Wednesday, December 31, 2003

My present this year was an Apple iPod. This is my third MP3 player, and by far the best.

The device has a tiny 20GB hard drive inside, and it has the capacity to store every song from my collection.

First impressions are grand when opening the package. Apple is nothing if not stylish. The packaging makes you think you are truly priviledged to own one of these devices.

The device itself is great. Easy to use, solidly built. Apple's iTunes software is easy to use and flawlessly transfers music to the iPod. I'm running this on a Windows machine, and it works great.
For Christmas, I purchased a new HP digital camera and HP printer for my wife. The idea was to finally upgrade our digital camera, which is about 4 years old, and provide a way for her to easily and quickly print pictures.

Unfortunately, the HP products failed us. The camera was the worst product I've ever experienced. First, it wouldn't turn on. When hitting the power button, the camera would flash momentarily, then turn off. Fresh batteries didn't help. After hitting the power button several times, the camera would finally power up. The camera is designed to plug directly into an HP printer with a supplied cable. When trying this, we only got error messages.

I returned both items, and purchased a new Sony camera. Our old digital camera is a Sony and has worked perfectly for a long time. The new one is smaller, and produces higher resolution pictures.

As for printers, what we wanted was a small printer that would easily print photos. I like the small HP PhotoSmart printer for this. It has a small LCD screen on it. You can simply plug a memory card into it, select the pictures you want to print using the screen, then press the "Print" button. A nice product. I found one that was an "Open Box" item - it was a floor model that didn't include a box or manuals. It was discounted, but it also didn't work. It would never feed the paper in.

Needless to say, at this point, I was pretty disappointed with HP products. Unfortunately, HP dominates this market. No other manufacturer makes a printer like this, that I could find. Sony has one with similar functionality, but at $500 was too expensive for us. I finally settled on another HP printer (new, in the box) and so far, it is working well.

This follows similar HP problems I had when looking for an All-In-One (Printer/Fax/Scanner/Copier) for my home office. I won't go into that, but I went through 3 or 4 printers before finding one that works.
Dreadlock Holiday
Another holiday season is drawing to a close. Again, I was blessed to enjoy family and friends this year.

Giving and receiving gifts was again a truly enjoyable experience this year. Each year, we take several "ornaments" from our church "giving tree." Each ornament represents a gift that an unfortunate person is wishing for. We usually take one orament for each of us, two for children and two for adults. This year, we took a few extra, and for me, nothing is more enjoyable than shopping for these gifts. I don't know the person, and they don't know who gave them these gifts. But I try to buy something a little better than they asked for. This year, one gift was a new wagon for a little girl. We brought the wagon home, and the kids and I assembled it. We included a nice stuffed toy with the wagon. I hope she will get lots of enjoyment out of that wagon.

This year kids loaded up on video games, board games, clothes and various other toys. They of course loved Christmas this year.

My wife's sister's family was able to come to town (they live in Houston), and so we were able to celebrate Christmas with the entire family. We enjoyed Christmas Mass with them.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Royals Hot Stove Action
I've been really impressed with the Royals this off season. They've made some great moves, and have signed players that I never thought they would be able to sign. (most notably, Brian Anderson).

There's an indication that players are willing to sacrifice a little for the opportunity to play in KC for Tony Pena. Anderson is from Cleveland, and everybody thought he would return to pitch in his home town. Joe Randa gave up at least a million a year to stay in KC. Curtis Leskanic was going to retire, but decided to come back and play one or two more seasons with the Royals.

I'm looking forward to the 2004 season. Of course, I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high. Being a KC sports fan, it's easy to think something great is about to happen only to have it pulled out from under you. (see the Chiefs, they are currently yanking on the rug).

If the Royals could find one more player, preferable a corner outfielder who has power (Going-Going-Gonzalez), they will enter the season with a formidable line up and as favorites to win the AL Central. Should be fun!
Scoring Update
In football, it's possible to score 6, 3, 2, even 1 point on a play. In basketball, you can score 3, 2, or 1 point on a play. Wouldn't it be interesting if baseball had something similar? (of course, it doesn't. Its simplicity is part of its beauty). But, what if scoring were based on number of bases instead of number of runs. Hit a double, get 2 points. Triples score 3 points. I would be curious to see what percentage of game's outcomes would change using this scoring system.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Undaunted Courage
I just finished Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. This book tells the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition to the west. It's an interesting snapshot of the history of our country. While Lewis and Clark are considered to be the "first" white men to explore the west, actually, French and English traders had already trekked through the country, mostly heading south from Canada.

Lewis and Clark did, however make a great contribution to our history. While they did not succeed in their mission to find an unobstructed water way to the Pacific, they did make many scientific discoveries and convinced several indian nations that the U.S. was friendly (in 1804-05, the U.S. was indian-friendly. Later, the progress of the country changed the indian policy).

Ambrose's book goes into great detail on Lewis' personality. While a great explorer, Lewis suffered from deppression and was hooked on drugs and alcohol. After returning from the expedition, he was appointed governor of the Louisiana territory, but he failed at this job, along with failing to ever get his journals published. He depression eventually led to his suicide in 1809.

