Friday, August 31, 2007

Has your family history changed?

Earlier this week I went in for an annual medical exam. My health care provider greeted me cheerfully and began looking through my medical file. She was going on about this and that when she asked me if my family history had changed. She then rattled off the fact that three of my grandparents had died from cardiovascular related causes and that my mother had suffered high blood pressure. I just smiled and nodded as she went on. I guess she realized what she had said, because she chuckled a bit and then rhetorically asked me if any of that had changed.

I shook my head with a smile on my face and a big ROTFL in my head. Nope. None of that had changed. They were all still dead of the same causes as last year.

In all fairness it was 8:30 a.m. on a Monday morning. So, I guess even health care professionals have mindless Mondays, huh?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I have a child in HIGH SCHOOL!!!

My son is officially in high school. I'm aghast. When did this happen?

He seems to be totally comfortable with the transition. Though he is a bit whiney about the extra workload, especially since he had homework on day one.

I sometimes cannot get over how tall he has gotten, or that his voice is cracking and changing. Sometimes he is a complete airhead. Other times, he offers to take care of things out of the blue, which totally shocks me.

He has the day off from school tomorrow. I wish I had a four day weekend to look forward to. Then again, he is grounded. Long story. Basically got caught riding his bike when he was already prohibited from riding his bike. So, I guess that puts him on double-secret grounding.

I joke around with him frequently that I would gladly sell him to gypsies. On the other hand, it is wildly interesting watching this person (whose diapers that I changed) slowly come out of his cocoon and change into a proto-adult. Mind you, he has a LONG way to go. ... Maybe this will be my final chance in learning patience. :D

Which would you pick?

I received a spam survey with a question I liked. Given a choice, which would you pick:

  • Take a year off with pay

  • Get a chef/housekeeper for a year for free

I would definitely take the former. If I had a year off with pay, I would gladly clean my own house and cook my own meals. I'm not sure why anyone would pick the second choice over the first.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Famous last words

Your Famous Last Words Will Be:

"So, you're a cannibal."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Revisiting The Deathly Hallows

I head up my church's book discussion group. We normally only read books that are readily available in paperback, so as to be available to the most people (economically speaking). However, we make an exception about once a year or so when something truly noteworthy comes along. This month, we HAD to discuss the last Harry Potter book.

In all honesty, I ripped through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows so quickly the weekend that it came out that I decided that I needed to re-read it for our talk to night. I was only about a hundred or so pages into it by the meeting. However, I will be finishing the book for a second time. It really is quite good.

Everyone liked the book, though a few people were confused by the end. And, one or two people thought that Rowling rushed to deliver all the details to the reader in the last two chapters. Several people pointed to the numerous examples of literary borrowing (the Horcrux locket being much like the one ring in LOTR, or the sword of Griffondor being like Excalibur in Arthurian legend). Never mind, it was all brilliantly stitched together with well developed characters and well-paced plotting, except maybe for the overdone interminable camping scenes (nearly everyone agreed on this point).

I'm looking forward to this one being made into a movie. Can't wait to see how much they'll feel like they can get away with cutting. Maybe just most of the camping, huh?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dinner and a movie

My in-laws brought our teenage son back today after another week-long visit. They treated us to dinner at our local Irish pub. After, we treated them to the DVD version of "300". They hadn't seen it before. They thought it was a bit bloody. (It was. But it was GOOD blood!) I really look forward to the day when we can watch that flick in HD or BluRay on our own personal huge screen home theater system. On the 32" tube was still pretty good though.

Up a little later than I'd like to be, but content with the day.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kittty Say What

I don't normally share such things (as evidence by the fact that the video is not actually in-line). However, I thought this was cute:

Kitty Say What?

Un-girly shoes

In my last post, I mentioned that I was shopping for shoes on Saturday without finding what I was looking for. My favorite shoes are sturdy and supportive slip-ons that have served me well. They aren't exactly stylish, but they blend in with my wardrobe rather well. The poor things are about to give out (splits in the sides of the leather). So, I toddled off to another shopping center today to try again. Sadly, I was unable to find another pair of sturdy slip-ons. But, I did find a pair of serviceable tie-ups. These are not quite as nice looking as the shoes they are replacing. However, they are much more supportive. Do note the color of my socks:

My husband approved of my selection, though he did not join me on today's trip. On the other hand, Boose approved of the box that the shoes came in.

Think pink

I never used to be a 'pink' kind of girl. I don't do make-up, or nail polish, or ear rings. Really, not my thing. When I wear a dress or a skirt people think there's something going on (like maybe an interview).

