Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear #OccupyWallStreet,

Yesterday the world lost a great man.  Depending on who you talk to, Steve Jobs was:
  • a genius
  • a control-freak
  • a brlliant marketer
  • a perfectionist
  • a jerk
  • etc...
What is beyond dispute is that our world would not be what it is today had he never lived.  The products of Apple Computer have enabled and shaped the technological progress of the entire world.  Who hasn't heard of iPods?  That brand is not very far behind Coca Cola for being recognized around the world.

And yet, I fear that Mr. Jobs passing will be overshadowed by the spectacle that is taking place in our headlines today here in America.  In New York City, your grassroots movement has taken up residence in the streets and alleys in lower Manhattan, protesting the very institution that Mr. Jobs used so very well to leave his mark on the world; capitalism.

Mr. Jobs (and Steve Wozniak, but let's focus here) started Apple Computer in his parents' garage back in the 1970's.  He was taking on the established computer industry with his ideas.  IBM was an industrial behemoth back then, and everyone thought he was nuts.  But we know how that story ends.  Apple Computer's market capitalization as of today is 350 billion dollars versus IBM's 211 billion dollars. (I'm hoping someone in #OccupyWallStreet understands the relevance of market capitalization and can explain it to the rest of them).  Apple Computer's success (and rescue from almost certain bankruptcy, but that's a different story)  is entirely due to Mr. Jobs' obstinate refusal to stop trying at everything he did.

So, it is with stark contrast that I look at what you are trying to accomplish with your protests in Manhattan, and elsewhere.  End capitalism?  End the very thing that enabled Steve Jobs to bring you the device that allows you to broadcast your story to the world?

Steve Jobs would hold you all in contempt.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game (look it up on Wikipedia with your iPhone/iPad).  Steve Jobs carved out his wealth from an industry that at first laughed at him, then tried to shut him down, and then desperately tried to emulate and catch up.  Wealth is hard work.  Happiness is hard work.  Yes, I know that we can't all be Steve Jobs, but if you don't bust your ass trying, you have no one to blame but yourself.  If you want to be mad at someone, be mad at your parents and teachers who didn't teach you this.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I fear the wrath of Meredith...

...for the entertainment for this evening and for the foreseeable future are classic Disney movies from the cache of VHS tapes that Emma unearthed in the basement today. Tonight's feature presentation: Pocahontas. Emma and Deidre are transfixed by the previews of all the other Disney movies.

This isn't all bad, as Deidre has never really seen most of the Disney movies. I think this is going to guarantee that we buy the re-release of The Lion King on Blu-ray this fall.

Off to get the popcorn.

Literally following in her big sister's footsteps...

Deidre is now the proud owner of a pair of Skeletoes. She is a Mini-Mere.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Night at Windy Oaks

It's been a long week, and we're just taking it easy and hanging out talking about life/politics/etc.  Deidre is watching Netflix and cuddling with Ayiah (Egyptian god; Google it).

Life is good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Camellia-sinensisphilia is on the rise in Pepperell

I arrived home this evening to a tea tasting.

For months now, Meredith and Emma have been becoming tea afficianados and ardent patrons of Teavana. Somewhere along the way, Deidre also become a fan of tea, so it didn't surprise me when she wanted to spend the money she raised selling lemonade this weekend at our yard sale at Teavana when we were at the mall this weekend prior to my ill-fated visit to NTB. The prices at Teavana were quite dear ($18 for a few ounces of tea!!) so Fiona decided to channel Deidre's interest in a different direction and took her shopping at the local Asian market and a health food store today.

When I walked into the kitchen, spread out before me was a regular production line for making loose-leaf tea, and several samples waiting in line with sheets of paper for each, giving the name of the mix (Fiona's favorite is #10, Fruity Tutti), detailed ingredients list and some notes about the quality of each as a hot tea and an iced tea. Deidre had already made seven different mixes and was working on the eighth while she was asking Fiona if she could run a loose-leaf tea stand at the next local fair to sell her own mixes.

