Just in case anyone was interested what I have been up to these days. First and foremost I have been busy with a few career moves. I am stable there so that has given me a chance to clean up some projects I had been working on for the past few years ...
About a year ago I started it all back up, used it as an excuse to learn about JQuery and decided to make a page that is more "real time". The result is Weather Scout. I have made numerous enhancements to the logic that detects hail sizes and wind speeds. The result looks something like this:
I wanted to take a quick moment to apologize to my few readers. I will resume blogging sooner or later. My life is going through a difficult transition right now. I would prefer not to reveal all that is going on except that it is challenging me in ways I would have never expected.
Its not as bad as what we went through in March but it is scary still.
My younger brother lives in Anchorage. Prayers would be appreciated... I am linking to the Twitter feed of the Alaska Volcano Observatory. You will not get any more up to date than this (at least within a minute or two) ...
The eye of this storm looks, officially, like it is going to miss us to the west although slight variations to the right of path (certainly possible) could put the eye close to our home. Still we are in for a mess. We can see the outflow eerily creeping over our house right now. Tropical storm force winds are all but expected with gusts to hurricane strength. Also, there have been numerous comparisons to Hurricane Betsy which left part of New Orleans under water and resulted in strong hurricane force winds in the Baton Rouge area (thats me). Anyway, we are not close to a surge prone area so water isn't a problem. Straight line winds and tornadoes are for us. Prayers would be greatly appreciated.
My wife and I have been recently discussing the movie Brazil. Its time to watch it again. Especially after my wife went through this:
So the other day at William's lunch break we drove downtown in the van with the kids so I could pay a traffic ticket. The ticket said I could mail it or pay in person at the Governmental Office Building (read: Ministry of Information) on St Louis Street. I was going to mail it, but I called and they said I had missed the two weeks advance date to mail it in.
I have never been in this building, but I have seen politicians coming out of it before surrounded by news people. We locate the building which, like all old Baton Rouge buildings, is done in Art Deco. and I go in and go up to the 2nd floor which is all my traffic ticket says to do. The building seems quiet and empty. I also notice that on the back of the ticket there's a little square that says "Rm 1097". Couldn't figure out what that was for.
I go up the musty old elevator and step out onto the 2nd floor. To one side is a glass wall behind which there are endless magazine boxes lined up on shelves. It is the registrar of voters. To the other side there is another glass wall which says Sherriff's something or other. That's gotta be the one, so I go in. It's lit with florescent lights and there seem to be papers absolutely everywhere. Stacks and stacks. And people on phones and doing stuff with the paper. This was all behind a very long counter. There must've been 40 or 50 people in this room working. I don't remember seeing a single computer, but I want to say there at least some tr-80s.
I began to notice signs on the counter amongst all the papers. Some referred to traffic tickets. I stared at all this for a while and then figured out that traffic tickets were to be paid at the end of the counter. I looked aaaaallll the way down, and sure enough there was a slightly higher counter with an enormous sign in red letters stating 'ALL TRAFFIC TICKETS TO BE PAID HERE". Below the sign there sat a black woman with an elaborate hairstyle talking on the phone.
When I approached and set my bag down at the edge of the counter behind a foot and a half of stacked paper, she hung up the phone and sighed deeply with eyes half open. As I was getting out my ticket and the wallet I said "I need to pay a traffic ticket." She said half asleep that I needed to go up to room 1012 and get the paperwork and fill it out and then come back down and pay the ticket. So I repack my purse and head up the elevator.
On the 10th floor, there is a closed cafe behind a glass wall, lots of tables and chairs, and not much else. I was confused. Then I noticed that there were well hidden doors amongst all the brown paneling. The numbers were all out of order. There was 1001 next to 1027, and a hallway which said it had a traffic court in it somewhere. Finally I noticed a sign on door 1001 which said several other rooms were in it, like 1097 and 1012. Ah ha. I went in and found myself in a smaller browner hallway.
A man rushed past me from the door I had just entered with a wheeled cart full of envelopes and files. He stopped and began fiddling with the files. Next to me there was a hallway directing me to 1012. In the wall of this hallway there was a window-like opening. It said traffic tickets above it. This was it! So I walked up to the window. There was a low desk immediately on the other side there were paper taped up all over the place. The whole room, which didn't appear to be very large, but continued on to the right beyond the view of the window, was lined with tall metal filing cabinets. There were also files all over the floor and sitting atop the cabinets.
