Jan 012011

Trickling WellI’ve had a week off to think about it and I’m ready to write again. The annual habit of new year resolutions and predictions is a fabulous excuse to take the time to do so.

First I should go back and take a look at what I wrote last Jan 1 . . .

Oops, looks like I wrote nothing between July 2009 and April 2010, and nothing at all after April. Shame on me.

2011 Resolution One: More writing.

The past year has not been one of my favorites. Health issues have slowed me down quite a bit physically. To prevent this from leading to an accelerated downward spiral of physical condition, I need to take better care of myself. That means . . .

2011 Resolution Two: More activity, less eating.

On to the here and future now. One of my constant mental themes in 2010 was ‘new’ – A new decade means new things. A general mantra of ‘old things suck’ pervaded my thinking. I searched for and embraced new wherever I found it and ended up pretty disappointed. From media to gadgets, the newer things didn’t live up to their promise – myself included. New didn’t amount to much progress for me in 2010. So I’m turning around a bit for the new year and picking up some of the good things from the past to move forward with.

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 Posted by at 9:32 am
Jan 162009

Happiness is a plowed driveway

Happiness is a plowed driveway

Yesterday, on my 46th birthday, I was out early in the morning in -4f temperatures plowing my 100′ gravel driveway for fun.

No, I don’t normally do that. I am not in the best of shape (understatement alert!) and normally something like that would kill me. But I got this new piece of outdoor power equipment, you see . . .

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Dec 282008

Because I can, I’m liveblogging from the BoneFish Grill where I’m waiting for a table with Will and Jo.

Dec 202008

Christmas has officially begun for this family. Our holiday event schedule kicked off today with a rendezvous with the Slosser clan at a huge Amish-themed restaurant outside of Wooster Ohio. It’s the third or fourth year we have met in this manner, due to the spread-out nature of the family and the fact that none of us wants to host Christmas get-togethers any more. I don’t know why we keep going back there though, the food is plentiful but mediocre and it’s not inexpensive. And opening presents in a restaurant with other people around on all sides is just weird. Next year I want to propose that we rent a hall, bring our own food, and have a place to ourselves to socialize and exchange gifts and not feel we need to rush out after being there a couple of hours.

Another reason today marks the start of the holiday is that it’s my buddy William’s birthday. My other half in the Blonde Swedes turns 41 42 today, so everyone click here to wish him the best.

William in Shorn Studios, late December 2005

William in Shorn Studios, late December 2005

I can also tell Christmas has started because I am stressed. After barking unnecessarily at the kids to get dressed and in the car this morning, I stopped and thought about it. Not only about calming down, but why holidays – especially this one – cause so much stress. It came to me there in the kitchen and I apologized to my son and attempted to explain it. “I’m sorry I yelled. Christmas can be very stressful on your parents because it’s a time of year when we expect everybody to be happy and we expect ourselves to make everybody happy, and that is impossible so it sometimes ends up making us miserable.”

So an early New Years Resolution, starting now. I will not try to make everyone happy, because when I do I make everyone miserable. I’m going to relax, and I’m going to smile and be encouraging and supportive of my family when they are stressing, and that is my only mission this holiday season.

All the Best to You and Yours!

Nov 232008

I’m like a little Soviet Union. My life is dictated by various self-imposed five-year plans. One of those involves my car, a little red ’05 Dodge Neon.

OK, stop the snickering. Neons do NOT suck, OK? They are reliable and passably attractive and they get about the same miles per gallon as many sub-compact ‘foreign’ cars. But the Neon is a lot roomier and it doesn’t feel thin-shelled like so many little cars these days.

That last point was and is of particular interest to me now, as this previous post describes. That Neon quite literally saved my face (and the rest of me) from a crushing impact, letting me walk away with nothing more than disappointment.

The Car that Saved my Face

The Car that Saved my Face

That is just the start of the story. I’m not really writing to this to talk about my accident. I’m writing to talk about it’s repercussions.

See, I had a plan. A five-year plan. I had my Neon for nearly three years and I planned to keep it for three to five years more. Then I hoped to buy a new full-electric car which I expect to be on the market by then. This was to be my last internal combustion car.

Then, I had that stupid accident.

I spent the next two weeks in a completely stressed-out state trying to figure out what to do about a car. I had an econobox Chevy rental from the insurance company, and it really drove home how much I hate the current crop of small cars they are selling. So I looked at what I could buy used for just a couple thousand dollars (what I had left over after insurance paid off my car loan) and that was very depressing. It looked like I’d be driving an 8-10 year-old car, with who knows what impending major repair costs.

