Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Wow, this has been a crazy month. I don't know if it was the 30 posts/30 days thing last month or just all the Christmas planning, but I haven't had a chance to blog in a while.

So some updates:

No iPhone yet. Still need to wait to get Deb her Christmas present

I helped with the 'holiday breakfast' for Courtney's school. Pretty fun, but I wouldn't want to be her teacher after all those kids ate all that chocolate, sugar and caffeinated drinks.

Christmas Eve Mass went pretty well with the little guy. We arrived an hour and a half early and found an empty parking lot. This is strange since most years there are already a lot of people in the church by then. Another sign that our church is no longer as active as before. We didn't even try to go to the church, instead going to the 'hall' where they had a second mass at the same time. Christopher had to explore everything, including the bleachers in the gym where Mass was said.

By the time Mass was ready to start he was a little fussy, but not bad. I held/fought with him the whole Mass. I was setting on the right aisle, left most seat so I could see the priest and he could see me. I swear he saw Christopher stick the Curious George sticker on my nose. When we went to communion he gave me a strange smile, so I guess he did.

Did I mention the battery on the van had died before we went into Mass? So between keeping Christopher occupied I was looking around for anyone I knew to give me a jump after mass. I forgot this was Christmas, so most of the people were there for their once a year visit. We went out to the car and held our breaths as it turned over and started. I think what happened was we were waiting in the car before mass and drained the battery with the DVD player. It has been fine since.

We ended the night with our traditional Chinese food dinner (no Jason we aren't Jewish, but this is the South so nothing else was open!)

Christmas day was nice and some-what relaxing. Christopher received two dozen Thomas engines, 100 yards of track and lots of other Thomas-themed toys. So we've been doing trains since.

I'll get some pictures up in the next day or so, but the kids (and Deb except for the iPhone mess) all were happy with their presents. I received a couple of cool things, but my favorite was a t-shirt Deb found from Cherry Bomb. On the back it says 'Disturbing the Peace since 1968'. (They make high performance mufflers.) Since I was born in 1968 it was fitting.

We are currently trying to figure out what to do for New Year's Eve.

Not much else new around here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Nice service AT&T so much for customer loyalty

So Deb wants an iphone for Christmas. Shouldn't be a big deal right? We've been with Bellsouth/AT&T for 15 years. So I went to the store today to see what my options are.

Turns out, we aren't eligible for upgrades until 1/1. Yes 2 weeks from today. And they won't budge on the upgrade date. So a new iphone is $399 or $499 today. I wait 2 weeks and it is $199 or $299.

So $200 for 2 weeks. I get putting limits on when you can upgrade, but being within 2 weeks and not giving me a break, especially before Christmas?

I need to go do the math, but I think it is cheaper for the next two years to break the contract and go with Verizon and get her one of the new blackberries.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

30 posts in 30 days

So that wasn't has hard as I thought it would be. I missed 1 day once I got started, but made up for it with a couple of multiple-post days.

I only had one 'filler' day when I didn't feel like writing. Not bad.

And I haven't exhausted my list of blog ideas. So look for a few more interesting (or bizarre) posts in the coming weeks.

Hydraulic UPS Trucks?


This is very cool. Forget about gas/electric hybrids, how about going 100% hydraulic? UPS, who uses an obscene amount of fuel for their fleets, who also figured out how to not make left turns, is introducing a hydraulic driven truck.

Details here.

I'd love to hear how acceleration is in such a drive train. Do they have an ABS-like control pump to control speeds?

Anyway, great idea to reduce fuel needs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Middle School Career Day

The Friday before Thanksgiving, Meghan's middle school had a career day. This is the third time I've done it for the 8th graders. Unlike the elementary school kids, this is more focused on getting the students thinking about what they want to do post High School.

I took some of the slides from last year, but upgraded them to remove pictures of Meghan and talk about the new things my company has been doing about Share To Social on Facebook. I also told them about Caitlin Davis and how she blew everything with one picture.

Deb was in the first presentation, which was the first time she's ever seen me present in public. Then Meghan was in my last group. The first and last groups were very interactive, asked questions and responded when I asked them questions. The second group pretty much sat there and looked at me.

I did manage to freak out the teacher. The classroom is equipped with a 'smart' white board that detects when you click on it with your hands and fingers. I had not worked with one before, but I was able to quickly incorporate it into my presentation. It is easy to explain what a requirements document is, a testing environment etc. when you can show them.

The freak out came when I was talking about what a QA (Quality Assurance) team does. At a couple of different points in my career I have managed QA teams so it was on the 'how I got here' slide. So I explained quickly what 'negative testing' is, by walking up to the board and running my hands across it like it was a table of sand. The board flickered, changed views, changed colors etc. but eventually settled back down. I told the students this was what a QA person would do: something you would never expect. I thought the teacher was going to freak the first time. Even Deb said something later about her face as I did it.

I enjoyed doing this and will do it again next year if asked.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Ever regretted sending an email?

Or calling an ex (or current) at 4 am to tell them how you feel?

Well, Google has decided that they can help you not send that email when you've had a little too much holiday cheer. It is called 'mail goggles'. Really. See here.

The name is unfortunate, since 'beer goggles' imply doing something you wouldn't if you weren't drinking. To me 'mail goggles' would make you more likely to send an email.

Something like Gmail popping up a dialog box:

'Hi, it is 4 am and I see you are sending email. According to my advanced A.I. I see you used to send Suzie messages every eight hours or so, but haven't in 3 months. Would you like to send her one now?'

Can't stop you from calling that person, but isn't that what friends are for?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Wow, what a busy couple of days.

Usual turkey-related events all day. My Mom was visiting so she showed Meghan how to make gravy, played the Wii with the girls and overall had a good time.

The turkey was done a couple of hours earlier than expected thanks to the new oven, so we had a late lunch instead of early dinner. Still good though.

We then went to the park since it was almost 60 degrees here. 30 this morning 60 around 4 pm. You have to love the south!

For those who know Deb, I can assure you there was plenty of chocolate for dessert. A bunt cake, a chocolate cream pie and sugar cookies decorated as turkeys rounded things out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

geek frustration - picture frame

I just spent 3 very frustrating hours trying to figure out why the digital picture frame I bought my mom a couple of years ago wouldn't show the images I send her. It is a NuVue 561 and works fine with the 2 GB SD card from her camera, but not the 2 GB SD card I bought for her.

I finally figured out that the NuVue only supports 1.0/1.1 of the SD specification, but the new cards are all 2.0 of the specification. The problem I was having is the 2.0 GB card I bought for her camera two Christmas' ago is a 1.1 (so it worked), but anything new is 2.0.

I eventually found that the Kingston Memory 2.0 GB cards are 1.0/1.1 so that works in the NuVue.

Overview of what we're doing: I bought my mom a card reader for her Mac laptop to copy images from CD/camera to the card in the picture frame. This way I can send her CDs of the kids, she picks what pictures she wants and can update the frame.

Wordless Wednesday - Bubbles




See who else is 'wordless' today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Backing up files, images and videos to the Internet

As more and more of our history is recorded on digital media, the risk of losing everything due to a non-disaster grows. In the past, it would take something major like a fire, flood or tornado to destroy all the pictures and negatives we createed. Now, it take a power surge or just disk drives wearing out.

