Monday, September 29, 2003

Up late tonight

We all went to the airport to pick up a friend of ours who'd been in Florida for the week. We were going to have just one of us go, but David was still at full speed when it was time to head to Logan, so we all went instead. He had a blast, the plane arrived a few minutes early, and we were back home about an hour ago and got him in bed just before 11. He'll sleep late tomorrow...

Note to that: Terminal C at Logan has a nice kids' playspace that's on the side of the terminal near the low-numbered gates. It has a infants/toddler area, too.

I don't usually decide to see movies from the trailer, but I think I want to see Kill Bill, Volume 1. I've never thought Uma Thurman was all that amazing, but she looks seriously cool in the Ninja Assassin In Yellow Tracksuit role. I'll wait for Woodge to see it and then plan appropriately.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Okay...

First off, a last-night report. David woke up upset around 1. We both went to settle him down, and he wound up playing for around a half-hour before he got tired enough to pass out again. Gracie helped us.

Now, the reason for my post title. We got a credit card solicitation in the mail yesterday. That's not especially bizarre, because we get that junk all the time. This one was even from our bank. There was one difference this time, though.

This solicitation wasn't for us. It was for David. I'm thinking maybe the bank is being just a tad premature...

Friday, September 26, 2003

Munch munch munch

This morning, for breakfast? Nearly _two_ bananas. That is one hungry boy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

What a bargain!

We went out shopping tonight - looking for shoes for David. Now that he's a walker, he needs shoes that are a little better support-wise than his canvas Gap sneakers.

We would have gotten them at the Stride-Rite store, but the clerk there preferred talking on the phone with a friend to helping us. So we blew out of the store and went to Filene's. Filene's had a nice pair of Stride-Rite shoes that were white leather with Velcro straps. They listed at $30, no a bad price.

But when we rang them up, it turned out they were on clearance - $6.24! So we also bought the next size up for him as well. $12.48 for two pair of Stride-Rite shoes is quite the bargain, needless to say. I'm glad the clerk in the other store didn't hang up the phone!

We shall see...

Hopefully the interview went well - I got a pretty good feeling from it, but we'll see. There could, of course, be someone better-suited for them, but I hope not. I think I'd be a good fit for them. I have a few other irons in the fire to date, but this is the best I've seen so far. If not, then the blog updates will continue at a more rapid pace until I'm eventually snapped up somewhere.

Other than that, walking continues to progress rapidly. The only thing he doesn't really have down yet is getting up unaided (he still needs something to pull up with), but that'll change soon. He really enjoys showing off for us.

Other things

In the last few days, David's ability to walk has increased exponentially. He's sixteen months old today, and he now can walk all the way across one floor of our house. He also can keep walking for a virtually unlimited period if holding one of our hands (which he now wants to do). There have also been major strides taken in his fork-wielding ability this past week. Now he sometimes even voluntarily uses it instead of his hands.

Other than that, promising news. This may not be _the_ job, but I have a series of interviews scheduled this afternoon at one prospective employer. The phone interview I had last Friday went well. I won't get too enthusiastic until someone gives me an offer, but the job I'm up for is an interesting one. We'll see.

And our new coffee table is in, so we've got to go pick that up tomorrow.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Sobering fact

I just was reading an article on how Greg Maddux has managed to win 15 games for the 15th time. An impressive statistic. I recalled reading articles earlier this season when he was struggling, suggesting he was past his prime and washed-up. So just for the heck of it, I clicked on his name in the story, and went to a stats page about his career. He currently has 288 wins, so it's likely he'll reach 300 sometime next year.

He's three days younger than I am.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Just about through...

Jane's coming home tomorrow (she was going to the Miss America pageant with her family tonight) afternoon. Managing David's been pretty easy overall - but it's had moments. When I left Jane to go to Illinois last year, David was easier to manage. Back then, he didn't crawl, he didn't really sit up, and he didn't move around much. You could put him down to do something and he stayed put. That's not the case now. And she's been gone longer than I was.

