08/24/2006

Riding the crest of the wave

I think I make a reasonable effort to keep pace with technology trends. Certainly, I like to know what geek-toys are out there, whether I own them. Mostly, I try to keep the big picture in mind of what's happening and what might be coming along.

On the other hand, while I've been aware of social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, I've not paid much attention. Neither have I really gotten into open-source applications like OpenOffice and Wiki. My job doesn't "require" it so I've been satisfied to know it's there and that it's a phenomenon. I've also taken a look at vlogs like hotair. Don't want to miss something important, mind you.

But yesterday I surfed by fastcompany.com and watched this video on Web 2.0. I was somewhat blown away by the number of new technologies (Ajax, for example. Okay, it's not really a new technology.) and the ways they are being used. Or maybe it's the proliferation of new websites. I don't know. There's a lot going on that I don't need, haven't really pursued, and can live without. But I'm thinking there is a trend building that will affect my life - and my kids' lives - and my grand-kids lives (way, way down the road) in ways I haven't really thought about.

These technologies are morally neutral as far as I can tell. It is what people do with them that makes them good or bad. For example, our IS Manager brought the subject of a work-Wiki up in a meeting the other day. He's mentioned it before, but I am starting to see how we can use it at work. There are some exciting possibilities there.

In other news, I just finished reading Glenn Reynolds' "An Army of Davids". Glenn is a libertarian and it comes through in his writing, in the book, on instapundit.com, on glennreynolds.com, etc. I thought he strayed from his thesis a few times, and for some of his predictions (like the Singularity), well, let's just say I'm in a wait-and-see mode.

That's all for now.

08/22/2006

It's late August and I really should be back at school

Or at least my kids are. Youngest started Kindergarten yesterday. First day is traditionally a half-day just about everywhere, and our district is no exception. Some school districts have half-day kindergarten, but not ours. They go all day.

I went to work a little late to get the obligatory first-day photos. Happy, upbeat, fun are all words I'd use to describe Youngest's mood. I wasn't there when she came home, having gone to work and all. Wonderful Wife could tell that things weren't quite copacetic when the kids got off the bus. There is the instant uncertainty - "Should I be worried?" "Did something happen at school?" "Is she sick?". A quick check of the forehead revealed we had a little inferno on our hands. Clear liquids, STAT! 100 MG Tylenol ASAP! Monitor body temperature.

She's been a trooper, that little one. Basically happy even though she's hot enough to melt microchips. Or Dell laptop batteries supplied by Sony. We're keeping the fluids and fever reducers going. Appetite is good. Energy not too bad.

You love your kids, you know, and you'd trade places with them in a heartbeat when they're sick.

22:24 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

07/03/2006

I've gone geek!

If you've noticed the tape on my glasses lately, don't be alarmed. I've gone over to the geek side, but it's not contagious.

It all started back in April when we got our new laptop (a Dell E1505). Having a laptop without a wireless network seemed almost pointless in this day and age, so we decided to go ahead and get DSL. To make the DSL work, I needed a NIC (Network Interface Card, or Ethernet Card) for the desktop. While I was picking up the NIC, I decided to spring for some extra RAM, since we've been running an anemic 96MB for 7 years. You know how they tell you that more RAM is better? They were right!

So I installed the NIC and the RAM - and it worked! I was so proud of myself. Then I hooked up the new AT&T/Yahoo DSL Gateway. I walked through all the steps of setting up a wireless network and voila! We're surfing the web on the sofa! Too cool.

Ah, but a true geek can't stop there. Inherent in the geek gene is a sixth sense that says "But it can do more." So I needed to set up file and print sharing (much harder than the internet connection). After playing with this for a week, I went ahead and bought a Windows XP SP2 upgrade for the desktop (it helped that I read that Win98 would not be supported beyond July 11, and that it was on sale for about 2/3 off) and installed that Saturday night.