Another black woman with an elaborate hairstyle sat at the low desk and looked up at me. I said "I need to pay a traffic ticket." She said, "I need the ticket, please." I handed her the ticket and she wandered off to the right amongst all the filing cabinets. I waited a while, and she reappeared having made a copy of the ticket. She kept the copy of the ticket and the ticket and wrote some stuff on the copy. She handed me two sets of carbon copied legal size forms. They were already filled out. She said I was to bring these downstairs and pay my ticket and then bring the yellow copies back up and put them in the box at the counter in the window.
So back down I went with my papers. I stepped into the elevator, and there was a man with crazy looking gray hair wearing a rumpled suit facing into the corner of the elevator and mumbling occasionally into his cell phone. He got out at the 6th floor. I peered out onto the 6th floor. It had a long maze of ropes for waiting in line and signs saying "Information" and "wait here". I have no idea what the 6th floor was for.
I paid my ticket and started back up to the 10th floor. At the 6th floor, the rumpled man got back in again, this time facing out from his corner. He had a file and was shuffling around in it. At the 10th floor, I got out and quickly rushed in and dropped my yellow copies into the box, even though someone else was now standing at the window. I was a little afraid I'd be told to wait in line to do this, so having done it, I rushed back out and down. I got to keep the pink copies. I used them to write a grocery list on. And for entertainment in the car on the way back to William's office. The cost of the ticket was broken down into about 14 different categories of $2-$5 each. Each category was labeled with a code of letters and numbers referring to some fund or legal code.
So Brazil really exists. It's art deco and it's called the Governmental Office Building. I found myself praying for these people and wondering if God cared about government.
When in doubt mail in your fines rather than pay them in person.
OK, I have decided that the major party candidates are not pulling their weight for me. So I realized that the perfect candidate for me is Sam the Eagle. He is all about morally upstanding behavior and America. Well, hes mostly about America.
What better candidate could there be? No rhetoric. Just whats best for America ... a moral America.
As a result of this coding I did the following ...
1. Created RSS feeds for Severe Weather Warnings, Tornado Warnings and Flash Flood warnings (ideally) ... It is a very streamlined feed. It indicates the place, when it expires and offers a link to the College of DuPage severe weather pages. I am essentially scraping the NWS active warnings pages.
Technically it will do others but those wont link to the College of DuPage stuff. I can add the warning text in the near future. I have it stored in a variable. I am just not using it. I wanted streamlined. Initially the title was really long like
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR (list of locations) UNTIL (date and time) ...
Well, I found out there is a 100 character limit on titles. Thats a bummer but the text you get is enough although it lists only the FIRST location in the warning. There is an option to list the warning multiple times for each location.
2. I added the RSS feeds to my sidebar so I could know when warnings are ongoing. That resulted in another problem. The code I was using to create my sidebar caches the RSS data for ONE HOUR. Thats kind of problematic with storm warnings. FYI, DO NOT USE THE WARNINGS ON MY SIDEBAR FOR MAKING DECISIONS. HEAD TO THE NWS WEB SITE.
3. Anyway, to solve the problem, I downloaded the code (Feed2JS) that I was using and made a slight modification so it would cache for 60 seconds instead of 3600 seconds. I tested that with my Facebook status up at the top and it worked like a charm. So ...
You may also notice that I added the current conditions for the city I live in. I am a little irritated at the lag time (seems 40 minutes is common) but it is good enough for now.
Well, boring to you yes ... but I had fun!
UPDATE: I added some interesting CSS code and created SOME output for the warning text, specifically for TORNADO WARNINGs.
I added blocks that come out looking like this (the tbody is added by the Feed2JS processing ....
"tortst" is an example of a class that I can use to specify the images I want to display when certain items are encountered in the text. Right now I have four classes and a fifth class for the warning text.
The odd 12px padding for the "warntext" class was to resolve the problem of me wanting only to see the background image instead of the text. 0px + a 12px padding all around gives me a 24x24 box regardless of the text. The test block is always passed back. It is helpful in debugging especially when warnings are sparse.
Obviously the goal of all of this is to summarize warnings to make it easier for me to decide which ones to focus on if I am following them on radar.
