Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Spring has Sprung

I have been busier than ever before, and was hard-pressed to do any personal stuff while the home machine was being repaired. It turns out the MB was shot, and it took awhile to get a replacement ordered and shipped, as I have been very busy at home and at work.

But, the good news is that Spring is here and the days are getting warmer. The crowds are starting to break out the frisbees and the leashes and are taking to Boston Common for the afternoons.

Next week is school vacation week, so I hope to have some good pics from our vacation in Florida. If I finish up what I'm working on, I may make another post later. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

One for the scrapbook...

"Daddy, what's this?"

"Those are your gums, dear."

"Are they Trident?" Posted by Picasa

Spring has sprung...

and so has the tech in my house.

Last week, we finally got back our taxes (and the final tax burden; ouch!) from the preparer, and my wife gave me the go ahead to purchase my new computer. Apparently my old computer overheard the conversation, because when I got home, it had gone on strike. It was kaput, and the preview weekend for Guild Wars: Factions was just beginning. Damn. Luckily, I had GW installed on my laptop, so I managed to get a few hours under my belt. Very cool game.

On Saturday, I went out to CompUSA and picked up a new power supply after my wife told me there had been a power surge during the day ("...it was the strangest thing; the lights got really bright for about 5 seconds..."). Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. A phone call today told me that it was the motherboard that bit the dust.

Oh well. The tech from CompUSA tells me that the $100 diagnostic fee covers the labor to install a motherboard, so I just have to find a MB that can handle the AMD Athlon 1800. Off I go to PriceWatch. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Like a Bull in a China Shop?

No, that's not quite right.

My wife took me and the kids to Montreal for my 39th birthday last November, and I snapped this pic in one of those innumerable curio shops that are scattered throughout the Chinatowns of the world. There I am, perusing the many rows of wacky and tacky tchotchkes when I round the corner and see this.

Stretching nearly the length of the shop is a floor to ceiling shelving unit, filled with fairly elegant vases and jewelry boxes, hand-painted, golden highlights, the works. Despite the mass-produced feel to most of the products, it really was quite a remarkable collection of high quality trinkets.

Yet, smack dab in the middle of this whole display was this curious little dwarf, sitting on the pot, grunting and holding his nose.

Ah, now I remember the phrase I was looking for.

Like a turd in a punchbowl.

Perfect. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 09, 2006

This is Progress?

This article hits the nail on the head. Cubicles are evil and they suck the life out of you.

From the article:

If working at home is now part of the zeitgeist, one very large employer that seems increasingly tapped in is the U.S. government. Congressman Frank Wolf, a Republican whose Virginia district is home to many federal worker bees, has made telecommuting his pet project. "There is nothing magic in strapping ourselves into a metal box every day only to drive to an office where we sit behind a desk working on a computer," he told a congressional committee.

Wolf sees telecommuting as a way to decrease traffic, reduce air pollution, increase productivity, and frustrate terrorists. In 2004 he launched a campaign to penalize government agencies by docking funds if they fail to support telecommuting. Now the SEC, the State Department, the Department of Justice, and four other big agencies are required to offer every eligible worker the opportunity to telecommute.

A 2005 survey by Milwaukee's Dieringer Research Group reported that 26 million Americans use broadband to do work from home. Sales reps and consultants have always worked remotely; now finance people, lawyers, administrators, researchers, and creative types can too. Just as infotech has enabled companies to offshore white-collar functions, it also untethers Stateside employees from their cubes.

Coming to the office for meetings and in-person collaboration is still important, of course, but as Brand points out, "People are realizing they don't need face-to-face time all the time."
My commute is two hours at each end of the day, and I have repeatedly tried to discuss the telecommuting option with my boss. Each and every time the reply has been, "Your job requires you to be in the office." No counter-arguments to me being behind the keyboard more hours during the day. No rationalization of requiring my presence. Just the blanket statement.

However, I do know the real reason. Way back when, my wife ran the research department. One year, business was slow, and the raise/bonus pool was too small to give all the support staff decent raises/bonues, so as an alternative to actual cold hard cash, my wife negotiated with her boss (the CFO) two "work-from-home" (way before "telecommuting" was even coined) days per week for her department world-wide. Being the smart cookie that she is, she didn't settle for a handshake and the gentleman's promise; she got it in writing, and that turned out to be a good thing.

Not long after, as the administrative assistants started noticing the research department's frequent "work-from-home" days, they decided that they wanted work from home days too. Only, there's one problem. How can anyone in their right mind imagine for a second that an administrative assistant can support their principal(s) from home? How does one monitor the phone line and intercept calls when the principal is on the line? How does one pop into the office to take some notes on some urgent items that need to be dealt with immediately in person down the hall? Of all the professional roles in Corporate America, being an Administrative Assistant is going to be the last one to be freed from the requirement of being in the office.

Anyway, they nearly unionized in their effort to win "work-from-home" days, but management came down hard on them to end the effort, and I believe a few were fired in order to get the point across to the rest. However, what that has done is forever close the topic of telecommuting for every other department company-wide.

I'm a web-developer. I edit text files on a web server, with the occasional GIF or JPG thrown into the mix. With company VPN, integrated Inbox for voicemail and email, and broadband/wireless at home, I could easily be sitting in my living room every day from 8AM to 5:30PM; coding, debugging, brainstorming, and generally being seamlessly available to all my current "customers" just as I am now, as most of my interactions occur over the phone. But instead, I have to leave my house at 6AM and return at 6PM. Cubicles suck. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Karma from 9/11 forever

My life seems inextricably entwined with the events of 9/11/2001. My second wedding anniversary left the country at war with an invisible enemy, my wife's friend of 10 years dead (on the 96th floor of the North Tower) along with a former co-worker of mine (a passenger on Flight 11), and the country in shock, disbelieving and pissed. For years, I've been getting the expected tsk-tsks from people who learn that 9/11 is my wedding anniversary, but today just adds yet another thread to the whole web.

