Thursday, February 25, 2010

For... actually SEVERAL of my friends... on this day

"Almost perfect... but not quite."
Those were the words of Mary Hume
At her seventh birthday party,
Looking 'round the ribboned room.
"This tablecloth is pink not white--
Almost perfect... but not quite."

"Almost perfect... but not quite."
Those were the words of grown-up Mary
Talking about her handsome beau,
The one she wasn't gonna marry.
"Squeezes me a bit too tight--
Almost perfect... but not quite."

"Almost perfect... but not quite."
Those were the words of ol' Miss Hume
Teaching in the seventh grade,
Grading papers in the gloom
Late at night up in her room.
"They never cross their t's just right--
Almost perfect... but not quite."

Ninety-eight the day she died
Complainin' 'bout the spotless floor.
People shook their heads and sighed,
"Guess that she'll like heaven more."
Up went her soul on feathered wings,
Out the door, up out of sight.
Another voice from heaven came--
"Almost perfect... but not quite."

-Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More wisdom from Heinlein

"What a WONDERFUL world, that has girls in it"

-- Robert Heinlein in "Time Enough For Love"

Stealing one of Kevins Posts...

Or at least most of it, since it applies to me so well:
"There's been a lot going on in the world and I haven't been commenting on it, at least not on the blog. I've been lucky to get one or two (short) posts a day up, and those are pretty much linky, not thinky.

"I'm pretty damned busy at work,"
This is where I start to diverge
"which is a nice change from the previous several months. I'm working overtime, too, which is eating into my evening hours"

...which is really killer because it was pretty busy the last few months too... it's just more busy now.
Snipped a bit...
"I'm also trying to catch up on my reading. I've got five or six books that were loaned to me literally months ago I need to finish and return, plus I've got a stack of my own to plow through, and a LONG list I need to acquire."

Yeah... that's a major league understatement for me... My too read list has recently exceeded 400, and growing.

Anyway, this is just notice that blogging at TSM the AnarchAngel will remain light for a bit, and at the moment there is no Überpost stewing in my head (dammit).

Actually, there are a number of them, but I can't spare the intellectual energy and time right now to finish and publish them.

We're in the middle of a BIG move, and between that and work, things are basically nuts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oooh, I'd pay GOOD money for that...

What is Best in Life

I must have. I MUST HAVE. I MUST HAVE!!!

Chris's exact words when I showed him one of Think Geek's latest offerings:

A Little Advice from Heinlein

"The purpose of my government is never to do good, but to refrain from doing evil. This sounds simple... but is not".

From "Time Enough for Love" by Robert Anson Heinlein

Monday, February 22, 2010

Some people believe meetings get in the way of the job

...aaaaand some people believe meetings ARE the job:

Guess which one I am?

Guess which one many, many, many of my co-workers are?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Picked Up Chinese Takeout for Dinner

And this was my fortune:

Come back later...
I am sleeping. (yes, cookies
need their sleep, too)

No, none of the other fortunes were quite as unusual...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A change in workflow

So, the wife and I are going to be doing a lot of traveling this year: moving, coming back for JohnOCs wedding a few weeks after we move, visiting family, going to Reno again in September for the Gunblogger Rendezvous, and then across to Boston the weekend after thanksgiving (and possibly the whole week before to have thanksgiving with my family) for my next high school reunion.

Now, traditionally, I've had a top of the line... in fact seriously overbuilt... desktop as my primary machine; and I've used it to play games, rip media, run processor intensive tasks etc... AND a very high end laptop as well; so I would have all the resources I might need when traveling.

And of course, work provides me with their own high end laptop to deal with too.

A few things happened recently that have caused me to re-evaluate that way of doing things, and subsequently I've decided to change it completely.

The first thing is, I have a dedicated media box now. It has a combo HD-DVD, BluRay, and DVD burner on it, 8 gigs of ram, a ton of hard drive space, etc... It does everything I need for media; one quarter the reason for having a desktop at all.

I also have a dedicated 4TB NAS box, and a gig-e network, plus 300Mbps wireless N (though I've never seen more than about 65Mb sustained, it's still pretty fast). That's another quarter the reason for having a high end desktop.

My primary personal laptops over the past five years have had big screens (at least 17" since around 2001, went up to 18.4" in early 2009) and fullsized keyboards... plus docking stations for monitors and real desktop keyboards and mice etc... So I no longer need the big desktop for writing, desktop publishing, and other display and typing intensive tasks. Another quarter gone...

What that left, was gaming. For a long time, only a high end desktop rig could play the games I was interested in, with anything approaching reasonable performance.

So, for the last six or seven years, I kept a good, high end, and reasonably current desktop system, with a nice monitor and good speakers... pretty much just for gaming.

But then hardware dramatically outpaced game development; and for the last three or four years, really the only thing you've needed to update to keep playing current games at near maximum settings, was your video card... and even that was only once in that four years.

So, as it happens, I hadn't updated my desktop in about three years, except for an incremental(and cheap) video card upgrade about a year back...

