Thursday, December 21, 2006

PPD 60

I'm really not sure why I like this picture, but I do. I think it's just the odd visual effect of the snow and the narrowness of the walkway that makes it look a lot longer than it is. Then again, it might be that I slogged across an entire parking lot of the knee deep snow to get the picture.

Edits: Cropped, saturation up, contrast up
Taken: Thursday, December 21st

Frosty the Roofer

As probably every single one of you poor souls reading this knows already, Denver has been hit with a major blizzard. It's the worst blizzard since 2003. During that blizzard I was trapped in a one bedroom apartment with two out-of-state guests. This time I'm all by myself.

Of course when you're trapped at home by yourself, entertainment can be a problem. You can only spend so much time watching TV and playing with the cats. When that happens there's only one thing to do. Build a snowman on the roof. More pictures involving snow can be found here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I've got just five things to say to you

Apparently I've just been blog-tagged. I'm not familiar with the concept myself, although it bears a disturbing resemblance to a chain letter. At least this one didn't come with some threat about me falling down the stairs or something. Although given that I'm probably going to spend the next 48 hours snowed in at home with no company except two cats and a full liquor cabinet, that is a distinct possibility. :)

Of course this does have one advantage over a chain letter -- it's a great way to play the blogger version of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon". Except this is on a blog, so it needs to have an annoying name involving a non-word. Perhaps "Six Blogrees of Jeff Pulver"? Regardless of the name, I'm at least 11 degrees from Jeff Pulver. I was tagged by Greg, who was tagged by Nick, tagged by Mark Fletcher, by Dave McClure, Oilman, Todd Malicoat, Ben Wills, Andy Beal, Avinash Kaushik, and ending with Dave Gale. Dave Gale didn't say who tagged him, so the trail drops there, but Dave isn't on Jeff Pulver's list, so there must be at least one more person in there. It might be kinda interested to see the tree of all those links. In fact, we probably even have the link data in the Newsgator database. I'm too lazy to do it right now, but maybe if I'm bored enough and sober enough tomorrow I'll give it a shot. Although writing neat little apps that'll probably destroy our database is really Nick Harris' specialty.

Anyway, enough digressing. This post was supposed to be about five things that relatively few people know about me. So here we go (in no particular order)

1) I'm incredibly annoyed by bad grammar and/or spelling. Maybe I've spent too long writing code, which doesn't tolerate such things, or maybe it's because my Dad was an English major. No matter why, it bugs me. A great example is using "your" instead of "you're". For instance, look at the last two words of Jeff Pulver's post that started all this. Argh!

2) Much like Scott Adams (and apparently half of America), I sometimes think about how blown away a caveman would be by modern technology. Usually I only think about such things when I'm alone in the car though. Usually. (I bet they'd think computers are lame thought.)

3) I'm a bit of a sci-fi junkie. Before I graduated high school I had read every single book by Robert Heinlein and Larry Niven. Which was actually kind of tough, some of Heinlein's books are out of print (and rightly so in many cases...) Coincidentally, I'm in the middle of a Niven book right now, Building Harlequin's Moon. I also watched every episode of Star Trek The Next Generation -- but I'm not enough of a trekkie to call it ST:TNG.

4) Despite growing up in Wisconsin, I AM NOT A PACKERS FAN. Actually, I'm not really a sports fan in general, but I actively dislike the Packers. Not because of anything they did, because I'm so damn tired of seeing Packers blankets, jerseys, paper, shoes, car flags, and so on during my childhood. Stupid packers.

5) I used to be a houseplant nut. At one point I had 45 houseplants -- in a two-bedroom apartment. It took about 30 minutes just to water them all. For some reason I don't really do that anymore. I've still got a few plants, but only the ones hardy enough to withstand my waning interest in taking care of them. But I still feel guilty when one of them dies.

So, I guess it's my turn. Tags go out to Timmy B, Nick Harris, Gordon Weakliem, and Cash (who mostly posts over at Urban Monarch these days). That's only four -- I'm emailing one other person to ask permission first, since I don't really know him all that well (ok, not at all). Update later.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Picture Rotator (and, Blogger Sucks)

UPDATE 3/14/2007: I've changed the picture rotator to a different implementation than the one I'm talking about here. So none of this really applies anymore, but read it if you want to.

If you're reading this on my website, instead of through an RSS aggregator, you might notice a new feature. In the upper right there's a rotating image pulled from my SmugMug account.

This is actually something I've been meaning to do for a while - namely add a feature on my site based off of what I'm doing at work. What finally got me to do it? Well, for one thing Karyn did it. Then earlier today John stopped by to ask about a bit of picture rotator code he just added. I took a look at John's implementation, and it's nice and all, but it has some problems. For instance, the names of the pictures are hardcoded into the page, so he needs to go edit that every time he adds or removes a photo. Even worse than that, it in now way uses RSS or Private Label!

