Technology and Lent

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1462 days ago

This website

The plugin that provided the email notification feature for this website broke with a recent update to my blog software, and it’s not going to be easy to fix. So I’m not going to fix it.

Of course, that means that the affected people aren’t going to hear that they’re affected. Sorry about that! (I’ll tell personally the few I know.)

In fact, I’m likely to switch to ikiwiki …eventually. Textpattern seems to have lost its mojo, and there have been some long-standing issues with it (like no native tagging support!) that seem unlikely to ever get fixed. And I’m hip to the cool technologies now, so a more infrastructure-like framework (i.e. ikiwiki, with git) for my blog feels like a better answer. And schmonz volunteered to do most of the work :)

That also means I’ll probably abandon tru_tags …more than I already have. There hasn’t been anything to do with it in a long while, at least not that I felt was worthwhile to be done. Most of the features that remain to be implemented require a major refactoring of the core Textpattern code, and that just seems very unlikely to happen (by me or anybody else) any time soon. So hopefully it will remain useful to the people who still use it.

This year’s Lent

I have utterly failed at this year’s Lent give-up. I have been better at going to bed at a reasonable hour, sometimes for days at a time. But I simply can’t do everything I need/want to do in my life with the few hours that leaves me between work, kids, and chores. So sleep will continue to lose to projects – although less-so than it used to. There are some nice perks to getting more sleep – I’m much more on-the-ball and willing to take on mental tasks that otherwise seem hard. But that extra value doesn’t offset the lost value from just not being able to do all the things I need to do.

Vegetarianism

Speaking of Lent, I also broke a 5-year streak of vegetarianism a week or so ago. Benjamin, Liam, and I had some extremely delicious tilapia, also breaking both boys’ life-long vegetarian streaks. Kristina chose not to participate.

We had a bunch of reasons for deciding to do it. And a bunch of reasons to not do it (i.e. to stay vegetarian). I may blog about all the tradeoffs some day soon, but for now, suffice it to say that it was a very close decision, and I’m not sure what’s next.

I made a web app!

If you recall, I started using SmugMug for my online gallery a few years ago. But when I made the switch, I left behind an old gallery site (on Menalto Gallery 1) that I’ve been meaning to clean up for a long time. It broke a while ago, motivating me to finally migrate off that old software – to ZenPhoto, which had been my long-standing plan. It took a few days getting ZenPhoto to work (when it should have been easy!), but I got it there, and I shut off the old site.

I also started this exchange with the ZenPhoto dev in which I start by being too grumpy and then he finished by insisting that his software simply must be unsupportable for him to support it. Net effect: I had to get off ZenPhoto.

But I had no alternate destination for self-hosting my images. My long-term goal is to migrate the images to SmugMug, but I want to filter them down from “every picture I took during that time period” to “just the best ones, tagged and rated” (like all the other pictures I post to SmugMug). And it will take Nathan-weeks of work to get that done, so it keeps getting put off. So in the short term I just needed a new self-hosting product, and there just aren’t any good alternatives. They’re all either old or ugly or badly designed or some combination of those three.

So I made one myself. I’ve never made a web app from scratch before, but I am quite comfortable in perl, had used Catalyst from a prior job, and I’d heard then that Mojolicious is better. So I tried it.

And wow, was it easy. Probably 8 hours total from “install mojolicious” to “the gallery is up and running on the new software”. That’s only just a little more than I spent trying to get ZenPhoto to work. Many kudos to Mojolicious, perl, and pkgsrc.

Now… ZenPhoto does way more stuff. (TONS more… too much, actually.) And this new software isn’t really ready for someone else to use it. And it has no tests. And it only does one extremely simple thing (i.e. serve nested directories of images, in name-sorted order, with no metadata).

But the code is small, easy to read, and easy to modify. (Roughly 300 lines of code, 115 lines of CSS, and 80 lines of HTML template.) The site looks really good (in my opinion). And it doesn’t require a database – just a directory full of images. And with some app-level caching and the help of Mojolicious’s preforking web server and great documentation for setting it up under apache mod_proxy, it’s about as fast is it could possibly be on my old host and slow network connection.

So ZenPhoto is out and my home-grown software is in. Here’s hoping it doesn’t need maintenance!

