Saturday, December 23, 2006

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

So, I've previously written about the stress and despair I felt due to my job and car troubles. This is the flipside, and where there are slight troubles, they are the troubles anybody would wish to have.

I've already written about the car. Yesterday I mailed in my first-ever car loan payment. Maybe 15 minutes later, I left the house to run an errand, and cut a corner too sharply, scuffing one of my rims against the curb. It's a blemish nobody but me will ever notice, but was frustrating all the same, considering it's not fixable, realistically. Put the two events together, and I conclude the car's really mine now.


The Jobsearch:
A little over a month ago, on the day before Thanksgiving, I went on a job interview. I thought the interview went well, and at the end, the people I interviewed with (the co-founders of the company) explained that they weren't looking to hire immediately, but maybe sometime in January or February. I liked the company and what I'd be doing, and wanted this job.

Hearing nothing back from Company A, I continued searching, and landed another interview. This interview took place this past Thursday (Dec. 21). The job was slightly less apealing, farther away and would impose NJ Garden State Parkway traffic on me, but was still acceptable, and I thought I may have a shot at this position. I've not heard back from Company B, but it's only been 2 days and they said they'd probably call me back after New Year's, so it's still a possibility.

Yesterday, around 1:00pm, Company A called me back, and asked if I could come back to meet with them again, this Thursday. Company A being my first choice, I of course said yes, and scheduled a meeting.

I'm not a schmoozer, and feel very self-conscious when trying to 'sell' myself. So when I try to network and tell people I'm looking for a new job, here's my resume, please pass it on, etc..., I feel very uneasy. However, about a month ago I began doing that whenever and wherever possible.

Last night, some of my awkward and uncomfortable networking paid off. Around 8PM I received 2 emails, one from an acquaintance I'd networked with, telling me of an opening at Metrowest, a United Jewish Federation office fairly close to my home, and the other from the CIO at the Jewish Federation, telling me of the same position. I immediately replied to the CIO and attached my resume, and via a couple of more emails, arranged an interview for this Tuesday.

To sum up, I've got a call back on Thursday for Company A, my previous first choice. I've got an interview lined up for Company C, potentially a new first choice. And I may or may not get a call back from Company B, an interesting, and not much down the list, second choice.

My trouble now is trying to decide which job I prefer, assuming I get to pick and choose. I should always suffer such choices!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Essence of Parenthood

My son Nate will be 6 years old a month from today. He's very interested in Superheroes, among other things.

For the last two weeks or so, Nate has been very hard at work, drawing sketches of superheroes in a large sketchpad. When Nate gets home in the afternoons or evenings, he goes to work on the sketchpad. In the mornings before school he spends time drawing between getting dressed and eating breakfast. On the weekends he likes to draw in the sketchpad. He confided in me that he wanted to present the finished project to Jessica for her birthday, and was upset when he hadn't finished it by her birthday this past Monday. We decided to celebrate the birthday on Friday so he could spend the rest of the week finishing everything.

He's using colored markers, and working every free moment on this project. The sketchpad is about the height and width of a typical newspaper (when folded in half with the fold running horizontal) - maybe a little larger than 1x1.5 feet. There is one superhero to a page. There is a page with Batman, against a dark, nighttime background. The page with The Flash shows him on a highway fading into the distance. Aquaman is drawn underwater. Etc.... Under each drawing, Nate has written the name of the superhero. Usually he can do this on his own, but occasionally he has asked Jess or I for help with the spellings.

The work is amazing. The drawings are better than I could ever do, and anyone that knows the superheroes could probably identify each character without having to ask who the character is.

I was so proud of the work that last weekend I set up a blog for Nate, and intended to scan the drawings in and put them on his blog so others could see the work. When I told Nate about this, he said he didn't want me to scan the works in and put them on the computer, because he didn't think they were good enough. This was very disappointing to me, as I wanted to show the drawings off, but I honored his request. I planned on scanning the drawings in to the PC anyway, in case Nate ever changed his mind, but had no intentions to put the drawings online. I didn't get around to it.