I will tentatively be speaking at my parish on Aug 21 on the topic of marriage. -- I haven't figured out what I am going to title it. The sacramental teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage was one of the most powerful teachings in the process of my conversion. As Sheed and Ward said in their Catholic Evidence Training Outlines "marriage is, undoubtedly, the ordinary means of salvation for the ordinary run of men." There is no statement about marriage of which I am more convinced that isn't already affirmed by the Church. I think it is an important topic and I pray, by the grace of God, that I can do it justice. My goal is to present this in the style of what has recently been termed "affirmative orthodoxy". This style is very much used by Pope Benedict XVI and I think it goes a long way towards getting people to see the reasoning behind why the Church teaches what it does. To quote the Pope:
Christianity, Catholicism, isn't a collection of prohibitions: it's a positive option. It's very important that we look at it again because this idea has almost completely disappeared today. We've heard so much about what is not allowed that now it's time to say: we have a positive idea to offer, that man and woman are made for each other, that the scale of sexuality, eros, agape, indicates the level of love and it's in this way that marriage develops, first of all, as a joyful and blessing-filled encounter between a man and a woman, and then the family, that guarantees continuity among generations and through which generations are reconciled to each other and even cultures can meet. So, firstly it's important to stress what we want. Secondly, we can also see why we don't want something. I believe we need to see and reflect on the fact that it's not a Catholic invention that man and woman are made for each other, so that humanity can go on living: all cultures know this. .... all this is clearer if you say it first in a positive way. -- 2006 interview with German journalists ahead of his trip to Bavaria ... recorded by the German radio outlet Deutsche Welle:
Well -- really -- my employer got me an iPhone ...
All in all I like it ...
Intuitive and clean interface Does most things I want it to do. It makes calls. It plays mp3s. I can check Gmail on it. I can read Google Reader on it. Seems stable (at least with a weeks "compliant" use -- see unlocking below)
If you are dialing up a number that is going to require you to enter a number afterwards (like an extension) you have to click the numberpad button AFTER dialing to get back there ... Doesn't have a Flash plugin.
It won't allow you to install third party apps without "unlocking" it. This doesn't bother me that much. I am not planning on using a device that size in place of my laptop. It also has a built-in camera which I would be tempted to slam except that I used it to take 130+ pictures of a family visit to Afton Villa in St. Francisville. We forgot our regular digital camera. The photos are not great but they captured some moments that would have been lost otherwise.
I have managed to work around some of the clunky cons for my purposes (streaming audio, instant messaging) ... Meebo.com handles the instant messaging flawlessly. Orb.com allows me to stream content from a Windows machine which allows me to listen to my Yahoo Music content remotely. Its KIND of slow so I am not thrilled with the solution but one can say it DOES work. It sometimes misses small blocks of the songs. I may try the Orb 1.0 interface and see if that resolves the issue. I have heard people have had problems with 2.0. -- I know using a Windows middleman is not a true Mac die hard solution BUT I am not a Mac die hard. I am a realist that needs to use the iPhone.
Jott + Google Calendar + any phone - I am using this as my primary calendar because its real time. I do not have to sync my phone to keep it up to date. I make a phone call to Jott
Jott: "Who do you want to Jott?" Me: "Google Calendar" Jott: "Google Calendar. Is that correct?" Me: "Yes" Jott: (beep) Me: "Call St. Francisville Chamber of Commerce at 9:30 am Wednesday"
Within three minutes it is on my schedule and usually spelled right (the example above is real). No sync required. In fact, I have removed all appointments on the Calendar application on the phone itself. I simply don't like it. Google Calendar has every option I need. I can sync with Outlook now using Google Calendar Sync.
My brother Joe came to visit this weekend which was a good reason for my family to get together. It was good to see him. It was also good to see the rest of my family including my nephews and neice. I found out one of my nephews wife is expecting as well. News is exciting in our family!
As an aside, have you ever wondered why we have a gender neutral reference to brothers and sisters (siblings) but not for nieces and nephews? ... neichews? ... And what about a gender specific designator for cousin? Gotta love English.
My brother and his girlfriend also came by today and gave all four of my children shirts from Alaska. I think my kids would freak out in a place that cold! I made sure to introduce my brother to my latest time wasting diversion, Slacker.com. I even got him to help me put together a station of things he likes.
We will homeschool next year
In our family news I want to note that we have DECIDED to homeschool next school year. We have enrolled Benjamin with St. Thomas Aquinas Academy because we like the classical curriculum and we really want to ensure we are doing justice to our child by educating him at home. Thus I personally like someone external to us being in on the whole process (besides the local homeschooling group). For those concerned about our decision to homeschool I have taken great care to enumerate our reasons and the known negatives of homeschooling. We are not making this decision rashly.
For my family members reading this on Facebook ... Tell your parents to get on Facebook or they risk aging faster. Also Keep in touch will ya!
We had a few milestones in the past few weeks. Our youngest made his first birthday. Today I have updated it with pictures from our middle sons first soccer game. He is on the same team as his older brother.
If you are a friend of mine on Facebook (or if you are reading this on Facebook) you can see pictures of all of this.
