Thursday, December 31, 2009

The end and start of a decade

The 2000's are over. Now is the perfect time to think back on the last 10 years. And to think ahead to the next 10 years.

What were you doing 10 years ago. What have you done in the last 10 years. Did you think you would have done those things?

Where will you be in the next 10 years. What are your dreams, aspirations, goals. What will you do for investing? Vacations? Where will you work, where will you live? Will you get a degree, another degree?

I love this time of year. I love looking back at the past and looking forward to how things could be.

Take the time to reflect and set new goals

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Michael Crabtee should get what he deserves

I believe that Michael Crabtree should get exactly what he deserves, which is not what he thinks he deserves.

What Michael Crabtree has done is get drafted 1oth and turned down money for 10th. He's still holding out and may possibly re-enter the draft next year.

I think there should be a new rule that a player who holds out an entire season cannot be drafted in the same round that they were drafted in previously. That would make the 2nd round the highest he could be drafted, and his pay after next years draft would reflect a 2nd round pick. That would deter these college athletes who haven't done anything to prove that they can play in the NFL from being able to turn down $20 Million offers in the hopes of $30 Million offers. That's just flat out wrong. Ask the millions of people who will never see that kind of money.

Suck it up dude. Take the $15 Million or so being offered to you and get to work. After all, don't you have to make some money so you can make a living, or did your college find a way to pay you under the table?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cutler is to blame

The Bears lost the first game, and I think everyone last night was clear on what the problem was. Jay Cutler made mistake after mistake. However, listening to 670AM "the score" this morning the radio guys are ripping on the defense secondaries.

My take is this. In a game where the offense lost the field position battle big time by giving away the ball on 4 interceptions and a fake punt, the defense still managed to get a safety, and keep Green Bay to very few points. The defense played so good that with as bad as the Bears played they still won the time of possession battle and had more yards offense. That's pretty impressive.

The Bears lost simply because of Jay Cutler. Sure I think Ron Turner is partly to blame for calling so many pass plays when the quarterback was clearly not settled. But even with a pass play being called Cutler consistently threw off of his back foot and threw to his "favorite" receiver despite him being double, triple, and even quadruple covered. Throwing to someone else, checking down, or throwing the ball away would have been a better decision many times yesterday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bears, any receivers coming?

The Vikings release Bobby Wade, their best receiver the past 2 years and Marvin Harrison is still unemployed. Any chance the Bears pick up a receiver with some quality and experience?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

First day of school

His first day of preschhool. He's such a big boy now.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Funny faces

Maybe I can be in the next nightmare before christmas.

Watch me dad

I put my hands like this to help me hop (on one foot)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Unique

He is unique and we love him for it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Funny faces

A smiling boy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Weight Loss Workouts continue

I did not give up on my weight loss workouts, between them, working overtime, and trying to keep up with my wife at Farm Town on Facebook, I haven't had the chance to blog much. Plus I haven't had anything exciting to say.


I have been running more consistently. Today I even ran 2 miles. I have occasionally ridden the exercise bike. And I have been in the mood for weight training so I have done some light free weight and body weight exercises. Nothing extensive and I'm not following a program, but I am still feeling good about losing weight and being consistent with doing something.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Harpists playing people to death

I remember cartoons with harpists floating along the dismembered soul floating up to heaven, but do we really have to play people to death?

What would it be like if you were in the hospital, and the guy next door had a harp start playing for him, would you think "Oh crap, I'm going, I'm not ready to die!!!" That's what I'd think.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ontario Announces Rebates of Up to C$10,000 for Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicles

Ontario Announces Rebates of Up to C$10,000 for Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicles, but more exciting is that they have a goal of getting 5% of the vehicles on the roads to a plug-in hybrid or all electric vehicle by 2020. To help this 20% of all new government purchases will be one of these forms of electric vehicles.


Since there are currently no mass produced plug-in hybrids, I'm guessing this is going to be a backloaded goal, however, the rebates will just about guarantee good sales of the first plug-in Prius in Canada.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weight loss week 3

Weight 241
I'm disappointed that all of the additional exercise this week did not translate into weight loss. I'm not sure of the reason. I didn't eat more junk food, but I may have had larger portions of food. I definitely felt hungrier. I'm satisfied with the amount of exercise, but I need to control my food intake better.

Sunday - I rode the exercise bike for another 15 miles.
Saturday - I rode the exercise bike for 15 miles today, and then before bed I ran 3 miles. It was a ton of exercise, but I really needed to get the distance in for the lazy man I am doing.
Friday - I took a day off after a couple of good days of exercise.
Thursday - I rode the exercise bike 15 miles. It was a great exercise with lots of sweat.
Wednesday - I got up early and rode my bike 3 miles, then ran 1 mile.
Tuesday - I got up early and ran 3 miles
Monday - I didn't do anything on Monday, I was a little disappointed in myself.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Weight loss week 2

Erin signed me up for a Lazy Man's iron man in July. I have to run 26.2 miles, bike 112 miles, and swim 2.4 miles. I did the same thing last year, and despite worrying about the swimming, it was actually the easiest part last year.

Weight: 240 - Down one pound from last week.