For this reason, I have 3 copies of every digital picture and video we've taken and why I'm starting to have all the old negatives scanned. One copy is on Deb's computer (which I bought a new drive for because we have over 22 GB of stuff now), one copy on my computer (which I'll buy a new drive after Christmas for since it is full now) and an external hard drive that I store away from either computer.

The thinking is that if we lose one hard drive, we have the other copies. If we get robbed they (hopefully) won't find the external drive or not know what it is since it looks like a book.

That doesn't protect us from the same disasters that could impact us if we had photos.

However, I have found something that can help. Mozy is an online backup system. You buy space on their servers and install a client on your PC (Mac too I think). The client monitors files in specific directories and copies new or changed files to the Mozy servers.

Depending on the speed of your UPLOAD connection to the Internet (usually about 1/4 the download speed) it can take days to get the first backup. For example, to backup 600 pictures, around 3 MB each, it took about 24 hours. The first backup, which was around 20 GB took a week since I only have 300 KB up speed.

Downloads are pretty reasonable and the UI (both web and install) is pretty intuitive. It also knows when the PC is in use so it doesn't take all the CPU or bandwidth.

It can also be used for any file on your computer, such as Quicken records, old taxes, documents for school or work etc.

The only thing I would do differently, is I would have taken the PC to work for the first sync since we have 100 MB up/down pipes there. It would have been done in an hour instead of a week. (No, not really, that would be an abuse of corporate resources. But I seriously thought about it 5 days in.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Blah day

So I'm trying the 'post a day in November' thing, but today I just don't feel like coming up with something creative.

It is raining, cold, I had to work and I didn't get a lot of rest this weekend. Damn I'm old.

I shouldn't complain since we're in a drought, but it still kind of sucks.

At least I didn't fill the screen with 'Blah'.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Photo and negative scanning

Want to join all your friends uploading old, sometimes embarrassing photos of your friends growing up to Facebook? Wanting revenge on that friend who put you senior H.S. photo, with big hair and leg warmers online?

Well, have I found the service for you.

ScanCafe is one of a dozen or more photo and negative scanning companies you can use. However, they are a little different.

First, they don't want you to pick specific negatives to send them, they suggest you send them all and let them scan them in. Then they present them online for you to choose which ones you want to keep. You go to their website, select the ones to keep. Then they create a DVD and mail it back to you.

This was really useful for those old photos where you took 2 or 3 of each scene 'just in case'. Now, just select the best one and skip the others.

They ship your negatives or photos to India, but that isn't a big deal any more. Heck UPS offers overnight to most places in India, so don't sweat it.

I've used them twice so far, sending around 600 negatives each time. Turn around was < 6 weeks each time. I haven't been going in any specific order, so when I get them back it takes about 30 minutes to sort them into the correct folders.

Some examples from Christmas 1995 :


(Chris, if you want a hi res one of this let me know and I'll zip one up.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

144.5 MPH this morning


For my 40th Birthday my brother Pat got me a gift certificate for 3 laps as a rider around Atlanta Motor Speedway from the Dale Jarrett Racing Experience. The first opening was this morning, so we loaded up the family, including Grandma Marie, and headed down.

It was 27 degrees when we left this morning. It was maybe 40 when we got there, but it didn't matter!

The first thing I did was to get in the fire suit and picked out a helmet. Then climbed into the #99 Office Depot car. It took a few minutes to get my picture taken, so Deb was snapping away. As for the teddy bear, I'll explain that later.



When we started the first thing I noticed was how banked the turns were when you are up that close. Starting on the lower stripe it was very noticeable. The first lap was to get up to speed but you could definitely feel the speed and g-forces. As we approached turn 3 you could see where someone lost control of another car and hit the wall. Skid marks right into the wall. It didn't bother me, but is something that stuck in my head.

The second lap, the first at full throttle was a different experience. Going hard into turn 1, the driver lifted off the gas, but you could still feel the g forces. He got back on the throttle going into turn 2 and you could feel the pressure on your left side.

Straightaway next, lots of speed, then he didn't brake going into turn 3, and I was pressed back again. Turn four went quickly then another straight away.

Lap 3 into turn one I could feel the pressure on my left ear and was pushed back even farther into the seat. When he hit the straightaway again I looked over at the tachometer and saw he was pushing around 5500 RPM. Lower than I expected but still pretty damn fast.

Turn three for the third lap was even faster, this time my head was being pushed back. Oh, I was wearing an Hans device. Amazing piece of technology if you don't know what one is.

Lap 4 was our fastest, taking 0:38.5 seconds. Based on the calculator on the website, that equated to 144.5 MPH.

Lap 5 was a slow down lap. Total time in the car was probably less than 5 minutes, including getting out.

Apparently when the car was pulling in the brakes were squealing and my Mom wasn't too happy about that.

Christopher was interested but not as much as when he sees a train. But he was good. The girls were great and enjoyed seeing the racetrack and cars.

As for the teddy bear, Christopher took home his class' 'pet bear' for the week. He needs to write (well okay we do) about what he did with the bear. About 6 other kids have done it so far and the most exciting seems to be a trip to Walmart. I think Christopher is going to have the best story of the year. No, the bear didn't go on the ride with me, but I explained to the guy getting me in the car about the bear and he brought it over for Deb to take a picture of.

This was definitely one of the cooler birthday presents ever. Thanks Pat!

Lots more pictures on the Flickr site.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why are people posting old pictures on Facebook?

So what is the reason that so many people are posting old photos on Facebook now? A few weeks ago I created an account for Deb and she's been a social butterfly since. Meghan also has an account, but with the amount of trouble she and her sister have been in, she hasn't been allowed on for a couple of weeks (nor will she for a couple more!)

Besides racking up dozens of friends much faster than I did, Deb seems to be reconnecting almost immediately with the key people she went looking for. Must be a female thing. (ducking)

Anyway, I've noticed in the last few days a dozen different people I know, all from different social/work circles are uploading pictures from high school or college and tagging everyone. I've been on Facebook for more than a year and this is the first time I've seen this.

So, how do you prevent your college roommate, who you don't talk to much, but friended anyway, from posting a picture of you from that one toga party where all your business colleagues can see?

First: learn about Friend Lists. This feature allows you to group your friends into lists that you name, that can then be used in defining privacy settings. I have 5: Family, Real Friends, Work, Kids of Friends, Other. (Click on Friends in the top, then on the left side you will see 'Make a new List'. Then you can select the friends to go into that list.) When you add a friend, or approve someone adding you, you can select the list to add them to.

Then, look at the security settings on your profile. (hover the mouse on 'settings' on the top, then select 'privacy settings'. ) See that section about 'Photos Tagged of You' and 'Videos Tagged of You'? Change them to only allow 'Family' and 'Real Friends'. If you have a bunch of prick friends, like that college roommate (No, not Laryssa, the other one ;-) Then create a Friend List 'Prick Friends'.

This way only the people you want to see a tag, such as Family and Real Friends, can see a tag and no one else can. Just ask the Caitlin Davis how nice that would have been.

