september 2007

9.4.07
Wow, Orioles, I gotta hand it to you, I thought you'd never outdo that stretch after the All Star break in 2005 when you were in playoff contention and then promptly when 2-16 and killed your season. But this recent stretch, which has included: the worst beating in American League history (a 30-3 loss to Texas); not getting any hits against a rookie pitcher making only his second appearance in the major leagues (last Saturday's game against Clay Buchholz, who will get a plaque in Cooperstown regardless of whether he wins another major league game in his career); and notching only one win since that disastrous 30-3 loss—I think this stretch is now taking its place as the most embarrassing and disappointing period since we've started regularly going to games.

We have tickets to see Boston twice more and the Yankees once more before the season ends, but I can barely take being in the stadium with those obnoxious fans when the Orioles are playing well (and I'm not really even that huge an Orioles fan)—I don't think I want to see those games given the current state of the Orioles. We can exchange the tickets for other opponents, although even the middling amount of enthusiasm I have for the O's has all but disappeared after the last few weeks. It might be better just to give them to some Red Sox and Yankees fans; at least then, someone will get to see the team they root for win a game or two.

9.5.07
We didn't do a whole lot over the Labor Day weekend. I actually tried to take a couple of vacation days and make it an extra long weekend, but on both Thursday and Friday I had to do work for a few hours, and on Friday I even had to handle panicky phone calls from people at work insisting they had an emergency situation that turned out to be no big deal.

We had Dodd over for a cookout on Monday, but aside from that and mowing the lawn, I just relaxed, worked my way through the first season of the Sopranos, and played a little World of Warcraft, which I barely have time to log on to anymore (aside from our regular raiding times). It was nice to get a short breather, but I really wish I had truly been able to have full days off on Thursday and Friday—I still feel like it was just a normal long weekend, and not the supersize one I was hoping for.

9.6.07
I don't normally go for the deluxe editions of DVD sets, but earlier this week when we went to pick up season 1 of 30 Rock and season 3 of The Office, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to own the Dundie award AND the miniature Dwight Schrute bobblehead that came with the deluxe edition. It was only $10 more than the normal DVD set, and hell, I would have paid that much for the bobblehead alone. I'm planning to use both items as decoration in my new office, along with a small army of labbits and some of my photo prints.

9.7.07
Fucking Steve Jobs. That new $399 price for the 8gb iPhone was right at the edge of my threshhold and, well, now I own one.

It is just as cool as it seemed when I first played around with it back in June when it was launched, and I've been feverishly transferring all the numbers from my previous phone into the address book on my Mac, where they get slurped up by the iPhone each time it syncs. I've also had to create some new playlists for the device, since I only want to carry 4-5 gigs of music (compared to the 30+ that I was able to carry around on my old iPod).

Still, I don't have to carry around two devices in my pocket anymore, and with the recently-installed open wi-fi network on my campus, I don't have to worry about the slowness of the 2.5g Edge network for internet connectivity. (A a coworker of mine has pointed out that the faster 3g network has some serious power consumption problems, which would dramatically reduce how much time you could use the iPhone on a single charge—here's a link to an article about this subject; here's a more technical article that covers the same ground.)

It would be nice if Apple would add some sort of IM functionality to the iPhone before too long - this seems like a device built for that (I haven't used the on-screen touch keyboard all that much, but I'm getting faster with every use, and I'm guessing that the people who complained about it are those who are already touchtype masters on a different device), and I don't see any reason why they couldn't offer it.

Other than that, I'm pretty happy with it so far. And if for some reason it doesn't seem like it's worth the money a week or so from now, I can always return it and just get a 160gb iPod (now called the iPod classic) instead. Of course, that means a new phone and two devices banging around in my pocket again, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to take that backwards step.

9.10.07
After my first few days with the iPhone, I don't regret buying it one bit. I wondered how much I would really use the internet stuff, and I was also a little concerned about not being to have as much music at my fingertips as I'm used to, but now that I have internet access anytime I want it, I find myself using it more, and I've also been able to put together a few playlists that, combined, only take up about half of the iPhone's capacity.

One example of how I unexpectedly used the internet services: we were at Towson Mall, and we were trying to figure out if there was a Best Buy near us. We hadn't seen one on the way in on York Road or Dulaney Valley Road, but I was pretty sure there was one not too far away. So I zoomed in on Towson mall on the Google Maps iPhone application, typed in "Best Buy", and it immediately located one farther up York Road and pinned it on the map for us. I would have never driven up that far myself (it was above the beltway), but because of the iPhone, we were able to find it quickly and easily. I also didn't really notice the supposed slowness of the 2.5G Edge network that everyone has complained about—honestly, even Wi-Fi on the iPhone isn't super-speedy, so there's only so fast you can expect Edge to be. But I didn't find myself twiddling my thumbs while waiting for Google Maps to load over an edge connection or anything.