Sunday - I put Jaden in the bike trailer and pulled him for 4 miles. That was a lot harder than just getting myself over the distance. Plus the heat, I felt sick for the next hour afterwards.
Saturday - I ended up going in to work today to get caught up on things and didn't exercise.
Friday - I stayed home and spent most of the day working on the computer. I didn't exercise.
Thursday - I was able to get up early today and run/walk for 2 miles before work. My legs are a little tired, but I felt really good.
Wednesday - First day of the Lazy Man. I meant to get up and run in the morning, but I was up too late last night. I walked 1 mile at lunch.
Tuesday - I got up early and rode the exercise bike for 15 minutes, not much but something. I walked 1 mile in about 20 minutes at lunch time.
Monday - I left for work at 7:30 AM and didn't get home until 11 PM. I did not get to exercise.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Palin resigns early

Sarah Palin has resigned, I don't understand the reason, but this is definitely putting her in my do not vote for President pile. At the very least I want a President that will finish out the office that they were elected for, when the Presidential election will not happen in the middle of that term.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building


The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building: Redefining the Practice of Sustainability (Sustainable Design) has been released to help builders learn how to make buildings greener.

I find it ironic though that this 416 page tome is not offered in an electronic format. They'll tell us how to make our buildings green, but they aren't offering a way to help us cut down on the paper, and all of the water and energy that goes into producing a physical book.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stop providing public smog

I think all of the major cities should switch their trains and buses to Fuel Cell vehicles. Fuel cells already work and are viable in larger vehicles (although not cheap). However, one of the biggest issues with large cities is air quality. The government should not be another contributor.

No public transportation should be emitting these pollutants. This comes with the benefit that since major cities will be using hydrogen on a larger scale, there will have to be refueling stations in the cities. The refueling stations will provide a place for consumer purchased fuel cell vehicles to fill up.

I also think the new vehicles should not be fuel cell only. We know that hybrids reduce the amount of fuel that is used, that should not change with fuel cells. The hydrogen may be cleaner and not produce pollutants, but it will still need to be filled up. Using hybrid technology that is already being used should be able to be used in conjunction with the fuel cells to make the vehicles travel farther on the same amount of hydrogen. This will also help to alleviate the amount of hydrogen that needs to be produced to fuel the public transportation system.

Once the large cities have it working, the medium sized cities could then also get on board.

C'mon government. You want to say you are building an energy driven economy and fighting global warming at the same time. Stop taking useless 3 or 5 mpg increases over 10 years, and jump into removing all gasoline use from public transportation. Get the buses, public, then school switched over. Then mandate Tractor Trailers switch and get the biggest fuel hogs immediately off of gasoline. The smaller vehicles will continue to get more efficient, or will make the jump to fuel cells. Make that happen!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer weight loss

I've let myself get fat. Too fat. I've moved up a pants size and if it weren't for expandable waist pants, I would be up two sizes.

I plan on posting a once a week update on where I'm at and what I did in the previous week to exercise.

Today: 241 pounds.
Previous week.
Sunday: 3 mile bike ride. 1.5 mile run.
Saturday: Some pushups.
Friday: Walked to the library and back about 1.75 miles
Thursday: Funeral in the morning. Run at night about 1.5 miles.
Wednesday: Visitation - standing around for 5 hours, no exercise.
Tuesday: On vacation at waterpark. Walked some.
Monday: On vacation at waterpark. Walked some.

My goal is for next week's exercise to look a lot more consistent.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What smarter grid?

Everything I've read about a smart grid is based on houses being able to run without electricity, with the electricity being supplied by a PHEV. However, if I'm driving a PHEV and lose power at my house, I don't want to use my car to power my house, then also run my car dead. I want to be able to take my car and leave without it causing my house to break down again.

Instead, the smart grid technology should be giving houses their own battery. Then my house is not broken if I need to go somewhere in my car. Also houses could be cycled and not all run off the grid at the same time. If every house has their own battery, then only half would have to be on the grid charging at a time. This would immediately cut the electricity need in half. It's much more realistic to have clean energy generated when the demand is only half of what it is now.

If you take RMI's approach and make houses even more efficient, then we wouldn't even need half the power that we need now.

Let's get some of the battery technology that we have been trying to build for cars, and take advantage of the cost improvements, in order to make houses able to run without the grid.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Baseball game 5

Game 5 and the 3rd this week.

The kids did good again. We got another putout on the bases. And Chloe, the youngest on the team, nearly got a hit. She it the ball and ran to first. But the other team was able to beat her there and get the putout. I was so excited and hollering "run, run, run" I may have scared her some, she's the 2nd fastest on the team and was slowing down as she got to first, she was also still holding the bat. It was awesome, and sad at the same time. If she'd have dropped the bat and ran then she would have made it.

We hit the ball well, but were unable to score. We just couldn't get enough hits in a row. Zion, the oldest on the team had two rips into the outfield (actually on the grass), the first was a double, the second was on the first base side so he only got a single out of it.

I'm still waiting for Ady to get a hit. Her swings tonight were a little weak, she moved her arms through the motion, but the bat pointed straight down. I definitely need to work with her more on how to swing the bat.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Baseball game 4

Game 4 from 7:30 PM tonight.

Wow! My kids going into 1st and 2nd grade vs a team that is 7 and 8 year olds. I chatted with the other coach and 8 of his 10 kids were in the 8 year old category, while my team is all 6 and one 5 year old.

We lost, and we only played 3 innings in the one hour time limit. The other team scored 17 runs.

However, our team scored 4 runs, and we hit the ball a ton. We didn't make any outs on the bases, but we came close a few times. The older girls were just too fast for us.