FYI: I'll be showing the 8th graders at Career Day this trick tomorrow. More about that tomorrow night.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Radical football offense - A-11

This is kind of cool. A team in California needed a way to be competitive against the bigger schools in football. Since the school district was small, the chances of getting a group of large boys to play was pretty slim. Kind of like Immaculate vs. Danbury High most years.

So the coach came up with his own offense. One that didn't rely on a big offensive line or big fast running backs. Instead, it is about misdirection, confusion and having 2 quarterbacks. yes 2.

It is really interesting to watch the plays. In most of the plays the offensive line is just standing (actually they keep their feet moving, like Mr. Dunleavy taught us) looking for someone to hit.

Looking at some of the scores, I guess their defense is pretty bad because of their size, so they have to score a lot of points. Some of the scores look like professional basketball scores!

Link to the story, with videos, on Deadspin.

Monday, November 17, 2008

we don't wear no mini-skirts, we just wear our softball shirts!

Well, we finished another season of softball. Courtney's team didn't do great in the regular season, but did really well in the tournament. Personally, I was most proud of them for not getting down on themselves or each other when things weren't going well.
I was again 'dug out dude', so I got to know most of the girls really well. And they got to hear me yell my head off a few times.
This year was a little different than before. To be brutally honest, the last several years the girls epitomized 'sugar and spice and everything nice' regardless of how sweaty and dirty they got. Not this year. Ah the joys of hormones.
Of course, they are all proud of not being clean and sweet-smelling. In fact, they often tried to out-boy any 10 year old boys around them. I was reminded of this during our end of season pizza dinner at one of those bouncy places. Not only did they get sweating, yelling (and a little fighting with those big boxing gloves), but they had a burping contest. They still giggled like little girls, but some burped like Shrek.
For those who haven't heard the line quoted in the title a couple of thousand times, go to a softball game and you'll hear it until your ears bleed. Other cheers here.
Full chant:
We Don't Wear No Mini Skirts We don't wear no mini skirts, We don't wear no mini skirts. We just wear our softball shirts. We just wear our softball shirts. We don't drink no lemonade, We don't drink no lemonade. We just drink our Gatorade, We just drink our Gatorade. We don't play with barbie dolls, We don't play with barbie dolls. We just play with bats and balls, We just play with bats and balls.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

First (of many I'm sure) trip to the ER

It is good to be a boy. Sometimes.

Today, Christopher found out what it feels like to get stitches in his forehead. He was being a typical toddler, who didn't want to put on his shirt. I was standing behind him, Deb was sitting on the floor after getting his pants on. He tried to escape from me putting his shirt on, bent over at the waist and went head first into the porcelain garbage can we have in our bathroom.

Yes, head cut, so there was blood everywhere. We got it stopped, then loaded up Courtney and Christopher and headed to the ER. Surprisingly, this is Christopher's first trip to the ER and he is 2 and 3/4 years old (exactly today, weird). Both the girls were in and out for non-injuries like fevers, puking etc. But not Christopher, he's been pretty healthy.

Since it has been a while since we went to the Children's Health Care of Atlanta ER, we didn't know they moved the entrance. Took a few seconds to figure out where we were. Very cool thing they do: they have valet parking at the ER. So rather than having to find a spot, getting the kid bundled up etc. I pulled up to the door, took the ticket, picked up Christopher and went straight in. Deb got the coats, toys and Courtney then followed us in.

The wait to be start the process was about 10 minutes after we signed in. Not bad. Then 10 to 30 minutes between each step. Another nice thing: as soon as we were put into the examining room (after the vitals, paperwork and a regular waiting room) the nurse and doctor were there within a minute of us sitting down. Total time was about 2 and 1/2 hours.

We knew the gash on his head was going to require stitches before we even arrived. So when the ER doctor looked at him I asked to have the plastic surgeon on call come down and look at him. The ER doctor didn't seem to have an issue with this, which was pretty cool considering problems we've had in the past with the girls getting a specialist to look at them while in the ER.

Now the fun starts. They have to give Christopher a pain killer and 'loopy' drug to get him calmed down before stitching him up. Well, both tasted horrible, so he fought with the nurse, Deb and I to get it down. He then spit up about half of the dose. They weren't sure how much he kept down so they were going to come back in 30 minutes to see how it went. Before leaving the nurse gave me a gauze pad with a numbing agent and asked me to hold it on his cut. Yeah, that went over well. After about 5 minutes he finally settled down as it started working. Of course the medicine got all over my fingers so they were numb holding him.

Stitching him up when pretty well. I was about 6 inches from the cut watching the doctor stitch it up because we wrapped him in a sheet and I then pinned him down. This is one seriously strong boy. 5 stitches, with small thread and a doctor who was taking his time. Christopher was great. I could tell he was scared, but he didn't cry or fight once the wound was cleaned out.

Did you know they make glue for covering stitches on kids? Rather than fighting to keep it clean, they put a glue over the cut that seals it. It takes about a week to evaporate.

By the time we left he was starving (so was everyone else), so we got some fast food and headed home. Within 3 hours he was back to himself, running around, throwing toys, dumping out Lincoln logs, everything. One funny thing: I had shaved about 50% of my face before this happened, so as I was driving home I realized how funny I must have looked.

Well Christopher, welcome to the scar club. When you are older I show you all my scars and the stories behind them.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

How an engineer folds a t-shirt

While I never worked in retail (I bussed tables, washed dishes and was a 'dietary aide' as a teenager) I understand there is an art to folding shirts. This really funny article from the Wall Street Journal talks about the 'brain washing' or 'cult' of folding shirts at the Gap.

Well, I'm a geek, so my motto is 'why do something twice if you can automate it?'.

Thus, this video.



No, I don't have one of these. Yet. It is still cheaper to have the guy who comes to my door twice a week to pick up my work shirts for dry cleaning than doing it myself.

Friday, November 14, 2008

160 GB of disk for $55

Deb's computer had pretty much run out of space with all the videos and photos we are converting/scanning (more about this in a later post.) To the point where she had less than 1 GB of diskspace left.

So today I bought her a 160 GB second drive for her PC. It installed in less than 10 minutes and took about 30 minutes to copy over 20+ GB of pictures and videos.

I'm now moving her outlook PST file.

This disk is significantly faster than the current C: drive and I can already see improvements in browsing.

This is amazing since less than 5 years ago I paid over $55,000 for 200 GB of usable storage from IBM for work. Yes, the RAID chassis was a good chunk of the costs, but still I couldn't have imagined having 160 GB FREE on a computer sitting in my kitchen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Can you help my brother and sister-in-law?

They've been trying to adopt a little girl from China for a very long time and they've hit another snag in the process. In a nutshell, can you write a letter for them? I'd appreciate it so I can send them another big stuffed animal ;-)

Cute pictures of Molly on their blog.

Details:

As you know, we have been waiting to adopt our Molly for years. Now we finally have our referral and we are caught in a paperwork disgrace that is keeping our daughter in an orphanage for no other reason than red-tape – poorly administered red-tape at that! We were supposed to bring Molly home in September, but we are still waiting for our US visas to travel. It is the US holding us up – NOT China.

