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The Last Melon

Saturday, November 7th, 2015

This is going to be the last post on this blog.  The main reason is technical.  This blog is an old version of WordPress and that old version of WordPress is running on an old version of PHP.

My host is moving forward to new versions of WordPress and new versions of PHP.  I have noticed that the admin side of these blogs breaks when they are upgraded.  Basically the administrator can no longer add/edit/delete posts.

This is the 2661st post… I like the idea the it is one short of 2662, I don’t know why it just seems right.

I am going to start a new blog at http://martytheparty.peachyga.com.

Career Change

Thursday, October 15th, 2015

I have been participating in a massive social experiment.  I don’t want to say exactly what it is for financial reasons.  As part of this experiment I get to talk to 10-15 people a day.

All of the people have a few things in common.  They all have smart phones, they are all early adopters, they all like technology, and other things like that.

The one thing I have noticed is a pattern.  People generally spend 5-7 years working in technology and then they find something they enjoy doing and they work in that field.  Typically their time in technology helps them succeed in their new field.

I have worked as a computer programmer for almost 20 years.  So I am a bit of a freak of nature.  There are other people like me, but it’s unusual and probably not good.

What has become very clear is that I need a career change.  Also my profession doesn’t need people like me.  It’s bad for both sides.

Most of the people that I talk to went into IT for 5-7 years and then shifted over to something they really enjoy.  What makes things hard for me is that I really enjoy programming computers.  So I need to shift over to something that I don’t like as much.

Of course I will always program computers.  That’s just a fact, but I definitely want to focus on programming for fun.

Right now I am very early in the thought process, but I always wanted to be a Sales Engineer.  I interviewed for a Sales Engineer position when I graduated for college.  They made me an offer.

I remember they offered me $38,000 a year base salary in Boston.  It was going to be a two year training program and then my income would “shoot up.”  I accepted $36,000 a year in Fort Walton Beach to work as a systems engineer for Boeing.

I chose the Boeing position because I just didn’t want to travel (since I had small children) and the cost of living in Ft. Walton Beach Florida was much lower than in Boston.

It might be time to try and find something like that Boston job… I am going to research how to become a Sales Engineer.

Angular & Bootstrap… why Bootstrap?

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Bootstrap is a framework that was designed to make life easier for developers.  There are a lot of aspects of life that get easier when you use a framework like bootstrap.

There are some aspects of life that get harder.  I will take the traditional way out and act like those aspects to exist.

When you implement bootstrap well you can have a naturally responsive website, and that’s nice.  You can also have a bunch of boiler plate code that you can copy and paste.  You can also have lots of pretty colors and nice pictures.  You can even have some behavior like tabbing and paging.

Another advantage to bootstrap is that a lot of other people use it.  Also you can do things really fast… and that impresses the ladies… well not really, but it impresses the people at the JavaScript Meetup.

A story about the US Postal Service in the 1970s

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

When I was in elementary school from 3rd to 5th grade we lived in Albuquerque New Mexico.  It was very nice.

Our neighborhood was a grid.  It was 40 streets.  The streets were named 1st – 40th.  Every street was identical.  The 40th street was the highest elevation and 1st was the lowest.  Riding bikes and skate boards was a lot of fun we would walk to the top of the neighborhood and ride down 40 windy streets.

I lived on third street, towards the middle of the street.  There were probably 30 houses on each street.  So about 1200 homes.  From the nearby mountain it looked like a little green grid surrounded by brown desert.

The postman would start on the outside edge at 1st street and work his way up to 40th street.  Once he got to 40th street he would turn his way into the neighborhood and work his way though.  He would go home by home until he finished back at 1st street again.

Back then the way we got a lot of neat things is by ordering items from the back of comic books.  You would cut the little label out.  Fill the label out.  Get a check from mom.  Get a stamp.  Put the stamped envelope in the mail.  If you did everything right in 10-14 days you would get a cool item back.  If you did something wrong you would get nothing back or maybe the envelope and check back.

It was always stressful and exciting to wait for items to come back in the mail.

