February archive

Where Has Mark Been Lately

I haven't had much time to write this past week largely because I was at PyCon for an extended weekend. What is PyCon? Well it's a conference all about the programming language Python and it was freaking awesome. We were there for all three conference days (Fri - Sun) and one day of the sprints on Monday. When I say we I mean me and the guys at Caktus who were awesome enough to pay for me to go. All of the talks are online so if you didn't go you can find them on blip.tv. I feel like I had so much information thrown at me so fast that I'm still soaking it all in. I'm sure that it will help my work as well as this blog. Here are the quick highs and lows for me:

Good

  • Keynotes
  • NOSQL talks
  • Real-time web

Not as Good

  • My laptop broke
  • Seemed like everyone was talking about the talks that I didn't attend
  • Didn't get the chance to visit Michael and Nancy

That's about it. It was a great conference and a great time. The sprints were less fun without my own computer but still managed to help close some Django tickets (and unfortunately introduce some new ones).

Tuesday we got back to the Triangle and back to work. Trying to keep the momentum going I'm trying to setup Python Hack Nights with the local Triangle Zope/Plone/Python Users Group (TriZPUG). There has been some good response so far. Hopefully I will have my new computer by then. Trying to convince Beth to go. I really want her to start playing around enough that she can make some small changes to the website if she wants. Sorry for the dorky post but that's just what I've been up to. Going to see some more houses today so Beth should have something interesting to say about that later.

Posted on February 27, 2010 by Mark | View Comments

Girls' Day with Sister Meredith...

Meaning hanging out with my sister, Meredith, and not a nun. I know you're all shocked :) With Mark out of town at Pycon (which I'm sure you'll hear about ad nauseam once he returns!), I thought it would be a good time to get in a little quality time with my sister. Thankfully, she wanted to hang out with me too... man have things changed since we were kids :)

Anyway, I headed to the coast on Saturday around noon and waited for Meredith make herself pretty (not that it takes much!). We then went for mani/pedis. This is where things get interesting. The nail salon was pretty busy when we came in, but we weren't really in any rush. The pedicurist sets up our chairs and helps us in them. Before I can get my feet in the water, she had disappeared... which was unfortunate because my water wasn't even lukewarm. I try to wait to get her attention until Meredith, being the problem solver and general rebel she is, suggested that I just turn the faucet myself. I'm not really sure why I didn't think of that :) Anyway, I try to adjust it and apparently I had turned it even colder! For some reason the colors were not matching up correctly. Meanwhile the spa function had been turned on... which meant my water started furiously gurgling and splattering me. The pedicurist came back and try to work some magic to make the spa portion work. After she left again, an actual piece of the basin came off and started floating. The other pedicurist working on my sister told me that "we didn't need that piece" and laughed at me. So typical. Things always magically mystically break when I'm near.

The rest of the nail salon trip was pretty uneventful, thank goodness. After we finished our pampering, we were off in search of dinner. I hadn't had crab legs in quite some time so we decided to go to Midtown Seafood Restaurant. It was decadent. We both order a pound each and noshed on crab legs and hush puppies... mmmm! Only issue (of course there is at least one) was that one of my crab legs was a little disfigured... I opened it, and it looked like the muscle had atrophied. I left that one on the plate :) The other nine proved to be quite delicious though.

After dinner, we headed to Mayfair to see a movie. We were probably the last two people around that hadn't yet seen "The Blind Side" so we used my discount tickets to remedy that. We both absolutely loved the movie. It was a good balance of football and heartfelt story. I give it an A+

Later that night we came home, ate boiled peanuts (oh North Carolina, how I missed you) and stayed up late talking about random things from childhood. The summary of that conversation is that a) my sister was a brat, b) the only reason we can come up with as to why I (her sister) tucked her in every night is directly related to our parents thinking item (a), and c) we feel very deprived that neither of us have ever been to Disney World and therefore we must remedy that. Expect to read about us reliving our childhood some time in the near future :)

All in all, I had an awesome time just hanging out with her and chatting. I've really missed her a lot. Now that we are closer geographically I hope to see a lot more of her. I love you sis!

Posted on February 22, 2010 by Beth | View Comments

Recipe for the Best Valentine's Day Ever

Mark and I have never been much for making a big fuss about Valentine's Day. I mean, we're doing pretty well if we just remember to buy a card or make a dinner reservation. There was a time in my life when I would get really upset that we didn't make a big to-do about it (yes, I was brainwashed by consumerist America), but now, I enjoy our low key celebrations. I'm not sure about Mark, but I'm pretty sure this year was the best (or at least it ranks in the top three).

