I'm moving the blog here. Update your bookmarks and see you over there!
Saturday, May 03, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
- New Orleans for a Week for NTEN's Nonprofit Technology Conference
Gathering Hitotoki Submissions
Still hitting the gym every AM.
Trying to get rid of some of my 13 projects at work as I'm totally overloaded - making use of 43folders.com in the process and a handy dandy video Inbox Zero on how to keep my inbox empty presented by 43folders author Merlin Mann.
Working on some freelance stuff to keep my mind busy.
Resigning as Condo President - feels great.
Twittering like mad
Being sad that the person who might have helped revive the twittermeter over at terraminds appears to have been shut down as the site is not responding.
Posted by Greg on Thursday, March 27, 2008
Monday, March 17, 2008
I just tried to unsubscribe my email address from some spam coming from "NewsMax.com" and this is the message that comes up after clicking "I wish to unsubscribe from all NewsMax e-mails.":
Would you like to continue to receive NewsMax News Alerts and no longer get 3rd party advertisements?
And the choices are "Yes" and "No."
If I say "Yes", I'll continue to receive these annoying emails from Newsmax, but I won't receive 3rd party emails... not that I knew I was getting those anyway.
If I say "No", I'll stop receive the ones I'm unsubscribing from, but there's a logical opportunity for me to start receiving 3rd party emails. What to do...
I clicked "No". And I hate whatever the heck NewsMax is. Shame on them.
Here's the confirmation text: We will process your subscription change request in the next 24-48 business hours and send you a confirmation of your selections.
48 business hours = 6 business days. Assholes!
Posted by Greg on Monday, March 17, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Thursday, January 31, 2008
I've been enlisted to help promote this great project called Hitotoki in its Washington, DC implementation. Per the website:
The word Hitotoki is a Japanese noun comprised of two components: hito or “one” and toki or “time,” and is often translated as “a moment.” In common usage, it can be used to describe any brief, singular stretch of time (if we share a meal someday, you can call that a hitotoki).
hitotoki was somehow born from the brain of these three morons
Hitotoki launched in May 2007 in Tokyo by Paul Baron, Craig Mod and Chris Palmieri. On paper it is a collaboration between Tokyo/ Seattle-based indie publisher Chin Music Press and Tokyo web design group AQ.
Each story on this gorgeous site is accompanied by a picture and its location on a custom Google Map.
We're aiming to get a good pool of submission collected for a March 1 launch, so if you (or anyone you know) who wants to write a 200-500 word short story about a specific place and time in DC tell them to get their mouse pointed to www.hitotoki.org/dc lickity-split. Once there, you can download a submission form and then send it in to: submissions_dc -at- hitotoki -dot- org
Tell your friends. Pass it on. And check out the site, it's fascinating!
I've also been enlisted as an editor of submissions - but mainly as a stop gap between submitters and the true editors in the event of not-so-serious submissions. :)
Posted by Greg on Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Dear United Airlines,
I wanted to drop you a line to let you know that you completely decimated my plans for New Year's. Your ineptitude has left me infuriated and with a head cold. Allow me to elaborate:
For the past four years, my wife and I have met up with the same group of 6 friends (3 other couples) for New Year's. The couples tend to be spread out all over the world, but we manage to find each other during this one time of the year. The first year, two couples were living in New York, one in Spain and my wife and I in DC, but we all managed to meet in New York city. The next two years found couples flying in from as far away as France and Florence to meet in Maryland near where we live in Washington, DC.
This year, one couple from New York and another from Florence were both going to be in California for the New Year, so we bought our own tickets to San Francisco for the four day weekend to meet them there to celebrate. We arranged for hotel rooms for all of us in downtown and made dinner reservations for Saturday night (12/29).
My wife and I both had to work a full day on Friday, so we got tickets for San Francisco on Saturday morning with a connection in Chicago, O'Hare. We got the tickets via miles, otherwise I would likely have avoided Chicago, given its prominence towards latency. Initially, we were worried about only having an hour between flights in Chicago, but before we took off I found that the flight had already been delayed by half an hour, giving us a little more time.
By the time our flight from DCA landed in ORD, our 11:35am flight to SFO had been delayed until 2:15pm. If all went well, we would still make our dinner reservation, but might have to skip check-in at the hotel and take our bags to the restaurant. We noticed that there was an earlier flight to SFO at 12:35pm so went to that gate to see if there were any seats available. The line was already twenty people deep with no agents at the service desk.
Standing in line, we learned that the couple waiting behind us had been trying to get to San Francisco on stand-by since the evening before when their flight had been canceled. We decided that if anyone deserved to get on the 12:35pm flight, it was them and gave them our spot. We could wait until 2:15.
Around 12:30pm, the gate for the 2:15pm flight was changed to the other side of the terminal. While walking to the new gate, I saw the couple that had been behind us in line for the 12:35pm flight waiting at the United Service desk; they hadn't made it either. At our new gate, the time had been moved to 1:30pm. We then watched as it continued to fluctuate every 10 minutes for the next hour: 1:15pm, 2pm, 1:45pm, 1:25pm. The airplane eventually pulled in at 2pm and the passengers began to deboard. We were told to prepare to board ourselves, but then stood waiting for 15 minutes before learning that the plane was having mechanical problems that needed to be investigated.
Passengers gave each other worried looks that only got worse as crew members began to deboard shaking their heads and uttering phrases like "that plane's got problems". The pilots left and a new one arrived. Two hours and a "taxi test" later, we were told that the flight had been canceled and that the next available flight wasn't until 6pm the next day. We made our way to the United service desk and called to try to cancel hotel and dinner reservations while waiting in line.
After waiting half an hour with the rest of passengers from our flight, we reached an agent and asked about flights to California. Our friends could pick us up in San Jose or Sacramento and we could attempt to rent a car and drive ourselves from further away. The agent explained that there were no flights on United or any other airline going to the West coast before 6pm the next day. None. Zero. This was due to all the other canceled flights from the days prior.