The lowlight of the night was before the game started and Ady was taking batting practice. She hit the ball twice really well, then hit it with her finger. It smashed her finger, the same one she had smashed previously.

Fortunately I was blessed with many highlights. A couple kids got hits that haven't been hitting. We scored 4 runs. And Ady played really well, even after having smashed her finger before the game. I am a very proud coach.

Baseball game 3

Game 3 was tonight at 7:30 PM. We lost.

Last week the pitching machine went bad enough that the other coach and I agreed to pitch to the kids ourselves. That was probably the biggest mistake. Despite pitching to the kids all the time in practice, I could not get them a good pitch to hit, and the limit of 3 strikes was really a problem.

We did get our second putout of the season when the pitcher picked up a short hit ball and ran home and touched the plate before the running attempting to score. The very next batter she had a second chance to do it again, but didn't because the umpire had moved in front of the plate to remove the dropped bat for safety. She was visibly upset that she could not make another out at the plate.

While game 2 was great because all of the kids were focused, game 3 was riddled with distracted and tired kids. I was constantly telling kids to stand up, something I have not had to do yet this season, and telling them to put their gloves back on. I even moved the girl playing pitcher out of pitcher after having told her several times to keep her glove on. Pitcher is probably the only position that a ball will get to on a fly, and I didn't want her to get hurt.

Sadly, one of my parents called and said her daughter would not be playing softball anymore. She wasn't having fun and they aren't going to make her go to it. My team now officially has 10 kids on it.

Game 4 is tomorrow night at 7:30 PM. Hopefully the kids are a little more alert.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Repaying TARP

I've read that there are up to 10 banks that will be repaying TARP funds. This seems to be generating quite a bit of excitement as these banks which were not stable very long ago have now quickly turned around their fortunes.

What I haven't read, and can't find anywhere, is what is the profit to the government. These funds were being "invested" in banks and were going to pay back more than was loaned over the long term. Is the government actually following through on having them repay the amount plus some amount of interest?

I also can't find what happens to the TARP money. Congress basically gave a blank $750 billion check to the treasury. Once they've spent it and money comes back in as these banks repay it, when does it go back into the congressional coffers? When is that money no longer just an extra $750 billion for the treasury to play with? They have already purchased GM, which they are now running and subsidizing both. I don't like the nationalization of any business, and I don't like when the government subsidizes that business at the same time.

Ford is out there right now struggling through the tough economy working through it's own turnaround without a penny from the government. GM is now owned by the government. In order to make sure people can get money, the government handed over billions to GMAC to guarantee financing for GM vehicles. When GM declared bankruptcy the government also started helping GMs suppliers. As it stands now, basically every business related to Ford is being run as a business with no intervention, while everything that is related to GM is getting handouts from the government.

I prefer that tax incentives are used to entice people/companies to do things, rather than money just being handed out. Since there is the new CAFE standards, I think that for each 5% that a company betters the CAFE standards they should get some kind of tax break. It's like setting the standards up as a C- on the grading scale, and rewarding companies for getting A's.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Fortune cookies

The kids and I went to Chinese for dinner tonight. I think one of the reasons that they like chineses so much is that they get the fortune cookies. Ady and Jonas now read their own.

Today our fortunes went like this.
Me: Leaders are readers.
Jaden: To be content with little is true happiness. (Obviously written by a woman)
Jonas: Know and believe in yourself, and what others think won't disturb you.

Ady: Anyone can "start", only the tortured will "finish"
(it actually reads Anyone can "start," only the thoroughbred will "finish!")

Ady read hers over and over, but kept saying tortured instead of thoroughbred. After having run a marathon, I think tortured may be just as correct.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Baseball game 2

In our second game of the season we played well.

We faced an odd spring loaded pitching machine that made it more difficult for the kids to hit than before. At the end of the game we had 6 hits, and no runs. We outdid our opponents who only had 4 hits and no runs.

The most exciting moment came in the second inning when we recorded our first putout at first base. Savanah moved to her right 3 steps, picked up the ball and ran back to the base to make the out. There were two other times during the game that we nearly had a putout at first, Savanah was just late on one time, and Kailyn was just late once.

Sadly our last out was made with the bases loaded, one more hit would have given us a win. Three of our team did not make it to the game.

After the game the other coach and I talked for about 10 minutes. Neither of us like the pitching machine. It's not consistent in how it's throwing and the kids are having a hard time getting hits, we both would prefer to have coaches pitch to our own kids. Hopefully a conversation with the woman in charge will allow us to switch from the pitching machine to coaches pitch. Hopefully then the kids will have more fun and success hitting the ball.

Our next game is not until next Friday.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baseball game 1

Wow. After two rainouts we played a make up game. The electric pitching machine was not the greatest, but something about it clicked with the kids. They could see the ball and get their timing (for the most part).

Ten of my eleven kids showed up. We had hits every inning and scored 4 runs. It was awesome!

Saturday afternoon games with a temperature of 85 made it hot to play. I ran around in the field reminding kids to be ready and trying to continually show them how to be ready. I felt really bad for the kids that cycled through playing catcher though. It was really hot and none of them wanted to do it a second inning.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

$3 for one song?

The new Green Day album is out, and I want it, even though I haven't heard a single song from it. I love Green Day, despite not caring for most of the music on the radio stations that they play. So I don't hear their songs very often when new ones are released.

I got my newsletter from Amazon and noticed in it that there are two Green Day albums that are in the top 10 best selling. So I went to look at them. The first one I noticed was the Amazon exclusive. Awesome, one you can buy only from Amazon and get a great deal on...


