An old buddy goes to Nashville

During the time I spent in Baton Rouge, I worked in an electronics lab during the day, and then played guitar by night. I had been recruited to play in (of all things) a country band, but I decided that it would be an interesting challenge, and (being from NJ), a novel way to be enculturated into the ways of the south.

The country band was called “Josh Brister and Big Country”. Josh was the singer, and I was his right-hand man. We had great fun, traveling around to different towns playing shows and making friends all over the place. The people made it all worth it, and it turned out we played mostly pretty heavy, driving country – not “tear in my beer” stuff, so I got to really jam!

Well, Josh appears to have finally made it to Nashville, and it seems he’s working with some pretty big names. It’s still anyone’s guess as to whether or not anything will come of his relocation (record companies and management companies can put an abrupt end to what should’ve by all rights been a stellar rise to the top, as we’ve both seen), but I sure do wish him all the luck in the world.

If you’re into country, you can check his site out here.

We gotta get outta this place, if it’s the last thing we ever do…

I spent my boyhood in New Jersey, kindergarten through 10th grade. Then I moved to Texas to finish up high school. Since I graduated HS, I’ve lived in Philadelphia, NYC, went back to Texas, Baton Rouge, and I’m now back in NJ. As a former stockbroker, my clientele spanned the entire country; Minnesota, Hawaii, Florida, South Carolina, Washington state, etc. The point is, I was in enough other places, and away from New Jersey long enough to really know what I’m missing by living here. Further, I’ve dealt with people from many different places, and there’s a drastic change in peoples’ interactions when one leaves NJ.

Statistics will tell you that NJ is the richest state in the union and that quality of life here is something akin to “wonderful”. However, statistics say all kinds of things that aren’t true. Truth be told, the quality of life here is pretty damned awful when compared with every other place I’ve lived, with the possible exception of Philadelphia.

Traffic is horrid, in part because the major highways are toll roads, which slows down the major arteries, and also pushes 18-wheelers onto the more local roads to avoid the tolls and keep down costs. By the way, tolls were initially implemented to pay for the initial construction of the parkway (in the case of the Garden State Parkway). It wasn’t sold to the public as something that would be ongoing for all eternity. In addition, there is, to my knowledge, NO way to leave the state without paying a toll. This is significant, since NJ is often referred to as a sleeping community, where workers from Philadelphia and NYC go home to take refuge from the city. Commuting by train and bus is one thing, but you can’t drive into either city for free either.

Property taxes in NJ are, by now, infamous. I know a person in North Carolina who has a house similar to mine, except that it’s on 3 acres of land vs. my .75 acres, we live in comparable communities in terms of services and schools, and he pays in one year what I pay per quarter in NJ. While there has always been talk of property tax reform in NJ, the corruption in the government here is entrenched to the point where the government is seen as just a thinly veiled organized crime gang. Property taxes mean money, and they’re not going to give that up without one helluva fight.

Of course, property values here are also sky high. My buddy’s house in NC that’s just like mine? Well, he paid a little more than half what I paid, and has 3 acres, and his house is about 5 years newer than mine. With property values so high, builders see high margins on new homes, and with the most dense population in the country, condiminiums have done more than simply “dot” the landscape. This has added to the congestion on the roads, the congestion in the neighborhoods, and has thoroughly eroded the quality of life here. Believe it or not, with .75 acres of land, I’m the envy of everyone I know who lives in NJ.

Besides monetary stuff, the attitudes of the people in NJ just generally suck. Badly. People are rude, obnoxious, and brash. It’s obvious in any place where you have to interact with them. Your local supermarket, the mall, at work, at the beach, in movie theaters, at sporting events, and most definitely on the roads. NJ drivers, while not the worst drivers in the world, are amazingly aggressive. I’ll say one good thing about NJ drivers: while their aggressiveness is absolutely unparalleled, so is their driving skill. They’ll piss you off unmercifully, but when you calm down, you’ll think about what just happened and actually be impressed at the feat they just pulled off.

