Monday, October 20, 2008

Friends

Kate and Emily after licorice ice cream! In college I found a real “relationship” with Jesus. I remember feeling alone and a bit down and was out walking on the beach during a campus ministry retreat. I felt someone’s hand in mine, and we walked together for a while. I could scream about how hard life is, how hard it is to believe in Him, and still feel comforted with the arms around me. From that point on I’ve always recognized that Jesus is my best friend, and always there even if I ignore him for a while. I’m always the most important thing to his heart, just as each of us are.

I also recognized, and continue to figure out, what friendship means. If we are best friends, then I really need to make him proud of me, just as I’m proud of him. I need to change my life in a way that people know who my friends are, and why.

So, I loved coming across this quote from one of my previous students, but more importantly, my friend, Kate:

It suddenly struck me today how personal of a friend Jesus is. Because, okay, I knew he was my friend. "Oh yeah, like, Jesus is my friend and he loves me, you know, like, just the way I am. And that's so awesome, because like, he died for me." But if Jesus was my friend, that means he likes my lemon bars and he thinks my jokes are funny and he would tell me if there was a bug in my hair. Which is a ridiculous thought. In a good way!

You should check out her entire post Ramblings and maybe a little bit of revelation.

In years of teaching youth ministry, I’ve never been able to fully communicate that. It can’t be forced, we just have to get there on our own. I am planning to think more on this and figure out how to make it more real to people, probably through examining our own friendships, as flawed as they may be. And, truthfully, our part of the friendship will never quite live up.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Realizing Your Passion

finally here by ~cjames In church today Anne, our priest, made an interesting point about our church during her sermon (her big long talk in between music). When she was determining whether to join us as assistant rector, she called the bishop. The bishop is essentially the representative for our region, kind of like the House representative for your state. He responded that

St. Matthew’s gives more to missions, per capita, than any other church he knows of.

That in itself is wonderful. We had at least 100 people go on mission trips this year, not to mention the people who worked to organize and make it happen. But it got me thinking about what made this happen.

Our missions program happened because one person was passionate about the program and the entire church supported him in that passion. Leaders put money into it and individuals volunteered weeks of their year, again and again.

My own role at St. Matthew’s is a great example here. I love teaching and leading. Changing and molding lives into what god wants them to be is my second greatest passion, just behind being the best father and husband that I can be.

I was, and continue to be, encouraged to lead people and change lives. The church put forth more people and money than I can recall in supporting my dreams for the youth program, and it became a thing of wonder. Hundreds of people teens have been changed by the actions of our church.

Again and again our church encourages it’s people to live their passions. More than encouragement, a strong passion to live god’s word for us bring the entire church together.

Who do you have cheering you on and making your passions a reality? what can I do to help make it happen?

Peace,
+Tom

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Scattered

Scatter by *PetervG It’s the only way to describe the way I’m feeling lately. Too many things going on all at the same time.

Peace,
+Tom

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ajax Quick-Start

Ajax Presentation 1

How many of you know what I mean when I refer to Ajax? Okay, what’s it stand for? Right, Asynchronous JavaScript. So, what’s that mean? Anybody?

Right, essentially the Web browser submits information back to the server and renders a response without refreshing the entire page.

An obvious example here is clicking a button to submit a rating, like with Amazon [go to http://www.amazon.com/Doctor-Who-Complete-David-Tennant/dp/B000JBWWP6/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1223001940&sr=1-12].

Ajax Presentation 2

I started using ASP.NET Ajax in the olden days when it was still called Atlas in a community technical preview. Kind of crazy to think that was over two years ago, and quite a bit has changed, though not as much as you might think.

At its core Microsoft has created an Ajax base that is easy to quickly put into practice and also provides the backend JavaScript to allow flexibility and a framework for more powerful Ajax based applications.

Ajax Presentation 3

So, today, I’m going to talk about the easy stuff. I’ll talk about the basic controls you need to get started using Ajax, namely the ScriptManager and the UpdatePanel. I’ll talk about some of the times we’ve used it on projects and some of the things to look out for. I’m not going to talk about extra components like tools by Telerik, ComponentOne, Infragistics or CodePlex or even the Ajax Control Toolkit. I’m also not going to talk JASON… anybody? The JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) implementation for Ajax or calling Web services from JSON. I’m also not going to cover using Ajax in MOSS 2007, mainly because I never got it to work correctly in a quick trial, which may have been because we didn’t have SP1 installed at the time. We’ll save all of that for later if you’re interested.

