April 22, 2006: Working My First Saturday

Saturday. My very first weekend day in New Jersey. After being here for almost an entire month it is hard to believe that this is my first weekend day here. It isn’t much like a weekend day, though, because I am going into work today. Today is much colder than it has been and it is dark and rainy. The perfect day to be in the office. I don’t like being in the office on sunny days because the bright sunlight streams in through the windows and makes it difficult to work. I do not sit directly by the windows so it isn’t all that bad for me but it is still nicer when it is overcast.

I slept in until 8:30 this morning. Boy did that ever feel good. My very first chance to sleep in in New Jersey. As you can see there are a lot of “firsts” this weekend. I took my time getting ready to leave the apartment and even did some email, shopping on eBay, etc. before heading into the office. I had a SlimFast for breakfast but figured that there would be something to eat at the office.

The drive in only took a little more than half an hour. It is nice going in without any traffic. Much more pleasant. I timed it perfectly and was into the office right at 11:00 which is when I was scheduled to arrive. We had donuts and bagles in the office today. I don’t know where they get the bagles from but they are awesome. I don’t know anyplace in Rochester with donuts like this. They aren’t as good as that cinnamon crunch bagle from Penera but they are still really good.

There wasn’t a lot for me to do at work today. The purpose of me being in the office was really more so that I would get a feel for how things work and, I guess, to be around just in case anyone needed a gopher or something. It was a really casual day. Most everyone was in jeans. It is a totally different world when you work on the weekends and only support is going on and no regular day to day projects.

I had guessed that I would only be in for two to three hours but I ended up being in quite a bit more. At 5:00 all of the office lights kicked off. With almost no internal light and the outside being very dark from the overcastness (is that a word) and from the rain it was really dark inside.

Around 2:00 or maybe a little later pizza and soda was delivered for everyone. That was really nice. With the cafeteria closed it is a bit of a pain to get food out here on the weekend. The pizza was good but really greasy. Much greasier than normal. Greasier than Mama Mia’s in Geneseo.

I got the chance to catch up on some odds and ends today. Like two weeks worth, or more, of The Jedi Council Speaks by Bob Crissman. Bob is getting hooked on the whole identity blogging thing and I think that that makes a blog a lot more interesting. I am really into indentity blogs. I think that is why I like reading Wil Wheaton in Exhile so much. I got a lot of SGL work done and posted. This week has been tough even with the good Internet access at the apartment. I lost two posting days with the site having issues but all of that seems to be fine now and there is plenty posted for everyone to read. I also got a chance to go back and finish up the post from April 15th that was pending completion all week long.

Dominica is working her regular Saturday early hours today. She is on a confusing schedule now that has her alternative regular Saturdays and really early Saturdays. The really early is not all that early but it is a bit earlier than what she does on a regular day. We are using that shifting schedule as the basis for when she comes down to New Jersey for the weekend and when I go to Geneseo for the weekend. This weekend worked out perfectly that I had to work all day today and she gets out of work a little early today so that she can pick up Oreo and run right down to New Jersey tonight and get to spend the entire weekend down here. If she wasn’t getting out of work early then she would need to sleep at home tonight and it would be far less practical for her to drive down. So that is our major deciding factor. It is nice that it works out fairly evenly that she will come down here about half of the time and I will go home about half of the time.

So Dominica gets out of work at 8:00 tonight. Not much later than I should get out of work. Then she will drive home and throw the last few items into the car and pick up Oreo. Oreo is spending the day with dad as usual but dad is driving him over to the house to meet Min so that she doesn’t have to drive so far out of her way before doing the long drive down here. It saves her about an hour.

When driving with the dog the trip takes almost exactly five and a half hours. So Dominica will probably be arriving in North Brunswick around 2:00 in the morning. That makes for a really late night of driving 🙁 Hopefully she will get a good jump on the trip and it is possible to make it by 1:00 but that is more theoretical than anything.

I ended up working until 6:00 and then heading home. The drive wasn’t bad on a Saturday evening. Just barely over half an hour from work to the apartment. Now for my first real evening at the apartment. In actuality it isn’t much more of an evening at home than any other night since it is so late. But still it is a cool feeling to not have anything in particular to do tomorrow. I need that. Monday I am going to be working from home so I get to see Dominica and Oreo twice as much as I have seen them in over a month. Tomorrow evening Min and I are going into Philadelphia to have dinner at Jenn’s place.

