Sunday, December 24, 2006

Las Vegas Travel Tip #1

Regardless of where you are coming from, if you arrive at the “C” or “D” gates at the McCarran airport in Las Vegas (these are the gates most major airlines use) it will take you at least one hour from the time you step off the plane till the time the first suitcase hits the baggage carousel. This will not be affected by weather, time of day or how busy the airport is. The best you can hope for is one hour.

After five years of this, I feel safe elevating this from theory to proven law.

The reason for this is that the airlines do not handle their own baggage at McCarran; there is one company that does the baggage for all airlines. And they are union. Need I say more?

My advice is that if you are just coming in for a weekend or so, try to pack all you will need into a carry one (keeping in mind the limited size and number of carry-ons allowed) and skip baggage claim altogether. If this is not an option come back later. If you are arriving in the morning or afternoon, go grab breakfast/lunch or check into your hotel. If it’s night, come back in the morning. At some point, someone from the airline will take you stuff off the carousel and lock it up in the airlines baggage office. In my experience, no airline has had a problem with this as they realize there is a problem, but seem powerless (or too apathetic) to do anything about it.

I did complain about this at one point, and was told by the person in the baggage office that part of the problem is that the gates are one mile away, and the truck is only allowed to drive 15 miles an hour. I pointed out that by the logic, it should take four minutes to get from the plane to the baggage claim. Apparently my grasp of basic math was too much for her, so she just kind of wandered off with a confused look on her face. I didn’t point out that after the four minutes for transit that still leaves 56 minutes. I was worried that any more use of math skills would have caused me to be branded as a “witch” and I would have been burned at the stake by the frightened, ignorant villagers.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sweet! Now all I need is a cane and a big bottle of Vicoden!

As far as I'm concerned, the Wii has a "killer app."
Trauma Center is a game where you basically get to play God doctor. You use the Wii Remote to do things like handle a scalpel, defribluator and nurses backsides.

No word yet on if you'll be able to use your medical talents to perform un-natural experiments on your "patients" like attaching extra arms or giving them gills, but the game is reportedly so real that it comes with a malepractice lawsuit in the box.

I figure between this and the ability to use Google to diagnose patients, my mother will soon realize her dream of having a doctor in the family. And the Wii even had a golf game to boot; It's one stop shopping!

I'll be sure to let everybody know when I put out my shingle!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Everyone do the CodeMash!

In an effort to use my "blogging powers" for good instead of evil, I come to you today to pimp CodeMash.

What is CodeMash? Well, if hadn't been so lazy and just clicked on the link you would know that...

CodeMash is a unique event that will educate developers on current practices, methodologies and technology trends in variety of platforms and development languages such as Java, .NET, Ruby and PHP. Held January 18-19, 2007 at the lush Kalahari resort in Sandusky, Ohio, attendees will be able to attend a world-class technical conference amid Ohio's largest indoor waterpark. So nobody will frown if you show up in shorts, sandals, and your loudest t-shirt. You might even win a prize for doing so.

Oh, to be in Sandusky in January.

Seriously though, the event is $99 ($149 if you screw around and miss the early-bird date), plus hotel and transport. When you consider the calibur of speaker appearing (Neal Ford, Scott Guthrie, Bruce Eckel, Jesus) it's a hell of a deal!

See you there!

Update: Jesus has backed out. Apparently there is a scheduling confilct as he was already commited to appearing in a piece of burnt toast in a trailer park in Alabama that week. Bummer.

Monday, November 27, 2006

What I Did On My Thanksgiving Vacation...

Like most people, I travel to see my family over the holidays. Seeing as my family lives on the other side of the country, and the departure of America West airlines from Columbus has left me with no direct flight options, and my steadfast refusal to pay $800 - $900 for one round trip coach ticket to Las Vegas, I spend a lot of time during the holiday season sitting in airports for several hours on end.

My Confession

I can’t sleep in airports. In part it’s because I am a bit paranoid of missing my flight when it is called, then having to scramble at the busiest travel time of the year to make other arraignments. I guess I’ve seen “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” too many times. Also, in spite of all the post-911 security measures, I don’t know that I feel secure enough to take a nap without someone “watching my back.” I’m too afraid that when I wake up, I’m going to pick up the wrong knapsack, then the drug dealers, terrorists and CIA will all be chasing me to retrieve it, not believing that I am just a guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. OK, I guess I’ve seen too many James Bond movies too.

So, to pass the time I always bring a few books with me. Over my abbreviated Thanksgiving vacation, I had a chance to read two:

Programming Atlas

This is the first (and from what I could find, only) book on Atlas. O’Reilly was touting the “Rough Cut” of this at Tech Ed., and this, I suppose, is the result. All in all, it’s an OK book. Since there have been at least two revs. of Atlas since it hit the presses, the details are a bit dated. A lot of the examples will not work now, and no updates have been posted to the books site. A lot of the underlying “fundamentals” of how Atlas works are there, but it doesn’t go deep enough make up for the lack of practical working examples. Examples are presented in a way that violate almost every “best-practice” in web development, which I understand may be a good idea for the sake of clarity in presenting an example, but never advises the reader where they are deviating from the way things should be done. Not good for “less seasoned” developers who tend to parrot what they read in a book as opposed to applying the knowledge to their own needs.
I also feel the books spends too much time on the JavaScript side of the equation, teaching you how to manipulate Atlas controls via JavaScript while only devoting only a few pages to update panels. Don’t get me wrong, the JavaScript stuff they show is cool, but the way they present the information does not make Atlas seem all that much easier or more useful than good ol’ client-side JavaScript. That’s especially true when you take into account that only 30 pages of an over 300 page book is dedicated to using Atlas with Web Services.
It’s got some cool sections about extending controls and writing Atlas controls on your own. It also had a chapter on using Microsoft’s “Virtual Earth” which made me appreciate how easy to use the Google Maps API really is. Granted, I’ve never actually used Virtual Earth, but if this book is any indication, I doubt I ever will. A chapter on Web Parts also seems kind of thrown together and not all that useful. All in all, you’re better off just sticking to the tutorials Microsoft offers on the Atlas website.

And yes, I know that the offical name is "ASP.NET AJAX." But I just got people used to the terms "AJAX" and "ATLAS" and understanding that they were not always interchangeable. It took weeks! So with certin people at least, I'm going to continue calling it Atlas for the time being. Besides it's easier to say "Atlas" than "ASP.NET AJAX."

HTML Utopia: Designing Without Tables Using CSS

Ahhhh…. Much better. Pretty much any web developer worth their salt has read “The Zeldman Book.” I almost referred to it as “The Orange Book” out of habit, but since the second edition is green I will need to work to break myself of that habit.
Anyway, I’m sure most of you have read it. While I enjoyed the book, and agreed with its premise, I was a little disappointed with a lack of practical “This is how you do it in the real word” type of content. This book does an excellent job of bridging the gap. It starts with an explanation of what web standards are (it even references A List Apart) and why you should use them. It does a great job of explaining the need of accessibility, and gives some pointers on how to achieve this. The “best-practices” of CSS are explained. From there, the book is chock-full of practical CSS knowledge from setting colors and fonts to creating various layouts all without tables. The last third of the book in a series of appendixes that among other goodies has a pretty extensive reference of CSS attributes. The authors do a good job of pointing out where different browsers implement the standard differently, but I notice that no reference was made to the Internet Explorer Bug in their discussion of the “Box Model.” That glaring omission aside, I found this to be one of the best CSS books I’ve ever read, and I wish I had found the first edition of this book a couple years ago.


So, with Thanksgiving gone, I’m getting my reading list for Christmas together. So far, the only thing on it is “The Security Development Lifecycle” by Michael Howard and Steve Lipner. I actually picked this up at Tech Ed, but due to more pressing matters, didn’t start reading it right away. Then I sort of… uh… forgot about it. Hey it happens! I “rediscovered” it during the move, and it is back on the list.

So, if anybody out there has any suggestions, let me know!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"Lose Wieght Now, Ask Me How" the Series

Well, people really seemed to like my “lose weight” post and have asked me for some more “detailed” information, which makes sense since the original post was so short. So, I’ll be posting a series of articles on how I lost the weight. You are free to follow along, but just remember that everyone is different, and what worked for me may not be best with you. You should check with a doctor when in doubt.

This is going to be a series of articles. I’m going to start with food. I’m going to cover exercise as well, but not today. I’m probably going to switch back and forth.

Forget what you think you know

When people want to lose weight, instinctively the first thing they try to do is eat less. They cut out in between meal snacks. They even sometimes try to cut out whole meals (like breakfast). That isn’t going to work. As I said in the previous post, your body uses food for energy and to replace dead cells and keep the body healthy. If you limit the amount of food you eat, or how often you eat it in a drastic manner, the body believes it’s starving and will fight back. You will have less energy and your body will start to cannibalize itself to survive, usually starting with the muscles. Which means you’ll lose weight, but not fat. You’ll also be sick and kind of gross looking.