The first time I used Ajax was when we put together a workforce calculator pilot for the IRS. Like all pilots, this has been is production use without code changes for the past two years.

Yes, I know this can be done with client-server or Silverlight. Heck, I know there are some of you who could have done it in FlashML or a Java app. The problem we have consistently had is that clients (even Booz Allen people) don’t want to install anything new on their machines, even the .NET framework. The obvious beauty here is that nothing had to be loaded on the user’s machine to make it work, but you still get a client/server “feel”.

We didn’t really go crazy with this, we really just wanted to create something that didn’t refresh the entire screen every time a value was changed or a calculation was made. With that we stuck to using the UpdatePanel around areas of the page that we wanted to update without causing a screen refresh. Which leads to the obvious question, what’s an UpdatePanel?

Ajax Presentation 4

The UpdatePanel is a built-in ASP.Net Ajax control that will wrap around any control (including other Update Panels) to provide the rich postback functionality. You just drop in an UpdatePanel tag and put your controls inside the ContentTemplate. It’s also very easy to tie the UpdatePanel to only certain events using triggers. For example, you may want it to run for a calculate button without refreshing the whole page, but not for a save that redirects the user to a new page when it’s completed. When it comes down to it you should always use triggers so that JavaScript code is only added to the controls you want, not to every event that occurs.

Ajax Presentation 5

The backbone for ASP.NET Ajax is the ScriptManager tag. It’s a single tag and just doesn’t look like very much. It’s most interesting property is EnablePartialRendering which, when set to true, generates the plumbing that allows controls in an UpdatePanel to suppress the entire refresh during post back.

When a page is rendered the ScriptManager links a couple JavaScript files which provide all of the Ajax functionality for the page. Really it puts in an HTTP Handler for a dynamically generated JavaScript file ending in .asmx, so don’t go spending hours hunting around the file system for it. These same JavaScript files allow you to write your own JavaScript to access server data or use third party Ajax tools.

It’s pretty important to note that you can only have one of these on a page at a time and it must be inside the form tag, so I always put it in the master file and generally forget about it after that.

Well, did I say forget about it? There’s one incredibly important thing to remember about Ajax. It’s not, by any means, Section 508 compliant. Assuming some of you are new and may not know what I mean, does anyone want to give a 10 second explanation of 508 and why we should follow it?

Ajax Presentation 6

So, in a nutshell, Section 508 applies to people with disabilities.

Those of us who have lived in the DC area for a couple of years (okay, maybe 15 or more) should remember the big hoopla that happened with Metro where the doors would open and close with a ding-dong chime half a second before the doors closed. Sure enough blind people and people in wheelchairs were getting stuck. Not to mention that you’d never know which train you were getting on; was it blue or orange? The yellow or green line, oh, wait, green didn’t exist then. Needless to say trains were refitted and we now have a nice voice telling us the train, direction and a verbal warning of closing doors.

Section 508 did that, and mandated it for all government Web applications too (except SharePoint apparently, which has some odd exception). I knew you were wondering where I was going with that story. Government Web sites need to be equally usable by blind people (color and otherwise), deaf people and people in wheelchairs.

Screen readers used by blind people to hear Web sites will read through a page once it’s rendered and then only reads the label for whatever field is highlighted as they tab through the form. Unfortunately, when only a section of a page is updated with JavaScript, the reader doesn’t do anything. This means 22,000 people can’t use your site. Not to mention the number of blind people in the general public who may be using it. So, how do we make Web sites Section 508 accessible?

Keep in mind that right now I’m focusing on using the UpdatePanel and built in controls with ASP.NET Ajax. I mentioned EnablePartialRendering a bit earlier. Setting EnablePartialRendering to false will turn off all of the Ajax postback interception, so your Web site will function just as if it didn’t have any Ajax, with full page redraws and everything. On every site we’ve built we’ve added into the master file a check box allowing users to turn off Ajax. When they check the box the page posts back setting a profile setting for the user and the code behind turns off partial rendering for that user. Pretty easy.

