Friday, July 30, 2004

A moment of silence, please...

Comedy Central has cancelled The Man Show.

It was inevitable - it took the only occasionally funny season-and-a-half from Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope to make me appreciate just how good Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel were. Carolla and Kimmel managed to poke fun at themselves most of the time, and even the most outrageous antics on their part were still delivered with the kind of wink at the audience that' almost imperceptible. Rogan and Stanhope had a few moments, but they were pretty much just a couple of misogynists with a TV show.

The biggest crime Rogan and Stanhope did under their watch, though, was the inexcusable misuse of Juggy Vanessa. Those of you who will admit to having watched The Man Show know what I'm referring to. Not only was she a living Barbie doll, but she was pretty darned funny when they let her do bits on the show. All Rogan and Stanhope did with her was basically use her as a pole dancer, and that was just sad.

In a side note, three of the Juggies wound up in WWE's ridiculously stupid "who wants to be a Diva" contest - the twins and some girl named Christy who came on board with Rogan and Stanhope. Cute though they all are, the whole contest thing they're doing (check out the WWE website if you're wondering what I'm talking about) is so dumb that I can't bear to watch it. And I am a fan of both pretty girls and wrestling to boot.

The bright side of the contest is that it lets me TiVo that much faster through Raw every Monday. They waste about 20 minutes per show on it so far, so with the commercials factored in I only have to watch about 70 minutes or so to catch a complete 2-hour episode.

Overheard at the Red Lion

So on my way to work this morning I stop downtown to get the papers and pick my bike up from the shop (it needed some drivetrain work that was beyond me nowadays - my repair skills are rusty). While I'm standing in line to buy the paper, I hear the following conversation:

Tall, psycho-looking guy: "Yeah, I've driven out a few demons from people - you'd be surprised at how often it happens"

Smaller alterna-chick type: "hmm"

TPLG: "I did one exorcism a little while back - teenage kid. No kidding, his bed was bouncing up and down without no wires or anything. That one was tough."

SACT: "uhh"

At this point, the creepy-looking guy started to try and remember the name of that particular vanquished demon. Fortunately, that was when I got to pay and amscray. No a moment too soon, I think - I was about to start giggling at him. Then he would have thought I was possessed, too.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Yes, I'm posting a humor link...

Have you always wondered just how Apple's product cycles work? Well, wonder no more. A wonderfully clear explanation of the entire process.

Also, Dave Barry's been blogging from the floor of the DNC this week. If you have the time, go to the Miami Herald site and read it. Wonderful stuff.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

John Stossel's problem

I'm reading John Stossel's book Give Me A Break, and so far I have only one major issue with it. Stossel presents investigative reports on 20/20 and writes pieces for Reason magazine (to which I happily subscribe) that generally decry excessive government regulation. He went from his early days as a strong consumer advocate to a absolute free-marketer. That's fine, I'm one too, though not as extreme as he is.

My issue is how he refers to any media outlets that don't present his viewpoint as "the liberal media". There have been plenty of studies that thoroughly debunk the notion that our media is generally liberal. The only people who genuinely think the facts make a case for media being liberal are the far-right conservatives out there. If anything, most media outlets go out of their way to let the right make it's case - most radio and TV commentary is hard-line conservative, as are most newspaper editorial boards.

Had Stossel referred to them as the "mainstream media", his points would have held up much better. Because mainstream media outlets are not as inherently skeptical of government as he is (and Reason as well). All it would have taken is that one change to make his case much more credible. HIs book may sell better in the conservative book clubs by virtue of the word "liberal", but reasonably intelligent, FOX News-hating people like me will take him with a grain of salt that otherwise might not have been the case.

Which is a shame, because he does make some interesting points so far.

Monday, July 26, 2004

How to be wireless like me

Everywhere I go, loyal Fork In The Road readers stop me in the street and say "Josh, how can I be as wireless as you?"

(Actually, most of the people who stop me in the street are either looking for directions or trying to convert me to their religion, but work with me here)

To live the wireless life, first of all, you need a Mac. That part's key. To keep all your options open, the Mac you buy should have both AirPort Extreme (802.11 b/g) and Bluetooth installed. For future-proofing, you should also have a Cardbus slot as well. Apple's PowerBook 12" (1.33 GHz, SuperDrive) would be ideal for this, but lacks the requisite CardBus slot. I prefer the PowerBook 15" (1.5 GHz, SuperDrive), which is my tool of choice (in a different configuration), or if size is no object, then try the PowerBook 17", which has the spectacular 17" display from the G4 iMacs somehow wedged into a notebook computer. I think they used a shrinking ray.

To any of these systems, make sure you have at least 512MB of RAM, and preferably 768MB or even more. Apple's MacOS X is a Unix, and it will think you for the extra RAM (as well as save you battery life by paging less often to disk).

Now that you have the Mac, buy an AirPort Extreme Base Station, which is a nice, easy-to-use 802.11b/g base station from Apple that costs somewhat more than most third-party ones, but works really well with MacOS X and supports Windows as well. The new AirPort Express is also nice - significantly cheaper and handy for the traveling user. AirPort Express can also be used to extend the range of your existing AirPort Express-based network (or some 3rd party networks, with appropriate hacking), and can be used in conjunction with iTunes to stream music to your stereo. The USB port on the Express can also charge an iPod or support a USB printer.

OK. The WiFi network exists (the marketing name for 802.11b/g). Without any sort of antenna enhancement, you can now wander up to 150 feet from the station and still have a network connection. Kinda cool. Real-world results aren't as good, of course, it all depends on your home's construction (a friend of mine lives in a house with steel mesh in the walls - his house is effectively a Faraday cage that blocks virtually all signals except at the windows). Dr. Bott sells a line of external antennas for the AirPort Extreme Base Station (the ExtendAIR series) that can boost the signal either in an omnidirectional or directional form. QuickerTek also has a line of range extender products as well. Using a Lucent antenna mated via Dremel to my old AirPort base gave me a range boost of about 100 extra feet in real-world usage back when I had it. I could sit at the pizza parlor across the street from my house and still use my home network.

