December 21, 2010, 1:49 pm - James Farrer
I'm not quite sure what happened but I think the weather forecasters mixed up the so called "Snowmaggedon" with the storm yesterday and today. We easily got a foot and a half of snow in the last 36 hours. Schools were closed and we spent several fulfilling hours shovelling and playing in the snow. My snow bank is officially taller than I am.
After we took this picture I added another 6 or 8 inches to the top.
Noah's Ark Comparison
December 20, 2010, 3:18 pm - James Farrer
A coworker showed me these comparisons. Very helpful for me.
Chopper in flight on Google Maps
December 11, 2010, 10:15 am - James Farrer
I ran across an article talking about an airplane graveyard and as I was looking around on Google Maps I came across this image. How cool is that? A Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion (as near as I could figure) in flight. I'd say it's a pretty good picture considering it was taken from space.
Click here to see it in Google Maps.
Nearby on the ground are retired F-4's, F-18's, F-14's, F-111's, B-1 Bombers, C-130's, H-53's, H-60's, and many others including a Lockheed D-21/M-21 auxilliary engine that was used on the SR-71 Blackbird for added get up and go. Pretty awesome!
Snowpocalypse (a.k.a. Snowmageddon)
November 23, 2010, 10:50 pm - James Farrer
The "worst blizzard in years" and my furnace decides not to blow hot air. Fortunately I've got a friend who knows someone that could walk us through some of the troubleshooting. Apparently it was just a tripped heat sensor that just needed to be reset.
Now what I'm still trying to figure out is how an "OK" light that goes "blink, blink, blink" means I need to reset a sensor? I'm glad it's smart enough to blink, but I wonder if it would really be that hard to take it a step further to have it diagnose with more than 4 "blink codes".
It's probably just me and my experience building and working with systems and their error codes. I am always amazed when I see a system that says "you've encountered an error." Generally speaking when I get an error, I'm aware of it. What caused the error, now that's the trick.
I've been working on some process automation at work. It's great to see things come together and really work nicely, but I think people get tired of me being the pessimist and always saying, "Ok, now what if that doesn't work..." I'm finding out that most people assume it will work and often don't even think about the what-ifs. That's all fine and dandy until we look at the data and see that 11% of a certain activity fail. Why? Well, the data is bad (after years of 11% not working), the intermediate system doesn't account for anything hiccuping while it's doing its thing so it never recovers from it. We're reworking the system and it will be better, but wow, how much do we pay for that system that doesn't work 1 in 10 times?
Now that I think about it, I probably wouldn't want one of those programmers making my furnace "smarter", because then I'd never know if it was really broken or if the system just didn't know that return code 10429283549 means it should reset a switch, cycle the power, do the hokey pokey, and try it all again.
Thank you soldiers!
November 11, 2010, 10:07 pm - James Farrer
I think about it often but don't take time nearly often enough to say, Thank You!!! To all those that have served in some way to help protect the freedoms we enjoy here in this country, thank you. I only hope that I can live up to the legacy that all of you have left behind. May God bless and watch over you!
Snow, Snow, Snow...
October 26, 2010, 9:45 pm - James Farrer
My freshman year I remember looking out my kitchen window and basically doing a dance and taking pictures when the first snow storm of the season hit. I looked forward to the snow because it meant that I could soon go skiing. Well, I still love to ski, but it's been many years since I've really been able to afford lift tickets. That coupled with the fact that I can't ride the motorcycle when it's snowing tends to make me sad when it starts snowing now.
It snowed today. Not enough to stick anywhere, but enough to blow around and make for some really dramatic scenes out the window as the snow enveloped parts of the mountains and valley. I do enjoy watching the way weather takes shape and moves through the area. The last couple days of rain clouds have made a lot of nice views of mountains with clouds swirling around and over them. The evenings have been especially scenic when the sun peaks through and lights bits of pieces of the clouds and mountains.
It is supposed to warm up a little with more sunshine for the next week or more so I have hope for riding the bike and enjoying a little more of fall.
What a night!
October 6, 2010, 8:54 pm - James Farrer
It's been quite a night. It started with some frustrating events at work, then came home to bits of food strewn across the house and a saw in the living room (a saw? Why would a kid want to play with a sharp jagged edge saw...). Next was Alex making a huge mess and deciding to hide his dinner under his leg. Then Will threw up. Alex walked down naked with a poopy diaper in hand and before I could start to clean him up I saw a large bee in the hallway. While chasing the bee William threw up again, this time all over himself and the kitchen floor. Squished bee, clean up poopy boy (I haven't seen the mess anywhere else so he may have miraculously kept it contained, or we'll find it later...), clean up the throw up and icky boy.
I finally have two of the three kids in bed and the third is too sick to move much. Let's hope things can continue to calm down.