We started the night with dinner at Sono Sushi in downtown Raleigh. We hadn't really had good sushi in NC since we moved from NY, so this was definitely a treat. We ordered hot sake to share and then we started the usual back and forth selection of sushi. After a couple of last minute substitutions, we were finally ready to order our assortment of nigiri pieces and sushi maki. While waiting for our meal, we spent some quality time discussing our respective days and oddball ideas for starting websites (yes, we're total dorks)... that is until the single most piercing screeching sound began pulsating throughout the restaurant. Just our luck the fire alarm was triggered during our dinner. After a few minutes (hours? seconds? I don't know, it seemed like an eternity) of plugging our ears with our fingers and mouthing "should we go?" to each other, the alarm finally went off. Apparently in the eyes of the fire department the restaurant and the apartment building next to it are considered the same building. Therefore when an alarm goes off in the apartment building (think leaving cookies in the oven too long), the alarm also sounds in the restaurant. Must suck for the employees! Anyway, soon after the alarm was silenced our food arrived. We had settled on white tuna and red snapper sushi pieces, the chef's choice sushi platter (which had even more red snapper... yum!), spicy tuna crunch roll, and super shrimp crunch roll. Mark and I really love crunchy spicy rolls and the spicy tuna crunch roll did not disappoint. Really, it was all super yummy... sitting through the fire alarm was totally worth it. On top of that, our super awesome Meredith darling was so kind as to a) research the best sushi in the Triangle, and b) give us a gift card to said best sushi place, which means that our Valentine's Day dinner at Sono was super economical (Thank you Meredith! We love you and miss you!).

After leaving Sono, we decided that we needed to pick up a little dessert. We headed to the grocery store and bought the first break and bake cookies we saw: red morsel chocolate chip cookies. Totally cheesy and not really what we intended to buy, but oh well :) We finally made it home and I started the cookies while Mark set up the movie. I know I can't be the only one, but I'd never seen "Overnight Delivery" with Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon. This happens to be one of Mark's favorite movies so imagine his shock when he realized after seven years of being together, he hadn't shared this masterpiece. What's even funnier is that Mark actually got the DVD at a gift exchange with my family at Christmas. I guess it was meant to be :)

In review:

Sushi + chocolate chip cookies + Overnight Delivery + cuddling = The Best Valentine's Day Ever

Hope everyone else had an equally awesome day!

Posted on February 15, 2010 by Beth | View Comments

Back to Training - Mark's Story

On the trip to NYC I borrowed James' copy of "Born to Run" (which has nothing to do with Bruce Springsteen). It's about running for the love of running. It's about the greatest race ever run, an ultra marathon through the most unforgiving terrain in Mexico. It is freaking awesome. It had me so pumped about running I was chasing squirrels in the park. Running was all I could think about and talk about. But between our trip, the snow storm, and Marc's visit I haven't been able to get in much running lately.

I don't have a lot of good cold weather running gear and my shoes are beat up. We looked for some stuff while we were in NY with no luck. I've talked about running in all black before and so has Runner's World. While it might look cool it is dangerous running that way at night. Yesterday I picked up some new stuff including a white running jacket. Then today I decided to take it out for a spin around the lake. I'm a little over half way around and coming up a small family coming towards me. The mom is pushing a girl in a stroller. It's one of those little tricycle things that the kid steers and can peddle but really they are getting pushed. Anyway the mom says, "Look out for the lady running. Let's get out of the lady's way." At least the dad was nice enough quietly say, "It's a dude" as I ran past. I mean give me a break. I know I run with an effortless grace but just because I'm wearing white doesn't mean I'm a girl. Are these really my options? Ninja warrior or ice princess? I'm ready for it to get warm again.

Posted on February 14, 2010 by Mark | View Comments

#snOMG can't hold us down

If you live in NC, you had the joy of experiencing yet another "snowstorm" in a region that really shouldn't be getting snow. This is the South for goodness' sake! Anyway, luckily, this storm was of a different breed. The snow was so light and fluffy it didn't stick to the roads... which meant that Mark was going to drag me out running. Oh yes, I am so far behind on my training schedule hardcore that I have to relish running when it's cold enough for snow to stick to the ground.