So I whipped up a quick replacement, based on SmugMug's built in RSS feeds and the Buzz framework. Basically his pictures are published as RSS feed based on SmugMug photo tags. Newsgator picks that up and makes it available using the Buzz framework. Then a couple lines of Javascript grab the enclosures from those posts and render out his rotator. It only takes about 5 lines of HTML and Javascript.

At this point I was going to post those 5 lines of code. Why not? Well, it turns out that Blogger is UNBELIEVABLY PAINFUL to deal with for scripting. It took me about 10 minutes to write and debug the code in a dummy HTML page. I then spent about 90 minutes trying to make it work in my blog template, most of it dealing with Blogger's wonderful habit of silently mangling whatever markup I put into the page.
It turns out the same great editing abilities apply to my posts, and at this point I may just demolish my laptop if I have to try it. No, at this point what I need is not more HTML, but rather a nice glass of bourbon.

And with that, I bid you good night.

UPDATE 12/20/06: It's been pointed out to me that the rotator doesn't work in IE. I'm not that surprised, as I always develop in Firefox because I love me some Firebug. I was planning on validating it in IE, but after wrestling with Blogger I was in no mood. I'll try to get to it tomorrow, since I will likely be sitting in the airport all day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Insult to Injury

Last weekend during a trip to Barnes & Noble, I happened to spot a book from the well known "... For Dummies" series. Normally I'm a fan of the series, in fact I've got several on my shelf. But this one I thought a bit inappropriate, for you see it was entitled "Depression For Dummies." And I couldn't help thinking to myself that the poor people reading it are already depressed, do they really need a book calling them dumb on top of it? Is that really going to help?

But then I thought about it a bit more, and decided that maybe it's a good tactic to encourage the depressed to get help (and possibly sell a few more copies). After all, they probably already think they're dumb, and hence the book is practically calling out to them.

Friday, December 08, 2006

What I Learned Today

Today's tidbit of new knowledge, which will doubtless be of interest only to the truly, truly geeky among us: you can put an apostrophe into a URL. For instance, this is a valid URL:'d.xml.

I guess that's sort neat, in a way that's sure to annoy every Javascript developer in the world.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Firebug 1.0

Since I started working at Newsgator I've been doing a lot of Javascript development, as well as increasing amounts of HTML and CSS debugging. I quite frankly could not have done a lot of it without the help of the wonderful Firebug extension for Firefox. The combination of DOM inspector, Javascript error handling and debugging is simply unbeatable. I've since become so addicted to it that I've made our testers and support staff install it, because it's too painful debugging problems on their computers without it.

If Firebug was incredibly helpful before, the new 1.0 version makes it indispensible. Joe Hewitt and team have added great features like Javascript profiling, network traffic profiling, CSS profiling and more.

If you're a serious web developer and you're not using Firebug, I won't call you crazy. But I'll be thinking it.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

He's a screamer

Glenn just pointed me at this article and flash video talking about how Warner Brothers taped one guy screaming back in 1951 and then used that scream in movies for over 50 years. Somebody should send that guy a copy of the painting...

Update: More info on the scream. Apparently Glenn and Gordon are obssessed with this. Sheesh.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

But I just got used to the old money!

A federal judge recently ruled that the current paper currency is unfair to blind people because they have no way to tell the bills apart. Which seems like a good point. I've heard that blind people devise systems to tell bills in their pockets apart, such as using different pockets, folding corners, etc. But I guess it would be a problem when getting change from a purchase.

That said, the suggested proposals of embossing, punched holes, or different sized bills all seem to have problems. Embossing could wear off, punching holes seems to be inviting tears, and changing the size of the bills would probably break all those existing bill acceptors in vending machines, parking garages and so on. Of course, I've got no better ideas, so hopefully the Treasury has some smart guys on their payroll to figure this out.

So I guess we'll probably have yet another new kind of bill in the not-too-distant future, and the Treasury hasn't even gotten done releasing the previous set of new bills.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

PPD 59

It's a cold week here in Denver, so I thought this throwback to summer might be nice. This is the courtyard of a religious building (convent?) near 18th & Sherman. It's a surprising little island of green in the midst of downtown.

Oh, and there's also a scarecrow in the right foreground. Why they've got it I don't know.

Taken: 08/31/2006
Edits: Unsharp Mask

Sunday, November 26, 2006

PPD 58

I caught this little guy in the Denver airport on Thanksgiving morning. There were five of them hopping around Terminal C, eating I know not what. This is another one that caused me to get a few odd looks -- there were a couple groups of people that could see me running back and forth with my camera, but couldn't see the birds. I guess they thought I was entranced by the plane or something.

