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I came up with three things to make my commute more enjoyable:

  1. Stop killing myself to make the 7:30am ferry. The advantage of an hour earlier to work wasn't worth going to sleep by 10pm only to have to load up on caffeine to get going in the morning.

  2. I take a cab when things get too close. $15 here or there in a month is not going to kill me.

  3. I bought a video iPod and have nearly caught up with Heroes, downloaded all the latest movies (stay away from Smokin' Aces!). I've also found some great podcasts that I'll share:

    1. Coffee Break Spanish — Still learning Spanish! I'm so proud of myself.
    2. Grammar Girl's Quick & Dirty Tips For Better Writing — note my use of commas will improve.
    3. The Merlin Show — Tune in each week to see Merlin fight crime through interviews with guys whose names start with the the letter J.
    4. Hivelogic Radio Show — Dan finds good people to interview and does research so the podcast doesn't devolve into "So what do you want to talk about...?"

There are others but the obvious ones like This American Life and Indie Rock fluffernutter crap.

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Picture 1.pngGoopymart (you might be familiar with his Teh Internets series, or possibly these guys) has illustrated a book! If you have kids, or a 6th grade education, you should get this book.

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A thought I had in the shower was that "C++" is perhaps the best branding a computer language has ever had. Here's more on the naming. In a culture of "newer is better" who wouldn't want to choose C++ over C? It's like Jaws 2 or the latest iThing. It's something only programmers (especially C programmers) were able to understand, and anyone learning C or C++ would recognize as being somewhat clever.

What got me on this line of thinking was this post: taw's blog: The right to criticize programming languages. Be sure and check out the links in each section, lots of good stuff.

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100x85.gifI wiped torrez.org clean for a fresh start. I removed a lot of bad ideas and worthless content to make way for new bad ideas and worthless content.

The domain itself had not been resolving for a couple months due to just being so damn busy, but last night I was able to set up the path, permissions, and the conf file how I like it. I even set up the 404 to start sifting through lists of the stuff I broke.

Coincidentally Jeff at CodingHorror posted about 404s and I agree with everything he says. A good 404 page is just good customer service and so that was one of the first things I did.

The page is accessible this way via the 404/ path without a redirect—meaning when you go to http://torrez.org/this-is-not-here it keeps the path for you to step back to where you came from.

I am now debating if I want to set an actual blog up on the server or possibly "tumble blog" my stuff in from the various sources like torrez.tumblr.com.

Although I am a loyal SixApart fan, it's been a while since I used anything other than TypePad, so I'm curious as to what else is out there worth using. I hate hate hate hate PERL and the thought of having to get PERL working on this box to satisfy MT is daunting. I toyed with SimpleLog for a bit on my laptop, and while it's very nice to use, I also don't have the desire to maintain Rails. Too often I see people hosting rails sites with random server (500) errors so that's not very attractive, plus it feels like such a lock-in to host a personal site using the public/ dir for everything not db related.

So the answer is probably PHP based blog software. It's ubiquitous. I use it at work. It's super simple to troubleshoot and Apache loves it. I have almost ZERO experience with Wordpress and the few times I used it I wasn't very impressed. I am not sure I even need a blogging engine since TypePad has worked like such a champ. There are just those moments when I wish I could do something with some PHP magic or integrate an idea for a post in an application.

We'll see, maybe the most I'll be able to do is a 403 error page, too.

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Picture 7.pngMy friend Omar just moved to the Noe Valley neighborhood in SF where I live. I was downstairs putting my shoes on to get lunch when I remembered he works from home sometimes too. As I started to walk back upstairs to see if he wanted to get food, I remembered his twitter post this morning that he was annoyed with a seat-mate on the CalTrain. He takes the CalTrain into work and so I turned, put my shoes on and got some lunch.

See also: http://web1979.wordpress.com/2007/03/14/rip-twitter-2007-2007/

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Picture 6.pngI've got two Joost invites about to expire. Joost is neat. Joost is flashy. Joost has no content I care to watch and makes my computer go VAHRRROOOOOOOOM and burn my lap.

But maybe you have a nicer computer than I. So if you'd like an invite, send me an email at andre.torrez@gmail.com and I'll invite you all gone. But remember: Macbook 2GHz w/2 gigs of RAM + Joost = red thighs.

