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Just Let it Go, Man.

For those of you that know me, that really know me, you’re probably aware that I have a little trouble “letting things go.”

Sometimes, when I get a project in my head, it’s almost like it has a life of it’s own, and I’m merely the vessel by which it achieves life. I can’t sleep. I’m taken over. My brain literally will not shut off. Right now, in no particular order: unpack the multitude of boxes in our new house, work on a data management application I’ve been tinkering with, study up on some benchmarking information for my day-job, upgrade the linux machine in the living room to ubuntu 9.04, research prices for some hardware I’ve been eyeing, I have an idea for a photo essay but I need willing participants, pay the last month of rent on the old apartment, clean out my various inboxes, try to catch up on some client deliverables that are WAY overdue… just to name a few things I’m “working on.”

This is all fine for things that have a productive outcome. If anything, the quality of not being able to let something go makes me better at solving problems, or finding a better solution. More efficient solutions, I guess. BUT, it’s not fine in other ways.

I frequently have conversations in my head with people that I haven’t talked to in years. Decades, even. I yell at them for treating me badly. I endlessly revise things that I should have said. I deconstruct all the actions I should have taken to promote a more palatable turn of events. I perfect one liners the likes of which you have probably never heard. In my head, I tell people how I really feel about them, or about what they did. About what they’re doing.

I’ll ask Meg the same question forty times in a two day period. I’ll talk to her about the same topic so much, that I eventually am just saying the exact same things over and over.

I obsessively check FedEx/UPS/USPS/Airborne package tracking pages until the box is in my hands. I read wikipedia articles over and over until I have nearly memorized the content. I know the endings to a lot of movies that I’ve never seen.

I didn’t used to be like this; at least, I don’t think I was. I have a vague recollection of being a pretty laid back person in high school. When did I get so crazy? After all, when you let something go, you can grab onto something else, right?

Feelin’ The Love

So yeah; I’m feelin’ the love.

As some of you may know, Meg and I have been on a several month long journey of buying a home. During this time we have experienced a range of emotions with regard to our finances, our self esteem, our ability to cope with stress, and how we feel about each other. This range of emotions includes, but surely is not limited to: comfort, annoyance, excitement, terror, anxiety, anticipation, hopefulness, hopelessness, depression and elation. Really, it has run the gamut.

About 7 weeks ago, we thought we had found THE house for us. We made an offer. Unfortunately, they got other offers, too. They didn’t take ours. Being first time home buyers, and not being super familiar with this whole process, we were a little crushed. But, it was probably good for us. “We’ll find our house,” we said.

About 3 weeks ago, we actually did find THE house. This time, we were sure of it. In private, we told ourselves that we wouldn’t get our hopes up, lest we jinx something and have a repeat performance. We proceeded with the various form-signing, the multiple visits to the property, the multiple visits to the mortgage lady, the multiple visits to the realtor. We downplayed every new development as we explained it to our friends and family, because we simply were too emotionally exhausted and stressed out to let ourselves hope beyond hope that this dream of ours would finally come true.

When they told us that our offer was the front-runner, and was likely to be accepted, we were absolutely over the moon. We freaked out. We may have had a tiny bit too much to drink. We were psyched. They countered, we countered. We signed our name (and lives, and heirs) on a million pieces of paper. We were scrutinized from every angle: credit, income, debt, employment history, etc. To see your whole adult life, drawn out and organized on a piece of paper is a little startling.

Fairly recently, now that things seem a lot more certain, we’re catching ourselves getting very excited. Meg has a scrapbook of magazine clippings and other random pieces of paper with design patterns for how the rooms will be decorated. I’ve got my eyes on some antique shutters for the facade. We’re telling our friends and family. We’re planning sleepovers and parties and dinners.

So yeah; I’m feelin’ the love. The Love, actually. With a capital L.

I honestly can’t tell you how much it has meant to me, how much it has meant to both of us, the kind words and support from all of you, our friends and family.

To our friends and family: Thank You. For those of you reading this, you know who you are: you know the role you have played in this epic tale, and how we are just overwhelmed by your gestures. We’re touched by your genuine desire to see us succeed and be successful. At this point, words don’t really adequately express our deepest and most sincere gratitude for your contributions to our general well being over these last 30 years.

When we’re all moved in, the first round of drinks is on us. Though, it might not be top shelf stuff. You like Evan Williams more than Jack Daniels anyway, right?

Nineteen Eighty Five

All of us have past lives. Points in our lifetimes when we were different. Sure, we all experience the gradual changes of growing up, maturing, learning, becoming more wise. But these are things that usually slip quietly into ourselves; things that change about us in small and sometimes imperceptible ways, gradually, over a long period of time. A whole life, even.

