Tuesday, August 12, 2008

List Update

Here are some things that are going on with me and mine
  • Xavier is officially a walker.
  • Xavier has his first pair of shoes
  • Xavier just started a new day care that is closer to home
  • Oliver is getting better about recognizing letters and numbers
  • My wife is going back to work full time
  • We are looking for a new (used) car
  • I've started going to work early in the morning to get my hours in
  • As soon as we get the second car, I'm going to be on pick-up duty.
  • I played my first roller hockey game since Oliver was very young on Sunday.
  • I feel like I'm hitting my stride at work.

In which I step back between the pipes

Everyone has a set of characteristics that they want other people to view them as having. For me, one of those defining characteristics is helpful. Which is how I found myself Sunday strapping on a set of goalie pads for the first time in five years.

When I was back in college many moons ago, my friend convinced a bunch of us that we wanted to start playing roller hockey. At first it was just games on the top of the parking garage. Then it was renting out a rink for a stick and puck session. Then it was joining a league and playing. At some point in all of this, I decided that since we needed a goalie (and I couldn't skate) that it would be helpful for me to grab some pads and jump in between the pipes. I wasn't good, but I enjoyed it and I was helpful. Over time I got better and got better pads. But after a while I wasn't enjoying it any more.

The problem with being a goalie is that no one really wants to play there, but it isn't as enjoyable of a game without them. In hockey, the highs of the game are when goals are scored. Consequently (especially in rec hockey), there is a lot of effort and energy expended in scoring goals and much less spent in preventing them from being scored. Unless you are the goalie, in which case your entire game is spent trying to deny goal scoring highs to the other team. Blocking shots and getting hit by the pack are what most people fear about being goalie, but they aren't actually bad. The padding absorbs most of the impact, so it rarely hurts when you get hit. Goalie pads start out heavy and become heavier as you get tired and sweaty. They generally possess a certain funkiness that comes from games upon games of accumulated sweat. The other factor in goalie life is that it takes so long to put on all of the pads and to take them off that once they are on, they aren't coming off until the game is over. As a skater, if I get bored on defense or offense, I can just switch positions with someone or take a rush when I get the puck. But a goalie can't just switch with somone. You'd end up killing 30 minutes of precious rink time making the switch.

For the skaters, the game is much more enjoyable with a goalie than without. Without a goalie, there are a couple of options, but generally what happens is that the nets are pushed over exposing the top netting and goals only count if they hit that top netting. For the better players, hitting the net is less of a challenge and closer to a basketball free throw, so the high of goal scoring is lowered. For the newer players, hitting that netting is very difficult as you have to lift the puck just a little bit and aim it precisely. For newer skaters, the sheer size of a full net and the possibility of scoring without having to be so precise makes the game more fun. And for better skaters, getting the puck past the goalie becomes a laudable goal. If you have hockey friends, no one ever talks about their open net goals, but they'll go on and on about the slapper that just had eyes for the glove side arm hole.

With all of this in mind, I listened as the captain of my new roller hockey team explained that the two primary goalies couldn't make it today. I watched as the backup goalie started to put on the pads backwards and in the wrong order. Finally I couldn't take it any more.

"I really didn't want to say this, but I've played goal before. I'm not very good, but I'll jump in this week."

And so I pulled on the goalie pants, still moist from the last poor sucker. I strapped on the oversized leg pads and tightened all of the straps. I wriggled into the body armor and pulled over my goalie jersey. I grabbed the helmet and plunked it on my head. I grabbed the blocker, the catcher and the stick. I skated out onto the rink just in time to start the game. So unwarmed, unstretched, wearing a borrowed set of pads, I played goal for the first time in five years. It was brutal. We lost 10-3. My save percentage hovered around .500. About the only saving grace was that I did a bit better in the second half of the game.

I hope that next week the real goalies show up. But if they don't I'll hop in net again, helpful as ever.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Book: Vital Friends

As a member of the Gallup poll, I get to regularly voice my opinion that President Bush is doing a terrible job. If that weren't satisfying enough, a couple of weeks ago Gallup sent me a book, Vital Friends by Tom Rath. This past weekend, I was looking for something to read and I came across it again. With a shrug and a sigh, I sat down and started to read.

The premise of the book is that people in general can become happier, healthier, and more productive by focussing on their relationships. According to the author, vital friends (friends who you can't do without) fall into eight categories that describe what you get out of a relationship. Builders are great motivators. Champions stand up for you. Collaborators are friends that share your interests. Connectors are friends who introduce you to new people. Companions are always there when you need them. Energizers are the "fun" friends. Mind Openers introduce you to new things. Navigators are great at giving advice. The book breaks down each type of friend, describes what they do, how you'd describe the friend to someone else, how to strengthen that type of friendship, how to acquire more of that type of friend, and how to be a better friend of that type.

Friendships are not always mirrors in terms of what roles the parties play. For example, my wife is a builder, a companion, and a navigator. To her, I'm a companion, a navigator, and a connector. One of the nuggets of advice in the book is to appreciate the roles that your friend is best at and not dwell on the roles that your friend may not excel at. One of the biggest fights that my wife and I had was when I tried to get her to be more of a Collaborator in a hobby that she had absolutely no interest in doing.

