Friday, August 29, 2008

Friday Five

The Week:

This week can be summed up in one word: Wii! I'd been lusting after one for quite a while, but of course finding one is near impossible. It turned out to be simply luck that I found one - I wanted a New York Times for the flight to Houston, but they hadn't arrived to the airport yet. So I bought a copy of the San Diego Fish Wrap Union Tribune. Inside was a Best Buy add advertising Wii's. I figured I'd give it a shot at a Best Buy in Houston, and sure enough - they had one. I got one of the last ones there. And a copy of Mario Crack Kart. I spent almost every night this week playing.

And in case you didn't pick up on it from above I was in Houston this week.

Oh, and I got a Wii.

The Exercise:

I actually worked out with a trainer this week, which was a new experience. I'm not sure how often I'll be able to visit, but it was nice to actually get some direction here. Slowly but surely... But I am down a belt hole, so I figure that's good progress.

The Travel Note:

Because I didn't have anywhere in Houston to store my Wii (did I mention I got a Wii?), I wound up traveling with it. I didn't think to take it out of my bag, only to have the x-ray person ask if I had a computer in my bag. After informing her that it was a Wii, she asked me to "take my Wii out." (Yes, I'm still 12...)

The Five:

With the NFL approaching on Thursday, I figured a top 5 favorite NFL memories:

  1. Going to preseason Jets games with my father. Yeah, I know, the games don't mean anything. But tell that to an 8 year old. I also remember one year when I was too sick to go and my father had to give away the tickets. One of my saddest moments was when my father's friend arrived to take the tickets.
  2. My first Chargers game. I've been a Chargers fan since I can remember, and to finally get to go to a game was a dream come true. We moved to San Diego shortly there after.
  3. The Bills/Chargers game the season after the Chargers signed many Bills players, including Doug Flutie. We were trailing late in the 4th, inside the 5, and Flutie (all 4'11" of him) disappeared under the rush, only to magically reappear and scamper in for 6. We were watching the game at Seau's - the place went nuts.
  4. San Diego 45 - NY Giants 23. It was great to beat Eli. This is only slightly better than the visual at the draft where the Chargers forced Eli to take the stage and hold the Chargers jersey.
  5. Every Sunday during football season.

Are you ready for some football?????

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Five

No excuse needed!

The week:

I got to experience life from the other side of the "someone leaving for a better opportunity" experience. As excited as you are for the person that's leaving, and as much as you know that it's the best thing that's happened to them, the selfish side of you wants them to stay. I'm so very proud of Abram, and I can't wait to see what he accomplishes. He's going to do great things. But man if I don't miss him come Saturday morning when I give him a call to see if he wants to go out to breakfast.

On a less personal note, I was in San Jose this week. As a result I got to see some good friends who showed me some of the town. A good time was had by all, and I certainly appreciate the hospitality. It beats sitting in a hotel room by yourself let me tell you.

I also got a chance to play a little poker this week. It was nice getting back to the tables, something I haven't been able to do much. I finished about even on the week, which is good considering how little I've been playing.

The exercise:

The hotel had a terrible fitness room. There was an out of order treadmill, a busted up exercise bike, a couple of nautilus machines, and a stair master from the 1800's. So I finally broke down and bought a membership to 24 Hour Fitness. I had been putting it off as I wanted to make sure I was committed to the cause. I figure after 6 weeks I can say I'm committed to the cause.

The travel note:

I hadn't been to San Jose in about 7 years. The airport is still just as terrible as ever. The width of the area from the wall with the gates to the other wall is about that of your average living room. There is simply no room to move. To add insult to injury, the only airline you can realistically fly from San Diego to San Jose is Southwest, where you can have your flight be delayed while being treated like cattle. And sure enough, my flight out of San Diego was delayed by an hour.

The five:

I'm using a Sarah suggestion. The one I liked the most was 5 things I love about Abram, but I thought that might sound like I was eulogizing the kid. So instead I'm going with 5 things I'm doing to be healthier. Of course, all of these wind up with their exceptions. (For example - I'm stuck in the airport and about the only thing to eat is pizza.)

  1. Working out. I had always thought I'd never be able to keep an exercise routine going. Well - so far so good as I close in on 2 months.
  2. No cheese. Strange as it sounds, this has been one of the easiest things to cut out. Granted, I've never been a huge cheese fan, but it was still pretty easy.
  3. Cutting way back on my drinking. I'm kind of ashamed to admit it, but my routine often while on the road was to camp out in the hotel bar, have about 3-4, and then go to bed. And that was after 2 at dinner. Now I'm down to one, maybe two, at dinner and that's it. (Going away parties for Abram were excluded.)
  4. Cut way back on coffee. I'm down to a small cup a day. And I plan on trying to cut that last cup out over the next couple of weeks.
  5. Being very conscious of what I order. Down to ordering a turkey burger with no butter (for the bun), no mayo, side salad with Italian on the side. And of that it's a very quick stream over the salad and that's it.

