Author - Web Developer - Educator
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My ArtistFirst Radio Interview

I was interviewed by ArtistFirst! You didn't listen in? No worries - my interview is available for you to listen right here:



Tags:#radio #interview #artistfirst #books #author

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Night Blade Progress and Birthday Results

Night Blade 2 Cover This may be a little late in posting, but I just got back from my family vacation over the weekend. The night before I left for it, I finished "Night Blade: Day of Reckoning". 300 pages, 82200 words later, it is finished.

My original goal was 10k more than book #1, and I believe I passed that by 37%. Not bad for my 2nd book, but now I expect that book #3 will have 100k, and book #4 will have 120k, if the pattern continues. Anyway, the manuscript has been submitted for editing and I'm expecting the book to publish in the next few weeks.

Although my progress was a bit shaky, I'm proud that I was able to finish half of the Night Blade series. Let's just say that this is the "bird's eye view" of book #2:
Chisai is captured, Niko and Kitsune fight to get her back, all three of them fight Omego and the people they met at the matsuri, Tsuyoki re-enters the scene, Tsuyoki tasks 3 people with challenges, all of the main characters go to Niko's parent's house, Kitsune's parents visit, give the main characters new clothes, they all go to Chisai's school's festivals and get into a major fight, one of Chisai's friends gets majorly hurt, Niko's friend gets hurt (emotionally), and they start to chase down another thief.

That's it for Book #2. Book #3 will have a major fight in it, more progress with Niko's blade, Tsuyoki's plan progress, the secret processing in the background, and starting one of the biggest fights the characters will have to go through, along with going deeper into a relationship. We'll just see what happens.
Words vs Goal

Words per day


On to the family retreat: I left friday for Murphy to meet up with my parents, my sisters, brother-in-law, and nieces and nephew. Although I expected it to be something like last year, I must say that it wasn't too bad. My parents and I (and Keat) went to a new restaruant in Murphy and got some pizza, then the rest of the family arrived. We all went on a trip to Georgia (Amicalola Falls) on Saturday, had a picnic, watched a bird show (really great), walked down the waterfall and got some great photos, and got back. Then, we talked, celebrated my (and Jarrod's) birthday(s) with a brownie cook-off, got some great presents, and played "Cardinal Mexican Train", which is extremely confusing and requires a few rounds to understand it. We then left on Sunday and toured Leatherwood Falls, which I'm glad that the GPS got us there instead of "Let's go this way" kind of trip. Afterwards, we all departed our own ways.

Overall, it was a great family vacation, I got Book #2 done, and I'm spending the next week exploring my new gifts.

Here's an overview of what I got: my dad's old work laptop (it's a Dell, but I can work with it), an android tablet (which needs some work, but for an inexpensive Taiwainese-knock-off, it isn't too bad), and some Star Trek comics (which I didn't even know existed).


Tags:#startrek #murphy #nightblade #georgia #falls #brownie

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Pre Xmas Status

It's been a busy end-of-November, and the holiday chaos is just beginning.

The good news: I finally got to work on the Pi some. After reconnecting my Pi and finding out that it had been dormant for about 7 months, I decided to kick things back into gear. First, the server setup:
Server Setup

With the Pi set up in the window, I set up the Cron system to automatically delete all files older than 20 minutes and automatically RSYNC over to the main server for remote management. Having all of the images on the Pi over the course of a day creates over 90,000 files and fills up the tiny 8GB device within hours. So I had to find another method. Luckily, I already knew how to automatically back up files over RSYNC with Password-less SSH sessions. Yay.

Cron commands:
*/2 * * * * root find /var/www/motion/* -mmin +30 -exec rm -f {} \;
 
*/5 * * * * pi /home/pi/rsync.sh
See my rsync script at my other post

Other good news: Night Blade has been published! Yes, we are out of the Proofing stage and officially selling copies!

Luckily, I got my Proof copy right before we left for Thanksgiving, and I spent the majority of Thanksgiving break proofing the edition (all of 6 days). After I got home, I made the modifications to the manuscript, reformatted it, and re-uploaded it to CreateSpace, Smashwords, and Leanpub. Personally, I'm proud of the fact that I wrote a book. Now on to #2: Day of Reckoning!

Back to Thanksgiving for a bit. Keat and I did the turkey, which turned out well, as expected. A little drama happened over the break that I really am glad that I wasn't a part of, although I wish I was in order to defend Keat a bit. As expected, as usual, we went on a hike. This time to Stone Mountain.
Keat on Stone Mountain

Overall, it was "fun" with the expectation of someone questioning your every decision. Ah, the holidays.

Also, since Shadow Dev is going through a bit of a revamp (and I spent some time writing instead of coding), I've been looking for some jobs with very little success. My requirements are as follows: non-sales job and non-fast food. Aside from that, I'm pretty much open to anything, but 90% of the jobs are "Part Time Sales", if you know what I mean.
Our Generation on Jobs
(I did not say this - it is a screenshot from Failbook)

I mean, I don't mean to be picky, and I have very good reasons to why I said what I did. As per my previous experience (and what many others have told me), I suck at selling. I'll say it again: I suck at selling. I'll admit it. Anyone who hires me to sell will never get their ROI back. They'll pay me to stand there and do many other things (stock, checkout, manage, etc), but not to sell. I'm a "people pleaser", and if I know of something that you can do to save you money and not hand it over in an "upsell" tactic, I will let you know. Although I'm thinking I need to move away from the "people pleaser" state as it seems to be doing more harm than good for me.

Anyway, here's what has been happening so far:
- Haywood Community College: I applied for the Small Business Director position. Personally, I thought I was a great fit. I met all of their qualifications (including a Degree in Entrepreneurship, which I have), so I thought I was a shoe-in. I sent in my application, my research paper, and my transcript copy to them in September as the due date for the application was October 30th. After a month, I didn't hear back, but it was still before the due date, so I sent in a message via USPS contacting them about the status of my application.

A few days before the due date, I was contacted by the HR Department saying "We received your letter, but not your application." Confused about the situation, I hand delivered in the other copy of the application, my research paper, and another transcript request copy to them an hour afterwards.

Not hearing anything back, I emailed the HR person about a followup. They said that they never received my transcript, and I had to go on a wild goose chase to find out where it went. Western said that they sent out both requests that I sent in, with the matching dates and addresses as well, so the problem was with HCC. Apparently, the problem was that my transcripts (and probably my first application) went to Student Services, not HR. I called Student Services and asked them to deliver my transcript to HR (across the hall).

Afterwards, I contacted the HR person again and asked for a status update. She said that the committee was making their decisions and that interviews were to be held on December 5th and 6th. Well, here it is, December 9th, and no callback. Which means, I didn't even get considered.

- Thinking that the HCC job was a deadend (and looking for backups), I applied to Target on December 3rd for "Backroom Stock" (not Sales and not Fast Food - perfect!). The application process wasn't that hard, but I have yet to hear back.

- I also applied to Biltmore a while back (October), but was turned down for 3 different positions: IT Staff, Security Guard, and Dishwasher. Yes, Dishwasher. I was passed up for a Dishwasher. Their message:
Thank you for your recent application for our Dishwasher position 
 
with The Biltmore Company.  We regret to inform you that we have filled this 
 
position. After considering each application carefully, our hiring team felt 
 
that there were other candidates that more closely matched the specific needs
 
 of the position.
Seriously? WTF?

- Looking elsewhere, I also applied to Regal Grand Theaters hoping to get some low-line cleanup crew position (hey, it's money). After visiting the theater with Keat at the Catching Fire premiere, the whole building said that they were hiring. So, I applied on December 3rd and have yet to hear back (I was hoping my LMP experience would mean something. I guess not)

If "overqualification" is a thing (it was when I applied to Best Buy back in 2004), then maybe I should do this:
Overqualification solved


Onto a different topic, I visited the NCCAT center last night to celebrate the "Hour of Code" (an initiative program to increase programming skills in schools) and talked to Dr. Wade with the NCCAT. After briefly meeting with him, I think that we may be on our way to start our own CoderDojo in the WNC area (the closest one is in Missouri). I also got an "Hour of Java" which was interesting. I contacted Dr. Andrew Scott for more information. Although, this has resparked my love for programming.

Meanwhile, Keat is working with a few "clients" on a Consulting business. Knowing that, we had a discussion and may be opening a "Web Technologies Consulting Business". Since "Web Design" is such a flooded market, and there aren't really any upsides to DIY Websites (and people want the moon, but only want to pay $1), we explored WordPress (yes, I know - stop badgering me) as a viable option. I installed a test environment and it does seem quite easy to use, so we may be able to offer that as a "Small Website Option" and make the clients manage it themselves. Self-managed websites with client decisions and actions, without being yelled at for things out of our control or expectations that we can never meet? I think it's definitely a considerable option, but not just for the "Web Design" factor - a consultant should be referenced.

And just because my week had been going like a wild rollercoaster, I saw/heard this, and it really helped me along:

And a reference:
Tso - get it?

And with that, I probably won't post again until after Christmas, as the holiday chaos is catching up and my sleep pattern is completely messed up.


Tags:#thanksgiving #nightblade #rsync #cron #stonemountain #jobs #consulting #target #haywood #regal #bc #nccat #coderdojo #hourofcode #picard #startrek #tng

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I wrote my first book!

What are Sales?

It's official. I have officially finished writing my first book. The first book of the Night Blade series has been finished as of 7:40pm today.

Over 60,000 words, 220 pages, and 9 chapters later, I have converted (and revised) Volumes 1-5 of "Neko Sentou" into "Night Blade". I must say, I'm proud of myself for doing such a large feat.

I must give a lot of credit to NaNoWriMo for giving me the "kick in the butt" I needed to start something like this. On November 2, when I first learned about it, I thought that the "50,000 goal" was way out of the way. I would have to incorporate all of my scripts into one novel, and then add some more to make the goal. Instead, using the first 5 volumes as a basis, and a 1,666 word/day quota, I not only met the 50,000 word goal, I surpassed it by 21.06%!

Yes, my official word count is 60,530. And that's just the first 5 volumes. I'm expecting to make Volumes 6-10 into Book 2: Day of Reckoning. Let me first get through the publishing process before I begin that book.

It was definitely a challenge to take visual aspects and put them into descriptive terms. However, through many late nights between Nov 2 and now, I can say the novel has been completed!

My stats for this novel:
Words per day track Words vs Goal

...and here's my sleep pattern for the past month, just to show how late I was up during some intense-writing mornings:
Sleep Duration



Tags:#nekosentou #nightblade #novel #writing #book #nanowrimo #charts #sleepbot #pearlsbeforeswine

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This is why you shouldn't interrupt a Programmer

I recently subscribed to the Startup Digest mailing list, which has been full of very helpful articles and references. Today, though, I saw something that I just had to share.

I previously wrote about my Thought Process and all of the steps that go into planning something mentally as far as all of the steps/obstacles/designs/concepts/etc that go into planning a site/program/application. However, I don't think that got the point across that I was trying to make.

Instead, this comic does a perfect job of making my point:


In summary: when a programmer, like myself, is deep in thought trying to figure something out, don't bother us with a tech support question, personal issues, clarification requests, etc. When we get into the thought process "zone", getting out is easy, but getting back in is hard (insert joke here).

Here's a reference from The Big Bang Theory to help illustrate my point (ignore the Raccoon virus stuff):


Tags:#programmer #thought #process #startupdigest

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Mid-September Review

Bug Martini

It's halfway through September, and things have been less than calm. Ever had one of those days where nothing goes right and you pretty much have to change everything in order to fit one request/demand/requirement? Yeah, stretch that over about a week, and that is/was my past 2 weeks.

Here's the rundown:

Server Downtime, Transfer, and Remodification


Over the past week, I had to majorly downgrade/upgrade the primary hosting server for Shadow Dev. Since our primary hosting environment was costing us $200/qtr, we were looking for an alternate hosting environment. The requirements were simple: Linux hosting environment, ability to SSH into it from a remote location, and root access. You'd be amazed how many services out there offer a "Windows/Linux" environment for a much lower price, but no Admin/Root access. I'm sorry, but I need direct control over the server, and shouldn't be waiting on the hosting service to perform updates (especially security updates).

So, we had a partner company help us out. Over the past few months, we transferred all of our primary data to their hosting server, since they were helping us out. Things were going smoothly. Our old VPS system ended their service on September 1st, and we weren't going to renew. Things were going as expected.