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Liam Eldon Arthur

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1879 days ago

Per my previous post, our new baby has arrived. His name is Liam Eldon Arthur, and he was born 7lbs 14oz and 21” long. He’s perfect :)

It took me a little longer than last time to get a post up; you can take that as a sign of how much busier we are with a 2-year-old in the house with the newborn. But we’re much calmer about this one, I think probably because we know we can make it through this period. Our exhaustion level is about the same, though; see: 2-year-old.

The delivery was much easier this time, and Liam is totally healthy and has been fantastic since day one – eating well, sleeping well, and not fussing except when something is wrong. (Many parents report a very different experience; I suggest swaddling as the likely remedy, or having our genes as the second. Either way, we are very lucky.)

I didn’t announce this one as publicly as last time; I’m still stubbornly shunning Facebook in favor of Google+, even though it seems likely that Google+ will fail, and it just didn’t seem necessary to go out of my way to post it to Twitter. It was nice this time to be able to limit the scope of the Google+ post, so it isn’t actually public. On the other hand, pictures are here :)

On the name: this one, like the last one, came after the delivery. Neither “Liam” nor “Eldon” was on our list before the delivery, although Liam was on the original list for Benjamin. We ended up abandoning the idea of having a hungarian middle name because we couldn’t find one that we liked and that was spellable and that was pronounceable. So Liam was the name that best seemed to fit the new baby, and Eldon came from a good friend of Kristina’s who told us about it as an oft-used name in her family, derived from her grandfather, who was a very special person. We liked the name, and the source, and it went really well with Liam and Arthur, so that was that.

My feelings are very similar to last time: the delivery was intense, and the after-effects (pretty much all positive!) have been strong, and I feel really good about my life right now. The feelings have been much less momentarily-intense… I think just because I’m a lot less scared (of the unknowns) this time around. But they are no less deep – I totally understand now how parents can say that they don’t love any of their children more than any others. It’s also nice to know that Heinlein was right:

The more you love, the more you can love — and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just. — Robert A. Heinlein, in Time Enough for Love

Also, as hard as this time is, I’m really enjoying having the quiet time at home with my wife and two boys. (I love that I have two boys… I didn’t expect that.) We have no distractions, no competing priorities, no work – just a simple life, focused on each other. I’ll be sorry to see it go (when I go back to work) in a few days.

As with last time, we owe huge thanks to all the people who have helped us, especially the huge investments of time and/or resources from grandparents on both sides – THANK YOU! I can’t imagine doing this without all that help.

Welcome to the world, little Liam. We love you already, more than you’ll even be able to understand… until you have children of your own.

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Still here, really! With pictures to prove it!

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2348 days ago

Hello all, sorry for the 229 days between blog posts. I fear this blog is destined to become one of those 85% of blogs that are never read by anybody :) As always, the busier my life is, the less of it ends up online, and the past year has been no exception. Babies are hard work!

So this post isn’t about anything in particular; just an announcement that I uploaded a ton of pictures to the new gallery. Specifically, about 200 pictures from as far back as last Thanksgiving. See them all at media.rainskit.com!

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Why I switched from Menalto Gallery to SmugMug

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2577 days ago

Two posts ago, I described my struggle to figure out how to fit my Menalto Gallery album structure into SmugMug. In a comment to that post, one of the Gallery developers asked why I switched from Gallery to SmugMug. I started to reply in the comments on that post, but the reply got to be long enough that I thought it deserved its own post instead; this is that post.

Note that it’s fairly mind-boggling (even to me) that saw my post and responded to it in a single day; I wonder how he did that?

——

Andy,

Most of my experience is with Gallery 1, although I do have a site using Gallery 2. Back when I first started using Gallery 1, it was really the only choice (this was before Flickr, even!) that had the ability to handle a large gallery like mine, had the key features I wanted, and would preserve all my images in original form. So it was really my only choice.

For a long time it did what I needed, and I was grateful for that. I told people about it, and about why I chose it. I know one or two people who ended up using it because of me, but most of my friends and acquaintances ended up using Flickr or similar sites.

But even though I chose it, and was able to use it, I didn’t like it very much. It was clumsy, hard to modify, and too complex. It was just my only real option, so I stuck with it. About once a year, I would try to find something else, and I never could.