What to Eat

Everything you eat is one of three things, all of which you need;

  • Protein – Meats, eggs, nuts, dairy, etc.

  • Fat – Just what it sounds like

  • Carbohydrates – Everything else.


You need protein because it’s what your body is made of. Without it you will shrivel up and turn to dust! OK, maybe not. But, you will have heath issues since proteins are actually amino acids, which you need too do things you enjoy, like being alive.

You need fats because they are what you body uses to make hormones. They are also used to make healthy skin and hair. So without fat in your diet you will be a cranky person with dry cracked skin and bad hair. But that wont matter because you’ll also be dead. Turns out that there are fat soluble vitamins that you need that can only be absorbed in the presence of fat (more on vitamins later). There are good fats and bad fats. Again, I’ll expand on this later, but for now use canola for high-heat applications, olive oil for cold/no heat applications. Use butter (sparingly) instead of margarine and for now, no deep frying.

Carbohydrates are plant matter, and either come in the form of sugar (the plants energy source) or fiber (the plants structure). Fiber helps you not cry when you go to the bathroom. Nuff said, just eat it. Sugar is used to provide energy. Refined sugar, literally plant sugar that has been refined down to being super-concentrated, make things like table sugar, corn syrup and pretty much anything on an ingredient label that ends with “-ulose.” Refined sugar is bad because it promotes a heavy insulin response (more on why this is bad in a latter post). Natural sugars are found in things like fruit and fruit juices. Starch is sugar, but food generally considered “starchy” like potatoes and corn don’t have as much fiber that fruit does. “Starchier” sugars are also more concentrated than sugars from other plants, so moderation is key.

You do need both types of carbohydrates. The why is a little more complicated than why you need protein and fat, so I’ll save if for when I talk about how metabolism work. For now, try to eat at least two pieces of fruit a day and try to limit the amount of starchy foods. Try to limit foods high in sugar or starch to earlier in the day (I try not to have any after 3:00PM) Try to eat at least four servings of vegetables a day.

OK, I realize I didn’t give too much advice about what specifically to eat. So, without further explanation, here is a sample menu for me for one day:

  • 7:15ish AM (post workout) 2 eggs + 2 egg whites scrambled

  • 10:00 AM – One serving of fruit

  • 12:00 AM - Lunch. Today it was chicken fajitas minus the sour cream, pico de whatever or tortillas. Basically, just the “hot part.” Yes, some people think this is weird. No, I don’t care.

  • 2:00 PM – One serving of low-fat yogurt (plain)

  • 4:00 PM – One protein bar

  • 6:30ish PM – One large salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. One (lean) pork chop. One serving steamed broccoli.

  • 9:00is PM (bed time) – One protein shake

During the day, I drink about one gallon of water

By the way, “water” does not mean “diet soda.” It means water.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Great Pumpkin Question...

Normally, I don't do requests. But Brian <Anzalone> recently suggested I do a post where I discuss the age old question; Street Fighter II vs. Mortal Kombat. But I thought that was a stupid idea, so instead I'm gonna talk about Windows applications vs. Web-based applications.

Definition of Terms
For those non-techies who are still reading, like my parents, Windows applications are applications that you install locally on your computer (your hard drive) and you can run without being connected to the Internet. These are applications like Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.

Web-based applications are applications that you used through a web browser. The most popular web application is Google, but others include Mapquest and things like on-line banking websites and bill-pay sites like Check Free.

Which One to Use In One Easy Step
A lot of people who don't develop applications on both sides of the argument think that there is only one answer to the question "Should I make this a Windows application, or a web-based application?" and they are right. But it's not the answer they think. The correct answer is "it depends."

Tale Of the Tape
Windows applications have some definite benefits of Web based applications. From a developer’s side, it can be easier to control the way a user interacts with the user interface in a Windows application. For Web Applications, you're sort of at the mercy of the interaction the user has with the browser. Things like the "Back" button, navigating directly to an address inside the application or simply shutting down the browser in the middle of an operation are all things that the developer and architect have to work around in the "Web World."

Since Windows application run entirely on the desktop and don't generally have to make a bunch of calls, or post backs, to the server, there is the (perception) of speed as well. Technologies like AJAX and ASP.NET AJAX (formerly Atlas) have all but eliminated this advantage however.

Traditionally, user interface design on Windows applications has always been easier; you just put a component on a Winform, set some properties and you're done! Web Applications have been a little more complicated than that; back in the "old days" you used to have to create tables and use those to format you user interface. The other issue had been that not all browsers rendered all controls the same way. Heck, some browsers didn't support certain controls at all! With the growing adoption of Web Standards and the growing use of CSS style sheets to take care of all formatting (leaving HTML to be the keeper of the content) this is another factor that is starting to swing towards Web Applications favor.

To change the whole look of a Web Application you simply change the style sheet. No so with Windows Applications; if you were smart you may have a user interface hierarchy, allowing you to make changes to a few base forms which will propagate through your application. If not, you were visiting EVERY window in your application and changing every control on that window.

“Client side” scripting and validation is one area where Windows applications may still have an upper hand. Javascript has come a long way, but it is still ugly and not a lot of fun to debug. ASP.NET AJAX shows some promise in alleviating this, but it still in it’s infancy in that regard. Windows applications don’t have this issue, your presentation layer is easily accessible, easily automated and easy to debug.
Deployment is a mixed bag. Web applications are easy to deploy. You just put the application on the web server of your choice, send your users a link (or if you’re really snazzy and on top of the whole “Enterprise Computing” thing, you’ll have a portal for the users with a link to your new application) No going to each users machine, installing local components, making sure they have all the prerequisites, installing the application and setting up the database configuration. Now multiply that times about 250. So, in a corporate environment, with a centralized server, Web is clearly the answer for deployment purposes.

For all of Windows deployment headaches though, it’s still easier to write an install package for a home user buying a shrink-wrapped product than have them set up a Web-based application on their computer. Most home users aren’t going to be savvy enough to know if they have IIS or Apache installed, let alone how to configure it.

What to Do, What to Do...
When I am working on an application and I have to make the decision about Windows vs. Web, I ask myself some questions:

  • Is this application going to be deployed in a corporate environment, or shrink-wrapped?
  • Where is my data going to live?
  • How often will the application need to be upgraded?
  • Who is going to support this application?
  • Does this application need to be Section 508 compliant (if you get ANY money from the Federal government, the answer is “yes.”)
  • What kind of machine is it going to be deployed to?
  • What kind of infrastructure am I going to be working with?
  • What kind of security issues am I going to have to deal with?
  • Is the user going to allow cookies and have Javascript turned on?
  • Who is the applications audience?
  • Is the “content” of the application going to be static?
  • What does the client want? (Remembering that the client is NOT always right, but they are always the client)

The way these questions get answered will generally lead you down the correct path. Yeah, some questions are more important than others, but it’s good to have as complete a picture of what’s going on as possible.

Regardless of which avenue you choose, good architecture is important. A lot of bad Web applications have been built by people who thought you could design them to be just like Windows applications. It’s apples and oranges, and each has unique challenges.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lose weight now, ask me how.

For those of you who only know me from this blog, or have met me within the past two years, you may not know that about three years ago, I had a pretty severe weight problem. That may be putting it mildly. Today I weigh about 220 and have (according to a very unscientific guess from my doctor) about 12-15% body fat. Three years ago, I weighed... well, to be honest I don't really know. The scale at my gym, which was actually designed for commercial bakers, only went up to 450 pounds, and I topped it out when I started my weight loss program. I can tell you that my pants were 60" in the waist. That's five feet.

I am one of the lucky few; I am a person who has been heavy all of his adult life, who has managed to lose weight and become physically fit. Heck, I'm downright athletic!

Not to overplay this, but it has taken a bit of a commitment from me. I've sort of developed into a bit of a "gym rat" and I definitely am more conscious and careful about what (and how) I eat. Now, I'm not one of these guys who lives to work out. I'm not one of these "muscle-heads" who is obsessed with talking about his lats, gluts, pecs and/or delts. I am a bit of a food-snob (I've always been a picky eater), but I don't go around imposing my "food-beliefs" on others. Some people at work may dispute this, but I have always maintained that at lunch they are free to go where they want, I am free to go with them or decline.

The upside of this, and the reason for this post, is that because of my new-found health and my interest in working out and nutrition, a lot of people ask me for advice. I really don't mind sharing. Anybody who's asked me knows that I can, and do, talk at great length about these things when prompted. In fact, I tend to spout information so fast that I think some people are overwhelmed.

So, I decided to go ahead and write a post about this. That way anyone who is interested in my advice, but not interested in talking to me can benefit! :)

I am not a nutritional anthropologist (disclaimer)

I am not a trainer. I am not a nutritionist. I am just a guy who, with a lot of help, lost a lot of weight. I could not have done this without help from my trainer and my nutritionist. If it weren't for them I would still be eating nothing but lettuce and wondering what those bars with the round black things on the ends were for. So, no; I will not train you. Don't even ask. I am more than happy to refer you to a trainer if you like. Don't ask me to define a diet plan for you. I won’t do it. I have lost touch my nutritionist, but if you are really interested I can ask around and find a good nutritionist for you.

