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# Monday, August 27, 2007

A week or so ago, I received this nice little letter saying that I'd been nominated to the Cambridge Who's Who, which purports to be an organization that recognizes industry professionals.  All I had to do was fill out a simple form online and I'd be entered, so I did this (never hurts to add a tick mark to your resume...).  A few days later, I was called (today) by them, and they asked for information about me, which I provided.  After congratulating me for being inducted, I was introduced to their "Platinum" and "Gold" membership options, which cost several hundred dollars.

At this point, I'm getting a tad suspicious, and being one who rarely buys something over the phone, I said thanks for the info but I'd have to think about it more.  It was at this point that the true colors of the whole deal became clear.  I was told that in order to publish my info and get me access to all these wondrous benefits of being a member, I needed to decide if I wanted to be gold or platinum.  I balked, saying that most industry accolades don't come with a price tag (at least not the ones I've received).  In fact, they tend to come with benefits.

Well, not so with the Cambridge Who's Who.  You have to pay hundreds of dollars for the honor of being a member.  Maybe for some, it'd be worth it.  But considering I'd never heard of them prior to the letter I was sent, I wasn't about to fork over cash to join.  The "services" they provide are publishing my info and connecting me to the other 250,000 notables.  Wait a sec.  Don't I get that and more for free using things like LinkedIn and Facebook? 

So if you get a letter from them, be forewarned.  Don't waste your time unless you intend to fork over a handful of cash for services you can get for free.

Monday, August 27, 2007 11:49:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I know the job market for .NET devs right now is really hot, and those with experience typically have a lot of choices.  So let me add another choice to the list.  Yes, I'm talking about Infragistics.  No, they're not paying me to say this.  Well, yeah, they're paying me, but not to say this. Rather than just stick a job description out, I hope you'll let me tell you why I like working for Infragistics.  I've been here nigh on four months, and I'm still liking it, so that's something.

Why I Like Infragistics

I've worked at more than my fair share of companies in my career, sometimes consulting, more often as an employee, and this is the best company I've worked at.  Sure, at other companies there are good people; I've worked with many.  But Infragistics not only has good people, it is a good company--it has good culture and actively works to improve it.

It's not just that it is a software company, though I think that helps.  I've worked at more than one commercial software company, and the cultures between them are as starkly contrasted as light is from darkness, happiness from sorrow.  It's not just its size because I've worked at others about our size, larger and smaller.  It's not just that the dress code is as relaxed as it gets, though that's nice. 

Other companies talk about passion, but here it is ingrained in the culture.  People care about what they are doing and strive to do their best, and it starts at the top.  Probably no one here is more passionate about the company than our CEO and the rest of our management team.  And the enthusiasm spreads into every department, even to folks like me, in case that wasn't obvious.  For me, that makes all the difference--working with positive, enthusiastic, and creative individuals at a company that fosters that kind of an environment.

For those who are still new enough in their career to think that stuff like this isn't important, that salary is all that matters, I hope you can take it to heart from me that probably more than anything--more than salary, more than benefits, more than location--the culture of your company is what makes or breaks whether or not you are happy in your job.  Now I'm not naive enough to think that our culture fits everyone; it won't.  But if you are a motivated and talented individual who likes to be challenged, likes to make a difference, and wants to get experience working with, learning from, and sharing your knowledge with other similar individuals, Infragistics just may be the place for you.

Being a community guy, I also like that Infragistics has done and is doing a lot of community support.  We host the local .NET and Java user groups at our HQ.  We often sponsor and send speakers to code camps and tech fests.  We sponsor user groups worldwide, and if you like being involved in the community, Infragistics goes out of its way to help you in that.  And we're always looking for new ways that we can support our communities, so if you have ideas, shoot them over to me.

Of course, being a geek, I like that Infragistics gives me the opportunity to work on the latest and greatest technologies.  If you're stuck in a job where they're taking the "safe" course of not upgrading, you won't face that problem here.  In fact, we're challenged to be and stay on the edge of the technological spectrum.

And as an aesthetically sensitive person, I appreciate that Infragistics provides a good working environment.  The building is nice; the work area is nice; the equipment is nice, and there is a degree of freedom to make your space your own.  If you want to have medieval action figures along the tops of your cube (like I do), you can do that.  Or if you are into feng shui, so be it. 

In terms of location, I think it's great.  I've already blogged about that.  We're now rounding into fall (already!) and our hottest temps this summer were a few days of maybe a hundredish.  Coming from Tampa, I can now avow that it in fact does not get (or at least seem) as hot and humid here--it was stickier when I left Tampa in early May than it got here the entire summer.  And you don't have to worry about hurricanes really.  Of course, Wally recently counseled me that I might want to wait until I've lived through a winter before I sing the praises of the weather, but I'll take a livable summer and cold winter any day over unbearable, six-month-long summers and mild winters (that don't really even qualify as winters).  I've always said, you can bundle up as much as you need to, but you can only take so much off! 

But again, like company culture, I know there are different strokes for different folks (Joe!). :)  The only reason I mention this is to counteract the common misconception about New Jersey being an undesirable place to live.  If you're into culture, plays, or clubbing, New York City and Philadelphia are just a stone's throw away by car or train.  If you like small town family feel, we've got that, too; I just went to a butterfly festival with my family a couple weeks ago, and they've had others (like insect, peach, etc. festivals all over the place).  If you like history, you can't go far without running into some monument commemorating where Washington did something or where, e.g., some of our founding fathers went to college.  Shopping?  Route 1 is the place to be (or, again, NYC).  Like to travel?  The Newark airport is one of the largest in the US.  Compared to the other places I've lived, it fares quite well on the pros v. cons.  So if the "armpit of the US"/Sopranos stereotype is all that's stopping you from joining us here in central Jersey, don't let it!

What's Available

Now that I know you're chomping at the bit to work for Infragistics, I guess it wouldn't hurt to mention the positions we're hiring for.  You can see a full list of open positions on our careers pages.  You'll need to use the quick links to see the list by location.  Yes, we do have more spots open than at our HQ here in NJ, and if those appeal to you, the more the merrier.  But looking specifically at our HQ openings (and since this is a developer-oriented blog), I'll highlight the Sr. R&D Engineer position for our .NET web controls.  We need someone who is very strong with web UI development and, of course, .NET.  It's a tall order, but I'm sure you're out there.  If you think you're an ASP.NET web UI expert, you should definitely consider it.  That position has challenges that most of us devs never have to face.

We also have some other dev positions in the internal systems department, so if the R&D position doesn't seem like it would fit you, you might check those out.  There is a lot of mobility possible in this company, so you might start in internal systems and then move to other areas that you later find more interesting, e.g., evangelism, R&D, etc., as positions become available. 

It's certainly a fun, interesting, agile, and challenging place to work.  All of these positions involve cutting edge technologies, working with great people, in a great culture.  Maybe you see some other position that's open and interests you, or even if there isn't a perfect fit on the web site but you think you have something to offer a company like I've been describing, you can just send me your resume, and I'll ensure it gets into the right hands.  Yes, we do have a referral program, and yes, I will take you out to lunch if you get hired on as my referral.  I had to mention that because, hey, you wouldn't believe me if I said I'm just doing it to help my company (no matter how true it is). :-p No more waiting.  Do it!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 7:36:22 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, July 3, 2006

I just finished reading Blink based on the recommendation of a presenter at TechEd.  I don't recall the presenter's name, but it was an architecture track about bridging the gap between infrastructure and development.  Turns out I could have pretty much just not read the book and gone with this presenter's synopsis of the main points.

I don't want to downplay the work that Malcom Gladwell (author) put into the book.  He clearly spent a good deal of time researching and interviewing, and the book is engaging.  He uses a lot of anecdotes to illustrate his points, and the overall impression reminded me a lot of the Dale Carnegie books.  Both use anecdotes to prove points, and both have points that, when you think about them, are pretty much a given.

I will hand it to Gladwell in that he has gone to more trouble in the research department and has gone to lengths to use scientific studies and anecdotes from pundits to support his points.  For those who need the scientific evidence, that will be important.  But I personally found that the points are things that can be inferred from human experience, if you think about them.

