Tuesday, December 30, 2008


posted by John Blanco @ 10:38 AM


Friday, December 26, 2008

My 2009 New Year's Resolutions

posted by John Blanco @ 8:29 PM


The last two years have been sketchy in terms of hitting these, but I've hit the important ones. This year, with Baby #2 on the way and my focus on Rapture In Venice, the list becomes lean and mean. No silly stuff. But, I can't hesitate to brag that I am less than a week away from NO FRENCH FRIES IN 2008!

OK, OK, back under control. Now, the lean and mean resolutions for 2009:

Here we go:

1. Acquire three new clients for Rapture In Venice.

I've signed 4 new clients in the last year. This year, I'd like at least 3 more. I scale this number back a bit because I'd also like to get some longer contracts, so this number is realistic.

2. Defeat Josh @ Age 8 on Chessmaster

A month ago I was close to making this resolution obtaining a 1600 rating in chess. However, in the last week, I found a comfort zone with playing Chessmaster and some light study as a way to improve my chess while having fun at the game. So, I'm keeping this resolution focused on single-player competition. No running around to tournaments -- in 2009. :-)

Gosh, how depressing, my goal is to beat a virtual 8-year old?

3. Read Lord of the Rings

OK, this one may be silly. But, I've been reading so many book series' lately, I think it's time to read this one (and enjoyed it). I'm already actively reading The Hobbit, which I've read before back in 2001. Re-reading it cause it just seems like I should. Enjoying it again.

The reason this becomes a resolution is because in 2002, I tried to read Fellowship of the Ring and became dreadfully bored and hated it. Later, I watched the movie and then dated Michele and...well...stopped reading the book. :-)

I'll get through it this time. Besides, I still don't know what happens in the second and third books, haven't seen those movies, so...I have something of interest to read.

4. Create an "Identifying" Application for Rapture In Venice -- via Facebook?

This is an important one. I'd like to make something people use. A lot. I can't expect grandeur, of course, but I'd like something to help identify my company and help bring clients to me.

I'm thinking something on Facebook (adding to the millions already there), something more interesting than the usual minutiae. It also would serve as a platform for PHP, which I'm returning to, and perhaps some AJAX which is something I want to investigate more.

5. Pass the Flex & AIR Certication Test

A couple years ago I had a resolution to get certified in something. At the time, the thinking was PHP. But, I went to Ruby later that year (writing a RoR site) and never got to it.

This year, I'll do it. I want to do it for Effective UI, but it will benefit Rapture In Venice, too. Certification can be more important to clients, and mine are the same.

Flex will be an easy certification as I'm an expert already.

6. Pass the PHP Certification Test

This one will be longer term. I'm no PHP expert. I'm probably not even a PHP intermediate! But, I will harness it through the year and will target a late-Fall certification attempt.

Would be a nice combo, Flex and PHP. No?

7. No Soda in 2009.

This is my "french fry" goal, but for 2009. No. Soda. Michele is making the same promise. Can it be done?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

posted by John Blanco @ 7:58 PM


Sometimes I'm on Facebook so much I forget that I need to share these things on my blog. :-) It's also why I blog less than I used to. If you're reading this and you don't feel like you get enough updates on me, find me on Facebook. If you search my full name, I'm the first search result. :-D

Today was Christmas and Michele and I had a good day.

First, this morning, we did our ritual stocking stuff (in separate rooms). This year, as opposed to year's past, we had an active little Cedric who wanted to take part. :-) And indeed he did, because last night we played Santa Claus and set up his train set (all glued together) in the living room! It was so fun to see him come down the stairs and see it and he spent the next 45 minutes completely addicted to it. :-)

Michele and I exchanged stockings. I got her a Domo doll, which I was proud of. You know the Domo doll, right? One of these guys:

If you read Fark, you can't help but no one the cute little Japanese critter is. :-) I also got Michele Twilight, the first of the book series everyone seems to love. I'm curious how she'll like it when she starts reading it.