Step one: Don't get fat

The reason I am not on TV hawking sandwiches, or writing an "inspirational" book about my "ordeal" that will soon be a cable movie of the week is because, aside from the fact that no one has asked me, I am more than a little bit embarrassed that I got as fat as I did. I wasn't at the time, at the time I just didn't care. But now that I look back, I realize I wasted a lot of years of my life, and it sucks. The other reason is that I am fully conscious of the fact that I did it to myself. McDonalds didn't twist my arm. No one from Häagen-Dazs came to my house and held a gun to my head. I choose to eat that way. I choose not to be physically active. And I'm sorry if this rubs you the wrong way, but if you're overweight there's a good chance you did it to yourself too.

If this step didn’t go as planned, read on.

Food is your friend

The first thing I had to learn was how to eat to lose weight. Most people think that just cutting out in-between meal snacks and eating less is the way to go. It makes sense; less food, less fat. That’s only partially true;

Increasing your metabolism is really what all this food-management (don’t call it a diet!) and exercise amount to. They are ways to increase your metabolism so that you burn calories all the time. If you don’t eat enough, or often enough and the food you eat has dubious nutritional value, your body begins to think its starving. Your body, smart device that it is, is always looking for ways to preserve itself. If you really were starving, your body would conserve fat and ratchet down your available energy to conserve resources. To change this you need to:

Eat like a Hobbit. I eat six to seven meals a day. Breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, after-lunch snack, pre-dinner snack, dinner and bed-time snack. The idea is to keep the body burning food. This increases your metabolism.

Pay attention to what you eat. These are not huge Sopranos Sunday dinner type meals. They are just little thing I can eat leisurely in five to ten minutes. An apple. A yogurt. A protein bar. A small sandwich. I generally eat a little more at lunch, since I find the energy helps keep me going in the afternoon. I generally try to eat as much whole or organic food as possible. Frankly, I think the organic food tastes a little better. I try to keep carbs in general low and I try to keep out as many highly-processed carbs (sugar, white bread and pretty much any mass-produced “junk-food”) to an absolute minimum. Some fruit (especially earlier in the day), some dairy. Vegetables are always good since most have very few calories and are pretty filling, just don’t dunk them in butter or ranch dressing and absolutely don’t dip them in batter and deep-fry them! Protein is important since it’s what your body uses to build muscle (more on that later). Also, you have to have some fat. Your body needs fat. It uses fat to create skin cells, create hair cells and regulate you hormonal levels. This probably explains why so many of those people on low-fat diets are so moody. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble, so if you don’t eat fat, your body’s ability to absorb them is limited. There are good fats and bad fats. Olive oil and canola are good. Using a little butter is OK. Using a whole stick a day is not. Margarine, besides tasting horrible, has trans-fats, which doctors say are “bad.”

Try to eat a lot of fish. Especially “fatty” fish like salmon and tuna. It has a lot of protein and the Omega-3 fats in fish are the “good” cholesterol. Chicken is a good source of protein as well. Beef is good, but does have a lot of [bad] fat, so I try not to have more than four or five servings a week. Same with pork. Buffalo, which is now available in most super markets it a good option. It tastes the same as beef, but has a lot less fat. But, you have to be careful. Less fat means that you have to watch how you cook it; it’s very easy to dry out if you’re not careful.

Now the fun part. I stick religiously to this food-management plan. However, as part of it, every fourth day I have a “cheat” or “off” day. This is when I can indulge. Generally, I have one cheat on this day. But, if I am finding that I have been plateauing for a while, I will have one day where I “cheat my ass off.” This usually “un-sticks” me and I start losing weight again. So, it’s not “I can never have cake and ice cream again.” It’s “I just can’t have cake and ice cream right now.” This has helped in a lot of way. Like I indicated, it has helped my body stay in the fat-loss phase and not plateau. It has also saved my sanity; I don’t think I could live in a world without ice cream.

You are going to have to work out

You can’t loose weight and get in shape by ONLY dieting or ONLY working out. You have to do both. It’s a binary system, and one with out the other is a waste of time.

My workout regimen is divided into two area; cardio and weight training. Again, it’s a binary system and you really need to do both. I work out six days a week, doing three days of each.

Before doing any exercise, I warm up for five minutes on the treadmill, and stretch for ten. I’ve found that this actually does help me perform better when it’s time to start my workout proper, so I almost never skip this step.

Cardio is important because it increases your lung capacity and your heart health. It increases your energy. It helps your body transmit oxygen to your muscles faster. It lowers your blood pressure. It increases your red blood cell count, which also helps the movement of oxygen through the body. It also burns a lot of calories quickly. I try to do at least 30 minutes, three times a week.

Running or jogging is a good cardio exercise, and the one I enjoy the most. Of all the cardio I do, this is one of the top calorie burners. You have to be careful with it, as the impact on your knees can cause on-going issues. Because of that I did not run until I was less than 220 pounds and I only run one day a week. I’ve tried running more than that (against my trainer’s advice) and my joints paid for it.

The stair mill is another exercise I try to do every week. I do it because it is a very intense workout with not a lot of “joint impact.” I dread it because it’s the longest 30 minutes of my life. It’s grueling. It’s boring. It will tire your legs out in ways I cannot describe with just words. But, like running, this burns a lot of calories. I’m also very happy when it’s FINALLY over, but that may just be the endorphins talking.

The other big cardio thing I do is the “cross trainer.” This is a lighter workout than running or using the stair mill, and has almost zero impact. You don’t burn as many calories. This is basically because no machine, or none that I’ve found anyway, are able to reliably keep a pace and resistance level that's not too hard and not too soft, but juuuust right. I usually do this in between running and stair milling days as a mini-break.

I do not like the elliptical. I’ve yet to find one of these that had a stride I feel comfortable with. I also do not like bikes. Unless your in a spinning class with Barbie the blonde 90 pound fitness-dominatrix yelling at you to “Go faster, you p***y!” it’s too hard for get a really intense workout. Since you can sit, your legs don’t have to support your weight, so you’re really not working a big enough muscle group.

Then there are weights. You have to lift weights, there’s really no way around it. The best thing you can do for long term weight loss, and metabolism boosting, is to develop some muscles. You don’t need to build big Ah-nold muscles, but you do need to tone and develop what you have. The fact is that cardio will burn calories while you are doing it. Increasing muscles mass, even just a little or at least toning and developing the muscle mass you already have will burn more calories throughout the day. The body needs to burn more calories to maintain the muscles, and it needs to burn them constantly. Hence the multiple small meals throughout the day.

You may say you don’t want to do weights. They are boring, they are hard. You may not want to get "big." True, sometimes that can be a little boring. If that’s the case, get a workout buddy. Or get an iPod. Or go to a gym that has a TV and watch that while you lift. If you are finding it too “hard” to lift, look at what you are doing. You are probably either using incorrect technique or too much weight. If you go to a “large corporate gym” there are usually trainers milling around (trying to drum up sales) who you can ask for a couple minutes of advice. If finances allow, you might even want to sign up with one for a few sessions to help learn the proper way to lift. But lifting is important, so don’t skip it.

So now the question is free weights or weight machines. Weight machines are generally easy to use, safe and will help you with your technique. The problem with machines is that if you are too tall, too short, too wide, have longer than average extremities or just plan don’t “fit” in the machine, it can be a little tough. Machines also don’t allow you to work the “stabilizing” muscles that free weights do (they are the muscles that make sure when you press you are controlling the weights). Also, over time your body can learn how to “cheat” the machine, meaning you can be lifting more and more, but your body has found a way to off-load some of the work, either to the wrong muscle group or to the machine itself via momentum and leverage. Machines also don’t give you a lot of flexibility.

Free weights are a little tougher to use. You have to have some idea what muscle group you want to work, and what type of exercise will do that. You have to know how to do that exercise correctly and safely. But, free weights give you a lot more flexibility in your work outs. They also require you to use those stabilizing muscles and reduce your bodies ability to “cheat” (assuming you are using correct technique) Muscles tend to develop faster with free weights, and if you want to “go big” using free weights generally allow you the option of lifting more weight than a machine (most upper body machines I’ve seen at the gym “top out” at some point).

I use mostly free weights. There are a few things that are still just plain easier with a machine, but not many that I have found.

A few final things about weights:

Work all your muscles groups. Don’t be “that guy” who just goes in and does nothing but bench presses or curls. Sure, his arms and chest may be strong, but he’s got a gut, and he’s wearing that weight lifting belt because his back is practically too weak to support his own body weight. The major muscles groups are legs, abdominals, chest, back, shoulders and arms. Work all of them. Even if you think you don’t have to, you should. I know a lot of people will say “Well, I just want to lose a few inches around my waist, so I’ll just do abdominal exercises.” The problem with that is that “spot-reducing” doesn’t work. To get energy, your body is going to burn fat. Fat is released through the blood, so the particular muscle group you are working doesn’t care where it comes from. The body, being very efficient, is going to use that fat that is easiest to liberate. This is always that fat that was stored last. The body also will try to keep the fat as close to your core as possible (again, making it easy to get to) so you will first notice fat loss in your hands and feet since this was the fat usually stored last. So, you can do all the crunches you want, the bottom line is that your waist will still be one of the last places you body takes the fat from.

