August 23, 2014

A Year Ago Today I Almost Died

No this isn't hyperbole. On August 23rd 2013 I was commuting by bicycle into work when a car made an abrupt right turn in front of me without signaling. I slammed on my brakes. I woke up on the ground, on my back, gasping for breath. I hurt. I couldn't see a thing because my glasses were missing. I have no recollection of the intervening moments. I became aware of people around me telling me to stay still until the paramedics arrived.

I was lucky. My helmet did its job and absorbed the brunt of the fall.

helmet top

In particular you can see the fractures on the inside of the helmet.

helmet inside

As for myself, concussion, scrapes, bruises, and fractures to my occipital bone and C7 vertebrae. The latter necessitated wearing a hard neck collar for a few weeks.

neck collar

The final outcome, no known residual issues from the accident and the driver was found at fault. Celebrate life!

Tags: bicycle life

December 4, 2012

Pragmatic Thinking and Learning

Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your WetwarePragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your Wetware by Andy Hunt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wide ranging introduction to how we think and learn with many practical actionable next steps to get better at thinking and learning. The book gently takes you through how the brain works to practices for learning better, maintaing focus, and approaching tasks deliberately to gain the most out of them. With copious references to other material and clear next actions for each topic there is always something you can be working on. Besides a few references to outdated technology this is a fantastic read.

View all my reviews

Tags: books life

October 24, 2012

Cutting the Cable and Cord

Despite repeated attempts to get new customer rates, when on my last bill RCN raised the bundle package another $10 a month I'd had enough. Compared to a year ago RCN was charging me $50 more per month for the same service. Over that past year my consumption habits have changed. While I will miss HBO and wish they would fix their outdated distribution model every other show I'm interested in has a near simultaneous non cable option. Additionally, for a long time now, despite having an unlimited plan, I still had a land line. Granted RCN upgraded those to be digital awhile ago which meant that when cable went out, so did the phone. Needless to say, paying for a conventional phone no longer made sense. The short of it is then the only service I'm paying RCN for now is Internet. Now if only Verzion FIOS was available I'd switch to that.

Tags: life rcn

October 24, 2012

The Antarctic: A Very Short Introduction

The Antarctic: A Very Short IntroductionThe Antarctic: A Very Short Introduction by Klaus Dodds

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the uninitiated this books provides a thorough history of the geopolitical history of the Antarctic. In order to set the stage for the Antarctic Treaty System and its later doctrines the history of exploration and fauna exploitation are covered but are not the primary focus. Learning about the language behind the treaties and emphasis on scientific endeavors are interesting in light of the ongoing unresolved claims on Antarctica should countries wish to start exploiting it. While I would have liked a broader introduction as the first book I've read dealing with Antarctica it was an eye opener.

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Tags: antarctica life

September 30, 2012

Current Quotes

At home above my monitor on the wall is a cork board. Sprinkled between gift certificates, pins, and other random memorabilia are quotes that I've been trying to internalize and follow. They are in no particular order:

A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.
- Anthony Trollope
There are no limits. There are plateaus, and you must not stay there; you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.
- Bruce Lee
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
- Henry David Thoreau
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.
- Dr. Seuss
Don't ignore your dreams; don't work too much; say what you think; cultivate friendships; be happy.
- Paul Graham

Tags: life quotes

August 30, 2012

How to Be an Adult in Relationships

How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful LovingHow to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The overall message of striving for mindfulness in our relationships by letting go of ego and focusing on attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing provides a simple and powerful narrative throughout the book. I think the book would be as convincing without the occasional reference to a higher power. The practices at the end of each chapter are a great framework for thinking about and reflecting on your past and present relationships.

View all my reviews

Tags: books life love

July 31, 2012

When Being Right Feels Wrong

As a daily bicycle commuter I have had my share of near misses such as car doors opening, cars turns without signals, or cars pulling out in front of me. Thankfully I've avoided any serious injuries. As anyone who has ridden with me knows I abide by the bicycle laws which I find manifests itself from time to time as righteous indignation when I'm asserting a right I have as a bicyclist. When this happens in retrospect I usually regret it because whomever my indignation is directed at is equally convinced that as a bicyclist I should be accommodating. Being stubborn doesn't help the situation and in the end I dwell, let the negative situation fester, and find myself up later than I should be writing posts on my blog. Taken slight out of context I'm reminded of a line by Hunter S. Thompson, "There are times, however, and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong. "

Tags: bicycle life

February 26, 2012

You Are Not So Smart

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding YourselfYou Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself by David McRaney

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A lovely expansion and refinement of content from Each chapter covers with examples and referenced research a psychological misconceptions most of us are unaware we have or make. Very readable and eye opening. To remember even half of what the book contains would give you a fresh set of eyes to perceive the world with.