Of course this only works for built in Ajax functionality like the Update panel. Other Ajax controls, like the open source Ajax Control Toolkit will still use their rich functionality. So you’ll have to check internally and provide additional methods to make the site accessible. And no, I’m not going into that today.

So, let’s set-up a quick site.

Demonstration Steps

  1. 1. Open Visual Studio 2008
  2. 2. Create a new ASP.NET Web Site
  3. 3. [View Split Mode]
  4. 4. Point out the built-in Ajax Extensions
    1. ScriptManager
    2. ScriptManagerProxy
    3. Timer
    4. UpdatePanel
    5. UpdateProgress
  5. 5. Drag a ScriptManager control on the page
  6. 6. Set its EnablePartialRendering to True
  7. 7. Add a DataSet file
  8. 8. Add a TableAdapter
  9. 9. Connect to a database
  10. 10. Create a tableadapter to a database table
  11. 11. Save the DataSet
  12. 12. Return to default.aspx
  13. 13. Add an object data source
  14. 14. Configure it to use the dataset
  15. 15. Add a GridView
  16. 16. Set it to use the datasource, using default values
  17. 17. Check off allow editing
  18. 18. Set PageSize to 100
  19. 19. Run the application and show scrolling and editing
  20. 20. Stop the application
  21. 21. Return to Default.aspx
  22. 22. Add an UpdatePanel with the code in a ContentTemplate
  23. 23. Set UpdateMode = Always
  24. 24. Re-run the application
  25. 25. Scroll down and edit a row
  26. 26. Stop the application
  27. Demonstrate making the page accessible
  28. 27. Paste in the profile provider in Web.Config from the example
  29. 28. Paste in a checkbox in Default.aspx from the example
  30. 29. Paste in the property code in default.aspx.vb from the example
  31. 30. Re-run the application scrolling to bottom
  32. 31. Edit row
  33. 32. Check box
  34. 33. Scroll back down
  35. 34. Edit row and notice refresh and scrolling don’t work.

So, if Ajax is so great, why not use it everywhere?

Ajax Presentation 7

One thing to keep in mind is what happens behind the scenes during a postback with the UpdatePanel. The entire postback event occurs every time. So, if you pull data from the database in the page_load event, make darned sure you have IsPostBack = false. Otherwise you’ll refresh the data every single time. Say you’re on Amazon’s product page and you click three stars to rate something. Do you really want all the page content to be re-rendered, or just have the rating get updated in the database and the stars redrawn?

Again, with a whole postback event occurring, what else happens? All of view state gets passed back to the server, updated, and returned to the browser. Truthfully, the entire page is sent back to the browser, but the JavaScript is smart enough to update only the sections that have changed.

We all know that you should put EnableViewState to false everywhere possible, but this is especially true in Ajax. There are times you may have a large view state and you’ll find that updates render more slowly than if you’d just refreshed the whole page.

On PSDR we had a DataGrid with an Ajax panel around it so that sorting and paging would occur without reloading the whole page. That’s fine, until you realize the grid had text boxes always visible on every row. And we ended up having hundreds of rows. With each textbox in each row having another Ajax control from the toolkit associated with it. The response time got so slow that the postbacks actually timed out. After turning off the EnablePartialRendering for the page everything worked fine. Well, a little slow, but fine.

At this point you should have one question on your mind… This is great and all, but what do I need to do to develop with this and deploy my applications? If that wasn’t on your mind, it should be now based on the pink elephant effect.

Ajax Presentation 8

All you need to get set-up is to download the Essential Components from http://ajax.asp.net which works with the .NET Framework 1.1 and 2.0.

To deploy you just need the application is to include a reference to the System.Web.Extensions.dll and System.Web.Extenstions.Design.dll. I always put those in the bin folder and create the references locally so that when I push it for release in a client environment the dll’s are there and they don’t have to register anything in the GAC.

By default Ajax is included in the .NET 3.5 framework, but I haven’t actually developed an application using it yet, and so I haven’t tested this out.

So, there has clearly been enough talking by me. At this point I wanted to run through a quick demo throwing an Ajax site together.

There are a couple of sites where we use Ajax but I just didn’t have time to touch on.