The nice thing about books like these is that they do humanity a service to draw out and highlight important elements of our shared humanity and how we can take advantage of them to be more successful in life.  It would be so easy to go through life without thinking twice about the propositions that this book makes, but just like the Carnegie books, if you are conscious of them, you can try to employ them to better yourself.

The book is a very easy read, and so it is easy to forgive that there isn't terribly much in the way of thought-provoking substance.  In fact, it is its easiness that makes it worthwhile.  While the same points could be presented in a much more concise format, it would be a much drier read and may not even have the same impact.  Because it was peppered with anecdotes, like the Carnegie books, the points made were more relatable and more memorable.

If all you care about are the points being made in a book, I'd suggest you just read the Publishers Weekly review on Amazon, but if you like to be entertained while you learn and learn in a memorable way, I'd recommend picking up a copy of this book.  The points are valuable on a personal as well as a business level.

Monday, July 3, 2006 8:45:29 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, July 1, 2006

I just heard that my governor has shut down half the state government because some other politicians won't go along with his plan to increase sales tax.  Given that New Jersey has the most ridiculous property tax I've heard of, and we're supposedly the most densely populated state in the union, I find it hard to believe that we really need to increase the sales tax to balance our budget.  Apparently, a lot of politicians agree.

Not only is he shutting down stuff, but he's also keeping government employees working without pay.  That's just not right.  For his own sake, and for all the affected gov. employees, I hope they figure something out quickly...

Saturday, July 1, 2006 10:05:35 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Thursday, June 15, 2006

I guess somebody thought it'd be a lot of fun to see a bunch of geeks take an early morning stroll. 

I was rudely awakened not long ago by what seemed to be an alarm clock, my neighbor's alarm clock, or so it seemed in my groggy, post-party sleeping mind.  So I tossed the useless, decorative pillow towards the noise, hoping somehow that'd make a difference.  It wasn't until the recorded voice came on telling me that it was an emergency that it crossed my mind that I might want to get up and see what the hell was going on. 

I jumped up or, more actually probably, crawled out of bed and tossed enough clothes on as to not scare my cohabitors and stepped out into the hallway.  Most folks seemed to be in the same mind-numbed state as I because we all slowly and calmly trapsed towards the stairs, greeting each other with friendly and somehow knowing smiles.

The stairs took an uncomfortably long time to descend.  All the while I was thinking about how it's a good thing that it wasn't a real emergency; otherwise, well, err, umm, our studied rate of descent would not I think have sufficed.

After stepping down uncounted steps, we broke through the perimeter and exited the rear of the building.  It could have been a scene from Night of the Living Dead for all the energe with which we circled the building, looking inquisitively at each other and the seemingly unharmed hotel.

Eventually, I came to a stop at what I thought was a safe distance when the hotel started to disassemble itself, floor by floor, starting at the top down, like a drunk man shedding his clothes to join a swimming party.

No.. wait... that was just my sleep-deprived imagination trying to make sense of the events.  What actually happened was that I waited and chatted with a fella that I probably otherwise would not have met until we saw folks start slowly streaming back into the hotel, past the fire trucks and ambulances (yes, those were real, surely).  We stumbled into the lobby as a few of Boston's finest meaningfully slid past us, carrying what little gear they brought in with them.

Now, after my legs quit burning from the strenuous ascent back up seven floors (hey, I'm not in good shape!), I find the alluring siren call of the bed beckoning me to return to the dreamland whence I came before this brief morning adventure was so rudely thrust upon me.

As the good Willy Wonka once said, "adieu. auf wiedersehen.  gesundheit. farewell.  parting is such sweet sorrow..."

Thursday, June 15, 2006 4:22:29 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, June 4, 2006

It's been on my mind for some time to (re)try my hand at fiction again.  I've got some experience, chiefly from my university days, but I've been feeling the urge to stretch those fictional writing muscles again.  Now that I've got some publisher contacts, I thought it might be worth pursuing.  Granted, they're tech publishers, but at least some of them work at houses with fiction publishing arms.  Maybe they could hook me up.

Then again, I thought that rather than committing myself to a book project with a publisher up front, I might try a different approach akin to the serials in the old days.  In essence, I thought I might set up a site for the book and publish chapters one at a time on the site, using RSS as the notification mechanism for when new chapters are available.  For those who don't mind reading online and waiting for the next chapter, I figure they could use the site and give me feedback as the book progresses.  Then, once I have something that might qualify as a book, I could see if any publisher would have me for those who (like me) still prefer to read from paper pages.

So what do you think of an approach like that?  Would you ever read a book published serially on a web site?

Sunday, June 4, 2006 8:46:55 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Friday, June 2, 2006

I recently ordered an audiobook on CD from Recorded Books, mainly because it was only available there from what I could find.  The book is Baudolino (great medieval fiction, BTW; I’ve listened to it from libraries 2x already).  Anyways, I was suprised when they charged me sales tax because they’re based in MD not NJ, so I wrote to ask them about it.  This is their response:

The state of New Jersey Department of Revenue now requires Recorded Books to collect sales tax on orders from residents of New Jersey.  They base the demand on the fact that outstanding rental audiobooks (in the hands of New Jersey residents) gives Recorded Books a "physical presence" in the State and therefore we are compelled by law to collect sales tax on all orders from New Jersey.

Before I moved up here, I knew that property taxes were high and that they have state income tax (unlike Florida), but since I’ve been here, I’ve heard other amazing stories about the ridiculous ways in which the state taxes its residents.  This has got to be one of the more creative ones, though.  They sure are creative bloodsuckers; I’ll give them that!

Friday, June 2, 2006 12:49:25 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Thursday, May 25, 2006

I'm not usually one to bring my political views to bear, chiefly because they have changed a lot over the last 10 years. In some ways, I could sympathize with Kerry in his being labeled a flip-flopper simply because I try to have an open mind, see issues from as many sides as are presented to me, and try to choose what seems to be the most viable given the current data and my presuppositions. I'm not one to doggedly cling to an idea just because it is the one I previously selected as my own (or at least I try not to); if new data is presented or new arguments that make an alternative seem to be better, I'm not so intellectually inert that I won't ever change.

Unfortunately, I guess that approach to life can make one a flip-flopper, but I’d say in that respect, being a flip-flopper is a good thing to be.  Changing my views (or at least my professed views) based on popular winds of opinion or the advice of my campaign managers, however, is not a good reason to be a flip-flopper, and that’s where Kerry and I differed, or so it seemed to me.

All that said, I find myself wanting to say something about this post over on the Future of Freedom Foundation.  Personally, thanks to a very persistent Libertarian boss I once had, I’ve flirted with Libertarianism.  It certainly has its appeal, especially in this relativistic age.  I think Mr. Hornberger, though, is painting conservatives with too broad a brush (what else is new?).  In that vein, I’d say that we can sum up Libertarianism with the old dictum of “live and let live.”  It takes freedom to an extreme, such that it becomes the core tenet of their political creed.  

Unfortunately, it leaves out the central good of government, which is to promote the common good.  Certainly freedom is one of the chief goods that we have as humans, but it is not the only one.  It seems to me that government must also take action to promote the common good, which includes other goods such as public decency, protection of innocents, affordable transportation, and care for the poor, to name a few.  And it is precisely in these other areas that the Libertarian and I differ. 

While they might agree that these are common goods, they would argue (or have with me at least) that all these can and should be promoted through private organizations and peer pressure, not the government.  But as I see it, such an argument is flawed in that government, in a very basic sense, is just such a social organization, particularly a democratic republic such as our own.  Libertarians speak of taxes being akin to stealing and government being the modern day Robin Hood, but that would only be true if we were governed by a non-representative government.  It is this point, in fact, that catalyzed our founders to form this new republic.

As I see it, Libertarianism is the rich person’s religion.  It shares many similarities with feudalism.  In fact, if Libertarianism were fully applied today, I think we’d see just such a social structure emerge—those who can afford to fund their liberties would have them; the rest of us would have to attach ourselves to one such lord or another in order to ensure, as much as is possible under such a social organization, some subset of the liberties we have today.  Maybe the lords would be corporations, maybe they’d be individuals, but when you privatize every common good that is provided by government, that’s what you end up with.

