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.


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: 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. Here is a link to a list of committee members: Please note that Randy Forbes is from Virginia ( and Anthony Weiner is from NY (

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

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.