Since our primary hosting environment was hosted semi-locally, I split off my personal stuff and the business stuff. I modified the DNS servers to point home so I could host my personal website (this one), and have the business stuff on a "business dedicated" server. Meanwhile, my plan was to relaunch the main Shadow Dev site with a new design and direction on September 1st, but that had to be delayed by a few days.....and then the problem started.

Do you recall my previous blog posting about the "Server Connection Confusion"? On September 2nd, I was trying to SSH/FTP into the server to update some business pages and could not get through. I could access the server via Port 80 (HTTP), but not 22 (SSH) or 21 (FTP), which meant that I could view what was on the server, but I could not modify it in anyway. There was one option: I could access Port 10000 (VirtalMin backend management) and download/upload one file at a time, but I had about 200 files to download, modify, and upload, so that would have taken forever. I kept trying over the next few hours with no success.

On September 3rd, I tried to access the server hoping that the Port 21/22 issue was just a fluke (as it sometimes happens). However, I could not access any part of the server. SSH, FTP, HTTP, VirtualMin backend, Email, anything (which meant that my primary email server was down as well). I sent an email to the company that manages the physical hardware and said that the server was down and if they could look into it. Their response: "Yes, it is down, [they] will boot it back up. You will need to start paying for this server or remove your content from it. Out accounting software has placed a hold on it. As we have decided our relationship has not been mutually beneficial." Long story short: our "tradeoff" was not paying off. The tradeoff was "website service" for "hosting space". I should have realized something when the person we were talking to said "You have creative freedom." In an inexperienced mindset, that means "YAY! I can do anything without limits and they will like it!" In an experienced mindset, that translates into "I don't know what I want. Read my mind, or I will turn down any ideas/suggestions you have" which, in a "web designers" standpoint, is a huge red flag. It also doesn't help that we only had one informal meeting about a new site for them.

Anyway, in my response to that email, I said "If that is the case, then we will remove our content from it. In our current state, we cannot afford $1200/year for hosting, as we were paying $800 before. / Please reactivate it so I can move all of the content from it within a reasonable timeframe, then you can do with it as you wish. / I wish our relationship could have been more beneficial."

Afterwards, I tried to re-login to the server (as I was told they would boot it back up). Same result: nothing.

I waited and tried to re-login to the server over a few hours. That turned into the next day. I sent another email to the company restating "Please reactivate the server so I can move all of the content from it within a reasonable timeframe".

Once again, nothing. This downtime was really starting to mess with our uptime records, which we try to strive for a 99.9% uptime record. This was not helping. However, I did get an idea; get a cache of our main site (CSS3 and minimal design concepts only), modify my home server to act as a proxy-hosting server, and get the uptime records going. It took about 3 hours to get (since the primary hosting server was pretty much "blocked"). Thanks to CloudFlare's uptime caching, I was able to get the egg, the egg shadow, and the CSS3 that I used to make it move. I made the DNS changeover, and our uptime was back up and going. It wasn't the full-fledge hosting server, but it's better than nothing.

Day 3 of primary server downtime: I sent yet another email to the hosting company and said "I have tried to be patient with you, but my patience is wearing thin. I have asked nicely in my previous emails to reactivate the hosting server so I can transfer our content off of it. I have not heard back from you since my email on the 3rd. Since it seems like you are holding our content hostage, we are facing our 52nd hour of downtime, and our clients (and ourselves) are suffering that have their sites hosted on this server. In addition, any one who has email being handled by the server is not receiving any emails, including myself, which is causing panic since the emails are not bouncing or anything." Seems like a mostly professional message, right? (By the way, we had about 25GB that we needed to get - note to self: don't have the primary hosting and backup services by the same 3rd party)

I received a response within minutes: "You patients is thin? It is your actions that caused your problem by not producing anything. If you are that poor of an admin and do not have a backup of your content sounds like a personal issue... However I have issued the boot command to your server. Remove your content asap." (yes, misspellings and typos are maintained). I will say that 'Yes, we did not have a primary backup, because you said that you were going to enable that for us, but never did after many months of saying you would.' Regardless, situation has passed.

Anyway, the server was booted back up, which meant that I could get the files....or so I thought. I tried to SSH into the server, but for some reason (whether through my own doing of automating a port blocker or not), I could not. After many hours of fiddling with system and network settings, I came to a conclusion: my IP address was being blocked via Port 22 (SSH). This meant that I could not SSH into my home server and initiate an SCP transfer (Secure Copy - basically a command-line FTP between two Linux-enabled boxes). However, FTP was still open, so I initiated a primary backup to my home desktop (not the home server). I had the max system simultaneous downloads set at "2". I increased it to "3". Yay, things were going faster. I increased it to "4". Even better. I increased it to "5", and things crapped out. I could not SSH/FTP/HTTP or anything into the remote server. Which meant that I was back at square 1.

Based on my previous experience, I knew that I could log in to the server via SSH using my phone (thank you ConnectBot) and the 4G connection. I did so and tried to initiate an SCP connection from the remote server into my home server (for some reason, incoming SSH connections from my IP weren't getting through, but outgoing's a whole new story - and before you bark at me, yes, I did check the iptables for an Incoming blocking rule. There were none. Anyway, I let that run since I thought things were going a bit slow, but better than nothing.

After about 30 minutes, ConnectBot just quit. No reason, no message, no disconnect dialog boxes. It just quit. Which meant that I couldn't SCP for more than 30 minutes, which was a problem.

I tried to FTP into the server again, and was able to. I decreased the amount of simultaneous downloads to "4" and let it run. It took about 8 hours to transfer everything, including the primary MySQL databases.

After everything transferred, I ran a rm -rf command in the /var/www/vhosts/ folder. I know it's not completely secure, but at least it gets rid of things on a first level basis (installing a secure command like shred was possible, but the documentation didn't say anything about shredding a folder - it was only 1 file at a time, which for 25GB, will take a very long time). I also dropped the primary MySQL database and let it. My last words: good riddance.

So, I had the primary hosting files on my home desktop. Now to begin the mega-upload to the home server. 3 hours later, transfer complete. Now for the fun part: setting up the "Linux Desktop" to operate as a "Linux Server" (which, by the way, is not GUI based anymore, so all of this was done via Command Line), to be able to handle multiple domains and subdomains, import the huge MySQL database dump, setup the permissions for the databases, files, and folders, and re-initiate the cron jobs to run. Let's just say that I'm 99% done all of that as of now.

One of the hardest portions I had to deal with was separating out all of the domains. Let me explain: on the old hosting environment, all of the domains (except for the primary shadowdev.com domain), were managed and recorded under one central apache2.conf file, which Apache looked for and loaded for all of the domains. My home server, although the same operating system, didn't like that. Therefore, I had to go into the primary apache2.conf file and separate out each domain into it's own file under /etc/apache2/sites-available/[site], then run sudo a2ensite [site] to make it enabled, then sudo service apache2 restart to allow for the webserver to reload and reread the configuration files. Yeah, that was fun.

I still don't have the Postfix/Dovecot system completely operational yet, but the server can now receive and forward emails. It can't 100% send emails yet, but I'm working on it. I also have some finer points of the cron jobs to figure out. Aside from that, the server (hopefully) should be back up and operational.

Liquidation Sale Troubles


On a related note, we had our Liquidation Sale on the 31st for the office. Let's just say that apparently this town doesn't like any "Liquidation Sale" signs around the area. I posted a few around town, hoping that they would allow them for just a few days (since the event was on the following Saturday). I can understand taking down signs that are for an event a few weeks away, or for personal services or hand-written items that are pretty much illegible. However, after checking on all of the signs I put up, all of them were taken down. Now, I want to hope that it was because people liked the event and wanted to make a note of when/where it was. Based on the attendance record of Saturday, it was obvious that the signs were removed. We only sold $110 worth of stuff, 1 buyer, and 2 browsers. I mean, it's better than nothing, but I wish that we sold more. Now, the agreement that I put in with the landlord was "Anything that we didn't sell on the 31st is free-for-all for any tenants." That didn't translate quite as I expected. It turned into "We [the landlords] will keep what we think is ours, but you have to remove everything else." So, I get a large box from Walmart and try to remove a bunch of the small stuff. I receive an email a few days later saying "We have a tenant that would like to move in, so please remove all small items from the office." So I have to get another box (luckily they are cheap) and go back and get the rest of the small stuff. So much for getting rid of all of the small stuff.

Let's just say that our home is overflowing with office-related stuff. I'm just glad that we don't have to bring any of the BIG stuff home - I have no idea where we would store it. So yeah - our nice, professional, dedicated office is now sitting at home.

Getting the main site back up


The new Shadow Dev site
Meanwhile, I got the new Shadow Dev site up and going and wrote a State of Shadow Development Address for the public. Basically, it says that "We did our best, it wasn't good enough, so we are changing directions to pursue new ideas." That's pretty much it summed up. You can read the rest if you want.

I've been working on finishing up the touches on the new Shadow Dev site (like cross-browser compatibility, improving it's performance on other connections, and finishing up the content distribution with the database. It's coming along a bit slower than I had hoped, but working at home has it's own pros and cons to it.

Personally, I'm having a hard time dealing with the major downsizing and removal of partner services. What I had to do 7 years ago in my dorm room (where I had the main hosting server sitting in my dorm and I was managing all of the services via Command Line Interface (CLI), I'm doing yet again. Although I'm more experienced in how to handle the technology, and the technology is a bit easier to handle, the amount of responsibility needed to make the server work like it was before is no short order.


Lunar Progress


Crystal Blaze
I'm trying to channel some creativity and write some storylines for Lunar Productions' mangas. I did create a new site for them using the old Shadow Dev design, and ramped up the interactivity and information distribution (see beta.lunar-productions.com for a preview), so that helped a bit. However, I can't launch the new site yet until we get some final items down pat. I did, however, completely revamp Death Rose into a new series. Any storywriter will tell you that there was a part in a story (or even the story itself) that seemed to make the storyline go off-track. Well, Death Rose wasn't going anywhere, and I was getting tired of forcing myself to write storyline that didn't fit. So, I revamped the whole thing: the primary storyline, the storyline concepts, the characters, the antagonists, the setting....everything! It's now called Crystal Blaze. Let's just say that it's like Sword Art Online/Matrix/StarCraft/Accel World/Star Trek mix. Yeah, I know it's a lot, but it is making sense, because I'm already on Page 19 of script. The story is unfolding in my head, and sometimes my fingers can't keep up to type the story fast enough. I will say that the beginning of the story is a bit slow, so I am thinking of adding some concepts in the beginning to make a more enticing "hook" to the story. We'll just see where it goes.

Wedding Ups and Downs


Colonnade
On a positive note, we have the Colonnade! (For the wedding, not permanently) The final "OK" was put forth by Keat's parents and we were able to sign the contract and put the downpayment in. That's just 1 of the multistep process that is wedding planning. (see more details at (temp site) kk.shadowdev.com - actual domain to come later) I will say that I knew the whole wedding planning process was going to be tough, but I thought the major disagreements and compromises would be between Keat and myself, not Keat and myself vs her parents. No matter how much planning we/I put in (I am saying "I" here because I have been self-designated as the primary planner since Keat is finishing up her last year of school. As anyone will say, "Put Education First". She's already taking 18 hours of classes, and my schedule is not set, so it's pretty much been put upon me to do most of the calling/negotiating/researching/quoting/etc for this event), it seems that her parents have some minute detail that they must demand. For example: the reception. During our discussions, Keat and I talked to the event planner at our location. She gave us a packet that outlined all of the details, prices, and items that would be provided for the reception. I had a few follow-up questions to clear up any non-clear items (like "when does the 4-hour reservation start: when the guests arrive, or when the crew starts to set up" and so on), and things were going well. Suddenly, Keat's parents demanded to have custom beer and wine at the event. They even "suggested" (kidded? I hope) to have a keg at the reception. I'm sorry, but if this was a frat party, a keg would be acceptable. At a wedding reception? I may not have been to many nor planned many, but I find a keg unacceptable.

