February 1, 2005

Don’t forget that tomorrow is Art and Danielle’s Anniversary AND Groundhog’s Day. And, PS, happy belated 29th birthday to Danielle who is and always will be… older than any of the rest of us. February is the big birthday month around here with Art, Eric, Joe and I all having birthdays one right after another (and Rich too but no one has talked to him in years.)

Min came home and woke me up this morning and we headed off to breakfast with dad at the Omega Grill. He was coming through on his way to the city so it worked out well.

I have a lot of work to do around the house today. Lots of phone calls and follow ups on things. It is so nice now that I have all of the computers (the running ones) moved out of my office. It is so much more quiet. All that I have to listen to is the occasional running of my laptop’s fan and the occasional running of the furnace. Soon, I hope, we will be enclosing the furnace so that I don’t have to listen to that as well. I am really looking forward to having the Mac Mini here because it is far less noisy than the laptop and it is so small that it will fit behind my monitor instead of along side of it to mask the sound even more. It is amazing how much your priorities change as you get older.

Min played The Sims 2 for a while both before and after breakfast and did some laundry before finally hitting the hay around 11:15 or so. I spoke with Teksystems (the contract firm that Andy and I do a lot of work with) and they think that they might have something interesting for me coming down the pike. We have given up on the idea of Wegmans being a steady engagement even if it was only ever going to be for several weeks at best.

I had a casual meeting planned for today up in the city but I decided that I had too much that I wanted to get done before going to that and tomorrow I was going to be without a car which guarantees an entire day in the office so I thought that it would be good to have the meeting on Thursday afternoon. So my plan is to be in the office all day today as well. Unless I get lucky enough to have to go to get my car, but that doesn’t seem very likely at all.

I forgot to mention, SGL is not compressed so I am hoping that we get better download times (as much as half the total time) for people viewing from slower connections. I know that the site can be pretty nasty to read if you are getting it over dial-up. There is just way too much text for anyone to be able to download quickly. Speaking of downloading quickly, it looks pretty likely that my dad is going to be getting Road Runner Internet access over on the farm. There is no DSL out there but Road Runner has a really good deal, just $29.95/month for the next year and they have just boosted their speeds out here to 5Mb/s which is really nice. Maybe I should think about adding a Road Runner line as well. I have been considering getting a second DSL line to enhance the main one but getting a totally separate technology might be a good option as well. I generally prefer DSL to cable… I have had much better experiences that way and I feel that the technology is more mature and just more capable, but cable has come a long way and isn’t as shoddy as it used to be. It would be really nice if dad could get something decent out there. He has been using Verizon’s CDMA wireless option which has worked well but doesn’t easily allow for multiple machines, hardware firewalls or regular wireless options. Too bad that Eric still can’t get anything at his place.

I was doing some work on the Microsoft web site today and discovered, for the first time, a place where you had to verify that you were working from a legitimate copy of Windows XP in order to download software. I have heard that things like this were going to be coming down the line in short order to help fight piracy and I was wondering how they were going to make it work. It was really easy and worked really well but it surprised me. I think that they are going to be doing the same kinds of things for the Windows updates and security patches in the near future.

I forgot to mention yesterday that I took the opportunity to do a little simple work in C# programming and I turned out my first C# application. Nothing spectacular but is had a few methods and did a couple of different things. It was all very exciting. I was impressed by the similarity to Java which really makes it tons easier for me to get work done since I already know Java decently. Leveraging knowledge you already have is always so much easier than learning something new and when I am learning C# just for fun, I don’t want to have to spend lots of time just learning syntax and naming conventions. So, I was happy with myself turning that out quickly.

Vincent Mazda called about my car early this afternoon. They had a number of people look it over and no one managed to find anything wrong with it. They even took it out for a drive and said that it felt similar to other 2003 Mazda 6’s that they had driven. So I am having them do an oil change since it needed it anyway and I am able to pick it up this evening if I get the chance. It is nice that it is all set and that nothing was really wrong. Maybe some dirt or something got into the clutch. But I am awfully worried that something more significant is wrong and that they just weren’t able to find it. I don’t want to have the car drops its transmision in a week because we didn’t realize what was happening. I am pretty sure that the clutch feels nothing like what it did just before the clunking and that is what worries me the most. So now I have to figure out how to get up to East Rochester to pick up the car. But at least now I will have a car for tomorrow.