We did the four mile loop around MacGregor downs (which as many of you know is super hilly). As usual, I felt like crap. I definitely feel like I'm starting over completely which is pretty much how I should feel as I haven't been running regularly since the half in November. So yeah, definitely feeling the pain, and it doesn't help that it's ridiculously cold outside ALL THE TIME. Anyway, I finished the frigid four miles and felt a little better about myself.

As a direct result of this "exhilarating" run, Mark and I headed to Dick's Sporting Goods after the run in search of warmer running gear. Poor Mark only had one pair of running pants and a single pullover that I received from YouTube when I was working in NY. Well, now we both have new pullovers and Mark has another pair of pants to add into rotation...

Now I have to ACTUALLY run more than once every two weeks. No more excuses. Do any of you have tips to get motivated to run in the cold? I need all the help I can get!

Posted on February 14, 2010 by Beth | View Comments

Website Update: SEO and Name Ideas

I made some small updates to the website this week though most of them are hard to notice. The biggest was that I added a sitemap and a robots exclusion file. I know we should have had those in from the start but I got excited and wanted to get the site out. I also signed up for the Google Webmaster Tools. I have to say it's pretty cool. We were signed up for Google Analytics from the start and I thought that's all we would really need. Right now our only top search query is for "beth and mark." When I first signed up we were sixth for that query and three days later we are first. SEO FTW! Suck it bethandmark.com! That's what you get for taking a perfectly good domain name and redirecting me to lauraandmark.com. Tip of the hat to Ashley and Phil for the awesome SEO Meetup.

I briefly mentioned that we were thinking of a new name for the site. Well here are a few more ideas which have yet to pass Beth's approval. (I can tell you now that they are terrible puns which play off of our last name.)

  • Lavin The Good Life
  • Lavin It Up
  • Lavin My Ass Off (courtesy of Peter)

If you've got some suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Posted on February 12, 2010 by Mark | View Comments

Mersenne!

Some of you may or may not know that my dad started a software company with his buddy Clif that makes iPhone apps. Since he's working from home and Beth and I live with him we hear a lot about it. He also likes to bounce ideas off of us and sometimes we test out the programs. Beth has also been trying to help them with their marketing. In any case I shared an idea about a game I thought might be fun. Now the first version is available on iTunes.

This is not meant to be an impartial review by any means. I love this idea and I would love for my dad's company to do well. This is me telling the story of how the greatest idea ever became the greatest game ever created (other than Diablo 2, sorry dad). It's basically a combination of two games, Bejeweled and Word Mole, with the added twist of mathematics. Instead of lining up different colored gems, you are searching for prime numbers in a small grid of digits while racing against the clock. The name is Mersenne! after the mathematician unsupported characters, or include a non-local or incorrectly linked interwiki prefix. You may be able to locate the desired page by searching for its name (with interwiki prefix, if any) in the search box.

Possible causes are:

If you tried to access a non-local interwiki page, you may be able to access that page by clicking the "article" tab on this page.

Mersenne whose work is largely associated with primes. Can you tell this was my idea? I thought that anyone who is dorky enough to think this game could be fun would get the reference. It's fun and addicting. After a while you start to get pretty good at recognizing primes enough up to 3 or more digits. My mom was able to find a 4 digit prime after only playing a few games. My dad had this weird idea to make it harder (as if it really needed to be harder) by having it so you could set it to be in octal or hex instead of decimal. I guess Beth is rubbing off on them because they added social media integration so you can share your high scores on Facebook and Twitter.

If you want to see some screenshots and read more about it you can check out iTunes or their company site. I highly recommend it for those of you with an iPhone or iTouch and 99 cents to burn. And if you do let me know what you think about it.

Posted on February 10, 2010 by Mark | View Comments

Best. Weekend. Ever.

I know it's Tuesday and that seems a little late to be talking about the weekend but it was a good one.

Friday we had dinner with a new-ish friend Allison and her boyfriend. We went to Jibarra which is a modern Mexican restaurant in downtown Raleigh. The food was great though it took awhile. They kept bringing us apps and even a free drink to keep us happy so it wasn't a big deal. When we have great company I don't really mind slow service as much.

Beth has already written about our "fun" time looking at houses during the day on Saturday. Saturday night I went to a surprise retirement party for my high school drama director and English teacher. I was dying to write about it the second I got the email but it was a surprise which kind of killed that. Kris Koechling was the kind of inspiring teacher that they make movies about. Junior year I actually switched from honors English to AP English just to take his class. (Side note: any grammatical or spelling related errors by me on this site are entirely my fault and do not in any way reflect on Mr. K's teaching ability.) But he has retired now and moving on to other passions. We had to celebrate. I haven't had my high school reunion yet so it was nice to see some people I hadn't seen in a long time. Sadly no one else from my graduating class was there. Even so there were some great familiar faces and I think it gave Kris the kind of start to his retirement that he deserves.

