Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas in Sacramento

In a feet of awesomeness Kim's parents paid for Kim, my three girls and myself to fly out to Sacramento for Christmas. They also bought tickets for Katie and Annmarie to fly out as well. Technically Arianna was free because she just sat in our lap.
Our plane left at 6am out of Jacksonville last Sunday morning. We drove out to Jacksonville the night before and staid at a hotel.
We got to sleep at midnight and woke up at 3:00am. We also scheduled a wake-up call at 3:10 that we never got. Katie and Annmarie where great about getting up on time, which is something that I was worried about. The only hiccup in the morning was Athena who threw a big fit.
We where at the airport around 4am. The only thing that was open that early in the airport was Starbucks. Everyone got bagels and coffee (or some variation thereof.) Athena and I held out to see what was offered past the security check.
I was worried about going through security as we had some baby food and other questionable items but we got through without a problem.
On the other side of security was nothing but a snack shop that charged 3X+ the real value of the items they where selling. I settled for a sausage and cheese biscuit for ~$3.50 and Athena got an Apple (it's what she asked for.) We also split a sports drink. In all I paid around eight dollars. The biscuit was of lower quality than McDonalds and would have cost less than a dollar there.
The plan came forty minutes late but all of the kids where good about waiting around. On the plain the trip was very good. All of the girls where well behaved and I got a window seat.
Once we landed we heard on the loud speaker that our next flight was departing. We originally had some time between the lay over, but with the late flight we were pressed to make our connecting flight.
We rushed to our next terminal and made it on the plane in time.
This plan ride was not so pleasant. The girls where great again, but there was a lot of turbulence. It just so happens that I am not a fan of turbulence.
The first bout came from a big gust of wind that really pushed the plan around. Everyone on the plane made sounds of discontent except the girls who both said, "'Whee!"
I was holding Arianna and was really scared by the movement of the plane. You could feel it being lifted up and then down beyond the will of the plane and its pilots. I started having problems breathing and had to hand Arianna to Kim. This big gusts was followed by much more mild turbulence. I was unable to sit peacefully until all of the turbulence was gone.
We had about fifteen minutes of time with no turbulence and we where allowed to get up when the turbulence picked back up.
This was no good as I had to use the restroom since the time I got off of the previous flight. After a flight laden with turbulence it settled down again for a while and I jetted for the rest room. I wasn't back for long when the turbulence picked back up.
When we finally landed you could tell by the look on everyone's face that all was happy to be land lubbin' again.
At the airport two of our items never came out of the luggage pickup. Apparently because of the short amount of time between our connecting flights two of our items never made the connection.
Unfortunately one of these items was Arianna's car seat. The airliner happened to have a longer on hand. That afternoon our missing bag was personally delivered to our door. The next day the car seat was delivered.
Boo for missing luggage. Yay for the airliner doing everything it could to correct the mistake.
None of us had eaten since about five am Eastern time. Once at Chris and Steve's we raided the refrigerator. We where also running not only jet lagged but also on three hours of sleep.
I think everyone but Kim took a long nap. Fortunately even after our nap, at around nine at night everyone was ready for bed. Jet lag was solved that quickly for all of us.
Monday we went to a vineyard and an apple orchard that sold all sorts of apple goods.
The vineyard was nice and had wine tasting, as vineyards apparently tend to do. For $10 you could do premium wine tasting that included more expensive wines and also includes a glass. Kim and Katie took up the premium wine tasting. I did a few of the free ones, but once I felt the wine starting to hit me (which didn't take long) I gave up. I'm not a wine person anyhow.
The vineyard was beautiful. Grape season is long gone, but some old dried-up grapes still sat on some of the vines.
The apple orchard there was a store. The inside of the store was very old-timey lookingl. They sold all sorts of apple goods like apple pies, apple dumplings, apple butter, etc. They also had a line of different fudges.
Today for Christmas we started by opening presents of course. Then we headed out for a sledding park. Two types of snow sledding where available. Snow tubing was for adults and kids with guts for fast paced snow action. The other was sledding for kids.
The sleds where little plastic circles that look like over sized garbage can lids.
Tubes could be hooked together, so we started off with hitching the kids to our tubes and going down the big slope. Aurora was scared and ended the trip with crying. Athena loved it and wanted to go again.
I took Aurora to the kid sledding and she really enjoyed that. After showing her how to push herself off and how to get off once done and get out of the way, I watched her try her hand at all sorts of sledding tricks. She would make herself spin around or go down backwards.
Then I had Chris and Steve watch her go down the kids sled and I got back in line to go tubing. As I was getting back in line everyone was just going down their second bout of the tubes. Apparently Annmarie and Athena got stuck and when Kim went down she hit Athena's tube and flipped her over. She was now sufficiently scared of tubing so she joined her grandpeeps at kid sledding, which she enjoyed.
Tubing was a lot of fun and as time past the line got shorter and shorter, which allowed for more tubing.
Afterwards we went home and had lasagna for dinner.

So far this trip has been amazing and I really look forward to the days to come.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Political discussions

Political discussions

One thing I always enjoy in a debate is two people with intelligent opinions on the subject. One thing I hate in a debate is two people with unintelligent opinions on the subject.We all have unintelligent opinions on things. For example, I would like to see an increase in biomass electrical plants. While I have read a little on the subject, and it all seems well and good to me, I don't really understand the dynamics of our electrical demands, the different methods of how electricity is produced, or how much money these things cost. I really just don't have a good understanding of the subject. It's just a matter of making more biomass plants sounds very sensible to me. I would not go out and try and make an argument on the subject in a public forum because I'm not well equipped to defend my position against someone who does understand the dynamics of meeting electrical demands in a reasonable fashion.The problem with most political discussions, both public and private, is that the person representing their position is usually uninformed and has no real appreciation for the subject they are trying to tackle. This is why when abortion comes up it is always killing babys vs. woman rights. These arguments are tired, usually hateful, and do not really address their opponents concerns. Even the terms Pro-Life (or right to life) and Pro-Choice are designed to paint the other side as somehow inherently bad. Who wants to be against life, or against choice? Who wants to appear as being misogynistic or murdering babies? Nobody does, that's why each side frames the debate in these lights. The point isn't to defend their side but to offend the other.These problems trickle in to all sorts of hot topics, welfare, immigration, gay marriage, class issues, etc. Nobody is interested in sitting down and trying to understanding where we are coming from in our points of view. Once we can educate each other on our beliefs like mature adults we can start to build the foundation for finding a compromise. Even if a compromise is not reachable (like with abortion or the death penalty) we can at least carry on a dialog and fight our fights in the legal system without pretending like the other side is monstrous collection of undesirables that need to be ridiculed and chastised.So I say be wary of any pundit that tries to paint any issue with a broad brush. If a rebuttal to an argument begins with personal attacks against the opposing groups simply turn that person off and look for an intelligent debate. Life is too short to just sit around and hate people and groups based on political lines.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Why you do not have a constitutional right to vote in the primaries.

There is a lot of clamor going on here in Florida right now about the primaries. Florida has moved it's primary elections up to Jan 29th, which is in violation of the Democrats rules on when we are allowed to hold our primaries. To punish Florida the Democrats have decided that they won't count Democratic primary votes in Florida. Even more they are not allowing any Democratic hopefuls to campaign or do money raising events in Florida.This is sparking action by the Florida government to have a court rule that the Democratic party cannot punish Florida for moving up it's primaries. The argument is that the people have a constitutional right to vote.The problem with that argument is that we don't have a constitutional right to vote. There are some things laid out in the constitution that we have a legal right to decide. However political parties are private organizations. They are bound by certain special laws to prevent fraud and create open disclosure, but they are still private organizations. We have no legal right to make any decisions about these organizations, including who they pick for their nomination for the president of our federal government. In fact, we do not have a constitutional right to even vote for our president. For a long time citizens did not vote for president. Even today we still do not get to directly vote for our president. We vote for our state, which is in turn handed over to an electoral college who really gets to pick. Historically they have always voted in line with the voters.Article 2, section 1 of the constitution sets out how election of the president is held. The twelfth amendment was passed June 15, 1804 and replaced a little under half of the wording. Amendments twenty and twenty-five where passed January 23, 1993, and February 10, 1967 respectively. The last two amendments deal with succession and term limits of the president, not with election.The constitution sets up what we now call the electoral college to vote for the president. Each state gets the number of votes as it gets delegates in congress. These electorates may be voted in by the people, or chosen by any other means as dictated by the states constitution.The point here is that the electoral college gets to vote for president, and who they vote for could be chosen by many different means, and not necessarily by the citizens of the state. So we therefore do not have a constitutional right to vote for our president. It's strictly a matter of local laws that have been passed in all fifty states that allow us to vote for the president.So back to voting in primaries. Given that we do not have a constitutional right to vote for our president, and that the constitution does not even mention primaries, it is either a matter of ignorance or intentional malice on the part of politicians and pundits to claim that we have a legal right to have a say in who a private organization nominates for president.
If for any reason the history of the constitutional congress interests you at all I suggest you read a very informative write-up on the subject at

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Password Confusion!

