life technogeeky

they do exist!

I’ve been telling people that I was taking today off to wait for the FIOS man. I had the brief thought that there was no reason my tech had to be male, but I brushed the thought aside, seeing as, well, I’ve never had a woman set up my cable, phone, directv, or internet service.

But it turns out, female FIOS techs do exist! She’s wiring up my house as I speak. She was a little wary of my two-cablecards-in-the-tivo setup, but I think I’ve talked her into giving it a try. And that wariness has nothing to do with her gender; my Comcast cable man had similar misgivings.

A lady tech ranks right up there with a female airline pilot, or a woman-owned car dealership. You know they must exist, but I’ve never been on a flight piloted by a woman, nor do I recall ever driving past a car dealership with a woman’s name plastered all over it. (To be fair, some car dealerships just have a last name, or they are named for some landmark, so who’s to know who actually owns the place if all you do is analyze the signage.)

So, heres to ladies who aren’t afraid to give “man-jobs” a try: you go, girls!

Edit: I just ordered a pizza and got a pizza girl! Girl power is strong today!

nerdly technogeeky work

don’t even try to out-nerd me …

I just bought a book on regexes. For those less nerdologically inclined, ‘regexes’ is short for regular expressions. Regular expressions being ‘expressions’ you use to match a certain pattern in text. They really are way more impressive than they sound …

Having just started a new job, I’m full of all the excitement and go-get-em attitude that comes with it. Which is what prompted me to buy the book. It got 4 and a half stars on amazon, so it must be good, right? Plus, it was recommended by an old colleague.

My new job makes good use of regexes. Which sounds completely … lame … but if used correctly, according to the intro of my new book, regexes can shave hours off of tasks.

The last time I got all gung-ho about my job and bought a book, I made it to chapter 5. Here’s to hoping this purchase was money well-spent …

confession technogeeky


wesleyOMG, OMG, I just posted a comment on Wil Wheaton’s blog! I didn’t even know about his blog until this morning, after I read my husband’s latest post. Once I found out about it, of course, I had to go read it. And lo and behold, he had a recent post about conventions! So then I was compelled to leave a comment with a link to my latest post about conventions.

As a young teen, I had the biggest crush on Wesley Crusher. My bff at the time had a more reasonable crush on the more studly and charming Riker. But I’ve always been a sucker for the smart ones.

I was pleased to find that Mr. Wheaton has a rather interesting blog, and surprised to read about his trek to drop off his son at college. I mean, it wasn’t THAT long ago that he was an obnoxiously smart 12-year-old on TNG, was it? Well, it apparently was that long ago. Cuz he’s off dropping his son off at college …

confession hobbies technogeeky travel

blizzcon wins

Since getting married, I have been introduced to a new world: the world of conventions. And I have found, that I actually like them.

I think I like conventions because I am a bit of a hobby collector. I like to try out new things on a frequent basis. There are things I’ll never give up – like shopping – but there are others that come and go as my mood changes – like knitting or landscaping (that’s a mood I’m not likely to be in for awhile) or particular video games. And going to conventions lets me get a brief glimpse into a hobby, so I feel like I can add it to my list.

In my first married year, I went to a one-day Comic-Con in Baltimore. My second married year, I went to a 4-day Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas. And this year, I went to the two-day Blizzcon. While I enjoyed them all (though, admittedly, 4 days is WAY too much time to spend with fanatics), Blizzcon wins, hands down.

I have to concede that Blizzcon is hosted by Blizzard who makes millions and millions of dollars on their video games, most notably, World of Warcraft, which has 9 million subscribers who gladly pay $14.99 each and every month for the pleasure of playing. (yeah … I’m one of those 9 million …) The other conventions were hosted by … well, fanboys. People who just love comics or star trek sooooo much, and they have a deep desire, down in their hearts, to have a venue where all the fanboys of the world can come together and be all fanboy-ey. So there is definitely a money discrepancy that can’t be ignored. And, well, more money gets you better stuff.

Point one for Blizzcon: Ticket distribution. Ticket pickup was available the day before, or during any of the convention days. The Star Trek convention used this model as well. But Blizzcon split the alphabet up into about 30 groups, and had in essence, 30 lines. 30 minutes before the start of ticket pickup, my husband and I got into our line. Less than 30 minutes after ticket pickup officially started, we had our tickets (and swag bags). At the Star Trek convention, we got in line 30 minutes before ticket pickup officially started. The one line. When we finally got to the front of the line, hours later, the alphabet was split into a couple of groups, where 10 people were there to get us all squared away. It was a pretty miserable wait.