The book also provides some interesting history on Thomas Jefferson, the president who most pushed for western expansion.

In all, a very good book which provides great insight into our history. I also have a copy of Nothing Like It in the World, Ambrose's account of the building of the TransContinental Railroad. I plan on reading that next.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

I picked up my Time Warner Cable DVR Box yesterday. This box replaces a digital cable box that we had in our living room. In the first 24 hours of use, I've been very impressed with the box. This is Time Warner's attempt to get in on the TIVO wave. It has its advantages over TIVO. First, you don't have to fork over $300 for the box, and the monthly fee is less than TIVO's $12.95.

Using this box, I may never miss a TV show again (I wanted to watch the President Bush interview the other night, but forgot to tune it in until it was almost over). This box has a hard disc inside, and it records using MPEG video.

Any time you turn it on and watch TV, it is recording the show. That means that if you missed something, you could hit the "instant replay" button, and it will replay the last 30 seconds. Or, hit the pause button to answer the phone, then resume the show when ready. This is a great feature. It's like power windows in cars. Until you had them, you didn't realize how convenient they are.

The box also does standard recording. From the program guide (the same guide that is in the standard digital cable box), you can select any show and press the "record" button. The box will then ask if you want to record just that one episode, or the "entire series." It also offers options for recording all episodes (including reruns), or just the first run episodes. It can also search for the same show on any channel. For example, I asked it to record Seinfeld, and it records the show anywhere it finds it, on any channel, at any time. It's flexible enough to let you specify to only record shows on weekdays, weekends, or a specific day of the week, or a specific time of day.

We've already used it quite a bit. My wife was able to catch Oprah yesterday, I've grabbed 6 episodes of Seinfeld already. There was a segment of the O'Reilly Factor that I missed, so I simply "rewound" it and watched it.

I've been reading a lot of comments on message boards from folks who have been having problems with this DVR box. I'll test it out and see how it works. So far, so good!
Workflow and SharePoint
I just met with a potential client in the LA area. We showed them SharePoint and what it can do for them. They were extremely impressed, however, their main concern revolved around workflow.

I'm looking for a good solution to integrate workflow in a SharePoint solution. I've found some information on MSDN, and I believe there are some third party vendors looking at solutions.

Seems like a perfect fit for SharePoint. Seems perfectly logical for a document library to be able to manage the flow of say, a purchase order.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Cable vs. Satellite

I've been a cable TV viewer for the past 4 or 5 years. Before that, in my old house, I owned a BUD (big ugly dish). My BUD was a big ole 10 foot dish that took up the entire back yard. Back then, the cable in our area was poor, which is why I bought the dish system. In the years that I was watching satellite TV, our local cable system was bought by Time Warner Cable, and the improvements came fast and furious.

Back then, owning a dish meant choosing between some 25 or so programming providers. That level of competition kept prices low. I bought my programming on an annual basis, and the monthly rate averaged about $22.00 per month. That's for a standard package similar to DirecTV's Total Choice package. Shortly after I purchased my big dish, the small dishes started to hit the market.

Every few months, I evaluate my cable package and comparable satellite packages to see if I should switch. So far, I have not found enough reasons to switch to satellite. The biggest reason of all is ease of installation. When I built my house, I ran cable to every room in the house. So now, if I want to watch the Food Network in my den, I simply carry a small TV in there and plug in the cable. Boom! I'm watching Food! The main cable comes into the house, and it is then split to all the rooms. In three rooms, we have a digital cable box. This box allows us to watch HBO, and in two of our rooms, gives us a handful of HDTV channels (I'm watching Monday Night Football in HiDef as I type this).

Occassionally, when our children need to stay home sick from school, we can simply move a small TV into their bedroom, plug it in, and then they are able to watch Cartoon Network in bed. Easy as pie.

The reason I evaluate my cable package every so often is because my cable is in the neighborhood of $80.00 per month, which makes me cringe a bit everytime I write that check. The HBO package is an additional $10 or $15 per month (I don't remember for sure), and each digital cable box is about $9 per month. Meaning, on top of my standard cable package, I'm paying an additional 30 or 40 bucks.

But, I've not had to go out and purchase any equipment. And, when new, better equipment becomes available, I can just take my old box to the nearby cable store and exchange it for the new-fangled device. For example, I will soon trade in a digital cable box for a DVR. That means I can have TIVO-like capabilities without having to fork over the $400 for the box and the extra $13/month for the service. The DVR adds about 4 dollars to my monthly cable bill.

With satellite, it's not nearly as simple to hook up multiple TV's. The satellite companies are trying by offering "3 room" or "4 room" systems. But in each case, a separate cable needs to be run from the dish all the way to the room where the receiver will sit. Which means instead of simply splitting it out to the house, I have to make sure each cable runs uninterrupted from dish to receiver. And, the dish antennas I have seen are limited to 4 receivers. And, each additional receiver costs an additional $5.00 per month. Granted, digital cable boxes cost twice as much monthly, but the box is not REQUIRED to watch cable.