Maybe it's the menopausal hormones. In the last couple of years, I have found myself attracted to pink clothing. I have a few pink t-shirts and baseball caps. In the last six months, I have also acquired several skirts because I actually liked them.

Saturday, while shopping for shoes (another girly thing that I've started getting into), I became somewhat enamored with a light blue adidas backpack. It had a special padded pocket for your laptop, in addition to loads of other space and pockets. For a variety of reasons, I was unable to purchase the object of my affection. So, I decided to shop for it online. Low and behold, I found the backpack online in pink! I did not put in the order immediately. I spent several hours mulling the purchase over. I kept coming back to my computer and admiring the backpack.

Finally, I gave in. Meet my new best friend:

I'm kind of ashamed and excited at the same time. From a usefulness perspective, it is fantastic. However, I could have ordered it in all black. But then, where's the fun in that?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A splendid day of fruitless boiling

My favorite, most comfortable, shoes are on the verge of falling apart. So, I decided to go to DSW in an attempt to replace them. My congenial husband agreed to go with me (yes, to go shoe shopping). We were barely outside when we both wondered if the venture was well conceived. It was in the upper 90s with similarly inclined humidity. For NH, this is absurd.

We ventured forth to the appointed shopping area, where there was not a shaded space to put the car. Not just our car, but any car. The parking lot had no shaded areas whatsoever.

In addition to DSW, we poked around in several other stores. No shoes. We did buy some end-of-season beach towels. But, that was all. So, we went home and took a nap. (We like afternoon naps.)

This evening, we picked up some take-out from Boston Market, and drove over to our church for an evening of games. I played Scrabble, and my husband played Trivial Pursuit. We both did poorly, but we had a good time. Unfortunately, by evening's end, he had a nasty headache which we are blaming on the weather.

When we got home, he immediately fell into bed. I'm about to pop something that I've seen before into the DVD player. This usually helps me unwind and fall asleep.

All in all, a splendid day (albeit nastily hot). Maybe I'll go look for shoes somewhere else tomorrow.

Friday, August 24, 2007

82 minutes

82 minutes is the exact amount of time that Nicole Richie spent in lock up for DUI.

I know that we shouldn't care about this. I know that the only reason for some people's 'celebrity' is their wealth or their parents or their flamboyance for grabbing headlines. However, what kind of message does this kind of nonsense send to young people? If you are famous and (nominally) beautiful, go ahead and screw up. You'll get a slap on the wrist and a brief glimpse at how the 'other half' lives.

Heck, there are days that I spend more time in traffic trying to get home from work!!!

Note: Apologies to the PPT Fairy. This just could not go by without some comment.

Finding the silver lining

I am involved in a very huge project at work. We're replacing a home-grown application, that everyone uses, with a commercial product. The project recently got a fire lit under it, which put a boatload of pressure on me to deliver. I am normally a very driven person, very results-oriented. Unfortunately, the organization I work for has yet to discover the benefit of strategic planning, project management, or accountability. We are working on all of that. However, my project is the first that is being held up as an example on accountability and project management. So, most of the players are unsure how to operate. Communication and coordination still leave a bit to be desired. All in all, a somewhat frustrating enterprise for me as the technical lead on the project, since I have no power over anyone but I need everyone's cooperation to make this work.

Here is where the vendor comes in. My organization outsourced the evaluation that got our current vendor selected. It turns out that one of the key features we asked for they only do partially, and no where near as well as our in-house solution. Since this feature is key to the security of the application, it became a huge duck-on-the-table this week when the inadequacy was uncovered. After much discussion, it was decided that deployment would be put on hold until the vendor fixed the bug that caused the issue. And yes, the vendor sheepishly admitted that it was a bug.

So, 'where is the silver lining?' you may ask. Well, this project was on an insanely tight deadline. I have been working extra hours and losing sleep over the whole situation. But now, I have more time to make sure that the aspects of the project that are under my control are delivered in a quality manner, while the vendor gets their head out of their butt and fixes this critical issue.

So, thank you Mr Vendor for being an extremely huge butthead. I may actually get a reasonable amount of sleep tonight.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A surreal turn from a poor start

Today started off VERY poorly. I have IBS (if you don't know don't ask), and today was one of THOSE days. I haven't been sleeping well lately. Last night was another one of the most recent in a two week stretch of barely six hour adventures.

My best intentions to leave for work at my normal time got further turned upside down. Though I was completely packed and the car was warmed up, I found myself back in bed at 8 a.m. wishing for just a few hours of recuperative sleep so I could try to re-approach the day from a fresh start. Much to my surprise, the condo maintenance crew began working on the scrapping and prep work for repainting our building at about 8:30 a.m. Some of this prep work involved banging nails back into the siding. So, by 9 a.m., I gave up and decided to go to work.

