Happy New Year – Now Go Make Your Bed

Happy New Year!

As we start this new year, I wanted to share a piece of advice that I’ve followed for the last few years, which has helped my mental state.

Make your bed.

Every day.

I know, it sounds simple, but it makes a surprising difference.

First off, you start the day with a “win”. You look at your neatly made bed and get a feeling that you’ve already accomplished something for the day. It puts you in the attitude that you are ready to tackle the next thing.

Now flip it. You are coming to bed after a long day. If you leave your bed unmade, you see a chaotic mess. The sheets are rumpled, it looks like a choppy ocean wave. It does not, to me anyway, look at all inviting.

If your bed was made though, it reminds you of a calm, tranquil lake. Soft, smooth, ready to relax in.

I also make my sheets fun by having a variety of colors. Over time I’d purchase a set with some extra pillowcases from my local big box store. I selected colors I could mix and match. Black, White, Blue, Green, Red, and Brown.

I also picked up some fleece covers to act as my bed spread in colors that complement the sheets. White, Red, Blue, Brown, and Gray. This lets me setup combos like Green and Gray, Black and Red, Black and White, Blue and White (as you can see in the photo at the top), you name it I have lots of fun combos that keep my bedroom looking fresh and different, just with combining sheets and blankets.

Again, I realize this sounds like an extremely simple thing. However, it’s a piece of advice I’ve seen many experts give so I decided to try it, and by golly it does make a difference in my outlook on the day.

Habits are interesting things, once you get them started it annoys you mentally when you skip them. Only rarely have I not made my bed, and that was usually because I was sick and in it. The other few times it was because I overslept and had to run out the door. Those times as soon as I got home I made it because it was mentally annoying me.

You can now build on this habit to improve other areas of your life. Perhaps putting your car keys in a specific spot so you don’t lose them, brushing your teeth, allocating time to update your blog, and more.

Try it, if nothing else you’ll have a nice neat bed.

Fun with Preparedness

Introduction

I have a confession to make. I’m something of what might be called a prepper. Now, does this mean I believe the government is about to clamp down on everyone, or the zombie invasion is upon us?

No, of course not. But I do live in the southern United States, where we regularly have tornadoes, hurricanes, and (sometimes violent) thunderstorms. We also have some wild temperature swings, as I write this tomorrow’s high is predicted to be 72 F, the low should be 39 F.

As such I’ve taken steps to be ready for weather related emergencies. I have a generator to supply power. My kerosene heater can keep me warm on cold nights when the power is out.

In my car I keep a backpack with a few basic supplies should I be away from home and trapped. Blanket, change of clothes, water, food, some camping supplies. Things that will keep me alive and somewhat comfortable should I need to spend the night in or beside my car, or should I need to hike home or to a safe shelter.

In the spirit of gift giving during the holiday season, I wanted to share not one but two (in no particular order) YouTube channels that have taught me a lot about being prepared.

The Sensible Prepper

The first channel I want to share is The Sensible Prepper. He shows various types of gear you can use to be prepared. Beyond that he also shows how everyday items, such as safety pins, plastic bottles, baking soda and more can be used in ways to get you ready for an emergency.

Here is one example, on using plastic bottles for preparedness.

Corporals Corner

The second channel I’ve learned a lot from is Corporals Corner. His channel is focused more on survival in the outdoors. He teaches how to create a wide variety of survival shelters and demonstrates equipment for staying alive when you are in the outdoors.

In some cases, he uses tents, or in other cases he creates entire shelters from nothing but the raw materials he finds in the woods. Corporal Kelly, USMC, has to be the hardest working YouTuber I’ve ever seen. He also knows more about knot tying than any other YouTuber I’ve ever watched.

Here is a recent video where he tests out an emergency shelter available from Amazon and shows the pros and cons.

Conclusion

I hope you’ll enjoy these channels as much as I do and learn some lessons in preparedness as I have. Even just taking a few simple steps can make the difference between being miserable in a weather-related emergency and coming through it comfortably.

Fun with History: The History Guy

Introduction

In the spirit of the holiday season, I wanted to give a little gift back to you, my readers.

I love history, honestly if I weren’t in tech I would likely have become a history teacher of some kind. For relaxing I read a lot of history books and enjoy a lot of history shows on YouTube as well as other platforms.

The History Guy

One of my favorite YouTube channels is The History Guy: History Deserves to Be Remembered. Several times a week he releases roughly 15-minute videos on some event on history. Many are often little-known events, which cross a variety of areas.

Some of course focus on big events, such as the world wars, or the US Civil War. Others might focus on motor sports, microfilm, or major events such as earthquakes or blackouts. Then there are ones that focus on notable, and some not so notable, figures from history.