And since you can bookmark Google Maps locations, I have programmed in our home address, and now whenever we need directions to something, I just type in the address of that location, ask the application for directions to that location from our bookmarked home address, and it produces a visual route and a list of step by step instructions on how to get there—and it will even show traffic information live on the map in metro areas. Very handy.

Julie's pining for one now, too, but before we become a two iPhone household, I think we'll wait a couple more weeks and see if this is just a temporary infatuation or whether this is something that's really worth it. There are already rumors swirling about a 3G version of the iPhone that will be introduced in early 2008, I'm not that concerned about being left behind in five months. First off, if you always wait for the next best thing that's right around the corner, you'll never end up buying anything, because with tech gadgets, the next best thing is always right around the corner; and second of all, my main issue with this phone was the slowness of the Edge network, which doesn't look like it's going to be much of a concern for me at all.

I'm sure the next version of the iPhone, or the version after that, or the version after that, will be very appealing. But iPhone version 1 is a good piece of gear, and even though I lust after every new iteration of Apple technology, I'm also the same person who used a 2G iPod for nearly four years. So I have a feeling this gadget will be in my pocket for a long time to come, no matter what they do to improve it with future releases.

9.11.07
...

9.12.07
For the last three weeks, my office has started off in the 78-80 range and ended up in the 82-84 range, while the rest of the offices on our floor seem to maintain an appropriate indoor temperature. It's almost as if it knows we're going to be in its power for only eight more working days, and it's taking this opportunity to remind us of all the reasons we hate this workspace so much, so that we'll get all the more excited about our move to our new space next week.

Let me tell you, I don't need the encouragement; why can't we just cease hostilities for the next little bit, and then you can go your way and start torturing the lawyers in the general counsel's office (who are inheiriting our space after we move), and I can go mine, working for the first time in my career in my own office where I can actually have the privacy that a manager sometimes needs to do his job well.

I don't even know if I can take another week and a half of this. I'm drained by lunchtime, and I often feel nauseous and not really in the mood to eat anything; I just drink bottle after bottle of water while trying not to move so that I don't get drenched in sweat. By the middle of the afternoon, my though processes have pretty much ground to a halt, and unless I have a meeting with someone that doesn't take place in my office, the chance of me getting something productive done is pretty much nil.

So I'm trying to get most of my work done in the morning, and then using the afternoons to kick off big email campaigns or to meet with people who have offices with normal temperature regulation. But I'd be a lot happier if I could just come into work and do my job without being miserable every second of the day.

Eight more days, my friend. And if I can find a way to work at home a couple of those days, and if we don't actually have to stick around all day next Friday after we get our stuff packed up for the move, it could be as few as five. Either way, less than two weeks from today, I'm hoping that I'll never have to deal with this asinine temperature problem again for as long as I stay in this job.

9.13.07

If I thought this video was fake, I would have found it moderately amusing. But because I think it's sincere, it has been elevated to pretty hilarious. Leave Britney alone!


9.14.07
I know I've been talking about our impending move to a new building a lot recently, but I'm just so damn excited. I went over yesterday (I've been going once a week for the past three weeks), and they've almost finished putting all the furniture in on the second floor, which is where me and my team will be. It gets better and better each week, and yesterday was the first time when it actually felt like a real office and I could start to picture myself working in that space.

One more week...

9.17.07
I've always resisted posting YouTube stuff on this blog, and now I'm remembering why: that "Leave Britney alone!" kids was EVERYWHERE over the past few days, and even though his video was funny the first few times I saw it, it ain't funny no more. And yet there it is, with a permanent home on this blog for as long as I keep it active. The compulsive side of me won't allow me to delete it even though it's completely played out now, but man, I can't wait until I write enough text that the still image is no longer above the first fold, or until next month when it will be buried in the archives.

Of course, that doesn't mean that I'll never link to a YouTube video again: it can be a good content filler, and like it or not, web videos are replacing television shows and movies as the topic of our watercooler conversations. In fact, let's go ahead and clear the palate from the Britney kids with my favorite YouTube video of all time (and the only one I have bookmarked in my iPhone): sneezing panda.

That never gets old; the look on the mother panda's face is priceless.


9.18.07
The series 3 labbits are out, and I finally got my case yesterday. Julie and I opened them together, keeping them in the same order that they were in the box so I could get some idea of the distribution. Below is a picture of my case, arranged with each labbit in the place they were in the overall case distribution:

See, Kidrobot, when they sell toys in cases like this, does what is called a blind box, so if you go into a retailer and buy one, you don't know which figure exactly you're getting until you purchase it and open the box, which is supposed to either a) get people to buy more individual boxes than they need because they will keep buying just to get that one figure (like with baseball card packs) or b) people will buy the figures a case at a time to ensure that they get the whole set.

