WordPress 2.0 (It Works!)

Have you read my blog yet?

Yes, folks, if you’re read­ing this then I was able to upgrade to Word­Press 2.0. Although it looks exact­ly the same on the out­side (what you’re see­ing now), the man­age­ment inter­face is com­plete­ly over­hauled. It is much more like a WordPress.com account, for those of you who that means any­thing to.1

The new release of Word­Press also comes with a fan­cy WYSIWIG html edi­tor installed. I’m going to have to make some mod­i­fi­ca­tions to this (or wait until peo­ple update their plug-ins) before I can real­ly make use of it, though. How­ev­er, a lot of it is most­ly eye can­dy; such as AJAX menu options and update noti­fi­ca­tions. All-in-all, worth the 30 min­utes of upgrade work and it should make the work of writ­ing, well, a lit­tle less work.

Just test­ing some oth­er func­tions. No need to pay atten­tion to the man behind the man behind the green cur­tain..

  1. It appears that foot­notes are work­ing, too! []

Eighties Revivalism

When is it pop-cul­ture and when is it nos­tal­gia?

Angela playing a game of Tetris on the NES emulator

Angela play­ing a game of Tetris on the NES emu­la­tor.

Angela and I have been spend­ing a lot of our time off this hol­i­day play­ing some clas­sic 8‑bit games on a NES emu­la­tor on my PC. Games like Leg­end of Zel­da, Super Mario Bro.s 1, 2, & 3, as well as Tetris and Dr. Mario.1 We’ve both been amazed at how much fun it has been to go back and play all the games we loved as kids.

It has occurred to me, that our gen­er­a­tion seems to have an ear­ly sense of nos­tal­gia. We haven’t wait­ed until we were in our 40’s or 50’s (or even lat­er) to decid­ed we want­ed to have bits of our youth around. Pop cul­ture ref­er­ences are woven in our music and movies. Speak­ing of 8‑bit gam­ing, I’ve lis­tened to prob­a­bly ten dif­fer­ent ren­di­tions of the Super Mario Bro.s theme as per­formed by var­i­ous musi­cians online (from gui­tar and bass solos to a capel­la groups to orches­tras, with some being bet­ter than oth­ers). Also, I see Auto­bot and Decep­ti­con stick­ers on auto­mo­biles2 (along with oth­er ref­er­ences, like Thun­der­cats, which just don’t quite make as much sense). Fox’s “The Fam­i­ly Guy” has at least five min­utes of 80’s youth pop cul­ture ref­er­ences each week (this past week with Stewie as the pin­ball in the Elec­tric Com­pa­ny’s count ani­ma­tion has to have been the best yet, top­ping even the Kool-Aid man bit in the court­room for us).

I sup­pose it’s all some prod­uct of the fact that it was my gen­er­a­tion (more-or-less) that was respon­si­ble for the inter­net being what it is today and allow­ing access to every­thing, any­time we like. Nat­u­ral­ly some of our youth found its way on there ear­ly on. Any­way, it seems to me that Gen­er­a­tion X (or what­ev­er the hell they call us these days) has decid­ed to stay young a lit­tle ear­li­er in life. In healthy dos­es, I think it’s incred­i­bly cool. It’s not that I don’t want to grow and evolve as a per­son, it’s just that I don’t wan­na grow up ’cause I’m a Toys’R Us kid. Maybe it can help us remind us of when our lives were sim­pler and we were all young ide­al­ist. We want­ed to do what was right; whether it be help old lady’s across the street or fight Cobra. I know some­times I find myself act­ing more like some shal­low 80’s yup­pie than any­one I would have actu­al­ly liked when I was eleven years old. Maybe in think­ing about what I did for fun back then I’ll have to keep that in mind as well.