At the helpdesk we experience users with all sorts of skill sets, or lack thereof. One thing that counfounds me is how many people seem to be completely confused about passwords. It seems simple enough, your username is your identity, your password is your key. You can only have on password at any given time. What follows is a frequent call:
User: I have forgotten my password.(Verifies identity)Me: Your password has been reset to 'abc123'User: So do I put in my old password now, because I don't remember what it is?Me: No, your password has been reset to 'abc123' so that is what you will need to enter.User: That didn't work.Me: Did you put 'abc123'?User: No I put in my old password.Me: Ok, I have set your password to 'abc123' Please type that in to your password field.Me: Did that work?User: Oh, you want me to do it now?Me: Yes, please put in 'abc123' in the password field, and then press the enter key.User: That didn't work either.Me: What error message did you get?User: "Your passowrd has expired. Please enter a new password in both fields."Me: Ok great. Now put your new password in the "New Password" and "Confirm Password" fields. The password must be at least six characters long.User: It wants my old password. I don't know my old password.Me: Your old password is abc123 and should already be typed in.User: Oh no, it had something in there but I removed it.Me: Ok, in old password type in 'abc123' and then put in your new password in the "New Password" and "Confirm Password" fields.User: It says that my password is invalid.Me: Did you put 'abc123' for your old password.User: No, I put in my old password.Me: If you do not put in 'abc123' for your old password it will not work. Please put 'abc123' for your old password, and type your new password in the "New Password" and "Confirm Password" fields.User: It says the passwords do not match.Me: Did you type your new password in the "New Password" and "Confirm Password" fields?User: Oh no, should I do that.Me: Yes.User: Ok, it works now.
Keep in mind that through all of this it is our responsibility to remain pleasant. There are some things that are inherently confusing If passwords confuse you, think of the password as a key. If you loose all of your keys you will need to have the locked change. Once you change your locks your old keys don't matter any more, only your new keys will work. If you find your old keys don't try them in your new lock. They won't work.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Bikes on Parade, Christmas roaches, and new daycare.

Saturday was the Festival of Lights parade in Tallahassee. Like last year, a space was reserved for Bicyclist to ride their bikes and show their support for alternative transportation. This year we had a electric-van that looked like the VW bus, only about 1/4 of it's size, with a big banner that read, "The International Order or Cyclepaths." We rode our bikes around it counter-clockwise. Not to be too boring we had people riding double-decker bikes (a bike welded on top of another bike), unicycles, and various other crazy frankencycles that I am sure gave the crowd a good laugh. Athena road on the child seat on the back.We met up at the shit shack which is off Gaines near the stadium. No I don't know where the name came from. From there we biked to Georgia St. & Monroe where our exhibit was set to wait.About half way through the parade I got a flat on my rear tire and had to walk the bike alongside the van. I found out today a coworker was riding his bike in the parade as well. I think there had to be about 80 bicyclists all together. Very cool stuff.
Yesterday we went to put up our fake Christmas tree and found that roaches had made a nest in it. Kim refuses to let the thing in the house now. I told her I'll boil it, but I can't really think of a good means of doing that. Maybe I'll treat it to high levels of radiation (though I'm not sure if the roaches will care or not.) Maybe I'll end up with Hulk Roaches. I'm not sure if that would be cool or not. ...
I just spoke to Rachel who is taking care of the kids for the first time today and things are going well. Athena is being a big help. I can only imagine having all four of those kids has to be complete insanity. She is very brave indeed.
As part of not having to drop Aurora off at school, Kim and I are starting to carpool where we can. I think on Monday and Wednesday we will go to work together. At 4:30 I'll pick her up from work, we'll grab Aurora from afterschool and then go home. Tuesday and Thursday I have school at 5:30 and that would be calling it too close. Friday Kim likes to stay late and catch up on work so she'll drive so that she can leave whenever she wants without us having to make a second trip back in town (nullifying the benefit of carpooling.) I am excited about the gas we will save.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thanksgiving & Laptop joy

Thanksgiving was great. We had it at our house this year. I made a Turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. I pealed a 10-lb bag of potatoes and mashed them up. There was concern we didn't take the turkey out of the freezer in time, but come Thursday it was indeed thawed out completely and when cooked it was good. Not the best turkey in the world, but definitely nice and juicy.Our guests where Katie, Annmarie, Sue, Jim, Jon, Judith, Stephen, Nannie, Billy, Rachel, Magdeline, Malaki, Steve, Chris, and CK. I think I listed everyone. Each person brought some food and we had plenty for everyone. Good times where had by all. Nannie said grace which I think she really enjoyed.After cooking all day and having our small house stuffed with people, after I finally ate I had to hide away in my bedroom because I was feeling a little overwhelmed. In my room I burned some CDs for Katie which took enough time for me to relax and chill out a little.We used the extended weekend to get some painting done. We have already painted our kitchen (with massive help from Kim's parents.) We colored the wall that leads from the kitchen to the dining room the same color, a pumpkin orange.I had taped everything off in the dining room and Kim painted right passed the tape in some places. After I through a fit about messing it up Kim started being more careful.When we did the girl's bathroom she was much better about being careful and it came out right. She had picked out a bright neon green, that would usually be gross, but goes well with our jungle monkey theme we have in there.The bottom two feet of our wall is a fake wood thing with some trim. She painted the fake wood beige and the trim black.Next we paint the wall that leads from the dining room to the living room. It will be the same color as whatever we decide on for the living room.
Stephen and Judith told me that where going to get me a new laptop for Christmas. I was floored and really didn't know how to respond. This was a big deal and I didn't want to take it for granted. The gave me a price limit. I have always wanted to be able to support Dell's offering of Ubuntu preinstalled PCs so I went to their site and built a laptop within the price range with Ubuntu, not Windows, installed.I think Stephen was as excited to see this thing as I was. While I expected to have to wait for Christmas, Stephen e-mailed me at work the day it came in and had me pick it up that afternoon.While I expected this to be the best working installation of Ubuntu I had ever tried it was actually the worst. I expected that since Dell had the liberty of being able to hand pick well supported hardware and make tweak to the kernel and elsewhere to the specific hardware they were selling that things would work better than ever. Unfortunately I had problems with turning on Compiz and with trying to upgrade from 7.04 to 7.10 both making the computer completely unusable. I am currently running with Compiz on with 7.04 and all the latest updates. The only two outstanding issues is that changing the sensitivity of the mouse tracking doesn't work and trying to access my FTP sites from the bookmarks kills the Gnome menu bar. A restart of X doesn't fix the problem, only a complete reboot. I have run Ubuntu on various other computers and have never experienced anything like this. Looking around the Ubuntu-Dell forums it appears that my experience is an isolated situation.There is rumor that Dell is suppose to have an official version of 7.10 built for their computers in December. I am going to upgrade at that time and if I still have problems I am going to install 7.10 from the Ubuntu website and hope things are better.Overall though this laptop is rockin. It looks and feels smooth. I tried playing some DVDs last night and they looked real nice on the widescreen. Ooh, I like widescreen. The widescreen also gives me plenty of vertical space which is allows more content to be displayed without having to either wrap it to the next line or force me to scroll horizontally. Wireless works well to, except that Network Manager sucks as bad as it does on any other install. The battery life is ~4 hours of regular use. When I can scrounge up the money I would like to purchase a batter that holds a longer charge. Two 9-cell batteries should provide a charge that exceeds 10 hours. That would be really cool, but will have to wait.Stephen had previously provided me with a laptop that was given to him by someone else. It had lived a rough life going on many camping trips and other mayhem. It had some hardware issues and was slow, but it served it's purpose of allowing my to bring a portable computer in to class to take notes and browse the Internet. I will be donating it to Zeke. I am going to completely wipe the drive and put Xubuntu on it. I think I may have fixed the hardware issues as well. Time will tell.
Starting next week Rachel will be our primary daycare provider. We will drop all three kids off at her house in the morning. They will already have been dressed and their teeth brushed but not fed. Rachel will drop Aurora off at school and watch the other two girls all day. After school Aurora will go to the same afterschool at creative child. Judith has offered to pay for this. Aurora really likes her afterschool. When we pick her up she is usually disappointed as she always wants to stay until they close. Afterschool will allow Kim or I to pick up Aurora in stead of Rachel needing to make another trip in to town to pick her up. Rachel watching the girls will allow us to shave off 1/3 of our daycare expenses, and provide her with a nice income. To those not in the know, daycare is very expensive. I explained to my boss, who drives a very nice sports care, that if I didn't have to pay daycare I could afford a car that makes his look like poo.Aurora and Athena are very excited about having Rachel watch them as they really love her and her two babies.
I have started teaching Aurora North, East, South and West and some basic multiplication. She can count by twos and fives so I showed her how to use her fingers to multiply. She has a habit of multiplying anything I ask her by five regardless, and then sometimes increases it to six. So if I ask her for 5 X 4 she'll count 5 X 5 and tell me 25. Same if I ask her 2 X 3 she'll give me 10. We are working on it. She understand the concept but I think she gets confused trying to focus on the counting and not the number of fingers she is holding up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Trip to Atlanta
This weekend Aurora, Athena and I went to Atlanta to visit Zeke and Vicky. I had a bunch of his stuff in the back of the truck that Vicky gave us.Aurora had rented Surf's Up, which I had promised her she could watch on the way up. We have one of those portable car DVD players. The cigarette lighter in my car had been acting up so before we left I made sure it worked and it did. When we went to actually leave it was not working and I was unable to make it work on the spot. I thought she was going to be upset, because we had made a big deal about it, but she took it pretty well.On the way up the girls where good the whole time. I really didn't expect this because such a long trip is really hard on little kids.Right before we got on I-75, which is about half way, we stopped at Apple Bees on Athena's request. The waitress was really nice. After that we went to Cracker Barrel and bought some candy to reward them for their excellent behaviour.When we got there we took the kids up to the park right behind the Atlanta zoo. The next morning we took the kids back up to the park because they had such a great time. Athena and Vicky where all about each other as well was Zeke and Aurora. They are really good with the kids, and the kids are really good for them.Before we left Atlanta I got the cigarette lighter working again so the girls where able to watch movies on the ride home. They started out with Surfs Up. Then we watched Star Wars Episode IV followed by SpongeBob.On the way down we stopped at the same Cracker Barrel we bought the candy from and ate there. The waitress there was exceptionally nice as well. Maybe that town produces excellent waitresses (and presumably waiters too.)So the trip was definitely a success.

