Category Archives: Personal

So Long! And Thanks for all the Fish!


I want to thank you all for making the last 9 years at Sabre/EDS/HP an experience that I will never forget. It has been a whirl wind of activity which lately has seemed to be a blur as we have taken the Transportation SOA from a concept and turned it into reality.

Several memories stand out, which I’d like to share and hopefully give those of you who worked with me a chuckle as you remember the good ole times

  1. No, BAASIC was not responsible for the baggage debacle in the new Denver Airport when it opened.
  2. There is no room for weekends and Holidays when you are working a pursuit.
  3. Phoenix AZ is really hot, no matter what time of year you are there, especially when you are trying to merge two airlines and meet an unbelievable deadline.
  4. It is always hard to shove an Elephant down a 16K network connection.
  5. Yes, I always love to name my projects after annoying cartoon characters.

To all the developers, remember my motto “Make it work, Make it work right, Make it fast, Make it pretty and Make it maintainable” following it will always remind you to take things in small steps, which I have found to be the key to tackling anything in the development world.

To all the managers, look for the developers who are excited to dive in, work hard and take on new technology, for there you’ll find the next group of developers who will always make you successful.

Again, I want to thank everyone, without you I’d still just be coding in a cubicle and not the success I am today! I’ll miss you all and I hope our paths will cross again in the future!

Best Regards,

Jim Lavin

People on the Max – The Young Punkster

The Max is a lite rail public transportation system in Portland, OR. and like any type of mass transportation a very interesting cross section of people ride it for various reasons. Some are commuters going to and from work, others are visiting the downtown area to see a show or go to dinner, others use it to meet up with their buds and run around, while others use it as a way to get out of the cold of night or heat of day.


I however, am a tourist using it to visit my daughter who attends college in downtown Portland. And as I do whenever I go anywhere, I observe the people around me and wonder what they are thinking, wonder what makes them do what they do. This post is one of those observations I made during a trip back from downtown Portland to my hotel.


After the little four year old boy fell to sleep we stopped in Old China Town and a young 20 something man with a Mohawk haircut wearing a tie died shirt boarded the Yellow Line and stood near the door with a look of disgust on his face. His black jeans were tight against his legs and came to a compressed pile at the top of his combat boots.


“I can’t believe I didn’t get that job!”


“I was the strongest one there! No one could’ve taken me!”


“All because of my piercings and haircut!”


“Where does he get off telling me that I wouldn’t fit in!”


“Especially in a place like that! A strip joint no less!”


“I would think you’d want someone who looked scary for a bouncer.”


“And how does he think my piercings pose a potential health risk? Does he think someone is gonna rip them off me?”


“What am I gonna do now? I need to get a job so I can pay rent and continue with college.”


“No one is hiring, at least not hiring me anyway.”


“I guess I’ll have to try over at McDonalds or Wendy’s again.”


“No, wait, They told me last time I couldn’t wear my piercings and I’d have to wear a hat.”


“Man, that cramps my style! It hides the real me! I can’t do that!”


“All the really cool places won’t be hiring for another couple of weeks until after school starts back up. But, then it’ll be too late! I won’t make rent!”


“Maybe I could join that group of panhandlers, I hear they make good money. Everyone’s a sucker for some dirty, poor, kid, on the street with no place to live.”


“No, that won’t work either. Once they see my piercings and hair, all they’re gonna think is I’ll spend what they give me on another piercing or tat. I’ll never make any money panhandling.”


“I guess I could call up the parents and ask for a loan until the clubs start back up.”


“No, that won’t work either, Dad said he would never loan me another cent until I came to my senses and proved to him I was truly committed to going to college. He wanted to see at least two semesters of B’s or higher before he’d give me another cent.”


“Man, I’m screwed! I never should have goofed off so much last year. I knew better and the classes weren’t that hard anyway. If I had just applied myself a little, I could have gotten straight A’s, no sweat at all.”


“The money from the strip joint was fine! After a couple of weeks, I’d have a full month’s rent and everything I need for this semester’s tuition.”


“Hell, if I put in a little overtime, I could make enough for my books and a few supplies.”


“I guess I’ll have to do it! I’m going to tone down my image so I can get the job and back into school. Then, next year, Dad will see I’ve changed my ways and pay to send me to college and everything will be alright.”


“Hell, I could even pick up a part time gig over at Wendy’s, so I have some extra cash for the weekends.”