  1. Emu­la­tors and game ROM’s abound, so just use Google. I have FCE Ultra on my PC which is pret­ty nice. Recent­ly, I found Rock­NES for the Mac, which is got to be the best emu­la­tor ever. Just go buy your­self a cheap USB game con­troller and you’ll be rockin’ the 8‑bit, too. []
  2. You can get your own stick­ers here. []

Ethical Shopping

It’s Christ­mas Eve, and since Angela and I are just stick­ing around town this hol­i­day, we decid­ed to go run a few errands ear­li­er today. One of which was to go buy Sta­ples to pick up some print­er paper (I specif­i­cal­ly say Sta­ples, because they’re at the end of the street, about six blocks away). Okay, buy­ing print­er paper should­n’t be a major life deci­sion, and I don’t want the fact that I’m post­ing about it to make it seem larg­er than it is. How­ev­er, it is typ­i­cal of the many deci­sions that we, as con­sumers, make almost every­day. What do you con­sid­er in buy­ing some­thing like print­er paper: buy recy­cled paper? buy the cheap­est? buy the high­est qual­i­ty? buy a nation­al brand or a local brand? and so on.

We end­ed up buy a few reams of Xerox 100% Post-Con­sumer Recy­cled Paper. It’s only 20 lb. and 84 bright­ness, which is thin­ner and duller paper than I usu­al­ly like. How­ev­er, it was on sale at Sta­ples and, as the name implies, is 100% recy­cled (post-con­sumer con­tent, which is impor­tant). We’ve made the deci­sion that recy­cling our paper (among oth­er house­hold items) is impor­tant to us, and pur­chas­ing recy­cled paper goods helps to com­plete that cycle. Else, you’re real­ly not real­iz­ing the full envi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fit of your own recy­cling.

Most all of our our choic­es as con­sumers come down to so much more than just price and the goods them­selves. There is meta-data asso­ci­at­ed with goods that reflects so much more than what is inside the pack­age we’re pur­chas­ing. Of course, oth­er than pos­si­bly the envi­ron­men­tal aspect, one of the most com­mon is buy­ing from a source to help the economies of one group or anoth­er. Buy­ing from local farm­ers to keep the mon­ey work­ing close to home, pur­chas­ing from retail­ers who choose to pay a liv­ing wage instead of min­i­mum wage, buy­ing fair-trade prod­ucts rather than the cheap­est for­eign made prod­uct. These are exam­ples of eth­i­cal shop­ping1, or using one’s con­science to help make a deci­sion instead of, or in addi­tion to, the stuff inside the box.

We try and put our mon­ey where our hearts, minds, and mouths are. Of course, some­times our pri­or­i­ties end up being in direct con­flict with one anoth­er. Spend­ing my mon­ey at a book­store that donates mon­ey to pro­gres­sive polit­i­cal caus­es (like, Barnes & Noble, for exam­ple) can’t be any­thing local, as there aren’t any here in Vir­ginia, to be sure. Some even argue that con­sumers should just always buy the cheap­est prod­uct and give any approx­i­mate sav­ings to the cause they orig­i­nal­ly con­sid­ered sup­port­ing. That’s a great notion, as it cuts down on mid­dle-man costs. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, in prac­tice, where to you give your mon­ey to and how like­ly are you to actu­al­ly go through with a 45¢ dona­tion to them? Per­son­al­ly, I feel that just isn’t prac­tice and choose to go ahead and buy fair-trade cof­fee (can’t ever get local grown cof­fee any­way) and buy goods made in places that pay work­ers decent wages rather than mail them a check myself2

So here’s a some­what ordered list of the things, oth­er than price and qual­i­ty of prod­uct, that we con­sid­er in our house­hold:

  1. Envi­ron­men­tal impact: Buy recycled/ used goods; buy items which pol­lute as lit­tle as pos­si­ble, such as recy­cled paper and vehi­cles with good fuel econ­o­my.
  2. Health: buy natural/ organ­ic or non-preser­v­a­tive foods; such as free range chick­en and no-pes­ti­cide veg­eta­bles3.
  3. Local: buy foods grown local­ly and goods made local­ly when pos­si­ble; use local ser­vices, like our farmer’s mar­ket, Vir­ginia grown buf­fa­lo meat, and the Sta­ples down the street (yes, it’s a local chain, but it keeps decent pay­ing jobs in our neigh­bor­hood, which it needs).
  4. Fair Mar­kets: buy goods from busi­ness that pay liv­ing wages and through fair-trade mar­kets, like Cost­co (who pays much bet­ter than it’s com­peti­tor Sam’s Club and their employ­ees stay with them much longer), Gridge’s cof­fee, who sell cer­ti­fied Fair-Trade cof­fee, or Novi­ca where you can pur­chase from crafts-peo­ple in devel­op­ing coun­tries.
  5. Pro­gres­sive Caus­es: pur­chase from retail­ers and pro­duc­ers who also sup­port like-mind­ed caus­es, in pol­i­tics, envi­ron­ment, fair-trade, etc. Barnes & Noble and Star­bucks are two large cor­po­ra­tions that donate over­whelm­ing­ly to pro­gres­sive can­di­dates. Ford is a auto­mo­bile man­u­fac­tur­er who takes envi­ron­men­tal man­u­fac­tur­ing and green build­ing very seri­ous­ly.

