stats and comments are awesome

Two summers ago, I lost everything. One day in July, the day I began my new job, someone pulled the plug. My web host went under without any notice or word. I was hosed. I had no backup of anything on my web server. It was gone.

Luckily, after a few days of waiting, the host decided to flip on the switch for one week, enough time for us to download everything we were hosting. Talk about wiping the sweat off of my face…

After a quick and fierce search online, I decided to shack up with Dreamhost. It’s been a love/hate relationship since then but mostly I’m satisfied.

I’ve only had two lingering things bothering me since I made the switch. I missed my awesome statistics software and my comments have been kinda screwed up. Well, I’ve mostly fixed those problems and now must optimize and customize what I have fixed to work great. So, please feel free to register and leave comments. It’s very easy and it’s spam free! The best part about my comment integration is the amazing functionality that it allows with my bulletin board. I will hopefully get around to more customization since I have time on my hands that I didn’t before.

These changes are two years in the making. You don’t even know how relieved I am right now.

breakfast

Eating breakfast at Meemaw’s house was such a welcome change from eating breakfast at home. During my annual week long visits to her house, I was almost always assured a nutritious, delicious two-course breakfast that consisted of fruit and fiber.

At around 8:30, if I hadn’t woken up yet she would usually come around and wake me to say that she’s preparing breakfast. After taking a few moments to realize that I’m awake, I would slowly make my crawl to the kitchen bar, where I sat watching her prepare a half cantaloupe for me.

While I sat at the bar enjoying my sweet cantaloupe, she would be sitting on her stool, drinking her morning cup of coffee and reading the newspaper at the end of the kitchen counter. As my cantaloupe’s mass steadily decreased, she would begin the second course of breakfast.

Most of the time, my second course was what I wish every breakfast was like. We’d usually go to the grocery store and buy a box of blueberry waffles not too long after she picked me up from the airport. The two minute toasting of these waffles produced a heartwarming aroma that always made my mouth water. Blueberry waffles was probably one of my favorite meals growing up because it consisted of the best of food: fruit, bread and sugar. The perfect consistency and combination of blueberry waffles was a great way to start my day.

There were, however, those breakfasts where she was out of waffles. In this case, my second course was usually a bowl of high fiber cereal like All-Bran or Fiber One, different than most of the cereals I ate at home. I was used to Cheerios, Frosted Mini Wheats, Raisin Bran, or maybe Life on occasion. Those high fiber cereals Meemaw served were usually not too bad of a difference since there was usually *some* flavor.

Over the years, breakfast diminished in value. During my stay on campus my first year and a half of college, my cereal habits would vary depending on what the cafeteria had available. I moved back home for my spring semester of sophomore year and my breakfasts quickly became less important: breakfast bars or the occasional eggs and bacon that my dad would cook. I didn’t like cereal anymore and would never eat it.

As college continued and I ate more breakfast bars, I got sick of those, too. There was, however, one breakfast food I occasionally ate and never got tired of eating. Oatmeal is the wonder food when it comes to nutrition. You can make oatmeal however you want, varying the ways it can be served. My last year or two of college began my love for the oatmeal breakfast.

Since then, oatmeal has been my instant breakfast of choice. I moved so many times that it was just the easiest and quickest meal for me to prepare no matter where I was. Because eating fruit is a past time favorite, I usually buy fresh or dried fruit to serve with my oatmeal. Not only is it good, it’s a great way to start the day.

Just this morning, I ate a half cantaloupe. I can’t help but think of those times my grandmother served me breakfast anytime I eat a cantaloupe. They’re still very tasty, but it’ll never be the same.

20 years of Astros baseball

When I think of the Astros, I think of only a few from my time:

Nolan Ryan
Mike Scott
Ken Caminiti
Billy Wagner
Shane Reynolds
Mike Hampton
Daryl Kyle
Lance Berkman
Jeff Bagwell
and Craig Biggio

Biggio is one of the best players to ever wear a baseball uniform and the best Astros player in its history. He’s a legend and an guaranteed inductee into the Hall of Fame. I’m glad I was able to see him in action.

Thanks for all the game winning home runs.
Thanks for being a huge part of the Killer Bs.
Thanks for your consistency and hard work.
Thanks for stepping up to the plate, even though so many of them were hits by pitches.
Thanks for being a life long Astro.
Good luck to you.

the frenzy, the mania

I took a long round-trip road trip from Boston to Houston during Christmas break of 2001. I flew to Boston from Denver to spend my vacation in the northeast, but our goal was to attend the New Year’s Eve celebration at Times Square. This trip, however, marked another occasion.