Point two for Blizzcon: Open space! The main stage was set up with thousands of chairs – but also wide open space to either side. There was wide open space around the food vendors. There was wide open space around the various booths. There wasn’t too much open space – but enough of it to accommodate the thousands of people as they wandered from one place to another. The vendor room at the Star Trek convention was overly crowded, and some booths seemed more like a personal garage sale than honest-to-goodness Star Trek Shtuff dealers. The booths that were expected to be busy didn’t have enough space – or cordoned off space – for people to line up in an orderly fashion.

Point three for Blizzcon: Staff! The staff walking around Blizzcon all had little radios. So they could keep up with what was going on. So they could radio for help if needed. They were well-connected, and if you asked them a question, they knew the answer. Or they could get it for you quickly. At the Star Trek convention, most of the staff didn’t know what was going on. If you asked a question, they didn’t know the answer. And they couldn’t point you in the direction of anyone who did. They were just people with pens hanging from their necks, carrying clipboards, who got in for free by volunteering to be staff.

Point four for Blizzcon: Not ridiculously priced food! The Star Trek convention was held in the Las Vegas Hilton. Complete with $2 Hilton candy bars and $4 bottles of water. Blizzcon was held in the Anaheim Convention Center. With $6 pizza and $1 candy bars. Maybe still a little overpriced, but not so much so that you find yourself going hungry in protest of serious price gouging.

Point five for Blizzon: Funny Humor. The Star Trek convention people made a Star Trek puppet musical that was supposed to be funny but was just plain odd and uncomfortable. The winners of the Star Trek movie contest had movies that were again, just … strange and mostly boring. The ‘movies’ and ‘promos’ that Blizzard put together were hilarious! And the winner of the ‘Comedy’ Blizzcon movie contest was a laugh out loud riot. I know not everyone shares the same sense of humor – and my own sense of humor is admittedly not exactly main stream – but I really didn’t get how anyone could find the Star Trek convention brand of humor … well, humorous.

Point six for Blizzcon: Gracious Hosts! Never, at any time, did anyone with a mic at Blizzcon get snippy with the audience. Never, at any time, were they anything but glad that we had come. Never, at any time, did they leave a sour taste in my mouth or make me feel like they were just grown up spoiled brats. I wish I could say the same for the Star Trek convention hosts.

So, there you have it. Blizzcon, with 6 points and Star Trek Convention 0. Some of the issues would be hard to fix without a lot more money – but the Creation Entertainment folks could certainly learn a lot from the Blizzcon book of entertaining. I understand that the first Blizzcon didn’t go off nearly as well as this last one – but they definitely learned from their mistakes to throw one heck of a party.


tada! podcasts!

So, after having to work really hard to get b3 to read the blog I wrote just for him (ok, so maybe it was for b1 and b2, too), one of my coworkers suggested that I should start doing podcasts as well. So I googled ‘make podcast’, and found some great tutorials that all suggested audacity paired with the lame mp3 encoder for podcast creation – and then I checked my list of available blog plugins, and lo and behold, there was podPress.

The hardest part was figuring out how to turn on my microphone. I’ve never needed it before, so it would seem that it was all turned off in some obscure windows audio input volume controller. (Hint: it doesn’t do any good to raise the mic volume if you don’t check the ‘select’ box under the mic input.)

So, once I got all that squared away, I found a nice short blog – ode to transfats – recorded it, exported to mp3, uploaded to my site, and added it to my ode to transfats post.

So – b3 – you have no more excuses! You know my site (c’mon …. it’s my NAME …) – and you have ears.

hobbies technogeeky

happy new year!

2007 – where has the time gone? It’s hard to believe that I’m all grown up. I mean, really, really grown up. With a degree … and a husband … and car payments … and a mortgage … And I’m still no closer to exercising regularly, eating right, or taking full advantage of the multitude of things that are within a 4 hour drive. But – that’s what 2007 is for! Seeing as 2006 failed to deliver.

forge and batmobileSo, me and my kitties rang in the new year by doing a new project. I actually got it for Christmas, but was holding off for New Years to put it together. And it’s a good thing I did! It took me through most of Harry Potter and all of Willy Wonka to put it together (thank goodness for HBO). I’m glad I had so much help from the cats, or the process would have been much quicker. Forge so thoughtfully put pieces under the coffee table and couch for me. (No, I am not joking. He is almost as fascinated with the little plastic pieces as he is with yarn, the mortal enemy of felines everywhere.)