Again, depend­ing on the cir­cum­stance, those pri­or­i­ties move. Also, it’s rare when they can all be sat­is­fied. How­ev­er, we feel like at least keep­ing this sort of thing in mind does more good than bad. We are going to use up resources and we might as well make the act of doing so pro­duce some addi­tion­al end results that can help make the world a lit­tle bet­ter.

So does any of this mat­ter to any of you? Do you have oth­er things you con­sid­er or is your order vast­ly dif­fer­ent from mine above? Let me know. I’d love to see how oth­er peo­ple think about this, if at all (I may be vast­ly over-esti­mat­ing how much my mon­ey mat­ters).

  1. While this sort of thing has been on our minds for most of our lives, the term “eth­i­cal shop­ping” was one I first read in a piece in the Wash­ing­ton Post a cou­ple of weeks ago. It seemed to sum up the whole notion suf­fi­cient­ly. []
  2. Although, to be sure, it is pos­si­ble. Kiva.org is a new site ded­i­cat­ed to mak­ing micro-pay­ments to indi­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies in devel­op­ing com­pa­nies. You can make both dona­tions and loans. []
  3. Con­sumer Reports has a nice lit­tle arti­cle about when this makes sense and when it’s just not worth both­er­ing (via Kot­tke). []

It’s The Holidays

I had writ­ten this post up a cou­ple of weeks ago, and was­n’t going to pub­lish it, but after my Christ­mas Plans post a cou­ple of days ago, I though some might get the wrong impres­sion. I’m no Christ­mas Hum-bug. I just think that peo­ple can be a lit­tle too pro-Christ­mas.

Stuart Calrson 12/21/2005 - Courtesy of the WashingPost.com

Stu­art Carl­son

I grew up in a town where you could nev­er be Chris­t­ian enough. Sure, I was (and am) a Chris­t­ian; but that was­n’t the point. It did­n’t mat­ter if I went to church on Sun­day, because I did­n’t go on Wednes­day1. It’s not unlike how these days, you can’t have too many Amer­i­can flags hang­ing around. You can’t have too many yel­low-rib­bon-mag­nets show­ing just how much you sup­port the troops.

It seems to mat­ter none that all these things don’t actu­al­ly prove any­thing, oth­er that you just care way too much what oth­er peo­ple think of you.

Now, we have sev­er­al con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian groups boy­cotting stores because these stores are Anti-Chris­t­ian. Are they real­ly? Of course not. Anti-Chris­t­ian stores tend to not have entire sea­son­al areas of floor­space ded­i­cat­ed to Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. How­ev­er, the fact that these stores only state Hap­py Hol­i­days in their adds or in ban­ners is a clear sign to these orga­ni­za­tions that they are indeed out to destroy Christ­mas. When I was grow­ing up, you had to be green, mean, and cov­ered in fur and will­ing to steal toys out of lit­tle girl’s hands before any came close to say­ing you were out to ruin Christ­mas. Now, appar­ent­ly wish­ing peo­ple Hap­py Hol­i­days means you aren’t Chris­t­ian enough and, there­fore, you are a witch out to destroy baby Jesus’ birth­day.