Awesome example of technical possibilities
September 29, 2010, 11:47 am - James Farrer
The technology that is used on the web these days has come a long ways. There are always new pieces that are maturing and here is an example of one that really surprised me.
This works in the Chrome browser (no guarantees in other browsers): http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/
War and Peace
September 16, 2010, 9:53 pm - James Farrer
I don't know that this has much to do with the book of the same title I watched a show that made me think quite a bit about the contrast between war and peace and the attitudes that invite both. I like to watch a good sci-fi. If you ask me what I'm in the mood to watch, it's almost always a good sci-fi movie. Most of them tend to take place in the future because hey that's where the cool toys are and that's half the fun of watching a good sci-fi. There's a lot to that topic alone, but I've got something else on my mind. This last show I watched involved humans versus aliens. Us or them. It was a bit of a twist because it was primarily from the alien perspective. But through many of the sci-fi there is a theme to some degree of us or them. I've watched several recently and can think of many others that revolve around a concept of people warring almost to the point of extinction. Sometimes the end result is better than others. Many times it involves partially or completely destroying earth in it.
Maybe it's just me, but I don't think destroying earth would be good for anyone, but there seems to be enough conflict pent up in a lot of people's heads to point us to that conclusion. Even if it's not destroying earth, destroying the other civilizations. it doesn't really matter whose civilization as long as it's the other one right? Those that are different than us. Right? Humans vs. aliens, man vs. machine, us vs. them. While I still enjoy a good action/adventure/sci-fi, even if it revolves around those topics, it sure makes me wonder about where things are going. I suppose having the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has most of those answers. My wondering is mostly on the path from here to there. How bad will it get. When a natural disaster hits, it seems to bring out both the good and the bad in people. Some will start looting and grabbing all they can get while others will go far out of their way to help those that are suffering and in need. I want to have food storage for when a disaster strikes, but I feel that almost as important as the food storage are the guns to protect it and my family. Why is that?
I served a mission in the Baltics for two years. It was part of the former Soviet Union, the USSR, the CCCP. I remember watching on TV years earlier when the Cold War ended and when the Berlin wall came down. I have had many conversations since that time with people, mostly older, that still think of those evil Commies. I lived with them. I know them. I love them. Yes they speak a different language, yes they do things a little differently. But when all is said and done they're really not that different from us. So why did we have so many struggles for so long. Why did we live in a Cold War, on the brink of real war?
A little farther south we have soldiers fighting for freedom. It's freedom for the people there as much as for the people here. I can't count how many times I've heard a statement to the effect of "what's with those Muslims?" Well, having got to know several very well and having had some in depth discussions about their beliefs and ours, they are pretty nice folks. In many ways a lot nicer than we are. And a lot more righteous. Yes, there are people that have taken things too far and twisted the Muslim religion into something far different and worse than I'd like to think most people believe in. Unfortunately some of those more extreme people have taken over in places and are sending out a bad image. But if the people I have known are any sort of an indication of what the larger population is like, we have as much to fear of our biases and stereotypes of them as we do of the extremists that threaten us. When I see someone looking at another through stereotypical glasses, I feel sad for how blinded they have become.
I frequently feel like an anomaly. I think about things in ways that don't seem very common. I've found that somewhat beneficial as it has served me well, but I hope others can see the damage that some of the stereotypes are causing. Seeing people as those "others" that are different. It seems that those "others" are far more similar than they are different. So why do we have such a hard time seeing it? Why do so many people focus more on the negative differences that the positive similarities?
In one of my business classes in college we played a game. I don't remember the exact details, but it was something along these lines. Everyone starts out with a dollar in coins. Everyone contributes a portion into the middle for each round. Everyone must decide to leave it there or take it back. If everyone leaves that portion alone, then everyone gets an increase. However if most of the people choose to trust and leave their portion in the middle, but a few decide to take a portion back, the few that decide to take split what's in the middle for a greater benefit to them at the cost to those that trusted them to do what better for all. I'm not sure if that made sense or not, but basically if everyone cooperates and works together then things go good for everyone, otherwise it's pretty much a loss for almost everyone except for maybe a few people. Let's just say that I lost that dollar, lost a bit of my hope that people will do the right thing, and I remember feely quite angry about the whole event. While through the coarse of the game I only lost a dollar monetarily, I felt betrayed. People lied to try and get gain. There may be a few that walked away with a couple extra dollars, and even though there was a disclaimer at the beginning absolving people of all guilt for lying since it was "part of the game" I didn't feel like it made it any less wrong.
I'm often scared for how mean, biased, deceitful, and ignorant people are when dealing with the "others". But somewhere deep inside, I still believe that most people have a good heart inside and want what is best for all. I just wish more people would let that good heart show a little more often. After all, to someone else, aren't we the "other"?