So we would see the mail man at first street at 7:30 AM and then at 3:00 PM we would see that mail man working his way towards our house.

Sometimes we would order things from our friends homes on 40th street just so we wouldn’t have to bear the stress of waiting all day for the Post Man to get to our house.

A few times I remember catching the postman at 1st Street and us kids would BEG him to see if our item had come and to give it to us at 7:30AM instead of after 3:00 PM. We were very cute and very convincing and he was kind…

The kindly postman would show us the complicated stacks and layers and he would say something like it’s in there some where.  He would tell us how he spent two hours setting the stacks up so there wouldn’t be any mistakes and so everyone would get their important mail.

I learned at a very young age that the Postal System is an amazing accomplishment.  It depends on everything being set up perfectly.  You can’t disturb the system or everyone gets screwed… I also learned that the people on 40th Street had a lot of power.  If we ordered something on the same day a lot of times they would have played with the toy all day long before we got our hands on our toy.  It would ruin the toy for us.  We pretty much quit playing with them… Friendships never work out between 40th street kids and 3rd street kids there was just too big of a cultural divide…

 

Skillfeed… closing today :(

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Today is shutdown day for one of my very favorite destinations on the Internet.  Today skillfeed.com is shutting down.

Going to skillfeed.com has been part of my morning routine for almost a year now.  I have watched hours and hours of videos and I have taken 6 courses on AngularJS at skillfeed.

It was an AWESOME service.  I am definitely going to miss it.  I think it was $18 a month but it was well worth it.

So long skillfeed and thanks for all the fish :(

Thoughts about travelling from Georgia to Virginia… SPLOST

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

This week we drove to Virginia for the AAU Junior Olympics.  We spend 20 hours out of 60 driving.  We did get to enjoy the beach for about 4 hours.

Anyways.  I always vote against SPLOST.

If you don’t know this is how SPLOST works.  We all have to pay some sales tax.  We have to pay the tax whether we vote for SPLOST or not.  So voting against SPLOST does NOT lower taxes.

What happens is that the State collects tens of millions of dollars (I am not over exaggerating) it’s like 30 million dollars a year.  Our local officials come up with projects that they can do for us with that money.  So, for example, they could offer to build a nature trail or something.  Then they put it up for a vote and then the people vote.  If the vote wins the state gives the money to the local officials and if the vote loses the state keeps the money.  It’s simple.

In the example, the State collects $30,000,000.  The local officials say we’d like to use that $30,000,000 to build an amazing nature trail.  If the people vote the local officials get the money, if not the State keeps the money.

It’s a slam dunk.  We constituents have to pay either way.  All we are deciding it whether we want the nature trail or to give the State a gift of 30,000,000.

The first years I voted for SPLOST, it’s slam dunk.  Goodies for us or a gift to the State… that’s a no brainer.  If I remember correctly SPLOST won by 90+ percent in Cobb County.  It was slam dunk.  There were a few crazies that were against SPLOST, but come on “School Upgrades” or a gift to the state?  I vote for school upgrades and so did everyone I know.  I MADE A HUGE MISTAKE… and now I don’t get to use the track any more.

The county decided to put million dollar artificial turf fields at each school (with SPLOST money) and then since the fields are so expensive they started locking the gates to the tracks that surround the fields.  So before SPLOST you could go to any high school and find tax paying constituents walking, jogging, running around the track, after SPLOST you find a pad lock and a sign telling you that if you are caught trespassing you will be prosecuted.

For the HS Football Coaches getting that SPLOST money gave them the right to take the track away from the community.  If they had never gotten the SPLOST money we would all be able to use the track.

So that was a real bummer.  I really enjoyed that track and it makes me sad that I voted to lose my track privileges.

SPLOST came around again.  I voted no and it was close.  SPLOST barely won.  Think about it the citizens of Cobb County almost voted to give the State a gift of 10s of millions instead of “upgrading parks” and here’s why.