Up until about five weeks ago, when said desktops motherboard, and video card, decided to fry themselves; and took my rather expensive Dual Link DVI, USB and Audio capable KVM switch with them (thankfully the monitor, PSU, the rest of the pci cards, the ram, hard drives, and the proc are all OK).

So, I salvaged what hardware I could, and packed it into my media box (currently a hackintosh; though I'm getting really tired of having no BluRay... though it IS hackable).

This left me with a very nice, high end, empty, full tower e-ATX chassis (well, I've still got the three hard drives that were in it, plus PSU and the BluRay burner).

Originally, my plan was to rebuild the box using current generation Core-i7, a USB 3 capable MoBo, 6gb of three channel DDR-3, a Radeon 5870, and an SSD boot drive (the current hot ticket for high performance without breaking the bank)... The whole of which would only have cost me about $1500, even splurging on top end bits (thanks to having the case, optical drive, other drives and cards etc...).

Unfortunately, in the same week, my primary personal laptop ALSO decided to die; though to be fair, it was actually dieing for the third time after two previous factory warranty repairs for the same problem (excess heat so bad the system would shut itself down, even when it was at idle).

Basically, the design of my laptop, which was HPs' absolute top of the line when I got it about a year ago; was rushed out, and they packed too much power (and thus heat) into too little space inside a laptop chassis. They discontinued the model a few months after I got mine, because of all the problems they had.

This time, they just replaced the whole machine with a brand new, also top of the line model, with all the bells and whistles; and for my trouble upgraded me to the highest processor, and max memory.

So, here I am with a brand new HP pavilion DV8T-Quad, with a quad core Core i7 3.06ghz (burst speed. It throttles down to under 2ghz for normal use), 8gb ddr3, 1gb GeForce GT230m, 18.4" 1080p screen, built in HDTV tuner and video capture device, blu-ray burner, 500gb 7200rpm hard drive... basically the top of everything you can possibly get in a laptop.


This thing, A LAPTOP... Is the fastest PC I've ever used. It's faster than anything X86 I've run, other than high end multi processor servers. It benchmarks higher than any desktop machine I've ever run. It runs even the newest games (Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2, BioShock 2, all released in the last few months) at their highest settings, flawlessly; both on the internal 18.4"1920x1080 screen, and my 24" external 1920x1200 monitor (too bad they don't support simultaneous dual head).

It beats my old PCs benchmarks in everything; even hard drive performance (which is a notorious weakness in laptops).

The built in speakers are actually pretty good, and the ones in the dock are nearly great... and if I want, I can stick my actual audiophile speaker system with DSP onto my docks optical output (the DSP and amp take coax or toslink audio and run surround sound processing, including DTS, out to the home theater grade speakers).

The point being, this thing is everything my old desktop was and more... by at least 50% in every measure.

So, I've decided that I'm going to go without a primary desktop. and move everything onto my primary laptop; and in general, using the dock, treat it as what it really is, a desktop replacement (the first laptop I've ever owned that could adequately meet that description).

This simplifies my computing life a lot, because between the dropping a box, and the NAS systems; I don't have to maintain and sync multiple copies (or at least, as many, multiple copies) of everything across as many different machines etc... etc...

So, the new laptop is just excellent, and is a total replacement for my old desktop, with no compromise necessary.

Unfortunately, what it ISN'T, is particularly portable or handy.

It does after all have an 18.4" screen, and it weighs all of 11 pounds... plus it's got a full pound 180watt power brick (yes, 180 watts). It's luggable, but it's not really a laptop.

Frankly, it's just a pain to haul around; even from room to room. Hell, I can't even find a laptop bag it properly fits in (I make it fit in my biggest bag, but that's not the same thing).

Which brings me to the third recent development: the high end netbook.

When netbooks first came out, they had 7" screens, and laughable processors, memory, and storage.

I tried a 7" netbook, and to me, they were useless. I couldn't even properly read ebooks on them.

9" netbooks were a bit better; but still totally inadequate for me (great for a lot of folks, but most people dont have 20 programs running at once). The 10"s though.. I could actually browse on them, if not really type.

So, for portability and convenience, I've been using a netbook since early last year.

A 10" notebook, with 2gb ram and a 1.6ghz proc has served me reasonably well, since my wife got me an Eee 1008ha (Seashell) as a gift this past June; but it's still too small. I couldnt fit both my hands on the keyboard at once and still rest my palms or wrists on the wristpad. I was always scrolling... and I do too much multitasking for a single core CPU to keep up frankly.

However, in the past few weeks, ASUS has started shipping their Eee 1201n: a 12" netbook, with a dual core hyper threaded 64 bit atom CPU, an ION GPU with real 3d acceleration (GeForce 9400), and a max of 8gb of ram (needs a BIOS fix and a change to 64bit, for today its 4g maximum).

Mel has pretty much stopped using her 9" netbook because it was too small for comfort, and frequently borrowed my 10". I'd pretty much stopped using my 10" because it was too cramped...

As I said, the wife and I are going to be traveling a LOT this year. I need real computing power, that I can keep handy with me, in the car, or on a plane; and be comfortable with.

