Friday, November 28, 2003

Did you miss me?

I missed all of you. Really, I did.

As for where I was and what I was up to, we went to Atlantis (on Paradise Island, in the Bahamas) for Thanksgiving. It was a trip that was paid for by Jane's folks, who also went, along with Jane's sister and her family. We had a Bizarro itinerary, thanks to what we could get for free tickets (cashing in most of my miles). We had to leave from Hartford last Thursday afternoon, and fly to Atlanta. However, we couldn't get a connecting flight until Saturday. That worked out, though, because we got to spend a little less than two days visiting our friends, Rich and Lynn, down in Alpharetta. Jane hadn't been to their new house yet - I was last there the week of 9/11/01 when I went down for an abortive Interop. She was going to go down that weekend, but cancelled for obvious reasons.

Anyhow, that was a nice couple of days spent catching up with old friends. We really didn't do too much there. David was scared of their dog (a big sheepdog named Emma - she kept trying to herd David), but started to warm up by the time we left Saturday morning. We arrived at Atlantis around 2:30.

The last time I set foot in the Bahamas was ten years ago, when we stopped there on a cruise. I wasn't impressed then. This time, I was. Boy, oh boy, I was. Immense and spectacular are only two of the adjectives I can use to describe it there. I did have a few gripes (of course), which I'll follow up on later, but mainly I was dazzled.

Atlantis consists of three "towers", along with a group of bungalows and a connected timeshare complex. The super-luxury tower is also the tallest and the newest. It's called Royal Towers, and the two towers are connected by a massive suite about 15 floors up that costs $25k per night to use. We did not use it. Then there are two other hotel buildings, Coral Towers and Beach Tower. They are not new - both are (highly renovated) older hotels that were linked into the complex. Royal Towers are connected to Coral via a concourse of shops and a big (by Carribean standards) casino. Coral is, in turn, connected to Beach via another concourse with a movie theatre, restaurants, and a big convention hall. Beach Tower is closest to said beach, and it's where we stayed.

In between these three hotel areas, which are spread out in a semicircle, is a mammoth piece of engineering consisting of literally dozens of pools, beach land, a huge lagoon, and all sorts of aquarium exhibits along with more restaurants, bars, and water activities. The place is cashless, so all you need to get by there is your room card. Very convenient. Many of the restaurants are buffet, and most are a shade better than decent - way better than one generally expects buffets to be and not bad in general. We didn't really get to sample the standalone restaurants with the exception of a deli (that was OK) we went to Wednesday night.

And now, for the adventures.

First off, we had a room in Beach Tower (as I mentioned). While the oldest and cheapest building, the rooms in Beach Tower were perfectly serviceable, about what you'd find in a mid-range American hotel. We had two full-size beds, a crib for David, and a small balcony that looked out on Nassau. The beds were reasonably firm, and the insulation was good enough so we didn't constantly have to hear our neighbors (or vice-versa). I had a total of four complaints about the accomodations, though, so here they are:

Number one, the elevators were in a state of disrepair, with one or another being broken down and out of service frequently. Number two, we called to request a minifridge for our room - it never got delivered, and as a result of how they'd left us a message about it, we couldn't clear the message light off our phone the whole trip. We had to cover it up at night so it wouldn't annoy us. Third, was that on two separate occasions someone set off fire alarms. One of those was at about 10:30 the first night, and the other was about 4AM last night. That was really annoying, though not their fault - and they gave us a small credit for the inconvenience which was nice.

The fourth complaint, though, was huge. Atlantis is billed as a luxury resort. So why, oh why, do they not only fail to use a fitted sheet when making the bed, but they use a sheet that's too small, resulting in a short-sheeted bed? I made them find a sheet that at least fit better, then I didn't let them change it all week. But all hotels that charge more than $20/night should use real fitted sheets, dammit.

As for the rest of the trip, we had a blast for the most part. David was kind of difficult, and all the Turiel nerves were kinda frayed by all sleeping in a room together. But Jane's sister had it tougher - they have three kids (8, 6, and 2) and were in the same arrangements as us on a different floor. But they've got a lot more experience travelling with their kids than we do with David. Most nights he wound up in bed with us after around 5 or so until dawn. He was difficult at most of the restaurants - thankfully the din was so loud around us that we weren't embarassed too badly (Atlantis has lots of kids there) and we usually ate pretty early.

