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September 28, 2006

AutoComplete Text Input

Adobe's Flex Team has released their first component on the Flex Exchange. It is an AutoComplete Text Input. Cool stuff.

Tags: components flex2

September 19, 2006

Fonts in Flex 2

While working on a transition recently in Flex 2 I had some issues with button text not fading along with the rest of the components. Digging into the documentation I ran across this nugget of information:

The Dissolve, Fade, and Rotate effects only work with text rendered using an embedded font. If you apply these effects to a control that uses a system font, nothing happens to the text.

Maybe this is just known but it was a surprise to me. There are other helpful font tidbits on the Using embedded fonts with effects page.

Tags: flex2 fonts

September 12, 2006

Art Project Idea

I don't really have the time or more importantly the interest but I think you could do a really neat art project making a photo mosaic out of beer bottle caps.

Tags: art ideas

September 11, 2006

Pictures

I think I've caught up on a bunch of pictures that had been sitting on my camera. For your viewing pleasure: David and Karen's Wedding, Gilman Manor's Roof, Saying Goodbye to Matt, Bubbles, and Elissa's Apartment.

My camera acted up a bit so I didn't get a picture of Matt driving off or of Craig during the wedding. Yeah, I should get a new camera, but gosh darn it if my current one just mostly works... Also Elissa's room was just too messy to subject her to having a picture of it on the web.

Tags: gilmanmanor links photos

One last trip

I recently returned from what will be the last great road trip in my 350Z. My lease is almost up and I've decided, despite how much I love the car, that it's best that I hand the keys back in. Part of that is the fact that having leased it new had I really wanted to keep it long term it would have been much more financially sound to just take out a loan from the start to purchase it. I instead went in thinking that around this time, late 2006, I was going to be in a different point in my life and that was about the time to give up the Z.

The original plan hatched back around the turn of the century was that I'd be buying a house now and switching to a more practical and inexpensive car would make life easier on the finances. Turns out I was a year ahead on the house purchase, but the fact remains that the 350Z is an expensive car. Not to mention that all of my traffic transgressions have also occurred in the Z. Now part of that is probably just the fact that I was lucky to not have gotten caught in my Maxima, but I think part of it also an unconscious bias that a sports car emits.

By transgressions I mean a little speeding, and a misunderstanding due to lack of road signage (which I'm still bitter about since, mostly because I don't think I defended myself in traffic court very well). Nothing too serious, but I know in my mind that continuing to have such a car just increases the chances that I'll want to use and test the full potential of the car. Yes I know I should just auto cross with it or something like that, but I've always been a little paranoid doing that with a leased vehicle.

The fact that gas prices have gone up since getting the car and that the Z requires premium gas increases the cost of owning such a car. Typically around the city I get really poor mileage per gallon, something in the ballpark of 12-16. Since this road trip involved a drive down to Virginia I was curious to see how it faired on longer drives. These finally tallies were all computed with the in dash multifunction display so I can only assume that they are accurate. I don't have a final tally of how much gas I bought to cross check.

These figures include both city and highway driving. I'm sure the numbers would be even higher if I had only tracked the highway miles. Total distance driven: 1,345.3 miles. Total driving time: 25 hours 26 minutes. Miles per gallon: 27.5. Average speed 52 MPH. Before leaving I filled all of my tires to 45 PSI cold which with the warmer weather heading south and the running temperature increase had me rolling most of the time on 48-49 PSI. Almost doubling my city MPG is pretty nice. I will say that cruise control is a must for long highway drives.

I will also say that most drivers have no situational awareness on the highway. There is no reason to be hugging the far left lane when there are almost no other cars on the road. Riding in the middle lane is just as bad since people will end up passing on the right, which while legal in most places just adds to the mess. And forget about drivers having any concept of a safe following distance. Many times I had to shift into slower lanes and drop my speed to loose drivers that couldn't set their own pace and instead would ride less than half a second behind my bumper.

I sometimes think that it would be nice to rig up an LED on the back of my car in order to flash messages to the other drivers around me. Your left blinker is on and you are in the far left lane. Please don't follow so close, it isn't safe if I need to stop quickly and I can stop very quickly. Traveling in the blind spot behind a tractor trailer is just asking for problems.

Tags: 350z life

Urban Tribes

It isn't often that I read a book that I find truly speaks to me. Some books are engaging in that I find the material of interest while other books are written well and I find myself wanting to see what happens next. For a book to really speak to me it has to be something different. After reading an article in a magazine I went to buy Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters. At the same time I ended up picking up What should I do with my life? by Po Bronson, since it was mentioned on the back of Watter's book. I hoped Bronson's book would speak to me. It didn't.

