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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Plans? What Plans? [UPDATED]

At some point in the near future, I'm going to get a mapquest image of what my drive was like today, primarily because I want to know about how many miles I drove before I arrived at work. I'm not being intentionally cryptic, but today's drive was exhausting. I'm not complaining as what I did needed to be done and I'm glad I was where I was. My point is that what I actually did this AM and what I had planned to do were radically different. More later. Promise.

Here is the route I went today. 51 miles, per Mapquest.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Good Drummer!

Okay, I am a sucker for videos like this where you can see what magic the drummer is doing behind his kit. I like the way he slams the groove throughout.

More Orion Festival News

This is an interview with "the man" Lars Ulrich in which he talks about the 2013 edition of the Orion Festival in Detroit, MI. Additionally, here is ticket and hotel information. If I could find one other person to go, it would be ~$500 for hotel, ticket, and shuttle from the hotel to the festival. That's not a bad deal.

I hereby promise that if the 2014 edition of the Orion Festival is less than 8 hours away from my house, I will go to it.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bad Boys

There was a movie that came out in 1983 called "Bad Boys" that stared Sean Penn. It also starred a young Clancy Brown who plays this bad ass who kind of runs the juvenile detention center. The movie is rated R and, actually, it is a very rated R movie - with a rape scene, nudity, violence, and language - lots of colorful language.

I haven't seen this movie forever. It's possible this was one of the first rated R movies I ever saw.

I'll also say that it made me never, ever, EVER, go to prison. EVER.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Another Festival I watch with Great Interest

Meanwhile, Memphis in May hasn't announced their lineup yet for May 3 - 5 2013:

Ideal Vacation?

With the announcement today of the Orion Festival 2013 lineup in Detroit, MI, this June, I had to look at the logistics of attending. Then I found out that Detroit is only 2.5 hours from Cleveland and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I fired up Mapquest and report the following:

Here's the mileage:
From my house to the concert in Detroit is 7 hours 57 minutes / 490.80 miles.
Then from Detroit to Cleveland is 2 hours 46 minutes / 164.85 miles.
Finally, from Cleveland to home is 8 hours 55 minutes / 557.13 miles.

Only 1212.78 total miles.

Unfortunately, it is the weekend of the Sigwarth campout in Elkader, which is about as traditional as "Insert your favorite national holiday, like 4th of July."


These are the bands and the ones with the red rectangle are the ones I've either listened to or read about in some capacity:

Of course, that doesn't mean I wouldn't do my homework prior to the concert and listen to all the bands listed. In fact, even though I'm about as likely to see Metallica in June, I am going to make it a point to learn more about these bands through youtube and embed videos on this blog with what I learn. Stay tuned over the next 103 days.

I know that Detroit is fairly close, but I'm hoping Orion Festival 2014 is closer.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Going Back to Remove the Duplicate Music

I just ran my batch file to get a count of my music files.

50460 File(s) 316,639,034,221 bytes

Just on Monday, I was at 50486. Why a decrease?

I noticed a lot of duplicate files so I deleted them.

Tools and More Tools

On LinkedIn, there was a discussion started by Oana Bota-Achim, a Senior Technical Writer in Romania. She wrote, "If you’re a good technical writer, it doesn’t matter which tool you use. Agree?"

There were 38 comments in this discussion. It's not my place to summarize the points discussed. I was inspired, though, by Joe Devney's post below to vent here, rather than in the discussion.

Here's what Joe wrote:

And here's where my mind went when I read what Joe wrote:
What gets me re: tools is when a tool is simply not used correctly - pounding a nail with a screwdriver.

I was in a situation where InDesign was being used for software documentation. It might as well have been in Word with Normal style throughout and manual formatting.

Among many *many* issues with the doc I worked on, there was a hand-typed TOC in a 200-ish page document. Part of the 'release' process was to print this ID file and manually compare the TOC to the actual page. Then, when there were discrepancies found - not "if there were" as there always were - the TOC was then manually updated, the file reprinted, and the process began again. I have no idea how long this process was in place or how many hours it consumed.

Then the troublemaker (me) arrived. When I found out that's what was being done, even though I had never used ID before, I investigated how to set up the TOC so it could be updated when text in a heading was changed or a page break was inserted.

The attitudes about Word that I encountered when I compared what I wanted to do in ID to what could be done in Word still makes me chuckle. This is basically how the conversation went:

Me: You can have a TOC in ID and have it be automatically updated. It'll work like the way Word works where you don't have to manually type page numbers.
Response: But ID is soooo much better than Word! Word is terrible! We don't want to do anything like the way Word works.