Of course the only time I did that was just to prove that I could, but it was still cool.

With a WiFi card, you can use open public networks and fee-for-use public "hotspots", like the ones you can find in most Kinkos and Starbucks locations. Several downtowns have free cooperative wireless nets, like Boston's Newbury Street and my own downtown Salem. Using tools like KisMAC (a port of the popular took Kismet to the MacOS X platform), you can look for other networks available in your area as well.

Cool, but there's more. Bluetooth capability opens up yet more possibilities for you. With a compatible cell phone and data plan, you can use your cell phone to get a moderate-speed Internet connection (generally ranging from 20 to 150 kbps). As of right now only cellular providers that use the popular GSM standard (AT&T Wireless, Cingular, and T-Mobile) offer Bluetooth-compatible phones, but Verizon Wireless has announced one for their CDMA network that is expected in about a month. The other two major US cell companies (Sprint PCS and Nextel) do not currently offer Bluetooth at all.

All the providers have support for moderate speeds, but Bluetooth adds the ability to use your phone as a modem without any wires involved. After "pairing" your phone with the PowerBook, you can set up a network connection fairly easily with the three GSM providers (the phone will use the data capability, known as GPRS). GPRS plans range from $5 to $30 per month on average, with the cheapest ones metering data usage and the more expensive plans offering unlimited data. See my late June-early July blog entries for more on getting this to work.

And now, a use for the Cardbus slot: most carriers offer PC cards that are meant to allow a laptop data-only access. Verizon, for instance, offers several cards that access their faster Express Network, but only one has a Mac driver. But the Cardbus interface is key to the future cellular data networks that all the players are frantically developing - the higher data speeds to come will be far faster than the 750k maximum of Bluetooth communications.

I'll be posting a Part 2 in the next few days with some cool stuff you can do using the wireless capabilities we've just given you. Stay tuned for more...

Other minor NASCAR notes

- In keeping David safe and secure, I managed to get a minor sunburn right above my right knee and on the back of my neck. Now I know, in a small way, how Dale Jr. felt after his Corvette wreck last weekend.

- Never having watched a race from the start before, it was mildly surprising that they started the event with a brief prayer before the National Anthem. I thought it might turn out to be a fairly generic prayer, but the Catholic priest they invited to present it explicitly mentioned Jesus, which i did not expect - I figured when they started it that they'd have something that would be more ecumenical - figuring there might be members of non-Christian religions present.

Then I remembered NASCAR's southern Protestant roots, and I was more surprised that they actually let a Catholic lead the prayer.

- During the Anthem, they had a perfectly timed flyover of a KC-135 tanker and a pair of A-10 Warthogs. I'm told that they usually get fighter planes to do the flyover, but I'm guessing all the F-16s are busy circling Boston this week.

- The walk to and from the car yesterday was good exercise. Especially because I was pushing David's stroller over some very difficult terrain. At one point during the trek back to the car, I carried the stroller with him in it for about 50 yards over some gravel that I couldn't push him through.

You can call me "Bubba"

Yesterday was the culmination of a life spent as a sports nut - I went to my first NASCAR event up in New Hampshire. Our friends Chon & Jane had extra tickets in two different areas, so Jane went by bus with Jane 2 (and Jane 2's dad & brother), while David and I dropped Jane (ours) off at their house for the bus ride, then drove up to Concord to pick up Chon & his friend Chuck - we drove directly there.

Thoughts on the whole experience:

- On the one hand, David was a little young for it. But the problem wasn't so much the volume (NASCAR events are loud - take 42 unmuffled 700+ horsepower V-8 engines and figure it out!) as it was that David hated the ear protection and wanted it out. You can't rationalize the need for ear protection to a 26-month-old, so what happened was that first I tried the foam earplugs. He hated them and ripped them out. Then, when the engines started at full-blast, he hated the noise and buried his sobbing head in my chest. I covered his ears with my hands and took him out - but then below I found a vendor selling proper headset-style ear protection for $10. I put it on him (he still disliked it), but that muffled the sound well enough that he watched the race for awhile before falling asleep in my arms. For about an hour and a half.

- After he woke up, he was kinda pissed off to find himself at an auto race with mufflers on his head, so he got upset again. After I walked him around for a while, he came back to terms with it and watched the rest of the race.

- Were this a year from now, I could explain to him that the protection was to keep his ears safe, but he doesn't understand that kind of concept yet.

- NASCAR may have upscale demographics, but the crowd I saw was pretty much Bubba. All nice folks, but generally not the demos that NASCAR brags about.

- The traffic getting into and out of Loudon was a lot better than I had been led to believe it would be. Fortunately. I took my minivan four-wheelin' to get out of the parking lot we'd used (a house down the road about a mile and a half from the track that put about 250 of us on their lawn). Right past a parked H2. It felt good.

- David highlight - after his nap, the folks behind us gave him an oatmeal creme cookie from their snack pack. He was pretty hungry. After he ate about half of it, he decided that his hand was messy, so he smeared it all over my nice new golf shirt. It was pretty funny, at least to Chon, Chuck, and all the spectators around us.

- You have to love any sporting event where you can bring your own coolers in, with beer. The only things the pack inspectors worried about were glass bottles. Weapons were also banned. Which comes in handy.

- It's a toss-up as to whether the crowd hates Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart more. They hate Gordon because he's "Mr. Perfect" and because he wins so much, but they despise Stewart because he's kind of a jerk.

- In a related vein, the best t-shirt there IMO was the omnipresent "Anyone But Gordon" fan shirt.

- I will also go out on a limb and say that I have not seen more polite people at any other crowd gathering than I saw at this race. Even the scalpers were polite.

-Before the race, helicopters swarm the area - shuttling in drivers and spectators. David loved that.

