I've found a lot of humor in the news lately. It seems that several people have suffered from a dumbass-attack over the last couple of days.

First, we have John Allen Muhammed, one of the D.C. sniper suspects, firing his lawyers and requesting to represent himself. Yeah, that's an excellent idea. You know, lawyers have had years of schooling, training, studying, and on the job experience. That can't possibly compare to your COMPLETE INSANITY! What is this guy thinking?

Next up, we have Mr. Nathaniel Heatwole, a 20 year old college student who thought it would be a good idea to teach the government a lesson by stashing box cutters and other contraband items on various planes. What kind of mental misfire do you need to be suffering from before you think this is a good idea? Let's see, terrorists decide to crash some planes. In response, we completely obliterated any area that they had a remote chance of possibly living in. The government subsequently bans certain items from flights, including box cutters. Now this mental giant decides that, hey, you aren't trying hard enough, and I'm going to prove it. Great idea. I can just see that interrogation room now.... "Yeah, heheh, see, I got the box cutters on the plane. You guys suck! heheh!" And then the beatings begin. Way to go genius. I'm sure lots of people are now lining up to show you just how much pain your body can endure.

Not to be outdone, we have Kirk Jones, the man who decided it would be fun to float over Niagra Falls. No safety equipment, no announcement, not even a frickin' barrel. How did this guy's day start?
"Whatcha doin' today honey?"
"Well, I think I'll mow the lawn, maybe take out the trash, and, oh, I don't know, float over Niagra Falls."
"That's nice dear."

C'mon. Only one other person has survived that type of stunt, and even then it was completely unintentional. Some poor kid fell out of a boat, and by God's divine grace survived. There's no reason why this latest guy shouldn't be a puddle of guts downstream somewhere.

Lastly, we have poor Eric Alvarez. Evidently inspired by the outrageous antics of Mr. Jones, poor Eric suffered from a brain fart at the worst possible moment. You see, Eric decided it would be fun to 'surf' the top of the train he was riding in. Unfortunately, this brilliant idea came to him just as the train was about to enter a tunnel. Poor Eric's head hit the wall of the tunnel with a terrific smack, pulling him up off the train car and landing him behind the quickly exiting train. Before he was able to regain consciousness, his body was then overrun by the next train to pass through the tunnel, insuring his candidacy for a Darwin Award.

Was there something in the air over the last couple of days? What would inspire these people to such great leaps of lunacy? The world may never know.


I downloaded the new iTunes software for Windows today. It is a system for playing and purchasing music that Apple originally developed for the Mac, but has now ported to the Windows OS. You can search through an enormous library of music, and download any song for 99 cents, or an album for $9.99. It's a great deal compared to buying CDs, which can run as much as $20 depending on where you buy. The system also allows you to preview music before buying it. This is great, as you don't get stuck with an entire CD of crap because you didn't know any better. This could be really dangerous for me. I really like listening to music at work, and I have all of our CDs ripped into MP3 for storage on my hard drive. I play these all day. I think I'm probably getting a satellite radio system for my birthday. If I get sucked into iTunes, I could easily spend $20 or $30 on new music I like before I realize what I've done. I'll try to keep myself under control.

Satellite Radio

I've been eyeing satellite radio service for a while. I make long trips from time to time, and it would also be nice for in the office. My father works for Delco Electronics, a division of Delphi, which manufactures units for both XM and Sirius. He has offered to get a unit for me at a great discount, but I'm not sure which to choose. The user base for both services has matured over the last couple of years, as well as the products available. I need a unit that can go from the car to the office. I've looked at the Delphi SkyFi, the AudioVox SIR, and the Kenwood H2A.