But, once every so often, we have an “AHA!” moment. That tiny microsecond where your brain changes; when you realize that you’ve changed. The first time this happened to me, was in 1985. I was 5 years old. Not necessarily the moment of enlightenment, when you might scream “Eureka!” Instead, a moment when you can see the old, and see the new… and you can identify, sort of, the in-between moment when you knew you had changed. Something happened, and you might not know exactly what it was, but you know you’re not the same as you used to be.

The mention of the year 1985 stirs a lot of emotions, a lot of memories, a lot of thoughts. It was the year in which I had that first “AHA! Change afoot!” moment in my life. When it struck me, my tiny 5 year old brain realized that there was a previous version of Chris. One that existed from birth up until age 4. But, somehow that version no longer existed. He was gone?

1985 was a great year. I was in kindergarten. For the whole year, my brother and I both rode the same bus to school, marking the only time this ever happened in our lives. He kept an eye on me, as every 5th grader with a kindergarten-aged sibling should.

1985 in my adult mind represents the best year of my childhood. It was a year of innocence. Before the colorings and jadedness that come with experience. I was fresh and new and untried, yet still just old enough to realize I had my own personality.

It was before I ever understood that I was poor. That the kids I went to school with, whether they knew it or didn’t, had trust funds worth more than my parents house. That their parents drove much nicer cars than the teachers. That eventually, when they were old enough to drive, the kids themselves would drive much nicer cars than the teachers.

1985 was the year when I learned that Ronald Reagan is the president. And some guy named Jimmy Carter was the old president.

1985 was still well in advance of my parents surprise separation and subsequent divorce in 1988. It was before I had any doubt about my parents; before I realized that they’re just people, too. I didn’t understand yet that they make choices, and have to live with the consequences of those choices.

1985 was still three years before my great-grandfather, the patriarch of our family, died of old age. He and I were cut of the same cloth. He would often admonish me for wearing thin the knees of my jeans. If he had his way, I would have hunched over to make toy cars speed ahead rather than be at eye level with them, on my knees. I never understood why he got so mad about it, but I get it now. I totally get it now. Thanks, Pop.

1985 still preceded the collapse of my family’s long-running mushroom growing business. It was before I knew what a feud was. Before I knew what a lien was. Before I knew what a sheriff auction entails.

In 1985, my parents were only about five years older than I am now.

1985 was the year that I first realized that humans are just so utterly fallible; but that despite this frailty, we basically have limitless potential to learn from our failures and avoid the same mistakes. Yes, I learned this from cartoons, but it doesn’t reduce the value of the lesson.

Speaking of cartoons, 1985 was the year of G.I. Joe and Transformers. And to a lesser extent, Go-Bots.

1985 was the year of show-and-tell. I had no problem going to kindergarten. I would later have a lot of problems going to 1st grade, but in this year, I loved every second of school. In kindergarten, I made friends easily, and in general that’s how everything felt: easy.

One of the tests for passing kindergarten was cutting two pre-drawn circles, separately, out of a piece of construction paper. I remember that when Mrs. Dadds passed out the paper, she took an extra second to emphasize how important it was that we cut it straight and accurately. We had the original metal safety scissors, the ones made prior to the general plasticizing of everything in the classroom. I burned through those circles with every bit of focus and concentration I could muster. When I dropped the completed cutouts onto my desk, I looked up to see that everyone else was really taking their time. Another student looked at me, panic-stricken and said to me in earnest: “Why did you rush so fast through those? She said it was really important that we cut them perfectly.” I need to emphasize that this kid was REALLY cutting his patterns slowly. While I had completed both of mine and was moving on to the other test requirements, he (and much of the rest of the class) were still painstakingly cutting the first of their two perfect circles. I simply remember thinking “Hey, relax, it’s just kindergarten. A circle is still a circle, whether it takes 10 seconds to cut it out, or 10 minutes.” Even then, I knew about wasted time. I understood “busy work.” I wish I had verbalized my thoughts to the poor kid, just to see his reaction. Just so I would have that memory.

I remember clearly, sitting in a circle around Mrs. Dadds story telling chair. Behind the story telling chair, she had a super large construction paper calendar that she would decorate in the style of the month. For the month of March, for example, she would have cutouts of a lamb and of a lion. She would explain “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” to us. Now repeat for each month.