I took the trip leisurely. Traffic was lovely by that time of morning. Even with a stop at the gas station to fill up, it only took me 45 minutes to get in (when it normally takes my 60).

Several coworkers asked why I came in when it was apparent that I was under the weather. I expressed my dedication to several tasks, and proceeded to have a blast with my day. I think in my sleep-deprived delirium I was a bit punchy. I accomplished the tasks that had inspired me to drive in. I avoided contact with all who annoyed me (on the pretext that I really wasn't feeling well). And, then I left at 3 p.m. I had a physical therapy appointment, plus my brain was pretty useless by that point.

Perhaps there's something to be said for short-but-focused days. Then again, I really could use some sleep about now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Can I pretend I never lived in Baltimore?

As a kid, I was a "Junior Oriole". This meant that we got cheap bleacher seats, in the old Memorial Stadium, to see the home games. We also got all sorts of cool give aways, and got invited to special pre-game events. I was a huge fan all the way through college. I went to a few games after Camden Yards become the home of the Orioles, but it wasn't quite the same. Then, I moved to new england. I never became a Red Sox fan (and probably never will). However, every time the Orioles played the Sox or the Yankees, I rooted for the birds. Today, I simply must hang my head in shame. This is a travesty of epic proportions:

Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles 30 to 3. The Rangers scored the most runs in a single game in the last 110 years. Yikes! How do you show your face in public again after suffering that kind of defeat? Do you try to look on the bright side, "I was in a record breaking game!"

Heh. Yeah. No amount of PPT is going to help those boys tonight.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Unenhanced reality

I believe that reality often needs enhancement (silicon, polarization, alcohol, whatever). However, periodically, reality is just so cool on its own that it needs no filters to be stunning. Check out this completely unenhanced sky from Saturday.

Monday, August 20, 2007

No food with a face?

I used to be amused by Phoebe, from "Friends" fame. Her declaration of vegetarianism was simplistic, but clear: "No food with a face". Did this mean that cheese and eggs were o.k.?

I stopped at a few farm stands on Sunday and liberated an eggplant. By Phoebe's standards, I'm not sure if I can eat it or not:

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A sign on the sad state of real estate?

Fine. I have seen balloons attached to open house signs before. But, what's up with the black balloons? Is the agent looking for sympathy? "Please come see this property, I am desperate!"

My gamer geek roots are showing

I check out the headlines from Slashdot every day or two and this one caught my eye: Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, Latest News.

What does that say about me, I wonder? I haven't done a role playing game in about a decade. I haven't seriously been involved in the true gamer world for almost two decades. However, my husband and I still have much of our old RPG paraphernalia.

By the way, when I say "true gamer world" I am referring to people who play REAL games not electronic ones. Yes, my husband and son play electronic games now. However, the electronic gaming realm is not full of true gamers, in my opinion. REAL games typically involve interaction with other people. REAL games can be role playing games, board, box, or card games. Afficianados of such games used to be called 'geeks' long before computer wonks usurped the term. People who were truly obsessed with the games, and who would go on and on about them to anyone who couldn't run away fast enough, were called 'goobers'. True gamers are a community-oriented bunch. You can't play most REAL games without other people, after all.

While some electronic games are multiplayer, and some are even massively mulltiplayer, the interaction between players is not the same. In online multiplayer games, you don't really get to know the real people who are playing. The interaction between players is all about the game. In the face-to-face REAL game world, people get to know one another. They may even discuss their real lives with their gamer friends.

Maybe that's why I've never become hugely involved in electronic games. I guess that I actually like interacting with people. I dabble a bit here and there, mostly with quick shot online games (Cybernations, Its Your Turn, and Kingdom of Loathing) and the occasional toying with word, puzzle, or card games on my PC. I am thrilled to hear that face-to-face RPG's still have a market. It gives me hope that intelligent people still want to interact with each other.

Slashdot, usually gives a synopsis of someone else's longer story. If you are a closet game geek, and are curious about the changes in the upcoming edition of Dungeons & Dragons, feel free to check out the longer piece at Jonathan Drain's D20 Source

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Which candidate should you vote for

Thanks to Aces Full of Links for this great site link.

You may have already made up your mind about which Presidential candidate you are going to vote for next year. Or, you may still be testing the waters (waiting to see who is going to drop out, even).

If you are part of the former crowd, I dare you to check out the opinion match on My Election Choices to see if you really are backing the right horse when it comes to your views on a few key issues.

If you haven't really decided yet, the site may help you figure out where you should place your support.