Have I been transformed into a raving NASCAR fan by the experience? Nope. Was it a lot of fun and interesting as hell? Yep. Will I pay more attention when Jane is watching a race on TV? Maybe. Will I go again? Probably, but not for a couple of years. But it was pretty cool.

Friday, July 23, 2004

It's all but official...

If the Sox fail to win the next two games of this series (a split will not suffice), then it's time to blow it up and be sellers. They have no chance of winning it all at this point, even if they manage to sneak in as the wildcard.

So what players have trade value? Derek Lowe, probably. Pedro, but I think he's not tradeable as a 10/5 guy. Nomar might be attractive to somebody looking to get over the hump. Maybe even Trot Nixon, who I'd prefer to keep. We need players who can either contribute in a year or so, or players that can be stockpiled for other deals to come next season.

This team, as constituted, simply cannot win. I don't think it's Francona's fault - as much as the Fellowship loves to bash him. This is just a team that has no sense of urgency, is overly relaxed, and has a surplus of guys who figure "screw it - I won't be here next year anyways". Some players are better when they're fighting for a contract, some are better when they have security. Our crop of free agents-to-be seem to be the latter.

There are a few players I'd consider untouchable, either for contract or value reasons. Schilling, Manny, Ortiz, Pokey, Wakefiield, and Foulke, for sure. Probably Mueller, Nixon, and Damon as well - Damon because he's overpaid, and the others for value reasons. I want to keep Varitek (as I've said before) as a cornerstone for at least another 3-4 years. I like Doug Mirabelli, but I could be convinced to bring Kelly Shoppach up for next season in his stead. I like Kevin Youkilis, and the money saved by bringing him up to the big club (and maybe moving Mueller back to second, where he's spent a lot of time in his career) could help pay for a name in the offseason.

My likely lineup card for next year (with backups):

C-Varitek (Mirabelli, Shoppach?)
1B- ?(Millar)
2B-Mueller (Bellhorn)
SS-Reese
3B-Youkilis
LF-Ramirez (Millar?)
CF-Damon
RF-Nixon (Kapler)
DH-Ortiz
SP-Schilling, Wakefield, Arroyo
RP-Timlin, Leskanic, Foulke, Embree

That leaves at minimum a starting first baseman to obtain, two starting pitchers, and more bullpen help. And Mike Timlin is as old as I am, so that's not going to last much longer. Embree throws a flat fastball, so he's a specialist at best. Either of them are replaceable.

So get started, Theo!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

I give up

I've fought the forces of stupidity long enough. As of today, I surrender.

I went to Dunkin' Donuts for a tradesman's breakfast - the medium coffee/2 donuts special (no, I don't do that very often - we're just out of good breakfast stuff at home). Price: $2.59. With tax, it came out to $2.72. So I hand over two singles, three quarters, and two pennies. I figured I'd get a nickel back, which takes up less space than the pennies.

I got my change back. It was 13¢.

Yesterday, I was buying some potato chips for a dinner accompaniment (we had hot dogs - you gotta have chips with hot dogs). I paid in such a way that I expected to get 50¢ back - I got an extra nickel.

I surrender. I'm apparently the only person left who can do basic math in a retail environment. I'll either give exact change or even bills from now on.

But when I get change, I'm sure as hell counting it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

OK, I'll settle.

I may want a new iPod, even though they now leave out the (sucky) case, remote control, and (in the 20GB model) dock, but I'll tell you all what. I'm willing to settle for an ICElink instead. Then I can use my tiny, woefully inadequate 10GB 2nd generation iPod directly wired into my car stereo instead of through a cassette adapter that really muddies up the sound.

Supposedly, it even supports my CD changer-less GM stereo now, which older ones just didn't do.

The next holiday coming up isn't for a while, though, so I think I'll have to wait.

But to be halfway serious, I currently have a 60GB portable FireWire drive that I use for some business stuff (making backups for my Mac customers). If I didn't have that, I'd get the 40GB iPod now anyways, because it would serve the same purpose as the portable drive and play music, too. Which would be very cool. I've used the old 10GB model similarly, but I lost that capability after I filled it with music. A 60GB iPod, if it existed, would be almost irresistible.

The ever-lasting battle

After we moved David into the Big Boy Bed a couple of months ago, we started to have trouble with him escaping. So I put a doorknob cover on his door. He defeated it quickly, so I finally was able to foil him using packing tape to hold it on. This was all chronicled a ways back.

Anyhow, he's still been trying to get out. Sunday evening, we were playing in his room with the door closed. I went to open it, and I noticed he was watching me very intently. I thought nothing of it.

Monday morning, right around 8, Jane and I were both getting ready to get out of bed (I usually get up earlier, but I had two sales appointments in Marblehead beginning at 10, and I saw no point in getting up sooner to go to the office when I'd just have to turn around and go out again). We heard David wake up and begin rattling on his door. So I was about to go get him.

But the next sound we heard was that of David padding down the hall and into our room. He seemed rather pleased with himself.

At nap time, he simply refused to sleep. When put in bed, he would simply get up and leave the room, despite his exhaustion.

So on my way home, I finally beat him. I bought a simple hook and eye fastener for the door, and screwed it into his door from the outside as soon as I got in. Jane then brought him up (he'd passed out on the living room floor), and put him to bed once and for all.

It worked last night, too. He should be able to defeat it eventually, though.

When he's about 18.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Moan

Apple is announcing new iPods tomorrow - word accidentally got out a couple of days early thanks to a leaked Newsweek cover. The specs are as follows:

Sizes - 20GB for $299, 40Gb for $399, nothing bigger (yet - 60GB should be announced soon)
Looks - no more separate buttons, these have clickable scroll wheels just like the iPod Minis do.
Profile - a couple of MM thinner than the previous generation.
Battery life - up to 50% better through better power management.

