically a count - to these 60 items. Numbers 36 and 41 and - yep = 60 are all being released on Friday to our clients.

So here are three bands on Nuclear Blast that kick butt: Nightwish, Sinergy, and Sirenia to help me forget about that.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Day in the Life of It

On 12/31/08, I assembled my "to do" list @ work. It had 51 items. Today, when I left, I had 58 items. That's how incredibly insane my work is these days. Yes, as a friend of mine told me today, it is good to have that much work. It is good to see yourself scheduled, at least in theory, into the future 13 weeks and it is good, at least in theory, to be able to be extremely busy. It's a good theory and it's playing out quite well: I have 530 hours or ~13.25 weeks of work on my desk.

I do know, at one time, there was a Monday I came in to work and I wondered what I was going to work on. I think it was a few years ago. I think it was probably somewhere between 2003 and 2004 - that's a guess. Definitely not in the last couple of years.

There's a chance where I play @ 5:15 Mass will acquire a set of electronic drums. That'd be so sweet!

Tony.... Buddy!

I found the brown checkbook. It was definitely not where I thought it would be. It was in the pocket of my long black coat. I had checked my green coat and my black leather coat, but, on a whim, I checked that coat's pockets & there it was. I found it ~12:30 AM.

It is now 5:10 AM. My alarm is to go off @ 5:40 AM but I'm wide awake, I guess.

Blah blah blah, big day today, back to work, 500 hours waiting for me, you know the drill, if you've been paying attention.

And, by the way, my drumset looks like the one in the second video below (the song that Megan likes) except my drums are clear-see through, not with a blue tint.

Editor's Note - the video in question was removed from so it is no longer available for your viewing pleasure

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Skye Sweetnam's first song

Megan likes this song.

Lost in the Abyss...

We have two checkbooks. One is in a blue leather cover. One is in a brown leather cover.

The brown leather cover is missing.

I hope to find it sooner than later. We tore apart the house and the vehicles looking for it.

St. Anthony, hear me now.

Starts Tomorrow

It is back to our chaotic lives tomorrow.

Monday - Alex tutor and Piano @ 5:30
Tuesday - Alex's 1st BB game @ North Dodge
Wednesday - Megan Piano @ 5:30
Thursday - NOTHING (but maybe a new ER!)
Friday - my friend's band plays @ Drinks so I may go check him out
Saturday - NOTHING (but maybe Bunco after 5:15 Mass
Sunday - Basketball practice from 2:15-3 & take my brother-in-law's truck back to the CR Airport @ night.

Not to mention trying to make a dent on 500 hours of work sitting on my desk ...

S t r e t c h a little further

I do not like taking things back to stores. I always feel kind of dirty. I mean, I bought something, I opened the package, I decided it didn't work or I didn't like it (but I used it or in some way wrecked the original packaging) and now, I want to return it to the store and get money back, as though I never used it. Dissecting that a bit and yes, if something I buy doesn't work, why should I keep it? And yes, if I buy something on a Saturday for $50 and the very next day, it goes on sale for $35, why shouldn't I return the thing, get $50 on the credit card and then re-buy it for $35? The thing has $15 less value in the eyes of the store so, by extension, it has decreased $15 in value to me.

So, yesterday and Friday, I was involved in returns at a local department store. On Friday, Alex exchanged a remote control truck for a jeep. We had purchased the truck because the one he already had didn't work so it was a replacement. Well, after purchasing it, the original truck started working (miracles happen!) so he was going to have two trucks. We allowed him to return the newer truck and exchange it for something else. He picked a jeep.

So, we exchanged it on Friday. On the way out of the store, Alex scanned it on one of those scanners that tells you the price and we found out it had gone on sale. Using round numbers, the original truck was $25 but since we bought it, it went on sale for $15.

There was also a spy kit thing we bought for him. One of the things had static so we allowed him to return it. Using round numbers, the original thing was $15 but since we bought it, it went on sale for $10.

SOOOOO... on Saturday, it became my job to return these two things to the store and, for the truck to get $10 on our department credit card for the truck and $5 on our department credit card for the spy kit thing.

The clerk I worked with was new and had her supervisor do the price adjustment and put the $15 back on our department credit card. So it went as it should have.

The purpose of this post is to reflect on 2009 as a year of doing things I don't like to do as a way to grow as a person. I am hoping that I have to do more things *like* this that are outside of my comfort level. Kind of like the whole MSI file thing "not working" as expected at work, these events are part of my growth as a human. I think that while I grumble to my wife about having to do these things, they are things that must be accomplished.

One other thing that is new in 2009 is that I am going to attempt to not shave for the month of January. It's kind of silly, but I have no idea if I look acceptable in a beard/mustache. There are no family pictures scheduled, no weddings, birthdays, or any other 'big' events scheduled in January. If I like it, I'll keep it. It's a whim. Maybe I won't last the entire month - I reserve that right if I look really ugly.

Another new thing is that I am open to the idea of attending Mass more than once in a weekend. Our music minister told me last night that Keith, our normal bassist, was going to play at 11 AM Mass today and also that "Guitarist Todd" was going to play. She commented that having a drummer with those two would be cool. I was open to going. However, the street in front of our house looks like a sheet of ice. As much as I'd like to play with them, it's not worth traveling on the ice. So, I'm not going to go to 11 AM Mass.