At this point, the trip was a complete loss. Arriving at 10pm on Sunday night only to leave at 8am on Tuesday morning would give us 1 day in the city. We couldn't take additional dates of vacation to leave later (nor were our friends staying longer). What other option did we have than to just turn tail and go home? Even about getting home to DC, we had our doubts: while waiting for our own flight, we saw that the 2:30pm back to DCA had been canceled and its passengers would likely have been bumped to the 3:30pm flight to DCA.
"The next flight back is at 4pm tomorrow," the agent explained
"There are no flights sooner that that? To any DC airport? BWI? Dulles?"
"Oh yeah, let me check the other airports."
We ended up with a 6am flight to Dulles and a hotel voucher. No meal voucher. On top of all this, I could feel a head cold coming on.
Waking up at 4am on Sunday, I immediately checked the flight to find that it was delayed by 15 minutes. Arriving at the airport, we learned from the check-in kiosks that the agent who booked our tickets the night before had neglected to assign us seats. We were now sitting at opposite ends of the plane; both seated in the undesirable and unswappable aisle seat B. Despite a 45 minute wait to get through security and hearing the useless and infuriating instruction from one TSA agent that "you control the flow of traffic", we made it on the flight with no other hiccups.
Once aboard, I took out a book, placed it in the seat pocket and promptly fell asleep. I didn't wake up until the plane landed in Dulles. I got my bags and waited outside the gate for my wife. As we started to walk away from the gate, I suddenly remembered the book that I'd left in the seat pocket. I asked one of the agents if it was possible to get it back. He went to look, but after two attempts he explained that the cleaning crew must have already thrown it away.
Defeated, we left the airport and returned home. We arrived home 27 hours after we had departed. We had missed a tradition with friends, lost 27 hours of time, and a book (which, of course, I'd borrowed from the office and had to replace). I had also gained a cold that has only begun to relent 14 hours before I have to go back to work.
I could not believe the level of disorganization that I witnessed at O'Hare. What is United doing that they just can't get it together? How many times do you have to go into bankruptcy before you just give it up and realize that you're having trouble turning a profit because your product is terrible? Why would I book tickets on an airline when I have such a high chance of not reaching my destination on the intended day?
I will say that all the agents that we had to deal with were extremely kind and understanding. They can't help that they work for such an organization and I have a great deal of respect for their ability to deal with customers politely.
Per your policy, my reimbursement could not be handled at a service desk. Instead, I have to call a number. I do not look forward to what I imagine will be an hour on the phone trying to convince you to refund all my miles and costs for a ruined trip.
I will never fly United again.
Posted by Greg on Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Friday, December 28, 2007
Behold, the XO laptop.
I got my hands on one of these through the give-one get-one program that OLPC is running. Basically, you pay double the standard donation; one laptop goes to a kid and the other comes to your house to play with.
If you don't know about the XO yet, read up on olpc's vision. Some people have called the idea of giving laptops to kids dumb, but I have enough arguments for it that I gave it a try (giving is good, education is important, connectivity in a global economy is vital, etc.).
A few notes:
The laptop comes with no instructions except for some graphics on proper use (do not dispose of battery in fire; do not drop). These seem obvious to me, but I've used electronics before, so I have to understand.
This thing requires small hands to type on... I mean, it's for kids, but this is ridiculous. After years of MasterType in elementary school, I was surprised to find myself inclined to hunt and peck when the XO was first under my fingers. With a little concentration I've found that I can type OK if I just keep remembering that my hands need to be about one key closer together than I'm used to.
While original reports talked about a hand crank for the XO that was built on, it was taken off due to concerns about wear and tear on the case [olpc wiki about this]. Mine didn't come with any kind of human or solar power device and it's been tough to find much information on where to get such. I hope that whatever kid received this got a bit more information than I did.
You can put an SD card in, but what you can actually do with the contents of it is pretty limited. I can't browse it and upload a photo to the blog, and I can't save anything new to it.
There's a little video/still camera and full mic and audio. Once the VOIP app is out, kids'll be Skyping in no time.
No documentation forces me to play and play until I figure it out. Kids are great at this and, after trying to play with it for a while and resorting to the Wiki for documentation, I'm realize that I'm not as good at playing as I used to be.
- I'm a big right-clicker and it's really hard to do on this thing. Nothing appears to be right-clickable (i.e. the work "clickable", which the browser has underlined as a spelling error, but I cannot right click to correct.
- No two-finger scrolling or tap-click to be found on this touchpad
- The touchpad appears to have three separate touch areas and some kind of pen/tablet ability, but I can't find any documentation on it and the lack of instructions don't make things any easier
- There are tons of awesome music programs on this thing. This little laptop is going to produce some kickass artists
- There's a Python interpreter on this thing! It's going to produce developers who will take my job
- After 20 minutes of typing on this keyboard I'm still retyping every 7th keystroke and really know where the "erase" key is. I feel like I'm 10 again.
- They got rid of the Caps Lock key!!! Hooray! What a useless developer-oriented key that was. Caps Lock is straight out of the 80s. Below, please find an image of Caps Lock accidentally turned on on my other laptop. How many times have I hit that key accidentally vs. purposefully? 222,221,323 vs. 5. I have to admit, I didn't realize all on my own that Caps lock was dumb. capsoff.org made me see the light.
Posted by Greg on Friday, December 28, 2007
Saturday, December 15, 2007
It's been a while... over a month since the last update. Things have been really busy around here. Thanksgiving came and went. We had a birthday party for R with pre-cake at Cakestro's place and dancing at DC9, MZ returned from Florence and had her own dance party at the BlackCat. This week also found me on the winning trivia team at Ventnor's Sports Cafe where I also happened to run into a few old coworkers.
I'm now working on two major projects at work and two side projects at home, so I'm finding little time to do anything else (the camera is as dusty as the blog). I've also been spending more time out and about at various happy hours, tech gatherings, etc.
This weekend is seeming particularly active. After working last night until about 8, I went straight to Bar Pilar with some friends, and then from there to BeBar via my place to drop off lappy here. At 7:30 this morning, R and I were up to go on an 8:30am tour of the White House with MM. A friend of hers who works for the Dept. of the Interior had extra tickets and R was the first person she found on gchat.