I want one. Won't somebody buy me one of these so I can give my old one to Jane? To be a little bit serious, I bought my second-generation model back in the fall of 2002 for $299. It was thicker and only holds 10GB. So now today you can buy a smaller unit with twice the capacity for the same price after only 20 months. Pretty good, I'd say.

I guess I'll pass on these, despite the temptation (but if I have a few good months in a row, watch out!). If/when the Mini has a 20GB drive available, though, I'm all over that.

On napping

So we all woke up today around 8:30-ish. Jane took David downstairs while I showered. Immediately after I came down, we had a monumental diaper to change - but Jane was in the shower so I braved it solo. Worked out with minimal damage. Then I ran out of things to do, so while waiting for Jane I took David for a walk down to the grocery store to get the Sunday Globe.

He was pretty good - so fascinated with the surrounding world that he didn't spend the whole time begging to be carried.

After we came back and joined Jane, we decided on a plan of action for the day. Jane'd bought a swing for $7 at the consignment store the other day, with the goal of putting it on Greg and Mary's swingset so that the kids could share better. So we dropped it off, and let all three kids play for a little while before leaving (we're going back this evening for a barbecue, weather permitting). Then came a trip to BJ's for supplies - the impulse buy of the day was a new pet waterer for upstairs. I'd considered it before but never quite had the motivation, but ours was truly foul and the one we got was real cheap.

So on to the main point of the day. David had a lot of fun while we were out, but he was obviously running out of gas by the time we returned. He was given a little bit of food which was mainly ignored, but started screaming his head off when he realized he was nap-bound. Apparently being out of it is no good reason to nap.

I put the screaming boy in bed, and a few minutes later heard him banging on the door and assorted other things. We let the moment pass, and finally about 10 minutes ago I went to check on him. I assumed he was on the floor instead of in the bed.

I was correct. However, he and Bear were sleeping soundly on the floor, but the rest of the room looked like Scott Weiland had been staying there in the middle of a two-week cocaine bender. It was trashed - stuff out of drawers, toys all over, his towel somehow removed from the high door hook and stuffed under him, and all sorts of scattered debris.

Luckily, he didn't stir when i moved him into bed, and he stayed put while I tidied up a little. I'm expecting him back among the living by about 6 or so.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

What a beautiful day to do nothing

Woke up real late today. I'm getting kinda old to catch up on my weekly missed sleep in one day, though.

Once everyone was ready to head out, we walked into town for a maritime festival. I ditched the family briefly for a haircut, but caught up quickly enough. By the way, I noticed after posting the latest Dudepage that I neglected to show the actual sleeping boy on the train, so here's that - courtesy of my cellphone:

And all is otherwise good in the world.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The Mobile Warrior

So last week, as you all know, I was in Cape May, New Jersey. Beautiful place. For those of you in the know, I posted pictures in the usual place, and for those of you not in the know - e-mail me for the URL.

Anyhow, since I am the majority stockholder of a corporation (well, the only stockholder, but that could change someday - mwah-hah-hah), I felt it would behoove me to have the ability to do business while away. So I made arrangements with a couple of fellow freelancers to cover for me in-person if necessary, and set out to figure out how to be as location-independent as possible.

I already forward my phone to my cell phone whenever I'm out of the office anyway by default. So I just needed to worry about data.

My PowerBook has Bluetooth, so I already use it with my Sony Ericsson T610 and iSync. I also have a copy of Salling Clicker, letting me use it as a remote control for my PowerBook as well. Real slick stuff.

(I refer to it as "living la vida Bluetooth")

I had a couple of choices for remote data connectivity: either Cingular's GPRS service or the just-released (for Mac, that is) Verizon Wireless 1xRTT support. Cingular was running a promotion where for $19.95 per month you can buy their "Media Works" package - a ridiculous amount of text messages and unlimited GPRS. Verizon, on the other hand, sells "Express Network", which offers faster service via the PC Card cellular modem and the faster 1xRTT network. Verizon speeds are reputed to be approximately 60-100k with bursts at 144k, while current GPRS is typically more like 50k and a max of 100k. The advantage of GPRS? Cost. The disadvantage? Slower speeds, plus you can't use your cell phone for voice while it's being used as a Bluetooth-based modem.

Anyhow, I figured I'd test both that week, and keep active whichever one served my needs best. Problem one: Verizon doesn't keep the PC Cards in their stores. So I couldn't buy one. Or even test it in-store. So that was out. I already wrote about my travails in getting GPRS service working properly - it was ultimately fixed shortly before I left for Jersey.

Fortunately, when I arrived in Cape May I found that the owner of the rental home (who lived in an apartment on the first floor) used a wireless AP himself that was unsecured. More importantly, he didn't mind sharing his connection. So that covered me most of the time in the house. In gratitude, I spent a little time one afternoon wiping out all his spyware on his XP laptop.

So in that regard, I was covered well. In fact, I handled several business calls requiring me to go online to check messages and such - I set up SSL-secured IMAP and SMTP AUTH access to my office mail server before leaving for the trip and was able to keep up-to-date well.

(minor quibble: I'm still having trouble getting the SME box to recognize my self-signed certificates in place of the factory default ones - which is a pain for my Mac's Keychain)

On the occasions I used the GPRS support, it worked well. Connections take a short time to negotiate - about 10 seconds - and average speeds seemed to me to be about 70+k per second. It appears that Cingular proxies everything, so SSH wouldn't have been a lot of fun had I needed it, but otherwise all the services I did need to use were OK. I know Cingular is frantically upgrading their data network (and counting on AT&T Wireless to help) to be more competitive with Verizon - Verizon has already started to replace Express Network with the faster Express Broadband service which promises megabit-plus speeds.

