Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I will never buy a player shirt from Manchester City again...

This would have been more timely about a month ago. It is only timely now because Manchester City is beginning its second UEFA Champions League campaign later today facing Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu after being assigned to another "group of death".

My wife and I have a running joke that any time we decide we like a product, the company producing it either ruins it by degradative changes, or discontinuing the product altogether. As this photo indicates, I seem to have the same effect on soccer players.
I admit that my Martin Petrov shirt was a late season discounted quixotic vote of support for a player whom, by injuries and management changes, I knew was probably on his way out. He was released by the club less than two weeks after I received my shirt, and moved to Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer about three weeks after that.

I liked the style of last year's away shirt, and was interested in purchasing one throughout the entire season.  Again, selecting a quick winger, Adam Johnson was chosen both because his play had made him my favorite player and the prevailing actions and language coming from both club and player suggested a longer term relationship may have been pending.  Lo and behold, Johnson's move to Sunderland ended up being not that big of a surprise either.

I continue to wish both Petrov and Johnson well.  Except when playing City.
In Umbro's last year as City's shirt supplier, (City announced in May that Nike will be the new shirt partner) they came up with a very nice home shirt, while the Premier League away shirt can be best described as "BORING".  I will say that even the old jerseys still get worn, as they are very comfortable to wear in the desert.
Sports being the uncertain thing that it is, while I certainly hope and believe that more Premier League Champion's badges will appear on shirts in the future, one must strike when the opportunity arises. 
Player jersey?  Not this time.  Carlos Tevez has a history of hot and cold with the club and its management.  David Silva did not get an extension until yesterday.  Javi Garcia was not signed until late in the transfer window, well after the pre-sale free scarf promotion.  Besides, who wants to see any of the current players leave the club?

OK, all in good fun, but still...

Think different.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Whining about writing...

Already, on a couple of occasions, I have, for lack of a better word, whined about some of the difficulties to the type of endeavor I am aspiring to.

I have stated that my own perfectionistic tendencies hamper me, particularly with regard to spelling and grammar.  The odd part about this is that some of the mass market technical books that I rely on contain numbers and types of errors that I would regard as embarrassing had I written them, yet these books continue to be trusted sources of information. I have, also, already stated that I am harder on myself than I am on other people, so this fact should not be terribly unexpected for me.

I suppose, to some degree, I am sensitive to this, because I am trying to enhance credibility and brand by utilizing a skill that I believe is, at the very least, an asset for me.

All of this notwithstanding, late last week a colleague of mine wrote something in a blog post that I found interesting.
"I had, at one time, believed that novels just flowed from mind, through fingers to page in perfect order and fully formed from chapter one to the end. Boy was I naive."
- Vincent A. Alascia, "So You Think You Have Guts, Do Ya?", posted 13 September 2012
It is not that I truly thought I was alone in my perceptions. I never really quite had this expressed thought either. I do not know Mr. Alascia well enough to really know what his issues are. I know mine revolve around the fact that my brain works faster than I can type which creates considerable difficulty getting the initial thoughts on paper. THEN, the editing is really annoying.

I have always known that editing is necessary. I have always hoped my initial drafts could be closer to the finished work than they tend to be.

Even though my ambitions are not to be a novelist, I mention this more because it is comforting that someone who has done a lot of writing appears to have similar struggles.

Maybe I can make this worth while after all...

Think different.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Another WOW moment this morning...

As my profile states, I am a professional enterprise software developer.  This post should appear on my planned software and technology blog, but that isn't ready yet.  As a previous post indicates, things get brought to my attention because I read the Code Project Insider Daily Developer News newsletter.

Unlike that previous post, I feel the need to share this even prior to having a detailed analysis why it is significant and important to me.

Ultimately, this is simply evidence that we live in times with unbelievable potential, but there IS more to it than that.  This will be discussed on my S&T blog later...

Think different.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Evidence that Cindy is an amazing artist

My wife, Cindy, is an artist. She works in a number of media, though most commonly acrylic paints or colored pencil. She has a distinctive style that she calls "humorous surrealism". In most cases, it is very colorful. Her online portfolio can be found here.