On Sunday my buddy Marc flew into town. He was giving a talk at NCSU on Monday and we were happy to have him stay with us. After he flew in we had some brunch and played some Wii. All the catching up reminded me why I love Marc so much. He is very smart and very opinionated but in a very interesting way. I miss those great exchanges that we could have about anything. Later in the day we went on to Sarah and Doug's for a Super Bowl party. I would have to say I was half watching the game and half talking to others at the party. I didn't really care about who won so I took some more time to enjoy Marc's company along with Matt and Erin.

Monday (I know Monday is no longer the weekend) it was back to work and Beth took Marc over to State for his talk. We hit up Pint Night at the Flying Saucer with Matt and James. Hadn't really talked to James in awhile so it was nice to see him. I took Marc to the airport crazy early this morning and then back to sleep. I don't know if I've ever had such a social weekend but it's left me exhausted.

On a less related note, Marc informed me that his wife Anne felt our title "The Adventures of Beth and Mark" was a rip off of their blog "Adventures in Seattleland." While that seems a little silly given that "Adventures" titles are fairly common, it did get me thinking about a new name which would be a little more original. Here are some of my thoughts so far:

a.) Lavin La Vida Loca
b.) A Man and His Tugboat
c.) Adventures in Seattleland Raped and Murdered a Girl in 1990

Before you get offended and for those who might not get the reference, you can read about it here. Beth doesn't really like "Lavin La Vida Loca" but I think it's pretty funny. We'll see what happens.

Posted on February 9, 2010 by Mark | View Comments

The Home Tour: Part One

Saturday was a day full of imagining ourselves in different homes in multiple places in the Triangle. We set out with our agent around 11am and finally finished around 2:30pm. Did I mention we hadn't eaten anything? Rookie mistake, I know. Also, I definitely should have taken Lori up on a quick before the trip restroom break. As a result, I was oddly focused on the toilets everywhere we went. Good times.

Anyway, we saw at total of 6 places, and now, I will show you the good, the bad, and the not a chance properties we visited.

House #1: "Vehicle Overload"

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There were many things I didn't particularly enjoy about this home, but the number one turn off was simply that the streets were basically parking lots. It was absolutely ridiculous. There were times when we were trying to get to the house that I feared we wouldn't be able to fit through the two Ford F-150s parked directly across from each other on opposite sides of the street. It turns out that what was awesome about this house (proximity to my work - which is by NC State) was also to its detriment as lots of State students have taken over the neighborhood. Needless to say this one is out.

House #2: "Runner's Haven"

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This little house really has one thing going for it: it's super close to Lake Johnson. This means we would have an awesome place to go run/walk/stroll around the lake with Erin and Baby Lavin :) However, there are definitely some things we will have to consider:

a) No washer and dryer. We must have a washer and dryer. If it was hard to handle living without in NY, it will be even worse here. At least in NY there was a laundromat on our block. If we decide to take this place, we will definitely have to buy a set. Again, something to think about.

b) There isn't a back yard. No really. There is a narrow deck, but the area in the back, due to a creek, is unbuildable. This means saying goodbye to any hopes of grilling outside. I'm not really sure how I feel about that.

c) Like most of the places we saw, this one is small. Our furniture is large, and I'm really not sure about the logistics of setting it up.

It was a really cute place, but there are a lot of negatives. It looks like this one is off the list.

House #3: "The House on the Hill"

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This place was probably our favorite of all the ones we saw. It had a huge master bedroom, the master bath had a garden tub, shower stall and double sinks, high ceilings throughout, and the living room/dining room/kitchen was open and airy. Did I mention Cathedral ceilings? It was super nice. The only drawback I could see (there's always a drawback) is that the house sits atop a very steep hill. One which has grass. Grass that has to be mowed. Can you see the problem? Regardless, I'm perfectly willing to send Mark out to brave the steepness with a mower. I'm such a problem solver :)

So this one is definitely at the top of our list.

