Thursday, December 31, 2009

Plans for 2010

Not resolutions, but plans for the new year...

Continue to get in better shape
  • Weigh less than 200 lbs at some point in the year
  • Run and complete a half marathon
  • Attempt to complete a full marathon
  • Be able to do pull-ups
  • Buy bikes
Make the home office presentable again
  • Not used for random storage any more
  • Filing cabinets accessible and used on a regular basis
Improve financial management skills

  • Maintain a functional monthly and annual budget
  • Reduce non-mortgage debt by 50%
Improve work/life balance
  • More "random" days off from work for fun with family
Academic Avocation

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Card

Note the postmark on this card from our friend in the government:

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Messy Play

I'm not great at keeping the house clean to begin with, so the idea of messy play is usually a bit intimidating to me.  I guess I have to be in the right mood for it.  Tonight, though, was finger-painting night at our house:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lessons Learned Today

  1. Superglue near eye burns
  2. Glasses are hard to fix when the frame itself actually breaks
  3. The new Super Mario Bros game is chaos with four people all playing together... fun chaos
  4. Preparing the night before for a 10:55 flight is more relaxing than preparing for a 7:20 AM flight
  5. Being fewer than 2,000 words away from finishing NaNoWriMo / PragProWriMo feels really great! If you're interested in data warehousing, you can see a few highlights of the 48,061 words I've written over the past month on my tech blog: Sharpening Stones.

Friday, November 27, 2009

10 Random Things to be Thankful For

  • 48,061 words on NaNoWriMo / PragProWriMo with 3 days left to go
  • Friends willing to watch our dog
  • Margaritas and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
  • Nintendo Wii
  • My wife
  • My family
  • My brother-in-law
  • Children who go to sleep
  • Christmas music
  • Life
I can be silly and sentimental in the same post if I want to!

Monday, November 23, 2009

38,761 words; 158 pages

PragProWriMo going well and looking for a strong finish over the next week!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting it done

I really have to give a lot of thanks to Sarahlynn for how much fun I'm having this month with NaNoWriMo / PragProWriMo (despite having come down with an annoying cold yesterday).  See "snot" reference.

Setting a pace of 2,000 words per day for 6 days a week, and not having a goal 1 day per week has been great.  If I can find 20 minutes to write during the day and an hour or two at night, I seem to be able to keep pace.

#pragprowrimo word count: 18,297

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Liking People

...not licking people...

It occurred to me just now that maybe I would like people more if I took the time to learn more about them.  Not that I don't really like people, but I just don't take the time to ask people at work about their personal lives.

I like sharing things about myself with other people.  Maybe I'd actually like to hear more about them, too, if I took the time.


Tuesday, November 03, 2009


"People aren't accountable enough for things..." is a phrase that I heard at work a few times over the past couple of years.  The phrase bothered me a lot.  I couldn't tell why, but it gave me one of those visceral "that doesn't make sense!" reactions.

Tonight, I finally figured it out.  You cannot independently and simply be accountable.  Rather, accountability is directed outwardly.  You are held accountable by someone else, by yourself, or by God.

Accountable and Responsible are sometimes used inter-changeably, but it seems to be there is a very important distinction.  When you are responsible for something, you simply and matter-of-factly are responsible for that thing.  By definition.  When you're accountable for something, it is because of an expectation or obligation that is a third-party to the relationship between you and the thing for which you are accountable.


Sunday, November 01, 2009

Running Log 2009-11-01

Distance: 3.01 miles
Time: ~30 minutes

My favorite part about this run: after a little bit of warm-up and providing for a little bit of cool-down at the end, I ran the entire distance without walking.  Lately, I feel like I haven't been able to get more than a mile without walking a bit, so this was a good accomplishment.  I think the 55 degree weather helps, too.  By the end, though, I feel like I was breaking through another wall; as if I could have possibly done the entire loop again.  Maybe I'll try that next time.

Now, it's off for some more PragProWriMo / NaNoWriMo!
You can follow my progress on my other blog, Sharpening Stones, or via twitter.

PragProWriMo Begins

It's begun.  Less than 8 hours later, I'm off to a running start at 1,492 words!

Track my progress on my NaNoWriMo page or my Sharpening Stones blog.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almost Time to Write!

NaNoWriMo starts on Sunday and one of my favorite tech publishers is encouraging geeks to participate, too!

Time to run

Tonight's run was a bit ambitious, and a huge success!
It's also fun to have do a one-way run, because it really is productive on multiple levels: exercise and transportation!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Happy National Computer Science Education Week!