So, what the hell, I decided to upgrade to the 12" 1201; and gave Mel the 10" 1008. I'm actually typing this post on the 1201, which I received this afternoon.

It's a great little bit of kit. Big enough that I can comfortably type and relax my wrists; but still small enough to fit in my grab-n-go bag. Most importantly, it's got enough processing power, memory, and graphics power to play ripped HD videos, and to have many browser windows and tabs open simultaneously (which is how I like to work). I can do REAL multitasking with it.

Oh and when I want, having an HDMI port rather than just a VGA; I can hook it up to the HDMI input of the big monitors (I have a couple of 24s for the multitude of computers scattered around the house) and stick on a USB or bluetooth keyboard and mouse; and it's perfectly adequate as a word processing, web browsing, music playing machine.

Hell, just like the "real" laptop, I can even hook it to the big screen TV in the living room, and output at 1080p native resolution if I want.

I have noted however, that this netbook requires a bit of a change in workflow for me.

Because I split my time across mutliple computers, I needed some way of keeping them all synced up.

For the past few years, I have run all my email, my non-confidential docs, my contacts and calendar etc... in the cloud; with syncing tools. Also, whenever possible, I use cross platform tools that keep their account, contact, preference data etc... in the cloud.

I do this using evernote, drop box, gmail, gcal, google wave, google voice, google docs, mobile me, skype, trillian (for windows anyway. I use pidigin on linux and adium on Mac), and firefox with the xmarks extension (among many others of course).

Finally, I have portable windows and portable linux versions of all of the above on one of three filesystems on a thumb drive (along with a number of other tools and utilities of course). The second is a linux live-distro with all of the above ready to run on it. The third is an encrypted virtual drive for secure data storage; with windows and linux encryption clients to access the filesystem.

All are cross platform, store their data up in the cloud or sync through it to the other PCs, and give me my same basic computing platform and data across all of the computers I operate on (except my work laptop, which I deliberately isolate anyway. If I want to use it with personal data, I either use a virtual machine, or I run off the thumb drive).

The new netbook has thrown a monkeywrench in the works however.

As it is a dual core, hyperthreaded CPU, it multitasks much better than my previous netbook. That's great.

Unfortunately, firefox does not (at least not on 32 bit Windows 7. It's a bit better on 64 bit). That's not great.

With firefox, every tab you open is just more resources allocated to a single instance of the firefox binary. Open more than a few tabs, and it's footprint can get HUGE (several gigs, if you have the RAM); especially if there is java or flash involved (and there frequently is).

Compared to other single threaded netbooks, the performance of firefox on the 1201 isn't any worse; but it IS just as bad. When combined with actual multitasking, it becomes awful.

With other netbooks you don't so much notice it, because you can't usefully multitask anyway; but with this one you can, so when you can't because the single giant firefox binary is taking up all your resources and is spinlocked... it's noticeable.

Enter my workflow change.

I'm switching to Googles Chrome browser... at least on the netbook, and at least for now; because every tab (and because I run I tend to have at least a dozen tabs open across several windows at any given time) is its own process, with its own resource management (and if one tab crashes, unlike firefox, it doesn't necessarily rash every other tab and window... though it still does sometimes).

On the older single core netbooks, I never really much noticed a difference between FF and Chrome. On this dual core model... the difference is night and day. Literally an order of magnitude improvement in performance and response time.

With the xmarks extension I can still sync everything I need to; and most of the extensiosn I use for FF have an equivalent in chrome (though generally not as polished)... I just prefer the look and feel of firefox more; and it's weird to change what I've been using constantly for so many years (also Chrome has some oddities in how it handles data that sometimes induce weirdness).

...but if it lets me type multithousand word blog posts, with 5 browser iwndows and over 20 tabs open; with no slowdowns... Yeah, that's worth it.

Oh and just in general, the 1201 is a spectacular machine; and so is the DV8T-quad. For the first time since I started using personal computers, I have not felt unduly constrained by the limitations of my portable computers.

Far Too Charitable

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The AbsentMinded Executive and Working From Home

a.k.a. why I list my occupation as "Professional Mother and Personal Assistant".

Remember "The AbsentMinded Professor"? The old Disney movie which introduced the world to "flubber"?

There are days I feel like Betsy.

Chris and Professor Brainard are quite a bit alike. Both brilliant, both with seemingly unlimited attention spans. Both incredibly talented at forgetting the mundane little details that make life work.

Sometime a while back I just gave up and took over the little details, like the grocery shopping, trip planning, doctors appointments, parent-teacher conferences, etc.

Oh, and of course the banking.

If I had a dollar for every time I stopped in LocalBranchofChris'sEmployer to do a deposit and heard, "oh I see you have an employee account, what do you do?" I'd have a nice new pretty shotgun by now.

Me: "Oh, I don't work for MajorBank, my husband does."
Teller: "Oh, what does he do?"
Me: "He's a systems architect and he works from home."
Teller: "Oh that would be awesome! You mean he doesn't even have to go in to work?"
Me: "Yes, but..."

