Another fun and busy weekend comes to an end!

A recap on the places that I’ve been…

First off I ended up working for the first half of the weekend.  I’ve been one of the technical resources on a project we’ve been working on for the last four months, and last weekend was finally the end of the project, where we deployed everything out.  So I had to "come in" on the off-hours to work on the installation & upgrade.  I ended up working on Friday from 9am-1pm, spending time with the fam, then going back in from 4pm-12am.  Then I woke up early Saturday morning and worked from 8am-12pm again, then I spent a good part of the weekend monitoring.  The good news is that outside of a few hiccups here and there, the upgrade went without a hitch.  We didn’t have any major issues and now I am ready to move into my next fun project here at work   Hopefully things will begin to calm down, but we’ll see… 

So when I finally got my work done on Saturday I had lunch with my mom and my uncle (who was visiting in town all this week – there’s where I’ve spent a lot of time this last week), ran some errands with them and then went home to get ready for my big date with Bethany to celebrate her birthday

On Friday I surprised her by having flowers delivered to her at work, and in the flowers was a card that finally revealed what I’ve been planning (she has been in suspense all month): Saturday evening at the Boulder Dinner Theatre to see the Wizard of Oz   So that’s where we went on Saturday.

We had a blast!  I hadn’t been to a dinner theatre in like 6 years, and I’ve forgotten just how much fun they are!  The dinner was pretty good, but it’s obvious you go for the entertainment.  We had seats at the highest level in there, in the middle, towards the left.  The play was a blast!  There was tons of singing and dancing, and I loved the acting!  My favorite characters were the Cowardly Lion & the Tin Man.  The Tin Man’s costume was really cool, except he had this silver thong thing over his spandex (ummmm.. yeah).  I’m not the biggest theatre buff out there, but I was very impressed.  I enjoyed the way they did some of the "effects" from the movie: the tornado, the "no place like home" sequence, along with the flying monkeys and the jitter-bug scenes.  The sets were really cool, especially the Wizard (with the exception that they could have put some black fabric inside his mouth so we didn’t have to see the guy moving it.

Bethany and I had a blast.  In the beginning though, I did something really stupid.  Right as the play started I thought to myself "It’s so quiet in here, it would really suck if someone spilt their drink." and sure enough, freakin’ me moved my arm and knocked my coke over, getting it all over the table.  Luckily the table-cloth absorbed a lot of it, then I was able to quietly clean it up with the napkins, but I felt like a total dumbass.  Argggh… 

Seeing all of those songs again was awesome.  It’s been a good 10 years since I’ve seen the movie, and I never actually saw the live production before.  It was awesome re-living those songs again.  One in particular cracks me up.  It’s the one when they first get into the Emerald City and sing the "Merry Old Land of Oz".  In case you don’t remember, some of the words are:

"Ha – ha – ha, Ho – ho – ho – And a couple of tra – la – las
That’s how we laugh the day away, In the Merry Old Land of Oz!
Bzz – bzz – bzz, Chirp – chirp – chirp – And a couple of La – di – das
That’s how the crickets crick all day, In the Merry Old Land of Oz!
We get up at twelve and start to work at one.
Take an hour for lunch and then at two we’re done.
Jolly good fun!"

Well to show you how much I’ve been shaped by comedy, all I could think of was the "Family Guy" version of this song when Lois talks about how she doesn’t want Chris to go to prison because "(she) know what goes on there.  We’ve all seen ‘Oz’ " then cuts to these guys in the shower singing:

"Scrub scrub here! Scrub scrub there! Whether you’re white or bronze!
A man can wash another man in the merry old land of Oz!"

lol, too funny…

So that’s how my weekend went.  Today was spent doing some work, cleaning up my place and taking a break after a busy few weeks.  Tomorrow I get to go back to the grind and work – beginning another busy week.  Tomorrow night is a Pastoral Council meeting, so I’ll bet I’ll have some thoughts on that tomorrow (never too much drama).