Unfortunately, David has recently picked up a new habit - he likes to stick his index finger into his mouth. He's been doing it for a while, but on this trip he did it so far that one night he puked in his crib. To the staff credit, even though all we did when it happened was strip the sheet, the next day a whole new crib had been brought in. The service was typically quite good, surprisingly so for what I'm used to in the Carribbean.

There was also one other truly tough moment with David. On Tuesday afternoon, we did our one "off-island" activity. It was a "Dolphin Encounter" on a nearby island that was pretty cool. The whole family went, with Jane's sister's whole family going in and Jane taking David to meet the dolphins. David enjoyed the initial meeting, when the dolphin hopped up in the middle of where they all went into the water, whistled, and clapped.

But then he (the dolphin) did a comedy bit where he motored around everyone splashing furiously with his tail and soaking everyone. David went ballistic and was screaming his head off. I dropped the video camera and scooped him up when one of the other people brought him back up. I spent most of the afternoon trying to settle him down. It was a neat idea, though, and Jane had fun.

I did my activity the following day, when I took a scuba lesson. I'd never tried it before (heck, until a few years ago when I got my eyes zapped, I couldn't see well enough to justify it), but I loved it. Unfortunately, that was my last great moment of fun (personally), because I came down with a cold that I brought home with me. Yecch. Other than that, though, I spent all kinds of time in the pools, rode all the waterslides, played with David some in the water, explored, ate, and had a great time. If you ever consider going, though, beware. The prices are amazingly high for everything, and cashless does not mean cheap. No way. Put yourself on a meal plan, and at least you don't have to worry about the sticker shock on food. Booze, though, is real expensive unless you're playing in the casino - then they liquor you up for free. We only stopped there once, blowing a quick $20 in the slots. I wasn't inclined to the gambling I actually enjoy, which is blackjack. The stakes at the lowest-stakes table were $15 per hand. I prefer the $5 tables, and there were none. Another financial surprise you'll find is a mandatory 15% gratuity charge added on top of virtually everything. I was a little disappointed by that. I usually tip more than that, and because of the charge not being a choice I wasn't inclined to tip any more than what they forced me to.

Basically, we enjoyed it a lot, and if David were aobut six months older I think we would have enjoyed it even more. It's tough for a kid his age to really participate in anything. But he tried. We flew home Friday afternoon, with a not-quite-one-hour layover in Atlanta. David was pretty tough to handle on the last leg to Hartford, but he slept the whole drive home and was incredibly excited to see his kittycat tonight. We got home around 10:30PM after a quick supermarket stop.

There are some hokey, goofy things about Atlantis, especially the way they wrap a lot of the exhibts in pseudo-scientific-mystical BS as if Atlantis were real, but it's gorgeous, well-maintained (the elevator in our building nonwithstanding), and the staff is attentive and very friendly. It's great for kids 2 and up, I'd say. Between Jane and myself, we took a ton of pictures which will be culled through and posted in the next couple of days, I hope. I need the camera space!

And I got a call for a job interview while I was gone - that should happen next week (I was in contact from Atlantis after getting the message). We'll see, but it looks like a neat position.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Yawn, redux

David slept rather poorly last night - by extension, so did we.

He conked out at the regular time, but woke up around 1:30. We wound up bringing him into bed, but that resulted in an hour of him sleeping poorly and us sleeping not at all. We put him back down at 2:30, and has to listen to about ten minutes of screaming before we all settled back down.

Watched Jackass: The Movie last night. Absolutely hilarious. Disgusting and sick, too. Watch the DVD version - the outtakes make it worth the trouble.

Friday, November 21, 2003

On gay marriage

Adrian Walker had a great column in Thursday's Boston Globe on the topic of gay marriage. He, like myself, is a supporter of the concept. My opinion is basically this: when society grants special privileges to people with legally binding pair bonds, then any two persons should be able to enter into such a bond.

It should be a basic right, and I'm grateful that we're finally starting to get there.