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Through a topic brought up on I found happen to be a fan of conspiracy stuff. Most conspiracy stuff is really boring. Other theories are really quite fun. I find the fun ones are the ones that you can pretend to apply to real life. It's like a scary movie. If the movie makes you afraid to step out in the dark, or sleep in a room all alone, then it was a good scarie movie. It is good because it has effected your personal life, which is the thrill that you where seeking.As a kid we imagine a lot of what-if scenerios for entertainment. I used to image 'what-if I was in the Super Mario game?' The idea that slow moving mushroom thingies could be easily stomped on, and break would break at the will of my forhead seemed quite fun and absurdly ridiculous at the same time.So, the idea behind neverkin is that there are mystical people in this world that have one way or another become trapped in a human's body. Some are born human and others inhabit another human's body after they where born. The website goes in to details on their theories on how this might happen and how to discover if you are one of these otherkin, also called "The Aware."One article on the website describes what they believe like this:

"Otherkin", simplistically defined, is a person who is in some way other than
human. Some have memories of being something "other" in a past life; some are
conscious of "ghost" body parts, such as wings or horns, that humans don't have;
some are genetic anomalies; and some just feel like general misfits in human
society. I have yet to meet an Otherkin who is not currently human (or mostly
human), but they all have a certain "otherness" quality about them.

I read through many of the articles on the website and I believe that these people really do believe what they are saying. I am sure that there are plenty of pranksters out there posting that they believe this and that when in real life they are just poking fun or looking for a reaction. But, it seems that many of these people are being honest.I am curious how one comes to such a conclusion. I think it is obvious to state, and they admit it on their site, that most of these people grew up feeling very different and out of place in this world. That is probably a good way to start believing that maybe you feel this way because in reality you are not one of them. But it also seems to go deeper. Many of these people claimed to have always felt something extra. One claims he has an elf in his head. Another says he can feel his wings. Many claim to have very distinct memories of the past.These memories are actually an important part of their coulture. For those who had not previously had distinct memories and have their first rush of memories they call this their awakening. This is when they first realise the true nature of themselves. The experience is reportadly a big emotional rush that can take hours to recover from.I really wonder what can be going on with these people. The only good explenation I can come up with is that they are in middle school. I knew some people in middle school who may have probably been suckered into believing they where one of these. The site claims that many are actually adults or at least in College.They also report to have get togethers. I wonder how far they have to travel to have a good sized group of people.I can only stereo-type and say these people are probably your average annoying goth kids. They are probably also probably exceedingly annoying to talk to. They will make stupid claims about their mental problems or being obsessive compulsive or a pyro maniac. They may also make up that they are suppose to be on drugs such a Zoloft. As Zim once said, "You're not a freak. You're just stupid." If you have ever known someone who is one medication such as Zoloft or is obsessive compulsive, then you know that they are not proud of it and certainly don't make that the topic of discussion the first time you meet them.I imagine these people are in this same group of people, but have taken their ridiculous delisions to a new level. They have gone beyond trying to being some sort of interesting circus freek, to convincing themselves that the real reason they are different, and the real reason behind their fantasies is because their fantasies are real. Their social isolation has gotten the best of them and driven them too far.As a child who didn't ever really fit in, I can relate to how they felt growing up too. As an adult who still feels like this world was built for someone that is nothing like me, I can understand how this may still be traveling with them as adults. I too feal like the world for me must exist somewhere out there in some cosmic nether region. But these are really just fantastic ways of me understanding that I'm just not average. It's like delving in to a book and fantasisieng that you are on the journey that you are reading about. Or being with your cats and pretending that for a few minutes you are one of them for a few moments. It makes the pressure of reality go away for a few moments. This temporary and healthy escape has been shown to even improve health.I guess with the 6 billion people that live on this earth, it shouldn't come as a surprise that some mistake their strong affection for cats to mean that they where a cat in their previous life. The thing is, that if you read their site they get incredibly specific about different races. It is much more precise than "I feal I was a cat in a previous life." These people have really worked it out in to as much of a science as trying to classify species. They have theories on what makes on an imp or a gargoyle or a unicorn.I think these people are probably on the same level as people who have gender identity problems. People with gender identity problems will often swear that they are really a man trapped in a woman's body or vice-verse. For them this feeling is very strong and real. They say they have felt it their whole entire life, even since they where a small child. It's easy from someone on the outside to tell them that they need to look no further than in between their legs to find out what they really are and they just need to get over it. For these people who have to live with this every day it is a very real dilema as much as anything tactile like trying to pay bills or keeping gas in your car. For these otherkin, they too claim to have felt they where another being ever since they where children. The dilemma of not fitting in to the human culture is an every day reality they have to live with. As far as I know they do not yet have race or species changing operations yet.Here are some good quotes from their site:

am not a living, individual person in the traditional sense... rather, I'm
'taking a holiday' in someone else's body. Or rather, hiding out. Gynn,
unfortunately, is not doing very well, which means I get complete control.
Somebody save me.

Like most of you, I felt as though I had found something that I had sought all
my life. I had all but convinced myself that the sensation of phantom wings was
an illusion; and my sense of being different was nothing more than the lingering
effect of childhood trauma.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Surgery recovery, and Rachel

Yesterday I finally took the tape off that held the holes in my skin closed for the last two weeks. Today marks the two-week anniversary of my surgery. It is something I am very happy to have behind me. I am happy to have my gallbladder attacks behind me as well as the surgery.I don't think I would classify me as being 100%, but probably 98%. Yesterday at the park I tried to do the monkey bars and could feel it in my wounds and had to stop.I am planning to get back in to roller blading (after over a year off) and I hope I hold up well for that. When I quit I could do 16 miles on blades, which was a real thrill. I would like to get back in to having those abilities, as well as getting myself better at stopping quickly and other stuff like rolling backwards, etc.
Our friends Rachel has been planning on moving to Tallahassee with her boyfriend and twins. I was going to call her on Friday and when I went to pick up the phone noticed I had messages. One of them was Rachel saying to call her immediately. I then realised the phone was not on its base, so I went to look for it. As soon as I turned around to start my search the phone rang. It was Rachel. She was just north of Gainseville on her way to stay with us for a weekend to do some house finding.I was really thrilled. I called Kim up and let her know the scoop. About the 2.5 hours later Rachel and company where at our house. Kim and I had done some serious picking up and getting the spare bedroom ready.They didn't find anything concrete but have a few good leads, including some places in our neighborhood. Steve, her boyfriend, spent most of his time looking for a place to park his business. He runs a tow-truck operation. He has a contract with AAA and they had work to do on Saturday and Sunday. He had two of his workers with him, put up in a hotel room.Having five kids in the house was a lot of fun. Her kids are just over a year old and get in to everything, as kids their age do. Kim and I had all five of them at one point and it actually turned out pretty well, all things considered. Another time Kim and I had all five at the park, which also went very well. The twins have a white mother and Nigerian (black) father. They have the skin tone most multi-racial (black/white) people. Kim and I had decided that if anyone asked that we would insist all five where our own blood. No one asked.Malachi, the boy, takes a while to warm up to men. It was Saturday night that he finally warmed up to me. He fell asleep with his head in my lap. I was happy to have him on my side. Magdelline, the girl, will go straight to anyone, no questions asked.Sunday night Rachel had dinner with us and a host of other people we invited over and headed back to Orlando to get some more stuff. She will be back Wednesday.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gallbladder Fun

On Monday I had my gallbladder removed. Kim and I were at the hospital at eight. About thirty minutes later our pastor showed up.
The nurses hooked up tubes to my veins in which they eventually injected some stuff that knocked me out. They put it in as they started to wheel me away and I wasn't quite aware that I was going to be knocked out already.
I woke up to the nurse asking me which kind of juice I wanted to drink. It took all of my strength to say "cran" and I just gave up with that. She returned with the cranberry juice and I drank it as best I could. I think they gave me some pills as well.
Eventually I was rolled to the van, only half-conscious. I slept most of the way home, I think, and then slept more when I got home. I had no idea I would be doing so much sleeping. I would wake up randomly. At one point I woke up and the clock read 8:30 and Kim was still home. I thought it was 8:30am the next day, but it was still the same night.
For pain, the doctor prescribed my oxycodone. Oxycodone is part of the same family of the well known oxycontin. I feel bad to anyone who has developed an addiction to this drug as the side effects are not fun. They make me feel tired, cranky, loopy and selfish.
They also make my senses really acute. Yesterday when Kim and I picked up Arianna from daycare, when she set the baby in the car it felt like the car tipped down about a foot. When I went to sleep last night I thought the fan in my computer was about to break. It sounded so loud to me and was driving me insane. When I asked Kim about it she said it wasn't any louder than usual. She turned the computer off for me so I could go to sleep.
Kim has been really awesome this whole time. She has had to get the kids ready all by herself in the morning and take them all to school. She has also been getting all of their stuff ready for school the night before all by herself. She has also been putting up with me. The drugs have made me really crabby. I think a combination of the pain and the meds has also made me pretty selfish. It has been really hard to be cognizant of others needs.
Today I am starting to feel more myself. I am doing my best to not take medication unless I really need to so I don't have to suffer through the side effects.
I have also been having to do school work through the week. This was much harder on Tuesday when my brain was still off elsewhere. I found it hard to use my mind too much, and when I ran in to problems it was hard to muster the strength to not just give up. I got a good amount done last night and will need to do more tonight.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last night

