December 21, 2007: Driving Home

All I Want For Christmas Is You (in HD.)

Today I am working from Warren so I have a bit of traveling to do. I had to run some errands this morning to get us ready to leave for over a week. There is a lot to do. It was around nine twenty when I finally escaped the apartment with everything turned off and ready to lie dormant for ten days or so.

Dominica went in to work at normal time this morning. She is working a normal, full day but they have a special team pot-luck lunch thing and she took vegetarian meatballs in as her contribution. They were a big hit.

I got to the platform at the Broad Street Station in Newark just in time to miss the train. I had to wait quite a while for the next train to come and it ended up being late too. By the time that I got out to Summit, New Jersey there were no more corporate shuttles running out to Warren. Craptastic.

So I started calling around trying to find a cab company. That took several tries as the place that is recommended by the railroad simply said that they didn’t service Summit today and hung up. The second place that I tried was out of business. Eventually I came upon Suburban which sent out a taxi for me that ended up costing almost sixty dollars to get to work from Summit where the train dropped me off. Not a good start to the day.

It was eleven thirty when I finally got to the Warren office.  I ran around and said hello to everyone, got set up on a workstation for about ten minutes and then we were all off to Figaro III on the north side on Interstate 78 in the A&P Plaza for the team Christmas lunch.  Lunch was awesome.  About two and a half hours and probably five bottles of wine.  I had salmon ravioli in a brandy cream sauce which was really amazing.  Very good food.

The afternoon flew by between the long lunch, getting in late and just running around the office talking to people that I haven’t seen in months.  I haven’t been to the Warren office at all in a month or more as it is and was only there two or three times in the month preceding that.

I stayed in the office until relatively late for a holiday weekend Friday night.  Only one other person from our entire team was later than me and he was stuck supporting an issue.  I worked until just barely after six when Dominica pulled in to pick me up.

The BMW is loaded down with stuff to take to dad’s house.  Between Christmas presents and stuff that we just need to move there is hardly any room in this tiny car.  It is a good thing that we weren’t trying to take Oreo too as there was just no room for that.  Our plan this week is to swap the BMW for the Mazda PR5 which has Nokian snow tires on it that will be perfect for Dominica driving in the snow.  The PR5 is just easier to deal with in bad weather.  And this will give us a chance to put the “for sale” signs back in the windows in New Jersey for a few months.

The weather was perfect for driving tonight and there was hardly any traffic at all as we headed out of New Jersey.  We stopped at the Panera Bread on PA33 North heading up towards Interstate 80 from Interstate 78.  It was a delicious dinner and we picked up a pastry ring to take to dad’s house too.

As we were pulling out of Panera I noticed a “Game Crazy” that was open in the same parking lot.  We needed a Nintendo Wii component cable (a travel one as ours it attached to our bedroom Westinghouse LCD) and a travel remote sensor bar for the Wii so we ran in and picked those up.  We have the Wii with us so that we could play it at dad’s house this weekend.

We took our new route to avoid the Interstate 81 construction zones around Scranton, Pennsylvania which involves take Interstate 80 west to Williamsport, PA and then i180 West to US15 North / Future Interstate 99 up to Corning where we hop back onto i86 and then i390 to Sonyea, New York.  This route seems to cut about an hour off of the journey compared to taking the more northerly route that goes mostly through New York’s Southern Tier.

It was just about midnight as we pulled into dad’s driveway.  We hung out for about two hours before calling it a night.

We unpacked the new OLPC XO (One Laptop Per Child, aka $100 Laptop) and checked it out.  Our first impression was that it was incredibly tiny – much smaller than we had been imagining and we had been imagining that it was going to be pretty small.  It is very cute and very solidly built.  It is impressive to hold.  You feel very confident in its manufacturing.

We powered up the OLPC XO and gave the software a try.  The XO is based on a custom variant of Red Hat’s Fedora operating system using a custom graphical environment known as Sugar.  The laptop is definitely slow but is quite usable.  It has a 1GB flash storage system for it’s main storage and 256MB of system memory which is pretty good for such a lightweight device.  It can take advantage of USB Memory Sticks or Secure Digital (SD) storage as it has one SD slot and three USB ports.

The screen is small but very sharp and impressive.  We have been hearing amazing things about the XO’s screen technology and it was rumored to be quite ground breaking and it certainly is very usable and readable.