It’s not a race. The object isn’t to lift as fast as you can. That’s not going to get you anywhere; it’s all physics doing the work at that point. Muscles development occurs by utilizing resistance over time. By going fast, you are reducing your time to almost zero. What is zero times any other number? Zero.

It’s important to eat after you work out (weights or cardio). You should try to eat something within an hour. This is because for the hour after you finish, your body will not release insulin in response to an increase in blood sugar. Insulin is one of the hormones that promote fat storage, so without it more energy goes directly into the muscles.

One final thing about exercise in general; know your limits. Just this past Friday a man died at my gym playing racquet ball. I didn’t know this guy personally, but I know that that whole group of guys was very competitive and would often push themselves beyond a healthy point. Last week was a worst-case scenario of what can happen when you overdo it. Don’t let it get that far. Don’t count on the gym staff to be able to do effective CPR, most are woefully under trained. Don’t count on your gym to have an Automated External Defribulator. Even those OSHA requires they have one, most don’t. Be careful and don’t over do it!

Well, that’s pretty much it. Again, I can’t say that this is going to work for you, but it worked for me. I can say that you have a better chance to lose weight by eating better and exercising than you do eating sandwiches or taking “herbal” diet pills. The key is to stick with it and don’t get discouraged. It may take a little while to start seeing results, but you will.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Buying the Farm Cow House Part 3: Let there be FIBER!

So, the saga ends; I have purchased a house.

I finally selected on a nice 3 bed, 2 bath spec home in a nice quiet wooded area. This house has pretty much the same floor plan as the house in my last post on the subject, but has an extra family room and a much better laid out master bedroom/bathroom. So, I guess I got the cuter twin sister. :) Not only that, but since it’s a spec home, and the builder is anxious to unload it, I got what I would call a pretty good deal.

But I found out one of the best things about the house today. I called to make arraignments to have the phone service set up. I was a little discouraged to hear that I would not be able to keep my 1.5 Mbit DSL service in my new house. Since it was new construction and kind of out in “Gods country” I figured this was a risk I was running, and was resigning myself to the reality that I would have to get a cable modem. I don’t have anything really against cable modems, but I don’t buy my television programing through them, so I would have to pay a bit of a surcharge for just internet access. It’s also one more bill I have to deal with every month. Just a pain in the butt.

I was saved though. While I cannot get DSL, I do get FIBER!

Optics, that is. So, instead of 1.5 Mbits, I’m getting 6!

This owning a house thing just gets better and better. I’m half expecting to go into my basement one day and find a hidden entrance to Ben & Jerry's secret Ice-Cream Mine or something…

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

All of your Tent of Meeting are belong to us.

An entry from the journal of Ben-Dhar, 52nd level Bard/Magic User/Fighter/Monk/Ranger/Project Engineer and Lord of Westervillenhaus….

The cold wind ripping at our skin could only signal one thing; the arrival of the 60th level Project Manager and his Business Analyst hordes. Before I could react, he deployed his "Tent of Meeting" and was beginning the incantation of the dreaded “Mandatory Attendance” spell. My developer quickly produced a weathered scroll from his pack and began to read from the “Documents of User Requirements”, turning back the horrible attack. Before we could celebrate our victory, he quickly drew his “Staff of Working this Weekend” and leveled it squarely at us. I prepared for the worst...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Buying a House Part 2: Electric Boogaloo

Actually, I should call this "You don't have to get dumped to feel the sting of rejection."

I made an offer on a house last week. My realtor and I spent quite a bit of time hammering out a number we felt was reasonable. We didn't expect them to accept, but we expected a reasonable counter-offer. The offer was about 6% below asking, and less than $2,000 below the appraised value according to the county auditor.

The counter offer came back; it was for the asking price, less $100.00. No, I didn't mis-type that, one HUNDRED dollars less than the asking price. Not even worth driving to the realtor's office to sign the paper work to make the offer, in my opinion!

My realtor called me and I thought about it (for about half a second) before I told her not to bother writing up another offer. The situation is that the husband has been transferred to Texas (he's there now) and the wife is there with two small children, a cat and a dog. The house has been on the market over four months. School just started, so no local family is going to be looking because they aren't going to be willing to pull their kids out of school now. The holidays are coming up, and my realtor tells me that it's very slow during this time of year. On top of that, it is very much a buyers market here right now.

So, I think I'm right to walk away, but like most relationships, I find myself thinking about what could have been. How nice it would be to kick-back on that deck after work. Then I find myself wondering what the house is doing now? Does the house ever think about me? Does it regret it's decision? Maybe the house and I could reconcile, but wouldn't I always be thinking in the back of my mind how the house cruelly cast me aside before and my do it again? Maybe the house is seeing other potential buyers? Maybe it's having these huge open houses, with any Tom, Dick and/or Harry walking through it, checking the closet space, measuring the bedrooms, examining it's fixtures...

Uh... Sorry...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Some People Have No Freakin' Class

So, unless you've been living under a large, rock-shaped object for the past week, you've probably heard by now that Steve Irwin, "The Crocodile Hunter" was killed in a bizarre accident. Bizarre when you consider that the first time I saw they guy, all I saw was his feet and the rest of him was wedged into a rattlesnake den beneath a large boulder-shaped object, from which he was grabbing said snakes and pulling them out of the hole, and this behavior was not unusual for him.

I was a casual fan, and I wasn't going to post anything because pretty much anyone with a website already has, and how much more can someone say about what happened. It was tragic and weird, but life is like that sometimes.

That was until I saw this comment from Germaine Greer, the author of "The Female Eunuch":

"I really found the whole Steve Irwin phenomenon embarrassing and I'm not the only person who did, or indeed the only Australian who did."

She then called anyone who is mourning Irwin's death "stupid," sucker-punched an orphan, burned down a hospital and ate a live puppy.

OK, I made those last three things up.

Geeze, is it just me or does this broad need to get laid?

I would remind this dried up, man-hating bag that

  • No one asked her

  • She hasn’t done anything culturally relevant in about 20 years (and no, bailing out of the British version of “Big Brother” doesn’t count)

  • Irwin did a lot to help endangered animals not only in Australia, but the whole world

  • He has a wife and two kids who are going to miss him. Are they stupid?

I would also like to remind her that just because she is miserable and unhappy is no reason to be such a bitch.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

So long Sony...?

This has not been Sony's year…

It all stared with the iPod. The Walkman used to be the king of portable audio. When was the last time you saw one. I mean one being used, not in a museum or a picture or something. Take your time…

It all stared with the DRM/Root Kit shit storm of 2005. While the lawsuits and investigations still continue, the public at large (meaning the non-techie crowd) had largely forgotten it and the stain of embarrassment was starting to fade.

Enter Playstation 3 and Blu-Ray. Or “a gaming system that no one can afford that supports a standard that no one gives a fat rat’s ass about.” I’m not a gamer, but even if I were I can’t imagine spending $600 and a gaming system. Especially when the 360, which has a whole “mess’o” games slated to come out, and the Wii (which looks like a much cooler console) are it’s competition. And as for Blu-Ray? Oh Sony, did you learn nothing from the Betamax?

Yesterday, Dell announced its recall of laptops with Sony batteries. Not bad enough? Well, how bad does it make it now that airlines are now making an examples of your consumers?

Now it’s Apples turn to ruin Sony’s day.

So I’m wondering; how much can Sony take? Their sales of consumer electronics are down. They are still facing lawsuits and investigations from “Root Kit-gate.” They have sunk a butt-load of money into a console and standard that many people say is DOA. And now their laptop batteries are potential explosive devices, which in some case are being deployed near a very “personal” (not to mention tender) area of peoples bodies. The first “my laptop ruined my life” lawsuit is in the works already.

A lot of people say “Sony’s a big company. They have a ton of money, they aren’t going anywhere.”


I would like you to think about some other companies that had lots of money;

Pan Am
Eastern Airlines
Builders Square
Montgomery Ward
Big Bear

Seems to me it can happen to anyone…

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Microsoft Virual Labs; a review redux...

VL Guy (from Microsoft???) made some comments on this thread, but since it's kind of old, and probably not being closely followed anymore, I thought I would just post to let everyone know that (per VL Guy)...

Also, the VL team is trying a new format - part Webcast/part Virtual Lab - on Architecting with Team Foundation Server. It's a one shot deal on Wed, Aug 30th, 12:00pm PST. Check it out:

If the 1st run is successful, they may run more of these and make them viewable on-demand.


Also, check out the new format the team is piloting on Architecting with Team Foundation Server It's part Webcast and part Virtual Lab but it's a one shot deal on Wednesday, Aug 30th, 12:00PM PST.