As the evening progressed, she ended up with ten different mixes (five of which I thought were quite good) and a promise from me to try to sell the tea to my fellow commutants. Quite the little budding entrepreneur we have here.
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A Budding Artist

Deidre was selected from her classmates to have a piece of art she made included in an exhibition at school. Here is the finished product after Fiona framed it today.

Pretty darned good for a 10YO if you ask me.
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Things to do in Nashua when your brakes are dead

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I haven't been stranded in Nashua since 9:00 AM, but with a current estimate of a completion time of 5:00 PM, 8 hours for a simple brake job seems a little excessive.

We dropped off Meredith's car at 9 this morning to have all four brakes replaced. Two hours later (after going to church, hence I haven't been stranded *all* day), we got the call from NTB that the car would be ready in an hour, so we went for lunch. Fee dropped me off and headed home with the girls. I went inside and settled up with the guy at the customer desk, got in the car, and headed for home.

"That doesn't feel right," I thought as I came to a stop at the first light, after reaching maybe 25 mph. I caught all of the next few lights, so I had no reason to use the brakes until I reached an intersection about 1/2 mile from NTB. At that point I had to slow down from 45, and the shuddering/shaking was pronounced. I made a u-turn and headed back to NTB.

After taking the mechanic on a test drive, they agreed it wasn't right and would take another look. 30 minutes later, they told me that their decision to re-use the lightly worn springs didn't work out and that they would replace them at no cost to me, and that I should be out of there in another 30 minutes.

So there I am 30 minutes later when the guy comes out of the back with a rather pained expression on his face. He actually was quite hesitant to start speaking. 

"The new drums we installed were warped, and the closest replacements are in our Chelmsford store (30 minutes away)."


So, I'm sitting in the UNOs next door enjoying a Sam Adams Octoberfest or two waiting for them to finish up. So much for the honey-do-list stuff I had planned for this afternoon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bag 'O Crap Update

I managed to score a Bag O' Crap in a recent Woot-Off, and was asked by multiple people to let them know what I got, hence this post.

In the upper left-hand corner is a "Footflush".  I trust the name is self-explanatory.  I'm not sure that Fee will let me install it.  It looks kind of interesting.

Moving counter-clockwise, we have the "Rub-N-Color Solve the Mystery  Game Book".  Deidre is very keen to check this out.

The two colorful blobs below that are labeled "wibbly FUN".  Again, Deidre was keen to get her hands on these.

Below those is a "Furniture Cleaner and Polish".  Fiona is very keen to have me get my hands on this.

And last, and probably least, is a pink handbag with a flip-flop design motif.  I suppose I can carry the furniture polish in that.

So, in closing, yes, I certainly managed to snag myself a "Bag O' Crap".

EDIT: Despite my "rotating" the pic on my tablet before uploading, the pic is rotated 90° to the left from true. Sorry.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A new chapter

My oldest daughter started college today. I'm very proud of her. Good luck, Meredith. Impress the hell out of them!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Essential Equipment

I finally acquired a vital piece of equipment for my workshop this morning at a local yard sale.

Monday, June 13, 2011


The girls are taking a mixture of voice/piano lessons, and there was an end-of-season recital yesterday. Emma sang "Homeward Bound" (not the Simon and Garfunkel one).

Unfortunately Meredith was not feeling well, or else we'd have her "Danny Boy" up here as well.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dinner conversation

Tonight's dinner conversation included rules for different variations of dodgeball.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

And now, an episode of Wild Kingdom...

I saw a hawk drop out of a tree and kill a mouse/mole on my way to work today. He then flew past me at the next set of lights and landed on the building where he and the wife are raising some chicks eyasses. (Yes, I'm assuming it's the male doing the hunting; yes, that's sexist).

The tree:
View Larger Map

The nest:
View Larger Map

The nest (not present in the above imagery) is on a small ledge just above and to the left of the 185. Every morning I see photographers out there taking pictures and I believe there is a webcam pointing at the nest from a few feet away. While not a live feed, this is a YouTube video about them, and contains footage from the camera:

Here's the Wikipedia article about them.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Internet...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A day in Boston with friends

The day started out with dim sum at China Pearl, we escaped the cloudburst in Fanuiel Hall, and are now enjoy gelato at Gelateria in the North End. Life is good.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Over the weekend, my buddy Greg was over to hang out and imbibe beverages. At one point, he took his son to the local skate park and unbeknownst to me, he gave his son his cellphone in case he needed to call.