I can see how single parenthood must be difficult, that's for sure. From what I know, David's easier to take care of than a lot of kids are.

I went to the Salem, NH geek show this morning with David and former employee Robert. I was searching for another Mini-ITX box, but to no avail. We met Rob and his son Christopher there, and Rob's friend ASICguy. I know Rob found a small ATX case, and Robert (boy that could get confusing) picked up a O'Reilly pocket guide to something useful. I, OTOH left empty-handed for once. That's OK. I'll get my next Mini-ITX from iDot, the same folks I got the last one from online. It's going to be a Win2K server.

No, I won't be switching my website over to it. I really don't enjoy the thought of getting hacked easily. I'll stick with Linux and make it tougher for the kiddies.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Whoa!

This morning, I gave David a few Cheerios and his bottle, then I went in to cut up a little bit of banana for him too.

He ate what I gave him. He demanded more. before long, he'd eaten the entire banana. I was quite impressed - that's a lot o' food for a little guy.

Then I babysat for our friend Mary's boy Harry who's three months older than David for a couple of hours. Boy, that was tiring. Toddlers are a lot of work. And two toddlers are exponentially tougher.

The move is complete. Whew.

As of a few minutes ago, I finished moving all my Slashdot Journal posts over to blogspot, and changed all the links I had out there. So this is officially my new bloghome now. Woo. It'll be easier to manage from multiple systems or random locations, as I can connect to this with lots o' browsers and/or FTP as well. but usually I'll just use Blogger, hence the Blogger badge on the site. Thanks, Google!

Why the name "The fork in the road"? Well, I decided that I'm at that point in my life. And many of my postings, I've noticed, have had that sort of theme about them. So why not celebrate it? It's not like I'm bitter about it all - far from it really. But when I started blogging, I had a stable career at an independent company, and I was one of many friends without children (though we had just found out one was on the way, I didn't post about it for months). Now I'm jobless, and the father of a 16-month old boy. We almost moved, but didn't, I'm looking for a job, and in fact this week I'm experiencing single parenthood (no, no problem - Jane's just visiting her parents for a couple of days and I have the boy).

A lot of changes have happened in recent times, and I get to figure out what's next and how to get there. So I might as well share that along with the mundane trivia that most bloggers (myself among them) blather about. Enjoy the ride! I sure am!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Effective now...

I'm going to move my blog. The new home is jturiel.blogspot.com. Put it in your bookmarks - all the new updates will be going there, and I'll slowly move my old content over as well.

It's nothing against Slashdot, it's just that it's more convenient to keep it on a site I can FTP to, and I'm not willing to open up FTP on my own server. I would have put it on my .Mac site, but Blogger doesn't support WebDAV, and Apple doesn't allow FTP. I'll be changing all my pointers to the new site over the next few days. I've got time.

He-man club

Yep. Nobody here but us he-men. Jane's at her folks' house in New Jersey right now, so while she's gone it's just us two swinging bachelor guys.

I figure by Friday, David and I will be drinking beer together, smoking cigars and eating steak. I'll teach him how to play poker on Saturday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

I do plan to start using Blogger soon to run my blog. However, I'm still Slashdot-bound until I can either:

A - Upgrade my blogspot account to BlogSpot Plus/25 (the ordering page has been down at least since last Friday).

B - Get a Blogger release that supports WebDAV uploads. If we get WebDAV support, then I'll use my .Mac account. We shall see which comes first.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Drool drool drool.

Granted, I need a job first, but I had been planning to buy one of the new iMacs once I had one - my 2+ year old PowerBook is aging badly, and overmatched by a lot of stuff nowadays. The new iMac is a nice upgrade - 1.25GHz G4 processor, DDR333 RAM, a GeForce FX 5200 video card with 64MB of RAM, USB 2.0 support, and other nice goodies. A good, solid upgrade over my old TiBook 667 at a reasonable price, leaving the TiBook to be my "throw it in a bag for trips" computer.