I worked out a plan with dad to take me up to the city tomorrow to get my car and to drop off Min’s car and to get breakfast first thing tomorrow morning. My simple day just became a very complex day. And now I will have a car so there won’t be any excuse for not doing things 🙁 I like having excuses. I will probably still work from home mostly tomorrow and try to avoid going out much. Too much to get done and Min only has Friday and Saturday off so I want to get as much done by then as possible.

For those of you who are out of town, you may have heard about the horrible bus accident that happened here earlier this week. Miranda talked to Andy about it last night but apparently the Canadian news isn’t reporting very precisely where the accident occurred because she didn’t know that it had happened in New York let alone right here in Geneseo. Min and I were on 390 when it happened and saw the emergency vehicles heading south to respond and later got directed off of the highway on our way home because they had had to close the entire stretch between exits 8 and 7 southbound. The truck that was hit was sitting under the Groveland Road bridge just south of the Geneseo exit (8).

I finally had a chance to do some cleaning down in the basement. The place has been filthy, both cluttered and incredibly dusty. I can only do so much about the clutter but I spent some time trying to take care of some of the dust bunnies that were running rampant around the place. It is hard to control the dust and dirt because of the bare cement floor. I can’t wait until we can get that carpeted. We really need it. With the light coloured carpeting upstairs, we are in desperate need of some dust and dirt control. And the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the cement floor is hard on your feet so you tend to need to wear shoes while in the basement which makes it even more likely that you will track dirt around the house. If we had carpetting, it would both cover up the cement and stop the dust from being created so quickly and it would cushion the floor so that we wouldn’t feel the need to always have shoes on around the house. Part of the problem is, though, that the theatre we hope to carpet with really nice carpeting and that costs money which we don’t have. So that makes us push it off even though that is where we would want it the most. And we don’t really want to start carpeting and only do part of the basement because that will cause us to keep wearing shoes and ruin that carpeting as well before we manage to get it all covered. It is all a Catch-22 situation.

There is likely to be some disruption to SGL late this afternoon or early this evening. My project today is to replace the firwall and that is a step that necessitates taking everything down for a little bit. I hate to do it but it has to be done.

I keep forgetting to mention that we have a couch if anyone is interested. It is an older couch and it was very nice when it was new. It is very large and can probably seat four. We have been using it in the basement in the theatre but it is just way too large for that room and it takes up the whole space. And we have discovered that sitting on a couch facing forward is not the most comfortable way to watch movies. Couches and love seats are really good if you are going to lean back and watch sideways. But straight on they aren’t very efficient. And you can only really utilize the ends, the middle of the couch is really wasted space because no one really wants to sit there.

I finally wrapped up the work that I was doing on the new firewall server around 5:00 which was handy that it coincided with the end of the day. That way I could feel relatively confident with moving forward with an attempt to swap out the older machine without disrupting too much during the day.

At 5:30 I ran out to the UPS store to get some stuff sent out that I needed to deal with. On the way back home I swung by McDonald’s and picked up some dinner. Dominica was still fast asleep when I left, she didn’t get a chance to go to bed until really late. I noticed as I drove out of the driveway that there appears to be a number of new neighbors who have moved in in the last two weeks or less. A number of the driveways have been plowed and lights are on and car come and go from the driveways. Regular residential vehicles and not construction vehicles. They must be finishing up the houses and getting people into them. It is really surprising that it has taken them so long to get so many of them occupied. This summer there is only one building left to be built before the complex is complete. I am pretty sure that there are less than two units left to be sold in the entire place.

I can’t figure out what is going on with the old Dell Taco building on the strip. A week or two ago there was a sign in the window that said that Starbucks would be coming soon. I thought that that would be pretty cool. The building was good for it but I wasn’t so sure about the location. It is too far from anything else to draw on any traffic. But it would have been a great location for me since it would be within walking distance. A long walk, but nothing that we haven’t done since living here. Speaking of living here, I can’t believe how long it has been. We moved here in July of 2003. That is more than a year and half. I feel like we are still new to the place when in fact, this is one of the places that I have lived the most. Josh and I lived at Greenleaf in Greece for a while, about a year and a half or so. We moved there around September, 1998 (we had lived in Irondequoit during the summer of ’98) and I moved out on February 20, 2000. So I guess that this stretch of living here is tied with that one. I have definitely been here longer than my stretches at Gaslight in Ithaca, Shadyside in Pittsburgh or Alexandria, Virginia that have all been since then. Then there was Sanctuary in Ithaca, but that wasn’t nearly as long as this. Observatory in Varna has to have been the longest since Greenleaf. The gang (the bitches in the sea) moved into the Observatory house in October, 2001 and we moved out in July, 2003. About half of everyone moved out a month or so earlier. Only Andy, Min and I were left at the end. So that is close to two years… one year and ten months. So this place will be more “home” to me than any place since 1994 in June. June will also be four years that Min and I have known each other.

