Monday, June 30, 2008

Directv remote DVR programming

I have a new favorite toy: remote programming of my Directv DVR via the Internet.

All you do is login to their website from any computer with a browser, select the show you want to watch and it connects to your DVR and schedules it.

This came in handy when we were in CT for Anna's Christening because, like om my god Camp Rock was showing and, like OMG Deb forgot to ask me to record it. Courtney was upset, then I remembered I could do it via the web. Unnecessary hysterics avoided (for a few minutes at least).

I also like to use it when I see something at work that I might want to watch on Discovery, History or Biography channels. I'd forget about it before, now I login and tell the DVR to record.

(Minor aside showing my age, in the note to myself to blog about this, I wrote 'blog about using the Internet to tape shows'. Yes 'tape' shows. God I'm getting old.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

FBLA-PBL judging this weekend

I did something different this weekend. I was a judge in the finals for the FBLA-PBL Internet Application Programming contest.

If you don't know what the FBLA-PBL is, check out their website here. The group I was judging were juniors and seniors in high school who developed a web application for recording grades and calculating GPA. The finalists were from all over the country. While this was one session, there were dozens of other with presentations about all kinds of business topics, not just technology.

I was judging the presentation they gave about what they developed vs. judging how what they developed met the requirements. It was very interesting and informative to see how these young men approached presenting about what they built. One frustrating thing: there were no young women in the finals. According to our coach/leader there were some ladies in the other rounds, just none made it to the finals.

Some interesting things about their projects:
- 6 of the 10 used PHP
- all but two talked about AJAX, but when asked about which tools they used half couldn't tell me
- 8 of the 10 use MySQL
- 2 used the full Microsoft stack, with, C# and SQL Server
- one used Perl
- one used the Google applications for his presentation. All but one other used PowerPoint
- three talked about 'third normal form' in their databases
- one displayed a UML diagram

The presentation styles were as varied as the men themselves. A couple just stood there, hands in pockets or crossed in front of them, a few read directly from the slides, but most of them were moving around, pointing to the slides etc. Most came up and shook our hands.

All were able to answer my technical questions very well (other than the AJAX toolkit part)

I brought Meghan with me and she thought it was interesting, but got boring because the topics were the same. She had some interesting insight into what they were focusing on and how each presented the same materials in different ways.

If you ever get a chance to judge or assist a student with one of these projects I suggest you do it.

Just follow the rules and no one gets hurt

Each time I saw that sign in Virginia I thought of this picture. It just took a little while to find it online.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Stone walls - it is good to be a boy part 3

When Deb drove up to Connecticut, she did it in two days, stopping the first night in northern Virginia. With this break they made it to her mom's house late afternoon the second day. When she arrived she called me, told me they made it, and that Christopher had found the stone walls.

My first thought was, oh boy, they are on their way to the ER for stitches. See, I have lots of scars from falling off walls, running into fire places, all kinds of great things I expect him to eventually do.

Instead, she told me he is taking them apart. Since I met Deb (23+ years ago) her step-father has been building (and repairing) the stone walls, stone walkways and gravel driveway. The walls have gone through a number of transformations due to snow plows, cars hitting them etc. But they hadn't seen Christopher yet.

Apparently he is picking up the smaller rocks that are between the bigger ones and putting them in a bucket. This includes the small stones on the walkway and on the driveway. He even picked up some of the bigger ones and moved them.
He is also playing IN the birdbath and helping 'weed' the flowers. For a while he was taking the rocks and dropping them into the dog pool, the birdbath and the regular swimming pool.

Then, on Sunday after the Christening, he was getting really rowdy while Deb was trying to pack, so I took him for a walk. Across the street is an industrial construction equipment rental company so we went over there to check out the toys. We looked at the front loaders, bobcats and other cool toys for a few minutes, then he saw the retaining wall.

It wasn't really a retaining wall, rather a big pile of rocks, each about the size of his head, along a hill to catch the run off when it rains.

He went running over to it and picked up a big rock with his hands. Then drops it on the driveway, just missing my feet. He then took 6 or 8 more and did the same thing. Each rock I put back, he picked up another. Finally I started tossing the rocks up the hill and they would come rolling back, he thought that was hysterical.

It is good to be a boy ;-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Anna's Christening

The main reason I went to CT last weekend was for Anna's Christening. Anna is my niece, daughter of my brother John and his wife Katharine.