If it goes well they may run more down the road.

Very good!

Unfortunatly, being at a client site I will not be able to partake of the August 30th lab. Unless.... [cough, cough] uh... I think I feel a cold coming on. Uh, yeah... I have a feeling it's going to hit me the middle of next week... [cough, cough]... ;)

Friday, August 18, 2006

The end is nigh!

I'm convinced that humanity as a race is doomed. And we're doing it to ourselves.


Because too many of us are too lazy to do anything creative or positive, and are instead content to capitalize on the stupidity of others. What's not helping this is that nowadays trouble-making douche-bags seem to be rewarded for their trouble-making douche-baggery as opposed to being punished

Both points are proven by the list of "winners" of the 2006 "Stella Awards."

What are the "Stella Awards?" From their website:

The Stella Awards were inspired by Stella Liebeck. In 1992, Stella, then 79, spilled a cup of McDonald's coffee onto her lap, burning herself. A New Mexico jury awarded her $2.9 million in damages, but that's not the whole story. Ever since, the name "Stella Award" has been applied to any wild, outrageous, or ridiculous lawsuits -- including bogus cases!

And this years crop do not disappoint. That is assuming you don't give a fat rats ass about the future of civilization. If you do care, well... you're pretty much screwed.

Couple of my favories:

October 1998: Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pa., was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up, because the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation. Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found in the garage and a large bag of dry dog food. Mr. Dickson sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of a half million dollars.

It’s a sad day when you a probably better off shooting a person who breaks into your house then calling the cops. And it really looks like that’s where this is heading; people aren’t going to stand for this insult added to injury. How long till life looks like a scene from "Mad Max"?

January 2000: Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle, tripping over a toddler who was running amuck inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering that the misbehaving little fellow was Ms. Robertson's son.

So, it's not bad enough we have these children of lousy parents running around being generally annoying, now the parents get to sue when they are unable to control their children? Greaaat. I'll just stick to dogs; they are easier to train, and usually much more grateful for what you give them.

Speaking of dogs...

October 1999: Jerry Williams of Little Rock Arkansas was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor's beagle. The dog was on a chain in its owner's fenced-in yard at the time. Mr. Williams was also in the fenced-in yard. The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog may have been provoked by Mr. Williams who, at the time, was repeatedly shooting it with a pellet gun.

First of all, where's PETA in all of this? I guess they only care about animals that are trendy or can get them press coverage.

Secondly, anyone who would shoot a dog, a smaller breed none the less, when it is on a chain is seriously messed up in the head. I bet you this idiot now holds some kind of "grudge" against the dog. Well, it's clearly the dogs fault; after all if it didn't want to be shot it shouldn't have been sitting there on a chain behind a fence!

Pick on Dan Quayle as much as you like, he got one thing right on; we need to do something about these lawsuits!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take my Rolodex and meet with my lawyer. I'm sure there is someone in there I have a case against!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

WHEW! That was a close one!

In a follow up to my previous post about "Hells Kitchen" it with great relief that I get to post about Heather winning the contest. Mostly because I posted her odds at 2:1, which makes me look pretty smart! :)

I had her pegged as “the bitch” early on, and while she can be demanding, I think that label was a little off. Especially given the crap she had to take from Sarah the whole way! She did a good job leading her team and she deserved to win. Good for her!

Virginia is a nice girl, but in my opinion her running a major resturant would have been a complete disaster! Yeah, she has a great… uh, palette, but she had no leadership and did nothing to motivate her team. For example, starting your “pep talk” by telling your team “I picked weak people on purpose so I could see what you can do” doesn’t really inspire greatness. And frankly, it was stupid. The final service to determine if you are going to win the whole thing is not the time to vindicate the dead-wood. And Virginia paid for it, big time. In my opinion, her agreeing to pay her guys if she won was the harbinger of doom. Heather had the strongest team because besides being good in the kitchen, they (well, maybe not Sarah so much) wanted to see her win. Virginia’s team didn’t give a shit. Yeah, money motivates but only to a certain degree.

Oh, and running out of food is kind of a bad thing for a fine dining restaurant too apparently. Who knew?

I don’t think Virginia’s team really liked her. I think they were all pretty bitter (especially Kevin) that she made it to the final two. I think most people didn’t think she deserved to be there. She was on the “chopping block” constantly through the series because of several little mistakes each time. Luckily for her, someone made a much bigger mistake each time that got them bumped (Chicken Tartare anyone?) She always had a way of escaping certain doom it seemed, which caused me to realize as the finale started Monday night “Shit, she could win this!”

I’ll be going “home” to Vegas this year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m going to try to get into Heathers place at Red Rock resort. If I’m successful, I’ll be sure to post a review of it here. The way the show was making a “big deal” about her sea bass, I hope it’s on the menu….

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Democracy inaction!

In the spirit of another round of meaningless (unless you're Joe Lieberman) primary elections, I am asking for opinions.

In a first (and probably only) for my blog, I'm putting something up to a vote.

When I hastily created this blog, I needed a name. At the time, "Bender's Blog" was the only thing I could think of. And it was good, but not great.

Recently, one of my co-workers suggested the name "The Bender Blender" as a nod to the technical interviews I occasionally give to candidates at my company.

I think this is a great idea! But, if I were to do that (within the blogspot system) if would be a bit of work for me what with the creating of a new blog and the linking to the new blog and the.... uh..... OK, it wouldn't be that much work, but it would cut into either my "hanging out" or "just kickin' it" time (Sorry, no pie chart).

So let me know what you think! Use the comments section.

Now, there are some rules. First of all, this is not "Chicago Style" which means one vote per person please. Also, votes from anonymous cowards will not be counted.

See you all at the polls!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Microsoft Virtual Labs; a review

I've had some free time the past few weeks, and always looking to find ways to expand and sharpen my technical skills, I've been working with the Microsoft Virtual Labs. Actually, I promised a young lady at the Microsoft booth at Tech Ed that I would, so this was also a way for me to stay good to my word. Oh, the things I'll do for a free T-shirt!

For those of you who haven't tried them, Virtual Labs are basically remote controlled Virtual PC's that Microsoft hosts with pre-built components and software installations geared toward teaching you a specific task. Each lab comes with a PDF lab manual, which gives you very specific instructions to complete the lab.

The Good
Everything you need to complete the lab, including starter projects and server installations are already setup for you in the virtual environment, which is no small thing when you are interested in learning something like BizTalk. The lab directions are (for the most part) very clear about the steps and the expected outcomes. The labs are designed to be "bite size" meaning you should not require more than 90 minutes to complete one, which is good because...

The Bad have a 90 minute time limit for each lab. Then, you are unceremoniously kicked out, and you environment resets for the next go around. I understand that Microsoft does not want people sitting in these all day as I'm sure they tie up a lot of resources. But the rigid nature of the experience and the time limit does not give you much opportunity to experiment beyond the lab directions. I don't know how feasible this is, but I would prefer having Virtual PC images available to run locally. Microsoft would not have to worry about creating a time limit, and users would have more freedom to go off the script and explore on their own. The only drawback I could see from Microsoft’s point of view is people attempting to use the images to cheat on getting a "real" license somehow, but there are ways around that. Another "ding" is that the lab manuals are a bit inconsistent, which is a given since they are developed by different people in different groups. My biggest gripe with them is that a lot of them just have the "Do this. Now do this. Now do this." style of instruction, without explaining to you why you are doing this. This is big reason why these labs in no way compare to good solid work experience. Don't do all the BizTalk labs and expect to be an expert, you will find you are still very much a novice.

The Ugly
These are virtual PC's. Over the internet. Guess how fast they are? That’s right, they are S L O W. At times, almost painfully so. There were a couple of times where I was really worried about finishing in the allotted 90 minutes. Some of this may depend on your bandwidth. I for one only have the medium diameter tubes coming into my home, so if you have access to something faster, you may have better luck. The other really ugly aspect is that for several of the labs I found, the manuals were just plain wrong. Pre-made solutions, projects and files were not where they were supposed to be. Code was wrong (in some cases, it didn't even compile) and properties were not where the manuals said they would be. I don't know if some of these weren't QA'ed really well, or if the image was changed after the manual was produced, but it does make for a very frustrating experience.

So, after doing these labs I can say that I am more familiar with several .NET technologies... in the same way the watching the "Star Wars" saga has made me familiar with using the force, or watching "Top Gun" has prepared me to climb into an F-14 and engage a couple of MiG's in a dogfight. I feel comfortable discussing and speaking to the power, limitations and abilities of these products and technologies, and can suggest to a client when and where it would be appropriate to use them in a solution, but I might not be able to implement all the details myself.

I mentioned BizTalk a lot here, but they have several other products that have virtual labs available. However, I feel the selection is a little thin. I was disappointed by the utter lack of Team Foundation Server labs, especially considering the “push” Microsoft was giving this at Tech Ed (not to mention the hefty price tag), I would think a “try before you buy” approach would get more development and IT staff on the band wagon. But, I imagine (hope) that as more people take interest and start using these labs, Microsoft will see that the development community is interested, and devote more resources to them.