We are writing to ask for your help. In hopes that it will make a difference, we asking friends to please help us execute a more aggressive letter writing campaign in order to try to get things moving. We have been in touch with our Congressman, Senator and the Governor in Maryland as well as the Chair of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law. Some have been more helpful than others, but no one seems to have been able to make a difference so far.

If you could please bring this matter to the attention of your local representatives in Congress and in the Senate, it might have some impact. This link provides email address: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/. We know that a lot of local officials are in transition at the moment, but this information should be good for the next couple of months.

If you have time, we’d also like to ask you to please contact the Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law. Zoe Lofgren is the Chair (address below + email on her website. http://lofgren.house.gov/). Here is a link to a list of committee members: http://judiciary.house.gov/about/subimmigration.html. Please note that Randy Forbes is from Virginia (http://forbes.house.gov/zipauth.html) and Anthony Weiner is from NY (http://weiner.house.gov/).

In hopes that it will simplify the process for you, I’ve also included a basic ‘form’ letter that you can feel free to alter in any way (below).

I know I’m asking a lot of you in your busy lives. We can’t thank you enough for your help and look forward to sharing happy news soon.

Katharine and John


Suggested Information for Letter

I am writing on behalf of my friends John and Katharine Curtin and their daughter Molly. Thank you in advance for your help with this most important matter.

The Curtins are in the process of adopting a child from China. After a very long wait, they finally received their referral for a beautiful little girl from Hunan Province who is currently residing in the Chenzhou orphanage. Her Chinese name is Chen XiDi and her American name will be Margaret XiDi Curtin – Molly.

They were supposed to take custody of their daughter on September 2, 2008. However, they cannot travel without approval of their I-800A (Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country). Although they were already approved for an I-600A (the ‘pre-Hague’ version of this form) they had to file for the I-800A when they moved to Maryland in June 2008.

Even though they have a child waiting for them, no one will help them expedite their application. Worse yet, they have had no feedback at all since they filed their paperwork and the adoption community continues to hear about long waits and bureaucratic hold-ups. This all means that their beautiful little girl is left sitting in the orphanage when she should be home with her own loving family.

Every extra day that a child spends in an institutional environment contributes to developmental delays and complicates the transition once they are placed with their adoptive family. The longer Molly is waiting in the orphanage, the more difficult the adoption process will be for her. There are also concerns about her health since many of the babies were hospitalized last winter during the snowstorms that resulted in power losses and loss of heat for 8 days. If this resulted in asthma, as is apparently common in this region, she may need treatment. And now, as you may be aware, there is a major health crisis in China that endangers all children – tainted baby formula – which is causing kidney stones and even deaths.

Please help our friends bring their baby girl home.



Subcommittee on Immigration
The Honorable Zoe Lofgren, Chair - Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law
102 Cannon House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Telephone (202) 225-3072


Other officials we have contacted:
Maryland State Senator
The Honorable Barbara Mikulski
503 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C., 20510
Phone: (202) 224-4654

Maryland Governor
The Honorable Martin O’Malley
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1925
410.974.3901

Congressman for Maryland’s 8th District
Congressman Chris Van Hollen
1707 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-5341

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Yankee Workshop - in Legos!


This is just cool.

Meghan and I used to watch this show all the time when she was little.

from GeekDad.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

All I want for Christmas


Yes you can get me a full size one. See here. I'm sure there is nothing in the neighborhood covenants about this. I'll put it in the backyard by the swing set for the kids to play on.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marley and Me

I haven't read the book yet, but I do know it must be pretty good. Why? I don't have to nag either of the girls to read it. Nor do they immediately show up downstairs when their 30 minutes a day of reading is done.

Heck, yesterday, to escape Christopher I'm sure, they both sat outside on the patio and read their versions.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Well, there is a book, a book for young readers and soon a movie. All about a dog, apparently one that the author didn't really like either.

I really hope the movie isn't PG-13 because I don't want to battle with Courtney about going to see it. The trailer looked like it could be.

When Meghan is done with her book I'll borrow it and read it. That is one nice thing about having a teenager, she brings home interesting books that I would never have picked up. (Touching Spirit Bear is another good one. She also liked the Outsiders, which was one of my favorites at her age.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nanny key for your teenager

I'm sure everyone knew at least one kid who's parent's gave them, or let them buy, high horsepower cars in high school. I remember wanting the early Camaro (67-69 only) as well as the Mustangs. I eventually bought an 80 Mercury Capri with a 4 cylinder engine. It was a nice looking car and ran okay for the time (mid to late 80's) Eventually I bought a circle track 2.3 L engine for it and put it in myself (well, a little help from Pepsi Bob ;-). Still nowhere what I have today, but fine for high school and college.

In those days, it wasn't hard to modify a stock Mustang or Camaro to gain some significant horsepower. That is if you bought a pre-1975 or were willing to put in a new motor. The late 80's brought back some muscle cars, but were still limited. Then the government introduced ODB computer controls. Actually, the required them in all new cars from 1996 and later. A number of cars had it before then, but it took a few years to figure out how to modify the computer. And boy can you modify the computer.

Why I am talking about history? Well, one of the main things you could do via a computer in these cars is to add more timing and lean out the fuel mixture, gaining more horsepower. All without physically changing anything. When I first heard about this, companies like Modular Powerhouse and others were providing 'flip chips' to change the program in the computer by moving a key switch between three positions: mileage, performance and valet. The ideas was that the computer would be programmed for more performance (assuming you had the right gas) in one mode and crippled in the 'valet' mode. I'm always worried about what the valet does when they take the car and I'd be more concerned if I had Corvette, Porsche etc.

In valet mode, the engine won't rev beyond 3000 RPM and the timing was such that it had less horsepower than an 1980's Chevette. Good chance your valet won't be doing donuts or burn outs while you are at dinner!

A number of other people changed the 'mileage' tune to 'daughter tune'. I know, I have two daughters and this is sexist, but the idea is to let the kid drive the car without worrying they'd wreck it and hurt themselves or someone else. Yes, I know teenage boys cause more accidents than girls, but that is what people called it. Here the tune wasn't as restrictive as the Valet, but it also wasn't a 300+ HP car for a 16 year old.

Well, Ford finally noticed that this made sense and in a number of 2010 cars are providing a 'teenager' key that limits the speed, RPMs and stereo volume. Yes, the computer even controls the stereo in these new cars. Neat idea AND covered by warranty.

I think for when they are learning to drive this is a good idea, or when they have a new girlfriend or boyfriend and are likely to show off ;-) But at some point you need to teach your kids to drive and trust they know what they are doing. Personally, with Meghan 2 years from her license I'm looking into a defensive driving class like this. I'll probably get a more gentle tune for the Mustang so she can drive it every once and a while (assuming the insurance isn't obscene.)

If you think this is a good idea, but don't want to buy a new car, any car built since 1996 can be modified by a 'tuner' to have this restricted performance. You'll need to load the tune before they drive, but it is an option.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Taking a toddler to a movie

Deb is off on her 'girls shopping trip' this weekend and we're done with sports for now so the girls were bugging me to do something this morning.

Christopher had yet to go to a movie in a theater so I figured we'd go see Madagascar 2.

