Another year behind me. Not a bad year.

I picked up a new client this year, and reduced my time spent working with the client I've had for the past couple of years. The new client provides opportunities for more interesting work. I've been able to do more mobile and web development, and will be doing some embedded-systems development soon. I may be able to put Windows/.NET development behind me for a while. I was able to give myself a nice bump in my hourly rate.

Family and dogs are doing fine. There is nothing very interesting to report, but I'm happy.

We're planning to visit relatives in North Dakota this summer. I haven't been back there for a while (over ten years, I think), so it will be nice to see everybody.

I think I'm healthier than I was a year ago. I started running in August, and ran a 10K on New Year's Day. I have started training to run a half-marathon at the end of March. I've lost a few pounds and a few waistline inches. If I can lose 20 pounds this year, I'll be in good shape.

Goals for the coming year:

  • Write in my journal every day.
  • Run a half marathon, and the Peachtree Road Race 10K. (Maybe: run Atlanta Marathon this fall.)
  • Practice guitar at least six days per week. My wife bought me a nice Fender Telecaster for Christmas/birthday, which has been a good motivator.
  • Learn to play keyboard. My brother bought me a keyboard for Christmas/birthday, so I have no excuses not to learn to play.
  • Look at this list of goals once in a while.

My Setup

I'm a fan of The Setup, a website containing interviews with people about the tools they use to do their jobs. It is just "productivity porn", but I find it interesting.

As a tribute, here is my own "interview" for The Setup, using the standard four questions. I don't expect anyone to find this interesting, but writing it up helps me think about what I'm using and why, and it will come in handy the next time I have to set up a new computer.

20 Years Ago

It was 20 years ago this month that I graduated from college and got my first professional programming job. It has me reminiscing about what the computer programming profession was like before the Internet.

Cold Science Fiction

I read a lot of science fiction (SF) in my adolescent and teenage years, but I got bored with it in college, and stopped reading it. Actually, I didn't get bored, I got annoyed with it. At the time, I couldn't describe exactly what it was that was annoying me, but I felt that each SF novel I read was following a formula that had stopped entertaining me, and that SF had become a waste of my time.

In the past few years, I've started reading SF again. I've read new stories by new authors, and tried to catch up on some of the SF classics I should have read back in the 80's. A friend loaned me his copy of Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I looked forward to reading it, as I had heard it was one of the best SF novels ever written.

I hated it. This novel reminded me of everything that made me stop reading science fiction.

Lots of smart people do enjoy this book, so I spent some time thinking about what they see in it, and what it is that I find so repulsive.


It's another one of those "5" years. I'm now halfway to 90. 90 sounds old, but once upon a time, 45 sounded old too.

The year has not been easy. We lost my maternal grandmother, Ann Woods, in August. I have many good memories of time spent with her up in North Dakota.

My brother announced that he and his wife were getting a divorce. Again, not happy news, but we have to accept it. The end-of-year family get-togethers have seemed incomplete without my sister-in-law.

However, even with those events, this year has been a pretty good one for me.

Professionally, things have been better than usual. I developed Real Professional mobile apps for iPhone/iPad and Android. These apps have over 30,000 users, and they have been well received. Most applications I've developed during my career had only a few dozen users, so this larger reach gives me a sense that I can have some sort of effect on the world.

I've wanted to make iPhone and iPad software since I was 12 years old. Unfortunately, iPhones and iPads didn't exist back then. I'm glad that the devices are finally here, and that they pay me to work with them.

One resolution I've made for the coming year is to spend at least one hour per day working on personal programming projects. I gave up programming "for fun" a few years ago when work was burning me out, but now my interest has been rekindled.

I started meditating almost-daily about 12 months ago. For this, I credit 5by5's Dan Benjamin, who mentioned his meditation practice on several podcasts. I'm no zen master, but I do feel less stress and it's easier to ignore all the little problems in my life. I only have a mental breakdown two or three times a day now.

The optometrist prescribed progressive lenses for me this year. I don't like having old-people glasses, but I'm glad that my corrected eyesight is better. I wish I'd gotten these years ago.

Life with my wife and stepson keeps getting better. Bailey has matured and calmed down a lot over the past year—we actually see him smile once in a while! Pebble hasn't had to spend any time in the hospital this year, which makes us both feel a lot better. Our five dogs are all healthy and happy. Our little cabin in the foothills is still the nicest place I've ever been.