At first, I was looking only at XM. Everything I had read about Sirius said that they were near bankruptcy, and were no where near the customer levels that they needed in order to be profitable. All indicators were that Sirius was going to go belly up, and soon. XM, on the other hand, had great buy-in from several auto manufacturers, and was well on their way to the target market of one million customers. So I looked only at XM. There were two XM receivers that could go from the car to the home / office: the Sony and the Delphi unit. I liked the sony unit, but the screen was a bit small and hard to read. The Delphi unit had an enormous screen. The Delphi unit was also ugly! The brushed steel look is fine, but contrasting with the bright red-on-red display just doesn't do it for me. When I told my pop about all this, he suggested that I take a look at the Delphi Roady. The roady had interchangeable face plates for different colors, and the display could also be modified to use different backgrounds and fore colors. This was a big plus over the SkyFi unit. Unfortunately, the Roady was designed for in car use only. The unit was not made to be detached and moved to the living room or office. The outputs were such that I could just disconnect everything, but it would be a pain to carry all of that equipment in and out.

So today my dad calls and asks if I had considered the Sirius radio service. He mentioned that he got the equipment free if there was a one year subscription. He said that offer was good on both the Audiovox and Kenwood receivers. Both of these receivers can go from the car to the office. The audiovox unit looks a lot like the SkyFi unit, with a big display and nice control layout. A big plus over the SkyFi is that the display is a nice sky blue. Much better than the red. Some other features that I liked were that it had a 10 song memory for recording songs that you like. After reading a few reviews, I found that the Sirius service offers three NPR stations, where XM has none. Also, all of the Sirius channels are commercial free, while XM has commercials on most popular stations.

M nod goes to the Audiovox unit on the Sirius service. It looks better than any of the other units, provides a nice set of features, and can go from my car to the office. The Sirius service also appears to provide some features that I prefer over XM (such as audio streaming to any PC, and commercial free programming). This all comes at a premium price over XM ($12.95 vs. $9.99 per month). I'm really looking forward to getting this unit so I can start playing around and see how good this satellite radio service really is!

Ego Boost

I got a big ego boost on Monday night. My MBA classmates elected me to be their class rep. A couple of the students had some really nice things to say about me, as far as being organized, creative, and getting things done on time, and it was very flattering to hear that from my peers. We have had three people drop out of our course. One girl dropped due to a death in the family, but fortunately she has picked up with another MBA course. Another dropped due to moving to another state. He was the backup class rep. The third dropped due to stress and time. He was our previous class rep. I hope that there is not some sort of curse attached to this class rep status. Being class rep essentially means that I get notifications from the University that need to be passed on to the rest of the students in my class. So if class were cancelled, or if books were late, or there was an especially urgent prayer request, I would receive it and would be responsible for letting the rest of the class know. Not much of a responsibility really, but it was a big boost to my ego for my classmates to speak so highly of me. I really appreciated that.

Dungeon Siege

Last weekend, I really felt like getting a new video game. There are a lot of games that are 6 months old or older that I would like to play, which means that their prices have probably dropped into the $20 range. I picked up Dungeon Siege, which is rated pretty well on all of the regular game sites, and was supposed to be very similar to one of my favorites: Diablo II. I've been playing it for the past week, and it is fun, but at the same time, I'm a little disappointed. The game graphics are incredible. I was hoping that Blizzard would come out with a truly 3-D version of Diablo at some point, and Dungeon Siege is just that. The characters are incredibly detailed, with their appearance changing depending upon what you are using. The environments are well done, with rolling hills, snowfall, dark dungeons and so on.

My disappointment comes in the story. There isn't one. Seriously! Even in the reviews of the game, it seems that the creators set out to create a really incredible game engine, but were not concerned with the plot. This is really taking away from the game. In Diablo, there is a story that goes with the game, and while it does boil down to a lot of furious clicking to kill hordes of enemies, at least your quests seemed to serve some purpose that helped you in the game. In Dungeon Siege, you are given quests, but you are not required to complete them. In addition, if you are given a quest, there is no need to return to the person who gave you the quest for a reward. This really takes away from the "mission" element of the game. The game starts out with your character standing in a burned out field. Evidently you are a farmer, and some local hoodlums have torched your farm. You decide, "Hey, I'm angry. I'm going to go rough up some hoodlums". From there, you follow a path and kill everything in sight. That's all there is to the story. Along the way, you find some books that provide a little bit more background on some of the characters you meet, and the quests you get, but not much more.