View all my reviews

Tags: books life

January 3, 2012

2011 Computer Usage

For the past year I've been using RescueTime to track how I spend time on the computer, my smartphone, and while at Brightcove my time away from the computer. The total number of tracked hours for 2011 was 2870 hours, most of that productive (see graph below).

The two biggest productive categories were software development (editors and command line) and communication/scheduling (email, IM, and meetings) each around 900 hours. My biggest distractions for the year were SpaceChem, Google Reader, and The New York Times.

Overall I don't feel like I wasted that much time and am not really surprised by where most of the time went. The number of meetings was more than I wanted but that has changed dramatically since switching jobs.

The dip in Feb was SpaceChem. The rise in Mar was a buggy Android client. Lastly the trough in Jul was my trip to the Arctic.

Tags: life rescuetime

January 3, 2012

2011 Sleep Data

For a couple of years now I have been tracking my nightly sleep using a Zeo. I recorded 320 nights of sleep in 2011. On average I manage 7.5 hours of sleep a night, fall asleep in 5 minutes, and wake up a couple of times during the night. This is mostly unchanged from 2010 which is a little surprising given I was consuming alcohol on a much more regular basis in 2011. The chart below shows the year in review based on ZQ scores.

Brighter reds indicate worse nights of sleep and darker greens indicate better nights of sleep. The prolonged gaps are mostly vacations.

Tags: life zeo

August 28, 2011

Back to Normal

Today was the first time in a few weeks that I had anything like a "normal" day and it was nice. As most of the people that read this blog know at the end of July I headed north to visit Oslo and explore Spitsbergen (photos soon, sampler available now :). Then shortly after returning to Boston it was off to the west coast for Matt & Ginger's wedding followed by a few days working from Brightcove's Seattle office. This past weekend was mostly digging out from the mounds of mail, laundry, and house work that had accumulated. Which brings me to the relative normalcy of today. Pleasant to leave work, run errands, make some supper, and then catchup with email. Life is good.

Tags: life

March 28, 2011


This morning I completed the final level of the video game SpaceChem. Many people had recommend this puzzle game to me as one that I would like and they were correct. Some of the game mechanics remind me of the board game RoboRally, which I also enjoy. As the game progresses though it turns into a complete visual programming language with switches and branching letting you create very complex behavior from simple primitive operations. And like most programming you can spend time optimizing your algorithms against either space (reactors and/or symbols used) or time (cycles used). I didn't spend much time going back to optimize my solutions as the 44 hours (wow looking at RescueTime scares me sometimes) it took me to beat the game was enough of a distraction :)

Tags: games life

March 28, 2011

NeoPhi Breathing Again

On Tuesday the 15th upon arriving at work I got a monitoring email alert message saying that my blog's RSS feed file wasn't accessible over the Internet. Given some of the networking issues RCN has been having lately, I figured this was another of them. However, this time it turned out not to be the case as my housemate was showing up on GMail chat which meant our home network was still online. I had him try and reboot the server as it has wedged in the past due to kernel panics. Unfortunately after a few attempts it just wouldn't startup. No video output, no nothing, just a repeating cycle of two short beeps every few seconds.

I was slated to head to a friends house after work to check out his iRacing setup but I figured I'd swing by home first to get a better idea of what troubleshooting would be ahead. It seemed though that I was just warming up for a bad day as a few blocks from my house my back tire went flat. Turned out I had gotten a carpet tack squarely wedged in it. No puncture resistent tire can quite handle that. To top it off my bicycle pump started freaking out while trying to fill up my tire. I still have no idea what was up with that. In any case I did finally get my flat tire fixed but made no progress with troubleshooting my system.

Since I wasn't sure how long my system would be down, I switched over email accounts that were being delivered directly to my server to my GMail Apps hosted domain and headed out for some iRacing fun. Man did I suck at that. Didn't realize quite how much the seat of the pants feel when driving factors into car control.

After waking up Wednesday morning I noticed one of my typical daily morning emails wasn't there. I realized that with my server off the net since yesterday morning by secondary DNS server was no longer picking up SOA records, which of course meant there was no MX record for the domain, hence no email. I tried to promote my secondary DNS at easyDNS to become primary but became completely frustrated with the UI and inconsistent help. I bailed on them and setup new primary hosting service with DNS Made Easy, which was a snap. A couple of hours later my whois record reflected the new DNS servers and mail started flowing again.

