Sadie Gets Moved

Recently I decided it was time to move that old project car from my parents’ garage to my garage. They were in Peru for the month so I figured it’d be great to finally get it of there. I really feel bad it has taken me a few years to move it after promising to move it in a year. But that is how things go sometimes. Have a few kids, change jobs, move… can we really even complain about the unexpected? My father has been on my case for it. I cannot blame him for it’s his garage but getting him off my case about it is fantastic.

The move took a better part of a day and I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Nate’s help for he has a truck with a hitch a sturdy ratchet. Since then I’ve already had a chance to go and pull off the old wires, cap, rotor, points, and condenser. I have a few ideas on what needs to get replaced before getting the thing to run. I’ve been searching local clubs and forums relevant to the vehicle to see if anyone has hints or pointers to getting it fixed. Right now I am fairly sure it is an electrical problem. The last time I worked on it I could not get the ignition system to generate a spark.

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The Grill Comes Out

A few weeks ago I moved the little gas grill we have out onto the back patio. After quickly cleaning it off and attaching one of the partially filled propane canisters to it, I was ready for the first grill of the season. Or was I? No comrades, I was not. After firing up this contraption and “grilling” a steak I find that the heat never achieved a sufficient temperature. Perhaps fine for hotdogs, this grill just will not do.

Today Washingtonians all around us threw off their shorts and headed to the beach, the farmers’ markets, and yard sale in force as did we. We hopped into the man van and drove to the Kingston Farmer’s Market where we had a chance to walk about sampling a few local and some not so local fruits of folks’ labors. This weekend’s showing was twice what it was last week – I tip my virtual hat to the weather. Unfortunately, a farmer I met last weekend did not show. He had promised me some fat back this weekend. Ach so, perhaps next weekend? One cannot cook pastries and sauté without proper lard! We did score a loaf of French peasant bread and some fudge.

On our way home we stopped at a couple yard sales. It is understandable yet a wee bit silly some folks feel their stuff is worth as much as they think it is. I think all we ended up finding, after traversing mounds of unwanted, ahem, junk, was an old school set of bolt extractor pliers for $7. I can proudly announce that I haggled the man down to $5.

The sun was delightful in showering our day with its nourishing rays. We arrived home and quickly set up the kid pool and starting filling it with water while I found and started the old Weber charcoal grill. This time I was going to live up to my title of grill sergeant. Crystal and I moved the table from the dining nook onto the patio and downed a few beers while the kids played in the pool. The steaks were thick but turned out perfectly medium-rare seasoned with a  gentle coating of Montreal style seasoning. To compliment this beefy portion we sunk our teeth into corn, raw veggies, and grilled bok choy. Just… wow. As a finale we had homemade ice cream with grilled peaches.

So yeah, grilling season has been kicked off and properly initiated with my old, trusty semi-spherical friend. I’m glad I’ve held onto that thing all these years.

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Springtime for Hradek

The grass grows tall, the sun shines through the clouds more often, and the heating system kicks on much less frequently. Apart from the fear of being irradiated by the fallout from the Fukushima reactors, we have been getting acquainted with life outside the home. Playing outside, yard work, planting things; this is probably one of the more enthusiastic springs in recent memory. Of course, who can blame the fact that we had been cooped up in an apartment!

Crystal has quite a green thumb which has inspired me to try my hand at a little project growing herbs in the kitchen. My meager pint sized pots numbering in six are surrounded by an army of 36 or so tomato plants, peppers, and flowers. We’ve started quite a growing operation upstairs. All our seedlings have started and soon we’ll be transplanting plants outside. With our short grow season, however, some things may stay inside like the tomatos.

Our 9 chickens, except for the runt, are all growing quickly. We’ve moved them outside onto the back patio. This weekend I will be visiting my mom and dad to pick up a chicken coop. They eat, drink, poop, and pee at a phenomenal rate.  All expected I suppose. Soon we shall be enjoying the fruits (ahem - vegetables and eggs) of our labor. We found some local farmers and a dairy we’re trying out for produce and milk. This has added to our enthusiasm to learn some artisan crafts and skills. I would like to share some of these exploits and adventures in more detail some other time.