$11.99 for a new album with 19 songs on it. That's a pretty good deal vs. buying them for $0.99 each.

Then I checked the other album.


This one is only 8.99, with 18 songs. I went through and looked, it's got all the same songs as the Amazon Exclusive, except for the last one. And it's $3 cheaper. So I could buy this album, and spend the $0.99 for the extra song and still save $2. I don't understand why the Exclusive album costs so much more.


** Updated post (6/10/2009) I noticed that the difference in price is now $1, I doubt that this blog post was the reason, someone probably complained more directly to Amazon, but I can think that my blog may have persuaded them to fix the pricing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Saddened by CornBelters

The Normal baseball team has had a name voted for them. Honestly the name choices were lame. Apparently it's completely wrong to have a team with any native history (Indian) assigned to it, and animals have become a hard sell anymore as well.

I guess all new teams are going to some name that indicates the area they are from. The Lakers are a great example of that. Everyone knows L.A. for it's lakes..... Maybe when the team moves it needs to also come up with a new name to reflect the current area. The Lakers could be renamed to the rioters.

Here in Central Illinois an Independent league minor league baseball franchise is going to start next year. I'm excited about it and hope to make it to several games. It's a very minor league though. these are players that were never drafted by a pro team to be in one of their 5+ minor league systems, or players that were in there and didn't cut it.

Now to the name. The choices were lame. One was the Coal-Bears (in honor of Stephen Colbert). Originally it was winning, but the voting had to be started over due to ballot stuffing. Second was my favorite the Nutz, in honor of Beer Nuts which started and continues to make it's home here in Bloomington (the sister city to Normal). At least of the bad name choices this one would have had some sense of character. And the winner, the CornBelters. As if Central Illinois is the home of corn. Sure we have a lot of corn, and are in the corn belt, but that's pretty lame.

A team mascot and name should be able to be used as a source of pride. Something to focus on and an attitude to take on in order to be one. If you play for the Bulls you want to be a Bull. You want to be ferocious and attack head first. If you are a Bear you want to rip apart your opponents. If you are an Indian you want to use cunning and skill to defeat you opponents. If you are a CornBelter you can use... I don't know, the thought of popcorn?

I hate that team names are becoming this nondescript thing. They don't provide a rallying cry, or a sense of unity and pride, they are just there because teams need a name. In my town the school is the Maroons. Which the kids are fond of labelling themselves the morons. The lack of a good name is not lost on them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Birthday to me

I am now 33. An age that amazes my kids as old, and my niece as surprisingly young. Apparently I look old for my age.

I didn't expect to get anything. Erin had told me that the kids wanted to get me flowers. They got a couple of annuals for me to plant in the yard.

There was a huge surprise coming for me. Erin got me a Kindle. It's a pretty neat piece of technology and I'm looking forward to saving paper and not having as many books on my bookshelf. I bought my first book today too. I bought Making it All Work by David Allen. I love Getting things done and look forward to reading his new book.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Letter to the garbage man

Dear Mr. Garbage man.

I would like to start with an apology. It dawned on me today that for the past nearly 4 years I have not been meeting your expectations with my garbage. I have continually gone out of my way to make sure that my garbage was bagged and in garbage cans sitting upright, with lids on them.

I realize that this was a mistake. I should have noticed the hints that you had given me sooner.

You've made it excessively clear that lids on garbage cans only get in your way, that must be why when you are finished with my garbage that you go out of your way to throw the lids away in the garbage cans so as to remove them from any future hindrances. I should not have been taking them out and putting them back on top. I finally got the point 3 weeks ago when you decided to run over one of my lids and leave it in broken useless shambles.

I also apologize for standing my garbage cans up. If you wanted them in a standing position you would obviously put them back that way to make it easier on yourself, but you clearly want them laying down and half in the alley, that must save you from having to walk the extra step to get it. If it were an occasional occurrence I may think that the wind just blew them down. However with them laying down nearly every time for 4 years I understand that you prefer them that way. I have also deduced this by paying attention to the neighbors garbage cans when you are done with them. Every one of them is laying down. Thank you for making it clear to all of us that this is how we should present our garbage to you.

I apologize for thinking that the purpose of my throwing garbage away was to actually get it to you in a bag that is in a garbage can with a lid. I mistakenly assumed that you didn't want rodents, raccoons or dogs tearing through it. I also figured that a garbage can half full of water would be hard to deal with, so I kept putting the lid on it. I guess that leaving the garbage can lay on it's side results in the same outcome.

So next week, when you get to my house, my garbage cans will be full, but I'll make sure that they are already laying down with no lids on them, to make your job easier.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day Challenge

The challenge: What 10 things do you/we do to help the earth.

Sounds simple enough but there is a catch, Erin and I are both posting the challenge on our blogs so we need to have 10 different items.

Since we were coming up with the list and she started first, she got some of the easier ones that we do. However, I have managed to come up with a pretty good list.

1. Compact Flourescent light bulbs. - We have one light in the kitchen that has 4 40 watt bulbs with the very narrow base. Within the next year we plan to replace this light fixture to one that we can also use the CFLs in.

2. Recycling - I have been big into recycling my entire life. I recycle all cardboard, paperboard, newspaper, magazines, plastic (1-7), tin, and aluminum cans that we get as packaging.

