I Push Buttons

Whether I'm coding, writing, playing games, or pissing people off, it all boils down to pushing buttons.

May 02, 2011

Perspective On Osama's Death

So we managed to kill one man after ten years. Great job, America. How many innocent people died in order to do that?

Praise God? Did your God smile upon the killing of women and children and thousands of our soldiers in our inept attempts to find one man who was basically nothing but a figurehead? Osama was a sick, invalid old man dying of kidney failure. He hasn't been the problem for years. I understand his death may feel like a great feat for some of you and may bring closure to others, but having seen this tragedy unfold from the beginning, I can tell you that it is way too little and way too late.

But go ahead and praise Jesus granting you victory in your holy crusade while you dance in the streets, conveniently ignoring how much it makes you look like the radical Muslims doing the exact same thing whenever they win some kind of minor victory. The killing of another is not something to celebrate, and I can guarantee you that Jesus is not celebrating with you. The day of celebration will be when our last soldier comes home to American soil, and we are no longer sending our fathers and sons to die in some desert half a world away.

This is an empty victory. Some perspective for your day.

January 02, 2011

Year In Review: 2010

1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before? Competed in and finished a sprint triathlon; went on a cruise and to some new countries: St Maarten and Haiti.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I made a couple of resolutions last year. The first was to write a new story on Ficly every day for a year. I did pretty well for a couple of months, but eventually I just couldn't make the time. My other was to read the entire New Testament, and I didn't make it through that for various reasons.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Eric and Carly had Cassidy, Jeremy and Ashley had Arwyn, Adam and Kristen had Connor, and Aseer and Celina had Josiah. That's a lot of babies!

4. Did anyone close to you die? Not this year.

5. What countries did you visit? On our cruise, we went to Haiti and St. Maarten, plus Puerto Rico, which might as well be another country. It was the best vacation ever!

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? A gaming computer. Which I got. Booyah! I would also like to have options for my morning commute.

7. What date from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? October 13th, the day I left my 20s behind.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Is turning 30 an achievement? If not, I would have to say deploying the new version of our site at work and taking over technical development for another at the same time.

9. What was your biggest failure? I've put some weight back on, but not too much. I blame the construction at my gym which has eliminated half the parking so that I can't even get in half the time.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I had the worst stomach virus I've ever had in my life in April, along with Courtney and a bunch of our friends. That was not fun at all.

11. What was the best thing you bought? My new gaming computer! It is ridiculously fast.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Jon Stewart. You know you're doing something correct when both the right and the left don't like you.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Congress. Again. I keep trying to vote these morons out, but most of the rest of my state is too ignorant and/or apathetic to see what is happening.

14. Where did most of your money go? Savings

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Our cruise and my new gaming computer!

16. What song will always remind you of 2010? Pretty much anything by Jupiter Sunrise, who Courtney introduced me to.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? The same
ii. thinner or fatter? Thinner still, I think
iii. richer or poorer? Richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Writing

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Looking for a parking space at the gym.

20. How will you be spending Christmas? We spent Christmas at Courtney's mom's and had a very nice time.

21. How will you be spending New Year's Eve? I helped Derrick install a light in his basement, and then we had a party!

22. Did you discover any great new websites in 2010? I just started using Google Reader at the end of this year. I love it. In terms of actual content, Scenes From A Multi-Verse is a hilarious new online comic.

23. How many weddings? My friend and co-worker Jeff got married in July, and Courtney's dad's cousin got married in September.

24. What was your favorite TV program? Stargate: Universe. Which they've canceled. :(

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? I don't think so.

26. What was the best book you read? A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Jupiter Sunrise

28. What did you want and get? A new gaming computer! Finally!

30. What was your favorite film of this year? Inception, by far. Christopher Nolan is fast becoming one of my favorite writers and directors.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned the big three-oh this year. We didn't really do anything on my birthday, but the cruise a few days later was part of the celebration.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Not losing an enormous amount of value in our condo.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010? Same as always.