That thud was my head against my desk. There was nothing but disgust when I showed this functionality in a "proof of concept" file. I may have well been suggesting the doc be written in Klingon.

The ignorance was enlightening as there was ZERO interest in making life easier. It was dismissed - "too complicated" was the phrase used.

To this day, I do not really know why using a tool the "right" way was so soundly rejected so quickly. Maybe it had to do with the thought that the doc process had always been a time-consuming process and if it was suddenly more efficient, there would be more work that would be done, which would interfere with the daily coffee breaks and longer than an hour lunches. I thought I was doing a good thing. After all, I had heard the horror stories of how it was common to be working on documentation late into the night prior to a release - all because there were issues with the TOC.

The moral of the story is that you can have the 'best' tool in the world but you have to be able to use it.
I really like it when I read something that then inspires me to write something.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Someday . . .

Every year, they hold Rock Fest in Cadott, WI, in mid-July.

Every year, awesome bands, including some of my favorite bands, play at this festival.

Every year, I sigh and wish I was there.

Someday, I will be there.

It would be awesome if it was this year, since from Thursday to Sunday, a lot of my favorite bands play:
  • Thursday
    • Seether
    • Halestorm
    • All That Remains
  • Friday
    • The Offspring
    • Theory of a Deadman
    • In This Moment
  • Saturday
    • KISS
    • Megadeth
    • Stone Sour
    • Hellyeah
    • Warrant
  •  Sunday
    • Mötley Crüe!!!!!!
    • Whitesnake <== Tommy Aldridge (a drum hero of mine) is playing with them on this tour!!!
    • Skillet!!!!!
The fact that Mötley Crüe, the 'bad boys of rock,' headline a show where Skillet, a Christian rock band, plays just a few hours earlier, makes this year awesome.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Work Right

What's wrong with this picture? I am searching for all messages that arrived on 1/31/2013. What shows up in my search? An email I received on 2/1/2013?!?!?

I wish software would just work right.

The Phone Call You Don't Want to Take

Last night, I was sitting next to Karen, watching TV, when Sonia, my co-worker, called. It was 9:35 PM. I had a bad feeling about her calling since she has never really called me at night.

It was terrible news. Her mother passed away, in India. She was working on getting a flight. She will be gone from the office from 2/20 to 3/21.

Sonia was concerned with if I needed anything from her.

No, I said. You take care of things and I will figure it out. Don't worry.

Death sucks.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Alexander Quits Iowa City West Basketball Team

As I've written about previously, it's been fun to watch Iowa City West boy's basketball. It has been a season of blow outs, even without senior Dondre Alexander, who recently quit the team.

Surely, this will be the quote pulled from the article:
“If I’d have known how this was all going to turn out,
I would have went to City High instead."
That speaks volumes about how screwed over he must feel.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Not much progress

The MP3 collection continues to grow at a trickle:
50486 File(s) 315,655,591,695 bytes
I don't really see hitting 51,000 by 3/1. Life is too packed with other important things that need to be done.

Plus, tonight is the first WWE Raw after a PPV and, traditionally, it is a good episode.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Love Arrow

Despite its current time slot being on a Friday night - traditionally, a terrible night for TV - (Remember "Family Matters"?), I think Tim Allen's show has a lot of charm. The premise is that it is his wife and 3 daughters v. a husband. These are the daughters on the show and the music video they made. I think it's funny.

There We Are

This is what we look like - the college friends from Mount Mercy.

From left to right: Mark, LuAnn, Karen B, Jeff B, Karen (my wife), me, Nancy, Kevin, Denise, Brad.

We were in Cedar Falls to see Karen's brother's band play at the Hub. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Out of the Blue, I Get This

Out of Habit, Purely

Over the years, I have signed up to receive numerous emails about open technical writing positions. For a lot of the dozen years I worked in Cedar Rapids, I was on the look out for the perfect moonlighting gig. For a lot of years, I had that gig - it was documenting a "Horseman's Income Management and Record Keeping System." I wrote the online Help, first in WinHelp, then converted that help file to HTML, as well as a PDF of the same content. The last time I updated the documentation for this product was 2/8/2010 so, like my main employer for a dozen years, it has been a long time since the documentation for products I wrote about have been updated.