This last weekend we had my mom and dad out for some visiting. They kindly remembered my birthday and brought me some Landbrot and Hungarian Salami. Nothing like remembering years gone by the reigns of the palette. I roast a nice lamb and it turned out delicious. I tend to shy away from “gamey” tasting meats with lamb being the exception. We used the rotisserie and it came out perfectly. A medium with a nice flaky and flavorful crust with some potatoes and a Italien styled salad.

The Kids

Harrison has become more rambunctious. He climbs on things, opens the oven door (!), throws PS3 controllers in the toilet. He has quite a sense of humor about him. He is precious in every sense except that he continues to keep us (mostly Crystal) up all night. He is teething which is most of why we’re going through the sleepless nights. He’ll toss and turn and sometimes cry. Usually by 18 months (if the experience with the other two children are any guide) things settle down and we finally get to sleep through the night. I admit that it frustrates me. I sometimes, though not often, resent him being so fussy.

Helen is quite a character. She’s careful but in her carefulness also sly. Testing her boundaries more than Henry ever did, you will tell her something and she will purposefully do the reverse. She’s recently started back talking. On a positive note, though, she often disappears in imaginative play taking her dolls or other toys and playing as the other two will let her. She will often sit and cuddle and is the first to go to bed. Sometimes she’ll even ask to go to bed an hour or so before bed time.

Henry is learning and observing Crystal and my nuances and reactions to things so for him how we handle frustration or difficult situations seems to be more important. He loves to remind us of the rules especially when we’re driving. We joke about him being our “hallway monitor”. He is kind to Harrison but he and Helen will often times compete for the same toys. To be expected I suppose. He is my buddy being excited to see me when I come home and sad to see people he loves leave.

They are all great kids. I often think about how I can be a better daddy for them. Crystal and I remind ourselves that even though teething babies, tantrum throwing 3 year olds, and 5 year olds with attitude will one day all move out and we’ll look back and yearn for these moments. It is true. It brings tears to my eyes. I love them all so very much. I didn’t understand how much I can love until I have had them to love.

 

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Stand Corrected

I have eaten my words with my earlier post regarding the boringness of MMOs. I think that instead I should have named it “Current MMOs are Boring”. The shenanigans of having to change my opinion and admit it are abound. I am glad to revise my opinion because I stand corrected. The current formulaic experience in MMOs is just that; formulaic. It isn’t that I haven’t had a good MMO experience lately. Heck, Age of Conan is fantastic. However, it eventually falls into that expected experience once you have experienced enough of its beautiful visuals and awesome combat.

Rift, on the other hand, is a breath of fresh air. It resembles World of Warcraft – I will admit to this. But the public events, the impact it has on quests, the awesome skill tree and combinations, and the lack of Blizzard’s art style makes it wonderful. So much so that I highly recommend the game to anyone looking for an up-to-date MMO experience. If you haven’t been playing MMOs often there are a few free alternatives that are pretty good too but Rift is definitely worth a try.

The Commute

I am not going to rant here about the difficulty of commuting the distance I do. But I wanted to mention how crucial it is to get comfortable. It starts with the shoes and clothes. The coats. Preparation for rain and so on. Recently I have hurt my back playing with the kids and I realize how important a decent backpack is. I am now on an endeavor to find a comfortable one which will hold the things I need to carry to and from work.

The current bag is a free bag with an ArenaNet logo on it which I got while working there. It’s fine for a Macbook and a couple little things like cords and light stationary but packing a lunch bulks the bag putting pressure on my lower back. All in good time, I will find a new one.

I like getting up early and getting things done. This week I’ve had a hard time getting out of bed probably because I don’t get to bed early enough. I am adjusting but the work-life balance has and is a challenge for sure. I wake at six and arrive home at seven. It takes a lot out of me and by the time I get home I feel worthless.