3. We have a high efficiency toilet that uses less water.

4. Reuse plastic bags - When we do go to the store and end up getting plastic bags we get more than one use out of them. We use some to throw out dirty diapers, and others as the garbage bags for the small bedroom garbage can. Mostly I try to recycle them at the grocery store though.

5. Reuse clothes - We try to re-use things as much as we can. We get hand-me-downs for our kids from our friends and then pass them on again. We also buy a lot of the clothes that the kids from garage sales.

6. Garden - We are tomato lovers. and tomatoes are used a lot in our house when they are fresh, but we don't care for canned tomatoes. We took our love of tomatoes and have planted a garden each year. Last year we expanded our garden from tomatoes to include green beans, peeas, cauliflower, and green peppers. Some did better than the others, but we were able to grow some of our own food.

7. Compost - Our yard happens to be only half a lot, there is very little grass and no trees. This year we have started composting. There's not much yard waste to add to the compost pile, but we throw all of our fruit and vegetable scraps (apple cores, pepper cores, onion skin, potato skins if we happen to be peeling the potato, orange peels, kiwi peels, etc.) into the compost pile

8. We only run the dishwasher when it is full.

9. We just bought a new washing machine that is Energy star rated.

10. Last year our TV died. We replaced it with an energy star LCD TV.

Ok, that's the 10 for the challenge. I have a few items left though, so here they are.
11. We use reusable plastic containers for lunch and eat leftovers instead of frozen meals that have lots of waste.

12. We set the Air conditioner to 80 in the summer time. The heat isn't too bad, we just try to get the humidity out of the air.

13. We have been cutting out High Fructose Corn Syrup from our diet. I'm not sure what impact this has, but I expect that using foods that are less processed is better for the environment.

14. Generally we try to avoid buying water bottles, because we drink tap. Sometimes we are on the road and need a drink so we'll pick one up. When we do, we re-use the bottle with tap water quite a few times before we put it in the recycles.

15. Finally an earh friendly and romantic one. Erin and I shower together. In about the same amount of time as a single shower we both get washed, cutting down on the water usage, and the load on the hot water heater. Plus it's fun.

Erin threw out an added challenge to me. Come up with two things that I want to work on doing better next year.

1. When I take cans of soup to work, I throw away the can because there is no place to recycle soup cans at work. I've decided to open cans of soup at home, take the soup in a reusable container, and recycle the can immediately. This will recycle another 1 or 2 cans a week.

2. Walk instead of drive. We live within less than a mile from 2 grocery stores, a Wal Mart, a few gas stations, and several fast food restaraunts. I want to try and walk to these places when using them more often over the next year.

3. I plan on moving as many of our Vampire technologies as I can to power strips that we can turn off at night.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Happy Easter

I got an awesome card in the mail from my son yesterday. He wrote that he's sad that he couldn't be with me this Easter and I nearly cried.

Holidays as a divorced parent are hard. Holidays are when the most planning has to be done in order to make sure that you can spend time with your kids and family. Getting little things like this card when you aren't expecting them make any pain that you go through as a parent completely worth it.

This Easter we are being blessed with another baby. It's not ours directly, but my sister-in-law is in the hospital right now bringing into the world her second daughter.

Four years ago on Easter Sunday, my wife's best friend gave birth to a boy. And March/April is the largest concentration of extended birthdays that we have. It's a great time to celebrate.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Trying to keep my head up in down times

The economy, the war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel. This is nuts. What's next, is China going to invade someone?

Companies keep trimming their employees in hopes of staying ahead of the economic curve. But less employees means less people who can afford someone else's product, and it's those people that are buying yours. It creates a chain reaction.

People temporarily stopped buying cars to save money, car companies laid off thousands of workers, which caused lots of other businesses to need to cut back so they could stay open, and that caused people to not be able to buy cars. Next thing you know almost nobody is working for car companies, and nobody is buying cars. I'm not advocating employing people and losing money, but if companies keep trimming their staff to stay ahead of the curve, they are going to keep adding to the curve.

I've been blessed. At my job I've not been laid off. I've been given a nearly impossible deadline to meet, which will cause endless hours, but at least I'm being paid for it, and I'm very grateful for that. I like the challenge, but stress a lot about the outcome. Even now I'm working, I'm just waiting for my server to restart, and it's nearly 10 PM.

Normally I turn to work in stressful times, but when the work is stressful I turn to family. I'm blessed to have a great family with 3 wonderful kids and an awesome wife. Coming home to them makes me feel good.

Do your best to keep your head up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What do teachers make?

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.  One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education.
He argued, 'What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?'
To emphasize his point he said to another guest;  'You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?'

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, 'You want to know what I make?

(She paused for a second, then began...)

Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents
can't make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make?'  (She paused again and looked at each
and every person at the table.)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them to write and then I make them write.

Keyboarding isn't everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math. They use their God-given
brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to
know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

I make my students stand, placing their hand over their heart to say
the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, One Nation Under God, because we
live in the United States of America .

I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given,
work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.'

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

'Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing
money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no
attention because they are ignorant... You want to know what I make?

I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.  What do you make Mr. CEO?'

His jaw dropped, he went silent.



Generally I just delete forwards that I get, but with this one I liked it enough that it's worth sharing with more than my contacts.  Everyone should be able to read this.  Enjoy.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Book Review: The Little Book of Ruby

SaphireSteel.com gave away the free book The Little Book of Ruby and I took advantage of it. Due to some things I was working on I had to restart the book several times. Now that I've finally finished it I thought I'd write up my thoughts.