During a break yesterday, I found this:

"She Could Be Anyone of Us" by Cindy Schnackel© Cindy Schnackel, all rights reserved. Please do not pin this or any of her work to Pinterest.
"She Could Be Anyone of Us" by Cindy Schnackel
 © Cindy Schnackel, all rights reserved. Please do not pin this or any of her work to Pinterest.

The medium is an online drawing tool called "Scribbler Too", that she used for some other things. It was done in response to a Breast Cancer Awareness challenge by a group called Scribblermania on the reprint on demand art site RedBubble.

This is not a typical thought process for her. Reading her description, though, she has captured something totally different. 

"This ... is very outside what I normally do. For the challenge, I imagined how terrifying it’d be to stand in front of a mirror and find a lump, or have that first look after a mastectomy. I purposely left the woman’s face featureless. She could be anyone of us. (Even men get breast cancer.)"

- Cindy Schnackel 

This is another instance where I am blown away.

Simply amazing...

Think different...


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Something I liked, and decided I really should share...

I have a general appreciation for clever. People who know me well would probably say I like clever a little too much.  I saw something not too long ago that I just felt warranted mention. It was clever and made me smile...

T-Mobile had three young people, ladies it appeared (it came and went quickly enough that I can't be absolutely certain), riding bicycles in close formation down the bicycle lane on Centennial Way (yes, West Washington Street) in downtown Phoenix. Each bicycle was towing a small two wheel trailer holding a well secured approximately 6 foot tall and 2 foot wide advertisement for T-Mobile and one of their latest phones.

It was June, this is Phoenix, and it was probably at least 100 degrees.  I will say, though, that it was definitely nowhere near as horrible as that might sound for the people riding the bicycles.

I didn't get a picture.  I wish I would have.  Once I had decided there was a potential post that I should take a picture for, they were far enough away to not be a good picture. Even with the quick picture feature in iOS 5, on my iPhone 3GS, it is quite slow to get the camera ready.  This was a situation where evaluation, appreciation and application occurred slower than the actual event.

Still, this was well designed, well executed, eco-friendly, good exercise, and clever. Clever enough to get me to switch to T-Mobile? Well, no.  I have too much invested in my iStuff, and remain sufficiently satisfied with my current provider not to change.  T-Mobile does deserve credit and mention for thinking differently, though...

Think different.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Wow... I mean... uh... WOW!...

In the interest of getting out of the habit of posting novellas, this one WILL be short...

I don't know how truly legible the pictures on my last post are. To some degree, I intended for it not to be. I wanted to convey that I have a ton of ideas for these blogs, without giving away too many of my secrets. And for the intellectual property curmudgeons out there, I have no intent to plagiarize content, commentary based on my own views and experiences IS my intent.

That disclaimer stated, if you are actually able to read it from my pictures, a large number of my links are annotated "Code Project" followed by a date... That indicates that the article in question was brought to my attention by the Code Project Insider Daily Developer News newsletter. As my profile states, I am a professional software developer, and I work nearly exclusively on Microsoft platforms. For me, the Code Project is my number one tool outside of the explicit Microsoft umbrella for when I am having difficulty. Chris Maunder, David Cunningham, and their team deserve all the commendations I can give them.  It is an excellent resource.

Uh oh! Becoming another novella. Better make my point.

Despite having an outstanding repository of community contributed materials for Microsoft-based development, The Code Project is not strictly Microsoft-based. Far from it. Thus, some days (maybe half the time), the Daily Developer News contains nothing of special interest to me. As a result of today's edition, however, my list grew by five items. This is out of twelve non-sponsored links! None of them are even Microsoft-centric. While probably four out of the five are items that could help me do my job better, could possibly be incorporated into my work and that may or may not end up as something that is explicitly referential here (i.e. a useable general thought process, not code per se), one item has me completely floored, and WILL be a significant (and referenced) part of a future post either here or on my software blog. I certainly could tell you which one, and to some degree why, but that would be premature. Besides, I want you to have another reason to want to come back... :)

Guess I have to give some context since these are early posts, but I have to ask... Better?

In the end, though, just thought I should share...

Think different.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Where does the time go, and what is wrong with these pictures?

Wow. It has been more than six months since that first post. I cannot say that it has been a situation of losing or forgetting my presence here. I have had a few incomplete posts for some time, and this one is a edited combination of two of them. No, there is some component of irritation to this post being only the second post here.