I've decided that having children leads to brain damage. Not the trick of nature to make you forget those sleepless nights, puking kids, and crying so you'll have another, no I'm talking about making your forget how hard simple things can be.

Knowing he wouldn't sit around for long we got to the theater 10 minutes before the scheduled time. Of course they had 20 minutes of previews before the movie and he started getting fidgety. By the time the movie started he was no longer wanting to sit on my lap or on the booster seat I got for him. No, he wanted to kneel on the floor, with his chin on the chair in front of us.

There wasn't anyone directly in front of us, but there was a kid one seat to the right. He kept giving Christopher dirty looks for some reason. So we moved down a couple of seats. That lasted about 10 minutes, then he wanted something to drink. Then eat. Then what his sisters were eating. He then rotated between my lap, the booster seat, standing and kneeling.

He'd sit and watch the movie for about 5 minutes at a shot. Quite the exercise keeping up with him.

As for the movie, it was pretty good. A few jokes for the parents, including a penguin with a switchblade. A lot of jokes for the kids and a decent story.

Spoiler warning: THE MOM WAS ALIVE. At first it looked like Finding Nemo and all the other Disney movies, but the MOM WAS ALIVE. Shock of shock.

If you don't have an over active toddler, I recommend this. Both girls also liked it.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Frustration Free Packaging

How many times have you cut open your hand, or couldn't get a gift open because of the damn plastic clam-shells that manufacturers are using now? Or it took you 20 minutes to open the kid's birthday present because of all the little things tied, taped and wired together? I can't come up with a realistic count there have been so many.

A couple of years ago Deb bought an electric scissors to help, but it was only about 80% of the opening. (if you know someone who just had a baby, this is a great gift. They'll think it is odd at first, but after the first Christmas they'll thank you!)

Well, Amazon has heard you. Last week they announced 'Frustration Free' packaging on some of their products. Fortunately, they started with a major partner: Fisher Price! Click through to see how different the packaging is now vs. the old way.

The first use is pretty small, only 20 things, but it is a good start.

The video here is pretty funny.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Bad email joke

My work has a lot to do with email (no, I'm not a spammer damn it!).

My boss sent me this joke today. It is so bad I had to share.

A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during a particularly icy winter.

They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier. Because of hectic schedules, they were unable to coordinate their travel. So the husband flew to Florida on Thursday, and his wife planned to fly down the following day. When he checked into the hotel, he found a computer in his room, so he decided to send his wife an email.

However, he left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, sent the email. Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston a widow had just returned home from her husband's funeral, a minister who was called home to glory following a heart attack.

The widow decided to check her email, expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted.

The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen, which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I've Arrived
Date: January 16, 2007

I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send emails to your loved ones.

I've just arrived and have been checked in. I've seen that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then!

Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

P.S. Sure is freaking hot down here!!!!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The culling



This was AFTER she got rid of half of them.

(a nod to Stargate Atlantis for the 'culling' idea ;-)

See what others are 'showing' today.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

National Blog Posting Month

Last year a friend and a couple of others who's blogs I follow did a 'post a month in November'.

I thought it was kind of cool so I'm going to try for this year. Technically I missed Saturday and Sunday, but oh well Softball and the Giants happens.

So, every day for the next month I am going to blog. And I have lots of ideas. No I won't tell you any of my ideas so Ris won't steal them ;-)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Very busy weekend

Wow, what a weekend. I don't think we've had one this busy in a long time.

Of course Friday night was Halloween and all the kids dressed up and went out. Deb took them around, pulling Christopher in the red wagon if he got tired. I stayed home and dealt with the candy. Other than the bowl of candy corn Deb left, I did good not eating any of the candy.

Courtney had a softball tournament Saturday morning, so as soon as she got home we made her go to bed. We were all up by 7:30 and Courtney and I were on the way to the field by 8 am. It was 35 degrees out. Being a Yankee, I had all the proper clothing so she and I were fine.

First game, was close but they lost. They looked very tired and were trying to shake off the cold. We had two hours to kill, so we came home for lunch and to get Courtney to wake up. By 1:30 we were back at the field and it was almost 70 degrees!

The next two games were incredible. All the girls hit the ball hard, ran fast and had really good fielding. The umpires were horrible, but at least they sucked for both teams equally. They won both games strongly. Next game started at 6:30 at night.

The last game was tough. The girls were tired but played their hearts out. In the end they lost, but it was a great end to the season. I was again 'dug out dude' and I was yelling my head off. I basically lost my voice by the time we were done. So all day Saturday, except for about 2 hours for lunch we were at the softball field.

After the game I took Courtney for dessert and she ordered her own huge dessert. She ate about 75% of it!

Sunday started with the kids getting up way to early of course. By 1 pm I was ready for some football! Christopher had a birthday party for a little girl in his class so Deb took all the kids to it. A few people were surprised to find out we have a 14 year old ;-)

During the first game I sorted a bunch of laundry and folded socks. How many white socks do girls really need? I must have 100+ individual socks! I got about 50% through them when Christopher's Godfather, who happens to be a Dallas Cowboys fan, called and wanted to go watch the Giants and Cowboys game at 4.

So we went to our usual bar to watch the game. Joe's dad was with us and he is a total Dallas fan. Claims to be a fan since the 1960 expansion. Of course they are Dallas fans so they were talking trash the whole time. The Giants of course blew them out. I think I was a polite winner. Not!

Random thoughts from the weekend:
- you know you are a geek when you think about using Map/Reduce to sort the socks
- how many pairs of jeans do my kids wear in a week?
- why do I live in Atlanta where I can't see any good football because of the Falcons?
- 35 to 70 to 40 degrees in 12 hours, on the same field sucks
- Superbowl repeat? Looks possible

Company Halloween party

Here is the picture from my company's Halloween party.

Friday, October 31, 2008

S-video in the Onkyo TX-SR606

As I mentioned previously, I bought a new A/V receiver for my Birthday.

So far it has worked well, but I could not get the S-Video from the Directv R15 DVR to display on the TV via HDMI. I even read the manual!

A couple of weekends I fought with it and finally posted on an A/V Forum specific this (TX SR606) receiver.

The way to get it to work: when defining the input for the Satellite, leave the input selector as '----' instead of trying to select one of the values. Yes, the manual says you need to select an input, but it only works with S-Video if you leave it blank.

I also left the HDMI mode to pass through since the TV did a better job of up-converting the video than the device did.

It works like a charm now. Sunday I will take the TV off the wall and run the HDMI cable so we can watch the Giants! Oh wait, the Falcons are playing so I can't see the Giants crush Dallas. Once again, it sucks being here.

Next toy: I want a Harmony remote ;-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - catch me if you can

He moves really fast for 2 and 3/4.

Deb joins the chase!


What he really wanted was a Popsicle.


See what others are 'showing' today.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Meghan's 14th Birthday



Last week was Meghan's 14th birthday, so we took her to dinner at Cherokee Cattle Company (If you've never been there, try it. They have huge servings of good food and an usually good selection of deserts. Guess why we go there ...)

Last night was her party with friends. It was a pretty calm affair after last year. All the girls behaved and seemed to have a good time.