Resources

Guthrie, S. (2008, October 2). Scott Guthrie's Blog (General Manager within the Microsoft Developer Division). Retrieved October 2, 2008, from ScottGu's Blog: http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/

Khothari, N. (2008, October 2). Nikil Khothari's Blog. Retrieved October 2, 2008, from nikhilk.net: http://www.nikhilk.net/

Mahemoff, M. (2008, October 2). Ajax Patterns. Retrieved October 2, 2008, from Ajax Patterns (The publicly editable repository of all things Ajax): http://ajaxpatterns.org

Microsoft. (2008, October 2). Public Sector Developer Weblog. Retrieved October 2, 2008, from MSDN: http://blogs.msdn.com/publicsector/default.aspx

SCHAEFEK. (2006, October 30). 2006 General Government Departments: Distribution of Ratings by Number and Percentage of Employees at Each Rating Level. Retrieved October 2, 2008, from Colorado Government: http://www.colorado.gov/DPA/dhr/oversight/docs/ratings/2006/gengovt.pdf

Photo Credits

· Beach Boardwalk by shaunl (iStockPhoto)
http://www.istockphoto.com/file_closeup/nature/spring/5991593-beach-boardwalk.php?id=5991593

· Wagon Wheel by photog (DeviantArt)
http://photog.deviantart.com/art/Wagon-Wheel-12942352

· The Simple Things by snorf (DeviantArt)
http://photog.deviantart.com/art/Wagon-Wheel-12942352

· Egg’s Nest by Gruye (DeviatnArt)
http://gruye.deviantart.com/art/Egg-s-Nest-35997617

· Backbone by RomainD (DeviantArt)
http://romaind.deviantart.com/art/BackBone-17253241

· Metro by elfish88 (DeviantArt)
http://elfish88.deviantart.com/art/Metro-27035318

· Trinity Library by elementalist (DeviantArt)
http://elementalist.deviantart.com/art/Trinity-Library-675110

· Construction by OnurY (DeviantArt)
http://onury.deviantart.com/art/Construction-74335946

Monday, October 13, 2008

Espresso Yourself

Via Venezia Espresso Machine by Starbucks Coffee Erin and I finally took the plunge. We realized over $9 three or four days a week for coffee was ridiculous. So we bought the cheapest, well-rated, espresso machine we could find.

for what it’s worth, the Starbucks barista was incredibly helpful in the purchase and offered to walk us through exactly what he does and help us through the fine art of frothing milk.

So, the only question left is, what flavors do we try? Does anyone have a great syrup mix that they love?

Peace,
+Tom

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Leader of the Plaque

Colin’s favorite “toy” in our house is, without a doubt, the toothbrush. It doesn’t matter whose it is, though he tends to prefer Erin’s (even when she’s bought replacements). If he had his way he would always walk around with two toothbrushes in his hands and one in his mouth. Lately we’ve been limiting him to one, though today he had two in one hand and a tube of toothpaste in the other.

Needless to say, this kid will have good hygiene. Probably better than Rachel, who we have finally gotten into the habit of brushing at night. Colin would brush morning noon and night. Sometimes I wonder if he is already defining his future career as a dentist.

2008-10-12 - Colin Toothbrush-3 That got me thinking a bit about expectations. There are so many different times that others define our own lives… and we let them. We let our parents shape us into working professionals when all we want to do is live free and help others. We let girlfriends or boyfriends define how we should act from day to day. We let bosses define the focus of our career and we let co-workers convince us to buy unnecessary things. We let marketers convince us what to buy, and we let priests convince us what to believe.

Life is so easy when we follow the “advice” of others instead of creating our own.

Then there are the people who actively defy this trend and live for their passions. The people who live passionately often recognize that they have lived more fully than anyone else could ever have dreamed for them.

Without a doubt, we need to stay within the lines. When we enter into marriage, that is a gift and we honor it by putting our spouse above almost everyone (can you guess who’s above the spouse). We need to listen to all the advice given to us, and decide how we want to respond.

Colin ToothbrushSo, is Colin going to be a dentist? I have no idea. Should I begin to sing:

Son, be a dentist
You'll be a success

I sure hope not. That dentist from the Little Shop of Horrors is psycho.

Revolutions happen when people buck the trend. Sometimes… lives happen too.