Another sore point with me is that the enemies don't respawn. In Diablo, if you quit the game and restart, all of the enemies respawn. This gives you a chance to build up your character levels before you take on a particularly tough enemy. In Dungeon Siege, once the enemy is dead, it stays dead, even if you restart. I'm not even sure that I can play through the campaign again with the same character, if I restart the game. Another big plus of Diablo is that the maps are generated at runtime. So if you play through the campaign and want to do it again, you can play the same character, and the maps will be completely different the next time around. The quests are all the same, but at least the way to get there is different.

One element of the gameplay in Dungeon Siege that still has me confused is the area of character development. As you fight, your character improves based on the weapon type they are using. This can be Melee (swords, axes, knives), Ranged (bows & arrows), Nature Magic (healing, lightning), or Combat Magic (fireballs). So far, I haven't found much point in using anything but Melee. You can have up to eight characters playing at once under your control, and I forced one of them to use nature magic all the time so that he could heal the other party members, but other than that there was no reason to use anything but the best melee weapon. If you try using ranged weapons, the enemies just rush you as soon as they are hit. So it ends up as a melee brawl anyway. Magic, both nature and combat, is way too slow to cast, and much more difficult to build up levels in than the melee and ranged. I'm not even clear on how these levels get achieved. It doesn't have to do with how many enemies you kill, but with how often you use the skill. So I could sit there and use the heal spell for an hour and go up a level. That would be really boring... but it would work. So far, I haven't run into anything that I can't throw my party into melee mode and thwart fairly handily. Occassionally I get caught by surprise and I don't get the healing potions / magic turned on in time, but that is getting increasingly rare.

My final beef with the game has to do with the control, although I've read a couple of things on the web which may help. Ideally, the game could be played with one hand (my left) on the keyboard and the other on the mouse. The mouse could be used for navigation and selecting battles, and the keyboard for changing attack modes, instructing characters to use potions, or to check inventory. Instead, critical commands such as heal (H), mana (M), and inventory (I) are controlled by the right side of the keyboard. The only solution I had was to pause the game with the space bar and then do those keystrokes. This gives the game a sort of stutter as you do something for a while, pause, change stuff, un-pause, and continue playing. Fortunatley, I just read a website that had some tips on how to do some short cuts for changing spells and attack modes.

I'm still going to enjoy playing through the rest of the game, but I'm beginning to feel some apathy. The story isn't motivating me to want to continue playing, and these little nit-picky issues are starting to really aggravate me. I'm enough of a game fanatic that I'll play it through. I haven't played the on-line / multiplayer element yet, so hopefullly that will give it some oomph. However, I think that this little things are going to keep this game from topping Diablo on my favority games list.

