Friday, September 30, 2005

Serenity - Review - Movies - New York Times

I want everyone who reads this to go out this weekend and see the Movie Serenity. The NY Times gave it an excellent review.

Correction: I originally said:
"Even though it is PG-13 the violence is reportedly mild, and there is no sex."

While it is true that there is no sex, the violence is not mild and I do not recommend this for younger children.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Stardate 59736.34 - New Stuff

It is near absolute zero in my office in McLean, so I have had a sinus headache slowly building all day and it is now reaching maximum strength 40 minutes before I am supposed to meet some former co-workers for dinner. At least my company provides medicine cabinets full of pills on every floor! Wouldn't want someone to go home with a headache and loose the productivity...instead we'll medicate him!

The shower was a blast and we got a lot of great stuff from our friends and family. It was really nice to see everyone together at one time - thanks to everyone for the great gifts and for coming! (does this blog count as a thank-you note?) We even got to try out our new air mattress as there were 8 people staying over at Cheryl's parent's place (plus the two of them makes 10).

Anyway, I'm glad I took most of Friday off to clean out the study closet so we'd have a place to put all this baby stuff. Here is Magic helping me to pack Cheryl's demography material up so we can take it to her office:

We sometimes call him the "anti-helper". Our pottery barn items came in the day before the shower, to include our new coffee table:

It is pretty cool, and Magic loved the new carpet in the dining room so much that he has spent a lot of time sleeping and rolling around on it. We also sometimes call him "insane". You probably wonder why I don't have a lot of pictures of Squirt, our other cat. It is because she sleeps during the day under the bed, and then only comes out for food and for TV watching at night. Not that she watches TV, but during TV watching she knows there will be warm laps upon which to sit.

And now it is time for me to head out to the restaurant.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Stardate 59722.67 - Gearing up for the Shower

Am I talking about the hurricane? No, of course not. I'm speaking of the Baby Shower this Saturday at Cheryl's parent's place in Jersey. I'm looking forward to seeing a bunch of our friends whom we have not seen in a while, and I'm looking forward to getting the car out of the garage and letting it get a little work out. Poor thing is always stuck in the garage. It is going to be covered in filth as the Roosevelt Island parking garage were we keep it ($160/month vs. $500/month in our building) is "open air" so it gets quite grimy if it sits for a while, and I think it has been over a month since we used it last.

And tomorrow night will be Denise's triumphant return to D&D after a long absence (she is in the middle, her husband Greg is on the left, and Cheryl is on the right...this is in Central Park one winter during a heavy snow). We needed another player with everyone's travel/work/life schedule making it difficult to have 4 players on any one night, so Denise will be joining us again. I think it has been more than 4 years since she played with us last.

I keep finding these great blogs as they are waning. Wil Wheaton's blog was fantastic for the first several months I was reading it, then he really got into poker and everything was poker, poker, poker. He finally moved all his poker stuff onto another blog, but the number of postings to his main blog fell off significantly. And Jessica Stover just posted on her blog that she is going to slow down her response rate to e-mails as well as her number of postings. It makes me a little aggravated to find first-rate blogs right as they are completing their runs. I really only read a couple of non-relative/non-friend blogs, and when they change significantly it bugs me. But it isn't like Wil or Jessica owe me anything, so I cannot complain too much. We'll see how things go...maybe I'll have to find another cool blog to succeed theirs if the quantity of material falls off precipitously.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Captain's Log supplemental

Walked the 40 blocks to Bye-Bye-Baby this morning and purchased a crib. It is pretty cool, and you can buy rails for it to turn it into a twin bed eventually (I guess almost all cribs do that now). It was not too expensive, and seemed to be of better quality than the one we originally registered for on Babies-R-Us.