Flustered by the insane list of rules for White House attendance, MM accidentally left her keys in her purse which she then locked the trunk before we went on the tour. Her fluster (is that a word?) wasn't unjustified. For your pleasure, here is point #4 on the White House Tour Instructions:
backpacks, purses, food and beverages of any kind, strollers, cameras, video recorders or
any type of recording device, tobacco products, personal grooming items (make-up, hair
brush or comb, lip or hand lotions, etc.), any pointed objects (pens, knitting needles, etc.),
aerosol containers, guns, ammunition, fireworks, electric stun guns, mace, martial arts
weapons/devices, or knives of any size. The U.S. Secret Service reserves the right to prohibit
any other personal items. Umbrellas, wallets, cell phones and car keys are permitted.
There are a few interesting items in there, but I especially like that they say "car keys" and not just "keys". What about house keys? I took mine in! Take that, suckers!
After the tour, we went to grab a coffee while MM called YZ who lives in her building and could bring her the spare key to the car. Once dropped off back at home, R and I immediately headed over to Glow's place with CG, who needed a costume for an xmas present he's working on. Yes. Glow has a basement full of costumes. No. They are not his. His landlord purchased the entire inventory of a soon-to-be-closed costume store with plans to sell it on the web. It now hangs on racks in the basement with bins that are labeled things like "santa stuff", "noses", "Uncle Sam Goatees", "pirate stuff" and, my favorite, "beatnick cigarette holderd". Yes. He has a box of them.
We found some choice material for CG and had quite a delightful time browsing through the inventory. As we searched, I happened upon a box of costume make-up and similar supplies which included this gem:
I liked the box, so I claimed it. Now I just need to find some applications for these 12 adhesive strips... or a toupee.
Things are only going to get busier with christmas coming up. I still haven't finished what shopping I need to do... which means it's too late to do everything online and I'll likely end up at a *shudder* mall sometime in the near future.
Posted by Greg on Saturday, December 15, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Pardon the lack of postage, I was ill... and then busy. It rained for an entire week towards the end of October. I spent two days of that week laying on the couch nursing my first head cold in over a year. The cold hit quickly, but left after a two day double-barrel shot of ZiCam and Goldenseal, not to mention copious amounts of R's home-made chicken soup, water and ZERO daytime television - that crap will make you much, much sicker and Tivo'd episodes of the Colbert Report seem to make me better.
In any case, the rain came down for four days straight. Before work on Thursday morning I went out back to dispose of the garbage that I'd amassed laying about for 48 hours. I put my trash in one of the four cans in the back and noticed that the lid on the can closest to the back gate was ajar.
"Crap," I thought, "that can is going to have 2 feet of water in it. I'm going to dump it out and it will get my shoes wet and I'll have to change my shoes."
I opened the lid and peered down to find the two feet of water I'd expected as well as a small furry surprise. Taking its own life by jumping into the can full of water, a rat lay swirling counter-clockwise in a fetal position. I felt terrible. I don't like rats, but two near-drowning experiences in my life have given me a strong opinion that it is an undesirable method of kicking the bucket.... or, in this case, the garbage can.
Despite my role as condo president, I assured myself that this drowned rodent was "not my problem" and placed the lid back on the can (not ajar, mind you, I didn't want it filling up with even more water... or another depressed rat using it as a means to its end).
Typically, the trash is picked up on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I figured that, it being Thursday, the rat would be gone before the weekend. Alas, I checked on Saturday and funeral services had yet to be held. Other than the rat and his watery grave the can was empty, so maybe the garbage men hadn't emptied it because they didn't look all the way down. Perhaps a layer of garbage on top would entice them. I started putting garbage into the rat-can instead of any of the others. On Saturday it smelled pretty bad and the trash bag made a disturbing "sploosh" as it landed in the water. On Sunday, the smell was markedly worse. By Monday morning, I had to hold my breath as a ran to and from the can, the smell lingered in the air for two minutes after I'd replaced the lid.
On Tuesday morning, I saw that all of the cans had shifted position. Problem solved! I thought. No dice. Covering my mouth and peering into the can I saw no more garbage, half the water and an even more decayed rat. At this point, the smell is so bad, I won't even put garbage in the can. What to do?!? Having heard the story when I first discovered it, a fellow tenant asked me yesterday in the hall if "my friend was still in the can." At what point did I take ownership of the little guy? "Finders keepers"? I think not.
Posted by Greg on Saturday, November 10, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I've been sick for the last two days. Looking at my watch, it's just about time to switch from Zicam and Goldenseal to NyQuil. Tomorrow, it's back to work with DayQuil. Hopefully I'm in good enough shape to get to the weekend feeling better... having already had to skip the Ponys/Spoon show last night.
In other news, what better way to sum up this country's warped priorities than with this awesome sign I saw scooting back from Silver Spring on Monday:
What's the logic behind this one? I can only assume the sign is a result of laws being passed at different times - one of those times clearly having been when the "war on drugs" had reached its frenzy. I also have to wonder what group lobbies congress to increase the radius around a school in which guns should be allowed to be sold? Can you imagine being the slime-ball that has to try to get the 1000ft radius cut in half?
Time for the NQ!
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
This past Saturday, I went up to NYC for the Joomla! Day USA East conference at Google's offices in Manhattan.
Twitter posts can actually sum up most of the trip, so I'll summarize in some twitter-like short bursts:
03:06 PM October 12, 2007 from txt
Mobile gtalk broken! Can't handle bus ride without chat! Arg!
08:14 PM October 12, 2007 from txt
Being subjected to only the finest and loudest Chinese rock ballads as the Chinabus rolls into Chinatown. Makes sense!
09:42 AM October 13, 2007 from im
Just Googled the word "Google" while inside Google's NYC offices for a nerd conference.
09:40 PM October 13, 2007 from web
checking out m.twitter.com from my "mobile" - badass!
09:42 PM October 13, 2007 from web
Passing Baltimore on the Chinabus-massive headache not improved by the driver singing along to the same Chinese pop CD for the third time...
As you can see, I spent most of my time twittering.