The history is global in scale, not just US but events from history around the globe.

The Most Important Invention of the 20th Century

Below I’ve embedded my favorite video from his massive library, on the invention of the transistor. This video touches several areas of interest for me. Obviously, the transistor as it applies to computers, but in addition the advances it made possible in communication which appeals to the ham radio operator in me.

Conclusion

Please take a look, I feel sure you’ll enjoy him as much as I do. Then jump over to his YouTube channel and subscribe, then enjoy many more videos from his library.

Happy Holidays!

Arcane Fun Fridays–More Music to Code By

Last week I listed a few of my favorite soundtracks to program to. This week I’d like to present a few more. These aren’t soundtracks exactly, but sure do sound like them. Very fast paced, orchestral pieces that sound like they were taken right from an action/adventure movie.

Unlike some movie soundtracks, which have a mix of both fast paced and slower interlude style music, there’s not a slow song in the bunch. Every track is fast paced adrenaline pumping code inducing music.

It’s not a single album but a series, called “Position Music”. Right now I have Volumes 1-4, there’s a fifth one of Christmas music that’s on my wish list, it’s totally unlike any holiday album you ever listened to. So without further comment here’s the list, hope you enjoy as much as I do!

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Position Music – Orchestral Series – Volume 1

 

 

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Position Music – Orchestral Series – Volume 2

 

 

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Position Music – Orchestral Series – Volume 3

 

 

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Position Music – Orchestral Series – Volume 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer – While I’m working on some self published Kindle books, I have no affiliation with them when it comes to music, feel free to purchase where you will.

Scott Hanselman Takes Over MSN

Yesterday I was browsing around on the web, including a visit to Scott Hanselmans site to read an article on his blog. A little later I rebooted my Windows 7 machine and went to bed. The next day I open up Internet Explorer to do something. In the Windows 7 beta the default homepage for IE is MSN. Imagine my surprise then when I see this:

MSNHanselman

Yes, you are seeing right. The MSN Logo was replaced by Scott Hanselman’s. From this I can only assume that Scott’s plans to become the benevolent overlord of Microsoft are proceeding well, and that he has successfully taken over the MSN division. I imagine it won’t be long then before Baby Smash becomes the primary IDE for developing C# applications.

BSDA – BUG.NET Christmas Party

It’s party time! The Birmingham Software Developers Association and the Birmingham .Net Users Group are joining forces to throw a holiday blast. The event will take place Tuesday, December 2nd 6:00 pm at Richard’s BBQ and Grill on Acton Road, just off Interstate 459. This is a family friendly event, spouses and children are encouraged to attend. We promise to keep the geek talk to a minimum.

The clubs want to extend an invitation to all user groups in the Birmingham community. No matter what your group we’d like to extend a special invite to all to attend. Rumor has it there will be some swell door prizes and swag to give away.

Please be aware the event is BYOW! Bring Your Own Wallet. Each family will be responsible for it’s own bill. Not to worry though, Richard’s rates are very reasonable, and they have a wide variety of food to pick from. In addition to BBQ they have a nice meat and three selection, and some of the best burgers you ever put in your mouth.

Please RSVP to altechevents@gmail.com by close of business Monday, November 30th with how many will be attending so we can give the restaurant a semi-accurate count. Look forward to seeing you all then!

Gentleman, JumpstartTV Your Engines

Thought I’d spread a little link love today, and to start with I will point you to the http://jumpstarttv.com website. JumpstartTV hosts short training videos with one very specific, focused topic per video. When I say short, I mean short. Three to five minutes is the goal for each video. I was honored recently when asked to participate in the site, and have created a series for them on SQL Server Full Text Searching. The first video on installing was featured yesterday, but you don’t have to wait for the videos to be featured, you can see all of them by jumping to my JumpstartTV profile.

One thing to note, you will be asked to create an online profile. This is free, and it turns out very useful. You can use it to track all of the videos you watched. This makes it very convenient to come back later and refresh yourself on something you learned. In addition, the site has a “watch it later” feature. You can go all over the site picking out videos you think would be interesting and clicking the “watch it later” link. Then when you go to your profile, you’ll be able watch the selected videos one after the other. JumpstartTV has videos on both SQL Server and .Net, as well as some interesting ones in the “Misc” category, including bartending, self defense, and more.

The second link for the day is an interesting article on the simple-talk website, “Taking Back Control of your IT Career”. It was written by a friend of mine, Stephan Onisick and chronicles his ordeal of getting laid off from his company of seven years, through a period of retraing himself and ultimately landing a new job that met the needs he set out. Even if your company is nice and stable, you will find good advice for keeping your skills up in this article. Disclaimer, he does mention a presentation I did in the article, but in spite of that it’s still a good read. 😉

Next is a new SQL Server resource brought to us by the fine folks at Quest Software, it’s the new SQLServerPedia. The site is both a wiki and a series of podcast like videos you can subscribe to from your Zune or other music player. I have my Zune setup to automagically download new episodes as they come out. I believe it was @BrentO himself who clued me in on the site.