34. What kept you sane? Lack of things to drive me insane.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Scarlett Johansson

36. What political issue stirred you the most? The TSA is destroying travel in this country.

37. Who did you miss? My family.

38. Who were the best new people you met? Chris and Victoria. We had a blast on the cruise!

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010: Life is a gift. You don't have to understand it. Just make the most of it.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year: "Oh, if we had the power to trap anything that could hurt a human being inside a jar. We'd send it far from Earth and watch it explode in the sun to the cheers of everyone. But, alas, that can't be done." - Jupiter Sunrise, Arthur Nix

December 06, 2010

The Month Of The Technology Upgrade

I wasn't planning on doing any of these things this year, but events transpired to force me into several technology upgrades. The first is that the check engine light came on one day in Courtney's Focus. She took it in to Midas to see what the problem was, and they couldn't even get the car's computer to respond when they hooked theirs up to get an error code. That immediately gave me a bad feeling, which was confirmed when C took the car to the dealership, and they said it would be about $2k to fix the computer and replace the timing belt that also happened to be dying. That was over half the value of the car, so we traded it in and bought her a 2011 Focus.

We decided to go with another Focus for several reasons: 1) Her first Focus had over 150,000 miles on it and had been a very reliable little car. 2) We didn't have to bail Ford out during the recession, and I believe a company like that deserves my support over one we had to hand millions of dollars to so they could keep afloat. 3) The new Focus had Ford's Sync system. After playing with this a little bit, I have to say that I'm very impressed. Nothing makes me feel like I'm living in the future more than dictating to the car what I want it to do. Voice recognition has come a long way.

Speaking of voice recognition, that happens to be a feature of technology upgrade #2: my new Droid X. I've wanted a smart-phone for a while, but we weren't going to get them until we were able to switch to FiOS and lower our monthly telecommunications bill to make it a budget neutral purchase. Well, last month someone posted a link on twitter to wireless.amazon.com where we could purchase new Droid Xs for $70 each. That is a ridiculously cheap price for this phone, which retails at $560. We just couldn't pass it up.

We ordered our phones, and Amazon informed us that they were back-ordered into January. We would have been content to wait until then, but they arrived about a week later. I love the new phone, especially the voice recognition system. I can tell it to send Courtney a text message and then dictate the message to it. It's really pretty amazing. It also pairs up with the new car through Bluetooth, so you can make and receive calls through the car's speaker system, as well as have the car read any text messages to you. I can't get over how ridiculously awesome all of this is.

The third technology upgrade I have made is the purchase of a new computer. My gaming computer died back in January, and I have been without one since. I wasn't planning on being able to get a new one until next year, but around Thanksgiving I found out that I would be getting a pretty sizable year end bonus! This is a surprise because my company stopped doing regular bonuses a few years ago. Once I learned that I would be getting one again, I started to plan out what I would buy, and I placed the order last weekend. It should be shipping out tonight or tomorrow, so hopefully I will have it this weekend. For the curious, I got an Intel Core i7 950 3GHz processor, 6GB RAM, and a Radeon 5970 video card. It should be beastly enough to last a long time before having to upgrade again.

And that sums up the month of the technology upgrade!

October 26, 2010

Living The Cruise Life At Home

On Sunday, we got back from a most awesome cruise vacation. I wish all of you could take a trip like that. Unfortunately, that is not possible. In an effort to help as many of you experience "Cruise Life" as possible, I have put together the following tips:

1) Living on the ocean. Buy a houseboat and live on it. If this is not an option, move near water. In a pinch, flood your neighborhood by strategically destroying a dam or redirecting a major waterway.

2) Daily restaurant style meal service. Hire a chef to cook your food and a waitress to bring it to your table. Alternatively, get a talented mail-order bride and use the green card as leverage for this service. If you are currently married, this item should already be covered.

3) Waking up in a new city each day. This can be accomplished in a couple ways. If you're a sleep walker, it's just a small step to sleep driving. I suggest going to sleep with your keys in your hand to help you get started. You will still drive better than 90% of the people on the roads, so you don't have to worry about being pulled over. You can also stay up really late, catch the earliest red-eye, and sleep on the plane. You will wake up in a new city when the plane lands.