We did make a stroller decision finally. We are going to get a $50 snap-n-go stroller that is essentially a frame for a car seat. So we can just snap the car seat in and out and then we have a stroller...presto-changeo! That give us 3-6 months to figure out if the bugaboo gecko stroller is what we want (expensive but cool!) or the Maclaren XT (less expensive and folds up smaller!).

We also dropped a pretty penny on rugs for the apartment. We are obligated by our lease to have 80% of the floors covered and we have not quite been there for the past 4 years. But now we are going to catch up. And we figured the jute rug in the living room would not do once the baby comes. ("Excuse me sir, why does your child have rope burn on her face?") So we just ordered several from Pottery Barn. Hopefully they will still look great covered in cat hair and baby puke.

Oh, and that big work project I thought I was done with yesterday just won't die. Had to make more changes today and I think they want a few more before I will be done. Ugh.

Oh, and here is a picture of Cheryl looking pregnant, along with my uncle Harry and his wife Melinda from July when my Mom held Thanksgiving at her place in Virginia...but Thanksgiving in July. Not a bad idea since traffic and the holidays and all make it tough to get everyone together for Thanksgiving. And the weather was certainly better in July than November! We could not have gone tubing in the river in November, that is for sure! It was at this event that most of my family found out Cheryl was pregnant. After a couple of false starts, we were hesitant to tell people until we were into the second trimester. Once people started coming up to Cheryl at work and asking if she was pregnant, we decided that it was probably time to let people know.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Stardate 59711.52 - Keep Killing Me

Work has been most unpleasant these past couple of days. Working on a big proposal, and trying to collect text from the subject matter experts to explain what types of people it will take to do the work and how many of them over what period of time and all has taken a lot longer than I (or my boss) anticipated. But the data is due at 8PM tonight so after that I may be free for a bit. Maybe I can even take a day off next week to make up for the extra hours I've been putting in on this thing. It's even given me a headache this afternoon, as I try to gather the last set of comments before I submit it. Regardless, it kind of killed the day today because we did not get an early start because I was working on this stuff from 6 AM until after 9 AM. By the time I hit the gym and we showered and everything, and then went to the Farmer's Market across the street for fruit...well Cheryl and I were both not in a mood to go down to Buy-Buy-Baby to purchase a crib. So we put that off until tomorrow. I was also supposed to go down to the West Village to watch the VA Tech game with the NYC Alumni Chapter, but I just lost all motivation.

And the weather has been nasty. Cheryl and I have been running the A/C for the past 3 days due to the 90%+ humidity and temperatures in the 80s. Brutal for mid-September. I have a cool blazer and some nice long-sleeved shirts to wear...if it ever gets cool! This weather just sucks.

I did order some books from Amazon, and Cheryl has one we purchased for vacation that she said is pretty funny so I may start reading that. Cheryl is taking a nap now (less than 2 months til the due date!), and I have some light classical playing in the background. So far, not doing much for my headache.

I keep trying to include pictures with my posts, so here is one from vacation that I like. We actually stayed in the white house on the right, the Heceta Head B&B. I already talked about the experience (which was way cool) earlier in my blog, so I won't bore you with that now.

Maybe I'll go try to do some reading. I should sort the mail, or clean the kitchen, or straighten up around the apartment...but I am just completely unmotivated today. Up too early and too stressed out over work these past few days, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Stardate 59700.49 - Election Nonsense

We are in the middle of a primary here in NYC, and the phone has been ringing off the hook with political advertisements, aka recorded messages. It is driving me nuts. I'm actually registered as an Independent, which in NY means I cannot vote in the Primary. Cheryl is not an Independent, however, and can vote. So I think all these calls are her fault. :-)

Being in NYC is interesting because the Republicans do not even field candidates for some offices. This situation means that the Democratic Primary is basically the election for many offices. I am actually thinking about changing my registration over to Democratic just so I can get to vote and make a difference. By the time the general election occurs, the democrat who won in the primary is pretty much guaranteed the office (except in a couple of cases, like the Mayor, although Bloomberg is really a Democrat claiming to be a Republican at worst, or at best a very moderate Republican).