Then, Monday night he went with Jessica to Shoprite, and brought the sketchpad with him. The pad hasn't been seen since. We think it was left at the Shoprite, but we called there today and it hasn't been found. This evening I drove around the Shoprite parking lot to see if I'd see any trace of the sketchpad on the ground there.

After all the work Nate put in to this, and having seen what a good job he did, I feel horrible that the whole thing's lost. I can't believe how much I wish I could fix this for him.

When I was 3 years old, I left my favorite toy firetruck in a department store. I think it was called Gus Mayer. I never forgot about that, and this reminds me of that episode. I wonder if my parents still remember that, or if they felt the same way then that I do tonight.

Is lighting up the season harmful to our National Interests?

After work last night I drove through a neighborhood that was very much in the festive holiday spirit. Many homes had elaborate and colorful Christmas lights set up, and I enjoyed looking at all the lights as I made my way to a friend's house for dinner.

While enjoying the scenery, though, a downer of a thought came to me. How do all of the light displays erected in the USA every winter affect our energy use? I frequently leave PCs running in my home 24/7, and it's noticeable in my electric bill each month. In fact, I moved my home webserver from an Athlon-powered desktop PC to an old Pentium-2 laptop specifically to lower my electricity use.

Do Christmas light displays have any significant impact on our country's energy consumption? Does the happiness generated by the displays offset the cost, on a national level? Do Al & Tipper run a Christmas Light show?

Maybe an enterprising entrepreneur ought to come up with some sort of small scale solar power system that could bank enough juice during the day to power simple christmas lights through an entire night. The device could plug in to the home electricty for supplemental power when it couldn't sustain the load itself. If feasible and under $50, I think that might be an excellent product.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Beads For Bush

I think this is a marvelous idea!

You probably have a little too much stuff cluttering your home/office/car/life. New Orleans has not quite enough stuff comprising levee protection.

For the sake of the people, the food, the culture, the music, Mardi Gras, Jazzfest, Sugar Bowl, French Quarter Fest, and on and on and on...., New Orleans must be protected.

Some clever folks over here had a terrific idea. Let's toss some beads over to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, with a nice note asking Good Ol' GW to show a little love for the Big Easy.

So go find your beads and get with the program!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Google Analytics is N E A T NEAT!!!

 I honestly don't know what to do with 99% of the options available to me, but Google Analytics is very neat. It showed me, today, that my blog was requested by somebody (I suppose it could have been a program doing it as well) in Wuxi, China.

I've never even heard of Wuxi, China.

How cool is that?

I'll have to research Wuxi now, just to see what it's like.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Got my camera back today!

A couple of months ago I saw some new, Panasonic Oxyride batteries in Shoprite. The packaging boasted that these batteries lasted much longer than traditional alkalines in high-drain devices, specifically digital cameras. I decided I'd give them a shot and see if I noticed any difference.

Turns out, the batteries killed our Olympus digital camera. After inserting the Oxyride batteries, the camera instantly drained any batteries, of any type, inserted into the camera.

After receiving an unhelpful reply from Olympus tech support/customer service, I emailed Panasonic, explaining that their batteries had killed my camera and I wasn't happy about it. Panasonic sent me a non-canned reply, clearly and professionally explaining that the Oxyride batteries were incompatible with my camera, and even indicating the exact page number in the Olympus owner's manual that stated not to use batteries of that type.

So, feeling like a dolt, I spent a couple of nights pricing replacement cameras, and in the end decided to just send my camera back to Olympus for repair. The camera was delivered back today. I give the Olympus repair service these grades:
Courtesy: B+
General 'having-their-act-togetherness': C
Speed/efficiency: A
Quality of work performed: A
Communication: C+
Price: C

Overall: B

And, in honor of getting the camera back, I have a few pictures to share. The pictures aren't all award winners - by the time I could take some shots it was dark outside, and Max isn't a great photo subject - he wants to walk right up to me before I can take pictures of him. I'll post other, better pictures, once I have them.

