Monday, January 31, 2005

Apple updates du jour

Apple departed a little bit from their usual playbook today - they announced new systems today instead of waiting until Tuesday (the "traditional" announcement date).

Today's updates, as expected, were to the entire PowerBook line. Apple has now bumped up the top speed to 1.67 GHz (from 1.5), which is available on the 15" and 17" models. They also bumped up the 12" PowerBook to 1.5 GHz (from 1.33). A low-end 15" is also available in the 1.5 GHz speed.

Besides the speed bumps, the new line also gets the following other improvements: Upgraded graphics subsystems (nVidia GeForce FX Go5200 on the 12", ATi Radeon Mobility 9700 on the 15" and 17"), with the ability to drive the 30" display, Bluetooth 2.0 (faster), improved keyboard lighting, an 8x SuperDrive, bigger hard drives (up to 100 GB), scrolling support added to the trackpad, and a new system to help protect data if the PowerBook takes a header. The 17" PowerBook also gets S/PDIF support. The 12" and 15" PowerBooks now ship standard with 512MB - that was standard on the 15" before, but now it is a single DIMM. So you can easily upgrade to 768MB or 1 GB - since you now get an open slot when you buy it (to upgrade my older one to 1 GB I had to ditch both the built-in 256MB DIMMs).

Oh yeah - they also lowered prices at the same time. Every model except the 15" Combo drive version got a price cut of at least $100. The top-of-the-line 17" is now $2700 - a $300 cut.

This upgrade was no surprise (the rumor sheets had it pegged a month ago), but a necessary holding action until Apple can ship a PowerBook based on either the multi-core G4 that Freescale just came out with or a G5 chip. I figure these will take the edge off upgrade demands for a little while at least.

If I were in the market for a PowerBook today, I'd buy now. I think it'll be at least 6 months before anything else comes to market. Expect a minor eMac update soon - possibly a low-end G5 version. Other than that, Apple will probably stand pat on hardware until WWDC at mid-year.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Saying it better

Mortimer Zuckerman (the publisher of U.S. News and World Report) summarizes why Bush is a dangerous fool when it comes to Social Security far better than I can in this editorial from the current issue of his magazine. The magazine (and Zuckerman) are usually a little far right for my taste, but he really nails it in this issue.

When a right-center magazine is bashing Bush, there just may be some substance to it.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The problem with Social Security

In a nutshell - there is no problem with it for the most part - the demographic trends that are being used by the Bush administration to push their goal of privatization are, in effect, a series of worst-case scenarios that assume several things continue or worsen for the next 40+ years:

- The population will continue to skew older
- Life expectancies will climb rapidly
- There are no other population bulges coming down the pike
- Baby boomers will live a long, long time.

I suspect most of those tendencies will not be as bad as assumed by the SSA, but it's their job to assume the worst. That's what actuaries do.

See, here's the reality behind it, and why some folks (mainly the ones who think FDR was a pinko) want desperately to see the existing Social Security system blown up: Social Security was designed to provide a modest guaranteed income to retirees and the disabled, and is mainly funded by the ongoing revenues paid into it. That money is then used to buy government bonds, in turn providing a small, guaranteed rate of return. Back in the 1980s, SSA actuaries saw the baby boomers coming of age, and realized that they would be retiring eventually and would be making huge demands on the system - demands that could not be met as things stood.

So congress and Reagan actually agreed on something: they raised the Social Security tax. By doing this, they began building up a cushion (the "trust fund") that would build and eventually be drawn down as the boomers retired. As things stand right now, that cushion will stop growing in about 15 years, and depending on whether you believe the SSA or the CBO, sometime between 2045 and 2052 the reserve will be exhausted, so to keep things as they are either benefits would have to be cut or the payroll tax that funds Social Security would have to be increased.

