A New Addition

If you’re reading this and we’re friends on Facebook, you already know. And since I’m pretty sure only my Mom reads this blog, she definitely already knows anyway. But let’s pretend you’re neither my friend nor acquaintance nor person who brought me into this world so I can break some awesome news: I’m going to be a father! Gina and I are expecting a baby in December. I’m thrilled!

Most of the advice I’ve gotten from other young fathers (and this is one area where people freely give advice) has swirled around one basic theme – that words can’t accurately express how my life will change. Not all of them were talking about simple things like losing sleep or having to change diapers, either – they were trying to convey how awesome fatherhood is, I think.

I suppose I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for this, because the concept doesn’t freak me out. I’m not going to pretend that I’ll be prepared or know at all what I’m doing on day one, but that’s okay. I’ve been an adult long enough now to realize that a big part of life is just adapting to new stuff and new situations, and I know that together Gina and I can eventually stumble toward something resembling our own parenting style.

Announcing our news has also got me thinking about my own parents and how I can’t wait for them to meet their newest grandchild. My Mom and Dad prepared me for life in every way possible, and I’m forever grateful to them for that. From reading to me at night and encouraging me to keep picking up books, to pushing me out of my comfort zone to do things like spelling bees and Space Camp. They took me on camping and fishing trips to learn to appreciate the outdoors and the environment. They taught me the value of hard work by making me help around the house and sweat through countless big projects in the basement. They showed me that using your brain can usually lead you to a better solution. They imparted their ethics while letting me figure out where I stood on my own. They nurtured my faith. They provided me with the opportunity and encouragement to go to Virginia Tech, which affected my life in countless ways. And to this day they exemplify what it means to be part of a larger family and good neighbors.

If I prove to be the merest fraction of a parent as mine are, then my kid will surely turn out fine. Thanks Mom and Dad!

So, anybody know where the official parenting rule book is kept? That’s a thing, right?

Welcome To The Future

A recent posting to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s website provides an analysis to the question of “How Much Would an iPhone Have Cost in 1991?”

Author (and awesomely-named) Bret Swanson references an original article from Buffalo writer Steve Cichon claiming that, based on advertised prices in a 1991 Radio Shack flyer for several separate products, it would have cost you around $3,000 to have devices capable of doing most of the things the iPhone does. But of course, they’d all be filling up a home office rather than fitting in your pocket, and as the Washington Post pointed out after picking up Cichon’s post, all those devices would deliver a much inferior quality compared to what we have in smartphones today. So it’s not a straight comparison.

What I like about Swanson’s take, as a cost estimator by trade, is that he goes several steps deeper and tries to calculate how much it would take to actually construct something as powerful as an iPhone using 1991 components and prices for those piece parts. A lot of this is somewhat technical and requires a lot of assumptions, but it’s fascinating stuff. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1991, a gigabyte of hard disk storage cost around $10,000, perhaps a touch less. (Today, it costs around four cents ($0.04).) Back in 1991, a gigabyte of flash memory, which is what the iPhone uses, would have cost something like $45,000, or more. (Today, it’s around 55 cents ($0.55).)

The mid-level iPhone 5S has 32 GB of flash memory. Thirty-two GB, multiplied by $45,000, equals $1.44 million.

That’s quite a leap from $3,000 right there, and that’s only the basic storage space. Swanson goes on to tally up a figure of over $3 million before even getting into the technology that simply didn’t exist back then, and of course putting all those components together would result in a device that would have trouble, as he puts it, fitting into a refrigerator.

One of the things I have to pay attention to in my job of cost estimating is how to factor in the escalation of prices of goods as time goes on. At the same time, I have to factor in the dramatic drop in the cost of electronic components over time, especially if I’m trying to use historical data as a reference point. The type of peeling-of-the-onion in this article just goes to show you how difficult that is to do with any kind of accuracy.

