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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The big day

This is it, the big day. This time tomorrow, I'm going to be married (and completely exhaused). It's something I've been prepared for, but I'm still amazed that the day came so quickly.

After the wedding tonight, we're seeing some family on Sunday, and taking off for a honeymoon in Mexico. It's going to be fun and relaxing, but I won't be bringing my computer. This means no fun blog posts, no programming, no wikibooking. I dread the thought of what my email inbox will look like when I get back!

Dana's father called me this morning, and asked "are you ready?" My response, in classic me fasion, was "Yeah, I'm getting there". This was a fact, I had just gotten out of the shower and was slowly getting myself ready for the day. "No", he said, "are you mentally ready?" This is such a tough question to answer: How do you mentally prepare for something that you've never done before and hopefully will never have to do again? I am ready though, I've been ready since the day I popped the question. I'm too much of a forethinker to get myself engaged to a woman I wasn't ready to marry.

Last night was the rehearsal dinner, and it was a blast. It's been so long since I had all those guys in the same room together. We talked and joked and had a really good time. Every time I turned around, another white russian appeared at my place, so I got pretty well lubricated by the end of the night. I'm not much of a drinker normally, so it was a pretty rare evening for me.

The boys are due to get to my place around 12:30. We're going to hang out, grab some lunch, and slowly meander our way to the hotel or whereever to get changed into our evening best. Dana's probably in the middle of her multi-hour hair and makeup marathon by now, and I don't envy her one bit. She's going to look gorgeous when it's all over though, so I'm looking forward to that.

Don't know when my next blog post is going to be. Sunday night if I have time, or Early next month otherwise.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The beginning of the end

This is it, the last week before I'm married. On Saturday, we're tying the knot and then it's off to Mexico for a week in the sun with my darling bride. I haven't been keeping up with my blogging recently, and several blogs languish because of it. I wish more volunteers were interested in blogging about Wikibooks, or Wikimedia Chapters.

I've been reading The Art of Agile Development, and it's such a cool book. It reminds me instantly of how things work (or should work) at Wikibooks. Volunteers doing what they want in ill-defined roles just getting the job done. I've been thinking for a long time that I wish Wikibooks took it even further then it does. I wish I had the kind of time necessary to set up the necessary infrastructure!

Taking a semester off (second semester coming up!) gives me plenty of time to think about my life. Something big on the horizon like a wedding really helps to put life into focus. I definitely want to go back to school eventually, but I have so many more questions then I have answers. First I have to pick the subject i want to study, then I have to find a place to go that teaches that, then I have to get accepted there, and then I have to figure out a way to pay for it all. I doubt my work has any kind of program to pay for continuing education. I definitely can't go back for any more school until I find a way to pay for it. Finances are tight enough without adding in another expense like that.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The food I eat

The last time I had to buy my own food was down in the city, my dinky little apartment in south Philly. I had an all-you-can-eat meal plan at Temple's cafeteria. The food was lousy, but i could eat as much of it as I could possibly cram into my face.

Dinners in my apartment were a miracle of frugal spending. Raman noodles, cans of Hormel chili, and all sorts of other little freeze-dried meals. Most dinners were less then 1$, except I would go up to about 3$ to 5$ when I had something to celebrate. I would splurge on donuts and other sweets sometimes to snack on, but I kept my food budget very low.

Now I'm out in the real world and buying my own food again, but things have changed a little. The food I'm buying is a little more expensive, but better and overwhelmingly better for me. I'm learning things too about my palate that I've never known before. For instance, I don't like rice milk (really really don't like it), and I don't like Guava yogurt. I do however love Vitasoy chocolate soy milk. I'm also liking organic food, but it's only a mild preference. I'll only buy organic stuff if it's just as good and not overwhelmingly more expensive.

It's also more difficult to get dinner on the table every night then I had given credit for. It's maybe not as tough as I've heard people bitch and moan about over the years, but staying creative and not falling into a rut is a little difficult. It's so tempting to just declare every thursday to be porkchop night and not have to think about what I'm going to cook while I'm staring into the freezer blankly.