And now, crowd participation time. What would be a good caption for this picture? I've thought of a few...
"I just flew in from New York, and for once my wings aren't tired!"
"Flying is for the birds"
"Security sucks, but it's still better than migrating"
"He got great scores on the pilot exams. They say he's a natural."

I could keep this up all day, but I'll take mercy on you.

Edits: Cropped
Taken: Thursday, November 22nd

Thursday, November 23, 2006

PPD 57

Thanksgiving morning in DIA. Apparently nobody likes to travel on Thanksgiving, things were pretty chill this morning.

Edits: None
Taken: Thursday, November 23rd

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

PPD 56

Denver suffered from some pretty ridiculous smog on Tuesday. All day long we were "treated" to a view of the the thick brown cloud out the window. It was almost enough to make your lungs hurt just looking at it. But, in the immortal words of Ray Bones from Get Shorty, "they say the fuckin smog is the fuckin reason you've got such beautiful fuckin sunsets." You're right on that point, Ray. I've got some other photos here, and as much as I like my photos I think John did a better job. Nice work John!

Edits: None
Taken: Tuesday, November 21st

Lost Cellphones

I lost my cellphone last week, so if you can't get in touch with me that's why.

After spending a bunch of time calling various lost-and-found departments, looking under couch cushions and searching pockets I finally went down to the Verizon store to suspend the phone. Just so somebody doesn't call a bunch of gay chat lines and bill me for it (those calls weren't mine, I swear!). As I was walking into the store, a thought hit me: why can't Verizon just ask my phone where it is?

All phones sold recently are required to know where they are, so that it can tell the 911 operators if you ever have to call them. Of course the information is also available for the purpose of marketing to you more effectively, and you can even get services that will tell you where all your friends are. So why can't my phone tell me where it is when it's lost?

Regrettably, that apparently is not possible. How stupid is that?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dumbest Gift 2006

Last year as Wendy & I browsed through the local Brookstone, we noticed a number of ridiculous gift items. The second most ridiculous was the spatula with buttons and a speaker to play "Happy Birthday", "Pomp & Circumstance" and other wonderful songs. The most ridiculous was the mousepad with a built in calculator and clock. After all, a mousepad is only useful when you're using a computer... which presumably has a built in calculator and clock.

This year's stupid gift - a winder for your self winding watch. Think about that for a second. You've got an expensive, self winding watch. The whole point of which is that it requires no winding. But you can get their special winding machine for a mere $90! What a deal!

A fool and his money....

Friday, November 17, 2006


NewsGator Enterprise Server won an Infoworld roundup of enterprise-class RSS solutions. Greg's post has some more in-depth comments.

Great work NGES team! If you keep this up you might someday be as awesome as Private Label. :)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

PPD 54 - Cheshire Elephant

Zac has a little kit of gummy animal pieces on his filing cabinet at work, so I made this Cheshire Elephant for Wendy. She thinks it's cute, so mission accomplished :)

Edits: Histogram adjustment, HSL adusted, unsharp mask
Taken: Thursday, November 16th

Justice in LegoLand

Most people would think this just a picture of a light pole downtown. But a more twisted mind might see something else. Maybe the light looks a bit like a Lego minifig? But minifig heads belong on minifig bodies, why is this one on top of a pole?

The only possibly explanation - the head was impaled on a pike as a warning from the Lego King! An object lesson in what happens to all minifigs who oppose him1 Even freaky custom minifigs.

Yes, I am weird. But admit it, you think it looks like a Lego head too.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

PPD 53

Fall turning into winter...

Some other pictures from the same spot: 1 2 3 456

Taken: Sunday, November 12th
Edits: Lightness & contrast up

Napalm on Firewater

When I'm lying down on the couch to watch some TV or read, I like to enjoy an adult beverage. For convience sake I usually put said beverage on the floor next to the couch. This occasionally causes the usual, predictable problems: spilled drinks, wet rugs, sometimes even a wet blanket edge. But last night I discovered a new hazard - drunken cats.

Last night my beverage was a nice glass of bourbon (Maker's Mark, if you must know), and as usual it was resting on the floor next to couch. The cats, Napalm and Mithril, were napping on the high back of the couch.

By way of background, Napalm is an young, orange cat. His name is doubly appropriate, referring both to his orange color and fiery disposition. His disposition also explains his other nicknames, "Evil Kitten" and "Bitey Face"

So, back one the couch, all was well until Napalm decided to depart. He leaped from the back of the couch, completely over me and landed squarely in my on the floor, sending bourbon and ice flying everywhere. Naturally he was shocked and sprinted off to somewhere, leaving me to sop up whisky from the rug and curse my poor luck. But no major harm was done, Wendy & I made a few jokes about drunken felines and went back to watching Scrubs.