One of the "bonuses" with the purchase of the book is access to the VitalFriends.com website. One chapter of the book describes how to use the site. On it, you can answer questions and figure out what roles each of your friends plays in your life. But there isn't a way to sign in without the code from the book. So you can recommend that a friend try it out, but in order to access the site, she would have to buy a fresh copy of the book and hope that no one grabbed the code from the book while it sat on the shelf at Borders. I appreciate that the authors want to be paid for their work, but in the age of MySpace, FaceBook, and other social networking sites, there ought to be a way to make the service available to someone without them having to purchase the book.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Favorite cheap places to take the kids in St. Louis

1) The Zoo - An obvious choice, it's good all year round. Educational and free - how could you go wrong.

2) The Science Center - Another obvious choice. That it is all pretty much indoors only adds to the appeal in the winter.

3) Tower Grove Park - There are a lot of play areas and playgrounds. But what makes Tower Grove different for me is the Fountain Square wading pool. Free and open to the public, this area is a lot of fun for the munchkins and easy for the adults. Just remember to bring a dry change of clothes.

4) It's Party Time (on Watson) - They are extremely flexible in terms of what food you can bring in and adults are free. Both of our kids loved it. Just watch out on entrances and exits from the inflatable equipment - I didn't think there was nearly enough padding.

5) The pharmacy - There is a pharmacy right down the street from my house. The attraction of the pharmacy is that we can go and pick up some nickel and dime candy for Oliver and Daddy. Each time he can try something new, so it is always an adventure.

6) The Metrolink station - Oliver loves trains. The nearest Metrolink stop is within walking distance. We can usually see three trains in fifteen minutes. And when we're done, we can walk home.

7) The Mills mall play area - Another indoor play area. This was a godsend last summer when it was too hot to go outside.

8) The library - The library is a great place to go with your kids. They have puzzles and books and movies.

9) The firehouse - Not all firehouses are the same, but if yours is anything like ours, it's a great place to take the kids. When the firefighters are not out fighting fires, they are more than amenable to showing the kids the fire engines and the ambulances. And with each visit, they get a plastic fire helmet (I really need to figure out a way to gracefully refuse them - we are frequent visitors and I'd like to make sure that there is enough for other people).

I'll add more as I think of them. Do you have any that I missed?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Interesting Java behavior

I recently was working with a generic list that was being populated by Hibernate.

List fooList = getFooFromHibernate();
for (Foo foo : fooList)
// do stuff

I was getting ClassCastExceptions while iterating through the list. It took a while to figure out, but the getFooFromHibernate method had a join to the BAR table in it without selecting the fields. Because of this Hibernate dumped a Foo into the list AND a Bar. When I iterated through the list, I got the exception.

This behavior can be caught with integration tests by iterating through the lists retrieved from the database.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Learning from a bad book

This past weekend my wife picked up Rich Dad, Poor Dad from the shelves at my parents' house. The book is a "non-fiction" fable of a self-made man who has become rich from the advice from his rich father figure. His actual father, aka Poor Dad, is the source of the traditional advice of Study Hard, Word Hard, and Get a Good Job. The author argues that this usually translates into someone becoming a wage slave by increasing their standard of living as their wages increase. The advice from Rich Dad falls into the usual investment nuggets of Pay Yourself First, Buy Assets, and Don't Be Afraid to Take Risks.

In general, the content of the book was mixed - some good information and some bad information. The material was persuasively presented but contained little new and/or different advice. Often the interests of the author shown through as he advised the reader to purchase his board game, Cash Flow, to buy books (he's an author), and attend lectures on how to become rich (he's a motivational speaker).

The lesson I took from the book was to wake up, to get off of our collective keesters, and to do something about building up an investment portfolio that has a non-trivial return. I'm not exactly sure how to do that (the book was unclear on specifics), but I'm at least more motivated than I had been in finding out the answer. Despite being a completionist, I doubt that I'll be following up in order to read more by the author, but I can say that it was a good book at the instant I read it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Still ticking

I had surgery today on my nose. The idea was that the doctor was going to be able to fix it before it healed up in the wrong shape. However, I think that all the king's horses and all the king's men were busy today. So it's better than it used to be, but still going to be somewhat misaligned. As long as I can breathe well through it, I'll take it. Otherwise I may see a rhinoplasty in my future. That's got to be everyone's favorite word, doesn't it?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

List update

Here are some of the things that are going on with me:

  • Looking at sending the kids to private school.
  • Looking at paying for sending the kids to private school.
  • Thinking about refinancing the house.
  • Thinking about moving into a better school district.
  • Significant changes in my birth family.
  • I broke my nose last Sunday.
  • Fighting a sinus infection.
  • Started at a new site.
  • Trying to fit into a new team.
  • Looking into buying a car.
  • Contempating being done with procreation.
  • Happy for my procreating friends.
  • Monitoring the whereabouts of the newly cruising and stair climbing Xavier.
  • Monitoring the meltdowns of big brother.
  • Being unsatisified with my writing.

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