I was just looking at the pics I took, so if you’re confused about what exactly the end product is, it’s a batmobile. I promise.

technogeeky work

ampersands are the debil

Ampersands are out to get me this week. That’s right, the cute little &. He seems so harmless … and yet he is wreaking havoc on all my tools. At quitting time, nonetheless.

Tuesday, 3 p.m. (Yes, that’s quitting time. I get in at 7. Really!) I get a frantic IM from one of my users, the transfer app isn’t working. Now, we have this transfer app because we have no less than 7 networks. (Ok, ok, so maybe it’s only 4.) So, this transfer app moves a file from one network to a different network. I only worked on the first part of the transfer process, but it’s the first part that the customer sees, so that means I get the frantic IMs. Plus, I’m way more approachable than your average developer, so I get frantic IMs for tools that aren’t even mine. Because, honestly, if you have a choice between adorableness or cranky-pants magoo, you’re gonna go with adorableness. Even if you know adorableness may very well refer you to cranky-pants.

But, anyway, the transfer app stopped working. I’ll spare the details, but it turns out that transferring a file that contains an ampersand in the filename causes the whole tranfer app to just quit working. A DOS, if you will, for all the nerds out there. I haven’t fixed the issue yet, I just told the user to avoid ampersandy filenames for the next week or two. Seeing as it’s been 5 months and this is the first ampersandy filename any of the users have tried to transfer, I’m not *too* worried it’ll happen again before I fix it.

Thursday, 3 p.m. IM from another developer, one of our web apps can’t display search results from certain criteria. I started digging through log files, and I discovered the problem: ampersands. The search results end up in xml, that is xslt-ed into html – and ampersands aren’t allowed in such things. So I patched that up, and proceeded on my merry way. Luckily, that particular web app is in a permanent beta state, which means that we, as developers, don’t guarantee that it will run without kinks. Or even that it will always be available. But, I fixed it in 28 minutes, because that’s the kind of dedication to my customers that I have. Or maybe it just really bothers me when someone finds a bug in one of my tools. Either way, it’s fixed.

Ampersands. are. the. debil.

hobbies technogeeky travel

star trek conventions

I’ve never been to a star trek convention. It’s been on my do-once-in-my-life list for years now. So, when my husband announced that the 40th anniversary star trek extravaganza was going to happen THIS YEAR, I decided it was time.

When I tell people I’m going to a star trek convention, they always ask if I’m going to dress up. No, I don’t plan on dressing up. I don’t own a star trek uniform. The star trek actors don’t even dress up for conventions. Of course, I could go in my pajamas, as it seems that everything that is worn in the Gene Roddenberry future resembles sleepwear.

When I agreed to go to the convention, I didn’t realize that it was four days long. Four days? Of total trek immersion? I must be out of my mind! What could you possibly do for four entire days? Well, according to the schedule, you can play bingo (star trek style), eat chocolate (star trek style), auction for charity (star trek style), wait in line for autographs (star trek style), wait in line for pictures (star trek style), watch improv (star trek style), dress up (star trek style – with the possibility of winning $1000 in the costume contest – maybe I’ll reconsider…), DESIGN A CENTERPIECE (star trek style), create a music video (star trek style), participate in talent contest (star trek style), write an essay (star trek style), drink champagne (star trek style), eat dinner (star trek style), eat dessert (star trek style), buy loads of crap (star trek style), wear a plastic wristband (star trek style), ride a fake roller coaster (star trek style) or watch a 3D movie (star trek style). Oh yeah, and listen to actual star trek actors speak.

Now, I’m a little confused about the star trek centerpiece contest. I don’t really recall any centerpieces from the shows, but I suppose that people in the Gene-iverse liked to decorate their tables. I’m a little intrigued to see what people come up with – perhaps something with silk flowers and a tiny warp core replica? Or a nice vase filled with marbles and fully-functioning posotronic brains? I, for one, would vote for anything with a likeness of Wesley Crusher.

One contest I do plan on entering, however, is the essay contest. The contest is in honor of Scotty and is limited to engineers. And, well, I’m sort of an engineer. Plus – I’m a totally awesome writer. I’ve worked with a lot of engineers (seeing as that’s what I do and all) and most of them can’t write. I so have this one in the bag.

So far, the list of convention guests is rather impressive. They’ve managed to snag all the captains, minus Picard (rumor has it he still has a career or something), and they have one of my favorites, Weyoun from DS9. My other DS9 favorite, Damar, has not appeared on the list yet, though they keep adding people, so I’m still hopeful I’ll get to see him.