Last night, after school, I planned on getting ahead in some school work. Aurora and Athena where already in bed, though not yet asleep, and Kim was itching to go to bed as soon as she could. She watched Arianna while I ate dinner (homemade pizza, sweet!) After dinner I took Arianna. She stayed up to ~11:30pm. It was clearly to late to do any heavy thinking over homework, so I grabbed the latest patches for my Ubuntu Gutsy Beta laptop and tried to hammer out a little homework. I realised while working on the first problem in my Database Design homework that I didn't understand the data presented, deleted all my work, and fell asleep (unintentially) shortly thereafter. I work up around 2:30, shut off my laptop, and crawled in bed.P.S. That baby is so sweet, even when she keeps me up really late.

Dogs attacked my cat today

Kim called in sick today because she was unable to find her keys, and she didn't notice until after I had left. So she called me crying because to pit bulls had attacked our cat, Sassy. She had heard something on our front portch and saw the two dogs out the window. A few minutes later she heard a scuffle and saw our cat in one of the dogs mouth, shaking her around. Kim picked up a ball and pelted the dog with it. This created enough of a distraction for Sassy to jet. She fled to underneath our neighbors house and wouldn't let Kim near her. That's when she called me.At work three out of seven people where out and we where pretty busy. I talked to my boss and he let me go home. When I got home Kim had already coaxed Sassy to come out and she was sitting on our bed. She looked alright, but was obviously in some pain. I gave Kim my key to the van and she and the girls took Sassy up to the vet. When I picked her up off the bed there was two small drops of blood on the sheets, but nothing major. I went back to work.Kim called me later and said that the vet wanted to keep her for a while and see how she was. She had called animal control, who found the dog that had Sassy in it's mouth. He took it back and said that whoever came to pick the dog up would be charge ~$250. This made me feel better because we often let our kids play in the front yard while we watch through the curtains. Hoepfully this will let the owner know he can't just let his pit bulls roam the neighborhood. I don't know if they are aggressive to people or not, but I'm not interested in finding out the hard way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


I got my blogs down to 430 left to read. I read 159 blog posts today. Much fun.


More posting for today. I just read a great post, and you can too.
I can completely relate to this state of enlightenment. I've fealt it doing certain things. House work, school work, exercise, jiu-jitsu (when Idid it many years ago), etc. When in the zone the following things happen:
  1. Life seems infinitely worth while.
  2. I am the master of my current craft. Everything is done with ninja-like precision and accuracy.
  3. What I am currently doing seems to make perfect sense.

I used to frequently be in the zone when I was a cook at Cyrstal River. I could have 20 tickets on my board averagin 4 custmers on each ticket and I could tell you what was on every single ticket and have a game plan to how each one will be cooked and in what order in a way the was very efficient. At Crystal River the cook had a packer. The packer took the food from the cook and prepared it on the plate. My roommate Joe and I where the team and could very well zone together. When he was packing for me he could do the same thing on the board and I could short-hand tell him my game plan and he knew it perfectly. I could give him a bunch of food and he would know exactly what to do with it. We could take a full house and have them all eating in no time and keep it up for hours. We could very well at any point change rolls where he cooked and I packed and it was all very fluid. The rush was very intense.

There are also times when I'm in a slush. This is the opposite of the zone. I felt this last night while doing laundry. It didn't matter how much I worked at it, the laundy took forever. I finally got everything folded, sans matching socks, and then I called it quits. When not in the zone it seems that no matter how hard you work at something you make no progress at all.

This happens at times with homework. I can spend two hours writing a paper that seems simple enough and find I'm not even half way done, but I am completely out of ideas. Very much like that SpongeBob episode. Argh!

Parent/Teach Conference

I just had a parent/teacher conference with Aurora's teacher. They are doing a conference with all Kindergartners parents to let them know what is going on.These things are really kind of embarrassing because when it comes to Aurora it's just a matter of listening to the teacher brag about how awesome she is and us bragging back. The same thing happened at preschool. We told her teachers at orientation that she is really smart and going to be beyond the other students but they didn't listen. Weeks later they just told us everything we told them. This was the same thing. As she went over each point of what they do in class she was just dumb-founded at how well Aurora is doing in each area. Math, science, reading, behaviour, etc.I really feel pretty conceded with all of this, even though I know that it's only part my doing. It's not my fault she is naturally so intelligent. I do play a role though because I do what I can to feed her desire to learn. I am just lucky to have a little girl who is such a sponge, and I can't take credit for that.I certainly hope Andrew is out there being proud of her. I know he always was and would continue to be so. She really is a gem.
Back to normal

So I finally got back to doing phone calls at the help desk. No special projects for me right now, save some very small stuff. I started the day with over 550 posts unread in my RSS feader. Lots of reading to catch up on. I also need to catch up on reading posts at I also need to catch up on relaxing and taking it easy at work. I'm quite looking forward to it. By the end of next week I expect to be bored again and ready for a new project. For those in management a whole lot of other stuff has blossomed and will be keeping them busy and on edge.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Some random thoughts (in no particular order)

Work craziness has finally calmed down. My big project is nearing it's end and all of the super important things have been taken care of.
For many of the people I had been working with on this project the craziness has kept on as more stuff has cropped up that I all hush hush. I'm glad I'm not in their my pay. If I was payed what they where making I could endure this for much longer. Pretty soon I will be back on the phones talking to people who don't know anything about operating a computer and surfing the internet.
Last weekend Kim went to work and the girls where pretty bad almost the whole time. Athena was awesome, but all she wanted was to be held, which made doing anything pretty difficult.
I did manage to separate laundry and hang up all of our pants and shirts.
I tried to get the girls to play inside as being inside too much can promote more crabiness. Aurora came inside after about 10 minutes and told me it looked like it was going to rain. There was an overcast, but nothing screamed eminent rain. I told her to go back outside, but stressed to her that it was very important to come in side if it did start raining. Five minutes later she was back inside swearing she felt some rain drops. None where to be found so I put back out. Five minutes later she was back in, so I let the girls come back in.
After lunch I made them lay down. Athena was sleeping too so this gave me some free time.
I folded some laundry and put it away. I also just recently got my record player hooked back up to my PC so I can record them to digital ogg files. So I then spent the time removing pops & click and cutting the individual tracks out and saving them as well as adding tags such as artist, song, album etc.
I have been trying out a program called Amarok. I tried it about six months ago but found myself immediately back to using Rhythmbox. Rhythmbox is the default music player in Ubuntu. I don't think it's changed much in the last six months, but I have noticed some lack of functionality in Rhythmbox that Amarok has. Amarok is not quite so light on the resources, but on a good machine I think it is worth it to run over Amarok.
Amarok will automatically find album covers for you, lyrics to the song you are listening to, and embeds the wikipedia article for the band you are listening to.
It has many other cool features as well that is making it the staple for my desktop computer.
On my laptop it runs a bit sluggish. It has a noticeabley longer load time, and clicking on buttons has about a quarter second delay. So for my laptop it is still Rhythmbox. In fact, I think I'm going to try to search around for something even more light-weight.
School is going pretty well. I think I have two A's and a B. It will take making an A on my next test to bring the B back up to an A. I think my percentage in that class is 81% so I'm cutting it pretty close.
Out of my three vehicles I only have one in good repair, the red van.
The truck has a flat and has been stuck at work for the past number of days. There is a metal part I need to stick in a shaft to remove the spare (which is a full tire, not a spare) but I do not have that metal piece.
The gray van is having break trouble. While reaching back last week I had my foot on the break and didn't realize I was pressing down hard on the break. Something gave a little and now the Break light is on and breaking is not as good.
I need to drive the gray van, with the whole family, up to my work. The gray van has an air
compressor built in to it. I could then fill up the truck tire and we could drive both of them home. I am worried someone is going to notice that truck sitting there so long and have it towed. That would be very bad as I have absolutely no money to reclaim it if necessary. I don't even have the money to have the tire patched.
For Aurora's birthday we will be having two parties. She wanted to have her party at the Junior Museum so we reserved that, but we can only get in 25 people with the money we payed. So we will have her friends do the Junior Museum and then have friends n' such over at our house afterwards. Her last two birthday parties I was really bad about calling up all of my friends, but this year I finally buckeled down and did it. I still have a few more people call, but for the most part everyone has been called.

Sleep is one of things I have not been getting enough of lately. Between work, school, and family there simply are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. My typical day:
Wake up at 5:45, leave by 6:30. Drop Aurora off and be at work by 7:30. I get off at 4:30 and head to school. On Monday and Wednesday I get out at 8 and on Tuesday and Thursday I get out at 6:30. When I get home I do laundry, dishes, and general clean up. Each of the girls get two books read a night and that can take up to 45 minutes. The girls need lunches made and clothes picked out for tomorrow. It also helps greatly if I get my shirt ironed at night, so I don't have to worry about it in the morning.