Software

Writing software is awesome. I love it. It challenges me and keeps my mind sharp. I suppose I wouldn’t be doing this for a living if that weren’t the case. My efforts here have been to write Android apps and contribute to a core library. I am hoping to contribute more over time.

Our company was mentioned in a recent article of Fast Company which is exciting. Really, the entire experience here has been exiting. I was involved in a start-up in its infancy as well so I definitely get to see where something like that can go once it gathers a lot of momentum. It is a great opportunity to see a group of well motivated and intelligent people drive and contribute to take this company somewhere. It is difficult to start a business especially if you need income to keep yourself and family alive so my hat goes off to those that can afford to do it without stability but for the rest of us the advice to keep your day job is valid. Those that can quit have good savings or a ready profit stream.

These are just my observations. I am no start-up guru. I am looking forward to the future when I will attempt to start another company. This time, however, it will be with a wee bit more experience.

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Popcorn

I like popcorn. A lot. So much so that I have been known to stop at movie theaters with the express purpose of getting a container of buttered, salty sex-in-the-mouth goodness. It is a travesty that popping my own has always been disappointing. What are our options? Pan popping? Microwaving? Air popping? With the latter most being absolutely atrocious I could not let myself just give in. Microwave popcorn is covered in hydrogenated oil which tastes gross (Yes, I can taste it in my food). Pan popping is nasty. It all falls far short of theater popcorn.

So recently I finally ponied up and got an 4 oz. kettle popcorn machine, a small version of the 12-14 oz. versions you see at movie theaters. And finally, I feel as though I can enjoy these tasty snack in the comfort of my home. This is authentic all the way. Coconut oil. Fresh kernels. Fine popcorn salt. The smells are wonderful and the taste even better.

I may be a bit silly being this excited about food but I always am. I’d like to get into making our own cheese, smoking our own meat, and a plethora of other fun, interesting, and beneficial food making activities. Next time you’re over I’d be happy to shares. After all, something this good I can’t keep to myself!

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Strange Shared Preferences Loss

Since recently deciding to try and avoid developing on the emulator I’ve come across a super annoying bug within Android which would basically lock you from being able to write to the shared preferences of your app. Examples are abound but basically installing your app over an existing version of the app on your device will potentially muck with the permissions in the shared preferences space. This may not always be a problem except if you read/write from that space. The reason it has suddenly become noticed since trying to avoid developing on the emulator is that I use the “Run” button as I did with the emulator and I believe that using this way of overwriting the existing version eventually causes this issue.

However, according to some of the posts with similar symptoms, end users were experiencing the issue on app upgrade!

While developing recently I ran into this problem and it drove me crazy. I had spent some time trying to trouble shoot restarting the device, my dev machine, Eclipse, the ADB; all to no avail. Uninstalling the app didn’t work either.

I eventually got a work around where I was able to delete the shared preferences directory and its contents which then reinstalling the app allowed it to function correctly. After this point I am trying to uninstall the app and then install it — via command line script.

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MMOs Are Boring

MMOs are boring. There, I said it. This isn’t something new and to be honest it is inherent to games in general. Here goes my rant.

A few years ago I would have begged to differ. I have been playing MMOs for ages. I think I started when Final Fantasy XI was released. Since then I’ve tried a lot of different titles. EQ2, Vanguard, WoW, AoC, CoH, PotBS, LofRO, Champions Online, Aion, Lineage 2, TR, GW, Rift (beta), EVE Online, Globa, Agenda, and probably ones I forgot to mention. My goodness does that add up in money and hours spent!

But as I said, I would have begged to differ. With FFXI it was beautiful. Before that we had EQ which looked horrible and FFXI seemed to have that sort of pick up and play capability (was I wrong after level 25). Each subsequent title I would play for a few months and then the boredom would set in. Some were interesting enough to keep me engaged like PotBS (which I stopped playing because there seemed little to do in the game) and EVE (other than being dubbed spread-sheet in space, it requires a lot of time). Perhaps this game would have some long terms staying power, story, and interestingness, I thought with each subsequent MMO. With WoW I managed to play past the original level cap but mostly because my co-workers at ArenaNet were all playing.