The day started off with a nice brunch at my Dad's. Deb was determined to get Anna into the baptismal outfit that Katharine's family were all baptised in. Nobody else thought it would fit, but Deb got her in it, without choking the poor kid! As I mentioned previously, I am the co-Godfather of Anna with Katharine's brother Michael. Deb is her Godmother.

As the priest is getting ready to start the ceremony, everyone was seated except for us. Deb was trying to get Christopher to hang out with Uncle Pat and as she is sitting down, the priest makes a comment and Deb says 'I'm trying to get my 2 year old settled'. The priest replied with a funny tone 'That's not my problem'. At that second Deb realizes the priest is Father Corey, who was the parish priest at St. Peter's when she was in elementary and high school. I also recognized him as the priest who was rather impatient at my wedding, waiting for my parish priest (from St. Joseph's, just up Main street from St. Peter's) to arrive. Story for another time ;-)

Finally all settled in there was a great ceremony, with one small hiccup. Fr. Corey asked the godparents to light the baptismal candle from the Easter Candle and bring it back to the baby. Deb was the first to reach the candle, and we realized that it was at least 10 feet in the air. I was told later that Fr. Corey was joking with the rest of the crowd about how this may take 20 minutes. As I've been known to do, I looked for a quick solution and found the wick they use to light the candle, which had a 5 foot handle on it. I picked it up, and reliving the years of being an Altar Boy, lit the wick, then spread it to all the other godparents. I guess we were the quickest to figure this out in a long time, since Fr. Corey had a comment about it. I didn't hear either comment since we were lighting the candles.

All through out the ceremony Meghan and Courtney were doing their best paparazzi impressions. Courtney snapping pictures and Meghan with the video camera. I've uploaded a lot of Courtney's pictures to the Flickr site here.

All the while, Patrick was keeping Christopher occupied. I know that Christopher really likes Pat since we didn't hear either of them once during the ceremony.

During the pictures Anna started getting fussy, so I took her and got her to stop crying. Honestly it isn't that hard. I just told her that I'm sending her another dozen huge stuffed animals.

Back from CT

16 and a half hours, almost 1000 miles and 8 stops. Don't even ask how much the gas cost.

I went to Danbury, CT this weekend for a couple of the reasons, the main one to see my niece Anna get Baptised. I'll post about that separately since it was a great ceremony, and as is typical for our family, had some ancient history tied to it.

I left on Friday to go to CT. After the fiasco last time with the 'hired car', where the guy changed the price of the trip on me half way down I-75, I had a cab bring me to the airport. Of course the cabbie didn't like driving on the highway to it took almost twice as long.

The plane ride was uneventful except for the young lady waiting for the same flight. She had a t-shirt 'I'm totally worth it'. I'm guessing she was late teens since she was giving her mother a bunch of attitude. I was seriously tempted to ask her what it meant, but I'm afraid it meant that guy from Nightline was going to start asking me questions ;-)

I started reading a great new book 'World War Z', which is a fictional account of how the Zombies rose from the dead and how the world finally beat them back. It is written in the first person with each story being a couple of pages. It is really good so far.

Friday night we went to my Dad's to celebrate his birthday. It was the first time in 3 weeks I'd seen the kids so I spent most of the time playing with them. My Dad has a slight hill on the side of his house (nothing like the one on Strawberry Hill though, so no go carts!) and Christopher would ride down the hill on his little plastic car and I'd carry it back up for him to do it again.

Saturday was spent having lunch with my Mom and going to see 'Get Smart!'. For someone who grew up with that show, the movie was great. I think even if you didn't know the series you'd think it was funny. Saturday night Deb, Christopher and I went to her brother's for dinner. Deb's nephew is 18 and was having a blast with Christopher.

Sunday was all about the Christening, so I'll write about that in a separate message.

Monday started out with a bang. Literally. As the alarm went off at 5:30, a massive thunderstorm started. It raged for about 20 more minutes. We finally got everything (and everyone) loaded and on the road by 7:10.

The TomTom is great. It told us how far we had to go and estimated when we'd arrive. According to it, we were due to arrive at 11:30 pm when we left. At one point I was driving well enough that I got it down to 11:00 pm. Then typhoon Christopher struck.