It is, in fact, Libertarianisms failure to account for the common good that I find myself unable to attach myself to that party, despite its superficial appeal.  Of course, I don’t find myself able to attach myself to any of the current parties in our system, which is why I’m registered as an Independent.  Each of the parties have compellingly good platforms on different things, but none fully aligns with what seems to me to be the best approach to government.  Sadly, our mostly bipartisan system is just woefully inadequate.  And painting folks with broad brushes such as conservatives and liberals just doesn’t work; somehow I just don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.

Thursday, May 25, 2006 9:00:09 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Well, for those of you anxiously awaiting (ha ha) this post since my last on the subject.  We’re finally all settled in up here in New Jersey.  The movers returned on Sunday, the 8th, and loaded up all of our stuff (except for the little bit we were taking to survive on until they came).  The trip up was uneventful (thankfully), and we arrived as planned in the afternoon on Wednesday.

We absolutely love the area; we’re in north Princeton (technically in Montgomery Twp).  Most every road is two lanes, and many of them cut through wooded areas and farmlands.  My drive to work consists of about 10 minutes of wood-lined drives and 10 minutes of farm-lined drives, and, apart from crossing US 1, there is very little traffic to speak of, even during rush hour, so much nicer than the urban, perpetual six-laned, traffic (and traffic-light) bloated roads I took to work in Tampa

The weather here has been lovely as well, at least as far as I’m concerned—I love cool weather.  It’s been lows in the 50s and highs no more than mid-70s, perfect, in other words.   With the occasional cool, rainy day, I don’t think I could order nicer weather.  Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but I much prefer this to the already sultry Tampa weather we were having when we left.

Our place is nice, too.  It’s a duplex townhouse backed by greenery and a babbling brook, nestled off a little road, just south of Rocky Hill.  The floorplan is very different from what we came from, this being a two-story townhouse and our prior being a one-story house, but with the huge attic and large, accessible crawl space, we’ve managed to make everything fit rather nicely.  Just last night I finished hooking up my desktop, which was the last bit of settling in really.

The job is great, too, better than I expected.  Of course, I’ve learned you gotta work at a place for at least 3, if not 6 or more, months to really get a feel for it.  But, especially compared to my last full-time gig, the overall atmosphere at Infragistics is superlative.  We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it is exciting.

All in all, I feel this has been a really great move for me and for my family.  Making cross-country moves with a family is a big deal, and I’m very glad this one seems to have worked out very positively.  We’re looking forward to our next N years here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 9:53:07 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Saturday, May 6, 2006

I hope I'm not the only one who starts grooving to techno memories when I read "it has begun!"  Ah.. Mortal Kombat....

What has begun?  The move, the move to New Jersey.  Today the packers came (no, not Green Bay--you'd be surprised the looks you get when you say "the packers are coming to my house.").  They said they'd be here at 8a, so I was surprised when Mrs. dotNetTemplar yelled "I think they're here!" at me as I was in the shower at 7:40.  What a start, but it was a mostly uneventful and good day.

They packed for a solid seven hours, the two of them, and now, as I sit here amidst the walls of boxes and barren walls surrounding them, I think I should feel or think something great or deep.  Mostly I just feel relieved.  It's been more than six weeks since I decided to join Infragistics, but due to prior commitments, I've had to put off the move.  Of course, the wise angel on my shoulder tells me that it was good that I had so long to prepare, but I'm the kind of guy that wants to act right away when I make a decision to make it real.

But now it's here.  The move is upon us.  Tomorrow the movers (formerly known as the packers) return to pick up all our stuff and take off with it to various and sundry other cities across the eastern US to pick up others' belongings before they'll show up on our doorstep in a week or so. 

In the meantime, the fam and I will be leaving Monday morning for a three-day-tour of our own, overnighting in the well-known towns of St. George, SC and Colonial Heights, VA before finally arriving in our new home in Princeton, NJ on Wednesday, assuming all goes according to plan.  Traveling with two small children, a cat, and a bun in the oven should make it.. interesting, but we'll make it.  Fun fun fun!

Saturday, May 6, 2006 10:14:15 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
# Sunday, April 30, 2006

I barely have time to play it, but I finally got it.  My Xbox:

This is actually the children's edition.  The wife insisted that we get one that everyone can enjoy.  It doesn't come with the wireless controller; I had to buy that separately.  Besides, I couldn't figure out where I'd plug in a regular controller anyways.  Pretty cool, eh? :)

Sunday, April 30, 2006 2:09:37 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Saturday, April 29, 2006

I just updated this site to the latest version of dasBlog.  Many, many thanks to Scott for helping me out with getting it (given that I am a total noob to CVS and, apparently, picked a bad time to start since SF was having issues).  Most notably (that I know of), this version incorporates using Feedburner, which I guess is the latest and greatest for distributing your feed and lowering bandwidth usage, though I'm sure there are some other goodies in there.

Anyhoo, let me know if you suddenly start running into any problems with my blog.  Have a good un!

Saturday, April 29, 2006 2:19:18 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mrs. dotNetTemplar and I have decided to homeschool our children, and it is always interesting to see the various reactions you get.  Some folks think it's grand and say they wish they could.  Probably the majority just kind of stare at you blankly like you were just speaking in tonuges or kind of pat you on the head knowingly.  But the stock question, the one that you get more than any other, is "what about socialization?"

I'm not sure why or how this became common wisdom about homeschooling.  As far as I know, there haven't been any studies conducted to show that homeschoolers are socially stunted or inept.  Rather, there has been signficant research that indicates quite the opposite.  All you need to do is Google it to see more realistic information about the topic; I thought this article summed it up nicely.  Excepting those who have a vested interested in public (or private) schooling, the consensus among those informed is that homeschooling can actually be better than the alternative for socialization.

Here's a nice little snippet that I ran across today in a newsletter, The Liberator Online, I occasionally read (no, I'm not a libertarian).  The source they got it from is the New Oxford Review, which was quoting the Kolbe Little Home Journal, Fall 2005. 

When my wife and I mention we are strongly considering homeschooling our children, we are without fail asked, 'But what about socialization?' Fortunately, we found a way our kids can receive the same socialization that government schools provide.

On Mondays and Wednesdays, I will personally corner my son in the bathroom, give him a wedgie and take his lunch money. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, my wife will make sure to tease our children for not being in the 'in' crowd, taking special care to poke fun at any physical abnormalities. Fridays will be 'Fad and Peer Pressure Day.' We will all compete to see who has the coolest toys, the most expensive clothes, and the loudest, fastest, and most dangerous car.

Every day, my wife and I will adhere to a routine of cursing and swearing in the hall and mentioning our weekend exploits with alcohol and immorality.

...And we have asked (our kids) to report us to the authorities in the event we mention faith, religion, or try to bring up morals and values.

It's funny (and sad) because it is true.  The socialization one gets in public (or private for that matter) schooling is just not natural.  Where else in life are we surrounded by only peers of our own age?  In pretty much every other social environment I've been in outside of school, my peers are made up of people older and younger than me.  The grouping of kids by age, while expedient for group education, is certainly not the ideal model for socialization. 

It seems that homeschooling actually bears out to provide better-adjusted children who turn into better-adjusted adults.  When you add that to the many other benefits of homeschooling, one wonders why more people don't do it.  Well, actually, one doesn't.  It isn't the easiest path; in fact, compared to just dropping your kids off at school every day, it's significantly harder. 

Naturally, I realize that not everyone can for very good reasons (and not just, say, because it is hard).  Thankfully, my family is blessed to be in a position to homeschool, so that's what we're going to do.  I know it's not going to be a bed of roses, but at least we don't have to worry about the kids being socialized and well-adjusted; that's just a red herring that has somehow become common wisdom.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 7:55:57 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
# Monday, April 24, 2006

Not long ago, I polled subscribers as to what they're interested in.  There seemed to be a fairly even divide between what I'll roughly call Technical posts and Non-Technical posts.  In fact, my goal with this blog is to be a blend of those two general categories.  At the same time, as much as it hurts to admit it, I know that some folks really don't care about my opinions on non-technical matters.  So it struck me (some time ago, actually; I've just been lazy) to create two general categories using the creative taxonomy of Technical and Non-Technical. 

Why?  This is because dasBlog (and most other blog systems, I imagine) allow you to subscribe to category-based RSS feeds as well as view posts by category.  So from this day forward, in addition to the more specific categories, I'll be marking all posts as either Technical or Non-Technical.  If all you care about is one or the other, you can just subscribe to one or the other and never be bothered with the stuff you don't care about.