It has gotten so bad that I cannot even answer the phone to see what time Cheryl is leaving work...chances are near 100% that it will be a recording. Argh!


This is a test of the "Blog This" link from the Google Toolbar installed on Firefox.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Stardate 59697.11 - Video Card Woes

Looking for some advice. Yes, it is indeed true, I do not know everything. ;-)

I currently have an NVIDIA GeForce4 MX 420 video card. It works very well, but it seems to be incompatible with the latest computer games. The BardÂ’s Quest demo I downloaded would not work with it, and the Everquest II demo I downloaded yesterday would not work either. Everquest said something about "at least 4 texture units required". Their site says something about NVIDIA MX cards don't support DirectX 9.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a good card to upgrade to without getting too expensive? Cards I took a quick look at yesterday include the GeForce FX 5700, the 6800, the 6800 GT, and the 6800 Ultra. The 6800 GT seems to be about $300, and seems to be at a good price/performance point.

Of course, with the baby on the way, I'm not sure how much game-playing I'll be able to do, so I'm not sure if now is the time to drop $300+ on a new video card for only a couple of months of playing prior to the birth in November.

Any advice on a new card?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Stardate 59691.57 - Stuff That Just Doesn't Work

One thing that pisses me off more than anything else (well, maybe not more than anything else but it is absolutly in my top 5...maybe even my top 3) is when things just don't work. I had this issue with the first couple of DVRs that we got through our cable company, Time Warner. They would work for 3-6 months and would then start to get choppy video, and what appeared to be bad sectors on the hard drives. Some shows would lock up when playing back and would force the system to re-boot. Highly, highly annoying...Especially since we were paying (at the time) $7 or $8 per month for the thing. Finally, we are now on our third box and it seems to be working alright for the long term. At first, I was told it was because we had an analog splitter on the line and not a digital splitter, so I fixed that. Then I read from forums that people needed to periodically reboot the things, so I would do that every month or two. I also though that maybe (since I live in an apartment building) that the signal was really weak by the time it got up here to the 14th floor and had spit off God knows how many times, so I purchased an amplifier and put that on the line. All these solutions seemed to fix things for a few months, and then it would go right back to mis-behaving. Finally, the last guy who put in the last box said that the cables were mixed around, which I think is crap because if the cables were mixed up I wouldn't get any signal at all, would I? But I haven't had any problems at all this time. So perhaps there was a bad cable in the mix and him shuffling things around ended up removing the cable from the mix. Or maybe this box is just finally one that works.

But this type of thing pisses me off.

I want things to work. I don't think that is too much to ask. I want to purchase an item and plug it in and have it work. Cameras are like that. TVs are like that. Stereo equipment is like that (mostly, as you will see below). But some things seems to constantly not work. I have two devices in my life right now that I am ready to throw out the window and have them crash 14 floors below on the sidewalk.

First, my cell phone. I've been griping about my phone for almost 2 years as Cheryl will attest to. I have a NEC 515 that I have had problems with since I first purchased it. The issue is that the problems come and go, so I've tolerated it for so long. I am about to get rid of it, however, as the damn 2-year contract is almost up and I can get a new phone. Thinking about the Motorola 551...Cheryl's aunt Janice recommended it. The phone (could be the service, but I blame the phone) loses the network. The entire network. The signal will suddenly go from 4 bars to zero, the call will drop, and 3 seconds later I have 4 bars again. Sometimes, the signal will stay at 4 bars and it will think the call is still on, but the connection has dropped. When this happens, I have to re-boot the phone. I strongly urge people to stay away from this phone. If anyone cares, I had AT&T service, but I've "rolled over" to Cingular. I have not changed my phone or plan since Cingular took over. I've had these problems under both, although it seems to have decreased in frequency since Cingular took over. But it still happens.

