Cleaning Up My Life

Don’t worry, nothing like that, I am just cleaning up the apartment (first floor of two family home I rent) and my part of the basement. Kind of was forced into doing this, since the people upstairs noticed bugs. I had seen some over the course of the last year or two when the old tenant and his new wife lived here and thought nothing of it.

The new tenant contacted the landlord about them, which they then had an exterminator come check on it. After looking around I guess they found that we had some cockroaches, while I was at Access U conference. I had lived here almost seven years and noticed the bugs recently and never paid attention to what I was squishing. So the landlord informed me that the exterminator would not spray/treat the house until we got rid of all our (neighbors and myself) cardboard boxes and old papers, since what they eat is the glue and cardboard.

Landlord’s Freaking (just a little bit)

The landlord was a bit freaked out because there were bugs in their rental property along with the fact that the couple upstairs is due to have a baby in like four weeks or so. They want it done yesterday so they can spray or whatever they are gong to do before the baby is in the house.

So for the last two weeks after work and on weekends when I have not had other obligations I have been first going through all the crap, as my mother would call it in my apartment. This has been helpful in the form of having me go through boxes of stuff that I have not looked at in years and tossing, saving, or as much as possible donating things to charity. I have recycled as much paper and others items that I can. I really don’t want fill up a landfill with more junk. No, I’m not a tree hugger, not that there is anything wrong with that, I just want to recycle/reuse as much as I can.

Donations to the Poor

I have donated a ton of clothes (work, casual, jeans, dress shirts, etc.), shoes, ties, and a lot more to Martha’s Table, so they can help out others less fortunate than myself. Even made two trips so far and I might have one more before I’m all done. I ended up getting rid about half of the clothes I owned, since I have not worn most of them in years for whatever reason.

Was at a fairly good point with the upstairs, so spent a few hours Saturday afternoon/evening going through boxes in the basement that contain stuff in them that have not moved or been looked, since I got here almost 7 years ago. I found at least one box so far that contained 5+ year old magazines in it. I had a lot of old magazines upstairs too. Pointer to others once you have read them unless it’s important to you because you, family, or a friend are in it, recycle them or just recycle them once your done reading.

I used to shoot a bunch of model photography back in the day as they say and had boxes and boxes of photos. I ended up transferring them from their cardboard boxes into new plastic containers with lids. Glad Target had 18 gallon plastic bins with lids on sale last week for $6, so I could buy 20 of them. Did not get all the miscellaneous boxes sorted yet since I have to go through to see if there are any important papers in them, like tax form, old bills with bank, or SSN information in them.

Spent Time with Friends

Spent about five hours Sunday(6/14) in the basement with a good friend of mine and her sister helping me consolidate, move, re-box wines. If your wondering why it took so long, it was because I have close to 600 bottles of wine just in my basement. I’m a wine collector, which made one of the landlords request to get rid of all boxes extremely difficult. How am I going to store 600 bottles of wine with no cardboard boxes, without spending thousands of dollars on wine racks, which won’t work downstairs, since floor slopes into center of room? Luckily I have been gathering and saving wooden wine boxes over the last few years, when I could get them.

I finally took my two 47 bottle wine frigs out of their boxes and started them up. Just in case you were wondering the number of bottles they say will fit is incorrect if you are trying to put Burgundy or long odd shaped bottles in them. Now they are loaded with a total of about 60+ bottles, which removes over five boxes from the basement.

Still need to go downstairs the next few nights to finish sorting and dumping the 20 or so boxes I have not looked at in the basement. The slowest part has been going through the old bills and removing the check receipt and bill to be shredded and placing them in one container and everything else  in a recyclable one. Anyone have suggestions to getting rid of old software. I recycled the boxes, but am trying to figure out what to do with all the CD’s and a lot of 2.5 inch diskettes.

A few friends and co-workers have asked if this has helped me feel lighter, less clutter free, and I have told them I will tell them once all of it is done. Right now it is feeling like a second job that needs to be worked on every night after work. I can’t imagine what is like for someone that is a hoarder to have to do a task like this.