The parks department decided to take the money and renovate them.  The park next to my house was closed for over a year while they did renovations.  The ripped the old grass out and put new grass in.  They did it to all of the fields except for 2 and guess what those two untouched fields look the best of all of the fields.  They closed the park down for a year AND made the fields worse with the money we gave them.

The point is that when we give our local officials (Principals, Coaches, Park Directors…) money they take the money as a signal that it’s ok to reduce access.  They get fixated on the structure and lose sight of the constituents.

So back to the beginning.  On our drive traffic was getting very backed up and very dangerous.  It’s because there was a lot of “construction” going on.  On several occasions we saw “Construction Ahead Left Lane Closed” signs.  Then we’d slide to the right lane and the right lane was closed.  It made the roads very dangerous.  Then the lanes were closed for 10 miles of maybe 20 feet of work going on.  A couple of times the lanes were closed and there wasn’t any work going on.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been to Detroit I know how important it is to expand the roads.  Having roads that are too narrow is death to an American city.  The problem is that they aren’t doing any work.  They are taking the money and closing the roads with the money that the tax payers gave them and making things worse.

Oh, well… I guess that was just a rant…. We did stay very nice and calm on the roads, I guess I am using this blog as a way to express my rage.

Florida Vacation: Individual Element Ranking

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

If I were to stick to the pattern I have been on I would blog about the Universal Parks as a group… but what’s the point Universal was awesome… going there, being at the parks, and coming home were all awesome.

So today I am going to break down the vacation into discrete parts in order of awesomeness:

  1. Universal Studios, particularly Diagon Alley (#1 by a MILE)
  2. Universal Studios Islands of Adventure
  3. Disney’s Pop Century Resort
  4. Universal’s Loews Royal Pacific Resort
  5. Cocoa Beach
  6. ESPN Wide World Of Sports
  7. International Palms Resort In Cocoa Beach
  8. Universal City Walk (Bubba Gump, Whopper Bar, Movie [Ant Man], Turkey Leg, Cinnabon, Shopping)
  9. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
  10. Disney’s Epcot

Those were all very good experiences. Disney Epcot was wonderful, the competition is tough though.

I think there was just one experience that I would call not good… a little bad, but everyone was trying to get through it.  The not good experience was the Disney Transport “System,”  the drivers are very nice though.

There were two bad experiences:

We lived in Orlando for over 10 years and I graduated from UCF (a college in Orlando) so we know the area very well.  For some reason every previous year we spent time on I-Drive.  For about a year we worked on I-Drive at a Pizza Hut that is now closed.  This year we skipped I-Drive and the vacation was MUCH BETTER.  I-Drive looks like fun, but the workers are all exhausted and down right mean.  If you want to have a fun experience SKIP I-DRIVE if at all possible.  The workers in I-Drive are too over worked or too odd to care… seriously.

The Worst Experiences:

  1. We spent 20 minutes at a Walgreens on I-Drive.  We hopped off of the exit and found ourselves on I-Drive.  We figured we’d stop and get some waters, sodas, and snacks to eat at the Hotel.  It was 10:00 PM and the place was a mad house.  The workers were very tired, grumpy, and slow.  The cashier my wife ended up with kept trying to pick a fight with my wife and the cashier kept wanting to call the manager.  It was weird… not that weird for I-Drive.  The snacks and drinks were good though.
  2. Cowfish – The place is really really really weird.  It’s like going to the zoo and seeing really intelligent animals that don’t have enough to do.  I watched a show called “An Idiot Abroad” and he visited a “Monkey City” which was a city full of monkeys and the monkeys have nothing to do all day so they just torment anyone that comes around… That’s what Cowfish seemed like to me.  The staff (who are not monkey like in any way) seems way too bored, complacent, and entitled.  I have had a long time to think about it, and I don’t think a place like Cowfish can work in a community where being polite is not very important.  Central Florida is an amazing place and the people around there are so great, so efficient, so friendly, so hard working… the one thing they are not is polite.  I believe people in Central Florida prize results over process… kind of like “The Ends Justify The Means.”  My take on Cowfish is that it is set up to be a nice process, but that doesn’t fit in with the culture in Orlando.  The Orlando Staff at Cowfish want to see results, not have good experiences… I believe they see good experiences as a side effect of good results.  I think Cowfish is set up to be the other way around, it is set up so that people can have a good experience and that makes the product even better because it’s being served in a very positive context.  I think Cowfish is a square peg in a round whole.  I don’t think that business model works in Orlando. I think Cowfish should pull the plug on that Orlando Disaster.  I heard that they are opening a location in Atlanta… I am really looking forward to giving it a try in Atlanta… They have a burger on the menu that looked divine.