Little did we know how accurate those jokes were. It turns out his front leg has been thoroughly soaked and much of his chest fur was damp with whisky as well. While we watched TV, he cleaned himself and got thoroughly hammered in the process.

On our way to bed we found him wandering slowly across the living room with incredibly huge pupils. He's apparently a happy drunk - I was able to hold him on his back and rub his belly for several minutes, which would've normally caused quite a bit of biting and hissing but last night he just sat still and tried to pass out on my arm. Just for fun I dropped him onto the bed feet down from about 2 feet up -- he barely managed to stay standing, and then just folded down into a sitting position.

As funny as all this is, please don't try this at home. It's possibly animal abuse, and it's definitely bourbon abuse!

Other pictures of Napalm before he became an alcoholic can be found here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Future Crime...

I keep picking on Glenn, since he's the most democratic blogger I regularly read. Anyway, he linked to this article by Glenn Greenwald. As far as I can tell Greenwald's article is a multi-page post full of outrage, conclusions and analysis about something that hasn't even been said yet.

It's bad that habeus corpus doesn't exist for "terrorists". But apparently it's OK for the Court of the Democratic Blogosphere to declare politicians guilty of "future crime" a la Philip K Dick.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stolen PPD

I've been falling down on my PPD lately, due to a combination of lack of inspiration, working longer hours, and having fewer hours of daylight. But I can still find some other purty pictures to show you. It turns out that the Best of SmugMug is actually pretty dang good. As an example, Winchester has some truly excellent photos, in particular his stuff from Alaska.

New Newsgator Products

Newsgator announced a new product called SuiteTwo we're developing in cooperation with some other well-known companies, including Intel. Naturally there is a press release, as well as some media coverage.

Not coincidentally we deployed another version of the Newsgator Hosted Solution software that I've been working on since I joined Newsgator last November. We actually pushed out the beta version of a related but different product that we've all been working really hard of for almost a month now. I had hoped to say something about it in this post because I'm psyched that we actually got the project done this quickly. Unfortunately I couldn't find a press release talking about it and I'm not allowed to break the news. Damn those nondisclosure agreements I signed!

And now a mildly amusing and slightly overlong anecdote. After we deployed the new software, I came home and sat down with my laptop to write this post. But I was thwarted by a nonfunctional wireless network. After a few minutes I figured out the router upstairs was not running, so I checked on it. Regrettably it was completely toasted -- it wouldn't even boot up.

A quick trip to CompUSA netted me a newer version of the same router. I specifically got the same router because I had backed up the configuration of my old router. But of course the new router wouldn't load the old configuration. So I spent the better part of two hours configuring the router, then reconfiguring the laptop to work with the router, trying to secure the network on to break things, figuring out what was broken, configuring the wireless bridge, breaking things again... ARGH! Oh, and somewhere in there my laptop battery decided it was tired of life -- it's maximum charge now lasts 8 minutes. And the outlet next to my comfy chair in the living room wasn't working for 9 minutes, for some unknown reason. Thankfully I'm a bit calmer about this stuff than my dad, so few obscenities were uttered.

The moral of the story is that I may be an experienced software professional who can write and deploy sophisticated websites, but it still takes me 2 hours to set up a wireless network.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

PPD 52 - Pokemon!

The cats have always liked to perch on the posts of the stairway, despite the 15 foot dropoff to the basement floor. Then we pulled out the Halloween decorations, which consisted entirely of an 18" tall rubber rat. So it was only a matter of time before we staged the Ultimate Showdown between the Fluffy Kitty and the Evil Rat. Unfortunately you've got to imagine the fight music.

But then, I got bored and pulled out Paintshop. Wendy suggested a cartoon theme, and after a bit of poking around on teh intarweb, we ended up with... the Pokemon-style showdown between Ratomon and Perchazaur!! Perchazaur, I choose you!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

PPD 51

Medium size   Fullsize [1854 x 2534]

I love older buildings because they have so much character and history. Sometimes the outsides of these buildings can give you an idea. Years worth of owners means years worth of changes, additions and repairs. This is especially obvious on the backs of commercial buildings.

This one is in downtown Denver, in the alley betwen Market & Larimer. It looks like it may have had a loading dock at some point, most of the lower back wall is obviously newer, there may have been a door in the lower right, there are dark marks around the windows from I know not what and some new bricks under the lower middle window. It's like a building with wrinkles.

Edits: Stitched, barrel distortion corrected
Taken: Wednesday, November 1st

PPD 50

We didn't get many trick-or-treaters this year. Perhaps they were scared the pumpkin would eat them?

Edits: Cropped
Taken: Tuesday, October 31st

Political Meta-commentary

Glenn pointed me at a couple article about the recent blow up over John Kerry's ill-considered remarks.

I don't want to get into talking about Kerry's comments - I think we can all agree that it was a stupid thing to say and that it's all been blown out of proportion. What really amuses me is the bloggers that Glenn linked to.