This all sounds like the usual adult-trap so many people find themselves in, but I am really not unhappy. It just sounds worse than it is. Aurora and I have great rides to school. We usually rock out to Black Sabbath and go over some educational stuff, such as spelling words, counting by 5's, 10's, and 2's. We've also been trying to work on nouns, verbs, and adjectives. She is so smart like you wouldn't believe. The stuff the teacher sends her home with is way below her. In a way I feel she is being short changed but not being properly challanged. Well, she is. But she has her unending love of education and parents that are willing to feed her hunger when she is not at school. Even though most (not all) of the material is below her level she really enjoys being at school. I wish we could afford to send her to a Montessory school where she would be allowed to accelerate at her own pace, but such is life.
Athena keeps getting sweeter and sweeter. She gives my hugs and kisses all of the time. Sometimes I have to scold her because I am trying to get stuff done and she won't let go of me, even when I try to be nice to her about it. She has such a beautiful smile and personality. She is 100% kid.
She also possesses my stubbornness. This is good and bad. It means when she makes up her mind, breaking it can be a real event. But I also think it means she is likely to be independent minded. I think my stubbornness is a huge defining point to who I am, so I don't mind if she is born with a good chunk of that, even if it does mean lots of struggles through the coming years.
Arianna is the happiest baby you could ever hope to meet. The only time she is fussy is if she is hungry or tired. It seems that there really are not times that she is inconsolable. She interacts very well too. If you pick her up and play with her she will talk to you and smile and laugh and kick. Aurora is very good at playing with her. She will make up songs and sing them to her and grab her hands and dance with her. It is very sweet. Arianna absolutely loves it.
I am doing my best to bond with her every chance I get. Aurora and Athena both went through stages where they wanted nothing to do with me. This stage lasted months and was very hard for me. It is probably wishful thinking, but I am hoping to keep her on my side for as long as I can. It is hard as a Dad because the mom has a huge head start. The 9 months of carrying the baby around and the breast feeding create a bond between a baby and it's mother that is hard to break in to. It seriously is a hard bond to match a father. It took both Aurora and Athena three years to look at me equally. Even when Aurora was very young and I took her on bike rides to the park and played on the ground with her as hard as I could, she would still prefer Kim who just wanted to sit on the park bench.

One of the most unfortunate parts of being in the computer industry, is that computers primarily exist in office settings. So most computer jobs are in office settings. I hate the office setting. I hate dressing up for work, and having to remember to shave often. I hate the boring feel of the office. The long hallways of non-ending offices and/or cubicles. I hate codes of conduct and people with large salaries who know less about IT than I do. I hate sitting down all of the time and spending the whole day clueless about what the weather looks like outside.
I do love computers though. I love helping people out who run in to problems or need assistance. I love programming and finding the solution to the task you have put forth. I love to run the program or script and trying all possible ways to make it break. I love configuring PCs to work in the most efficient manner, and running applications that make boring repetitive tasks easy.
I wish there was some way I could merge the two. Maybe working on computers over hot firey grills. Or maybe computers out in a field of crops. Maybe there could be a way that I had to four laps to get to the PC and fix it. I like to work on computer, but wish I could somehow meld it with the pleasure of being outside and working hard.
One thing I think I would enjoy is teaching computers at a community college. This way I would be standing up, and moving from class to class. I would need to move from building to building. In stead of implementing upper-managements policies, I would be creating my own lesson plans and implementing them.
Another possibility, and one I've kind of worked for, is doing on site IT help for small businesses and individuals. I do have one client, a local art museum/shop/school. It is three different buildings, and two are two-stories. Working on their needs I sweat, I have to think and solve problems, and I get to help them make important decisions about how to meet their needs. This I really enjoy, and would like to do more of.
At my current job I work with a lot of nice people, and I am put on different projects that I am banking on helping me gain experience for future jobs.
My last job at Convergys gave me lots of experience that I think is a big help in me training to make a career in IT. I think this job is giving me even more experience, in other areas, that will help take that even further.
I do enjoy my job, the people I work with, and I enjoy going to work, but it's not my long-term career of choice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My delve in to Vista

As part of my school work I need a Windows machine to run Microsoft programs. The good thing is that our school provides us with XP or Vista for free. I went ahead and requested Vista since it is suppose to be the latest and greatest. On Friday night I finally got it installed.The first problem I ran in to was partitioning my hard drive. Partitioning a hard drive is the process of breaking your hard drive up in to separate logical hard drive. So my 500 gig drive can be split up in to smaller drives. My Ubuntu install is on a 200 gig partition. In the Vista installer it starts out with letting me add partitions. I added a 20 Gig partition, but when I selected to have it Vista installed on the partition is just made it told me that it couldn't find a partition that met it's requirements. It did not mention what the requirements where. On my laptop I searched the MS website and it said the requirements where that it was an NTFS partition. The partition was in fact an NTFS partition so that didn't leave me with an answer.I have a CD that Stephen gave me that will boot Windows XP off of a CD. I did that and partitioned the 20 gigs using the XP partitioner and than rebooted. Vista liked XPs partition and continued.Aside from that blunder, the rest of the install was amazingly easy. When I say amazingly, I mean in the sense of a Windows install. In the past, to get even basic functionality out of your Windows computer you had to search around for the disk that comes with all of your hardware and install the drivers. This can take a lot of time and be very frustrating. This is not a problem in Ubuntu. In Vista all of my hardware worked out of the box except my scanner. My graphics card needed it's drivers, but functioned quite well without them. I consider this a major improvement.Next came configuring my system. Just like XP, a lot of the defaults are crap. The default Start menu is the worst. It's very difficult to navigate and I find that it confuses many computer users I help. That was changed to default first.As I moved on to change other settings I found that the settings where very scattered.One problem of any operating system or program that has enough functionality is that it's difficult to place settings in a logical and easy to find manner for the users. This is a problem in both Windows and Linux. But it is much worse in Vista. This is definitely a rollback. It's not a matter of I don't know where things are, it's that trying to find the logical place it may be is more confusing than ever.The look of Vista is very nice. It is sleek and very pleasing to look at.Stability has not been a problem so far either. I have had no crashes or hickups so far. Of course, it hasn't been running for very long either. It's currently only used for school work, and for video games. Being able to break out my old PC games has been fun.The one thing I am left wondering is what does Vista offer that XP doesn't? The only answer I can give to that is the look. Aside from that, the hundreds of dollars Vista is going to cost you is most definitely not going to be worth it. I can't even imagine paying for Ultimate. You also still have to have antimalware on your PC to keep it from being infected.On a business perspective there is actually incentive to not go Vista. With Vista you need a more powerful PC just to get the base system up. This means chucking the old PCs and purchasing new ones. I have heard of horror stories from people trying to just have Vista simply run on PCs that are not top of the line. So business will need all of their PCs to be top of the line just to make their OS run stable? That seems pretty crappy. If business choose XP they get to keep their hardware (saving themselves hundred of thousands of dollars) and still get all the functionality they get from XP.Of course, businesses could be smart and run Ubuntu which will run well on both old computer and new computers. This eliminates the need to worry about malware, allows for great remote management, allows security updates to be installed in a more manageable medium, and provides the satisfaction knowing that your current hardware will enjoy a much longer life cycle than if you used Windows.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Crazy two-weeks

The last two weeks at work have been nothing short of crazy. I'm not exactly sure what I am and am not allowed to say, so I wont' say much of anything other than the Florida Parole Comission has needed an immense amount of help from us.
Keep in mind officially I am a contractor who's job is to do tech support over the phone with Department of Corrections employees. Phone support is the bare bottom run of the IT ladder.
I have found myself interfacing with the FPCs CIO and networking admin as well as our CIO, head of security and other people in top positions. We also had an outside person from another agency come in to give us a hand. Last Friday was her last day helping us.
She was a really nice lady named Jane. She thought I was really smart. She would say things like, "We have this really smart guy helping us out on this" and things like that. I quickly became the smart guy, which is a tough position because then all of a sudden any time you don't know something or forget something people say, "Oh, the smart guy doesn't know." The good thing is that Jane was always backing me up. There where plenty of thing that I knew that others where questioning me on. Jane would always back me up. She was pretty smart herself. She knew many things nobody else did.
I was asked to work the weekend, but I already had plans to go out of town for Rachel's kid's first birthday. Rachel is a very important person to me and it would going to the birthday party was something that would have been hard for me to miss.
I was in charge of documenting all the procedures necessary to get our work done. This week we e-mailed the instructions out to technicians across the state to get the work done in their respective offices. I have been issued a laptop that is setup in my bosses office and I have been taking calls from the techs answering questions and making sure everything is going well, which so far it is.
Later this week we will roll out stage two of the task at hand which should have the Parole Commission where they need to be and we will be done.
I will be pretty relieved when this is over as every other thing we have been working on has been put on halt. I've got other projects that have just been sitting dormant trying to get this worked through. One of the projects is showing off a Ubuntu laptop I was asked to setup to show them how this whole Linux thing worked. I was really excited about integrating it with Active Directory but I was told not to put it on the network.
I was actually very happy with how well the Ubuntu install went. Some things I find myself having to finagle went without a hitch. I'm pretty excited about showing all that it can do to my boss. Our organization is very MS friendly so the fact I was even asked to install Ubuntu to show it to them is pretty exciting for me. It is extremely unlikely that they will actually choose to do anything with it though.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

7 Reasons Why Windows Won't Succeed On My Desktop

The closed-source operating system is destined to stay stuck with Viruses and all forms of nasty malware endlessly filling up our inboxes with crap, blogger David Baucum opines. Read why he believes Windows hasn't--and isn't--going to be used on his PCs, then join the debate by posting your opinion in the discussion section at the article's end.