One evening, as we were sitting around with nothing to do, I decided that I wanted to stop being bored. Russell was watching Friends and I needed to find something else to keep me busy. We were downstairs where there was a library of all kinds of books, enough to keep me busy for months and probably years. There was one set of books that caught my attention.

By that time, I had heard about this book through others or from the media. It was obvious this was a children’s book about wizardry and similar fantasy stories, but it must appeal to all ages if her parents owned hard back copies of the book. So picking between reading a book and watching TV, I picked reading a book. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I only had time to read a chapter or two, but it was enough make me want more.

Our trip continued on to America Jr. where we stayed with a friend in Toronto. And it was there that I once again made it to another bookstore. The Canadian equivalent of Barnes and Nobles is called Chapters, and my first and only destination was to find Harry Potter. This time, however, the book was titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I liked that title better than the Americanized version.

I reread the first couple of chapters and continued on a few more. It was then that I was hooked. If I was in elementary school, I would have loved to be Harry Potter and would be that kid waiting in line for the next new book. So I bought the British version of the book.

Upon my trip home to Denver, I knew that the new Harry Potter movie out in the theatres so I spent a lot of time with my book, determined to read the whole thing before I went to see the movie. That was probably the first movie I had ever preceded with the book version but it was worth it. So, in order to see the next movies that came out, I made sure to repeat the same process.

This summer is a huge summer for Harry Potter fans. I am a few years out of having finished book four and have been too busy to read book five. My main problem with being so behind was that I had been spoiled with reading the first four books in British English. I’ve held out ever since, occasionally looking for a good deal or package that I could order for the next few books to be in the British English but got busy and/or lazy about seeking it out.

Now, I’m way behind. The 5th movie is out, the final book is out, and I’m nowhere near finished. I think I’m going to bite my tongue, sit myself down in the local bookstore and finish up the series this week or next. I owe it to myself to finish out the story of Harry Potter that I grew to love and then I can join in the discussion of so many local friends who love this book more than I do.

I guess I just kinda feel left out.

luck of the draw, i guess

Juror number 29.

Sitting and waiting was tedious. The majority of today was spent listening to each story and excuse why anyone shouldn’t have to continue with jury duty.

Out of the nearly 90 of us sitting there, the judge decided to question just the first 50. Then came time for the lawyers to follow up. Finally, deliberations about who should and should not serve.

The judge was very kind and was quick in questioning everyone for further information. Most people said there was no reason why they could not unbiasedly serve. Several others became emotional, confessing how difficult each situation was for each person. The excuses all sounded similar. The fun part, however, was watching the district attorney corner everyone into why he or she could or could not serve to be impartial and fair. This DA was relentless, too, but she was just doing her job.

After lunch and another break, the pick for a jury began. It was kinda strange watching the selection process because it was more like a game. First the state of California rejects someone. Then the defense rejects someone else. And they take turns for quite a while.

Numbers one through twelve sat in the jury box. After an initial swipe of a few people, the game began and the jury members in the hot seats were slowly axed as either the DA or defense attorneys didn’t want someone. As one person left one of the hot seats, the next in numerical order who still survived took the empty seat.

The pressure became intense as I saw each attorney axe another person. Sometimes, you knew exactly why one person was denied. Other times, it was just random. But in the end, those who were not very partial were left behind. Everyone in front of me who was not denied went up to the hot seats.

Juror number 28 was axed, and I took his hot seat. There I sat, watching and waiting for just a moment. It was the defense attorney’s move.

I was not picked for the final panel of jury duty.

Back to life, back to reality.

jury duty

From my recollection, I’ve never entered a criminal courtroom. In fact, it’s very rare that I’ve actually been to a courthouse. The three times I remember going are:

  • Boy Scouts – I went with my troop to see a courtroom and talk about law and what goes on in the judicial system
  • Speeding Ticket – I decided to actually fight a speeding ticket I got when I was driving on the Beltway 8 ramp coming onto I-45 on the Gulf Freeway. I was blatantly guilty and the court charged me an extra $50 for the 10 minutes it took for me to fight the ticket. What a waste of my time and money.
  • Family Court – My dad brought my brother and me to the courthouse when my parents were getting a divorce. We really didn’t need to be there but he felt it was appropriate for us to attend and see what was going on. I’m sure part of it was that we were symbolism of what would be lost if it was finalized.

Yesterday afternoon I finally entered into my first criminal courtroom. In fact, I sat on my first panel as a potential jury member for a criminal court case. I am one of about 90 potential jurors to be chosen for this specific case. Best of all, even if I do get picked, the longest this case should last is about a week. I don’t have a choice either way of if I’m picked or not, but I might as well make the best of it.

We received a one page questionnaire with a list of information to fill out including our biases and history into law. I finished every item, but one question said the following (paraphrased):

“Will age, race, or religious preference affect the outcome of your decision?”

