A new day dawns for America

5 11 2008

Yeah, I know – another ridiculously long time between posts…..not like there’s anyone waiting for me to post anyways…but I’m going to try and post more often.  Writing is cathartic for me, and if nothing else, it’ll ease the jones I get when I need to put something into words…

But this is a historic day, and I want to be sure I capture my thoughts while they are fresh in my mind – plus then I might be able to actually get some work done…

Read the rest of this entry »


I know it’s been a while

10 12 2007

Man, I had every intention of getting this going, but real life got in the way (who’da thunk?).  I’ve been slammed every which way but good, so my writing itch hasn’t been able to be scratched.  I’ll get back into it, I swear!

 Anyway, I just needed to say that I’ve determined I’m

85% Geek

That’s all I needed to get off my chest.  I’ll get back here someday (I hope)

Blog Action Day 2007 – The Environment

15 10 2007

Today is apparently Blog Action Day for 2007.  It’s a day where the power of the blogosphere is to be turned to one agenda.  Everyone is supposed to write about one topic, with their own slants, their own biases – but still to write on that one topic.  It’s an interesting proposition, and I’m going to be wandering around checking all the different sites that are linked to see the viewpoints of everyone else.

 This year’s topic is the environment, the hot topic of 2007.  Everyone seems to be talking more and more everyday about the environment.  I don’t know if it’s the Al Gore effect, or if this is a sincere shift in focus for everyone involved, but it is what it is, so here we go.

The environment is one of those really odd things that no one seems to understand.  Have the human race done everything they possibly can to screw up the environment?  Sure.  Has it reached the point where it’s screwed up to the point that it can’t be fixed?  Possibly, but then you read a story about how the hole in the ozone layer is shrinking, and you realize just how much we don’t know about the earth and it’s recuperative powers.

But does that mean that we’re powerless to help?  Not at all – but we need to push our legislative bodies to get involved because if it’s up to the average joe human, nothing’s going to get done because it can be more expensive to do the right thing.  Here are just a few ways that we can help to make the earth a better place overall.

  1. Require our automakers to produce economically viable “clean” vehicles.  The current slate of hybrids and/or clean cars cost significantly more than those that are the typical gas hogs, and the ones that do exist are not viable for more families as there is little room for storage for trips, or even for a family of four.  And no, I do not consider an SUV that gets 24mpg vs 18 mpg to be a greener alternative.  In the early 1990s, I was driving a Mazda 323 sedan that averaged 40-50 mpg on the highway – why has the capacity of the cars gone so far down since then?  My next car averages 32-38, but even that is more efficient than what we can get today – why?  Why is gas mileage going down instead of up?  Don’t tell me it’s the SUV factor because even the smaller sedans aren’t getting it.  Nowadays, the only cars that get close to the gas mileage I had in 1993-95 are the hybrids – and from what I’ve read, the advertised averages are not close to the realistic ones and the results are more pedestrian.
  2. Increase the availability and affordability of mass transit.  With the trend of moving away from the cities becoming even more rampant, the amount of traffic (number on cause of pollution) is going through the roof.  Traffic congestion, road rage, noise pollution – all of these are symptoms of too many drivers for the roads.  So why is mass transportation failing in so many cities?  Where are the light rails running in and out of each city?  Where are the eco-friendly buses which I’ve seen prototyped throughout the area, but have never gone live?
  3. Stop urban sprawl.  This is the one that bothers me the most.  Even with the housing market crashing as bad as it is, I’m still seening signs everywhere for new housing builds.  What was lush farmland has become barren ground as they’ve made new houses which are bigger and more ridiculous every day.  This adds more traffic to roads which aren’t built to handle it, and less green space which the earth can use to regenerate itself.  Encourage revitalization of the towns and cities.  Make it more economical to renovate than to build anew.  Do something to stop the sprawl.  This will result in less traffic, less loss of open space and more community spirit as once thriving areas start to thrive again.
  4. Pick up after yourselves.  Yes, I know this isn’t something we can encourage our legistlature to get involved in, but it’s amazing to me how lazy people get when it comes to their own trash.  I don’t know how many times I’ve been hiking on a nature trail and had to stop to pick up the trash someone else has left behind.  Candy bar wrappers, chip bags, empty soda cans and bottles, all that could be carried a few extra minutes until a waste receptacle can be found.  The boy scouts have a “zero footprint” policy for camping – it’s a nice thought I wish more people would undertake.

Anatomy of a Site Refresh III – Functionality analysis

20 09 2007

This is a whole series dedicated to a site refresh.  What steps do I take?  What plans do I make?  How can I learn from this process to improve my workflow?

Series History: Intro / Part I / Part II

I apologize for the gaps between postings.  I’ve been extra busy in real life – between reviewing and commenting on 100’s of pages of technical project documentation for a new project going on here at work, and coaching my son’s midget football team, and running the local barbershop chapter I’m currently serving as president, my days seem to get shorter and shorter in terms of having time to just sit and think.  My wife even got on my case because I didn’t take time to relax yesterday.  I think I may have forgotten how.  Not that anything’s an excuse – just an explanation.

Now, in our last episode, I did a quick rundown on the functionality the site needs.  For a quick recap, everything can be rooted down to four basic functional components: Read the rest of this entry »

Remembrance – 9/11/2001

11 09 2007

Six years ago today, the United States got a dose of reality and joined the real world as one of the most horrific and coordinated attacks of terrorism ever occurred on U.S. soil.  Roughly 3,000 people lost their lives that day – the largest loss of life on American soil since the Civil War.  The country (and the world) would never be the same again.