Part of the catch here is that the SSA buys Treasury bonds, which basically fund our deficit spending. As they come due, it effectively increases the total debt, but moves it into a different ledger. The Bush administration would love to write that off, and make the deficits look smaller as a result. So they'd like to "privatize" Social Security - having participants assign a certain amount of their money to play the market. Their ultimate goal is to eliminate Social Security entirely, and shift all the money into private accounts. The problem here is that taking that money out of the pool to go to stocks does a couple of things. First, it reduces the pool - and that actually moves up the date of reckoning. Second, it adds an extra dose of risk to the retirement process - that sum that Grandma is counting on? It may not be there for her. Stocks are inherently risky, though they do have a good history. Of course, stocks are much more expensive as a multiple of earnings than they once were, and our economy is in peril of losing it's place as the "standard" of the world economic system, but why spoil the party?

Choice is good, but that's why we have other retirement vehicles available to us as individuals. All privatizing Social Security does is increase the risk associated with that basic pension, and gives a bunch of money to the people on Wall Street who are safe Republican votes anyway (do you thing that they'll handle your Social Security account for free, out of the goodness of their little hearts?) Wrong.

Now are there things we can do to increase the rate of return on Social Security? Absolutely. With minimal risk, we could allow the SSA to invest in vehicles other than Treasuries (but very low-risk), or we could raise the exemption (right now, I believe the line is around $95,000 - any income over that does not get taxes for Social Security purposes), or we could means-test the recipients (perhaps if you make over, say, $200k per year you get a reduced benefit). Or some combination of all those. The important point is that Social Security is not so broken that the fix is difficult. But George Bush would like you to think otherwise.

Remember, Social Security was not designed to be yet another investment vehicle for you, the eventual retiree. It was designed to be a simple, "pay as you go" system that would ultimately pay you a modest stipend upon retirement in exchange for your paying for the retirees before you. It's worked fairly well for two full generations, and with minor tweaking will work for many more to come.

If I were designing my own retirement system, would I set up the SSA? No - it's not bad, but it could be better. And as structured, the SSA payroll tax is pretty regressive. But it's worked well so far, despite the flaws. As for privatization? Look up what's happened in Chile and in Britain - two countries that have tried privatization to any degree. And then tell me you still favor it.

Word to prospective Mac mini buyers

Feel free to install your own memory after the fact - or pay me to do it for you. Based on what I know, I can do it in about 15 minutes or so, tops.

Meanwhile, you can get a 1 GB upgrade from Crucial for about $230 with free shipping. Even with what I'd charge you to install it, you're still coming out ahead.

However, if 512MB is enough for you, have Apple do it BTO with the system. Apple charges $75 to provide you with 512MB as a BTO option - that memory module costs about $80 here in the outside world, plus I'd change to install it. So for 512MB, Apple gives you the best deal.

And whatever you do, DO NOT buy the mini with just the standard 256MB. MacOS X is a dog with 256MB RAM, but flies with 512. And I have 1GB in my PowerBook - which really makes a huge impact. Remember, MacOS X is Unix, and Unix will do nice things for you when given memory to play with.

Apple shouldn't sell anything with less than 512MB if they care about making good first impressions.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

New England Life

Not the company, the life itself. It snowed again today. About 6 inches or so. As a result, the daycare center closed early, and my bowling league was cancelled for the night. Also, a Chamber of Commerce breakfast I was going to attend tomorrow morning has also been canned.

Buncha wusses.

After doing a little work, I blew out of the office at 12:30 and kidnapped my son just before naptime. So I brought him home for his nap, and then after he woke up we played for hours. That was a nice way to pass an afternoon. Otherwise, I only ventured outside once - when Jane came home from a training event she was running and apparently nearly burned out her transmission working to get into the driveway. She blew the horn a few times (which I heard), but I had no idea why a horn was blasting outside. Finally, she did the smart thing and called me to say she was stuck.

However, by the time I got my boots on and went out to help, she'd guided the car in by force of will. So I settled for clearing some of the snow with my Toro anyway. It'll make tomorrow easier and reduce our bill from Snowblower Guy, since he'll have less to do. So that's good.

Jane's off tomorrow, so she's going to do some errands early by herself and then snag David around mid-day for some quality time together. Thanks to the weather, my week got pretty boring pretty fast, so I'm doing some of the tech stuff in the office that I've been putting off for lack of time. It doesn't pay the bills, but it helps me learn the tings that do pay the bills. A wash, all in all.