Anyway, we asked our location how much it would be to have "a local microbrewery supply beer and a remote winery supply the wine". According to the planner, they had to purchase it because of their liquor license. Okay, understandable. I don't want to impede the liquor liability on any one unnecessary. After 2 months of asking that question, we finally received an answer: the microbrewery has to bottle their beer and ship the bottles. Our cost: $10/bottle. HOLY CRAP! $10 a bottle? That beer must be made of gold or some super rare gems! We still hadn't heard back about the winery question, so I contacted the winery directly. Within a few hours, I received a response and forwarded that to our planner. Still haven't received a response (I think at this point, they are starting to hate us and may force-cancel our penciled-in reservation with their location). After waiting so long, Keat's parents said "Let's forgo the custom wine and beer and just go with what they have. Can we get an itemized proposal for this?" At the absolute end of my frustration, I sent a calmly-worded email to the planner and asked the question. She pretty much responded with the exact same thing that the packet says that she gave us. The location, the DJ, the setup/cleanup, China, Silverware, chairs, linens, tables, etc, etc, etc, for the set price (tax and gratuity included as well). If they were getting mad at us, I don't blame them, but please don't kill the messenger. We're just passing the message along to get the check signed.

What we would like
We've also talked to the cake company that was highly, highly recommended and received a quote from our tastings. $800 for a custom, high quality, delivered day-of cake. Not a bad price. We told Keat's parents, and (I quote) the response was "Keep looking! That is out of sight!!!" Based on the amount of cake companies around here charge, yes, that is a bit high, but we're dealing with a high-quality cake here, not a "Let's go to Walmart and order a cake" kind of thing. Yes, Walmart makes great cakes. We even got our 7th Anniversary Cake from them, but I don't want to go to them for a wedding cake. That's like having a keg at the reception. At this point, it's either "go all in or get out" kind of deal. I don't (and Keat doesn't) want to compromise on a lower-quality cake that we will wish we could have improved 20 years from now just to save a few bucks. So, I contacted other cake companies around here and once you add in the amount of guests we will have along with the design concept we want (along with their delivery fee), it pretty much averages out to $800. (We had a "phone conference" (although if you call Keat's parents on 1 phone and Keat and I on another a "phone conference") about the overall budget. Basically, Keat's dad was mad that we had multiple versions of the budget. I thought he would be happy that I split the budget up into 2 categories (Estimated and Actual), then subsplit that into what Keat's parents would pay, my parents would pay, and we (Keat and I) would pay. That seemed acceptable, but he had made some adjustments that we didn't know of until he sent us his copy. I sent him our latest version (since we were the ones doing the research), and he seemed to get upset that there were multiple copies floating around, so he claimed "his" copy the official one, which means that any additions that we find due to research, we have to let him know instead of just using our own copy. I thought I could simplify things by using a Google Docs copy that would allow for simultaneous edits from multiple users, but that seems to have majorly backfired as they do not know how to use Google Docs, so we are back to "his copy being the only one that should ever exist" scenario. Yay.... I have, however, asked on multiple occasions "What is your optimal budget? What would you like to spend on an event like this? Therefore, we can stay within that range and know what the limits are." Seems like a reasonable question, right? I mean, we're trying to shoot for a $10k budget. Keat's dad is acceptable with a $15k budget (in passing conversation), but we aren't trying to spend millions upon millions on this thing. Heck, we're even below the average cost for a wedding Haywood County ($16-24k). The only answer we have received is "We don't have a set budget - we just want to make you happy", which means (yet again) "Read our minds or we'll turn down every idea and suggestion you have". Great.....)

So, if this whole wedding thing was a TL;DR for you, let me sum it up: we have the Colonnade for the ceremony, I think our Reception location hates us, we need to find a high-quality custom cake for less than $800 total, and the budget seems to be out of our hands.

Additional Money Needed


So, in order to gain some additional money in order to pay for this "seemly outrageous wedding", I decided that I should try to apply for some part-time work (heck, since I don't have to "go into the office" any more, my schedule is pretty freed up). I found out that there was a Trader Joe's opening in Asheville, so I tried to drop off an application last Tuesday. The website (which isn't 100% working) said that they were accepting applications Monday-Friday, 10-7. No problem, right? I arrived at 4:12pm on Tuesday. There was a whiteboard out by the front door that said "Accepting Applications: Tuesday - Thursday, 10-4", which meant that I was 12 minutes late. Well, that's pretty much a trip to Asheville wasted. However, thinking ahead of this process, I thought "Why not apply to Kitchen & Company?" (it's a kitchen supply company that offers a whole lot more than Walmart or other kitchen companies. Keat and I found a lot of good quality stuff in this store during our previous trips). I tried to contact the store via their website, but their careers section was on their parent company website (which was a pain to find), and they only have 1 job posting available. They said "Please contact our Admin offices to inquire about other positions", so I sent them an email inquiring about the question in hand. Within 30 minutes, I received a response basically saying "Walk into the store and bring a resume." Seems simple enough, right?

Well, I head on over to the store and start to walk in. Little did I know that there was a sign on the front door that said "Part Time Sales Associate: Must be energetic, ability to multitask, and passionate about cooking" (I may be paraphrasing here). Seems like my kind of day! (Since I do most of the cooking at home anyway). I walked in, asked for an application, filled it out, and talked to their manager. Since he saw that I had previous experience at Staples, he said that this would be pretty much the same thing (I hope so too). Although, if there is a "Kitchen Quiz", I should be ready. Questions like "How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon? What's the difference between a Santoku and a Chef's Knife? What does a 'sharpening steel' actually do?" and other questions should be easy, thanks to Alton Brown. I don't know if there will actually be a quiz, but can I say that I kind of hope so? Anyway, I received a letter in the mail today from Trader Joe's saying "Thanks for applying, but you have not been selected for an interview." Basically saying "Thanks for coming in, and we appreciate your interest, but we don't need you right now." Oh well - my dad did say to stay out of the Grocery business. I guess this is the Universe's way of keeping me out. No biggie - I have higher hopes for Kichen & Company anyway.


New Anime: Accel World


Accel World
In order to blow off some steam, I thought I would give "Accel World" another try (in laymen's terms: Accel World is by the same author as "Sword Art Online", but set about 20 years in the future (from SAO, so about 2046) where all of the <15 year olds have a digital device that allows them a "virtual environment" to type, send messages, view emails, save video, and even enter their own VR world. 'Accel World' is an advanced version of the VR world that heavily relies on a software called "Brain Burst", which allows your processing power of your brain to be increased 1000x. The (semi) downside is that in order to use it, you need to build up some "Burst Points" by fighting in the "Accel World". The theory seems legit). When I first tried it, I got about 5 minutes in and had to stop. I didn't watch the series again until this past Sunday. Throughout the week, I watched all 24 episodes (and got some great ideas for Crystal Blaze) up to Thursday evening/Friday morning.

I will say that it had some flavors of Sword Art Online, and I liked how it wasn't exactly the same (as the author wrote this post-SAO and submitted it first to a writing contest, where it won first prize) as SAO. The concepts portrayed in the series were unique enough to hold their own, but also reflected some traits of other series like Bleach), so I was able to find those traits and mold them into what Crystal Blaze (and other series) should offer. I was never in any "Creative Writing" classes, but I believe this gave me a better understanding of how to write a compelling storyline (although I still have the fan-crush on Asuna from SAO. Accel World didn't really have any characters that I could really connect with, but that's not necessarily a bad thing).

Is this the end?


That's it for now. I believe that 27,000 characters is pretty much my max limit on a blog posting like this. However, I hope this gives a better insight to what one chaotic, crazy week I have had.


Tags:#swordartonline #accelworld #wedding #colonnade #vr #kitchen&company #traderjoes #altonbrown #beer #crystalblaze #lunarproductions #shadowdev #design #server #hosting #sale #apache2 #sudo #scp #ftp #http #css3 #email #virtualmin #port #bug

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Raspberry Pi: The (Unofficial) Missing Startup Guide

Raspberry Pi Logo If you just ordered a Raspberry Pi (like me) and unboxed it only to find a circuit board and no instructions, let me outline a few things for you and make it simple to go from "box" to "running" with little to no hassle:

(also because the "Quick Start" guide was a little more confusing than expected - based on the directions, I thought it required a Windows-based computer to set up a Linux circuit board. I'm glad I was wrong, but it took me a while to find it out)

Step 1: Gathering the Necessary Parts/Cords


Here is a list of items that you will need to set up your Raspberry Pi:

  1. Micro-B USB Power Cord (with at least a 700 mA / 5V output - most cell phone chargers will work)
  2. A USB Powered Keyboard (hopefully with an input power of ~100mA)
  3. An HDMI cable (for HDMI TV's or Monitors) OR an double male RCA-RCA cable (for CRT TV's - if you have a double yellow male Video-Video cable, that will work too, as you will only need the yellow video jack). Don't expect to get a VGA connection out of this, because HDMI-VGA connectors are super expensive
  4. A Network cable (recommended)
  5. A dedicated blank (or can be blanked) 4GB+ SD Card (or Micro SD card with a full SD Reader - that's what mine is)

The SD card is here because that is the "hard drive" of the Raspberry Pi. Which means that the Pi does not come with it's own pre-installed OS, as I found out the hard way.

Alright, all of the parts have been gathered.


Step 2: Get the OS


Next, you'll need a functioning computer with internet, and go to raspberrypi.org/downloads to get an operating system.

Note Note: When I saw "For your free download go to raspberrypi.org/downloads " on the box, I thought it was for some free open source items - they didn't say "Go here for your Operating System"

At the time of this writing, the latest version of the common Raspberry Pi OS is a Debian-based distro called Raspbian (specifically, "2013-02-09-wheezy-raspbian").

Download the ZIP or Torrent of the OS to your hard drive (about 1.8GB in size) and unzip if you downloaded the ZIP.

Now, you will have to process the IMG to the SD card using a specific program.

Linux/Mac: you can use dd from a terminal
Windows: Follow the instructions on raspberrypi.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/quick-start-guide-v1.1.pdf to use Win32DiskImager

I'll be discussing Linux instructions from here.

Linux


Put the SD card into your machine (or into the USB Dongle if you don't have a card reader). Once your machine recognizes the card, find the specific location of where the card is located in the mounted file system (Debian: Go to "Applications" > "System Tools" > "Disk Utility").

Once you find the location, format the card (if you haven't done so already) so it is blank (I recommend formatting using a FAT system). Now, unmount the card, but don't pull it out of the machine.

You will need to perform the following command to get the Pi to properly read the card:
 
sudo dd bs=1M if=[location of your img file].img of=/dev/[card location]
 

Example:
 
sudo dd bs=1M if=2013-02-09-wheezy.raspbian.img of=/dev/sdf
 

NoteNote: You will want to write to the whole card, not just a partition. Double check to see if there are any numbers after your mount location. If there are, you may be writing to a partition and not directly to the card

That process will take a couple of minutes. Once it is done, confirm that it transferred the full amount to the card (1.8GB). If it did not, repeat this process from the "Format" step.

Note Note: This took me about 12 tries before the card was properly written to for the Pi to read it

Once it is properly written to, you can just remove the card, but I recommend "Powering down the device" first.

Step 3: Starting up the Pi


Hopefully, everything up to this point has been successful. If so, please proceed.

  1. Assuming you haven't already, open the Raspberry Pi from the box. I have a Model B
  2. Put the SD card into the slot below
  3. Plug in the Network cord, USB Keyboard, and HDMI/RCA cable into their respective slots (also, make sure that your TV/Monitor is on the right Input setting to receive signal)
  4. Plug in the Micro B cord into the small port opposite the Network port for power

Success! You should now see a Red LED (PWR [Power]) in the corner light up. If it did, you have power!

You should also see a Green LED (ACT [Activity]) start to flash. If it is, your Pi is reading the SD card. If it is not, your SD card may have not been written to correctly (as in my case). If it's blinking, please refer to elinux.org/R-Pi_Troubleshooting for Troubleshooting tips.

Note Note: For the longest time, I could not figure out why the Red LED would come on, but I wouldn't get any display or additional LED's. From some of the forums I was on, they called for pulling out a multimeter and testing the power flow between points. I was expecting this to be an "easy DIY project", not "easy, but you need some electrical engineering experience before you can boot up" kind of deal. Luckily, my problem was the SD card, which I was able to finally rectify.

If your Network cord is plugged in, you should also see 2-3 additional lights: FDX (green [File Data Transfer]), LNK (green [Link Connectivity]), and 100 (100Mbps, orange if 100, nothing if just 10).