If you have  suggestions for doing any of this better or stories similar to mine I would like to here about them.

Hopefully if nothing else you all start, recycling, donating extra stuff, and keep up with stuff on a regular basis so your not forced into having to “clean up your life” all at one time.

Home for 4th of July

I’m currently at home in Buffalo, NY at my parents to celebrate the 4th of July holiday with my family. After driving almost 9 hours Thursday to get here I spent time with a few friends, my god son, and my parents.

Today is going to be spent with a few one of my brothers, his wife, and three boys (Denver, CO), along with one of my sisters, her husband, and three boys (Columbus, OH). Relaxing and getting ready for the big party on Saturday, which includes my other sister, her husband, and two girls (Buffalo, NY), along with my other brother (Buffalo, NY), two aunts and uncles (Rochester, NY) and a bunch of their kids and grand kids (Rochester, NY and Centreville, VA).

Today should be filled with a seeing how much all my nieces and nephews have grown over the last year, since I have seen most of them. Mostly time will be spent playing hockey in the driveway, swimming in the pool, and a whole lot of cards. We are more of a gin and euchre type of crowd. Even my almost 13 year old (in less than two weeks) and his 10 (?) brother have been playing for a few years and are fairly good last time we played.

The big crowd of 34 people does not get to my parents until Saturday around 1:00 PM. At that time there will 20 adults, if you count me and a few of the others that act like kids most days and then 14 children that are 13 and under. Most are in the 4 to 8 year old range. It should be a nice quite affair at my parents.

Hope you all have a a great 4th of July and drive safely if traveling.

Please leave a message of your plans or what you end up doing for the holiday.

It’s Been a Month and a Half

I can’t believe life has been so busy that I have not blogged in over a month and a half. Okay, some it was procrastinating on getting things done.

First it was work being busy trying to get a bunch of stuff done and into production, then it was preparing slides for the 2008 DC PHP Conference. After that it was helping get ready for my friends 28th annual pig roast in Cabin John the same week that I was speaking at the DC PHP conference.

I worked Saturday (May 31) doing yard work for pig roast, then Sunday was getting a few things done around the house before meeting about a dozen DC PHP conference goers out for drinks and food Sunday night. Monday, Tuesday (day of my talk), and Wednesday I was at the conference and then the after conference gatherings. You would think not being in the office would be less tiring.

While at the DC PHP conference I talked about tips, tricks, and practical ways to make your website more accessible. I met a bunch of really cool people such as Tony Bibbs, Mike Tutty, Eli White, Ben Ramsey, and many others.

Thursday was my one day back at the office to catch up on e-mail and anything that needed being done. Friday I was off doing more work for the pig roast.Saturday was the big day at pig roast and it felt like a million degrees that day. That was probably do to the fact that even though I was at the party, a few of us including myself still had to work by picking up trash bag etc. during the day.

One of the hardest parts of pig roast is getting myself and others back to friends early Sunday morning (to beat heat and get it over with) to do all clean-up and putting away of all the stuff needed to put on a party for 500 -600 (only 300 – 400 this year because of the extreme heat).

It took a few days to recover from the heat and work related to the pig roast. Now it’s time to get back on track and work on finishing up my couple of web applications in ASP (current language I know to prototype in), start learning PHP so I can convert them into something my web host allows.

It’s off to do house cleaning, laundry, sorting and dumping (Goodwill and trash) and then yard work once it gets cooler, sometime around dinner time. This might take a few days to get done, but it needs to be completed.

Hope to do more blogging, since I have about a dozen different posts started, in need of just a bit of editing, or just titles listed for subjects I want to talk about.

Is it just me or are others blogging less, since using twitter? I feel by using twitter I can get my points across on some subjects but others require a full post to explain all the technical stuff required.

South by Recap – Part 2

Ok, we are now heading into the busy part of SXSW, that is if there is a slow part at all from the time you get there until you leave days later.

Sunday – (2008/03/09)

Managed to get up and make to see Rob Weychert and Jason Santa Maria do their talk on “Everyone is a Design Critic“. They had a few main point to be made. the first is that a critique should be broken up into three parts. The parts are before, during, and after the presentation of your ideas.