Monday, January 24, 2005

One more football note

So we're watching the game last night, with both David and I in our Pats jerseys (I've got a #4, he has a #28), and Jane in the next room. It's the second quarter, and the Steelers are driving. It looks like it may become a game - they're looking real sharp all of a sudden.

Next thing you know, Roethlisberger drops back to pass, dances around for a minute, then tosses the ball to the tight end split out to the right side...

But here's Rodney Harrison reading it perfectly - he steps inside the tight end, and BANG! he's got nothing in front of him but an embarrassed QB, who gets levelled by Vrabel on the return - TOUCHDOWN!

And as Harrison's making the return, I jump up and yell "TO THE HOUSE, BABY!"

Immediately echoed by a toddler doing the exact same thing, war cry and all. I was proud to be his dad.

Oh, and today I came to the office (I'm just about to leave). As I walked in thought the front entrance, I saw the buggies from the day-care center come around that they use to take the toddlers for rides. With David's class in the seats. I was recognized, and greeted with a "Hi, David's daddy!" from several of the kids. It was a Very Cool Moment.

Trading TiVo

I read a news blurb today that TLC is dropping Paige Davis as Trading Spaces host, and moving to a "hostless" format. Well, call me cynical, but I think it's going to result in a change of my own - dropping the show from my TiVo's Season Pass list.

It's not that I'm a huge fan of hers (she can be way too perky and annoying at times), but I think the show needs a narrator/host to guide it along, and she was pretty good at it. But the show itself has changed a lot in the last season or so, and mainly for the worst. Not to mention that most of the recent cast changes haven't done much for me, either.

So I'll keep watching it through the end of Paige's run (according to the announcement, her last show will air in March), and then see for a couple of weeks what the new version looks like before I drop it. But I'm expecting that it's gone.

See? I can talk about the inane with the best of 'em!

If your Macintosh were truly a person...

Well, today your Mac would be old enough to drink. Macintosh was introduced to the world 21 years ago to the day. Happy birthday!

Jackpot!

We wound up hitting the meteorological jackpot - 38" of snow according to the folks at the local WB affiliate. I believe it. I went out once today, just venturing down to the convenience store down by the college at around 3:30 or so. The storm was over, though it was still a little windy. We weren't dug out yet. So I ventured out the front door, since the back door was covered with a snowdrift about as tall as I am. I had to go waist-deep in the snow to get to the sidewalk - or what passed for one. And I slogged a couple of houses down the street before I could see the street - the plows had put around 6' or so of snow up on either side of the main street in front. I walked right down the middle of the near-deserted road, which was in decent shape itself, and then got the newspaper I had went out for in the first place (I'd called ahead to make sure the trip would pan out).

The supermarket nearby never bothered opening at all today, and I think the entire city pretty much was paralyzed. Except for the pizza place across the street. They were open on-schedule and the delivery driver was there.

Other than that, it was just a matter of playing with David all day and doing some housekeeping, while waiting for the football game. Strange things can always happen, but as of right now I'm expecting to see Philly just get stomped.

Tomorrow I'll probably venture to the office for a little while in the morning. I don't expect to be very busy, but I have some things to do that I had to leave behind when I picked up David Friday night.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Well, the weather outside is frightful...

And we're waiting for the power to go out for good. Since I have UPS devices at every link between me and my DSL line, if the CO is up I stay up anyways (for a while, at least). So I thought I'd write a little update before bed.

Today was busy, one might say. Jane left early to go get prettified and mail some stuff, then we headed out together for some pre-storm activities. First, we took David to the bank to make a deposit (he'd accumulated $77 in cash and change - not bad!), which he took very seriously. He took the task of choosing a lollipop even more seriously, though (he picked the orange one). Then, we headed to the mall to go see Dora the Explorer, who was making an appearance. You'd have though she was a rock star, from the size of the crowd, to the lines, to her being about a half-hour late, and to her being kinda disappointing in person. No real costume, just a twenty-something girl with a vaguely Dora-ish hairdo in an outfit of approximately similar design and color to Dora's cartoon outfit. We were expecting more of a Disney-type suit. We blew the whole thing off when we saw how long the line was, but David did see her before we went and met our friends for lunch. He wasn't impressed.