I remember, sitting in this circle, waiting for the story to start, or maybe end. She was in her chair, the kids all sitting Indian-style on the floor. Even at that young age, I was prone to staring off into space and thinking. I do it way more now but the seeds were there, way back when. So there I was, thinking off into space, when I settled on the calendar. I thought about the year 1985. I thought about the year 1984, and realized I didn’t really remember it.

I realized that there was a version of me that lived in 1984. I had parents, pets, neighbors, forts, forests, books, toys, all of which existed in 1984. I knew that I hadn’t just appeared, grown to the size of a 5-year-old. But where did THAT Chris go? Where was he now? I realized that it was the beginning of something new. And in this new time, I would remember.

I remember that for those few minutes, I tried, really hard, to remember what life was like for Chris in 1984. But 1985′s Chris just couldn’t do it. He was too busy looking ahead, because 1986 loomed in the distance.

Effing Finally.

When the iPhone was first jailbroken, back in the iPhone OS 1.x days, there was a utility you could obtain from Installer.app called Taskbar Notifier that would populate the iPhone’s status bar with little icons for missed calls or voicemails, unread emails, or unread SMS messages.

Before I installed it, I didn’t really understand how much I needed it.

After I installed, I couldn’t live without it. Rather – I’d prefer, very much, to not live without it. Further, it’s something that I can’t believe is not already part of the iPhone OS.

Think of it this way: without this little hack, I would need to hit the sleep/wake button, then “Slide to Unlock” the phone, and then scan through the field of application icons to see any red badges indicating any unread emails, unread text messages, or missed calls/voicemails. WITH this little hack, I can just tap the sleep/wake button, and see the notifications. Very handy.

Back in July, Apple released their new iPhone OS 2.0, which broke compatibility with all or most jailbreak apps in order to support the new AppStore. Pretty much every jailbreak app needed to be modified or rewritten to be compatible with the newer OS. Sadly, Taskbar Notifier was one of the apps affected.

Taskbar Notifier needs to run in the background to poll the various apps for any missed events or unread items. There is basically zero chance of there ever being an officially supported version via the AppStore, since Apple doesn’t allow background processes on apps other than their own in-house stuff.

Well, after much searching and much waiting, it appears someone has stepped up to fill the void: StatusNotifier was released a couple of days ago, and man, I’m so happy.

It reproduces the biggest functionality items that I was looking for, but also introduces some fancy WinterBoard stuff that will modify the background image on the lock screen to indicate, with LARGE icons, whether you have any unread or missed items.

Many hats off to the developer for this, and I look forward to improvements he’ll make as time wears on.

You’re wrong, so shut the hell up.

All of these things offended my sensibilities today between the hours of 8:30am and 3pm.

In no particular order:

  • It’s “Sansom” street, not “Samson.” You should see a doctor about your dyslexia. This is even more a grievous offense if you actually live on or near Sansom street.
  • There is no letter “S” in the name WaWa. It is not “WaWa’s.”
  • It’s “DiBruno” brothers, not “Del Bruno” brothers. You were trying to sound glamorous and cool, but instead you mispronounced the name of the place where you got your fancy rolls. You instantly lacked any glamor.
  • It’s “Et Cetera” [ET-set-ur-ah], and not “Eccetera” [ECK-set-ur-ah] – yes, I know you probably don’t speak Latin, but it’s a dead language and this isn’t changing, so learn to pronounce it correctly.
  • Use i.e. and e.g. at the right times, and not in place of each other. In writing to someone that knows what these actually mean, you’d only be showing your ignorance. There used to be a really great wikipedia article on this, but I can’t find it, so I’ll break it down for you: e.g. is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “Exempli Gratia” meaning “for example.” An easy way to remember this is “Example Given.” And i.e. on the other hand, is Latin for “id est” meaning “that is” – this is basically used when you need to provide a re-wording or further clarification.
  • Don’t try and sound British if you’re not. Don’t say “literally” as if it only has 3 syllables; it has 4. “Litrally” is not a word so stop saying it. When you make a distinction between figurative and literal, you probably don’t say “litrall.”
  • I’m sorry, I know this will make me sound like a jerk: but don’t expect me to take you seriously if you speak with a southern accent, whether real or fake. For that matter, why would anyone willingly use a southern accent in a professional context when they’re from, say, Rhode Island? The only answer I can come up with is that they’ve perhaps watched one too many of Larry the Cable Guy’s stand-up acts. How is that guy still on TV?

I’m allowed to be bitchy about these things because when I was a kid, I was extremely hard of hearing. I used to take hearing tests on a regular basis. When I was in the booth, they would say words through a set of headphones that I had to repeat. One of the words was “Cupcake” which I would always pronounce as “Pupcake,” because, well, I was partially deaf and I was a kid and didn’t know that there was no such thing as a pupcake.