I’ve written in the past about CodeRush, the tool I refuse to code without. Well the wonderful folks at Devexpress have created a free version called CodeRush Xpress for Visual Studio. Now if you need to code on a budget, you can still enjoy CodeRushy goodness in your 2008 IDE! And it’s not even Christmas yet!

Many of you follow me on Twitter, if you don’t I’d love to invite you, I”m on as @arcanecode . Guy Kawasaki has a great article on How To Pick Up Followers on Twitter. Good article that shows some of the strengths of Twitter, and how to use them to everyone’s advantage.

Speaking of Twitter, thanks to @theronkelso I found a new service called TweetLater. This service lets you schedule a tweet to be delivered to Twitter at a later time. For example, I would like to be able to tweet that our BSDA meeting is about to begin. But as the current President I’m usually up front introducing the guest speaker, and thus not at a keyboard. TweetLater to the rescue, I can set it to auto post the meeting is starting and be in two places at once.

It’s also great as a reminder tool, I can queue up meeting reminder tweets for the entire year ahead of time and forget all about it. Another feature, you can set it to auto reply with a message to new followers, and it can even be setup to automatically follow anyone who is following you. I believe this is a resource I’ll be using a lot.

The next to final link is a reminder really, to the Alabama Tech Events site. This is a community site for posting technical events of interest to folks in the state of Alabama. Please note that the event doesn’t have to be in Alabama, just of reasonable interest to folks in the state. We’ve posted events in Tennesee, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia. If you have a technical event contact me or one of the other user group leaders to get it added.

I’ll wrap up today’s link lovefest with the site analogous to the Alabama Tech Event site, but for the entire country: Community Megaphone. This site lists events from all over the United States. You can filter by state or event type.

Happy Halloween

Many of you who follow me on Twitter have wondered about the rather strange photo I’ve had on my Twitter account this month. I promised to fill in everyone, so here it is, my way of saying Happy Halloween!

Several years ago at work we had a dress up day. I went all out, and got into Zombie mode. Which really wasn’t al that difficult, as most days we all sort of stagger around the office moaning “brains, brains, need brains”, at least until after that first pot of coffee.

So without further ado, here are some pics you can use to scare your coworkers. Just imagine their delight when they open up an e-mal with my lovely visage on it! (Note you can click on any photo to see it in full size.)

Zombie001

I can just hear it now. “This is Thriller, thrill of the night… “

 

Zombie002

Everybody boogie down!

 

Zombie003

Brains… want brains… with a side order of hash browns, biscuits, and a pumpkin spice chai tea latte

 

Zombie004

BOO!

 

Zombie005

For some reason I’ve got a headache. Wonder why?

 

Zombie006

I know, I should really cut down on the in-between meal snacks.

 

Zombie007

They gave me a prize for best costume. I didn’t have the heart to tell them this is how I normally

look until I’ve consumed a few pots of coffee!

 

 

 

Happy Halloween Everyone

    

from

 

The Arcane Coder!

   

   

October Open Spaces at BSDA

Come join us in October for a very special Birmingham Software Developers Association meeting. We will be having a Open Spaces session, to expose members and visitors to the concept. In Open Spaces, participants place topics for discussion on the board, then the group votes on the topics they’d like to discuss. A moderator moves the discussion along, and when the topic is worked out moves onto the next topic.

Some possible topics might include open source software, imperative versus declarative languages, and more. Any topic is open for debate and discussion, so please come prepared to discuss!

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday October 9th at the New Horizons Training Center in Homewood, AL. Everyone is welcome.

LifeCam VX-5000

livecamvx5000 I decided to extend my web presence by getting a web camera. This will add to what I can post, plus let me start doing more video conferencing using tools like Live Messenger and Skype. After looking I decided on the Microsoft LifeCam VX-5000. I’ve only had it a few days but I have been really impressed. It does really great at very low light. It also has a built in microphone, so for travel I don’t have to lug around a separate headset or microphone to use with it.

So far I have tested with both Windows Live Messenger and Skype, and had no issues. I’m looking forward to doing some more experiments, and seeing what else I can do with it. I might try some vidoes on 12seconds.tv (if I can get in), or try using with with Camtasia.

I selected the VX-5000 for several reasons.

