September 3, 2008: Learning About Trains

79 Days to Baby Day! (28 Weeks and 5 Days Pregnant)

Engine 4104 at Newark Broad Street Station

I looked in on my Wikipedia entry on Blam (meaning “Comment Spam”) which is a term that I coined and added to Wikipedia many years ago in the hopes of it becoming a standard term.  My definition remains the top definition for the word and, since that original page creation, the additional word “blammer”, with its obvious meaning, has also been added.  So, at this point, I think that it is safe to assume that I have successfully coined a word in the English lexicon as it has now been used for many years.  Very cool.  I have fulfilled my need to contribute to humanity.

Check out “Good Morning Yahoo“.  This is one of the many ways in which the web is overtaking traditional television.  This is a very neat concept and I am glad to see Yahoo moving in this direction.  They do something similar on Yahoo Finance.  They need to start considering a general “Yahoo Television” section to centralize their new video content services.

Here is a pet peeve of mine – the ongoing deterioration of the English language.  In recent years (or decades) it has become increasingly “cool” to attempt to show off one’s linguistic skills by using “hard” words like ironic or random.  Of course, to even mildly educated people these are common, easy words, but we still find the American mass media unable to correctly use the term random.  In this particular case the use was used to denote an even that was specifically not-random.  Does that make its use ironic?

When visiting the science museum in Ottawa a number of years ago, Dominica and I were astounded by the number of times we heard about the CanadArm – the robotic arm on the space shuttle that most people never think about because, well, it isn’t very important in the grand scheme of things.  It was mentioned over and over as if it was the only thing Canada ever did.  It actually made you feel embarrassed for the poor Canadian kids who had to come here and be berated for having produced nothing ever, in all of history, beyond a space shuttle appendige.  Recently on the Old New Thing, we get this:

“From what I can tell, Canadians are taught that NASA’s job is to launch the CanadArm into space so it can move stuff around.”

Raymond Chen, in The Old New Thing, also lists the things that Americans are often taught as being our nation’s greatest accomplishments.  I found it odd that in his list (in which he claims only what we are taught and not what is accurate) he mentions George Eastmann – he meant George Eastman – as the inventor of the camera but doesn’t mention that this is complete and totally incorrect.  He mentions Henry Ford as being completely incorrect as the inventor of the automobile, but Eastman is so far from being the inventor of the camera that it seems to be the obvious choice for “not correct.”

Having grown up in the Rochester area in the shadow of George Eastman and Kodak (my father worked at Kodak from college graduation until his retirement) I have never even heard it insinuated that Eastman invented the camera or photographic film or photography in general.  A pioneer?  Definitely, but not the inventor of aforementioned technologies.  I wonder what backwater in the US is teaching this concept?  If you were ever taught this, leave a comment.  I want to know where this is coming from.  For your information – the camera was invented a few hundred years before Eastman was even born.

In an old interview from 2007 with George Mannes, which I read today, he makes note of how accurately Hollywood (or television) shows “hot trends” in movies or on television actually are really good indicators of that particular trend being over especially within the financial world.  Most recently we have seen this phenomenon from the plethora of television shows dedicated to house flipping which did not hit the market until after the housing market had crashed and no one could possibly make money flipping houses.  Mannes looks at the greater trends and has determined that Hollywood is consistently so far behind the times as to be a pretty serious counter-market indicator.

The best bit of the interview, though, was when George Mannes recounts the classic story of the investor in 1929 who realized that the market was about to crash when his shoe-shine boy was giving stock tips.  Mannes then goes on to compare shoe-shine boys of the 1920s to the Hollywood producers of today.  I’m convinced that the comparison goes much deeper than the education and skill needed to do their jobs the fact that they are accurate counter-market indicators.

The Black Crayon.

Up at five thirty this morning.  Ugh.  I was not ready to face the day at that point.

I turned on the shower and, while waiting for that to get warm, I logged into the office, cleaned up my email and did an early morning software deployment that had just been requested.  At least nothing will be backed up for me by the time that I reach the office.

We were running late this morning.  Really late and I managed to miss the “late” train that I use as my last ditch train into Summit.  Ugh.  So I had to wait for about forty minutes on the platform waiting for the late-late train to Gladstone.

NJ Transit Emblem

Today is my test of Kevin’s theory that I qualify, as a “reverse commuter”, to use off-peak NJ Transit tickets (which, are available in round-trip form as well) to save 15% off of my train fare and to allow me to cut half of the painful ticket buying process out of my day.  Additionally, by having pre-purchased my evening return ticket it roughly quadruples my chances of catching the evening express back to Newark.  So the off-peak ticket saves 15% of the cost, 2-4 minutes of ticket buying pain, twenty minutes of waiting on the Summit platform and thirty minutes of riding the local to Newark!  Wow.

For lunch today I just ate at my desk while attending an online web conference from Red Hat.  We learned about Red Hat Linux clustering and memory performance tuning.

I left work on the shuttle all prepared to run from the shuttle to the Hoboken Express line to get myself to Newark nice and early.  My plans were thwarted by a “paid by the hour” NJ Transit assistant conductor who was dilly-dallying on the stairs of the platform blocking our way.  This drives me crazy about life in the New York Metro – half of everyone is in a hurry and the other half have nowhere in particular to be and think nothing of blocking the way for everyone else.  I’m used to Upstate NY where everyone has someplace to be and would still be willing to get out of your way if you needed to go faster than them.  So three of us, all trying to make the same train and all stuck behind the same guy, missed the train.  He, of course, was happy to miss the train as he was on the clock.

I took the next train and Dominica picked me up from Washington Square Park near the train station saving me from a very warm and humid walk home.  We got home to Eleven80 and ordered in some dinner from Nino’s.  We are really going to miss Nino’s when we finally move up to Peekskill.  They have a great menu, take orders online that are consistently correct when they arrive, aren’t too expensive and the food is really good.  They all know us by name now as well.  Not that we will be able to afford to eat out every night once the baby arrives but still, they will be missed.

I have been testing out Google’s new Chrome browser yesterday and today and, understanding that it is still in beta, have come across two really critical sites that do not function at all for me using their V8 JavaScript engine – Zimbra email client and Flickr.  Both sites are, coincidentally I’m sure, products of Yahoo, Google’s biggest competitor.

Dinner arrived just after seven.  Rigatoni vodka for me and stuffed shells for Dominica.  We watched some Frasier. The plan had been for me to work and for Dominica to watch Ratatouille which had just arrived from NetFlix, but Oreo came to bed and snuggled up with me like he was going to sleep and I just couldn’t bare to disappoint him.  He was so worn out and exhausted after playing on the farm this weekend that he actually passed out standing up at daycare today!

So it was an early night for us which was probably wise all around.

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