The Left Coaster bemoans the Republicans habit of changing the topic by attacking their enemies. Then he changes the subject... to attacking his enemies. Good work. I forgot the definition of irony for a second there.

Not to be outdone, The Daily Kos submits a short post about the "wingnut echo chamber bloggers." For those of you who may not know, the "blog echo chamber" is a group of bloggers who just repeat the same thoughts to each other without adding anything. Getting back to the point, the Daily Kos rants about the Republican echo chamber, before proceeding to a list of all the standard anti-Bush talking point... the same ones everyone uses... including The Left Coaster. Wait, which wingnuts are operating the echo chamber again?

I love political commentary. It's always so amusing.

Monday, October 30, 2006

PPD 49

This was taken on a snowy morning. Actually, it was more like heavy slush falling from the sky, sticking to everything in sight. All the trees were bent over, some down to the ground.

Yes, I know this is almost the same text and picture as PPD 48, but I don't want to hear any complaining from you internet gremlins.

Edits: Cropped, red saturation increased
Taken: Thursday, October 26th

PPD 48

This was taken on a snowy morning. Actually, it was more like heavy slush falling from the sky, sticking to everything in sight. All the trees were bent over, some down to the ground. This was taken from inside a dome created by such a tree, a small dry spot in the midst of the falling snow. You can actually see the streaks of the snow on the other side of the little window.
Edits: Cropped
Taken: Thursday, October 26th

Thursday, October 19, 2006

PPD 47

Edit: Selective blur, histogram adjustment
Taken: Tuesday, October 17th

PPD 46

Edits: Histogram adjustment
Taken: Tuesday, October 17th

PPD 45

I'm not sure what to call this one. My first though was "I Left Minnesota For This?!" But I also kind of like "If April showers bring May flowers, then what does October snow get you?".

Edits: Greyscaled, histogram adjusted, green tinted
Taken: Tuesday, October 17th

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

North Korea as a counterpoint to Iraq

Part of the reason I stopped arguing with people about politics in general and Iraq in particular is that other people always state it so much better. Take it away Lex...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Politics Reform

A friend of mine posted an interesting out-of-the-box idea for election reform. Well, he said election reform, I tend to think it would be more like reforming the entire political system. But reform, certainly. That sparked the following random late-night thought on my part...

First, a problem statement. I don't think any of this is controversial, but feel free to argue anyway...


  1. Politics is too heavily influenced by political parties.
  2. Politics is too heavily influenced by "improper" forces like special interest groups, PACs, etc
  3. People in general place too much weight on the physical characteristics of leaders and not enough on the mental/leadership characteristics.
  4. The election campaign trail is incredibly distracting and not a particularly good way to judge leaders.
  5. Mudslinging and personal smear campaigns are incredibly effective at winning elections, but ultimately bad ways to choose leaders.
Goofy solution: Anonymize the candidates.

Each candidate would be assigned a genderless, cultureless pseudonym, preferably something non-biasing like "Candidate A", or "Gamma". Nobody would know the candidates' real names, aside from select members of the election commission. Any candidate who was unmasked would be immediately disqualified from the race, which would incent them to avoid making identifying comments. No candidate would be allowed to state a political party, nor to be supported by any political party or donation. If necessary, the pseudonyms could be reassigned, for instance after the "primaries."

All interaction with the candidates would be mediated through an anonymous interface - preferably plain text, but maybe on camera with the "mystery witness" style of silhouette plus voice scrambling anonymity. Questions could be put to them in the form of essay topics, debates, town hall meetings, whatever, just so long as they remain anonymous. All such interactions would have to involve all candidates and be initiated by a non-candidate -- nobody could call a press conference or create a media event. Photo ops would, of course, be strictly verboten.

Advertising by the candidates would not be allowed, although any third party could advertise on their behalf. Of course, nobody knows who the candidates are, but you could still pass out "Vote Candidate A!" buttons if you really wanted to.

Races would be similar to today, with multiple stages of "primaries" eventually winnowing the field down to a single candidate. The primaries would be very low intensity similar an essay homework assignment. Each stage would be progressively harder. Candidates would have to fund their own "campaigns" initially, which would mostly consist of finding the time to write enough essays to get through the "primaries." At each stage the remaining candidates would receive more and more support from the government, eventually having all their living expenses covered so that they could focus on the campaign. The cost of this would be negligible compared to current federally-subsidized campaign funding.

So, how would this address the problems stated above?