Christ­mas isn’t in any dan­ger. Even my non-Chris­t­ian friends, from athe­ists to Jews to Hin­dus, all seem to real­ly enjoy Christ­mas; with many even say­ing it’s their favorite hol­i­day2. Every­one is in a bet­ter mood and the dec­o­ra­tions bring smiles to most every­one’s faces (unless your neigh­bor goes a lit­tle too far). How­ev­er, the fact that New Year’s is just around the cor­ner from Christ­mas, and the fact they at least a cou­ple of reli­gions have some rel­a­tive­ly large hol­i­day’s around the same time, results in folks just say­ing “Hap­py Hol­i­days.” Retail out­lets would rather just be brief (adver­tis­ing isn’t free, espe­cial­ly around Decem­ber) and also be inclu­sive of every­one who might shop there.

I can remem­ber when Chris­t­ian groups used to accuse stores of over-com­mer­cial­iz­ing Christ­mas, and they might have had a legit­i­mate argu­ment then. Some of the stuff we asso­ciate with Christ­mas is actu­al­ly all pagan any­way (Yule was an ancient Ger­man­ic tra­di­tion that involved burn­ing logs, hang­ing mistle­toe, and at least in part, giv­ing gifts) and they used to com­plain about those, too. How­ev­er, no one’s say­ing even that any­more. They’re just upset at the brand­ing prob­lem. This is a per­fect case of peo­ple tak­ing offense when none was meant. This is way too much like over-polit­i­cal-cor­rect­ness, even if from a group that com­plains about hav­ing to be polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect.

Christ­mas isn’t going any­where, but I would­n’t mind if Bill O’Reil­ly, the Catholic League, & The Amer­i­can Fam­i­ly Asso­ci­a­tion would. Their ruin­ing the hol­i­days for all of us.

  1. Of course, I am Pres­by­ter­ian. We don’t have Wednes­day evening ser­vices, known in my fam­i­ly as boost­er-shot-ser­vice. Of course, that fact was lost on most peo­ple in my home­town. I guess they expect­ed me to just go to some oth­er church that did or just sit alone in the dark on Wednes­day evenings. In fact, to explain just how big a deal this is, in my home­town, most busi­ness­es oth­er than my Dad’s law prac­tice closed at noon on Wednes­day so every­one could half half of a holy day off. Yeah, but I was the weird one. []
  2. I’m attend­ing a Christ­mas par­ty tonight at a friend’s home who hap­pens to be a Jain. []

Plans For The Holidays

In case you’re in need of some instruc­tions on how to com­ply with mod­ern build­ing codes in your Hol­i­day (that’s right, I said Hol­i­day!) prepa­ra­tions:

Holiday Plans - Engineering Document (.pdf link)

No, I did­n’t cre­ate this. The title block lists Win­zler & Kel­ly of Eure­ka, CA as the firm. I have no idea if they’re even real. I can tell by the fact that it ref­er­ences codes from the ’90’s, that it’s not very recent, either. How­ev­er, I thought it might be a nice thing to share with any­one who appre­ci­ates decent engi­neer­ing humor.

Hap­py Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year/Festivus Hol­i­days!

Did­n’t you hear? Polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect is the new sub­ver­sive.

“Brotherhood of War”

Tae Guk Gi - The Brotherhood of War

Tae Guk Gi: The Broth­er­hood of War

One of the great things about Net­flix, is it can allow us to exper­i­ment with movies. Oh, sure, we could do that at the big blue & yel­low video store down the street. How­ev­er, they would nev­er car­ry a film like “Tae Guk Gi: The Broth­er­hood of War” (also at Net­flix). Nev­er­mind that it was the sin­gle most suc­cess­ful film in the his­to­ry of Kore­an cin­e­ma, it isn’t going to rent much here in the states. How­ev­er, Net­flix has that whole long tail thing going, so it can afford to car­ry the low vol­ume discs in addi­tion to your Hol­ly­wood bank­busters.

I had read some good things about the Broth­er­hood and I thought that it might be inter­est­ing and edu­ca­tion­al for Angela and I to watch a film about the Kore­an War as told from a Kore­an per­spec­tive. Well, a South Kore­an per­spec­tive, at least. Before you start think­ing way off track here, any Kore­an-Amer­i­can pol­i­tics are left out of the film com­plete­ly. The char­ac­ters seem to be thank­ful, by almost indif­fer­ent to the Amer­i­cans. One scene in the film con­tains some Amer­i­can mil­i­tary big-wigs who remain name­less. No, it focus­es far more on how the Kore­an war was forced on the peo­ple liv­ing south of the 38th par­al­lel in 1950. If you believe the film, and I’d say it gets this right, no one in the coun­try went with­out being deeply and for­ev­er affect­ed by their civ­il war.