Urban Tribes ended up sitting on my bookshelf for months with other books I had hoped to read or thought I was going to read. While packing for my drive to Virginia to attend Dave Fried's wedding I was trying to decide what I should bring along to read. I picked up Urban Tribes as it seemed about the right length and attending yet another wedding this year made it seem that much more relevant. Turns out it was and it really spoke to me.

The idea of the urban tribe, and let me say right now I'm badly paraphrasing most of the rest of this, is a group of never-married friends, having a high clustering coefficient, that are experiencing and sharing life together. My generation (and I use that term loosely since I don't have a better one) has chosen to delay marriage long past the point that our parents did. While politicians bemoan this breakdown of traditional family values, my generation has chosen to create their own values one of which is to question the traditional trajectory of marriage.

Courtship is all but dead. Parents may still try to set us up, but the role that they play in helping us find our marriage partner has all but gone away. My generation also looks at our parents and sees the coin-flip chances that a marriage will last and wonders is there a way to improve our chances. The book argues that the urban tribe has changed the middle years between leaving our parent's house and starting married life, for the better.

The urban tribe provides a support structure like a traditional family, friends to help you when you are feeling down, friends to help you celebrate the good times, friends to lend a hand with projects, and friends just to hang out with. The difference between a standard group of friends and an urban tribe is that high clustering coefficient, everyone in the tribe is friends with everyone else in the core cluster. Some of the friendships maybe deeper than other, but it is almost always a fully connected cluster.

Since the tribe is so close, it offers an arena of safety to help one grow and become a better person. You can do stupid stuff and the tribe will be there to help fix things. You can use them as a sounding board for ideas and the tribe will tell you when you are being silly, stupid, or dumb. The tribe knows what you are capable of and will help steer you towards that better self. Instead of experiencing that discovery within the contexts of traditional relationships, which carry much more emotional turmoil, the tribe helps you improve in a more relaxed setting.

Not all is golden with urban tribes though. Since the group is a central part of your life it is hard to break free. The urban tribe doesn't want its members to leave and as such the group can almost sabotage those that try to. What is important to keep in mind is that the nature of the relationship must change at some point. Just like moving our of your parent's house, you need to move out of your tribe to take the next step in your life which in this context is usually marriage.

I've feel I've done a poor job of summarizing what the book tried to express. Unlike many books I read, I didn't jot down notes while reading this one so I'm relying more on my memory than quotes from the book. In any case I highly recommend this book to my fellow never-marrieds that find themselves living life with the same core group of people. Yes there are other people like that out there and yes it is going to be okay.

What I haven't mentioned is why this book spoke to me. I feel for the past few years I've been living in such an urban tribe (primarily with the people that read this blog). Not one that fits all of the themes I mentioned above, but our own home brewed combination that like most social concepts has many variations. Coworkers would look at me funny when I talked about having regular sit down dinners with my roommates (the closest members of my urban tribe) or the fact that we had a regular schedule for grocery shopping together. I wondered what the difference was, why it worked for us, and if we were the only ones.

Going to my high school reunion last year really brought home the stark difference my life had taken from many friends I had during high school. Most were married, all but married, or already having kids. There I was the same age and general background, but not even close to tyeing the knot. Yes I'd been in a serious relationship and dated a bunch, but obviously didn't end up married. A recent question from a friend about what I wanted my wedding to be like left me stumped having never really thought about it. I was still experiencing life, finding myself, enjoying my friends company, and lost in random hobbies.

I'm not against getting married. It has just been a combination of not finding my soul mate and still trying to define myself that has defined my personal marriage time line. I'm sure that vibe of not completely knowing myself has showed through in many a situation that otherwise might have been the start of something serious. As such I agree with the author that "Single people tend to see themselves as a failure in the marriage game until they found themselves in a relationship headed for the alter. They perceived little gray area in their love lives - things were either going great or badly." I find hope in the fact that there are others out there like me and that our time for love will come.

Tags: books gilmanmanor life

A Confederacy of Dunces

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole was an entertaining book for reasons different from most fiction I read. The writing in the book is superb and was the primary reason that I kept reading it. Unlike most fiction books where the draw to keep reading is that I've found a character I relate to or a character I empathize with, in this book I hated them all. If ever there was a text book example of victim mentality, the characters in this book fit it to a tee. The dichotomy of loving to hate the characters doesn't remind me of any other books I've read lately which helps it stand out. I'm not sure what I else I can say without getting caught up in all of the storyline, so I'll keep it short. Great book worth the read.

Tags: books

September 6, 2006

Template Method

I lead the discussion at tonight's BFPUG Pattern Meeting on the topic of the Template Method. For the discussion I put together some overview and simple examples. You can find the Flex 2 project, source, and raw Eclipse files all online.

Tags: bfpug flex pattern

September 5, 2006

A Random Number

A Random Number

Tags: fun links

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