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colorlogo.gifIt happens all the time: I mail my movies back on a Thursday to Netflix and they tell me on Friday the next movies will arrive on Monday. Precisely when I don't have time to watch movies. Or I forget to mail them back for a few days since I can't mail from my house (people steal them from the box) so I carry them to work, forgetting to drop them for a few days.

Either way I find myself without movies when I want movies.

There's a video store down the street we don't use. It's still inconvenient to go down there and I always feel like I'm paying for something I should be getting as part of my Netflix service. I want to support my local retailer but I don't want to bad enough to enter into an expensive contract in case I forget.

At work we devised a plan for how Netflix could just charge me a little bit more when I ask for it, and they'd trust me by sending the next movies in my queue. If I don't actually send my movies in when I told them I was, they can bill me double. Or something. (a.k.a. step 2. ???)

So what I want is my local DVD store to put a US mailbox of some sort in their store. I come in with my watched, re-sealed Netflix and I get a discount off another movie. Not a giant discount—just a discount of some sort. Or heck, maybe they just advertise that they have a mailbox and I can use it after hours when most post offices are closed or when walking to a box is inconvenient.

Whatever the case, I just don't see myself stepping into a video rental store any time soon and that's not good for video rental stores.

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I linked to this in my del.icio.us feed a couple days ago, and didn't really think much of it, it seemed like a great idea and something missing from Apple (well you can have it for a $99/year .Mac account).

Someone just pointed out to me that the comments on that announcement are "kind of a trainwreck" and my god, they are. $65 is a bit much for most apps, especially one with such a narrow focus, but it's not completely insane. I'd probably pay for it if I didn't have my .Mac account, and I'm even considering dumping my .Mac since I now use MacFUSE as an iDisk replacement.

I even like the idea of paying $25 for a year. I can think of a few apps I got excited about, paid for, and then completely stopped using within a year. I would have liked to save a few bucks and paid for a yearly fee.

Spanning Sync Blog: Spanning Sync v1.0 Now Available"

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colorlogo.gifWhen people ask me about a movie I say two things: whether it was good or bad; and whether it was better than X or worse than Y where X and Y are two movies that are similar to it.

I never say FOUR STARS! Or NO STARS! That's just silly and not helpful to anyone.

I stumbled onto Netflix's contest last week while re-organizing my queue and I've been tossing ideas around in my head about how to solve it while I sit on the train. I couldn't come up with an interesting algorithm, so I took the cheap way out and decided their data is bad.

I'd prefer to track my movies based on their relationship to other similar movies (if possible) and then I would like to browse movies based on the same data my friends supply.

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Google Reader just keeps getting better and better. Yesterday I noticed they had added something I, and I bet a few people, asked for. This little refresh button:

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Previously it had been a link at the bottom that, when clicked, would offer no feedback. If there were updates they'd percolate in, if there were no updates nothing would happen. Clicking it felt like a thunk.

I know this is a small thing to get excited about, but it made me happy to see that last night. The "jackpot" feeling of clicking "get mail" in my mail app and seeing messages come in now exists in my feed-reader and I like that.

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Picture 26.pngThis past week a few of my friends who weren't at SXSW griped about the change in how people were using Twitter. Suddenly it became less about random thoughts and actions related to our individual lives, and more of a way to coordinate meetups and dinners amongst those fortunate enough to be in Austin.

I didn't mind it quite as much as everyone else, in fact, I kind of like seeing systems appropriated for something different. I like seeing how the developers react (I suspect friend buckets and filters are coming soon to Twitter and/or Twitterific) and I like thinking about how I would fix the problem.

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MarsEditIcon128.jpgI've been using MarsEdit for a while now, because of its dead-simple design and markdown integration, it's a great tool for quickly composing blog posts when you don't have a network connection or don't want to use a web-based form.

In case you hadn't heard, MarsEdit was recently acquired by Red Sweater Software and they have been starting to issue minor updates and fixes. The recent release features bug fixes and (woo) Blogger support, but I'm mostly looking forward to the addition of drag-and-drop images with uploading (fingers crossed).

I tried ecto a few times, and found it clunky and a little complex for what I needed to do—just write a blog post. If you hadn't tried MarsEdit before it's probably worth checking out.

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Why I love working at and with the people of FM can be summed up in this one post.

Link: Techno//Marketer: More great environmental, interactive advertising.