Decision Day

I had to make a big decision today. A position had opened up for a Project Manager at an off-site location in Indy. I'm taking courses towards earning my MBA, and I want my career to lead into project management. I thought this would be a great opportunity for me. I brought it up with several people at work, and we sat down a couple of days ago to discuss what the requirements for the position were. The work load didn't seem to be that bad. It was pretty much as I expected. The customer would pay for all of my hours, and would even pay for any training I would need. However, once I took the job, that is where I would stay for several years. The site is a one hour drive from our home too. I would still need to get to my classes every Monday night, and Jenn would still be having a baby in February. I spoke with several people who had been working on the team I would be managing. The general impression was: 50 hour weeks on a slow week, 80 hour weeks when it gets rough, poor office space, and what they do seems to have no impact on the organization. None of this was really selling me on the job. In the end, I decided to stop pursuing the position. It just seemed like the wrong time. Plus, there are a lot of fringe benefits that I had been taking for granted. Such as unlimited and unrestricted internet access, which means I can browse the web on a slow day, do research, and chat with Jenn. Having my own desk is a big plus. A 10 minute drive to work is a big plus. Additionally, I get exposure to several different clients in different industries while working from the main office. If I took the off-site work, it would be the same customer with the same issues for several years. I really enjoy the variety that I am exposed to right now.
Things have really slowed down at our office lately. Our major projects are wrapping up, and we don't have a lot of major projects coming up on the horizon. We seem to get these lulls in business from time to time. The downtime is great to kind of slack off for a while, but it is also a little worrisome as to whether we will have enough work to keep everyone employed. One potential customer we had spent a lot of time courting is not warming up to us as we had hoped. Our existing clients are not quite ready to request the next round of upgrades and changes yet. We have enough projects completed and in place that we should start getting follow up work in the near future. I'm hoping that when those jobs start to role in, there will be enough work for me to assume a managerial position. I still want to do technical work, including coding, designing, installing, implementing and all of that other fun tech stuff. But I can see that our biggest problem right now is proper project management. Our budgets and timelines are always blown. We do not do enough planning in the beginning, and we definitely do not set goals and monitor ourselves like we should to ensure that we get these projects done right, on time, and on budget. I'm hoping that I can do something to help change that. My classes are great. They are opening my eyes to a lot more things to consider once I get that role.
So for now, I'll continue doing purely coding work. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, I'll get my shot at leading a team.

Trash Barrels

We use Republic Waste for our trash disposal. Over the weekend, several people on the main road through the subdivision received new barrels from the company with the Republic Waste logo. We didn't receive one, but our friends who live on that road did. The barrel came with a note that indicated that they were to use the new barrels. I guess the trucks are equipped with a special arm for emptying the new barrels. Reactions were mixed. We were pretty excited that we might get one, because we currently don't have any trash barrels. Our neighbors, however, already have barrles, and don't know where they will be able to keep the new ones. Also, the note indicated that only what fits in the barrel will be emptied, so there is a chance that we might be getting less service than before. We still haven't received ours, but then, neither did anyone else on our cul-de-sac. Maybe we'll have one when we get home.

Good Weekend

I had a great weekend! Jenn and I got together after work over at O'Charley's in Carmel for dinner. She needed to pick up some supplies that they were donating for the race on Saturday. We were both in the mood for some hot soup, and they have great potato soup. Potato soup is my all time favorite food. I don't know why. My mom always made really really good potato soup when I was younger. She made it with these giant dumplings and big potatos. Layer some cheese and crackers on there and you have the best stuff on earth! Well, O'Charley's is a good substitute, when I feel like some good chow. However, on this trip, their soup of the day was Clam Chowder. I like clam chowder, and I haven't had any in a while so I chose that instead. To make things even better, not only were Jenn and I having a nice evening together, but the manager gave us a free meal. He was very appreciative of the advertising he was getting in the race for donations, and wanted to say thanks.

Saturday my whole family came down. Travis and Kate were there with baby Nadia, and my parents came down. The brought us some Quiznos' subs for lunch. I had never eaten there before, but the food was really good. My folks also brought down a big pot of chicken and noodles. Mmmmm... It was a good weekend for eating. My mom got bored with the Saturday afternoon sports lineup, so my borther and I took her to Barnes & Noble to do some shopping, and then to Ritters to get some ice cream. To top the night off, Jenn even let me buy a new video game!!!! Yeah! I got Dungeon Siege at a really good price. It's a lot like Diablo, which I love. The biggest difference is that this game is a true 3D game. Diablo is played from an isometric perspective, with some tricks down to make the scrolling look 3D, but it isn't a truly three dimensionally rendered game. Dungeon Siege is. I played from 9pm to midnight. Then I took a two hour break to do my accounting homework. Then it was back to gaming until 4 in the morning. I love video games!