Courtney's friend also slept over, here they are being hams.


More pictures in the Flickr site.

Pumpkins!


Last Sunday, after a very good night sleep for most of us, we went to get our pumpkins for Halloween.

More pictures in the Flickr site.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Possessed Keyboard?

For a few minutes this afternoon I thought the keyboard on Deb's computer was possessed. Every time I would type a space a comma would also be displayed. In every application I tried.

I looked at the keyboard, nothing obviously wrong with it. Shook it a few times, blew on it, nothing helped. Finally I got out the can of compressed air and blew it out. Out came a piece of dried orange/pink sugar. Hmm, who likes Popsicles? Who watches Thomas the Tank Engine videos on the computer?

Yup, at 2 and 3/4 Christopher has caused me to do computer repair. (Though in his defense, who gave him a Pop when using the computer?) This child is going to be more trouble by far than either of the girls.

Oh yeah, we took many of the child-proof door locks off the doors this weekend. He has the figured out to the point where they buy us less than a second to catch him before he's out the door. It takes most adults a couple of seconds, so we just took them off.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

13 tons of top soil is no match for us!



We've been in this house for over 11 years now, so some of the parts of the house and yard are showing their age. One area that I've despised for the last few years was an island in the front of the house. It had a number of junipers and weeds and flowers and weeds.

Well, a month or so ago I started pulling up the juniper bushes. The first set were horrible to get up, but that was because I didn't have the right tools. The second weekend I was able to pull up 5 more within an hour or so. A couple of more hours of work and the island was gone. Except for the holes, hard packed Georgia red clay and roots from the birch tree.

So, this morning we had 13 tons of top soil delivered. Yes, 13 tons. Next week we have a landscaper coming out to over seed the whole yard, including the new areas.

We had a number of doubters about whether we'd be able to move this amount of dirt without a bobcat or a lot of help. Several people recommended I go to Marietta center and get some, um help. If you know my political leanings you know there is no way I'd do that.

Instead, I borrowed 3 wheelbarrows and an extra shovel and the whole family joined in. At our best, Meghan would have a load 3/4 full when I came back with an empty wheelbarrow, then I'd finish hers while she started on the new one. Deb had a smaller one that she was filling and dumping. Courtney was helping with Christopher and dumping small Tonka truck loads herself. Christopher, well he was a toddler with 13 tons of dirt in his yard. Click over to the Flickr site for a bunch more pictures.

Total time: 3 hours and 15 minutes to move 13 tons of dirt. We rocked!

Before:




During:







After:



Sunday, October 05, 2008

43,000 False Alarms in 1 year

If you don't live in Cobb Co. you can ignore this one.

Wow, your tax dollars at work.

Last year, the most common call for service was to alarms and there were almost double as many calls as for the number two call for service, traffic accidents.

Of the about 43,000 alarm calls, almost 99 percent were false.


from here.

In response Cobb County is requiring you register with the county if you have an alarm. Failure to do so is a $100 fine. You do get 2 false alarms before they start charging you.

We've had the alarm in our house for 11 years now and have only had one false alarm the led to the police coming out. That was a strange story, it wasn't really the alarm system who called them, but a phone number that was somehow registered to our house. This was back in the days when I had a second phone line for the dial up modem, so you know this was a long time ago.

We have had the monitoring company call us a few times when the kids (or I) open the door in the morning without shutting it off. We did that A LOT when we first got the dog.

Details of the ordinance is here: https://www.crywolf.us/cobbcountycrywolf/CobbCountyOrdinance.pdf

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Thomas the tank engine: Encourage Illegal Street Racing?

This morning as Christopher and I watched the new Thomas the Tank Engine movie, one thought entered my mind: why are they encouraging street racing on a toddler's movie?

The show starts with Thomas and James racing to the wharf, often at speeds faster than normal, cheered on by the crowd and encouraged by their boss. They even have a bunch of kids singing a song encouraging them!

They aren't racing for pinks, instead to see who gets the better job! At least it isn't at midnight on the side of Super-7 ;-)

They almost run a railroad signal, then race off the split second it changes to green! What are they teaching our children!

Remember kids, street racing is illegal and dangerous, even if you are on a railroad track!






(For the humor impaired, this post is a joke. I actually enjoyed watching the movie with Christopher. The songs are silly and a little over the top, but perfect for a 2 year old.)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

50 Reasons to date a geek

Last night Courtney and I had an interesting conversation about the geeky boy in her class who helps the teacher with technology issues. I gave her the little speech about why dating geeks is better than dating jocks and she gave me a strange look. (She is 10 after all.) I expect she'll remember the conversation in 15 years or so and do the right thing ;-)

Then I found this blog entry today: 50 Reasons to date a geek

I have to agree with a lot of them, but several are wrong. For example:

43. They’re not jerks: Although geeks have a lot to be proud of, they’re almost never full of themselves.

A LOT of the geeks I know are a!!holes when they want to prove how much smarter they are then the people around them. Usually these are the ones that don't have dates.

This one is just funny:

22. There are lots of good ones out there: Geeks tend to not be very active in the dating field, so there are plenty to choose from.


So single ladies, go find yourself a geek. Geeks in school, wait until end of Junior year and notice how the ladies who are thinking about MRS degrees suddenly show up. I remember a lot of friends at UMASS suddenly having dates and women interested in them as we got closer to graduation. Wonder why (see #42). No Deb knew me BEFORE I went to school for computer science ;-)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Guinness World Records

Ever wonder why they started the Guinness World Records? I never put 2+2 together and got beer, but that is where it started.

Check this out.

Yes, it started to prevent bar fights. (bar bets often turn into bar fights don't they?)

"The Guinness book got its start as a volume designed to help settle bar bets. The beer company, which sold the rights to the book in 1992, delivered it to pubs as a promotion for its primary product"

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dad & Daughter camping this weekend

I got back a few hours ago from taking Meghan on a Dad and Daughter camping trip. We left Friday directly from school and went to Camp Misty Mountain in NW Georgia. I am amazed we jammed all the gear into the Mustang, since Deb needed the van for Christopher and Courtney's weekend activities.

The campground was really nice, once of the other Dads arrived earlier in the afternoon and took a primo spot near the lake. We setup and pretty much hung out all night. I learned a new version of 'Spades' and my teammate and I did pretty well crushing the other dads ;-)

Sleeping in a 2 person tent with Meghan was interesting and fun at the same time. I think the last time I slept in a sleeping bag was 1985 or 1986. I'm a little bigger now then I was then ;-(

Saturday morning started in typical dad fashion: pancakes, sausage and bacon! Saturday during the day we did several events:
- candle making
- leather making (we made book marks out of leather strips, put our initials etc. on them)
- canoeing (another thing I hadn't done since 1985 or so)
- a 4+ mile hike to see some crazy people do zip lines from a 45 foot tall tower. We didn't sign up in time so there weren't any slots for us to try. I wish we had

We then made spaghetti, bread and salad for dinner. One of the dads had to run into town because his lantern broke and he brought back ice cream for the kids.

Once it got dark the whole campsite had a bonfire and 'skits' event. Not having been at a girl scout event before I didn't know what to expect, but they were a lot like the boy scout events I remembered. Just a little cleaner in the jokes.