So what are my conclusions, you ask? Well, first of all I used to be a skeptic about cellular data services. But that was when all you could realistically get were the CDPD-ish 19.2k speeds. CDPD is dead now, and being put out of it's misery by AT&T and Verizon who had supported it. Mobitex (the BellSouth/Cingular packet network that was the original Blackberry network) is also on the way out for mainstream usage. The true advantage in technologies like GPRS, 1xRTT, and all the other 2.5G/3G data networks isn't so much that it's useful to make a cell phone an Internet-connected terminal. Simply put, the screen and form factor are too small and inconvenient for the typical cell phone to do much useful stuff on the Internet.

The real use for 2.5G/3G is with computers. Right now there's still a lot of laptops that need to be plugged into an inconvenient land line to be productive on the road. But when you have Internet access at moderate speeds possible via your cell phone, it opens up a whole new world of productivity.

Back about two years ago, when I still worked for a certain little insurance company, I started seriously considering such an idea as a viable way to make our claims adjusters more productive. We didn't go anywhere with it. Which may be symbolic of why they went toilet-bound in the first place. I know as a freelance IT person, the ability to have true universal connectivity is something that's essential for the sake of my clients - and the $20 (Cingular) to $80 (Verizon) that it would cost me is well worth it if it only adds an hour of time I can bill in a month. No-brainer.

For now, I'll stick with the Cingular/GPRS solution despite the minor drawbacks. I will keep an eye on Verizon, though, and if circumstances warrant then that'll become the direction for me down the road.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Follow-up

Macworld turned out to be pretty decent after all. As I mentioned before, the new convention center is easily the equal of any others I have been to (New York and Atlanta) - in fact, I like it a lot better than New York's Javits center. It's well-designed to the point where two or three conventions of Interop scale could coexist. Combined with the adjacent World Trade Center Boston, there are not many conventions we couldn't host.

Bad things about the location - the surrounding area is like Baghdad minus the mortar shells. Outside of the elevated roadway to the WTC complex there isn't much to the neighborhood so far. Parking isn't too tough to get to, but the walk is through a construction area and rather unsafe. The planned MBTA silver line underground busway isn't finished yet, though the stations are ready. So the walkways and staircases are still ostensibly blocked off from pedestrians, who mainly ignored that and stepped over the barriers to use the convenient stairs.

Other, minor quibbles: the food court closes early. I went to grab some food at 3:20 or so and everything was closing up already, even though there were still plenty of folks around. The bathrooms were not being well-stocked (at least as far as paper towels go), and there appeared to be a couple of cases of minor plumbing leaks. And the side entrances are not terribly intuitive to get to, but that may be a function of the unfinished state of the surrounding area.

I wound up the day there by running into one of my friends' ex, and we caught up for a while on our way out to parking. She's a good egg. The BNUG meeting that evening was interesting, both for the topic (Novell/SuSE Linux), and for the intermittent power outage that was sweeping the Newton area. When I arrived at Mount Ida, power in the surrounding area (and the guard shack) was out, but the student center where the meeting was had power. Midway through, we lost power there as well, but the meeting continued because the presentation was on a laptop anyhow. One of the guys went to go get flashlights from his car so we could at least see the speaker. It was masterful improvisation. Not to mention that Novell's Scott Lewis (who presented) is always a terrific technical speaker.

I ended the night by throwing out a dead mouse that Jane was afraid to touch. I suspected that the one Gracie caught a couple of months ago wasn't the last one. This one seems to have found our poison baits. Which means that Gracie is now banned from the cellar for the foreseeable future.

MacWorld purchase update: $0. I was looking longingly at a nice computer backpack from an Australian company called STM, but ultimately passed. I do have a somewhat need for an inexpensive laptop backpack that's in-between my Incase shoulder sling (just big enough for my PowerBook, charger, and a notepad) and my enormous Timbuk2 messenger bag. Having a backpack form factor is also handy. I loved the STM design, but the larger bag was just a little too big, and their sports bag was a little too flimsy. They have a bag designed for the 15" form factor, but it's not out yet. The prototype I saw at the show was just right, though, and their pricing is vary inexpensive - it'll sell for about $80 once it's out.

I also got a card from Belkin that I can use to buy virtually anything of theirs though month-end for 50% off. Mom, I'll be getting you a USB hub for about $15. You can use it. Trust me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Also today

Happy birthday to me. My janeshouse.com domain is ten years old as of today. Back then, domains were free (if you remember those days). I had actually been on the Internet full-time for about a year at that point (I had a dedicated dial-up line and a router at home, along with a Class C), but since the mail servers at the old TIAC were notoriously unreliable I decided to register my own domain and set up a Linux-based mailserver.

Back then, you could just toss a relatively unsecured Unix-ish box on the Net and not be abused. I made it that way for a long time.

So tonight after the BNUG meeting, I'll have a beer in honor of my first .com domain. It's already paid for for another 4 years, which is as close to permanent as it gets!

So here I am...

I'm sitting in the back of the room at the Macworld Expo. Admittedly, I was expecting to hear crickets chirping, but I've been pleasantly surprised so far.

First impressions: The new Boston Convention Center is big. I mean, really big. Able to host huge conventions big. At 20k feet, Macworld is literally swallowed whole by the center. That bodes well for possible future events, but it may be that the days of the mega trade show passed just before the center was built.

Also, the wireless access is excellent and ubiquitous. Cell phone reception is also terrific, unlike how it was when i used to go to Atlanta for Interop. As for a further note on size - I'd say the DNC could have easily fit in here with room to spare, which would have meant they wouldn't have needed to close down Boston in two weeks.

As to Macworld - this is more of a sellers' show as far as the floor goes. I've seen a few familiar faces, but mainly it's vendors with stuff for sale. The problem is, it's all really good cool stuff they're selling. And I wish I could buy it all. So I'm a little bumming on that account. Realistically, there are a couple of inexpensive things I may consider while I'm here - as far as I'm concerned I'm giving myself a personal budget of $50 for stuff and an office budget of $100. I made a couple of useful reseller-related contacts here so far as well, one of which was an old contact that could be able to refer me some business.