Code on...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

House buying lessons learned part 1: "It will all be worth it. It will all be worth it. It will all be..."

I am approaching the “official” two week point in my first home buying experience. Time for a “lessons learned:”

Check your credit report at least once a year.
This is just good advice in general. It was also a major concern for me as mine seems to be made of some sort of Velcro that attracts a lot of incorrect information. It’s easy to get cleaned up; all three agencies have a method to file disputes on the web. But, it takes time. At least 30 days. Luckily, I started this part of the process a while back, so I was in good shape.

Do not count on any large bureaucratic entity to do the right thing.
Still on the credit front, I do have one issue; the company that has my student loan is reporting on this loan in a misleading manner. I don’t want to get into too many details, as this is clearly personal information, but suffice to say I don’t disagree with the amount they say I owe, and they don’t disagree that I’ve never been late or delinquent in any way. But everybody I’ve talked to be it mortgage brokers, attorneys or loan officers from the four largest banks in the country agree that they are doing it wrong. Their response is basically “We don’t care, we’re right, we don’t feel the way we are reporting it is negative and everyone else is wrong and we’re not changing it.” They are sending me a letter that I can show to banks explaining why they are reporting it this retarded way, and the consensus is that that should be sufficient. I was tempted to ask the CSR if they would sign the letter “Sorry we’re so retarded,” but I figured this was a time for maturity, so instead I’m posting it here, where maturity has no lease. Maturity can’t get a lease because its credit isn’t good enough because of its student loan. Damn deadbeat maturity…

Still, it wouldn’t have been a big issue, and I’d be farther along if they would just do it the way they are supposed to from the beginning. Several people have suggested suing or filing a complaint with the government agency that oversees them. I’m not ruling any of that out, but I’m not going to stir the pot until the ink on the deal is dry and I have the keys to the house in my pocket.

Everybody has “a guy.”
And by “guy” that’s just a generic term that could mean “a gal” as well, so please beat back the urge to post a comment of the “You sexist pig!” variety. Invariably, everybody else’s guy is smarter, more clever, cheaper, knows more people and is more connected than whoever your guy is. If my current realtor is unable to deliver, I have 13 more in line based on referrals, so she knows the pressure is on! I suppose this is really a good thing, my parents are realtors, and get most of their business by referral, and my feeling is that in a business based on referral, you want to do a good job to keep the clients coming in. Still, it was funny when someone INSISTED I had to call their mortgage guy because he was clearly superior to my guy. Well, turns out his guy IS my guy. To which he responded “Uh, well… I’m sure he’s doing a great job then.”

People will try to correct their first home buying mistakes through you.
I appreciate the advice I am receiving from friends, family, co-workers and other acquaintances. Even the advice that directly contradicts the advice someone else gave me. I know these people want to see me do well here, but some have taken my home buying experience WAY to personally. I have one friend who seems to think that she will somehow be vindicated on a bad deal she made recently by me “sticking it to” who ever I buy from and their realtor. I’m not out to “stick it to” anyone, that’s just bad Karma (Thank you TV, always teaching those valuable life lessons!). I’m out to get the best deal that is acceptable to all involved. After all, I’m going to be on the selling end one day, and I would hope that whoever buys my house will come into the deal with the same mindset I have not.

Wow! All that and I haven’t even finished securing the financing yet. Just wait till closing!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Blog spammers take note...

As the popularity of this blog has increased (I know, I'm shocked too!) the amount of people attempting to post spam has increase exponentially.

While I'm sure this post will fall on deaf ears because I'm addressing a bunch of soul-less robots, I just want to make it clear to all the spammers out there that if anyone is going to make money of this blog, it's gonna be me dammit!

Monday, July 17, 2006

OK, you're all in big, big trouble!

I'm pissed and I want answers! Which one of you told Henry Rollins that he was funny and people cared about his opinion? Was it you? I was subject to this aging moron twice this weekend. The first time was Saturday morning when he was played on XM's comedy station. And in case you're wondering, it wasn’t funny. Angry, venomous and ignorant, but not funny.

The second time was when I caught the first five minutes of his TV show in The Independent Film Channel (IFC). Again, it was just him ranting for five minutes under the guise of a "comedic monologue."

Basically his act was/is "Bush is stupid." Uh, OK. Anything more to that? Whether or not you agree with him, you have to admit that it's getting old. Six years ago when you said "Bush is stupid" it would either start a fierce debate or an outbreak of riotous laughter. Nowadays, regardless of how you feel about it, people are de-sensitized to it. Rollins just shows that he has not ability to move on with life if this all he has time to talk about, and it shows that IFC is starving for programming.

I was hoping this whole “celebrities as full-time political activist” thing was about done. I guess I was wrong.

I know celebrities are people, and have a right to their opinions. But I have a right to not give a fat rat’s ass about what they think and to mock them for their ignorant, uninformed, follow-the-leader viewpoints. I also have a right to make fun of people who follow these half-wits like a bunch of lemmings. I just can't see myself ever saying "Well, a flat tax sounds like a good idea, but I can't give you my official opinion till I find out what the guy from 'F Troop' thinks."

Just because these humps do something that manages to entertain people long enough to get their names in the paper does not mean they are smart! Frankly, based on interviews I've seen on TV, 99% of people in the entertainment industry have no clue what it's like to live in the real world! They are going to tell me what to think?

Make you own opinions. If you can't do that, at least listen to the people around you who know and care about you and not some talking head inside the idiot box.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Programming with CTP's is like a box of chocolates..."

In preparation for what I'm sure will be an award-winning presentation on Sevice Factory, I am going back through all various tutorials and virtual labs since there is a bit of "mismatch" with the various drops and supporting technologies:

you need the Guidance Automation Extensions (GAX) and Guidance Automation Toolkit (GAT) to run Service Factory. The most recent drops of those are May 2006

The current ASMX Service Factory code-drop is July 2006.

If you want to use WCF, the most current drop of WinFX (SORRY, SORRY! .NET 3.0 Framework) is May 2006, however the latest Service Factory drop for WCF services only supports the Feb 2006 CTP of .NET 3.0 Framework (actually, back then it still was WinFX...) Per Don Smith, (whose blog is a must read if you want to stay up on things in the Service Factory world) a WCF factory for the June CTP is being built, and will be out sometime this year.

So, anyway, here's what I've been working with (all in a blindingly fast Virtual PC):

  • WinFX Feb 06 CTP
  • GAX and GAT May 06 CTP
  • WCF Service Factory May 06 Drop

The "interesting" thing to remember is that the GAX and GAT I have are the newest pieces, but not "entirely" compatible with the other two, meaning that there are a few breaking changes.

The first hideously deformed offspring from this un-holey alliance was delivered yesterday; I tried to use the Service Factory recipe to expose a service. After several minutes of chunking away, I was presented with a rather ugly error (OK, they are all ugly, but some are uglier than others), the meat of which was:

"Compiling transformation: 'System.CodeDom.Compiler.CompilerErrorCollection' does not contain a definition for 'Add'"

Gah! I had to wade through some forum posts (mostly people asking the same question) before I found the answer in the GAT forum. When the new drop of the GAT was pushed, a breaking change was introduced. The fix for this is to edit all of the T4 templates (no, I don't know what T4 stands for) which are located (usually) in \Program Files\Microsoft Service Factory\Guidance Packages\WCFGuidancePackage\bin\T4. There are five files. To fix this problem, you need to add the following line near the top to all of them:

<#@ Assembly Name="System.dll" #>

That takes care of that.

The only other issue I've found so far is minor; in the wizard you cannot set a method of a Service Contract as "IsInitiating" unless you mark the service contact as "Requires Session." A few minor code changes by hand, and your good again. This does raise another issue I am trying to work though however; Service Factory provides recopies for almost everything, including exposing your service in a host application (for testing). Part of the recipe is selecting a binding type via a drop down list. The only option for this I get is basicHttpBinding, which does not support sessions. Not a huge deal, I just need to go change is to WsHttpBinding by hand. But, it would be nice if I didn't have to dig through the web.config myself. The documentation does speak of an "Advanced Configuration Editor" and maybe that's where you can choose other binding options. The package I would need to download this is no longer available for download however. So, for now, I may be on my own. I'll re-post if/when I learn more.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Torn between two Beacon scores...

Wow, two-fer today!

At 34, I have decided that it is time to stop living like a gypsy and actually purchase a house. To that end, I pulled my credit reports today to verify that there wasn't any misinformation or other surprises. Of course there were.

None of the three bureaus have the same score for me, but the surprising thing was that the difference between the highest and the lowest score was in excess of 200 points! That's quite a swing. The difference can be attributed to a lot of erroneous information. Like, for example, the bank that is currently reporting me 120 days late on a car loan that was paid-off in 2001.

So, the "Great Credit Clean-Up of 2006" has begun.