The other main point was the “Top 5 Client Requests”:

  1. My unqualified friend has a different idea.
  2. Purple is my favorite color, why don’t you use it?
  3. We need more stuff above the fold. (People do scroll now.)
  4. There’s so much empty space, can’t you fit it in?
  5. Cant’ you make the logo bigger?

One of the most interesting points was when Rob realized that they were being displayed on the two big screens. So while Stan was talking he just started dancing around behind him.

One of the best presentations that I saw was the next one by Derek Featherstone. His talk was titled “Everything I learned about Accessibility I learned from Star Wars“.

Before Derek started his presentation he came on stage wearing all black with a brown hooded cape. While setting up he turned “Mac Saber” on his laptop, which now made it sound like a Star Wars light saber. By using the MacBooks built in gyroscope yo can pick it up and make it sound as if you had a really light saber in your hands. Ok, now on to his talk.

A few keep points are:

  • “You think you know everything and others know more”.
  • “Storm Troopers are all the same”. Real life things are different.
  • “No, matter what you can see on the surface does not matter to what is underneath”. I think what pretty stuff your page has does not matter as long as your code under the pretty is accessible.
  • “Living people is what matters not validators or screen readers”.
  • “Pass on what we learn to others to channel the FORCE”.
  • “You have to believe it can be done”.
  • “Do or Do Not there is No try”. – Yoda
  • “I don’t believe it, that is why you fail”. – Yoda

The other amazing part of his presentation were the digital Star Wars drawings by Aton Peck.

Went to an internationalization talk by Stephanie Troeth and Stephanie Booth. This was one of those core talks that they added this year. It was interesting and I learned a few things about how to internationalize websites. It was more a discussion between them and the audience of about 25 around one table.

The final big event of Sunday was the “Geeks Love Bowling” event put on by the nclud guys and real hard work of Cindy Li. Cindy and the nclud crew were able to in a few short weeks get enough sponsors to be able to rent out all 52 lanes at the bowling alley and get buses to transport all the people and a bunch of peole that just wanted to watch. On top of all that they had prizes for all the top bowlers for each team and the top three winning teams. The prizes were free copies of the new 2008 Mac Office suite.

The Refresh DC team I was on did not do to badly. I believe we finished in like 14th place we needed only 4 more pins to come in 12th place. Maybe next year we will do better, not that it matters, since we out to have lot of fun and meet new people. We shared a lane with an all woman team from England. I believe most of them had never bowled before. Fun was had by all.

After bowling a lot of people went out and I decided with a few other the Brits and others to go back to the Hapmton Inn and sit in the second floor lounge and talk. it was great time to be able to relax with Cindy, the Matt Harris, John Hicks, Richard Rutter, Anton Peck, and others.

Monday – (2008/03/10)

I attended a few different panels that I normally might not go to see. The first was “Scalability Boot Camp“, were they talked about make sure to monitor your system early and often. That is everything from Disk I/O, memory, and bandwidth.

Another one was the”Design Eye by South By” where they went over how they would re-design the SXSW website to make it better and more usable. What they talked about and showed was really nice, but the build up was to much for what they showed.

Attended the Annual public WASP meeting. Very interesting to see what they are up to and planning on doing in the future.

It was out for the “Great British Booze Off” and the “NXSW” party. I like the Brits party a great deal and had a wonderful time meeting a lot of new people and meeting up with others I had met last year or earlier this year.

Tuesday – (2008/03/11)

I went to a bunch of panels I normally would not have. I first went to the “How to RAWK SXSW and Stay Inspired“. A few key points from this panel was to:

  • Go through businees cards on plan.
  • No, idea is to silly.
  • Read “Cluetrain Manifesto” –
  • Look for other ideas, etc. at – Password – POPRAWKS

The “Secrets of JavaScript Libararies” panel was cool, since it seemed to have all the people that started the different big JavaScript libraries.

The main thing that was said was before picking one of the main JavaScript libraries is to figure out hwat you need them for. Each different one has strengths and weaknesses.