The weather in NJ alone makes it fall into the “not worth it” category for me. If I have to live through summers that at times get as hot, and always get as humid as Houston, I do *not* *also* want to deal with the disgusting, dark, drab, cold, never-ending winters as well. My buddy Matt has often said to me that it’s too hot for him to ever go south, but the reality is that many places in the south are no hotter than NJ.

So is there any good news? I love my job. There’s lots of work in the state. That part is nice, I suppose, except that you’re working with other people from NJ, who are either really stuffy, ubereducated, impersonal drones, or self-centered, opportunistic, arrogant beasts. Believe it or not, I have not found that to be the case in other parts of the country. My job doesn’t exhibit too much of that, which is part of what I like about my job. Unfortunately, not everyone can have my job, so for most people, I’d say just stay away from NJ. You know those surveys that restaurants and hotels give you? They always ask “Would you recommend us to a friend?” Well, not only would I not recommend NJ to a friend, I wouldn’t wish it on an enemy.

I’m a married man

On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2005, I got married. That was cool.

Everything went pretty smoothly, and everyone said they had a wonderful time. The hotel was really nice, and everyone did their jobs without much drama, from the florist to the photographer, musicians and dj’s, everything went off without a hitch.

Our photographer was awesome, actually. He’s an old friend of my wife from college days, and I got a whole bunch of compliments on the guitarist who played the ceremony and cocktail hour music. That’s saying a lot, since just about everyone on my father’s side of the family are musicians, some of them professional (or former professionals). :-)

The food was outstanding. The chicken was *not* rubber chicken that you sometimes get, and the filet mignon was out of this world.

Pictures to follow!!

What a huge week

On Tuesday, the book I’ve been working on for O’Reilly publishing was completed, and put into production, ending the most gruelling 7 weeks of my life. I spent seemingly every waking moment either working at my day job, or churning out content for the book at night.

On Friday, I got an email that I can’t even talk about publicly yet, but is really, really exciting.

On Saturday, I got MARRIED. So far, the ring hasn’t caused many typos ;-) Pics and more to follow.

Free Opera Browswer: Mark My Words

Opera released a nagware-free, no license fee version of their browser today. So I went to their site to download it. I clicked around in about 12 different ways, and I still have no browser. However, I’m sure that every click on the “Download Now” button was counted, and mark my words, Opera will announce sometime in the next week, that they’re up to a gazillion downloads.

Opera: don’t get all happy – it’s really just about 20 people trying to download it once.

Fix your site!

Tired… So Tired…

I’m tired of Linux reviews. I’m tired of Linux zealots who say disingenuous things like “if the choice is between Open or Closed Source solutions, the answer is easy” in the context of a discussion about things they have no clue about. I’m tired of hearing about what Linux has to do to “hit the mainstream”. Everyone just needs to shut up.

First of all, “Linux”, the kernel, needs relatively few things compared to the distributions that bundle the Linux kernel with all kinds of other stuff in various ways, mostly broken. The kernel has no trouble with sound. It’s the distro vendor that decides that different apps should use different devices which require different mixers every time you open an mp3 and want to change the volume. Sure, the kernel would benefit greatly from vendor support or a little more openness/collaboration from hardware makers. That’s not news. But this habit of confusing the distro with the kernel seems to have popped up with the relatively recent (and unbelievably large) influx of new Linux users, and it needs to stop. Indeed, what Linux needs is for everyone to just lay low while it quietly takes over the world without attracting too much attention from the likes of the old-school “big boys” like Sun and Microsoft.