You can view/subscribe to the feeds using the feed icon next to each category in the list (of categories).  Here are direct links as well:



I hope this helps!

Monday, April 24, 2006 10:28:33 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, April 17, 2006

I've been running XP 64 on my new box for a few weeks now, but I've managed to get by thus far without tweaking IIS much.  I was pleasantly surprised when something wasn't working that required the ASP.NET process identity to have write access (dasBlog).  I immediately went to the dir and added ASPNET w/ modify perms on the dir and still got the permission denied error.  So I went back into IIS and lo and behold, it was running IIS 6.  Too cool!

Of course, you may be wondering how I managed to overlook this fact for so long.  It is because I just assumed that it was just running the IIS 6 Manager client.  I usually install that on my XP boxes because I like the updated interface, and it allows me to connect to 2003 IIS servers.  So it didn't phase me at all to see the IIS 6 client.  Somehow I managed to get by without noticing that it was in fact running IIS 6. 

So I just changed the user with write access to Network Service and voila!  Pretty snazzy.  The point is to let you know that if you want IIS 6 with XP, one option is to go out and buy 64 bit machine and run Windows XP 64 on it.  :)  I can tell you that it has a few quirks, but most of them you can work around.  I've not had to boot to my 32bit dual boot at all.  So if you're in the market for a new machine, you should definitely consider 64 bit.

Monday, April 17, 2006 2:44:37 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Thursday, April 13, 2006

I'm very happy to announce that I'll be joining Infragistics soon.  Officially, my first day will be May 15th; however, I'll be going to the Alabama Code Camp to represent them next weekend (4/22).  If you're in the Huntsville area, you should definitely check it out; there are tons of great speakers and sessions lined up.  (Mine's not up there yet as it is still undecided which of the ones I submitted I'll be doing.)

Anyhoo, I'll be working for Infragistics as their Codemunicator, a title that they let me coin because the position is kind of a blend of things.  Codemunicator is a portmanteau, as you might guess, from "code" and "communicator."  It sounds like it'll be a lot of fun; I'll get to do a number of things that I enjoy--writing, designing, coding, and even the occasional speaking from what I hear.  And I'll get to work with great guys like Jason Beres (noted author and INETA speaker), Devin Rader (also noted author and ASPInsider), and others whom I've had the pleasure to meet. 

Plus, some other really cool peeps are not far away, like DonXML (MVP and XML extraordinaire), Scott Watermasysk (Mr. .Text himself, ASPInsider, MVP, etc.), Doug Reilly (author, ASPInsider, MVP, etc.), Terri Morton (author, ASPInsider, MVP, etc.), DotNetDude (author, INETA speaker, MVP, etc., though I hear rumors of his not being long for the area), and I'm sure I'm not aware of or forgetting others and/or not getting all of the accolades right (that's my official apology if that's the case).  So all I'm saying is it's a really cool area for .NET experts and ubergeeks. :)  Hopefully we can all get together occasionally for dotNetMoots of some kind.

Of course, this change in employment constitutes a change in locale for me and my family.  We'll be moving from sunny Tampa, FL up to Princeton, NJ (right near East Windsor, home of Infragistics HQ).  I'm sure a lot of folks think such a move is crazy, but the wife and I are not especially keen on the six-month summers down here in Tampa.  We both grew up in cooler climes that have all four seasons, so we're actually looking forward to having them again.  That's not to say that the Tampa area doesn't have lots to recommend it, most notably family, friends, and mild winters, but we still feel this is the right move for us.

We've heard a lot of good stuff about the area we'll be in, both from folks who live there now and who lived there in the past.  Apparently, the whole "armpit of the US" epithet only applies to the Newark/Elizabeth area (in the NE near NYC), and having flown into and out of Newark and driven by Elizabeth, I can believe that.  (No offense to anyone who lives there and likes it!)  But central NJ is actually quite nice from what we saw when we toured the area a bit and from what we've heard.  It's about an hour by train from NYC and Philly, not far from some mountains in Pennsylvania, and not far from the beach and Atlantic City, so we're actually looking forward to it a lot.

All in all, we're pretty psyched about the move, and I'm especially juiced about going to work for a great commercial software company like Infragistics.  They still have openings, so if you think any of them sound interesting, let me know.  I'd love to have more good people come on to work with us.  If any geeks or ubergeeks live in the area and read my blog that I don't know about, give me a shout out.  I'll be helping Jason Beres et al pump up the NJDOTNET user group, so join and come if you're in the area.  You WILL join and come! <waves hand using Jedi mind trick>


Thursday, April 13, 2006 10:13:08 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [9]  | 
# Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Do you find yourself being overwhelmed by the amount of email flowing into your inbox?  Here are some tips I've used to keep my inbox nearly empty over the years.  And most of these tips extend to your real-world and voicemail inbox as well and will (I think) help you remain more sane and organized (and polite).

1 - Do not subscribe to email lists that you are not actively interested in.  This seems obvious to some people, but if you find yourself just deleting every message from a particular email list, newsletter, or other source of emails, just unsubscribe.  Maybe you were really keen on the particular subject at the time you subscribed; maybe you thought it'd be neat to stay on top of X, but if you find that's just not the case--that it's not important enough to you to do so, just cut it out; you can almost always subscribe again later if you get interested.

2 - Think of your inbox like a to-do list; it already is in a certain sense, but make it more formal in your head.  Anything in your inbox needs attention, and it needs it as soon as you can get to it.  The reason this is helpful is that it can help motivate you to not let things pile up.  It also lends towards other helpful things like the next tips.

3 - Try to take action on every email as soon as you read it.  If it requires a response, try to respond right away.  If you need to think on it, it's okay to leave it there for the next pass.  If you think it will be a while until you can respond like you think you need to and the missive is personal (from a real person to one or few persons), respond right away saying you're thinking about it and give a timeframe within which you intend to respond.  This is just polite and will probably save you from getting more emails from that person asking for a status.  If it is something from a list or newsletter that you are interested in, leave it there for the next pass.

4 - I mentioned the next pass in the previous tip.  This is simply a way of further weeding out your inbox, especially for non-personal emails.  If you truly didn't have time to properly take action on the first pass, the next time you sit down to look at your email, give everything a second look.  This takes far less time, typically, than the first pass, and allows you to quickly determine if you feel you can take action on the second pass items.  By the second pass, you should have taken action on 80% or more of the emails in the previous first pass.  Yes, I'm making the percentage up, but I'm just pointing out that if you're finding most emails in the inbox survive the second pass, you're probably not devoting sufficient time to it.  .NET developers can liken this process to .NET garbage collection, if emails survive the first pass, they're promoted to gen1, and so forth.  But the higher the generation, the fewer remaining emails there should be. 

5 - Aggressively delete.  Be willling to decide that you just are not going to get to something and either file it away or, preferably, delete it.  This only applies to non-personal emails that don't require a response (e.g., the newsletter/email list variety).  You may think that you'll get time some day to look at it, but I assure you, if it reaches the third pass and is still not important enough to make time for, you probably never will make time for it.  In my opinion, the only things that should survive the third pass are items that truly require action on your part but that may require more time than the average email response.  For instance, if you get a bill reminder, you can't just choose to delete and ignore that, but you may not have time until, say, the weekend to get to it.  It's fine to just let these lie, but leave them in the inbox so that you don't forget.  You should have very, very few emails that survive the third pass.  If you have lots, you're not giving your email enough time.

6 - I should mention that in the last three tips, there is implied prioritization.  In my book, emails from one person directly to you should always take precedence, even if you're not particularly keen on it (e.g., if someone is asking you for help, which happens for folks like me who publish helpful stuff).  I consider it rude to ignore personal emails, even from recruiters, so I always make an effort to respond, if nothing else than to say that I'm sorry that I don't have time.  To me, this is just common sense politeness, and I hate to say it, but it really irks me when folks don't extend the same courtesy to me.  The good news is that if you follow my tips, you can continue to be a polite person, at least in that regard, because your inbox never gets so full that you don't have time at least for the personal emails.  (And by "personal" I don't mean non-business; I mean from a real person to a real person, so business-related missives are not excluded from this rule.)