More to come tomorrow

Google’s World

Sometimes we’re posed the proverbial question of "If you could remake the world in your own image, what would it look like?", but most would probably agree that day-dreaming about a self-created world is futile and a waste of time…

Well someone forgot to tell that to the folks at Microsoft, who quite literally re-imaged the world in their own hands.

Earlier this week Microsoft debuted an MSN service called "Virtual Earth".  This web tool is set to compete with the "Google Maps/World" feature.  For those of you who may not know, for the last few months you’ve had the ability to go into Google, type in your address (or anyone else’s address for that matter) and get a map to your house – like Mapquest.  Where this gets better is that not only will Google pull up a map and directions, but also has satellite images of the area as well – so you can pull up a satellite image of your house, work, school, etc..  It’s kinda spooky because of some of these locations you can zoom to the level of your car!  Anyway…

So M$ wanted to get in on this market as well, so they debuted "Virtual Earth" earlier this week.  Since then they’ve received a lot of press about this service, unfortunately most of it has been bad press.

A story in The Register started it all when in their testing of the product, they found that M$ literally has re-made the world in their own image. To summarize:

If you pull up the address for Apple’s headquarters (as in Apple Computers – makers of the Mac and iPod) opening it in Google gives you this image, a beautiful campus with a fully-paved parking lot, green grass and most importantly buildings!

Pull up the image in MSN Virtual Earth and the same location is shown – WITH APPLE HQ COMPLETELY MISSING!  Instead of the beautiful campus with the green grass, you just see a HUGE DIRT LOT!!

It’s erie – almost like aliens swarmed down from the sky and completely vaporized the whole area so that it’s just a dirt lot – like in those sci-fi movies!  I guess in M$’s image of the world, that’s how they view dealing with the competition – blinking them out of existence! 

In seriousness, the maps that you’re looking at are not directly off a live satellite feed by any means.  Both Google and Microsoft have purchased these images from commercial companies and many of them are many years old.  M$ claims that in the "Apple" case the image is from 1990 before the plant was built, but you still have to wonder if someone working on the project thought it’d be funny to pull a prank like this.

Hmmm, makes me wonder if my house still exists in the M$ world…  Whew! Still there!  How about my work?  Okay – looks fine too!

Be careful what you wish for

Sports Take: MNF

Michaels, Theismann, Kolber, Tafoya to crew MNF

I realize that 2006 is a whole year away, but this is already upsetting me.  Not so much that Theismann is color-comentating MNF (although I can’t stand him in the booth), but more-so that it’s a reminder that MNF will be going from Network Broadcast on ABC this year to ESPN cable next year.

For the last 35 years, Monday Night Football has not only become one of the biggest regular sporting events, but also has become a fixture of our culture.  I realize there are those of you who don’t like football and couldn’t care less, but at the same time you likely know the catch phrase "Are You Ready for some Football?" or listening to classic MNF theme (or the other one done by Hank Williams Jr. – that changes every week depending on who’s playing).  But I guess in the last few years ratings haven’t been what they once were, and network execs, getting frustrated with not being able to put the magic formula together (which included the likes of Dennis Miller and Lisa Guerrero), it looks like the execs over at Disney/ABC have decided to turn over the reigns to their little brother, ESPN.

I understand that this is not as big a deal, because this is happening today and not ten years ago.  With the evolution of cable & satellite television, cable has grown from being a luxury to almost becoming a basic utility.  Even my parents have broken down and are now watching cable.  ESPN reaches a lot more homes than they used to during the late 80’s & mid 90’s, but at the same time there’s still that aura of prestige that goes with watching sports on Broadcast Television.  I’m disappointed when I think about what kind of crappy reality show, boring sitcom, or whatever random drama series is going to take the place of storied Monday Night Football.