Second, if your IT budget runs into 6 figures or more, there’s very little that the “mainstream” Linux user is going to be able to tell you that’s of any value, because the vast majority of them don’t work in those environments, and haven’t worked in those environments, and do not, in my experience, have a clue as to the complexities of corporate, enterprise concepts like change management, data ownership (and the politics of it), corporate standard solutions, multi-tier applications with Java in the database connected through to global end users using things like Tibco and MQ Series, project management, and the justification of commercial vs. open/free software in a corporate environment. I’m not saying I like any of this, but the plain and simple fact is that you can’t answer questions asked by these people by saying “apt-get”. It just doesn’t work.

Third, quit trying to “convert” people. We’re not a religion, you know. People aren’t going to burn in hell for using Microsoft products. I’ve learned that if they can get what they need from it, just let ‘em have it. Have you ever been converted by a roving band of Jehova’s Witnesses? No. You take their “reading material” and promptly throw it away. Windows users are doing largely the same thing when you send them links to a HOWTO or a Linux review, published on a Linux website, by another Linux zealot, with terms in it that the average Windows user can’t even understand.

Well, that oughta be plenty to get me some flame mail. More to come! ;-P

Week of the wedding….

Well, I’m getting married on Saturday, so of course this week I’ve been busy answering what must be the single most asked question of grooms on the week of their wedding: “Are you nervous/freaking out?”

I’m not nervous. I’m not freaking out. Everything is fine. Of course, the last minute details of a wedding always culminate into a frenzied, frantic scene during the last day or two before the wedding, and we’re anticipating that being the case, but so far, nothing that my buddies have told me has happened. There’s been no appearances of “bridezilla”, I have not begun to plan an escape route to Mexico. Everyone just relax.

Natasha and I have been dating for over 5 years. For something like 2 or 3 of those years, we lived a few hours apart. We traveled A LOT. I’d drive up one weekend, she’d drive to my place the next. We never really questioned why we were doing it. It was just right somehow. It’s still right today – even more right, actually, because there’s no driving involved!

Well, if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance I’ll see you at the wedding. If not, we’ll be having a bash a few weeks after the wedding for all the people we couldn’t fit onto the guest list. Stay tuned for more details on the party!

Email with all caps in the subject bother me.

Does this mean I’m some kind of tech elitist or something? I just don’t understand what causes this to happen. I mean, you’re sitting there at your desk, and you pop open your email client, and then what? Is there a big decision to be made now? “Gee, do I press caps lock, or just type?” Or is it an automatic thing that you just do when you open an email client? What’s the story?

I’m about to write a procmail filter to throw anything with all caps in the subject line in the trash. Procmail is a cool little program that filters my email for me on the server side of things, so I don’t have to do it in every client I use, which is nice. The other nice thing is you’re not limited to the capabilities of the client in question. Some clients only let you filter based on subject contents or the “from” or “to” headers. With procmail I can say “if it comes in between 3-5pm and its from my manager, then send it to my pager, and put a copy in my inbox as well, unless it’s all caps, in which case, just throw it in the trash”. This is power. ;-)

mail.com is absolutely horrible.

I’ve been using mail.com as my spam account for quite some time. I did that because, after first opening the account, I realized that it was kinda slow and klunky, so I just used it for registering on websites that require an email address. Plenty of times, those sites sell those email addresses – especially if you get something of value for registering. Well, I’m deeming mail.com to be of no use whatsoever, even as a spam account.

Often times, I get “Server too busy” errors, telling me to come back later. The only thing that works reliably is the complex advertising system they have. Sometimes, you have to sit through an ad just to read a particular email! It presents an ad, along with a “No thanks” button that’s greyed out for 3 or 5 seconds. Then, you click that, and it still takes forever to load the email.

I’m not even using the “beta” version of the site! I’m using something that these people put forth as their production-quality product! I can’t even imagine what the beta looks like. I’ve used the site with firefox on every conceivable platform, and safari on the mac. There’s just no saving it. It’s been this way forever, and will likely be that way forever.

I’ve complained to them, too, but got nothing useful in response, if anything at all. I think I got an automated response or something, but that’s it.

Well, I’m done with it. Onward and upward. I will not recommend it to a friend.