  1. The size. It’s quite small, for someone who moves around it’s nice and compact, doesn’t take up a lot of space in my backpack.
  2. Low light. I read it did well in low light, that was an understatement. This thing is great even in very dim light.
  3. Built in mic. As I mentioned, it has a built in mic, so I don’t have to use an external one (although I can). That’s great in travel situations where space is at a premium in my already over stuffed backpack.
  4. Price. This was less than 40 bucks, so it was a really good deal.

Well, don’t want to come off like an advertisement, I just had a cool new geek toy and thought I’d share. Hope to have some videos up in the future as I work with the product and learn it’s ins and outs.

Ted Neward goes well with cheesy stuffed burritos

I had quite the adventure last week getting to DevLink. Enroute Thursday night part of the electrical system in my old pickup decided to implode, leaving me stranded on the side of the interstate. I got it towed and had to wait for a friend to come get me (thanks Ben!). The closest place to wait was the Mexican Phone Company (aka Taco Bell). I claimed the booth with the wall outlet, setup my laptop, and settled in for 3 hours of waiting. Naturally there was no wi-fi to be found.

Always looking for opportunities to be productive, I worked on editing a Camtasia video I had recorded recently at a Bug.Net meeting. After a bit I decided to take a break and eat. While munching on a cheesy stuffed burrito I watched some videos I had downloaded from the InformIT site. In the first video Ted Neward talked about functional coding and touches on F#, in the second he dives deeper into F#. Once the videos and my cheesy stuffed burritos were done I returned to editing.

So the next day I got my wife’s van out of the shop (transmission had gone out leaving CodeStock – these conferences are getting expensive!) hopped in and took off once again for DevLink, this time making it just in time to see the last session of the day – none other than a presentation by Ted Neward and Amanda Laucher on F#. And I’ll be dog gone if Ted wasn’t wearing the exact same t-shirt he had one while filming the videos I’d watched. Made the experience that much more surreal. Either that or the cheesy stuffed burritos were haunting me, one of the two.

I did at least get one whole day in at DevLink, still well worth going to. And I’m not just saying that because I won a copy of Vista Ultimate and Master Chiefs decapitated head. Oh and if you are looking to learn a little more on F#, Ted’s got a great article in the Sept/Oct 2008 issue of Code Magazine called F# 101. Good reading.

All in all, despite the vehicular issues DevLink was still a good value and I plan to make it an annual trip.

CodeStock

I was at CodeStock in Knoxville over this previous weekend. Great conference. It was run very well, everything went quite smoothly. I attended some really great sessions, and got to meet a ton of great folks.

The twitter get together the night before at the hotel was awesome. It was sort of weird, a lot of the folks I have known on twitter for several months now, but this was the first time we got to meet face to face. As I told my wife, “I got to see a lot of old friends for the very first time and catch up on old times.” We got into some really interesting discussions on development topics, user group activities, and just had a lot of fun in general.

I attended a lot of good sessions during the day, but want to point out a few in particular. The first was put on by Amanda Launcher and Joe O’Brien. They talked about alternative languages such as Ruby and F#, and why learning them was important. They pointed out that alternative languages help you think about different approaches to problem solving. Gave us a lot to think about, and has me eager to dive into those F# books I bought.

The other  two sessions were on LINQ. Joe Kunk did a LINQ to SQL session. His stated goal was to give us enough info to return to the office and write our first LINQ app. This combined with Jim Wooley’s session on LINQ Migration Strategies did just that, I sat down Sunday and, I admit with the help of a few books, in a few hours had written my first LINQ code to talk to SQL Server Compact Edition.

I thought CodeStock was a great investment of my time, and am looking forward to returning next year.

SQL Heroes and Data Dudes

In case you are wondering where I’ve been lately, it’s been a combination of issues at work plus putting the final nails in the schedule for TechMixer University. It’s been a big team effort, and as chair of the education committee I’ve had some great help gathering speakers for the event. We just published the first round of speakers and tracks so be sure to go take a look. And if you haven’t signed up yet, you better hurry registration is rapidly filling up!

On the interesting SQL News front, thanks to Jason over at StatisticsIO I just found out about the SQL Heroes site.  They are having a contest for the best SQL Server 2008 community project submitted to CodePlex. Here’s a listing of the current SQL projects currently there. Looks like some useful utilities, and the contest still has a month left in it so plenty of time to assemble your own project and submit to the contest.

I recently began diving deeper into Visual Studio Team System 2008 Database Edition (aka “Data Dude”) and wanted to learn more about it. Fellow SQL MVP Andy Leonard has come out with a new book, the first in a series on the subject. Volume 1, available from Solid Quality Mentors, takes you from the basics of creating your first database project, into versioning your database and scripts, right into building and deploying. There’s also some interesting and useful material in the appendixes, including installation of data dude and importing a database schema. I was also interested in getting a peak at his development environment. And at a mere 15 dollars I thought it was a bargain.