Anyhow, the best line he has is a quote:

(quoting a political consultant on the right-wingers' protests) "If marriage is so sacred, then why don't they outlaw divorce?"

Why, indeed. Marriage indicates a stable relationship. Stable relationships are a Good Thing. Gay marriage doesn't necessarily lead to anything else, contrary to what many members of the religious right may think. It just leads to more (hopefully) happily married couples.

And once there is an actual statute on the books here, I have one message to any gay couples who may wish to marry: a couple of years ago, I actually went through the (brief) process of becoming ordained by the ULC as a minister. And I'd be happy to marry you gratis, if nobody else wants to.

Let me know.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Not with a bang, but with a whimper...

That's how my golf season appears to have ended. I last played a week and a half ago, and since the weather didn't cooperate last week I think that's it. I'm not going to be able to play next week, and the following week marks the beginning of December. Even I pack it in at that point.

Season highlights? Several sub-50 rounds at Salem Muni (a difficult course for me), finally starting to get some consistency out of my driving after changing grips late last year (unsolicited plug - I am using a variation on the Natural Golf method, and it's really starting to work out), and being on the winning team for both my league and for the (former) company outing. I was on the winning regular season team my first year, too, but I'd never been on the winning team in the outing before. That was cool.

And the $25 mall gift card I got for winning helped knock another notch out of the price of my newest Mac.

I'll take the clubs down cellar later today, I guess. Wah.

Why am I writing this relatively early in the day? Well, I have to go get a flu shot at my doctor's office at 9. I've gotten them the previous four years, after a particularly debilitating case of it in 1998. Previously, I'd gotten them at work, but that's not going to be the case this year, now, is it? Anyhow, I'm getting mine today, Jane is trying to make arrangements herself (her doctor isnt offering them on a day she's available), and David will get his when he has his 18-month checkup in two weeks.

If you haven't already gotten one, do so. Now. Shots suck, and you may get the sniffles from this one, but it beats the heck out of getting the flu. Trust me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Share the joy

Today brings us two new Apple systems. The first is a new iMac, with a 20" LCD. It costs $2199 in a config that is otherwise identical to the 17" iMac it replaces at the high end. The 17" remains, at the original price. The $400 extra just gets you the big screen.

This was an inevitable upgrade, simply because I'd just recently bought a 17" iMac. Josh's First Law of Computing dictates that the model I own will always be upgraded within a month of buying it. However, had it been available I would not have bought it - Jane has one of the older 17" iMac models, and I knew that was definitel enough screen. In fact, I'm not sure how well this one will do in the market. $2199 is kinda steep for a G4 system nowadays.

The other upgrade was much more practical for most. The mid-range G5 tower (1.8 GHz) now brings a little dually love to the table for the same price ($2499) - and the bottom-end G5 (single 1.6 GHz) has had a small price cut. For $500 more than the dually G5 1.8, you can get the 2 GHz model, but all you get extra for the money is the two slightly faster processors and a notch up on the video card. Changing the video card as a BTO option only adds $50 to the price, so you're paying $450 for a pair of processors that are only one click faster.

They'll sell a lot of the 1.8 systems this season.

In other news, the Massachusetts SJC has just declared that same-sex couples have a legal right to marry under the state constitution. However, they left it to the Legislature to come up with a solution, giving them six months to come up with a solution.

Personally, I have no problem at all with the idea that gay couples can marry. I don't think it threatens marriage as an institution, and it doesn't threaten my marriage either. But I doubt that our legislature has the same attitude that I do. What I expect to see is an initial effort by them to rewrite the constitution to explicitly define marriage as male-female. After that fizzles (it did last year when they tried it), they'll wind up passing some kind of civil-union bill that Romney will reluctantly sign right at the deadline. It'll wind up being something like Vermont.

Ultimately, this nation will come to the conclusion that stable pair-bondings are a Good Thing, regardless of gender. But it's going to take a long time to get there, and the socially conservative wing of the GOP is going to have to start getting hit at the polls before we get there.

Monday, November 17, 2003

More English

Where did the term "Black Friday" come from, anyways, as it relates to the Friday after Thanksgiving? We all are familiar with the term nowadays, but the common usage of it is a relatively recent development.