The Little Book of Ruby does a decent job of explaining the very basics of Ruby. It does not delve into detail or give best practices on things, however, it's enough that a Ruby Beginner can read through the 85 page eBook and be able to figure out mostly what's happening in Ruby code that they look at.

It's a better start to Ruby than Why the Lucky Stiff's into. Why is an interesting character, but he gets too sidetracked, The Little Book of Ruby is a much better starting place.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

When is enough enough?

McLean County Woman awarded 2.6 Million for asbestos exposure. She died at the age of 93, 44 years after the exposure to asbestos.

I feel bad, but at 93, even with the cause being listed as asbestos related, at some point you have to chalk it up to natural causes.

If I were on that jury I would not have agreed to award anything to them.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Book Review: Shooter


Shooter is a good book talking about the trip that Sgt. Jack Coughlin took on his way to Baghdad during the Iraq War. It's an entertaining book to read, and lets you see through the eyes of a sniper at a very high level.

There are no secrets revealed, and his descriptions of shooting aren't very graphic. I enjoyed reading about the life of someone from the front lines during those first days in Iraq when America went in and removed Saddam Hussein from power and sent him into hiding.

Reading this book is very similar to what you could imagine hearing if you sat around drinking beers and talking with him about it. Not too much detail, but enough to let you know what was happening. Not too much about his emotions, but enough to let you know that he has them.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What makes you effective?

I've been studying myself. What makes me effective? What do I spend time getting lost in?

I get all philosophical when I get into these kinds of thoughts. What is effectiveness? Is it only my effectiveness or those of my team? Is effectiveness limited to my project or does my taking time to help another department and upltimately the company also count?

I think there is a balancing act that must be done. I need to be open and available to help others, but not let myself get pulled too far off of what my main task is, in order to help the company both directly and indirectly. My paycheck and job depends on me doing what's best for the company, which may not always be what's best for my current project.

GTD would have me shut off email and instant messaging, however, I must be available to respond to issues that crop up, and those are the notification mechanisms. GTD isn't the only program out there telling you to turn off email. Sure it's great when you can do it, but me, and my co-workers can't do it, and most other office workers can't either. However, you can make email work more effectively for you. I use the notification for Outlook, despite being told not to. Probably 80% of the email I get, I don't need. When I see one of those pop up with the notification, I take advantage of the delete button and send it straight to the trash. I'm still notifitied, but I spend 5 seconds or less removing that email from my life as soon as it happens.

Instant messages happen, and they need to. I can chat effectively on the side while still focusing mainly on my task, and still help someone else solve a problem. It may slightly slow me down, but I don't work for myself. I work for my company, and me being able to work non-stop for 30 minutes while someone else is stuck waiting for me is not useful. Instant messaging is a much more effective way of interupting me without taking me completely away from my thought than just walking over to my desk. I think this is part of why telecomutters tend to get more done.

I find that I'm effective when I already know how to do what I want to do. I'm not talking just needing to copy and paste, but having done something similar to what I'm working on will help me get results a lot faster. That's why I spend a lot of time at home reading and playing with code. I will push myself to solve problems and try things that I haven't needed to do at work, and that I'm not doing for anything in particular. Each time I do this it adds one more tool to my effectiveness toolbox.

I'm at least 50% more effective with music on to help drown out the background noise. Even when I'm working with someone that I'm talking to, if there is music on that I enjoy I'm more effective. I've tried it in total silence, and even tried wearing headphones to help block out the sound and work in silence. When it's too quiet the chaos in my mind takes over and I have a harder time focusing on the task at hand, music helps drown out both background noise and inner noise.

TV is a huge distraction. Probably because it's visual. At home my office is in the bedroom, and when I'm lucky enough to work from home during the day, the TV never comes on, but at night my wife goes to bed with the TV on. Even though she turns on something that I don't like, and I want to sit at the computer and work, I am still extremely distracted. I hate the TV, and wish I could have an automatic TV off button when I sat in my chair, I doubt my wife would like that one though.

But where do I get distracted? There's a ton of things that I want to do, but most of the normal time sinks don't apply to me. I'm almost never on mySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other social networking site. I have accounts, but only rarely stop by for any kind of update. I find that a majority of my time on the internet is actually usefully spent learning about something new related to what I'm working on. The few exceptions are News and blogs that I read. However, I don't try to keep up with Digg or any other extremly busy news site, I just take in the headlines at new.google.com Then I read the blogs of people that I follow. Total those take less than 30 minutes a day. Internet distractions are rather small for me, and I like that.

Oddly, being such a computer nerd and not a people person, I find that my biggest time sink is talking with co-workers. It always starts about work, but when the problem is solved the conversation turns to chit-chat and continues. I noticed the other day that I spent nearly 40 minutes talking to the same person about almost nothing. It's awesome that I can connect with people like that. Growing up I was such an odd duck that I couldn't spend that much time with almost anyone, now I could drop an hour on conversation with just about anyone.

My effectiveness is best when I'm available to help others, but technology keeps me at enough of a distance from them that I can answer without getting sidetracked with banter about life.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Power Generating shocks

MIT has been working on building Power Generating shocks that can be used to improve fuel efficiency of the vehicles. I've been waiting for this kind of thing for years.

A while ago someone invented a similar thing for shoes that could recharge a battery. Anything and anywhere that there is a natural bouncing motion we can attach a device to generate electricity.