Second, a recent purchase I just made was a set of wireless speakers. RCA WSP150 900 MHz Wireless Speaker System. It sucks. I have screwed around with them for over an hour and still cannot get one of the speakers to work at all, and the other one only after 30-minutes of screwing with it. I get lots of static, if I move it at all I have to re-adjust the tuning knob as it loses the signal, and the set-up took way longer than it should have. I understand that you need to have it be adjustable as there are lots of 900 MHz devices out there, but all my stuff operates at the GHz range. I am in an apartment building, but one with very think walls. And EVEN IF I PUT THE DAMN SPEAKERS 10 FEET FROM THE TRANSMITTER I still have problems. So I think I am going to have to return them. For $100, the f***ing things should work out of the box.

Companies that make products that don't work should be sued out of existence. You simply should not be permitted to sell something that doesn't work.

ARGH! It is do damn frustrating. And don't tell me to read product reviews because I have NEVER found a product that everyone universally loves. There are ALWAYS dissenters on everything. People told me back when I bought my first Pentium 50MHz that the chips overheated and I was going to have lots of problems. I never had a problem with it, I used it for a few years, then I gave it to our neighbors when we moved to NYC and as far as I know they are still using it. All you can do is look at the average score and if it is pretty high you go for it. Of course, using that strategy got me the NEC cell phone and these damn speakers.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Stardate 59686.1 - Back to Work

The worst thing about coming back from vacation is having to go back to work. Trying to catch up on things you missed or that went awry while you were out is most unpleasant. Looking to be a bad, bad week (or couple of weeks).

And since a comment demanded it, here is a recent picture of Magic. I ran out of paper in the printer and used the last from the box and Magic decided he needed to be in the box so I quickly shot this:

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Vacation 2005 - Sunday, Sept 4

We arrived at JFK this morning at around 0800, but it took 30 minutes waiting at the luggage belt before our bags arrived. We also had a chatty taxi driver for our 30 minute ride back into the city. Cheryl managed to get about an hour or two of sleep on the plane, but I couldn't get to sleep at all, so I watched DirecTV. Let me tell you, Friday late night television is really bad. It was almost all infomercial. Really, really bad. I watched the National Geographic channel (a special on Crime Scenes) and then a couple of hours of Bonanza (TVLand was running a Michael Landon marathon called "TVLandon" all weekend). That was the best I could find.

Needless to say, we were both exhausted when we got to the apartment. The cats were fine and well fed and greeted us enthusiastically (I think they missed us). Here is a picture of them (this picture is now a couple of years old).

We had bagels for breakfast and then napped for about 4 hours. I then ran out and got pizza. It was nice to have NY bagels and NY pizza again...not that we have wanted for decent food, but there is something unique about NY bagels and pizza that you just cannot get anywhere else.

Tonight VA Tech (where I got my BS) has its opening football game and the NY VA Tech Alumni organization (which I have recently become more involved in) has taken over a bar to watch the game. Cheryl and I are going to go, but probably only for the first half, after which we'll collapse back into bed. Tomorrow we'll get out and get some exercise and run some errands, but today we are taking it easy. We had a lot of mail to sort through, and bills to pay. And I had an episode of Battlestar Galactica ("The Best Show on Television") to watch. We also caught up on a couple of episodes of "The Daily Show".

Tomorrow really is the last day of our last vacation before the baby arrives.

Vacation 2005 - Saturday, Sept 3

We are in the Portland airport, waiting for our flight to board as I write this note. Today was our last day of vacation on the left coast, although we have 2 more days before we have to return to work on Tuesday. We are looking forward to having these two days off to recover from the jet lag and this red-eye flight to JFK.

