This is your belt-buckle speaking…

PagerSince it’s Fathers’ Day, I feel obligated to share a story about my Dad that I was reminded of at lunch the other day with some of my coworkers. I have so many of these stories, and as my Father’s son, they remind me why my sense of humor also turned out to be just a little bit left of normal.

For this story, we’ll have to set the way-back machine to the late 1980’s. Does anyone remember voice pagers? I’m dating myself by admitting that I do, or that I remember a time before pagers at all. For folks who don’t remember, or weren’t born at the time, they were these little precursors to text messaging that you could wear and receive voice messages from folks who called your “pager number.” Wow, did I just say “pager number” out loud? The particular model we’re talking about would make a series of beeps and then automatically play the message. This becomes important later in the story.

When Dad was working in CID as a detective in Greensboro, he had a Sergeant with a particularly large ego who had just gotten one of the fancy-pants new devices. The squad had a brief bit of down-time for lunch, so they had met up at a local diner to have some lunch. Dad had witnessed just how exceedingly proud his sergeant was of this new voice pager and all the attention it garnered when it sounded off an important message. Sarge had become predictable when a page came in. The ‘new message’ sound would go off and there would be a slight delay before the caller’s voice could be heard. As soon as he knew the message was about to play, he would crank up the volume so everyone could hear how important he with his fancy gadget on his belt.

This time was no different, the pager started beeping to let him know that a message was about to play. He predictably cranked up the volume on the pager and awaited his important call. Except this wasn’t the kind of call he was expecting. All of a sudden his pager started yelling:

“Heeeeeey… fat boy! Where ya been, man? This is your belt buckle speaking and I haven’t seen you in a really long time. When are you gonna stop eating all those cheeseburgers and get in shape so we can see each other again? …”

I can only imagine his Sergeant’s struggle to turn the volume back down as quickly as possible once he realized his folly.

____

While I still miss Dad a lot, he left me with a lifetime of stories like these to remember him by. They continue to entertain me and remind me to always take life seriously, but never too seriously.

On the topic of changing project or job

I used to think that changing jobs every couple of years was risky and could lead to less job security.

In the last couple of years, I have learned that the inverse is true. (at least for my industry and skill-set.)

I’ve stopped caring whatsoever about annual performance assessments and “moving up in the company” but rather focus on delivering projects successfully and keeping my eye out for the next cool project to work on. Outside your current company, nobody cares about your eleven-star annual reviews at another company – nobody.

There are enough failing software projects to jump into and get back on track to last me many lifetimes.

Software projects don’t (and shouldn’t) last forever. If you stick around after it ships, and v1 should ship in a year or less, you’re either doing maintenance or put onto the next project the big wigs deem to be important work for your team. At that point, don’t limit yourself to the project you’re given unless you can be passionate about it. Some folks can be passionate about whatever project they are on currently – and in a lot of ways I envy them- but as a “glass was designed twice as large as it needs to be” engineer, I cannot.

Find something you’re passionate about. I promise you it’s out there.

The Serif of Nottingham or Reason #478 that the internet is a unique and magical place

I must have had fonts on my mind at this particular moment. I probably spend more time thinking about fonts than is healthy or normal.

Whilst thinking about fonts, I noticed a tweet from @adambird

Adam initial smaller

The app @onediaryapp interested me so I checked it out; along the way noticing @adambird was based in Nottingham, UK.

Remember I mentioned thinking about fonts? This random thought occurred to me and I decided to share…

Sans serif

Then @trullock chimes in with this gem completing the thought.

@ballance @adambird or justSerif of? Im stealing that if you dont ;)

So that’s how the Serif of Nottingham was born. Brainstorming about a fun UX lead title with folks I’ve never met before thousands of miles apart.

Serifofnottingham

…and that’s reason #478 why the Internet is a unique and magical place.

Carolinas Code Camp 2014

Lorem Ipsum sin dolor amet.

Z28 Project – Step 1: Find a donor car

Z28 Project - Step 1: Find a donor car

1994 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 with *extra special* T-Top package

I have been looking for a donor car for my Z28 project and finally found this beauty last weekend. After a ton of wrench time, I’ll be shoe-horning the LT1 engine from this into my formerly V6 1994 Camaro. http://ballance.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/camarodowntowngso.jpg?w=400&h=600

There’s an interesting history with the blue car. The previous owner summarized it well in this email he sent me before Tim & I went to pick it up in Lancaster, SC.

