You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling for the holidays.  This past Saturday we swung up to Milwaukee in order to watch a Marquette basketball game (we won!) and see some friends.  While passing through Marquette’s campus I reflected on my 4 years there.  The further back I went with my memories, I realized that my college career did not start how I wanted it to.

Carpenter and Straz (dorms)
Straz Tower (left) and Carpenter Tower (right,  both are dorms)

When I was still in highschool, I was hard set on attending Marquette.  Maybe a little too much though, as until my parents forced me to apply to two other schools Marquette was the only university I had submitted an application to.  My dad went there, and I had visited my cousin Mike who is three years older than me.  I was ready to bleed blue and gold, and I wanted to do it in the dorm best know for it’s freshman engineering floors, Carpenter Tower.

But there was a problem, I couldn’t just choose to live in Carpenter, I had to pick my top three dorm choices and hope I got in.  Carpenter was my number one choice, and I’ve honestly forgotten my second two choices, but I know for a fact that McCormick was not any of my choices.  Weeks later I received my dorm information, and I ended up in……..

...the one place I didn't pick
…the one place I didn’t pick

McCormick Tower!!!

Or as many students like to call it, “The Beer Can”.  I was also placed on the ‘diversity floor’, which was definitely an interesting experience.  I was, by far, the most un-cool kid on that floor.  While I was studying for computer engineering classes, or playing a few rounds of Halo, the rest of the floor was usually busy partying, playing basketball, or playing really loud hip-hop music.  Don’t get me wrong, they were all really nice guys and extremely friendly, but we had vastly different hobbies.

There were also a lot of nice girls on the floor above me.  It was awkward at first, as I had always had a hard time talking to girls in highschool.  I was lucky though, as all of the gals on the 8th floor of McCormick were not only kind and friendly, but were charismatic and easy to talk to.  My social skills grew by leaps and bounds that year, and I made friends that I still talk to today.

While I wasn’t unhappy, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.  I wanted to be with fellow nerds on the fourth floor of Carpenter.  I wanted a geeky roommate with whom I could make jokes like, “I wish I were your derivative so I could lay tangent to your curves.”  I had to get my nerd fix whilst at engineering classes in the Olin and Haggerty Engineering buildings on campus.  I met a lot of great guys, and they quickly started inviting me back to Carpenter with them to work on homework, projects, and study for tests.  There were a few critical moments that changed my life for the better.  One of them was when I started hang out with Phil and Shivam, and we collected a huge amount of SoBe bottles.  The other was when Matt invited me over to his dorm room, The Cave, to work on some homework.  It was there I ran into Jim, who to this day remains one of my best friends.

It wasn’t the first time I ran into Jim though, we had an English class together.  It’s hard to describe how he looked in that class.  Take an Irish heavy-metal rocker, dress him in all black (including black denim jeans!), add in a dash of college home-less-ness, and remove any possibility or hint of a smile from his face.  That was Jim, and he looked like the kind of guy who would stab me in an alley.  It probably also didn’t help that I rolled into our first class wearing Heelys.  Yes, the shoes that five year old kids wear at the mall and slide around on.  And yes, they make them in a size 12 for men.

I would have stabbed me too

Upon walking into The Cave and seeing Jim sitting in the corner, smile-less, shrouded in darkness, my first though was, “oh shit, he’s got me trapped now.”  Thankfully Jim turned out to be extremely nice, and only had a rough exterior.

I become close enough to a number of the C4 guys (as they were commonly called), they started inviting me to spend the night in their rooms, crashing on a floor or couch.  There was a catch though, as Marquette requires all guests to be checked in, For overnight guests you need to fill out a pass, and you are limited to a certain amount per month.  The solution to this was simple, I hopped from room to room each night and slept at Carpenter.  It happened so often that I was even considered an honorary member of their floor and was invited to their post-college get together.

Being forced to skip from room to room forced me to become friends with a large number of people.  All in all I think it turned out for the best.  I had experiences I will never forget, I made lifelong friendships, and I obtained social skills that will last me a lifetime.  No, college didn’t start out how I wanted it, but looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

Hello Future Me

5 years – 2017

Hey me, not sure where you’re at.  It could be Chicago, it could still be in Minneapolis or Saint Paul.  Hopefully things are going well, and I’m expecting you to be making a nice six figures by now.  Unless you happen to be running your own business, then I’ll accept a large five.  Maybe you need a little reminder where you are at now.