So many review­ers keep com­par­ing this film to Speil­berg’s “Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan,” the soar­ing WWII epic which begins with a mar­velous and hor­ren­dous sequence depict­ing the inva­sion of Nor­mandy. I can under­stand why, but the films quick­ly set them­selves apart. Where Ryan is a soar­ing war epic with ensem­ble casts, Broth­er­hood is the inti­mate sto­ry of two broth­ers try­ing to stay close while every­thing they know is being torn apart. Ryan has all the traits the we west­ern­ers love in our heroes: strength, com­pas­sion, and val­or. Broth­er­hood allows it’s hero to sink into dark­ness, allow­ing the sense­less­ness of war eat away at his mind. This film is told with the oper­at­ic style typ­i­cal of Kore­an cin­e­ma and tele­vi­sion. The char­ac­ters seem like raw nerves com­pared to Tom Hank’s cool and col­lect­ed Cap­tain Miller; they cry and wail in a way that seems unseem­ly to west­ern sen­si­bil­i­ties. How­ev­er, this over-the-top emo­tion­al expres­sion also allows the view­er to become attached to the char­ac­ters where their back sto­ry itself leaves us want­i­ng to know more1.

Cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly, the film is won­der­ful. The bat­tle scenes, while some­times hard to fol­low, are bru­tal­ly real (except the CG air­plane crash, that was­n’t too con­vinc­ing). The vast land­scapes of Korea that serve as back­grounds show us just how amaz­ing this moun­tain­ous penin­su­la is. One scene of the younger broth­er chat­ting up a boy­hood friend on a moun­tain side, while snow flur­ries all around them, could be slowed into a series of 24 post­cards per sec­ond.

One aspect of the film which I had not count­ed on, was the polit­i­cal com­men­tary on the ide­ol­o­gy of the war. Many Kore­ans were sim­ple vil­lagers dur­ing this time, insu­lat­ed by their work and small lives. They new lit­tle to noth­ing of gov­ern­men­tal ide­ol­o­gy and polit­i­cal par­ties. When offered favors or goods for sign­ing papers or show­ing up at ral­lies, they glad­ful­ly accept­ed. Why not? The film touch­es on this in a major sto­ry arc that I won’t get into here, oth­er than to say that one of the char­ac­ters meets their end because of their unwit­ting align­ment with the “wrong” par­ty.

My wife’s mater­nal grand­fa­ther was con­sid­ered to be one of the wis­est men in his small vil­lage. He had gone across the East­ern Sea to study at a uni­ver­si­ty in Japan, which was remark­ably rare in those days for a Kore­an. He was rou­tine­ly asked to help local vil­lages and peo­ple, since he could read and write and pro­vide aid in legal mat­ters. He had left instruc­tion with his fam­i­ly to nev­er affix his seal or sign his name while he was away, know­ing that unscrupu­lous peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing both com­mu­nist and demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ties could take advan­tage of his name and influ­ence. How­ev­er, in exchange for some­thing (know one seems to know what) or at the lie that he had asked his fam­i­ly to do so, a fam­i­ly mem­ber did just that one day while he was away. Not long after his return, the rival polit­i­cal fac­tion mur­dered him as a trai­tor upon learn­ing of his new-found “align­ment.” This result­ed in my moth­er-in-law and her fam­i­ly being forced to flee for their lives.