This does present me with a bit of a morale dilemma; one of the bureaus has an "AKA" listed for me. On one hand, it's an error and should be fixed. But, this guy has OUTSTANDING credit! Frankly, I'm tempted to say nothing and let his accounts stay!

But, on the other hand I don't want to get turned down because they think I have three car loans.

The point is if you haven’t checked your credit report in a while, you probably should. Mine is riddled with errors, which is going to stall my house-buying progress while they get fixed.

Who says this blog isn’t educational?

Get these mutha-f*@king snakes out of my mutha-f#@king blog!

So, Samual, is the "Star Wars" money all gone? Already? It must be, because I can find no other way to explain the imminent release of "Snakes on a Plane."

The good thing about a movie like this is that you know exactally what you're in for. You're not going to be standing outside the box office saying "'Snakes on a Plane?' What could that possibly be about? Is it a Shakespearean romance? Is it a documentary about Wisconsin cheese making? I wish I knew!"

If you go to see this movie, I supposed you can't complain too much. You pretty much know what you are getting yourself into. It's not "Citizen Kane" afterall. Personally, I have phobia's about snakes, shallow plots and insipid dialog, so I'll probably skip this one.

On the bright side, Clerks II comes out in nine days... :)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

OK, now what?

Over the past year, there has been a lot of "stuff" happening in the .NET world. My primary areas on interest (in no particular order) are:

• BizTalk
• Team Foundation Server (customizing and extending)
• WCF (and Service Factory)
• WF

That's kind of a lot to cover. To help get a handle on it all, I've kind of grouped BizTalk, WCF and WF into a single "thing" since they are all very much related to each other. WF is built on BizTalk technology and BizTalk is being positioned by Microsoft as their SOA platform, which makes WCF a great compliment to it. Also, these are all developer related technologies that are all available (in some form or another) today.

LINQ/DLINQ are cool, but still in a very preliminary form. To be honest, when I first looked at these, I thought there were interesting, but I didn't really get excited about them. Recently, I've been reading some blog entries by Sahil Malik where he's been doing some very cool demos of what you can do with this stuff. It looks like it might be something that can complete with persistence frameworks like nHibernate. As cool as nHibernate is, the idea of a native solution baked into the .NET platform, not to mention no more XML mapping files, is very appealing. We'll have to see where this goes.

The Team Foundation Server stuff is cool, but it's mostly "implementing methodology"" type stuff, and once you get one custom project guidance, a few custom check-in policies and some extensions to MS-build under your belt, it sort of becomes a "been there, done that" sort of thing.

Currently I have a client who is not an "early-adopter", which they are comfortable with. However, they recognize the need, given their situation, to jump in with .NET 3.0 (specifically WCF) and Team Foundation Server. I’ve also spoken to them about moving to BizTalk since they already own a license and it is much more reliable, feature rich and user-friendly than their current solution and they are very excited about this possibility as well. What I'm looking forward most of all is seeing how a large, conservative shop will adjust moving to several new technologies (almost simultaneously) and moving to Feature Driven Development, which they've also asked for my help with.

So, as far as .NET posts, I'll have some WCF, TFS and FDD stuff coming pretty soon.

But don't worry; there is still plenty of other non-work stuff to blog about. Like, what’s up with this new Bobby Flay show"Throwdown?" Has he gotten tired of beating up on people on "Iron Chef" that he now has to go embarrass people in their own homes? So, is this the culinary equivalent of him knocking on someone’s door and sucker-punching them when they answer? Doesn't he have a restaurant to run or something...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Kneel before Zod!

I found this via Noah Coad's Blog. You take a quiz and it tells you which superhero you are (see the link below).

Your results:
You are Superman
The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Iron Man
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.
Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Ha! I knew it all along!

Be sure to go out and see my movie which opens tomorrow.

Say, who do I see to get my share of the merchandising money?

Friday, June 23, 2006

For Entertainment Purposes Only, No Wagering Please...

Finally, I can live the dream of every blogger; having an outlet to handicap a second-tier reality-show.

I'm not a huge fan of reality TV. I do like "The Apprentice" because I work in the business world and I like "Hells Kitchen" (the primary subject of this installment) probably due to the fact that I like eating. A lot. I just can't get into shows like "Survivor." Maybe it’s because unlike the other two, I have no real sense of "common-ground" with the premise. In actuality, I send a certain percentage of effort each day trying to avoid being stranded on a desert island, as you can see from this chart:

So, the second season of "Hells Kitchen" began while I was in Boston. I didn't pick it up till the third episode, which is OK since a lot of the chaff is already gone and we are left with either the superstars or the people so bad they are kept on for pure comic enjoyment. That's entertainment!

So here are my picks:

Heather aka the "Bossy Know-It-All"

Seems to know her stuff and be a hard worker. She is kind of a bitch to the other contestants though. I give her 2:1 if she can avoid having an "unfortunate celery chopping accident" in her sleep, courtesy of Sara.

Sara aka "The Bumpkin"

Again, knows her way around a kitchen, but comes of as a kind of "ditzy southern girl." This may be by design. She has issues with Heather, so I wouldn't be surprised to see Sara throw her under the bus the first chance she gets. I give her 1.5:1

Garrett aka "The 'Bad' Boy"

He's the only real "leader" I see here. Once the dead-weight from the men’s team is gone I think he'll emerge as the favorite. No odds; I wouldn't bet against him. Partially because he was in prison and I don't want to get "shived."

Keith aka "The Old, White Guy Who Thinks He's a Young Black Guy"

I'm giving this moron 6:1. From what I've seen he can cook and knows how things work in a commercial kitchen. But, who the hell wants their food cooked by a guy who sweats so much that he looks like he just came in out of the rain. That and the fact that he seems to lack the ability to pull his pants up don’t bode well for ol’ Keith.

Rachel aka "'Rachel?'... uh, nope not ringin' a bell. Are you sure you have the right show?"

15:1. Flying so far under the radar that I can't even think of anything to say about her. Which may not be the worst strategy considering the show she is on.

Maribel aka "The Home-Sick Mommie"

Like Rachel, she is flying under the radar, only emerging long enough to get kicked-off her station by Ramsey or annoy her fellow contestants by crying about missing her home and family. 20:1; Maribel is a nice person. Ramsey is not a nice person. Which one runs the famous restaurant again? Point made.

Virginia aka "The Shameless Flirt"

Lust is attractive, desperation is not. Not even if the woman is attractive. If even an ego-maniac like Ramsey is embarrassed by the way Virginia is throwing herself at him, then you know it's not working. Combine that with the fact she can't even cook tortellini and I give her 30:1. Her title is "salad chef" and I'm pretty sure people who go to four star restaurants want their food cooked.

Tom aka "The Bitter Old Dude"

How the hell did Tom get on this show?! He seems to be a menace in the kitchen. He got a very minor burn on his hand. Ramsey and his team checked him out and all concluded that is was nothing, yet Tom basically shut-down. Kitchens are full of hot things; you're gonna get little burns from time to time. If you want to be a professional, you have to shake it off and move on. His confrontational attitude with Ramsey is not earning him any points either. 50:1

I hear a lot of the people who watch this show complain that Gordan Ramsey is too hard and "mean" to the contestants. I have two comments for that:

When I lived in Las Vegas, I worked at a couple of hotel/casinos. I didn't work in "F & B" (food and buffet) but being in the back of the house, I saw what went on. I went to college at UNLV, which has a very well respected hotel management program, and friends of mine who were in the program would get me "back-stage" at some of the nicest restaurants in town (for a while I was considering going to culinary school, obviously I decided against it) and I have to say that the way things go down in Hell's Kitchen is pretty much the way it is in real life. The executive chefs, especially at the nicer “upper-tier” restaurants are supremely up-tight perfectionist. Not to mention complete bastards. I heard them say things to the people underneath them were just evil. But, the bottom line is that if you can't stand the heat, well, you know.

The other thing to keep in mind is that this is a TV show. On Fox. The people who brought you "Celebrity Boxing" and "The Glutton Bowl." Fox doesn't do "nice." It's the devils network. If it was “Chef-Sensitive's Group Hug Hour” no one would watch it. If you’re that upset by it, the answer is simple; turn it off.

And remember, I don't condone illegal gaming, but if you choose to indulge, 10% goes to the house.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Final thoughts on Boston and new adventures in .NET 3.0

Boston was cool but I'm glad to be back. My flight didn't leave till Saturday afternoon (last minute planning) so I had some time Friday after Tech Ed ended and a few hours Saturday morning to go exploring.

One of the things I liked about Boston was the subway. For an investment of $1.25 and a short walk you can be anywhere in the city in about 20 minutes. This is good because the streets can be a bit confusing. Between all the tunnels and the "spaghetti-roads" I'm sure some of the cabs were taking the "scenic route" but not knowing the area, I couldn't really argue with them.

I did notice that the cost of living in Boston is a bit higher than Columbus as well. For example, they are paying about $.30 more for a gallon of gas than we are.