Not to stop the fun there, Sunday I took part in the 2003 Mac Open, which was a charity golf scramble put on by Reynold's John Deere to benefit the United Methodist Men's group at my church. I was playing with my friends Jason and Anthony. We were paired up with a fourth, Paul, who is the father-in-law of the son of a guy we work with. Did you follow that? Lemme break it down: We work with Dave. Dave has a son Jason. Jason is married to Paul's daughter. Paul played golf with us. Okay, glad we got that straight. Anyway, I don't know what happened, but I had a great day on the golf course. We were playing best-ball. There were enough teams in the outing that two foursomes started at each hole. We started first on #18. I was first up to tee off and I had probably the best drive I have ever had on that hole. We were playing at Britton Golf Course. My drive was straight, probably 200 yards, and right in the middle of the fairway. Anthony landed about 10 yards shy of mine, and the other two shanked out of bounds. That was an awesome feeling, and it really got my day started off right. I had a really nice approach shot onto the green. The next few holes, my play was insane. I've never played as well as those first five holes of golf. My game tapered off a bit after that, but I was on a real high from the good start. Then, on #15, a par 3, I had a great tee shot that landed high on the green. Unfortunately, the hole placement was on the slope of the green, and the ball had landed above the hole and to the side, making for a really tricky putt. Somehow, I managed to tap it just right and made an impossible 10 foot putt. I was ready to go home right there. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get hit by a bus or struck by lightning very soon. We finished out the day one over par for our group. I've broken 100 once on my own. I know that we had four chances at every shot, but it was still an ego boost to have such a low score for our team. I'll definitely be playing again next year!

[Listening to: Nine Inch Nails - Down in It - Down in It [Shred]]

Rainy Day

It's raining today. It's gloomy, windy, and cold outside. I feel like going home and curling up in front of the fireplace. Just get all cozy with my family and forget about the rest of the world for a while. Playing a video game might be fun too :-) It's been a pretty strange week. Monday was my last day of class for my accounting prerequisite. I'm glad to be through that, but I know that I have 8 more weeks of Advanced Managerial Accounting to look forward to. The final for the prereq was sort of a joke. It was a 25 question matching exam. There were 25 terms and 25 definitions. Some of the definitions used the term too, which made things even easier.

Tuesday was a big day for us. We went in to the doctor for Jenn's 20 week exam. We had an ultrasound, and we were able to see our baby! It was really amazing. There on the screen was this little person growing inside of Jenn. We were able to see the heart beating, the stomach, the kidneys, the bladd, the face, the hands... everything. It sort of looks like an alien right now, with huge eyes that the head doesn't quite wrap around, and a tiny little mouth. It was kind of cute when we saw that the baby had the hiccups. It was also putting its hands in front of its face, which was neat. Jenn had some orange juice and cookies before we left for the doctor to be sure the kid would be active on the scan. It was really neat. I'll try to remember to bring the picture into work so I can scan them in.

The next two days I spent at CAT in Lafayette. Not much to say there. Some good TV on Thursday night (Survivor, CSI). I really hope that Rupert goes far in the game. He's the only one worth watching right now. So that leads to today. Today is just sort of a blah day. I never really got started on anything at work. I started the day working from home while waiting for an installer from Lowe's to install a new storm door. Unfortunately, when the guy arrived he had the wrong color door. Looks like it will get installed on Monday now. Then I went to the Tire Barn and had my new rim mounted on my car. The old rim was definitely dented, and so hopefully the tire will stop leaking air now. If not, I give up on that car. When I got back to work, it was almost time for lunch, so I didn't really start anything. I grabbed some Chic-Fil-A food and played euchre (yay!). This afternoon, we all just sort of slacked off. We chatted around the office some, and I never really got motivated to do anything. Now Jenn and I are planning on going to eat some potato soup at O'Charley's. I love potato soup! That should start the evening off right. Then we're thinking of going to the new Barne's and Noble in Noblesville to just browse around for a while. I dunno. This is sort of a rambling post without any point. Sort of like today. Nothing much going on. Just hangin out :-) Have a good weekend!

[Listening to: Nine Inch Nails - Down in It - Down in It [Shred]]

Jade Mason