I think about all this when I saw an ad for a technical writer at a company I worked for - the hellhole company I don't mention by name. This is what was in my inbox yesterday from one of those "jobs" emails:

I just smirk when I see that. The actual job is not the one I did. It's for the job that a former co-worker did. I did software documentation and this job is more hardware-only documentation. I did a little of it and it was not all that much fun.

I think about how fortunate I am to be where I am in all areas of my life. This weekend is the College Friends Get-Together in Cedar Falls. Like last year, we are going to go see Karen's brother's band play at the Hub tomorrow night. I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


I think this is funny, but your opinion may differ.

It was 18 years ago today, 2 days into working at my very first TWing job, that 2/14/95 arrived and I failed as a husband.

For whatever reason, I didn't make it to the store to get even a card for my wife. I remember that night and it wasn't one of my finer moments. You see, only 7 years earlier, 2/14/89, Karen and I had restarted our relationship. Now, 7 years later, I had failed her.

This AM, as soon as I woke up, I gave Karen my card, which included a gift card to a new nails place that she had mentioned she wanted to try out sometime. I listened to her, I got her a thoughtful gift. And it's not just me that believes that:

She didn't remember that it was 18 years ago today that I had not gotten her anything.

My mother has dementia. I can't quote Karen's reply verbatim but it amounted to that she didn't think I needed to worry about getting Alzheimer's because I was able to remember VD 18 years ago. I remember because, I guess, I tend to remember dates that are not my finest moments. Off the top of my head:
  • I remember 10/7/1991 as a 'not so fine' day because I failed miserably during Student Teaching on that day in my Language Arts 10-1 class. 
  • A lot more that I've written about on this blog.
Anyways, let it never be forgotten that I gave my wife of 19 years a thoughtful gift on our 24th VD together.

It will kind of make up for the fact that, tonight, after supper, I am taking Alex and three of his friends to the Iowa Women's basketball game at Carver. Karen has no desire to go and Megan is working her normal 6-10 shift at Fareway. I've said that I would much rather spend VD with my wife than at a basketball game without her. The game starts at 7 so the journey to Carver begins at 6:15. The women *do* play PSU and I expect a good game since PSU is ranked #8 in the country. The women have lost their last 4 games and are on the edge of not making the NCAA tournament. Iowa City is hosting NCAA first and second round games. I think it would really suck if the women missed the tournament when they could be playing in front of their hometown fans.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


No matter where you fall in American politics, this cartoon is true. There's an inability to think first about what is best for the constituents that elected the representatives in Washington, DC. That's the bottomline. I don't think there is an actual desire to do what is beneficial for anyone other than themselves. This is Obama, this is Pelosi, this is Reid, but it is also Boehner, it is McCain, it is everyone.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

What is so Hard about this Song?!?

You know, if I go to a Scary Robots rehearsal and I can't nail a song, I get distraught. It's even worse when the song I can't nail is one that we've been beating around for the last few rehearsals. I need to put this on my MP3 player on repeat, sit down at Alex's Yamaha set and play it and play it and play it. And again. And again.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Sometimes, I think back to Alex's days of playing basketball on a North Dodge Athletics Club team. I think about how his team would play a really good team and, before long, the game was out of reach.

That's what I see when I go to a Iowa City West boy's basketball game. Iowa City West trounced Cedar Rapids Xavier last night. There were a couple of dunks. It was fun to watch, to be cheering for the winning team.

Friday, February 8, 2013

And I get to work on the Conversion Projets when?

I haven't touched the conversions this week. The conversions are, of course,
  • Cassette to MP3
  • CD to MP3
  • LP to MP3
I am not exactly sure when I will return to them. Here's the latest count:
This is a busy weekend, which will lead into a busy week.
  • Friday
    • We're all going to the West High double-header v. Xavier.
      • Megan plays in pep band
  • Saturday
    • Going to a birthday party
  • Sunday
    • Going to 11 AM Mass & playing drums
    • Going to a sax recital with Megan at 1:00
    • Going to Scary Monsters rehearsal at the studio ~3 until ? (probably 5:30-ish)
  • Monday
    • Normal
      • Alex
        • 530 -6 drum lesson
      • Megan
        • 515-545 sax lesson
        • 7-830 jazz band
  • Tuesday
    • Going to the West High basketball game
      • Megan plays in pep band
  • Wednesday
    • Ash Wednesday Mass @ 6 PM
  • Thursday
    • Valentine's Day!!!!
  • Friday
    • Nothing so far, but I'm sure that will change
  • Saturday
    • Going to Cedar Falls to see Karen's brother's band
  • Sunday
    • Returning from Cedar Falls
And then, it all starts over!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Funny Scene

Why I Don't Sing

I sing when I am at Mass and standing next to Megan. I cannot carry a tune in a bucket but, then again, neither can this dude!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Where I was during the POD show...