I was recently playing the Rift beta and for a brief moment I was enamored. It was like WoW but had a slightly more mature feeling to it. It seemed to draw all the interesting features of other recent MMOs and combine them with WoW to make a new experience. However, as I went to kill my 20th bad guy to turn in my quest I snapped out of it. No, the slightly nicer graphics did not make up for the fact that here I was again grinding my way to the next carrot. Although this does not eliminate Rift from potentially being added to my list of MMOs, I do sense that it will almost surely be discarded from boredom.

I love the idea of a persistent world online. Granted I no longer have time to waste in front of a computer gaming for what little time I have I would rather be spending with friends, family, or accomplishing things. (My priorities have changed. I now look back and wonder about all the things I could have accomplished had I not been zoned in front of a game!) But I love the idea that I can pick up where I left off, join others, and perhaps make friends in the mean time.

With non-MMO games, the gameplay is spaced so that we can expect to play anywhere from 20 to 60 or so hours. You can jump in and play and then quit when you run out of time. The story is excellent because each action is deliberate. In MMOs these sorts of rules are opposite. The player has countless hours to devote. The quests meaningless and redundant. Some games do this well, some do it poorly.

So far my favorite MMO has been Age of Conan in terms of game play and graphics. Crafting would probably go to EQ2. But I will admit that overall it is extremely difficult to beat the overall World of Warcraft polished, balanced, and well written and designed stories, maps, and experience. There were many memorable locations, quests, and characters. I am not sure why it is this way. I partially blame the intant gratification driven masses who don’t demand more for their $15 a month. The droves of quick profit driven companies releasing sub-par games are partial to blame. Perhaps the gaming medium itself has matured to a point where we now have different stratas of quality and audience.

But in the end it is all a carrot driven experience. Running the dunes of some imaginary dunes killing monstrous skopions to collect their venom sacs so the magi in the ruined tower can unlock their tome for which they will give you a few experience points so you can do it again a few minutes later is just boring. I don’t want it to be, but that’s just where it has gotten.

Now I don’t want to sound hypocritical. I will always have a MMO sized hole in my heart darting and and out of AoC, EQ2, Rift, or whatever because for a little while they are fun to play. Perhaps if they released a slick, futuristic MMO which was sci-fi driven, had a techno/industrial driven soundtrack, a well written story and character system surrounding genetics and cyborgs, and laden with woman clad in various BDSM themed latex and leather garb I would find myself fanboying to the end. :)

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Anti-Weight Gain

Since moving to our home in Kingston and then trying to start a business I’ve lost almost 45 pounds. I’ve tried a few diets like a low sodium, Atkins, South Beach; all with limited success. Each one had its merits and I understand the rational behind each one. It has been an exercise in determination and tenacity. At the same time I want to honor myself with better health since for almost 15 years I haven’t given myself the self-respect I deserve.

With our change over to trying to live on whole, local, organic foods as much as we can Crystal and I have had to allow our pocket book to alter our eating patterns. For example, eating grass fed, organic beef costs 2-3 times more than regular beef. Chicken is double. This means that we tend to eat less beef, some chicken, and more fish than before.

I’ve eliminated all soda. I sometimes will have a diet coke but with the dangerous chemicals that are in those drinks I really try to avoid that as well. I haven’t had much trouble kicking sugar but I tend to be eating much less of it. Instead I drink lots of water. At least a gallon a day. I will occasionally enjoy a cup of milk, juice, or tea.

I think the biggest realization is how few calories I need to live as a person who sits at a desk all day. On typical days I’d consume 2500 to 4500 calories between large fast food meals and massive dinners filled with many processed food snacks in between. For my height and sex I really only need between 1900 and 2200 calories a day to maintain my body weight; depending on exercise. At this time I am trying to keep myself under 1600 calories a day to encourage weight loss.

My meals have shrunk for sure. I try to keep my breakfast and lunch under 500 calories so that I have over 1100 calories to splurge on good, home cooked food. Home food is delicious because I get to eat and spend time with the family.