Jane's worked in retail all her life (in one form or another), so she's the first person I ever heard use it - I don't remember exactly when, but I think it was some time in the mid '90s. And the first time she said it, she looked at me like I had two heads when I told her I'd never heard it before.

Since those days, now I hear people use it routinely, and I've seen it in print many a time. Does anyone have any idea where or when the phrase originated?

We finally heard back from the carpenter this morning, and he's coming over soon. This is good, because it's fairly simple but I have no idea how to install a storm door.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Home improvement (again)

As many of you will remember, we had some hellacious winds kick up through New England for a few days. The worst of it was Friday and Saturday. Well, Friday we went out together to do some things, and when we returned early in the afternoon we had a little accident of sorts.

We made it home without any problems (and the trip itself was uneventful), but after parking the minivan back at home, we went up to the back door with David and his supplies in our arms. We opened the screen door, and it was propped open while I unlocked the door.

At which point the wind kicked up again with a big blast, flinging the door open, and ripping it out of the doorjamb. Bummer.

We wanted to replace it anyways - in fact, we'd made a call to the carpenter we've been using for serious home projects for the last few years about it a few days before. I want to put a more traditional storm door up that'll actually give us some insulating value in wintertime. However, he's been rather poor about returning calls lately and we still haven't heard back from him. Jane also called again Friday. No call.

So I dismantled the old door myself today (I had to poke it apart at the hinges), and I'll try and figure out how to replace it in the next day or two.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

On Language (with apologies to the gray lady)

An interesting observation about language development - as David gathers more and more words, he becomes more and more frustrated when he doesn't know the word to express something. That and not getting his way are the leading causes of tantrums right now.

When he does learn a word, he delights in using it as much as is reasonable. For instance, "kittycat" not only applies to Gracie, it applies to any pictures or video of a cat he sees, however large, small, or abstract they might be.

Except for Danny, who he still refers to as "grrr".

Diverging into politics

I had an interesting, if brief, discussion with one of my friends after last night's BNUG meeting. He's very much against the H1-B visa program and feels that it's a significant cause of the workforce contraction that's happened in the IT profession over the past few years.

I disagree.

Why, you may ask? Here's why. Under the H1-B program, workers from foreign countries come here to work. They have to be paid a competitive wage for practical reasons (they need to live here and deal with the US cost of living while they're here), and some of them wind up becoming permanent residents or even citizens eventually. America was built on immigration, and just because some abuses have certainly occurred is no reason to end a program that has been a channel for people to come to the greatest nation on Earth.

There is, however, a problem with the workforce. It's the offshoring movement. Companies are losing sight of the long-term problems that can emerge when you take your intellectual capital and ship it overseas in order to meet better quarterly numbers today.

This has already decimated American manufacturing, and now it's spread to the IT sector as well. Tomorrow it'll be the accountants and clerical workers who get farmed out. What jobs will be left here? There's only so many jobs open at Starbucks, McDonald's, or your local Gap to be had. People have to earn enough money to patronize those businesses, and to boost short-term shareholder value companies are putting their customers out of work. It only goes so far, folks.

American business have three constituencies they need to satisfy: customers, employees, and shareholders. To focus on one of them to the exclusion of the other two is a recipe for long-term disaster - Wall Street may be happy when you show numbers worthy of a "growth company", but how do you sustain that bump in the long term? What do you cut when there's nothing left to cut?

The focus of business should be on maximizing their potential sales, keeping the cost of sales at a reasonable level, building quality products, and having a happy, motivated workforce to help you do it as well as possible. If you make a good product and sell it at a fair price, people buy it. If your employees are happy and well-compensated, they will be motivated to build the best possible products. And if the customers are buying and you're making a profit, then to hell with Wall Street if they're not happy. You and I are the shareholders - and I don't know about you but I just want to be vested in solid, well-run businesses that make things people buy. I wasn't spoiled when mutual funds were returning 50% per year in the dot-com boom, and I wasn't devastated when the crash came. I expect solid, long-term growth and I could give a fig about this quarter. Show me the long view.

