Keeping the faith

By James at May 05, 2009 05:41
Filed Under: Life in General

Having faith when life is going well is easy. Keeping that faith when its not a bed of roses is hard. However it’s the difficult times which shape us, hone our character and make us who we are.

For me, this past month has been one of those difficult times. Laid off at the end of March, going through the ups and downs of finding a job, offers changed at the last minute, sitting across from IT managers who could be my son, answering esoteric programming questions, dealing with lost paperwork at the unemployment office, being tested in various situations, and, battling to keep the faith in both myself and the Universe.

I am happy to say, it has all paid off. I have come through this period stronger, smarter, humbled, blessed, and most importantly, employed.

Say hello to the new Senior .NET Developer for EnerPath.com. I will be handling new development and will be working with a team to build even better energy management systems which EnerPath is famous for. The company is cool, everyone is happy, laid back, and insanely intelligent. Some of my new co-workers are members of the IEDOTNETUG. And best of all…wait for it… the office is 15 minutes away from my house. It is close enough, I could ride my bike to work – well, ahem, after some conditioning time.

I start tomorrow.

Thanks to all my friends who got me through this.

Sloane, Erin and Kevin at Job Spring Partners, who worked with me to find what it was I wanted, taught an old guy how to interview, and did not treat me like just another commodity. If you need a job, or want to test the waters, call these guys. Seriously.

Geoff, David, Lynn, Matt, and Mike who made sure I wasn’t curled up in a ball eating ice cream, but was keeping busy and upbeat.

Volkan, Cigdem, and Rich who worked their butts off making sure I was ready for whatever interview question came my way, and being there on a moments notice when I needed a hand.

And most of all to Carmina, who not once showed an ounce of doubt in her eyes (even though I knew it was chewing her up inside). She is my consejero, my friend, my sounding board, my partner, my wife. Usted es la luz de mi vida. va a querer para siempre.

Time for a haircut.

James

It’s official! I’m an MVP. Time for a nap.

By James at April 01, 2009 04:27
Filed Under: Inland Empire .NET UG, Life in General, Microsoft, MVP

I was up way late again, this time checking email every 30 seconds for the “official” congratulations message. Click – Wait – Click – Wait – Repeat. “OK Johnson”, I say to myself. “Go to bed, it will come.”

7:00 am – nothing
7:30 am – nada
8:00 am – hmm, ok
8:30 am – nervous tension starts
8:45 am – uh oh, comments are coming in from last night’s blog
9:00 am – where is that darn thing?
9:01 am – this can’t be an April Fools Joke, can it?
9:02 am – maybe I shouldn’t have blogged last night and they took it away?
9:15 am – more nervous tension, beads of sweat on my face
9:30 am – this *REALLY* can’t be an April Fools Joke, can it?
9:31 am – HEY! there’s an email in the Junk folder?! WTF?
9:31:05 am – YAHOO! LIVE!

I AM A MVP!

mvp

For quite some time, this is something I have been wanting and working for. Not for the recognition, more to learn what all the mystery of the MVP is about, to sneak a peak behind the blue door, to reach out and touch the secret squirrels.

Of all the emails that have come in the last 24 hours, there is one line that stands out:

…enjoy the award; take advantage of the opportunities it offers you…

Believe me… I fully intend to. I can’t wait to dive into the MVP site to check out what’s there.

Thanks again to everyone who watches my back and helped me get to where I am today.

James

Time for a nap.

Wow! What a roller coaster ride. I'm dizzy.

By James at March 31, 2009 15:31
Filed Under: Inland Empire .NET UG, Life in General, Microsoft, MVP

How many of you have watched the movie Parenthood? In one speech, Grandma makes a little statement about when Grandpa took her on a roller coaster…

“I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me feel so frightened, so sick, so excited, so scared, so safe, and so thrilled, altogether! Some didn't like it. They wanted to go on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.”

I usually prefer the roller coaster as well, but for the past month I have been quietly wishing for the merry-go-round.

I have many great friends who are always there to support me. And because of my work with the Inland Empire .NET User’s Group and other .NET community efforts, several of them took it upon themselves to nominate me for a Microsoft MVP award. Thinking, and being told, it was a slam dunk, I was disappointed when I received an email last month telling me there just wasn’t any room for me, and perhaps next go round.