Glacier Park trip log with pictures
August 26, 2010, 10:36 pm - James Farrer
Here's us all loaded up just before we left on Tuesday morning.
We then road to Rexburg via Bear Lake and Palisade Reservoir. There's more photos in the album. Wednesday we road up into Montana and past Flathead Lake, over 40 miles long of gorgeous hills and water.
This was one of the first views of Glacier National Park on the morning of the third day.
A ways further into Glacier Park. The road basically cut straight up the side of the mountain on the left side. Quite the engineering feat.
This is at Logan Pass, the highest point of our trip through Glacier.
East side of Glacier Park.
The east entrance to the park.
The last photo stop of the trip at the Canadian Border.
After that we put the rubber to the road and made it back to Rexburg around 10pm, for starting at 8am that was a good long day of riding with some of the most scenic parts of the ride. Going back through Montana had some very pretty areas, some great curvy roads, and in places, sustained ~50 mph crosswinds.
To Canada and Back
August 21, 2010, 1:34 pm - James Farrer
So I just got back last night from a 1731 mile motorcycle trip up to Glacier National Park and the Canadian border. It was a whirlwind trip to fit into 4 days but somehow we pulled it off and it was great.
Glacier park was very rugged, majestic, and beautiful. We also happened to show up on the 100th anniversary of it being made a park. I think the engineering feat of building a road into the side of the mountain to allow people access to the park is also quite an amazing thing to see. I'm just trying to figure out who in their right mind would think of building a road like that. Whoever it was, thank you for making the beauty more accessible.
We were also able to see Crystal and Zach, and Jason and Alana for a short while which was fun. I wish I could get up to see them a little more.
On a different note, Shauna started her new job today. She's getting trained and all that fun today. So far I haven't burned the house down and no one has been injured with Mom away. Let's hope it stays that way.
Fast bikes and freedom
May 22, 2010, 9:52 pm - James Farrer
So today we all loaded up in our van and headed up to Salt Lake where they have a new BMW motorcycle dealership that was celebrating its grand opening. They had the BMW demo bike truck there with the whole fleet of new bikes to ride. I took an R1200 RT (road touring) bike out. I was impressed with how good of a ride they took us on for it having an official leader with a chain of 6 or 8 bikes. Freeway, high speed curves, and some city side streets.
They also had one of the BMW sponsored stunt riders there and while he didn't ride for a super long time it was still amazing how well he could make the bike perform with wheelies, stoppies, skids, and general mayhem. He's really cool about waving at the kids and playing to the crowd.
They also gave out free stuff, and who doesn't like free stuff? Especially when it's BMW stuff because it's not cheap and it's nice stuff.
It was a long day but I think we all had fun.
80 and 18
May 17, 2010, 7:55 am - James Farrer
It is supposed to be 80 degrees today, who's excited? On a side note, $18 for a motorcycle to get into a state park is crazy. I felt significantly scandalized. I could have taken a bus in for the same price. All I wanted to do was see what was there and if it was worth coming back with the fam. All for a bunch of sand (dunes that is). At least the ride out there and back was nice.
Riding a bike
April 25, 2010, 9:18 pm - James Farrer
Abby figured out how to get started on her bike on her own tonight without traing wheels. It was really the first time she really went riding on her own without Shauna or I holding on. She's been awfully timid about learning but once she gets into it she starts doing better. It a little crazy to think she is old enough to be doing that. I think the thing that gets me about it is that I remember learning to ride. I don't have all that many memories of my childhood so this milestone is a big step.
Am I really old enough to have kids old enough to make some of the same memories that I had? It doesn't bother me really but it's interesting to reflect a little about it.
Conversation with a 5 year old
March 10, 2010, 8:36 pm - James Farrer
Here's basically how the conversation went this morning over breakfast:
Abby: Do you know what my favorite number is?
Abby (matter of factly): No, 28
Daddy: Why's that?
Abby: Because it's a really big number
I love my kids.
Complete Reorganization at Work
February 28, 2010, 6:20 pm - James Farrer
On Friday at work I had an interesting experience. The CIO sent out an email to all of the department saying the organization had essentially been dissolved and reorganized. So with no warning my office was split into three and I now have a new boss in a new group.