In any case, if I can be corrected, then so can you. Fix yourself.

iPhone 3G

As you may have heard, Apple announced the much-rumored iPhone 3G on Monday.

After the introduction of the original iPhone, I made a post detailing my predictions for what features we might expect in the next model of the device.

The new model does indeed have longer battery life, larger storage capacity (although, that was a feature bump on the old model, midway through it’s lifetime), 3G, and the A-GPS chip. While I’m disappointed that the camera didn’t get bumped up, most of my hardware predictions turned out to be spot-on. Although, I suppose it’s a little nit-picky to claim I was right about the thinner chassis: they made it thinner, but only at the edges.

The community has bemoaned the lackluster feature upgrades, but several prominent bloggers are noting the most important parts of Monday’s keynote were NOT about hardware changes. Instead, we should try to focus on the iPhone as a platform: the on-stage demos given for third-party application developers were very slick. The ease of development, I’m sure, puts the WinMo IDE to shame.

It should be very evident that Apple is not going to let the iPhone be a repeat of the Mac. This time, market dominance is their goal, and they’re gonna do it. If you have any doubt, just look at the price tag: models starting at $199. One hundred ninety nine dollars. One third the original price for the first 8GB device, one year ago.

I don’t profess to be any kind of BlackBerry expert, but with the enterprise features Apple announced on Monday, the SDK for third-party developers, the cheap price, and the fact that the damned thing is just FUN to use… well, I don’t know who would buy a BlackBerry. Any model.

The managers at my day-job all have BlackJacks by Samsung. They run WinMo and do the whole Exchange thing. But, I’ve noticed that about half of them find it a chore to use but tolerate it as a necessary evil, while the other half simply leaves it sitting on their desk after they leave for the day. However, every single time I’m using my iPhone at work, they always want to see it. They want to look at photos or surf the web or dick around on YouTube. It’s a device that demands to be touched and fooled with.

When’s the last time you said that about your phone?

It goes ’round and ’round

This past Saturday, I went out to the burbs to check out my brothers band, The Sermon!, play at Vincents. Dad was there, and my friends George and Virginia were able to attend. A good time was had by all.

I used to go to Vincents with my brother Rob just about every Saturday to check out Papa John DeFrancesco and his organ trio. Between January 2000 and August of 2001, I probably missed six of those Saturday nights upstairs. I was going to Vincents, a smoky bar, before I was old enough to drink. In fact, one Saturday night, after being there every Saturday night for probably 13 months straight, the waitress asked me what I’d like to drink. It had been my habit all along to drink water, since I used to be what they call a “straight-edge.” Having been there every week for so long, I guess she was just being polite. When I asked for water, she replied that it was much better for me. My reply to that was that I was not old enough to drink. She looked at me like I was the dumbest human on earth (which, in retrospect, was almost a 100% accurate assessment) and with wide eyes and hushed tones she said “Shhh! Don’t ever say that out loud in here again!” and proceeded to get my water for me. It was another 2 years before I ordered a drink at Vincents that had any alcohol in it.

So anyway, Saturday night. Something that happens every time I go to West Chester, is that I run into people that I know. Or that I used to know. Or that know me. Or knew me. This time was no exception. I ran into Colin McGetrick. I haven’t seen this guy in 9 years. We graduated from Unionville together, he had an afro of the highest magnitude. I remember him being a very cool guy. We started to catch up and he shared the same sentiment of me, whether real or imagined. We both commented on how we felt that in high school, we just kept our heads down, learned, laughed, and left. He said something that I found a little shocking, “I kept to myself, mostly because I was shy.” Who knew? I guess everyone, even the cool kids, are shy sometimes. He didn’t have his afro, but he still exuded that same kind of comfortable cool.

When I asked what he was up to, he told me he just got engaged. I bought him a beer. He asked the same of me, and I told him I had gotten married almost two years ago, and showed him the wedding pics on my phone. His reply was “Congratulations, you both look so happy.”

Ten years ago we were figuring out where to go to college, pining over girls, stressing about that next pop quiz, wondering what life was like after high school. What did the future hold for us?

That is a large TV.

First, some background: the TV we’ve had in our apartment for the last 5 years or so, has been the very same TV that my parents purchased for the Mastrippolito living room back in 1984. When I was 5 years old. When they were still married. Twenty-three years ago.

It’s a 1984 RCA 27″ Colortrak, a highly regarded TV from that era. It featured dual composite inputs for video, and a single set of stereo composite inputs for audio, as well as the obligatory coaxial input. That’s it. Though, it also had some interesting features, like auto brightness adjustment via a sensor-eye on the front, and some screw-dials on the back for adjusting picture settings like v-hold and stuff.