With development and management issues at work, supervisors reneging on their decision to let me attend Mix, so much code churn I’m going to patent C# butter, and then to top it all off, yesterday… “at our board meeting three weeks ago, we decided to cut back the IT department and eliminate your position.”  (A software company without a developer – smart decision. I’m sure they’ll be around a long time.)

Last night was rough. I stayed up till three doing the online resume thing and filing for unemployment. Carmina and I discussed if I should go into the office today, and decided I should. More along the lines of “they can’t get rid of me that easily”  than anything else.

Sitting in traffic on the 91, my phone rings. It’s one of my Microsoft friends, Daniel Egan. He starts chatting, then coyly asks, “have you read your email today?”  Nope, buddy, I’m on the road. He then goes on to start babbling about getting to a computer, not wanting to spoil the surprise, then, all of a sudden he blurts out, “you got your MVP! I just got off the phone with Suzanna.”

Ok, I like to play April fools jokes on my kids and everything, but after yesterday now is not the time. Daniel assures me its true and when I get into the office and have a chance to check my email there is this little tidbit waiting for me.

MVP prémio

Bem James, apenas não sei o que a say…. Excepto parabéns! Sei, apenas quando pensei que não era que vai acontecer, você foram aprovados! Bem-vindo ao programa MVP, conhecimentos de dev de aplicativo de cliente. Você receberá um e-mail oficial (ou dois) mas queria deixar sabe um dia mais cedo porque esse é o tipo de renegade estou;~)

Por favor manter esta notícia para si mesmo até receber a notícia oficial amanhã. Parabéns novamente e bem-vindo!

Suzanna Moran
Sr. MVP Lead, Community and Online Support

So trying to be a good sport I don’t tell anyone the news. Well Carmina deserved to know, so I called her. I’m waiting and waiting. It’s like being 12 all over again on Christmas Eve.

While at my desk at home, doing some work I start noticing some Tweets come in from @Zannabanna; “congratulations this, w00t that”. Then right about 8 pm PDT, I see the following:

Zannabanana Welcome, welcome NEW MVP @jamesLatringo :~)

Hmm… a quick little DM to Suzanna: “hey. does this mean I can shout it out now?”

The response: “SHOUT IT OUT! I figure hey, it's after 8 PM on the west coast, besides, I can NEVER wait!”

Well, what can I say? It’s still not April 1, and I haven’t received the “official” email, but boy, do I have proof!

twitterMVP2

So, is anyone in the market for a well seasoned ASP.NET/SQL Developer who just got his MVP? I’m available and ready to roll.

Thanks everyone for helping me to get to this part in my career. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Word,
James

Merry Christmas - 2008

By James at December 23, 2008 06:31
Filed Under: Life in General

 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our friends. Can you solve the puzzle?

James

Offshore Contractor Speak

By James at December 17, 2008 11:03
Filed Under: Miscellaneous, Life in General, Web Development

We work with an offshore country based at GMT + 5:30 to develop an application for us. Communicating with the contractors has been trying to say the least. Emails just don’t seem to get the point across about what needs to be done, or how I should set things up on my side. And, it seems they want me to be awake at 2:30 AM my time to answer the phone. After two weeks of trying to move the application from staging to production, with multiple points of failure, it was time for a phone call.

Ring, ring.

Me: “Hello”

Them: “Hi James”

blah, blah, blah, and niceties exchanged.

Me: “Ok, so let me get this straight. On the production machine, you want me to set the connection string to the XYZ report to the staging database? Doesn’t this defeat the purpose?”

Them: “Yes, set the connection string to the staging database.”

Me: “Are you sure? You’re positive right? This is the production server.”

Them: “Yes, please set the connection string to the staging database on report XYZ.”

Me: “On the production server?”

Them: “Yes on the production server, set the connection string to the staging database.”

(this isn’t going well)

Me: “Ok. Then anything else?”

Them: “Yes, when we move to the production server, make sure to change the connection string to the production database.”

Me: “Sigh….”