  1. Politics is too heavily influenced by political parties.
    Parties current role of advancing candidates would be obsolete. It's unclear that they would continue to exist at all, but even if they did it would have to be on the basis of supporting candidates who they think agree with their platforms. Ultimately this just devolves into a group of people who think the same way.
  2. Politics is too heavily influenced by "improper" forces like special interest groups, PACs, etc
    Nobody would be allowed to donate directly to a candidate, eliminating that entire class of quasi-bribery. Likewise, no pre-election deals could be cut, because you wouldn't know who to talk to. It would similarly be difficult to influence politicians via promises for their reelection campaign, since they would be similarly anonymous and the donors would not know who to advertise for.
  3. People in general place too much weight on the physical characteristics of leaders and not enough on the mental/leadership characteristics.
    You don't hear them, you don't see them, so you've got nothing to judge on but what they say and write. It's hard to think that the plain text in the paper is "too black", or that the shadow on the screen is "gay" or "hot".
  4. The election campaign trail is incredibly distracting and not a particularly good way to judge leaders.
    Some time commitment would still be required. However the lack of candidate-driven media interaction could greatly reduce this by eliminating most speeches. Likewise candidates would not have to negotiate with party members, hire campaign staff, appear in various cities, etc etc.
  5. Mudslinging and personal smear campaigns are incredibly effective at winning elections, but ultimately bad ways to choose leaders.
    It's hard to sling mud when you don't know the target or his/her/it's history.
Wow, that came out longer than I expected. I can't believe you actually read that. So, what do you think?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

PPD 44 - The Sidewalk at the Edge of the Universe

Taken: Monday, October 9th

Edits: None 

Informal, unscientific survey of airfare search engines

Earlier today I was browsing my feeds and came across a mention of a new airfare search engine called Farecast. This is an intriguing application that tracks the lowest available price for a variety a possible trips across lots of airlines, then uses that information to predict where prices are headed over the next seven days. This is a pretty tempting concept, especially compared with the prospect of remembering all the arcane timing advice for getting cheap tickets (Wednesday nights, in the first week of the month, except during a neap tide or a when Sputnik is in Saggitarius, etc etc...). The site itself is really slick, very Web 2.0-ish with autocompletion, pretty graphing, nifty popup calendars, the whole nine yards (of code).

Every Thanksgiving I make the trek back to the ancestral homestead in Wisconsin, because we all know that Mom makes the best mashed potatoes (aw crap, I hope Wendy doesn't read that... :). Normally I don't book this early, but I curiosity got the better of me, so I thought I'd test it out with my usual itinerary which has proven the cheapest over the years - leave early on Thanksgiving day, come back midafternoon on Sunday. 

I ran that search on Farecast and the lowest fare came up as FIVE HUNDRED BUCKS?! Usually I can find something in the $200-300 range, so that's a high number. Not only that, but their history graph shows that it's going up.

That spooked me a bit, so I sauntered over to Sidestep, another meta-search engine that claims to search a number of airline websites plus some resellers like Orbitz. They've also got a pretty click website, though not quite as nice as Farecast. Their fares were better, at around $380 for a flight that would get me there in time for turkey, but still a bit harsh.

So then I went to my old standby, Travelocity. I've been using them for years, ever since an incredibly positive customer service experience*. Their site is a decidedly old-fashioned by today's terms, meaning it's probably 3-4 years old. But their price? $220, about 2/3 the cost of the next closest competitor, less than half of the hot new site. Even better, the flight is on Midwest Airlines (formerly Midwest Express), an airline based out of Milwaukee with nearly impeccable timeliness and pretty good inflight cookies. Suffice to say I like flying them a lot better than United or Delta.

Since I had already gone this far, I checked in with Orbitz ($294) and Midwest Airlines' own site ($500). Advantage, Travelocity. Incidentally, many of my current coworkers are from Galileo, the company behind Orbitz. Come on guys, $294? That's the best you can do? I guess that explains all those bugs in the Platform code... :)


These results amaze me. I never expected that much variation between the different sites, and I certainly never guessed that Travelocity would actually outprice Midwest on their own flights. I guess that annoying little gnome knows how to find good prices, even if he can't make a pretty website to save his stocking cap.

Since I'm on the topic, I'd also like to relate the positive customer service experience I alluded to earlier. A few years back I was booking a flight for a long weekend, I don't remember which one exactly. After much messing about I finally chose a flight, clicked through all the clickthroughs, saved the confirmation and walked away. 20 minutes later something was nagging at me, so I looked at the confirmation and realized I had booked the right days but the wrong month. It was a totally boneheaded mistake, with nobody to blame but myself. Nonetheless, I called up Travelocity customer service, hoping I could change the ticket without paying too much. To my everlasting surprise, the rep didn't bat an eye, he just worked some systems magic to make the whole thing just disappear. Not a ticket transfer, not a refund, nothing ever charged my credit card. Reservation, what reservation, nobody knows anything about any reservation. At that point I could've booked somewhere else or not at all. But you've got to reward good service, so I've booked every single flight through them for the last 3 years or so. Of course, it doesn't hurt that they have the best prices too.