Peace,
+Tom

P.S. In case you want all the lyrics and to see the video check it out in the Steve Martin Dentist! post by Gatochy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I Will Never Fully Give Myself to Christ

Sacrifice (by UrbanCinderella) I spent an evening at church listening to some of the amazing stories of people who have gone on mission trips in the past year. They showed pictures, videos and their own stories about the trip.

As one person told their story she mentioned that she had “given herself to Christ” but never really “followed” Christ.

The first, and only thing that came to mind, and stuck with me the rest of the night, is that I will never fully give myself to Christ, because I just can’t physically do it.

I certainly try to follow Christ. I’d like to think that I really follow him, then I realize that it’s impossible. No matter how much I do, God will ask me to do more. No matter how much I give up, there are others who have given up more.

I went to Jamaica on a mission trip in College. This was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had from college. On that trip I worked at a retirement center, which is being very forgiving, since it was a strip of very small rooms with doorways (no door mind you) to the porch outside. If you think of the cells monks have, or even cells in a prison without the bars, this is it. There was a large room for eating and communing and such, and a gorgeous church someone built in the back (I’m still not sure why when the building could have been upgraded). When we drove up I was sure I was at the wrong place.

During the day I helped a little, but more than anything I just sat and talked to the people. I remember one guy who wasn’t much older than I was who had lived in the U.S. and played basketball until he had an accident which severed his spine. He’s been living there in a wheelchair ever since. He was probably the most upbeat, faithful, and interesting/fun guys I’ve ever met. He’s able to share a story about his religion or about his life, and just chat with you about whatever comes to mind. His commitment to Christ surpasses the need to talk about Him all the time and instead be an example of Him and he’s willing to share whenever it fits naturally in a conversation.

Other days I went to an elementary school and helped teach. Honestly, I don’t remember much about the class except that it was one big room with cube panels dividing it into four sections, one for each class. What I do remember is that all these families lived in miles upon miles of corrugated metal homes. They got power my climbing a power line and jacking into the power there, running a cable at about eye level that was held above the ground in one place by a stick with a Y in the top. I also remember lots of goats running around and, let me tell you, they weren’t as pets. Have you ever thought of being your own butcher?

A good example is a picture the people from Africa brought back during their mission trip.

0080 (by St. Matthew's)

After school one day I was asked to bring a television from the school to the house of one of the teachers. I went into the house and was stunned. Inside rugs, colorful fabric and even chairs greeted me. It felt immediately cozy and very easy to call home. There was even a doorway to another room. In contrast we stopped by the governors house.

King's House (by Richard O’Sullivan)

I can’t imagine living in tiny houses like this, and yet these are people who have made their lives there, and recognize them as incredibly comfortable. Every time I go on a mission trip outside the U.S. I recognize just how much we have, and how little we appreciate it.

There are many times when I recognize that if we really do give ourselves to Christ, we would be spending every moment of that life in communities that could use our help. We would move our families to the regions most in need, and commit our lives to them. Simply, we would become life-long missionaries, even if it’s within our community, because anything else wouldn’t do Him justice.

There are people who live without any comforts, and somehow they find comfort. They live without any reason to have faith, yet they are able live and share that faith for more successfully than I can.

In short, even if I gave up everything and lived a life committed to Christ, there would still by thousands more that do an even better job of it. More importantly, Christ would still recognize that I could do even more.

So… I guess I’d better start trying to emulate those people and Christ as soon as possible so I can catch up!

Peace,
+Tom

P.S. In case you’re wondering, this is not a statement that I’m going to uproot life and become a missionary. Family trumps everything, yet another reason I never will fully follow Christ. I’ll always be considering other people.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mockups and Balsamiq

Balsamiq One of the things I think all projects need, even more importantly that detailed requirements (since no one seems to read those) are screen designs. Every time I have to do this for a new project I open up Visual Studio and drag controls onto the page and use HTML to lay them out. It’s not bad, but it sure can take a while. Especially when you want to just move something around during a meeting. I tried Expression Web, but it really isn’t any better.

I know you can do it in Photoshop and Fireworks, but, for one thing, I don’t have the money. For another, it’s pretty complex.

Then I was reading Tim Heuer’s blog post on Software Mockups using Balsamiq. Balsamiq Mockup is a tool where you simply drag elements onto a page and put them where you want. It also uses a pretty obvious hand drawn style which makes clear that both, this is all for demo purposes, and that anything can be changed.