Hold Fast Pomade – My first advertising sponsor

By James at November 21, 2008 03:37
Filed Under: Life in General, Non-Technical

My blog is the most popular on the interwebs. It gets so many hits a day, just now eclipsing 3.56 billion, it’s totally amazing to see the hit counters spin and watch how many ones and zeroes are zipped back and forth. Just freaking amazing. And while it’s cool to have so many fans, there is one drawback. I have to setup a new server every week. I know about virtualization and cloud computing, and all that other fancy schmancy technology, but I like to have total control over things. Thinking perhaps there was a way to offset the costs of having to build an entire server, and such, I decided to do what some of those other so called “web loggers” are doing and put an advertisement up. So I called my good friend – good is an understatement, he’s like my brother – Josh Highland.

Josh is an interweb guru, and has so many sites up, he almost comes close to my 3.56 billion hits a day. However, more importantly, is Josh’s ability to come up with ideas for real, tangible things. He has this new product, Hold Fast Pomade, which is taking the hair care product market by storm. Hold Fast Pomade is so popular, the parent company, Hold Fast Products has already come out with a new product line…wait for it… T_SHIRTS! Nice.

So, with that said, I am proud to offer you my first advertising sponsor – Hold Fast Pomade.

Show some interweb click love and give Hold Fast a try. Just click on the ad banner at the bottom of each page.

Word,

James

Postscript. Ok, perhaps 3.56 billion hits a day is a tiny exaggeration, its more like 3.56 hits per month. But Josh is a great friend, and I want to help him out where I can. And Hold Fast Pomade, really is, a great product.

J

Dexter

By James at November 15, 2008 12:50
Filed Under: Life in General

During our travels today, running errands and such, we tried to stick to our game plan. Home Depot for potting soil, Wet Pets for crickets, Petco for dog food. Thinking it would be best to hit Petco first, we started off there. Walking into the store we ran across puppies for adoption. Schnauzer/Wire-haired terrier mixes. Needless to say, we fell in love. We get him on Wednesday, after his, ahem, surgery.

Everyone meet Dexter. Dexter, meet everyone.

How can you not love those ears?

I think we get all these animals ‘cuz we’re never going to get grandchildren.

Enough said

By James at November 04, 2008 15:34
Filed Under: Life in General

“If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

Barack Obama

November 4, 2008

I can’t remember a time when I was happier to be an American.

J

Is this being too much of a geek?

By James at November 02, 2008 06:57
Filed Under: Web Development, Life in General

With the announcement of Windows Azure, lots of people started grabbing domains relating to Azure. How geeky is this?

00AFFF.com

Guess who owns it?

Interestingly enough, Microsoft registered azure.com 14 years ago.

James

My left arm

By James at August 23, 2008 15:14
Filed Under: Life in General

Wedding rings are worn on the left hand, as the veins in the arm go straight to the heart. During my time with Carmina, I've collected several trinkets which I wear on my left hand and wrist. Little tokens of her, which go straight to my heart. While planning our 3rd anniversary trip to Ensenada, I decided to surprise her with a picture of a Mayan calendar representing our wedding date - July 23, 2005. It took a while to figure it out until I found a few different web sites with glyphs and tutorials on how to translate dates. I brought the artwork and information home, showed Carmina and she was really tickled, but started wondering what it was all about.

I have two great friends @joshhighland and @gemery who have tattoos. Josh is almost totally covered with the most beautiful artwork I have seen. Geoff is a world traveler and gets a tattoo from every continent he has visited. Now I'm an older guy, who occasionally will put a hoop through the ancient hole in my earlobe, but with no body art to mention.

With the deep love of my wife (and of Mayan heritage), my two brothers as an inspiration and going a bit further, in my head and to myself, I decided I would get a tattoo while in Mexico. While driving I broke the news to Carmina. She got all excited and decided to join me on my search for a place to get it done.

Ensenada is the city of rip-offs, cheap transvestites and counterfeit Cuban cigars. Neither of us felt terribly comfortable in having me get inked in any of the places we saw. Somewhat disappointed, Carmina perked me up by mentioning Chris, the husband of one of her co-workers, Alma. Chris works for the city of Riverside and does tattoos on the side. Carmina hooks me up with Chris and we set up a date.