Out of all this I think Madden got the best end of the deal.  "Sunday Night Football" on NBC isn’t going to be Monday Night, but it’s BROADCAST,  and it’s got Bob Costas doing the pre-game show.  It’ll be interesting who they will be pairing John Madden up with.  Maybe they’ll dust off Patt Sommerall, recharge his batteries and re-load his operating system to get him back in the booth with our trailer-driving analyst.

My only other disappointment is that CBS didn’t lose their rights to the AFC games.  If I have to hear Phil Simms flip-flopping during the broadcast one more time in his hill-billy redneck tone one more time…

By the way, Broncos Band Camp starts Friday morning.. Only 41 more days until the regular season opens!

IE 7 Beta 1

It’s been a few days, so I thought I’d just post a random thought…

I had a chance to check out the Developer’s Beta 1 of Internet Explorer 7 through my MSDN subscription, and after downloading & installing the bits this morning, here I am 4 hours later uninstalling the damn thing…  I’ll explain why, but unless you’re a ner-eerrrrr-tech enthusiast like me, you might not find it very interesting.

First off, after installing it, I found one of the most obvious changes – a new IE icon!  After all, nothing says "New Version" of an application more than a space-age, gradient-embossed icon!  It just cracks me up because since IE 4 they really haven’t done anything new to the icon, but every release they basically "inject beautox" into it and make it look like some kind of shrink-wrapped version of what it once was.  Just kinda funny…

Alright, so I go ahead and double-click on my new space-aged icon only to find something that I’ve been all-too familiar with:

Hahahaha, same old M$!  It took a bit of trouble-shooting to figure out what was exactly going on, but one of the new features seemed to help.  You can now start Internet Explorer "without any Add-In’s" or as Firefox has deemed it "Safe-Mode".  lol…  But you can go in there and bring up this "Manage Add-In’s" interface that can help you pinpoint and disable anything that’s causing problems (or in this case anything that’s NOT causing problems)..  IE7 didn’t seem to take too well to having a few toolbars, and I ended up uninstalling Googlebar (grrr), disabling the Acrobat Bar, and then removing the SnagIt bar…  Then finally IE7 became happy.

So let’s get to the interface, but before I say anything, M$ put out this little disclaimer that the Developer Beta 1 is a pretty stripped-down version of IE.  It’s not intended for consumer testing, simply to help Developers determine whether or not their web applications will blow up with the new version of IE (I’ll get into my little rant about this later), and they said "Not all new features are available with this edition".  But without further ado, here’s what we have…

On first glance, here are a few things that I liked:

  • Nice "New -Tab" feature It’s kinda cool that you can simply just click in to that grey area next to your tabs to create a new one.  It’s espcially pretty cool for a mouse person, but I don’t mind pressing CTRL-T in Firefox at this point.
  • "Phishing" Protection – Supposedly IE7 is going to be able to protect you from those hoax web sites (those emails that you get from banks & eBay saying that your account is locked out and now needs to be "verified").  That looks to be pretty cool, didn’t have a chance to check it out yet.
  • No more obnoxious Windows logo on the right-hand corner

A few things that bugged me:

  • It looks like a cheap rip-off of Mozilla Firefox I know this is stripped-down IE, but it really just looks like a no-frills version of Firefox.  Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but when you’re M$ – who essentially won the browser wars three years ago, haven’t done anything to improve your browser (outside of covering security loopholes) and now all of the sudden are getting you butt kicked by an open-source community – I expect more of a response than "let’s just copy it and put the M$ logo back on top of it".  Lame!
  • Separation of Browser Buttons  – The only buttons that IE7 put on top are the "forward and back" buttons, moving the "Home" & "Print" buttons down to the common interface
  • The Forced Spacing with "Favorite Links" bar – If you can see in the "Favorites Bar" you can see that regardless of the spacing each link took, they’re defaulting to the size of the largest link on the "Links" bar (if that makes any sense).  This means that instead of fitting 8 or 9 links on the toolbar like I have, I’m forced to fit 5.