I ended up where I thought I would, but did learn of a second candidate that I should watch closely. He really doesn't have a chance. However, maybe he'd make a good running mate for my candidate.

Am I being squirrelly here? You bet. I don't want to get into a debate about who the 'best' candidate is. Mine definitely has feet of clay that I don't feel like defending. However, I am pretty confident that I am backing the right horse considering my views on some key issues. Plus, looks like my candidate has a reasonable shot at winning the party nomination.

I hope you'll visit the site and that you find the outcome interesting.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Movie fetishes

So, we've moved from the bizarre, foot fetishes, to the sublime: movie fetishes. Everyone has them. A handful of movies that you love to watch, again and again, that most people just don't understand. Of course, there are movies that I watch repeatedly that many people do understand. Here is a list of movies that I repeatedly watch, many of which most other people just wouldn't understand:

  • Snatch

  • Willow

  • Better Off Dead

  • A Fish Called Wanda

  • Princess Bride

  • Timeline

  • Office Space

  • The Day After Tomorrow

  • Tombstone

  • Hudson Hawke

  • An American Presdient

  • Dante's Peak

  • Can't Hardly Wait

  • The Thomas Crowne Affair (1999)

  • Sixteen Candles

  • Die Hard

  • Clerks

  • The Great Escape

  • Grosse Pointe Blank

  • Philadelphia Story

  • You've Got Mail

  • After Worlds Collide

  • Four Weddings and a Funneral

  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

  • Underworld

  • Aliens

  • Terminator 2

  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off

  • Desperado

  • The Ref

  • Transporter

  • Young Frankenstein

  • Mouse Hunt

  • Monsoon Wedding

  • Life of Brian

  • Mystery Alaska

  • The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan

  • Operation Petticoat

  • Boeing, Boeing

Yes, many of these are listed in my profile. Some are not, and some that are listed in the profile aren't here. Go figure. Most of the above are movies that, if I stumbled upon them while flipping channels, I would be hard pressed to move on to another channel. And, yes, the order is kind of indicative of priority should I be given a choice between them.

I wonder what the selection says about me. I wonder if there is some stupid pop psychology test out of there that deals with movie obsessions, and can label your particular neurosis based on your choices.

I wonder if anyone can match up all of the following quotes to movies in the list above:

"She didn't say anything about me?" "No, but I could always pass her a note before study hall."

"Who are those guys?"

What am I gonna say? "I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?"

"Do you want to dance? Or do you want to DANCE?"

"You are drunk, and when you are drunk you forget that I am in charge! "

"Great, I hijacked my f___ing parents."

"I'm not even supposed to be here today!"

"You may call me Loretta."

"Protection from what? 'Zee Germans'?"

"I thought all writers drank to excess and beat their wives. You know one time I secretly wanted to be a writer."

"I'm your huckleberry."

"What hump?"

"Dong. Where is my automobile?"

"I want my two dollars!"

"Marines! We are leaving!"

"Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A foot firmly planted in fetishism

Years ago, while working for a network security services firm, I had to help prove that an employee was using his company computer to web surf to foot fetish sites. It was not the sickest set of web sites I ever had to review for content categorization, but it was humorously twisted.

Apparently, Boston Police aren't sure how to handle this heel who likes to take pictures of women's feet with his cell phone camera.

Oddly enough, I actually had my camera with me on the T last week and briefly considered secretly taking pictures of a row of feet. The diversity of the feet on the T was very visually interesting. Some with closed-toe shoes, some with open, some with painted toenails, and some with socks in sandals. What a statement that would make! Diversity, they name is tootsies.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The cure for a bad day

OK. It's been a week. I'm beginning to experience cracks in my PPT veneer. I won't go into details, but I had a very discouraging day at work (and the next few days don't look promising either).

I had signed up for a collage workshop this evening. In order to grab some dinner and make it there comfortably on time, I needed to leave work at 4 p.m., sharp. Sadly, I was in the middle of an extreme disaster, which I managed to extricate myself from around 4:25. Part of me was very stressed, angry, upset, and depressed about the entire situation. I briefly considered bailing on the workshop, and just unwinding at home. Then I realized what a horrendously stupid idea that would be.

I stopped by my house to change my clothes, as planned. I drove to the workshop, and ordered some incredibly-bad-for-me, carb rich, Asian food from a nearby restaurant. Our workshops are pretty informal, so it's just fine to eat and drink (wine available at the workshop) while you create. Which is exactly what I did. Collaging is just what I needed to break out of my funk. Of course, the wine and evil food stuffs helped too!

Lesson learned: Never short change yourself on personal time because of an apparent lack of time or other external factors. Those are the times that a commitment to yourself is important to follow through with.