It is inarguably accurate to note that, while Microsoft is a success on the desktop market, the closed-source operating system has been a dismal failure on my desktop. There are at least seven solid reasons, which I'll detail below, why Microsoft Windows has not been installed on any of my PCs since 2006, and never will by my operating system of choice.
Microsoft's failure to to be stable, reliable, or secure is all the more mystifying when you consider that it has billions of dollars in capital to throw at the problems.

Average PC users have been swayed by vehement marketing and FUD campaigns from Microsoft that it's so clearly superior to anything and everything from any other vendor. It seems clear that more users have been bamboozled by the outright deception hurled at them from Microsoft and their legions of suckered users.

While Vista, the newest implementation, has overhaul its security and stability, user reports across the web have shown that it's not as stable as many had hoped and anti-malware is still necessary for anyone who wants to keep their PCs clean. Even if it did do a good job, it's too little too late.

One caveat: While I believe all the arguments I lay out below are valid, I don't give a flying flip what you run. Use what you like. Honestly, I JUST DON'T CARE. If you ask my opinion I will give it to you, but I'm not a Jahova's witness, and my operating system choice is not a religious one. It's simply a matter of personal preforance.

Before I dive into the seven reasons Linux on the desktop will remain an also-ran, let's frame the debate with a quick analysis of the current market share of the open-source operating system...not really. I don't care. So let's move in to the reason why Windows will not succeed on my desktop.

Prohibitive Applications
In case you don't know, Linux is a free and open source operating system. This means that the source code used to write the operating system, and most of the program that run on it, is made freely available. This gives me, or anyone else with programming skills, the ability to make whatever changes to the program I want.
For most people this means nothing because they are not programmers. But the non-programmers still win because when the community says, "This program needs to be able to do X" someone out there will write the code to make it do that. This is why Linux is so feature rich.
This also means that you don't pay anything. That's right, it's all 100% free. The operating system is free, the Office suite is free, everything. You simply don't pay anyone any money. For me, that is a real deal breaker.
Another prohibition that Windows and most of it's software developers put on its software is that they use proprietory formats. This might sound like another thing that the average person really isn't going to care about, but it actually affects us in very many ways.
Let's take for example Microsoft Word. It defaults to saving files in a .doc format. The specifications for this format are closed so that only Microsoft, and people who sign deals with Microsoft, have access to the knowledge to implement software that can work with .doc files. This restricts the ability of developers to create applications that work with .doc files, and indeed Microsoft Word is the only program that allows you to succesfully open and edit .doc files. Other programs try to "reverse engineer" the format, but with hit-or-miss success.
This doesn't stop with .doc files. Most closed source programs implement their own proprietory formats that only work with their own program. While this is great for the software provider and their profit margins, it is bad for everyone else, especially the user who is stuck with "vendor lockin."
Open standards are very important in any industry. In the 80's networking relied on closed-source protocols that other vendors could not implement. This meant that business had to pick one provider, pay them loads of money, and could never switch to anyone else without completely replacing their whole entire network.
Once open standards hit the cost of networking went dramatically down because of competition. That's right, open-source created jobs galore and reduced prices. IBM et. all suffered, but to the benefit of everyone else. Microsoft and co do not want this to happen to them. They want you to use only their product and be stuck there. This only benefits them, not you. It's economics 101. Monopolies only hurt.

The Fanboy alienation factor
There's nothing worse to a Linux user than a Microsoft fanboy. This is the problem they pose, I don't care what they use, but they seem to care immensely about what I use. I don't know why this is. The Microsoft fanboys are always there to taunt me and try to make me "see the light." What do they care what light I see? It doesn't affect them at all. It's not even that big a deal to me. I just want my PC to work well and that's what Linux provides me. It's not like this is a major life ordeal.
It's like Coke vs. Pepsi. Who cares. Find which one you like and it get it. I'll drink both, but I prefer Pepsi. Please don't try to tell me to do otherwise. I don't care enough.

Open-Source creates jobs.
I touched on this previously. Closed source created monopolies, which is bad for the market.
Free isn't bad either. Corporations spend hundred of millions of dollars a year on software. The majority of this money is pocketed by the company in a way that they can maximize profits. This means they implement as little as possible on the leanest staff they can get away with and use the rest to increase their bottom line. This is all at the expense on the consumers that purchase their software.
Open-source allows those companies to free up a significant part of their IT expenses.
The obvious problem is that this puts programmers out of business. As a prospective future programmer this of course concerns me.
But there is a caveat, the businesses need programs. People clearly aren't going to program 40 hours a week just because. But, when there is a community of developers (paid or unpaid) this allows them to pool their resources together to hire programmers to work on applications. When just a portion of those millions saved are put towards hiring a (relatively) small group of programmers to contribute to the software that they rely on on a day-to-day basis, we all win. Companies save money, we all get to use the software, and lastly, companies get to use the software the way the want it.
Let's take for example Open Office. Let's say a company is using the software but their are feature that they need. They can bring this up their programmers. Their programmers can then put those ideas out to the community. If the community accepts these ideas then they will all work in collaberation to implement them. This reduces the programming costs for all parties involved while allowing them to collaberate to produce a better product because more ideas and muscle is put behind the project. If the community rejects the idea, or likes it but wants to implement it in a way that isn't quite what the company wants or needs, they can still implement it. They simply fork the code and go from there.
This model currently exists in both the corporate and private sector, though clearly not as the defacto standard. What does this mean to me? It means I get to use corporate grade software for free. I have free access to database toosl, office suites, programming environments, games, and more for free. The companies develop it beceause they need it, the individuals develop it because they want it, and I use it because it rocks.

Resistance from me
This is one thing I mus admit. I love alternatives. Alternatives are usually more fun and represent a lot of the way I run my life. Music found on MTV or the radio has rarely represented my musical tastes. I voted for Nader the last two elections. My clothing selection can't be found at the mall. Even my kids have alternative names, Aurora, Athena and Arianna. There's a saying that it's always the non-thinkers that always come in droves.
Using this rule it's easy to come to the assumption that because most people use Windows that there must be a better alternative, and I'm right. Even the closed-source and even more proprietory MAC is a more stable, reliable and secure choice.

Linux isn't simple, but "It Just Works"
This isn't really 100% true. On the software side of things the market sucks really bad. We are just now starting to see the real potential of software, but we still haven't implemented good software. It is still buggy and not very user friendly. Apple is just starting to make a lot of headway in usability, but the amount of usability they are able impliment should be the technoloy of yesteryear, not cutting edge.
I'm sorry to say that there just isn't an OS out there that really is good. All require the end user to learn and learn lots before they are able to use their PC without having to call up their geeky cousing, or God forbid have to take it to the Geek Squad on a regular basis.
BUT, and this is a realy big BUT, Linux "Just Works" much better than Windows. I was always having to reformat my Windows drive in the past. And when I wasn't reformatting because I had given up, I was researching problems and trying my hardest to squash them.
With Ubuntu I'm using my compuer more than I am fixing it. It is true that it does break. Sometimes things don't work like they are suppose to. But when I look back at my Windows days I know that I have the good life in comparrison.
This is especially important for my wife who doesn't like to have to go through complicated work-arounds to get things done. She hits the power button, logs in, and runs with whatever it is she wants to do.

Linux can do so much
Linux is really just a kernel (the software that handles the hardware) with a bunch of software built around it to give the user an interface to work with. All that extra software is not necessary for a Linux distribution. This gives programmers a lot of power to be creative. Linux can do almost anything. It can run cell phones, networking equipment, electronic toys, portable music players, and of course, your computer.
And you don't have to settle with one of doing things. With Windows there is one desktop and if you don't like it, or it's too much or too little for your PC, tough.
With Linux this is not true. There is a distro that will boot of a 3.25" disk. There's others that will boot off of a CD, no hard drive neccessary. Some distro are made for old computers. With Windows you either have to either upgrade your PC, buy a new PC, or stick with a version of Windows that no longer has security or bug fixes being supplied by Microsoft. With Linux you simply install a distro that was made for older computers and you still get vendor support. Why replace your computer every two years unless you are a gamer? How much PC power and hard drive space do you really need to browse the internet and read your e-mail a couple of times a week?
On the other hand, if you have a brand new computers there are distros that come with all the bells and whistles you expect in a modern operating system. This choice providers power to the end user.
It also provides power to companies. As Vista is being rolled out corporation will have to upgrade their perfectly good hardware to stay up to date. This upgrade is really superficial and unnecessary. The hardware is good and can do all the things that are required of it, the software (Vista) is just too bloated to be any good.
For me this means I can run Linux on all of my PCs. From my 2.0Ghz dual core, 2 Meg RAM, 256M Video Card desktop to my 600 Mhz 384M ram, 64M Video Card laptop. And they both run great. The experience is the same so I don't have to do any relearning.

