Tuesday, October 28, 2008

ZBT, Harris Connect, and Me

Some of you know I'm a brother in the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity. Joining was one of the best decisions I ever made. I met people I never would've met otherwise, done things I never would've done, and joined a worldwide brotherhood of pretty cool dudes.

Recently, the National ZBT organization* has contracted a marketing company, Harris Connect, to create a national ZBT alumni directory. They started sending out postcards, asking brothers to call them to update their information. Naturally, I looked for a website option, but they did not have one. I thought, "Well, no big loss" and threw out the postcard.

A little later I received another postcard, same as the first, but with the text "Second Chance!" Again, no website option, but I saw that the company name was "Harris Connect". Go go gadget Internet! Turns out they are a marketing firm. Well gee, that's great, let me give those guys all my contact info so I can get spammed to death. Next!

*A little perspective here: before these postcards started coming, I already was quite distrustful of ZBT National. The executive director, Jon Yulish, came to meet the executive board of our chapter of the fraternity. I was the treasurer then, so I met with him. He had me fill out a big form ahead of time, with fields for outstanding dues to undergrads and to alumni. We had pretty big numbers for both, as many brothers struggled to pay their dues. We survived with payment plans and whatnot, but Director Yulish was not impressed.

"Do you try to collect these dues from your alumni?" he asked.
"Well, we send out reminders now and then, but we don't make a concerted effort to collect them," I said.
"Have you thought about sending the debts to a collection agency?"
"No! I don't want to alienate our alumni! We have a pretty active group and they donate money, time, and goods to us often."

Then he said something that was just plain wrong:

"You have to remember, Ed: this is a business first, and a brotherhood second."

I couldn't believe how cold he was, and it took all of my effort not to walk out on him right there.**

** This is my inaugural posterisk. Woo!

Now I'm getting last chance emails from Harris Connect AND getting emails from a ZBT National employee who wants to personally meet with me! This feels like I'm being stalked. I guess I'm just going to be pumped for money, but I don't see why National would get any of my money ahead of my chapter.

Mood: Emo

Well the Schwehmdawgs lost Sunday night, 20-9... it was closer than that though. We gave up 10 runs in the first inning, probably our worst-played inning of the year. I pitched poorly and several people made errors. Remove that inning and we played them tight.

And the Rays lost too, making it 3-1 Phillies. Not good.

And after the halloween party this weekend, I'm just fried. Even though I got 8 hours of sleep last night, I'm just physically exhausted. It's a good thing mentally I'm still alert, because I'm working on some research at work and it'd be bad if I was mentally tired too.

I think it might be a 3-day hangover from the party... man am I old.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Tribute to the Best Phone I've Ever Owned

This post comes at a time when I just learned that I will be getting the T-Mobile/HTC/Google G1 Android phone (enough keywords?) after all. A nice call to T-Mobile and they upgraded my upgrade to the full upgrade. And even better yet, it will be delivered on my birthday!

So before this information becomes obsolete, I wanted to pay tribute to my lone (cellular) companion these past months, the Nokia 1208.

This is close to actual size... on my monitor anyway.

Just look at that phone for a minute. It's such a mid-90's style. And you don't even see the UI there, but believe me, this phone rivals the Jitterbug for size of on-screen font. I bought this phone when my Samsung t629 died and I refused to pay more than $30 for a phone (I got this for $29.99 plus tax, so it's a wash). I'm going to put this next line in its own paragraph to highlight its importance.

This is the best phone I have ever owned:
  • It's better than my first phone (Samsung SPH-A400) because it reliably sends and receives calls.
  • It's better than my second phone (Sanyo SCP-700) because it's about half the size.
  • It's better than my third phone (Sidekick II) because it's not the size of a brick. Also, it was roughly 10 times cheaper.
  • It's better than my fourth phone (Samsung t629) because it doesn't break when I look at it wrong.
Let's talk about that last point. The t629 was a very fragile phone. The slider got sticky pretty quickly, and I had to stop the spring from sliding it because it was too fast and would make lots of rattling noises. Too little too late, as you can see what happened.

On the flip side, I have literally used the Nokia 1208 as a drumstick; At the latest Tufts football game, the Pep Band (which I direct) needed an additional percussionist for a particular song. We needed a cowbell player for Low Rider. So I grabbed the cowbell and asked Keith for a drumstick. He didn't have one; none of the drummers had extras. So I reached into my pockets, found my phone, tested it, and then wailed away. I probably played 15 different full-length songs with cowbell and phone. (Just to be clear, this was a musical-quality cowbell, not the crap you see people dingle at sporting events... no offense Rays fans, I love you guys!) And the phone works great!