After we went back home and David hit the sack for a (nearly four-hour!) nap, I went out one last time as the snow started falling - to go to the library and pick up more milk and orange juice. You'd think that it was Blizzard of '78 time all over again from the crowds at the supermarket. It actually took me several minutes to find a parking space.

Folks, relax! The streets will be clear by afternoon tomorrow, honest!

Anyhow, after hunkering down for the rest of the day we did some housecleaning, relaxed, ate leftovers for supper, and generally did little until just before David's bedtime. Then we took on a new project (he helped) - moving pretty much all the toys over to our second living room. The train table was already in there, along with a bookcase, so we moved everything else in there, too. That will hopefully let us get some more control over the mess elsewhere - and we don't really use that room at all, anyway. After we cleared out the main living room, I let Roomba have at it for the first time in a couple of weeks. It looked clean, but I emptied enough junk out of the bin to prove otherwise. Yecch.

So tomorrow will probably be a "trudge down to the store in my boots for the paper" sort of day. After which we'll just sit around the house all day and watch a lot of football. My kind of Sunday.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Frazzled

This week has been one big overload of frazzlehood so far. Jane's had a big corporate training event she had to work on - she spent two days (plus Monday evening) in Quincy, and yesterday she had to drive down to Connecticut in the snow to do an event in Farmington, staying overnight. She'll be back today sometime.

Besides having a decent amount of work to do, I've been doing all the David-care as well. Yesterday, I distracted him from the lack of Mommy by taking him from daycare right to do some supply shopping at BJ's, then to my bowling league, and finally into a quick videoconference with my parents when we got home. After all that, he only had about 45 minutes or so before bedtime. Not enough time for stress.

Today was a little rougher - he woke up asking for her and I had to ease him back to the present. She'll pick him up at school today if her return schedule permits.

The small magazine publisher I bailed out of a crisis around Thanksgiving has proven to be a deadbeat of the worst sort. So I informed her yesterday that the equipment that was left with me for recovery purposes (and the data within) would be considered forfeit if I didn't hear from her with plans to pay me by tomorrow. The gear isn't worth what she owes me, but it's stuff she needs. Moral: always have a signed contract when you walk into a crisis situation. If I had one, I'd be able to get the money a lot easier. Fortunately, my other customers aren't such a problem.

Both my favorite SMB Linux distros are rapidly approaching new releases. SME Server (which I use at the office) has released the first beta of version 6.5 - the first new release in about a year since becoming a community project. It now fixes a few bugs, integrates Spamassassin 3.02, and migrates to the Red Hat Linux 9 codebase from the former 7.3 codebase. This is being done in preparation for an eventual move to either Red Hat Enterprise Linux or Centos (the community version of RHEL), and also to get ready for the commercial move to Lycoris as the vendor.

The other product is ClarkConnect - the version I use at home. They've had version 3.0 in beta for several months now, and just released the RC yesterday. Depending on what Lycoris does with SME commercially, this is the best way right now to get a commercially supported and developed Linux for small business. Plus they've got some neat goodies in the works for 3.x, starting with groupware integration. Cool stuff.

I've got both in my possession, and I'm going to install them into Virtual PC sessions for testing. I'm especially curious as to how SME has progressed - a lot of things broke with 6.01.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Simply splendid

Now that was an arse-whuppin! The Colts were just dominated beyond belief today - while the "Not today..." Visa commercial was ringing in my head, I watched the Patriots smack Peyton Manning all up and down the field. More than a 2-1 possession time edge, over 200 yards on the ground, and no turnovers. It was beautiful. And hearing Rodney Harrison refer to the Colts' loudmouth kicker as "Vanderjerk" was just the icing on the cake.

Now, for the serious test next Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The Steelers have been very vulnerable over the last month or so, but they keep pulling out the narrow wins. Can the Pats knock them down? That's why they play the games. But based on the comparative track records of the two teams in big-game situations, I like our chances. A lot.

Friday, January 14, 2005

What a couple of days...

I spent Wednesday in Boston at an ad agency that I work on with a friend. We were setting up computers and cleaning spyware and viruses from the old ones that were staying. Hard work - we finished up around 6 that night. But that wasn't all.