Zacarias Moussaoui's trial for his involvement in the 9/11 attacks commenced today. The burden of proof? The prosecution must prove that his silence directly lead to the American intelligence and law enforcement community being unable to prevent the attacks. As any student of logic will tell you how hard it is to prove a negative, will anyone be surprised when Moussaoui is acquitted?

My youngest daughter turned five today. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Dangers of having Sex while Drinking

Monari's 101 Club was your typical small-town Italian restaurant, and my family's favorite when I was growing up. Many a night was spent there, yakking it up with the other regulars and family friends who happened to be dining out that night as well. As you can imagine, being regulars ourselves, little rituals would grow out of the greetings with the owners, and we practically had our own table, situated right in the middle of the main dining room.

Again, this was quite a while ago, and people were much more relaxed about under-age drinking back then. By the time I was 15-16, I was allowed to have a drink during dinner, and my drink of choice back then was a vodka gimlet. Being the youngest, this also meant that my brother and sister were also partaking, and the whole table would get a little tipsy and giggly during the course of dinner.

I seem to recall that we had guests eating with us that night, as the table could seat eight and I remember it as being full. I have no idea who the guests were, but my best guess would be some very close family friends, so the adult/child mix was most likely 5/3, and my brother, at 20YO, could have easily been counted in the adult column.

Now, as you might guess, if you have a bunch of adults sitting around the dinner table and drinking heavily, sooner or later, the topic of sex is going to come up. I don't recall exactly what my dad said, but it was along the lines of "Cathy and my sex life is pretty normal." to which I piped up with, "Having sex on the Lazy-Boy is normal?"

"What do you mean? Your mother and I have never had sex on the Lazy-Boy."

"Never? It was just last week. I was trying to get some homework done the other night, and you two made it impossible to concentrate."

"What are you talking about? This never happened."

"I was sitting down in my room in the basement, while you two were watching TV (the living room was directly above my room). I could hear you two kinda mumbling to each other, but I didn't think anything of it until the Lazy-Boy started creaking regularly. Squeak-squeak, squeak-squeak, squeak-squeak."

At this point, of course, I started getting some giggles from the table, and of course, that caused me to ratchet up the presentation a little, so you can imagine that my voice and gestures got progressively louder and more expansive through the rest of this speech.

"So I said to myself, 'Okay, Mom and Dad are having a little fun upstairs; I can just ignore it'. But you two kept at it. Squeak-squeak, squeak-squeak, squeak-squeak. And then you started to really go at it and the Lazy-Boy started to come up off the floor. Squeak-squeak bam, squeak-squeak bam, squeak-squeak bam. Dust started falling from the ceiling onto my desk and homework. Squeak-squeak bam, squeak-squeak bam, squeak-squeak bam. This went on for ten minutes. I couldn't hear myself think. I figured you'd finish up sooner or later, but you kept going. Squeak-squeak BAM, squeak-squeak BAM, squeak-squeak BAM. The cats were cowering in the corner. Larger pieces of dust and grit were falling from ceiling. Finally, I just couldn't take it anymore. I grabbed the broom and banged the end on the ceiling. BAM BAM BAM BAM. 'Hey, keep it down up there! I'm trying to study.' There was dead silence. A few seconds later I hear you and Mom tiptoe off to your bedroom, and I could finally finish my homework."

As you can imagine, at this point, the entire table is practically rolling on the floor laughing, and Dad weakly protests with, "You're making this up, Jack. This never happened; I would have remembered it."

"No Dad, it did happen; just last week. Ask Mom."

We both turned to my Mom, who was beet-red from laughter and a bit of embarrassment. She's trying desperately to control her laughter, and the best she can manage is vigorous nodding to indicate that, yes, it had happened. She finally gets out, "You were drunk Fred." before going off on another round of giggles.

After some more good-natured ribbing from the friends, the topic is changed and dinner resumes, and eventually we all go home.

Years later, I learned from my mom that she was quite upset at me after that night. Not for telling the story, per se, but for the effect it had on Dad. He told her that halfway through my speech, he had glanced around the restaurant, and saw that the entire dining room was completely engrossed in my tale; complete with wide eyes and open mouths. This incident had embarrassed him so much, that he refused to have sex with her without thoroughly checking the house to see if any of us were home until we had all moved away to college. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Sometimes, I hope the Fundies are right...

Neil Entwistle returned to MA today, courtesy of the Boys in Blue. Somehow, we are supposed to believe that he had nothing to do with his wife and daughter's death, despite the web searches on his computer for methods to kill someone just days before.

The only problem with this situation, in my humble opinion, is that MA doesn't have the death penalty. When I look at any of my children, I can almost believe in a God, so struck am I by their innocence and beauty.

But when I look at monsters like Entwistle, I hope that Satan truly presides over a dominion called Hell. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What I do in my spare time...

If you recognize this scene, add the obvious space and see if I'm around.

Let's get this show on the road...

Seeing as I've had this 'blog for almost a year, it's probably time I started making use of it.

Lily here is my companion on the weekends when I'm out and about in my truck. Like all small dogs, she is unafraid of anything. I hope I'm there with my camera when she finally catches one of the big dogs she's always yapping at out the window.

I find myself nearing 40 having neither Written The Great American Novel nor Won The Lottery. I know I can write quite well; finding the time and the right idea is all I need to complete the first item. Fate will have to help me out on the second.