This question bothers me for several reasons. If I say no, can I objectively say that none of these variables will influence or affect what i think of the defendant(s) when decision time is on hand? I try to be very practical when it comes to making decisions. I’ve always felt my rationalizations are logical, even more so than others in their rationalizations. But during a recent discussion I had a few months ago, I came to realize that complete objectiveness in decisions is virtually impossible unless you are a robot. Many factors, including nurture and subliminal messages amongst many others, can influence how you think or feel about any subject. There is plenty of evidence that bias and subjectiveness influence our decisions, especially during arguments.

Will these factors influence my decision? Of course they will in an open setting where I see and hear the defendant(s) and testimony. I am human after all. But I will try very hard to be practical and logical about these decisions.

When I decided to change the answer to that question, my answer was “maybe” with the note, “it depends on how fundamentalist they are”.

still no television

I think I’m fasting from tv right now. Granted, I’ve only been home for three and a half days so far, but I still don’t care about watching anything. It’s freeing and I can feel the ball and chain of television slipping away. The heat of the day (it’s currently 90 degrees IN MY ROOM) is keeping me from even wanting to turn it on.

I’m curious to see how this behavior can keep up in the next few weeks. It’s a huge accomplishment for me so far. Now I need to incorporate book time into my daily schedule.

how’s LA

Los Angeles Palm Tree
I get asked quite often from my friends and family who don’t live in Los Angeles how I like it. I’ll hear one of the following or more:

  • How’s LA?
  • How do you like living there?
  • What’s it like there?
  • What do you think of LA?
  • Do you really enjoy living there?

Simply giving my broad opinions about this place doesn’t quite do it justice for how I feel. It’s hard to explain such a huge place in just a few sentences. And having lived here for over three years now, I think I have a much better opinion to give about what it’s like to live here.

So let’s put these questions to rest. Here are my Woos and Boos about the largest city on the left coast.

  • woo – It’s a huge metropolitan city. You can find anything and everything you can find anywhere else. There’s always something to go do or see or experience.
  • boo – It’s a huge metropolitan city. It’s too populated and has no stop in sight. There’s TOO much to do and see, so you can get lost in the mix.
  • woo – Want to get away? LA is neighbored by San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Las Vegas and San Francisco.
  • boo – Trying to get away is a nightmare, especially on holidays. Traffic is as bad as you hear about. Driving down the 405 during peak hours is a complete nightmare most of the time. There are few shortcuts to travel worth the time it takes to drive them. You either go on the freeway or just stay home.
  • woo – Has some limited but beautiful architecture. You can find a diamond in the rough by driving down just about any street in LA.
  • booReal estate prices are a complete joke. They might not be as high as NYC, but they’re certainly higher than most of the country. To purchase a house, you need to be in the very high middle class or just plain rich.
  • woo – There are some amazing, creative and talented people who live here. It’s a melting pot of the states, bringing together people from all over the country and world.
  • boo – Superficiality rules. So many people are here just for the industry, trying to make it and become the next “it”. It can be difficult to make meaningful relationships with anyone.
  • woo – You’re miles away from almost all terrains: sun-kissed beaches, snow-capped mountain ranges, hot and desolate deserts, thick and thin forests.
  • boo – So many of these terrains are scarred with human interaction or pollution. Smog is a huge problem and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. The heat of summer can last 6-8 months out of the year.
  • wooHollywood. Celebrities. World famous clubs.
  • booHollywood. Celebrities. World famous clubs. They’re overrated.

This city is a mixed bag. But right now, it’s MY mixed bag.

old and precious

I was definitely spoiled. Driving a brand new 2007 white Chevy Impala for over a month really got me used to what I’m missing. The smooth ride, stereo system with an input jack for my iPod, the amazing shocks, the tall seats, the v6 engine; there was so much to love about that car.

Upon finding a parking violation stuck to my windshield of my real car this morning, I quickly examined what was obviously standard issue in this private neighborhood. I needed to go to the bank and post office and this was my only mean. Thankfully, I already took care of my registration online while I was in Texas so the decal was waiting for me upon my arrival. I stuck it on my rear plate and stumbled into the driver’s seat, forgetting how low my car seats are.

Man this feels weird, I thought to myself. I already wanted to go back and pick up the Impala.

I turned the key, misfired the ignition and received a solid check engine light. No worries, the car was not driven for the last month. I drove around the block, clearing my translucent windshield covered with dry sludge and mud from the warm California wind and morning fog. Just to be safe, I briefly parked in front of my house to verify that solid light wasn’t threatening my ride. And then I was off.

Geez, this thing feels so old.