It’s December 27th, 2012.  You currently live in Saint Paul, MN, and work at GoKart Labs as a mobile developer.  It’s a good life and things are great, you’ve got a Camaro and a Honda Hawk.  It’s been a long time since you’ve been outside of North America.  At the moment you’re watching Dredd (2012).  It’s been a productive day, and you’ve cleared off all but two things on your to-do list, this being one of them.

ToDo list
Gotta stay organized!

I’m hoping by now you’ve visited at least 2 new countries, Italy and Australia would make good choices.

15 years – 2027

2027, you’re living in the future!!  Do you have a flying car yet?  That IS one of your life goals.  OK, fine, I’ll settle for a pilot’s license and a time share on a Cessna.  By now I’m hoping you have a house.  Three kids would be nice too, and one of them better be a boy!!

25 years – 2037

You’re officially double the age that you were when writing this.  Congrats!  You’ve made it another quarter century.  You’re probably living a rich and full life.  There should be a few more trips to Haiti under your belt as well.  Don’t forget about the people in the world who need help.  Sometimes it’s too easy to focus on yourself.

35 years – 2047

You probably don’t even have any hair left.  If you do, there isn’t much, just get rid of it.  The cue ball look is sexy you know.  Heck, you might even have grandkids by now.  Be more careful with the risks you take, if any at all.  There are people who depend on you, can’t let them down.


So, I guess this is where we’re left off until later.  Keep on doing living a good life, make sure to take care of those around you, and never stop having fun.

R.I.P. Papa

Yesterday, December 14th, 2012, my grandfather passed away.  He was 76 years old, and was diagnosed with Leukemia just a few weeks ago.  Earlier this month I received the phone call that I should “probably come home”, and I’m extremely glad I did.  Had I not done so, I would have been unable to see him alive and well one last time.

To me he was not Eugene Dowe.  No, he was Papa.  Growing up I would always visit him and Omi (grandma), and there are a few things I distinctly remember.  Their house was an interesting half-ranch/half-split-level, and walking down the stairs into the lower floor was always walking into somewhat of an adventure.  Stacks upon stacks of magazines and children’s VHS tapes stretched on for as far as my little eyes could see.  In the corner of the room near the fireplace was a tiny little elephant sculpture, completely covered with tiny seashells.  Tom & Jerry, as well was Mighty Mouse and Dumbo, were common films to watch as I would try to find the Funnies section within each stack of newspaper.  The basement always had a distinct smell, and while I realize now that it may have just been the smell of dust and magazines, it became “Papa’s smell”, and any time I catch a whiff of an old stack of paper I’m reminded of all those years watching movies with Omi and Papa.

I also remember eating many meals in their kitchen.  When I was little I would get dropped off for the day, and when I got older I started driving myself over to occasionally have dinner.  Papa was usually reading the newspaper, while Omi cooked up something special.  My favorite was spaetzle, though I can’t be too sure if it was Papa’s favorite as he had a stoic face on most of the time.  Above the kitchen sink is a window with one of those semi-transparent stick-on decorations of a mother duck and her ducklings.  Whoever put it on sort of messed it up in the process, and one of the baby ducks is folded completely over the mother duck, creating the illusion that there is a full grown baby duck sitting inside of the mama duck.

Anyone who knew Papa knew he was a collector.  “A collector of what?”, you may ask.  The collector of everything of course!  If he found something that he thought may be of use for someone he knew, he would load it into his truck and drop it off the next time he was at your house.  Board games, books, tshirts, CDs, or even a half working blow drier.  I remember somewhat recently when he brought me a shopping bag full of CDs, and I realized that I didn’t even own a CD player anymore.  I spent a majority of that day importing those CDs into iTunes, but I still have the bag full of CDs sitting in a closet at home.  He always wanted to give things to others, hoping he could find that special something they were missing, or give them a gift they were not expecting.

Every time someone passes, I seem to have one final memory of them burned into my head.  For me, it was just as I was walking out the door to visit a friend, and I was wearing this ridiculous snow cap that looked like a frog with eyeballs on top.  My mom asked Papa, “Dad, what do you think of Joe’s hat?”  He turned, looked confused for a second, and then smiled and laughed.  I will never forget that memory, as he didn’t smile too often.  I’m forever grateful that I was able to get him to smile at least one more time.