Additionally, a while back, I made an interesting and maybe a little disconcerting discovery. The Blogger for iOS application DOES allow for posts to be drafted while completely disconnected from the Internet.

What does this really mean? Oh, that's easy.  There have been a ton of things that I could have started writing on any of my network of blogs (ok, it is only three.  Four, if you count an available journal feature at RedBubble...) truly at any time without consuming mobile wireless bandwidth on my iPad (or, of course, my iPhone, but that is beside the point...). Of course, also, the best example of "truly at any time" is during my bus commutes!

However, that does bring up a pretty important point... Though I had always suspected that the app would, could and should have that capability, I mean, what good would it be if there was NOT some caching mechanism for those more-than-you-would-expect situations where there either isn't an Internet connection or it would be exceedingly expensive, (well, on the other hand, yes it is a free app on a competitor's mobile platform), something inside of me took a small measure of comfort in the thought that the untested possibility that the Blogger app may just not work disconnected allowed me to NOT write a LARGE number of things that it would probably be beneficial to me to make public.

For people who are extremely critical of themselves as I can be sometimes, there can be an ability afforded to let errors made from mistaken perceptions or inexperience take over, but an important key is to not allow this to happen. We know this now, just move on...

So, then, what is wrong with these pictures?

Just what are these pictures you may ask? It is a snapshot of the list of links, with references to how and when I found them, stored in Microsoft OneNote.  (Yes, I am using Microsoft OneNote 2013 Preview on Windows 8.  I love virtual machines. :) )  Most of these links are there because, on first blush, they were thought provoking enough to have given me ideas for potential posts. Some are not. Some are just links for other purposes, such as a couple links I think may be helpful in various aspects of self-improvement, like a couple of sites that explain how to learn to juggle.  The vast majority, however, are links to articles that provoked enough thought to create ideas worthy of sharing. These are just the ones I have been collecting, obviously, since January 4th.  For the record, this is just two of over five pages.  I, also, have several ideas stored in the reminders application on my iPhone.  So, I think you get the idea.  What is wrong with these pictures is that expression of these ideas does not appear here or on one of my other blogs!  Clearly, I don't lack ideas for source material.

Two issues, that I accept are really excuses, are:
  • A perfectionistic streak - I know that when I make spelling, grammatical or syntax errors, it is easy enough to edit, but this is the internet, post it, and even if you edit your discovered (or pointed out) boo-boos later, it is on your permanent record! That metaphor WILL be covered another time.  There is some element, as my favorite tech blogger, Scott Hanselman, posted a few months ago (OMG, that was almost a year ago!!!), of fearing being or exposing myself as a phony. I, also, don't want to appear in Google as a phony.  I may not have always earned As in English class, but I did receive grades indicating some skill with grammar and spelling, and that is an effort I do put forward.  Closer to true for this discussion, is a fear of being perceived as a phony.   Another topic for another time... :)

  • Integration issues - this fits with what I have already said about Blogger for iOS, but is inclusive of some other things like picture and other multimedia integration, which also harkens back to posting the "perfect" post... That will appear on my permanent record, too.
Ah, another novella... I know it just doesn't have to be this way. This has to stop.

I wonder where the time goes? I hope I get better at this, and may be why I am doing this...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Commence Web Log... REBOOTED...

A little more than a year ago, on 18 December 2010 to be precise, I made my first significant attempt at blogging with a fairly clumsy homage to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on a Facebook fan page called "Fourteen Sports" with the intent to provide sports insight and analysis focusing primarily on college football, professional hockey and English Premier League soccer.

Facebook is clearly a very popular platform, and while I keep my friends list fairly small, I figured sooner or later it would get some attention. To some degree, well, it has. More on that in a second.

The idea that the timing chosen would be a good starting point was that for years, during the college football bowl season, my picks generally are accurate sixty to seventy percent of the time, and in the two years I have put a significant effort into my research, my accuracy was over seventy five percent.

As a result of a full time job, only having seen a handful (maybe parts of twenty games) throughout the regular season, and some difficulties with the platform, the concerted effort only lasted ten days. For the record, I went 20-15 and 21-13-1 against the spread in 2010, which would have been my worst record in a large number of years.   As an aside, though I did not keep score this season it would not surprise me at all if my record would have been reverse my 2010 record or even worse.  Hey, give me a break, I only saw parts of maybe three Notre Dame games amounting to not quite one whole game and half watched the Arizona-UCLA game in a hotel bar all season.   I saw more of the New Orleans Saints than I did ANY college football this season.