We checked out a few of the built in applications like the word processor, the BASH terminal, journal, TurtleArt, Python programming and the oscilloscope.  The last one being an endless source of fun for dad and Min.

We were not able to get the unit online tonight as dad’s wireless isn’t currently hooked up.  We will need to turn that on tomorrow and see what this thing can do.

December 19, 2007: Our OLPC Came Today

It is a cold one today. No sun at all. Last night I stayed up reading and this morning finished R. A. Salvatore’s “Sojourn” which is the third book in the Dark Elf Trilogy. Dominica has been pushing me to finish the book so that she could read it. Tomorrow I am hoping to pick up a copy of the Icewind Dale Trilogy which follows the Dark Elf Trilogy in the Drizzt Cycle.

Andy left for Pittsburgh this morning. I bet he is glad that he has a new GPS unit. Getting around Pittsburgh is one of the toughest things ever. That is one hard town to find your way around in. This will be his first time ever being in Pittsburgh alone since he lived there alone after June, 2000 until late that summer but at that time he did not have a car and never strayed from the path between Shadyside and Oakland along the road that he lived on. So this will be an experience for him being back there after all of these years on his own. He has only been back once or twice since then as it is.

We got an email today from Aer Lingus with deals during the winter to fly from New York to Ireland (Dublin/Shannon) for just $199 USD each way! That is $398 round trip. Talk about cheap.

Dominica and my OLPC arrived today at dad’s house! We are very excited. We are the very first to get one as we ordered ours in the first fifteen minutes of them being available through the Give One, Get One program. So this is a very big deal. Yay!

Dominica’s dad was able to take Friday off from work and so her parents are heading south to Houston on Friday instead of on Saturday which changes our weekend plans a bit. So now Dominica is taking off from work early tomorrow (she did extra time earlier this week so she isn’t losing any normal hours just losing her overtime that she was going to get) and driving Oreo up to just south of Albany to meet her parents and give them Oreo. She should be back to Newark around dinner time when I should be getting back from the office. Then on Friday night we will drive straight up to my dad’s house instead of first going to Frankfort and then going to Peoria on Saturday morning. And now it means that we can play with the OLPC that much earlier.

I did some Christmas shopping for Dominica today over my lunch break.  I can safely write that as she never reads the site.

Before she got home I made coffee for her and ordered in some dinner from Tony’s so that she wouldn’t have to worry about dinner tonight.  Not that she would have to cook but she has a really hard time deciding what she wants to eat and finds it very frustrating.

We ate dinner and watched most of an episode of Buck Rogers but the DVD stopped playing before the end of the episode and we didn’t get to finish it.  🙁  Now we will never know if Buck survives!

Oreo is off to his Christmas party at daycare tomorrow and then in the late afternoon off to join his grandparents in their drive to Houston, Texas.  So tonight he gets a bath and his flea dip.

After Oreo’s bath I worked on my collegiate reading assignments and did some of my weekly homework.  Dominica worked on some laundry and packing.  We are down to the wire for leaving the apartment for another week and a half.  Dominica also started reading “Exile” tonight.

Friday I am going into the Warren office for the team Christmas party.  Dominica will pick me up from the office on her way out of New Jersey and I will take over the driving from there.  We will be at dad’s sometime on Friday night quite late.

November 12, 2007: OLPC XO!

Today is the release of the One Laptop Per Child OLPC XO computer! Even with just two hours of sleep Dominica got me out of bed and made me head out to the computer at a quarter after six in the morning to place one of the very first orders for our very own XO. We are quite excited to get it and see the latest educational technology available.

OLPC XO

I placed the order and went straight back to bed. I felt like crap but it was nice to know that I had been able to place the order for the XO. We were concerned that they may have so much demand for them that they would stop offering them and we wanted to be sure that we would get one.

Vultures are the coolest.

Only four days until we head out to the UK. We are excited and yet there is just way too much to do before then. Eeek!

Dominica is hard at work attempting to find clothes for me to take on the trip. My big job today was to get a mobile phone that will work while we are in Europe. We use Verizon Wireless here in the US which is the big “non-GSM” wireless carrier which means that their phones are pretty much North American use only. So to have cell service in the UK we need to have a GSM phone. I called Verizon and their helpful sales people walked me through pricing and options for traveling with my Verizon phone.