Everytime I analyze the cost of purchasing the dish and all of the receivers I would need (at least 4, but right now I have 6 TV's hooked to cable), as well as the programming and the additional receiver fees, the total turns out to be very similar to my current monthly cable bill. Not to mention that some technical wizardry and expense is required to hook up more than 4 receivers (that may even require a second dish!).

I've been pretty happy with my cable service. The competition from satellite has forced Time Warner Cable to keep improving their service. I get all of the channels I want, in any room I want (without setting up additional equipment). I can get HiDef channels, and a DVR box is available. All for a price that is similar to the DirecTV monthly price.

Another comment about DirecTV. I recently had the pleasure of purchasing a DirecTV system, and setting up three receivers. At first, I was very excited about the self-service aspect of activating and purchasing my programming on-line at I set up the dish and three receivers, and was able to acquire the signal. I then went to the web site and proceeded to activate the primary receiver. Each receiver has a unique serial number as well as a unique receiver ID number. Then, each receiver requires an access card (looks like an American Express Blue card - smart chip and all) inserted. Each card has a unique ID number. So that's three unique numbers that have to be provided to "turn on" a receiver.

I entered all of the required information, and the activation failed. I eventually called the customer service line and a human activated the first receiver for me (very helpful, no hold time). I then needed to activate two more receivers. I attempted both on the web site, and both failed. In all, I made 4 calls to DirecTV to get the system up and running. Not that I hate talking to people, I just think it's much more convenient when the process can be automated. It's too bad DirecTV's systems aren't quite up to snuff.

I also feel like DirecTV is sort of a "big brother." To purchase the dish and receivers, I had to provide my name and address, as well as a credit card. I also had to sign an agreement that I would activate the system within 30 days or they could charge me an additional $150 per receiver. When making the purchase, the serial numbers and access card numbers are tied to me.

Then, when activating, all of those ID numbers are required. The receivers are "required" to be plugged into a phone line. The whole thing makes me feel very uncomfortable.

Of course, just like the "activation" process for Microsoft Office products, these tactics are the direct result of crooks. People buying DirecTV systems and hacking them to receive programming for free. It's a pain in the ass, but I suppose necessary in today's world.

One last note. Since DirecTV is the only provider of programming for this system, there is no (or very little) competition. I preferred the days when I could choose programming from more than 20 providers. I wonder what the effect of the DirecTV/Dish Network merger would have been?

Monday, December 08, 2003

I think Sonic is probably my favorite fast food restaurant (except for LC's Hamburgers, which is locally owned, not a humongo national chain).

But, I'm really perturbed by Sonic's most recent ad campaign. I'm sorry, but seeing these two a-holes deriding the workers at other restaurants does not make me want to eat at Sonic. "Can we plug our Crock Pot of chili in here?" Please.

Note to Sonic - go back to the happy, Beach Boys feel of your older commercials.
Suprising move. The Royals were able to sign relief pitcher Jason Grimsley. Grims was just quoted in the paper as saying that he didn't think he would be able to reach an agreement with the Royals. Hopefully, in 2004, Grims won't be quite so over-used. In '03, Grimsley was used way too much, and his effectiveness really faded after the All Star Break.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Loss 2
The Chiefs suffered the second loss of the season this year. Several years ago, I was a die-hard Chiefs fan. In college, I lived and died with the Chiefs (back then, mosty died). In 1989, I graduated from college, and landed my first full-time job. My first major purchase was season tickets to the Chiefs. That was the same year that Lamar Hunt finally got tired of losing and hire Carl Peterson to lead the team. Peterson brought Marty Schottenheimer to KC, and the Chiefs began a reign of NFL success. My girlfriend and then wife accompanied me to many tailgate parties and games through the years.

Over the last couple of years, however, I've grown tired of the Arrowhead experience. I still fork over the cash for season tickets each year, and I attend at least half of the games, but I just can't seem to enjoy it like I used to. I think it is the effect of growing old(er). I just don't enjoy fighting the crowds there. Since 9/11, getting in the gates is a tedious task involving bag searches and pat-downs. I've gotten to the point where I'd much rather sit in my comfortable living room and enjoy the game. This could be a result of spending so much time at Kauffman Stadium over the last few years. I've come to a point in my life where the slower, more relaxed feel of baseball is much more desireous. Of course, that being said, I did just recently send in my check for playoff tickets. There's hope in me that I can enjoy a successful post-season. Perhaps if the team can reach the Super Bowl (oh wait, I'm not a license holder - the Championship Game in Houston) I can then pass my fandome on to others.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Free agents
The Royals had a good day last week. Though Raul Ibanez slipped away to Seattle, the R's managed to sign Joe Randa (3B), Brian Anderson (SP), and Curtis Leskanic (RP).

I like Joe Randa, but was rather indifferent about resigning him. He had a great year in 2003, but at his age, the decline could come quickly. He is a Kansas City guy (lives here year 'round), so the hometown guy is always well liked. Since the R's had nobody to take over at third, it is a good signing.