Mark your calendars!  The week of December 7th is officially National Computer Science Education Week.  I'm a big fan of the idea.  In fact, I wrote a paper in my Argumentation 101 class in college that suggested that every liberal arts student should be required to take an introduction to computer science class.  It was the only paper I got an A on all semester and the English teacher told me that she was actually convinced!

As anyone working in a CS or MIS department knows, enrolment in CS and MIS graduate programs is down dramatically over the past 10 years.  (Enrolment in female students has dropped off particularly steeply!)  So, I'm glad that there's some good publicity going on.

The Information Management website, however, has a ridiculous editorial about the state of affairs, though.  The article suggests:
...there is another powerful factor that steers young people away from what they see as humdrum careers, and that factor began with us, the parents of those who are about to enter the workforce. Specifically, I’m talking about the idea that a growing child “can be anything he or she wants to be.” Now I never heard that from my parents growing up and most of my friends didn’t either, but I know plenty of parents nowadays who tell that awful lie to their kids. And this fantasy is reinforced millions of times daily by the likes of Disney and Nickelodeon.
Perhaps I'm younger than the author of this article, but I did grow up with the clear message that I could be anything I want, that I could do anything I put my mind to.  Now, I may not living the rich and famous life of a hugely successful 90's IPO success, but I do love what I do.  I'm passionate about data, information, computers, and that's what I get to do almost every day of my life.  It's great!

Perhaps the other point that the author makes almost in passing is more salient:
In the past, I have speculated that since this generation has grown up with computer technology—much the way my generation grew up with television—computers are just a ho-hum fact of life for them.
I think this is more likely the situation for many students.  When I was growing up, the computers I had access to provided me with the opportunity to examine physically, to take apart, to dissect and gain an almost intuitive understand of just through that physical examination.  Today, I have a dozen far more powerful computers within arms reach at almost any moment, but none of them can easily be disassembled and reassembled by your average 10 year old.

So, I think it's true.  We're most used to computers.  They're less technically accessible and therefore less tempting for many people to examine.  Perhaps some of the best ways to regain interest in computer science and technology is to go back to some of those roots, through programs like elementary school robotics competitions, programming FPGAs, Motorola 68k assembly programming, and building an Apple II from the ground up.  My Palm Pre has an intuitive interface, but programming on it (while not too hard) is not intuitive.  TTL logic and k-maps are intuitive.  Maybe one of the things that we're missing for our modern computer science students is a connection with their intuition.  They see computer science as programming using patterns and frameworks that someone else has built, Googling for code samples to copy and paste, and coding out some spec that someone else wrote.  I don't think most people find that thrilling.  Writing up some chips and praying that the magical blue-smoke doesn't escape -- that's a thrill!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What are we teaching?

I hadn't been following this story until today, but I have to stop and ask "what are we teaching our children when we give them a punishment with potentially long lasting punitive impacts for doing something that has the potential to cause harm?"

That feels too much like a scene from Minority Report, in which the police have a way of predicting future crimes with very high but not perfect accuracy.  The preemptively arrest people for crimes that those people haven't even contemplated committing, yet.

In the case of kids bringing weapons to school, what does it teach out kids that if they make a mistake, they'll be kicked out of school.  No second chances.  No chance for rehabilitation.  No opportunity to teach them about appropriate behavior and safety.  It seems to me that our schools should be both safe and a place for teaching, not just by making an example of others but also by experiencing situations.

I recognize that there are rules to prevent dangerous situations.  I'm not questioning the rules in this argument as much as I'm questioning the punishment.  (Making rules more practical is for a separate argument!)

Monday, September 07, 2009

Politics in School

I'm proud to say that my daughter's elementary school (the whole school district in fact) will be showing President Obama's speech this week.

I'm dismayed by what a controversy this speech has become in general.

It amazes me that anyone would even consider pulling their kids out of school to avoid exposing them to a speech that the President is directly specifically to them. I think I would pull my kids out of school to ensure that they had a chance to hear the speech! Rather than leaving it to individual teachers to review and use later, I think that schools should be holding all-school assemblies and broadcasting the speech live.

It isn't often that a President takes the time to speak directly to our children. They should have the opportunity to hear from the leader of their country just how important they are.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Running Log 2009-09-31

Still going pretty strong with the running.

Tonight's route had some tough hills on the first 1/2, but that really does make the second half go so much more easily!

Logged 4.2 miles tonight.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Still going....

Today's total:
6.2 mile bike ride around Forest Park (with 80 lbs of girls in tow).
4.2 mile run up and down some good hills.


Monday, August 17, 2009

First Day of Kindergarten


Ellie's off for her first day of Kindergarten. Mom and Dad are awfully nervous, but Mom is going to school to have lunch with Ellie.