Back to the attention topic, what IS interesting, is that since my initial effort in 2010, periodically I have posted links and brief commentaries on those links that I have found mostly on ESPN.com on that Facebook fan page, and two people who I do not know, and do not appear to be fakes/spammers have liked the site. (My wife and I like the site too, but that is not the point I am making...)

Even more interesting, though, is that as part of my day job, in 2010 I wrote and published a utility to perform comprehensive extraction of data from Personal Storage Tables, better known as email messaging .pst files.  Its primary function is to convert all messaging information stored in a single binary .pst file to XML, which is the storage format for the PeDALS Preservation project, using the published Microsoft Outlook Personal Folders File Format specification. 

The published software is overdesigned for three reasons.  First, as a result of having an engineering education rather than a computer science background, I had only seen similar specifications maybe twice in my life prior.  Second, there were a few small but stumbling block causing errors in version 1.0 of the specification (Microsoft released version "1.7" on 20 January 2012, and I have not compared any of the revisions to the version that I used).  Third, there was the desire to examine the "whole" file with, at least, some small nod to potential forensics. 

The published software has a glaring data type conversion bug in it, which did not rear its ugly little head during what should have been considered a fairly reasonable period of alpha testing.  (To anyone who wants to try this out... I do brand the version published as a "beta" ;) )

Over sixteen and a half months, as of 5 February 2012, my overdesigned, flawed software has been downloaded 735 times!  People from 68 different countries have downloaded it (what country is "Satellite Provider"???).  The project has been contacted by some interesting folks about the utility AND the broader preservation project.  Even more amazing to me:  After an initial flurry of interest at the end of 2010, downloads have gone from averaging about 23 per month to averaging a little more than 40 per month!  This from a little special purpose utility that I did learn A LOT from.  Now if I had done it on iOS and charged 99 cents for it... OH, NEVER MIND...

For those who might be wondering, I fully intend to release an improved version, heavily redesigned based on the lessons learned interpreting the specification, with that data conversion bug fixed, too.
If you build it, they will come...  
 - Field of Dreams
WARNING:  I derive a fair amount of enjoyment by mixing in appropriate cultural references.  Seems to go with the territory...

There are several big reasons why I have never given blogging a significant effort.  The biggest is that I have always had, and I believe there IS a prevalent perception that there are a few good bloggers, like say Eric Lippert, Jessie Liberty or Scott Guthrie for you Microsoft development junkies, or, well, the well-known example of blogging success, Julie Powell, of "Julie & Julia" fame, and a large percentage of the rest are any number of different uncomplimentary adjectives meaning not-so-hot. 

Further bolstering my confidence in this endeavor is the fact that I have seen a lot more not-so-hot blogs than good ones, and some not-so-hot posts even from some generally pretty good bloggers.  Julia Child, it is said, was not impressed by Julie Powell's blog either, and while I am familiar with Julie Powell's story, I have not read the blog, but the reasons I have seen for Child to view Powell's blog as not-so-hot, it is not hard to understand why.  So, at the end of the day, everything IS a matter of perspective, and certainly one can be successful without being universally loved.

Case on point, with the utility that has been downloaded 735 times in 68 countries, the only review registered to this point has been a thumbs down.  That is OK, it is a pretty cynically designed piece of software with an ugly bug in it.  Now if that person had additionally told me "you're an idiot and I don't see how you get paid to write software", well... But, even then, I know what I know, I try to learn what I don't know, and a lot more of the time than not, I accomplish what I set out to do, even if getting there is not pretty. 

Another really big issue is that one tends to have wonderful words run through your head much faster than one can type, and even a lot of times faster than one can speak.  Just speaking, I periodically spout things that people have told me would be fantastic written down and edited, but remembering it well enough the second time around, I frequently feel the a lot of the magic has been lost.  Even with this paragraph!