Then, we exchanged gifts. Some notables include:

  • I got Michele Animal Crossing and Lego Batman for Wii.
  • Michele gave me framed photos she had done of her and Cedric, very nice!
  • I got Michele Tales of Beedle the Bard.
  • Michele got me 1-foot tall statuettes of Mario and Luigi!

Then, we came to the finale gifts. Michele got me the coolest thing, Lego Mindstorms!! I've been curious about this thing for years now. Basically, it's Lego Technic (the less blocky looking legos) with programmable components that allow you to use a computer to give "life" to what you make. As a software developer, this totally gets me going. :-) I'll be playing with this thing for a while. I'll start tinkering tomorrow, can't wait!!

For Michele, I surprised her pretty darn good by getting her a new computer -- an iMac! It's our first Mac. I fell in love with Mac because my company gives us one, and now we have our first. Michele's laptop PC (we bought 5 years ago) was really showing it's age. It was spousal abuse to force her to use it, really. The new iMac BLAZES and she loves it. Very happy!

Afterwards, we tidied up things in the house, had french toast for breakfast, and then Michele made cookies while I went on a walk with Cedric. At 1:30, we went to her parents' house for Christmas. There, we had a good time, and her mom made a DELICIOUS chicken cacciatori dinner! OMG! Then, we exchanged gifts (no comment) and had dessert before heading back home.

This evening, we tidied up even more (after all the stuff we brought home) and Michele got to know her iMac (setting up iTunes and the like) while I, well, played a game of chess and updated this blog. :-)

Oh, and BTW, we finished finding all 160 gold bricks in Lego Star Wars. Took 60 hours of playtime. Wow! Got the last one today, though we finally had to inquire with the strategy guide. Apparently, on Hoth, you need lasso the ST's, even though a couple shots kill them. Not sure how they expected anyone to even think of that one. LAME.

OK, well, Christmas has come to a close. I'm gonna retire to bed and read The Hobbit (see my resolutions next week). Tomorrow, we'll do some shopping.

Hope y'all had fun, too!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some Thing To Remember About PHP

posted by John Blanco @ 8:17 AM


I've been messing with PHP lately, and there's definitely been things to get used to. Here are some points to keep in mind if you have a history with out high-level languages:

  • PHP is object oriented, but the API is still largely function-based. So, getting the size of an array is done with count($array) and not $array.length. Functions, functions, functions...but much of the time it's probably preferable.

  • Regular expressions aren't native. Bah. So, use preg_match("/myregexp/", $string) rather than $string =~ /myregexp/. Dissapointing. Also, why the preg? It reads pregnant to me.

  • Instead of $string.split(), use explode($string). And, since we're using so many functions, you have to remember argument order too. And, no, it's not explode($string, $separator) -- it's the opposite. If you get back your separator, you did it the wrong way. :-)

  • PHP has simpler methods for most everything as compared to, say, Ruby. So, it's simple to create directories with functions like mkdir($path). You can even call it as @mkdir($path) to suppress duplicate directory warnings. As opposed to Ruby, where you have to actually wrap that statement in a begin/rescue.

  • Here's my biggest obstacle: The string concatenation operator is dot (.), not plus (+). This gets me a lot, though I'm getting used to it now. It once caused me a few hours of debugging when I was converting a Java program to PHP. In my mind, I convince myself it's better -- less ambiguous with mathematical addition -- but, since every other language uses plus...it gets me.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A 2008 Review: Part 2 (Resolutions)

posted by John Blanco @ 9:10 AM


And now, to review my 2008 resolutions! Here we go:

1. Stay in better touch with my extended family.

I could have done a lot better here. I didn't do what I wanted. About the only thing I managed to do was send Christmas Cards this year to a lot more extended family. I have addresses and the sort. Next year, I need to do better.

2. Become a Rubyist -- comfortable scripting with Ruby like a spoken language.

Again, I improved. However, as the year comes to an end, I've declared -- PHP wins! See my 2009 resolutions for more info.

However, I did make inroads with Ruby. I started a Facebook application written in Ruby, the Facebooker module, and I also used Ruby on an independent project called Bartimaeus, that I did with EffectiveUI.

So, there! But, no, not a Rubyist.