Thanks to Kevin Herren for this picture!


I am going through a time in my life where I am not in pain.

  • I love my job.
  • I'm doing good work at my job and not under as much stress as I was under from 10/18/10 - 4/14/11.
  • I'm playing drums a lot more often. Last weekend, I played drums at 5:15 PM Saturday Mass, 11 AM Sunday Mass, and then there was a 2 hour-ish Scary Robots rehearsal on Sunday. This upcoming weekend, Megan works Saturday night so I will probably play drums at 5:15 PM Saturday Mass and then at 11 AM Sunday Mass. I don't think Scary Robots is rehearsing.
  • I went to the Shine Down / Three Days Grace / POD concert for free and took photos of POD. That was the closest I've ever been to a band on a stage at an arena like the iWireless Center.
  • I'm sober.
  • I'm getting along better with my wife.
  • I'm getting along better with Megan.
  • I'm getting along better with Alex, though that's a work in progress.
I'm not bragging, I'm not boasting, but it feels like this time in my life is really precious. I have lived through shitty times where all of the above was the opposite - hating work, not doing good work, not playing drums, not getting into concerts for free, being drunk more often than I should, and arguing with my family.

I wouldn't return to any of those 'bad' times for anything.

I am hopeful that 2013 will be a good year. Without looking ahead too far, this year is really going to fly by with lots going on. Stay tuned to this blog as I try to document it all!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Delightful Pseudo Code

The way our help text is created, each customer has their own version of a help text topic. When there is something that needs to change on a topic for one client, the same topic for the other clients needs to be checked as well. Here's some pseudo code of a situation I just came across. Here's some of the problems with this code.

  1. There is an empty p tag above the h3 definition.
  2. The "Intro text" is not within p tags.
  3. There is a li tag but no ul tag to introduce the list.
  4. There is an empty p tag after the li.
And guess what? Every client has this specific help topic.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

ShineDown with Three Days Grace & POD

It was winter - cold and a little windy - in Moline, IL, on Friday, February 1, 2013 which meant going to a rock concert with hard rock's hottest bands - Shine Down & Three Days Grace - was a fantastic way to spend the evening. After hearing from Joe Winters, Chief Meteorologist at KCRG-TV9 (, that it didn't look like the weather would turn into a blizzard, the one hour journey to Moline began.

The first band, POD, took the stage first. With a lot of confidence, they played their songs. They are a Christian band but did not preach anything but rock & roll. The crowd reacted favorably to songs that have been played on the radio. They began their set with their latest single "Lost in Forever" and included "Youth of the Nation" around mid-set. They ended their set with my personal favorite, "Alive". As the opening act, they were given the smallest stage and didn't have a lot of room to move around. They earned points with the crowd when vocalist Sonny Sandoval jumped down from the stage into the space between the stage and the crowd gate, and proceeded to stand on the barrier and sing. Bassist Traa Daniels and drummer Wuv Bernardo provided a solid foundation while guitarist Marcos Curiel laid out thick riffs. They were a better band than I expected them to be with a lot of energy. I was impressed. They ended their set with a brief cover of Sublime's "What I Got" which was executed to the satisfaction of the crowd in the arena.

After a brief set change, Three Days Grace took the stage. This is a co-headlining tour and the band's first concert with new vocalist Matt Walst, replacing Adam Gontier who left the band after being in it for 20 years. Walst is not new to performing as he was playing in My Darkest Days (known for their single "Porn Star Dancing") until he was tapped by his brother (Three Days Grace's bassist) Brad to join Three Days Grace. For a first gig, in front of thousands of people, I accept Matt Walst as the band's new vocalist. I am not sure if he was trying to make "Chalk Outline" his own song, but he added his personal texture to the chorus, hitting a note higher than Gontier sang. It made the song his and since this was the set opener, it set the tone for the rest of the night.

Three Days Grace played a long set, capturing all of the songs that get played on the radio. After "Chalk Outline," they jumped into "Just Like You". There's something not quite right about the band. They look like they need a hairstylist as they all have really bad haircuts, especially bassist Brad Walst. His brother Matt needs some attention as well as drummer Neil Sanderson. Their musicianship and showmanship was better than I expected. Guitarist Barry Stock does need to move around more often instead of planting his feet together and doing an odd swivel with his upper body. The band had fire shoot up in the air at different points in the show, but not too much. "Long Way Home" got a warm reaction from the crowd as did "Home."