It's kind of sick, really. But I'm down a belt hole, so something's working.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Passwords and Credit Cards

(I thought about titling this "Playbills and Monkeys", but only Karin would get that reference.)

One of my favorite geeks, Jesper Johansson, recently wrote a 3 article series on the fact that for the general populous security is all about passwords and credit cards. And he's right, of course. One of the questions then becomes, how does one manage passwords?

Passwords should have a few qualities:

  • be difficult to guess
  • have a good combination of letters, numbers and special characters
  • be unique to each site so an attacker can't use information learned from one site on any others

It's that last one that makes things difficult. How do you remember a separate password for every site? The answer is to use a password manager.

A password manager should have a few bits of functionality:

  • Generate new passwords
  • Make it easy to get the password from the app into the site
  • Be portable
  • Be free

The one that I use that meets all of the above is KeePass Password Safe. What's also great about KeePass is that it can run off a USB stick drive, meaning that it's portable.

The basic step is to come up with a master password which is used to encrypt the database of passwords. The main login looks like this:


The Master Password should be something good - I recommend a sentence that only you would know (a personal fact that nobody knows, an obscure movie quote, etc.). I have a personal fact that I use, and I use the finger print reader on my laptop to "type" it in. The "Key File" is the database file with all of your passwords. When you want a password, simply click on the one you want, a quick Ctl-C to copy it to the clipboard, and then paste it into the site. What's also nice is it will clear it out of the clipboard in 10 seconds to avoid any program from accessing it.


And finally, you can generate a password based on any specifications you need. (Side note to all site designers - please make it very clear what characters I can and can't use, as well as the maximum size, for all password registration screens. Thank you.)


I'd also like to mention the fact that the program is documented very well on their site.

This is a call to everyone - use strong passwords. And use a password manager. This is the one I use, but there are many others out there.

Just a little geek tip for you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friday Five

The excuse:

This was an amazingly busy week. I was working on Thursday until 11:30 and Friday until 9:30. Today was the best I could do.

The week:

In a word - busy. I was out in Tampa this week, and due to a confluence of reasons I really didn't get to see the people I had hoped to see when I was out here. C'est la guerre. This also turned out to be yet another week where I had hoped to actually check an area out and wasn't able to. Such is life. It was simply work/hotel.

(Boy that above paragraph sounds rather depressing. I'm really cheerier than the above reads. Really. Or at least I think I am.)

I have to take back one of my items from last week's five. I am really digging the Olympics. I didn't think I would - I wasn't at all excited. Come the first Saturday and I'm sitting in my chair watching the Games basically all day. I'm still not exactly sure how some of the sports (badminton, synchronized diving??) became sports, but what do I know. And I'm very much looking to watching the Phelps race tonight - if for no other reason than as Rick Reilly says to see if he grows gills.

This weekend will also be a very sad/proud one for me. Every family has The Smart One. In ours it's my baby brother. We have a very tight bond, and I've been very blessed to have him living next door to me for the last 2+ years. This upcoming Friday he will be moving to DC to attend law school at American. He's going to be amazingly successful, and I'm very proud of everything he's accomplished and will achieve. But I'm going to miss him to death.

The exercise:

Long week this past week. Very long week. As a result, I was only able to get in two workouts. I will get back on track this week.

The travel note:

I use my iPhone as my alarm clock. (I even joined the Facebook group.) What's nice is I set it just the one time and it's good, which means I don't have to worry about alarm clocks in hotels. (And as a side note - I don't know what my mental block is but the simpler the electronic device it seems to me the harder it is to use.) In any event, I had a Saturday flight, which I'm not used to. I set my alarm thinking I was good. Well - I've configured my alarm to only go off on weekdays. So fast forward to this morning and I wake up at 7:30 for my 8:15 flight because my alarm didn't go off. As a result, I'm now sitting in the Tampa airport waiting for the next flight. (Continuation note - it's storming in Houston, so now I'm delayed here.)

The five:

For the five this week, I'm going with 5 misc thoughts on technology.

  1. How did we know anything before Wikipedia? And with the existence of Wikipedia, do we know anything?
  2. I can honestly say I don't know how we survived before cell phones. Having to find a pay phone, having to remember phone numbers. At this point I remember 3 phone numbers - mine, Karin's, and one I had when I was a kid in New Jersey. (I don't know why I still remember it either.)
  3. I don't understand how people survive without Internet access on their phone. What do you do when you're standing in line? Or sitting on the can?
  4. By far my favorite thing about the Internet is how it allows for people to stay in touch. While it's certainly not the same as actually seeing someone, it does allow for a bond to still be maintained when direct contact isn't possible.
  5. Text messaging is so much easier than phone calls. I can do it in situations where making a phone call isn't appropriate. I can send a quick message without having to go through the whole thing of actually making a call. I can have 3 conversations like I am right now.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Five - On Time!