4) Bill shock. Use your credit card like you would a sea pass. Make all purchases with it; do not accept any receipts. Freak out when your final bill is delivered to you at the end of the month. Note: Some of you may not notice a difference between this and your typical financial practices.

Following these tips will help you enjoy some of what we were able to live at sea in the past week. If all goes well, you will be able to savor part of a fantastic cruise vacation in the privacy of your own home. Happy sailing!

September 25, 2010

Warrenton Triathlon

"A blog post?! I thought this blog was dead?" you say. Well, it was, and I have brought it back from the dead. It is now undead. Paladins now receive an attack bonus against trolls on this blog.

Last weekend I participated in my first triathlon with Courtney, who was participating in her second. (I would have done the one she did back in June, but the registration filled up really fast, and then fifty people didn't show up on race day. I was very annoyed.) The Warrenton Triathlon took place at the Warrenton Athletic and Recreation Facility (or WARF) on Waterloo road, and we stayed at my aunt and uncle's place in Haymarket so that we wouldn't have to get up an hour earlier to drive there from Gaithersburg.

The race was a 300 yard (Meter? I saw different numbers in different places. It's almost always meters, but for some reason this was advertised in yards.) swim, an 11 mile bike, and a 5k run. As sprint triathlons go, it's probably middle of the pack in terms of distance, so it should have been a pretty good race to participate in for my first triathlon.

However, I knew as soon as I saw how the swim was set up that the swim portion would be a disaster, and it was. They took over six lanes of the indoor pool at the facility, and everyone had to swim a lap in each lane, ducking under the rope to move to the next. That doesn't sound bad until you learn that they started racers every ten seconds, and the lanes are only two persons wide, so you can't really pass anyone. Not only that, but each racer had the responsibility of estimating their swim time to determine swimming order, and I'm sure 80% of the people did not do it properly.

When I got in the pool and started the swim, it was like swimming in the ocean. I was number 140, so there were at least 30 to 40 other people in the pool at the same time as me, and everyone's strokes and kicks made the pool water extremely choppy. This gave an advantage to those who started in front, now that I think about it. By the end of my swim, there were six of us lined up head to toe trying to finish the last half of the last lap. We couldn't pass because there were people coming at us on the other side of the lane, so we just swam as fast as the guy at the front of the line.

Basically, whoever designed this swim is an idiot. I was forced to swim faster than I wanted to because I felt bad holding up people behind me (who obviously did not time their swim with a stopwatch like I did). I had planned to do the swim in seven to eight minutes, and I did it in 5:29. This, of course, made me very tired coming out of the pool. I took a little extra time during the first transition, trying to catch my breath. I had to dry my feet off and put on socks and shoes, my basketball jersey, my camelbak, my helmet, and my glasses. I made it out of the transition area in 2:05.

The bike had us coming out of the pool facility onto 211, the beginning of which is some rolling hills. Since the swim wore me out so much, it took more energy than it should have for me to do these first hills. Also, my bike is not the best for racing; more on that later. By the time I got to the long, extended hills in the middle, I was dead, and I had to stop and walk midway up a couple of them. A few people passed me at this point, but I passed most of them later on in the bike, once my legs were fully in bike mode. By the end of the bike, I was feeling good and ready to run the 5k. I finished the bike in 53:19, which is near the bottom of the men's group. This is not unexpected, since I had to stop and walk in a couple of places.

My second transition was lightning fast. I ran in, put my bike on the rack, and ran out. It was 42 seconds long, the number on my basketball jersey I was wearing that day. I was the eighteenth fastest person in transition two.

As I ran out of the transition area, I realized I was not in as great a shape for the run as I thought. I wasn't tired, but my back muscles were killing me. Like I mentioned before, I don't have the greatest bike for racing. It's not a mountain bike, but it only has seven gears, and the handle bars are horizontal, so I can't lean over and take pressure off of my back muscles. As I started to run, my back muscles were just throbbing. I made it maybe a half mile before I had to walk and stretch them until the pain subsided.