One of the amazing things is that Peldi, the founder of Balsamiq, is willing to give away licenses for free to non-profits or people who develop open source software. I’ll probably never get to the point of contributing to open source stuff, but we are planning to redesign the church Web site. Heck, for $80 it’s really pretty affordable anyway, and I will probably purchase a license at some point. For now though, I will stick with offering a tiny bit of free publicity (nothing like Tim Heuer can offer).

I sent a quick e-mail and within a half an hour I got a response with the license key. So, now I’ve been playing with it, and I think I’ve found my new permanent mockup tool.

One of the best parts is that I can create the mockup, send the XML to anyone, and they can open it in a free Web based version of the tool (you can only generate an image in that case, not export).

So, if you’re planning to redesign or build requirements for an application, I have to recommend Balsamiq. It’s been so easy to use, and I’m really hoping it will make the user buy-in and design documentation a lot easier.

Peace,
+Tom

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Family Dreams

Rachel sleeping in box of popcorn (by tlbignerd) One of the best things about being a parent is to see someone else notice what you’re doing, and get passionate about it.

When I started the dream journal, it was just for me to see what I’ve been thinking about. It’s helped me remember a lot of details in dreams, and move past them, never having them again. It’s been great. Alas, it’s another thing I stopped doing recently since waking up in the middle of the night and writing for 15 to 30 minutes made me too tired in the morning. But, I also saw how much my dreams drove my daily thinking, like I’d dream and forget about some song, wake up and have all kinds of memories related to that song.

Rachel soon noticed what I was doing with the pad of paper in the morning, and asked about it. From then on she would wake up each morning and proudly tell me what her dreams were that night, and then tell me to go write them down.

These aren’t incredibly deep or long ones. One on August 15th was

Tico (the squirrel from Dora) pretended that he had Swipers nose on his regular nose.

But I love hearing what is going through her head. Recently I woke her up in the middle of the night to go potty and she mumbled this

Daddy, I dreamed that we had [something something, it was mumbled] and Madeline was here and Winnie and Rika and Slate. But Slate wasn’t sick anymore.

Slate is our friend Melissa and Madeline’s dog that they had to put down last year. I don’t know why, but Rachel thinks about her often, even before she was sick. We’ll say we’re going to see Melissa, John and Madeline and she adds “and Slate.”

I got just a tiny bit emotional, I don’t really cry much, but I love how Rachel understands life, the good and bad, and is also always imagining a better place.

Peace,
+Tom

P.S. In case you didn’t know, the picture above is Rachel pretending to sleep in the box of popcorn. She got at least an hour of enjoyment from that box. I got an hour of exercise constantly picking up and returning the popcorn that fell out. It was a really great time.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Pointless Stories

Point of Light (by ~Andross01) I was talking to a teen tonight at Starbucks who was asking to hear my life story. We’d started that conversation over a week ago, and I never finished. The main reason I finally figured out tonight, is that there was too much detail without a point.

Every other time I tell a story about my life, it’s been in conjunction with either a talk or some point I want to make. Here I was just going through my life and I actually think the teen was more interested in the story than even I was.

Truthfully, stories don’t stick unless they impact the person hearing them. There’s no point in telling a story without a point. Really, it needs a point that resonates with the listener.

So, the next time you’re telling someone, even your spouse, about your day, think about what the point is. If it’s simple information then it’s probably going to go in one ear and out the other. It it’s going to make the listener feel something new, both the story and the feelings are tied together and may never be forgotten.

I wonder how many times I’ve told stories that never get remembered?

Peace,
+Tom

Life Update

I don’t think I’ve ever actually given an update on what’s going on in my life here in the blog. That’s mainly because whatever I write about is generally what’s going through my head and either directly or indirectly related to what’s going on in my life. If you read carefully you’ll get a pretty decent picture of who I am, without some of the depressing parts (those are for personal conversations, thank you very much).

But then a week goes by, or a month, or multiple months, without any consistent posting. I figure it’s fair to give a quick update.

First, nothing earth shattering has happened. Work is going very, very well, though the company shall still remain nameless for fear of random stupidity misunderstanding from legal. It’s busy, pretty interesting, and I genuinely enjoy the people I’m working with. I also get to work from home a bit more, which is great.