The community
The Linux community is awesome. They are always willing and able to work with people to help them with their needs. From the grandma to the MCSE looking for another way.
The community is always looking for feedback, and that feedback can result in programmers hacking away at your latest ideas. If you notice bugs the developers are usually on-hand to take a look at what's going on and seeing what needs to be done to fix any problems you may have.
There are forums of Linux enthusiests ready to help scoured across the Internet. For businesses that rely on professional support there are multitudes of companies out there willing to help (for a fee of course.)
The community is also extremelly nice. From the developers to the people browsing the forums you couldn't ask for a more nice and open mined group of people.

Closing thoughts:
i really would like to restress the point that I'm not that concerned with what you use. My computer is very use-friendly, secure, safe and stable. I don't run any anti-malware programs, I'm not constantly trying to fix things, and I really just enjoy using my PC. The available software allows my to do all sorts of neet things. When i want software it's usually pretty easy to find what fits my needs. Software packages are incredibly easy to install and I don't need to shell out money at a store full of people who don't know what they are talking about *cough* Best Buy *cough*.
And if anything speaks volumes about it's ease-of-use, my wife can use it. She's very smart, but she is not a computer geak by any means. She expects things to work and doesn't put up with me providing her with things that don't.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New truck and camping

Zeke's girlfriend, Vicki, gave us her 97 Dodge Dakota. I have been spending a lot of time on it. Probably too much time as
there are much more pressing chores around the house to get done.The first thing I accomplished was just throwing away garbage. That was the easy part. It paid well too as this truck seems
to be stocked up pretty well with spare change.One of the first things that had to be fixed on the truck was the headlights. The worked intermittently. The windshield
wipers were busted too. The wipers where as simple as a trip to the Autoparts store. The lights took more digging.Following wiring around a vehicle is not an easy task. I started by checking the connections to the lights themselves.
Playing with that didn't seem to affect whether or not the where on.I then checked the wires leading up in to the truck and I couldn't find anything obvious.I then decided to check from the switch inside the truck and see what I could find. After unscrewing a bunch of stuff I
discovered that the assembly you use to turn the lights on and off had a burnt out plug.I first took the part up to Discount Auto Parts. The guy there said it was a dealer item and they where likely to charge me
over $100 for it. I was hoping this was just the kind of advice you would get at a discount store and headed up to NAPA.
The guy there seemed skeptical they would have it and told me that I may have to go to the dealer and pay over $100 for it.He searched on his computer and wrote down a bunch of number. After a while he came back with the exact right part.when I plugged it in I still had problems as one of three wires that had been crimped together had come undone. I bought
some new crimps at Wal-Mart and promptly lost them so I fixed it with a little electrical tape.The same day I fixed the lights one of the lights went out. After I replaced it I was in good shape.Now that the truck was in a condition that I could drive it without having worry about it raining or being dark I started
using it a lot. The girls really love riding around in it. It's a very family-like fealing having the two girls piled up
next to me (with their seatbelts on of course) in the bench seat.On an attempt to leave town for a camping trip the truck stalled out and wouldn't crank. The engine would turn over but it
wouldn't start. After a 30 minute dinner at Burger King it cranked back up and took us home. It has never done it again
since then, but now I don't trust it.For good measure I changed out the spark plugs. This turned out harder than I expected only because the wires did not easily
unfasten from the plugs. It was a real pain getting each one off. The rest of the work was very simple.One problem is that a lot of Zeke and Vicki's stuff is in the back. It has a cover over the bed, but it wasn't sealed
properly and leaked when it rained. I had to unfasten all of the clamps and push it right up against the cab, but after I
refastened the clamps it stopped leaking. I tested it by taking a water hose and drowning it. Not even a drop came through.The cigarette lighter doesn't work either. This is a big deal as I use my laptop to play music while I'm driving because it
doesn't have a radio in it.Using a voltometer I narred the problem down to the lighter-unit itself. A positive and negative wire leads up to a plug,
which the lighter-unit itself plugs in to. I verified good current on the two wires.I went to three different stores and none of them had the lighter-unit that goes to this truck. I found one that has to
plugs, in the wrong position. It also came with some cables that you can easily use to just fasten to any hot & ground
wires. As soon as I plugged that up and plugged something in the fuse blew. I have no idea what would have caused that. I
am going to have to get a new fuse and do some more playing in that area.In the middle of this I did all sorts of cleaning. I scrubbed the floors with generic lysol and made the dash shine with
some generic Armor All. Aside from the wires hanging out where the stereo system goes it looks really good from the inside.On the outside it is in good shape too except for some dents in front and back passenger side from an accident by a previous
owner.Next month I will get a much needed passenger-side mirror. The parking break also doesn't work well on steep inclines and I
will have to look in to that. The tires are getting near their time to be replaced and they drag pretty hard to the right.One of the deals of taking on this truck is that I don't want to poor money in to it. If I want to fix it up, buying parts
is unavoidable, but I am going to do all of the work myself. If at any point this truck starts costing too much we are just
going to get rid of it. So far all of the work has been pretty simple. I feel pretty good that I can tackle the parking
break problem. I'm not so confident about the alignment issue. The mirror will be fairly simple. I've replaced a few of
them before.I think instead of getting a new CD player I am going to right the wires up to run in to an RCA plug that I can simply plug
anything in to like an MP3 player. I don't have an MP3 player but it would make a nice Christmas or birthday gift.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


On Firday I took the girls camping. I took the day off so that I could get everything ready. I was having a great day and was pretty excited. The plan was to stay at Torreya State Park in one of the primitive camping spots that is only a one mile hike in to the woods. The camp site sits right on the Apalachicola River and is absolutely beautiful.I did what I could to pack only the essentials, or those things that you probably won't use but don't want to be without, such as a first aid kit. I was able to fit it all in an army backpack and a much smaller travel bag, though both where still pretty heavy. All of the clothes, and anything else that I absolutely did not want to get wet found their way into plastic bags. I picked up some fishing poles and worms so we could fish in the lake. The poles where brim busters that collapse into ~4 foot sticks.I picked Aurora and Athena up from school with the plan to eat at Burger King so that we would only need snacks for the rest of the night. I took the Dodge Dakota because the girls really like to ride in the truck. It is pretty fun, even if it does lack A/C.When I went to pull in to the Publix parking lot where the Burger King sits the truck stalled out in the left turn lane at a red light. Out of the kindness of my fellow citizens hearts they decided to go around and cut me off in stead of helping me push the truck in to the parking lot when the light turned green. After about three light changes I managed to get the truck parked. I called Kim, who was luckily still at work and not elsewhere where I could not reach her.I left a note on the truck that read, "Gone to BK" and the girls and I got some food. Realising that Kim should have been there after a while we headed back to the truck. Kim was there quite frustrated. When she saw the truck she didn't see the note and was looking for us for quite some time.The truck started back up and Kim followed me home.I was pretty frustrated too thinking that camping just wasn't going to happen. When I got back home I chilled out as much as I could. The A/C was broke so chilling wasn't very easy. We decided we would still probably have enough time to make it out to Torreya and camp at a regular camping spot, so we loaded everyone up in the grey van and headed out.When we got there the ranger said he thought we could probably hike out with plenty of day light left so that's what we did. The hike was very pleasant and the girls didn't mind at all. The very slight rain helped as it didn't get us wet, but it did keep us cool. We set up tent with enough light to eat snack.Because of the rain everything was wet but I was still able to get a fire going without much hastle. The new "2-person tent" I bought that day was a dud. One of the poles came broken, there was chex mix and a straw inside of the tent, and it wasn't long enough for me to lay down in. And with the stuff in there it was barely enough room for the girls. My three person tent, on the other hand, easily sleeps Kim and myself with all of our equipment. I thought going down one person wouldn't be a big deal.The girls where having a good time, but would not listen to a word I said. This is very uncharacteristic of them. I was worrying they where not having fun, but they did seem to enjoy everything, they just wouldn't listen.Our first attempt to sleep was a disaster as Aurora was tired and Athena was not. Athena spent all of her time annoying Aurora which made it impossible for her to sleep.My plan was to try and wear the girls out. The girls and I hunted around for twigs and sticks. I started the fire back up in full force and put the tent close enough to it that we could all watch it and lay down. After a while the girls finally went to sleep and so did I.We where all up at the very crack of dawn. It was probably ~7AM. We started by Athena and I going down to the river and getting some water. Aurora stayed and watched the fire. I gave her the air horn and showed her how to use it. I told her if she had any problem to blow it.When we came back I boiled the water in a small frying pan I brought and made oatmeal from some instant oatmeal packs the girls always love. This is when the girls started acting up again. Aurora made a big scene about how gross it was, before she even tried eating it. I was not interested in her complaining later that she was hungry, and I also had no intention on bringing out the bowls, spoons, and the frying pan until lunch. So I made her eat it which she made a really big fuss about it.After breakfast the two entertained themselves by finding millipedes and jumping on roots. This also involved the two of them pushing each other and just in general being bad.For myself I had brought some MREs I purchased at the Army Navy store. One was an omellette. It was completely disgusting. For the same reason I made Aurora eat her oatmeal, I ate most of the omelette. It also had some soda crackers and a fruit bar that I ate and shared with the girls.Once everything was cleaned up we headed down to the river to fish. The girls whined the whole way to the river and in general wouldn't listen to anything I said. We did see an oak snake which the girls where pretty excited about. I showed Aurora how the snake tastes it's surrounding by flicking out its toungue, since it cannot see very well.At the river our worms where dead and stinky. The where some other people in their boats fishing around and they were talking about how poor fishing was going today. We fished with our dead stinky worms for a while. The girls swung their poles around a lot and kept almost sticking others. They have both been fishing numerous times and have caught many fish. They are also very good about being careful, so it was unexpected for them to do everything wrong.I finally gave up, dumped the worms away down the river and had the girls swim. They wanted to go naked, but with all the people around fishing I told them they could only take off their shirts. This was the only time they where good. They played, had fun, and did a great job listening. They swam for over an hour and a half and then we headed back to camp. Once we started walking back the attitudes came back. Around this time the overcast went away and the sun was out in full force. I had asked them many times throughout the day if they where sure they wanted to keep camping. I didn't want them to be camping if they didn't want to. They insisted that they did so we kept on. Right as we where leaving he river Auroa took her hook and kept poking herself with it. I told her four times not to do that and she just looked at me and kept doing it.At that I decided we where going home. I didn't want to spend all of this time yelling at them when we were suppose to be having fun. Back at camp I packed everything up and we started our walk back.The walk back was much worse than the walk to the camp. Without the clouds covering the sky, it was extremely hot. We stopped about five times and we where all pretty worn out by the time we finally made it back to the van.Despite their bad behaviour the girls insist that they had a good time and want to do it again.Next time we do it will be with better weather and we will probably only plan to stay one night.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Camping and a boat