I looked at new cars, and there just isn’t anything at the low end of the new car spectrum (which now starts disturbingly high at around $18k) that appeals to me. On top of that, I just don’t want another 5-year car loan! Especially for a car I don’t even like! And it would reset my five-year plan to an eight-year plan. But I checked out the Saturn Astra, because it’s really an Opel and is made in Belgium. Sporty but uncomfortable and way too ‘German’ in it’s ergonomics (or should I say lack thereof – I think the A/C controls were in the glove box, for example). I sat in a Pontiac Vibe (which is also the Toyota Matrix, go figure) and immediately un-sat in it because the blocky-ass dashboard obstructed the forward view like being inside an army tank. The Nissan Versa was relatively inexpensive and cute, but oh so paper-thin. Having just escaped from injury in a pretty significant car crash, a perception of sturdiness matters a lot. The Versa does not have that. Lastly I checked out the Honda Fit, which was also a tad on the thin side but much roomier than I expected. But they’ve gone all Star Trek Movie Set on the dashboard, and every control felt and looked like a prop piece. I wasn’t convinced the car was even capable of motion after sitting in it.

So what did I want? Truth be told, I wanted my old car back. But they don’t make it any more, and as I mentioned already with only $2k to buy a used one I would have to get a car that is now eight years old. So back to new cars, I tried and tried to love the Neon-replacement Dodge Caliber. If I could just come to terms with driving around in that little toy-soldier square-boxy piece of whatever, I could probably get a really good deal on one at the same Dodge dealer that has sold me or my wife three cars previously. But I just hate the square-edged boxy look. I like my cars round, like my women. OK, my woman. Whom I cherish and adore.

My co-workers listened to me whine and bitch about my car problem every day, and one fellow (let’s call him Keith because that’s his name) kept telling me to look at late-model used cars. As you read this you may have been wondering why that option wasn’t being explored. Well, it’s because I’m stupid. I had it in my head that buying a late-model used car was dumb because the loans are harder to get and the interest rates are a lot higher. Keith kept trying to explain that even though that is true, you are getting a car with most of it’s depreciation erased and little of it’s value diminished. I kept denying that value, until a couple nights ago when I started to look at newer used cars online and realized what was available for the same price as a new economy car. Really nice rides from Acura, Honda, Toyota, even BMW. So, I could get a car I liked and pay about what I was paying, albeit for another five years.

And then, my long lost cousin Rod e-mailed me back with sage advice: “If you liked that one, buy another one”. Like the grinch’s heart growing five sizes, my brain clicked in to the idea that maybe I could actually have my car back as if the accident hadn’t happened! I searched cars.com for a 2005 Red Neon SXT. Two matches, both around $7k. One just southwest of me in Dublin, Ohio! It had a clean carfax report. I calculated a 3-year loan amount expecting the rate to be high, and lo and behold it was still less than what I was paying on the old one, even though the new loan would end at about the same time as my old loan would have. Turns out that paying a low monthly interest on a lot of money is more costly than paying a higher monthly interest on a little bit of money. Who would have thought? Apparently not me.

On Friday morning I went out to the dealership (which sells new Mercedes, Kias and Chryslers) and checked it out. It was in very nice shape. A lot cleaner than mine, a testament to my neglect. And it had half as many miles on it. Oh, and it didn’t need a brake job, like my old one did. I drove it, and it was great. It felt like it does when you put on your old shoes after trying on a dozen pairs of new ones. Ahhh, this was nice.

So to wrap this up, I bought it. And I’m delighted. Took the guys at work to lunch and they couldn’t stop laughing at me and my ‘new’ car. On Saturday I took it to the auto parts store and bought fresh new floor mats for it. Drove it around town grinning and waving at the bemused townsfolk like I was in a parade.

Neon: The Resurrecturing

Neon: The Resurrecturing

And now, I’m back on my five-year plan with bonuses. Maybe I should have wrecked my car sooner! Or maybe when I wear this one out I’ll have another wreck! Nah, only kidding. In three to five years I’ll be ready for a new car and I really really want it to be this:

Dodge EV: Mmmm, that\'s electric!

Dodge EV: Mmmm, that's electric!

C’mon Chrysler, pull yourself together (or take a government bailout, I’m not proud) and build that thing! Onward comrades, to Victory!

 Posted by at 10:55 am  Tagged with:
Nov 102008

On the night of November the 8th 2008, I was driving alone in my trusty Neon towards home from the pharmacy. It was around 8 pm. I was enjoying a podcast on the iPhone (jacked in to my iPod-aware car stereo) but decided not to stop at McDonalds for a ‘snack’ to extend my listening pleasure.

Turns out, on this night I should have stopped.