Then Apple had to go and reinstate my Portable Lust today with the new PowerBook line. I can't make up my mind whether to lust after the new 15" or the new 17" PowerBook. They have all the same specs, plus FireWire 800 support, Gigabit Ethernet, 512MB of L2 cache (iMacs don't have L2 - Apple considers that a "pro" feature), included Bluetooth (instead of a $50 add-on), and both S-Video and DVI out driven by a Radeon Mobility 9600. Woo.

Even though the pricing makes the choice obvious (the iMac is around $1800), I still lust for the PowerBooks. Darn it. Oh well. Self-denial builds character.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

On a more positive note...

More pictures are up! Head to the usual place to see them (e-mail me if you don't remember where that is). Also, I may be taking this blog and moving it to the real Blogosphere instead of just using Slashdot's Journal system. More news on that as and and if that develops.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

This is a wonderful new beginning. Really. I'm going to try my hand at running a more traditional blog for now - I haven't abandoned my old blog at slashdot.org/~jht/journal, but I'll probably move over to this for ongoing posts.

"What's going on"

Since my last entry a few days ago, there's not much new. I did a first coat of paint on the wood trim (white), and it looks pretty good. I have to do a little more touch-up when I have a chance. Between Murphy's Oil Soap and a razor blade, most of the spilled paint is now off the floor. David's picked up a couple more words (cracker, baby, bug), and is walking a little more often. But he still prefers to crawl because it's faster and he's more maneuverable that way. Four wheels on the ground rather than two, and all that.

The Super Top Secret meeting went off as rescheduled this week, and went very well. I think most of my recommendations will be implemented by the Super Top Secret client. That'll be a big boon for their customer base, and it helps my professional reputation as well.

Yesterday, I spent the day at Holyoke's annual golf league outing. It was a nice time, particularly because my team won. But it was also nice for a different reason, and a melancholy one. Next year's league will most likely be mainly an alumni league - as most of the players are either gone now, or working with the Sword of Damocles over their heads. Most of the people there found out over the last week wheter they were "go forward" people or not, and when their service would be ending. If I averaged out all the departure dates I heard from people, it would come out to sometime late this winter.

I had five years of service there, plus plenty of unused vacation - so I got a decent amount of "get lost money". A lot of people who have been kicked to the curb got still more - my five years was lower than the average tenure there. But I'm still ambivalent about the whole process.

Here's why. I think I've said before that the business model my company was using wasn't working. We'd been losing money for years. It's not a secret - it's public record. I'm obviously not an insurance expert, but I think that the business was probably fix-able. In recent years, our results were on an improving trend, though not where we needed to be long-term.

The plan that went forward, though, blew up essentially everything and pulled out of most markets, with a goal of reinventing the company as a specialty insurer. In the process, more than half the people will go away. Some of them were talented, hard-working people. Some were slugs. But still, that's an awful high human fallout in a place that is supposed to serve policyholders first and employees second, before worrying about the rest.

What sealed things, though, for a lot of people was Ward. These folks "benchmark" the performance of companies in various industries, of which insurance is one. They take what they consider to be the top performing companies, and rate them after assigning costs to the areas they feel they belong in and so forth. If you pay them, they'll come in and rate you.

In insurance, the biggest company to worry about is AM Best. They actually rate you based on your underwriting practices, surplus management, combined ratio, outlook, and employee-to-policy ratio among others. The "A+" is coveted by them, and leads people to send business your way if you can sustain that rating.

Ward deals with back-office practices for the most part. Some companies believe that Ward is pretty much the gospel of how to run your operations.

Ward apparently didn't think highly of the way some strategies were being executed. So now a lot of folks in various places are on the job market. It doesn't matter necessarily what they did, or how much the business needed them to function. If they don't match a place where they're expected to be, adios.