We are also buying a new washer. I have a LONG post on that front which I will post in the next day or two.
Its actually painful that this was a good game. When your team loses and it was a blowout, its easier to deal with. Long battles that are settled in the final moments are painful because it could have gone either way ...
Fans are allowed a certain short time frame to mourn a loss. I don't know how long that is. I am not seething with rage but I am sort of down I admit. I wish I could say that I enjoyed the game that so many people are saying was the best one they had seen. If it had been any team other than New England or New Orleans, I could have enjoyed it from that perspective. It would have been better only for Giants fans ...
That said, I STILL enjoyed the excitement Peyton Manning showed during the game. Eli sure picked the right time to have a coming out party. That play where he escaped the sack and hit the first down (amazing catch as well) is a career defining play. I know its one I won't forget. It put a dagger through my heart because I deep down knew they had that extra intangible that makes champions.
I'll make this analysis easy ... fortunately the local news did all of the work for me.
The Super Bowl is set, and the matchup features plenty of Bayou State talent. The New York Giants and the New England Patriots boast nine players with Louisiana ties in the big game ...(source)
What the local news did not do is perform the hard hitting analysis that will reveal why you should be rooting for New England on Sunday. That is what I am for. First off the MSM neglected to let you in on a little secret. New England owns the sheer number count 5 to 4 over the Giants in this Super Bowl. Below is your list showing even more why everyone in Louisiana (especially those who love LSU) should be rooting for the New England Patriots ...
The kids attended their first ever Mardi Gras parade in Denham Springs. It was a great family friendly atmosphere and I plan to go yearly from now on. Honestly, it was my first parade since middle school (not counting the Catholic school parade last year) ... That would make something like 20+ years for those counting. The only problem was that loud sirens and the ears of young children do not mix well.
My house is currently covered in beads ... its a very colorful and festive place. We will enjoy the moment.
My kids are already asking when the next parade is .... This will be fun!
This sort of happened to my LCD yesterday except it wasn't a Wii. It was a wooden sword. It was painful but do laugh anyway. Part of me thinks it was a blessing from God. I have ranted on overuse of TV in the past. Enjoy ...
Argh!!! The Saints lost ... that makes the NFC totally irrelevant to me now. I guess that puts me full time rooting for the Patriots in the post season. Yes I am a Patriots fan. Have been since the 1985 season and even moreso the short few games of Tommy Hodson at the helm in the early 90's.
I am somewhat of an anomaly around here in the land of LSU. I MUCH prefer pro football to college ball. Don't get me wrong, I am going to root for the local team. My wife graduated from there. My family has long ties to the university. I feel somewhat compelled to care because of my upbringing but in reality I don't really care that much. I like Les Miles if that's worth anything. I know that I will watch the national title game. Still, it won't be the same for me ... not like it was when I was a kid. Not like it was when Adam Vinatieri sailed that kick through the uprights for the first Super Bowl win for the New England Patriots in SB XXXVI.
The NFL doesn't suffer from the same dishonesty that NCAA ball, especially the Bowl Division, suffers from. Every year you have grades scandals, boosters caught dropping six figure bundles in the hands of high school coaches and recruits. Of course that never seems to happen at my friends favorite schools, or if it does then it was a teacher with an axe to grind or some other excuse. Everyone knows it goes on and nobody really cares to do much about it. We are talking institutions of higher learning. That is what they are supposed to be right? Now are there problems with the NFL? Certainly, but not to the point that it affects the game. In the highest level of NCAA football 90% of the teams have no legitimate shot at a national title before the season starts and well over 50% don't even have a mathematical shot at a national title each season. You can complain that Hawaii didn't belong on the field with Georgia but the fact is they cannot belong because every recruit knows Hawaii will never play for a national championship. Kind of hurts recruiting you know ... and the system is such that Hawaii CANNOT improve short of being elected to the club.
In the NFL every team has a shot. This isn't just in theory. This is reality. The rags to riches stories in the past few seasons bear testimony to that fact. New England is good. The Saints made the NFC championship game. Tampa Bay even won a Super Bowl. There is a real playoff that decides the winner on the field and there is no shifty underground trying to pay players that you are not supposed to pay. Everyone knows they get paid and that they get paid a whole lot. I think the whole above board nature of it creates a stunningly good brand of football. The cap system has evened the playing field and even though people lamented that this would destroy the dynasties that draw people to the game it has not. In fact, it has created one of the best dynasties that I can recall in the NFL ever. To me, the NFL is in its prime. College football is past its prime and the patchwork BCS is all the evidence I need of that. It was much more interesting to me as a kid. College football would do better to move to a playoff or move back to the days of major bowls with conference tie-ins. Just quit pretending you are crowning a legitimate national champion. I know it looks nice on bumper stickers and hats but the NCAA doesn't recognize it. I wish more fans would do the same.