“And if any of the guys give me shit, I’ll pound the shit out of them!”


“They don’t rule me and they can’t tell me what to do or how to look!”


“I’m gonna do what I have to do to make it through this. And if that means I have to change the way I look to get a job, well, Hell! I’m gonna do it.”


“I think I’ll head back over to Old China Town and talk to the owner of that club again. Hopefully he hasn’t given the job to anyone else.”


And, then out of the corner of my eye, I saw the young man start to comb down his Mohawk until it was flat and then he started to unscrew the end off the stud which ran through his nose and pull it out with a little wince. The train came to a stop and the man got off the train and turned looking for the next one heading back south.


As we drove off, I saw him put the stud in his pocket and start to attack the bar going through his eyebrow.


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People on the Max – The Young Boy

The Max is a lite rail public transportation system in Portland, OR. and like any type of mass transportation a very interesting cross section of people ride it for various reasons. Some are commuters going to and from work, others are visiting the downtown area to see a show or go to dinner, others use it to meet up with their buds and run around, while others use it as a way to get out of the cold of night or heat of day.


I however, am a tourist using it to visit my daughter who attends college in downtown Portland. And as I do whenever I go anywhere, I observe the people around me and wonder what they are thinking, wonder what makes them do what they do. This post is one of those observations I made during a trip back from downtown Portland to my hotel.


After the incident with the older gentleman, I waited at Pioneer Square for the Yellow Line to arrive. A couple with a four year old and a newborn in a stroller were waiting a little ways down from me. The four year old boy had excitement written across his face, his eyes were so widely opened they must have been two sizes bigger than normal.


“What an adventure!”


“First, Daddy and Mommy took me on the train to go shopping! We got to see all of the big, big buildings and then we had ice cream, my favorite flavor too, chocolate!”


“And I got to eat a cheeseburger! With fries and everything!”


“Even got to have a coke in a glass with a straw! Mommy never lets me drink from a glass, but this time she did!”


“I must be getting big, now that I got to drink from a glass all by myself.”


“Hey what’s this big silver box?”


The boy ran away from his parents to the Ticket dispenser trying to get a better look at the curious silver box with Blue, Yellow and Red letters on it.


“What’s this? Could it be some sort of game?”


“It has buttons on it! Maybe I can reach them and push em! Maybe it will give me something!”


The boy reached up as high as he could and tried to reach the buttons on the front of the ticket dispenser, but couldn’t quite reach them.


“Hmph! I guess I need to get daddy to help me.”


“Daddy!”, the boy screamed as he ran over to his parents grabbing his father’s hand and tugging him towards the the ticket dispenser.


“What’s This Daddy?”, the boy said loudly with excitement in his voice.


“Help me make it work, Daddy!”


The father rolled his eyes, tired from expending way too much energy, but the father patiently reached down and lifted the boy up an explained the ticket dispenser to his son.


“Daddy! Can I buy a ticket!”, the boy exclaimed.


“No son, we already have ours, we got them earlier before we came. Don’t you remember? You helped me buy them, You put the dollars in the machine up at Echo Park.”


“But, Daddy, I want to buy another ticket!”


“No son, the train is coming we need to get ready to get on it so we can go home.”


“But, Daddy, I want to buy another ticket!”


The boy started to cry, trying to embarrass his father into letting him buy another ticket. But, it didn’t work, the father walked back over to his wife and the newborn and didn’t even blink an eye.


Just then the Yellow Line pulled up and the doors opened, I climbed on the train and found a seat in the middle of the car. The family boarded the train as well.


“Daddy, let’s set up there!”, the boy was pointing at some seats that were elevated over the wheels of the train.


The father pushed the stroller to the steps and then lifted it up the single step and sat it down next to the fours chairs. The little four year old boy climbed up in the seat next to the window, standing, he held his hands up to cup his eyes so he could see out as the train pulled away.


“What an adventure!”


“I get to ride the train again!”


“Wow! look at all the big buildings!”


The boy dropped to his knees after awhile, still looking out the window at the buildings.


Soon, he went from kneeling to sitting, too tired to look anymore.


Then he was fast asleep, worn out by a day of adventure and exciting new discoveries.


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People on the Max – The Older Gentleman

The Max is a lite rail public transportation system in Portland, OR. and like any type of mass transportation a very interesting cross section of people ride it for various reasons. Some are commuters going to and from work, others are visiting the downtown area to see a show or go to dinner, others use it to meet up with their buds and run around, while others use it as a way to get out of the cold of night or heat of day.