Here's what I worked on at the workshop. I don't think it's quite finished. If I work on it some more, I may post the updated version later.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My next beer adventure

My brother is a home brewer and beer aficionado. When he read my assessment of Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale he told me about Cave Creek Chili Beer. Since I often drink beer with spicy food, the concept of a beer with a spicy bite to it intrigued me. Now, I just have to find it in New Hampshire somewhere, which could be a bit of a challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with NH's liquor culture, beer is sold in grocery stores. And, typically, grocery stores don't go in for the risky marginal brands. Cave Creek Chili Beer strikes me as far from mainstream.

However, I love a good challenge. Let the hunt begin!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sad but cool picture

Time ran an article in April about what you can do to help abate the trend towards global warming. This picture of a hurricane damaged forest in Sweden really amazed me. While the devastation is very saddening, it is wild how the landscape looked after the event and the removal of the damaged trees.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

PPT4+> My cat wears the pants in this family

Much of our family life revolves around our younger cat, who is quite the character. Recently, he has taken to laying in my husband's cast-off jeans. I got a pretty amusing picture of him in said pants recently, so I just had to share.

Tell the FTC what you think about SSN use

The Federal Trade Commission is looking for comments from interested parties regarding the use of Social Security Numbers by the private sector. Over the last year, the public has been made aware of numerous data breaches in the public and private sectors. There are probably smaller exposures all the time which most of us do not hear about.

I hope you will take the time to let the FTC know your thoughts on this issue. While it may seem too late to reclaim your data from all the public and private entities that play with as if it were baseball cards to be gathered and swapped, the Federal government does have the power to regulate who gets to ask for your Social Security Number, as well as who gets to record it and for how long they get to hold on to the information.

Consider this a public service announcement.

PPT4> A different beer experience

A couple of years ago, Denis Leary (one of my all time favorite comics) did a bit maligning Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic. As Denis put it, cranberries are for bladder infections not for beer. While I had to concur with his opinion on this particular brew, I will occasionally try a unique sounding concoction, just for the experience.

We were in the grocery store today when a beer label totally captured my attention:

To truly appreciate my fascination with the label, you must understand that I am nuts about Halloween. My birthday is about a week short of the holiday, so I have adopted it as my personal birthday theme.

So, we picked up a six pack, and I enjoyed two with dinner. Yes, I did say that I ENJOYED them. It was definitely a different beer experience. This may not sound all that appealing, but imagine a light ale lightly flavored with pumpkin pie spices. The spices were not overpowering. Then again, the beer was nothing stunning either. But, it was amusing. Check out some other folks reviews of the concoction at

Saturday, August 11, 2007

PPT3> A Review of the Usenix Security Symposium

PPT is no longer just a file extension for Microsoft Power Point files. For the purposes of my blog, PPT will denote "The Power of Positive Thinking". If you don't have slightly geeky tendencies, you may want to skip today's post.

So, overall it was a good week. While the commuting into and out of Boston was exhausting and expensive, the conference was well worth the effort. On Monday and Tuesday, I participated in a workshop called TCP/IP Weapons School led by Richard Bejtlich. We reviewed a lot of really cool tools for network hacking and defense. My two favorite tools were Fragroute and Metasploit. Fragroute is primarily used to obfuscate traffic, making it more difficult for security devices to recognize exploits over the wire. Like Nessus, Metasploit can be used to pinpoint vulnerabilities on a machine; however, metasploit allows you to actually bring the message home by allowing you to demonstrate the use of an exploit. While both Fragroute and Metasploit were developed for security research and awareness purposes, we all know that the tools are also utilized by 'the dark side'.

For me, the conference opened and closed with talks by two non-technical people. The first "How the iPod Shuffled the World as We Know It" by Steven Levy, Senior Editor and Columnist, Newsweek. While this was an interesting and entertaining topic, there really wasn't much relevance to network security. The later, "Covering Computer Security in The New York Times" by John Schwartz, The New York Times, was more germane and engaging. I may need to start actually reading this guy's columns. I'll still know more than him when it comes to security, but it's good to know what the general populous are being told about the issues that I care about.