On Friday night I got a chance to catch up with DW and GW and DW's cousins. I also got a chance to meet up with MT and MK to go to one of the awesome restaurants where he's been taking pictures for Eater.com. Early Saturday morning was spent dealing with the subway after several beers (I wonder if what the conductor is saying has to do with me... oops.) and then waking up 4 hours later to shower and head to Chelsea for the knowledge bombs. The conference was a bit of a bust, but I did get to see Google's offices and was quite impressed. The knowledge bombs were more like knowledge BB pellets. The most I learned about Joomla! was that I already know a lot more than I think I do about Joomla!.
Right after the conference ended, I head over towards Penn station to be early for the Chinabus. With only an hour to spare, I didn't have time for anything meaningful, but ended up with just enough time to be bored and have to wander around Penn Plaza taking pictures. Oh well, I can't complain as a few good photos resulted. Two below and then more in the flickr set
Posted by Greg on Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
While over at my teacher's writing studio for the party the other night, one of the other guests noticed a prominently placed book and pointed it out: A Life Style Study of Bologna Users 1980.
"The author?" you ask.
I'll tell you WTF: thirty pages of pure hilarity (ok, maybe ten of thirty). This document appears to be a marketing study on Bologna. Clearly, like most gigantic corporations, Union Carbide had interests other than polluting Indian water supplies and kicking puppies.
I won't go into all of it's contents, but I can't help but post the first two pages from Bertha, the "heavy user" (pages 16 and 17).
Bertha's attitudes toward marriage and family are generally conservative and traditional. She does not think women can successfully combine career, marriage and motherhood. She does agree with her more liberal sisters, however, that men should share household tasks with women...
Bertha has a generally positive self-image, thinking of herself as happy and healthy. However, she may be letting her physical appearance slip somewhat. She does not go to the beauty shop, nor is she an exerciser or jogger.
I never would have guessed any of this information about "Heavy Users" of bologna! Her name is also almost too fitting. "Bertha"? Really? Come on! That just screams "fat bologna eating woman".
If this is what all marketing studies are like, I want more!
Here's the PDF for your full viewing pleasure. (Also available as a 21MB File here that's far more readable...)
Posted by Greg on Friday, September 28, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
There are moments when I can't stand my job - dealing with tiny nonprofits with no IT budget that want an amazing website with a Google map and integrated social network ("can it be, like, facebook?") - and then there are days like today, days when I realize that (a) things could be so much worse and (b) my lack of pay is actually doing some good.
This morning I checked my outlook calendar before leaving home and realized that I didn't have single internal meeting. I hadn't had a day without an internal meeting in a long time and decided it was a prime opportunity to work from home. One of the great things about the new job is that I don't have to lie when I say I want to work from home. Here's what I wrote:
One of the tasks on my calendar was to follow up with a hospice for the homeless located in Adams Morgan. They'd called about some glitches in an Access Database that someone at the company had built for them back in 2001-02. I called up and arranged to come in to take a look at the issue at 2pm.
The hospice is located in a large old house on a street behind Columbia road. I had a little trouble finding it because the address in our company database was wrong, but called after knocking on the wrong door and was directed by Candice. Once up the steps and through the doorway, I found myself in the foyer of a classic DC corner row-house. A large living room opened up to the left with a rounded window looking out onto the corner of the street. To the right, four people were sitting at a thick wood dining-room table. The youngest (about 14) picked at some food in his hands as he talked to the others and leaned back on the hind legs of his chair.
I'd never been to a hospice before, but had looked at the database on our own servers a little bit before hand. We didn't have any resident information, but we did have lookup lists of the various diagnoses that could be checked off for incoming patients: HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis C, Dementia caused by AIDS...
"Hi!" I said, "is, um, Candice here?"
"She might be in there," the youngest one said, pointing to the doorway straight ahead of me.
I walked around and into a long restaurant-style galley kitchen. Two women there directed me upstairs two flights where I met Candice and had her walk me through the various problems. Most of it was pretty easy stuff and an hour and a cup of coffee later, I had it all wrapped up.
On my way back out the door, I stopped by the kitchen to drop off my empty coffee mug and passed the youngest resident who was on the phone.
As I passed, he put his hand over the receiver and asked, "are you from DC Teen AIDS?"
It took me a minute to process before responding, "No. Sorry. I'm just an IT guy."
I left and the whole way home I couldn't help but think what an asshole I've been for having complained about anything in the past, well... ever. Who cares if I feel busy with trying to balance work and a class and the wedding and everything else? I'd never even considered the idea of seeing a 14 year-old with AIDS... let a lone a 14 year-old in a hospice. I'd expected to see elderly people, but only one of the six residents that I saw there looked to be over the age of 50.
Later this evening, I went to a party to celebrate the end of the small writing class that I took over at the USDA Grad School. Our teacher has a space that he uses for his business and writing classes over on Q street and I made it there only a little late after trying to wedge in some random home improvement tasks after finishing my work stuff.
Shortly after we arrived, someone asked the teacher what classes he was teaching now. Amongst others, he mentioned teaching a class at the University of Maryland which he'd been asked to take over after one of his colleagues, Nick, had died unexpectedly. Nick was only fifty-four and had died of a heart attack with no prior symptoms. The teacher told us a few stories about the funeral (including a priest refusing to stop a Liturgy while a mourner had a stroke and was carried out by EMTs) that lightened the mood a bit.
Later, we were talking about the class at UMD again and I asked what the course title was.
"Technical Writing," he said.
"Oh! I took technical writing when I went there," I said.
"Who was your professor?"
"I can't remember his name," I said, "but I remember that he was really good.... maybe it was Ni... oh shit."
"What was his last name?"
"I don't remember... maybe..."
"Oh yeah," I said. "That was it. Oh my god. It was him?"
And indeed it was. Nick Allocca was one of the few inspirational professors I can remember having at Maryland. He'd given me a recommendation for a temp job when I came back from Spain and had been one of the few professors to tell me that I was doing a good job verbally instead of through a grade, a rare feat in a school as big as Maryland. And now he's gone. There's another service in College Park on Wednesday and I think I'll go.