For the most part I believe I will be doing essentially the same thing that I am currently doing but there are some aspects of my job that I'm sure will change. All of management was essentially removed and they are in the process of putting it back together. They may or may not use some of the same management. Most of the upper management has been replaced. There have been some challenges and I think this is a much needed change but wow this is a crazy way to do it. I think people have been so comfortable for so long that this really is the best way to do things without starting to fire people. I have been moved to a new group completely and will be part of the Infrastructure Services department. My group will be responsible for a lot of the underlying technology like the network, phones, and virtualization (i.e. servers). We will also be responsible for the department tools. This has essentially been what I have been working on and so I expect to continue working in this area. It will be interesting to see how things come back together. Over the next week and a half they will be putting a management structure in place. Who knows what that will mean, but it's sure to make a lot of people nervous for a bit. :-) I'm not too concerned. I'm pretty easy going and I think I'll be fine no matter what happens. From what I have been told, my new boss (who used to be my boss's boss) worked pretty hard to get me as part of his organization. It's nice to know that even through a major reorg they appreciate my work.
President Monson Announces New Temple in Payson, Utah
January 26, 2010, 9:12 pm - James Farrer
We're getting a new temple. How cool is that!
Simplicity vs. Complexity
January 12, 2010, 8:33 pm - James Farrer
I've been pondering the question of where the balance between simplicity and complexity should lie. At work my team is building a new site using an existing tool from another company. We actually work on several different sites, most of which are very customized and significantly complex.
While I fully understand how nice it is to have something that does exactly what you need it do, I think about the huge number of hours that it took to get to that point and am almost dumbfounded. The other side of it is how much effort we have to go to in order to replace the functionality. Two of our systems are built using technology that is outside our range of expertise. While I don't necessarily have a problem expanding our horizons, it doesn't make much sense to support several websites in different technologies that do almost identical functionality in many ways. Each system has its own super-customized sections, but on the whole, it's generally the same.
So whether the functionality is the same or it really is, and needs to be, different I find the same question coming up again and again. When is exactly what we need too complex? When is keeping it simple just not close enough? I think in general we underestimate or simply don't consider the cost of getting closer to what we need.
The cost comes in a number of forms. There is often a straight forward cost to obtain something (e.g. buying some software that does what you need).
There is the cost of implementing it in man hours. This is often overlooked because the people will be working the same hours either way, but in this case it is really an opportunity cost. If we do activity A then we can't do activity B.
There's also the cost of managing the stuff. The more customized something is, it generally means there are more data points that need to be managed. For example, if you just track computers for checkouts, then you have one item that you need to assign out and check back in. That's good and simple. What about the mice, power adapter, extra disk drive, etc. that come with the computer? Should those be tracked as well? All of a sudden it's not a simple system anymore, there are 5+ items that may or may not be checked out together. These tend to get lost or broken more often so is there extra fees, fines, or other information. There's a lot more questions that need to be answered, and more information to maintain. How do you take inventory on those? What happens when there's a new peripheral? How about replacing them?
Another blurring of the cost comes when a relatively simple system is created and then over time things are added here and there. Additional functionality and rules are added. When taking into account the cost to create it things don't seem too bad. But often this is done with little thought given to the long term strategy.
If we add this now, we're done right? Wrong! 6 months or a year down the road someone realizes the process has changed and the system needs to be updated to accommodate it. That's going to cost twice as much as it took to create it in the beginning, and now we've got 18 new points to configure or update just to keep things running.
Now after a number of years of minor tweaks and changes you look back and realize you've got this great system that is getting brittle and really needs to be replaced with something that looks at the bigger picture and you realize it's much bigger and more complex than you want to deal with.
But the catch comes in the fact that no one wants to give up the functionality that they've grown so close to over time. Even if you want to redo it and make it all more manageable AND have the resources to do it, now you've got to figure out if you're going to cut back to simplify or expand to make it do exactly what you want. Keeping exactly the same functionality usually isn't a real possibility because it's a lot of money and effort to get exactly what you've got.
So there you have the constant tug-o-war of technology. Simple or complex and customized. At a conference a few years back for a seriously complex piece of software they repeatedly said to tell users "no" 3 times before considering any customizations because they better really want it and be able to justify it or it's probably not worth the effort.
It's the rare occasion when someone steps out of the box and finds a truly great way to simplify and make it better. We need more people to do that. Now the question is how...
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
January 10, 2010, 11:39 pm - James Farrer
So here's the news of the week. William has had an increasing fascination with trains. Over the Christmas break Shauna's dad had his train set going around the Christmas tree and we have had Shauna's train on display in our living room. After getting home from our Christmas travels we got the train layout out and put it up in our room. William has loved just sitting and watching it. He's spent hours with it. At the same time Shauna was trying to figure out how to potty train him so she decided to offer him a train if he could go potty on the toilet enough to fill up a potty chart. From that moment forward he has been working hard at it. It's not been totally without accident, but for the most part he's done a fantastic job. It's been cool to get a glimpse into what makes the kid tick. He's also become much more helpful at identifying what he needs. For example he'll come up to us and let us know when his nose is running with a "notty no Daddy, notty no" (i.e. snotty nose).
It's pretty cool to see him growing up so much.