So when Gallery 2 was announced, I liked the redesign philosophy, but I thought you all were nuts to try to rewrite a product from the ground up. I was certain that it would be a year or more before Gallery 2 was even close to ready, and in the meantime Gallery 1 support would wane, so I was pretty sure I’d be forced to choose another product. That didn’t quite happen – you folks kept supporting Gallery 1 – but it took a very long time to get Gallery 2 out.

So when it was actually released, I was pleasantly surprised… but then it took an even longer time for Gallery 2 to catch up to some of the basic features from Gallery 1 that I needed. (I forget what they were, now.) So I still didn’t have the replacement for Gallery 1 that I was hoping for.

But eventually Gallery 2 did have the necessary features, so I gave it a try… and it was confusing. Sure, maybe the code was much better this time around, and it was certainly more themeable… but it wasn’t easily themeable, and it was confusing as heck to administer and to teach my users about. So I gave up on Gallery 2, decided to live with Gallery 1, and to search more earnestly for a replacement.

Back then, I had my hopes set on ZenPhoto, but it didn’t quite have everything I needed, either. I certainly liked their “simplicity first” approach, though. It did eventually get to the point where it had all the features I needed, and that was enough for me to install it and start working in earnest to switch over to it.

And then I had a system failure that suddenly forced me to host my gallery on my own local machine, which had me terrified – if my house burned down, with it would go all my pictures. So I had to figure out a better hosting option. I considered renting a virtual server somewhere, but it’s hard to find a low-cost NetBSD host, and I didn’t really want to host on Linux. So I looked around at other gallery options, and found SmugMug.

SmugMug isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty great, and I like that they care (a lot!) about usability, and that they have humans on their support staff, and that they’ll take good care of my pictures. I like that I don’t have to administer the site myself. I like that they are a commercial venture, and are therefore forced to prioritize customer needs first, or fail as a business. I like that the features I find lacking, now, are features that I never even dreamed up, back on Gallery.

So now that Gallery 3 is coming out… it seems somewhat surreal. I first heard about it in an April Fool’s post on ZenPhoto, and when I followed the link to the real announcement of Gallery 3, I really thought it was an elaborate April Fools joke from you folks. I couldn’t believe you’d have the gall to say “when we went back to do it right, we did it wrong, so now we’re going to do it right again!” But it turns out that that’s really what you were saying, and that you really are giving it a third go-round.

Sure, maybe Gallery 3 will be better, and maybe someday I will find a reason to move off SmugMug. If so, I’m sure I’ll look at Gallery 3 (or 5, or 9?) and see if it fits the bill. But my default stance will be wariness – I don’t trust that you’ll ever get it right, or feel that you have gotten it “good enough” to just keep supporting (or evolving) the platform you are already on.

Of course, it now seems ironic that you posted your comment in a post titled Perfectionism, pragmatism, and progress. It looks like we all struggle with the balance between those issues! Perhaps we should both take the lesson from this – that our customers won’t give us many chances to find our balance.

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New photo (and video) gallery

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2579 days ago

Per my previous post, I have been struggling to get my current gallery converted over to SmugMug, and that struggle was getting in the way of getting Benjamin pictures online. Well, I’m happy to report that the new gallery is online at media.rainskit.com, and that all the previously-passworded Benjamin pictures are now publicly available there. (I chose the first solution, by the way.) In fact, there are some new pictures also :)

I haven’t converted any of the old gallery over to the new site yet, so for the moment I have two public galleries online. For now, I’m only going to link to the old one in my sidebar; once all the old images are converted, I’ll switch the link. So you should bookmark the new site (or this article) if you want to remember where all the Benjamin pictures will be :)

For those of you who are named in photos in the new gallery – don’t worry, Google won’t search beyond the home page of the new gallery, so pictures of you aren’t suddenly going to pop up all over the internet. If you are concerned about any photos, though, please feel free to let me know and I’ll hide them immediately.

I don’t plan to announce future photo uploads via this blog; please subscribe to one of the available RSS or Atom feeds if you want to hear about new photos. (Scroll to the bottom and click “Available Feeds” to see them.) I suggest either the site-wide recent galleries feed or the site-wide Benjamin keyword feed.

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Perfectionism, pragmatism, and progress

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2585 days ago

As I mentioned in the announcement, I have a temporary photo gallery set up with some early pictures of Benjamin in it. But I password protected that gallery, not because of any particular security or privacy concerns, but simply because the gallery is not in its final home, and I don’t want to publish the gallery to the wider internet until it has reached said destination. Recently, a friend asked about the delay in posting more pictures, and offered to help resolve any problems that might be impeding progress. I wrote a very long reply, which I have quoted (mostly) below.