I however, am a tourist using it to visit my daughter who attends college in downtown Portland. And as I do whenever I go anywhere, I observe the people around me and wonder what they are thinking, wonder what makes them do what they do. This post is one of those observations I made during a trip back from downtown Portland to my hotel.


Soon after I boarded the Max I encountered a 60 something older gentleman sitting across from me, who looked like he had seen better days, those he had seen lately must have been through the bottom of a bottle. He was drunk, unshaven, his clothes dirty and worn and around him at his feet were several bags filled with what looked to be his only belongings.


At first I thought he might have been blind because he stared out through the window across from him without blinking or moving. His eyes seemed unresponsive and kind of hazy and he was mumbling some type of gibberish softly under his breath. I looked away hoping not to upset him. I’ve had bad encounters with drunks on public transit before and its makes me more embarrassed for them than it embarrasses me when they get upset and make a scene.


After a couple of stops a family returning from a ball game boarded the Max and sat down around him.


“These people are gonna want to take my stuff!”


“I’ll have to scare them off, make them want to get up and move. Can’t have anyone take my stuff! Its All I got.”


Just then the little girl setting in her daddy’s lap next to the old man innocently kicked one of his bags and the bottles inside rustled making a jingling sound.


“I knew they wanted my stuff!”


“See, she’s trying to get at my bottles.”


“She wants them for the nickels.”


“I knew it, she wants to use them nickels to buy her some candy.”


“Well she can’t have them, they’re mine!”


“I spent all day going through the dumpsters finding them, they’re mine!”


Just then the older gentlemen grabbed the bag and with the rustle of paper and jingle of bottles, picked it up and sat it down away from the girl.


“I need them to leave! I need them to go away! Why’d they have to set next to me anyways!”


Just then the old man’s mumbling started to grow louder.


“You don’t see me going around kicking people’s stuff or trying to take it!”


“They need to leave, Now!”


“I’ve got to make them leave so my stuff will be safe!”


The old man’s mumbling grew louder and irate.


“Its not working! They ain’t moving! What am I going to do now!”


Just then the older gentleman bent over and drug a dirty cloth tote bag close to him. He unzipped the pocket on the side and reached in and started to pull out a pink ladies razor and shake it at the family with rage.


“You try to take my stuff again and I’ll cut you! Yes, I’ll cut you!”


“I don’t care how young you are, you try to steal my stuff and I’ll cut you!”


With that the family got up and moved down to the the far end of the car and sat down.  All the time wondering why the older gentleman was so upset.


The older gentleman smiled with content as the family moved away and then he bent over and stuffed the razor back into the side pocket and zipped it back close.


“I knew it. I just had to show them that I wasn’t going to let them take my stuff and they’d leave.”


“Nothing to worry about now, I’m all by myself, nobody is going to take my stuff, nobody.”


Meanwhile, the father of the young girl was on his cell phone frantically speaking to someone about the old man. He was gesturing with one hand as he talked. After awhile he closed the phone and spoke to his wife, trying to calm her down.


The next stop came nothing happened. The family got up and left the car and waited for it to leave. As we pulled away a policeman walked up to the family and I could see the father waving his hands as he explained to the officer and pointing at the older gentleman as we moved away.


The next stop came, it was my place to change trains and catch the Yellow Line out to Expo Park, I got up and left the car and waited for this train to leave.


But this time the doors didn’t close as quickly as they did before. Two policemen arrived and boarded the car, they quickly located the older gentleman and started to question him about the incident. The doors closed and the train began to pull away. I could see the old man shaking his head and clutching his cloth tote as the police demanded he show them the contents. A look of panic was on his face, his eyes were clear as could be and all he could think of was, “They’ve come back for my stuff! Those mean people! They’re going to take it away from me after all! Those mean people!”


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Sending My Daughter to College

Little did I know that this summer would see me driving across the continental U.S. twice. First, was the family get together in Kitty Hawk, NC in early June and now the trip to drop my daughter off at college in Portland, OR. All together I will have driven across the continental U.S. twice with a little to spare since I left from Dallas, TX each time.