So, Tech Ed ended at 4:00, and I was back to the hotel by 4:30. I decided to check out the Boston Museum of Science which was pretty cool. They have the world's largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator that they used to scare the crap out of the kids. They were hosting an Accenture party there, but the place seemed pretty empty, which was great frankly. I'm not a big "crowd" person.

For dinner I went to a place called "Legal Seafood" (as opposed to fugitive seafood I suppose) largely on the recommendation of Brian <Anzalone> who has gotten some of their stuff mail-order. Everybody talks about the Clam Chowder in Boston and how wonderful it is, so I had to try some. I ordered a cup of it and..... it was OK. I didn't have the religious experience everybody describes, but it was better than Campbell’s.

I walked around part of the city and Chinatown, where I was offered drugs three separate times. Welcome to the big city.

The next morning I had several hours to kill, so I went to Quincy market and got souvenirs for a few people, then back to the airport and home. Boston is a cool city with a lot of stuff to do. Definitely someplace to consider next time I go on vacation.

As a "welcome home" gift from the Sharon Township police department, I got a $100.00 ticket for driving with expired plates, which the officer amazingly was able to pick out at 70MPH on I-270. I completely forgot to get that taken care of last month, and apologized profusely to the officer. No dice, I still go the ticket. Well, it was after the 15th and they do have a quota to meet I suppose...

So now that I'm back at work and the client I'm currently working with want's to know what's up with "the .NET 3.0 thing." I explained to them the re-branding and that a first blush it seems like a stupid idea. But, between the announcement last week and my return to Columbus, I've had a little time to think about it. In retrospect, I don't know that it's really that bad of an idea. Does including the components of WinFX in .NET qualify it as a "major upgrade" to the framework?

Well, seeing first hand last week what WCF and WF are capable of and hearing from Tim how much he was impressed with CardSpace (formerly InfoCard) I would say it sounds like a major upgrade. And the naming makes a little more sense. One of the criticisms I see with Java is that there are too many frameworks. It's not enough to just be "Java" it's got to be "Java with struts" or "Java with Spring" or "Java with whatever." And while I think a few powerful frameworks are a good thing, I don't necessarily subscribe to the "more is better" philosophy here. If it suddenly became ".NET with WinFX" you could make the argument that .NET would be sliding down the same slop. There are already a lot of frameworks available for .NET, but you don't hear a lot about them because, well, .NET already does a lot out of the box. Sure, I use nHibernate, but my whole .NET app isn't inexorably tied to it like it would be to WinFX. So I guess in that regard, making it .NET 3.0 makes sense.
Now that I've had a chance to talk to a few people about it, I think the major source of fear around this is falls into two categories:
  • We just upgraded our code to .NET 2.0 and went through that learning curve. Now we have to do it again?!


  • We just spend a butt-load of money on Visual Studio 2005, now we're going to have to pay for another upgrade?

Obviously, the answer to both questions is "No." I'm describing .NET 3.0 to people as (for better or worse) just an addition and extension to what .NET 2.0 already does. The core language and CLR didn't change; your .NET 2.0 code will compile and work in a .NET 3.0 world. Yes, there is a learning curve to use the new stuff in WinFX, but if your developers are worth their salt, they've already known about WinFX and what it can do for about a year. Maybe they've done some Virtual Labs and visited the WinFX homepage or even better, they've already downloaded the beta and read the Go-Live licence. In any case, most developers I know are chomping at the bit to start using something in WinFX. And if they aren't, well, this is just my opinion, but you may have bigger problems on your hands....

There is also no new Visual Studio on the horizon except "Orcas" which is still a ways off. But, I think I can see where this bit of FUD may come from. When .NET 1.0 came out, so did Visual Studio 2002 and in short order, the .NET 1.1 framework was shipped with Visual Studio 2003. .NET 2.0 hits the streets, and so does Visual Studio 2005. All of these Visual Studio upgrades have also brought a certain degree of pain (besides the kind that hits you in the wallet) although my experience so far has been that the move from 1.1/2003 to 2.0/2005 has been much smoother than the move from 1.0/2002 to 1.1/2003, but of course your mileage may vary. What Microsoft has done here is seems is break with the notion that each version of the .NET framework necessitates an upgrade to the development environment. I like this. Frankly, you're programming to the frame work (in this case the .NET CLR) and too many people think of development in terms of what the IDE will allow you to do easily. Not that I’m saying that Visual Studio is limiting in anyway, but you could write a .NET program in note pad. Visual Studio makes it a lot easier and faster, and I'm glad I don't have to use notepad, but it would work. I guess what I'm saying is that the IDE is a great tool, but the framework is the key.

And no, I'm not volunteering to start doing my development in notepad!

Of course this is just what I think; I may be reading too much into this...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Booth Babes

No two words in the English language, except maybe "Dual Core" or "Free X-Box" fan the flame of nerd-lust as much as those...

Anyway, what's changed over the years is that companies no longer seem to have to rely on "hired talent" for this need. Women, especially attractive women are getting smarter and smarter it seems. Which is good, the computer industry is no longer thought of as a place for social outcasts and frankly, it's easier to interact with members of the opposite sex when you have more in common.

That being said, there was one booth that decided to dress an attractive young woman up in a skin-tight wet suit. Oddly enough, I can remember every detail about her, but I couldn't tell you what the company sold if my life depended on it.

Aside from my favorite booth babe, I’m not posting any pictures. I though about it. But it turns out smart, professional and technically savvy women don't appreciate being singled out and reduced to merely a collection of desirable body parts. Chicks are weird that way.

As for SQL girl, she's all mine fellas! :)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Last post from Tech Ed (probably)...

... but probably not my last post about Tech Ed.

The part last night at FENWAY park (Geesh, like it really makes a difference) was pretty cool. They serves a lot of "base-ball" realted food; hot dogs, Italian sausage, BBQ chicken, burgers, that kind of thing. I got to sit in the visitors dugout and check out the park. It's really old. Not a big Train fan, but I stayed for their first two songs. This may be my musical snobbery coming through, but all their songs kind of sound alike to me.

This morning I hit another service factory chalk talk by Don Smith and Shy Cohen. There is a lot to this (more than can really be covered in an hour) but I think it's a pretty cool tool to help write WCF services (with the large number of "contracts" that it now uses) and I'm eager to start working with it when I get back.

I also went to Web307 ASP.NET: Best Practices in Creating Scalable, Data-Driven Web Sites by Rob Howard. This was pretty cool. There was a lot of stuff in it most people already know (like turning off Viewstate or Session if you're not using them) but he showed a lot of the cool caching capabilites for data base calls. He has a sample, and by tweaking some of the cache settings, we was able to increase the amount of page requests he could server from 150 to about 750. He also showed how to teak some memory setting in IIS and talked about hardware architecture and when and how you should seperate your business logic from your presentation layer. Basically, he said try not to and use ISA if you can.

Just got out of CON440 .NET Framework 2.0: Advanced Serialization. This was pretty good, and I thought I should attend since WCF is so dependant on contracts and serialization. The speaker didn't touch on WCF till the end, and kind of blew through it. I was kind of out of scope for the presentation, but it was pretty informative and I have a much better picture of how .NET serialization works.

I have one more session this afternoon, but they are already folding up the tent here so to speak, so I might not get a chance to post after it.

Since someone did ask about the food, and I'm sure other people have mentioned it, I have to weigh in. I am a well knows food-snob, I think we can all agree on that. And I understand that you don't come to Tech Ed for the food. AND I understand that the logistics invovled in feeding thousands of people in a short period of time for a reasonable cost are difficult parameter to work in sometimes. But, the food has frankly been awful. I try to live a healthy lifestyle, especially where it applies to what I eat, and maybe that make me more sensitive. But, this week has been nothing but offerings of bland, luke-warm food served in pools of grease and lots of highly processed crap. Even trying to pick out the "healthy" options as mealtime (which has been no small feat!) I have had the worst stomach ache in my life since Tuesday evening up till this very moment. It feels like I've been punched in the gut. It all kind of came to a head between the chalk talk and the ASP.Net session this morning when I was violently ill in the mens room. I do feel a little better since then, so hopefully things will get better now that I am "on my own" to go out and seek healthier options. The good news is, I don't seem to have gained any weight while I've been here, maybe because I've been hitting the cardio VERY hard in the morning. I ate breakfast with someone from Microsoft this morning, and she told me that I'm not alone; a lot of the feed back about the food and the facility have been very poor. She thinks it may be awhile before Tech Ed returns to Boston...

During our converstaion, somone else at the table asked, somewhat annoyed, why Bill Gates and/or Steve Balmer did not make an appearance this year. The nice lady from Microsoft said that she believed that they had conflicts (?) and that "Well, this isn't really their people."


I guess I have a little problem with this. Now, I know that Microsofts long money comes from Windows and Office. But, we developers are generally the ones out there carrying the message and evangelising to our clients about .NET and all the tools taht Microsoft sells and why these are better than free Linux and Java. I understand we may not want a week of marketing rhetoric, but I think a token appearance during the keynote (aside from Balmers cameo in the video) would have made some people happy.