It is, I think, and interesting way to both reveal why I haven’t opened up the gallery, and to allow my readership to understand more about me. Because in this email, it is clear how my perfectionism and my pragmatism do battle, and how I usually seek to resolve such conflicts.

And if you do take the time to read all the way to the end, please feel free to provide any suggestions!

Let me explain the root problem(s):

I plan to switch my pictures from gallery.rainskit.com (which uses Menalto Gallery) over to use SmugMug, and in fact have already paid SmugMug for a year of service which has already elapsed. (I signed up over a year ago.)

I don’t want to start dumping Benjamin pictures into Menalto; I have numerous other albums (like Thanksgiving from last year) that I haven’t uploaded to Menalto because I told myself that I was going to force a hard stop on using Menalto, to encourage me to finish my switch to SmugMug. So I don’t want to break that rule for Benjamin, and I also don’t want to publish one URL for Benjamin pictures and then change it to another URL later.

I don’t expect to be able to use gallery.rainskit.com for my SmugMug site, because I have other users of my Menalto gallery who won’t want to have the URL change out from under them. So I’ll have to leave Menalto at the old URL, and come up with a new URL for SmugMug.

When I tried to convert my gallery over to SmugMug, I discovered a (frustrating!) limitation of SmugMug wherein it doesn’t allow infinite nesting of albums. Specifically, it forces me to organize my pictures in a particular hierarchy, either:

Category -> Album -> Image
or
Category -> Subcategory -> Album -> Image

So some of my Menalto albums are nested 5 or 6 layers deep, which won’t fit into SmugMug’s paradigm. Also, some of my Menalto albums have both images and sub-albums, which won’t fit into SmugMug’s paradigm.

So a long time ago (April of ’09) I started work on Smuganizer, a tool to help me convert my Menalto gallery over to SmugMug. That tool has grown into a fairly awesome product, but it isn’t quite done yet – mostly because it has a few important missing features, and the documentation is out of date (and misleading!). Note, however, that SmugMug has given me a free Pro account for as long as I continue to maintain Smuganizer, so I don’t currently have to pay for my SmugMug account.

And I’ve been using my SmugMug site as the test database for Smuganizer, largely because I don’t have any other available SmugMug account. So my current SmugMug site (which is entirely password-protected) is filled with random test data, and in unsuitable for public consumption.

Concurrently with all of this, I discovered Windows Live Photo Gallery, a free app from Microsoft that (finally!) just works the way photo gallery apps always should have worked. Really. I have always hated photo management apps, up until this now. Now, I tell people that they should use it. (It does have some major flaws/gaps, but they are not sufficient to keep me from loving it anyway.)

One of the major features of WLPG is that you can tag people in pictures (like Facebook) and/or add arbitrary tags to images and/or give ratings (1-5 stars) to images, and then instantly browse your whole library by those elements (plus by date). They also make it really easy to publish selected photos to arbitrary photo sites, like SmugMug. So suddenly I have a really strong desktop app for managing my pictures, and I find myself caring much less about putting my entire photo library online.

So I modified my plan about converting from Menalto to SmugMug, such that I have decided instead to download all my Menalto pictures to my computer, tag and rate them all there, store them there primarily, and only upload the best ones to SmugMug. In other words, use SmugMug much like a normal human would use a photo gallery.

Problem is, that takes a lot of time. I’m only about half way through my existing pictures. And I’ve been working on it for 6 months or more.

Note that this also makes Smuganizer largely irrelevant to my current needs :) (Except that Smuganizer can also be used to upload pictures from my computer, and to manage the pictures once they are on SmugMug, so it does still have value to me.)

Note that this also means I won’t have an off-site backup for my entire gallery any more (like I had when you were hosting my gallery). To solve that problem, I signed up for Carbonite.

Net effect, I have a bunch of things that theoretically need to be resolved before I start posting more Benjamin pictures to SmugMug:

a) Finish tagging my existing photos
b) Finish and publish Smuganizer
c) Delete all the existing stuff out of SmugMug
d) Figure out how to organize my SmugMug gallery
e) Get SmugMug set up on its permanent URL
f) Upload my ‘featured’ pictures to SmugMug
g) Upload the new Benjamin pictures to wherever they fit in that structure

Of course, I recognize that this will take a year or more, and that Benjamin pictures can’t wait that long. So I figure I have a number of options:

1) Abandon Smuganizer, don’t worry about the other pictures, and just clear out SmugMug and upload Benjamin pictures for now. That would only require steps © (d) (e) and (g) and could probably be done in a few hours.