Of course, Kidrobot further taunts this second kind of buyer by including what are known as "chase" figures in most of the sets they sell, which are not pictured on the product list and which have an unknown distribution (on the side of each case, and on a paper insert in each boxed figure, they include a list of all the figures, including their distribution ratios; for the chase figures, these figures are represented by solid black outlines and question marks where the ratio numbers should be). For serious collectors, the ones who have to have all the of chase figures in addition to the regular set, this means that you buy multiple cases (which means you likely live in NYC, San Francisco, or LA, which are the only three cities with Kidrobot retail stores, because online you can only purchase one case) or you spend a lot of money on eBay to find the pieces that weren't included in your case.

For series 3 of the labbits, there are 25 figures in a box, which include 15 regular series figures in ratios of 2, 3, or 4 per 50 (or, in per case figures, 1, 1-2, and 2). In my case, the distribution of these figures was perfect: I got one of each of the 2/50 figures, one or two of the 3/50 figures, and two of the 4/50 figures.

Series 3 also includes three chase figures in ratios of 1/50, 1/50, and 1/400 (or at least those are the prevailing guesses based on what people have pulled so far), which means that you will hopefully get one of the 1/50 figures, and if you're really, really lucky, you'll get one of the 1/400, which can only be found in one of every sixteen cases.

I didn't get really, really lucky—the 1/400 figure ("REDRUM") was not in my case. However, I did get pretty lucky, because I got one each of the two 1/50 chase figures. That means in my single case, I got 17 of the 18 figures in the series, along with a few duplicates that will happily inhabit my new office when I move in next week.

The REDRUM chase figure is unlikely to make it's way into my possession; I can't really justify buying more blind box figures because I already have a complete set of the regular figures and the more common chases (and the odds of me getting REDRUM in an individual box are pretty low), and right now the going price for one on eBay is in the $55-$75 range, which is more than half the cost for an entire case. And the prices are likely to go up as supply dwindles; right now we're in the first two weeks of the series' release, which means that every collector is putting their duplicates up for sale, and the prosptectors are all listing their chase figures at the same time, temporarily decreasing their market value. So if I'm not willing to pay $55 now, I'm sure not going to be willing to pay $100 in a couple of months, which is where I expect the price to be by Christmas.


9.19.07
Earlier this week I split my to-do list at work into stuff that has to be done by the end of the day today and stuff that can wait until the middle of next week, because by the end of the day tomorrow, we have to have everything, including our computers, packed and labeled for the movers, which means we won't be getting any real work done on Friday. And since I'm guessing I won't really have my office set up (and neither will anyone else) until at least Tuesday afternoon, that means I'm going to be more or less unable to do my job until the middle of next week.

I've done a pretty good job, though—I only have two things left on my list for this week, and I should be able to knock those out before 10 a.m. so I have the rest of the day to pack. Even though my tiny office is overflowing with stuff, I don't think it will take me that long—I've already packed up my personal belongings and most of the stuff in my drawers, and a lot of what's left will just be tossed into the recycyling bing.

My computers will take me the longest time to prepare—I have four CPUs right now (two of them will be turned into workstations for other people after we move), and you have to label each machine, each monitor, and each bag of accessories. But still, I expect to be done by 3 or 4 in the afternoon, hopefully leaving me enough time to get over to my new office and shift the desk a bit (the way they installed it, it's blocking a lot of my window, and there's really no need to have it positioned that way).

It's exciting, though—with the office piling up with boxes and our normal equipment and materials disappearing from desks and shelves, it feels very real. It's still a little hard to believe, because this new building is going to be so much better than our current space, but it's finally here, after years of waiting.

9.20.07
I'm not sure how I feel about some of the new labbits like tongue, Have a Nice Day, Halloween, shark, polka dot bubblegum, and moustache. It's fun to have a little variety, but one of the things I've always loved about the labbits is their consistency—they all share the stubble, the menacing expression, and that jauntily angled cigarette, so that when you line them all up next to each other, you've got a multicolored but otherwise identical army of labbit cool staring you down.

I guess at some point Frank Kozik had to branch out a bit, because there's only so many different labbits of slightly varying shades of color you can have (in my current collection, I count six distinct yellow labbits, five green, five blue, eleven red, etc.), but the new variations really stand out when they're assembled alongside the others. Series 4, which will undoubtedly be released by spring of next year, will either expand on this trend so that every labbit is distinct, or will retreat back to further color variations. I don't think I'll be unhappy either way, as long I'm still gripped by this obsession by then, but if the non-conformity continues, I might have to segregate the non-standard ones on their own shelf.