Some days I might feel like I'm overworked or that I'm not making a difference - not affecting something bigger than myself. Other days I don't consider anything larger than me at all. My day today was full of death - all of it making me feel sad and grateful.
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Our visit to the Grandparents' house in Colorado coincided with the annual Long's Peak Scottish/Irish Highland Festival in Estes Park, which is kicked off by a parade on Saturday morning at 9:30am. Granpda talked about it enough on Friday night when we arrived and again on Saturday morning that we figured we'd better go check out the parade to see what all the fuss was about. Given his recommendation, we kind of assumed that Grandpa would go.
"Have you ever seen the parade?" I asked grandpa.
"Oh, about once in the last 20 years."
"Do you want to come with?"
"Oh no! I don't want to see all that!"
The Scottish/Irish parade actually turned out to be a pretty big deal here in Estes, complete with bagpipers from Scotland and loads of Scottish Terriers and Wolfhounds. Tourists and residents crowded the parade route with collapsible chairs, which made viewing easy for us as we waited behind them. Our view was only blocked occasionally as everyone in attendance insisted on standing up every time an American flag came by.
After the parade, we headed over to the Post Office so that I could mail home my house keys before going to Safeway to get some stuff for next week and a short trip to Radio Shack to pick up a DC/AC car attachment that let's you plug in normal appliance (i.e. laptop).
After lunch, we headed back to Safeway with grandpa to pick up the raw materials for making home made ice cream in the evening.
I also got put in charge of making dinner, which went swimmingly until I dumped 2/3 of the pasta I was cooking into the sink as I tried to drain it. Oh well. R came to my aid and helped to finish the recipe (a good thing, too, as I'd missed a crucial instruction that involved taking a sauce off the heat before adding a bunch of ingredients).
This morning, we set out early to climb up to Sky Pond via Lock Vale and the Lake of Glass. A 4.4 mile hike in Rocky Mountain National park with a significant elevation gain that had our feet in pain within the first hour.
We ate lunch next to the Lake of Glass after climbing a massive waterfall (seen in the very back of the picture here). A storm started to roll in as we were finishing our sandwiches, so we had to give up on Sky pond and make our way quickly below tree line.
The way down seemed to take a lot longer than we'd expected, but we reached the car with only a little bit of rain and whining about our feet hurting. Then it was a 25 minute drive back to the grandparents where R made a delicious lasagna for the six of us. We also got to polish it off with the ice cream that we made last night. A caloric avalanche, but about what I'd expected from a trip to grandparents'.
Tomorrow, we leave early and drive Westward. We haven't really decided where we're going to go for sure, but know that we have to be in Vegas by Friday so that we can check in and appreciate the MGM Grand. I'd like to see the Grand Canyon for a second time along the way as the last time I saw it we were only there for half an hour. We're also planning on spending a day or two around Arches and Canyonlands and another one camping in Glen Canyon near the Utah/Arizona border. In any case, we'll try to head out around 8am tomorrow to drive up over the mountains and down to towards Moab or Mesa Verde.
All for now. More from the road!
Posted by Greg on Sunday, September 09, 2007
Friday, September 07, 2007
I'm currently waiting for Sis and her boyfriend SG at the Denver airport. Their flight said it was on time on all of the airport signage, but she'd texted from her layover in Detroit to say that they would be an hour late. Had she been wrong or had the airport screwed up the signs. She goes to Cornell. She is smart. The airport clearly attended some unaccredited university run by Jerry Falwell. It is dumb.
Thanks to this handy dandy blackberry bluetooth modem thing I got figured out before we left, I'm able to have free wireless wherever I get a phone data signal and could check the flight online at nwa.com to see that it was actually scheduled to arrive 45 minutes late. Stupid signs.
Stupid me, too. I remembered shortly after boarding the plane that I totally forgot to turn off my alarm clock before I left. Sorry neighbors! You're going to be waking up to track 5 of Peter, Bjorn and John's Writer's Block for the next two days until I can FedEx a set of keys to our friend CG to have him go over and unplug the thing. That'll teach me to reset it in my sleep every morning.
Once the kid and SG get off the plane and get their bags (she just texted that it arrived) we can go pick up the car and then drive the hour and a half North to Grandpa and Grandma's house in Estes Park.
Posted by Greg on Friday, September 07, 2007
Thursday, September 06, 2007
I'm taking the first vacation I've had since last July's trip to India that doesn't revolve around a specific event. R and I are off to visit the Gparents in Estes Park, CO and then road tripping to Vegas via Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce, Zion, the Grand Canyon and Death Valley.
I haven't done a Western road trip since 2001 and can't wait to see all that open space again! I thought about trying to ignore the blackberry and the laptop and all that jazz for a week, but I've been ignoring it all for the last two months in preparation for the wedding anyway... so what the hell. I figure I'll try to blog an entry a day from the road and maybe take care of my whole supposed to write for 30 minutes a day thing while I'm at it.
With that said, I'm off to bed. Look forward to a post a day starting tomorrow night from Mountain Time zones (with pictures, I hope).
Posted by Greg on Thursday, September 06, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog post about their eight things and include these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. (Cross your fingers NOW that you're not one of them.)
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and that they should read your blog.
In reaction to being tagged, here are eight random facts about me:
1. I can't swim worth a damn.
2. I went to Kindergarten in France and was beat up daily at lunch... by French kids.
3. I never beat Super Mario Brothers, but may or may not have nodded my head while listening to someone describe the final level.
4. My left foot is half a size smaller than my right, but it has nothing to do with club foot... I don't think. Might need to give mom a ring.
5. My shoe size is a 9.5 right, 9 left.
6. I'm hoping Pete's is a 9.5 left, 9 right and we have similar taste in footwear.
7. I'm not kidding about any of this.
8. I started the first "spread this or you will die" blog chain. Tell 8 people this in the next 8 seconds or you will die 8 times.
People I'm tagging below and Pete's post that tagged me.
1. Chris M. at Blogs Are Stupid
4. AP at Just Off The Boat
7. I need more friends with blogs that weren't already taken by Pete
8. See #7
Posted by Greg on Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
My company sets up goals for everyone each quarter. A measure for each goal is also set up, as well as scorers who rate me on my ability to meet the measure. Ten percent of my pay is contingent on my overall score on these goals. This payment can be made in the form of cash or vacation time as decided by me.