 

Florida Trip Park Review: Universal Studios Park

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Without a doubt Universal Studios was the highlight of our trip to Florida.  I really liked the Men In Black ride, the Mummy Ride, a roller coaster where you pick music, the Horror Makeup Show, the Minions Ride… all of those were great and with just those rides Universal Studios might have been the top park, but when you add in Diagon Alley… game over.  Universal Studios ROCKED it.  Diagon Alley was amazing, fun… I totally forgot about the rest of the world.

Man, Universal Studios really got it right!!!

Florida Trip Park Review: Universal Studios Islands of Adventure

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

Universal Studios Islands of was a lot of fun.  We really enjoyed riding the Hulk and the Harry Potter rides.  We had dinner at a restaurant in Hosworth.  The restaurant had a feast for four that we enjoyed feasting on.

In general it was very nice.  I never felt like part of a giant herd. I was very happy and comfortable while I was there.

It’s weird because the employees are definitely nicer at Disney, but they way things are set up at Universal they don’t have to be as nice. A performer at Universal made a joke and he said, “This isn’t Disney, we don’t have to be nice to you.”  I think that true.  They can’t be mean to everyone, but they don’t have to be nice to every single peson… there is still some responsibility placed on the guest to be a good person. I guess another way of putting it, is that if you are nice to the workers at Universal, they’ll be nice back, if you are mean to the workers at Universal, they might be mean back.

The point is that at Universal you can’t go around being mean to everyone, they won’t put up with that.  At Disney you can go around being mean… I suppose that might be why we ran into so many grumpy people in the Disney buses.

At one point we were in line to get into the Minions ride.  A really, really rude family (to be fair just the dad was rude) cut in front of us.  I said that they were jerks and we all gave them nasty looks.  The employee that was standing there agreed.  The dad said “This is why we like Disney.” It’s because Disney has two things going for it.  One, it’s really hard to cut in front of people because of their structure.  Two, you’re allowed to be a jerk and the employees will fix the problems that you leave in your wake.  The problem was there there was two entry points for the fast pass (one probably should have been closed off).  They walked into a different entry point and just barreled through at the merge point.  Then the Dad said something very non-memorable and very rude to us.  I said “They are a bunch of jerks” and the employee said, “They sure are.”  This wouldn’t have happened at Disney… but it’s a trade off.  I definitely didn’t feel like a cow, but some people need the structure because they don’t to behave without the structure.  We had lots of incidents where there were awkward merge points, but the guests were able to behave on their own, with out structure.  I gladly give up structure for freedom.

To sum up, I think Universal Studios Island of Adventures was more fun than Cocoa Beach, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot.  The day that we spent primarily at The Islands of Adventures was a very good day.  The only park that was better was The Universal Studios and that was just because of Diagon Alley.

Florida Trip Disney Parks Sum Up

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

The Disney part our trip to Florida was a lot of fun. The resort was absolutely amazing.  I wish I would have skipped the parks.

It bothers me that I disliked the parks so much.  I keep getting this feeling like I am being unfair.  There’s a couple of things going on.

First, my son Lex competed at the ESPN/Disney facility.  It’s only a couple of miles away from the resort.  I thought we would be taking the shuttle between ESPN and the Resort.  We tried to take the shuttle but the lines to get onto the shuttle were very long and they were in the hot sun and the shuttles came around too rarely.  So we drove every time.  It was a lot easier to drive.  I don’t think that should be the case.  Taking a shuttle between Pop Culture and ESPN should be a fun, comfortable experience.  It should be fun because lots of young people from different cultures doing different sports all meet on the shuttle.  But everyone is just to hot and everything is just so awkward that it’s no fun at all.