I still haven't really seen everything yet, despite the small size. I got here at noon, and I'm trying to devote quality time to everything.

That and I have to kill time until the BNUG meeting tonight, which there's no point to arriving at until at least 6PM. So I may as well be thorough here.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Mac Myopia

I've noticed some excitement on the part of Apple-tracking websites about all the new dealers Apple's signed up in the last couple of weeks. They're citing Tech Depot, Computers4Sure, and even national office supply chain Office Depot as new Mac resellers. Isn't that something?

Newsflash: They're all the same company! Office Depot bought Computers4Sure a ways back. They're still maintaining the old brand name, but now they mainly are known as Tech Depot. That's all there is to it, folks. Really. It's all Office Depot, with multiple brand names. The Computers4Sure and Tech Depot websites even look the same - why is this such a big deal?

If you all think about it, all this is about is replacing MacWarehouse on the national front, since they closed up shop and sold to CDW.

Welcome Back!

it's said that under the right circumstances, driver and car meld into a perfect union of man and machine. I drive a minivan. What does that say about me?

It's always nice to walk into a dark office after a week and find checks waiting for you. Not to mention, we had a check from the mortgage company we were going to use last year when we had planned to buy a house waiting when we got home from vacation. It was the refund of our application fee - we'd forgotten about that under the assumption it wasn't refundable. Nice.

In other news, when I arrived this morning my Internet service was down. It came back up around 10:25 or so. I'm pretty happy overall with my ISP at the office, but that's a reason I continue to resist pleas to move my voice service over to be IP based. Maybe if I had multiple offices and controlled the infrastructure myself, but as long as I have to trust ISP equipment VOIP has no interest for me.

When it comes to overall reliability, the ILEC networks always will win. Cable companies are second (and probably adequate in reliability for residential VOIP, so long as you have an emergency backup), cell phone companies third, and most ISPs a distant fourth.

It's only Monday, but this week is shaping up to be a busy one. Not to mention I need a vacation from my vacation.

I think next week will be a good week to pay myself. We'll go out to dinner that day to celebrate. But it'll be a cheap dinner.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

The Great Circle Completed

We arrived home at around 6PM today, after spending around five hours with the Wiehls in Orange. I mainly played with the kids in their pool and enjoyed an adult libation while doing so. The drive up was pretty quick, and David slept through much of it.

Saturday was fairly relaxed - it's nice to occasionally spend more than 24 hours with my folks. We went to my sister's new house for a dinner visit last night - she and her hubby cooked on the new grill for us all, and the boy enjoyed running about and investigating their home. Their baby is due any second and we're all looking forward to a new cousin.

Regular updates shall resume tomorrow (perhaps), as I opine on more typical topics - technical and otherwise. I am currently planning to go to Macworld on Tuesday, so I'll have some snarky things to say about Mac stuff afterwards. I may even be truly geeky, bring my PowerBook, and blog from the show floor.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Waystation

We headed out from Cape May after a pancake breakfast at Dock Mike's this morning, and drove to visit our friends the Simonsons in Marmora (about 25 miles north). We had a nice interval with them, and a pizza lunch, followed by a ride in their boat around the Egg Harbor area. Hitting the road from there around 2, we had a fast drive up until hitting major traffic on the upper reaches of the Garden State Parkway (do they have a tollbooth every 37.4 feet or is it my imagination?) and then cruised the rest of the way to my family in Westport in OK time. David ate a huge amount of fruit during the drive - a bag of strawberries, a plum, and an apple, along with a big bowl of chopped-up watermelon at lunch, and responded by having soaked shorts and a car seat to match by the time we got to Connecticut. It was bad enough that I had to wash the car seat cover - an adventure, because I'd never done it before and had no instructions.

There was about a years' supply of food buried in the depths of the car seat. I should probably clean it more often, huh?

All went well, though. We had a nice dinner, and then David went running around my folks' house chasing fireflies. He's kinda obsessed with them lately. We put him down for bed around 10-ish, and there was some reluctance on his part. But he'll have to suck it up. We've gotten tired of sharing a room with the little guy, as much as we love him.

The agenda for the rest of the weekend is relaxed. Tomorrow will be spent doing family things, and Sunday morning we'll take off and visit friends in Orange for a few hours before completing the grand circle of our trip.

I think I'll go to bed early Sunday before resuming my life Monday morning and playing catch-up. I expect to spend at least one day (probably Tuesday) at the diminished Boston Macworld Expo - Apple may have dropped out in a fit of spite, but I'll attend anyways. It's good to have some Mac show back where it belongs in Boston, but given my situation I would have trekked to NYC if it was the only option. I haven't been to an Expo since 2000, though, so this'll be fun regardless.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Well...

We went on the choo-choo ride. He loved it. Right up until he fell asleep halfway to the turnaround point. He slept all the way back, too.

When we got off the train and got ready to leave, he finally woke up, looking at the train as if he knew he was missing something. We told him he had fun.

The good news is we went to the Blue Pig Tavern for lunch, and he was surprisingly well-behaved (plus he did a good job on his lunch, too). Right now, I'm getting a brief respite before I go join everyone at the beach.

Turiels held hostage, day 7

After the Mother of All Battles (trying to get David to sleep), we were awakened at 7. Part of the problem is that the shades in our room are of the light-filtering kind, rather than room-darkening. So He thinks it's later than it actually is. Combine that with seeing mommy and daddy right next to him, and you have a recipe for disaster. Or at least sleeplessness.

The first SmartMedia card (64MB) was filled this morning when Jane took David and her folks across the street for still more pictures. I took the opportunity to have a leisurely breakfast. I have a 32MB card in reserve, which I loaded. So we now have a hard limit of 42 more pictures - I'm not buying any more cards because the money will be better put eventually towards a newer camera with less shutter lag. And the new camera (whenever it comes - probably not until at least next year) may use a different kind of card.