Maybe next is a smaller shock absorber for the drivers seat, harnessing the power of the driver bouncing?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Why banks don't get it.

Banks keep defending the decisions that they are making to send employees on retreats, and for other expenses. Their defense always states, "we aren't using bailout money for those costs".

What they aren't understanding is that the bailout money is keeping the entire business running. Every penny they have is all in one pot, it's not separate. If the bailout money were not there, then they would not be able to do these things because they'd need to use it to keep the real business going, it should be the same way now. The bailout should not be getting used as the only thing keeping the business running while the rest of the money goes to other niceties.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Book Review: The Five Love Languages

The Five Love Languages is a good book that anyone in a relationship should read. My wife and I both think our relationship is good, and yet we still both chose to read it.

It's better to figure out all the things that work in a relationship and to nurture those early than it is to try to repair a broken relationship later. I like the car metaphor with this. A car will run for a long time with standard maintenance, but if you never change the oil or rotate the tires or wash it, then in a fairly short time the car will fall apart and not be fixable. Relationships can be the same.

The Five Love Languages helps you to understand what makes your spouse or loved one tick. Maybe you were naturally doing something early in the relationship during the "in love" phase that you aren't anymore. This book will help you to recognize those things that mean the most to your relationship so you can nurture it and help to remain strong.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Be Indispensable

The key to being indispensable is the same no matter what the economic situation.  It doesn't change.  The keys are simple.

Communication / Transparency

Keep everyone in the loop on what you are working on.  Go above and beyond the normal communication that may need to happen with your boss about your status report.  Instead, post that status somewhere more public that anyone who is interested can see it.   If you have the ability to blog about your work internally then do that.  If you are a consultant then blog to the world the things that you are doing.  Let everyone know everything that you are doing, learning, and deciding.  You will be repaid with trust since you are not trying to pull one over on anyone.


Creativity / Ingenuity

Find creative ways to make more money or save money.  Find ingenious ways to get your work done faster and save money. The keys may be more automation, or just changing a process.  Spend time thinking about how to make everything faster and easier.   Solutions that make the company money will keep you in house when layoff happen.


Commitment

In order to be really great at what you do, you must be committed. That may mean spending more time at work or spending time outside of work improving your skills.  Better yourself for the specific job you have, and for additional responsibilities you may need to take on.  What things are you not doing today that you may be asked to do next week or next month because someone else had to be let go?  Are you ready for those tasks?


Organize

In order to be able to communicate everything efficiently and to be creative and even to find the time to learn new things, you must be organized.  Everywhere you look you can see people who are well organized that outperform those that are not.  It's rare that a disorganized person can reverse this trend.  In those cases, they would most likely be able to excel even more if they were organized.   Don't let clutter get in the way of what you have to do, and don't miss deadlines because you weren't sure where a request went to.  Pick an organization System like Getting Things Done, or Zen To Done, read about it and implement it.   Becoming organized will have a positive impact on your performance and output. 


Being indispensable is hard. It takes a lot of work and communication. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review: Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review

Best Kept Secrets of Peer Code Review (Modern Approach. Practical Advice.) is a different kind of book. I like to know statistical data and see the reasons that people interpret them a certain way. This entire book is an argument for using a tool for Peer Code review. And that there are time limits that should be used when reviewing someone's code. The limits seem in line with other studies showing how long someone can concentrate on anything before needing a break. And then the law of diminishing returns is discussed. Looking for defects for longer than an hour seems to not be worth it.

Using these simple limits and a tool an individual should spend 2 to 4 15 or 30 minute sessions reviewing code.

The tool discussions were more interesting. Having a tool that will allow a developer to monitor how long is spent reviewing code, track annotations and allow chatting between people who are reviewing sounds good. It just so happens that the author Jason Cohen works for SmartBear Software and you can buy software that does that exact thing.

I've never used any software to coordinate code reviews, but after reading this book I definitely will be looking into software and it's costs. It's at least worth considering.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hybrids only benefit from better gas engines.

I've seen several times that better gas engines can negate the need for hybrids. Even the Wall Street Journal has an article titled "Gas Engines Get Upgrade in Challenge to Hybrids"

All of these are wrong. And they are wrong for several reasons.

First, a more fuel efficient gas engine still needs gas, which only exists in a limited and diminishing quantity. Sooner or later it will run out, it may run out somewhat slower with engine improvements, but it will still run out.

Second, all improvements to a gas engine also improve hybrids. A hybrid basically adds a batter and an electric motor to a car. That addition will add an extra so many miles per gallon based on how good the battery is and how it can recharge. But when the battery runs out the car is still using a gas engine. Improvements to gas engines can be used to improve these gas engines too. Instead of having a small gas engine that gets 30 miles a gallon, if it can now get 40, then a hybrid could go from 50 MPG to 60 MPG.

I like the ingenuity that is being used to improve the fuel efficiency in engines of all kinds now. It's disappointing that for years cars have not had much in fuel efficiency improvements. Most of the new technologies that are being used aren't revolutionary. There's no reason that many of these could not have been used much sooner to provide vehicles that could go much further on less gas than what we have now.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy Birthday to my oldest


My oldest turned 7 the other day. He is growing so fast. We will celebrate this weekend with him. For his birthday we got on Skype and called him, he was able to see the entire family singing him Happy Birthday.

Technology has played a large role in the long distance parenting we have been doing with him. We instant message with his mom about him and anything. We keep up to date with random cell phone calls and Jonas himself will instant message us occasionally.