While he was there, he accidentally butt-dialed me about 15 times in 30 minutes.

I had no idea what was going on, and thought Greg needed to speak with me urgently, so I kept answering, only to hear vague garbly noises. I kept shouting into the phone, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU; CALL BACK WHEN YOU HAVE A BETTER SIGNAL OR TEXT ME WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY!"  Twice I ignored the calls and let them go to voicemail.  During all this, I asked Fiona if I should be worried about him calling so often, so she was aware of the numerous calls.

Finally I got fed up and drove down to the skate park to see what was going on. Neither of them were there, as they passed me on the way and I didn't see them.  While I was down there, Greg called me.

"Dude, where are you?"

"I'm down at the skate park. Where the hell are you?"

"I'm back at your house; we passed you on the way back.  Fee told me about the calls.  Mitchell must have been butt-dialing you."


I hung up and drove back and we all had a good laugh.

The next day I got around to checking my voicemail (GoogleVoice-powered) transcriptions and found these two "messages" transcribed from the random rustling from inside Mitchell's pocket as he was skateboarding. Each message was about three minutes long.

Message #1:  "Hey bye ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Hey owner or voice, bye. Thanks, hey poo. Ha. Hello. Hello. Hello. Hello, peace, bye hi hello hello hello hello hello Institute hey alright. Later I don't remember there are a little while."

Message #2:  "Bye hey, hey hey. Hello bye hello. Hello. Bye bye hey hello for is scenario. Ohh, hey bye. I hey. What are us okay bye bye hey hello hey."

The wonders of technology.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The bandages are off...

...and Fiona is disgusted by her own foot, yet she can't stop worrying the incision/stitches.

Tired child

The first day of school after the beginning of DST is always one of early bedtimes, but Deidre has already fallen asleep doing her homework at 5:30.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spare parts

The doc gave us the option of taking the hardware from Fee's ankle home with us, after they sterilized it. My buddy Greg's first comment was "What are scrap places paying for titanium these days?"

Friday, March 11, 2011

Out and awake

Fee is out of surgery and doing great. Fairly alert and somewhat subdued. We should be heading home soon.

Ready for surgery

We're at the hospital, waiting for Fee to go and get the metal out of her ankle. It's going to be a long week next week while I wait on her hand-and-foot during her recovery.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mission Accomplished

I spent a lovely rainy day with Deidre helping her finish her school project; a model of the solar system. All I did was help her with drilling holes. She painted all the planets over the past few weeks and made all the moons.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Roses from Wilkins Farm - $60
Dark Chocolate Decadence from Finale Desserts - $30
Chandon Champagne - $30
A happy wife - Priceless

Happy Valentine's Day, dear. I love you more than you will ever realize.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I'm in geek heaven this weekend

For the past few weeks, I've been taking Friday afternoons off to take Deidre skiing for her school's ski program. However, due to the chest bug that's been making the rounds, both she and Emma have been sick, and both had stayed home from school for two days. So, instead of hitting the slopes, I decided to spend a few hours on the tractor moving snow around to make room for the next storm's inevitable plowing.

When I was about halfway done, I was briefly interrupted by the arrival of a UPS truck. Since I hadn't ordered anything lately, I was surprised to see my name on the shipping label. I checked the address label and there was was no name in the from section, but the shipper was from Louisville, KY. My memory told me that Woot was based there (it's not), so I figured it was a Woot item that I had forgotten about, and put the package on the back of the truck.

As I finished the tractor work, Fee came out and asked me if I wanted to go snow-shoeing with her while she did her cross-country ski loop. I said, sure, but let me just check what's in the package. I took it inside and popped open the top of the box to find this:


It took me about 10 seconds to realize what I was looking at. I had nearly forgotten about applying to be in the ChromeOS beta test. Could this really be what I thought it was? I flipped over the colorful sheet to find:


NO WAY! I had been selected to be in the ChromeOS beta test, and in my hands was the free laptop/netbook with ChromeOS ready to go.