2) Try to split my SmugMug gallery into a few “Testing” categories and then “everything else” and just password protect the “Testing” categories. Go ahead and upload the Benjamin pictures into their final home, while concurrently working on everything else.

3) Some other option I haven’t thought of yet.

4) Follow the original plan and just wait until it is all done before publishing more Benjamin pictures.

5) Publish the Benjamin pictures on the Menalto gallery.

So I figure you can help in a few possible ways:

i) Talk me out of the tree and just convince me to do (5)
ii) Help me with (d) so I can do option (2)
iii) Come up with an idea for (3)
iv) Talk me into (1) (Note that this is probably impossible)

So you can see my dilemma :)

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Benjamin Zoltan Arthur

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2598 days ago

In case you didn’t hear from my email, twitter posts, or corresponding facebook posts, my amazing wife gave birth to my amazing son last Wednesday. His name is Benjamin Zoltan Arthur, he weighed 7lbs 15oz, and was 20.25” long. He is perfect!

I’m writing this post in a very exhausted state of mind, so please forgive my ramblings. I wanted to just get an announcement (plus a few thoughts) out before too much time passed.

I have a temporary photo gallery set up, but I put a password on it because I plan to move it later and don’t want it showing up on the broader internet until I figure out what pictures are really going to be ‘public’. (The picture in this article is from that gallery.) If you know me, please feel free to request the link and password from me or anyone in my family.

Some notes on his name: we’ve known for a long time that we wanted his middle name to be Zoltan, because he is half Hungarian (from Kristina) and he has a great-grandfather named Zoltan, and another great-grandfather with Zoltan as his middle name. We couldn’t decide on a first name, though; we had a list of about 10 candidates, with “Alexander” at the top, but were never quite sure about any of them. As soon as he was born, I declared “he is not an Alexander” and Kristina agreed (once she had a chance to really look at him). The problem was, he also wasn’t any of the other names we had on the list. So we grudgingly started looking for new name ideas. A good friend suggested “Benjamin” and as soon as I heard it, I knew it was a good fit. Within minutes I was certain it was his name. Kristina took a little longer to come around, but also agreed that it was a good name for him. So we finally settled on it, just a few hours before we left the hospital. I knew at the time that he had a relative named Benjamin, but I wasn’t sure exactly who; it turns out that Levi Benjamin Valley (commonly known as “Ben”) was my great-grandfather, and a father-figure for my own father. So this little boy is named after great-(great-)grandparents on both sides of the family!

We call him a bunch of things – Benjamin, Z, Big Z, Little Z, and Mister Z. I’m pretty sure we’re going to have “Z” as a nickname for him for a long time to come, and that his proper name will be “Benjamin”. I can’t get myself to call him “Ben” so I think we’re going to try to keep that nickname out of common use, but I have learned (from my wife) not to try to force these things, so I won’t.

So far, he’s been a very happy, healthy baby. He eats well and on a regular schedule (every three hours), he sleeps most of the rest of the time, and he has fairly simple cues for when he is hungry, needs burped, or needs his diaper changed. He is as cute as I’ve ever seen a baby be :) (Of course, all parents say that, but so far everybody else who sees him also has said that.) He has one minor medical problem that he inherited from his father, but it’s not a big deal, and easy to fix.

Our lives have changed heavily, of course. Everybody says birth is a life-changing experience. It is certainly an emotionally overwhelming one! I can’t remember another time in my life when I was so flooded with raw feeling in a single moment; it’s impossible to even catalog what the feelings were, simply because they were too big to be identified. One feeling was and is very identifiable – pride and love for my wife, who was simply amazing throughout the delivery, and through these first five days of his life. (Benjamin was posterior in the womb and sideways when he finally delivered, but she did it with only 6.5 total hours of labor, and only 1.5 hours of pushing. And now she’s totally on top of everything he needs, every single time he needs something.) And now I can’t help but feel completely attached to this little child; I get a little energy boost every time I see him; I can’t leave him alone for too long without needing to check on him; I have a really hard time leaving him, once I am with him.