And of course, when I was reading this article, I was reminded of those Star Trek episodes where Spock or Data found themselves stranded back in time and were forced to build some communicator or tricorder out of parts available to them. Somehow they always managed to fit it into their hotel room before it inevitably blew up:

We can now check in on Facebook, Captain.  (source: dadsgamingaddiction.com)
We can now check in on Facebook, Captain. (source: dadsgamingaddiction.com)

And to bring it all home, to those of us who had a vision of the future being all flying cars and hoverboards, perhaps xkcd said it best a few years ago:

Winn Tier Oh Limp Icks

Gina and I watched the Opening Ceremonies of the Sochi Games last night. Well, she watched most of them, and I fell asleep sometime during the parade of nations, somewhere between Iceland and Canada. (I also didn’t take Meredith Viera’s advice to Google the Cyrillic alphabet to understand the order of nations in the parade.) Gina did wake me up so I could see the inexplicably ugly grandpa sweaters the U.S. team was wearing, though, so I at least have that memory to cherish forever.

It seems like everybody is just waiting for something bad to happen at these Games. Russia’s certainly not done a lot to endear itself to the international community lately, so I guess it’s human nature to wait for the country to slip on a banana peel so we can all collectively point and laugh.

Ha ha, indeed.
Ha ha, indeed.

Not to get too political about it, but I suspect President Putin doesn’t really care what other nations think about the mind-blowing amount of money spent in preparation for these games, or the Russian citizens who were displaced to make way for stadiums and whatnot, or the stray dog roundup and euthanizations across Sochi, all stories that made the news at some point or another in the last few weeks. Instead, I get the feeling this spectacle is as much about showing Russians what he – and they – are capable of and exerting more Putin-esque influence than anything else. And I’m sure other countries’ Olympic preparations had their share of unsavory stories, but because this is Russia, the media’s paying more attention. Anyway, keeping a project of this scale absolutely flawless would be impossible for any country, but it seems fitting that Russia’s the one that is going to try anyway, and they will try on the grandest scale in Winter Olympics history. Whether they succeed or not will be determined over the next two weeks. But I digress.

The first Winter Olympics I can remember was twenty years ago in Lillehammer, Norway, and it featured two figure skaters named Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. Like most of America, I ended up watching the figure skating finals anxiously to see if Nancy would take the gold, only to watch her lose out to Oksana Baiul. This was also the last time I really cared about one, barring my discovery and subsequent brief love affair with the chess-on-ice game of curling in 2006 and 2010. What I remember most about those games, though, was that they were on CBS and David Letterman sent his mom over there to report on what was going on every night. I guess I was staying up late enough every night back then to catch her reports, which were hilarious in an innocent, grandmotherly way as she interacted with famous Olympians. Here’s a few clips:

Anyway, that’s pretty much the extent of my Winter Olympic memories. Aside from the odd curling match, I’m not going to go out of my way to watch much of Sochi, either, unless there’s a gold medal U.S. vs. Russia hockey match, at which point I hope to see Kurt Russell in a wig on the sidelines.

“Great moments are born of great opportunity!” (image source: www.fanpop.com)

10 Years Of Blogging

Somehow, during all the turmoil of the government shutdown fiasco last month, I forgot an important milestone – at least, important to me, and I guess to you if you’re reading this right now. On October 7, 2003, I manually posted to Ramble On for the first time, using a painstakingly slow HTML process as part of my web empire of Project BS. So many websites and blogs celebrate their tenth anniversary. Not to be outdone, today I am celebrating my 10 year + 1 month anniversary. Happy birthday, blog!

Looking back, my earliest posts are a bit immature and more like a journal of everyday happenings. Over time, I hope I have actually matured and improved my writing. I do feel that I’ve basically used this outlet as a lens for my adult life. But through it all I’ve just tried to keep it entertaining for myself and, by extension, the reader.  If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know I haven’t always been a faithful servant. I took huge hiatuses (don’t you think “hiati” would be a better word?) for long stretches, letting this place collect dust.