This all started when my daughter was awarded the Presidential Scholarship to the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland, OR which covers half of her tuition for the entire four years she attends. This was a great help since it seems that the cost of college has doubled since I started saving for hers years ago. And the fact that my daughter applied and got the scholarship all on her own merit, told me that if she didn’t go to school at PNCA, she’d never make it through college. Trust me, she is so much like me in this department that if I had said no, she would have dropped out just like I did 24 years ago after I agreed to go to a local community college instead of the university like I really wanted to.


We spent the last week going through her stuff and packing what she needed and loaded the Cadillac and headed out at 6 AM Friday morning the 22nd of August. We arrived in Denver, CO at 7 PM after spending 14 hours on the road and driving 800 miles via Oklahoma and Kansas. Luckily my daughter’s old English teacher and her husband were kind enough to let us stay with them for the evening. It was great talking with them and really was nice to relax after all of that driving.


Saturday morning we left Denver at 9 AM and spent another 14 hours and 800 miles driving to Caldwell, ID to end our second day of the trip. Needless to say I was so tired I crashed as soon as we got to the room and was not looking forward to the last leg of the trip into Portland the following day.


Sunday morning we got up early and was back on the road at 8:30 AM. This last 7 hours of the trip had to be the most scenic of the entire 2000 miles. I don’t know why, but as soon as we got north of Oklahoma city it became desolate and pretty much all you could see was rolling prairies in all directions. Even as we got into Colorado and Wyoming, I was expecting to see a lot of mountains but no, just more grasslands. I at least know where all of the urban sprawl can migrate to when Texas over runs with people, all we need to do is sprawl west, sprawl west. There is plenty of room for everyone.


We finally arrived at my daughter’s apartment complex in downtown Portland at 2 PM and spent the next hour and a half lugging her worldly possessions to the 4th floor and down a long corridor to her apartment that she is sharing with three other students. I was so happy she had coordinated the essentials with her roommates keeping her load down to just a few boxes and a few things that everyone would share. I saw fathers and mothers backing up U-Hauls and Pickup trucks loaded with so much stuff you’d thought they were furnishing a real apartment and not a college dorm room. I wondered how good their health plans were, because a couple of the parents looked so out of breath and red in the face that I thought we’d have to call an ambulance or two to tend to them.


With that done, I gave her a big hug and left to crash at the hotel for the night. On the way there I finally knew how the couple from the movie Born Free felt when they released their little cub back into the wilds of Africa, except a few minutes later I realized in shock I had just released my daughter into the wilds of college life in the downtown area of a city half a continent away!


Now everyone that knows my daughter also knows that she is a responsible, intelligent person and should be just fine at college. But, I’ll always be looking to the west hoping she’s doing okay and enjoying one of the greatest adventures she’ll have in her life.


Good Luck Bubba, Don’t forget to call once in a while so I can tease you.

30 Days of Nothing but Tech Update

So it has been 30 days since I turned off the cable to the house and started watching nothing but technical content that I could pull from the Internet. A lot of my friends kept waiting for me to move back into my parent’s basement since they felt watching so much Tech would turn me into the ultimate nerd. Luckily that did not happen, but I didn’t completely watch just technical stuff the whole thirty days. I would say that my daughter put up with it for about two weeks and then she demanded that I at least get something she could watch that did not have to do with technology.


I will have to say that there are a lot of video web casts and on-demand services available on the Internet that have nothing to do with technology, the good ones are few and far between and many of them I will never understand, but they are out there. So in order to meet my daughter’s demands I ended up with a combination of solutions to get content into our Vista Media Center PC so she could enjoy herself.

First I hooked into the various movie services, Netflix, Vongo, CinemaNow, ShowTime, etc. Many provide VMC plug-ins that you can download directly from within Media Center or a plug-in is available from a third party. The best I’ve found so far is the vmcNetFlix plug-in. It provides you the ability to watch Netflix videos from within Media Center. It provides a great user interface that lets you browse all of the genres and available titles provided by Netflix’s WatchNow Service. You can either watch the title instantly, move it to a queue for later viewing or download it in the background to watch at another time. Like many of the movie services Netflix costs around $10 a month to have access to unlimited viewing but It’s well worth it.


The biggest comment I have here is that we are starting to see these type of services spring up all over the place but mostly are for only viewing via a browser. With the cost of video technology dropping like a rock I expect we are going to see more set top boxes that will provide broadband based on demand services within the next two years. I am surprised that someone hasn’t started a company to help the various broadcasting companies bring their content to Windows Media Center. If you look at what HP has done with their new line of HD monitors and televisions they are building Windows Media Center Extender technology directly into the devices so you don’t even need a set top box. I think if this ever takes a strong hold on the market you can say good by to the cable providers, they’ll end up watching their market share dwindle as more and more providers move to Internet broadcasting.