Step 4: Setting up


Alright! Hopefully everything went well and your Pi is powered up, fully connected, and reading the SD card properly.

I recommend to at least do the following, just so your Pi has a standard basis for operations, unless you have other plans for it.

  1. On your screen, you should see the Startup logo and sequences (unless you are reading this slower than it took to start up). Regardless, you should see a large blue box with options
  2. Select the 2nd choice: expand_rootfs. This will expand the root file system to the SD card for usability and storage
  3. Set your Locale (if necessary)
  4. Set your Timezone
  5. Turn on SSH
  6. Hit "Finish" and confirm a reboot

Default Login: pi
Default PW: raspberry - I recommend changing this to something you will remember

Last Note


I would highly recommend running "sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get upgrade" before too long, just to make sure you have the latest system updates.

That's it! Your Raspberry Pi should be fully configured as a base to do whatever you want it to do. Go explore the options!

What can I do now?


There are a gazillion+ things that you can do with a Raspberry Pi. My first project was to create a webcam-based monitoring system from the instructions I received from pingbin.com/2012/12/raspberry-pi-web-cam-server-motion/ (including making it Wifi).

You can make a:
  • personal music server
  • small desktop environment (try startx after you reboot)
  • small network file storage system
  • media center (see openelec.tv)
  • small web server
  • sensor for recording temperature, light, wind, speed, etc
  • lightweight search engine
  • multi-core cluster processor
  • ...and more! Go google something

Enjoy!

PS: This site/guide/reference point does not in anyway endorse Raspberry Pi or the manufacturer. This guide was written as a hope to help others get started without the hassle of spending half a day to figure it out, or (if like me) have little experience tinkering with projects like this.


Tags:#raspberrypi #startup #guide #power #led #blinking #help

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Bachelor for a Week 2013: Day 4

Today was very unenthusiastic/lethargic. The thought of "something is missing" was always on my mind, and I didn't have the slightest idea why.

Here's a clue:
Squirrel


Yep, the internet was out at home, so I'm Internet/Email/TV/Server-less for the night. I don't know what the exact reason is, but I was told it will be back on tomorrow. (I'm writing this on my home server, so I still have access to that, but if you are reading this, then it means that the internet is back up)

On a better note, my order of Assimilation2 came in today! I can't wait to crack it open and see what happens to the Enterprise and the Doctor.

Since the Internet was out, I didn't really know what I was going to do. Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, iHeartRadio all require the internet, and I have limited data on my phone (which resets on the 21st, so just under a month away, and the only radio system in the house is in the attic). So I thought I would catch up on some Reboot for nostalgia-sake. Currently, I'm at the end of Season 2, and it's amazing how many adult themes/pop culture references/computer science jokes there are that I never caught as a kid (there was even a bit in AndrAIa where they have a Kirk and Picard reference!).

While I was waiting on dinner to be microwaved, I worked on some localhost files and retweaked my RSS parser. Apparently, anybody referencing my RSS feed was getting some incomplete parsed code, which looked very weird when processed. I believe I have fixed the problem, but I won't know officially until outside sources process the feed.

In addition, I have pretty much confirmed that CJ is coming up next tuesday. That will be exciting, although I expect some of my production to slow down since getting CJ+Keat+Me together can cause some rather long discussions (in a good way). Man, some stores can demonstrate that!

All things considered, Keat's vacation is half over. Optimistically, she is only 3 days away. I can't wait to (get the drive over with and) go to the Greenville airport on Friday night and pick her up. My expectation is for Saturday to be a super-lazy day and Sunday is a "you're back, let's celebrate" day (weather permitting).

Also, Doctor Who returns in 3 days as well! I won't be able to watch the live event, but I will sure find some resources to watch The Bells of St. John!

On a related note, here's this:
Dalek mania!


Tags:#internetisout #squirrel #cheezeburger #startrek #doctorwho #cj #rss #reboot #netflix #hulu #pandora #localhost #keat

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Bachelor for a Week 2013: Day 3

First, since Keat's in Colorado, here's an airplane joke (special relevance since Southwest allows you to pick your seats):
XKCD


I was able to sleep in this morning, but it was a little odd again having the big bed to myself. I can't say it was comfy, but it was almost....to comfy. I didn't actually get out of it until about 2.

The weather decided to have some different plans (as March always done) and it sprinkled about 1/4 to 1/2" of snow today. I would have driven into work, but based on the extremely low amount of cars that I have seen/heard on the road in front of our house, I'm guessing that traveling was not the best option.

So, I got comfy in my chair at ("in") my home office and started working on the "First Steps" section of the site. I've been making a lot of progress on different sections loading internally of jQuery's framework. It sounded like a challenge at first, but through the process, it has become a whole lot easier.

While I was working, I also caught up on my TV shows: Once Upon a Time, Community, American Dad, Family Guy, Malibu Country (which I found out that Lily Tomlin was Ms. Frizzle, which blew my mind), and Last Man Standing.

Also, I found out that Volume 2 of my Star Trek/Doctor Who: Assimilation 2 compilation has been shipped and will be here soon. In addition, my Raspberry Pi (which I assumed was extremely backordered and would ship in on the 29th) apparently shipped out today and is on it's way.

I did some research and tweaking on my RSS feeds for my personal blog and company blogs, and found out that my original RSS importer was not working. Therefore, I found a new one, which I highly recommend: RSS Graffiti , which is an app via Facebook. So far, it looks pretty sleek and works efficiently to import the RSS feeds into Facebook.

The first of 3 articles I wrote yesterday went live this morning: shadowdev.com/blog/article/extra-links-on-google-what-are-they-and-how-do-i-get-them (the next 2 will go live on Wednesday and Friday)

Also, I finished Enterprise tonight (this morning?). Overall, I give it a rating of 8/10 stars. It has some unique qualities of it's own, and has some TOS mixed in. Jeffery Combs does a great job in his own role, but I kind of wish the crew was a little more dimensional. Season 3 and 4 were better than the first 2, especially since Season 3 had a whole dedicated arch to itself, which reminded me of DS9 and the dominion war. At least the Xindi arc had a little more depth than the Dominion war.

Now, here's a(nother) Star Trek related comic:
Bug


That's it for me. 'Nite!


Tags:#bug #xkcd #plain #startrek #enterprise #doctorwho #raspberrypi

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Bachelor for a Week 2013: Day 2

I did not report in yesterday because I was in immense pain, almost flu-like symptoms. Needless to say, I spent most of the day in bed, surrounded by cats.

Today, however, was much better. For me, but not for the weather.
Garfield

(Seriously: a major downpour of rain today, snow last Thursday, great short-sleeve weather on previous weekends, then heavy gusts throughout the month....all that we're missing is hail)

I moved the Wii into the guest room/office so I could have some entertainment while I coded away. Let's just say that if I had a fridge and a toilet in this room, I'd never leave.

I watched a good chunk of Enterprise today. Now, I'm only 6 episodes away from the end. What's on my "To Watch" list next?

I also wrote 3 articles for Shadow Dev, which will be premiering over the course of the following week.

I worked on the small blurbs and larger fancyboxes of our new pricing page, which should also be premiering sometime soon.

I lastly worked on the Portal 2.0. I made some great stride with window.location.hash when trying to reload pages based on post-hash URI's. jQuery just became a lot better now.

Here's what I am happy about today:
 
$(function(){
 
	$('#db_menu').find('a').live('click', function(){
 
		var link_id = $(this).attr('id');
 
		$.ajax({
 
			type: "GET",
 
			url: "/get_box.php",
 
			data: { q: link_id },
 
			success: function(data){
 
				$('#db_box').html(data);
 
			}
 
		});
 
	});
 

 
	var path = window.location.hash;
 
	if (path==""){
 
		$('#main').click();
 
		window.location.hash = "#main";
 
	}
 
	else
 
		$(path).click();
 
});
 


I basically had to scrap the whole project and start from almost square 1. I kept the original login scripts along with the database structures in tact. My main starting point was from the Dashboard and so on.

My plan over the following week is to improve the new Portal to a point that it is ready to launch. The plan to launch Portal 1.0 with the new site launch had a small...drawback. It didn't convert with the new CSS well, and had a few delayed bugs in it, along with a good chunk missing for the Clients. My goal is for Portal 2.0 to fix that.

I don't usually like scrapping projects during development, but the pro is that the revamp comes out much cleaner than originally expected. Only time (and late nights) will tell if my feats become useful.

On a some-what related note, I was told by Keat (I don't recall if it was today or yesterday, as both days are a bit of a blur) that it is 4° out in Frisco right now. I would have been okay (that's a joke) with 4° Celsius, but we're in America, and that's 4° Fahrenheit. I do wish her the best in that frigid temperature. I'll stick with the rainy 40° here.

XKCD


Also, I used a gift code from StateFarm to order the next Star Trek/Doctor Who Crossover Vol. 2 comic book today. It only cost me $5.71 (and that was with shipping and tax). It would have cost me somewhere around $18 in a shop. Although I do support local shops, I had a gift code that I had to use or it would have expired.


Tags:#jquery #javascript #enterprise #startrek #projects #garfield #keat #articles #xkcd #doctorwho #comics

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January Catchup: Server Testing, Office Move, Blog Migration, and Turkeys!

The past month has been really crazy. Not just a roller coaster ride, but more like a roller coaster that had its brakes cut. Yeah - that crazy.

First (and this is in no chronological order), I watched Sword Art Online in 5 days.
SAO

Overall, the series was....is there a better word for AWESOME? The action, the progressive storyline, the drama, the mystery, the twists, EVERYTHING! In addition, I have a fan-crush on Asuna (the one on the right).

According to many independent lists, SAO was the top anime of 2012, so I have already maxed out my quality list for anime's for a while. I don't know of any more that can top that. Although, I'm starting to watch Steins;Gate - I hear it's pretty good.

Anyway, I have also been talking with a co-worker at our building and may be able to negotiate some hosting space for Shadow Dev. He was able to get me a testing server, and at 60GB of space and 2GB (with +2GB of burst) of RAM, it's more than I could have asked for! So this looks like a good relationship.

I have also successfully migrated my personal blog (yes, this) onto my home web server. After learning about Port Forwarding a few weeks ago, my home server has been able to be accessed by the public! Yes, you are reading this off of the server I have sitting at home! It took a while to learn the differences between the company web server and the home one (CentOS to Debian, Apache to Apache2, enable mod_rewrite, FTP to SFTP, etc), but I did it.

Also, there was a power-change at Shadow Dev. As of January 3rd, I am no longer President (at my own choice). I prefer coding and exploring the world of technology, so I decided to pass along the responsibilities of President to someone else. The only person I trust to carry these responsibilities on (and do it without a 6-figure salary) was Keat. So Keat is President of Shadow Development, and I demoted myself to VP of Operations, which I am happy with. My to-do list is shrinking everyday now that I don't have so many presdential duties hanging over my head.

Christmas was fun, aside from the traveling. We went to my parents for about 4 days and got to play with the neices and nephew. We also had the grand "Christmas Dinner" on saturday, since this (may be) the last Christmas at my parents' house. I was under the assumption that Christmas was going to be on Saturday, but as of the day of, it was just the Grand Dinner. Christmas was still on Christmas day, which was a little confusing since Keat and I planned to be there Christmas eve and prepare the turkey. Anyway, then over to Keat's parents house at the beach, which was (70%) fun for a few days. Then, back to my parents house for about an hour and back home.

By the way, since we did such an awesome job on the Thanksgiving turkey, I told my parents and I thought my mom assigned us to permanent turkey duty. Well, it turned out that she was only suggesting that. So at Christmas (my parents), we had a Turkey Cookoff between me+keat and my dad (who was a little more into it than others). The winner had to cook the turkey from now on. According to the family, they couldn't taste a difference, so I guess we are going back for Round 2.

When we cooked the turkey at Keat's parents house, the oven had been pre-heated at 400 degrees for 5 hours before we got there, so the first phase of the turkey took about 45 minutes instead of 1.5 hours. Keat's dad was frantic saying "Turkeys shouldn't take less than 4 hours to cook!" and was causing a fit because he feared the turkey was undercooked. According to the internal thermometer, the meet inside was a 161, which is what it is supposed to be at. Anyway, after trying to be reasonable with him, Keat's mom put the turkey back in the oven at Warm and he was satisfied. The turkey was still juicy, though.