PS, Farecast is a pretty good name, but am I the only one that thinks or would be better? Well, except for the fact that is owned by a casket manufacturer.

Monday, October 02, 2006

PPD 43

Dog meets camera. Come on, you know you smiled at that dog. Admit it!

Edits: None
Taken: Saturday, September 16th

Funky Buddha

Kinda hurts your head, doesn't it? Even though I did all the editing on this one it still took me a minute to figure out what the "wrongness" was, at least for me. The sky shades the wrong direction. That and the shadows falling the wrong way. Lighting is always the hardest part to get right, not that I really tried.

If you flip it back over, it looks better to me, despite the fact that Buddha is on his head and still levitating.

The original subject is a scultpure by Robert Wick, called Balance I I think. It's part of a series at the Denver Botanic Gardens called Living Bronze. All of the sculptures are quite good, and the gardens themselves are surprisingly beautiful for this time of year. If you get a chance definitely go check it out sometime very soon.

The unedited photo (and sculpture):

PPD 42

Just a beautiful Saturday at the Denver Botanic Gardens. I've got it on good authority that those grapes are even tastier than they look.

Edits: Lots of fun with histograms
Taken: Saturday, September 30th

Saturday, September 30, 2006

PPD 41

I usually don't go in for self-portraits, but what the heck, it's the weekend. This was taken at the Great American Beer Fest on Friday, and then edited to within an inch of whatever it's equivalent of a life is.

Edits: Yes. Oh yes.
Taken: Friday, September 29th

Thursday, September 28, 2006

PPD 40

It looks to me like some sort of postmodern castle, complete with arrow slits and embrasures. I believe this is the top of the art museum, although I didn't actually check.
Edits: Cropped
Taken: Tuesday, August 25th

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Too lazy for real posts...

Instead of forwarding you all a bunch of crap, I'll just post it here. You know you secretly miss the forwarding, admit it!

This one may take a little explanation. If you stare at the middle, it should seem like parts of it are rotating. It might help if you view the fullsize version.

[Original Size]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

HR Unhappy Board - Unhappy No More

Over the last couple of months a sort of tradition has developed at work. It started innocently - one of my coworkers has no internal filter on what he says, so every now and then he says something that hilarious in a purely juvenile sense. After a few bits of this unintentional had collected, I wrote them on my whiteboard.

Over the course of a few weeks, people would occasionally see the board and get a chuckle out of it. Then a few days later, they'd come back with something to add. In recent weeks there have been new things added to the board on a daily basis. Somewhere along the line it was dubbed the "HR Unhappy Board" because if we actually had an HR department they would doubtless have been driven to fits by the board.

Then, the inevitable happened - management saw it. First, management laughed and walked away. Five minutes later, management came back and decreed that it be removed, because it was "a lawsuit waiting to happen". Now, normally I'm one to complain about this sort of thing, but in this case I have to admit management was right on. By this point the board was potentially offensive on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation and possibly pedophilia. Probably not a good thing to put up in the workplace.

But this, dear friends, is the internet. And I think we all know that the internet is EXACTLY where that sort of thing belongs. So what else could I do but post a giant picture of the HR Unhappy Board, along with a full transcription of everything on it? Names have been abbreviated to protect the so-very-very-guilty, but otherwise it's all there baby.

In order to properly appreciate this board, you must realize that every single quote here was uttered off the cuff, at work, by a male member of the staff, and that we're all incredibly immature and amused by things like this. So just stick with me.

[Medium] [Large][Fullsize 3140x1620]

Quotes from the board (in very rough chronological order):
"Hey [W], come play with my thing and tell me if it's gay" - D

"We need sex and I think this guy can give it to us." - D

"I haven't eaten dick all day!" - D

"Maybe my little tool is not quite there." - D

(In reference to Jesus)
"I don't care who killed him, I'm just glad he's dead." - B
"Eh, he'd be dead by now anyway." - T

"We need that picture of me next to the little boy." - D

"Let's hold her down and dick around for a while." - T

"You can bang on my thing now." - T

"Just don't want to blow the load." - T

"Hawaii is different from a tomato." - W

"Hey [N], do you want to bang my box dude?" - D2

"That short little brown chick's gonna screw up my day." - N

"You eat mine and I'll eat yours." - T

"I want one of those big balls to sit on." - D

"We should extend the backend stripper." - T

"You feel my urge." - G

"Feel's good to [G]" - R

(In reference to the demise of the HR Unhappy Board)
"I thought it was inevitable and gay, all at the same time." - D

Oh, and the final irony is that I know my feed is on the internal distribution server. So now this post and all the board's glory will be delivered to the email of nearly everyone in the company, as well as permanently saved in the archives.