House #4: "Built-in Movement Detection"

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I was kind of excited to see this house as it was the only one on the list which had a garage, albeit a one car garage. That excitement quickly died as we pulled up to the house. The garage door was pretty banged up and the steps were lovely and green from algae growing on the bricks. Definitely not much in the lines of curb appeal. The inside looked decent enough, but you could tell it was an older home. I mean, I was one year old when the place was built. Design aesthetic has definitely changed since then. Another side effect that goes along with having an older home is the prevalence of squeaky floors. This annoys me to no end. I was told that that we could request to have the boards nailed down again, but I'm really not sure it's worth it. This was the biggest home, but with that came a bigger price tag. I'm just not sure it's worth it when there were other homes that more closely fit our list of demands.

I think it's safe to say that this behemoth and it's creaky floors are off the list.

House #5: "It's Not Always Black and White"

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Amazingly, this was the first house we saw that had any color on the walls. Granted, it's not the color we want, but still, it was refreshing. This one also had a cute little front porch, which, if you know me well enough, is something on my long lists of must haves for my "dream house". Definitely a plus. The kitchen is open, airy and bright. It has a large backyard which would be great for grilling. The bedrooms on the other hand is a totally different story. The master suite is quite small and definitely not fit all of our furniture. The bathroom was interesting; the double sinks were actually open to the bedroom while the toilet and the shower were behind a door. A little odd. In the other bedrooms (which were also small) the carpet was in pretty terrible condition. There were odd stains and such everywhere.

I'm not sure what the final verdict is on this one. We really liked the living area, but the bedrooms were uber tiny. So this one is kind of maybe still on the short list.

House #6: "The Shoe Box"

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I didn't think it was possible, but there actually exists a house that is smaller than our apartment in NY. This is that house. I took one look at the inside (which was really quick because there wasn't much), said "Nope", and turned to walk out.

This one is definitely not on the list.

All in all, the contenders are: House #3 and House #5. That said, we're still on the hunt and we'll definitely keep you updated :)

Hopefully soon enough we'll be able to show you pictures of our new home!

Posted on February 7, 2010 by Beth | View Comments

Good News Everyone!

Erin and Matt are pregnant! It's been made official by Erin herself (in third person no less).

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I'm so super excited so I had to take a small break from work to let everyone know (not that many people read this blog). I'm thinking of ways to be the coolest uncle ever. A good start would be to help give this kid a cool name even though we don't know the sex yet. Right now I think I'm going to push for Luke Skywalker if it's a boy and Samus Aran if it's a girl. That's it for now because I have to get back to work. Thoughts?

Posted on February 3, 2010 by Mark | View Comments

"Just a-lookin' for a home..."

Mark and I have lived in NC now (since coming back from NYC) for over 7 months now. Mark's awesome parents, Carol and Dave, welcomed us to live in their home even though they had finally achieved a truly empty nest. That is love folks.

That said, in the interest of remaining one big happy family, Mark and I have decided that it's time for us to put on our big girl/boy panties/underroos(?) and move it on out. I want to clarify, this is a precautionary method. My in-laws are amazing people and I love them dearly. They have not in any way, shape, or form put forth any ultimatums/eviction notices/etcetera. They are seriously the most patient people in the world. Though I'm pretty sure they will not be upset to have their home to themselves once again :)

Anyway, the point is, that after 7 months of being back in NC, Mark and I are finally going to start settling in. It's a huge step for us. One that is both exciting and anxiety-inducing (let's not lie, most things are the latter for me). I keep repeating "change is good". That's my new mantra :)

We originally thought/hoped that we would be able to take advantage of both the housing market and tax credits and purchase a home. However, due to more stringent lending requirements, Mark's self-employment status (while kick-ass in his daily life) has proven to be a hindrance in getting approved for a home loan... even though we have great credit and more than the minimum down payment... grr :)

So now we're on to plan B: renting until 1) Mark gets hired on full time (everyone crossing fingers??), 2) Mark has enough years of tax returns to show that we're plenty able to pay a monthly mortgage payment, or 3) I get such a huge raise, I can qualify on my own ;) I think 1 and 2 are the most likely. Until then, we're looking to rent a house (we are so over apartments!) that we could possibly purchase when one of the aforementioned things happen.

So on to the meat and bones of this long, drawn out story: we are going to see our first house tomorrow! We're super excited to get this all started. I'll try to keep you all updated as we go along and hopefully they'll let us take a few pictures.

Wish us luck!

P.S. If you made it this far, I love you. That is all.

*The title was inspired by "The Ballad of the Boll Weevil" which my cousins Mandy and Sandy taught me when I was little. I can hear us now in the back of the truck singing " just a-lookin' for a hoooooommmmmee"... ah, memories :)

Posted on February 2, 2010 by Beth | View Comments