So, back home. Last weekend (not the one that just past, but the one before), Keat and I attended a meeting of our local Starfleet ships, the Alaric. I thought this was going to be just a meeting with Star Trek nerds talking Trek, but it ended up being a 3 hour discussion of, well, everything! Planetary exploration, space weather, physics, gun control, book discussions, rocket launches, movie nights, recycling, baseball, and more! Keat and I are considering joining Starfleet (well, officially "The International Star Trek Fan Association, Inc"). It's like the SCA, but for Star Trek! I'm game!

Changing gears for a moment, we did get moved into our new office. (See photos at shadowdev.com/newoffice ) Expanding to 900 sq. ft. from 200 sq. ft. is quite a change, and it seems almost a little too spacious. I'm just glad that we have a storage closet to store a lot of the stuff that isn't supposed to be out. I'm trying to make our 2nd floor a "Lounge" area, but it's coming along very slowly.

I'll call it a night for now since it's 4:15am. Keat has to be up at 7:45 for class, and I need to be in the office at 10ish. Until later.


Tags:#server #migration #hosting #swordartonline #steins-gate #christmas #turkey #starfleet #office

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July Progress + Christmas (List)!

It certainly seems like my posting frequency has been reduced to 1x/mth. Well, we'll see how it progresses.
Zits

Between my last post and now, here's a summary of the last month's operations:
Personal:

  • I started re-watching Voyager again (since July 1). I'm already on Season 3 Ep. 16. At this pace, I should be done with the whole series (again) by the end of the month.

  • Keat got me a new bow! It's a 45lb'er, so it takes a little more strength then the ones I've used before. My previous one was a 29#, and Keat's a 35#. I've developed some blisters and had some string-bite welts, but nothing permanent. With a little more strength training and practice, I should be able to hit the bullseye 9/10 times!

  • I went to Games and Gluttony in Canton in June. It was really fun - I learned to play some medieval games and had more than enough feast. Next event: SAAD in September!

  • Star Fleet! I'm already starting my Christmas list for this year. Here's my first item: Starfleet Uniform (pre 2370)

  • Next item: Tickets (and hotel, and airfare, and transport, and spending money) to ComiCon! I'm seeing all of the photos, videos, cosplays, merchandise, comics, etc, and it's just making me want to go even more!

  • I can't believe the last episode of Eureka airs next week. It will be missed!

  • Futurama's next season started on Wednesday at 10pm. This season has been....interesting.

  • I've taken up Python....again. Hopefully, I can stick with it this time. If Python sticks, I may try Ruby as well, if the server will support it.

  • I installed Debian on my work computer. Now it dual-boots into Win7 and Debian, although I'm using Debian more. There are only 2 differences between Win7 and Debian:
    1) I can't run Netflix. Without going into too-technical detail, Netflix uses SilverLight to play their titles. SilverLight is a MSFT product. Netflix/Microsoft has declared that SilverLight will NEVER be available for Linux (I can run it by creating a VirtualBox, but I have to install Windows on that Virtual partition in order to run anything. Apparently, I can't have the VirtualBox load the existing Windows partition because it doesn't like to work that way, and without the original installiation discs (the computer only came with a recovery partition), I can't install a 2nd copy of Windows on the VirtualBox, which means I can't run SilverLight, which means no Netflix)
    2) Windows-programs (and the Windows half of the hard drive) run SUPER SLOW whenever they are accessed. Quicken has to be run for financial records, and it runs like it is on a 256MB system instead of a 4GB. Everything else is super-fast.



Business:

  • A few tools have been created for public use: Phrase Encrypter, tinyJpg, FontTest, and GTS Homepage Tool (the last one we've had for a while, but we finally decided to release it for public use)

    And I created a Japanese Name/Word Generator. While working on Omega Noir, I needed a tool to help me create some Japanese names and words. Most of the japanese words in Omega Noir were created with this tool.

  • I've created an automated "Weekly Facebook Resource Mailer" that I call our "Web Utility" Newsletter. In short: this gathers all of the posts made on the Shadow Dev Facebook page (via RSS), puts them in a database, pulls out all of the ones from the past week (based on date comparison), makes those nice and pretty, then sends them out to everyone who wants a copy of it.

    I had a few issues with the initial concept of it, but after studying the structure of how the RSS feed was presented, but after looking at it with fresh eyes (after 24 hours), I figured out a good de-structuring method and configured the system to parse the RSS into the database. In short: it's working!

  • Today, I was invited to a grand opening of a new data center in Asheville. I invited Keat because I thought it would be a unique experience. Apparently, the experience was nowhere what we expected. Let me explain:

    Based on the original member invite that I received, my assumption was this:
    Arrive on site, see 20-30 people gathered in a small security room with some crackers and sodas, mingling for about 20 minutes, taking an extended tour of rows and rows of servers in a chilled room, seeing the backup generators, seeing the security room of a data center, following up for questions, leaving in about 1.5-2 hours

    Here's what actually happened:
    We arrived at 5:20 (10 minutes before the event "begins"), about 50 people were already there. We walked into a fairly large "lobby" (about 700 sq. ft.). I found my nametag and Keat had to write hers. Tours began at 6 and ran every 15 minutes, and we wrote our names at the top of the list.
    We found the "refreshments", which consisted of wine, beer, and water. More people gathered. After about 20 minutes, there wasn't any wiggle room in the lobby because of everyone cramming in (my assumption, 120ish). We were introduced to the "Board room" which had a large table of finger foods. We gathered some, ate, then tried to "wiggle" out. 5:45 - about 180 people, and more were pouring in. Keat and I were starting to get dizzy and a little claustrophobic.
    We gathered around the "tour table" hoping it would begin at 6 as expected. More people were coming in.
    6:05 - no tour, more people coming in. My guess - 200+. This arrangement made a sardine can look comfortable.
    6:10 - tour was about to begin. The guides looked at the list, looked around, looked at the list, looked around, said "We will only take 6 people on the tour." (I'm thinking: "6 people! That's only 1% of the people here! Come on!") The first 6 people around the table rushed to the hallway behind the guide. "1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6! Okay - that's it!" (I'm thinking: "WHAT!?! We were the first names on that list! We've been waiting ever since we got here! Why can't we.....aw, nevermind")
    Keat and I wiggled our way to the front door, threw our cups away, and drove off. So much for a tour.....

  • We had a some-what "Part 2" of the Shareholders meeting with Lockwood. Let's just say that the meeting was....more personal than business. It was good to catch up with Lockwood and Donna.

  • We had a meeting with the owner of Chimsesa (?). His product was definitely interesting, and I wish I could have helped him out, but he is looking for a Technical partner with a python background. That is one thing that I/we do not have.




That'll do it for now. My days have been merging with nights, and I'm lucky if I can recall what day it is. I'm trying to wake up at 9:30am. Let's just say that my 9:30am days are starting at about 12-1pm. So, my day consists of the following:
1pm-ish: Get up, get dressed, get to the office
1-7pm: Work on everything: programming, accounting, legal, project management, sales, secretary, janitorial, etc
7-10pm: Go home, do home-based chores (cut grass, laundry, dishwasher, clean up, cook, etc)
10ish: Dinner
11pm: more home-based chores (dishwasher, laundry, gather files, feed the cats, etc), go for a daily walk
11-1am: Get ready for the night (help with pills, tuck Keat in bed, etc)
1am - 4:30ish: work/program (while either listening to music or watching Netflix)
4:30ish - 9:30am: sleep
9:30am - 1pm: attempt to get up, sleep more
Repeat


Tags:#startrek #voyager #zits #archery #comicon #saad #sca #python #win7 #debian #netflix #silverlight #virtualbox #tools #datacenter #

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Voyager 1 is leaving the system!

Yes, it has finally happened! Voyager 1, launched in 1977, has finally left the Solar System.
Voyager 1


So basically, what took us 35 years to do will take us a matter of seconds in the 24th century (using Okuda's Light Speed calculations based on the conversion of light years)

[ source ]


Tags:#warp #speed #voyager #space #startrek #okuda

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Happy Post-Valentines Day!

It's been a joyous Valentine's Day 2012. Especially since I've been sick over the past few years on this date. Really. Over the past few years on Feb 14, I have come down with an extremely bad virus that kept me in bed all day. And when I go down, I really go down for the count. The good news: I wasn't sick this year! Yay!

However, I did stay home and work since I had a lot of work to get done (and another reason, but I'll get to that later). Really, it's not a bad thing. I spent most of the day in front of my desktop at home, played Pandora in the background, and worked on some tasks that have been living on my ToDo list for a while.

The other good news is: Keat got me chocolate for today! Here's a snippet:
CHOCOLATE!


Now, you may be thinking: "What did you get for her this year?" Well, the short answer is: nothing. WAIT! Before you start flipping out on me, hear me out. We observe/celebrate "Valentine's Day and White Day". I'm sure the latter sounds like a racist celebration. I assure you it is not.

White Day is actually a holiday in Japan that the younger generation celebrates. Instead of me trying to rant on about what it is, here's a quick overview:

In Japan, Valentine's Day is observed by females who present chocolate gifts (either store-bought or handmade), usually to a male, as an expression of love, courtesy or social obligation. A handmade chocolate is usually preferred by the receiver, because it is a sign that the receiving male is the girl's "only one". On White Day, the converse happens: males who received a honmei-choco (本命チョコ, "chocolate of love") or giri-choco (義理チョコ, "courtesy chocolate") on Valentine's Day are expected to return the favor by giving gifts, usually more expensive. Traditionally, popular White Day gifts are cookies, jewellery, white chocolate, white lingerie and marshmallows. Sometimes the term sanbai gaeshi (三倍返し, literally, "triple the return") is used to describe the generally recited rule that the return gift should be two to three times the cost of the Valentine's gift. [source] [another source]


You may be thinking this is a quick cop-out for me forgetting Valentine's Day. I can guarantee that I didn't forget it, but just didn't have the necessary means to get something yet. However, she is going to get something 2-3x nicer next month (and I'll be 25!).

Anyway, here's the comic for today:
The System

I thought this comic would be relevant to this past week, since I do have a few projects going on that could fall anywhere on this chart.

However, on Sunday, I had a revelation. After thinking over the events from last week (revamping the contract, the preliminary fish bowl launch, Drinks with Geeks planning, getting the new computer up and running, finalizing the new prices, straightening out the accounting records, meeting with AdvantageWest about funding, fixing a co-worker's computer problems, getting a new contract signed, planning some new "ease of use" projects to help new sales people, and more), I realized that everything that we were doing seemed to be working in countless different directions, causing our workforce to become thin and not be able to take on much work. I realized that if things were going to improve, we have to mainstream: make the whole "first contact to project launch" process a whole lot faster, easier, and more flexible.

After thinking about the process we had in place for the past 6 years, it occurred to me that we are basically reinventing the wheel each and every time. Overall, this wasn't getting us anywhere. We need to have a tried-and-true process for going from Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3 without any hassle. Right now, in order to get one task passed along the production line, a person either has to be trained in that area to take care of it, or it needs to be taken over by someone who can get it done quicker, and some communication between the lines gets lost.

We need a company-level Sales tracker, Project tracker, Site Manager (not just a CMS, but a Company-wide version), Customer notifier, integrated payment system, team calendar, and EVERYTHING else that we have been working on. Instead of working on so many different projects, the solution is simple: make this 1 massive project for the company. This way, Sales people can track leads, Designers/Developers can work on any site, Customers can keep track of their projects, Customer payments can be processed/managed, teams can collaborate on projects and tasks, and more. By integrating the Scrum methodology to this process, we can shrink 3 months down to 1 month or less! Just imagine the work load we can take on!

To be honest, I feel stupid for not seeing this earlier. The solution is so simple. I was trying to create 20 different things to do 20 different tasks. What I should have been doing is developing 1 project to do these 20 things and integrate it into the company so it would be easier to manage.

Why am I confessing all of this here? Two primary reasons: 1) So I have an official record of what I am thinking about so I can look back on it at a later date, and 2) So I can be held accountable for this. Looking back on a few projects that I've worked on, they were started anywhere from a week to 2 years ago, and they all seem to be in the same state: hiatus. To be honest: that sucks. How can I work 5 days a week from 10-5pm and 10-5am and get so little done? This will change.