So it's indestructible. That's awesome. The other awesome feature: a flashlight.

Yes, a flashlight.

Why every phone doesn't have one, I will never know. The Nokia 1208 has a $0.05 LED on the top of it that is bright enough to see keyholes, navigate over sleeping cats, and probably flag down help on the side of a night road. I mean, come on! How obvious is that?!

I highly recommend this phone to anyone who A) doesn't need Internet and B) wants a reliable, indestructible, and cheap phone. I'll sure be keeping mine as a backup.

UPDATE: T-Mobile has the phone on sale for $19.99 with a $25 refill card included. Hot!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bold Prediction for the World Series.

Rays in 4.

Update: FAIL.

Domain Squatters, Be Alert

I'm probably going to register edschwehm.com in November at some point... Can't justify it now, but I want to get my home server set up first and I need time to do that. Said server is probably not going to be slackware anymore, thanks to Falcon being all .NET. Good thing Movable Type works on Windows too.

Schwehmdawgs Chronicles: The Final Chapter

So the Schwehmdawgs won our game last night (and it was a nailbiter!) so we're going to the championship game on Sunday. WOOOOOO!!

To Be a Sports Writer, You Should Understand Sports

Filip Bondy: I guess he doesn't understand any sport.

"The Jets' special teams appeared clueless on a pivotal fake punt, for one thing, which is indisputably a coaching failure." The Jets had run the punt-block call instead of punt-cover the previous two Oakland punts, so Tom Cable took advantage of that (Jets ran punt-block on the fake too)*. Sure, you could say that Mangini or Westhoff should not have dialed up that play, but it was a good call by Cable too.

"Why, exactly, did the Jets get Favre if they weren't going to let him be Favre?" Maybe so that defenses have to respect the long ball and not play 8 men in the box? So the cornerbacks and safeties don't play 5 yards off the line of scrimmage? Good passing quarterbacks open up the running game as well.

"It is impossible to overstate the importance of this defeat to Oakland..." I think I can overstate it: "This loss will cause the Jets franchise to collapse." Not overstated? How about this: "The Jets loss is going to cause humanity to end."

If you're going to use hyperbole, please make it interesting at least.

"Not a word was spoken in anger or with a sense of urgency, even as the calendar and the standings scream for something different." OK, so you want Mangini to get desperate and crazy and angry? Deviate from his game plan? Can you say "cool under pressure"? I happen to love when the coach is calm, cool, and collected in the face of adversity.

My favorite part of this column is the non-mention of the miscommunication on Favre's 2nd interception. Cotchery stopped for a 8-yard-or-so hook, Favre threw it deep under pressure. I guess Favre can do no wrong these days.

* Watch the return team linemen sometime on a punt. 80% of the time, you'll see only 1, maybe 2 guys trying hard to block the punt. The other guys are covering the punting team's linemen. That's a punt-cover.

Monday, October 20, 2008


So I'm more than a little excited. Watching David Price absolutely destroy the Red Sox restored my faith in baseball (even if I'm even more convinced that Price is an alien robot from the future):

And just for fun, some pics from the Rays-Sox brawl earlier this year:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Walk the Walk!

So I talk about development here. F#, nullable types, Walrus, Falcon... but what have I done lately? Nothing!

I have so much crap going on in the fall that I just get drained of energy. Pep band on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus the games on Saturdays. Winterizing the home. Softball games.

Well, it all ends in November. Pep band and softball will be done, plus the house should be mostly winterized. If I don't start being productive by my birthday, I'm in trouble.

F#: For Me?

So I realized that Walrus could possibly use F# for the rules engine for recommendations. How cool would that be? I could have a second project in F# that takes the draft object (containing the team rosters, draft order, league settings, and free agents) and spits out the recommendation list. I think that's what I'll do.

Schwehmdawgs Chronicles

So we won the first round of the playoffs, 18-9. We played the same team we played in the last regular season game, and it was a resounding victory. Shabooya!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Only People Who Know Me Care About This

My softball team, the "Schwehmdawgs" (I campaigned against that name), starts the playoffs tonight. every team makes the playoffs, but we're 7-1, good for the second seed. We've really gelled together this year. Sure, the top 2 teams from last season didn't play this season. Still, we're a better team and I'm really looking forward to a deep October run.

Don't Visit This Site!