3. Rebuild my chess foundation and participate in the 2008 Winter Springs Open.

No. However, I got back on the chess wagon at the tail end this year and am planning on participating in a tournament in early, early January. So, almost. Just a month late. :-)

4. Win a game of chess blindfolded.

HAHAHAHAHHA...no. Nor do I have aspirations anymore. I will be climbing the chess ladder in 2009, but I;m keeping my goals in check, and this isn't one of them................yet. :-)

5. Volunteer for a political campaign.

I volunteered for Obama in the Colorado primary, doing phone banking. Otherwise, donated a lot of money. So, yes? :-)

6. Find at least one new client for Rapture In Venice.

Did it!! I found 3 new ones! They are now proudly listed over at Rapture In Venice! And I hope to find more this year as some of my former clients have come back for more work, it's getting easier to run RIV not having to find people constantly.

7. Build the Rapture In Venice Web site.

Done! See, I just referred you in the previous resolution! Click there!

8. Strength training.


9. Marry my pedometer; wear it every single day.

I wore it ZERO days of the year. Screw the pedometer. :-)

10. No french fries. No potato chips.

Would you believe? I DID IT!!!!!!!! I have gone the whole year without eating a single french fry or potato chip. Pretty proud of this one. I made one exception, on our trip to New York, I had Nathan's fries. Just shared a serving with Michele, so not very many. Nathan's is only in New York, so it was OK. No potato chips either. One time, I instinctively grabbed one at a party, but luckily Michele was there to say, "You're not supposed to eat those!" and I hadn't yet chewed and was able to spit it out into the garbage.



So, not terrible, not good really either. I nailed the important resolutions, and did horribly on the not-so-important ones.

I'll do better in 2009. I'll make that my first resolution even. :-D

A 2008 Review: Part 1

posted by John Blanco @ 8:53 AM


Every year, at the end of the year, I like to review my resolutions and see what I accomplished and didn't accomplish.

This year I do it in two parts because I had a bonus post last year predicting 2008 might be the best year ever. Here are my comments on that:

Hmmm, maybe the impossible question, but 2008 will be one heck of a year if your name is John Edward Blanco Jr. :-)

First, there is the Presidential race. I'm for Barack Obama in case you've never met me. :-) I hope to do some volunteer work for the campaign, and I hope the campaign is still going by Novemeber. ;-) OBAMA '08!

OBAMA DID WIN!!!! I did a little bit of volunteering, phone calls as the Colorado primary approached. After that, Cedric and the side work I had to do (to keep up with the economy) took over. However, I did enough evangelism, donating (the most I've ever donated to a candidate), and T-shirt billboarding to keep me satisfied -- and we won it big!!

Second, there is the US Senate race to replace the old do-nothing, Wayne Allard. Mark Udall is the Dem candidate and I appreciate and support him. UDALL '08!

UDALL DID WIN!!!! Though, sadly, and admittedly, I did not donate to Udall. I just had too much money going to Obama. But, he won anyway and my gamble paid off. ;-)

Third, Cedric turns 1 year old, and it will be super fun to see him starting to really grow up. :-) I look forward to all the new things you can do with a 1-year-old!

And a year later, what fun we had! Cedric really interacts now, and we have lots of fun throwing the ball back and forth with each other and teaching him new things. :-) Looking forward to another year -- and Baby Boo #2 is on the way -- due April 10!

Fourth, I look forward to re-shaping my physical well-being. I have mentioned specifics in my 2008 resolutions, so I don't need to detail it here. 2007 was a flabby year. :-)

Uhhh, yeah. Actually, I did. Then, well, got so busy. Still working on toning up. Wii Fit helped for a while. I also got back to DDR. But, so busy busy busy. it's no excuse.

Fifth, I look forward to getting back to chess. It's been a long time. I'll really look forward to sharing it with Cedric when he gets a little older!

I'm on my way. I started the year getting back to chess, and ended it that way as I prepare for my return tournament in January. But, in between, I focused on Rapture In Venice only. So, I'm happy with it.