On a related matter, one reason why it will change is because of the following:
TNG, DS9, and Voyager. Done


Yes, I have finished watching Star Trek: TNG, DS9, and Voyager in their completion. I will admit that I spent a few nights in the past months up till wee hours in the morning watching Star Trek, but now that I've gotten through TNG, DS9, and Voyager, I can dedicate more time to getting stuff done.

I find that I get a lot done with background music. Time seems to work with me when I'm in that "state of mind." However, when I find a series I want to watch (or I'm curious about) on Netflix, that seems to occupy my time instead of getting things done. For example: I didn't think I'd really get into Heroes. I thought "I'll watch the first episode and be done with it." Yeah right. Before I knew it, I watched all 4 seasons and lost valuable programming time during those 16 days it took me to watch it. I have lots of other items on my Netflix instant queue to watch, but I have a ToDo list that is breathing down my neck. I have to get that done.

Enough procrastinating on this blog. I have work to do.


Tags:#thesystem #chocolate #keat #valentinesday #whiteday #startrek #tng #ds9 #voyager #japan #netflix #heroes #accountable #streamline

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Webinar-mania!

Bug

Not quite sure how this comic fits in to today, but enjoy!

Today just seemed to fly by - literally. I arrived at the office shortly after 11am this morning to attend a RingCentral webinar for reselling a service to offer toll free numbers to our customers. Still need to verify some final information before the service is offered, but I think I have a good idea on how to revamp our program to reflect the best opprotunity on how to offer this to customers.

Anyway, that webinar was supposed to last about an hour. In reality, it lasted about 2 hours. However, I was able to ask an important question about direct and indirect calling of the 800 number to our employees and direct calls to our cell phones. Finally, after months of searching, I finally found an answer, and cleared up a very confusing situation that dealt with people calling my personal cell phone and (for some reason) forwarding to Tom's phone. I believe that has been resolved, and when people call the 800 line (with extensions or not) the 800 number will show up on the cell phone, so therefore we know if a professional call was made and how to process it.

I also received a free meat pie from Joan from St. Andrews Square bakery down the hallway. I have 1 thing to say about that: GOOD!

After I finally found out the issue with the phones, I attended a "Merger & Acquisition" webinar at 1pm, discussing the trends of the industry, what the peaks were in the vertical and horizontal market, and who bought what (company-wise) in the past year. It seemed like a lot of information, but I think I took away a lot of good information.

I wished I could be at CES this year, but based on two of the presenters that were at CES, it's a madhouse (although, that seems like a standard there) and the cell signals were jammed.

On a related note, here's this:
Bizzaro


That seminar was supposed to last 1.5 hours, and about an 1.25 hr in, I called it quits since it was Q&A time. A client was supposed to show up around 3:30, but did not due to other obligations. Tom was supposed to stop by as well, but he got a little too busy and didn't have a chance to show up. It's kind of a good thing, since I had a few things to take care of in the afternoon.

I filled out the tax form for the county, called my car insurance company to get some information, went to the post office to send off the tax form and pick up some stamps, stopped by my car insurance company and spent around 45 minutes there getting an answer to my (what I thought was a) simple question. In reality, it was worth it because the staff at the car insurance company were more-than-friendly and gave me a lot of information to use.

It didn't occur to me until I started to leave the office that I didn't open PuTTy and modify any file on the server. Make-shift CEO day?

After that, I came home, got some chili from last night, and watched Mythbusters until Keat got home. She and I discussed some topics that needed discussing about Shadow Dev, and even though things got a little tense during some topics, but I think it was because she had a headache and things weren't getting across correctly. Aside from that, we are on the same page.

Afterwards, Keat and I watched a bunch of episodes of The Big Bang Theory (time does fly while watching these, doesn't it?). She hit the hay and I plan on getting some coding done as the night goes on.

Now, to bring an important topic to mind: comic copyright. I just want to go on the record to say that all comics posted here are copyright and under ownership of their respective owners (also mentioned in the footer on every page). I do not modify any comic (except for one, since it had the F word in it) and do not take credit for any comics, unless they are drawn by me, which probably won't happen. I follow an artist on DeviantArt.com who talks about the issue in detail about a Facebook App that scrapes the internet for comics, takes the copyright off, and shows them. His journal can be viewed at http://tompreston.deviantart.com/journal/Facebook-Art-Theft-App-279043179 - just thought I'd bring that up.


Tags:#bug #bizzaro #webinar #ringcentral #bigbangtheory #comics #deviantart #ces #insurance

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Are you kidding me?

I was browsing DeviantArt.com about 10 minutes ago and saw this ad:
Firefox for AOL?

I'm sorry, but if you are still using AOL, Firefox must be as Greek to you as the Higgs Boson. I'll admit: when my parents had AOL, I connected (using dialup) using AOL and browsed with Firefox, but why would you need a Firefox optimized for AOL?


Tags:#firefox #aol #ad #deviantart

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Time to go Retro!

The 90's was "da bomb", as our generation puts it. A lot of cool stuff happened in the 90's, and for the kids that were born between 1998 and now, well, too bad that you missed out on some really cool stuff.

I saw these on Comixed.com and thought I'd share them:

First, the short version:
Cartoon Network!


Lastly, the long version (you have been warned):
90s RULED!



Tags:#cartoonnetwork #90s #disney #nickelodeon #

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Google meets SimCity

Google ceases to amaze me. I was trying to find the quickest way to my local polling place today, and I saw a new button on Google Maps that said 3D. Couldn't help but click it.

Not to change subjects, but this marks my 100th Blog Entry! Yay!

Anyway, after a few minutes of processing, I was surprised! Google merged Maps with Earth and added 3D effects to the browser-based directional application. It seems like Google took a trick from Maxis' gamebook and created a realistic SimCity.

Before proceeding, take a look at what SimCity can produce (as of SC4):
SimCity


Here are a few samples I thought I'd try:

Raleigh, NC


Raleigh, NC


Charlotte, NC


Charlotte, NC


San Fran


San Francisco, CA


Washington DC


Hey look! 3D Trees and 3D Fountain!
Washington, DC


Hey look! A CG person in DC!


A Person in DC!


My fellow Con-goers should recognize this structure


Can you guess the con?


If you get a chance, try it out yourself. It's only in Metro areas for the time being, but other places (like Waynesville) have a topographical 3D layout instead of buildings (yet).


Tags:#google #maps #earth #simcity #maxis

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Illuminati

Illuminati by Adam Withers

Saw this on DA [source]. Thought it would be nice to share.

+100 Points if you can name all of the characters.


Tags:#illuminati #cartoonnetwork #deviantart

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Hello October!

SYAC

If you are wondering why this is my first post of October, I've been extremely busy over the past month. And I have a lot of comics I'm waiting to display in the upcoming entries.

So, here's the overview of what's kept me busy over the past month:

  • I updated my blog using HTML5 fonts instead of the JS Cufon. It processes faster and works in more modern browsers instead of having to load the page and post-process the H1 and specified div tags into the font I chose.

  • Tom and I worked on our "Intro to Shadow Dev Seminar". That took a lot more time than we expected, but the seminars we produced went well

  • We've signed on a new client: Saki Sushi! They are opening their new restaurant in the next few weeks, and we've signed on to help them get a great web presence before their opening

  • We've also signed on another new client: Cullowhee Mountain Arts, Inc, with the help of Dr. Lockwood

  • Tom and I have been running up and down Route 19 to find some new clients - had some very interesting adventures up Rt 19

  • Watch MLP:FiH episode 2 (John de Lancie was great as Discord) and episode 3, which I can sum in 2 words: unorganized chaos (emphasis on "organized")

  • I'm working on a few domains and subdomains for Shadow Dev: docs.shadowdev.com (for a documentation area (wiki-like) for our quotes to help reduce our carbon footprint instead of sending our 30+ page quotes), getmyanalysis.com (our site analysis landing page from Fox Carolina), m.getmyanalysis.com (GMA's mobile version), and a few others

  • Celebrated Shadow Dev's 6 Year Anniversary!

  • Shadow Dev joined the NFIB

  • Wrote an article about Domain Name Expiration Notices, since I'm sick and tired of them anyway

  • Registered ReceiptRescue, ScrumIt, and Zoomiform on Twitter too

  • Finally saw the season premiere of Psych! I'm so glad a new season started

  • Attended War of the Wings in Elkin. Sacred Stone won! Yay!

  • Watched Last Man Standing on Hulu. It's good to see Tim Allen back on TV

  • Attended a forum for WCU. Best part of it: "We should have a beer department!" - WCU Chancellor Belcher. I like the way he thinks!

  • Ok - I'm on Spotify now. Whoppie. It's good, and the music is more controlling, but it seems that the SAME commercial shows up after every 3rd song.

  • Beat Angry Birds without the Eagle

  • Watched the last episodes of Eureka - Season 4. Wil Wheaton had a very "Vulcan" acting style....ironic?

  • Finally saw the new Producers movie. Certainly one to look back on and laugh, in a good way. Although, I can't think about it without hearing John de Lancie singing "I want to be a Producer"....creepy (?)

  • Started a new book: Final Theory, which is pretty good. Here's a quick preview:
    ICHC

    Ok, that's not a preview. But it's cute, right? (and the book does deal with the String Theory)

  • Got our Fox Carolina ad up and got some great team shots for Shadow Dev

  • Dealt with Netflix's price increase, then the Netflix/Qwikster split, then the Qwikster descent. I believe this comic works well for this:
    the Joy of Tech


  • Received a complaint on my blog in the past few days. If you are reading this, please keep in mind that this blog is a personal reflection of myself and does not reflect the views, opinions, and/or skills of Shadow Development or any associated companies. In addition, all comics are © of their respective authors. I do not take credit or responsibility for any comics posted. (If a comic has a super-offending word in it, but the context is acceptable, I will edit the comic, but I try not to if I don't have to.) If there is something on here that offends you, let me know. Don't go behind my back and tell your friends to tell me. Have the guts to take 10 seconds to send me an email saying "Hey! I don't like this: _____________". My email address, facebook, twitter, linkedin, and other contact methods are located on the right side of every page



That just about does it for me. I know this is a little long, but I think I need to catch up for almost a month of no entries (in addition for being 20 days away from my 1 year anniversary of this blog, and 5 entries away from my 100th entry). Back to watching Mythbusters on Netflix. Yay!


Tags:#syac #joyoftech #wcu #hulu #timallen #spotify #zoomiform #receiptrescue #psych #angrybirds #newclients #mythbusters #deviantart

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Ponies vs Q

RealLife


Yes, I'll admit: I watch MLP:FiH. And best part of all, the newest episode (Return of Harmony (part 1)) has John de Lancie in it (the voice was too obvious)! If the ponies are going up against Q, they have no hope. But we'll see in Part 2.

On a semi-related matter, my favorite is Rainbow Dash!
Rainbow Dash
Credit goes to ~Creshosk


Tags:#ponies #mlp #Q #deviantart #rainbowdash #reallife

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What a day...EARTHQUAKE!!!

Working Daze

Wow, today has been a busy day. I came in this morning a little tired and expected to finish a few things that I started yesterday.

Anyway, here's the rundown of today:

  • Apparently, there was a 5.8 earthquake in Virgina around 2pm. I was unaware of it, but curious when my chair was moving under my desk without me moving it. I thought it was a low-flying plane or a big truck or a fast train, but when I went to go check outside, none of the above were present. After going through my emails, apparently Glenn Beck reported on it, but I was not aware. More details can be found on Google Maps and USGS. This makes the 2nd earthquake I've been through (and the 1st one I've been conscious for).

  • I am in the process of finishing the last episode of Voyager. It's still a good series, although it seemed like they ran out of material in the last season (as usual).

  • I called the Fox News guy back and began our ad run with them. I was contacted by Tom an hour or so ago with his expertise, and I'm glad that we were on the same page: it's a gamble, but hopefully it pays off

  • I talked to Janet today, and she's working on her new place. I can't wait till she's ready to open for business!

  • I was also contacted by Tom with a potential client connection. We have performed a site analysis and sent it over, all within 20 minutes

  • I finished the PiLam mobile site, and that worked out quite well. I used Shadow Dev's mobile site as a template, but overall, I think it works nicely

  • I received feedback from Lionel, and although I don't completely agree with the idea of switching from our current web development means to a mobile-only app development

  • I had a potential client walk in today and talk about his new service. His service sounds nice, and I told him I'd have his quote by Friday. I got it to him today. Hence the saying "Under-promise and over-deliver" - thank you Dad.