I think she's going to love it, but I know that she's nervous about it. There was very little sleeping last night.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Running Log 2009-07-19

Today's run: Shooting for my 5-miler this week
Distance - 5.07 miles
Time - 01:12:00

Grant's Trail, from Big Bend to Grant's Farm and back.
I did a brief walk in the middle at Grant's Farm, and walked the last 0.7 miles. So, I'm not really counting this as a 5-miler. Maybe next week.

I didn't blog it, but yesterday, we did about half this distance on Grant's trail with my mother-in-law, with me and the jogging stroller. Not a huge fan of running with the stroller, but it did provide some good tricep work.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Running Log 2009-07-16

Today's run: Trying to go a bit longer
Distance - 4.2 miles
Time - 00:53:00

I walked up a couple of hills... the Adams/Couch corner in Sugar Creek Valley is pretty steep.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Running Log 2009-07-14

Today's run: Running with Grandma tonight! (My mother-in-law.)
Distance - 2.7 miles
Time - 00:37:43

Not much distance tonight, but part of it was running up the hill in Sugar Creek Valley! Not fair!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Running Log 2009-07-13

Today's run: First one with my new shoes.
Distance - 4.69 miles
Time - 01:05:00

A running I will go!

I've decided to take up running as a standard part of my workout routine. I gave it a try several weeks ago... and realized it wasn't so bad. Maybe I was expecting a worse experience considering the 50+ ft elevation change that occurs withing 1/4 mile any direction of our house. There's no where to run from here that isn't a hill. Still, I went out running. Came back. Measured my route on Google Earth.... and realized I'd run 2 miles. Not bad.

Now I'm up to a nearly 4 mile routine (including warm-up / cool down).

Sarahlynn encouraged me to go find the "Marathon for non-Runners" book we had in the basement. We'll see.

At the very least, I've committed to 300 miles over the next year. That is, I bought good running shoes.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mii NOT Fit, yet

We got a new Wii Fit exercise game last night: EA Active

I thought that I'd been getting a good, well rounded exercise routine with the eliptical machine, running, and occasional Wii Fit work out. My 40-minute workout last night blew me away. Way too many squats, squats on tip toe, roller-blading squat/jump.... my thighs are jelly this morning. Now there's some diversity in my workout. Wow!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aggregate / Summary

One of my wife's pet peeves is when technologists take a word that already has clear meaning in the English language and then twist the definition to mean something not-quite-close-enough in a technical context. Great case-in-point in the world of data warehousing:

What is the difference between an aggregate and a summary?

I did a Google search and came up with a lot of junk floating around what I would consider some not very good answers (albeit from 2002) from some industry analysts. In fact, David Marco goes so far as to say "Summarized and aggregation are the same thing.

In my gut, there's always been a difference between an aggregate and a summary. So, I decided to try to articulate what the difference is. In doing so, my wife's advice of "just look in the dictionary" came in very handy.

Comes from the Latin word for "to flock together" or "to flock or group."
Just to point out that there's nothing necessarily in that definition about the idea of reducing the specificity of something or the fact that the flock or group is made up of individuals. Rather, the idea is that there is a group of individual things acting together.

From the Latin summa, one meaning of which is "total" or "sum," also the "principle or main thing."
Clearly, the idea with this root word is that a level of detail is being removed when the summary of something is presented. Rather than still being individual things, the summary of things is another layer of abstraction that represents the underlying detail.

Not so much the same thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

That's Overweight!

It may not seem like something to be proud of, but this past week, my Wii Fit finally started telling me "That's Overweight!" This, rather than, "That's Obese!" It doesn't sound great, but it sure felt great!!

I've still got a ways to go, but (not to brag), I'm down 20+ lbs and 2+ inches on my pants in the past 2 months.

The Wii Fit thinks "normal" for me is something I can't ever imagine achieving, but we'll see where things are in another 2 months, and maybe 2 more after that. At this same rate, I'd be where the Wii Fit thinks I should be, but I expect the rate of weight loss to slow soon... maybe.

On top of "eat less" and "exercise more," I've also bee using this resource as well. It's providing me with some good ways of thinking about food and eating.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Potty Training Again

T-minus 32 hours and counting....

The morning of Sunday, May 31st will be Ada's last morning in diapers. The plan is to train Ada tomorrow afternoon. With luck, we'll be done in 4 hours and into a mode of "dry pants?" checking throughout the day rather than diaper changing.

The technique for us has been: Toilet Training in Less Than a Day

Well worth the $6.99 on Amazon. It's a potty training session based on research done the 1970s with developmentally delayed adults who had never been taught to toilet themselves. The education experts and researches took their research results and turned in around into a training technique for toddlers. It worked very well with Ellie (though we've decided that Ellie needs a refresher session to help her become more independent before she gets into kindergarten this fall!)