7 - Check your email proportionately to how often you get personal email.  It's okay to let newletters and lists pile up because you can safely delete huge swaths of those if they get piled up, but it is not okay (IMO) to let personal emails pile up.  If that's happening, you need to check email more often and/or make more time for it.  Maybe it's not your favorite thing, but it is just part of life.  If you're important enough, get someone to screen your emails for you.

If you follow these guidelines and still find your inbox piling up, you're either really, really important and famous, or you're just not being honest with yourself about what you do and don't have time for.  If nothing else, find a way to stay on top of the personal email.  Even if you don't like my approach to everything else, it is just the polite thing to do.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 9:45:11 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, April 9, 2006

Because of my pending interstate move, I spent some time yesterday going through my old electronic stuff.  I knew I had a few things I wanted to get rid of, so I got it all together.  Well, the next problem was what to do with it.  I knew I didn't just want to toss it out; not only would that be bad for the environment, but some of the stuff still works.  So anyhoo, I rattled around the internet for a bit, trying to find the best way to get rid of it.

Turns out, most orgs don't want my old electronic stuff any more than I do, so I thought maybe I could recycle.  Dell has a decent recycling program (you basically pay $10 for it), but you have to package it all up and ship it via DHL.  Not bad, but still involves cost and trouble.

I finally stumbled across freecycle.org.  It's basically a bunch of Yahoo groups, each specific to a particular area.  You can post your offer of free stuff on it, and folks will get back to you about it.  I thought, hey, this could work.  Pretty easy--just post a simple message.  So I did that, and within 10 minutes of the post being approved, I had five emails in my inbox from people wanting it.  I just picked the first that got there, emailed them, and they're picking the stuff up today. 

Totally awesome!  And it's not just for electronics--virtually anything you want to find a new home for (except for you or your children) can be offered there.  Now I'm just trying to figure out what else I can foist off on (err.. give away to) other people. :)  I thought it was cool enough that I wanted to spread the word; it's a great way to keep the land fills empty and potentially help others in the process.  You know how the old saying goes: "one man's trash is another's treasure," and this organization is the perfect proof of that.  So be green for free and go to freecycle.org to pass along your old stuff to others who really want it!

Sunday, April 9, 2006 3:44:27 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Friday, February 3, 2006

I just heard about TextPayMe from Steve Smith.  Pretty cool.  It's the next PayPal--you send money to people via a text message from your phone.  Plus, right now, you can win a XBox 360, get $5 for free, and I've heard that you won't get any transaction fees ever if you sign up now.  So what are you waiting for, sign up below and then text me your free $5! :-)

SignUp at TextPayMe

Friday, February 3, 2006 9:28:23 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, November 28, 2005

As I was riding home this evening, I tuned into Classical Radio on Sirius. Normally, I'm more inclined towards classic jazz, Christian rock, or, in my more energetic moods, hip hop. But tonight, it was dark and rainy, and I was in the mood for something more mellow and just happened to stumble across this station.

The program playing was an old-time bank robber story with the familiar, even cliché, gangsta and of course the melodramatic dames that go along with the old movies and radio. But it was a not-unwelcome reverie of that bygone era when clichés were okay, when men were men and women were women. And Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Down With Love are both pleasant pastiche that take one back.

Though all of these call back to a time before my own, I can still appreciate them, partially because I often watched older movies as a child (and so they hold some nostalgia on that point) but also because they were unabashedly fiction. It seems that real fiction is becoming increasingly rare in the popular media.

Sure, we still have fiction, but what do you hear folks talking about at the coffee pot or water cooler? How about Survivor, Apprentice, the news, or "the game"? Even shows that aren't technically non-fiction are essentially about everyday happenings or dramatizations of them. Take as an example ER, House, the ubiquitous CSI, or the even more ubiquitous Law and Order. What about the abundance of other reality shows, crime dramas, self-improvement, home improvement, science, history, etc.? And in literature, though it is admittedly losing some favor, the most popular genre of late seems to be memoirs and other stuff that barely passes for fiction, if fiction at all.

The media seem to have collectively lost their imagination. There are a few shows that are welcome respites, such as Threshold and Ghost Whisperer, and the SciFi Channel has a regular plateful of fiction, although it is often, sadly, poorly done, with the notable exception of Battlestar Galactica and, at times, the various flavors of Stargate. Firefly and Farscape were both awesome, original science fiction series, but both were canceled before their time, and from the looks of it, Threshold will go the same way soon (why else do they keep changing show times?).

But of course, the media aren't only the ones to blame. They're at the mercy of popular sentiment; the money follows the eyeballs. So the real question is whats wrong with us? Have we become so dull and jaded that even our entertainment is nothing more than our reality?

I think this is indeed a symptom of our deadened imaginations, imaginations that have been repeatedly quashed by our teachers and the scientistic ideologues that inform our educational system; the ones who have been forcing materialist dogma down our throats since early childhood.

After all, why should we expect anything more than reality if thats all there really is? If I can't see it, touch it, smell it, taste it, or hear it, it's not worth my time. Or at least thats what we've been taught to believe, and now that dead view of reality is making itself painfully apparent in our popular entertainment and literature, which should be our liveliest, most imaginative relief from the banality of ordinary life.

The current state of the media is in the death throws of its imagination, throwing people together in ridiculous circumstances and seeing how they'll react or, rather, act. I'm at a loss for what do to about it. I think all I can hope is that people will grow weary, as I have, of the pathetic offerings that most of the media are dishing out today and throw their sentiment in with more creative and imaginative outlets, forcing the majority media to respond and give us back our collective imagination.

Yet there is hope, I think. The popularity of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and, more especially, of Harry Potter are positive indicators. Zathura and Narnia are welcome additions that I hope will further spark the imagination of the younger audiences. One can only hope that as that generation grows (one not far behind my own, I might add), there will be a resurgence in demand for good fiction and we may yet save ourselves from this post-fiction world, and maybe some of us who will soon be inheriting the world can do our part to provide good fiction for our hungry and weary minds. The world needs more Tolkiens, Lewises, and Rowlings.

Monday, November 28, 2005 4:47:39 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Yesterday, Mrs. dotNetTemplar wanted to order pizza for lunch.  (I was working from home.)  So I pulled up papajohns.com and put in an order.  About 45 minutes later, the delivery guy arrived, and I met him at the door.  I just happened to be wearing one of the shirts that Microsoft has given me.

"You know, you oughta put that shirt up on eBay," he said.  "You might be able to get two Linux shirts for that one Microsoft shirt."

"Well, ya know, it pays the bills, hehe," I retorted kindly, and he acquiesced on that point, returning to his car.

It wasn't until a minute or two later that the full irony of the exchange hit me.

"You might be able to get two Linux shirts for that one Microsoft shirt," said.. the.. pizza.. delivery guy.. to.. the.. full-time.. professional.. software developer.

Hmm...  maybe he just loves delivering pizza...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005 1:47:10 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I was thinking today about the proliferation of the "Foundation" terminology in the new Microsoft offerings (e.g., Windows Workflow Foundation, Windows Communication Foundation, and Windows Presentation Foundation).  It occurred to me that the broader foundation for all of this is the .NET Framework and the CLR.  One option that came to mind was Microsoft Intermediate Language Foundation, or MILF.  I can't imagine why they didn't go with that...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005 10:09:15 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Friday, November 11, 2005

It appears that my previous remarks have not fallen on deaf ears.  Last night, on "The Colbert Report," I was pleased to see Mr. Colbert "swearing himself in" and saying that Jesus Christ is the only true God, that he established a Church with Peter as its representative on earth, and that the current Pope Benedict XVI is his successor (roughly quoting, but that's the gist).  That's more like it Mr. Colbert; thanks for clearing that up.

And because of that, I'll take back my call for a crusade against him.

I was also pleased to see some wit targeted at the Da Vinci Code in the segment called the Da Colbert Code, in which he illustrated the ridiculous reasoning that is rampant in the Da Vinci Code.  Each day I watch the Report, my opinion of Mr. Colbert is raised.

On top of that, a few nights ago, he had Catherine Crier on the show.  She wrote a book about how 'activist judges' on the far 'right' are changing America's laws to conform with their own views of the world.  Mr. Colbert was seemingly joking in his criticisms, but I think you can tell whether he really thinks what he's joking about thinking.  In this case, he seemed to be only half-kidding, and I appreciated his perspective.  It's nice to hear someone ask "would that be so bad" about America becoming more religious.