Min and I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet while we ate our McD’s fillet-o-fish dinners. That was a really good movie. They list it as a comedy, though, and I would definitely call it a drama. It is really touching and romantic in a sad way. Everyone does a really good job in it and it covers some really touching territory. I was quite impressed. Focus Features has been doing a lot of really good stuff (can you say Lost in Translation?) recently. They are a new division at Universal targetted at Miramax in Disney and it shows that they are really going after some high quality films. Their new film, The Motorcycle Diaries, looks really good too. I believe that that is in theatres now. The latest Mira Nair film from Focus, Vanity Fair released today and I am really looking forward to seeing that even though it has Reese Witherspoon in it. (This may be Reese’s single greatest shot of reclaiming her glory of Man in the Moon – I hope that she takes advantage of it. She hasn’t done anything worth sitting though, IMHO, since Disney’s A Far Off Place and I think I was the only person who knew who she was back then.)

After the movie, Min had to take a shower. I went upstairs and Andy had passed out on his bed taking a nap. It was eightish.

At this point, the dailies so far this quarter have moved up to the eighth busiest quarter here on the first day of the second month and should easy make number seven by the end of the day.

Min came down to the theatre again and we watched the German film Big Girls Don’t Cry. It was a really amazing and moving film. Really heavy. They manage to tackle every conceivable social issue in 92 minutes from domestic abuse and infidelity, murder, rape, drug use, suicide, etc. It is hardly a movie for the faint of heart but well worth the time. The movie is a showcase of up and coming German talent (circa 2002) including director Maria Von Heland and actresses Anna Maria Muhe and Karoline Herfurth. Min really liked it too and was crying. We have decided that we just love German cinema and that it has been consistently the films that we like the most. German cinema seems to be more emotional and more daring than American films – far less formula. I really enjoy foreign film in general (maybe not Italian) like French, Chinese, English, Mexican or Indian. But German seems to stand out as my favorite. It manages to be incredibly exotic while not leaving the comfort of staple American sensibilities. In fact, German films seem to be very conservative by maintaining more normal levels of dress and language while being adventurous in more exciting ways by taking emotional risks.

We barely finished the film and Min had to rush off to work. I did the dishes and then cleaned the hamster’s cage. It seems like that should only take a minute but it actually takes almost an hour. While I was cleaning, Mr. Humphries tears his way around the house in his plastic ball. He is a nut. He was very excited to have his house cleaned – it was getting a little bit stinky. And I switched things up by putting a small hamster house toy in where his second wheel normally goes. Hamsters are very curious and exploratory animals and it is important to keep them occupied and interested in things so I was hoping that a change of pace would do him good. He is older now and doesn’t run as much as he used to, although I can hear him running from the basement now that I don’t have so many computers running in my office. He seemed to like the change and went right to work exploring as soon as I put him back into the cage.

We just passed the checkpoint placing this quarter’s progress at number seven. No one can say that we aren’t serious now. I know, I know, everyone is tired of reading about it. But it is very exciting when I am the one writing so much! Give me a break. Number six is only two to three days away but then there is a huge jump to number five.