Leskanic is a great signing. The R's traded for him mid-season and he was a solidifying factor in the bullpen. A great set up man who could close if needed.

The big one here is Anderson. He's a guy who should have been a much-coveted free agent. A left hander who has learned to pitch with finesse and eats up innings. He could be a 2 or 3 starter on just about any team. For the R's he'll probably be the 2 guy with May getting the number 1 spot coming out of Spring Training.

There are rumors that the R's are looking at signing Benito Santiago, Matt Stairs and Raul Mondesi. They definitely need a catcher - I'll be glad to see the human automatic out (Mayne) gone. Benito is older than dirt, but he's durable, and can hit some. Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star says:
"They would like very much to sign Benito Santiago, which would be great because it would mean the Royals would have two of the three National League All-Star catchers from 1989. OK, one of them is Tony Pena. No matter. Santiago even at age 87 is the best catcher available at the Royals' price."

Stairs would be a good signing. He can play left, and 1B. After losing Ibanez, and with Sweeney's health issuse, Stairs could be a great addition.

I'm not too keen on Mondesi. I'm not real familiar with him, but I have the impression that he wouldn't be a good club-house guy. Plus, he's never realized his potential. Great talent, but has never put up the numbers.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003


Interesting article on how baseball has finally hit a lull in new stadium construction.

This was a big topic in KC a couple of years ago. There was an effort to put a tax on the ballot for stadium renovations (to both Kauffman and Arrowhead). This, of course, fired up the debate on whether these 30 year old stadiums should be spruced up, or new ones built.

For years, KC has struggled with a deteriorating downtown area. It seems that once 5:00 hits, everybody heads for the 'burbs and downtown is dead. Some wanted a new stadium built in the downtown area, saying that would spur development in the area and revive the city. At the time, I was in agreement. I thought having a ballpark downtown was a great idea.

This past summer, I spent a lot of time at Kauffman stadium. I've now decided that the Royals should play there as long as possible. It's just a great stadium. And I still love the idea of having the two stadiums (Arrowhead and Kauffman) right next to each other.

The stadiums could use some upgrades. Both have concourses that are too narrow, making it difficult to walk around the stadium. Arrowhead is in desperate need of more women's bathrooms. And both would benefit from increased and enhanced luxury suites.

The stadium refurbishment tax never made it to the ballot, but I'm sure the backers will try again soon. It will get my vote.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Monster's Ball
I watched the movie "Monster's Ball" the other night. A dark, somewhat depressing movie about a prison guard (Billy Bob Thornton) who's racist attitude is softened when he falls in love with the black wife (Halle Berry) of a convict he helped execute.

A great movie. If you find yourself with a couple of hours without kids around (a very "R" rated movie), take a look at it. Great movie.
It's an Effing joke

I enjoy a bit of crudeness as much as the next guy. But I was really concerned when I read Dan Fox's remarks regarding the use of the F-Word on TV. The "legend" is that the FCC has approved the use of the word on TV. This is not true (thankfully). The confusion arose when U2 lead singer uttered the word on a recent awards broadcast. The FCC received complaints, but determined that this particular incident did not violate FCC regulations (huh?). Their reasoning was somewhat ubscure, but basically, this was an isolated incident.

Rest assured however, that the FCC has not approved the use of the word on TV. But, this does bring up an interesting point. The F-word cannot be used on TV under most circumstances, but I'm convinced that one day, it will be allowed. Language on TV is already becoming crude. As a father of two young children, I find it increasingly difficult to shield them. Watch any sit-com tonight. See if you hear the word "ass," or references to sex. Again, I'm no prude, but I think it would be nice to let the TV be on a network channel without worrying about what my kids are hearing.

And the radio is even worse. The FM stations that play the music that kids typically enjoy have morning zoo shows that are beyond distasteful.

Add to that the limited number of movies that are kid-friendly, and we can see why parenting is so difficult. Even "kids" movies do not meet with my approval. I remember a recent movie called "The Iron Giant." This was an animated movie about a boy who befriends a giant robot from outer space. The movie is obviously aimed at children, however, the producers found it necessary to squeeze "damn" and "hell" into the film. Why? Tamer words would have worked just as well ("darn" and "heck").

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Royals Moves

My favorite Royals Fans, Rob and Rany, have a new entry in their running dialog about the Royals. Most interesting are the comments on Raul Ibanez, who just signed as a free agent with the Mariners. As much as I liked Raul, I'm glad the M's signed him. Raul's a great player, but his age and salary prevent him from being a member of the Royals. And by the M's being so impatient to sign him, the Royals get 2 draft picks. A great deal for the Royals.

The Royals are also in the process of moving the fences back at Kauffman Stadium. Also a great move. The Royals have always been built as a speed, gap hitting team. The Royals have never been a power team, and the closer fences hurt the Royals' young pitchers more than helped their hitters.

It should be an interesting off season as the Royals try to build on the surprise success of 2003.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Picked up the new Barenaked Ladies CD. Again, a great collection of songs. My favorite song right now is "War on Drugs."