That said, I must admit that I do think that any kind of activist judge is not a good thing, whether or not I agree with the judge's philosophy.  We make our laws through our elected representatives, and for good or ill, I don't want any judge or group of judges to overturn them just because they don't like them.  If they stick to strict, historical, and reasonable interpretation, I think our country would do just fine.  The problem with so many judicial decisions today is precisely that the judges don't do that and prefer to shape the country in their image instead of the Founders', who were overwhelmingly religious and Christian.  If judges did stick to that kind of interpretation, our country would be much better off (and more morally sound in its laws).  That's where I think Mr. Colbert is right in asking 'would that be so bad?'


Friday, November 11, 2005 9:43:38 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Monday, November 7, 2005

This weekend I finally acted on something I've been considering off and on for some time.  I decided to cut my hair.  For those who don't know, I've had long hair (longer than shoulder length) since roughly 2002.  I started growing it out in July of 2001.  To give some perspective, my daughter was just a few months old when I started growing it out; she's now four and a half.  She has no recollection of my having short hair.  And of course my son doesn't either.  So it was interesting seeing her reaction: "What did you do with your pony tail!?"

Why did I cut it?  It's just one of those mystical things when you know it's time.  I've considered it quite a few times before, but this time, it just seemed like it was time.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt convinced.  Here are some specific things that I thought about:

1) Long hair really is more work, if you take care of it.  While there is something to be said for just waking up, brushing, and tieing back, it definitely takes a longer time to wash and condition.  And then, if you don't want to potentially damage it with a hair dryer, you have to let it air dry, which takes hours.  This means you really can't wash your hair in the morning, and that has always bugged me because that's when I prefer to shower.

2) My hair never really all stayed back in a tail.  Some people have more success, but for me, I always dealt with keeping the wild ones in place, especially on the sides.  This was one thing I had hoped would not be a problem when I grew it out; I thought I'd just be able to pull it back and it'd all nicely stay.  Not so for me.  And I didn't want to put gunk in my hair to keep it in place because that can damage the hair and because that would warrant more washing, which was a pain (see #1).

3) There are very few men's hats that look good with long hair, in my opinion.  Baseball caps are right out.  This became more of a problem once I got my convertible.  Although I did find an Aussie breezer that looked good, it was kind of a pain to always have to wear it.  And I did have to restrain my hair somehow (see #2).

4) I don't feel the longhair image is the one I want any longer.  This was really the key.  Obviously, I put up with 1-3 for a few years, so they weren't enough.  I still, up until recently, felt that longhair was something I identified with.  For guys, it has to be this way because there is noticeable social pressure to not have long hair.  There has to be a reason to not only go to the trouble of 1-3 but also to put up with the social stigma. 

Granted, I have been blessed in that I chose a profession where long hair is more acceptable for men than others, so it has never (I think) really hurt my career.  In fact, in some ways, the image can help in this field, but there's still a good bit of anti-longhairness in our society.  I think that it is silly, but its there--there are plenty of stories from less fortunate guys than myself who can attest to it.  The worst I got was people saying "wow, I never would have guessed" (with dripping sarcasm) when I say I'm in software, so it was never a reason for me to cut it.

I've also been told by a number of people that to work for X company or to get to N level in X company, you can't have long hair.  Again, this was not a sticking point for me, but it just goes to illustrate that there is still resistance to and a stigma with long hair on men.  So you really have to want long hair, as a guy, in order for you to go to the trouble of having it.  You have to feel it is part of your identity, as many "longhairs" will attest to.  If it's not, it's just not worth the trouble.

Ultimately, that's what I came to recently.  I no longer feel that it is important to me.  Sure, I liked the look, but it is no longer worth the trouble for me.  In fact, I have a positive desire to change my image in this way because of that.  It is a significant choice because growing your hair out is a long and awkward process, so if you change your mind, it is a rather significant pain to go back.  That's why I took so long to decide and act, though I'm sure it seems sudden to anyone but my wife.

So that's the long story of why I cut it.  If you want a short story, feel free to make one up. :)

And now, for the low-quality, self-taken, camera phone evidence that so many have already asked me for:




Geesh.. not very flattering.. oh well. :)  I'm not 100% keen on this particular doo, but it's what I got for now.  So there ya have it; I'm no longer a longhair.


Monday, November 7, 2005 11:52:24 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [6]  | 
# Friday, November 4, 2005

Two nights ago on "The Colbert Report" (pronounced "koalbear repoor"), Stephen Colbert, the show's host and star, called Pope Benedict XVI a "nazi pope" while explaining how he's managed to offend many religious groups as part of his 'apology' to the Muslims for claiming that Halloween is a better holiday than Ramadan.  He says that he can call our pope that because "[he's] Catholic."

Not true, Mr. Colbert, not true.  Our pope is not a nazi, and your even saying that in jest is unacceptable.  So I've decided to call for a Catholic crusade to trump the Muslim Fatwa that was called against Mr. Colbert.  Let's take back our pope from those who defame him in public!

Ooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!  <-- New anti-Colbert war cry.

Mr. Colbert, if you don't comment on my blog and apologize for your statements, you're a coward!

Friday, November 4, 2005 4:06:01 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Saturday, September 10, 2005

For the rare among you who may be wondering if I did ever get the car, the answer is yes.  I just have been preoccupied. :)

So here it is:

The Car

It is as fun to drive as you might imagine, and quite roomy and comfortable for being a small car.  I could talk about it for a while, but I won't bore you.  If you're ever in the market, though, I definitely recommend it. 

And I promise to get back to writing about more interesting topics soon.  I actually had a whole article written yesterday, but when I asked my wife to look over it, she accidentally navigated away from the page, and I lost it.  Argh!  That's the second time I've done that.. you'd think I'd learn.  Well, the problem is that when I copy & paste from Word, it brings a bunch of crap over into the HTML, so I don't like to do that.  But if I paste into notepad, e.g., it loses hyperlinks and such.  I can't win, but I think I'll be erring on the side of extra markup from now on. hehe   

Saturday, September 10, 2005 1:32:21 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [6]  | 
# Thursday, August 11, 2005

I've been watching the status of my car order, feverishly waiting for it to move from "On Order" to "Scheduled for Production."  In fact, I'm chagrined to say, I've checked every day since I got the stock number and could log in.  Well, today it finally changed!  I almost couldn't believe it, but now it's official--I have a VIN. :)  Too cool!  And from what I've been told, it shouldn't be long now before the car is delivered (apparently, waiting "On Order" is the slowest of the phases).

In any case, for those with whom I have yet to share my joy, I decided to take the plunge and get a Z4.  They've got a good two and three year lease program for it right now, in case you're considering one.  Here's what the configurator makes mine look like as ordered:

My Z4

Olivine Green Metallic with extended beige leather and the poplar wood trim.  I went pretty minimalist on the options, just getting what I felt are the bare necessities on the factory options (power roof, heated seats, and xenon lights).  The 3.0 comes pretty loaded standard, so it wasn't hard to be minimalist on the options.  Of course, I'm splurging a bit on the accessories.

I did have one of these for a day, and they are sheer pleasure to drive, if you get into that sort of thing.  The automatic is okay--they've got the best fake shifter I've used, but it is just not the same as the manual.  I didn't try out the SMG for the same reason.  There's just something about the interplay of clutch and shifting that, in my opinion, adds to the driving experience. 

It's quite powerful, and it is very solid both in frame and steering.  At 3000 pounds, it is a very sturdy car for its size and has lots of good safety features.  It's roomier than a Mazda Miata and the Z3 (not sure about the 350Z), which is important for someone my size :).  And it gets good gas mileage for a sportscar. 

All in all, I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a roadster, but I don't know if I'd get one if I didn't live in Florida (or somewhere with an equally agreeable climate).  I had a Miata in Tulsa, and that thing was just plain dangerous on ice or snow, not to mention you don't really get to enjoy the top-downness for large parts of the year in cooler climes. 

