Too Long

It’s been quite a while since I last posted, so I feel like I should force myself to post something tonight. I have no plan for this post, so I apologize if it’s a total mess.

First, what have I been up to lately? We’ll for several weeks, we were pretty busy at work. On Monday we launched a project for PSE&G, an East Coast utility company. They needed some help with construction service applications. In the past, the application was a PDF that needed to be printed, filled out, and faxed back to PSE&G. The big problem was that people typically didn’t fill out the application completely or correctly. Even if the application was filled out completely, it wasn’t detailed enough to capture all of the necessary data. From what I understand, virtually all of these applications required long phone calls to fill in the gaps.

We worked for several months to convert a few fax forms into very detailed and complete web forms, and expanded the forms several fold in the process. Not only do we collect a lot more information for PSE&G, but we also are able to provide both automated and live help to the user as they’re filling out the form. For example, if you don’t know who to list as “additional contacts”, then you can just ask our system. More complicated questions that aren’t in our database, your question will be sent directly to a customer service representative who should be able to answer right away.

Okay, I know that from the outside it sounds pretty boring — after all, any web designer worth their salt can build a web form. Well, as far as web applications go, there’s a huge difference between completely frustrating and a breeze. Hopefully, our application is much closer to the “breeze” end of the scale.

So, enough about work. Fun and games: I’ve been playing the New Super Mario Brothers on Nintendo DS. It’s pretty fun, but also a bit frustrating. The developers did a good job of capturing the feel of the first three Super Mario Brothers games. The sound is beautiful, and may be my favorite aspect of the game.

I feel a little bit cheated by having the ability to save my progress. Unlike the original Super Mario Brothers, where you had to replay level 1-1 every time you started, this new game really only requires that you play it once. The old style forced you to develop a deep memory of each level, and you really got to feel that you knew the game in detail. The problem with that model is that you can’t create very large games because then people wouldn’t be able to finish them in a reasonable amount of time. Games that let you save your progress (and this includes first person shooters and other genres) can be much larger, requiring hours upon hours of game play to complete.

Last weekend I picked up Sonic Mega Jam for the ol’ GameCube. It’s a collection of seven classic Sonic the Hedgehog games. I never owned a Sega Genesis, and only played a couple of these games a few times growing up. Now’s my chance to find out what I’ve been missing. I’ve only started on the first Sonic game, but so far, it has been well balanced and fun. The graphics and sound are what you would expect from 1991 (the staticy sound really gets on my nerves), but it also serves as a good reminder of how far we’ve come in the last 15 years.

Jesse and I went out to dinner at Claim Jumper last night. It was what you’d expect — huge portions of food fit to satisfy every craving. For dessert, I opted for the sourdough bread pudding. I could only eat a few bites before giving up, but it was delicious. I brought it home and made a meal out of it for dinner tonight.

Changing the subject again, here’s what I’m reading these days:

  • The Mythical Man-Month – a book on software engineering. I’ve read parts of it before online, but one of my bosses really loves it and insisted that we all read (or reread) it. On the whole, it’s surprisingly non-dated.
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves – a book on punctuation. Jesse wanted this for herself, but somehow I got to it first. The first few chapters are quite entertaining and informative. The last chapter I read, on the colon and semicolon, got a little fuzzier and seemed to focus too much on antiquated uses of the marks. Hopefully it’ll pick back up with the dash.
  • The Year’s Best Science Fiction (20th) – a collection of sci-fi stories. I’ve been reading this off an on for a while now and haven’t quite finished it yet. When I do, I’ll be sure to post some sort of review with links to my favorite stories.
  • Age of Reason – a book on religion by Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers. I was listening to the radio today and heard a piece about the founding fathers. I realized that I didn’t know much about them and decided to find out more, starting with Paine. I can’t say that I agree with everything that I’ve read, but he sure is thoughtful.

Looking to the future: Jesse and I are looking forward to a short vacation in Las Vegas and Zion National Park. We won’t be gone long, but it should definitely be a welcome break from the routine. Be sure to watch my Flickr account for updates.

It looks like the title of this post has changed in meaning since I wrote it. I’d better sign off. I promise to post more frequently in the future.

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