So yesterday Chris went to pick up his inter-office mail from LocalBranch and did a little banking while he was there. He left some paperwork on the counter (see, absent minded) which a teller gave to the Assistant Manager. Assistant Manager used the name to look up Chris's employee profile in order to get a phone number and gave Chris a call. I was already out putting diesel in the truck so I got drafted to pick up the paperwork.

So I go to Local Branch and request the Assistant Manager, who instead of just handing over the paperwork decides to strike up a conversation. He's about my age, late 20's, with a proper clean starched white shirt, tie, the whole thing. He'd also obviously taken a good look at the employee profile.

AM: "So your husband works from home? That's great."
Me: "Yeah, it can be."
AM: "So what does he do, wake up and eat his cereal while working in his underwear."
Me: "Something like that..."
AM: (Practically drooling over the thought "That would be so much better..."
Me: (Can't bear to think of yet another person roped in by work-from-home) "Except for the 12 hour days of course."
AM: "Really?"
Me: "Yes, because his team is spread between two coasts. The day starts when the guys on the east coast log in at 8 (note: six our time right now, 5 our time during the summer) and ends when the west-coasters log out at 6 (7 our time right now, 6 during the summer)."
AM: "....."

Note from Chris: Some of the oddity in hours is because Arizona doesnt use daylight savings time; so we're the same as pacific during summer, and mountain during winter. Usually my day starts at more like 7, and ends around 6... I usually don't have to start emailing or get on the phone in the first hour or two of the east coasters workday... Though every so often, the east coasters forget it's a three hour time difference during the summer, and I start getting calls and emails around 5...

Also, I'm not officially on-call, but I'm also the senior high level technical resource for my division, so sometimes I end up on late night calls trying to deal with emergencies etc...

This young, bright employee had fallen for the basic fallacy of the "ideal" work situation, the designated homeworker.

It's understandable of course. When most people think of working from home, they take the concept of the 8 hour job and move it to their house. Same hours, no commute.


Unfortunately that couldn't be further from the truth. Working from home is SO different from regular shift work as to be a different creature entirely.

I don't care if you just work your 8 hours from home and actually keep it 9-5, it's still incredibly different.

Let's take yesterday for example.

6:00 am Ding. Ding. Ding. Emails are already hitting the Blackberry. Better than any alarm.
8:00 am First omg the world is going to end fire needs to be put out.
9:00 am - 4:00pm Mandatory meetings interspersed with calls from team members and random people from other departments. More fires.
4:00 pm Call from concerned party, "have you seen this piece of bullshit Other Department is pulling? No? Okay, time to have another meeting..."
4:30 pm Finally pick up mail from LocalBranch only to forget it. End of "formal" workday.
6:00 pm Dinner with MajorVendor to go over new products.
8:30 pm Finally make it home, check bloody work email.

When you're a salaried homeworker, there's no such thing as "don't bring your work home" because it's already bloody there. There's no firm boundaries, no end of work day, no guarantee that damn work line won't ring at 9:00pm with another damn emergency.

Not that there aren't benefits. No commute. No rush hour. No suits (unless going to a meeting).

I went with my best friend to the Renaissance Festival for half-price day Monday and didn't have to find a babysitter. That's a huge bonus.

But there are drawbacks as well. Always being available. Interrupted dinners.

Oh, and of course the sharing of the workload with the wife.

Chris doesn't have an easily encapsulated one person job. No high level executive does. Every executive job I know of is at least a two person job.

What do I mean by that?

Chris works 12 hour days sometimes, and when he doesn't his hours are so erratic as to be completely unpredictable.

There's no asking him to drop by the grocery store or the bank, no asking him to pick up the kids, or make dinner, or do the laundry. That's all on me.

So what? That's just a normal stay-at-home mom's workload.

True enough. Running the household is my job to the exclusion of all others.

However, living with an executive, particularly a work-from-home executive, just adds to the workload.

Between the:
*Making and remaking of the coffee
*Making lunch
*Occasionally answering the phone
*Always answering the "honey, am I free on..."
*Keeping the house suitably quiet and work friendly
*Keeping track of dinners, offsite meetings, appointments...
*Oh, and not getting pissed when plans change for whatever reason, and being flexible enough to deal...
*And, of course, dealing with the fact that at any given moment his work will interfere with our life

Then there's the stuff that because of his work Chris can't be expected to do, like auto maintenance, keeping fuel in the vehicles, handling doctors and teachers, doing minor repairs, PACKING UP AN ENTIRE 3 BEDROOM HOUSE IN ORDER TO MOVE...

Chris's job means my full time job is EVERYTHING ELSE THAT NEEDS TO BE DONE.

This is true for every high level executive, or anyone who works erratic 60 hour weeks. They do not have the time or the flexibility to run their entire lives for themselves. Even if their method of dealing with the excess is to use delivery services, laundry services, or concierge services, their lives become a two-person job.

As far as I'm concerned I do everything a personal assistant does, except that instead of getting paid I split my husband's paycheck. As he constantly tells people, I make it possible for him to do this job.