I've read bedtime stories over the phone and sent my love many times.

Skype is the newest long distance technology. We can now video conference with him. He puts his little headset on with the mic coming around his face to his mouth and looks like such a handsome little geek. That's my boy. It's amazing how much technology is ingrained into his life at only 7. Being able to read and write and now type (hunt and peck style) are a huge benefit for him. Jonas is ready for the technology that is being ingrained into every aspect of life.

Jonas I love you, Happy Birthday.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A new car.

Over the weekend we finally replaced out little Geo Prizm that didn't have any heat, with a minivan that does. We're now the owner of a 2007 Chevy Uplander (at a very good price)

We had been looking around for about a week, and ended up dealing with 3 different dealers for a few hours each on Saturday making it an extremely long day. We're happy that at the end of the day though we have a car big enough for our entire family to sit comfortably in. I'll have to get some real pictures up later, but until then it looks like this image.

http://images.autobytel.com/view/aic/CHEVROLET/UPLANDER/van/usa_2007_chevrolet_uplander_van_4_x_exfrdrvr75_x.jpg

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Palin still complaining about the media.

The AP reported that Palin is still complaining about the media. Palin stated "I've been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope,"

I think she is missing the point. Running for Senate in a state may not garner as much scrutiny as running for VP of the country. Even if the media is not as hard on Caroline Kennedy, it's mostly because there are a lot less people who care. Palin was running for next in line to the President. For that position I, and most of the rest of the country, want to know everything about the person.

The article ends with.

Palin singled out the Couric interview as condescending, particularly a question about what she reads and, according to the governor, "What do you guys do up there?" In fact, Couric never asked that question but did press, unsuccessfully, for the governor to state specific newspapers she read, which Palin never did.

Palin also complained about reports suggesting that Trig Palin was not her son and said she was "frustrated" by rampant rumors about her and her family. However, mainstream media stayed away from such rumors, which were fueled by bloggers and others online and the supermarket tabloids.

"I wasn't believed that Trig was really my son," she said. She called it a "sad state of affairs."

"What is the double-standard here?" she asked. "Why would people choose to believe lies? What is it that drives people to believe the worst, perpetuate the worst?"

"When did we start accepting as hard news sources bloggers, anonymous bloggers especially?" she asked.


None of the mainstream media was using anonymous bloggers as a sourse. As for bloggers, they are people. Sometimes who are closer to a situation than any reporters are. Bloggers should not be discounted as sources simply because they don't work for a newspaper. Her statements make it seem more like the newspapers that she is reading are the tabloids, and not reputable newspapers.

Friday, January 09, 2009

What would I like to see from Windows 7

I've been using Windows XP for quite some time. And I have done my best to avoid Vista. I have a desktop computer at home that I will not upgrade, and we don't use it at my job. My wife's laptop however came with Vista on it.

What I can say from my experiences with Vista is that it runs slow, uses a lot of RAM and processing power and has been difficult to install new things on other peoples computers when they ask me to help them out.

The OS has become more annoying also because of the different variations of it. I dabble in web development, so I would like to be able to play with that on the side, using Java, ASP, ASP.Net, Ruby, Javascript, etc. My wife just needs the computer to store and organize her pictures and music. We both need the web.

What I would like to see from Windows 7 is:
  • Easier ability to install things. Don't make actions that I am initiating so annoying by asking me if I want to do them over and over.
  • Don't make restore points optional. They may slow an installation, but will save people more than hurting them.
  • Use less resources. I want the OS to be as small as possible. Reduce the size and consumption of resources the OS needs as well as making it faster.
  • Security is a big deal. There seems to be a new way to hack Windows monthly. Stop adding new features and start going back through all of your code to slim it down, and remove the problems.
  • Only have one OS option. I don't want to be upset that the computer I bought had the wrong version of windows and I can't do what I want with it. Make the base OS the same for everything, and whatever is actually considered as differences now, offer as either free or paid software to the OS.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Obama's tough challenge

When taking office, Barak Obama is facing more issues than any president other than FDR. Even Lincoln only had a south threatening to leave, which would divide the country.

The big things that everyone sees are:
  • the war in Iraq
  • the war in Afghanistan
  • the economic crisis of the world
  • What to do with prisoners at Guantanamo Bay
Some smaller things are:
  • How to stimulate adoption of clean energy to increase the US energy independence.
  • What to do with NASA with the space shuttle being retired and Bush setting a plan to land on Mars.
  • What to do with the No Child Left Behind act. It has some major problems, how can they be fixed, but more importantly how do we improve schools and learning?
  • Israel, which seems to be begging to be the center of attention more than normally.
  • Russia, first an all out attack on Georgia, now cutting off natural gas from eastern Europe, are they becoming a problem again?

When it comes to the government and the future I have lots of questions and surprisingly very few suggestions. I hope that the team he is putting in place will be able to handle all of these known issues, plus whatever comes up.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The anti-resolution

After several days of deliberating about what to come up with as a resolution this year I decided. I"m not going to come up with anything.

Setting goals is great, but setting a resolution simply because it's the first of the year doesn't mean anything to me. I have a lot of plans and things that I want to do in the next year. Instead of having any resolutions, I'm just going to work on my existing plans. When they are done, I'll move on to the next thing.

It's GTD for me instead of resolutions.

If you set one of your own, good luck, I'm rooting for you, but if not, don't worry.