  • I sent an email to Dr. Lockwood for catchup and to get a meeting time for our monthly Shadow Dev meeting. Hopefully I get a response back soon.

  • I added images and information to a client's site and implemented a function to display September-only material in September. So far, it works well.

  • I finally received the new address for the Pi Lam house. Can't wait to see it!

  • A client had some images that they sent over that were too small. Apparently, they googled images and sent the thumbnails. To be honest, I'd really expect an organization to send over some higher-quality images for a site like this. Hopefully, we can get some better images soon.


Server says I've been signed on since 10:23. 7 hours later, I'm signing off. Same hours go for yesterday, so 14 hours thus far.


Tags:#earthquake #voyager #clients #lockwood #lionel #analysis #pilam

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Brent Spiner does Patrick Stewart with Jonathan Frakes

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Brent Spiner as "Sir Mr. Stewart"

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Bachelor for a Week - Day 5 - Almost Over

PvP

Keep in mind that the above comic has to deal with the Ren. Fair(e). I thought it was appropriate since I'm watching Voyager and active in the SCA.

Anyway, this week is over and I've defiantly surpassed 40 hours this week. The server says I logged on this morning at 9:57, so up to now, I've been working about 7.5 hours. Add that to my current work load, and I've worked 42.5 hours. Not bad for a week of Bachelor-ism.

Keat comes home tomorrow (YAY) and my Bachelor-ism will be over. I can't say it's been all great. The majority of the week has been: get up, go to work, come home, watch some tv, go to bed (+10 points if you can get that reference). Literally, I've gotten up (usually around 9), arrived at work around 10-ish, worked all day, went home, watch a movie (and feed the kitties), and went to bed. That was my week in a nutshell.

ANYWAY, I worked on the WHCC page a lot today, and should have that up by Monday as promised. I also worked on the Shadow Dev Beta site again, and things are coming along nicely. I should be able to meet that September 1st deadline with no problems.

I had a meeting with WHCC early this morning to go over some documents, and had the cleaning lady come in after that. Let's just say that what she did (and her daughter) in 20 minutes would have taken me a whole day to do in the office. $15 for a thorough cleaning is well worth it. She even offered to dust and more, but I thought I'd better start off small since this is her first time. She will definitely be back in 2 weeks!


I'm going to call it quits early today and head home to take care of some of the chores that I was supposed to do over the week. I did a few of them, but I have a lot to go. Good thing I don't have any Lumbergs around!

Although I did watch Dinner for Schmucks last night. Some people may have thought it was bad, but once you accept that it is "Steve Carrell"-funny, then it makes more sense. Overall, with the amount of comedy, dirty-ness, follow-through storyline, and cast of actors (including Jeff Dunham), it was a really good movie.

I've also watched: Mortal Kombat Annihilation (crap), Star Trek Nemesis (ok, but I'm starting to like it better once I got past the "Data died" part), Star Trek Insurrection (eh...), and The Karate Kid (yes, the 1984 version - I finally saw it all the way through and it was pretty good).

I'm gonna go home and work now....wait, what? Oh well.

And just for kicks, here's another Star Trek related comic:
Bug


Tags:#officespace #lumberg #cleaning #whcc #beta #keat #deadline #startrek #voyager #sca #pvp #bug

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Janeway's gotta have her coffee

Voyager

via geekfeed (pardon the Season 1 and Season 2+ transitions - noted by Janeway's infamous hairbun)

If I was in Janeway's position, it would be Dew, but the statement still stands.


Tags:#startrek #voyager #janeway #coffee

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Star Trek: Too Good to Pass Up

Saw these on geekfeed. Too good to pass up

Away Team
Away Team

Just some guys attending the first space shuttle showing
Just some guys attending the first space shuttle showing

Couldn't pass these up. More ST references at geekfeed.


Tags:#startrek #space #shuttle #geekfeed

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Kirk gets Nyan'ed!

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Nuggets!

Wow, it's been over a week (almost 2) since I last posted. Does that give you any idea on how busy I have been?
Working Daze


PS: I'm calling this "Nuggets" because we are making home-made chicken nuggets for CJ tonight! YAY!

I won't go into too many finer details, but here's the rundown of the past few weeks:
Personal:

  • Best News: I'm on Google+! I've been waiting forever for a friend to send me an invite, and I finally got one! YAY!(?)

  • 2nd Best News: Netflix has all of the Star Trek Series on Instant Play! I can now watch every episode of TNG, DS9, and Voyager back to back and in chronological order! YAY!!! YAY!!! YAYAYAYAYAY!!!!! (did I say "Yay?") NYAN!

  • Keat an d I got a used PS3. It's good and all, but we think the main laser went out and we have to get it replaced. TBD

  • CJ is here for the weekend. Is there a word for "insane insanity to the insane max?" If so, that's what we (me, Keat, and CJ) are together. I don't think there is ever a dull or boring moment.

  • On the same topic, CJ watched "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" yesterday. Let's just say that he almost died laughing. Finally! A Mel Brooks comedy he likes!

  • On a similar topic, I've become a big Cary Elwes fan. I don't know what it is, but he is a natural actor and damn good at it! I mean, Psych, Twister, Men in Tights, Glory, and of course, The Princess Bride, he has a good line-up of fimography credits. And.....

  • I'm not one for Cosplay I used to not be into Cosplay, but after seeing The Princess Bride a few weeks ago, I'm determined to make Cary's The Dread Pirate Roberts outfit. Basically, it'll be double duty: SCA and Conventions. After that's done, I'm going to make/buy Squall's outfit

  • The house is coming along nicely. We just mowed the lawn twice. It takes about an hour, depending on how fast you go. We're almost totally unpacked, and having an attic is nice too



Business:

  • We have a new contract - but I don't know how much things will progress on it since the main contact people aren't being very communicative

  • We hired a new developer! Yay!

  • I'm interviewing a Sales person on tuesday, and with our current relationship with him, it should be nice.

  • We may be hiring another developer. I'm negotiating details now.

  • I'm dealing with a client's security policy that they had to make for one of their clients. It's not looking pretty right now. We have a conference call in a few weeks, and hopefully I don't get my head bitten off. We'll find out.

  • Our office has been a little rearranged. We removed the couch (put it in our house), added a futon sofa (works better), moved my desk to the window, and took down the table. It's certainly more open now.

  • I'm trying to figure out a fiasco about some office keys that were misplaced. Basically, I've contacted two previous employees from '08, and it's been crazy trying to figure out where some missing keys went.

  • I've lost my faith and respect in Parallels. Put it this way: I upgraded my Plesk Control Panel from 7 to 10 (first mistake). I then had to go through all of the configuration files to re-configure the server to work properly. Apparently, instead of editing the main server configuration file, it creates a new one for each edit you make, and they are all titled something like "1300625830.75118100_httpd.include", so trying to find which one was the latest is extremely hard, especially when you are dealing with edits made within seconds of each other instead of minutes. Anyway, I went through Plesk 10 and tried to order a new domain for a client. This sent me to shop.marketplace.parallels.com and told me to login. I logged in with the credentials I had, and it charged me for the domain. I then waited about 24 hours for the global nameservers to catch up, and it turns out that the domain was mis-registered! Apparently, it was registered under my name at Parallels, not my standard domain registrar. So I couldn't go into any control panel and change any of the settings because (after contacting Parallels, Plesk support, my domain registrar/manager, and the reseller's reseller, I can't find $%#@ control panel to correct the nameservers to point to the right server! AAAHHHHHGGGGG!!!!!! [insert Charlie Brown scream here] I'm still talking with the people to try and find a straight answer. So far, it's not going well.



Enough boring details. I'll save the rest for later.

Update: [2011-07-08 07:09pm] After sending a kinda frustrating email to the MyPlesk support, I finally received a straight answer:
 
Hello Kyle,
 

 
Thank you for your email!
 

 
Kyle, that is absolutely right, please use [support management link] to manage 
 
your domain [domain in question].
 

 
I am sending you the login credentials for the domain management panel:
 

 
Login   ######
 
Passwd  ######
 

 
Should you have any additional questions, please feel free to email me back.
 

 
Have a wonderful weekend!
 

 
Thanks,
 
[Support Person]
 

I logged in, updated the nameservers, and the switchover happened within hours. Why couldn't I have received this from the beginning.

I especially like the part when it says "...that is absolutely right,...". I feel a little happy inside.


Tags:#startrek #nuggets #cj #workingdaze #ps3 #caryelwes #cosplay #newemployee #google+ #office #domain #registration

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Kirk vs. Kirk

Presented without further comment, William Shatner arm-wrestling with Chris Pine via @GeeksAreSexy

Kirk vs Kirk


Tags:#startrek #kirk #gas

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Quaint

Over the weekend, it has been super busy with all of the house hunting and dealing with Keat's parents. The word of the day had to be "quaint" because that is the only term that we could use to describe some of the houses. One that we saw seemed like it was out of a Dr. Seuss book (literally). After saying "goodbye" to her parents, the sanity could once return to our world.
Dilbert

This comic seems to sum up my list of to-do's around the office. Although I only had 2 days of actual work last week (as seen in my last posting), I frantically spent all of Wednesday cleaning up the apartment. After flying through the place, making sure everything had it's own little home, Keat's parents walk in on Saturday (or Friday? I don't recall - all of those days blurred together), the only comment they could say is "what a crummy place". I'm sorry - we are the ones who live there, and for us, this is clean (you can see the floor and there aren't clothes strewn everywhere [wow, I think that's the first time I've used that word]). For doing a super-fast clean-up from a pseudo-packing task, I say it's pretty good.

All stress aside, we did see one house that we really liked. I won't go much into details yet (so I don't jinx it), but her parents are placing the bids on the house. As I was afraid of, her parents also have a LONG list of "requirements" to be met before anything can proceed (with us, not the house). I won't go into that because that could be another blog entry on its own.

Now, we're back to work, nearly a week after I made the last posting. A lot of work and so little time.

Edit: Little side note, but Keat finally graduated from HCC on Thursday! I didn't mean to overshadow this with the parent visit, but I wanted to let the world know!
Keat HCC Grad


Tags:#dilbert #house #apartment

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Weekend Overview

Zits

I think this comic would have been better with last week's posting, but it didn't come out till 4/29. Anyway, here's the run-down from last week:
  • Our neighboring branch of the SCA had their annual Southern Atlantian Archery Day (SAAD) over the weekend, and it went well. Unlike last year, I actually participated! And it was great! I used my hand-me-down bow with a few new arrows that Keat had made, and I shot 37 points (out of 21 targets/3-6 arrows each)! Not bad for my first tournament shoot. I can't wait till the next one so I can shoot more! The good side: we didn't have an uncontrolled fire like last year (although one of our camp-mates caught his tunic on fire for a few seconds). The down side: we traveled to and arrived on the site, ready to set up, and we found out that we forgot our tent poles! I had to drive to Walmart down the street and (luckily) bought the same tent - we harvested the poles and set up camp in about 10 minutes.

  • Keat and I went to the AB Tech Jump Start day last thursday, and it was okay. Most of the vendors there I had already dealt with, so the event itself was a little down. I can understand "New" businesses going to that to get connections, but being that we have been in business for a little over 5½ years, I didn't feel the need to talk to most of them. I did, however, talk to the organizer of the event and register Shadow Dev as a vendor for next year's event - yay for free marketing!

  • we also went to our monthly meetup group last thursday, and it was great! We had about 7 people show up, and we talked about everything from PPC to AdWords to Niches to SMI to....you name it! I also met a rep from TopFloorStudio - although one of our direct competitors, it was good to get to know a name other than Ty Hallock.

  • I was feeling really bad early Thursday morning, so I had to call in to my morning event, a TCC Peer Entrepreneur Lunch. I wish I could have gone, but my body said different. I hope I don't get sick before the next one!

  • Keat and I semi-decided on the Allen's Creek apartment that we looked at earlier, but then we received a call from Holly, our broker, who had a list of foreclosures that she wanted to send us. I swear she was listening on our conversation, because Keat and I were talking about that with Keat's parents just moments before Holly called us. We have looked at a few of those houses (online at least), and we are interested. Now if we can only get the finer paperwork done.

  • Speaking of moving, Keat and I started to pack up the apartment. As I said last week, it looks like a tornado went through it and took everything off the shelves and out of the closet. We are working on cleaning that up, but it's pretty much a death trap right now.