Damar?, you may ask. Yes, Damar. Because he’s obscure, and also because he giggled when Worf killed Weyoun 18. I made my husband rewind it on the tivo so I could watch it again. So – Damar – please don’t disappoint me. I’ll even share my essay-winnings.


mac mini: adorable computing

Last week, after months of pining and deliberations, I finally broke down and ordered my mac mini. 2 inches of computing adorability. An entire computer, complete with dvd burner, 80 gig hard drive, and good enough graphics for me to get my WoW on. All in a 6 and a half inch square, 2 inches tall. (Check it out.)

So, I’m a windows person. Used to do me some win32 programming, even. So this whole mac thing is a little new – I haven’t touched an apple since my high school days. I’m really missing my ctrl-c type shortcuts, but I’m sure mac’s got their own little shortcuts. It’ll just be a matter of time before I discover them. I hope.

I love my new little speakers. (Click here to see them – Sony SRS-P11Q if the link doesn’t work.) They are intended to be portable speakers for an mp3 player, but I find they work quite nicely for my new little computer. I don’t know how good they really are, as I generally hate sounds coming from my computer, so I keep the sound turned down real low. Unless I’m playing WoW, then they get turned up to one notch above real low – cuz with no sound, you can’t tell when something is attacking you from behind till you’re half dead. And that’s never fun.

Did I mention the built-in wireless? Took a little finagling to get it to play nice with my home network, I ended up having to type in the hex wep password, but mac gives you the option of turning off the password dots when setting up network stuff, so you can actually see the hex mumbo-jumbo you typed and double check it.

Oh, and built in bluetooth. So you can use a bluetooth-wireless mouse and keyboard – which I would have done, but my husband has a wireless mouse, and he didn’t want me to interfere with his signal. But the wired set up isn’t so bad – especially when you have a tiny computer that can sit ON your desk and take up minimal space, so you don’t have wires stretched all over the place, trying to reach under the desk.

Plenty of USB ports. The keyboard takes one, but actually provides 2, so the mouse can plug right into the keyboard. The mighty mouse has a pretty short cord, so it’s not annoyingly bunched up or anything, being plugged into the keyboard and all.

Firewire. So my tiny little camcorder (ok, so I have a fetish for all things small) can plug right into the mac mini. And with iDVD, I can create DVDs from my camcorder tapes in one step. Granted, in one step, you can’t do anything fancy (like create clips or menus) but you can create a regular ol’ DVD player playable DVD. Of, like, say, your friends’ wedding. That you taped last June. And then promptly forgot about. And now that your friend is pregnant with twins, and wants to, uh, watch her own friggin’ wedding, so she told you to just give her the mini-DV tape and she’ll figure out how to watch it. So, in one easy step, you can slap the thing on a DVD, hand it over with the tape (so she can do something fancy with it later), and she can happily watch her wedding. On her tv. From a DVD.

The mighty mouse. An odd little invention – one seemingly solid piece of plastic on the top, with a little bitty roller ball on the top, about where you’d expect to find a scroll wheel. Which is precisely what the bitty roller ball does. Except, you can roll the roller ball sideways (for sideways scrolling) AND up and down. Genius. But the even stranger part: The mighty mouse knows when you left click, middle click, or right click. Even though its just one piece of plastic, no buttons. There’s even two low-side ‘buttons’ that don’t really depress, but it somehow knows you clicked them. They seem to only be configurable to one thing, so I’m not sure why there’s one on each side of the mouse – I guess maybe to make it left-hand friendly? Right now, I have it set so that if I press either of these pseudo buttons, it opens the application switcher (that thing alt-tab does in windows).

The verdict: I love it. It’s tiny. It’s cute. I can check my email. I can play WoW. I can make long overdue DVDs. It came with software for making comic books – I haven’t played with it yet, but I downloaded gimp so I can ‘cartoonize’ my wedding photos and turn them into a comic book, complete with WHAMS! and thought bubbles. I just went to (my kind of scrapbooking, no scissors involved) to see if they had a mac version of their bookmaker, and they have something even better: a mac plugin, that works right with mac’s iPhoto.

I still have a LOT to learn about the mac world. I mean, I’ve only had the mini in my possession for 26 hours, and I had to spend most of that time sleeping and then that pesky thing called work. I haven’t even figured out what half my applications are (I think I even got Quicken – which is like my favorite thing ever – for real). But I think it will be a fun journey. Plus – I totally have the cutest computer on the block.