As I was heading down a long unlit two-lane country road towards my rural abode, I came up over a rise with a newly-constructed intersection just ahead. I did not see a stop sign for my lane (because there wasn’t one) and thusly had not slowed for the intersection.

About 30 feet from the intersection, I became aware of a giant Cadillac sailing through from my left, perpendicular to my path, from that new subdivision road. I bound up my brakes immediately and before the impact I was thinking “did I miss a stop sign?”.

BANG! Super loud explosion, then brief blackness, the sensation of spinning and the screeching of tires. Then as quickly as it started, the squealing stopped and I felt no motion or sound. I briefly polled my body for any reports of pain and was relieved to receive no immediate replies.

Then I became aware of smell and temperature. I could see that the air bags had popped and were now deflated, but the smoke and the smell and the heat made me think ‘fire’, not ‘airbag propellent’. I got a little panicky, thinking the car was about to erupt in flame with me strapped in to my seat. I grappled for the seat belt release and of course couldn’t find it quickly. When that was done I started grappling for the door and in my mounting monkey-brain terror I could not even recall where on the door the handle was. When I finally got it, the door mercifully opened and I propelled myself out and away from my car and luckily my legs were functional and unbroken, because otherwise that move would have made things much worse. And as one who has broken his legs quite seriously before, I know what bad is.

As I stopped and stood I saw that right in front of me was the drivers side of the Cadillac, driver’s door open and a very elderly man sitting sideways in it looking kind of dejected at the ground. He looked up at me rather startled and I found myself apologizing for scaring him and explaining that I was darting out of a possibly-flaming car. After I got my breath back I looked around and was completely disoriented. Since both cars had spun an unknown amount, I was not sure which road was which. There were no street lights and although our car lights were on I could not really discern direction. To my left and right I saw stop signs. Was that the road I was on? Could they really have added stop signs to the old road and made the new undeveloped road the ‘thru’ road? Or was it a 4-way stop and we BOTH ran a stop sign at the exact same time?

I remembered what it said on the back of my insurance card. Check for injured people, don’t talk about blame, and call the police. So first I re-checked myself. No injuries. I felt pretty good, better than normal actually. Endorphins and adrenaline, no doubt. I checked with the other driver, he had no passengers and he was ambulatory. I went back to my car which was steaming at the front but definitely not on fire. The interior lights still worked and I was able to find my iPhone, which had been flung out of it’s car holster and under the passenger footwell. I was not sure I was supposed to use 911 to report an accident with no injuries, but I did anyway. They were prompt and nice and got my location from the phone and patched me through to the police, who were also prompt and nice and said a cruiser was on the way.

The Cadillac driver offered me a seat in his car while waiting, which I accepted because it was pretty cold and I had stupidly left the house without a jacket. As we sat there, each and every car that came through stopped and asked if everyone was alright and if they should call the police for us. A pickup truck driver stopped and set up cones around my car, which was sitting with it’s front exploded in the middle of the intersecton.

After about five minutes I was feeling a lot more together and got out for a look around. I figured out that my car was now facing the opposite direction from my travel, having turned 180 degrees (or possibly 540, I don’t know). The Cadillac had turned about three-quarters of the way around and was facing nearly in my travel direction along the curb. I confirmed that there was a stop sign where the Cadillac came from and there was not one where I came from. Whew! I was not the dumbass of this event!

I called home and got voicemail, so I left a message. I called my insurance company and started the claim. They asked for the other driver’s info and he declined to give it to me. After a 20 minute wait that felt like three hours, the police arrived. The policeman was young, professional and got right to figuring out what happened. He figured it out pretty quickly. He had the Cadillac driver wait in the police car and gave me a statement form to fill out. I asked him to get me the other driver’s info for insurance and he said that would all be on the report I’d leave the scene with.

Soon I got a call from my lovely and shaking wife, voice aquiver. “I’ve got the kids dressed, we are heading out now”. I told her to stop, don’t worry, don’t rush out the door, don’t go anywhere, this thing is just getting going, I’d probably need picked up at the towing place anyway, etc etc. After the tow truck arrived I discovered that my car was going to be taken several towns away for some reason, even though there is a towing place nearby. It’s apparently the company the police department contracts with. So I checked with the officer, he gave me my preliminary report as promised and told me I was free to go. So I called home again and told them to come on out. Then I took some pics of my car with the iPhone.

Soon my family arrived in the minivan and they all got to see a crash scene with Daddy’s car as the main attraction. I insisted on driving home, very cautiously.

Update 11/14: I was completely unhurt in the accident. Good going Dodge Neon! Insurance process complete, my car is totalled, the other driver was at fault, getting paid the pre-accident retail value of my car, which will pay it off and leave me with a couple thousand. Sigh. Now I have to find and buy a car. This is not what I want to be doing right now.