So now you can under­stand just how dif­fi­cult it must have been for Angela to watch as sim­i­lar events unfold­ed in this film. So often we watch, with detached con­cern, as the trag­ic events in a movie unfold. How­ev­er, when the char­ac­ters fate is the same as one of your very own fam­i­ly mem­bers, it becomes impos­si­ble to think to one’s self that it’s only a sto­ry. Angela watched the film, in tears and vis­i­bly shak­ing with hurt and rage. I nev­er imag­ined that a film could tru­ly hurt any­one, but I now know that some things are too painful to see real­ized like this. I had heard of sim­i­lar sto­ries of for­mer GI’s break­ing down and sob­bing through­out “Sav­ing Pri­vate Ryan.&qout; I can now under­stand a lit­tle more about what they must have felt, reliv­ing the most hor­ren­dous moments of their lives. Moments that even the strongest of peo­ple can bare­ly make it through and ever wish to see anoth­er day. I think that is what these two films have the most in com­mon: the abil­i­ty to give us all a small glimpse at what these peo­ple sur­vived, even if told in two dis­sim­i­lar ways.

Angela did make it through the film, although she did describe it as the sin­gle sad­dest film she’s ever seen. I’d tend to agree with her2. We also agreed that I owed her a num­ber of roman­tic come­dies to make up for it. I hon­est­ly can’t say that I enjoyed this film at all, although I did find it to be a great movie. I would rec­om­mend it to any­one who want­ed to know more about what the Kore­an war must have been like for the peo­ple of that coun­try (now two coun­tries, still tech­ni­cal­ly at war with­out ever hav­ing signed a for­mal peace treaty). It also helps to under­stand Kore­an cul­ture and her­itage some, both from the char­ac­ters as writ­ten and the very for­eign (to west­ern­ers) way in which they are por­trayed. I think I under­stand my moth­er-in-law a bit bet­ter now, and I know that I have even more respect for her than even before, which is to say a lot.

  1. We only meet them days before war breaks out, and the flash­backs of broth­er­ly love show us one after­noons events. I’d like to think that in remem­ber­ing my own broth­ers, more than one fun after­noon would occur to me. []
  2. With Shad­ow­lands, the sto­ry of C.S. Lewis and his wife, run­ning a close sec­ond. It wins in the love sto­ry cat­e­go­ry. []

Calendar Girls & Boys

A new year is fast approach­ing and you’re going to need a new wall cal­en­der. Why not con­sid­er pur­chas­ing a “When Har­ry Met Mag­gie” cal­en­der from LuLu.com. You’ll get 12+1 full col­or pho­tos of our two love­ly and charis­mat­ic pooches to bring you cheer through the year. You’ll see them grow from young pups into full grown forces of destruc­tion lov­ing pets.

We’ve bought those cal­en­ders of Schnau­zers or Airedales in the past and while some of the pho­tos are cute, we want­ed to make one that was more per­son­al. So, I com­plete­ly stole and idea from Heather and Jon Arm­strong (of dooce and blur­bo­mat fame) who are sell­ing a great cal­en­der of their dog, Chuck (I’m link­ing out of guilt). Sure, they’re cal­en­der has bet­ter pho­tog­ra­phy than ours, but many of you know our dogs. Not some out-of-touch, famous dog like that Chuck; who has no doubt let his inter­net-fame get to him.

Any­way, we decid­ed that we could just make a bet­ter cal­en­der on our own and we’d have a great time, stand­ing around the kitchen laugh­ing about how our dogs are so won­der­ful. Of course, they’ll be there in per­son, bark­ing and smelling bad to remind us how they might just be bet­ter in 2D.

And if you haven’t dis­cov­ered LuLu.com, you real­ly should check it out.

2005-12-16 Update: Looks like QOOP just added the abil­i­ty to cre­ate cal­en­ders right from your Flickr account. They make qual­i­ty stuff as well, but it looks like LuLu is still a cou­ple of dol­lars cheap­er (at least the bud­get option).

Reassurance

The worst part about being an engi­neer, is that a lot of your calls are because some­thing has gone wrong. Peo­ple are already upset due to the fact they are hav­ing to hire you and the very best out­come if that you can make every­thing as good as it was before. This was espe­cial­ly true when I worked for Bell­South. Then, by the time any­one reached me as the engi­neer, they were already real­ly pissed.

In my new job, we get a lot of clients for new con­struc­tion, and they just want things done as cheap as pos­si­ble. That’s under­stand­able; it’s a major part of my job to make a build­ing stand for as lit­tle as mon­ey as pos­si­ble. No, safe­ty is nev­er know­ing­ly sac­ri­ficed. That’s also a part of my job. How­ev­er, we engi­neers are taught that if we are just over-design­ing every­thing then we aren’t doing our due dili­gence to look out for our clients, and that is the same thing as steal­ing from them.