As I was walking to their office, the folks at David's day care called. He was running a fever of just over 100 degrees and was acting very withdrawn. Cause for concern. An hour or so later, though, it'd spiked to 102.3, and we tracked down Jane at home (she was working out of the home office that day, fortunately), and she went and picked him up. We kept him home yesterday (he joined us in bed around 4AM yesterday and stayed there sleeping - I joked that I now knew what it was like to be Michael Jackson, since I woke up yesterday morning with a small boy in my bed). He was feeling a little better last night, and today we brought him back to school because he is in much better shape, and his appetite has returned.

While he was home yesterday, Jane and I worked split shifts. I went in for a little while in the morning, to meet with a new client. Then I came home and watched him while Jane went out, and finally when she returned I went back to the office to build a new server and pick up some legal paperwork from another client (there's an NDA involved, so that's all I can say). Today we're probably just going to keep David in school until around lunchtime - maybe into early afternoon if he goes down for a nap there.

Tomorrow Jane has a baby shower up in New Hampshire. If David's feeling OK, I'll drive us all up and then we'll be going to Rob's house so he can play with Christopher. If not, Jane goes solo.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Now that the Apple Store is back up...

I've gotten some details on the Mac mini that are interesting. First off, it has only one DIMM socket. However, that can hold a 1 GB DIMM (PC 2700), which is cool. Apple's price on the 512MB upgrade isn't ridiculous ($75 extra), but they charge $320 for the 1 GB DIMM. Also, a SuperDrive is available as a BTO option for an extra $100 - I didn't expect to see that available at all on this one.

Finally, the Mac mini will take both AirPort Extreme and internal Bluetooth - they've diverged from the usual pattern here, though. Historically, AirPort Extreme has been a user-installable option, and Bluetooth was BTO-only. Now, both require installation by an authorized service provider, but apparently even the Bluetooth module can be installed by the ASP. Which is also rather cool.

(I'm a major Bluetooth fanboy)

They do not include iWork - just the traditional AppleWorks and a 30-day Test Drive version of MS Office X 2004. VRAM is, like I though, non-expandable. And it's got DVI video output (I already knew that, but it's nice to emphasize the point).

You and I know that a "$499" Mac isn't really a $499 Mac, but most people don't. The same way they don't realize that the $499 Dell isn't really $499. Apple will sell a ton of these immediately. A year and a half ago, it was tough to get a PowerMac G4 this slick - now it's in a 6.5"x6.5"x2" package.

Heck, they'd make good light-duty servers, too, I suspect. The next time janeshouse.com gets an upgrade, it might be time to ditch the Intel/Linux combo that's served me so well for so long.

Ohhhhh Yeahhhhh!

Another year, another Stevenote. How did the prognosticators do?

Well, The biggies were the flash-based iPod and the cheap Mac. And we got 'em. The iPod Shuffle costs $99 (for 512MB) and $149 (for 1 GB), and it's both tiny and USB-only. Not much more than a good flash drive in cost. No display, but a nice UI and a default Shuffle mode.

They won't be able to make these fast enough. The rest of the digital music market just said a collective "Holy crap!".

And the Mac Mini - whew. 1.25 GHz or 1.42 GHz, 40 or 80 GB hard drive, no keyboard or mouse included (use your own), and all the standard cheap Mac ports (10/100 Ethernet, USB 2.0, FireWire 400, DVI/VGA), along with the usual BTO Bluetooth available and AirPort Extreme optional. It's only a couple of inches tall, and the width of it's slot-loading Combo drive. For either $499 or $599 base. Another item I suspect Apple won't be able to make fast enough - welcome to the low end of the marketplace, folks! Even though the video isn't up to LAN party snuff (it's only a Radeon 9200 with 32MB VRAM), it's a great home/second Mac for people. I could even see hooking my toddler up with one of them down the road - it would be easy to keep him away from the guts and he can bang on keys to his hearts' content.