Friday, November 14, 2003

I watched all three Godfather movies this week - two on Saturday and the third Tuesday evening. Obviously, the first Godfather movie is a classic. A great movie. I love its meandering pace, and it's interesting to see the transformation of Micheal from "that's my family, that's not me" into a full fledged gangster.

The second movie is also pretty good, but way too long, in my opinion. The second continues to follow Michael's life as he builds up his wealth with Las Vegal casinos. The movie also flashes back to tell the story of how Vito, the original godfather, ended up in America and how he gained his power. Interesting to know, but not necessary. The movie also takes us to Cuba for a confusing sequence of events. I'm still not sure if Hyman Roth was Michael's friend or enemy, or why there was rioting in Havanna. The powerful ending of the movie had Michael commiting an act that he would regret for the rest of his life.

Godfather Part III is just a confusing mess. This time, we pick up Michael after he's sold all of his casinos and has become a very wealthy man. The movie tries to tell us how Michael is involved with business deals with the Catholic Church. We see that his health if failing a bit, his son has become an opera singer, and his daughter has fallen in love with her cousin. The best scene involved Michael confessing his sins to the soon-to-be Pope. Very powerful. Beyond that, I'm confused. Who killed the Pope and why? What happened to Immobilare? Why did Michael give up his control over the family? Who tried to kill Micheal and why? Who killed the old men in Sicily? I don't know!!! Maybe I just wasn't in the proper frame of mind for this movie. The only thing I got out of it is that Michael lived to be an old man, and died of natural causes in Sicily. Good for him.
ShrarePoint Complete
Sheesh! It's been a long time since my last post. I've been busy working on a consulting engagement for a local Engineering firm. When working on an engagement, I typically don't take time out for blogging. My evenings have been tied up with general life/family events. That's my excuse.

Okay, so back to SharePoint. We've completed our first Proof of Concept project using SharePoint Portal server. It turned out great. I was able to build some custom web parts to take care of the desired functionality that is not natively provided by the product. Writing web parts takes some getting used to, but after building a couple, I found it to be fairly simple. One resource that I used quite often was This is a community site with lots of helpful tips published. I've submitted a few tips sharing some techniques that I stumbled across.

The project we did was a small Proof of Concept designed to give the executives of the organization a taste of what could be done with the product. The hope is that once they see the product in action, they will sign off on a large, full implementation of SharePoint to build an entire intranet/portal for the organization.

I am overall pleased with SharePoint. Great product, but not without its faults. SharePoint uses lots of XML and ASPX template files. These files can be changed to customize the look and feel of the portal. Unfortunately, the documentation for this is scarce. In fact, our portal was broken for two weeks while we hunted down one piece of of bad code in an XML file. Live and learn, I suppose.

The web part pages seem to suffer from over-intelligence. The designer at the organization was getting very frustrated because the web part zones would size themselves based on the size of other items in the page. She could not control exactly how the page would look. This is going to come up a lot as designers try to customize their SharePoint pages.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Home Theater
The home theater is up and running. We've enjoyed it quite a bit. To help break it in, I had several friends over for Game 1 of the World Series. Even though FOX didn't broadcast the games in HiDef, they did broadcast them in widescreen format. Everybody seemed to enjoy the experience.
When the Chiefs played on Monday night (ABC has done a great job of pushing out HiDef content, including MNF), the game was absolutely stunning. The ABC HiDef format just seems to really shine on my home theater projector.
Last night, I watched a little bit of Monsters, Inc. The colors were bright and beautiful. Very enjoyable.
I would say the most stunning experience I've had in my new home theater was watching the new Lion King DVD with its Home Theater Sound Mix. The sound engineers did a great job remixing the soundtrack to match most home theater applications (smaller rooms, etc). I think more DVD's will be doing this in the future. Taking a soundtrack that was engineered for a large theater with lots of people into a small home theater isn't quite the optimum solution. You will find that the studios don't use the rear speakers quite as heavily as you would think. But folks watching at home expect to hear lots of sounds from their rear speakers. The Disney mix did a great job of filling the room with sound without muddying the soundstage. Great use of the rears.
SharePoint Again
I've immersed myself in Microsoft's Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server. This is a great product. For my current client, we are building an Intranet Portal system for their employees to have access to all sorts of information. The solution includes document management, security, targeted content, and much more. And, we're building it in 3 weeks.
My company used to butter its bread building intranet solutions from scratch using ASP and SQL Server back ends. A solution like this could easily take 6 months or a year to build. And it wouldn't have the level of functionality or customization that a SharePoint implementation provides.
I think it's a great product. However, it is not without its faults. Some things that seem like they should be so easy to do are not. For example, if a company has an external timecard application, it should be able to notify users in SharePoint that they need to approve a timecard. So far, I have not found an easy way for this to happen. I have tried to set up a custom list for all of these notifications, and then each user must then subscribe to receive alerts from this list. That works, but it isn't quite as functional as we would like.
I was hoping the Alerts OM would expose a method to allow external apps to create new alerts targeted to specific users. I haven't found that yet.
Catching up
It's been a while since I blogged. First: the World Series. Unfortunately, I missed game 6. It sounds like Beckett pitched a fabulous game. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Yankees this off season. I have a feeling Brian Cashman's powers are going to be greatly diminished. How much more money will George sink into the payroll in attempt to buy the championship next year?