Still don't know why, but around 2 pm he vomited. Twice. All over the inside of the car. Not just a little on his shirt, this was a 'we drank how much Jagermeister?' projectile vomit. He didn't say a word, gag or give us any other indication it was coming. So I did a rather quick exit at the next gas station and we cleaned up. For 45 minutes. During this, the dog just stayed in her spot and ignored us.

The whole time we're cleaning up, there is a guy in the car next to us smoking his cigarette and reading his paper. Quite surreal.

We finally got back on the highway. Christopher usually falls asleep while on a long trip, but not this time. He finally fell asleep for about an hour and half, then woke up screaming. We stopped again, let him get out of the car seat for a while. Another 30 minutes later, we got moving again. He still wouldn't go to sleep. Around 10:30 I looked back at him and he waved at me. Deb and both girls were out cold, he was sitting there watching Curious George. He finally fell asleep about 15 minutes later.

When we finally got home, he woke up again, but as soon as he saw we were in his room, he smiled and fell asleep instantly. He's spent most of today playing with every toy in his room. Vomit aside, I think he did great for a 2 year old.

The girls were great as well. No drama with them, just some tired kids this morning. Deb just wanted to get into her own bed. And take a shower in her own shower this morning.

Some random thoughts from the hours behind the wheel

- VA has the worst drivers. I swear every time we got above the speed limit someone would camp out in the left lane and slow us down

- VA doesn't allow radar detectors, so it was unnerving to see a state trooper on the side of the road without having been warned ahead of time. The best defense I was ready with if I got pulled over: 'Officer, I wasn't paying attention to my speed, my wife and I were discussing if the baby had pooped or it was the dog farting again'

- the Grand Caravan is not the Mustang. Even flooring it merging while going up hill isn't fun

- about half the people in VA had vanity plates. Some were easy to figure out, others were bizarre.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just finished cleaning, now need to pack!

Tomorrow I head to CT for my niece's baptism. Deb and the kids have been there for almost 3 weeks, so I needed to clean the house today. As I wrote previously I didn't let it get bad so it didn't take so long to clean up.

Now I just need to pack. Usually takes me 3 minutes or less for a business trip, but this time I need a suit AND some casual clothes AND some travel clothes for the drive back. Yes, I'm driving back with them. 1000 miles, 1 day, 3 kids and 1 dog. I swear I don't know how she does it a couple of time a year.

I had a pleasant surprise dealing with the bureaucracy of the Catholic Church today. I'm not sure the details behind the change, but John called me last night and asked me to be the stand in Godfather for Anna this weekend. Should be easy enough right? Nope, had to get proof that I'm a good Catholic (no 12 years of St. Joseph's and Immaculate High School, altar boy etc. doesn't automatically count).

So I called my parish this morning, ask what I had to do to get the paper and the woman was extrememly helpful. I had to call the church in Bethel to see what their 'rules' were for the paperwork first. That lady was very helpful as well. The lady from St. Catherine's here faxed the paperwork to St. Mary's in Bethel and even put my copy (with the raised seal they wanted) in a 'special' place outside the parish office in case I didn't get there before the office closed. Wow, I was expecting that to be much, much harder.

I'll have lots of pictures and stories I'm sure when we get back.

Little Miss Matched

Last winter, may be for her Birthday or Christmas, Courtney got a gift of socks. Yes socks for a 10 year old. And she was ecstatic. Why? Because they don't match.

The company is called Little Miss Matched and they are deliberately selling clothes that don't match. The socks above are what Courtney has.

First time she wore them to school, the teacher commented that her socks didn't match and Courtney told her how they weren't supposed to! While she was polite about it, we did get an email from her teacher commenting on how 'unique' Courtney can be. Given this behavior was nothing unusual for Courtney I was surprised she sent the note.

Yes, Courtney is very much the opposite of Deb when it comes to fashion. Both have great tastes but completely opposite. I could never see Deb is something mismatched, but Courtney? Of course.

So why wait this long to blog about it? First, Seth Godin has a blog about how from a marketing perspective this is good, second they received $17 MM in funding to take it to the next level. Also, they've expanded their line and I'm sure Courtney wouldn't mind a few other items (she is quite hard to find gifts for!)

If you have tween girls, get them a set (not a pair, a set) and see what happens!

Monday, June 16, 2008

So, do they?