Maren - in the 'cool' outfit Nate put on her this evening while I ate dinner:

Nate - in the same 'cool' outfit, after seeing how cute I thought Maren was:

Max - contemplating a jump:

And, finally, a few not very good pictures of my NEW CAR! Yes, that's right, a 2004 Mazda 6s:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Max Freedom

Our new kitten, Max, is in heat right now. We've been waiting almost a month for his scheduled appointment to be "fixed". (Appointment is scheduled for this Friday.)

I can't help but notice, though, that it's considered unacceptable for ME to pee anywhere I feel like, when I'm hot & bothered.

Friday, December 01, 2006

More bits and pieces floating in my muddled mind.

Environmental turmoil. (That sounds like it would be a good Warren Zevon song title.)

This morning I woke up and went to my car to go to work. Outside temperature? About 68° Farenheit. I arrived at the client office I needed to visit this morning. The client was experiencing HVAC problems. Inside temperature ? I don't know, but it had to be below 60°. I, and everybody else in the office, was absolutely freezing. I went to my car and got my jacket on, and was still very cold.

Around 12:30 or 1:00pm I left the client and returned to my office. First stop, the cafeteria. Leaving the cafe with my lunch, I notice the cafe's background music - Sister Christian, by Night Ranger. Stepping through the cafe doors, into the hallway of the office building proper, I then hear the office building's Muzak - I don't recall the exact song, but it was something in the same vein as, but slightly schmaltzier than, Do You Know The Way To San Jose. Talk about a segue!

Continuing my walk, I see a man talking to the guard at the front desk. The man looks like Donald Rumsfeld. A second later I see a Rich Hall lookalike entering the building.

I think I need sleep, badly. My senses are out of control here.

One other item I forgot to mention in my previous post - The Odyssey². This old videogame gets little loving from most folks, myself included. From all I've been able to gather through years of videogame collecting and online reading, while the O² was a pretty mediocre machine in many respects, in most people's opinions (again, myself included), it wasn't for lack of heart. The few fans of the system (one big fan, and a nice guy to boot, is online here) do think highly of it, and apparently the creators and designers that brought the system into being weren't slacking off, and did in fact put forth a valiant effort. Nevertheless, the system wasn't much of a competitor to the Atari VCS, Intellivision, etc... But this is all just background information.

During high school I was friends with a guy named Alex. He knew I was into videogame collecting, and when he moved across the country at the end of high school in 1986, he found his old Odyssey² system while packing up, and gave it to me. I was happy to add it to my collection, but was so uninterested in actually using the system I never bothered to hook it up and test it out.

A few weeks ago something made me think of the old game K.C. Munchkin. I'd never read anything but good things about the game, and thought it would be worthwhile to get the game, hook up the O², and play it with Nate. I visited my friend Joe at his store, Digital Press, and bought the game (in the original box, no less!) for about $4, I think. I went home, hooked up the system, and only then learned the O² controllers didn't work.

Now, this was disappointing, but was also an opportunity to make a run to Radio Shack (blechh!) and get the very-cool new, instant-on / instant-off, cool to the touch, soldering iron they sell. I purchased the soldering iron, some D-Shell connectors, and a couple of other odds and ends, and went home to add standard Atari style connectors on the O² so i could hook up trusty CX40s to the unit. I got as far as disassembling the system, before life took over and I haven't returned to the project since.