If anyone in the Tampa area is reading this, I can highly recommend Reeve's Import Motorcars (BMW).  I've been working with a salesman there named Keith Roberts, and he's great.  He's very laid back and doesn't try to force you into something you don't really want, unlike some other local BMW dealer I could name.  He also is email proficient and good about getting back with you, so if you're in the market in Tampa and are considering a BMW, give Keith a call.  You can tell him I sent you, though I don't get anything from it, as far as I know.  He's just a good guy.  (While I'm at it, Dain Carlson at Crown Eurocars in St. Pete is who I'd recommend if you're looking for a Mercedes, Audi, or (haha) Maybach; he too was great to work with.)

Anyway, if you're in Tampa Bay and you see some big, long-haired, and bearded guy in an Aussie breezer tooling around in a green Z4, don't hesitate to honk and wave.  Chances are it's probably me.  (And do the friendly short double-honk so I know you're not just angry with me! :))

Thursday, August 11, 2005 7:20:00 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, August 9, 2005

I am having what is turning out to be one of the most infuriating consumer experiences I have ever had.  I ordered this battery from Dell a few weeks ago.  Everything was going hunky-dory until I received the item (amazingly soon after I ordered it).  Instead of being the primary battery that I ordered, it was the modular bay battery that you can get here.

When I contacted Dell to tell them of the problem and ask them to send me the right battery, they said: "Mr. Little, our records show that, you had placed order for the battery that goes in the modular bay. Hence only option for you is to return the battery back at Dell for credit as exchange is done only for like to like items. So, I apologize, we are unable to process your request for exchange." 

I KNOW I ordered the primary battery; I have no interest in the modular battery, and I'm not some idiot first-time internet shopper who would have accidentally clicked on the wrong item to buy.  To back this assertion up, I have a few items of evidence. 

1) The price (this is just plain and simple logic, though it seems to be eluding the Dell reps):  The battery I ordered listed for $169.00; they had a discount going to make it $152.10.  The modular battery lists for $129.95.  Clearly, since I paid $152.10, I was not paying for the modular battery.

2) My order confirmation email.  This is a copy and paste from it:

Order detail - order placed 2005-08-01 11:40:41

9-Cell Smart Lithium-Ion Battery for Dell Inspiron 8500 and 8600 Notebooks Qty: 1
Unit Price: $169.00

Dell Home Customers: Save 10% off Power!
Expires on 2005-08-04 10:59:59
- $16.90

Note that the battery description and price match up to the primary battery listing, not the modular bay one.

3) The packing slip.  Even the packing slip indicates that I should have been holding a primary battery in my hands when I opened the package.  It lists:

Part #2P700 72WHR, LI-ION,PRMRY BATT,I8500/8600,CUST

If you were to check the part number against the online listings, it obviously is the primary battery part number, and the description itself indicates it is the primary battery, not the modular bay battery.

So, as any idiot who speaks the English language could see, I ordered and should have received the primary battery after which I was seeking.  Yet Dell's response was "we're sorry; you're wrong; you can't exchange it for something else."

You would imagine that a simple reply explaining these facts to them would clear up the situation, but you would be wrong.  After explaining the above to them, I got this reply: "Thank you for contacting Dell Financial Services (DFS).  Please be informed that we are unsure of your request. If you would please reply with further details on your inquiry, we will be happy to assist you."

WHUUAAT? (Imagine Jon Stewart saying that.)  How did I get forwarded to financial services??  I simply replied to the email that Dell sent me.  Of course, I was a bit surprised and didn't really note this initially, so I replied, explaining again that they need to just send me the battery I ordered.

In response to that, I got: "For assistance with your equipment, please contact Dell Customer Service at (800) 624-9897. You may also send them an email at www.dell.com<http://www.dell.com>. Please reference your Dell Order Number 505944332."

It was at this point I realized I had somehow gotten forwarded to financial services.  You can imagine my initial amazement in hearing that I should contact Dell Customer Service when that was, in fact, exactly what I had done.  But I tried once more to reply, saying that I don't know how I got forwarded to financial services but could they please forward it back to the right department. 

In response I got: "Dell Financial Services are the exclusive leasing agents for Dell Inc. We regret we cannot assist you with your issue. For your convenience, we have copied Dell Inc. on this email so they may address your Dell issues. You can reach Dell Customer Service directly by calling (800) 624-9897. You may also send them an email from their website at www.dell.com."

Of course, they did not, in fact, copy Dell.  So I decided to try again, starting from the web site as they suggested (which is what I did in the first place).  Explaining the problem once again, I got this in reply: "Thank you for contacting Dell Technical Support.  I understand your concern regarding ordering the battery for your laptop.  I would suggest you to contact our customer care department regarding the order issue."

Now somehow I had been forwarded to technical support??  I selected customer support from their drop-down on the web site, so I don't know how this happened.  But who knows, maybe I had unintentionally scrolled the drop-down using the mouse wheel or something.  So I went yet again to the web site and filled the form out again, explaining the situation.  You'll never guess what happened next.

"Mr. Little, I understand your concern regarding the wrong battery. I sincerely apologize and truly regret any inconvenience or frustration this matter may have caused.  Please allow me a moment to explain that I can issue you an exchange but exchange is only for like to like items. Hence you will receive the same item and your purpose will not be resolved. Hence in order to resolve your issue, I have setup a credit return of the order number 505944332."

Sound familiar?  That's because it is!  It's the same frickin' thing they said to me when I first contacted them.  Not only is it wrong, it is now non-sensical, seeing as how I've already returned the thing.  AAARRRRGGGHHH!

I think what is most frustrating is that these doofuses in customer support don't seem to listen.  It's almost as if they are automated, just looking at key words, doing a simple system query, and responding with a rote answer.  Clearly, as any human can understand if they'll take a minute to do so, there is a problem with Dell's supply chain.  Somewhere between the packing slip and the shelf, they made an error. 

Now I could just try ordering again; maybe Billy Bob in fulfillment just accidentally grabbed the wrong battery off the shelf.  But maybe they've actually got the shelf labeled incorrectly and I'd have to go through this whole thing yet again.  I'm sick of it.  All I want to do is get a stinking battery for my laptop; it should not be that difficult!  And now the sale on the battery has ended, so I'll have to pay an extra $20 for Dell's incompetence.  Sigh...

Anyhoo, I wanted to vent somewhere, and I figured this would work.  But I also need to have an online reference so that I can reference it the next 10 times I have to reply to them to explain the problem.  So Dell rep, if you're reading this, please actually fix the problem and stop giving me the runaround.

[Update - 8/9/2005 12:00p EDT]
Dell Rep just called me and told me that "it looks like we sent you the wrong battery."  I am assuming that this is just lip service to get me to quit bugging them because he still didn't offer the right solution, saying rather that since the return was already being processed, the best they can do is let me buy it again.  No matter, all of this hassle motivated me to do a little searching, and I found what seems to be a good deal at Pacific Battery.  It's $60 cheaper, has free shipping, and no taxes.  Can't beat that (assuming it is all valid).  We'll see.  At this point, it can't be much worse than dealing with Dell...

[Update - 8/10/2005 8:08a EDT]
Just read an email from Dell saying that they have acknowledged my request to return my product.  Ha!  I never requested to return the thing, AND this is the second time this has happened (I actually returned it the first time).  Poor UPS guy is going to come out to my place for nothing.

Sadly, I think Dell has grown too fast for its own good and has sacrificed quality service bigtime.  Consider also that becuase I bought my laptop via an Employer Purchase Plan, they don't recognize me as a home user, and so every time I go to contact customer service (even when logged in), they prompt me to chat with them live, but when I go to chat, they tell me that their records show I'm not a home customer and therefore can't chat.  What kind of retardedness is that?  I asked them to mark me as a home customer (because that's what I am), but of course, their people-robots couldn't do that. 

As Mitch says, they make great equipment, but their service TOTALLY SUCKS.  Well, almost totally; if you can convince them to come out and fix something, that usually turns out well, but to get to that point, you have to go through the robots first.  I guess all we can do now is speak out and fill out the surveys in a very honest and direct manner.  Maybe they'll figure out they have a problem one of these days and fix it.

[Update 8/22/2005]

I couldn't help but add this.  The thing that started my attempt to get a new battery was a support request to Dell about my existing battery.  Well, no telling if it was the battery at the time; the thing is that the computer would just shut down without warning about 30 minutes after being unplugged.  So I guess it was a good chance that it'd be the battery, and that is in fact what Dell asked me to test, i.e., get a spare battery and see if the same thing happens.