Bye bye diapers!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Dead Phone

My phone started seriously flaking out on Tuesday. In the morning, I was trying to call Sarahlynn and it kept dropping the call. I didn't have a usable signal all day long. I couldn't get a data connection to keep synced with my work email/calendar. Of course, I've had lots of past problems with this phone. Time for a new one pretty soon any way. (I'm jonesing for a Palm Pre, but I don't think it will support synchronization with work out of the box).

So, Wednesday morning, I took the phone in to a Sprint store, first thing in the morning. As luck would have it, as I sat outside the Sprint store, waiting for it to open, my phone started working again! I was sure these guys inside wouldn't believe me that it wasn't working; or they'd just blame the storms yesterday for bad reception; something like that.

Luckily, they took the phone back and ran some radio tests on it, and it failed the diagnostics! Phew. I'm not crazy.... but I am out a phone. And the Palm Pre isn't out yet.

Replacement phone: $120 Ugh.

Another stroke of luck, though: Sprint is having "open enrollment" for insurance plans. Usually you can only buy phone insurance when you buy the phone or renew your contract. They happen to be allowing open enrollment right now. So, I start up my insurance contract for $7 / month.... and voila, I get a new phone on Thursday for free! Great!

The last funny part of the story.

I swing by the store on Thursday at 12:00 to see if they happen to have it in, yet. The nice woman at the desk explains that they usually get the shipment in around noon and sorted out by 3:00. OK, I go on my way, with my mostly dead phone that they're going to try to contact me via when the new phone arives.

I get to work (7 mile drive) and notice I have a voicemail. Of course. It's the Sprint store telling me my new phone is in.

Well, now I've got my replacement phone and it's working better than ever. No funky dropped calls or screwball reception or anything, yet. Let me bang it around for a while. I'm sure it'll start acting flakey soon enough.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Fast Shoes

Thanks to my wife's planning, it's been a weekend full of fun family entertainment: Gateway Arch, Greek Fest, Renaissance Faire, Zoo, and more to come today!

From 2009-05

Saturday morning, we packed the girls in the car and headed down to the Arch. The girls love going up in the Arch to look out over the Cardinals stadium or down on the great muddy Mississippi River. From the north parking garage, Ellie RAN most of the quarter mile down the path to the Arch! We were so proud to see her keep it up and not ask to be carried once! What I didn't realize was that Ellie's new found interest in running was going to be a harbinger of future trouble.

Sunday afternoon, after good solid naps, we watched the thunder storm blow past and decided it might make for a good end-of-day at the zoo. As we walked into the zoo, the girls asked to go see the big cats and the zebras at Red Rocks. So, we parked the stroller and hopped on the train. Two stops later, we were headed up the hill, past the water buffalo statue, and up the ramp that bridges between the jaguar and tiger pits. Ellie stepped up into the iron fence to strain for a better view to search for the jaguar. No jaguar to be seen, but Ellie's shoe got stuck a little bit in the fence. Great kid - she got unstuck by pulling her foot out of shoe. Then picked up her shoe and threw it over the fence into the jaguar pit... $200 orthodic insert and all.

From 2009-05

As we went around to look at the shoe, we saw that there was indeed a jaguar in the pit. A beautiful black jaguar. Jaguars don't typically need orthodics, but maybe Ellie figured he might get a little extra speed with her shoe.

After an embarrassing call to the ranger station, in which I learned that it takes 3 zookeepers to safely move the cats around, we headed down to the carousel for a nice ride ON a black jaguar.

Luckily, the wonderful rangers at the zoo were able to retrieve the shoe after the jaguar went to his sleeping quarters on his own. So, today, we'll head to the Science Center and pick one hopefully-not-chewed shoe and orthodic.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

March 24 is Ada Lovelace Day.

My own Ada (Adelaide), who looks more akin to Einstein here, was named partially for Ada Lovelace -- our criteria was that it should be a name not typically associated with children in our generation, preferably a family name, and a name that felt like it had some substance. The reference to Ada Lovelance satisfies that third criteria, obviously.

I am embarrassed to say, though, that I've never learned to program Ada -- either as a father or as a software engineer. Though I do remember sitting up late at night with her older sister trying to understand what programming bug must be causing her fuss without any discernible reason.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Even Lego-People are Giddy

It still feels a long time away (thought it's the day after tomorrow). And every time I think about the inauguration, I feel giddy. There are a lot of challenges in the world and reality always gets in the way of expectations and plans... still, I think there's a lot of good coming this way for the USA.

Part of the reason I feel this way is because the excitement and energy seems to be so broad to me. Even inanimate Lego-People are getting excited and showing up by the thousands for the inauguration: