I’m on vacation starting at 5pm today (or earlier, if you count the Jimmy Buffett music I’m playing already) through next week. With the holiday slowdown at the office, so many people on vacation this past week, I’ve been completely caught up – even working ahead – so I won’t even be tempted to work on work stuff over the vacation.
The weather forecasts for Texas show 70-80 degree highs over the next week, so I’m thinking road trip. Time to take the top down on the Jeep and go head off some small highway to a state park somewhere.
Not a long road trip, though, because I’ve got plans around the house. Muhahaha. We’ve got huge closets, but not enough shelving, so things always end up stacked on the floor. I’ve looked at closet organizer kits, but I think I can do a better job on my own and make it look a lot more professional. Common sense tells me otherwise, but that’s never stopped me before.
Picked up a drafting table last night for $25 off CraigsList, an online classified system. I’ve always wanted one of these: I like to work standing up, and this will let me set my laptop and some papers out in a comfortable way.
It’s got tons of character, too – the last guy who had it was an artist, and there’s paint all over it. Love it. Makes me look like I have talent. As if.
The Houston Chronicle reports that as of January 1, Houston’s freeways are tow-away zones. That means:
“Starting New Year’s Day, if your car breaks down on a Houston freeway, expect a tow truck to show up promptly to whisk you out of the way whether you want the service or not.”
“Houston’s new towing ordinance takes effect Saturday. It is a major piece of Mayor Bill White’s traffic-management plan that declares all freeways to be tow-away zones. The city has signed contracts with wrecker companies to patrol 29 freeway sections and immediately remove any stalled or wrecked cars, expanding a pilot project that’s been in place on the Katy Freeway since March.”
“Motorists no longer will be allowed to change a flat tire on the freeway shoulder, walk to the nearest gas station to obtain additional fuel or call their own help. The 11 companies that have the new city towing contracts are required to respond to all disabled vehicles within six minutes and promptly get them off the highway once authorized by a police officer at Houston TranStar, the region’s traffic-control center. Drivers will be able to say where their cars should be taken, within 30 miles. They’ll be charged $75 for the first five miles and $1.50 per mile thereafter.”
I am just dumbfounded. I love the idea in theory, but the problem is that both my car insurance and my car manufacturer pay for all towing. They both have free maintenance plans included so that if I run out of gas or blow a tire, they tow me away for free. According to the article, I’m going to have to pay the tow truck driver, then file for reimbursement with my insurance agency and car. Man, the likelihood of that working is not good. And plus, it’s not fair to people who can’t afford the $75 hit, and yet can change their own tire.
Snow came down in flurries all yesterday afternoon, and by the time we went to bed, the Jetta had a light dusting of snow, maybe a quarter inch deep. The ground’s too warm for it to stick around – in fact, it’s even already melted off the car – but if you count the bits of white on the house roofs around, it’s a white Christmas here in Houston!
And since it’s Christmas, I have a present for Dad. My father has taught me everything I know about how to treat strangers, coworkers, friends and family, and I wanted to put down in words how much that’s meant to me. You know how the father-son relationship goes – we don’t do a lot of mushy talk, hahaha – but every now and then he’ll ask me if he was a good father. I always say yes and I try to explain why, but I wanted to give him something in writing. (And not so he won’t ask me again, hahaha.) I’m not good enough of a writer to convey in words how much he has helped me and inspire me as a role model, but I gave it my best shot.
Merry Christmas, Dad! I love you.
I went back through my blogs this year to recap 2004. Some of the highlights:
Jan 19 – Why Camera Phones Suck – back in January, Steve got himself a camera phone and I thought it sucked because it didn’t have a dedicated “Take a Picture” button, and it wouldn’t sync email contacts with his computer right out of the box. By December, I owned a camera phone that had both features, and it’s not so bad. It makes for a nice blogging tool when I’m on the road.
Feb 1 – Got icons from JinWicked – I got a set of personalized icons from JinWicked, a talented Houston artist. I use them in Yahoo chat to show how I’m currently feeling, because I’ve got about a dozen icons ranging from angry to happy. The one shown here is me at my happiest – I squint my eyes when I’m really happy.
Feb 12 – Back from Paris – Erika and I spent a long weekend in Paris. Sure, you’d rather have more time than a long weekend, but it was all the time we had to spare, and it’d been a while since we’d traveled out of the country. Paris is our most favorite international city so far (NYC still being the favorite overall), mostly because it was so much cleaner than Rome. We liked Rome, but Paris, Paris was pristine.
Mar 19 – That’s it, I’m switching to Linux – I got completely frustrated with the difficulties in moving an Exchange 2003 installation to another machine. Obscure registry tweaks pushed me over the edge. I kept hearing about how 2004 was supposed to be the Year of the Desktop for Linux, so I jumped in with both feet.
Apr 25 – Still struggling with Linux – The lack of documentation made it tough for me to get things right. I enjoy researching and finding the right answer to problems, but with Linux, there were dozens of answers to any given question, all with varying degrees of correctness. The beauty of open source is the abundance of choices; the curse of open source is the abundance of choices. There are tons of solutions that mostly work, and very few solutions that simply work out of the box without editing arcane text files. While text files were indeed better than registry entries, I had jumped from the frying pan into the fire.
May 1 – I got Slashdotted – I had a joke page where you could put in a friend’s name in a RIAA press release so that it looked like they were being sued for pirating music a la Napster. I got 46,092 hits in 3 days, all served off my home DSL line, and it went really well. (Mostly because there were no images on the page hosted at the house.)
May 11 – I give – no more Linux on the desktop – the last straw consisted of setting up a VPN connection to the Watchguard firewalls at our office. I couldn’t work without that VPN connection, and nobody could make it work, not even our Linux-savvy CIO. Turned out he’d been unable to get it to work on his machines, too. I decided I wanted to spend my spare time doing something other than learning an operating system, so back to Windows it was. I did move my web sites over to Linux and PHP, though.
May 26 – Coffee and pills – I had a really bad day on May 25th, and in the pain and frustration, ended up putting my ibuprofen in the coffee bean jar instead of my mouth. One of my favorite pictures of the year.
June 5 – Gonna be a long couple of months – my manager resigned after six years. We were short-staffed as it was, and that really hit us hard. I thought things would suck because we’d lose his in-depth knowledge of the products, and they did, but what I missed more was just having him around. Paul’s a heck of a nice guy, and we still email today. On the bright side, I got his office, muhahaha.
July 18 – Installed landscape lighting – this was my first permanent project as a homeowner. I’d built things, moved things around, but not installed something permanent. I still love the way these look – they really add a lot to the house.
Aug 29 – House is up for sale – after Paul left, I got frustrated telecommuting and I wanted to be up in the office where I could do the most good, the most quickly.
Sept 23 – Rescuing a possum – in what will probably go down as my family’s least favorite moment of the year, I rescued a possum that was stuck in my backyard fence. I didn’t have the heart to let him sit back there and struggle, because I’m a big time animal lover. Just seeing him back there struggling made me want to cry. (Girlie-man.) I was lucky not to get bit though.
Oct 10 – Dumping Audiovox Thera – I’ve been a big fan of phones that do more than call people. I’ve had two PDA phones that keep track of your contacts, your appointments, play games, etc. However, I got tired of their bulky size, and on October 10th I started a two-month odyssey of trying to replace my cell phone. (As of December 23rd, three companies and four cell phones later, I’ve got a defective Sony from Cingular, and I’m waiting on a replacement. How hard is it to get a phone that works?)
Oct 17 – Trashing Julian’s cube, racing Toyotas – we started what has become a Dallas office tradition by trashing Julian’s cube for his birthday. We aluminum-foiled everything in the cube, then put on a layer of post-it notes, then filled it knee-high with balloons, then streamers. Later, we drove out to a Toyota-sponsored event where we got to race their cars for free. Gotta love that.
Oct 25 – I’ve been TP’ed – the coders toilet papered my office to celebrate my upcoming birthday. I loved it, and kept it up for most of the week. Had a client come in, though, so I had to take it down.
Nov 9 – Started moblogging – moblogging is blogging from your camera phone or other mobile device. This entry’s link goes to the entire November archive because I’ve got quite a few camera photos in there of our trip to Vegas on Nov 10, and my road trip across the North for Thanksgiving.
Nov 14 – A pirate looks at 31 – Erika and I took our first sailboat ride together out of Galveston. Coooooold.
Nov 21 – Bought a new Jeep – I’d wanted one of these for forever, and I finally buckled down and bought one. It’s much more me than the Volvo was: I like to say I got the Jeep because the Volvo was too fashionable for me. Upon hearing that, a coworker said, “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you….”
Dec 5 – Thanksgiving in Michigan & DC – this happened earlier than 12/5, but I have my pictures in the blog on that date. I flew up to Michigan, spent Thanksgiving with Dad & the Colby side of the family, then drove Emily’s car to DC and spent a few days there as well. I should do at least one road trip a year. I still enjoy those.
Dec 12 – Cubicle Castle – for Hima’s birthday, we made her cubicle into a replica of the Disney Cinderella Castle. Great fun was had by all.
The year is winding down to a close, and it’s time to take stock of what’s been accomplished. I spent the morning on my resume. I take the same stripped-down approach to resumes that I take with my web site: “build it, and they will come.” Hahaha, okay, no, that’s arrogant, but I’ve never gotten a job based on the strength of my resume. Over the last ten years, I’ve only transitioned jobs twice, and both times it was to work for a manager I really admired. When Wayne West left Lane Management to work for Wright Investments, I followed him. A few years later, I’d built up an awesome working relationship with Steve Farina and Joe Sullivan at Telman, so I went to work with them. The thought of going to work for strangers seems odd to me, so I never took the resume thing seriously.
This morning I dumped my old resume and rewrote one from scratch, trying to focus on the things I’m proud of. I feel like I could go on for pages and pages! After you’ve worked at the same company for years, you gain an intimate familiarity with their products, which cranks productivity way up. I feel like I make a significant accomplishment every quarter these days, whether it’s a new product or a huge new version or whatever.
Okay, I’ll stop now. Feels like I’m bragging. So anyway, no big plans for the holidays. We’ll go to Erika’s family Christmas Eve dinner, and she works Christmas day, so I’ll probably spend the weekend studying for my MCDBA. I’m bound and determined to knock out at least one more test before the end of the year, and get the MCDBA certification in early January. It’s Microsoft Certified Database Administrator, and while it’s not technically what I do full time, I’ve got the vast, vast bulk of the knowledge down. Just needed to study on a few things like replication that I didn’t deal with often.
I’ve also got a stack of old photos from my childhood I’ve been meaning to scan to add to my “past” pages, and I’ll probably knock that out this week.
Oh, and almost forgot – yes, Becky, I saw that you searched for your name in my blog, and no, I haven’t posted anything about you since being instructed.
With my webcam down this week, I feel like I owe you readers something, so here it is – a self-portrait with my digital camera. The weather’s incredible here, sunny 73 degrees, and I’m working with the windows all open. The curtains are blowing all over the place, making it feel like I’m working on a windy prarie somewhere. I love it.
From the full story at CNN:
“When the Institute tested a 2001 Elantra an airbag took too long to inflate, resulting in impact forces to the crash dummy’s head.
Hyundai then redesigned the front airbag for the 2004 model year. When that version was tested, the crash dummy fared well, but the gasoline tank, filled with an inert fluid for the test, leaked after the impact.
After identifying an improperly placed fuel hose clamp, Hyundai repositioned the clamp and, in April and July 2004 recalled Elantras to fix the problem on cars already on the road. Hyundai again requested that the Institute retest the cars with the repositioned clamp.
In the third test, no fluid leaked from the gasoline tank, but the driver’s side airbag failed to deploy. Hyundai engineers will modify software that controls airbag deployment, the Institute said, and agreed to recall cars already manufactured. Hyundai announced those recalls earlier today.”
Man, it’s cold, especially for Houston. My spiffy electronic indoor/outdoor thermometer in the bathroom closet read 27 this morning. I highly recommend putting a wireless thermometer in your master bathroom closet. Put the sensor outside, and the display inside. That way, as you’re getting ready for work (even if you’re telecommuting, heh) you can be prepared for what’s out there in the big bad world.
The act of taking this screen shot from Weather.com took me about twenty minutes. For quite a while, my print-screen function hasn’t been working, so I haven’t been able to take screen shots. This morning I decided to find out why, and finally connected the dots that it has to do with my recent keyboard upgrade to a Microsoft Natural Multimedia. This thing has its own “function” keys that don’t really do me any good. I didn’t buy this keyboard for those keys, but only because my old Microsoft Natural was getting tired out. Turns out this new keyboard has other fiendish purposes in mind for the Print Screen key, even though it’s specifically labeled “PrtScn”. I’d like to slap the keyboard designers for that one. Like you really need that key for anything else.
If anybody’s still holiday shopping, Dell’s running some good sales. My aunt Gretchen picked up a new Dimension P4 2.8ghz desktop with a 17″ flat panel monitor for $499. If you don’t see those specials on their site, hunt around the deal sites like FatWallet.com and search for “Dell” in the forums.
With Hima’s birthday coming up, we pulled another Extreme Cubicle Makeover, turning her cubicle into a replica of the Disney Cinderella Castle. You can read about it and see pictures here. I have to say that we’re getting pretty good at this sort of thing. If you want to turn someone’s cubicle into a castle (or maybe your own), you should read through and get a few ideas.
Last night Erika and I went to the neighborhood Christmas in the Heights party thrown by our wonderful neighbors Bailey, Mark and Michelle. Bailey showed off his culinary talents with a huge table piled high with great food, making the rest of us jealous. It was certainly the wrong night for Erika and I (okay, well, Erika) to cook our first chicken. She used a recipe from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and the bird turned out great, very juicy. Good stuff.
For the party, we’d bought Erika a single can of Sofia, the champagne in a can from Niebaum-Coppola Winery, available at stores like Cost Plus World Market. I tell you what, that stuff is great! I’m not big on champagne – to tell the truth, I can’t stand it and I even avoid it on New Year’s Eve – but I got a couple of sips of this and I loved it. I’ll definitely look for a bottle of this for the coming New Year’s celebrations.
Been tooling around in the Jeep with the top down, and I even made part of the trip back from Dallas that way. Everybody in Dallas had a great time riding around in it, and I’m glad I bought it. It’s a lot of work getting the top up and down, but I knew that going in, and I tend to leave it in the garage with the top off. I need to build clips on the garage wall to hold the windows and the doors, though – they’re cluttering up my workbench.
Not that I’m using the workbench for anything. I think that’s going to be my resolution for the New Year – sell the saws, sell the nail gun, etc., and not build a dang thing. I can’t get motivated about building stuff. I strolled through the aisles at Lowe’s today and found 8′ tall bookcases going for around $150. I figured that I could buy a handful of them, stain them, and turn our library room in the house into a real library in a weekend, as opposed to struggling with the saws for months and producing a sub-par product. Building things for relaxation is one thing, but I don’t want that kind of product in my actual house – the stuff I build needs to be burned to protect innocent bystanders from actually using it. Last weekend, Erika and I ripped out the plant stands that I’d built for the backyard a few months ago. We both have very, very high standards for the quality of stuff we put in the house, and I’m not ashamed to say that the things I built don’t meet those standards. Sure, I could spend a couple of years becoming a good woodworker, but why bother? I’d rather spend a couple of years becoming, say, a good C# programmer, and then work for a month of weekends to pay a pro to build good bookcases for the library. It’d all even out.