Feeling every bump along the way, I just remind myself that this car is in it for the long haul. I made that decision when I moved out here. There’s no reason to purchase another car as long as this one works great. That’s how my family works; you run your car into the ground. I know no differently.

Cars never were of any interest to me. My first car in high school was my short stint with my mom’s sky blue ’74 Chevy Nova. She received that car when she was in college and we had it ever since. It was a haus of a car and eventually was sold to my older brother because of his growing emotional attachment. My next car was an maroon ’86 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. It was a joke of a car but it got me to and from school. I was always more excited to drive our grey ’77 Oldsmobile which was more like driving a tank, but had a nice huge engine.

I unfortunately was left without a car for my first year of college. It wasn’t fun not being able to go anywhere freely or having to constantly ask friends or my grandmother to pick me up. But that changed on my 19th birthday. My grandmother decided she couldn’t handle driving anymore and I received the best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten. It was an almost brand new ’97 Saturn SL2 with just over 4300 miles on it. It was a beauty, and although I would have preferred a silver model, the champagne gold was just fine by me for the price I paid.

I’ve tempted myself a few times over the years to trade up for a newer model, but I was fortunate enough to either talk myself out of it or have someone else slap me out of it. It was smart to not have to worry about taking on car payments and all I had to do was put up with a car that was slowly aging.

This car’s time is coming, but if I can stretch another five or so years out of it, I’ll be made. I just need enough time to get my fortunate rolling.

Dear fate, please don’t let me down!

july’s new year resolution

This has been a long day. 20+ hours and counting. This is the kind of travel that completely wears me out, and usually I don’t get too worn out from flying. But waking up before the world and spending half the day on the airplane can wear me down.

Two months of traveling and making memories has impacted me. I really am enjoying my ambitiousness, and I hope this continues because I’m hungry for personal fulfillment.

So, as I always recommend to others, I’m going to make a list. This is how I hope 2007 progresses:

  • less television – Time management and discipline will help me out in this area. I literally have to give myself no time to watch much TV.
  • exercise – I had a really good thing going before I quit my job, working out an average of 45 minutes a day for 3 to 5 days a week. I’ve put on a little weight in my stomach since being away for so long and now it’s time to reverse that and continue some weight training. Maybe I should consider joining another local gym.
  • web design – I’m burnt out with web design. Having done it full-time for 2 straight years, I’m kinda sick of doing it non-stop. But, this summer, it is still paying the bills for me. I have other ambitions to take on, so I must be very diligent about keeping my priorities straight. And I can’t sacrifice my web design business, but continue to help flourish it.
  • music – It’s time. For so long, my friends and family have always wondered when I was going to give music a shot. I don’t see myself performing as a career, but you know what? I’ve never really given it a fair shot. No more.
  • money – I had a really good system. It was completely automated so I never had to think about it. Money goes to savings; Money goes to retirement. Done and done. But now that I’m freelancing it, now that my money is irregular, this becomes extremely more difficult. I must work on what I have to make for what I desire.
  • giving back – I know I could have done so much better last year with donations. I gave to a couple of charities but definitely not enough. I knew that if I gave too much, I wouldn’t have enough when I quit my job. But I can’t keep living like that. Life is short. I hope to find some Habitat for Humanities or other organization to which I can volunteer. I feel the need to give back.
  • photography – If you’ve been to my photos link, you’ll see that I’ve recently been photographing a lot more than I usually do. This trip was kinda like a spark that lit a fire. Now I hope to get some new lenses. It’s such a fun hobby and I’m not too bad. It’s past time that I finally get a little more serious about it. I have a good eye, just as I have a good ear.
  • relationships – My biggest lack here is that I don’t have friends like I do at home. I have some really wonderful friends here, but I’ve never felt the same connection with these people because of the lack of a history. I hope that I can find some more buddies to bond with and meaningful relationships with people whom I already know. Overcoming shyness stresses me out. As for my romantic relationships, I don’t expect much. I’m enjoying my single life but I’m open to find her if she comes along. I have already met some amazing ladies this year but nothing that worked out sadly.
  • read more books – I almost can’t believe I’m saying this because of my past history with the written word, but I am feeling much more of an urge to read books. I do read a lot, but most of it is online on blogs or websites and it’s usually educating myself on some technical web design issues, seeing the latest gossip on celebrities, or digging the latest tech news. There are a lot of great books out there that I haven’t read yet. It’s time to get back into it.
  • practice my writing – I’ve kinda avoided writing on this website and when I do, it’s not always up to par. If I’m ever going to become a better writer, I must practice. Thus, it’s time I wrote more regularly.

I’m very ambitious, aren’t I? July is the new January. This is my July resolution!