So outside of aesthetics (which need to be taken with a grain of salt at this point), let’s talk about functionality.

Right now there is none!  This gets back to the purpose of this Developer’s Beta – with people needing to verify that their application works with the new version.  It bothers me to see the classic M$ arrogance in providing us with an application that says "Here’s how it’s going to be – it’s now you’re problem, fix it!".  All of the sudden capabilities that web developers have enjoyed for years are now all of the sudden obsolete with the new version.  I understand that technological innovation sometimes requires changes and improvements, but at the same time my biggest pet peeve is when you lose existing functionality when you move to a new version.

Let me give you an example:

Using IE6/Firefox, here is what my Xanga "Text Editor Box" looks like:

But you fire up IE7, and here’s what you see:

Now granted, this probably isn’t M$’s fault, as it looks like Xanga run a browser detection and probably gets confused when they see a 7.x version of IE, but at the same time M$ needs to think about that kind of stuff, especially since many web apps haven’t seen a need to upgrade some of their components since the browser wars have ended.

So I ended up uninstalling and as I’m writing this I’m back on IE6… I guess I’ll take another try when the consumer-class beta comes out, but right now my initial experience wasn’t very encouraging.

Stick with Firefox

NCSC Colorado Trip

Hey!   Remember me?  It’s that guy who used to post all the time and now dropped off the face of the earth…   Well now I’m back, and happy to be so!  These last few days, as always, have been really busy, but especially so because I have been exploring Northern Colorado with my friends from the NCSC!  These last few days have been a blast, and we covered a lot of ground.  Rather than writing this in a "Novel" version, I would like to hi-lite each day’s events and share some remarks & pictures from my experiences!

 

Wednesday, July 20th
Picking up Ross & Amanda, Getting Settled, Dinner

 

Dinner at Young’s Vietnamese Cafe – Always a good choice for lunch, Young’s was also exceptional at dinner.  Their portions are HUGE, but both Ross & Joel managed to down their whole dinners.  Geez!  I still have left-overs!  The appetizers were also really good – we had these awesome lettuce wraps, as well as grill-your-own meatballs with rice paper (Mmmmmm).

 

Old Town Fort Collins I – Coopersmith’s – Emily and Joel joined the three of us for a nice game of pool and some good home-brewed beer.  We ended up playing three games of pool.  Joel and I won the first two, then we did a guys vs. girls game where we almost won, but ended up scratching on the 8 ball (bummer!).  We were cleaning up before though.  Oh well

 

Thursday, July 21
Journey down to Denver, Pick up Maureen & Erin, Conference Call, More Old Town

 

Red Rocks Amphitheater – I’ve never been to Red Rocks when an event/concert wasn’t going on, so I wasn’t sure how fun this would be, but it turned out to be really cool.  The whole place is free to get into during the day (when there’s not a show that day), and it’s all open.  You can actually go onto the stage as well (although they were doing stage work the day we were there).  It’s quite a site to be sitting at row 1 and looking up to see all 9,500+ seats.  We then proceeded to climb ALL the stairs up to the Visitor’s Center, which is a nice AIR-CONDITIONED place.  Downstairs they had this thing called "Hall of Music" or something like that, where they had displays and plaques every year since Red Rocks has been opening, and showed who played there each year.  It was soooo cool!

 

Mother Cabrini Shrine – We only had enough time to drive by and stop in the gift shop.  But looking back on it, it was a mixed blessing that we couldn’t climb the shrine stairs, at that point it was over 100 degrees outside!  It’s a really pretty place, I wish we had more time to spend there.  Just going to the gift shop really didn’t do that place justice.

 

16th Street Mall – Denver – While we were down there something struck me – I really couldn’t think of any places along the 16th Street Mall that were "authentically Denver/Colorado".  We ended up going to Johnny Rockets, which was pretty good.  The shakes were awesome!  It was really too hot to do anything else down on the 16th Street Mall, so we headed up to rest up for the conference call.