At another panel a cool thing I saw on the person in the row in front of me was a photo application. After the panel I asked him what it was and he said it was PicLens (Firefox plug-in). The following is the description of PicLens from the plug-in page – instantly transforms your browser into a full-screen 3D experience for viewing images across the web.

There was a bunch more stuff that happened during these six great days in Austin, TX. I hope to get to the full set of notes I took in the next few weeks.

Any further explanations or questions please leave a comment.

Another Long Frustrating and Sometimes Fun Week

Last week was a bit frustrating and somewhat fun at the same time.

Work was busy and somewhat of a pain. I need to get about four projects done before I head to SXSW on the 6th of March, 2008. A bunch of my users/clients want all the work completed, but do not have time to give me the necessary information or they just have no time to just review the finished work so we can move it to PROD.

On one project I finally, suggested that we put in what we had, which was about 90 – 95% of what was needed. This way they could start using the much better version of the web application instead of waiting. they agreed and next week I still have to work on three pages that are still in the old layout and then I will be done with this pass. We finally moved the new pages to PROD on Tuesday.

After work on Tuesday’s most of you know I normally go to a wine tasting/class. Well this Tuesday the Washington, DC, metro area had some really bad weather. It consisted of some rain, freezing rain, sleet, or snow depending on where you lived. So I figured I would just stay home and do stuff around the house, since people around here just need to learn to drive in bad weather. After talking with a bunch people I usually meet there, we all decided to try and make it to class, which is normally a 30 – 40 minutes drive (12 miles).

I suggested that a few of us that live near each other should carpool. I told one of my friends I would pick her up and then we would go to another friends that is on the way. They both live like two or three miles from me in different directions. I left for the first friends at like 6:45 PM, but first I had to remove ice from car. This drive usually takes ten minutes or less on a bad day, since it is all of 2.25 miles and has a few stoplights. The second half of my trip should take 15 minutes to go to our other friends place and then a final drive of eight miles (15 minutes).

Well, as you can imagine the first part took forever. I was on the phone most of the time off and on keeping everyone inlvolved informed of me progress, which was going poorly. The first three quarters of a mile went well. Once I got to the hill on Braddock Road that’s when the problems started. It took over an hour to get to the top of the hill and it is only like a quarter of a mile long. We moved about two or three car lengths about every few minutes. A few times I had to put the emergancy brake on after putting the car in neutral so I could get the feeling back to my feet. This is the one big problem with having a manual car in this town.

The second friend decided to leave without us. He got to class before I even made it half way to my other friends place. The first friend ended up having enough time to balance their checkbook, watch a full episode of “The Simpson’s”, have dinner, and do a few other things. A few people told me to just head home and call it a night. I told them it was not that easy, since the road going the other direction was backed up too, so I could not make a U turn.

Of course I did not turn around and go home, since now it had became a matter of principal.

At some point I made it to a street that I thought I could get to my friends from. I called her and had her work me through the neighborhood to her place. At one point she told me to make a right on a road that I thought was going the wrong way. She told me now that I was heading uphill I should look for some street, I can’t think of now. I told her I was headed downhill and she said “No, you I should not be”. She had gotten confused to which way I was traveling , because this street was a big loop and she normally comes in to that street another way. After I got turned back around things where just fine.

I then picked up my friend at her place and the last part of the trip to wine class was like ten miles and took all of 18 minutes to get there. Even the Key bridge (named after Francis Scott Key the same guy that wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner”) had no traffic on it, which is really odd, since that is one of the places that I spend most of my time getting to class normally.

When we finally got to class about an hour after it started the other 15 or 20 people started to cheer that we had finally made it. By being this late we had to catch up on like three wines that they had already tried. Not that hard to do, since I could use a drink after spending almost two hours in my car.

On an unrelated note while at class my second friend mentioned that the wine blog, I started for our wine group had gotten a bit of spam comments under one of the blog posts that with the title “Two Blondes, a Brunette and Five Reds – Big Bodacious Blends Part 1“. I have him set up be one of the authors to the blog so I don’t have to do all the work. He said he had deleted about 70 or 80 spam comments. I said I would look into it when I got home.

