Sunday, January 27, 2008

God's speed, Gordon B. Hinckley...

Got word that Gordon B. Hinckley, the president of our church, passed away tonight at 97 years old. He's been the president since I joined the church in 1996, so it'll be interesting to see what new leadership brings. This is somewhat akin to a pope passing away for Mormons. It's not a time for sadness, though- he led a full life, did great work, and influenced the lives of countless people, Mormon and not. Now his work is done, and he's been called home. He was a wonderful example of how to live, from his kind words and impish sense of humor to his relationships with his wife and family; his quiet but firm leadership and the way hearing him speak just made you want to "do better".

God's speed, President Hinckley. Hope to meet you one day.

Startup Junkies is on the air!

Well, on the wire, anyway. The documentary/reality show that's following Earth Class Mail went live on January 24th, and will have a new episode available for the next eight Thursdays at 10pm. Pretty cool of them to make the episodes available online, since the Mojo channel doesn't exactly have the saturation of a Discovery Channel (and isn't even available on satellite). They're available for online viewing at I've seen rough cuts of the first five episodes- so far engineering's only factored heavily in episode 5 (where I make a few fun cameos). Don't know what's happening from there- the camera crews were unfortunately not around for the .NET go-live weekend back in November, so they missed the 26 hour workday, developers catnapping on the floor, billing panics ("pull the plug! pull the plug!"), etc. The cameras will be at the office tomorrow to catch more engineering fun, though, so I'm expecting that we'll show up more in some of the later episodes. It's hard to make typing and whiteboarding interesting, and the cameras aren't there enough to catch the somewhat rarer engineering drama, poo-flinging design meetings, etc. Interesting watching thus far though, anyway (ignore my personal bias, please).

Diagnosis confirmed...

I guess my poor-man's Google diagnosis was spot on. After a quick trip to the doctor, the numbness and weakness on the left side of my face has been confirmed as Bell's Palsy. It's stabilized over the past few days as mostly a minor annoyance- I've figured out how to keep my eye moist, and it seems to stay shut pretty well while I'm sleeping. The doctor says that most mild cases of Bell's go away within a matter of weeks, so I'm hoping for the best there.

The real bummer is that I can't play my horn in this condition, so I had to bow out of OSB for this concert series. Gives me a rare excuse to go listen from the audience, though. Saturday Feb 2, 7:30pm at Jackson Middle School in Portland.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Weird numbness...

A strange thing has been happening to me over the last few days. Last Friday while eating lunch, I noticed that part of my tongue felt like it had been recently burned. Not pain, but a not-quite-complete numbness and low taste sensitivity (like there was a piece of tape covering half my tongue). I didn't really think anything of it, other than perhaps I'd burned my tongue the night before without noticing. The problem lingered through the weekend, with the added joy of often experiencing a weird metal taste on the affected part of my tongue. Fast-forward to Tuesday night, and I'm starting to get a little concerned. The numbness is fast spreading to my lip and face (both limited to the left side). Most recently, I've noticed that my left eye doesn't close all the way with a normal blink any more- I have to work it extra hard. The whole left side of my face feels "weak" compared to the right. Poking around on the intarwebs suggests one of a few diagnoses for these symptoms:

- Thrush: Not completely out of the question, since my grandmother was afflicted with it awhile back. No visible symptoms though, and the facial weakness doesn't really jive.
- Multiple sclerosis: Let's hope not- 'nuff said.
- Bell's Palsy: This one seems the most likely fit. It's the result of an inflammation of the facial nerve that causes a loss of muscle control on half of the face and the tongue. Usually, said inflammation is caused by a virus or chronic illness, which I've not (knowingly) suffered from recently. Symptoms progress quickly, usually starting with a numbness or metal taste on the tongue, followed by radiating numbness eventually covering the entire side of the face.

Regardless, the symptoms are beyond ignorable at this point. I'm right in the middle of rehearsals for OSB's winter concert season, and as of tonight, I can't get a clean buzz on my mouthpiece. Not good. My left eye is also drying out from not being appropriately "blunk". Oy.

Guess it's time to let a pro figure it out. More to come...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Personal update

Band season's started again- we're playing some fun stuff, but not too taxing this time around.

Biggest current news and suck-hole for available time is that we're moving! We found a much bigger house (4080sf, yow!) very near where we live now. We close mid-February, and will move in sometime after the 1st of March. It's vintage 1972 throughout, so we'll have lots of work once we get in to make it our own. Meantime, we've got lots of work to get our current place ready for sale- it's amazing how you gloss over all the little unfinished projects and dusty corners when it's "home", but when you look with a critical eye, they just go on forever! Anybody want to buy a house?