Sooner or later I'll get the project finished, and learn how fun K.C. Munchkin truly is.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Fall 2006 - Time Of Transition

I've been with my current employer, ISS Group, since May of 1998. For those of you too lazy to do the math, that's about 8½ years so far. In that time, I've:
  • Moved from Metairie, LA, to Bloomfield, NJ to take the job in the first place.
  • Married my wife (1999) and moved from the Bloomfield apartment to a house in West Orange, NJ.
  • Had a son, Nate, and a daughter, Maren.
  • Won over the affections of a notoriously antisocial cat (Meepy), and a few years later had to put her down in her old age.
  • Adopted a new kitten (Max).
  • Sold my 10+ years old Saturn, and taken over my wife's old Subaru wagon.
  • Replaced the Saturn with a 2004 Mazda.
  • Become active within my synagogue, Congregation Agudath Israel (CAI)
  • Begun a relatively successful freelance operation, assisting home users with their computers.
  • Taken an active role on the Digital Press web-forums, and become active among the Northern New Jersey videogame collecting scene.
That's a lot of water under the bridge. Understandably, I've grown comfortable, and I'm not fond of change. I *LIKE* the way things had come to be.

Sometime at the end of the summer my employer, ISS, underwent a significant change in the company's leadership and upper management. I am not at all happy or comfortable with the current leadership, and am now in the unpleasant position of having to look for a new job. I DON'T like this. I still hold my job, but for how long is anybody's guess.

As if I hadn't enough stress, around the time my new boss threatened to terminate me, I was told by my mechanic that I should trade my car in ASAP, as it needed repairs that would, at best, run around $1500, and the car was worth possibly $4000-5000. Also, during this period, a pet adoption shelter effectively told my wife and I that we couldn't adopt a cat, as they didn't believe we were suitable parents for the cat. (!!!!)

If anybody ever had any doubts about my survival-instinct or a tendency toward suicide, let this put those to bed. I've never considered killing myself, and if I didn't consider it over the last 8 weeks it's never gonna happen.

So, let's fast-forward 3 weeks, shall we?

  • The first weekend of November we adopted Max, an 8-month old kitten. While Max is adorable, he's the klutziest cat I've ever known. He attempts the same amazing acrobatic feats every young, healthy cat tries, but Max misses his jumps most of the time.
  • Saturday, Nov. 18, I traded in the '99 Subaru Outback for a 2004 Mazda 6s Sport Wagon, with a 5-speed. The car had about 18,000 miles, and looked almost-new. I love the car. It was my first choice, and after a week-and-a-half the thrill hasn't worn off.
  • Last Wednesday, Nov.22, I had an interview for a new job with a company about 20 minutes west of my home. The company and job looked appealing to me, and I think I impressed the folks I interviewed with (co-founders/owners of the company). I hope they call me back, and think I've got a good shot.
  • Sometime last week our garage door opener suffered a dramatic death, leaving a steel-pole-shaped hole in the garage ceiling. On Saturday, Nov 25, I removed the old opener and installed a brand-new one. Belt-drive. 2 remote transmitters. Wireless keypad on outside of garage door. Homelink compatible, in case we ever own a fancier car than we have now.
  • Also on Saturday, I removed the console from the new Mazda, and installed an RF modulator for my Sirius satellite receiver. The Sirius signal is now fed directly into the stereo now, and I don't have to try and find a clear frequency to use with it. (An often impossible task in Northern New Jersey.) While the console was sitting in the back seat, I also took advantage of the opportunity and spliced into the power wires feeding the cigarette lighter. I've now got a couple of wires coming out of the top of the dash, running straight to the Sirius unit. The end result is that, instead of seeing a few feet of wire running out the side of the Sirius unit, and then down in front of the dash and running under and behind the dash by the footwell, there are 2 inches of wire going straight down into the top-center of the dash, and everything looks much neater. The Sirius signal is much clearer now as well.
Other things on my mind lately -
US Politics - On the one hand, I'm more relieved than words can describe that the Dems did so well in the Mid-Term elections. On the other hand, I sincerely believe the 2000, 2002, and 2004 national elections were rigged, and I'm therefore suspicious of this year's result. After getting away with things in the last few elections, why would the people pulling the strings let the Dems win this year? It has me slightly worried, but hopefully I'm wrong and things are simply on a positive, improving track.