Today was the day. I didn't sleep at all the night before, I was excited. I had heard it would hurt, and seen pictures of right afterwards with the oozing, but I really wanted to do this. Chris is an awesome guy, un-assuming, friendly, joking, a liberal. His "shop" is decorated with slasher movie props, meat cleavers, meat hooks and antique car memorabilia. "Welcome to the Butcher Shop Tattoo Parlor" is painted on the floor.

So we get started. At first I had wanted it on the inside of my arm. Chris asks me if I'm sure, tells me it will really hurt in that spot and talks me into putting it directly on my bicep. I agree, so he traces the design, and works three times to get it just right on my arm. This isn't like getting the wrong shade of paint in the bathroom, once you start, there is no going back, and I appreciate him taking his time.

Time to start. Outline is first and I think, this isn't so bad. I start meditating on my third eye and breath deeply, getting into the experience. Things are going well, when all of a sudden...WTF!!! Ow!!! that hurts! He just started outlining into the inside of my arm, right on the edge where I wanted him to start. OMG this HURTS! I let it all wash over me, glad when he gets to the outside of my arm, squirming when he gets to the inside, breathing a sigh when he stops for more ink. He is careful and detailed and it takes an hour to do the outlining. We take a short break to stretch legs, drink some water, and pee. Then its time for the shading.

Chris says the shading will be easier, "it's more of a burn, than a tearing like the outline". Whew...ok, I can deal with this. WRONG! The outlining is done with a single needle. Shading is done with four to seven needles dragged across the skin. The soft part of my arm takes the brunt of the pain. After each pass, Chris wipes the skin, and I don't know what is worse, the needle or the wiping of punctured skin with a paper towel and green soap. He's using a lighter shade of black, but all I see is red, my blood under the skin. "Don't worry, he says, that will fade. This is looking awesome!" During the shading, I'm squirming big time. Chris teases me with "it's rough isn't it?" I respond with "F*** you"! We both laugh and get on with it.

Finally he's done with the shading but now wants to put some highlights with white. Nice, more poking, but I've gone this far, we're in 3 hours by now, so what the heck. Another 30 minutes and then he's ready to do the details. Huh!?!

Carmina's favorite color is purple. The top glyph means "Esposa". I had previously asked Chris about coloring, so when he was done with the detailing he get's ready to start with the purple highlights on the top glyph.

Four hours later and we're done. It's amazing how fast the pain fades and I look at myself in the mirror. The white highlights make it pop, the purple is cool, and it is "more better" than I had imagined.

Will I get another? Who knows. This one is significant and meaningful to me. Will getting another dilute this feeling?

Here are the pictures

Original graphic based on my research

tattoo_outline

My finished tattoo

tattoo

The Mayan calendar is actually a number of days from creation, with the significant event the main glyph on the top. Each long oval represents "five" and each open circle represents "one", with the other glyphs representing the portion of time in the epoch. So, in this case the top glyph represents "the wife of", with the rest counting up the days from creation to when Carmina and I were married.

Carmina is already looking up glyphs for what she wants. Have I mentioned how much I love this woman?

James

About the author

James James is a five time and current Microsoft MVP in Client App Development, a Telerik Insider, a past Director on the INETA North America Board, a husband and dad, and has been developing software since the early days of Laser Discs and HyperCard stacks. As the Founder and President of the Inland Empire .NET User's Group, he has fondly watched it grow from a twice-a-month, early Saturday morning group of five in 2003, to a robust and rambunctious gathering of all types and sizes of .NET developers.

James loves to dig deep into the latest cutting edge technologies - sometimes with spectacular disasters - and spread the word about the latest and greatest bits, getting people excited about developing web sites and applications on the .NET platform, and using the best tools for the job. He tries to blog as often as he can, but usually gets distracted by EF, LINQ, MVC, ASP, SQL, XML, and most other types of acronyms. To keep calm James plays a mean Djembe and tries to practice his violin. You can follow him on twitter at @latringo.

And as usual, the comments, suggestions, writings and rants are my own, and really shouldn't reflect the opinions of my employer. That is, unless it really does.

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