 

Team America One of the great ways to get ready for a conference call is to see a movie that will pump you up (also a great way to kill some time), so we popped in Team America…  Probably not the best way to prepare for a Catholic Student Conference Call, but it was pretty funny nonetheless.

"I PROMISE I WILL NEVER DIE…"

 

NCSC EB Conference Call – Doing a conference call with half the group physically present is harder than it looks.  We had to deal with a few technical issues, and we ended up having to send Maureen upstairs with the headset, which turned out to be a lot of fun.  She was up in my office, so we decided to "possess" my desktop computer with VNC on my laptop.  It was hilarious…  My favorite was "Help I’m stuck in the printer!", then sending the doc to print.

 

Old Town Fort Collins II – Old Chicago’s – One of the hallmarks of Old Town Fort Collins is sitting at a table next to the open windows at Old Chicago’s.  We got to enjoy the great happy our specials of $2.50 drafts and $2.25 personal pizza’s.  That spells great, cheap dinner (along with Italian Nachos as well!  During dinner we got to take some fun pictures as well!

Maureen, myself & Amanda

Maureen with her "crush" Josh.

While we were out there Erin decided to let our waiter know that "Maureen thought he was hot and would like to take his picture."  Josh was more than happy to oblige and it was funny how he introduced himself to Maureen I don’t think she left him her number though…

 

Friday, July 22nd
Mini-Retreat with an old friend, Beer Tasting, Dinner with Mom, Drive-In

 

Retreat at Pegge’s Cabin – Pegge, my old campus minister, mentor and great friend graciously offered a 1/2 day retreat to the 5 of us, so on Friday morning we headed up 287 towards the Wyoming border & Pegge’s beautiful cabin.  We had an amazing time doing some great sharing, practical questions & answering (we got some great advice), did some quiet reflection, and then ended it with an awesome Lectio Devina with seeds.  For me personally I received a lot of clarity on some things I’ve had questions about in NCSC and my life in general.

 

Being up there made me realize just how much I missed being up at the cabin.  I realized the last time I was there was May of 2004, and it was an awesome feeling to be back up there with student leaders once again.  It is such a quiet and peaceful place, check out these pictures of Ross & Amanda journaling to get a sense of the beauty up there:

 

Also a retreat up at the cabin wouldn’t be complete without a Student Leader group picture

 

Being up there and seeing this group picture makes me a bit nostalgic for the good ‘ol days of Spirit Fire Retreats…  Ahh  Spirit Fire VII…

Joel, Emily, myself, Gina & Brian

 

Anyway back to the retreat…  We ended with a lunch of sandwiches and then made our way home…  Not before driving a whole 2 minutes to Wyoming and taking a picture there (to say that the NCSC people have been in that state), then we headed back home for a nap and to prepare for beer tasting.

 

Beer Tasting at New Belgium BreweryWe unfortunately ended up missing the beer tour (I thought it was at 2 & 4pm, but it turned out to be at 1pm, 2pm & 3pm.  We went straight over to the tasting room and found the bar.  Now for those of you who live in Fort Collins and haven’t done this yet – you need to do this at least some point!  It’s a really fun experience.  You sit yourself down at the bar and they give you a menu where you can select up to 4 different beers from.  As you can see in my picture on the right I was straining my brain doing just that.  At that point you and all of your friends have this little goblets of different beers that you can taste!

 

Maureen, Amanda, Ross & I all tasted!  There were a few beers that Maureen and Amanda didn’t really like and ended up not drinking, but Ross was happy to take care of them   I’m not really sure if I found a favorite among that batch.  I really like the Abbey, but I would have to say that I probably enjoyed Blue Paddle the best.  We then went down to Loveland to have dinner with my mom who made Kabobs, and then we headed up to the drive-in.