  • Finally received an email from the owner of the lawn care service that our apartment uses - he was willing to replace our catnip plant, but the attempt at communication came a little late. Exactly 1 month late. I sent an email the day of the lawn work (March 29) to the landlords, and they said they contacted the lawn care guy (I saw CC on an email). I received an email on April 29 saying "Sorry for the delay in this email. If my employees cut you plant down I want to apologize and see what I can do to replace the plant. If you want to tell me where you bought your plant and what it was I will replace it. In the future if you will put a stake or something for my guys to identify it from other plants or unwanted weeds they will not cut or remove it. We have alot of apartments to take care of and lot of people who plant items in the beds but never mark it. So when the mowing crew comes around they didn't see it last week or last year so they think it needs to be removed. Once the mowing crews knows its suppose to be there then they will leave it alone." So much for support; this seemed like a "We're sorry we did that - here's a coupon as our apology" attempt

  • While I was at SAAD, I received an email from Mint.com (great service, btw) saying that Wachovia charged me $5 on my personal savings account. I recall the phone call on March 14 saying "Would you like to open a savings account?" / Me: "Is there a monthly maintenance charge?" / Them: "No, as long as you have your free student checking, there will be no charge to use the savings account." So I transferred the money out of the account (they said the same thing on my Business savings account, then charged me for it, then said "there is a charge to use it", so I closed it), went over to Wachovia, talked to an Advisor, and she said that there wasn't a discount code added to the account. She refunded me the $5, added the "No Charge" code to the account, and sent me on my way (in a good way). Hopefully, they don't gouge me out of more money, or I may have to transfer my 3 accounts from them to somebody else

  • I set up a cron job last week to scan for IP addresses that try to SSH into our main web server (which runs every day at 12:01AM), and so far it has blocked 26 unique IP's since it was first set up. Not bad for a quick "let's-set-it-up-and-hope-it-works" attempt

  • One last thing about SAAD: Since I didn't have much archery equipment, I had to borrow someone's leather glove to shoot off of (so I wouldn't scratch up my hand with fletching burns). He said "I'm letting you borrow this, so you owe me". I agreed, and he called in the favor. Late Saturday, I was called over to the Cordial lady (who is "Madison", btw, and she lives in Fletcher! Small world, huh?) and she had a little challenge for me. I was tied to another guy (who I didn't know) by some leather rope and we had to get out of the "tangled mess". Being of stupid-, sleep-deprived-mind, and tired-body, I just wanted to get out of it. It was some fun trying to figure out how to get out of the knot when everybody around us was laughing, recording, egging on, tempting, and trying to "help" us (although I don't think the "helping" was "helping", if you know what I mean). After about an hour and a half, the other guy wanted to give up. If we gave up, we had to lose a pinky for an hour (Madison would tape our pinky down to our hand for an hour). The guy I borrowed the glove from gave up in the last round and lost his). I wanted to keep going and find the solution. I don't know how long we lasted, but the other guy finally surrendered and gave up. He didn't lose his pinky, but he had to get up SUPER early on Sunday morning and help Madison pack her van. I was tied to another friend known as JR (real name unknown). After about 10 minutes of looking silly, JR and I (mostly JR) finally figured it out. I won't say how, but we had to perform the "escape" again since Madison didn't see it. We both got a cookie for winning, and she said "At the War of the Wings, come to me and ask 'Where is my prize?' and I will give you a much better prize!" I made sure to put that in my calendar (and post it on this blog) so I wouldn't forget. The other guy in Madison's tent sold swords and other unique items, and when he walked up to me, I thought he was going to say "Congrats" or something. He hands me a claw-like necklace and says "I can't let you go with just a cookie. Here, take this". Cool! I got a free gift for being stubborn! As my good friend James Contratto would say, "ROCK!"



I think that about sums it up from last week. Until my next posting!


Tags:#zits #saad #cron #wachovia #catnip #tcc #entrepreneur #apartment

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Time well wasted

Not to knock off Brad Paisley's album, but today was really wasted. With the building's main internet connection going inactive at 11:15 (just as I finished the first draft of this entry, along with getting ready to begin today's work), and just came back at 6pm (as of this writing) - you'll understand more at the end of the post. This means that I couldn't do anything that I wanted to do today that required the Internet (and nowadays, what doesn't?). While the Internet was out, I did get a budget created for the wedding, and also created a master copy of the guest list that Keat and I will be maintaining. Aside from that, it has been a very wasted day. Stupid internet. ANYWAY.....

Angry Birds via Over the Hedge

I've made some improvements to the blog recently; mainly SEO-friendly URL's. It did require a re-parsing of the feed, but hey, at least the relevant URL's are showing in search results instead of "entry.php?id=48". I think that counts for something.

Last week was certainly a week for attacks, wasn't it? I mean, with our DoS attack on 4/20, then Amazon's AWS network going down (which supplies about 90% of the important stuff on the internet), and Sony's Playstation Network going down, and not to mention the launching of Skynet (for those of you who pay attention to The Sarah Connor Chronicles, although the same thing could be said about April 29, 2010, if you know what I mean), things certainly had a downward spiral last week. On a semi-related note, I just created a CRON job that will scan our secure SSH log, filter out denied access attempts, add the offending IP addresses to our firewall, and email me the report. Not bad for a 15 minute "lets-do-it-now-and-it-hopefully-works" job.

On the up-side, I have made some major improvements to the Shadow Dev mobile site along with the CloudFlare service. It was a bit confusing trying to get the mobile site to update with the CloudFlare proxy DNS set in, but I finally got through it.

On the flip side, the apartment looks like a tornado went through it. Everything that had its own little storage area is now in the middle of the living room, dining room, and part of the kitchen. Why? Because we are moving to Waynesville and we have to get everything packed. Although our original plan was to move at the end of June/July, a friend of ours let us in on a connection to some local landlords and they are looking to have the smallest downtime ever, so with the eviction of their old tenant last friday, they want someone to move in NOW! So we had to move up our move-out date to the end of May (must give current landlords a min. of 30 days notice, as usual). It's not that we don't like Bear Creek, but with Keat going to WCU and the business in Waynesville, the amount of gas alone would be at least $100 a week if we stayed in Asheville. Also, we haven't spent enough time in Asheville to really call it "home" - sure, it's nice and trendy, but we spend more time in Waynesville than in Asheville (really, there are over 200 events, restaurants, shops, and more in Asheville, and we've been to.....4?).

Anyway, I've also picked up the PS2 again and started playing some of my games (the ones that weren't packed yet). I started Onimusha 2 again, and it was pretty fun. I was beating myself up for remembering certain things in certain levels, then trying to figure out how to get them (like the Yellow door at Gifu castle) when in the end, Jubei goes back to those locations and can access them. I beat that in about 4 days (mainly playing between 11pm and 4am). After the boss battle, I switched to Onimusha 3, which (thank god) finally allows access of the left analog stick. I was getting tired of using the D-pad for directional control. I also had my previous save file on my memory card, so I could use Samanosuke's Cowboy outfit (not really appealing, but I thought I'd give it a try). 2 days in, and I'm already at the Zoo level.

On to today's to-do list: working on NSMT's Shuttle system and mobile site, working on finishing Lu's Specialties Foods design, getting Innocent Footprints design planned out (code-wise), finishing Shadow Dev's mobile site, take some business calls for insurance and a potential client, service a friend's computer, create site analysis for competition, write some articles, and see about getting the Wedding site up and going with the online RSVP system. Yay for Monday....

Speaking of the Wedding site, here's a good Bug comic:
Bug


And Monday continues to taunt me with the absence of an internet connection from 11:15 to ??? (although, the college that our building connects through is also down, which means their internet connections, VoIP Phones, teleconference systems, faxes, etc, are all down as well - what luck....). I finish my weekend reader, create a small cron job, reply to some emails, (and write this entry), and as soon as I'm ready to begin my actual work....the internet goes down.

On the up-side (again), I did receive a CloudFlare T-shirt in the mail today (it must have been delievered on Saturday since Friday was a holiday). Thanks CloudFlare, and keep up the good great work!
Webcams suck on quality, and camera phones suck too when there is a lot of background light


Tags:#internet #overthehedge #bug #cron #terminator #apartment #ps2 #onimusha #asheville #mobile

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Weekend is over already? I'm just getting started!

Garfield

What a way to wind down the weekend. Keat and I are getting ready for the stupid inspection, and we've knocked a huge dent in the mess, but we're still a ways off from being done. However, I do have good news: I saved a bunch of money by switching to Gei... Shadow Development has a new Advisor! Yes, Hugh Simpson is now an Advisor for Shadow Development, and we're excited to have him on board. Hopefully, this will allow us to proceed on our 6-9 month plan with SMDC to get a loan.

Not much else happened today. I mean, I got up around 1pm (I slept ok - I mean, 8/10 on 'greatness'). I checked on the server transfer today, and not much has changed. I'm still waiting on the shadowdev.com transfer, because that is one of the most important transfers on the server. I spent most of the day cleaning and playing with the cats. Didn't go anywhere (except to the library at 12am to drop a book off).

Although, I did watch Star Trek (XI) for the first time in 6 months or so. After watching the whole Heroes series, I can't see Zachary Quinto as Spock anymore. I'm expecting him to turn into Syler and cut everybody's heads open. I know that's kinda dark for me, but Heroes was good. (I was the same way after watching Star Trek for the first time in theaters, then watching FlashForward; I expected John Cho to be Sulu in FF - didn't work out that way, but he did a great job as Noh, and FF was great anyway.)

On to Monday.......yay. I have a lot planned for Monday, so hopefully I get through it all. Still gotta clean...grrr.


Tags:#garfield #heroes #startrek #flashforward #hughsimpson #smdc

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Black Friday is Over! Time for more zzzzzzzz's!

Zits
\r\nBlack Friday is here and was gone. And guess what: I did not get up at 4:30am and work. Instead, I slept in till 10, which is reasonable, ate a hearty breakfast, went to an Alpaca farm, traveled throughout Virgina, bought some artwork, and came home. Not a bad day for Black Friday! As I said before, I never want to work another BF again. On a related subject, I found a few good comics that I wanted to share.
Ctrl+Alt+Del
(edited from the original for audiences - view original)


Chuck & Beans - c/o Shoebox Blog

As I said, I'm never working a Black Friday again, and I will enjoy my friday instead of working it.


On another related note, I found that Pearls Before Swine actually has its own cartoon series! I found one that I liked (this far) that I wanted to share:


Disclaimer: As I said, I do not own anything above except for the text. The presented comics and/or videos are copyright of their respective owners, and I do not take any credit for them.

Best part of all: I got this in before midnight! Night all!

Small Biz Saturday
PS: Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday! Celebrate it by shopping local! We're in Waynesville, NC, so if you're in the area and looking for a website, come by for a great deal! Here's the blurb from the site:\

November 27, 2010 is the first-ever Small Business Saturdaysm.
A day to come together in support of the small businesses we love.
The shops and restaurants that employ our neighbors and reinvest our money close to home.
The businesses that are the heartbeat of our communities and local economies.


Tags:#blackfriday #pearlsbeforeswine #zits #ctrl+alt+del #chuck&beans #art #alpca

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Happy Turkey-day Eve!


Not much to say about today. It's not that I'm ignorant of today, but not much really happened. Aside from being steamed from the manual file editing during the server transition (which hasn't progressed since yesterday as far as I know), Keat and I got up around 10, packed up our bags, and left for Keat's parents for the holiday.

On the way here, the traffic itself was light, but a lot of idiots on the road. I think we counted 10 cops either sitting and waiting or pulling people over before we even left Asheville. I lost count after 15 on the way here.

I got this shot about 30 minutes before we arrived.

Sunset over Hamptonville/Statesville, NC
Just beautiful.

Keat and I arrived at her parents, and I'm just lucky they have internet. Without it, I'd be scraping for something to do. We talked with them, started a small cooking fire, talked to some (of her) family friends, ate dinner, and then had firepit conversation.

Not much for today, but I can only hope that tomorrow goes better.

Before I go, I saw this video via Geeks Are Sexy, and I just had to share it. It really blows my mind that an LCARS system can be mimicked for a UI. Can't wait till I can get that far.


Tags:#geeksaresexy #thanksgiving #traffic #fire #startrek