So now I've got two machines, both with WinXP SP2. But I can't connect to the internet on the desktop. After an hour or so of troubleshooting, I called AT&T support. Hear ye! Hear ye! Hear ye! Let it be declared and proclaimed that AT&T has worthwhile technical support. At 9:00 on a Sunday night, I got a message that I should try turning off the router and the computer and turning them back on. That didn't help, but I called again and talked to Dave. He walked me through some of the steps I've already tried, and finally, we ended up staring rather disgustedly at a corrupt network stack. Fortunately, the problem was as simple as uninstalling the NIC driver and re-booting the computer. XP found and ran the correct driver on startup.

Up-Armored Vue
Eldest brought her best friend home from church last night. They had a great time, and were well-behaved to boot. In a morning of guilty pleasure, I took Eldest, her guest, and Youngest to the park (What's that you say? Why wasn't I at work on a Monday? BONUS HOLIDAY!) The girls played while I read and enjoyed the sunshine.

Finally, it was time to take our guest home at about 3:00 this afternoon. In our neck of the woods, we just about need body armor to go outside around July 4th, for fear that a stray bottle rocket might impact our vital parts. As I backed out of the garage, I wished I had up-armored the SUV.

My Walter-Mitty daydreams aside, the trip was pretty uneventful. In a senior moment, I missed the exit off the freeway, which meant I took the kids to that town with a strange name. Which worked out, actually, since Youngest had just fallen asleep and she got a bonus 15 minutes to nap.

And you can't beat that, can you?

22:00 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

06/07/2006

What do...

What do a giant, inflatable obstacle course, a pound of super-sour gummi worms, fake "rubys" and all you can eat picnic food have in common?

They were all part of my very busy day. Also part of the annual picnic at work.

So what have you been up to?

21:34 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

05/20/2006

Can't keep a good kid down

You know your kids are growing up when they start to mow the lawn for you.

Eldest did just that this morning. Actually, she mowed the front lawn. I mowed the back, which is pretty much a slope in one direction or another. She also pulled weeds and ran the vacuum cleaner after cleaning her guinea pig cage (a weekly task).

It was a good day. Wonderful Wife had to work, so the girls and I were on our own. The day started a little cool - but still warmer than we've grown accustomed to. It's been a cool May, for which I am grateful. I keep telling anyone that will listen "I would rather have it sixty-five than ninety-five". I stand by that statement.

Youngest graduated from Pre-K last night. We're telling her she can call herself a kindergartner. She was so thrilled to be graduating that she could hardly sleep. The graduating class was small - just five little scholars - but they were an enthusiastic group.

I haven't been reading blogs much. I guess that contributes to my lack of posting. On the other hand, I guess I get more done. Fair trade.

I'm using Google Desktop on my work PC and new (home) notebook. I like it. Searches are fast because of the indexing the program does automatically. Plus, the software searches program files, cached internet files, e-mail, the whole nine yards. That's pretty cool.

22:13 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (1)

04/19/2006

Back online

I'm a travellin' man, that's what I am. Spring is my heavy travel time, but I shouldn't complain. Heavy travel in my job means I go out of town maybe three times in three months. I've been to Mount Vernon, OH (see this post), Chicago/Kankakee/Bourbonnais (those of you who are familiar with the Nazarene higher education network might be detecting a pattern here) and Nampa, ID.

Typically, these are recruiting trips and I travel alone, as I did to Mount Vernon and Nampa. The trip to Chicago combined recruiting and an educational conference, the Human Capital Summit and my boss and I traveled together.

Oh, and I forgot the road trip. Here's how this interesting side trip worked out. I flew to Nampa on Tuesday the 11th, and flew back Wednesday night, getting to bed about 1:00 Thursday morning. We pulled out at 6:30 for a 3-hour drive to Omaha, where we went to a baseball game. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, with light breezes and warm temperatures. Plus, I always enjoy watching the Royals win. Unfortunately, we were watching the Omaha Royals, the AAA team for the KC franchise. Seems Omaha is the only team bearing that name doing any winning these days.