Hands down, the most interesting, engaging, and frightening, talk was given by Greg Hoglund on "Advanced Rootkits". A lot of Greg's talk delved deeply into programming techniques for rootkits. He convinced me that there is currently no way to be fully protected against what an astute hacker can do to you. No amount of security software and network appliances can stop elite hackers from getting what they want from your computer. If you are interested in this topic, I highly recommend a visit to Greg's web site

Jerry Brady, of Morgan Stanley, spoke to "Computer Security in a Large Enterprise". Jerry is a sharp guy. He spoke eloquently about the challenges of security in a large, multinational organization. One key issue that he mentioned is how difficult it is to patch systems in a multinational 24x7 operation with no allowance for downtime. Also, when you are part of a very dynamic and driven commercial entity, sometimes you have to be willing to accept a certain amount of potential IT security risk in order to meet the demands of the market. Risk acceptance is a huge part of the IT security paradigm these days. You are never going to mitigate all your risks (or vulnerabilities). However, you should do your best to identify them all, present them to management, and, as a company, figure out how much risk you are willing to accept in order to meet the goals of the business. Remember, an IT security person's ultimate concern may be IT security; however, that is not the ultimate concern of the business. IT security is there to protect the business's ability to pursue its real goals, and not get in the way of that.

Another highlight of the conference was Markus Jakobsson's talk on "The Human Factor in Online Fraud". It was amusing, amazing, and frightening, to hear the results of his study of (basically) human gullibility. This talk complimented a present paper on Spamscatter: Characterizing Internet Scam Hosting Infrastructure by David S. Anderson, Chris Fleizach, Stefan Savage, and Geoffrey M. Voelker, University of California, San Diego . The findings of both studies reinforce my goal of educating users on dangerous behaviors, protections that can be put in place on any workstation by most levels of user, and means of verifying site validity on the Internet.

Sadly, next year's Usenix Security Symposium is in California, so I probably won't be going. I'm not big into travel. Plus, there are usually budgetary issues in my organization that discourage people from going to conferences that involve travel unless there's a clear big payback involved. I don't know that I could make the case on this one. Then again, maybe I could. Still, I think I'll pass on the plane ride in this case.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Power of Positive Thinking - Day Two

So, everyone expects me to have something postive to say TWO days in a row? Ha! I like nothing better than a challenge. Today's highpoints:

  1. I made the train in Lowell in plenty of time today, I was able to pick up a bagel at Panera, AND get my latte at Starbucks with plenty of time to kill before the first conference session at 9 a.m.
  2. I enjoyed a lovely meander around the pocket garden of the Prudential Center during the mid-morning break. I will post some lovely floral pictures this weekend.
  3. I had a great work out, followed by a day-topping IM conversation with one of my best buddies this evening.
  4. BONUS: Re-watched Hot Fuzz with my hubby this evening. Silly movie that we will watch again, and again. Simon Pegg is grand.

Tomorrow's conference sessions look promising. Plus in the evening, I have an informational interview with a recruiter who often has positions in NH.

Did crappy things happen today? Um. Well. Yes. Just one, really. But, if it still torques me off in a few days, I'll write about it then. I'm trying to be positive for at least a weak. I do so like a challenge.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Power of Positive Thinking - Day One

A good friend made an observation about my blog. She said that I have a tendency to complain or rant, and that I almost never post about good things that happen. Upon quick reflection, I totally agreed with her. I am usually much more inspired to write when I have something I want to complain about.

I think that I've always been a "glass is half empty" kind of person, and that is kind of a sad and stupid thing. I really do have a pretty good life. I have a wonderful husband and a pretty cool teenage son. I'm in a career that is interesting, for which I am well paid. I live in a nice house, in area that I would choose over all others. Oh, and we have two really nice cats (one of whom is the best, most enjoyable, cat I've ever encountered on the planet).

My friend challenged me to identify "3 things that happened during the day for which you are grateful, learned something, or which you enjoyed." For me this WILL be a challenge, I admit. But, I totally see her point and believe in the benefit of changing my focus (at least for a while). So, here goes (though, I'm going to bend the rules and focus on the last 24 hours, since late yesterday had some good stuff):

  1. I met two women at the conference yesterday that I really enjoyed talking to. The one woman offered me her email address out of the blue, which really made me happy. I don't have a lot of female friends in technology. So, it's great to meet another woman in the field and to hit it off.
  2. On the way home last night, I detoured to the YMCA and worked out. Normally, I work out during my lunch hour at work. I really needed the exercise. I enjoyed the workout so much that I stayed a little longer than I originally planned. Plus, the YMCA has a whirlpool, which I had all to myself for the entire twenty minutes that I basked in its glories.
  3. This morning, I missed the train that I caught on Monday and Tuesday. I did not let it bother me in the least (very unusual for me). Instead, I grabbed a snack at the Dunkin Donuts in the station, and leisurely walked to the next train that was scheduled to leave twenty minutes after the one that I missed.

Now, let me make one positive comment about the commuting hell that I posted yesterday. The BEST thing about all this public transportation stuff has been all the time I've gotten to spend with my beloved MP3 player. I've listened to several programs from Audible that I've been meaning to get around to. AND, I am looking forward to the remaining commute time this week to listen to some more great programming.