This weekend I am going to take the girls camping at Torreya State Park. Kim and Arianna will be staying home.This trip should be pretty excellent. We will be primitive camping next to the river a few miles hike. We will be there soon enough to allow for plenty of stopping along the way, as I'm sure it will be a nice little hike for my two daughters, but we've been through rougher walks in Nevada with my dad with the girls.The weather forcast calls for some rain, but if it is anything like what we had the last two days, it shouldn't be anything we can't rough through. We will bring some fishing poles and worms and hopefully catch some fish. Aurora is quite the fisher, and even if Athena and I catch nothing, she'll probably land a few.After much effort I got Vicky, Zeke's girlfriend, truck transfered in to my name. I get off work at 4:30p and the tag office closes at 5p. Because it was under a Georgia registration they needed the truck on location to verify the VIN. This presents a problem because without a license plate I can't really drive it any where. There is a tag office ~1 mile from my house so on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I drove immediately home after work but could not get the truck to the tag office before 5. On Friday I left just a little bit early and made it just in time and got everything transfered over.The truck had a problem where the head lights worked intermittenly. Most often they did not work.On Saturday I went to my parents house with Athena to pick up my Nick's boat, which he is letting us borrow indefinitely. On the trip home it started pouring down. On top of having no head lights, the left wiper was shot as well. We pulled over at the T&T canoe rentals on the Wakulla River and waited out the rain. Athena was asleep but woke up when I turned the car off and started crying that she wanted to go home. Then she had to go to the bathroom. The rain was still pouring down, but a three-year old that has to pee is not a matter to be taken lightly. I held her and ran her through the rain to the canoe rental place. The lady at the shop was just closing down on account of the weather. She let us stay on the porch as long as I promised to lock the gate behind me. When the rain settled to a small trickle we locked up behind ourselves and went back to the truck. I put switched the wipers, discovering that the working wiper isn't really for this vehicle, but work enough to not come undone, and we headed back home. While I probably should have had my head lights on, it wasn't such that I was endangering us at all.I'm not really learned in how wiring works in vehicles, other than the complete basics, so the headlights problem wasn't something I was good at hunting down. With some luck I discovered that the switch hooks up to a part that had a blown part in it. On Sunday I went by Discount Auto Parts. They told me I was going to have to get the part at the dealership. I tried NAPA and they happened to have the part, which came to some surprise to the clerk there so I guess I lucked out. With some windshield wipers everything totaled to < $50 and when I got home I now had a road worthy truck.On my drive to work this morning there was some nice rain and was glad to see the headlights and new wipers where doing me good work.The next pressing matters on the truck will be:The right rear-view mirror is non-existant.The tires need to be replaced.A good cleaning with Armor All and other cleaners.
There are other smaller matters but these have some urgency to them.
so I mentioned previously about grabbing Nicks boat. It has a working trolling motor, but the engine proper has some of it's own issues. The mounting bolts are frozen. I have serious doubt that the motor will even crank as it has not been cranked in probably four years. I know absolutely nothing about boat motors and getting it working will probably be done by paying someone. It also needs a mariner battery for the trolling motor and a charger so I can charge it in between outings.The boat's trailer needs some new tires. One of them has pretty bad dry-rot which made me very uncomfortable as I was towing it home.As I now have a pickup truck and boat in my yard I feel I fit in much better with my community members in Woodville. Maybe I should get a "Heritage Not Hate" bumper sticker. If that happens someone needs to buy me a first class ticket to the city. *Shudder*
Aurora spent the night at Judith's last night. Judith took Aurora to school today, which I bet was fun for both of them. We took Athena to McDonalds last night because she felt left out not staying at Grandmas.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

The Online Desktop

There has been a lot of buzz about the online desktop. The online desktop is something that I have been skeptical of. I have recently given some online Google apps a try, and so far I like it. In fact, I like it a lot. I am now convinced that there is very little that really needs to be local on the desktop. I have been imaging where the online desktop could go and how it could work. I think what we need is for programmers to start utilizing and building the online desktop to it's extent. The following is a rough idea of how I think the online desktop could be a seamless and pleasant experience for the end user.

In a true online desktop, when you boot up your computer and sign in your local computer would have your whole online profile stored localy that automatically starts connecting to online services.

At the top (or bottom, or wherever you want it) of your screen you would have a bar. This would allow you to access local services. In this example we see a typical Ubuntu/Gnome Linux toolbar. In the top-left we have menus so we can easily make changes to our system or access locally isntalled programs. Under places we may have access to all sorts of content. Our bookmarks/favorites will all be in here, as well as access to local and networked drives.
Then we have a shortcut to the terminal window, again for local administration.
Next we have a place to type in a URL. If everything is properly integrated this should actually be used less-and-less. We may have services that automatically take us to our desired pages. So if we want to access our pictures, we may select "My Pictures" under Places and it will take us to or to, depending on the user's preferences. The important thing is that the user can select the services he or she uses, but it is all accessed via the internet.
Next we have some icons representing the status of some local and online services. The first icon is the Google Desktop icon we use so that even when we are searching our local drives we do it via an html web-like service.
The second icon is our skype web-telephone icon. The normal status shows us that we are connected and have no incoming calls or messages. Even our phone service easily becomes an online experience that we can access anywhere we have an internet connection without worrying about our location.
Third the GMail notifyer shows us we don't have any mail. It would be blue if we did. What would be better would be an icon that could connect to an POP or IMAP service and show us the status of our e-mail regardless of our provider. A simple click, or double-click, could take us to our online provider.
The rest of the icons show us the status of local services, UPS status, wireless status, volume, date/time (this is actually updated periodcally from an NTP server ensuring accurate reporting), and a logout/shutdown button.
This could probably be streamlined to provide a much more streamlined, online experience.
Below our menu bar we would have tabs, like what is provided in Firefox, Opera, and IE7. Each tab would be a different web page. Certain web pages could be made to open automatically upon computer boot. Ideally you would have one configurable page that would allow you to put your important services together. A great example of this is Google's igoogle. With igoogle you can have all of your RSS feeds, news, mail status, calendar, and much more all on one page. Further services could be added to bring you even closer to your physical desktop. Widgits could be configured that show all local hard drives and allow you to browse their content right in you web browser. Another could show you the status of things such as attached cameras (and allow you to pull photos directly from your camera to your online images), music (purchased through various online retailers such as, but not limited to itunes), videos (, google videos, etc.) and anything else.
So with all of this, why would anyone want to do everything online? The two biggest reasons are accessability and data backup. When you use online services, you can have a relatively seamless computer experience anywhere you go. And if for some reason you have computer problems, including hard drive failure, your data is (hopefully) safely stored by a 3rd party online content provider.
Most tasks most commonly performed on a local computer are now available as online services. I would predict the following are the most often performed tasks on a computer:
  1. Writing a paper. This is usually done in Microsoft Word or Open Office. has a great online office suite supporting word processing and spreadsheets.
  2. Listening to music. This may be harder to turn in to an online service because of the RIAA, but it could easily become an online service such as youtube where you can upload your ripped CDs or music purchased through online service and then listen to it based on your login. There are already various online radio services, but the RIAA and other organisations are trying hard to kill these off.
  3. Watching videos. and are the two most popular ways of doing this currently. There are countless other web sites that provide the exact same service to varying degrees of quality. The current problem is a way to upload your own legally purchased videos so that only you can watch them.
  4. Playing games. Online games are clearly not up to par with cutting edge video games, and it is unlikely that the likes of Halo 3 will be an online Java or Flash game anytime soon, or that any cutting edge game could easily be provided via a small download online. But for those of us content with the online flash games to play things like Tetris, pinball, etc. the online experience is actually pretty good.
  5. Manage finances. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge there is not ane online version of Quicken or Microsoft Money. This may be a good thing though.

The easier we integrate these services into online applications that become seemless with the desktop experience, the easier and more useful we make the whole computer experience. We are already to the point where many users don't pay attention to the difference of what is a local service and an online service. If we put it all online, make it accessible from anywhere then we really empower ourselves to have all our information on the go and sharable within an instant.