The new videogames - The Sony Playstation 3 is simply too expensive. I've nearly zero interest in it, quite possibly because I could cover a couple of months of car insurance for the cost of the console alone, with no games. I *WILL* be getting a Nintendo Wii sooner or later. It's very interesting to me, seems like it may even promote a slight bit of physical exercise, and includes a game. The relatively reasonable price is nice as well. And, the hype is beginning to influence me toward buying the new Zelda game with the Wii, once I break down and get one. Until now the only Zelda I've ever played was the very first Zelda on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and that one didn't appeal to me at all. Whatever the point of the game was, I just didn't get it. Videogame RPGs have never appealed to me. But there's nothing but positive talk about Wii Zelda, and the idea of using the controller as a sword, or bow and arrow, certainly sounds neat.

My MythTV computer - A couple of weeks ago the system hung, for the second time since I built it in late August/early September. After rebooting, all of the recorded programs were gone. This was a big annoyance. Since then, the remote control hasn't worked, and I haven't had time to investigate. I'm toying with upgrading to Myth 0.20 (currently on 0.19), but haven't dealt with that yet. In the meantime, the box is still recording every episode of My Name Is Earl and Heroes. Speaking of....

Heroes - Have You Watched This Show Yet???? Heroes is far and away my favorite show to come along in years. It's really, really good. Oh, and do you recall the whiny, annoying 'Jess' from Gilmore Girls? Well, the actor that portrayed Jess is on Heroes, and not nearly as annoying. In fact, his character is a pretty good guy, and not too earnest most of the time. I hate being such a sucker, but I know I'm going to end up with Heroes Series DVDs sooner or later.

My Digital Camera - New Car, New Kitten, etc...., and no pictures here on the blog? What's going on? Well, it's like this..... A few weeks ago I was at the grocery store, and saw these new Panasonic Oxyride batteries. The packaging described these batteries as being intended for high-drain devices like digital cameras, and explained the batteries lasted much longer than alkalines. Not being satisfied with the life of our NiMH rechargeables, standard alkaline, or the expensive Lithium batteries in our digital camera, I thought I'd give the Oxyrides a try. After inserting Oxyride batteries in our Olympus digicam, the camera drains any batteries inserted into ti, INSTANTLY. Brand-new Duracells? 5 minutes, 5 pictures, and then they are toast. Well, as a Panasonic customer care rep explained to me, my camera is incompatible with Manganese batteries, as the Olympus owner's manual clearly states on page 10. And of course Oxyrides are Manganese batteries. So the camera is currently at Olympus being repaired. Hopefully it will be sent back to me soon, and you'll see pictures of things begin to appear on this site.

I think this is long enough for now. Have a good December.

Monday, November 27, 2006

And So It Begins...

Sometime ago, maybe September 2005?, I started up a blog over at Digital Press and began experimenting with the then-trendy 'blogging' thing. I had a bit of fun writing down my thoughts, opinions, and day-to-day rants and ravings in usually lengthy pieces, and I felt a small thrill on the rare occasions others would leave comments.

Then, a couple of months ago the DP site began suffering occasional growth-related problems (too many users, basically), and the moderators announced the site would be overhauled. During the process of revamping the site, there would be frequent outages, and when the new site rose from the ashes the DP blogs would be history.

This was disappointing to me, and after spending a few hours saving all of my existing blog posts to a local Word document, I essentially took a leave of absence from blogging while deciding where to begin my new blog.

Over time I hope to post the old blog posts to this new location, but given my tendency to start grand projects, and then not finish them, that may never happen.

Rather than letting this first post get far too long, I'll end this here. Life has been very tumultuos lately, though, and I haven't written a new post since late-September, so I'll catch things up in my next post.