Our girls did a funny one about keeping the worms warm. If you have to ask you don't want to know!

The evening then ended a little early since the girls were pretty tired.

This morning we went to the dining hall for a breakfast provided by the campsite. After that we went and did an hour course/hands on even with the Lego Mindstorms. We almost got one of the intermediate projects completed before we ran out of time. I think Meghan is interested in them so we may see about getting her in a course at GA Tech.

The ride back was uneventful. Meghan fell asleep for about 30 minutes and is still pretty tired. I unpacked, took a shower and immediately started a load of laundry. While we couldn't have open fires due the drought, we still didn't smell very good.

I had a lot of fun and hope to do it again with Meghan or Courtney if they want.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why can't we get any gas?

This is ridiculous. Since Monday almost every gas station around us has been without fuel. Those that do have lines around the block. From what little I remember of the 70's oil crisis, this looks familiar.

The issue isn't that we don't have enough gas, rather that people are changing their patterns to get gas each time they drop below 3/4 a tank. Some people are actually running out since they waited too long, but the news was showing most people putting $10-$15 in (which at $4/gallon isn't that much!)

At least the EPA did something smart and suspended the rules about 'winter gas' so we can use the gas from surrounding states and counties that aren't filled with smog.

Also the only fuel to be found is regular unleaded, so I had to remove the high performance tune from the Mustang today. It is okay running the 93 octane tune with 89 for low RPM, but I'm concerned I'll forget when merging into traffic or something and damage the engine.

I am also taking Meghan camping this weekend, so I need to be careful I have enough fuel to get there and back.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Georgia Aquarium

Yesterday we went to the Georgia Aquarium, this was my first time there. Deb's brother Mike and his friend Kelly came to visit for a few days so we took them to the aquarium.

Christopher of course fell asleep on the way down, and we didn't want to wake him up right away. Let's just say that his stroller looks REALLY small when he's asleep in it. Several people commented on how big (and tired) he was.

We were able to wake up Christopher before we got to the whale shark exhibit. If you've never seen one, they are huge fish. We did get a lecture on why they are fish and not whales but an informative, but goofy spokesman. To me the cool part of that exhibit was the 61 foot long, 30 foot high, 2 foot thick wall of glass that allowed you to see most of the exhibit.

Then we walked to an area that went UNDER the whale shark exhibit. That was cool seeing all the fish over you.

We also went to the Titanic exhibit. With a toddler it was hard for me to see everything, but Deb, Mike and Kelly said it was very informative and cool to see.

Courtney got to see some turtles, a few giant eels and lots of colored fish. Christopher loved it all, staying interested in most places except the Titanic exhibit.

Being an aquarium there were a few whale-tails, splash pads, muffin-tops and the elusive hoochie-mama mammals too ;-) (It wasn't that bad, but even my girls commented on a few outfits and behaviors.)

Of course Christopher stayed up until almost 10 pm because of his nap.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lost in Softball today

Courtney's team lost in softball today. The team they lost to is 5 - 0 now. Their opponents were pretty good, but we hurt ourselves with errors in fielding. Once we got settle down we start hitting and stopping the ball, but it was too late. We were down 13 runs in 2 innings. Not impossible to come back from, but tough.

I did have to make a fool of myself though. Apparently I made a Facebook bet with Courtney's coach from last Spring (who's daughter is on the other team) that the loser would run around the bases backwards. She mentioned it repeatedly last night at a school function, but honestly I don't remember.

Anyway, after we lost I went out and ran backwards around the bases while getting cat calls and cheers from the crowd. On the things we do for our kids.

Interesting view on Goth/Anime culture and general response

Yesterday during lunch I walked up to Subway from my office (mainly to get out and stop cursing Oracle.) While walking there, I couple of young people (late teens, early twenties maybe) were walking in front of, in Goth outfits and a couple of strange policeman like outfits. They actually looked like stormtroopers, but in Blue and Pink.

I walked behind them up the hill, for maybe 5 minutes. No big deal.

On the way back though I got behind a different group, with different, but equally unique outfits. Turns out there was an Anime conference at the Cobb Galleria by my office. I was probably 10 feet behind them and we were walking into traffic. So I was able to see everything the people in their cars were doing as these dressed up people went by.

Everything from smirks, head turns to a couple of ladies that look shocked at what they were wearing. (Nothing really risque, but you have to look a a woman in a bright pink and purple 'gone with the wind' gown.)

Nothing really interesting happened but it made me think that while I didn't care what they were wearing, the most of the people in the cars were around my age acting like they were 5.

I know, kind of random ;-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: I will get old, but I refuse to grow up

Yes, I'm 40 now.

For some reason we must have Chocolate Cake at every birthday, even if I wanted my Carrot Cake!

Been doing this for years ;-)

Even the little guy thought it was cool. Too bad no pictures of Deb's face when I did this ...






Yes, I washed my hands really well before and after this.

Now see who else is sharing today.

Monday, September 15, 2008

September 15, 1968

40 years ago yesterday, the N.Y. Giants won their season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.



Also, I was born a little after 11 am, just in time for my Dad and uncles to go watch the game on TV.

Unlike many friends, I kept the event low key. No party, no big dinner plans, no outrageous gifts. Well, I did go out to eat a few times this weekend, and I did buy myself a new toy. I had bought a 'theater in a box' several years ago but the DVD/receiver died before Christopher was born. So I finally replaced it with a nice Onkyo TX-SR606. I had to deal with the less than helpful sales people at Circuit City to get it, since they are the only authorized dealers around here. (Make sure you check the 'internet' price on anything you buy there. It was $120 less than list and the sales guy pretended he didn't know what I was asking him to check.)

The day went pretty smooth:
- took Courtney and a friend Abbey to school in the Mustang
- took Meghan to school in the Mustang (she had to be there early)
- took Christopher to school, but not in the Mustang. Poor guy started crying when he got out of the van, but his teacher left us a note he was fine later
- Went to breakfast with Deb
- Went to Lowe's, Circuit City and finally back to pick up Christopher
- I spent several hours trying to put the receiver together, only to figure out that it would not upconvert S-video to component, so I need to get an HDMI cable now
- Went and picked up Courtney and Abbey in the Mustang. Had 3 or 4 different boys tell me I had a cool ride. Hmm 40 year old impressing 10 year olds. Damn I'm old.

Dinner was good, Deb made me a steak and fajitas. The cakes were great. Yes cakes. As a kid I loved a 'carrot' cake, which was really a spice cake with some carrots in it and I asked Deb and Meghan to make it for me (this was the first time in probably 15 years I've had it.) Of course we can't have a birthday without chocolate in this house so Deb also got her, um me, a chocolate cake.

The girls and Deb got me a couple of different Giants things: a dress shirt with the Super Bowl champions logo and a wind breaker like they wear on the sidelines. Christopher got me a couple of movies and a Star Wars book.

The kids are now in bed (except Meghan, but she'll be shortly) so I'll sit down, drink a beer then go to bed. Not bad for being 40.