9.21.07
All my stuff is packed and ready to go. We're supposed to stay until 3:00 this afternoon, but that's just a failsafe to make sure that everyone doesn't take off before the common areas of the office are all packed. I'm hoping that by noon or earlier the person from our office who's in charge of the move will decide that there's nothing left to be done and let us go early. Then Monday morning I can show up in my brand new office and try to forget the crappiness of my workspace for the last few years.

9.24.07
The move seems to have gone okay. I went by the new building while I was in town running errands just to see if my key card had been activated yet, and it had, so Julie and I took a walk around the second floor, spending most of our time in my office. All my computer stuff was there and so were all my boxes, so as long as the data jacks are working today, I should be able to get back up and running by the afternoon.

There was an issue with the size and placement of my desk—originally I was supposed to have a bigger office, but they took part of it to make a storage closet for the conference room on the other side of my wall. But they kept the original furniture plan, which meant I had a huge desk that basically blocked my window. Last Thursday, I went over with two coworkers to move it to the other side of the room so that my prime workspace was now centered on the window, which also entailed moving a big console/shelving thing on the desk to the other side of the desk.

It wasn't a perfect fit, but there really wasn't anything else I could do with it given the space constraints. My plan was to eventually just get rid of it, which would leave me with more empty wall space, but I was going to wait until things settled down a bit. However, when we went in on Saturday, I found that the furniture people had already carted it off somewhere, leaving me with just a desk and bookcase, which is mostly fine with me. I think I'll need more storage space eventually, but there's enough room for a four drawer lateral file unit that many people seem to have, so hopefully I can get one of those before too long.

It will be interesting to see if the office is still the way I saw it on Saturday—there were supposed to be people in on Sunday still getting things fixed up. I know it seems like nitpicking to be so adamant about desk placement, etc., given how great the new building is overall, but I also know that once we get past the move-in phase, it's going to be very difficult to make changes like this, and since I intend to spend a significant portion of my life in that office, I'd like to get it as close to perfect as I can while I still have the chance.

9.25.07
I love my new office, but it makes me a little nervous when a high-ranking dean who currently makes his home in one of the older buildings on campus wanders in on the first day, appraises my space with a covetous, wolf-like gaze, and calls me a lucky son-of-a-bitch.

A couple of weeks before we moved in, I was walking over for a tour with my director, and we ran into the president of the university, who, after a couple of minutes of chatting about the new building, departed with the quip, "So when's my office going to be ready?" After he had moved far enough away, my director said to me, "You know, I used to think that joke was funny, but I'm not so sure he'd kidding now."

So yeah, it's a pretty kick-ass facility. And it will be even better once they actually finish it, which, if we're lucky, will be in time for the dedication next month.

9.26.07
You know how you sometimes google people from your past that you haven't seen in forever? (Yes, of course you do. Don't lie to me.) Well, the name that popped into my head last night was one of my best friends from middle school/high school named Jerry Meek. He was the first friend of mine to have a car, so a lot of my memories of the last year I spent hanging out with him befor heading to Durham for my junior and senior years at NCSSM are of us driving around, looking for something to do or someone else's house to hang out at.

He was very into politics at an early age—I remember when I knew him, he was chosen to go down to Georgia and meet with Jimmy Carter at the former president's home, and it was Jerry's goal to be elected to the House of Representatives by age 26, and to the Senate by age 30. I was his campaign manager when he ran for class president when we were in eighth or ninth grade (he won by a nose), and although I wasn't sure about the Congress-at-26 part, I was pretty sure he'd stay heavily involved in politics.

The last time I saw him was when he was a freshman at Duke; I was on campus visiting some friends from NCSSM, and he just happened to live in the same dorm. I think he was drunk when I talked to him, although I can't be completely sure—he always had an outsized personality, and it could have just been his natural enthusiasm for the crowd that had him amped up that night.

Even though he was dedicated to the Democrats when we were teenagers, I half-suspected that he would have flipped to the Republicans by now; the past ten years have been rough on Democrats in North Carolina (and the south in general) in national elections, and for Jerry, it seemed like politics was as much about wanting power and influence as it was wanting to make a difference (which are traits common to just about all politicians, I think).

Anyway, I googled him, not really expecting to find anything (I recall doing this a few years ago and coming up with nothing), but instead I found this Wikipedia entry. He's not in Congress yet, but he is Chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, he has a law degree from Duke, and he's a licensed pilot who owns his own plane.

I always suspected that the friends I admired growing up would have far more interesting Wikipedia write-ups than mine at this point in their lives if we lived in a world where everyone was important enough to deserve their own entry. And here's proof of that, in at least this one case.

9.27.07
Yes indeed, the Lord is a shoving leopard.

I have a half-warmed fish.

9.28.07
First week in my new office and our new building, and I couldn't be happier. I actually kinda look forward to coming to work every day now.
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