One goal is always a Quality Assurance goal, wherein one or more of the clients I've worked with for more than 40 hours is randomly selected and asked to fill out a survey. Another is a billing goal, which asks for me to meet a dollar amount that works out to about 5.5 billable hours per day. Given vacations and the number of non-billable meetings I'm in, this isn't actually the easiest goal to meet (especially since everyone leaves the office by 6pm at the latest). After those goals, everyone is supposed to set up some personal goals that address what we do outside of work. These don't count for much of a percentage of the entire score, but are a great motivator. In my case, the goal for the 2nd quarter was to enroll in a writing class and the goal for the 3rd quarter is to actually complete the homework for said class, which is the 30 minutes of writing that I've been neglecting to do every day. The goal started scoring on Monday and I've been doing pretty well since.
On Sunday afternoon, the Mac Book Pro, which I've been sorely disappointed with, decided to die. I went to open iTunes and the laptop threw an error dialog box that contained a glowing button and no text. I didn't click the button (that would just be stupid); instead, I decided that it was time for a reboot. Upon reboot, I was presented with a "do not enter sign". I googled "Do Not Enter Sign" in various configurations for at least half an hour before calling tech support. I would later learn that the "do not enter sign" or "prohibitory sign" was the old "broken folder icon" from OS X 10.2, which has been upgraded in its lingo, but not fixed with some kind of written explanation in OS X 10.4. (Macs are great and all, but they could really just shut the hell up with the awesome design elements when it comes to the symbols that show you you're going to lose all your data.)
On the phone with tech support, I learned that the prohibitory sign is a symbol of "massive kernel failure" and it was recommended that I try to get what data I could off of the computer by firewire-ing to my other mac and copying. This proved fruitless as I could only connect to it through the terminal (you know, the text interface) and even then couldn't get a directory listing of any of the folders.
I don't keep a lot of permanent information on the laptop as a rule. I've had one stolen before and realized that keeping the data on an external drive at home was a safer bet. In the case of the Mac Book, the only thing that I had on it that I hadn't saved was the folder full of daily writings for the class I'm taking. All gone! It's OK, though. There wasn't much there to speak of. The whole exercise is about getting words on a page, not actually reading them later (hence the fantastic term "crap-draft" to refer to the first things you right down... like this!).
So here I am.... no daily musings to speak of before this one and only ten minutes into my total writing time for today.
On Monday I counted writing time as time spent retyping the first five pages of one of the pieces I'd been working on for class that only exists now as a fifteen page print-out that's the combination of the two-and-a-half blog entries that I wrote after R and I went to India. It's actually a lot more fun to write it when it's not in a public forum since I get to use R's real name and generally not consider what others are seeing. Then again, paper may be even more permanent than the internet as it isn't subject to power outages.
On Tuesday I had class and counted all of the exercises that we did as my writing assignments. We had a few interesting exercises assigned, but the one that really brought forth some interesting stories asked everyone to close their eyes and try to remember a summer job through all their senses. Aurally, Visually, Nose-umm... -ally (Olfactorily?).
The most fantastic part about the whole exercise was listening to what everyone had come up with after fifteen minutes of scribbling and realizing that everyone had really loved their summer jobs. Whether it was cutting grass out next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, working landscaping in Vermont or the iced cream parlor in Michigan; each speaker's face lit up when they were allowed to spin their yarn.
I had the same feeling when I was sitting there describing my own summer job.
I had Grandpa look around in the local papers to see if there were any jobs and he sent me back one that asked for a roofer's assistant. Having helped my dad roof two houses previously, I knew a thing or two about tar-paper and shingling and called them up. They were happy to have me; I was willing to work for beans because I was living with my grandparents and wasn't attached to a contracting company.
After the spring semester ended, I went home to visit my Mom and Dad in New York. My Dad was excited about me doing a summer job that involved manual labor. Given my tendency towards all things computer-related, I can't help but blame him when I think back on it now. He made a point of taking me out to buy a pair of "good boots".
"You want good boots that won't let a nail go through your sole. Have I ever told you about the time that I stepped on a nail? Yyyyow!" He said, crossing his eyes.
I walked out of a work-boot store somewhere near Carmel, New York the proud owner of a pair of $80 steel-soled, steel-toed boots that where the most expensive footwear I'd ever worn before that day and I still have almost ten years later. These things were amazing. Nothing hurt. I spent an afternoon kicking rocks with my toes and showing my mom that I could drop heavy objects on them. Looking back, I'd say it was childish, but I'm still just as excited about them today and might write the rest of this while wearing them... Nope. Too lazy.
On a Tuesday, I started the drive from New York to Colorado in my four door, 1987 Toyota Camry Hatchback. Years before, a girlfriend had nicknamed the car "the noisy cricket" due to the on-off squealing sound that the engine made. I never liked the nickname, but never thought of my own so it stuck. Other than some boring nights in low-budget motels, a cracked oil pan and my window falling into the door in the middle of Kansas while it was raining (it rains in Kansas in June?) the trip was uneventful and three days later I pulled into my grandparents' driveway with exactly 2,001 miles on the trip-odometer.
I arrived on a Friday afternoon with the roofing gig starting on Monday. I spent Saturday and Sunday chatting with Grandpa, reading any of the two dozen magazines lying around the house and getting my stuff moved into the basement next to the grow-lamps for grandpa's Colorado Tomatoes. Grandpa and Grandma have been retired in Estes park since 1965. They were both the children of farmers in Illinois, both taught high-school (Grandpa Physics, Grandma English) and both retired at 50 to move to the place they'd always gone on vacation. They're both still kicking and have now been retired longer than they ever worked a job.
While they may not seem old in their independence, the grandparents' age shows in their eating times. Breakfast is at 5am, lunch is at 11am and dinner starts promptly at 5. Due to their lack of a dish washing machine, each meal is followed by a wash and dry session. Luckily, the air is so dry in the mountains of Estes Park that drying can be accomplished by lightly waving a dish or a glass in the air for thirty seconds.