I finally managed to get my VoicePulse account turned on this evening. There is still a paperwork step that has to be done before I can actually try using the service but at least the process is starting. So maybe early next week we can have it working. Of course we have to do some decision making before the service actually gets turned on. Like whether to get a new number of to port the old one over to the new service. Hmmm…

I watched some more in2TV tonight. I just love the idea of Internet television. It is awesome. It is tough to really use it a lot because the service doesn’t work all that well yet. AOL definitely has a long way to go from an interface standpoint. Many of the episodes are impossible to watch just because the interface to them is faulty. You can select just about any episode of Head of the Class but only about half of them actually play. The other half just start playing the first half at random. But because the interface doesn’t tell you which episode is playing you have to wait through several minutes of introduction and commercial before you figure it out. And then you only figure it out when you know the episodes well enough to know that you have all ready seen that one. After watching several episodes of Head of the Class I discovered that I had seen them out of order and had missed many of them that I couldn’t get to play. It would be much easier if they let you skip around in the episodes but because they want to force the commercials to play they have made that feature fail as well and it ends up making you watch the same incorrect episode from the beginning again. So the technology is rockin’ but the implementation is not one that is going to make people come back over and over again if they don’t get that stuff figured out.

Since I had exhausted my Head of the Class options I decided to move onto Scarecrow and Mrs. King. I haven’t seen S&MK since it originally aired in the early 1980’s. I remember really liking this show. It is along the same lines as Remington Steele and Magnum P.I.. There was not a lot of variety during the 1980’s but the shows were pretty good. I used to watch S&MK with my parents when I was young.

Dominica called at 8:45 and was just about to leave Geneseo. So she is running on schedule. She got the mail before she left and my first paycheck finally arrived so we know that I am getting paid for real now. It is a relief to know that that aspect of things is ironed out.

I have decided that I don’t like S&MK as much as I thought that I would. The characters are much more annoying and pathetic than I remember. And the plot is such thick Cold War weirdness. I mean I realize that everything in the 1980’s was tainted by the insanity as every American and every Russian freaked out thinking that the opposite country was going to nuke them at any moment. And of course all of the media was playing on that. I am sure that all Soviet entertainment during the period was similar. Shows about how the KGB constantly managed to thwart CIA agents who an infiltrated their country and were killing operatives in their homes. I am sure that they, just like us, are more thrilled with the improved entertainment that with the reduced threat of mutually assured destruction.

I am very excited to have my new firewall / router coming this evening. I have really been needing it this past week. It will be nice to have the computer protected, obviously, but I need the additional ports and wireless to allow me to get the SparcStation and my laptop online – not to mention my PocketPC. Dominica is also bringing my drill so that we can put up the curtains in the living room. Finally we will be able to use the living room as a part of the apartment and not just an enclosed piece of the outdoors.

I did some apartment cleaning while I was waiting for my family to arrive. To say that “I did some cleaning” is a strange thing to say considering the apartment is completely empty. Basically I unfolded the folding chairs and set them up in the living room as if they were regular furniture. I moved the printer stand (a small metal baker’s rack thing) into the living room and set the old nasty HP LaserJet 4L on it. It is in a different room than the computer but never you mind about that. I unpacked some stuff from my plastic bin of stuff that I brought with me and set them around the apartment. That was about all that there was to do. Sad really. It did make a little difference. The apartment definitely looks slightly improved. Only slightly. But at least Min will notice that things have moved and feel like I have done something since she left. I want to make a run out to the trash bin but it is raining and I am in my pajamas so I don’t think that I will.

I tried installing Solaris 10 onto my SUN Ultra 5 workstation this evening but I can’t even begin to get the install to work. The very first screen that comes up says “Select Your Language” and asks you to press a number 0-9 but no matter what you do it just sits there. I can’t get any reaction out of it at all. Unfortunately I can’t test the mouse because I left the mouse at home thinking that I couldn’t possibly need it. And I should have had Dominica bring it down with her on this trip but I didn’t realize that I would need it potentially until she was several hours away from home. Bummer. I am going to continue to try some things but it looks as though that machine might just have to sit around and wait until I can figure out some other means of connecting to it. Maybe I will get lucky and manage to find a null modem cable tomorrow or maybe on Monday so that I can connect to it through the console port. That would actually be easier because I don’t have anyplace to really put the keyboard anyway and I wouldn’t have to keep switching the monitor back and forth between the two machines.