We do have more food shopping options then my parents do. My mother, for years, has been trapped with only a sub-par Giant near enough. In less then the same space, I have three supermarkets to choose from. This means I have more options, and can try new things. Being able to try something new means the creativity comes more easily: Doing something new with chicken and apple sausages is easier then doing something new with chicken breasts.

I'm off to cook some dinner now, hopefully it turns out alright.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


Between McCain's adds which basically call Obama a terrorist and a dishonerable person who hates our troops, to Sarah Palin's fear-mongering and demagoguery, this whole presidential race has gotten very ugly. Misfortunately ugly.

For a lot of years I really liked John McCain. I liked how he was centrist, how he avoided some of the most hard-line stances taken by his party. I liked how his public persona was that of a person who truely put America first, before his own party and before politics. You really got the impression that he cared about the country in a way most other career politicians did.

Now, we're several months into a presidential candidacy that people are calling "bizarre" at best. His off-the-cuff style, which is endearing to some, seems so off-putting in the face of global economic disasters. His advertisements, which started off extoling the virtues that he and Sarah Palin had, have turned so amazingly negative, while Obama's advertisements seem (at least on the channels I watch) to be significantly more positive and more focused on issues.

Sarah Palin spends more then half of a political rally explaining in detail how Obama is connected with "terrorists", and can't seem to put out any specific details about our ailing economy. She doesn't even hardly pause when people in the crowd yell things like "Traitor" and "Terrorist" and "Off with his head!".

I really thought that McCain cared about this country, I thought he was an idealistic American who truely wanted to do good things for the country he loves. But as this campaign gets more negative, as people invoke more racism, and as tempers start getting hotter among the latently racist elements, I can't help but feel that McCain and Palin are doing a great disservice to this country.

They're behind in the polls, and they're despirately grasping at anything they can use to change their fortunes. Losing the presidency again might be pretty disappointing to McCain, but taking the whole country down in flames with him is so much worse.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Today I started playing around with, and I'm pretty impressed by it already. I'm a big fan of RT too, so it was easy to sell me on something that Best Practical made.

For those who don't know, Hiveminder is an issue tracker or a to-do list. Except it's better then that list you hang on your fridge. First, it's on the internet, and the internet is awesome, right? It lets you group and categorize tasks, make notes about them, schedule due dates and repeated events. I list all the things that I want to do, I say when they are due, and it sends me emails and stuff to remind me.

Anyway, I'm going to take this for a spin and see if it works out for me.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Visual Web Developer

The title to this blog is also the newest line on my resume. As of today, one of my job responsibilities is to develop webpages for my company (most of which are for engineer's eyes only, admittedly) using Microsoft's Visual Web Developer.

I've been doing all my rapid prototyping in Perl, which is good because I can get results very quickly to some very challenging problems. I don't have a lot of time in my day, so speed is key: I can't waste time playing around with some tool, I need to be able to make it work, and quickly. However, for all the speed and beauty of Perl, it just isn't something that I can hand off to other engineers because they don't know it. I'm the only one in the office that does. Plus, everything I write is command-line based, and apparently none of our engineers are comfortable working on a commandline (how can this be?) For good or ill, Microsoft's visual studio is the de facto development platform at my place of business, and Visual Basic is the language in use by my department. For web, everything is done in ASP.NET/C#.

Well, not everything. Some of our backroom engineering websites are done using a product called "CodeCharge Studio", which is a visual rapid development tool for webpages. It's not bad per se, but it's proving to be a tool that's more trouble then it's worth. We have two web platforms: The production website which is being programmed using ASP.NET/C#, and this backroom stuff that is being developed using this CodeCharge Studio. Some of the engineers, at least the ones working in this environment, are getting kind of tired of this situation. It doesn't help that some of our "web developers" are not web developers at all: I had to explain to one the difference between GET and POST methods in HTML to one.

So, I'm embarking on a task to start convertings tools en masse to C# for use on our production website. I'm not unfamiliar with C#, but I've never done too much of it before. Now, I'm taking the crash course in it, and am hopeful to be getting some utilities converted and webified soon. I'm just happy to be doing some more code work now then I have been, and learning a new language is always fun.