College ball ... no thanks. I will support my non-BCS alma mater. I will even attend a game or two BECAUSE its my alma mater (after all, its supposed to be about education right?). For the rest of it, I'd rather catch the superior play and FAR superior modern-day competitive system of the NFL. I just wish the NFL would start a minor league system in the spring and start taking kids like MLB and the NBA do. I think it would do everyone a whole world of good including the big money universities AND the young kids trying to make it to the NFL.
P.S. My fantasy team finished 5th, which is about where I hovered in the standings all season ... yuck!
There is a neat RSS application that allows you to add a feed into your Facebook profile. Naturally, most of this stuff is severely dated. Now all I have to do is categorize it as "Personal and Family" and it will show up on my profile. I like Facebook so much more than MySpace.
In the near future I am going to write a criticism of the Tyranny of Perfectionism OR the Lifestyle Choices as Dogma crowd.
The short version of it is that we have chosen to put our kids in school for the remainder of the year. As it is, there are actually good reasons not to homeschool. If you scroll down a few posts you can see that this was likely a difficult decision for us. It was.
Nevertheless, we have made the right choice for our family.
To some we are failures. For those who hold that opinion, in the immortal words of Johnny Bravo
The talk went really well. I was excited to hear the stories of other converts. Quite frankly I could do this every week. It is such a blessing to hear of people having gone through the same struggles that my wife and I went through and feeling the same highs and same lows. It was good to hear that everyone struggles through similar logical processes and fights against their conversion at the end. I think few people realize what converts give up. They often convert to Catholicism DESPITE their emotional call to remain Protestant. Trust me, if I had stayed where I wanted to it would have been miles easier but I would have been denying where Christ was leading me.
My notes were 1700 words which alone would have extended beyond my 12.5 minute time limit. I had to leave out large portions of it to hit my alloted time. Beyond the 1700 words I had typed up answers to questions I thought I might be asked. I was asked one question I expected. The question was:
How do you explain the priest scandal and did if affect you during your conversion? The answer to the second part was yes and to the first ... well ... read my conversion story over on the right. :) Something about the people in the pew next to me.
I will be sitting on a "Journey Home" panel at my church this week. I will give a 10 minute summary of my conversion story along with 5 others. Then we will open the floor for an hour for questions.
Thursday 7-9 pm
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary 865 Hatchell Lane Denham Springs, Louisiana 70726
If you are interested stop by and check it out and don't ask me anything too hard. Its been a rough past week. :) Also if you come you may want to ask about our adult education classes. They really are fantastic.
Odds and ends
I have less excuses about posting this week.
We started homeschooling for the first time last week. It had ups and downs ... mostly ups.
My fantasy football draft was a disappointment despite the fact that I actually put effort into my cheatsheets this year. This is the first year I did not buy any magazines. I think I have figured those out by now. Anyway ... Here are my starters
QB - Drew Brees RB - Frank Gore RB - Willis McGahee WR - Larry Fitzgerald WR - Plaxico Burress WR - Laveranues Coles TE - Vernon Davis K - Josh Scobee DEF - Jacksonville
Keep in mind this was a 10 team draft. I realized late that my strategy works best in 12 team leagues. There are too many good players left on waivers for me to have worried about my late draft picks like I typically do. I figure the first rounds are almost expected these days. Most people come to drafts prepared and even if they let the computer draft they are not making rotten picks. I have won so many leagues with my late picks.
Seven people did not show up and the computer started drafting defenses and kickers in the 4th round so while I am not uber happy with my team I realize I have a shot because most people did not pick their players. Chicago defense and Robbie Gould went early in our draft. We will see. Some of my later picks show a bias towards Jacksonville and Baltimore because I expect improvement in their offenses. Those will be my favorite two non-Saints teams this season.
My nephew (as a pedestrian) was hit by a truck on Thursday this past week.
He broke his right collar bone, left forearm (both bones) and right leg (both bones). They performed surgeries on his arm and leg to set the bones. They still have to do another surgery on his leg to put a plate and a screw.
He is back at home right now in recovery. We offer a high "thanks be to God" that he is alive and well and I ask all within visibility of this blog to pray with our family for a speedy recovery.
This is a "fresh" blogroll. It tends to list blogs most frequently updated at the top. It will also drop blogs not updated for a few days. Never fear though, if you post, it will show back up. If you are interested in how I did it see this post.