Growing up without sisters, one of the things we missed was being around a girl that was totally open with her brothers. Yes we had cousins, friends etc, but being a family is very different. (Going through the whole puberty thing now makes me glad I did miss part of it.)

One of the things we always debated was, do girls fart? I remember Pat insisting that girls don't.

One of my favorite shows is MythBusters. Apparently they did a show on this topic and were afraid to release it. But, since we have the Internet they couldn't hide it.

Of course with daughters I know the answer. So I think this is fake ;-)

Geographic Bachelor

New term for me too. A guy a work with, ex-navy, heard I was without family the last couple of weeks and said 'oh, you're being a geographic bachelor'. I hadn't heard that one before.

He told me that when he was in the military a lot of guys on short deployments would leave the family in once place (with family or wherever they had the house) and they lived in the barracks.

While I'm sure I'm eating better then them, that is pretty much what is going on.

First task after they left: move the lazy-boy into the middle of the room, in front of the TV. Actually, that was the second thing. First was to get all of Christopher's toys out of the way.

I do keep the place clean, really. If Deb sent one of her friends over right now she'd find nothing in the sink, the laundry all clean and folded. The bed won't be made until I leave. Why make it just to mess it up again 16 hours later? Not like I have company coming over or anything.

Before I leave on Friday to go to Anna's Christening and drive everyone back, I'll vacuum one more time, change the sheets and make the bed. Everything else is pretty much clean.

Yes, I did eat something more than pizza and beer. I had chicken wings and beer tonight ;-)

4 days until I see them again.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Was friday 'pull out in front of Chris day'?


Another reason to hate living in Atlanta.

Yesterday I had at least 6 different people pull out in front of me on the surface streets. I expect it on the highway, but the surface streets?

I left about an hour later than usual yesterday morning since I forgot to set the alarm. Within 3 miles of my house I had the following:

- redneck in a beat up pickup truck with a trailer cut across 2 lanes of 41 in front of me and another car. I locked up the brakes and did the 'abs hop'. Guy next to me got sideways.

- guy comes out of Blue springs, cuts in front of me by maybe 20 feet, gets sideways in the right lane an almost goes into the embankment

- woman putting on makeup drifts into my lane going up the hill

On the way home from work
- clown runs the red light turning on to the highway (I'm turning left) I stop fast the guy behind me almost hits me. Squealing tires and everything

- usual fun on I-75 on a Friday afternoon

- Get off on 92 to take the backroads home, woman in an SUV decides she doesn't want to turn left in the left turn only lane, cuts across my lane and takes a right. I wasn't going that fast so I stopped before hitting her

Note that I drive a bright red mustang GT with 4 headlights, which are always on. Not a white or grey car they couldn't see.

Arrgh. Needless to say I had a few beers when I got home.


(I did see Ironman after work before going home because traffic was so bad. Very good movie.)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Why I hate travelling

I spent 5 hours in the airport last night before I even got on the plane. Weather in Minnesota.

But that wasn't the most frustrating part. While waiting to get through security, my lane ran out of the plastic bins. 2 guys in front of me just stood there. Being an even tempered individual (no comments Deb), I noticed that they weren't doing anything, so I looked around and saw a full stack in the lane next to us.

I went, picked up about 10 of them, came back, picked up my stuff and moved on. The 2 yahoos didn't say anything to me, but several people behind me thanked me.

Seriously, how big of a deal would it be to walk 10 feet, pick up a bunch of buckets and come back?

Another reason I hate travelling. Of course being in Minneapolis for less than 13 hours didn't help. I need a couple of beers.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Okay, it was a _little_ geeky

I was doing a presentation today for a local marketing association and during the presentation I was asked about challenge/response, which is an anti-spam approach that sends an email back to the sender if you're not in my address book.

I use this on my personal accounts, especially for the kids. The idea is unless you write back and I approve you, you can't send email to my kids. During my response, I said that I used it for my kids.

I said:

In fact, I created email addresses for all my kids not that long after they were conceived. I guess I'm a little geeky like that.

I thought half the people were going to fall out of their chairs.

Technically Meghan didn't get hers until a year or so after she was born. Courtney right after she was born and Christopher about 2 months before. In Courtney's case we didn't finalize the name until she was born. In Christopher's we knew exactly what his name would be.