I once interviewed at TripAdvisor.com. I wasn't especially impressed by the interview, but I chalked that up to my own inexperience. I didn't get the job because the CEO misunderstood a question.

I asked, "TripAdvisor.com looks pretty complete to me. What features do you plan to add in the next 1-5 years?"

He heard, "TripAdvisor.com looks pretty complete to me. Why bother doing anything else?"

Recently, a friend of my interviewed there and was rebuffed as well. Though he managed to not offend the CEO, he was tripped up by several weak interview traps (e.g. asking him to write code to determine if a number is a triangular number, but not telling him what a triangular number is). He didn't get the job either.

Upon hearing about adventures in interviewing at this company, I decided to take a look at their website and see how it has changed.

I can't say I'd ever use the site. Even with AdBlock enabled, the site is still cluttered with advertisements. I tried searching for Tahiti; the site was just so ADD I couldn't parse any of it. It's so Web 1.0* it hurts my eyes.

What bugs me the most is that they actually seem to be doing very well! Look at these Alexa rankings:

It's beating the sites where you can actually book travel (ok I get it, travel research and travel booking are not the same category of webpage)! And in case you're wondering, that's good for a 414 ranking! I mean, this is just ridiculous for a terrible website! I'm just blown away by how people can actually use that site.

* One of the questions they asked me in the interview was How would I go about adding a table to a page. I described the table syntax, and the dev manager was all "No no I meant what would you do?" I tentatively asked "Well, if it was just HTML changes, I'd do the changes on a dev page, then copy that page to production." He turned to the computer in the office and asked me to demonstrate on the Tripsadvisor.com homepage. Thinking it was a trap of some sort, I was careful to explain every step as I saved a copy of the live page, made the change, saved, then opened in IE. He nodded then explained that's how they made many changes. This was their dev process? Yuck!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Don't Be an Idiot: Vote!

I hear all too often voters talk about being disenchanted: "Why should I vote? I don't like either of the candidates?" "It doesn't matter who you vote for. They are all crooks and will all lie to you in the end." These viewpoints really scare me.

We live in a democracy. That means we elect the government. The government works for us. Yes, there is corruption, but it's so much better than it used to be (just think Boss Tweed). You know why it's better? Because people don't stand for it. Citizens get up and vote. They express their opinion, debate conflicting ideas, and support the candidate who most closely represents their viewpoint.

You have other more pressing issues? That's fine. If everyone were significantly involved in politics, it might get a little crazy. But take a few moments to look over the candidates' platforms and voting records, then take a little time out of your day on November 4th and vote. Seriously, it comes around once a year. You find plenty of time to play video games, right?

If you don't vote, you officially lose the right to bitch about anything the government does. You also lose the right to be patriotic, glad, or proud of anything related to the nation. You're supporting the corruption of our government. You're handing the government over to corporate lobbyists and evil men (think Dick Cheney). You are a part of the problem you claim to hate so much.

Get out and vote!

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Just Can't Do It

With the Yankees not making the playoffs, I decided I'd turn over a new leaf. While I can't root for the Red Sox, I decided to be happy for them if they won. Hell, I know enough Red Sox fans to make it worth it to me socially.

Yeah, that lasted all of two games in the ALDS. Come on Rays, kick the crap out of the Red Sox!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Gift Censoring; or, You'll Poke Your Eye Out!

Every kid knows the story; they want a pony, a My Buddy, or an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing which tells time, but their parents instead get them socks and sweaters (or maybe Legos if they're lucky). Their parents are gift censoring. Makes sense for kids. Not as much for adults.

I'm a nerd. I like video games. I maintain a wishlist on Amazon that is mostly video games, movies, and books. Yet when my birthday rolled around last year, I received zero video games from my parents, Annie, or Annie's parents (I only received one other gift, from Brian and Jay, that was a Gamestop gift card. Hello, Worms 2!). I didn't expect Annie to get me a video game, but I expected at least one game from the collective parents (note: I really liked their gifts, but this post is about censoring. If you read this, parents or in-laws, please take no offense! I love you!).

Annie normally acts as a sort of gift czar for me, so for Christmas, she tried to get more video games bought for me (I love this girl). I also changed the priority of all the games on my Amazon wishlist to "highest" and everything else to "medium" or less. I made out pretty good, but my parents still didn't get me any video games. When I asked them about it (in the most diplomatic way possible, as the gifts they did get me were awesome), they said that they didn't think I should really be spending my time playing games so they didn't get me any.