Now, I am not proselytizing any diet or anything. I just wanted to share what has finally worked for me. And we’re not perfect or trying to tell anyone else how to eat. We’ve become increasingly conscious of where our food comes from and how it is processed. If it wasn’t eaten before Man became “intelligent” enough to meddle with it on molecular level it isn’t suitable for consumption is how it all seems to boil down for me. I’ll still go to Wendy’s and have a burger or order pizza when friends come over. Moderation and restraint are key.

Anyway, I feel better. I get out of breath less. I can walk further. I buy smaller clothes. My body looks and feels like it is gaining definition. I will eventually need to work out to tone my muscles. Crystal and I have been inspiring one another through this. And each time I walk by a burger joint or somewhere else where I’d max my caloric intake for the day in one sitting I remind myself that it is mind over matter. I can do this. My flesh won’t rule over me. I can leave the obesity statistic.

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Some Testing Revelations

Testing in Android is tricky. First off, the emulator is a wonderful development tool but that is where it stops. It should never substitute testing on actual devices. That wasn’t apparent to me until recently. The HTC Evo, for example, handles pre-main activity launches much better then the MyTouch 4G. The Nexus S has got a super processor which may encourage race conditions to show up. HTC Sense devices don’t handle redirects. Emulator is perfect. Devices not so much.

Another testing revelation is slowing the machine down for network tests. I have been using wi-fi to get through my tests quickly and 3G/4G are still pretty quick. A neat trick is to do that on the computer the device is connected via wi-fi or USB to.

Set a pipe to something really slow:

sudo ipfw pipe 1 config bw 5KByte/s

Set that pipe to port 80:

sudo ipfw add 1 pipe 1 src-port 80

When done delete it:

sudo ipfw delete 1

When testing I’ve made a habit of uninstalling the app and then reinstalling it. The DDMS is quite annoying but it disconnects much less frequency when using an actual device rather than the emulator. Unfortunately, the file interface doesn’t always allow us access to delete files. The OI File Manager is an easy tool to get onto the device and manage cache files, etc.

Using the ADB Monkey tester has its share of things you can discover about your app. The Google documentation suggests using static classes and boy have those come to haunt me. Monkey has helped a lot in that it backgrounds your app in ways you’d never think to test. This can help destroy references which you are relying on giving you an opportunity to discover and fix issues before loosing your creation upon the world.

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My Last Mocha

I’ve resigned from my position of Co-Founder of the company I helped found – MokaSocial, LLC. It was and is bittersweet to leave what I started but in the end it makes sense for the three of us and our embryo of a company. To be blunt, we simply ran out of money and I had find work to make ends meet. Since I can’t contribute a third to the effort of getting it off the ground it was easier to simply make a clean break. I really hope the best for Koa and John as they work the angles and contracts to keep things going. I think in the end we all left feeling good about this decision.

We did a lot of awesome things as a small team. We were flexible. Enthusiasm and passion ran high as we adopted and did what it took to release product after product. We released Flicka, iHeartCelebs, the iHeart family including Gadgetopia, iHeartApple, DSGN, Travel, DealTime, and etc.

We met with potential clients. We wrote applications for some including RentNotices for Android and iPhone and soon for Blackberry. We met with potential partners. We made money, we lost money. We adopted. We learned marketing. We developed libraries. We compiled, we tested, we regressed, we updated, and incremented. We also made our fair share of mistakes.

I would say this was a glorious opportunity to be in the middle of a start-up giving it our all to make it succeed. I admit that it was amazingly stressful at times. Sometimes I would lose sleep. In the end, however, I learned a lot, made some great contacts, and got to release good software at regular intervals while relying on ourselves and taking responsibility for our own future.

I will continue to work to develop my expertise and hopefully start another company perhaps this time on the side. I would love to start another company with partners but I would approach it this time from perhaps a larger capital or wait for things to flower before taking the plunge.

I hope the best for MokaSocial and I know they feel the same for me. Whatever the future holds I am most grateful that we’re all still friends even after having all gone through trying to start a company.

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