The week:

I happened to be in Houston this week, which gave me front row seats to TS Eduord. Or, at least, it was supposed to. Turned out to be bleacher seats at best. The storm took a slight turn just before making landfall and missed Houston to the north. We still got some rain but that was about it.

It was interesting being in the city as it prepared for the storm. I got a little letter informing me where the safest place to be is (the bathroom) and that there may be limited housekeeping. Many businesses closed, which was nice since the roads were completely empty - nothing like being about to do 70 during would-be rush hour. Of course, that also meant my favorite Mexican place out here (Gringo's - 22oz margarita Patron Silver - that'll improve your mood let me tell you) was closed. The plan for the training center I was at was simply "don't come in if you don't feel safe". Considering it was just drizzling I figured I'd tough it out (I'm a San Diegan remember - I'm not used to moisture coming out of the sky).

I also think a big part of the problem with trying to get people to prepare for such a storm is unpredictability. The storm had tracked right at Houston for about 3 days before taking that last minute turn. As anyone who lives in the Midwest can tell you that the tornado sirens go off on a fairly frequent basis only to be yet another false alarm; I don't know that I've met a single person who takes cover when they hear the sirens go off even though they know they're supposed to. We were told in Houston this week to expect a pretty sizeable storm, only to get strong rain at best. People are conditioned to the weather people being wrong and don't really think about it. Of course, that still doesn't excuse anyone from not having a survival pack with a few days worth of food and water. (Note to Karin - we should put together a survival pack.)

The rest of the week was pretty low key. I did check out some pizza joint (I only had one slice and a salad) that the Bush family apparently loves. Terrible pizza. I'll let you write your own joke.

The exercise:

I managed to get 4 days in (MWRF). I will say that after 5 weeks it's gotten easier, but 3 days in a row still seems to be my limit at the moment. That's gotta change. I also need to find a 10K to run that goes on a Saturday. Most of the ones I've seen are on Sundays, and we all know what I do on Sundays, and I'd like to run one - I just want a goal for myself.

The travel note:

This was from about a month ago and I can't believe I didn't post it. There was a genius who came on with a cooler with a swing top (you know - one that doesn't make a seal at the top) that had ice in it. (I'm going to assume that he got the ice on the other side of security, or the TSA has really gotten lazy.) Anyway, he realizes it doesn't fit into the overhead sitting upright. Easy fix - lay it on its side! Drops a decent amount of water all over the row underneath him and into the overhead. Fortunately I was on the other side of the plane. The people who got dumped on were much more forgiving about it than I would have been.

The five:

Since today is apparently the start of the Olympics, I figured I'd do a five on miscellaneous sports thoughts:

  1. I'm not that into the Olympics. I'll watch the events in passing since they'll be on, but that will be about it. I blame the fall of the Soviet Union. When it was us against them it was interesting. Now it's just kind of meh.
  2. I loathe the DH. It's not that the pitcher doesn't have to bat, it's that the DH doesn't have to field, which gives someone with the physique of David Ortiz a job. It also takes any strategy out of the game.
  3. I can't stand instant replay. All that instant replay does is add another layer of subjectiveness (new word) into a game full of it. What I really hate is when the referee blows the call on the field, goes under the hood, and blows it again.
  4. I love being on Pacific time for sporting events. With all apologies to the rest of the country, the schedules are written for us. Sundays during football season are particularly delightful, with the last game being over by 8p. Gives you a chance to get something done after a full day of NFL debauchery.
  5. I think I prefer being at home to watch football games. Granted, there is something about being there, but my chair is much more comfortable and the beer is cheaper at home. Add to that the fact that if we're getting blown out I don't feel bad at all about turning off the game. (You don't leave a stadium early.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Get Mesh-ed Up

(Ok - that was bad even for me)

(Editor's note - I'm tweaking with the site at the moment (all Sarah's fault). I *think* I like the new color scheme and layout, but that may change any moment. I'm also thinking about making a geek tip a regular item on the blog - there's quite a bit out there I've been wanting to point people at, but I don't know if I have the dedication to actually make it a weekly thing.)

If you're remotely connected to the tech industry, you can't go a week without coming across someone talking about "the cloud" or "cloud computing". The basic concept is that going forward data and applications will be available through the Internet, and PC's will be relegated to simply clients to the applications in the cloud. For sure this has been a promise for quite a while, but as broadband becomes more pervasive we're starting to see an increased drive towards this model.