Papa wasn’t a man of many words, in fact I don’t recall any profound discussions he and I ever held.  What I do remember is him always asking me how my day was going.  It was the same question, every time without fail.  “What do you know, Joe?”  I think he got a kick out of the fact that it rhymed, and I have to say I always chuckled a little bit when he would ask.  I would always reply with, “Not too much, just going through school/life/work”, and then try to describe a bit of my day.  I always had to make sure to yell a little bit, as his years working for the telephone company had started to make him go deft in his right ear, and his stubbornness kept him from getting a hearing aid for years.  The question became harder and harder to answer as time went on.  Over the years I became more and more involved in computers, going from just a simple computer geek to a full programmer in the span of a few years.  What do I know?  I knew tons of things, but how would I even begin to describe volatile random access memory, or how to increase your front side bus speed?  We both knew I wouldn’t be able to explain most of the things I was involved with on a day to day basis, but he always took the time to ask.  He was my grandfather.  He still cared, and made sure to show that he cared about my day.  Every time he asked I had his full attention, as if I were the only thing that mattered in that moment.  He gave me his full attention and accepted any answer I gave him without judgment.  He was one of the best listeners I have ever known, even if you did need to chirp up so he could actually hear you.

I pray going forward that I can show that same kind of love for my family members and friends.  That I can take a moment out of my day, drop everything I’m doing, and just ask

“What do you know, Joe?”

Building an Android

Before I even get into talking about Android development, I should state that I’m primarily an iOS developer, and because of that am more accustomed to iOS development styles.

I’ve been developing Android apps for a while now, and one thing that I’ve always disliked is Eclipse.  It’s the recommended IDE from Google, so when I first started developing it seemed like an easy choice.  Since then I’ve realized that it is bloated, slow, and the exact opposite of what I’m looking for in an IDE.  For a while I just put up with it, thinking I was as locked in with Eclipse for Android as I was with Xcode for iOS (which turns out to not be as true as I once thought it was).  Then I stumbled across a beautiful thing…….


My new love affair

At first I was worried, there didn’t seem to be a large amount of Android tutorials using IntelliJ, but I heard good things from Mackenzie Powers and figured I should give it a try.  The thing I had the hardest time with was figuring out how to important 3rd party Android libraries.  Eclipse was easy enough, dropping any libraries I needed into {PROJECT_ROOT}/libs.  IntelliJ required a little more setup configuring each library as a module, and then setting each module as a dependency for my application.

But there was another problem, this module/dependency layout doesn’t seem to compile the same was as Eclipse does.  My existing project that compiled file with Eclipse was giving me all sorts of errors with IntelliJ.  Errors were being thrown around saying I had already compiled the Android-support-v4  library.

Oh noes! Errors!

Weird, why was it trying to compile in the support library a second time??  It took me far too long to discover the problem.  After trying to configure a bunch of settings I gave up and tried deleting the library from my project.

Safe Deleting support-v4

I was then presenting with this error:

I can’t let you do that, Joe.

So that was it! My other 3rd party library was using Android-support-v13, which apparently includes v4 automatically.  The way to get around this in IntelliJ is to just have each module require the same .jar library as a dependency, and then it is smart enough to know to not include the same library twice.  Switching both modules to v13 fixed the issue and I was free to Eclipse!  After resolving all my IDE issues, I only have one other problem…

The Simulator

Hanging between screens

I don’t have any physical Android devices, nor do I really care to own any.  Problem is, the Android simulator SUCKS.  It’s terribly slow, and my mom’s Windows XP Pentium D outperforms this thing by a mile.  For months I dealt with the slowness and just accepted it.  But then I found a 2nd tool that would bring speed to the table: VirtualBox.  I found a guide that walked me through setting up an x86 version of Android and configure it’s network interface to be bridged with mine.

Prepped a VM for Android
The interface NEEDS to be bridged or it doesn’t work

Setting a few screen resolutions available to the VM and restarting left me with an extremely fast Android OS.

I named it 4.0 and installed 2.3 :

The only thing more difficult with this is that is doesn’t automatically connect with ADB.  You can manually connect it by running

./adb connect

I consider this mild tradeoff completely worth it, as the speed and benefits far outweigh the costs.  Hopefully others won’t feel stuck with Eclipse and the simulator and can move forward with some tools that are a little more snappy.