After watching my brother Greg finish his second Dallas Marathon last December, I’ve spent this past year getting back into running. I’d gotten back up to being able to run a 5K without walking and was doing that every other morning, getting a little bit faster each time out. That went well through the Spring where I ran the Color Run 5K and then the Muenster Germanfest 5K setting new Personal Records for each race. I was planning on running the Dallas Half Marathon this year, but towards the end of the summer and into the fall, I fell out of this schedule and lost too much training to do it this year.
A few weeks ago, my brother mentioned he was going to be running the Dallas Turkey Trot 8 mile with my nephew. I decided I’d sign up for the 5K to force myself back into the running training. I’m happy to report the race went well, although I had to slow down from my brother and nephew’s pace around the 1.5 mile mark and I waved them to leave me behind. Even then, I was able to come in at 32 minutes even, which I considered to be a great time considering how slow my training runs had been.
I’ve found myself renewed to reach a goal of running a half marathon in 2014. Next up along that path is finishing a 10K. Here’s to it!
My brother, me and my nephew Chris before the race
I got this idea of posting beginning of school year and end of school year photos from Linda Sharps (who is hilarious on Twitter). It really shows how much the kids change over a relatively short time and yet we don’t notice it because it’s happening so gradually.
First day of 1st Grade (August 27, 2012)
Last day of 1st Grade (June 6, 2013)
And then Emily:
First day of 3-year-old pre-school (September 5, 2012)
First day of 4-year-old pre-school (September 4, 2013)
I had to cheat for Emily because in all the events of May, I lost the picture I took of her on her last day of 3-year-old pre-school. So that’s almost exactly one year of growth.
(I’ve been meaning to post this for quite a while, but I wanted to get the post about my dad done first before moving on to happier things.)
On the morning of May 30 I got one of those calls you never want to get. The nursing facility where my dad was doing physical therapy called me at 6:15 AM and left me a message because I had Do Not Disturbed enabled. I noticed the message shortly after 6:30 when my alarm went off. The message was from the head nurse asking for me to call them as soon as I could. This was a tip off that something was Not Good. While listening to the message, my phone rang again. This time, it was the Director of Nursing. Super. Not. Good. He was calling me to inform me that my father had died about 30 minutes ago. He told me that the funeral home would be coming to get him and he’d be there when I was ready. I hung up the phone and went to tell Maggie.
At this point, I was a weird state. There was some shock, there always is when someone dies. But there was also a little bit of “I was expecting this”. Between February 11th and the day he died, my dad had been home in his apartment a total of 8 days. The rest of the time had been spent switching between the hospital and a couple of different nursing facilities. He had been in poor health for a couple of years. Of course, I didn’t quite think it was Death’s Door levels of poor health, but it wasn’t the best. In the end, it appears he died of cardiac arrest.
The next few days were a blur of taking care of a lot of things. I had a lot of support from so many family and friends. Some of which I can never truly repay.
I’ve taken a long time to write this post because I wanted to give myself some time to get away from the immediacy and shock and to really think about my dad and what I wanted to say about him.
He was my hero growing up. He knew how to take care of everything and make everything better. He had to take this role by himself because my mom died when I was 6. This combined with his work schedule, meant I stayed with either my grandmother (his mom) or my great-aunt and uncle a lot. I saw my dad mostly just before bed and on the weekends. And I remember cherishing every moment.
He gave me my love of soccer (and sports in general). He coached my under-5 soccer team called the Cookie Monsters. We had so much fun even though we lost every game and never scored a goal. He made sure I stuck with it and later I was on some pretty great teams with him cheering us along on the sideline.
He was a member of the Elks Lodge and the Sons of AMVETS. He was elected the Sons of AMVETS National Commander for 1998-1999. I was lucky enough to be there for his election and swearing in ceremony. He broke down and cried during his acceptance speech saying it was the second proudest moment in his life next to my birth. That brought me to tears.
In the last few years, something that brought him great joy was getting to see and talk to my kids. He was their “Pa Jim”. He wasn’t very mobile in the final years of his life, but he really loved having his grandkids running around him and telling them stories.
My dad and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye and we frustrated each other a lot. But looking back, I just know he was trying to point me in what he thought was the best direction. Of course, this is something I’m now experiencing with my kids.
His final months weren’t the best, and some days were downright awful, but I’m glad I got to spend as much time as I could with him. I worked many days at his bedside and we talked sports, daytime TV, and local happenings.
But after nearly 30 years, he joins my mom in the cemetery. I hope they both have found peace. I miss them a lot.