“It was sold by a Methhead to a crusher but when they went to load it over onto the crush pile the crane operator told the yard manager that it sounded like it ran great when they drove it in. The manger got in it cranked it up and did some burnouts in the lot with it but just pulled it back in and told the crane guy to load it over as it was so nasty and ratted out on the inside. I happened by the yard (friends with the manager) and saw the car being craned over. Asked about it and was told it ran great. After they set it down I went over and turned the key and it fired right up. Idled a little high but not rough. Ran a minute or two then throwed a check engine light, o2 sensors most likely. Put it in gear and it went right in and locked up ready to go. No smoke out the pipes, no leaking fluids. Figured the driveline was going to be all good and would work in my sons 1964 Impala so I bought the driveline with an option to keep the whole car if I wanted. While I was gone somebody came and cut the battery cables on it and stole the battery out of it. Shows 133,000 on the odometer but no idea if that’s original. Planned to pull the wiring harness and strip it of the Vats and other stuff I did not need, keep the ECM and the rest of the harness and pull the rear end, trans and motor and give the car back. Meanwhile my son bought a 2001 Mustang GT and though that he would just keep the 400 small block in his 64. Put it up for sale and a guy said he wanted the whole car cause he was doing a v6 swap and needed the K member and other stuff like brackets. Sent me some earnest money so I bought the body on his say so. Backed out on the deal so I still have the car. The car is truly trashed on the inside. The body is not worth anything in parts except the hood, front valance, fenders, and possibly the door skins. Of course it has a huge bow in the top where the crane grabbed it. There is a video up on youtube of it being cranked and running, if you still want to look at it I can get you the youtube link. I will send you some pictures tonight if I can. For the price you can’t go wrong. There are going to be a bunch of little things you are going to need if you do a swap from a v6. Things you don’t think of but when you start putting it back you find that there is a difference here and there from the v6 to the v8. Brackets and supports and hoses and lines and clips and you name it. With this deal you get the whole shebang to pull what you need, when you need. When finished you can take whats left and get a 150.00 or so back for the crush weight. It will need four tires and wheels to load but it will drive on the trailer. The wheels on it are sold and two of the tires are non usable anyway. As far as parts missing the hood catch and the support hardware is gone but it is still hinged and in place and none of the hood damaged. Other than that it’s complete. It’s taking up space that I need so if you want it come and get it this week and you can have it for what I have in it which is x. If you get y back after crushing whats left you got x-y in a 4l60e, an LT1 and a disc brake rear end and the 150 mile an hour dash for the v8 instead of the v6 speedo. And it is a true Z28 to boot!”

…and after a new battery, here it is running before the swap begins

Sometimes the right tool for the job is the largest hammer you have available.

Right tool for the job is sometimes the biggest hammer you can find

For the most part, I try not to force it when working on a problem. However, after trying everything I could think of, including kicking it the tire as hard a possible and subsequently a hammer and pry bar, I was making no headway on getting the rear tires removed from my car.

I decided it was time to take a break, pop open a cold beer, and consult my favorite tome of knowledge, the inter webs. After hearing recommendations to try all of the things I had already done, I tried the advice of Eric the car guy and “beat the crap out of the tire with the biggest hammer I could find.”


I had been using a sledgehammer against the tire to no avail, but the leverage and weight of the blunt end of my fiancée’s axe seemed capable of providing the necessary force. After an unfortunate mishap in which I fell backwards into a halfway-full oil pan and made a gigantic mess, the wheels finally came off with relative ease.


It is important to not use the biggest, heaviest, bluntest tool in the tool box as a first resort, but sometimes it is the only way to accomplish the task. After all, there is a minimum force necessary to break a connection that has fused in some way and the equation F = M * A is always true.

Removing the tires on my green car was a preliminary step taken before picking up an almost identical blue version of the same car for my Z28 conversion project. Stay tuned as I do a heart transplant on my 1994 Camaro.

Where I’m going, I don’t need roads

Hi Folks,

In the IT industry, four years is an eternity and as I hit the four year mark with Microsoft a couple of months ago – the time for me to move on to my next adventure has arrived.
While it was a tough decision to make, I have decided to leave Microsoft and today is my last day with the company.

Along the way I’ve had the opportunity to work with some interesting folks on various cool projects.

I’ve also enjoyed some various activities outside of the office with MSFT folks.

Where is Chris going next?
I’m off to to try on a new hat and break into an industry I’ve had in my sights for some time. In the months to come I’ll share more details on my blog.

I’ll still be around Charlotte for the bulk of my time, so don’t be a stranger.

Cheers,

//Chris

ballance@gmail.com

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