In contrast, I find myself almost totally calm, all the time. I feel totally confident about how I handle him, about the choices I make for him, and about the things that will make him calm or upset. I don’t have any hesitation or doubt about him, at all. I think it’s some combination of a vastly simplified priority list (if you need a hint: it only has two items on it), general exhaustion, and general euphoria. It’s an interesting experience, living such a simple life (for the moment, anyway).

And of course, I have to thank all the wonderful people who helped, offered well-wishes, sent gifts, or gave their advice. And Kristina and I both owe a huge debt to my mother-in-law who came and spent the weekend with us. I think she made this weekend about 80% easier than it would have been on our own, and gave us a chance to adjust to this new lifestyle. We’ve spent today on our own, and largely we’ve been OK, and that’s because we had a few days to prepare because of her help. In any case – THANK YOU ALL!!!

And welcome to the world, my son. I’m writing this in one room, while your mother cuddles you in another room, and just in the time it’s taken me to write this post, I miss you :)

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Puppy pictures!

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3182 days ago

I created a new album specifically for pictures of Sophia & Kodiak, and uploaded everything I’ve taken so far :) The first 6 pictures are from right after we got them. The rest were taken just a few days ago.

You can see other puppy pictures (from right after we got them) in April’s album of pictures from Kristina’s birthday party.

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Stirred, not shaken

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3201 days ago

Two posts ago, I mentioned how we were stirring our lives up, in a number of specific ways:

  • new job
  • new car
  • new house
  • new dogs
  • birthday party
  • uncertain motorcycle

And I forgot to mention that Kristina would be starting an internship at Franklin Park Conservatory.

So, all that stuff happened. I have the new job (in Cleveland, so I’m traveling there 50% of the time), we have the new car (described previously), we found a house in Harrisburg (Ohio), we have two new Great Pyrenees puppies (details below), the birthday party went well, Kristina started her internship, and the motorcycle is still uncertain.

Yeah, it’s been stressful.

I don’t have pictures of the birthday party, although some of the guests will probably send me some of theirs. I also don’t have pictures of the puppies because the camera is still in a box somewhere, but you can see a picture of Kodiak (the 11-week-old) on this page (with the little blond girl on the right side of the page) and Sophia (the 11-*month*-old) on this page.

As you can imagine, we’re pretty much stressed out, especially Kristina who did everything I did, plus started the internship, plus had to be home a few days with the dogs without me. But we’re getting through it.

Oh yeah – and some guy called me and offered to buy truist.com. I think I’m going to sell it to him (he offered a lot of money). I’ll post about that soon, but for now – I need a replacement domain name, and I’m running low on ideas. If you have any, please email me or post them here as comments.

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Oregon trip

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3493 days ago

Kristina and I took a vacation in Oregon this August, and as expected, we fell in love with it. We’d both always had this idea that we’d like Oregon, and one of the people on my team at NetJets lives out there and invited us to visit, and this year is our fifth anniversary, so we decided to go. With the help of a few borrowed guidebooks and the advice of a local, I did a lot of planning, made a loose itinerary, and booked the flights and hotels.

I’ve posted about 500 pictures over in the gallery, and they tell the basic story. (I know, 500 is way too many… but we took 1300 originally so this is a huge improvement.) We started in Portland and wandered all around town on the very-well-done public transportation. While there, we went to the world’s largest bookstore and went there again to stand in line for the midnight release of Harry Potter. We also went to the stunning Japanese Garden and the much-less-stunning International Rose Test Garden. From there, we got on the road and happened to pass by (and stop at) an aviation museum that houses the Spruce Goose. We then drove down the coast to Yachats, which is now the easy winner as our favorite place to vacation. I was a little sneaky and had rented a room with a view, and we spent a lot of time exploring the rocky coast and playing in the tide pools. Driving around there, we saw these cool Tsunami Hazard Zone signs, went to the famous Newport Aquarium (and stopped by the headquarters of Rogue Brewery), and took a few long-distance (but free!) pictures of the Haceta Head Lighthouse. You can see our cool Mustang convertible in some of those pictures :) Sadly, we eventually had to leave Yachats, and we semi-intentionally ended up having a crazy driving adventure through deep forest roads housing scary people who really, really don’t want visitors. From there we visited a few waterfalls and drove out to Bend. (Bend is the town where the person I work with lives.) Somehow, we don’t have any pictures of Bend, but we really liked it there. We do have pictures of our canoing trip and a trip we made up the Mt. Bachelor ski lift to try to eat dinner, but we ended up not eating there. Finally, we drove back to Portland, did a little more sight seeing, and flew home.