One final new thing is that I am going to turn off my work PC when I leave for the weekend. I am not going to give as many "free" hours as I had been in the last part of 2008. As I wrote about in the last days of 2009, I have 500 hours of work (13 weeks) sitting on my desk. It's kind of hopeless because a) I will get more work in the next few weeks and b) it is unlikely I will get a straight week to only work on documentation. My work is going to continue to accumulate and there's really nothing I can do about it.

It's 10:00 and I need to go upstairs. My in-laws are visiting and my time on the PC is seen as ... not the best use of my time.

Friday, January 2, 2009

BTW, Iowa Kicked A$$ yesterday

Iowa beat South Carolina in the Outback Bowl yesterday. Celebrate!

Legal MP3s... What a concept!

Years ago, there was an online service that allowed you to search various PCs and select MP3s on those PCs and download them to your PC. I used that service to get a lot of MP3s and a lot of songs. Along the way between then and now, the service was shut down and my acquisition of MP3s decreased.

Yesterday, I went to and started a new era of obtaining legal MP3 files. Megan got a gift card for downloading Taylor Swift's CD and Alex got a gift card for downloading 15 songs for $14. I had no problem with Megan's.

Alex's situation is a different story. I had to call Customer Support because I was getting an error message when I put in my claim code. I was told to put in a new code and, because I didn't understand what Customer Support was saying, I downloaded a song that Alex didn't want. Also, in this process, I had to take a screen capture of the songs Alex wants so that I can re-add them to my cart. So that's what I'm doing now.

Wal-Mart may have a lot of money but their website is so damn slow! I'm not on dial-up, but this website goes so damn slow! I click and wait, click and wait. SO SLOOOWWW.

Did I mention it's slow?

I am hoping to finish this task within a hour.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Wicked Sensation & Flippin' Sticks

I recommend that you press "Play" for the following video and then close your eyes. Seriously. There are so many cliches in this video - fire - babes dancing in water - more fire - that it is enough to make you sick. I am embedding it because this song is awesome.

Editor's Note - the video in question was removed from so it is no longer available for your viewing pleasure.

If you like the song and want to actually *SEE* what these musicians look like, watch this. The sound quality is absolutely horrible.

Here's a cool thing for me to work on in 2009. In the middle of a song @ Mass, I'll start flipping my sticks around.

Iowa plays South Carolina in a 1/2 hour so I'm done with this.

Somewhere ... Out There . . . Perfection Exists

One of the things I do when I surf the web is I look at various Craig's List websites for freelance writing gigs that I can do from my den at night after the kids and wife are sleeping. In 2008, I was on the PC most Sunday through Thursday nights from 9-12. In my head, that is 15 hours of time that I could spend writing to pay for my golf addiction. The following ad caught my eye. It is in Chicago so I'm not interested in it but I got a clear sense of what the employer is looking for. Check it out.

Editor's Note: when I wrote this original post, "Craig's List" was new enough to me that I didn't know that eventually ads are taken down. Also, it's so cute that I called the site "Craig's List."

The Count

Before I left work yesterday - for the last time in 2008 - I compiled my 'final' to-do list. My to-do list has 51 items on it. 2 of the 51 actually summarize 32 and 16 changes so really it's 49+32+16 = 97 things on my to do list. With the way I've assigned the hours to each task, I have 500 hours (~13 weeks) of work on my desk. That number, though, doesn't include other major projects which are:
  1. Converting my HTML files to use CSS to control formatting instead of using tables to control formatting 
  2. Creating and then writing ~50 HTML files for the rewrite of 9 of our systems. The number 50 doesn't include the files I'll need for two of the systems as I've not seen the UI for them yet. That boggles the mind. I am going to hit the ground running on Monday with tackling the 32 items. I am hoping to have them done within a week (40) hours.
  3. A 40 hour project. I need to re-verify everything I wrote in September for a new system. Since September, there have been numerous changes to the UI, including but not limited to, fields being added & removed. There's also been changes in the way the system does things so I need to revisit that.
  4. A brand new .exe file that has, if I remember correctly, 20 new screens. I haven't touched any of that system. I am hoping to be done with that project within 40 hours.
  5. Cleaning up a project that has four new screens and four changed screens. The majority of it is done but I need to make sure every thing is documented. I gave myself 40 hours but I hope it takes less time than that. I have internal documentation to write for it so it may take a bit.That's was January. February will kick off just as busy.
  6. Tackling a HUGE project that changed 40+ screens. There were changes to 6 systems with this project. Three of the systems are done, but the other three are not. Then, when I get the other three done, I need to audit the screens of the first three systems vs. the doc to make sure every thing matches correctly.
  7. A 40 hour project of going through 16 emails with suggested documentation changes. Some are probably 5 minute things and others are more extensive. I'm hoping to balance it all out.
So those projects take me through mid-February. The above schedule assumes that I am not doing anything but documentation and, unfortunately, that's not going to be the case. I am actually doing two full-time positions at work. Monday through Wednesday was spent doing my non-doc duties. Realistically, I will not get 6 weeks of straight documentation work. I can hope so, but it probably will not happen. So while 2008 was extremely busy and aggravating (due to the issue with the MSI in my last post & learning a whole new software to develop the UI for our software), 2009 looks to be even more of the same. Hopefully, less of the aggravating stuff.

Club Scene in JW

The video below is from a movie that was rated R by the MPAA. Viewer beware!