PS, since I know eventually in the fullness of time some random person will surf in off the internet and read this -- IT'S A FREAKIN' JOKE. Don't get offended, it's all in good fun between friends. If you're offended by this, I don't really care. Go away and don't bug me. Thanks.

PPS, the picture is really big. If you want the fill size one, click away...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

PPD 39

Partially I like this one because it just feels like summer - the blue sky, the sunlight in the leaves, the totem-polish art piece. Another reason is that the angle of that totem pole, upper right to center, feels a bit odd. Lastly I like it because I know it was shot very close to downtown, Denver Health to be exact. You find the coolest little nooks downtown if you look hard enough.

Edits: None
Taken: Sunday, September 3rd

Monday, September 18, 2006

PPD 38

Maybe it's just me, but this looks a lot like something from a prison. the high wall, the tower behind it. There's even razor wire along the top of the wall -- you can just see the glint in the corner of the wall.

The reason I like this picture is that it's not a prison - it's West High School. No wonder people say school is just prison for kids.

Edits: None
Taken: Sunday, September 3rd

Sunday, September 17, 2006

PPD 37 - Clown Car Parade

This is probably the funniest view on downtown rush hour that I can think of. They're all so small, it looks like traffic in a European city with nothing but those goofy SmartCars. how can that be frustrating and stressful? It's like the circus!

This is probably about my 900th picture of the Holy Ghost building -- it's the big metal pillars by the front door, from about 5 feet away.

Edits: None
Taken: Friday, September 15th

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Belated Congratulations

My friends Sean and Michelle got married last Sunday. Of course I congratulated them both at the ceremony, but hey, why would I have a blog if not to do things publicly? So congratulations! Of course they're in Hawaii now, so I hope they've got better things to do than read this...

Aw who am I kidding? This whole post is just an excuse to show one picture. One embarassing picture. See, Sean is usually one of the more classy gentlemen I know. Most would even call him metrosexual. Of course his wedding day was no exception. But sometimes the camera takes things out of context in a way that just has to be shared. So Sean, here's to you!

If anyone's interested, more wedding pictures here.

PPD 36

This screen is a bit of public art on the side of the Federal building in downtown Denver. You can't tell from a still picture, and it's even hard to tell in person, but the screen actually shows video. Sometimes you'll see people walking by, sometimes cars, once I think I saw a stream. But it's like video done by impressionists. I walked by it at least half-a-dozen times before I realized it was showing anything at all, and a couple more before I realized all the little pillars are also part of the display. It's a suprisingly good bit of art, especially considering that it's in public and on a government building. It's not something that'll blow your mind, but if you happen to be in the vicinity I'd encourage you to take a gander.

I've probably taken 30 pictures of this, trying to get something I liked. I'm not sure this is really a great one, but I'm tired of messing with it, so this is it.

Maybe it's just me, but this picture looks a little crooked, like it's tilted a bit. But I checked in Paintshop, and this is probably one of the most level pictures I've ever taken. Some sort of goofy optical illusion I guess....

Edits: None
Taken: Thursday, September 7th

Accounting Humor

One of Wendy's accounting profs sent these to her. Now I present them for your amusement. Maybe not quite as good as some of the recent Navy spoofs, but still funny if you're business-geeky enough.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

PPD 35

Another good late afternoon shot. This was taken from east of the city, off a fire escape on Children's Hospital. There were lots of people around, but nobody seemed to think it odd that I was climbing up a fire escape. Go figure.

Edits: Cropped, Gamma Adjustment
Taken: Thursday, August 31st

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

PPD 34

I just love the late afternoon sunlight, it gives such great shadows and tones. This is the wall of an apartment building near the old iron bridge over Cherry Creek.

Edits: Cropped, rotated
Taken: Tuesday, September 12th

Monday, September 11, 2006

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What Would Brian Read?

In the interests of messing around with this nifty RSS technology stuff that I purportedly work with all day, and also a fit of incredible hubris, I've decided that you all want to read even more of the stuff I like. To that end I've set up what Newsgator geekily calls "clippings feeds", but could maybe be better described as "What Does Brian Think You Should Read."

For those of you not familiar with the concept, these are feeds made of things that I've read and thought interesting enough to recognize to anyone unfortunate enough to be listening.

I've set up four of these wonderful, one way communication devices.
(note: seems completely certain that there need to be 12 line breaks here. I'm tired of arguing with it, so just scroll. Sorry bout that.)

FunnySubscribe in NewsGator Online
TechnicalSubscribe in NewsGator Online
GeekySubscribe in NewsGator Online
InterestingSubscribe in NewsGator Online
These should also be autodiscoverable from my blog page, so you can subscribe from the Newsgator Toolbar if you've got it (or, I suppose, any other feedreader on the planet...)
Of course this is all totally useless to you without a feedreader. So go sign up for Newsgator or something!