As for the daily schedule, we're going in about an hour to take a train ride. They have an old-fashioned railroad here that does an 11-mile run up to Cape May Courthouse (the name of a town here), and after that we'll see what he's up for. Tonight we have to try and pack as much in advance as we can, because we're leaving after breakfast to go see Jane's childhood friend Jackie Simonson. After the visit, it's back to Connecticut for the rest of the weekend before returning home Sunday afternoon.

Tonight's the Big Family Dinner. I hope that's a controllable situation.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

That worked out OK so far

We went into town this morning, and David was a ball of energy - I mean that in a good way, though. I took him to see the horses at the carriage rides, and he thought it was neat. Eventually, we went to go see the Cape May lighthouse, but he passed out in the car and we actually got to take him home for a proper nap that lasted over three hours.

Before dinner, we all went across the street to the beach for a little while. He was cool with it because I let him leave his sneakers on - he is on a "sand is icky on my feet" kick right now. And he ate well at dinner.

Of course, he mainly ate beans, so we're a little worried about tonight.

Our long national nightmare

It continues for at least six more months (and hopefully ends at inauguration '05). Edwards is a good step in the ending it direction.

As for ours, it mainly entails David's sleeping habits (or lack thereof). He's also a handful when he's awake - running, shrieking, going where he shouldn't, and doing what he isn't supposed to. Overall, we're still having fun, though - but the nights are tough.

Yesterday we took him to the Cape May Zoo, a true jewel of a county zoo. They have a wonderful African Savannah exhibit - acres in size with zebras, ostriches, antelopes, and giraffes (among others). The predator species are all kept separately. David was fascinated by them all. Getting him to nap after our return home was the adventure.

And I handled a few work calls during the day, as well. The only thing better than earning money at work is earning it on vacation.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

We are having technical difficulties

Actually, the technical's fine. It's the sleeping that's trouble.

Yesterday, we went into town for a walk, some window shopping, and lunch. We ate at the Ugly Mug, where we usually go at least once on our trips. Jane had corned beef, I had a burger, and David had a grilled cheese. However, he missed out on part of it because a gull dive-bombed the table and stole a quarter of his sandwich. I spent the rest of the meal watching out in case it returned, so I could kill it. However, the gull decided what it had was enough.

David showed no reaction other than sitting there with mouth agape. He was fascinated, and tried to recount the experience for us all later that evening - entailing a lot of excited gestures and the word "gull".

Sleep, though, wasn't so good. We fought for almost three hours on and off to finally get him down for a nap - he wound up sleeping from five to seven-ish. Then he was bitter after waking up. We calmed him down, then went for a drive up to see the neon of Wildwood (which was pretty funky), then we drove back downtowh and walked the boardwalk. Happily for him, we stopped and let him have an ice cream cone. He was most happy. Getting him to sleep was a chore, though - he went down with help around midnight and was up at 7:30. He is currently bouncing on the bed next to me and trying to tickle me. Joy...

Monday, July 05, 2004

Life's lookin' up

Last night - a miracle! We let the kids stay up stupid-late (like 11ish), but David passed out on the futon in our room with no trouble, and then he slept until 8:30. He also napped from 2:30 until 6 yesterday. We took him to see the fireworks down at Congress Hall, and he loved them. He kept saying "Firework!". We did a lot of walking, since it was so mobbed last night. Our house is just about a mile from downtown.

We also spent a decent amount of time on the beach - at least everyone else did. I did some errands with Jane's dad, and washed our clothes. We go through a lot of laundry here. I did join them all around 1 or so, and did some bodysurfing. I love ocean swimming. David was heavily sunscreened, but Jane forgot to protect her back and now it's rather toasted. There will be no more beach for her for a few days.

I found out what caused the huge delay on Saturday. An ice truck from Sea Isle City hit a guardrail and overturned right around the Somers Point Bridge at Great Egg Harbor, and it spilled close to 50 gallons of diesel. They closed things down for the cleanup. It happened around 3 - shortly before our arrival. Oh well. Things have improved since then.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

So much for vacation...

After an uneventful night with my folks in Connecticut, we trooped on to Cape May, New Jersey - our ultimate destination. First off, traffic was difficult until Atlantic City.

Then it reached a total standstill. It seems that the Somers Point bridge was out of service for some reason. We were stuck for the better part of two hours with nowhere to go.

Once we finally got to move again, the driving was speedy for the last 30 miles or so. Anyhow, the house we are in is next door to the condo we've rented in the past. It's huge. I mean, 4+ thousand square feet of huge, with a Jacuzzi on the back deck, lots of bathrooms, a huge kitchen, off-street parking (a premium here), a pool table, decks overlooking front and back, and all the fixin's.

Last night, our plan was to put all the kids in one room together. Unfortunately, it failed. Both toddlers (ours and Jane's sister's) wound up with their respective parents. We tried tossing David on a futon in our room, but after a few hours that failed too. The morning saw Jane, myself, David, and Bear (about David's size) all in the bed together. Fortunately it was a king bed.

Overall, we like our trips down here though. But if we have more travel and sleeping like yesterday, I'm going to need a vacation from vacation.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Boom!

We had a massive thunderstorm come through around 3AM last night. Lasted around a half-hour, and the sky was pretty much lit up constantly throughout, with loud bangs, booms, and crashes - some of which were way too close for comfort.

David slept right through it.

Also in the "boom" category: I'd give it two more weeks. If the Sox can't claw back at least the three games' distance that they've lost this week, it's time to blow it up and try and build a team for next year. I try real hard to keep Varitek for another three years or so (he may be slumping at the plate, but he's still terrific at handling the staff). If I can, I re-sign Pedro to a three year deal as well if the money's right because at worst he's a number two guy in your rotation. Lowe? He's had some quality starts lately and appears to be turning it around. Trade him. Nomar? He doesn't seem to want to be here anymore. Let's see if we can accomodate him. Kim and Mendoza? I've given up on Mendoza. If someone wants him for a bag of slightly used baseballs, I'd make the deal. Kim may have a little value if he shows that he's healthier.