At 5:30pm on my first Sunday there, a phone call interrupted dinner. It was Cindy from the developer's office of the company I'd been hired by to roof. The project that I'd been scheduled to work on had been canceled.
"I drove two thousand miles for this job," I told Cindy.
"I'm sorry. I understand. I think that there might be some jobs at the gas station at the bottom of the hill.
I stammered a bit, but didn't have any kind of comeback. In fact, being me, I probably ended up saying something like "I understand. It's not your fault. Thanks anyway." and then promised myself to write them a nasty letter that I never sent. How passive-aggressive can you get.
I spent the next week looking in papers for other jobs. Being a bit new to the job market (my previous jobs had been found through friends) an ad caught my eye that read "GREAT PAY. NO OFFICE. MAKE YOUR OWN HOURS." After a forty-five minute drive down the valley from Estes and another forty-five North I found myself in a tiny conference room of an office in a building of an office park straight out of Office Space being sold on the idea of selling knives. Again, being young, I don't think I recognized that knife-selling was a pyramid scheme immediately, but I did recognize that it wasn't something I wanted to do. The selling strategy was to start demonstrating the amazing cutting power of these knives to friends of your parents and other relatives and to then get the names of their friends so that you could demonstrate the amazing cutting power to them. The salesman, Steve, demonstrated the cutting power for us by easily slicing through a piece of rope with one of the knives from his case. If we wanted to sell knives, we would have to make a $220 deposit on our own demonstration case. I grew skeptical. Steve said we should take a break and asked me if I would walk outside with him.
"I could tell by the look on your face that you might not be into this, and that's OK."
"OK," I said. "Can I go?"
"You probably should," he said.
I walked out to the parking lot with a feeling like I'd done something wrong. It wasn't that I'd been denied a job or anything - who wants to sell knives - it was that I wasn't able to conceal my emotions during the demonstration of cutting power. I should never have felt that way. My emotional candor released me from could have been at least another hour of listening to Steve prattle on about how great knives are or, even worse, a career selling knives to my grandparents friends.
Later, Grandpa shook his head as I told him the story.
"Why couldn't they just tell you that it was a job selling knives before having you drive all the way down to Fort Collins?" He asked.
If I'd been smarter then, I would have said: "I guess they just don't have enough faith in their own product to tell people what it is."
But instead I probably said something like: "I don't know."
In any case, They were glad that I wasn't going to try to sell them or their friends knives.
A few days later, I found a job waiting tables at a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain that grandpa and grandma lived halfway up and ended up working there the rest of the summer.
What reminded me of the whole experience and why I bothered to write this all down, was when I recalled how I felt physically while I was working at the restaurant and my first immediate thought was how much much feet and knees hurt. I realized, thinking back, that the uniform for the restaurant had require brown shoes and that I'd only brought one pair that were steel-toed and steel-soled. Despite weighing five pounds apiece, I wore those boots every day of work that summer and only now wonder if it was just sour grapes at having lost a job that I traveled 2,000 miles for the day before I started.
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, July 25, 2007
But here I am... oh well, at least it's for a good cause and I'm in charge. I volunteered for this piece of the project and will suffer the consequences. No time for writing here as I have php code to type somewhere else. explode() this implode() that;
explode(",","blah, blah, blah") becomes array ( => blah,  => blah,  => blah) You get the idea (it's boring).
Here's the latest spam to make it through the filter!
Subject: graduate student pulled
learned by those
Hi. Are you doing good? Email me at email@example.com only. I am lonely girl. I will reply with my pics
academy report says. complaint. However it for your kids if you mind. However it must
You have to love that name. It says it all (unlike the message, which doesn't say much of anything).
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Monday, July 23, 2007
I'm really tired. Too tired to write. But not too tired to paste my favorite spam of the day (this one actually made it through Google's filter)
Subject: when to stop blogging
From: Allan Duarte
it struggling with academic
Good afternoon. How is the day going? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org only. I am nice girl. If you would like to see some of my pictures.
balanced with plenty out my final
I like the ending the best. I have no idea what it means. It might be just a bunch of random words... or it could mean something very dirty.
Posted by Greg on Monday, July 23, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I wrote some stuff on Monday night for class, but have been so swamped at work that there's no time to blog it as well. This is the last week that I schedule a website launch and any major work on anything else at the same time. In the meantime, I found this awesome warning label on the bureau from a curling iron that R bought. It can burn eyes, but can it burn... noses? Eyebrows? (not mine, of course)
Posted by Greg on Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Sunday, July 15, 2007
I didn't find time to write for the mandatory half hour yesterday. Given that it was only day two of my attempts to meet the requirement, I could say it was either a pathetic showing or a habit that will take some getting used to. I think I'll go with the latter.
Yesterday, R and I rented a Zipcar and drove down to the jewelry place in VA where I got her engagement ring. Sometime earlier in the week, one of the small stones in the ring had fallen out and we needed to get it replaced. The jewelry store is run by three brothers from Korea and located in a strip mall somewhere near Dunn Loring.
Driving down Lee Highway and Rt 50 reveals an American landscape that is vastly different from downtown DC and probably more akin to what you'd find somewhere in the Midwest... except for all the Vietnamese grocery stores. The four lane highway undulates over little hills blanketed in cars and SUVs waiting at any of what seem like 10,000 stoplights. A small strip of grass separates the main road from an access road on either side. The grass has grown tall and started to seed. Plastic bags and cigarette butts dot the shoulder and are caught in the long grass. More strips of uncut grass separate the access roads from the parking lots in front of strip malls. The strip malls repeat the same basic stores: a Chinese carry-out, a nail salon, a hair salon, a convenience store, a real estate office, and a gift store that sells mylar heart-shaped balloons, teddy bears, cards and little porcelain statues of dolphins and angels. Occasionally, a larger parking lot is encountered in front of one of the big box Wal Marts, Targets, K-Marts, and your lesser Ross' and Marshals.