So like I said, just a little geeky.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Thoughts from 11 hours in a car

Last weekend Pat and I went fishing in Charleston. Rather than dealing with the airlines to save maybe 2 hours each way, I decided to drive. While not nearly as fun as driving one way, non stop to CT with 3 kids and a dog, it did give me some time to think.

So, some random thoughts

- which is more accurate? The TomTom GPS speed or the speedo on the mustang? Up to 70 or so they both said the same thing, above 70 the TomTom had me slower than the mustang.

- The TomTom displays a red block if you're going faster than the speed limit. Kind of cool it detects how fast you're going, kind of nagging that it shows you are speeding.

- Ethanol sucks. 26 MPG from Atlanta to Charleston with gas bought in Atlanta. 22 back, with gas bought in Charleston. Only difference: 10% ethanol in SC. I don't think I had any different traffic or average speeds

- Yes, 320 HP of American V8 muscle got 26 MPG. Still more fun than a prius ;-)

- There are still A LOT of radio stations playing 70's and early 80's rock.

- Why do people sit in the left lane, pulling a trailer, going 50 when the speed limit is 70?

- 70 to triple digits is really easy now ;-)

- Cruise control is bad. It makes you not pay attention as you come up on traffic.

- Cruise control is good. It keeps you at a set speed. Given the fun going to 3 digits and the ease, using cruise control on the wide open, no other traffic on the highway, stretches was a good thing.

- I was surprised by the lack of cops on the roads.

Like I said, random thoughts.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A bad day of fishing ...

Is definitely better than a day of work!

This weekend Patrick and I met in Charleston, S.C. and went deep sea fishing.

I haven't seen Pat in a while since he was living in London for a few years and once school starts it is hard to get together.

I picked him up at the airport on Friday after driving from Atlanta. We went downtown to the 'tourist' area as our hotel receptionist called it. We had a few drinks and ate dinner at a nice brew pub. No I don't remember the name.

Knowing we'd have to be up at 4:30, we went to sleep early. Really Mom, we did.

At 4:00 some as*hole pulled the fire alarm in the hotel. We got dressed and headed for the stairs when it stopped. I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't. Pat of course had no problems.

The guy Pat contracted with for the boat had called him Friday afternoon and said that his boat was broken, but he found someone else to take us out. Except it was 45 minutes away. Most cities at 5 am on a Saturday are scary, but Charleston was bizarre. A few minutes outside of the main town, we're in a bog with fog and deer and cops everywhere. Strange ride, but we made it.

The boat was really cool. The skipper and mate were really nice and really did all the work. We were 58 miles off shore at our longest. The ride out took 2 hours and we tried to sleep but we hadn't eaten anything yet so it was hard. Once we got out and started trawling we ate breakfast and started catching fish.

Or tried to. Our guide said this was one of the worst days of fishing they had all month. Should have caught a lot more.
In the end we caught 7 mahi mahi, including a monster 38 lb one that I landed. It took a while to get down and it was spewing blood everywhere. Look at the pictures to see some of the carnage. (If you want more send me an email and I'll send the nasty ones.)
The weather was perfect. We had lots of sun, mild seas, just no fish. The sea was a beautiful blue. It was a couple of hours of looking around and talking followed by a few minutes of excitement as we reeled them in.
We were reasonable in our beer consumption, tempered it with water and diet coke. But we did drink a little bit of beer ;-)
Once we got back to shore we watched the Mate cut up the big fish. I got to hold the head while he pulled off the skin. I had to stick my thumb in the eye socket ;-)
Reeking of fish, sweat and salty air, we went back to the hotel. Did I mention I looked like I had killed someone? My shorts are covered in blood.
After a quick shower we called our new friend, who runs the 'green taxi' service in Charleston (all hybrids). We found an Irish pub, 'Tommy Condons' off one of the main roads and had a nice dinner. Being dead tired, and still felling the ground move if we closed our eyes, we decided to go watch the hockey game at 'Bubba Gumps'.
We were in bed by 10:30 again. Damn we're old.
We got some sleep, went to IHOP for breakfast then I took Pat to the airport. Oh yeah, Pat is a Tea Snob. He also had his first introduction to southern tea. He ordered 'Tea' and the waitress asked him if he wanted sweet or unsweetened. It took a second for him to tell her he wanted hot water and a tea bag ;-)