Second I looked into downloading the various Internet video web casts for viewing. My God are there a bunch of them! I tried several different plug-ins that allowed you to specify the URL to an RSS feed which would then download the videos in the feed contents. Many of these did not work all that great or were too cumbersome to setup. Here is a tip for all these type of plug-in providers, figure out a way to do all of the downloading and updates in the background. And quit stuffing in advertising in front of other people’s content unless you are hosting it. A good example of what I’m talking abut is TV Tonic, not only do they eat up all of your time updating RSS Feeds when you launch the plug-in they shove their own advertising in between every web cast you pull from someone else’s web site. It kind of reminds me of the days of shareware CDs where people would charge to deliver content that they never created.


I found it easier to use a tool like Juice to pull my content down for me. I just enter in the URLs of my favorite web casts and have them download to my video directory and presto everything just shows up in my Video library ready to watch. And when I’m down watching a web cast and no longer need it I can delete it from my hard drive from within Media Center. The great thing about Juice is that it can run in the background and check feeds periodically so you can get new shows within hours after they have been posted. It also works great for audio pod casts.

So I’m going to keep the cable signal turned off and I’m going to continue to explore the world of Internet Broadcasting. The next thing I have to do is find a plug-in that will let me watch streaming Internet broadcasts. There are a lot of services popping up that provide streaming video 24/7 that I’d like to bring into Windows Media Center and watch. Once I get this all worked out I’ll give you an update on how it all works out.

I think over the past 30 days I’ve found out one thing about myself. I originally left cable because I was tired of being bombarded with advertisements every 5 to 10 minutes. They are annoying and I’m tired of being ripped off by corporations that are collecting money from both ends of the system; advertisers and consumers. Originally advertising was a way to pay for the free broadcast of content, but cable and satellite companies have taken that and added on charging large sums of money to consumers for delivery of the content. They have paid for their infrastructure many times over and the fact that broadcasters and cable companies have dissected content in to neat 5 or 10 minute chunks so they can wrap it all up in advertising has turned me off. I found out that I can live with content sponsored by a company if it’s done in a tasteful way that does not distract from the overall content of the program. I’ll gladly listen to it and may even use their products in order to support the content providers. I’ve always been one to support those who provide value to me.


I’ve also seen the crest of a new wave that will soon turn into a Tsunami once the right formula is found. The Internet has flattened the field of broadcasting so much that anyone with a video camera, a PC and the right software can become their own content provider. This is going to change the world we live in so much that I can’t even fathom what it will be like in the next 10 years. We are at the door step to information overload not only at work but in our personal lives as well. We need to look into new technologies that will allow us to cut through all of the noise and bring us the content that is important to us in the manner we prefer, whether that be to our TV sets, our computers, our cell phones, or our media players.


30 Days of Nothing but Tech

I’ve decided that there is so many new technologies coming out that I am going to spend the next 30 days watching and listening to nothing but technical podcasts and webcasts. I’m turning off the cable signal and hooking the PC to the 42 inch plasma screen in the living room and start making more productive use of my time. Instead of watching mindless reality TV shows filled with commercials every five minutes I’ll get up to speed on the latest coming out of Microsoft, Oracle and Sun. And instead of listening to commercial laden radio during my 45 minute commute to work or while tooling around the metroplex, I’ll hook up my Zune to an FM Transmitter and catch up on all of the podcasts that I never seem to get around to.


So stay tuned and I’ll let you know the gems that I uncover and keep you up to date on the Network TV withdrawal symptoms that might come up.


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I Finally Joined the Twittering Public

So this weekend I was catching up on some web casts and caught Mark Pesce’s Keynote from ReMix08 Australia. It was basically about how the current Internet culture is hyper-connected because of social networking sites like Twitter. So, I decided to check it out and joined up. It’s pretty simple, just send random posts through out the day to indicate what you are doing or what is on your mind. Besides posting your thoughts and what you are doing, you can follow others and monitor what they are posting. There are even some innovative sights that are monitoring the thousands of posts and using them to come up with some really unique presentations of what the Twitter society is currently thinking.


You can find me at,  maybe we’ll bump into each other, who knows.