That is where I expect tools like my iPhone's Voice Recorder, Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking, and, at some point, Siri to come in.  This post, and probably several to follow, is being done the old fashioned way, and directly to the Blogger interface.  Being an enterprise software developer, the plan is for this blog and two other planned blogs, the sports blog and a software/technology blog to be a part of an integrated content management system using a service-oriented architecture, with the Orchard Project serving as a backbone codebase with the Blogger blogs being mirror/backup sites for the content published.  Not only is it because I prefer to have my content primarily on my own equipment and software, it never hurts to show the world what you can do, particularly when your most practical next career step remains directly in software development...

Services to integrate speech to text will be added to, at least, increase the speed of the drafting process, leaving me NOT with a blank page to stare at, but something to be edited, that is more like a conversation with my wife or my best friend about the chosen topic than even what is written here. 

Of course, however, I have been promising a sports commentary blog since posting that promise on a one page web site on 29 November 2003...
You know, my uncle was a political writer for one of those London tabloids. I can still remember his biggest scoop. The headline read: "High-ranking politician caught wearing women's clothing." Of course, you turn to page two and you found out it was Margaret Thatcher, but by then you'd already bought the paper.
- Jane Leeves as Daphne Moon to Congressional candidate Phil Patterson, played by Boyd Gaines, Frasier, "The Candidate", Season 2 Episode 7, Original Air Date:  8 November 1994
I do not do well with contrivance.  I am at my best riding life like a surfer riding a wave.  I point myself in a direction and let experience take me where it will.  A surfer redirects to some degree to extend the ride, or whatever, as do I in life, but I don't think the surfer ever knows EXACTLY how his ride is going to turn out.

To a certain extent, this is a contrivance.  I admit that there is a direction I would like to go, and while there are some readers who know me fairly well that may be pretty adept at figuring out why this, why now, I have no intention of revealing this now.  I have to keep you reading, don't I?

While I have firm confidence that the technical tools developed will serve a short to mid range purpose, the written effort may fall flat on its face.  I have often heard it said that one of the main goals of writers is to sell books or newspapers, or whatever.  One of the very unfortunate consequences of our time is that we have a very attention driven society.  Fifteen minutes of fame can be made to add up to a lot of something, more often than not, money.  Fortunately, people whose opinion I respect and trust, including my wife, tell me I am pretty good at this type of thing.  But, if this effort turns out terrible, I say you have Scott Hanselman and Jeff Blankenburg to blame for it.

Scott Hanselman, whom I met at Microsoft TechEd back in the days when he was still with Corillian, but would not know me from Adam, is my favorite blogger.  In 2007, he posted an entry about blogging that is amongst the most valuable set of tips anyone could post.  I can tell that following those tips himself are why I am always pleased to read new posts on his blog.  If I had one-tenth of his talent or presentation skills, maybe I would not be doing this.

This is to be my "personal" blog, and while there will be some overlap between this, my sports blog and my software/technology blog, this blog is mostly intended to contain either thought provoking or amusing observations regarding a holistic perspective to life.  I certainly do not want to rant, I have read too many blog posts where I feel that the author must look back on it and be embarrassed as all get out having posted it.  The waves I try to ride have crashed down on me too often to be Pollyanna-like either, nor would I want to post that either.  I am not baring my soul, only giving you something to consider, or make you smile.
You must be the change you want to see in the world.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Powerful words to close what has become a more long-winded initial post than I had intended.  Far more often than I am comfortable with, I hear trite, and often inflammatory, political commentary from both sides of the spectrum and all angles of the religious spectrum that truly only appears to guarantee more of what a large segment of the world regards as being unacceptable.  Even more uncomfortably, a large percentage of these half-baked, hyperbolic statements come of the very people who would find the results of the implementation of these statements unacceptable. 

The truth to the situation appears to lie in the ability and the willingness of everyone to think outside of the box, and to be able to look past the end of their own nose.

At this point in my life, I must accept that I am a technology person through and through.  The good news, especially for my wife, is that I am getting better all of the time at getting good value for my technology buck, and there is a lot of help around.  My wife has helped me immensely to see that I am a LOT more creative that I give myself credit for.

No matter what anyone would have you believe, it is not a one size fits all world, but I have been living closer to what I have always dreamed about than I ever realized.  My dream is probably simpler and sillier than nearly everyone.  Who cares?  The key for me, and for me alone, is to follow the example of Gandhi's quote above and be the change I want to see in the world... without feeling like I am living in Doc Brown's DeLorean.

Think different.