BlackBerry 8830

What we decided was the best approach is to get me a new BlackBerry 8830 Global Phone that works both in the US and abroad throughout the world which, because I am a big Verizon customer with several lines and loads of options, came to just $199 USD after mail in rebates and instant rebate. I will have regular calling available to me while in the UK so people who need to reach me will still be able to although I will have some serious roaming fees so try to keep that to a minimum. I will, however, have unlimited email and web access so feel free to email us as we will be responding from the trains and buses and ferries and whatnot.

So my “old” Palm Treo 700p which was just updated and is now working is going to become Dominica’s new phone replaces her now aging LG flip-phone. She has been wanting a phone with email, full keyboard texting, web, etc. for a while and this lets us do that practically for free. We are switching to a family plan for the voice and will both have unlimited data plans (although she will not have either in the UK and we plan to just rent a phone for her while we are there.) All in all, after all of that jostling and changing and upgrading we are breaking even on the service costs and just spending $199 to get the new phone. Good deal. The phone is being overnighted so that we can get it set up and working tomorrow and have time to test it before actually traveling.

I was pretty under the weather when I got up this morning (I went back to sleep immediately after having ordered the XO.) I woke up with a horrible sinus infection. Just what I need. Although much better today than in a week while we are out of the country. I took a long shower which often helps and I tried to log in to the office from home but my VPN connection wouldn’t cooperate and my BlackBerry was dead so I was kind of stranded.

It was getting late so I decided that it would be better to get a nice, big breakfast with protein on the way in rather than go in and then stop again for lunch. So I stopped at Food for Life and had a breakfast sandwich and then went into the office.

I wasn’t all that productive today. Having a sinus infection makes the world very fuzzy. Although it was probably a very good day for it to happen as it is really a holiday and the markets are closed and only half of the company is in the office today at all and very little is going on. So the fact that I wasn’t the most productive person today wasn’t even noticeable.

I checked the stats for the site today and apparently people have been missing the podcast because the number of people coming to the site is quite high for a Monday. We are above average already and we aren’t even into our big evening crowd yet!

I got stuck a little later than I had planned at the office dealing with some late breaking stuff but it wasn’t too late. Dominica decided to make a run to the grocery store for supplies before going home so the timing was pretty good. She has to cook double batches of doggie food this week so that he has enough food to get him through all of next week too. Dominica is driving Oreo up to her parents’ house on Thursday night after work to drop him off and will spend the night there. She has Friday off from work so that she can drive home and spend the rest of the day getting all the last minute things prepared for our trip.

I am posting early and calling it a day. I am exhausted.

November 9, 2007: Diwali

Today is Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights.

Don’t forget that your chance to buy an OLPC XO for yourself while donating one to a needy child in the developing world begins on Monday at six in the morning. The donation is $400USD and half of that amount is tax deductible. Additionally, T-Mobile is providing free access to their network of hotspots for one year for free to donors.

It was quite cold last night but by this morning it had warmed up considerably and I overdressed for my walk to work. I was pretty warm by the time that I had arrived.

It is one week until Dominica and I hop the pond to spend a week and a half in the British Isles. But most everything is ready at this point so we just need to wait it out and soon enough, we will be there.

My morning was incredibly busy and then for lunch I sneaked away with two of my clients for a nice sushi lunch. I am glad that I was able to – my day was really busy and I needed the break.

Karen Miller and Scott Alan Miller Mountain Climbing in Acadia National Park

My afternoon, as it often is on Fridays, was completely jam-packed with work. It is days like today when I really earn my paycheck. I didn’t have time for anything all afternoon. I worked as fast as I could solidly from about two thirty until nine in the evening. It was a really late night and I was burned out by the time that I was done. I was really productive though and just a ton of work was accomplished during that stretch.

It was so late by the time that I was wrapping up at the office that Dominica just went ahead and had dinner at home with Oreo. After work I walked up to Suspenders, the pub on Broadway at the head of Wall Street, and had a fish fry alone. When I left the office on lower Wall I was surprised to find that the day had turned cold and that it was raining.

It seemed oddly appropriate to me to be spending the forth anniversary of the passing of my mother sitting alone in the middle of the deserted financial district in the cold rain eating a fish fry. It gave me a little quite time to myself at least.

Dad emailed me a link to the blog of a friend of ours and my mom’s accordion student. She blogged about mom yesterday on The King’s Ranch and it was really touching. I am being intentionally ambiguous so ignore the poor writing.