If we get rid of those four players, that's the better part of $30 million on this year's payroll (prorated) Garciaparra and Lowe might make good rent-a-players for a real contender, which we apparently are not. Next years' team gets built around Schilling and (hopefully) Martinez in the rotation, with Wakefield a decent 3/4 starter and Arroyo probably sticking around - I like his stuff. Finding another middle-back of the rotation guy to replace Lowe isn't too tough to do and you can audition guys in the farm system for the rest of the season before hitting the market this fall. I like our bullpen, though Williamson's fragility bugs me and Timlin's getting old (he's my age, for Pete's sake).

In the infield, I want Varitek to stay even though his arm isn't great (in his defense, holding runners isn't a Sox priority), because he calls a great game and when he's hitting well, he's got good power. Mirabelli is a good backup, and they've got a kid (Shoppach) in the farm system who has a chance at getting here in a year or so. At least it seems that way, because he comes up in all the trade talk. Mueller stays at third for another season unless he's tradable. If he moves, Youkilis gets the job full-time. Pokey Reese becomes the shortstop of the immediate future - I love his attitude and hope he retires here. We make do at second for now. Hopefully, Hanley Ramirez becomes the shortstop of the future everyone says he is, but right now he's in A ball. He's at least a year or two off. First base is a conundrum. Right now, I'd say let David McCarty play it - he's their best defensive option and we haven't seen enough of him at the plate to know if he can hit or not. I know he's not a great fielder, but we should try and get Ortiz as much time there as possible. With repetition he could perhaps at least become an average first baseman. His offense gives us enough that it's worth a try.

I wouldn't mess too much with the outfield. Assuming a healthy Trot Nixon (which has been a dangerous assumption lately), I love him in right - and if Damon left I wouldn't mind him in center. My hope on Damon, though, is that he'll take less money after his contract's up next year and stay here. I like his game, and he should realize that in this market nobody's going to offer him $8 million anywhere anymore. Manny can have left field as long as he wants. I love his offense, and he's worked to improve his defense - he plays a solid left field. And with the way he really took his personality and turned it around (most say he's just decided to show us what his teammates already see), I'd be happy to see him finish his contract and retire here. Yes, he makes too much money, but that a function of the market he signed his deal in.

I'm happy with Theo's efforts to build a roster while stuck with some bad contracts from the Harrington/Duquette era. He deserves the job he's got. I'm not as enamored of Terry Francona, but that's not so much because of his strategy - it's because he reminds me in all the worst ways of Pete Carroll. It's always sunny on his side of the street, and that's not what we fans want to hear. If they suck, we want you to say it. Please.

Does it get any simpler? Please - don't hesitate to send me your suggestions.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Whoops (revisited)

I was able to go for a walk after the storm passed - half an hour or so later.

The big whoops, though, belongs to Apple. In a message posted in the Apple Store, they said:

iMac Availability

Apple has stopped taking orders for the current iMac as we begin the transition from the current iMac line to an all-new iMac line which will be announced and available in September. We planned to have our next generation iMac ready by the time the inventory of current iMacs runs out in the next few weeks, but our planning was obviously less than perfect. We apologize for any inconvenience to our customers.


How often does Apple do something like that? Normally they never pre-announce anything, so this is odd on their part. Or is it? They've pretty much run out of iMacs in their inventory (I'm sure there are still some available in the Apple Stores, at distributors, and in 3rd party resellers), and there aren't any more coming over on the boat from Taiwan, so what's the harm in stating that there aren't any more on the way? Maybe now some of those would-be iMac buyers (and iMac sales have been fading as the current design is over two years old) will be steered into at worse the eMac (still available, and recently updated to hardware specs identical to the now-defunct iMac), and possibly the new lower-end PowerMac G5 systems or the iBook/PowerBook alternatives.

Worst case is that folks wait until September. Apple's moved pretty much all their existing inventory, so it shouldn't hurt their numbers this quarter too badly. And if the new line is on shelves by September, fall sales should be strong. Assuming "September" means "early September", then we're only looking at about two months or so of this being a problem.

Whoops

That'll show me. I go to head out for a walk without looking at the weather map first, and there's a thunderstorm brewing (literally) above my head as I walk out. I started to make it around the building at least, but was quickly sent scurrying back inside by the first splatters of rain.

So that might have to wait a little while. It's coming down pretty hard right now.

Cool tech note: When running iChat AV on a Bluetooth-equipped Mac (like mine), if you have your paired cellphone on you and walk out of range, your status will automatically be changed to unavailable. When you return, you get a choice of default behaviors - the Mac will either log you back in automatically, or ask you first (in case you're just stopping back for a moment). Pretty cool, and yet another neat way to take advantage of Bluetooth.

Beancounting

June was also a profitable month, as it turns out. Good enough that I'll probably figure out how to pay myself in the next couple of weeks. World Domination is still a good way off, though. So are employees.

The interesting thing about the accounting is figuring out how the different standards for calculating P/L work. For instance, I had to invest a decent amount of cash into the business in order to start it up (legal fees, filing fees, insurance, equipment and office supplies, furniture, security deposit on the space, etc.). I also deposited a cash cushion to guard against losses in the startup timeframe. This is something, of course, that a lot of companies far bigger than mine do as well.

But measured by that cash outlay, it'll be a while before I earn back the investment. So technically I'm still in the red overall. However, by measuring profit as simply generating a surplus against normal monthly expenses (an "operating profit"), I've now been profitable for two consecutive months.

I'm still putting out cash to pay for startup costs (for instance, my Dell systems), but that's because I was offered 0% financing terms on the equipment. So rather than send all that cash out of my hoard at once, it makes sense to pay over time and generate some interest on the cash required to pay it. But that doesn't work against my operating profit - that's another part of the ledger.

If I get more confused than that, I have a good real accountant.

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