After that, I thought I would be fine for the rest of the run. I was wrong. See, I thought I had been doing well keeping hydrated on the bike. When I checked my camelbak after the race was over, I realized that it was still 3/4 full. I had drunk only ten fluid ounces since the start of the race... So, it should come as no surprise that in mile two of the run BOTH of my quads cramped up at the same time. This, of course, happened while I was on the opposite side of the track from the water table. Go me. I immediately stopped and stretched them, and I had to walk the next half mile or so to the water table to get some hydration. It took a while for the water to take effect, so I was only able to run out the last three tenths of a mile or so, but I was able to do that at basically a full sprint, resulting in this photo (may not show up in Facebook, but it's my profile picture):


Despite all of these problems, I finished the 5k in 38:45 and had a total race time of 1:40:18. Going into this race, my personal goals were a must finish of under two hours and a like to finish goal of under 1h 45m. I beat my main goal by almost five minutes, even with the problems I had. This leads me to believe that what I am doing in my training is correct, and that I could have a really great final time in my next race if I change some things:

1) If the next swim is done in the way the Warrenton race organized it, I will place myself further back in the group. I am a strong swimmer, but that setup was horrible and cost me a lot of energy. I would rather swim at a slower pace and have the energy to make up time on the bike and run.

2) I need to force myself to drink more on the bike. I think I may need to switch to a water bottle for this, so I can see exactly how much I have consumed. The camelbak is convenient, but psychologically I am fooling myself into thinking I am drinking more than I really am.

3) I need to upgrade my bike or get a new one. If I keep the bike I have, I will get new handlebars, and I also plan to get new pedals with shoes that clip on. The bike I have now doesn't even have straps on the pedals, so my pedaling is very inefficient.

I think that if I can change those things up, I will be in great shape for my next race. We are done with races for 2010, but we are planning on doing a couple in 2011, giving me all winter to train. I've started lifting weights again, with a main goal of building more arm and shoulder muscle for the swim portion of the race. If I can make it so that I don't have to kick as much, that will make the transition to the bike all the better in my next event.

July 02, 2010

Spiders

Spiders are persistent little fellows. At least once a week, either Courtney or myself will walk into the bathroom, and a spider will be perched in the exact same corner that we always find them in, behind the shower head. If I find it, extermination takes place quickly and silently. If Courtney finds it, extermination takes place quickly but with significantly more noise as she yells for me to come kill it.

The cats are completely useless. I'm pretty sure that they are extorting protection payments from the spiders in exchange for not destroying them. Oh sure, they'll make a show of batting a spider around and roughing it up if we place them right in front of one, but I've never seen them actually kill one. Yes, there's definitely some kind of racketeering going on in our home. I may have to bug (HA!) the place.

Aside from the obvious protection from local wildlife, part of me wonders why the spiders keep coming back. It's just so futile. They know they're going to die, right?

Or do they? Maybe there is a more sinister force at work here: real estate. There's probably some spider real estate agent making a fortune off of repeatedly selling our bathroom to buyers ignorant of the current state of the market. I imagine it goes something like this:

SCENE

SETTING: R. ACK NID REAL ESTATE, INC. MR. NID SITS BEHIND HIS DESK CHEWING AN UNLIT CIGAR. A BLUETOOTH HEADSET RESTS ON HIS HEAD, DESPITE THE FACT THAT SPIDERS CANNOT HEAR. AUDIENCE SHOULD IMMEDIATELY GET THE IMPRESSION THAT THIS SPIDER IS A TOTAL DOUCHE. ENTER CREE P. CRAWLY, STAGE LEFT.

MR. CRAWLY: Hello.

MR. NID, CURTLY THROUGH HIS CIGAR: Yeah, what do you want?

MR. CRAWLY: I... I'm looking to buy my first place. I was hoping you'd be able to help me.

MR. NID IMMEDIATELY WARMS, STANDS UP AND REMOVES HIS CIGAR. HE SHAKES MR. CRAWLY'S LEGS IN AN OVERENTHUSIASTIC GREETING.

MR. NID: Oh, you're looking to BUY! Well, you've come to the right place! Yes, sir!