When I got home we had like 40 or so more comments. I had forgotten to turn Akismet on this blog for some reason, which would have made this a bit easier. So this meant I had to manually delete all the comments from the posts. Just what I wanted to do. I tried to activate Akismet and it was looking for an activation key, which I could not find the e-mail with it in it. I figured it would stop soon anyway and I was tried and needed to sleep. When I woke up early after like six hours of sleep I noticed the spamming had not stopped. I had to delete another 180 comments. What a pain in the rear.

At this point I found my Akismet activation key and got it going, but the spam continued coming. I noticed that it was just a bunch of comments that dealt with casino’s, gambling, slot machines, lounges, etc. and all coming from one I.P. address – It is from a company called “RIPE Network Coordination Centre” in Amsterdam, NL. It finally stopped after like a day and a half. At this point Akismet had stopped about 100 or more comments by Thursday afternoon. I still do not get why comment spammers do this.

The fun part of the week was when about five other single friends (four women, my buddy, and myself) of mine got together on Valentine’s Day at my friends house to have nice relaxing evening. The night consisted of a bunch of appetizers the rest of us brought, that included champagne (really sparkling wine from France), shrimp with cocktail sauce, shrimp cooked in basil pesto sauce, a bread bowl with different types of flat breads, crackers with pate, olive spread, and a cheese spread.

Once all that was done we got to the dinner part, which was just fabulous. We started the meal with a roasted pumpkin soups shooter with one shrimp. Next we got to the dinner, which was filet mignon seared and placed in a beef stock, shallot, and course ground mustard sauce. With all this we had broccoli rabe and roasted fingerling potatoes. During dinner we drank three different years of the same wine the same producer from Argentina.

The following is the list of wines we had during the evenings events in the order that we had drank them.

  • NV – Kirkland Rose Champagne
  • 2000 – Concha y Tora Don Melchor Cabernet Puente Alto – Chile
  • 2001 – Concha y Tora Don Melchor Cabernet Puente Alto – Chile
  • 1999 – Chateau Lalande Saint-Julien
  • 2004 – Concha y Tora Don Melchor Cabernet Puente Alto – Chile

If all this was not enough my buddy was reading reviews about the wines from the internet. He mentioned that the second wine we had was similar to French wines from the Saint Julian region. One of the women that was there said something to the effect of I have never had one of those. So what did my buddy do, he went to where he stores his wines and brought out a 1999 of one of them. Great wine drinking just wonderfully now.

We finished the the night off with a flourless chocolate tart with home made fresh whipped cream and a dusting of coco power. the final thing to top off the evening was my friend had made each of the women a box of home made chocolate truffles. He had asked me to get a single rose for each one , which I told him I had thought of doing. From what I heard from all the women these two things topped off and already perfect night.

Now that the fun is done it’s back to work projects. I moved my second project’s the code into PROD on Friday without any error checking, since it is only used by one maybe two people. I figured that they can be careful for a few days while I get that done. The only reason I’m doing it this way is they really need to get to entering information into the system and they know they should enter information for every field and there is field formatting examples as part of the LABEL text. Now I can get going on two other projects and at least move the new and improved code for now. There is still going to be a second phase to add new fields, reports, and functions in the near future (after SXSW) anyway.

Last night (Friday) I went back and checked to see if the spamming had stopped and of course it had started again. Now they are trying to post to another one our spots that has the title “Two Blondes, a Brunette, and Five Big Bodacious Reds Redux“. We are now up to almost 700 spam comments from them stopped by Akismet, since Wednesday morning, plus the 250 or so we manually deleted. They are spamming the website every four or five minutes from different websites and blog posts, but the same I.P. address.

So in conclusion if you want to get your blog post comment numbers really high without having to write a really lot of ground breaking information and not getting hit by Mixx, Digg, or Slashdot, just have a post titled with the words “Two Blondes and a Brunette” in it. By writing about this subject I could be asking for comment spam on this blog too.

Have any of you had similar stories of getting spammed, just because of a blog post title? If so what did you do to stop it?