I tried to explain this to starry-eyed Assistant Manager. I think I may have gotten through to him, thank god.

Living with a work-from-home executive isn't exactly glamorous or easy. However I wouldn't trade our job for anything, or the lifestyle for anything.

It's not the dream job most people think it is, but it works for us.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

This is really how they do it...

Not Invented Here is a great strip by the way. It had a bit of a slow start, but it seems to be finding its stride now.

Monday, February 15, 2010

What a lovely late spring day...

It's about 3pm, and it's a beautiful 76 degrees out; scattered clouds and a light and variable breeze with 15% relative humidity.

It's February frikken 15th...

It's 76 frikken degrees out...

and I'm in the northern hemisphere....

It's god damned unnatural I tell you.

Rural Connectivity

So, as I mentioned a few days ago, we're moving in a few weeks.

Where we're moving, we're going to have several internet options; all of them wireless.

The good news, is that there are both DSL and cablemodem providers in the area.

The BAD news, is that as of today, we're just 200 feet beyond where the signal path degrades too much; on both the local cable company, and the local phone company (Verizon) DSL.

The further good news, is that we've got full 3g from Verizon in the area. The further bad news is that Verizon has a 5gig a month download limit for consumer accounts. Obviously not acceptable for my current internet use.

That said, I WILL be getting a 3g USB adapter and UNLIMITED service paid for by my employer. Right now they pay for tethering on my blackberry, but you can't use voice and data simultaneously, and I'm certainly going to need that. No problem, they'll spring for the USB 3G adapter and account as another option; and with our corporate account, they don't put any download limit on our wireless broadband usage.

So, that give me work access, and perhaps a backup to my primary connection.

The third piece of good news, is that we have two other wireless options. The first, is satellite internet; which we can get at a substantial discount in a bundle from Verizon with landline, DirecTV (and don't get me going about how much I'm going to LOVE giving up my TiVO to be stuck on DirecTV...), and WildBlue.

The wildblue ProPackage actually seems like a great deal, for a satellite ISP anyway. 1.5Mbit down, 256k up, and a 17gig monthly download limit (considerably higher than most other sat providers).

However, there are three disadvantages to satellite net:
  1. The download limit. 17gb is much better than the 5gb offered by most providers, but it's still throttled and limited.
  2. The latency. Sat net has a latency too high for VOIP and video conferencing, and can be iffy for some VPN connectivity.
  3. The weather degradation. Sat net degrades significantly in heavy rain, and heavy snow; both of which are a factor where we're moving.
Thankfully, because we're in direct line of sight to two different microwave repeaters, we have a third option: microwave wireless internet (not WiMax, classic point to point wireless).

We can get 3Mbps synchronous (for those not ISP savvy, that means we get both 3 meg up AND down. Usually you get asynchronous data, with much lower upload rates than download rates), at low latency, with no bandwidth limit, and up to five static IP's for just $80 a month (believe me, thats a good price for wireless broadband, and getting a static IP at all is great). From the same provider we can get as much as three times that, for up to around $200 a month.

So, that is what we're going to do for our primary connection. We'll start out with the 3meg option, and if we need more, we'll pay the upcharge.

However, microwave is not without disadvantages itself. In particular, it has the same issues with heavy weather as satellite net does. Of course we're rather a bit closer to the transceiver (twenty-two thousand someodd miles closer), so the signal strength and discrimination will be higher; but it's also on frequencies that are more sensitive to water in the atmosphere. So rain/snow fade is still an issue.

So, our plan is to take the combination of terrestrial microwave internet, and the 3g wireless (which doesn't really get weather fade except in the most extreme conditions... besides which there's 5bar coverage at our new address), in a loadshare/failover configuration.

Near as I can tell, the best way to do that right now is with a cradlepoint home office router. There are other solutions available, through non specialist vendors; but no other router solution offers automatic load balancing, failover, and QOS, with as much support for different wireless USB adapters... at least as far as I know.

Of course I could build a little linux box router and config it myself... and I may still do that if I investigate the Cradlepoint more and find a linux router might do the job better; but I suspect that won't be the case because of 3g modem support (which can be iffy on linux).

There may be even MORE complexity here, in that the bundle pricing for landline, sat tv and sat net, is actually the same price as doing just landline and sat tv... so I may end up going with a THREE way load balancing/failover/load sharing. If it doesn't cost me anything extra, why not.

At that point, I'm pretty sure I'll have to go to a custom linux router box. I don't know of any consumer router that can support threw way provider diversity... hell I may grab a couple of "real" routers (as in small office routers or firewalls from a major networking vendor) and rig something up there... though somehow I doubt anyone is going to let me run BGP over their wireless networks...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

1826 days, 2787 posts, 2 million hits, 3 million views

Yes, today is my fifth blogiversary.

It's amazing how much has changed in my life in the last five years. I'm married, with children... wow... damn...

I mean, at 16, I thought it'd be a miracle if I lived past 30... and if I'd gone on the way I was going, it would've been.