With the same stores repeating endlessly, It's easy to not recognize where you're driving down these roads. There are no more unique landmarks, just street names or recognizable traffic back-ups (“We must be close to Glebe road,” you catch yourself thinking as you wait for ten minutes as the stop light ahead runs its cycle five times letting a trickle of cars through.
After dropping off the ring to have the stone replaced, R and I headed back down Lee Hwy to look for a suit for me at Sym's. I'd never been to Sym's before, but found their selection of ugly pleated pants vast. Pants aside, I ended up with a good tan suit that I'll get altered next weekend if I don't find one better between now and then.
Searching for something to eat afterwards amongst the vast stip-malls off Lee Highway proved nerve-racking. We ended up at eating some Pho at a Vietnamese restaurant called Saigon Cafe. The soup wasn't bad, but the beef in both of ours had that rainbow thing going on that's usually reserved for the roast beef at a Subway. According to the Internet (where else?) this iridescence is caused by the combination of the muscle fiber structure of the meet and water droplets; the effect is enhanced when phosphates are used to increase the amount of water that the meat can hold. No matter what the science is behind it, rainbow meat still looks bad in my soup. R and I both left most of it on the side... looking at the reasons for iridescence now, I won't do the same thing the next time.
After we picked up the ring, we had some extra time in the Zipcar and spent it driving around Columbia Heights looking at houses. We might be moving in year or two and the possibility of finding something affordable and big enough is a lot better up north. Also, there are a lot of excellent hipster bars up there that could use me as a customer.
We returned the car around 5pm and headed home for a bit before going over to PC's apartment for his birthday party. An enjoyable evening was had by all, including the fun of getting into a long winded argument about single-payer health care that ended in only minor cursing. Hooray! For now, I need to get ready for another week.
Posted by Greg on Sunday, July 15, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
In other news, I finally go around to installing parallels on the mac so that I could once again take advantage of the bliss that is allofmp3.com (no only available through the alltunes PC application). As such, I was able to download some albums I've been looking forward to, including the new Kings of Leon, Interpol, some Feist albums I've been meaning to get, the new Kaiser Chiefs album (mainly due to that damn "ruby" song stuck in my head) and the new Rufus. All good stuff. Out.
Posted by Greg on Friday, July 13, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The Post reports that Bush consulted with few when making the decision, but this is partly explained by another post article from yesterday that seemed designed to encourage sympathy for A President Besieged and Isolated, Yet at Ease. Of course he's at Ease! He can do whatever the hell he wants and only has to answer to some "God" that he thinks is OK with torture, capital punishment and pardoning of Cheney's former Chief of Staff. Granted, the last of these isn't nearly as important as the first two, but that's really just the point. How long did Bush spend thinking about commuting the sentence? Did he, like me, not even know what "commuting" was until a few days ago? Bush wakes up at 5:30am and is in the Oval office at 6:30am. He takes a break around dinner and then works until 9pm. He also takes weekends off and has taken more vacation than all former presidents and all of Europe combined. Why is he taking the time to even think about someone as tiny as Libby? There are much bigger problems in the world. The wife is of the opinion that this deal was struck long ago: Libby would accept the blame and the POTUS would commute/pardon him. Wife also doubts that Libby will pay the $250,000 himself.
This is all part of a much larger push by the President, Cheney and their cohorts to drastically increase the power fo the executive branch. As featured in a New Yorker article of a few months ago, the power of the Executive Branch is increasing thanks in large part to a crazy asshat named David S. Addington, who's Wikipedia entry reads like a who's who of neo-con jackasses:
From 1993 to 2001, he worked in private practice, for law firms Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz and Holland & Knight, and the American Trucking Associations. He headed a political action committee, the Alliance for American Leadership, set up in large part to explore a possible presidential candidacy for Mr. Cheney.
Addington's influence strongly reflects his hawkish views on U.S. foreign policy, a position he had apparently already committed to as a teenager during the late phase of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s.
Addington has consistently advocated that under the Constitution, the President has unlimited powers as commander in chief during wartime. In October 2005, Addington was tapped to become the Vice President's chief of staff, replacing I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who had resigned after being indicted on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. He is the legal force behind over 750 signing statements President Bush has added to bills passed by Congress. Addington was a legal advisor to President Reagan, and suggested that such signing statements be used to exempt President Reagan from responsibility for the Iran-Contra scandal.
Addington helped to shape an August 2002 opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that said torture might be justified in some cases. He advocates scaling back the authority of lawyers in the uniformed services. He consistently advocates the expansion of presidential powers and Unitary Executive theory, nearly absolute deference to the Executive Branch from Congress and the Federal judiciary.
Addington was mentioned by title in "Scooter" I. Lewis Libby Jr.'s indictment for five felony charges related to the Plame affair, regarding the leak of the identity of a CIA officer.
In November 2006, the German government received a complaint seeking the prosecution of Addington for alleged war crimes.
The Post has a good blurb on Addington here: Cheney's Cheney. All bad things. I wonder what the National Review has to say about all this. Oh, that's right, it was Appropriate Presidential Mercy. I guess every story has two sides. Finally, if you really want to read a ridiculous amount about Addington, try the 9 page article in US News from back in May here.
Granted, Addington and co have done nothing to increase the power that the President has to pardon, commute and otherwise grant mercy. But what they have done is give enough power to the Executive Branch to make Bush think that this is going to fly... and I sure hope it doesn't. The Constitution gives Bush the right to commute whomever he wants and this is something that should remain intact. What shouldn't remain intact is Bush's confidence that he can get away with doing whatever he wants. This kind of behavior is indicative of Bush's lack of respect for the will of the people. If all the terrorism scares in recent days don't tell us that Bush's policies aren't working, what will? The man needs to be taken to task.
Posted by Greg on Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Yes. It's true. Put a big check mark next to married. R and I tied the knot on Monday at the DC Superior Court. The big party with all the family in town isn't until September, but with different nuclear family members going in and out of town over the summer, the best time to get them down to DC turned out to be this past weekend.
I'll write a longer update at some point, but this week work is literally beating me over the head with a stick as I have a pretty complicated piece of site to design by the end of the day tomorrow and don't yet have the data in place to base it on.
Posted by Greg on Tuesday, June 26, 2007