We stayed at the Omaha Marriott Thursday night. I know what you're thinking. Wow! Must be nice to stay at the Marriott. Yep. It is. Usually, we stay at a Comfort/Sleep Inn or similar chain. I got a super price on the Marriott room from Priceline - we paid $50 for a $189 a night room! Okay, I think they put us in the smallest room they had, and it was right next to the ice machine and elevator. On the other hand, it was very comfy and we didn't have to drag the luggage all over. Plus, we would have probably paid $80 or 90 for a Comfort Inn room.

Friday saw us checking out and heading for the zoo. Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo has a fantastic reputation, with good reason. Most of the best attractions are indoors, in climate-controlled environments. They're close to the main entrance, and you really don't get too worn out taking in the sites. Plus, they have a great menagerie. About six types of tiger, eight or ten gorillas (scientific name: "Gorilla gorilla gorilla" - no, really), an aquarium, desert dome and jungle habitats, and more. We had a great time. I highly recommend this zoo. I'm also glad that the former Henry Doorly curator/director (or whatever they call him) is now the head of the KC Zoo. We need the help.

After the zoo, it was another three hour drive home. We wished we had taken an extra night, but after watching the weather later that weekend, were glad we didn't. Seems some nasty weather broke out in the I-29 corridor Saturday evening, with tornados, hail, and high winds. I'm glad we were home, where things were quiet.

Well, I've taken enough of your time. For those of you who are family, check your e-mail for an invite to see our Omaha photos.

18:30 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (1)

03/21/2006

Aw! Come on!

Can't a guy get a break?

This town gets snow like a desert gets sharks!

The weather prognosticators were predicting up to eight inches of great white fluffy stuff starting Monday and into today. Guess what? We got a dusting!

Winter in KC is an emotional tug-of-war for me. On the one hand, I want it to snow. The prognosticators extraordinare predict snow - indeed, hype as though they were selling the stuff. Then what happens? It blows by north, south, east, or west. And I'm left without any snow.

On the other hand, even the dusting we did get slows traffic. Not to a crawl, but to a nice, manageable 50 mph.

Remind me again why I live here?

Thanks for putting up with my tirade. I almost feel better now.

11:46 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

03/17/2006

Travel blog

Note: This post was typed on my Palm Tungsten C on 3/9/06, but was trapped inside the device by an errant password and my aversion to re-typing.

Seventeen years ago last Thursday, I sat, sweaty palms and dry mouth, just a few feet from where I sit now. Across the table sat the lovely, gracious and talented woman who would one day become my wife. I think she was as nervous as I. As I recall, we both had sandwiches. It was our first date.

I'm in the finest dining establishment in beautiful, historic downtown Mount Vernon, OH. In a few minutes, I'll finish my Ham Stacker and vegetable beef soup and stroll the sidewalks of memory lane. I'll pass the accounting firm where Wonderful Wife worked when we married, the menswear shop where we rented the tuxes for the wedding, the jeweler where we bought our rings (someday I'll upgrade that diamond dust), the bank where we first opened a joint account, the florist where we bought the flowers for the wedding.

It's later now. My tour of downtown revealed that the menswear shop is now Sips, a coffee shop with a kickin' espresso. The jeweler is still there, as are the accounting firm and the bank. Many of the other shops have converted into antique stores. The theater is closed down, replaced by a multi-plex on the outskirts of town, right next to my hotel, in fact.

I stopped in Sips, in part to inquire as to the past history and confirm my suspicion that it once sold men's clothing, in part to get a cup of something warm (hence the afforementioned kickin' espresso). One of the things I like about Mt. Vernon is that every restaurant, every coffee shop can be a meeting place for the town's leadership. On a simliar trip years ago, I enjoyed my scrambled eggs and bacon while eavesdropping on some of the town's elders at the large table nearby. This night, there was a group of church leaders discussing outreach strategy.

People complain about Mount Vernon's remoteness. For me, that's part of the charm. Give me a stable, insular society any day.

13:20 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

01/28/2006

Airplanes and Acrobats

So let's see... what have we been up to?

I've been very busy at work. It's that time of year for annual employee benefit statements, which means hours and hours and hours and - well you get the point - of data entry. Mind-numbingly complicated and overwhelming spreadsheets and a mail merge that I hope works just one more time. Next year, I'm going to start with a consolidated database. I sure am.