Holiday break's over- back to the full grind, and hard at work on digital check deposit (among other things). Actually got to take 5 days in a row off, which I haven't done in over two years. The documentary/reality show that focuses on what we're doing at Earth Class Mail begins airing January 24 on the MOJO channel. I've gotten a preview of the first four episodes- it's pretty interesting. Engineering doesn't really start to appear in the storyline much until episode 4, but it's fun to see what goes on behind closed doors on the business side.

I'm giving a presentation at PADNUG next month, covering some of the newest MS technologies we're using at work. I think I've got a fun app to build during the presentation that hits all the major new technologies we're using and allows me to share what I've learned without giving up my employer's secret sauce. :) Just gotta find time to build up all the content before Feb 5.

Going laptop [update]

It's been about two months since I officially cut over to a Dell M1330 laptop running Vista as my primary machine. Things are generally going quite well, both with the laptop itself, and with Vista. Our IT manager likes to come in and hate on Vista every few days, and I'll admit that I have a couple of gripes (hoping for SP1 to solve them), but it's not been nearly as painful as I expected.

Size/portability: I really like this laptop's form factor, though I wish it had a docking station available. When I'm plugged in at the office, I have every port on the machine occupied (power, USB1, VGA, ethernet, HDMI, 1394, audio, USB2). That's a lot of crap to plug/unplug when I want to walk away with the box. The 13.3" screen is workable when I'm going mobile, though I'm glad I don't have to live with it every day. I was very grateful for the small size during a recent datacenter move, where five of us were jammed in an 8x8 cage (along with 25 roasting-hot servers). The portability factor is greatly increased by my access with a Sprint EV-DO mobile broadband card. Really nice to be able to connect up anywhere without relying on slow old GPRS or finding an open wireless AP.

Stability/reliability: It's generally pretty solid. I'm using both the HDMI and VGA outs for the dual-monitor experience when working at the office, and the NVIDIA dual-display software is slightly maddening at times with several flashes when I lock/unlock the machine. I'm also using a KVM switch to control my old (much less frequently used) WinXP desktop at the office, and occasionally, the keyboard connection gets lost. I'm inclined to blame the KVM, though, as I had to try a couple before I found one that worked at all reliably.

Battery life: I originally requested both a 6 and 9-cell battery, but I got two 9's instead. Battery life on the 9 is insane- 6+ hours with wireless shut off, 4+ with it on. I later obtained a 6 cell (mainly to lower the profile, since the 6 cell is flush with the bottom, where the 9 hangs down about an inch). Unfortunately, battery life with the 6 seems to be about 2.5 hours with my limited sample size.

Performance: Can't complain here. 4G of memory (well, 3.5 since I still haven't taken the 64-bit plunge) makes all the difference in the world. As is my usual m.o., I can have several large solutions open in VS2008, ten or so browser windows up, SQL Server's caches fully loaded, and Outlook cranking away, and it doesn't even flinch. Build times are quite acceptable, though since I'm not a major space hog, I'll probably be exploring a solid state disk once 128G versions are available for less than a mint. I have noticed the busted file copy behavior in Vista- I really hope SP1 makes that better. When combined with our less-than-stellar network connection at the office, remote file copies to the datacenter are painful or just plain broken, depending on what else is happening.

Build quality: Thankfully, I haven't experienced many of the problems I've seen others on the intarwebs complain of. I did have to glue a screw into one of the trapdoors on the bottom- an overzealous mobile broadband card installer stripped the screwhole. A couple of trim pieces don't seem terribly well connected, and I recently took some sandpaper to the HD cover to get it to fit flush, but I haven't had any real problems beyond these nits. I do have the dreaded CPU whine (Intel's problem, not Dell's), but RMClock is able to squelch it when I'm running on AC by disabling popup/popdown mode. The documented "Disable C4" mode that's supposed to do it compromises stability- the machine locks up every few hours with that.

Vista app interop issues: The latest OpenVPN build fixed my one major problem with route propagation. I did find some interesting behaviors when using the loopback adapter- specifically that the IPv6 address is the default for "localhost" in Vista. Thus, if you talk to yourself via http://localhost, and the server code asks for the client's IP, it will come back as ::1 instead of I had some parsing code that barfed all over that one.

Anyway, thus far, this switchover's not nearly the tragedy I'd steeled myself for. It's really nice to work from home without the delay imposed by remote desktop and our crummy internet connection at the office.