Now I'm looking hard at "middle age"; having achieved nearly half of everything I've ever really wanted... and another 30 or so years... maybe 40 if I'm lucky... to achieve or acquire the other half before my ability to achieve is significantly diminished.

Not that I don't have troubles, and trials, and difficulties and issues... perhaps more than my share... but I always have had, and I'm sure always will have them. It's the human condition.

Moments like this, I just look around me and I can't help but think how lucky I am. How hard I've worked, how much I've sacrificed, how many people I've helped or hurt, or loved, or fought with along the way... but most of all how lucky I've been.

I simply cannot believe where I am, where I might soon be, and just how lucky I am for that.

Thank you all for reading this stuff that spills out of my brain. It humbles me that so many people want to listen. I don't do this for you, I do it for my own sanity; but believe me, I appreciate you.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My "New Office"

So, I've briefly mentioned before, in a few weeks, we're going to be moving from the house we've been living in the last four years.

More detail on that to follow, but for now I thought I'd inaugurate the video feature of my iPhone 3GS to show y'all my temporary workspace while we're packing.

Normally, I work in an 800sqft office/gunroom/hobby workshop etc... surrounded by a half dozen computers, several monitors, a bunch of guns, reloading equipment, tools and the like.

However, that space would be rather difficult to pack up, clean up, and get ready for moving, were I to keep actually working in it; so we decided to consolidate my workstation into the bare essentials, on the small desk in our bedroom.

Of course, I have a somewhat more expansive definition of the bare essentials than some...

My workstation consists of a ThinkPad W500 (work machine), my brand new as of yesterday (more on that later as well) HP dv8t quad (personal machine), connected to two of the six inputs of a 24" gateway monitor (that I got a SMOKIN deal on two years ago); along with the HP and IBM docking stations, and both HP and MS wireless keyboards and mice.

Unfortunately, my DVI KVM switch fried a few weeks ago or I'd just have one set of keyboard and mouse.

In the other room, and not yet hooked up, is the hackintosh. I may hook it up, I may not; I haven't decided yet.

For comms I've got my blackberry (Tour, my work phone), my iPhone 3GS, my two line landline phone (work and home), and both Skype and Googlevoice (with in and out voip).

Yes, they're all active, every day. At any time someone could be calling me on one... or frequently several... of six lines; for 10-12 hours a day.

Yes, it's a pain in the ass. No, I can't change it. It goes with the job. I work at home, and lead a team spread from Miami, Atlanta, Raleigh, New Jersey and New Hampshire on ones side of the country; and from San Diego to Seattle on the other; with Austin, San Antonio, St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Menomonie Falls Wisconsin in the middle. They all work 8-6, so when necessary I work 6-8.

Anyway... it's an awful lot of (hopefully) productivity packed into a TINY little space (about 36x24").

For all the fellow parents of 5-9 year olds

A Little Attitude Adjustment with a set of Social D

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A different conception of "civilized society"

...Thinking about something the other day... something about the country I want to live in, the society I want to live in; and my idea of what "civilized society" is, as opposed to say, the hard lefts ideas.

I think the perfect encapsulation of it is this:

In the lefts conception of civilized society, if I shot someone trying to rob my house one night, the first words the responding law enforcement officer said to me after arriving on scene would be "You have the right to remain silent".

In my conception of civilized society, the officers first words would be "Huh... nice group".

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Monday, February 08, 2010

Reminiscent of Someone

I'm sure others have mentioned this before, but I can't get over just how strongly Obama reminds me of Herbert Hoover in 1930.

I'll go into more detail about it later, but think about it.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

It's Prison Rape, or Swishy Camp, and nothing in Between

Isn't it kinda screwed up, that probably the best depiction of masculine homosexuals, and romantic love between men, ever put on a major network (I don't count gay specific media like Logo etc...); is "Oz", an extremely brutal prison drama?

Now, you may hate homosexuality, think it's an abomination before god... degeneracy and deviancy whatever... but it IS a part of our culture. In fact it's a part of our culture that might involve as much as 10% of the population.

One would think, even with American attitudes towards sex, and towards homosexuality; that there would have been a more mainstream, REALISTIC, and forthright depiction of masculine gays, and romantic love between men.

Or maybe if it's more acceptable to society as a whole, of NORMAL looking lesbians, who aren't models or porn stars?

There have been plenty of depictions of swish gays, and a lot of "never see them be affectionate" stuff (not just kissing, you'll never see two men even HUG romantically on network TV), usually with ONE character or very rarely ONE couple in a large ensemble cast. Or the special "stunt casting" drop in characters (the lesbian stunt on "Roseanne" kinda thing).

Yeah I know, most of America doesn't want to see it blah blah blah... Most of us don't want to see MOST of what they put on TV, it hasn't stopped the networks. They put hypersexualized straight folks up there, they put swishy gays, and lipstick lesbians up there... Is it too much to ask for an honest depiction of just plain normal looking lesbians, and masculine gay men?

I mean, I don't feel like seeing guys making out on TV any more than most of y'all do... but then again I don't feel like seeing girls making out, or guys AND girls making out... I don't want sexual titillation from my television set. I want humor, and drama, and a semi-realistic depiction of the world around us, just turned up to 11... and that depiction should include realistic depiction of gays and lesbians.