Friday, October 17, 2003

World Series
I wonder how many folks were actually rooting for a Marlins/Yankees world series. This is pathetic. Considering I had just finished a beautiful theater room in which I could enjoy the World Series in 92" glory, the games I have to watch now are pathetic.

Perhaps next year, the Royals will be Marlins of the league (just as the Marlins this year were the Angels of last year).
I've been working recently on a SharePoint Portal Server 2003 implementation. Frankly, it's frustrating. Even though the product is officially "released" (at least to Partners, who are now implementing it), there is absolutely no useful documentation on it.

I'm trying to accomplish some fairly simple functionality, and I am just spinning my wheels. The SDK is incomplete. The object model is documented, as far as what objects exist, there is no useful information on how to use the OM. I suppose this is what it's like to be one of the first to do real projects using a brand new product.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

World Series
I'm pulling for a Cubs/Red Sox World Series. I think any "true" baseball fan is pulling for this match up. Mainly because it is an unlikely match up between two teams who have had poor post season luck for nearly a century. Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, I would be pulling for the Cubs in that World Series. The Cubs are a likeable team. They have a good mixture of veterans and young guys. The Red Sox, on the other hand... I don't know. The only word that seems to come to mind is... thugs.

While I don't think the Cubs will have too much trouble with the Marlins, it will be a different story for the Red Sox. I see the Yankees and Cubs in the WS with the Yankees winning it in seven.
Though they haven't arrived yet, the carpet layers are due today. Tomorrow, loose ends will be tied up and then it's party time!

I purchased a new receiver, the NAD T752. I haven't hooked it up yet. I think it's going to be a good receiver for me.

After the carpet is down, I will set up the receiver and speakers and try it out. On Friday, my home theater dealer is going to come by and calibrate and optimize the system. And he's going to do it at no charge! Then on Sunday, we will have a house full of family to watch some football. We're really looking forward getting the system up and running.

Speak of the devil. Carpet layers just arrived!
Haircuts - I told you so...

Monday, October 06, 2003

Basement almost complete
Last Friday, the tile guys laid tile in the bathroom and tiled the shower. On Saturday, the electrician came and installed the light fixtures and finished the outlets and switches.

Today, the plumbers were at the house to finish the plumbing. They installed the toilet, and finished the shower. They also installed the sink in the bar. They couldn't quite finish, though because we don't have the vanity top/sink for the bathroom. I'm not sure what went wrong there - perhaps it was assumed the plumbers would bring it, I don't know. At any rate, they will need to come back to install the bathroom faucet when the sink gets installed.

We are scheduled to be completely done on Wednesday of this week. The carpet is coming tomorrow, and the final hardware (door knobs, etc) will be installed on Wednesday.

Over the weekend, I installed the screen and projector and I hung the back surround speakers. Things are really starting to come together.
Bunch 'o Long Hairs
Last week, I had decided that I would blog about the Boston Red Sox. Of course, this blog no longer applies, but I'm going to blog on it anyway.

The Boston Red Sox look like a bunch of losers. I've never seen one collection of guys who, almost to a man, look so sloppy. Every one of them has long hair and some kind of facial hair. Why is that? Why would one team have so many players who look like slobs.

Being a Royals fan, I have always been partial to Johnny Damon. I think Johnny's an above-average player with good speed and enough patience to be a good lead off hitter. Since he decided to grow his hair out, I no longer like him. He looks like he should be living in the woods scaring campers. And the rest of the team looks like a bunch of hairy losers.

Of course, just as I was going to write this, several players decided to change their luck by getting haircuts. Think about it - with long hair, they were down 2 games to none. Since they've cut their hair, they've won two straight and go for the series victory tonight. I guess there is something to be said for presenting a good appearance.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Rush to judgement
ESPN hired Rush Limbaugh to add a bit of spice to their Sunday morning NFL pregame show. Rush has long been an avid NFL fan, and being an opinionated person by nature, did contribute interesting commentary to the show.

Recently, Rush found some trouble after he made a comment on the show about Donovan McNabb, the quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Rush's point was that McNabb is not quite as talented as we are led to believe. Unfortunately, Rush decided to bring race into the picture. His comment eluded to the perception that the media is propping McNabb up because he is black. While I agree with Rush that McNabb's talent is overrated, I'm do not think it has anything to do with race. McNabb plays football in a large media market on the east coast. His football team has been successful the last couple of years. The quarterback is always the focal point for any successful football team. I believe the Eagles' success has been a result of a fantastic defense in tandem with a sufficient offense. McNabb is a good enough quarterback that he won't throw the game away, but I'm not convinced he is an impact player like Michael Vick.