Up until then, the people of the U.S. had always felt safe and that the tragedies affecting the rest of the world could not happen within the borders of the country.  Generations of Americans hadn’t been born since the last major war ended, and no one felt safer.  Oh, how wrong we were.  Most of the country was just waking up to a nightmare of unimaginable proportions as we watched the first plane hit the twin towers, followed shortly by the second.  Then to find out that two more planes had been hijacked and the feelings of helplessness as they two fell from the sky.  Phone lines all over the country jammed as people tried to contact loved ones affected, and for others just to feel the comfort of a familiar voice as they found their loved ones safe and sound. 

Every major news outlet in the country provided nearly 24/7 coverage of the aftermath.  We watched in horror as the tragic events were replayed over and over again – the towers falling, the people jumping to their deaths in the attempt to simply get away from the flames.  We shook as we saw the carnage and damage that occurred.  We saw the images of those that were lucky enough to get out running to escape and to get away from the disaster, covered in the ash and dust of the towers that spread all over the city.  We mourned for those that lost their lives, and suffered along with those that were not able to leave as bridges gridlocked and all transit out of the city shutdown.  We listened as the news agencies dissected the events, listening for something to grasp hold of.  We listened to a President, only in office a little over six months, that attempted to show strength but still conveyed the underlying anger and feelings of hopelessness we all felt.

But then, we heard stories about the brave men and women of the NY fire and police departments risking life and limb to get everyone out of the twin towers, knowing that the towers could fall at any moment.  We heard of the stories about the passengers of Flight 93, who fought the terrorists and saved numerous lives as they sacrificed their lives to save those that were the target of that planes demise.  Heroes were born that day – heroes that galvanized a nation, and gave hope for all of the country to hold onto and heal.

Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda had hoped to strike fear in the heart of the country, and for a while they succeeded.  All commercial travel ceased for a time, and Americans walked in fear, waiting for the next attack.  Never had this country seen such an attack, and the sheer gall and coordination of the attack was frightening.  But eventually, the stories of heroism and bravery started to have an affect on the American public.  A sense of unity and nationalism rose once again, and the country refused to let the terrorists win, and was determined to get back to a life as normal as possible – though it would never be usual since no one would truly feel safe again.

 We will never forget, we will always remember the events of that day – but we will live on.  That’s the way it must be.


4 09 2007

This past weekend was Labor Day in the U.S. and was created as a day of rest for the American laborers and is often considered the “end of summer” for most Americans as school is starting back up if it hasn’t already started.

Our family had a good weekend overall.  Friday we went to our local amusement park for a nice afternoon of rides and laughs.  Saturday was the first game of the season for my son’s Smurf football team (I’m a coach).  We won’t talk about the first half of the game, but the second half was competitive, and I got to be on the field to watch my son rip off a 30+ yard run for a touchdown.  Sunday, we went to the next to last game of the season for the Harrisburg Senators, the Washington Nationals AA affiliate, then (luckily) went out and had a nice dinner.  Monday was a day of hiking, picnicing and swimming at one of the National Parks which is close to our house.  Overall an enjoyable weekend.

Then last night hit.  I had gone out to get pizza for us to have for dinner, and when I got back, my wife called me into another room away from the kids.  She told me then that she got a call from a friend that a neighbor of ours had been killed in a sprint car race Sunday night.  He would have been 28 the end of this month – eight years younger than me.

Now, I wasn’t close to this young man.  I had met him a total of three or four times in the three years we have been living in our house.  But his parents are good friends (he lived with his parents), and have been very good to my family, especially my children.  In fact, they have taken my wife and kids along to see their son race numerous times – and that’s why I had written luckily above.  See, our neighbor had been looking for my wife and kids to go with her Sunday night to see him race, but we had been out to dinner, otherwise they probably would have been there to see the accident (details are sketchy but from reports, the car flipped multiple times, was hit by other cars and burst into flames).

So while I mourn this young mans death, and feel horrible for his parents (no parent should have to bury their child), I am incredibly thankful that we had decided to go out for dinner that night.  My kids are seven and five, and while we had to tell them about his death because they knew he had been in an accident, there’s no telling the mental anguish that would have occurred if they would have seen the accident first hand.  My kids are still very innocent – a fact I feel very blessed with and hope to keep going for as long as possible. 

So parents, if your kids are around, hug them.  Cherish the time you spend with them – whether it’s good times or bad.  You never know when that time will be taken away from you.  Each moment you spend with them is a moment you’ll never get again, so make the most of it.

So I just want to say to Bill, please rest in peace.  The only comfort I can take from you being taken away so young is that you died doing what you loved more than life itself – racing.  May your soul find peace and happiness in the next life.

Anatomy of a Site Refresh II – the “1000 foot view”

28 08 2007

Series History:
For initial background, see the Intro post.
See part one where the target audiences are identified and needs listed.

Now that the target audiences have been identified, let’s break down what is needed for the web site at a “1000 foot” view. This list is by no means complete, and will probably get updated from time to time:

  1. a calendar of events. Events need to be private and public, and mappable directions accessible where appropriate.
  2. rudimentary CONTENT management system. This needs to be able to create files on the fly, and files needs to be able to be uploaded, and accessed over a number of pages.
  3. CONTACT management – need to be able to add/edit/delete member information from a csv file
  4. a forum or some other sort of interactive application which will allow members to interact with each other, as well as interacting with members of the public.
  5. Group Management – to add/edit/delete quartets and their members.
  6. photo gallery
  7. mailing List management

Now, of course being the anal retentive I am, I will probably write most of this functionality by hand. Things like the forums I will use a pre-built (Snitz most likely), but other than that I will probably build it on the fly to ensure all the pieces work together as they need to effectively. More time consuming that way, but the only way to ensure that everything meshes together properly.