I’ll never forget the first week after we got our Black Lab-mix rescue Bailey. We came home after an evening of celebrating my birthday in 2003 to find Bailey, who was in a puppy fence in our kitchen, had turn up a foot-wide circle of our linoleum. She was super lucky she was a very cute puppy. That wouldn’t be the first thing she would destroy in our house as she grew up, but it was certainly the most memorable.
After Brenden was born, she became “his” dog. There was a point when he was 4 or 5 where he couldn’t go to sleep without her in his room.
Early in April this year, we had to say goodbye to Bailey. It was one of the hardest days of my life, but telling Brenden that she had died was quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. He cried hard for about 15 minutes straight and then off and on for the next couple of days. He still mentions that he misses her and I just tell him I do too.
This is Bailey in our apartment when we lived in New Jersey.
This is Bailey about a week before she died laying on Brenden’s bed, something she loved to do. In those final days, seeing her like that just broke my heart.
Our daughter Emily has this really cute thing she does when she’s eating something she’s been told is spicy. Or is something that has been spicy in the past but isn’t necessarily spicy this time around. She takes a bite, then yells “‘Picy! ‘Picy! ‘Picy!” and grabs her drink and takes a gulp. Wash, rinse, repeat for most of the rest of the meal. One night I finally got it on video and now I present that to you.
It still makes me smile. I just love how the S is missing and how she loves doing this over and over.
Today, my friend Justin Williams released a great new developer tool called Committed. It’s an OS X application that uses Notification Center to let you know when new commits have been pushed to a GitHub repository. It’s only $5 on the App Store. Go buy it!
I haven’t written about this before, but a friend of mine Steve Streza and I have been organizing a yearly event during Apple’s developer conference called the WWDC Night of Meat. This year we made it a charity fundraiser. It’s taken me far too long to gather the final tally and make the donation, but as you can read over at the Night of Meat site, we were able to raise over $7,000 for the Nation Center for Women and Information Technology. I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish this year and can’t wait to make it bigger and better next year.
Back in March, I had the opportunity to attend NSConference in Reading, England. Scotty, Dave, Claire and their team have put together a great show from venue to the speaker lineup to the food.
One of things that’s great about NSConference is that it’s held a ways out of town at a country club style hotel. Because it’s out so far, the only place to really hang out is in the Pub, so everyone does. It’s one of the few conferences where I feel like I could get a chance to talk to everybody there. It’s also great to get to talk a lot of the Europeans I interact with online that don’t get a chance to make it over to US events. Oddly enough, I also met a couple of my fellow MartianCraft devs in-person for the first time there as well.
I have a photo set on Flickr of a few pictures I took during the conference.
There’s one photo’s story I do want to tell:
I had dinner with the other MartianCraft folks that were at NSConference at an Indian restaurant. When it came time to order dessert, Neil Inglis (pictured) just wanted some ice cream. The only part of the dessert menu that had just ice cream was the kids section. Even better: it was served in a think called a “Punky”. Neil tried several times to order just “plain ice cream”, but in the end he had to say “I’d like to order a Punky”. And it came to the table and much fun was had at Neil’s expense. Luckily he was a good sport about it.
It looks like Scotty has already got the dates for next year’s NSConference posted for March 4th-6th. I highly recommend attending if you can.
During our anniversary trip, Maggie and I made a point to go visit Dylan’s Candy Bar. For those that haven’t been, it’s an awesome 3 story candy store in NYC. It’s hard to capture just how much candy is in this place, but I’ve tried with the following photos. We plan on taking our kids here in the future, but we also know that once we do, we’ll never get them to leave the store.
The center of the first level has this circle of assorted candy that is everything you can basically think of from licorice to jawbreakers.
Also on the first floor is a wall of gummy candy.
Getting closer to the wall of gummy candy, on the top shelf is this amazing item: a 5 lb. gummy bear.
The stairs are clear have all sorts of candy embedded into them.
The have these two messages on the landings.
In the basement of the store are two walls of gum balls.
The also have a wall of things like raisins and sunflower seeds covered in different colors of chocolate. They are delicious.
And of course a wall of M&Ms.
And a wall of Jelly Belly jelly beans.
Along the back wall is an amazing assortment of candy bars from all time frames.
I was shocked to find candy cigarettes, as I didn’t think they were made anymore
And finally they have very large Smarties.
Something I didn’t take pictures of is all the clothing, pillows and assorted other things that are all candy themed. From M&M pillows to Mario themed candy boxes. And after you’ve looked at all the candy and other things in the basement and on the first floor, if you head up to the 2nd floor they have ice cream and shakes. It’s such an amazing place, if you’re ever in NYC you should definitely check it out.
