Sunday, April 27, 2008

Don't take recycling for granted...

I come from Portland, Oregon, a place where if it can be recycled, you can recycle it there. Susan and I now live in Oak Lawn, Illinois, where one of the major grocery chains is Dominick's. We primarily use reusable grocery bags from Trader Joe's, but occassionally, we still find ourselves at the grocery store without them, and have to take home the disposable bags. Well, Susan just went to Dominick's with a bag full of bags to recycle, and when she couldn't find the bin she asked the customer service desk where it was. She was told "Oh, we haven't had that for at least a year!" In 2008, we should expect our stores to be more socially responsible than this. So, from now on, we'll take our bags, and our dollars, to Jewel, which has recycled 14,200 tons of plastic (that's the weight of 2,500 elephants) in the last 17 years..


Last weekend, Susan went to a bridal shower for one of her cousins, and Karen and I went to the park and had some fun with the camera. See that shiner on her forehead? Three weeks in a row, she fell and just when it was about to heal, she'd get another bruise in the same spot. We think this was the final one. Here's a link to the rest of the photos!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Karen's Independence

Karen is now 19 months old. In the last week, she's picked up on a word that I've been dreading for a while. She now says "no."

At this point, I would say that no is not yet in the realm of an early childhood rebellion. Rather, her saying no is how she is asserting her independence in the world. For example, going down the stairs, she doesn't want anybody to hold her hand, because she's quite confident she can do it without any help. But at 19 months, Susan and I need to explain to her that it's for her own safety. We try to compromise with her and say that we'll hold her hand down the top stairs, but let her walk down the last few steps, which she is quite successful.

Baby Blog Archive

This morning, I woke up at 1am and couldn't sleep any more. Unfortunately, the first train that goes downtown doesn't show up until 5:38. In between small sections of time trying to sleep, I finished porting the Baby Blog to Soon, I'll disable, since all the information is here!

Friday, April 18, 2008

10,000 for a child's birthday party?

CNN has a story right now about parents who spend $10,000 or more for their children's birthday parties. I love my children too much to go overboard on birthday parties. As parents, we have a responsibility to prepare our children to be responsible adults. $10,000 birthday parties are pretty irresponsible.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

HWA Home Warranty of America Scam

So, when we purchased our home last summer, the seller kindly purchased a home warranty from Home Warranty of America. We thought, that's great. If something goes wrong in the first year, we'll have the warranty. What a joke.

Tonight, I went to go to Staples, and discovered that one of the garage door springs was broken. Naturally, I thought, let's look up that home warranty that came with the house. It says that it covers Garage Door Systems. Here's the quote:

Garage Door Systems
INCLUDED: All components and parts except:
EXCLUDED: Garage doors - Infra-red sensors - Chains - Tracks - Rollers - Springs - Remote receiving/transmitting devices.

So I called anyways, just to ask what exactly is included in the Garage Door System coverage. Turns out that if anything goes wrong with the $124.99 motor, they'll cover $24.99, after the $100 deductible.

Clearly, HWA is a joke.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Python and the Google AppEngine

While I don't have an AppEngine account that I can deploy to, I did download the SDK to try it out. When I saw that Python was the first runtime supported, I was a little disappointed because I hadn't used Python for any projects yet. But, that's a great opportunity to learn a new language. So, yesterday on the train, I played around a bit with Python and the AppEngine SDK. The SDK seems really great, but I am not impressed with Python.

In most languages, whitespace (tabs and spaces) are ignored. When you have an if statement in code, you have brackets {} or an end statement to note the end of the conditional statement. In Most languages functions are wrapped by either {} or end with an end statement. Not so in Python. In Python blocks of code are marked by indentation. Now, I'm smart. I have a track record of picking up new programming languages pretty quick. But this is so annoying that I don't even want to spend any more time picking up Python, even though it's the only language supported by a platform (Google AppEngine) that I am extremely excited to learn.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Google's AppEngine

Google's AppEngine was released Monday night at a campfire session at Google. Google has introduced a lot of serious applications over the years, but AppEngine may be the most important application most people will never hear about. From a developer perspective, this is huge. When I have a big idea, I am perfectly capable of writing the code to create the application. But to make that code run, I'd have to buy servers and bandwidth to run the code. I'd also have to spend a lot of time, or hire somebody to spend a lot of time configuring and maintaining those servers. Any time (or money) spent on configuration or maintenance is time that cannot be spent improving the application.

With AppEngine, Google is providing their scalable infrastructure to the common man. No longer does a developer with an idea have to worry about configuring a firewall and SAN, or worry about mundane details like Apache configuration. Developers get to write code and push it to an instantly scalable platform.

We don't know what they'll actually charge for this, but I expect it will be quite affordable, based on the prices the competition (Amazon EC2) is providing. Amazon charges 15 cents per hour for their EC2 instances, but they are not providing the same level of service that Google is providing. With Amazon, you get a virtual machine in their data centers, but you still have to configure, administer, and maintain that machine. The biggest drawback I see to AppEngine right now is that they only provide a python runtime. Python looks like a cool language, but it's not one I've had any experience with. With Amazon's additional responsibilities of configuring and maintaining the server, you also get a lot more flexibility.

Google made the announcement Monday night that 10,000 developer accounts would be made available to the first people who signed up on their website. When I filled out the form on Tuesday morning, all 10,000 accounts had been given away. A friend of mine, Kevin, was lucky enough to get into the first beta.

I look forward to my trial account!