I also stopped waking up at 5 a.m. Since Colin kept waking up in the middle of the night, or Rachel got up to go to the bathroom and came into our room (which I rarely can sleep after) it just got too hard. Too many Starbucks trips (heck, still too many really) made it clear I needed more sleep. Plus I’d get irritated when I’d get up at 5 to do stuff then be interrupted at 6 to have to watch Colin. So I decided for now, to sleep on in.

So, what about evening you ask? Well, over the past month or more, it’s been filled with working in front of the TV. There are some great shows, and with the writer strike we’ve been watching new stuff, like Eureka, Newhart (well, those are repeats) and Torchwood.

Right now I’m putting together a presentation on Microsoft.NET Ajax (Asynchronous JavaScript, not cleaner or whatever else). So, mainly I’ve been so busy writing has taken a back seat.

Recently I’ve begun recognizing how much that’s been making my life feel out of control. When I’m writing I feel like I’m both contributing to the world, and I’m getting my thoughts in order. Without writing really, the only thing I have in order is my Getting Things Done to-do list in Remeberthemilk. By the way, Rememberthemilk (RTM) is incredibly worth it, and paired with Getting Things Done (and used regularly) is invaluable. Since RTM is free, it’s really great, though I do have the pro account to support them, though I sure with they had a Samsung Instinct version of their tool.

Besides all that there is stuff Rachel is doing. She has swimming Friday afternoon (Claude Moore Recreation Center), Dance/Gym (Little Gym) Saturday at noon and ice skating Sunday at noon (Ashburn Ice House). Man, you should see her skate. She’s not much to look at in class, but after class last week she and I did the free skate and skated for two hours straight without a break. She sped ahead of me, picked herself up when she fell (mostly on turns) and eventually had me show her how to spin with her arms in and her head moving with the spin.

On top of that last week she really swam by herself in the pool. It looked a little more like a controlled drown wince they don’t yet have the idea of lifting your face to the side to get air, but I’m so glad to know she is getting it.

I guess I should write about the rest of the family huh? Winnie is great. Slowly losing weight which is helping her walking since she hurt her foot a few years ago.

Oh yeah, the rest. Erin is good. Actually going to a church bible study, but you didn’t hear it from me. The down side is that I can’t go, which means I don’t get second dinners anymore, she does. Man I miss second dinners. But then I go to Starbucks to talk to people Thursday nights, so it’s worth it. Otherwise work for her is good.

Colin has been with grandma all summer, and goes back to preschool next week. He’s talking, but only just. He can identify Erin, Rachel and I and point to us, which is great. He says “Elmo” when he wants to watch TV, though now he says “Backpack” during Dora, so we have his education through Television well under way. He will say down, get down, up, and daddy. There are others if we say them first that he will repeat.

Anyway, that’s been life. Very busy with very little writing. But it’s really a great life.

Peace,
+Tom

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Being Upbeat

When I was in high school I discovered the band Asia (about a million years after they started making music). One of the songs I put on every morning for at least a few months, at full blast was Days Like These (I Fell Like I Can Change the World) from Then & Now (act fast, you can get the album for 24 cents on Amazon).

Then I got in contact with my friend Laura from high school. I don’t know if I’d say we were the type of best friends who stay in touch forever, since it’s been about 15 years since we’ve talked, and we were only friends for about a year. But when I think of high school Laura often comes to mind. There’s a point, really.

In high school I’d pick Laura up and she’d drive up to school. It was her way of getting driving experience with her permit. When Annie Lennox came out with Walking on Broken Glass in her Diva album, we’d blast that music, both of us singing at the top of our lungs. We must have looked (and sounded) like idiots, but at those moments we we’re rock superstars and the world would want to hear us. There’s something so freeing about singing out loud with a friend.

Another one was Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. I clearly remember my friend Geoff and I walking down the street with a headphone splitter (remember them) singing like seals and loving our butchering of the song.

So, it’s always great when I get to add to my list of upbeat music. I came across this YouTube video some fans put together of the song I’m Alive. It’s worth watching and seeing just how many people are involved and the absolute joy on all of their faces. Great song to start the day with, but I doubt the kids or Erin would let me sing it at the top of my lungs for a month.

What’s your favorite song to start the day?

Peace,
+Tom