Anyway, just a random thought (and not even an original one, since gays have been making this same complaint for years), occaisoned by the fact that the complete series of "OZ" (an EXCELLENT show that I highly recommend by the way. Almsot certainly the best performances ever pulled from Christopher Meloni, Lee Turgeson, J.K. Simmons, Dean Winters, Terry Kinney, Kirk Acevedo... well, basically the majority of the cast of "Law and Order" "Dexter", and a half dozen other shows) is on Amazons gold box deals today.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Good day today

Good day today... unfortunately I can't talk about it, but lets just say that several people in my life are happier and better off than they have been recently.

Unfortunately that's about all the mental energy I have for the day... work is getting crazy.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A few VERY different shredders...

Expanding on last nights post, I thought I'd put up a few different videos, of a few different styles and techniques of shredding.

Just for fun, let's look at Darrel Abbot (aka Dimebag Darrel) and his tour through all the major shredding styles "The Art of Shredding"

This sound is, literally, an example of every different kind of shredding there is. Different sections are played in different fingering, picking, and tapping styles.

Then there's the all time canonical example for the shred guitarist, Yngwie Malmsteen; and what is probably the best example of his several different shredding techniques (alternate picking, sweep picking, hybrid picking, hybrid tapping, and two handed tapping) all in one song, "Caprici Diabolo":

Oh and I should note... though I often criticize Yngwie for being all speed and technique, and no soul...and for being a total douchebag (really, he is. Major asshole, and a nasty drunk too)... he can do it almost as well with an acoustic guitar as he can with a strat. Still no soul, but he's not using insane overdrive and extra strings and extended doublecutaways to get his speed :

And I should note, for most of his best, fastest, and most difficult work, Yngwie was stone ass (near falling down) drunk. If I drank as much as he did I wouldnt be able to tie my shoes, never mind play like that.

Oh and he CAN play slowly, and play the blues, and classic rock... he's even good at it... he just likes guitar masturbating a lot more.

There's two guys you have to credit for bringing shredding to mass audiences, and coincidentally both played behind (or in front of) David lee Roth.

The first is of course, Eddie Van Halen, with the song that brought shredding out in public for the first time, "Eruption":

...and for those of you who only know Van halen as mediocre middle aged adult contemporary rockers (you poor misguided fools you), here's an INSANE 11 minute live shredding jam on eruption from the early 80s (where Eddie uses every shredding technique known to man):

Just the look on his face during the whole thing... there's a man in his prime and having the time of his life. He was the absolute king of the world for that 11 minutes.

The other player of course is Steve Vai; who would do more than any other 80s guitarist to popularize shredding with the hard core musical theory crowd (the guys who love metal for the technique and degree of difficulty)... and who in this clip just happens to also being shredding with Tony MacAlpine, Dave Wiener, and Billy Sheehan:

Though I have to say, my favorite Vai tune ever is probably Bad Horsie:

Some may say that role more properly belongs to Satrianai (or even Steve Morse)
... but I disagree. Like Eric Johnson, Satch doesn't really shred... Satch just... IS.

Now... we have to talk a bit about Michael Angelo Batio; who is considered the fastest shredder there is (though Talio DellaVega is the fastest picker according to Guinness).

Frankly, I'm not a fan. He is INSANELY fast... and his technique is incredible... but if there was ever someone who is all technique and no soul or art it's Batio. And I hate to say it, because he's an incredibly versatile and inventive player, and a great teacher of technique (and apparently a very nice guy)... I just don't like his music.

Here he is playing on his signature "double guitar"... not just a double neck, it's actually two guitars joined at the base, that he plays simultaneously with plucking and tapping techniques:

What he can do with a guitar... or two.. or even four (yes, he has a four way version of that thing and he'll play all four at once through harmonics, pedals, sustain effects etc... ) boggles the mind... It's absolutely amazing... but it leaves me cold.

And here's Dragonforce's Herman Li, demonstrating his hybrid tapping/two handed tapping style:

...and what has become their iconic song "Through the Fire and Flames":

Where you can see that Li is one of the fastest two handed, or hybrid tappers ever... Plus it's just a fun song.

Admittedly, Li isnt nearly as musical as some others, but his playing is incredibly fast, and very fun. It's not strained or over-techniqued... it's just he sacrifices quality for speed.

Now, I can't do this sampler without something from John Petrucci, one of my favorite guitarists from one of my favorite bands of all time, Dream Theater. Here's his solo piece "Glasgow Kiss":

Not one of the fastest shredders (though he's damn fast); but definitely among the most musical... Probably as good as Satch, Gilbert etc.. as an artist and band member rather than just a "guitar player".

Ok... I saved this one for last, because... well most people dn't know who he is, other than real guitar geeks... and he's probably the only guitarist I can think of who is both faster, AND more musical than Paul Gilbert... His name is Rusty Cooley; and though he's been around since the early 90s, he's never had much fame... but guitarist know who his is, and stuff like this is why:

and this freestyle jam... just blows me away:

Oh and thinking about it now... Why is it so many of the most amazing guitarists come out of New Jersey? No joke, like 1/3 of these guys are from NJ.