So, if it seems like I only ever rant, please accept my apologies. It is easy for me to write when I have something to rant about. I do have positive and joyful experiences throughout my day. It just doesn't really occur to me very often to write about them. For shame!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A foray into commuting hell

This week I am attending a conference in downtown Boston. Since I live in NH, this means a commuting adventure. First, I drive about twenty-five or so minutes from my house to Lowell, MA, to a commuter railway station. There, I pay $4 to park my car. On Monday, I bought a week's worth of tickets, $6.75 each direction. If I time my arrival just right, I wait about 5-10 minutes for the train to leave the station. I arrive at North Station in Boston about an hour later. Then, I walk to the subway and take the "E" Green Line to Prudential Center. The cost is usually $2, but I bought a seven day pass, so it amounts to $1.50 each way. The ride is about twenty minutes. I typically wait 5-10 minutes for said train to show up.

OK, class, let's do the math.

my house -> Lowell = 25 minutes
wait = 10 minutes
Lowell -> North Station = 60 minutes
wait = 5 minutes
North Station -> Prudential Center = 20 minutes
walk to hotel -> 5 minutes
total time one direction = 2 hours 5 minutes

Now for the monetary cost:

parking = $4
commuter rail = $6.75
subway = $1.50
total each direction = $12.75
total for the week = $122.50

Yes. This beats paying $30/day to park near the Prudential Center (not to mention the mental stress of driving into Boston).

There are people who live in NH who do this every day. ARE THEY NUTS???

Heck, I'm quickly tiring of my 'normal' commute, which involves a 60 minute each way commute, with only the cost of gas (and wear-and-tear on my car) to contend with.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Spineless jerks

Great. Congress has just made some of the Administration's illegal activities legal. No doubt, for our own good they have made a lot of the executive branch's unilateral, unchecked, wiretapping a totally legal activity.

Bush's approval ratings are in the crapper. Congress's approval ratings are also bad, but not as bad as his. Perhaps their suffering from 'disapproval envy'?

The third party and independent candidates have never looked so good. November 2008 cannot come soon enough.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I can't believe I'm advocating a boycott

Apparently, it's my weekend for thinking about 'the issues'.

I have decided to stop purchasing all non-essential goods from China. Unless China is the only source for something that I need (not want), I hereby proclaim that I will no longer purchase anything that says "Made in China" on the label. Unfortunately, this will not totally prevent my consumer dollars from supporting them. In the last year, china has begun working deals with other countries to perform final assembly on many of their products. For example, all the parts of a toy can be manufactured in China; then, the parts are shipped to a factory in Mexico where they are assembled. In this instance, the toy can be stamped "Made in Mexico". However, there are plenty of items on the shelves that still say "Made in China" that I can snub.

Why would I choose to boycott the output of an entire country? Well, the list of reasons just keeps growing. In no particular order, lets tick off a few of the more obvious ones:

  • Continuing human rights violations, including the subjugation of Tibet
  • Food and product safety issues that effect everyone from pets, to their own people, and to people who eat their food exports or even use their toothpaste
  • Their blatant disregard for the environment (40% of the air pollution in California is caused by Chinese output)

So, if you care about the environment, if you care about food/product safety, or if you care about human rights, join me in boycotting anything that says "Made in China" on it.

Perhaps tomorrow, I'll return to blogging about the mundane and globally unimportant clutter in my brain.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Reducing our gasoline consumption, the hard way

Most politicians are merely paying lip service to the notion of 'energy independence'. Morton Kondracke of Roll Call challenged our unpopular government to do something positive for the future, even though it would not be a popular move: Raise gasoline taxes.

Kondracke's believes that a 50 cent per gallon tax would diminish demand while encouraging the development of more fuel-efficient and alternative-energy source vehicles. Additionally, the revenue generated by the tax could be earmarked for alternative-energy development.

Sounds great, no?

The biggest issue with the tax is the economic impact. Such a tax would not just negatively effect the pockets of low-income drivers. Small businesses would be significantly hurt. And then there's the rest of us. Our economy is literally fueled by gasoline (and diesel). Most of the food that we eat has to be trucked to where we live. So, the cost of food would surge dramatically in the era of such a tax. Then there's the rest of the material goods we spend money on. Most of our clothing and consumer goods are produced far from where we buy them.

Finally, let's talk about the overall negative impact on the economy. If people drive less, businesses that rely on drivers and travelers will suffer or fail. As the consumer price index goes up, people will spend less on non-essential items (since the essentials are going to be expensive enough). This means that retailers will be selling less 'stuff'. Jobs will be lost as businesses involved in the sale or manufacture of consumer goods close up or drastically scale back operations.