So if you want to keep this country what it is, don't cut off the foreign workers to spite yourself. Keep the jobs here, regardless of who does them, and build your companies the old-fashioned way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

I always wanted to be a boxer

It's not because I like hitting people. That doesn't really appeal to me that much. Being hit by people appeals to me even less.

No, it's because the two coolest nicknames in sports can only be given to Jewish boxers. If I was a boxer, I could be either "The Kosher Butcher" or "The Yom Kippur Clipper".

I always thought Dana Rosenblatt was leaving a great nickname on the shelf by simply going as "Dangerous Dana".

Of course, with my skills, I'd probably simply be known as "Week-old Pastrami" or something like that.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Up late, again

Two reasons I'm typing this now. The biggie is David. He's in his crib right now, railing against the world. He's been sleeping poorly the last two nights - last night a brief visit to our room did the trick and he settled right back down into his own crib after snoozing with Gracie for a while. Tonight, that's not the case. Jane just went and fetched him again.

The other reason is that tonight, I learned how to use iMovie and iDVD - I made a DVD of David's first year on the planet. It was minus a few chunks, because iDVD can only make 90 minute discs, but all the good stuff was there. I even added some music from my iTunes library and photos to the chapter menu from iPhoto. It came out really well, though it took a few hours to render and burn. I'll make some copies tomorrow and send them to our families. The dupes will go much faster - the Superdrive is capable of 4x burns so it should take about 23 minutes per disc to copy.

Sometime in the next week or so, I'll make a DVD of the second year to date - I have a couple of hours of DV footage to edit down first. One thing about DV work - it gobbles up disc space like anything.

As for David, Jane and I just put him down again, after giving him a little shot of Tylenol. He has a bit of a cold - we had to wipe his nose. Of course, the runny nose could have been an aftereffect of all the crying. But he seems to be down now.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

A disclaimer

The project yesterday went well, but I want to warn my readers - be very careful when attempting any sort of electrical work. If you have any doubts about what you are doing, stop and get a professional electrician to do the work for you. Having an intact home and healthy life is worth the expense as opposed to risking either.

I've done a few electrical projects over the years, and yesterday's is about as complex as I'm willing to get. Among other things I've tackled is to install a ceiling fan (in our kitchen with a friend of mine helping), to change over old switches, and to rewire an outlet. I've also removed a few old circuits from the house as well. We've got a lot of old knob-and-tube cabling here that I've been slowly removing from the system. Most of that's been done by the pros, though. Next year's electrical project will be to break out a separate circuit for the A/C unit in our master bedroom. It shares with much of the other stuff in the bedroom now, and the UPS for Jane's iMac trips every time the compressor energizes. We'll use a real electrician for that job.

I have done most of the house's newer phone wiring, though, and all of the data wiring.

We also have some plumbing repairs on the to-do list, a couple of our old radiators are rotting away and should be replaced. I've shut the water to them JIC, since they're not in an area that really needs heating, but they need to go after this coming winter, if not sooner. I'll have that done by a pro. The most complex plumbing projects I'm OK with are toilet replacements and fixing leaky faucets (if it doesn't require a full replacement). I repaired a leak coming out of our old dishwasher once, too.

I've hat a lot of blog hits by people looking into the Gourmet Garden restaurant in Swampscott. Just so you all know, it's pretty good. We don't go there too often, but the last time we went was this past Wednesday night - Jane's been under the weather the last few days and I decided to drag her out of the house for a bit. We hadn't been there in quite a while, but we were craving Chinese food.

Everything was good, with the exception of the sweet & sour chicken. Usually sweet & sour chicken is something I only order in Chinatown, where the restaurants know how to make it right. However, I thought I'd try theirs and it was kinda blah. Real sweet & sour chicken is not heavily battered and served in reddish sauce. That's an American's idea of what it should look like.

The moo shi, however, was terrific - and I'm not even a big fan of moo shi. Everything else was first-rate, too. They have a sushi bar in their bar area, also quite good. I haven't had too much off their Japanese menu, but I assume it's as good as the rest.

And the trip out was good for Jane, as well.

Every morning

When David wakes up each day, we hear him. First he runs around in the crib. Then he takes all his stuffed animals and tosses them out, one by one. That's how we know he's ready to get up.