Sixth, my new job at EUI will really begin to change me as a developer (and already has). I look forward to seeing where I'll be on New Years '09!

And it has! Loving EUI! I'm a much stronger developer as I've been freed from 4 years of forced labor at Fiserv!!! ;-) Creativity returned!


Was it the best year ever? I don't know, maybe. My brother-in-law died of brain cancer this year. Also, the economy really sucked -- even though Michele and I have done well thanks to Rapture In Venice really starting to take off -- I acquired 4 new clients this year. :-)

So, it was a mixed year. Great professionally, heartbreaking family-wise. There will always be ups and downs. Michele, and Cedric, and I are healthy and happy at years end, and that's the most important.

To 2009!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'm Going to Read Tolkien

posted by John Blanco @ 6:36 AM


After reading through so many trilogies and other book series...Harry Potter, Golden Compass, Eragon, The Bartimaeus Trilogy...there is one trilogy I haven't read that I've decided to for 2009:

The Lord of the Rings

Yes, I'll read it. If you don't know, I've read The Hobbit (and liked it), but when I tried to read the first book in the series, Fellowship, I was generally bored. In fact, fun trivia, I met Michele while I was reading it back in 2002. On one of our early dates, I scrapped the book and we watched the movie instead. Never got back to it, and in fact, disliked the book so much I gave it away to someone.

Well, now, I'm a lot more well-read on fantasy books, so I'm gonna give it another shot. We'll see how it goes. I start Monday. :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oldie But Damn Goodie

posted by John Blanco @ 9:57 AM


I never got around to posting this here, but Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on the Prop 8 Vote is breath-taking and a must-watch.

Monday, December 15, 2008

O Christmas Tree by The (Mii) Blancos

posted by John Blanco @ 8:23 PM


If you own a Wii, you owe it to yourself to go out and buy Wii Music. :-) What a thoroughly enjoyable game! Michele and I got it last week and we've been toying with it just about every night.

The video above is an early Christmas gift to my family. :-) My mom and dad, sisters Pam and Susan, and my brother Mike. I layered 6 performances on top of one another, all done by me, to form a Christmas classic.

If you own Wii Music, I'll tell you how it was done. The four handbell parts were done first, one at a time. I used the notes for the "Pop" arrangement. I believe I had Pam do one extra note, somewhere, a little improv. :-) Then, I did my part on bells -- though only after first using my brother on drums. After I finished my bells part, I decided to switch him to bells, too, and re-did his piece. I focused on the bell rattle for him, whereas mine I did a more consistent part. :-)

I think it came out real well. Blancos, hope you like it!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

If you're looking for a good Wii Game...

posted by John Blanco @ 9:50 AM


Michele and I are having an absolute blast with Wii Music. I think this little gem of a game, much hyped by Nintendo but sales have been less than expected, will get more popular over time. What a fun game. The best part, honestly, is being able to replace tracks after many takes so you can perfect your songs. If the game had you try to do it in only one shot, it'd be a mess.

So, we just laid down a great version of Do-Re-Mi...with conga drums, hand clap, flute, bass guitar, and singing. It's a fun time. :-)

I look forward to playing it with the chorus line Fitt family this weekend!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oooouch. :-(

posted by John Blanco @ 4:55 PM


I think I broke my toe.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Indominable K-ROD is a MET!

posted by John Blanco @ 12:41 PM


So exciting!!! The New York Mets have signed K-Rod, Francisco Rodriguez, to be their closer for the next 3 years!!! Love him! One of my favorite players, and now he's mine mine mine. :-D

And, since Michele always asks, I'll say it again here so I can refer her to it when she asks next time, too. They call him K-Rod because K means Strikeout in baseball statistics. He strikes out a lot of guys, and he got the nickname when he was a rookie with the Angels and he was so good he mauled the Yankees and helped eliminate them in the first round and they went on to win the World Series.

Remember it.

Cause K-Rod is a Met!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Don't Ya Hate That?

posted by John Blanco @ 12:21 PM


I have the funniest story to tell Michele, but I can't, because it has to do with her Christmas present. So, I have to wait 3 weeks to share it with her.

This happens every year.