It is obvious that you can't dictate what gifts people buy you (though some people try). Even if you provide a large detailed wish list, some people will go off the list to add their unique spin to their gift, and that's encouraged. But outright avoiding a type of item from someone's wants? It can be annoying!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Trade Strategery

Sometimes you need to upgrade a position on your fantasy team. Earlier this season (July) in my roto league, I needed help in HR, RBI, and AVG in the outfield, but I had extra starting pitchers. I saw a combination of need and excess that matched my excess a needs; a team with plenty of batting but that needed a top-line starter. We entered negotiations based around Josh Beckett for Ryan Braun but couldn't get anything done (he wanted more).

I noticed another team had a hole at 2B and a surplus of SPs. We worked out BJ Upton (whom I had been trying to get rid of), John Bowker (fresh out of free agency), and Mike Cameron for Cole Hamels, Edwin Encarnacion, and Alexi Casilla. I then turned and flipped Hamels, Kevin Slowey, and Mark Reynolds for Braun and Joel Zumaya.

So the entire trade for me looked like:

Upton, Bowker, Cameron, Slowey, and Reynolds
Braun, Encarnacion, Casilla, and Zumaya

Sure, the Zumaya-Slowey swap didn't work out so well (I needed saves badly). But the point is sometimes you have to run an end-around to get the stats you need.

New Project, Codenamed Falcon

I've started working on a new project. It's codenamed "Falcon." Why? Because that was the first animal name I thought of when I decided to name it after an animal. Now I've got Walrus and Falcon.

I have to keep mum on Falcon though, because I actually think it could be really cool.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sorry This is a Boring Post

Eric and I recently had a conversation about how a candidate's personal life morals and ethics reflect their ability and skill at governing. I happen to believe that a person's morals are consistent throughout all of their dealings; a person who is immoral in one aspect of life has the capability to be just that immoral in all aspects.

John McCain had an affair while still married to his wife. He has admitted this as his greatest moral failure. I believe that moral failure is still a part of his DNA, and he is still capable of that failure. What could happen if he were president and were faced with a moral dilemma. Would he do the hard but right thing or the convenient but immoral thing? Just look at his life.

McCain is not the only person who has had an affair. No one is perfect. And having a divorce doesn't make one an immoral person. But it does say something about the man.

McCain's Health Insurance Scam

So McCain wants to give individuals a $2500 credit and families a $5000 credit to buy their own health insurance. I once had to buy my own health insurance at a cost of $450/month. That works out to $5400/year. The difference works out to $241.67/month. I paid $70/month for a single plan at my last job (for a single participant).

So McCain essentially wants to increase health insurance rates on unmarried people by $170/month. Now that's leadership.

McCain's New Plan: Problems Again

So John McCain announced a new plan at the debate to buy individual mortgages from troubled homeowners and renegotiate those adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) into fixed-rate mortgages. He claims this is different from the existing government bailout plan because it goes directly to the homeowner and makes their life easier.

That's all well and good, but if he wants to buy Joe Sixpack's ARM, he has to find out who owns it. The whole point of this mortgage crisis is that the banks no longer own the mortgages; they package up thousands of them and sell shares in the package. That's where you get the mortgage-backed securities. I bet my mortgage (30-year fixed) is in part of a security, but it would be in one of the good ones (full of fixed-rate mortgages owned by people with high credit). The bad ones are backed by ARMs owned by people with bad credit and too low an income to pay the mortgage.

So if McCain wants to fix these bad mortgages, he has to first buy them. To buy them, he has to buy the bad-mortgage backed securities. So McCain's new plan is basically the exact same thing Congress has already voted on, with the added idea that the government would renegotiate the mortgages once it bought them. That added idea is a good one, I'll give him that. But if this is his attempt to make it a race, then hello President Obama.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This Drives Me Nuts

It kinda bugs me when I see campaign contributions from company employees lined up next to candidate's names. Just because Smallpants McFry (Joe Sixpack's neighbor) happens to work at Goldman Sachs doesn't mean he represents big Wall Street. And just because a candidate accepts the money doesn't mean he is going to represent the views of the voter's company. Sure there can be a correlation, but it's not proof.

Monday, October 6, 2008

From the "Maybe They Should Rethink This" Department

Have you seen this commercial for the Lincoln MKS? It's part of their "Our car is like a spaceship" series of commercials, most of which are pretty cool (though I'm waiting to see Patrick Stewart in the driver's seat saying "Engage!"). This one, however, has "Major Tom" as the soundtrack.