On June 1, Maggie and I celebrated 10 years of marriage. It’s been an incredible time and she’s the best wife and friend I could have ever asked for. To celebrate we took a trip to NYC. It was the first time we’d been back to the city since 2007 and we had a great time. Having lived there from 2004-2005, we mostly wanted to see old favorite spots and have some of the foods we really missed. Above is a picture of us taken on the Brooklyn Bridge.
I, of course, went looking for Street Meat. Sadly, the guy I used to go to was no longer there, but we found a couple of great carts. That’s right, I had street meat three times while we were there! It was everything I remembered.
We also made it down to Chinatown to get hot pork soup sticky buns, which apparently only exist there. So, so good. We had an awkward moment looking for the place we used to go to. We found the location and went in, but quickly realized, it was no longer the same place. Unfortunately, we didn’t realize this until after we were seated. I realized, we’d passed the new location of the place we liked because I saw the sticky buns pictured in the window as we walked by. I quickly apologized to our waiter and gave him $5 for his trouble and we headed out. Once we sat down at the other location, we immediately knew we were in the right place and were in sticky bun heaven very soon.
We spent time doing a few things we hadn’t done before, most notably we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge:
We also spent time in Central Park reading under the trees in Poet’s Walk as well as some time controlling the RC Sailboats at the Central Park Conservatory:
On our first trudge through Times Square, Maggie decided to stop and listen to a guy handing out his Hip Hop CD, and I loved this shot I captured of them:
When I used to work in Midtown, I would often get breakfast at the Duke Cafe on 41st Street at Broadway. Imagine my surprise when we got breakfast there and the same two breakfast cooks where there:
We got tickets to see Wicked on our anniversary night and we ended up being able to get pretty amazing seats. It’s a fantastic show, I would highly recommend seeing it:
We also took a quick trip over to our old neighborhood in New Jersey to see how things where. Not much had changed and it was nice to be reminded of that time when we lived there. I was also reminded that I used to run up this escalator on my way home from work:
There are some more photos from our trip over here if you want to check them out.
Recently, I made a disastrous mistake with my Mophie Juice Pack Plus
by partially submerging it in some water. This of course destroyed it and with only a couple of weeks until WWDC, I needed to get a replacement pronto. I jumped on Amazon and noticed the Mophie was selling for $65, which was an incredible 35% savings off the retail price. In this case, it turned out to be too good to be true.
The thing I didn’t notice was that this offer wasn’t from Amazon themselves, but instead another Amazon “seller”. Amazon does call this out, but I personally don’t think it’s prominent enough. I’ll certainly be keeping a closer eye on this in the future because I was shipped a counterfeit Mophie!
If the bottom edge of the case hadn’t started to peel, I may have never noticed. Once that happened, I posted a picture on twitter and the @mophie account replied back to me to be wary of counterfeits from Amazon sellers and to make sure to order directly from Amazon or Mophie to be sure to get a legitimate Mophie. I grabbed my broken case and started comparing and, sure enough, there were very subtle differences. Most of those differences are outlined here (thanks to Jay Tamboli for the link). The only thing I didn’t have to compare was the packaging.
I ordered a Mophie direct from the company (luckily they were running a 20% off sale for Memorial Day weekend). When the new case arrived, I started comparing the packaging and I noticed all the differences the site above points out. One thing that’s hard to capture its that the color of the LEDs that light up to show the Mophie’s battery level are also different. The real deal is pure white, while the fake has a blue tinge to them.
Be careful when you see a good deal on a Mophie, there’s a chance it’s too good to be true.
I’ve also reported the seller to Amazon and they are issuing me a full refund. Great customer service there. Kudos to Amazon.
Our little boy keeps growing up. This past week, he graduated from Kindergarten. It’s been amazing watching him mature and learn during this school year. He’s learned to read and to do math as well as being very good at spelling tests. While we’re very excited about him graduating, it is a little bit sad that he will be leaving this school to go to our neighborhood elementary school. Although he will likely go back for visits since his sister is still going there for pre-school.
Also, did I mention he’s grown a lot since the first day?
The graduation ceremony was fun and the kids seemed to really enjoy it. The school played a movie of photos from the year and you could hear the kids giggling as they saw things they remembered. It was really cute.
The school gave the kids a cool set of gifts for graduation. Brenden made the pairing and the “About me” sheet.
Each kid told us their name and how long they had been at the school as well what they learned this year and what they wanted to be when they grow up. This is Brenden doing his speech.
Brenden receives his diploma and graduation medal.
The kids prepare to throw their hats.
The kids throw their hats!