And they've finally retired Appleworks (iWork - includes Keynote 2 and a word processor called Pages, but no spreadsheet, database, or drawing program as far as I can see so they may leave Appleworks around for a while) and upgraded iLife. This year's buzzword is "HD support" - iMovie and iDVD are both now designed with HD support built-in. The price went up a teeny bit (actually, it went up $30), but the new features are pretty compelling. Final Cut Express also got HD support added as well.

However, they did miss a few predictions. There was no PowerBook speedbump this week (at least not announced in the keynote - it still may be coming), and the "Asteroid" FireWire breakout box for Garageband wasn't announced. Otherwise, everything was right on target.

It's a good time to be doing Apple stuff for a living. Yes, indeed.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Tech Addendum

Also added to the rumor list: Think Secret now claims a minor speedbump will be added to the Powerbook line - the 12" will get boosted to 1.5 GHz, while the 15" and 17" models will go to 1.67 GHz. Other expected tweaks include Bluetooth 2.0 support (All current Macs support Bluetooth 1.1, as do pretty much all PC's that support Bluetooth at all), official support for DVD+R on the SuperDrives, and an increase in standard VRAM from 64MB to 128MB.

Though today is the first I've heard of this one, it wouldn't shock me if it came to pass - Think Secret has a pretty good track record on these kind of last-minute rumors.

With this combined with the rumors in my previous post today, and last week's announcements of faster Xserves, Xsan shipping, and the price cuts of $200 on all Apple LCD monitors, it's a good week to be a Mac fanboy.

In case you all thought I forgot tech...

I haven't written any good stuff about tech in a while. Sorry about that. But tomorrow's the Macworld keynote, so today's a good time to review the expected Apple announcements, and what they may mean:

1: Flash-based iPod - this is interesting. If Apple does this, and hits the forecasted price point, they will simply own the entire digital music market for the next year or more. The rumor mills say either 1 or 2 GB, at a $149 price point. And the iPod mini will get a boost to 5 GB for now as well, with either no price change or a small price cut (maybe from $249 to $225), depending on what rumors you read. If these hold, then you get Apple filling every serious price point between $150 and $500. iTunes continues to dominate the universe.

2: iWork - iWork is the rumored new AppleWorks replacement - a more robust application suite that includes an updated version of Keynote (which I use for a lot of my presentations now), a better word processor, and all that. Other than some good sleuthing to indicate that it's a reality, I know very little about it. If it gets bundled with every Mac it's a Good Thing, but it may have an impact on the fate of MS Office for Mac, which could be a Bad Thing.

3: Asteroid - this is the alleged codename for a Firewire breakout box that will cost an undetermined amount and give some audio bells and whistles to Garageband users. Which leads to:

4: iLife '05 - An upgraded version of the iLife suite, with newer versions of all the apps provided. If they can reduce CPU usage for Garageband enough to make it useable on my G4-based Macs, it might be really neat. There's also rumored support for 16:9 video in the iMovie/iDVD combo. Otherwise, at the same price as before ($49), I'll buy an upgrade regardless - just for the incremental improvements.

5: The big kahuna - a $499 headless Mac. From the rumor sheets, this will essentially be a replica of today's eMac specs, but minus the monitor built-in and only including a Combo drive at that price. But even if it's just that (a 1.25 GHz G4, 256MB RAM, 40 or maybe 60 GB of HD space, etc.), they'll still sell them faster than they can make them. Bob Cringely's PBS column has an interesting take on the rumor - basically he thinks that though, at $499, Apple can make some profit on them, if Jobs decides to use some of Apple's $6 billion in cash to subsidize selling them at a break-even price point of $349 or even a small loss, Apple could easily sell 10 million of these in a year if they could make them that fast.

Were that the case, Apple could suddenly find themselves in a very promising market position. Like at the top of it.

By the way - with the release of OmniWeb 5.1 I've switched browsers again - I paid the $10 for the upgrade (I originally bought 4.0 when it was on clearance at the Apple Store for $10 a year and a half ago), and now that they've integrated a current released version of the WebCore engine (basically Apple's version of KHTML) it's a real slick browser. I love the interface improvements Omni has made over Safari, and the speed is impressive. It's my new default on the PowerBook, though we'll see what happens when/if Safari 1.3 is released as an interim before Tiger. I noticed that Hyatt's posting again on his blog, so some of the work pressure may be coming off of him now. Maybe that means the 1.3 release is ready to go tomorrow as well.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Weekend Interlude

My parents came to visit for the weekend - so David got a double dose of grandparents in just a two week span. He liked it. Definitely. I think my folks didn't exactly mind, either.