Our sales people get it and work really hard to give advertisers that kind of custom touch for the authors so everyone wins. It's why I think I've been involved with advertising and marketing for ten years now, I know people can do it right and I always wanted to help them do it right with what I'm good at.

Also, this weekend someone at FM (I have a Yahoo pipe of all FM employee blogs) posted about a parenting blog (I can't find it right now because Google Reader doesn't have search--WTF?) who said the income from their blog was equivalent to a part-time job that they would have had to take and be away from their child. As soon as I find the link I'll update. That was a really neat thing to read. (Update: Pamela gave me the link.)

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So the other day I ranted a bit about having to commute into work as it represents 2/15ths of my day that is not always pleasurable. I also included the fact we're experiencing a fair amount of noise at work, and so I poked at the problem a bit publicly here until I can figure that out. It bothers me, the commute and the noise.

A few days ago I switched from my Converse shoes to my Campers (trust me, I'm going somewhere with all of this) because I was starting to get a dull ache in one of my foot's arch. Converse, as you know, offer as much support as a box of dry leaves, and Campers are pretty awesome Spanish, city walking shoes.

While walking down to BART with the Campers something odd happened. My foot started to hurt way more. I had to stop walking to give my foot a rest. About halfway there, I had to begin walking with my foot markedly pointed inward as the way I was walking was so painful.

And a few steps after that my foot stopped hurting all at once. In fact it felt really good for the first time in a while. The Campers have very good arch support and I think what happened is my foot was getting lazy in the Converse and I'd started to alter my walk to support myself, which didn't work very well in the Campers. At first I thought, "Oh shit, my foot is even WORSE than it was before!" but as soon as I realized it was better, I was happy...though I still wished I could wear my Converse as they were a lighter, simpler shoe. Plus black. I like black. And simple. I like simple.

A huge part of web development for me is asking the question "Why does it hurt?" and then thinking about not only how to fix it, but how to solve the problem in a way that provides what someone actually wants. Too often feature driven projects end up spiraling into something everyone likes but nobody loves:

That kind of development is where you make a list of every request people have made and then tick them off like a todo list. Your email inbox becomes your task list. Your whole reason for developing is translating someone's description of the problem and how to fix it into code. I don't like to work like that. Feature driven development is poisonous and leads to unnecessary back-end complexity. In this way Flickr is my hero. Nobody does it better than they do when it comes to adding features people actually want and need versus throwing every idea at the site and seeing what sticks.

So going back to my shoe, my problem was I liked how my Converse looked but I needed the support of the Camper, even though the red and orange clashed a bit too much with my pants.

Rather than just solve the problem with my aching foot, I solved the problem of what I really wanted.

New Old Shoes

And got both.

Going back to my commute and noise. What do I really want? I don't know yet. The simple answer would be to move all of our desks to another part of the office and close the door. And buy a car. But buying a car is almost exactly what I don't want to do as it's way to expensive to keep garaged, with insurance, and maintenance, and of course the environment is not particularly enthusiastic about the pollution. Plus this is "Year of The Wedding" which means spending money on things that we can't really afford means less chocolate cake for everyone this December and nobody wants that.

Maybe these are the answers. I don't know yet. I need to think about it a bit more. I'll figure it out, though, I know that.

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Muni vows to improve lagging J-Church line

Another commuting nightmare today. I missed bus #1, then missed bus #2 due to an absent J Muni train (not sure what train NextBus was tracking as it never arrived), I remembered a ferry departure was in twenty minutes so I ran to catch the first inbound from Civic Center only to get stuck in the tunnel before my exit. After sitting for several minutes within view of my stop I walked to the ferry building only to be told I was too late.

It's amazing how difficult it can be to get from my home to work only 11 miles away.

There's a discussion going on at work about our office location. The developers all live in SF and Oakland and would kill for not only a simpler commute (oh under an hour would be swell) but some peace and quiet would be even more welcome. New offices have the promise of separate work areas (a.k.a. offices/cubes). Non-developers rarely understand the need for an absence of external noises, so we all must a appear a little odd sitting in our big room with iTunes cranked to cover up all the impromptu meetings. But it's absolutely essential our flow is uninterrupted. And right now, that's not happening.

One of my goals this year is to say yes to each and every one of Joel's Test. Although by his estimates we've "got serious problems", we're knocking on tolerable's door. And I will be able to reach that goal if we could say "yes" to item #8 with a better working environment and location.

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