When one of us (usually me) goes in to get him, he starts giggling and runs away from us to the opposite side of the crib. He'll play this game for a minute or so before he lets us catch him and change his diaper.

Then he runs around the upstairs for awhile before he slows down enough for breakfast, which is usually a bottle and a banana.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Project complete.

This morning, I decided to get the lighting (as referenced in my 11/3 post) project done. First off, I tested circuits until I found the one that serviced the light/power for the old fluorescent series. Found it after testing half the darned house.

Then, after labeling it in the circuit breaker box for future reference (it controlled the whole bathroom, as well), I went and pulled the wire nuts from the old junction, exposing the wire ends. Did I mention I re-tested first to make sure the power was out? I really hate getting 110v zaps. After undoing the cable that led to the old lights, I re-threaded the nuts, and re-energized the circuit to make sure everything still worked. It did.

Then, David and I headed to Home Depot across town. I picked up four GE Profile under-the-counter lighting units with electronic ballasts, and they came with both outlet and direct wires included. I also had to get an adapter for the first in the series to hard-wire it down. The lights could be wired in series using the built-in direct wires.

They were pricey but good, and David fell asleep on the way home.

After I got home, I finished dismantling the old lights which I'd disconnected earlier. Instead of unthreading all the old cable, I just diked it out at the appropriate spots under the cupboards and pulled. I went and got some Romex from the basement - I keep a spool for just these sort of projects. I guesstimated a piece for the closet-adapter point connection and stripped the ends to fit. The next step was to head down cellar again, re-trip the breaker, and re-test that it was out.

Sure enough, it was out again. Duh... Anyhow, I threaded the cable through the wall and fastened it down to the adapter, using the supplied wire nuts and trimming only a little. GE included a strain relief nut, which was a little tough to fasten correctly but eventually went in. Then I hooked it up to the socket end, and re-powered up the breaker. I tested for current, and finding it I went back to work.

The new lights went in in sequence, starting from the cupboard I hooked up the adapter to and finishing up under the sink. At least they did after I ran down to the nearby hardware store for some screws and nuts of appropriate length - the old ones were too thick to thread the new lights onto. I tested each one after installation before installing the next one.

After I was done, I only needed one cable fastening tack to take up excess slack in the cable from the adapter to the first light. That was the toughest part, because I had to drill a pilot hole for the tack first. And David was trying to cling to my leg while I did it. While I was at it, I tacked down the Romex in the closet, thus improving the safety from what was there before. It won't break loose anytime soon.

One other nice aspect to the new light system - each light fixture can be powered up individually. The old one was an all-or nothing sequence - the switch was over the sink, and could only power the whole smash. Now we just have to light the individual work area we need, which is easier.

All together, between the new work lights and my souping up the fan lighing, our kitchen has gotten a lot brighter. If I'd done this when we had our house for sale, it might be sold today. Which means I'm kinda glad I waited. Now I'm planning to figure out how to better cover the open fixture in the closet that this draws its power from. I'll probably tackle that one in a week or two.

In the mail this week - a "trying to locate you" card from the folks planning my high school 20th reunion. Fine and dandy, but that means I've been out of high school for almost 20 years. Geez. At least I still have hair, grey though it is...

Friday, November 07, 2003

Great quotes in history

I was watching an episode of Insomniac last night. It's enjoyable enough when I do watch it, but last night I heard a classic bit of wisdom that I thought it would be appropriate to share with y'all:

Dave was chatting up a somewhat curvaceous middle-aged woman outside a Nashville bar, and he complimented her figure. He asked her if she'd ever had any work done on it.

She responded that her figure was from "beer. Nature's silicone."

I really liked that line...

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Inventory time

We did an inventory today - it was of David's vocabulary. As far as we can tell, his vocabulary right now consists of:

Mama, Dada, baba (bottle), baby, book, up (which also means down), lala (banana), nana (Grandma), chair, kittycat, car, truck, cookie, cracker, duck, pool, no, chiz (cheese), turkey, ear, grrrr (the growl he greets our cat, Danny with), drink, bye, light, that (what he says about anything he can't name otherwise), clap, boat, dog, pop (Grandpa), and belly button.