MR. CRAWLY SMILES SHEEPISHLY.

MR. CRAWLY: Oh, I'm so glad.

MR. NID: I have just the place for a fine lad such as yourself. It's perfect! Nice, warm climate. Great view. The local wildlife is exotic, but completely harmless, provided you make your payments on time.

MR. CRAWLY: What?

MR. NID: Hmm? Oh, nothing. I was thinking of something else. Here, let me show you some pictures.

MR. NID ROTATES HIS MONITOR AND BRINGS UP PHOTOS OF THE LOCATION ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB (HA!). THE TWO LOOK AT THE PHOTOS FOR A FEW MINUTES, AND MR. CRAWLY BEGINS TO GROW CONCERNED.

MR. CRAWLY: Isn't... Isn't this the Silverthorn place?

MR. NID, MAKING A SHOW OF CHECKING THE DETAILS: Why, yes, I suppose it is.

MR. CRAWLY: Didn't you sell this place last week?

MR. NID: ...No, I don't believe so.

MR. CRAWLY: I'm sure of it. You sold it to my friend, Tony. He's the one that recommended me to you.

MR. NID: Oh, yes. Tony! I remember now. No, he ended up... uh... backing out at the last minute. He went with a different place in the city.

MR. CRAWLY: Oh, I see...

MR. NID: So, do we have a deal?

MR. CRAWLY SIGNS THE PAPERS.

END SCENE

I think my problem is that I never leave any evidence behind that these spiders ever existed. When a new spider moves in, the place looks brand new, and they have no reason to want to leave. What I need is a deterrent.

I think I'm going to start leaving their bodies in strategic places as a warning. When the spiders come in, they will totally freak out at the sight of their fallen comrades an run away. They will tell all the other spiders. My home will become known amongst the arachnids as "The Land of a Thousand Corpses" and will grow in legend. Boy spiders will take girl spiders to the edge of this dangerous land to scare and impress them. I few boy spiders will be reckless enough to actually come inside, where they will be met with a swift death.

"No," the spider will cry with his dying breath. "I was going to get laid tonight!"

I will look down upon him with empty eyes. "She was just going to use you for your sperm and then kill and eat you. I just saved you from a horrible fate."

"I don't think you're hearing what I'm saying, man. I was going to get LAID!"

*FLUSH*

February 22, 2010

Former Vice President Dick Cheney Shocked To Discover He Still Has A Heart

WASHINGTON, DC

On February 22nd, 2010 former vice president Dick Cheney was admitted to George Washington Hospital in Washington, DC with chest pains. "At first I thought it was just my acid reflux acting up," the 69-year-old remarked when questioned. "Imagine my surprise when the doctor told me the pain was coming from a heart condition! I was certain that all traces of my heart had been eradicated during the course of my service in the Bush administration!"

"At first he didn't believe me," Dr. Jonathan Hayward, Cheney's attending physician, said in an interview. "I believe his exact words were, 'I don't have a heart, you liberal quack!' We had to give him an MRI before he would believe us and submit to treatment. It took us a while to find it, but it is definitely there."

Technicians at George Washington Hospital said it took them over three hours to locate Cheney's heart. "We had to rescan him a couple of times," Tim O'Leary, one of the technicians, explained. "I thought the vice president was right, that he didn't have a heart, but we were able to locate it on the third try."

Despite the good news that they were able to locate Cheney's heart, there was growing concern over its size. "Yeah, we're a little worried about him," Dr. Hayward confided. "His heart is about three times smaller than that of a newborn chipmunk, which is way smaller than a human heart should be. We're prescribing a very specific regimen and hope to have the vice president healthy in a few months."

One of the nurses, who asked not to be identified, said that Mr. Cheney is being put on what she called "The Grinch System." "We're putting him on a strict routine of giving presents to orphan children and singing Christmas songs to the elderly in local retirement communities," the source revealed. "With some perseverance and a little luck, we're hoping Mr. Cheney's heart will grow at least three sizes."

The Grinch could not be reached for comment, though he did issue a statement vouching for the success of The Grinch System and wishing Mr. Cheney a speedy recovery.