That's not why I'm gone per se - I went away because the guy who was my boss was told, more or less, that "they don't need a manager on-premises. After all, the other guys in Connecticut don't have one". Since I wasn't going to either get his job or go to Illinois to have the life sucked out of me, I had to go. It didn't matter that I was performing well (I have the reviews to prove it), or that I was working on the implementation of a whole mess of inter-company projects. The guy in charge of the company I was working at told corporate IT that my org-chart position was gone, so I was gone. End of story.

I'm probably coming off here as really bitter - believe it or not, that's not my intent. As I've said before, something had to be done to fix the company. There was collateral damage as a result. This happens all the time in modern-day America.

What I am a little bitter about is something I talked about a few months ago. The decisions that affect people's lives get made by folks who just have no understanding of the human element. The day I was tossed overboard, I had forgotten my Palm that morning. I rely on it to keep notes and myschedule, so I called home and had Jane swing by on her way out to do errands. I went down to the street to meet her, and while I was waiting the fellow in charge of Holyoke (he's the Connecticut guy) drove out past me. I waved, he waved back. Jane arrived a couple of minutes later, passed me my Palm, and left. I went back up to my office.

And about fifteen minutes later, I got called down to HR and got dumped. I'm guessing that the gentleman I waved to went back home to Connecticut, had a nice dinner, played with his kid (or kids - I'm not even sure if and how many), and slept well, thinking "Good - I started saving them money today".

He darn well wasn't thinking "I just put a man out of work today". CEO's in general don't care about that anymore. Right after I vanished, so did the systems department later that day. They're being outsourced. Yippee! More money saved!

Monday, September 08, 2003

Well, we're pretty much done...

Sunday, we painted two coats of the green that they use at Restoration Hardware (they call it Silver Sage). We also painted the baseboards, and the two door frames. The ceiling trim will get done in a couple off days, as soon as we think the new paint is solid enough to tape over. And the windows will wait until after I'm employed again. That's because we decided to have them repaired and restored at that point, and it'll be easy to paint the woodwork without worrying about painting the windows shut. We'll be taking the closet door out to paint it, and the same with the main door. Probably sometime mid-week.

We did get more of the paint on the floor than we hoped to, but not too bad. The floor really needs refinishing one of these days soon - it was pretty hurting when we bought the house and it's only gotten worse in the ensuing decade. We also were able to get rid of my last particleboard bookcase in the process of this weekend's work. This morning I went out with David while Jane showered and bought a plastic shelving unit at Home Depot (along with some extra painting supplies), which I put upstairs in our cleaned-out and nearly empty attic. I'm storing all the old software boxes I have up there and keeping minimal stuff down here. That freed up over half my good bookcase for other goodies that were in the cruddy one. And I threw away a lot of stuff.

The end result now is that both windows are now unobstructed, which is cool. There's still a litttle finsh work to do, and I need to re-hang my cool Peter Simon prints back on the wall, but it looks great now. Pain in the butt, but worth it.

The reason I'm up writing this so late is because of all the furniture rearranging and cleaning I did afterwards. I could have waited until morning, but I wanted it done and over with. I can do all the touch-up work with the furniture back in place.

Other than that, it looks like it was a glorious weekend that we missed because we were inside painting. Bummer. And I polished off the latest Clive Cussler novel. I still have three library volumes to go through over the next week, which should be do-able. One of them's really short.

Humanity is now holding auditions.

Over the next year or so, auditions will be held for the role of greatest living singer-songwriter. The position has recently become available with yesterday's passing of Warren Zevon, who died after a 13-month battle with mesothelioma. He was 56.

Candidates must have strong piano skills, the ability to play multiple instruments, a sharp wit and a wicked sense of humor. A baritone voice is helpful but not required. The ability to maintain perspective and make fun of one's self even in the face of adversity is essential.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Trading Spaces - yeah, right!

I'm a fan of home improvement shows. I watch This Old House, Trading Spaces, and Decorating Cents pretty regularly, and a few others as well. TiVo grabs a lot more of those shows for me than I even bother with, because it knows I'll probably like them.