We’ve been work­ing on a espe­cial­ly dif­fi­cult job here in Rich­mond. This is one of those dream/nightmare jobs (depends on if it’s an even or odd day of the year) that has just about every twist and turn a struc­tur­al engi­neer can imag­ine. It is a very old build­ing (over 100 years). Fur­ther, it is made of wood and mason­ry, but will have steel, con­crete, and rein­forced mason­ry added to it as part of the re-use. It has been extreme­ly time-con­sum­ing and dif­fi­cult work to plan with our client to make this build­ing meet the cur­rent build­ing codes with the absolute min­i­mum amount of work to be added. There were times when I would feel com­plete­ly ridicu­lous show­ing the results of my labor to my boss, know­ing how much we were ask­ing the client to add to the struc­ture of this build­ing.

Now, with all that back­ground in mind, let me tell you about the phone call my boss received yes­ter­day. The client had hired two dif­fer­ent engi­neers to take a look, both in the phys­i­cal and analy­sis sens­es, at the build­ing in ques­tion. Not only did they both agree with what we had rec­om­mend­ed was required, they had also con­clud­ed that what we had come deter­mined we had done it with about the min­i­mum amount of work that could be done. Now, it was very pos­si­ble the client might have found some­one who would have said that none of this was need­ed and we were wast­ing time and mon­ey. There are peo­ple who believe that because build­ings stood under exist­ing laws and codes, that it is a waste to try and meet mod­ern laws. Of course, that is, by def­i­n­i­tion, not prac­tic­ing our pro­fes­sion under the law. For­tu­nate­ly, these two groups or indi­vid­u­als (I don’t know who they are) and our com­pa­ny made a con­sen­sus that this is need­ed and it feels great to know that what I was doing was good work. My boss was ecsta­t­ic, as was I.

Office Christmas Party

Jason & Angie

Jason & Ang­ie at this year’s SPA Christ­mas Par­ty. Who knew I could look that smug? Copy­right 2005 Scott Gutier­rez

Last Sat­ur­day evening, Angela and I drove to Vir­ginia Beach to attend the com­pa­ny-wide Christ­mas Par­ty. We had most of the Vir­ginia Beach and Rich­mond officesin atten­dance for a great din­ner and the chance for us all to hang out out­sid eof the office.

Scott Gutier­rez, our com­pa­ny IT-man, also hap­pens to be tal­ent­ed pho­tog­ra­ph­er and was on hand to take lots of pho­tos. He’s very good at tak­ing both staged and can­did shots with his big Nikon SLR. Just as cool, he’s start­ed a Flickr account for the com­pa­ny, with pho­tos from the par­ty as well as the con­struc­tion of their new offices (he’s locat­ed in the VA Beach office).

After the din­ner par­ty, some of us head­ed over to Mur­phy’s Irish Pub down the street to catch a few beers before head­ing to bed. It was loud and smokey, but a few of us sat around and caught up, which is always nice.

Oh, and Scott, call her Angela if you know what’s good for you, man.


“Herman’s Head” Roll Call

One of our favorite games to play while watch­ing movies or tele­vi­sion is to try and name the actors in sup­port­ing roles, or at least where we might have seen them before.

Inevitably, every per­son that I say “I’ve seen them in some­thing before,” Angela will reply “they were on Her­man’s Head. Her­man’s Head was an ear­ly show on Fox (way back in 1991) in which Her­man, a young pro­fes­sion­al, had four peo­ple in his brain that rep­re­sent­ed var­i­ous base human emo­tions who would argue about all his deci­sions. Her­man meets a girl and Lust and Sen­si­tiv­i­ty go at each oth­er’s throats. When Her­man has to be cre­ative for a work project, Anx­i­ety and Intel­lect duke it out. Well, oth­er than Hank Azaria, most of the actors on the show have let a life of guest appear­ances on ER and Law & Order as well as minor sup­port­ing roles in films. That, and full­fill­ing Ange­la’s the­o­ry of Six Degree’s of Her­man.