I believe Rush is a victim of the media looking for somebody to attack. Rush has made enough enemies over the years that there are lots of folks looking to tear him down. Nobody even noticed the comments until a full three days after they were made. Is what Rush said right? No, of course not. The media isn't propping up a player because of his race. The media is propping up McNabb because he is the quarterback of a successful team in a large market. Did Rush's comments warrant his resignation? No. What he said was stupid. But that's what he was paid to do: to provoke discussion on the show. I believe Rush would still have his job today had the other cast members successfully argued against Rush on the show. Instead, they didn't seem to put up much fight, and his comments stood on their own. Then, a couple of days later, the media found something they could latch onto to attack Rush. The machine was set in motion, and Rush is now gone from the show.

I've listened to Rush for years on his radio show. I'm somewhat conservative, so I tend to agree with Rush's comments. I don't agree with his comment regarding McNabb, but I don't believe he should have lost his job over it. Why can't different opinions be discussed and differing points argued?
I recently decided that I do not want to tear apart my existing home theater system for the basement theater. Because of that, I will be purchasing a new receiver for the basement theater. The model I've decided on is the NAD T752. This receiver's stats are not as mind-blowing as other models out there, but just like my projector choice, I'm not looking at raw stats to decide. I'm trying the models out and purchasing the one that gives me what I need for the price I desire. The projector I bought (the Plus Piano Avanti) is not very popular among the so-called experts. These folks talk about how it's brightness is only 450 Lumens, or the contrast ratio is to low. Well, I've seen the projector next to a much more expensive projector with fat stats. I didn't see much of a difference. For my money, I'll take the $3,000 project that does all I need over the $6,000 projector that does all I need.

At any rate, the NAD receiver produces a nice sound and is plenty powerful for my room. I'm looking forward to getting it hooked up to my Wharfedales.

We are getting so close now, we can almost taste it. The painters did come on Monday and painted the walls. The colors look great. In the theater, we picked a darker color for the wall where the screen is mounted. It looks great.

On Tuesday, the tile guy game to lay tile. Unfortunately, it was raining, so the tile got wet on the way to the house, so he said that he needed to let the tile dry out before laying it. I think it was a cop out, but that's just me. Anyway, he dropped the tile off and left. Tuesday evening, I mounted the frame for the screen on the wall.

On Wednesday, the tile guys came and laid the tile around the bar. They also put some floor leveler in the bathroom, and then left. I'm hoping they will be back today to finish the job. They still need to put the tile on the bathroom floor, tile the shower, and then grout all of the tile.

As for the rest of the work, I think we will be finished sometime around next Tuesday. The electricians are coming Saturday to install light fixtures and finish their work. The plumbers are scheduled to come next Monday to install the sinks, shower and toilet. On next Tuesday, the carpet is scheduled to be laid. That should finish it up! The furniture is scheduled to be delivered on Thursday of next week, and we are planning on having a bunch of people over next Sunday to watch football.

Monday, September 29, 2003

The built-in cabinet has been a mess from the start. The guys came last Wednesday to install the doors and were doing that while the painters were there to stain the cabinets. Of course the cabinet has to also be stained, so the painters had to wait a little bit until the cabinet workers were done. And of course, when they finished, the realized that the doors were the wrong size. So the painters had to stain the cabinet without the doors. On Friday, the cabinet workers returned and installed the correct, unfinished doors on the installed, stained cabinet. The painters also returned and did all of the enamel on the trim. The painters also painted the ceiling and painted the shed that they built on the outside of the house.

Today, the painters should be there (I'm not home to confirm this, of course) to paint the walls and finish up the stain on the cabinet doors. Tomorrow, the tile will be installed. I am hoping that we will begin to see the completed basement this week. I am happy with the work that has been done, and for the most part, it has gone fairly smoothly. There were just a couple of glitches - not all of which were my builder's fault. He has done a good job of keeping us posted on what's happening.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Thank goodness!!! There is actually work happening in our basement! The cabinet makers are here fixing the incorrect shelf unit that they sent us. Also, the painters are here working their magic. Today, I think they are going to stain and varnish. Also today, my builder worked on the goofy handrail, and I think it looks better. The rail is still in two separate pieces, but he lined them up a little better. Hopefully, the paint will be done this week, and the tile will be put down next Monday or Tuesday. The end is near!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

It's been a week and we've had absolutely no progress. The cabinet shop messed up our built-in bookshelf by neglecting to put doors on the bottom of it and instead making it an open bookshelf top to bottom. So, they had to build the doors and other pieces to add the doors to the unit, and then send out a craftsman to install them and set the unit in the wall. The story is that the parts were all done and ready to install on Friday, however, the craftsman has never shown up. My builder called today asking if the cabinet was done and needless to say, he was very upset when I told him that it's still not done. The had scheduled the painters to start today, assuming the cabinet would be done and installed.

So, since the trim carpenter finished up last Tuesday, nothing has happened. We are still waiting for this cabinet guy to show up, put doors on the shelf unit, and install it. Once that's done, the painters (who have been ready to go since last week) will paint and stain and that should be done in 3 days or so. Then the tile and carpet gets installed, and we're pretty much done.