They might want to rethink the association there, as the character Tom in the song ends up lost in space, presumably dead, lost in space, committing suicide, or an alien. Oops.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

In The Spirit Of Sharing Information: SQLBulkCopy Class in .NET

I had an annoying problem at work the other day; how to copy a subset of data from one SQL Server database to another. This set included data from six tables. I looked at my options:
  • bcp (bulk copy) command-line utility
  • Dynamic SQL (select "insert into items (" + items.* + ")")
  • write a c# app to load the data into a dataset, then insert it into the new DB.
  • Use the Import/Export Wizard.
The first three didn't look particularly appealing, and the wizard only exports queries to data files; I'd have to do a lot of work to get those files to work.

Then I discovered the SqlBulkCopy class. In the .NET Framework 2.o and beyond, the SqlBulkCopy class gives bcp functionality in the managed code world. It made my life much easier.

Music Makes the People Code

So I finally set up my speakers in the basement with my computer (Brittany, aka ed-255). Holy crap, I get so much more pumped down here with music! Wahoo!

Friday, October 3, 2008

I Haven't Ranted Against The Press Lately

Filip Bondy: I swear, you really don't have a clue about how baseball franchises are run and how the baseball talent pipeline works.

Let's talk about player talent progression, shall we? The average baseball player spends several seasons in the minor leagues before being promoted to the bigs. The average age of these players tends to be mid 20's. I can't get numbers on this, but most players progressively get better until their high 20's or low 30's.

That in mind, let's look at the current state of Yankees youth who played in the Bronx this year:
  • Joba Chamberlain: age 23, less than 1 year in the minors
  • Phil Hughes: 22, 2+ years
  • Ian Kennedy: 23, 1 year
  • Robinson Cano: 25, 3 years
  • Melky Cabrera: 24, 2 years
  • Brett Gardner: 24, 3 short years
  • Justin Christian: 28, 3 years
  • David Robertson: 23, 1 year
  • Phil Coke: 25, 3 years
I look at that list and figure that at least half of those guys should get better over the next 3 years. Bondy, however, has decided that they're all crap:

"We aren't sure about Phil Hughes or Phil Coke."

I think you might be the only person on the planet who isn't sure about Hughes. I haven't heard a scouting report ever that thinks he won't make it. And yeah, we've only seen 14.2IP of Coke, but it was a damned good 14.2IP.

"We already see that Brett Gardner doesn't have the power to play center field on a regular basis."

I guess Bondy doesn't care that most center fielders are not power hitters, but let's forget about that. Yes, Gardner had a rough year this year. Yet he went from AAA to hitting lead off for The Most Storied Franchise in Sports. I'm willing to bet he had a little bit of a shocking transition. He also had a .296/.414/.422 line in AAA this season, and that .414 OBP sticks out. Plate discipline is a skill that translates directly from the minors to the bigs.

"Robinson Cano took a serious step backward in 2008."

I'll bet you in 2009 he beats his 2007 numbers. This kid is full of talent.

"Melky Cabrera is ordinary at best."

It's boring to say at this point, but he's 24! It's very rare for a player to peak at 22 (when he took over for Bernie Williams in CF and had a great year).

"Their starting rotation requires yet another injection of free agents."

This line is what gets me. Here is the current best guess 2009 rotation: Wang, Chamberlain, Pettitte, Hughes, Kennedy/Rasner/Aceves/Giese. Aside from the #5 spot, that looks pretty awesome. The Yankees do not need CC Sabathia (but they may as well grab him if they can). Add in a AJ Burnett or a Derek Lowe and that rotation starts to look awesome.

But the best part about that line is that Bondy doesn't understand what he's saying. You don't have to trade for free agents. Cashman will be careful about signing type A free agents (meaning the Yankees would have to cough up their 1st round draft pick), and if he managed to net any picks with teams signing his type A free agents (Marte comes to mind), then that changes the game too.

The Yankees get to drop $80 million off their books this year. Cashman has been saddled with these big contracts for the entire time he's been top dog. Now is when he really gets to shine. I can't wait to watch the Hot Stove League this year.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Wednesday Bold Prediction

Mets sign Sabathia to a $31M/6 year contract.

10 Things From a Developer

Two small thoughts:

I have to stop getting any coffee in the office as soon as I get in. It's messing up my stomach and impacting my productivity.

I have to realize that I'm a pretty good developer and actually use my skills to accomplish all the things I want to accomplish. This include Walrus, as well as some other projects.
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