Nov 052008

Location: Apple iPhone Developer Tour, Chicago IL
Date: November 5th, 2008

Approaching the final stretch. After a day of nodding off annoyingly every five minutes or so, I just completed a thirty-minute break wherein I downed four giant sugar cookies ad two caustic bitter Starbucks coffees (WTF is wrong with people, don’t they realize this stuff is hardly more drinkable than gasoline?). The current session regards in-house development. Tools for devlopment and rollout of apps without the app store. Currently covering the OS stack. I’ve seen all this before on video. In fact most of this day is stuff covered on the developer videos I have been carrying around on my iPhone for the past five months.

I really wish my Jane would call. By now she and the kids should be home from work/school. I miss them all and want to tell them how much they mean to me. I feel I’m raising a defective self-loathing family even though each one of us is actually pretty extraordinary. Just need to realize it and act on it. Which is what today is about for me. I am here to pursue a new goal, iPhone app developer. This is a world-changing platform and it represents an incredible opportunity.

The presenter just asked “Does anybody know what this thing is in the upper right corner of the screen?”. I looked up from my notebook and immediately identified the DEVO Energy Dome and called it. Props given to me from one gentleman in my row. The rest of the audience is clueless and/or unimpressed.

I’ll show them! In 2009, I’ll show them all!

Oct 222008

It\'s Not Easy Being Green

It's Not Easy Being Green

Two weeks ago I signed up for the iPhone Tech Talk. The e-mail invite was oh so friendly, stating “Stay where you are. We’re coming to you!”. But of course what Apple means by “where you are” is “a big city on the East or West Coast (or Chicago)”. I am in none of those places, so I actually will have to travel to one of them to “stay where I are”. Or something like that. I went ahead and signed up for Chicago. After filling out the form I got a terse and kind of dickish response that said:

Dear Shorn,

Thank you for your interest in attending the iPhone Tech Talk being held in Chicago on 05 November 2008. Due to the high demand and limited space at each venue, please do not make your travel plans until you receive an email confirming your registration.

So don’t call us, we’ll call you.

And then, they didn’t call. For two weeks they didn’t call. I gave up waiting and assumed I’d been passed over as too unsexy for them. But then, this morning, happiness in my in-box!

Hello Shorn,

We are pleased to confirm your registration for the iPhone Tech Talk in Chicago on 05 November 2008.

But now the problem of getting to/from Chicago. Driving is 6+ hours each way. That would mean a hotel stay, which means at least $150 for a room, taking an additional vacation day, and 12 hours lost to driving. I like listening to podcasts in my car, but that’s just ridiculous. So I checked Orbitz and was suprised to find a non-stop round-trip same-day flight that works for about the same price as a hotel stay. And I ordered a Chicago Transit Authority day pass to get me to and from the airport, which will entail trains and busses.

So a long day all by my little self on various forms of public transportation in a city I’ve not spent any time in, and a 1-day seminar with Apple folk. I’m excited!

Update: Someone just reminded me that Nov 5th is the day after the election. Sheesh, I totally forgot! That should be a fun day to travel. I’ll either be giddy or homicidal. (Your choice, America)

Oct 092008

Hello Journal. It’s been about a week. So much going through my head I haven’t had time to sit and process it let alone put it down to bytes on a hard disk somewhere in Virginia, I think.

Of course the big thing is the financial markets melting down. Seems the bailout and everything else is just throwing fuel on the fire. As expected.

This could be just a few months of tightness then right back to the climb, or it could be like the Great Depression. If so maybe it’s all for the best. Because maybe the world needs a break from constant accelerating more-ness. Work more, do more, get more, have more, more of everything except time to enjoy being here.

Someone else said it better than me:

But take this comfort: to whom little is given, little may be expected. You won’t make much but you probably won’t have to take work home with you, and no one with be calling you at night from the job when the power grid goes down. When you lose your pre-Depression advantages, you will also lose the need to strive, to keep up, to run yourself ragged. You may find yourself cultivating pleasant, inexpensive hobbies, like writing, painting, or maintaining a pigeon coop. Your kids, deprived of constant day-care and supervision, may play in sandlots or in the streets, using bats made out of broom handles to hit spaldeens. You may even find yourself adjusting quite happily to a life with lower expectations.

You can read the rest here:
9 Ways You’ll Save in the New Depression

Oct 022008

A smalltown church and an even smallertown diner were the locations for our wedding ceremony and reception fifteen years ago today. An inauspicious start to what has been a steady and most perfect union.

I love you, Jane. We’re just getting started.