In the midst of the mess, I took a vacation day Thursday. I had a day left over from '05 that I had to take by 1/31 or lose, and Eldest was going on a field trip, so along I went.

And where did we go? Glad you asked. Whiteman Air Force Base, Knob Noster, MO, home of the world's only fleet of B-2 Bombers (didn't see any. Well, there was the wooden model in a display case at McDonalds. Does that count?). We had fun. We didn't get hurt, but we still had fun (You out there, Sis? For the rest of you, that's an inside joke.)

For me, the most amazing part of the installation was the de-commissioned Minuteman launch control site we toured. Besides being really fascinating, it was the only time we got off the bus except to eat. Where was I? Oh, the control site... buried 60' underground, cased in concrete and steel and secured behind an eight-ton and a six-ton blast door was a pill. Take a giant concrete and steel Contac capsule, dump the medicine out, and put some 707 pilot's chairs in it, and you have Mission Control. You should also suspend it from huge springs in case "the big one" hits directly overhead. You wouldn't want the vacuum tubes in the computer to get busted, would you?

So what was so amazing about the vacuum tubes? How about the fact that this dinosaur-age (in computer terms) stuff worked! That there was multiple redundancies both of security and of ability integrated throughout the system in a way to keep our country secure against MAD. It just boggles the mind.

Last night (Friday) we had tickets to see the Red Panda Acrobats at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I was a little disappointed that there were only two acrobats (and one didn't do any handstands, etc.). On the other hand (on which the main performer, Wayne Huey, was standing), the tricks they did perform were pretty amazing. The girls were enthralled. Okay, I enjoyed it.

After, dessert at Winstead's on the Plaza. I've got a cute kid story. We were ready to order. The waitress was going around the table, taking our requests and when she got to Youngest, the little tyke spoke up and said "Me and my father are going to share a Brownie Sundae."

Way too cute. If you don't see it, I guess you had to be there. Wish you could be.

That's all for now. Long, long day ahead.

07:49 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (2)

01/15/2006

Life in the city

The schuss of the blades on ice; the laughter and excited jabbering of kids and parents; the pounding of the jackhammer. Jackhammer? What's that doing here? Read on, o guest, to learn more.

One of the advantages of living in the city is the wide variety of activities available. Like most people, we probably under-use the ammenities around us. When we do take time to smell the roses, it is an exciting adventure. Friday's adventure took us to the Ice Terrace at Crown Center, Hallmark's downtown shopping mall.

So, with a lot of excitement that I left work early on Friday. Parked out front was our red Saturn, encapsulating my family world. As I walked out the front door from work, the blue sky and stiff breezes told me this was going to be fun.

Pushing off to the north, the car almost found its way to the parking garage by itself. A left, a right, another left, and we were looking for a parallel set of yellow lines with no vehicular transportation device wedged between them. The girls were incredibly excited and were ready to start on our adventure. But first, we had to refuel, so we headed to Fritz's. Some might call the blend of Americana and model railroads kitsch, but the kids don't care. When you pick up the phone to order your lunch (hamburgers, too small; chicken nuggets, rather like cardboard) or watch the model train deliver your meal via hydraulic tray lift, they are all eyeballs and chatter.

Lunch over, we headed across the street. The afforementioned jackhammer and company had taken over the courtyard area between Crown Center and the Ice Terrace, so we were following the plywood signs touting "This way ot the Ice Terrace >". Unfortunately, the high winds had knocked several of the diminutive guides flatter than the Kansas prairie. Fortunately, we were close enough to pick our way from marker to marker to our destination.

And so it was that we spent two plus hours in the chill air. The kids had a blast, I didn't break anything, and we all had a good time. My only regret is that you can't ice skate when it's warm.

Then, home (okay, we stopped to wash the car on the way, since Youngest dropped off to sleep almost as soon as the car started moving) for dinner. Later, we watched Go Figure on the Disney Channel. A kid's girl's movie with all the standard features - fish out of water, sibling rivalries, cliques and youthful dreams. It was a fun ending to a day of skating.

16:43 Posted in About Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

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