Towards that end, Microsoft has announced a public beta of their entry into this space called Mesh. Going forward Microsoft will be releasing more capabilities, as well as opening it up to third parties to develop applications, but right now it offers two really cool features - synchronized folders and remote access.

Synchronized folders:

Mesh gives you an "Live Desktop", which is very similar to a standard Windows desktop. The difference is that at the moment there's only folders for storage available. You are able to create folders, like a normal desktop, as well as upload files. Right now you have access to 5 gigs, but going forward that will likely be expanded or at least give you the option to pay to expand it.

The cool part is that you can create a copy of a folder from your Live Desktop on your local PC or PC's (Mac and Mobile support "coming soon"). For someone like me with two computers and who's constantly on the road, it's nice to be able to sync with my desktop back at home. Plus, there's a copy that is stored on the Mesh, which not only is accessible from anywhere that I have Internet access and a browser, but also serves as a great backup[1] location - when you install the client (there is a piece you have to install locally) you can right click on any folder and tell it to sync with your Live Desktop.

Remote Desktop:

Quite simply, you can access your home desktop (or other connected device) from anywhere. And unlike certain solutions *cough*GoToMyPC*cough*, this is free. It's the same experience as if you were sitting there, except a little slower. You also have the ability to copy files to and from the remote system. Very cool.

If you're interested, you can check it out at You will need a Hotmail-or-Passport-or-Live account, but pretty much everyone has at least one of those.

There's your geek tip for the week.

[1] Everyone should have backups of anything they want to keep in case of computer failure or earthquake/fire/tornado/hurricane/flood/frog plague. The backup should be somewhere other than your house. Simple solution - try Mesh!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Friday (er, Tuesday) Five

The excuse:

My father was in town from Wednesday until today. I just didn't have time to sit down and do a normal post. Since I've missed a couple, I figured I'd do one today to "make up for it".

The week:

I was at home this week.

No, really. I was at home.

Like San Diego home.

And it was everything I thought it would be and more. I can't explain how wonderful it was to wake up on Sunday morning with no obligation besides sitting in my chair and watching NASCAR*.

Since I was home, this turned out to be a rather busy week. Saturday was grill shopping. I've been wanting a grill for quite a while, and with my father showing up later that week I figured that Saturday was a good a day as any to go shopping.

Grill shopping is certainly a man's endeavor. Abram, Karin and I went off to look. Karin and I had many discussions that went very much like one that I witnessed when we were at Lowe's:

Husband: Look at this one! It's a combo gas and charcoal.
Wife: But we don't ever use charcoal.
Husband: <stunned look on his face not understanding why his wife is missing simple logic that using it isn't important - it's simply the fact that you have it>

After visiting 3 stores, we found my new baby at Lowe's. 5 burners, 50,000 BTU's, rotisserie, and a sear burner on the side. We christened her with 3 dry-aged prime NY strip steaks. Outstanding.

Wednesday brought another oddity for me - I went to the airport to pick someone up and not be dropped off.

My father came in for a visit. The timing worked well as this will likely be the last month that all three of us boys will be living in the same city. While we didn't do much touristy things, we all were able to spend time with Dad, and that was the goal of the visit. He also wound up meeting several of our friends who all loved him. Despite my explanation that Bill Cosby was right and this was not my father and he was being nice simply so he could get into heaven, they all thought he was great. And we three boys were all again reminded by everyone how much like our father we are.

On Saturday a handful of us saw Eddie Izzard. Great show.

The travel note:

So I'm walking through IAH (George Bush Intercontinental) when someone comes up to me and says, "I know you!" After I apologized, she informed me that she's a waitress at The Mission (a killer breakfast place in San Diego that Karin and I go to often.) I guess it really is a small world - or something like that.

The exercise:

I don't want to call it a "diet". I also want to point out that I'm not putting notes about this to "brag". I want to make it public so I have some level of accountability.

I was only able to get out and jog 3 days last week as, again, my father was in town. Also, when we have guests, that generally means eating out where you can't always find (or really want) healthy items. So my diet (eating habits, not self-starving) did take a turn for the worse. Should be able to do better this week.

The five:

The five this week was inspired by a quick brainstorming session with Sarah - five things I can't bring myself to do.

  1. I can't eat processed cheese sauce. I just can't do it. I have never tried it, but I just can't stomach the thought.
  2. I'm just not interested in the least in Disney___. Yeah, it's the happiest place on earth, but give me Six Flags over Disney any day.
  3. I can't do horror movies. Even most thrillers. Almost didn't see Sixth Sense because of it - but that is probably the edge of what I can watch and not have nightmares over. Yes, I'm a chicken.
  4. I could never again be a full time developer. As a trainer I get to play with things. As a full time developer it's a job. And not a fun one.
  5. I can't seem to get back into a good habit of getting Five's up on Friday. (Sorry, B.) I need to get back into the flow of things.