Phew!

Actually, it was great. We had 9 days, and no set schedule except for the hotel bookings. We were able to take our time and do whatever struck our fancy, from a big menu of previously-researched sights and activities. It’s my new favorite way to take a vacation :)

I have a few lasting thoughts / advice that I want to save, also:

  • Portland was an OK city, but we didn’t really love it. The highway traffic sucks, and the sky is always gray. It does have some great vegetarian food and good public transportation, but it just didn’t grab onto us the same way Chicago did.
  • The Japanese Garden is truly incredible. Wandering through there, I could help but feel awe and wonder, and be inspired by the talent and energy and time that went into making it. I will go back.
  • The International Rose Test Garden was boring (for me). It is just row after row after row of roses. If you really love roses, maybe you’ll like it.
  • Voodoo doughnut is only going to seem cool to you if you come prepared for it to be a dingy place from the 70’s.
  • When you think Portland Saturday Market, think “flea market” and you’ll have a good idea what to expect.
  • The Newport Aquarium is well worth visiting, and it’s even worth the price of admission :)
  • Never, ever, ever go to Yachats. If you do, you’ll be tempted to stay, and then it will be more crowded when we retire there ;) If you must visit, it’s well worth the money to stay at the Overleaf Lodge. You should also eat at the Drift Inn Restaurant (we ate there five or six times) and at the Yachats River House.
  • The best thing about Bend is that you can drive 30 minutes one way to be in desert, or 30 minutes the other to go skiing, or you can just stay in town to have great weather and lots of cool things to do. It’s the ultimate in micro-climate adjustability!
  • The Mt. Bachelor twilight dinner is a giant rip-off. We thought it would be really nice, but it’s really just a cheap ski lodge trying to sell fancy food. We tried to eat there, but they didn’t have anyone to seat us, didn’t have a table ready for our reservation, don’t have a good wine or beer selection, and ran out of steak (one of the four dinner choices). We left, and ended up at the Seasons restaurant in the Seventh Mountain Resort. It is now at the top of my list of all-time best restaurants, for service, atmosphere, food, and wine. Dinner there was absolutely amazing.

Anyhow, the trip was fantastic. We will go back to Oregon, maybe this winter. We want to see what it’s like in winter, and we’re already wishing that we’d brought back some good art from there. If not soon, though, then someday.

One last thing: I’ve put together a folder of favorite pictures, suitable for framing or giving as gifts ;)

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Pictures finally uploaded

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3493 days ago

I finally got around to uploading all my recent pictures to the gallery. “Recent,” in this case, is defined as “in the last 8 months.” Before this I hadn’t uploaded anything in 2007, even though I’ve been taking pictures all year. So without further ado, I present:

I’ve also uploaded pictures of our recent trip to Oregon, but I’ll be describing those in another post, momentarily. We also (also) have pictures from Kristina’s trip to Richmond, VA, but those haven’t been uploaded yet. Maybe they’ll make it up before Christmas ;)

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Tidbits

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3780 days ago

Just a few quick updates, between work and sleep:

Fun Stuff

At work the other day I spotted a background image that I really liked on a neighbor’s computer. I tracked down the source and discovered a treasure trove of fantastic backgrounds. The best ones are found by clicking the “Flame Favorites” links on this page (try this set, for example). You can learn more about Flame Fractals at lines and colors or flam3.com.

Work / Life

Work has been relatively insane the last few weeks. That’s the biggest reason I’ve been offline so much recently. On top of that, we’re hosting Thanksgiving Thursday, so we’ve been doing a lot of work to prep for that. The craziness will continue until about the end of the year. It’s good work, though, and I’m enjoying it.

Software

Joel has posted a rather amusing article about usability in Windows Vista, Microsoft’s next version of Windows. He demonstrates the type of thinking that’s necessary for making great products. It’s also the type of thinking that makes great Business Analysts :)

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New Gwen pictures!

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3839 days ago

Erica posted some new pictures of Gwen (and grandma, and aunt, and dad, and …) over on Gwen’s site.

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