And he shrieks a lot, and has a whole bunch of babble words he uses. Usually he nods at you when he babbles.

Monday, November 03, 2003

I'm not an electrician, I just play one on TV

Two improvements going on in the kitchen - first off, I replaced the relatively weak bulbs in our ceiling fan (old-skool CF bulbs with a yellowish cast to them) with latest and greatest 9 watt fan CF bulbs. They cast a much whiter, brighter light, and only burn a total of 8 more watts when going than our old ones did. Our kitchen tends to be sorta dark, and this helps a lot.

The other is that we have a series of under-cabinet fluorescent lights that predate us in this house. We don't use them that much, but when we do, it's because of intricate food prep - ergo, we really need them.

Well, after over 10 years of service (our time here plus however old they were when we bought the house) they're on the verge of dying. One of them is already dead, and the over-sink one has the ballast starting to fade. They're wired in series, and rather poorly thru a wall and branched off from a light socket in our bathroom closet. So I have to decide which approach I want to take - rewire from that socket area, but better than the kludge job currently in there, or to just come off from one of the outlets in the kitchen on the back wall under the existing lights. I can do it neater-looking from the light fixture in the closet, but it's a kludge now and I'm not sure I want to actually rewire it. If I take the other route and go from the outlet, it won't be quite as pretty (though I can camo it nicely), but an easier wiring job. Either way, though, I'll still have to dike out the existing rig + wire.

Otherwise, no real news. I've become something of a Trading Spaces junkie over the past year, and I picked up Paige Davis' show diary (it's called "Paige by Paige", truly a brutal pun) today from the library. It's an amusing, fast read - I'm already about 2/3 of the way through it and will probably finish tonight. Definitely lighter than my usual fare. The main revelation is just how much goes on behind the scenes, and how hard they work to really stick to the actual stated rules of the challenge.

My mind has begun tuning out the white noise of the new iMac's fan. But it is definitely louder than Jane's is - mine's faster, though, so I can live with it. Nyah.

Pet peeve - Flash sites that embed their content in an MS-specific way and therefore don't load correctly on a Mac. It takes no effort at all to do Flash right, people - so do it right, for Pete's sake!

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Trends in spam

The main themes of the spam I've been getting recently are as follows:

-Penis enlargement
-Viagra (and alternatives)
-Pain medication
-Debt relief (especially a variant that the header calls "Debt relief from a Christian perspective)
-Pr0n - usually underage

I don't actually have to read any of these, thankfully. I run SpamAssassin on my mailserver, which puts anything that scores higher than 4.5 on the Spam-o-meter into a "junkmail" IMAP folder. Anything that passes muster goes into my regular inbox, which I download using Entourage (for POP3, not IMAP access). To flush the junk, every few days I use IMP (a webmail client) running on the server to browse the spam titles and see if anything got flagged by mistake. I was getting over 100 spams per day - but I had my old Holyoke account nuked entirely this past week (they were forwarding it for me) and that cut out a lot of the load. Now I'm down to around 25 or so per day. I get about one false-positive per week, and a spam makes it through the filter every couple of days.

No takers yet on my old PowerBook - I can make you such a deal!

Saturday, November 01, 2003

PocketMac 3.2 - so far so good

I downloaded the just-released PocketMac 3.2 update today - it fixes Panther compatibility (though the installer still thinks it won't work), and a few other glitches.

So far, no difficulties. I was starting to worry that I'd never sync again! When I got the iMac, I chose not to try installing 3.0 on it, since it was supposedly not Panther-compatible. But my thoughts on PocketMac boil down to this:

PocketMac can be a little quirky at times. But all in all, it makes a PocketPC at least as usable as a Palm when it comes to Mac-native PDA solutions, and Palm will go years at a time without updates to support new Apple OS's. There's still no AvantGo conduit for Palm on MacOS X, two years after Palm first supported it themselves. On the other hand, there is support within PocketMac. Because the developer wrote it himself. And when it came to Panther support, Palm wasn't ready. PocketMac was ready within a week of release.

I have yet to try Bluetooth support (it's not worth getting a Bluetooth SDIO card), and I'm not sure if it can actually sync via network yet, but the essential thing (USB support) works just fine.

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