I don't like getting older, but as long as the years keep getting better, I won't complain about it.

The Apple Store Needs a Checkout Counter

The Apple Store is a great place to go if you want to play with new Apple products or get help at the Genius Bar. But if you go there to buy something, the experience is confusing and humiliating.

Everyone knows how the process of buying something at a store is supposed to work:

  1. You pick up the product(s) you want to buy.
  2. You go to the end of the line at the checkout counter.
  3. When it's your turn, you step up to the counter, transact your business, and go on your way.

In contrast, here is how things work at the Apple Store:

  1. You pick up the product(s) you want to buy.
  2. You stand there like a child who has lost his mommy, looking around for a friendly Apple associate who can help you.
  3. As the Apple associates are always busy helping other customers, you pick one and stand nearby, hoping to catch their attention when they are finished with the current customer.
  4. Eventually, after helping the current customer, and maybe a few others who are also standing nearby, the associate asks how they can help you. You say you want to buy the things you have been holding. The associate says, "OK, I'll find someone to help you", and goes to look for one of the associates who has one of the magic credit-card-reading devices. You stand there looking lost again for a while.
  5. Eventually, a person with a magic device arrives to let you make your purchase. You fumble around, juggling products between your armpits, your crotch, and under your chin while you present each item for scanning. Then you drop all the items while you dig out your wallet and credit card.
  6. While you pick up the items you have dropped, the person swipes your card, then hands the little device back to you so you can check some boxes and sign your name. Again, your items have to go into your armpits and onto the floor.
  7. While you pick up your items again, the person goes to one corner of the store to get your printed receipt, then to the opposite corner of the store to get you a bag, then back to you. You help the associate put your items into the bag, and then you go on your way.

Wouldn't this all be easier if there was a checkout counter?

Sometimes the old ways are best.

Why I Loved The Social Network

I'm writing this the night before the Oscars, but that is not why I'm writing. I only saw three of the films nominated for Best Picture: The King's Speech, True Grit, and The Social Network. While I enjoyed The King's Speech and True Grit,, I haven't thought about them since I saw them. In contrast, I still think about The Social Network every day.

For some, The Social Network is just a story about how an arrogant jerk became a billionaire by screwing over his friends and business associates. I didn't see it that way. To me, it is a story about the nature of creativity and invention.


Another year past. Highlights of the past year:

We've acquired two more dogs this year: "Blitz," a Miniature Schnauzer, and "Lucy," one of a litter of puppies from our Yorkies Boo and Tweezer. This brings the total to five. We gave away four puppies from two litters this year. One puppy, "Riley," ended up with my parents, and the other three were taken by Bailey's soccer coach.

Stopped working for Scientific Games as a contractor, and returned to TransCore as a contractor.

My wife Pebble went through a couple of surgeries in the space of a few weeks this summer, so that was tough on her, but she's doing well now.

Bsiley started middle school. He has taken up the oboe. I'm happy to hear him practicing it. It's the first thing he's taken any interest in other than videogames, and it's nice to seem him excited about it.

I've gained back ten of the thirty pounds that I lost in 2009. So I'm working on that again.

I don't know what's in store for me this year. I may be offered permanent employment with TransCore. I may start an MBA program in the fall. I'm sure there will be surprises and setbacks.

Anyway, enough for now. It's time for the hourly dog-poop removal.

New Job, Old Job

For the last seven years, I've been working with a company that does gaming-related stuff (lotteries, casinos, race tracks). I worked for a few years as an employee, and later as a contractor. Like all jobs, it's had its ups and downs, but on the whole it was a good experience.

I would have been happy to continue it, but a few weeks ago the company announced a "strategic partnership" with a European gaming company, with the intent of selling that other company's products in the US. That's probably good news for the company and its shareholders, but it's not good news for those of us who develop the products that are to be phased out.

It was pretty clear we would eventually be laid off, but it wasn't clear when that would happen in a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. I started putting out feelers, hoping I'd be able to jump before getting pushed.

Thoughts on the iPad

I like the iPad. A few friends and acquaintances accuse me of being stupid and easily fascinated by sparkly objects. Rather than have the same argument over and over again, I'm writing all my thoughts and predictions here. I will speak no further on the subject until I actually own an iPad.

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