The first biggest lapse came in 2007. I had a database error issue that kept me from posting anything for a while, and I simultaneously started grad school which sucked up most of my time. I only broke the silence to post about April 16 and then picked back up over the course of June when I went on a trip to Boston. After that, grad school and Big Life Events like getting married distracted me from all but a few posts here and there. Through most of 2009, the only thing keeping Ramble On alive was the ability to post low-quality cellphone pictures via e-mail to Flickr, from which I could then automatically craft a blog entry, all from the slide-out keyboard on my LG env3! Oh, the innovation! I “re-launched” everything with WordPress in 2010, which provided some momentum well into 2011, when the home-buying and home-owning experience took over my life for a while but also provided fresh writing fodder. I have no explanation for the long lapses in 2011 and 2012. I know getting Heidi left me in no mood to write for a few months, while we housebroke her and endured all the other joys of owning a puppy. I started things up again for the summer of 2012 when some interesting trips were happening, only to disappear again until this past July.

As it stands, I’ve really enjoyed my latest run of writing. I think I’ve settled on a sweet spot in terms of posting frequency and subject matter. Ideas are coming more or less naturally, and I’m not stressing out over trying to do too much. The other times that I was more concerned with how the site looked, thinking that if I could get the perfect layout, the content would come later, all seem silly now. Each time, as soon as I settled on a nice layout with all the bells and whistles I wanted, I would eventually lose interest and give up posting. Well, my friends, thanks to my general lack of caring how the thing looks anymore, you can kiss those worries goodbye!

I tried to think of neat things to do for this 10.083rd anniversary, like pick out my favorite posts of all time or do my first Flash animation or stage a table reading of Ghostbusters with my friends, but the fact is I haven’t had time due to all this traveling Gina and I have been doing. So I invite you to check out the archives if you haven’t in a while. Pick a random month and start browsing. It’s good for you.

And if that doesn’t float your boat, check out these ghosts of blogs past via archive.org‘s Wayback Machine:

Ramble On in 2004: The Blue Bar Era

2005: Reverse The Blue Bars

2010: Orange And Black

And here’s a final bonus! Anyone recognize this?

I'm on a roll!
I’m on a roll!

This was Project BS’s homepage in 2004, although you’ll notice the Javascript I had in there to display the current date still worked, even in the Wayback. I think I can safely say that I’m still on a roll.

Being Shut Down

According to some news reports and, most importantly, a call from my boss yesterday, I will be returning to work on Monday as part of a law passed last week whereby members of the military will get paid on time. I believe this also means I will get paid on time, and even if I don’t, it looks like I will eventually be paid once the shutdown ends.

And so concludes another chapter in the ever-unfolding saga of the government shutdown and its effect on federal workers. My feelings swung pretty widely on this over the last week. Tuesday, as we were executing an orderly shutdown at work, there was the anger and frustration, which then gave way to a short bout of feeling useless and anxious about covering the monthly bills. By Wednesday, I’d thrown up my hands in resignation to my fate, got a free pork BBQ sandwich from Pork Barrel in Del Ray, and set out to be as domestically productive as possible for as long as I could. This meant playing handyman and maid around the house and getting caught up on other projects that had been laying in the wayside for a while – but I was careful not to frontload it too much, since I wanted to keep busy over what was surely looking to be another two weeks of shutdown-fueled unpaid vacation. By Saturday morning, the news was rolling in that there would potentially be back pay in store for us, followed quickly by Secretary Hagel’s ordering of employees to get back to work. And now, it’s as if it is any other Sunday afternoon as I make preparations for the coming workweek.

As you might expect, I’m happy to hear that I’ll be able to return to work and get paid to do my job. But on the other hand, it’s a conflicted feeling because the shutdown hasn’t really ended, and hundreds of thousands of furloughed workers in other departments are still at home twiddling their thumbs, worrying about paying their bills. All I can ask is: what’s next? And I’m leery of the answer.

And just in case you were wondering, no, I still don’t think this is worse than 1814.