Not a pretty picture, right?

OK. So, we don't put a 50 cent per gallon tax on gasoline. Instead, as a society, we blithely continue to drive like tomorrow doesn't matter. We won't plan our trips and errands for maximum fuel efficiency. We'll continue to purchase luxury cars or SUVs and pick-up trucks that we don't need for function, but think we deserve because it shows everyone how well off we are. Then, in a year or two or three, we'll still be paying at least 50 cents more per gallon. We'll complain about it. However, we'll blame OPEC. Heck, maybe we'll even insist on invading another oil producing nation for holding us hostage to our own wasteful and selfish fuel-hardy ways.

Maybe, our unpopular government could sneak an unpopular gasoline tax in on us. Maybe they could implement it in small increments over a few year's time. Gas prices will be rising naturally. And, yes it will make THAT even more painful. However, perhaps we can use the tax revenue to begin planning our future. Perhaps some of the jobs lost in retail and manufacturing could be shifted to alternative energy developers.

The future is not going to be pretty if we don't start weening ourselves off the fossil fuel tit. It's time to stop some of our spoiled ways and to take responsibility for our own future. Notice I said OUR future, not our children's future. We don't have a lot more years left on the earth's fossil fuel gage. It will be OUR problem. By the time they are adults with children of their own, the problem will be old news.

Here's to the future. May we be smart enough to have one.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Abysmal weather

The weather has been abysmal in the last few weeks. We've either been subjected to relentless rain storms, or 90+ degree weather with 90+ percent humidity.

As an escape, this evening I re-watched one of my current favorite B-grade movies: "The Day After Tomorrow". The acting and writing are not bad, though the science has been attacked on numerous fronts. All I have to seay is that, on top of being Al Gore's proverbial wet dream for the consequences of Global Warming, when you sweating your socks off its comforting to see all that ice and snow and dream of 'what if'.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Britney the Paparazzi Slayer?

Let's make something clear from the beginning. I think that celebrities like Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Nicole Richie, are less than useless. I don't care about their personal lives. Heck I wish they would stop sucking up valuable oxygen, in addition to getting out of my daily news feeds.

That said, I can completely sympathize with Britney's supposed attack and threat on a paparazzo. These photographers are invasive and pushy as all hell. Some argue that the attention these guys give to celebrities is the price of fame and perhaps even helps the celebrities maintain a place in the spotlight, thus garnering them additional opportunities for income.

Even so, the lengths the paparazzi go to is absurd. Their celebrity targets cannot show their faces in public without having these guys six inches from their faces. And, heaven forbid, should the celebrity have one of their children in tow. The children aren't given any space either.

So, as much as I abhor Ms Spears and her ilk, I would have thrown much more than a baby bottle at a photographer who got too close to my child.

Local drivers selfish stupidity

For the past several years, drivers in Merrimack, New Hampshire, have been whining about the inequity of the tollbooths at the exits off the Everett Turnpike within their town borders. Merrimack is a geographically big town. Even with the exits being miles apart, the Everett has three exits in town. Merrimack drivers think that they should be able to use the Turnpike to drive between the three exits without paying a toll.

While I would love to see an end to the toll booths off the Everett Turnpike in Merrimack, I do not see the inequity of their existence. When the Turnpike was built, it was understood that it would be a toll road. Prior to its construction, Merrimack residents primarily used Daniel Webster Highway to travel North-South. This is still a viable option for those who do not like paying .50 to get on the Turnpike in either direction.

If Merrimack were to get its way, perhaps Hooksett and Bow would stage similar protests regarding the tollbooths off 93 for their towns. If we didn't have tollbooths the few exits before the major divides between the toll and non-toll portion of our highways we would have to increase the tolls at those divides to make up for the lost revenue. And then, some cheap drivers would exit the toll road before the tollbooth and drive past the toll on a local road, and get back on just beyond the toll.

Currently, residents, with the support of Town administrators, are contemplating a toll protest which basically involves tying up the tollbooths by paying in pennies. The proposed protest will do nothing to solve the debate. Many unknowing drivers will become victims to this slow down at the hands of the protesters. In addition, the tollbooth operators will suffer unfairly in this scenario, since they will have to count the pennies.

I sincerely hope that the Town administrators reverse their support for this action. New Hampshire residents are the ultimate cheap Yankees. They really believe in "Live Free". However, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Someone has to pay for road maintenance and construction. Logically, it should be the drivers who utilize the roads the most. I just wish that Merrimack drivers would just shut up and grow up.