Second, in the 1980s my parents took my and my brother to Disney.  We stayed in a Disney Hotel and we were able to hop onto the Mono-Rail and easily move in/out/between the parks.  Please forgive me if I get some details wrong, I am using 30+ year old memories.  I just remember the time at Disney being like a different world.  At the time I didn’t realize it, but I am pretty sure it was the mono-rail that made the experience so good.  The parks were great, and the hotel was great, and the experience was amazing.  I think that set a very high bar that Disney is falling short of today.  I know the Resort is better today than is was in the 1980s and I suspect that Parks are better, and I am not a moody, lovesick teenager anymore.  I am actually open to having fun now, but the experience isn’t as good today.  I am pretty sure it’s because of the transportation.

Don’t get me wrong, the drivers were as nice as possible this is not a training thing.  The transportation system absolutely, positively stinks… figuratively and literally.

I guess a modern vacation experience is three things:

  1. A place to stay/sleep.
  2. A place to have fun.
  3. A way to get back and forth between the two.

You have to get all three.  It will never matter how good Disney ever gets with 1 & 2 because 3 is so bad.  During out beach part of the vacation is was a pleasant 2 minute walk between the resort and the beach.  Heck it was fun walking to and from the beach.  During the Universal part of the vacation it was a pleasant boat ride or a nice five minute walk.

In closing, a few years back we visited Detroit.  Detroit seems to be in a slow motion collapse.  I was very surprised when we got there because the heart of Detroit is beating and the Spirit of Detroit is alive.  I thought I would experience a post-apocalyptic drive into the city.  It was just the opposite.  The highway was packed with trucks and cars trying to get in and out of the city to do business.

I think Detroit is dieing because it’s arteries are clogged, it’s arteries are clogged because they are too small and in disrepair.  I don’t think Detroit has been able to focus on the transportation in and out of the city.  Now they can’t afford to close a road for expansion/maintenance.  Detroit is fading away because it can’t get enough in/out and so it is becoming toxic from the inside out.  If you read about cells in Biology, when they get too big they can’t transport enough in and out to keep the cell alive… that’s exactly what’s happening to Detroit.

I think Disney is in the early stages of this problem.  If they don’t get in front of this, they will be the Detroit of vacation experiences.  They will rot from the inside out.  Every single day that they don’t fix this problem the problem will get bigger and harder to fix.  Sooner or later (probably sooner) they will be they will be where Detroit is because they won’t be able to shut any of their transportation systems down long enough to fix the problem.

If I was an Imagineer I would make one really cool way to get from one of the resorts to ESPN.  Then I would make a cool way to get between the resorts.  Then I would do the same for Animal Kingdom and then for Epcot…  The idea would be that if I want to get from a resort to ESPN I go to the resort that connects to ESPN and then to ESPN.

I guess I might be being unfair, I guess it just seems like from an overall experience perspective Disney has lost ground since since the 1980s.  Damn I am getting old, figuratively and literally…

LOL, I see the old guy from the Simpson’s saying “When I was a kid we all rode a fancy monorail that came right into the hotel, these days you have to ride a hot stinky bus.”

My understanding is that the Hotel/Monorail system is still around.  Maybe we will try that next time.

Oh, I have to write one last thing.  If you want to have a fun time on vacation, then do Universal or a nice beach resort.  They are both much more fun.  But there is one HUGE exception to that.  If you are taking a little girl on vacation then the whole Disney/Princess/Dress Buying/Tiara Buying/Talking to each princess and getting the autograph signed system they have in place is amazing.  It’s expensive, but holy moly, the girls that do that are just walking on clouds during the whole process… literally the happiest place on earth.  If we find ourselves with a grand daughter I definitely plan on taking her to that.  Otherwise, we’ll probably just make the sure bet and do the beach or Universal.