Since I can't hardly stand waiting, I assembled the screen and hung it on a wall in my living room last night. I set up my projector in a TV tray and watched Monday Night Football (I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Raiders get killed, by the way). The little Piano Avanti projector produces a stunning HDTV picture on that Da-Lite Perm-Wall screen!

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The trim carpenter is still working. He's currently finishing up the curved handrail at the bottom of the steps. We were hoping that the painters would be able to get started tomorrow, but I'm not sure that's going to happen. I think the trim carpenter's going to need another day to finish. If the painters to come this week, then we are hopeful that the flooring will come next week.

We're not sure about this handrail, though. Since part of the wall going down is straight and part of it is curved, he had to do two rails attached to the wall. So there's a straight rail down 2/3 of the wall, then it ends, and the curved rail then starts and goes to the end of the wall. Then another curved rail with spindles will complete the stairs to the bottom. Strange....

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Lots of progress today. The sanders finally made it here and sanded all of the drywall down. Of course, now we have white dust all over the house. The cabinet guys installed the bar and cabinets. They delivered them yesterday, but unfortunately they delivered the wrong shelf unit. That will have to go back. The one they delivered is just a plain book shelf with shelves from top to bottom. We ordered a unit with shelves on top and cabinet doors below. But the bar and cabinets are in and look great. Also today the trim carpenter started his magic. He installed all the interior doors and baseboard. He also started work on the steps. He needs to put new treads on and then build a curved hand rail. It's starting to look like a real room - except for all the dust and crap all over the place.

Also today I found out that my screen has arrived. It's a 92" diagonal Da-Lite screen that will be mounted on the front wall of the theater. This Saturday, I will go pick up the screen and all of my speakers. I'm really looking forward to getting that stuff installed.

Today I also picked out paint colors. We believe the painters will be coming next week. Next week I will go and pick out the tile for around the bar and bathroom and the carpet.

Friday, September 05, 2003

The tapers finally arrived yesterday and finished their first coats. They are back to today working hard down there. Today, the trim guy is supposed to come to measure everything so he can order the trim so it will be here ready for the trim carpenter next week. When the trim starts going up, things will start looking good. The trim really finishes the room.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Today, the drywall finishers are supposed to come to mud and tape my walls. They are already over an hour late, so I'm not holding my breath.

So, here's some information on my HT equipment. First, this whole home theater thing is pretty expensive. Because of this, I am going to use my current receiver and DVD player instead of buying new ones. In my living room now, I have a SONY STR-DB1070 Receiver. It's a pretty nice receiver and will work fine in my new theater. My current DVD player is a SONY DVP-NS700P progressive scan player. Again, a nice DVD player. My original plan was to leave my living room theater in tact and buy all new equipment for the new theater, but my budget won't allow for that just yet. Eventually, I would like to buy new components for the theater, and when I do, I think I am leaning toward NAD. Of course, when the time comes I'll research it more and decide.

I have purchased a PLUS Piano Avanti HE-3200 projector. That is a long name for such a tiny projector. The projector will be mounted on the ceiling and will project onto a 92" diagonal Da-Lite screen. I decided on this projector after talking with my local Home Theater dealer. The Piano is a DLP projector that creates a fabulous picture. I'm looking forward to getting the system set up.

As for speakers, I think I will be buying Wharfedale Pacific Evolutions. The EVO-20's for mains, the EVO-Centre and DFS surrounds. Again, the decision was based upon the advice of my dealer, as well as the bang for buck factor. The speakers are wired with Kimber Kable speaker wire.

The drywall clean up crew just arrived and they are removing all of the drywall scraps from the basement. Still waiting on the tapers...

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Basement and Home Theater

This blog will contain a lot of information, because I have neglected to blog about the basement project until now.

Work continues on our basement. We recently decided to refinance our home and take some money to finish our basement and build a home theater. Work began about 2 or 3 weeks ago. We were able to find the builder who built our house 4 years ago. We really liked working with him, and we were glad to hire him for this job. He was very patient while waiting for our financing to come through. Once it did, his crew went to work, and it has gone fast.

The carpenters came on a Saturday and they had the entire basement roughed in that day, except for some small things they couldn't finish because they ran out of lumber.

The next Saturday, the carpenters returned to finish. The only problem was that they were there at the same time as the electricians and plumbers. Needless to say, it was a very busy day down in the basement. They did get everything finished, and we were then ready for drywall.

In the meantime, I went ahead and ran the cables that I need for the theater. I purchased a custom made video cable from Wire World for my projector, and installed it. I also installed Kimber Kable speaker cable. My thanks to Rob, who owns a great home theater shop here in the KC area.

Yesterday, the drywall guys came to hang the drywall, and they finished up this morning.

Next up is the drywall finishing (mud & tape). I don't know when they will be coming, but hopefully, it will be soon.

In a future blog, I will detail the electronics of my theater. We are very excited about it. It will be a front projection system with a 92" screen. More details to come!

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

This is my first post. I'll post more later, as I am busy at work right now, but wanted to test this out.