Well, after I got my battery from the aforementioned company (not Dell), I plugged it in, charged it, and have been using it with success for some time now, so it is apparently that the old battery (and it is fairly old) is no good any longer.  So I decided to just reply to Dell on the original support thread, saying "yeah, you were right, it was the battery; I got a new one."

The funny thing is that they replied to me and said, "if you'd like to get a new battery, please go to our online store..."  I couldn't help but laugh at this; after all the trouble I had and after I had just told them that I had bought a new one, they were telling me to go buy a new one!  Just one more example of those support techs NOT LISTENING AT ALL to what you are saying.  BLARRRRRGH!

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 7:26:21 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [3]  | 
# Friday, June 3, 2005

I was just looking something up on Google, and I noticed a little, harmless link in the top right that said "Satellite."  Curious person that I am, I clicked it, and suddenly the map I was staring at was replaced by lush imagery.  Too cool!

But even cooler is that you can drag the screen around, zoom in to a very close proximity, and you can even overlay driving directions on the satellite imagery.  Now how much better can it get than that?

Check it out!

Friday, June 3, 2005 4:29:49 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Thursday, March 10, 2005

Thanks to Server Intellect!  Ever since I put dotNetTemplar.Net up, I've just kind of tolerated that my activity tracking doesn't work.  It was one of those things where you just don't feel like hassling with figuring it out.  dasBlog was sooo easy to set up, I wasn't about to complain or spend much time messing with it, especially since activity tracking is not too terribly important to me--it's just a nice to have.

Fast forward a few months.  I keep getting told by Cindy that she's getting referrals from me, so I finally get fed up and decide to figure it out.  First of all, I upgraded to the latest version of dasBlog, thinking maybe there was a fix in the upgrade.  Not so, but I did get some nice perf enhancements and a CAPTCHA comment spam blocker (and yes, I know these aren't perfect, but they're better than nothing).  And I'm now getting emails for referrals as well.

So my next step, as any good developer will tell you, was Google.  Searching on "tracking not working dasblog" didn't turn up much.  I tried a few variations and found some blogs by folks talking about dasBlog and/or tracking, but nothing along the lines of what I was looking for.

Then I decided to log into the kickin' control panel for my Server Intellect hosting, thinking it might be some setting (probably permissions) that I could change.  Well, I found out I can't do everything in the control panel (i.e., change permissions on directories), but I did find out that the logs directory only had files from 11/21/2004-11/26/2004.  Bringing up those dates in my activity tracker actually showed data (wow!), so I then was almost sure it was a permissions thing. 

Since I can't change/check that myself, I emailed Server Intellect at 6:11am, asking them to check the permissions.  The response, which I received just about an hour later (I guess for once I'm up earlier than someone), was that dasBlog does logging under ThreadPool threads and that my site runs under impersonation.  The configured site impersonated identity has the requisite permissions to write to the logs directory (and the SiteConfig and content--hence most of dasBlog works); however, the ThreadPool doesn't inherit the identity of the impersonated user, so the logging threads couldn't write to the logs directory.  They granted the ThreadPool's identity those perms on the logging directory, and voila, I'm actually seeing activity tracking data again!

Of course, now knowing the problem, a Google search on "ThreadPool thread doesn't inherit the impersonation settings" brings up a blog by Omar Shahine that shows this isn't the first time Server Intellect (formerly EAServe) has run into this problem.  I guess they need to add a "are you running dasBlog" checkbox to their signup form so they know to enable this or perhaps add it to their KB.  I'm not complaining, though--as soon as I reported the problem, it was fixed. 

So thanks again, Server Intellect!  Now maybe I can figure out a way to get the ThreadPool to inherit the identity of the queuing thread without having to know the logon info for that identity...

Thursday, March 10, 2005 7:55:08 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, March 5, 2005

After a few weeks of moving, moving the data center at GTE FCU (note the new HQ in the top graphic), moving to a new job, and moving to a new house--we're finally pretty much settled in.  The move of the data center, while a long and hectic week (especially for the infrastructure guys), went off quite well with little notable down time for the systems, and I just got my first paycheck from ASPSOFT this week.  We just finished hanging most of our wall hangings at home, and I'm writing this from my new study (yay! I've got a study! with a nice view!), hanging out with my five-month-old son.  It was a crazy few weeks, but I think it's over and I can find a good groove again.

Apparently, though, I don't have much on Jim Blizzard, who just moved down from the Northwest to join us Tampa nerds.  Welcome to Tampa, Jim!  Any friend of Joe's is a friend of mine. :)  Looking forward to meeting you at the upcoming Tampa Nerd Dinner!

Saturday, March 5, 2005 2:16:47 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Monday, February 21, 2005

Today my day was made much better when I saw the trailer for the new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  The previous movie was so bad--it put me to sleep, literally!  This one promises to be much better; it might actually be funny (like the book).  AWESOME!!

Monday, February 21, 2005 11:13:15 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [2]  | 
# Monday, February 7, 2005

Last Friday (February 4th), I gave my notice at GTE Federal Credit Union.  I’ve accepted a position with the angryCoder’s company, ASPSOFT, Inc.  Nothing bad precipitated this event; it is just a matter of timing where I think it just makes sense to move into a more dynamic role, working with folks who are as interested in and as good (or better) at software development and .NET as I am. 

I’ve truly enjoyed my time at the credit union, and I still highly recommend it to folks looking for that kind of position.  I also completely recommend it as a financial institution—I’ve seen how they run the place, and I’ve got almost all of my finances with them now.  If you want a financial institution that is interested in you as an individual and offers great rates on loans and dividends, this is the place to be.

At ASPSOFT, I am looking forward to expanding my skill set further and engaging with diverse clientele while working with some of the best people in the business.  My first assignment, strangely enough, is going to be working with GTE FCU to finish out the main project I was working on.  I’m glad we were able to work this out because it is a win for everyone and will make a very smooth transition.

Going forward, I hope to expand ASPSOFT’s involvement in the Tampa area and beyond.  If you are looking for .NET architecture guidance from industry-recognized and published experts, be it through consulting, outsourcing, or training and mentoring, ASPSOFT can definitely help you out.  Give us a ring and let’s see what we can do!

Monday, February 7, 2005 2:39:55 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [5]  | 
# Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Tuesday, January 11, 2005 4:22:38 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Monday, January 10, 2005

Thanks to Cindy for finding this one.

I am nerdier than 62% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Well, it's official, I'm nerdy but not that nerdy. :)  At least I'm nerdier than Cindy! 

Actually, I think the test is slanted towards geeks more than nerds in general.  You see, I tend to think of geeks as specialized, technical nerds, i.e., the kind that this test is obviously targeting.  But you have other nerds as well--the kind who do well in school and are more interested in non-technical yet bookish pursuits (such as history, philology, philosophy, theology, etc.).  Given my geek score (indicated above), if you combine that with a more general nerd score, I think I'd be tipping the scales. :)

So, how do you rank?

Monday, January 10, 2005 9:35:34 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [4]  | 
# Wednesday, October 27, 2004

This is the official launching of my new site, dotNetTemplar.net.  My old blog will retain the stuff that was posted there, and I will likely still cross-post useful .NET-related items, but this will be my primary site and will host all content for me going forward.

I have been quite reticent in the past when it comes to posting non-.NET stuff on the weblogs.asp.net site, believe it or not.  On this site, that won't be the case.  I'll be talking about any old thing, and once v2 of the ASP.NET Forums are released, I'll likely set up a forum here for discussion of various topics not related to .NET.

That's not to say I won't be posting technical content (not by any means), but this site will be a better blend of who I am and what I do (e.g., hosting code samples, presentation slides, etc.).

In any case, I know your time is very important, and this is a standing thank you to anyone who deigns to read my musings.  I realize that sites like these are adventures in applied solipsism, so please forgive me if I occassionally wander into areas that seem only to matter to me. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2004 6:43:07 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, October 26, 2004
Reflections on ease of setup of two blogging software solutions.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004 10:07:01 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

The opinions expressed herein are solely my own personal opinions, founded or unfounded, rational or not, and you can quote me on that.

Thanks to the good folks at dasBlog!

Copyright © 2020 J. Ambrose Little