Dominica called from the Pennsylvania Welcome Center on Route 81. She was talking the dog for a walk in the rain. She all ready made one stop in Corning. She is really tired and having a hard time staying awake. While she was on the phone with me Eric called to let me know that the router was down, again. What a pain that thing is. I think that we picked a router model that is not very reliable. Unfortunately a lot of really important stuff relies on that router including the new phones. So, of course, they aren’t working now. Dad was in bed when I called him about the problem. This would have to happen the same night that Dominica was coming down here. Normally this wouldn’t be any problem at all. But when no one is home it becomes a pretty major issue. I am ordering some power management equipment to deal with it. Remote outlet stuff so that I can power cycle any piece of equipment from anywhere. Normally this isn’t too big of a deal but this is the third time this week and no less than the seventh time this month that I have had to have a piece of equipment forcibly restarted! How can so many unrelated items have so many problems? I tried to order the equipment needed tonight but, like every other site that I try to use and apparently like my own, the ordering site it down and you can’t place an order right now. Foiled again.

To make me feel even better, I did some line tests on the cable service that I am getting down here and discovered that I am only getting between 200Kb/s and 400Kb/s. Just great. All kinds of speed. That isn’t even as good as I was getting back home. It has been noticeable that web sites have not been very snappy. The connection appears to be solid enough but definitely nothing special in the least. I guess that explains why dad and I have noticed bandwidth issues on the VoIP system. It is my end of the connection having the problem. I am supposed to be getting something in the vicinity of 15Mb/s – that is 50 times the speed that I appear to actually be getting. Speed tests are very difficult but it is quite noticeable that lots of sites take a really long time just to load regular images. I did some of my first real downloading tonight and the speed problems were really obvious. Something tells me that it this doesn’t get corrected that Dominica and I will not be extending our six month lease here.

Actually I figure that it won’t be very likely for us to extend the lease here. Really the idea behind this place was just to give us a base of operation so that we could go out and find places where we really want to live. So expenditures here will be minimal. We really need a chair and a throw-rug for the large, hardwood living room where the sound echoes so horribly that you can barely use the phone but it is the only room in the apartment where the cell works. We have been kicking around the idea of Woodbridge or New Brunswick proper or maybe Edison. All three are closer to work and closer to New York City. It is much more likely that we will go to NYC more often than we will go to Philadelphia so that seems to make sense. Of course I say that and I have not yet gone to New York and we are going to Philadelphia tomorrow evening.

I just noticed that the thermostat in the house says that the house is fifty degrees. Just a little bit chilly. No wonder I was feeling cold even with my fleece on! I turned on the heater but it isn’t doing anything. I am not convinced that the thermostat portion of the HVAC system works properly. It never seems to kick on or off automatically. This will warrant some further investigation.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am writing a lot more these days. Being alone all of the time gives me a lot of need to talk to people and no one to actually talk to. So I unleash my thoughts on my poor, unsuspecting readers. That and I tend to have a lot of time during the day when writing is something that I am able to do easily. So write I do.

After having so many problems with the router at the house I decided that I needed to start seriously investigating a good alternative. Something that would work as a replacement, save money in the long run and hopefully not run into the same kinds of problems that we have been running into with the current router. So I started looking more seriously at IPCop tonight. It seems like a hardware router like we have been using would be the way to go but our experiences have been teaching us otherwise. Sure we could go for far more expensive hardware routers but that is a tough row to hoe. Not only would we have to upgrade ourselves (at about six different locations) but all of our connecting sites would have to do so as well and that would be a big problem. So an alternative solution is needed.

It didn’t take too long before I discovered that there is no heat in this poorly insulated apartment. Good thing that it is almost summer weather most of the time. But it did snow here just two weeks ago for a few hours. It didn’t last at all but it happened. It could get pretty chilly in here if that happened again. Dominica is not going to be happy when she gets here and finds out that there isn’t any heat. I ran the shower as hot as it would go and opened up the shower door and the bathroom door hoping that that would make a little bit of a difference. The only thing really generating any heat in this house is the computer that I am using. And it doesn’t generate very much.

The shower managed to bring the house up four degrees according to the thermostat. The sliding glass doors in the living room fogged up so it must have done something. Too bad there is only about fifteen minutes of warm water available from my little water heater or it might have actually been useful.

It has been raining here all day and poor Dominica has had to drive in rain all the way from New York. Rain makes a long drive like that at night exceptionally tough. It doesn’t help very much with keeping you awake either. Dominica has been listening to some of my books on CD while she has been driving and, believe it or not, she is now hooked on Simon Winchester who wrote books like “Krakatowa” and “The Professor and the Madman”. Many readers would consider his stuff to be very academic and exceptionally dry but I find his writing to be very entertaining and it is definitely some of my favourite stuff. Well now Dominica is hooked on him too. She has always made fun of me for reading his books. I have at least four of his books, the others being “The Meaning of Everything” and “The Map That Changed the World”.

It was 3:00 when Dominica and Oreo arrived. Min and I quickly unpacked the car and then it was off to bed. All three of us were very tired but we are happy to be a family for the weekend.

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