Brenden is so proud of his graduation medal, he’s been wearing it around the house all weekend.
I realized I never put this on the blog, but back in November I started working with the great guys at MartianCraft. I’ve been super busy working on a client app that should get released sometime this week. I’m pretty excited about that app being unleashed on the world, and I’ll be sure to post when it’s available.
The team is amazing in the things we get done, especially considering we mostly all live in different cities and even countries. I feel lucky to be a part of it.
Back in December my friend Jeff LaMarche posted that he had built a treadmill desk and then a little later wrote up the plans for the one he built. I also work with Jeff on projects for MartianCraft, so I was able to see that switching to a treadmill desk had no impact on his productivity. He’s also lost quite a bit of weight already, which as been very inspiring. So inspiring that I took his plans and built my own version a couple of weeks ago:
I’ve been using it all this week for all my computer working time and I’m on it right now writing this. I’m walking at a 1.5 MPH pace right now and I expect to try and get that up to 2.0 MPH over the next couple of months. I’m taking it slow and steady so as to not overdo it, and that seems to be paying off. I find that my concentration and focus level is higher and my mind isn’t getting distracted as much. The only real challenge has been drinking coffee and walking at the same time. Marching band experience to the rescue there!
One of the great things about having a treadmill desk is it means that I’m never missing my chance to burn calories. Previously, like Jeff, I’d have some client deadline that that would make time spent at the gym feel like I was putting myself further behind since I wasn’t getting anything done while I worked out. Now, I get my calorie burning and client work in at the same time. Win-win!
Jeff’s plans are good and are easy to follow, although I made a few changes and have a few tips:
I ended up needing a couple of pipe wrenches getting my pipes unscrewed when I messed up a little and then I used them again to tighten things together before attaching to the wood.
My short cross pieces of pipe are about 17″ instead of 20″ so that the tops of the supports more easily fit to the edge of the wood.
I’m 5′ 11″, so I went with 22″ pipe lengths for the legs instead of 23″.
I put the center of the guy wire holes 1.5″ in from side and back. These measurements aren’t marked on Jeff’s diagram, so I guessed and this seems to work well.
A swaging tool, used properly, makes crimping the wire very easy. Both Lowe’s and the Home Depot have them on the isle with the wire rope. It’s going to run you about $20-$30. Linking them here as I had a hard time finding them in the stores.
Jeff’s Lowe’s must be awesome to carry the 1 1/4″ thick boards for this project, but mine didn’t, so I went with 1″ thick. No problems holding all my computing stuff. You’ll find them on the moulding and furniture building isle. They are NOT in lumber (they’ll just stare at you blankly if you ask).
comes almost fully assembled, but be careful taking it out of the box. The console comes attached and can drop and yank out the wires when you lift it out. I had to send my first one back because this happened to me.
Be prepared to spend some time on this project, it’s not easy or quick. And I’d get the wood work done and painted to dry while you wait for the treadmill to be shipped. You really want to give the paint a couple of days to dry.
Last weekend, the kids and I made our way back to Hand Camp for our second year (you can read about last year here). We almost didn’t get to go this year as we were initially wait listed. On Tuesday of last week, we got a call from the people who organize the camp that 3 spots opened up and they wanted to know it we wanted them. Maggie had an all day class Saturday, so we decided to send me and the kids for the weekend.
I’m so glad Brenden got to go this year. The extra year of maturity really showed. He was making friends and running around with other kids and generally having a blast. Both kids were really well behaved and we had a great time together.
It was also good to talk with other parents of kids with similar hand differences about the things going on as their kids get older. The funny thing is, we all realize that the hand differences are almost zero of our challenges. Our challenges come from the fact we have kids. It’s like an extra bonus parenting support group to know we’re going through the same things as others raising their kids.
And here are a few pictures from the weekend:
Arrival lunch with ice cream for dessert.
“Spinning” during opening night announcements. Those kids are silly.
Emily is such a ham when the camera comes out
Emily got a little tired the second day and needed a nap.
But she livened up for the carnival that night and got this cute face painting kitty cat.
Brenden is now fascinated with roly-polies (aka pill bugs) and wants one as a pet.
This was the last thing we went to on Sunday, those are some tired kids.
Shawn Blanc posted about companies that spam their own customers. This is a terrible practice and it pains me when a company I’m already doing business with does it to me.
The worst offender for me is Time Warner Cable. Over the summer I switched to their high speed cable internet service because it offered much better download and, more importantly to me, upload speeds over my existing U-Verse internet service. Since then, at least once a month, I get a phone call from them trying to up-sell me on subscribing to cable or their phone service. The worst part of this is the opening line of that call: “We’d like to extend an offer to you, one of our best customers”.