When I watch them, I'm always struck by how easy painting looks. Nobody gets that messy, the job goes smoothly, and the paint is always done in a jiffy.

I'm here to tell you all it's just a bunch of hooey. We're painting my Nerd Room right now, and it's like kicking dead whales up a beach. I did the ceiling, some woodwork, and some of the primer. Jane's done a bunch of primer and prep work. We cleaned the walls together, and I just taped off all the woodwork so tomorrow we can do the actual paint color. It sucks.

We moved everything we could out of the room, but both bookcases, the desk, and the PC station are still in there, just squeezed into the middle of the room. The chairs are in the hallway, and all the other junk is shut into the bathroom. We can barely more around in here right now.

And on the TV shows, the kids are never underfoot. here, we take turns watching David, and when he sleeps we work together.

If we're real lucky, we'll be finished tomorrow. I hope so. I'd really like my room back...

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Sleep

I didn't get much sleep last night. Since my departure from Holyoke, I've had a few cases like that - more than usual.

Now most of you might be saying "Of course. He's worried about things, and can't sleep because of it". Except that's wrong. I have a lot of thoughts about my joblessness, but worry isn't high on the list. I knew the company was heading in that direction, and I'd shown no interest in relocating elsewhere - which I knew for a long time would be my only hope of remaining relevant enough to keep working for the company. I'm pretty confident I'll be picked up before too much more time passes, and I've really been enjoying the time off. I was thinking further about it though, and I think I do have a handle on the sleep problem. It is job-related, but only dimly.

You see, when I was working I had a routine. I'd get up at about 6:15, check my e-mail, shower, eat breakfast, and head to work around 7:30 or so. I worked until about 4, went home or out to do an activity, then we'd have dinner around 6, put the boy to bed at 9, and hit the sack at about 11. On weekends I'd sleep a little later.

Now, not working, we've been sleeping until we wake up - usually when David wakes up around 8:30 or so. Depending on things, I may or may not do breakfast. yesterday, for instance, I slept in until almost 10, and immediately went into a call related to my Super Top Secret Project that lasted over an hour. So no breakfast. We ate lunch out in Danvers around 2 - we were shopping for furniture there. It was a big lunch, so I didn't wind up eating dinner until around 9, and then I just had a pack of ramen because we need to get rid of it (and I couldn't think of anything better) - it's been stockpiled forever.

So with all that schedule-shifting, when we finally went to bed around 12:30 I just could not turn my brain off. My body was exhausted, but my brain was stuck in overdrive.

I think during the several hours I was either awake or nearly awake, I solved several IT problems related to my Super Top Secret Project, planned a trip, decided what color to paint my Nerd Room, inventoried David's clothes, recompiled the kernel on my web server (in my head), wrote half of a novel, and I may have also solved the problems in the Middle East. But I'm not sure about that last part, because I finally fell asleep right afterwards.

And I also wrote a much wittier and concise version of this blog entry.

Needless to say, I'm glad I only have these on rare occasions. I think the best solution is to establish more of a routine - which I will try to start doing. Today, however, Jane let me sleep until 10:30 this morning, because I was way too exhausted to get up earlier. Meanwhile, today I have to work on the Super Top Secret Project a little bit more and go buy the paint I decided to use in my sleep last night.

Monday, September 01, 2003

The newest word

"Cracker". And he can point to them when he wants one. Otherwise, it's been a fun but moody weekend for the little guy. He's heading full-on into the terrible twos, but he's started at 1.25 instead.

It actually comes with some of the developmental milestones that he's been hitting lately. He wants to do things himself, but he can't quite do them yet. It's very frustrating for him.

On my front, I'm working on a Top Secret Project for business. It'll occupy me for a couple more days, then I can get the next photo update posted.

I'm also looking into the possibility of hanging out my own shingle as an IT pro as a possible interim measure for work, or maybe even as a new direction entirely. We'll see. I'm kinda testing the waters now to see if there's any potential for the time being.

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