Pictures here.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Burn After Reading

We had dinner last night we our good friends and after 3 hours in the bar/dinner we decided to go see a movie. A movie that didn't include animated characters, dogs or aimed at tweeners. Wow.

So we saw 'Burn After Reading'. I think this was the first 'R' movie Deb and I have been to in a long time and it was worth it. I don't really like Brad Pitt, but he was hysterical in this movie as an idiot personal trainer.

The plot tool a little to get into, but once you understood what was going on the little jabs and level of incompetence in each character was funny. It wasn't stupid slapstick like a teenager movie so you had to pay attention to catch many of the jokes.

I recommend it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Middle School Open House

I went to open house at Meghan's school tonight. At least now we can sit in the desks. Trying to cram my petite frame into an elementary school desk was never fun ;-)

I was going around with a couple of the same parents to all the classes and one group, two moms, struck me as having the totally wrong attitude about education. One complained about the need for the kids to read for 30 minutes at home each night saying 'don't they know we have football every night?' to her friend. The friend replied with 'well, we'll just settle for a B in that class then'. This was within ear shot of the teacher. Amazing.

I'm also getting old. I'm older than all but one of her teachers. All seem really nice and Meghan likes them but I guess I'm feeling a little old now.

Yes, I signed up to present at career day again. When I told Meghan her only comment was 'use pictures of Courtney this time!'.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

True meaning behind one of the most annoying songs ever

I'm pretty sure I didn't have to sit through Titanic at the movies with Deb. I know I've seen it from beginning to end at least once, but I don't think I would have wasted a rare childless night out with my wife to see it (we reserve Star Wars movies for that!) I think she saw it with several friends.

Why is this relevant? Well that Celine Dion song "Because You Loved Me" was featured in a blog by Tom Peters. Yes, management guru Tom Peters. Personally, this song always annoyed me because of the message I thought it sent. Way too sappy and needy. Tom described my thoughts on the song pretty well. I disliked the song so much that I used to sing it like 'Astro' on the Jetsons. (Try to lose that visual next time you hear it.)

Anyway, it turns out it isn't based on the movie where you had the annoying (but good looking ;-) brat crying for her dead boyfriend. The song is actually about the song writer thanking her father for all he did to support her growing up and achieving her dreams. This totally changes my view of the song. However, I love singing it as Astro to amuse Deb so that won't stop.

So next time your kids are acting like unappreciative br- um, little kid and teenagers, keep supporting them and some day they will thank you. Yes Mom and Dad I do appreciate all you did for me and my ungrateful brothers. (Remember, I'm the favorite according to Deb ;-)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

First win and second loss

Courtney had a double header today, first game at 11:15, second at 12:30. First game ran into extra innings and included 2 ties before a final come from behind score for their first win.

Courtney was walked a couple of times and did good in the field for the first game.

Second game started 30 minute late because of the first game. It was very hot and humid and you could tell our girls were tired. They did well, but made some fielding mistakes that they didn't make in the first game. Courtney walked once and went down swinging the second time.

If they play like they did the first game for the rest of the season they shouldn't have any problems beating any teams in their league. Fortunately no more double headers!

We have ice!

Yes, I fixed it myself with out any help from outside sources.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Giants: Good start to the season

Not great, but good. After that first series I thought they were going to crush the Redskins.

Makes you wonder how hurt Plaxico really was. Or getting $11.5 M guarantee for this season made him play better.

Unfortunately, they didn't show up in the third quarter again. Good thing the Redskins didn't either. Reminds me of the 2nd half of last regular season.

Now I get to wait until they get on Monday night or Sunday to see them again. It sucks living in another city (I can't justify $300 for the Sunday Ticket with everything we have going on either). Especially when the local team sucks ;-(

I promise to get pictures of the kids in the new jerseys. We were really busy this week.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Softball started!

Courtney's first game was last night. I am again 'dugout dude' and Meghan did the scoreboard. Only one girl looked at me and said 'what?' when I was telling her what to do. Much better than last year when half the kids didn't understand me.

The girls did really well but lost. Our pitchers did well, getting strikes on almost every girl and making most of them hit to get on base vs. walking everyone (This is 10 and under).

They were a little rusty in the field, but that will get better the more the girls play together. Most of the girls hit or were swinging at good pitches.

Oh yeah, Christopher broke the keyboard on the kitchen computer after my last post (sigh).

Monday, September 01, 2008

Next thing to go wrong ...

My wife is one of these people who believes things go wrong in groups. Famous people die in threes etc. Me, I don't believe that stuff.

Well, second major item failure happened this weekend. Deb's been hogging the bed for a couple of weeks and I didn't think much of it (other than waking up with a backache each morning). Until this morning when I was giving her a hard time about hogging the bed she said that her side is really uncomfortable so in her sleep she rolls to my side. I don't think mine is that good, but apparently is better than hers (yes we rotate the mattresses)

So today we bought a new mattress. Turns out the one we have is 11 years old. We got it just before Courtney was born so it has served us well.

No, we didn't deal with the con-artists in the local 'mattress stores' (want to have fun, google mattress store scams). We went to Original Mattress Factory, which is where be bought the one 11 years ago and bought Christopher's. Christopher loved the store, he ran in circles for about 10 minutes with me walking between the displays 'chasing' him. Luckily the girls were with various friends so it was just us.

Deb picked the one she wanted, I tried it and we bought it. All in about 15 minutes time. It gets delivered tomorrow. I still haven't fixed the ice maker yet. Maybe next weekend.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer is over now

The girls have been back in school for 3 weeks now. So far no drama. Some attitude during homework last week, but nothing unusual. (Though with Meghan I do have to read the book to understand the questions sometimes. Who the heck remembers what makes an atom an isotope or not?)

Christopher survived his first week. So did Deb. Friday was much better. He cried when Deb dropped him off but his teachers said he was fine a few minutes later. He was really happy to see Deb when she picked him up, instead of crying and having to be carried (I feel sorry for the teacher who had to carry him)

Softball is fun swing. We had a scrimmage game on Thursday so I started getting back into 'Dugout Dude' mode. We had a 9 am practice on Saturday which was a little hard getting to. That was the first time we'd been out that early on a weekend since the end of school.

PSR (CCD for those who remember that term) starts on Wednesday, Girl Scouts is starting up this week and next and so are the clubs at school. So much for a little free time.

Football starts on Thursday! Go Giants! It looks like my Dad does read my blog (or may be Pat does?) since last night we got home to a box from my Dad with 5 new Giants Jerseys. (see here for why.) I'll post up pictures this week once everyone puts them on.

Here we go again ...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Couldn't resist


I saw this t-shirt this morning and couldn't resist posting it.

1 week to NFL football!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The little things you miss when they don't work

Our ice maker broke last weekend. No big deal right? Except we drink a lot of water. I don't know how many times I've stood at the ice box (this one's for you dad ;-) pressing the button waiting for some ice, then remembering it is broken.

I did all the tests I could find online that didn't require moving the fridge to get to the back and determined it is either the thermostat or the whole unit. Of course GE doesn't sell just parts so I had to order a whole unit. Sears wanted $130 but I found it online for $75. Hopefully it will be fixed by the end of next week.

Not bad for an 11 year old part we use every day.