My response last time was that if they called me again to try and up-sell me, I wouldn’t be one of their customers at all. I immediately got the “do not call list” spiel and was told I shouldn’t be called again. Since then, I haven’t had a call from them. I don’t want to cancel my cable internet service, but I also don’t want to be up-sold for products I don’t care about. I’m very aware of their other products, and if I wanted them, I would have already have them.
So companies, please take note, when you have someone already on the line, just be grateful you have them and find more customers elsewhere.
Shipping something via a UPS Store location means only that location can call UPS about any issues with your shipment. You’re stuck talking through a middleman. Nowhere in their store or on their receipts do they mention this. From now on, I’m shipping only via USPS or FedEx.
The sordid tale:
A few weeks ago I shipped a package using UPS via “The UPS Store”. I’ve used this location several times for shipping, notary services, and US Mail drop off. The clerk, who later turned out to be the manager, let me know that Ground shipping would get my package to its destination overnight. I was pretty happy with that. I notified the recipient and sent them the tracking number.
I entered the tracking number into Delivery Status (a great app for your iOS device for tracking packages) so I could watch the shipment’s progress. As expected, it was “Out for delivery” the next morning. It was “Out for delivery” at 10 PM when the recipient contacted me to make sure they had the right tracking number as they didn’t have the package yet. That night, Deliver Status updated the status for the tracking number with “Out for delivery” again. When the package hadn’t arrived by 10 PM the second day, I called UPS.
After a brief wait on hold, I got a nice lady on the phone who was ready to help me. I gave her the tracking number and then she asked if I was with The UPS Store. I told her that I was not, but that I was the person who shipped the package at The UPS Store. At this point, the helpfulness stops. I’m told that The UPS Store became the shipper of record as they were the last ones to touch the package and it was shipped under their UPS account. I clarify a couple of times that despite the fact I paid for the shipping and it was my package, I was powerless to initiate anything to find the package and that only The UPS Store I used could do so. Of course, being so late at night, I’d have to wait until the next morning to go to the UPS Store to get things sorted out.
After those tweets, the UPS help twitter account replied with essentially the same information I’d been given over the phone. It really bugged me that this wasn’t explained anywhere in the store or on the receipt you get when you ship there.
First thing the next morning, I went to the store and the same clerk was on duty. I told her that I had problem with a package I had shipped and gave her the tracking number. She looked it up in the computer and came to the same conclusion that I did: “Something’s not right”. She then calls UPS in front of me and gives them the tracking number and says she’s the manager of the UPS Store that shipped the package. They then start asking her questions about the package. She has to relay those questions to me because, being the shipper, I actually know the answers UPS needs to know. After about 5 minutes of this back and forth, UPS initiates a trace on the package. I’m told it will take 5-7 business days to complete the trace.
Needless to say, after having to use a intermediary to conduct the phone call I tried to do the night before, I was fuming. Trying to remain calm, I ask the manager what’s the deal with why I have to have her make that call for me. And she replies with “that’s just the way it’s setup. It’s stupid”. To which I responded that yes, it is stupid and it’d just cost her and UPS a customer. I asked where in the store or on any receipt I was given that it was stated that I’d no longer be the responsible party for the package. She said there wasn’t anywhere that was posted. I then informed here that it should be in huge red letters on a banner behind the counter. Or at the very least on the huge receipt they print out. I haven’t returned to the store since`.
My biggest frustration here is that I entered a place with the UPS logo on it and shipped a package via UPS under the impression that UPS would be the one helping me. It turns out, each UPS Store location is an independent franchisee. The problem seems to stem from the fact that UPS bought Mailboxes, Etc and turned them into The UPS Store without changing their previous relationship. I’m willing to bet that any normal person would assume that shipping a package at The UPS Store would be just like dropping it off at a UPS warehouse for shipping. Incidentally, shipping at a UPS warehouse is the only place where you remain the shipper of record and can initiate package traces.
This UPS policy also applies when you drop your package off for shipping at a Staples that’s an authorized UPS shipping center. I was told this on the phone with UPS and verified it at my local Staples. So beware there as well.
To check and see if this was FedEx’s policy, I went to my local FedEx Office and asked them if I shipped something through them via FedEx if I’d be able to deal with FedEx directly or have to come to them in the store. To my relief, I was informed that I would be able to handle any shipping issues directly with FedEx. From now on, I’m only shipping with FedEx and the US Postal Service. I suggest you do the same.
And for those wondering, after a few days, the package finally arrive to where I shipped it, so there’s at least that one bright spot.