The boxtop was quite cute:


The packaging:


Unpacked and booting:


The getting started pages:


So, I've been playing around with it for nearly a day now. I caught up with news via Google Reader, I browsed Facebook, and I wrote this blog post on it. All in all, it's a slick little device. Very light, good screen, excellent keyboard (one of the best I have ever used), great battery life.

I'm a very happy geek this weekend.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Belated Happy Birthday, dear...

...but you have to admit I had a pretty good excuse*.

* 24 hours into a 5-day antibiotic/steroid regime for a severe chest infection that hit me like a ton of bricks on Friday and I'm just about up to 90%.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Just my luck...

So, for the past two months, I've been working on this project for HR... excuse me, I mean HC. Now this project is somewhat special because it was a test for hiring outside contractors to do the programming so as to relieve the regular programmers from having to do the coding for this project. Instead we're on conference calls to New York trying to convey to the contractor and the project lead enough about our internal databases and processes so that they can do the coding that I could have had done in half the time.

But at least I don't have to do the coding.

Now, this is following closely on the heels of two of our six person development team leaving the firm, the departure of each resulting in me taking up half of each's workload. Also thrown into the mix is my having to train a new person hired to replace just one of the former team members. He knows our programming environment, but not our internal infrastructure and processes.

But at least I don't have to do the HC project coding.

Simultaneously with the above, our Sharepoint specialist is rolling off the near two year effort to upgrade all the disparate Sharepoint sites in the firm to one server running the latest and greatest version of Sharepoint (well it was the latest and greatest when we started, but that's a whole other post).  While she was a fine programmer when we were using classic ASP, during the two years we had moved on to ASP.NET and so she needed training in that. By virtue of her being a regular member of the team, she knows our internal infrastructures and processes, so at least I didn't have to cover that.

But at least I don't have to do the HC project coding.

Then I learned that we're going to hire a contractor to take over the big staffing project that was the main responsibility of one of the departed team members. He too needs to be trained on all of our internals. His arrival coincided with the new guy just caught up on our internals and having started with his projects (needless to say, that took some of the load off me, but not all of that half that he's destined to take over).

But at least I don't have to do the HC project coding.

So now my little story has almost caught up to the present. I arrived at work this morning to find that the head of HC has announced via a firm-wide email that the HC project that I haven't been bothered by having to actually code over the last few months will be launched tomorrow and that there will be an introductory presentation at the weekly Friday morning (tomorrow).

One marathon coding sprint later via a flurry of emails and tag-teaming the source repository later, things are beginning to look like we will have the end-user facing piece ready for tomorrow and can finish up the rest of the reporting next week. As my boss starts making noises like this is good enough and I can depart, I realize that while I'm not going to make the 6:25 train, but I can still go to North Station, grab a stool at the bar there, and savor a well-deserved Scotch (neat) while I wait for the 7:35.

Of course, what do I find when I get to North Station?  That there's a Bruins game tonight and that the bar is packed.

I need a drink.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mother and daughter afternoon activity

Fiona and Deidre are off for some cross-country skiing before retiring to the hottub.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snowmageddon 2011 Update

While it did take me about 90 minutes to plow the driveway, Fiona took care of shoveling the most important part of the property; the path to the hot tub.

All told we finally ended up with a little over two feet of snow. Commuting will be quite fun tomorrow.

"Do you realize the street value of this mountain?"

The white stuff is piling up pretty well outside, though you wouldn't think so from this picture. The prevailing wind comes right down the drive and keeps it pretty clear.

So far we have about 18" (yes, INCHES) of snow. The non-driving kids are all in the barn pretending to be stranded there a la "Little House on the Prairie".

I'm off to do my first run at plowing the drive.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The hatches are battened...

...the firewood is stacked on the front porch and the kids are thrilled that the schools have already called tomorrow a snow-day.

I'll be working from home tomorrow as well, in between bouts of snowplowing.

Will the local news channels call it Snowpocalypse or Snowmaggedon this time?