I watched Transformers on it. G.I. Joe. Mister Rogers. etc. We’ve played hundreds of thousands of NES games through it. Watched a ton of VHS tapes. Mom and Dad were the first people in our community to own a VCR and a VHS camcorder, thus we recorded and watched gads of videos on that setup.

The TV has been struck by lightning, more than once, with almost no surge protection. The net effect of these voltage overages is that the upper left corner has a slight purple tinge to it. It’s only really noticeable against certain background colors, and certainly livable.

It survived a household with two scrapping boys, who constantly jumped on the furniture and threw things and were unruly in general. To this day, every time I get up from the couch, I can hear the chassis on the TV creak because of the shifted weight on the floor.

At any rate, the TV, which is now 23 years old, is finally giving up the ghost. The past two or three months have been especially bad, with constant popping and crackling, weird color shifts that correct themselves after a moment or two, and sometimes while watching DVD’s the screen occasionally goes entirely blank.

I’m a pretty sentimental person, and like I’ve said, this thing has been around for most of my life. So I’m a little sad to see it go.

However,

Now that we need a TV, I’ve spent the past month or so researching a suitable replacement. I can say that TV’s have come a long way since 1984.

I talked it over with Meg, and despite her initial hesitation, we’ve agreed that not only is it time for a new TV, but it’s time for a big, new, fancy, shiny TV. An HDTV, to be exact.

So, today, about an hour ago, I pulled the trigger and ordered a Toshiba Regza 42″ 16:9 LCD HDTV with built-in ATSC tuner. It has three built-in HDMI ports, and displays at 480i through 720p. I was a little wary of going lower than 1080, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to tell the difference on anything smaller than a 50″ set. It has a full complement of inputs in addition to the HDMI jacks, including 2 video component inputs, a VGA 15 pin D-Sub for use with a PC, S-video and RF inputs. Oh yeah, and on the side, it has additional composite inputs. It’s got composite audio out, as well as optical out.

It’ll be here in a few days. Very psyched.

Helpful iPhone Tricks

After using this thing for over two weeks, I’ve found a couple handy tricks, and have read a bunch online in the usual places:

Safari
Tapping at the top of the screen (on or directly below the clock, basically) when you’ve scrolled to the bottom of the page will instantly return you to the top of the page for easy access to the location bar. I just wish they had one that did the opposite: scrolled to the bottom of any page by double tapping the top, or something.

Holding your finger down on any link for a second or two will pop up a little tag showing you the URL. If you see it’s a URL that you do not want to pursue, then move your finger up or down to scroll the page while you’re holding the link down. Otherwise, release the link, and Safari will follow it.

Weather Widget
You probably already know you can flick through your various cities in the weather widget, but what if you’re feeling lazy? Well, you can tap to the right or left of the line of white/grey dots at the bottom of the widget to advance one pane right or one pane left.

Typing
This was a big one a few days ago – David Pogue posted it, and it echoed a million times across the intarweb. To type punctuation, you have to tap a “secondary keyboard” button. Then tap the desired punctuation, then tap the secondary keyboard button again to toggle back to the alpha keyboard. This is clearly too many taps for something so basic. It would seem that Apple thought so, too – if you HOLD the secondary keyboard key and slide your finger over to the desired punctuation, and then release, it automatically reverts back to the standard alpha keyboard. One tap instead of three.

Finally: iPhone

So I’m laying on a beach towel, soaking up the Rittenhouse Square sounds. There are a ton of people out here; it’s a beautiful day.

Two days ago, in the evening, I was standing in line at the 16th street AT&T store, behind about a hundred other people. It was my first time ever waiting in line for a tech product release like this, and I’ll admit it was a unique experience. I was also surprised by the number of people that weren’t even there to make a purchase: they were so caught up in the hype that they would gladly wait in line just to get a peek and/or feel of this thing.

Clearly, these were my people. They chattered on about edge and gigabytes and exchange and god knows what. I felt comfortable with these guys.

After waiting in line for an hour and a half, the friendly AT&T sales person came out to tell us they had sold out! I was tenth from the door.

So I went home and got mopey. Luckily my friend Mark was on his way over, so he drove me out to the Ardmore Apple Store where I was greeted with absolutely no line and super friendly salesfolk.

We sped back to the apartment, to get everything all activated and synced. An hour and a half later, we were putting the device through its paces.

I’ll write a more detailed post later, from a full sized computer.