At precisely (not for any reason, it just happened to be precisely) 12:30 am, I turned off the old firewall and began the process of installing the new one that I built today. That took our instant messagin, email and a number of web sites including SGL offline – indefinitely. I hate doing things like that but if you don’t take risks then you have to go buy lots of additional hardware and often software to support redundancy so that these kinds of things can go more smoothly. I, however, do not have that kind of money so occasional outages are to be expected. I had the machine powered on by 12:45 and even managed to do a little cleanup in the wiring department while I was working back there. There is such a mass of wires back there, you wouldn’t believe. I was able to connect to the new machine… initially. But that didn’t last for long. So I had to head back to the server room to work locally. I hate having to do that. It is always very loud and warm in there. And it is a loud hum which is very hard to listen to and to stay awake. It didn’t take too much work back in the server room before things were working well enough that I could return to my desk in my quiet office. By 1:14 am, I had tested instant messaging, email and SGL to be sure that all of them were working again. Pheww. I had anticipated that being a really awful process. 29 minutes is a winner by just about any standard that I can imagine. There were three restarts and the physical move all in there. I am quite pleased. Sorry for any disruption in case it affected anyone. Email would be the thing missed the most but I doubt anyone was checking their email at that time. After the new firewall was in place, my next task was to get the old domain controller server shut down. It has been a good workhorse for us for a year or so but it just isn’t meeting a really good need here and the school in Castile is going to be using, hopefully as soon as Thursday or so. So I am scambling to get it ready for them. Having the new firewall in place should increase the chances that people like Josh and Bob will be able to play AoE2 remotely as well. It has been the old firewall that has stopped us for the last while. Now we can make that a priority to have tha working. Since we have such an incredible issue with getting enough space, monitors, cables, electric, etc. for everyone to play, moving two or three people out of the house to play could really help out a lot. We can handle six people relatively reasonably but once we try to squeeze in a seventh person, everything starts falling apart. Josh has used the VPN to play remotely before and it worked really well. We couldn’t tell at all that he wasn’t somewhere in the house. Once the weather is good, we will have the option of sticking someone out on the deck as well, but there isn’t really any good playing surface out there – even though I love getting the chance to work out on the deck.

There was an interesting article in Fortune about Target’s Minute Medical Clinic out in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I thought that I would pass it along, it was pretty interesting. A good idea, I think. It is ridiculous to have to go through all kinds of hoops for simple things that don’t take any time or particular expertise. The medical system has always been set up to keep doctors busy to raise their value but now that we are “running out” of them, this is a great way to go.

I had to call into Microsoft to activate the server that I was installing. For some reason I didn’t have connectivity – maybe their server was having issues. So I had to get on the telephone with them. This was the first time that I had a chance to use their new voice recognition system. It worked really well. It didn’t quite get all of the numbers that I read to it but it got a lot of them. I ended up having to have a person talk me through the activation because the numbers were picked up incorrectly by the computer but it was fine after that. There is a Buffalo (716) phone number that they give you to call and I know that they used to take those calls in Buffalo a long time ago but I am pretty sure that they are now forwarding the calls out to a call center in India. At least the overnight calls. I think that they closed the Buffalo call center, which is sad. We need jobs out here.

Well, the server finally went down at 2:10 am and I don’t have a whole lot of get up and go left in me. Although, I think that I am noticing that I have more than I am used to. I am tired but not REAL tired and I have only had three to four hours of sleep a night for the past few nights. I have a harder time getting out of bed in the morning than I used to but I wonder if the deeper sleep that I am getting with the CPAP is really making an impact. I don’t seem to be experiencing the extreme afternoon sleepy periods that I used to have before the CPAP. So maybe it really is having an affect.

I was reading a news article from MSNBC that said “When young adults use cell phones while driving, they’re as bad as a 70-year-old on the verge of a nap and signaling for that eventual left turn. And yes, you can blame the chatty 20-somethings for the stop-and-go traffic on the way to work.” – My question is, are they saying that talking an a cell phone is safe enough OR are they stating that they have empirical evidence to show that elderly drivers should be taken off of the roads (remember, in New York it is illegal to drive if conditions are dangerous and cell phones are considered that dangerous and if being 70 is equivalent then we have written a law stating, indirectly, that the elderly may not drive.) I am not saying that I don’t approve of taking many of those in society that are no longer able to drive safely off of the road – although I prefer a performance based system rather than one based on age or any other arbitrary factor. But, now you have solid statistics (I guess they could have made up the numbers, don’t take my word for it) that those over seventy in New York are driving illegaly. I’m no lawyer, but simple deductive reasoning is all that it takes to put those pieces together. I can’t believe that they would write this article and then complain about how dangerous the cell phone users are without even mentioning (directly, at any rate) how dangerous the elderly are that they are comparing against. They take a very strange stance on the issue – using one groups dangerous, but apparently accepted, behaviour as proof of another’s faults.

Okay, off to bed… way TOO much update for one day.

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