Tonight, we took advantage of the free babysitting to head out for an evening on the town. Actually, what we did was a little more mundane - we left the house, dropped off an old blender at the local homeless shelter (Jane called them to see if they could use it first), bought new wipers for her car, went to the Bed, Bath, & Beyond to buy a new colander (our old one finally broke while making lasagna yesterday, and then we went to Kelly's for a nice, romantic dinner. Anyone who knows Kelly's knows the lunacy of that statement. We did, however, go to the movies for the first time in forever before returning home. We saw "The Incredibles", which got a major thumbs-up from both of us - I'm glad I saw this one in the theater instead of waiting for the DVD.

When we left for all this activity, there was no separation anxiety at all - David simply said "bye" and grabbed Grandma to make her play some more trains with him. He was happy to see us return, though.

After my folks went back to the hotel, and we put David to bed, he decided that tonight would be another good night to be afraid of monsters. I explained to him that he shouldn't worry; Gracie liked to eat monsters so much that they all stay away from our house.

That argument seems to work a lot better than trying to reassure him that monsters don't exist.

As for me, vacation ends tomorrow - I will be back in the office in the morning and I have a decent amount of stuff booked for the week.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Home improvement for the lazy

We didn't buy much in the way of gifts this holiday season. That was deliberate - we really have all the things we need here.

What we don't have nowadays is time. Between Jane's job and my business, we hardly saw each other over the last month or so. So this past weekend, I went out and made a purchase (with a handy 20% off coupon) at our local Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It's purpose: to let us ignore some of the annoying chores in the home so we can actually get a little more "together time".

The purchase? A Roomba Discovery robot vacuum cleaner.

Why, you might ask? Well, day-to-day cleaning is one of those things it's tough to stay on top of when you hardly have any time. So I figured we'd try this and see if it performs as advertised - if it works well, then we get to deal with an annoying, time-consuming chore by putting Roomba down on a floor and pressing a button. So far, the results are encouraging.

The only thing Roomba doesn't like is fringe - which is only a problem in our dining room. All the other rooms it can handle fine. We're going to get rid of the fringe-containing rug sometime soon anyways, because it's pretty tattered (and it only cost $79 when we bought it a decade ago). Roomba doesn't replace a "real" vacuum cleaner, but it means you have to use the real vacuum a lot less often. Today, while Jane and I watched TV and read together, Roomba cleaned most of our upstairs for us.

Which is what I call multitasking.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Maybe I'm just guessing...

But I suspect that there will be no major BCS controversy after this year's Orange Bowl. Auburn made a case for being number one, and so did Utah, but USC simply obliterated Oklahoma to put an end to that little fuss.

And I think they let up in the second half - otherwise it could have very well been 62-19, or even higher. Good for USC, and good for Pete Carroll - one of the few Good Guys in the coaching business.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Telling headlines

A headline I just read on Yahoo's newswire says Krispy Kreme is being accused of "padding sales". That's funny. I figured they'd be accused of padding their customers.

We took David in to the Boston Children's Museum yesterday. It was a blast, though he got a little difficult towards the end when he was getting overtired. He was a little difficult when we first arrived, too - but then we realized that the museum was meant to be experienced at his pace, not at ours. I think most parents take a little while to figure that one out the first couple of times they do a real kids'-oriented activity.

After we figured that out we just pretty much let him lead the way and all we did was make sure he had a chance to see everything at least once. He stopped wherever he felt like stopping, and went back to some activities multiple times. Unfortunately, they have a big, 2-story climbing maze in there that he was too young for, but he really wanted to do it anyways. That was our only "no" of the day.

His nap when we got home was pretty short, too. But he made up for it by going to bed around 9:30 and sleeping until almost 9 this morning before Jane took him to school. I'm in the midst of a vacation week, but I will be going in for a while this afternoon - if only to pay my rent and stuff.

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