At one point, Sanderson launched into a duet with keyboardist / back up vocalist Dani Rosenoer. He started playing with timpani mallets on his cymbals before moving into a pulsating rhythm on the toms. Then, after throwing away his timpani mallets, he gave his drums the beating of a lifetime. The material Three Days Grace play is never going to rival the musical intricacies of Rush or Dream Theater or Yes - that's not their gig. Sanderson plays ambidextrously, alternately playing the beat with his right hand or left hand. His drum solo included playing a pattern with his hands on the snare and then duplicating that pattern with his bass drum. I liked what I heard.

Perhaps the highlight of the set was when they launched into "I Hate Every Thing About You." The crowd roared when they began that song. They followed that up with "Animal" and "Never Too Late." They then brought out a guest vocalist who helped them sing a cover of Limp Bizkit's "Break Stuff". The guys next to me asked me if that was a new song. After the guest vocalist left, they launched into "Riot" as their set closer.

Overall, Three Days Grace plays their material well in an arena. I think Matt Walst established himself as a good replacement for Gontier. I only really noticed one time when he seemed to be looking at something he didn't understand or expect in the set list and could be seen talking to guitarist Stock. It could have been a conversation about the hot girls in the audience - obviously I don't know - but that seemed to be the only minor hiccup for a vocalist that had to learn 15 songs between December 21, 2012, and February 1, 2013 (1 month, 1 week, 4 days).

After putting up a large tapestry between the crowd and the stage, the crew for Shine Down went to work, quickly tearing down the Three Days Grace stage set and putting up a slightly more elaborate stage for Shine Down. When the tapestry did get pulled down, the first song was "Enemies." Only drummer Barry Kerch was on the stage while vocalist Brent Smith, guitarist Zach Myers and bassist Eric Bass were on a stage towards the back of the arena, near the soundboard. It set the mood for the concert.

Without a doubt, Shine Down is a headlining act. I can say this because I've seen them transition from opening act status at Memphis in May 2004 to middle band in 2008 to now last band of the night in 2013. The transition has included a makeover. Vocalist Smith wore dress slacks, nice shirt, vest, and tie, and a good haircut. Kerch, Myers and Bass also looked sharp. Usually, I don't care what a band looks like, but I mention it because it looked like the band got involved with a producer or some sort of makeover person and gave them a makeover. It was such a contrast to how Three Days Grace present themselves that it needs to be mentioned. Smith, for his part, looks really good. It's well-documented that he has lost 70 pounds and has been on a workout regime. Good for him and I hope he continues to take care of himself on the road.

They played all the radio hits you would expect, including "Follow You Down" and "If You Only Knew." Since the first time I saw them, they have always covered Lynard Skynard's "Simple Man." Myers and Smith walked back to the soundboard stage, Myers with an acoustic guitar. He started playing riffs from various songs, including the Black Crowes' "She Talks to Angels." The entire arena sang. Smith then said, "That's too sentimental for tonight." Myers started Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and the Violent Femmes' "Blister in the Sun" before Smith said, "What do you think this is, karaoke?" And then, Myers started "Simple Man." During an instrumental interlude between the verses, Smith and Myers walked back to the main stage and finished the song on the main stage. I'm not a real fan of that song, but I liked that they did something different with it.

Back on the main stage, Smith told the crowd, "One more, for the road." Their last song was "Bully" and on their video screen, a video from Amanda Todd, the teenager who committed suicide in October 2012, was played. The band didn't preach about bullying or say anything about the video, which made its impact that much stronger. It is worth watching:

Here are my predictions for these three bands:

  1. POD will win over more fans.
  2. Vocalist Matt Walst will continue to establish himself as *the* vocalist for Three Days Grace
  3. Shine Down will continue to put on an entertaining show with their showmanship
This tour continues through March 30. You need to go see this tour.

The ride home from the arena was uneventful, weather-wise. Joe Winters was spot-on.

I crawled into bed at 1 AM, still smiling when I thought about the three bands I had just witnessed.

Shinedown Video - The Sound of Madness

Friday, February 1, 2013

Concert Day Arrives!

Weather permitting, Kevin and I are going to the iWireless Center in Moline, IL, to see Three Days Grace, Shinedown, and POD. I CANNOT WAIT!!

I have all three bands on shuffle in Windows Media Player. It's a good day!