 

The Island at the Drive-In – Great movie!  I will have to write more about it later on, but if you’re hungry at all for a conceptual sci-fi flick or an action film, go check out this movie!  More on it to come…   Bethany also came, and it was sooo good to see her as well! Before the movie we stopped to get some Sonic, which many people hadn’t been to, we got some shakes and ice cream, except they didn’t have the Cream Slush available ARGGGH, oh well   One of the things that I love most about summer is sitting out in the open night air of Colorado and watching a movie.  It was a beautiful, clear and starry night, complete with a full moon and a good time was had by all.  On the way home people had to be crazy with the camera (as you can see Erin doing here…)

 

Saturday, July 23rd
Taking Amanda home , Estes Park, the People’s Republic of Boulder

 

After getting up the next morning at 6:30am to take Amanda to DIA to make her 9:30am flight, I got home at 9am hoping to get a few more hours of sleep.  As it turns out everyone pretty much slept until noon, except for Maureen who took the morning to capture her thoughts on the trip.  I enjoyed the extra hours of sleep.  After we all got up and had the breakfast Ross made for us, we set out to explore some of the mountains.

 

Big Thompson Canyon / Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park – We stopped at this little Gem up the Big Thompson canyon to spend some time in the river and enjoy the nature. We had a blast taking pictures, we must have taken at least 30 pictures down there.  Here are a few…

Ross, Maureen & Myself

 

Ross, Erin & Maureen ( I haven o idea what they’re doing, but the background is pretty )

 

Erin having too much fun with the water bottle (the expression on Maureen’s face says it all )

 

After having all of our fun in the canyon we finally made it to Estes Park, where it really began to rain.  I love the feeling of rain in the mountains!  We then walked a little bit of Estes before heading to Mass at Our Lady of the Mountain, then after Mass we went back into town to get some Salt Water Taffy…  I don’t think anyone really had any before we bought it, but it turned out to be really good   We had a small snack and then made our way down to Boulder to meet up with a few of my friends on Pearl Street.

 

Pearl Street Mall, Boulder – We rolled into Boulder around 7:15 and were lucky enough to find some close-by parking.  We then met up with Leanne and Joel (and eventually Emily) and started looking for a place to eat along the Pearl Street Mall.  Along the mall we got to see all of the street performers, exhibitors, interesting shops and of course HIPPIES!!   We ended up at this "Lucky Dog" grill which was on the roof overlooking the courthouse.  The weather held out, and we were treated to some great live music and fun atmosphere!

myself, Joel & Leanne toasting to a night on the town

 

Me finishing off my second beer (no more after that)

 

Old Town Fort Collins III – Walrus Ice Cream – After multiple attempts in the last few days, we managed to make it back up to Fort Collins before Walrus Ice Cream before they closed.  Unfortunately because we made it in the last 1/2 of them being opening, they were already starting to close and it wasn’t as "Walrus-y" as it typically was   But the ice cream was still pretty good. 

 

Sunday, July 25th
Move along home

 

The morning was pretty much spent taking people back to the airport.  I got up at 5:30am to take Maureen and Erin back, and then a few hours of sleep later I left at 10am to take Ross back to the airport.  I had lunch with my friend Sam and made my way back up to Fort Collins.  We already moved the extra beds out of my apartment yesterday afternoon, and it’s amazing how easy it was to get them out, but also how much they transformed my apartment yet again..  Now just to get things back to normal.

 

Overall the trip was a blast!  You never really realize just how many cool things you have in your area until you get to show people from out of town around.  Thank you to Maureen, Erin, Ross & Amanda for coming and visit me!  I hope that your travels bring you back some day soon!  To everyone else on the NCSC NT that wasn’t able to make it – we missed you, but you are also always welcome to come and visit me!  Thanks again to Emily, Pegge, Joel, Leanne, Bethany, my Mom and all the other people who helped make this trip possible!!  You guys rock!

 

I have a Photo Gallery set up with all the pictures that we took during the weekend.  Check it out if you’re interested!
>>Colorado Trip Photo Gallery