Today we spent time with Steve and Rachel doing some shopping and running some errands in the morning, and then we went to a downtown park to take some pictures before dinner (grilled chicken with an excellent mango salsa - salsa by Rachel).
We made great time to the Portland airport, we got the rental turned in with no problems (even my one free weekend coupon worked so that saved us about $80), we were the only people checking in at JetBlue and we got through security very quickly. We were at the gate 1.5 hours prior to boarding, which is about how close I like to cut it, but was way too early for Cheryl's tastes.

At the gate I decided to boot up and see if I could get this blog entry written off-line, figuring that I'd upload it sometime tomorrow when we are back home. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to discover that the Portland has free wireless! So we discovered as soon as I booted up that the Chief Justice had passed away. After reading the NY Times web site for a little while, I decided to go ahead and get this entry done.

I do have one complaint about Oregon (yes, only one!) and that is the drivers. I have driven in at least half of the 50 states, and Oregon is the only place where all the drivers seem to habitually drive 5-15 miles below the speed limit. Everywhere else I have driven, people who drive a little bit faster (like me) tend to do about 5 mph over the speed limit. If the highway is posted at 65, I tend to do about 70. In Oregon, however, they all seem to do 50-60. Everyone. Across all lanes. This behavior extends to downtown as well. Most of downtown Salem seems to be 30, but I rarely could even get to 30 as most drivers were doing 20. I don't know if speeding tickets are incredibly expensive out here, or if it is just the laid back left coast attitudes, or what...but it was damn frustrating.

Anyway, we are looking forward to getting back home, sleeping in our own bed, and seeing our cats again. Hopefully we can sleep most of the flight back. We have earplugs to help with that goal.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Vacation 2005 - Friday, Sept 2

The end of our vacation is approaching. Today we took a day off from driving and just took it easy. We met Steve for lunch (Bar-B-Q) and we watched the movie, The Constant Gardner. It was a bit preachy and ponderous, but pretty good nonetheless. We also uploaded some of our pictures to Walmart and had them make prints today. They turned out pretty good, but some of the 4x6 prints had the top and/or the bottom chopped off a bit. We needed to preview how they would looked cropped to 4x6 and move them around a bit. Now we know for next time. But overall, the price and quality are very good.

Tomorrow night we fly back.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Vacation 2005 - Thursday, Sept 1

Today we forgot the camera. Rachel left with Ethan and Ellie for playgroup and we gathered up the maps and books for the Silver Falls Tour near Salem and walked out of the house without the camera. We realized it about 20 minutes from the house, so we decided it was not worth coming back for it.

We took 214 out to Stayton to look at their covered bridge. Turns out their bridge really started out somewhere else and then was stored in Stayton and eventually built in their park just as an attraction. Then it burned down. And in 1998 they re-built it. So it was not quite historical. We did stop for a cookie and a couple of lattes while we were there.

Then we went to Silver Falls State Park and did a 2.5 mile loop around the South Falls. They were pretty cool, and we wished we'’d had the camera (although the sun was not in the optimal position for good pictures anyway. We then drove over to the North Falls and did a short 0.5 mile loop to see them. Also pretty cool.

Next we went to Silverton. We keep getting turned around there (see yesterday'’s adventures), but we made it through alright this time. We ended up in Mt. Angel at a brew pub for lunch. But the brew pub (Mt. Angel Brewing Company) doesn'’t actually make its own beer yet (just root beer). So I drank something called "“Horny Devil"” from a brewery in San Diego. The food was not as good as Hood River, but it was still pretty darn good. The beer was good as well, and Cheryl had the Hazelnut soda--—also very enjoyable. And coming back through Silverton we got turned around again and I ended up on a one-way street facing the wrong direction. Luckily, traffic was light and I realized right away what I had done and fixed it with a quick u-turn.

We then went up to the Abby, but I was expecting a small outpost, not an entire operational complex, so we just drove around it and then went back to Salem in time for dinner with Steve and Rachel and the gang. Excellent, as always. There was a spectacular sunset we tried to capture, but the picture did not turn out well. Since it was the only thing we used the camera for today, I've included the better of the two here.