Eine Kleine Shred Musik

Sometimes, I just can't sleep. Soooo much going on in the cranium, I just can't shut it down.

When I was a kid, I used to drown out my brain, playing metal and deep cuts of classic rock, very loudly (either through headphones, or after I got a soundproofed private apartment through a quite loud cd player and amp)... The music just pounded away my obsessive multitrack mind, and attention to everything around me; and after a while I could sleep.

It's how I first learned to love the guitar gods. Hendrix, Clapton, Blackmore, Morse, Moore, Gilmour, Vai, Satriani, Johnson, Vaughn... Hell even Knopfler and Kottke and Cooder, and Di Meola, and MacAlpine. If I could get ahold of a CD and it had great guitar (and bass too; but finding a virtuoso bassist was a lot harder. Billy Sheehan, Les Claypool, Victor Wooten, Stu Hamm, and Stanley Clarke are about the only guys you could actually get albums for at the time), I probably listened to it a hundred or a thousand times like that.

It doesn't work for me anymore. Not sure why, but it doesn't let me sleep like it used too... Though I still find it relaxing. Sometimes I'll just stick my itunes into a loop of my "guitar" playlist, and wipe out as much of the distraction as possible.

So, here's some shredding for you this late night slash early morning, courtesy of Paul Gilbert (one of the best guitarists of all time... and one of the most underrated, because he chose to be in bands that get little respect, and because he became a guitar video hawker):

First a few classical caprices (both literally and figuratively)...

Then some more explicit metal shredding...

Y.R.O (Yngwie Rip-Off... Gilbert has an interesting sense of humor)

"Technical Difficulties" (still one of my favorite pieces of "background metal")

Gilbert is all the more impressive (and this makes his being underrated even more clear), because unlike most shredders who play at his level of speed and precision; he is an alternate picker not primarily a tapper or sweep picker (Gilbert WILL tap, but in his own compositions, and most of his shredding, he is almost exclusively a picker).

He achieves his amazing speed and precision almost exclusively with alternate picking, string skipping, and soft legatos (basic hammer-ons and pullofs); rarely using tapping or sweep picking.

Gilbert has been clocked at sustained 20 distinctly picked notes... not legatos (hammerons, and pullofs), or taps... per second, in actual music (not just speedpicking) when messing around (that's 1200 beats per minute, though only for a few seconds).

Although there are faster players; notably Herman Li (who has several hybrid tapping pieces at 320bpm) , Michael Angelo Batio (who can apparently hit 32 sounded notes per second when tremolo picking; but that's not music, that's just speedpicking), and Tiago DellaVega (who can play "Flight of the Bumblebee" the normal test piece, picked at over 320bpm ); they are all tappers, hybrid pickers (people who pluck with several fingers in addition to the pick, as in fingerstyle guitar, bluegrass, and banjo playing) or hybrid tappers (tapping and sweep or tremolo picking simultaneously); I don't think anyone is a faster picker, while being as musical.

Notably, because of this skill (not to mention soul, and sense of humor), he is the most "musical" of the ultra-high speed shredders; not just depending on speed and technical prowess... and not needing a finely tuned and heavily overdriven electric guitar with funny weight strings to do it (as you need to do with high speed tapping).

He can do things like this:

Which, if you'll note the fingering and picking, ISN'T actual flamenco style guitar (which he says right at the beginning). He isn't fingerpicking or plucking here, hes only using his thumb and index finger to "pick" up and down... so it doesn't sound as fluid as true flamenco would but there is more precision to the notes.

Or this little Hayden piece for example:

Which you will note is exclusively alternate picked; where a classical guitarist would be finger picking, or another shredder (Yngwie certainly. He has also done this piece) would be two handed tapping or hybrid tapping (both faster techniques certainly, but producing an entirely different sound and "feel").

Thing is... though I appreciate the technique, and the foundation Gilbert has (he's certainly one of the best musically educated guitarists out there in terms of technique. He has a degree in guitar theory, and is a professor at the Guitar Institute of Technology)... What I like most about his playing is the soul, and the sheer FUN he has playing. Gilbert is a guy who doesn't take himself, or playing guitar, too seriously... and I like that.

Here he is, having some fun with his Mr. Big bandmate Billy Sheehan:

Monday, February 01, 2010

A hard day

Some time this morning, our cat Kimber crawled into our washing machine, settled herself comfortably on some clothes, and she died.

She hadn't been eating well... She had a large benign cyst that grew into her brain case about two years ago. It wasn't growing any more, but it still bothered her. She would sometimes claw and scratch at it, causing her to bleed, and to get minor infections.

It seems that she tore it out this time, and it killed her. I found the remains of the cyst nearby her body.

A few hours later, one of the girls found her...

We lost her littermate Springer about a year ago; now she's gone too, not even 4 years old.

There are some pics of the two of them as kittens.

It was a rough day.