After work I bailed on what looked like an awesome BFPUG talk to spend more time troubleshooting. No dice. My motherboard manual indicated that a series of short repeating beeps meant a power issue. The power supply checked out fine and removing the power load by unplugging a few of the RAIDed drives didn't help. In the meantime I decided that even if I could get the server up it was time to raise the priority of virtualizing it. Adding fuel to the fire maybe wasn't the best thing to do but it was something I had wanted to do anyway.

Having used Amazon's EC2 environment extensively at my last job I knew I could get a new server up and running quickly. Combined with RightScale, 30 minutes later I had an EBS volume attached to a generic RightScale server template and started working on getting my data transfered and services restored.

On the data backup side I've used my MacBook Pro as an onsite backup for my server and used TimeMachine and Jungle Disk to backup that data along with the rest of the files on my laptop. Worse case scenario if the old server was completely dead and all the data was lost, I'd lose at most 9 days, that being the time since the last backup. While I'd verified that I could restore files back to my Mac, I had never tried using Jungle Disk to get them directly back onto a Linux server... I think everyone can see where this is going :) It should have worked and the support ticket I opened with Jungle Disk indicated that it was possible, but despite trying for a couple of hours I couldn't get there graphical setup tool to work over X11 port forwarding (the version of Jungle Disk I'd used to make my backup wasn't Linux command line compatible). As a result I started the much longer process of using my home Internet connection to start pushing files up to my new server, instead of pulling them directly onto my new server from S3 which is where I have my Jungle Disk backup.

Thursday after work I made a run to MicroCenter to procure a new motherboard as everything indicated that was the most likely failed component. Turns out my server is at least 3 generations behind the times and MicroCenter had nothing that I could plug my existing components into. I looked at picking up both a new motherboard and CPU but given I was going virtual this felt like a waste of money. I left empty handed knowing that I was probably going to end up with a few days of lost data.

When I got home I checked that my transfer was still running and was disheartened to see that based on how much rsync had already transfered the expected completion time was 7 days. It then I remembered that when I first ran JungleDisk I had to leave my laptop on a week straight for it to finish the first backup. While updating people on the status of the server at game night as we put a take-out order together I had the idea that I could use a Windows instance running on EC2 to run JungleDisk and restore my files which would then be an inter Amazon transfer onto my new server. Post games RightScale's Windows Server Template allowed me to get a server up and running in about 30 minutes. I had a few hiccups and unexplained operational states during that process though. I'm going to attribute most of the oddness to the EBS issue Amazon was experiencing during that time. With Remote Desktop Connection I was able to control my new Windows instance (remember to update your security group to allow the RDP protocol in), install Jungle Disk software and start the restore. Estimated at 12 hours this was much better than transferring from my local machine.

The restore was done by the time I woke up on Friday at which point I started the transfer to the new server. Just to review the path this data has taken: Linux to Mac to S3 to Windows to Linux. The last bit there pretty much meant any user/group/permission settings that existed on the original Linux had been lost. Turns out some important information had also been lost on the original Linux to Mac step. By default the Mac filesystem is case preserving but case insensitive, so whereas on Linux two directories called Mail and mail are separate, only one of those wins when landing on the Mac. This unfortunately meant that getting the original server backup was a requirement now otherwise any colliding data when I made the original backup from Linux to Mac would be lost.

Post work on Friday I grabbed a much needed drink with friends at Green Street Grill and when I got home worked on getting the correct users and groups setup on my new system so that I could fix the user/groups/permissions on the subset of files that had been restored. I went to bed with plans to trek out to MicroCenter on Saturday to buy a cheap desktop that I could use to pull the data off the old server.

I woke up Saturday morning long before MicroCenter would open so I decided to take one last stab at trying to fix the problem. After ripping out the RAID card which I really hoped wasn't the problem since it cost as much as the rest of the computer, the system didn't beep when I turned it on. Looking into the troubleshooting guide for RAID controller it turned out the beeping was the "bus reset signal" (which I've not bothered to lookup exactly what that means). Needless to say with this new piece of diagnostic information I went back to searching the Internet and ran across a few posts about my motherboard not POSTing being related to bad memory. I unseated two of the DIMMs with no change in behavior. When switching to having the other two unseated the system started and the BIOS setup utility kicked in.

Bad memory all along. Which might have explained some of the previous kernel panics I'd seen in the past. I plugged the RAID controller back in and everything still booted. Alas when I went into the hardware RAID setup only 2 of the 5 drives showed up. Given that I run RAID 6 with a hot spare those two drives were enough to ensure that I had no data loss. Looking in the case again I noticed that in the course of mucking with the memory and the general tight space of the server I'd knocked lose one drive's power, another drive's SATA cable, and lastly one drive's cable from the controller. Thankfully everything was hot-pluggable and within a minute the RAID controller saw everything.

One very long reboot later (fscking is slow) my old server was up at running, albiet with half its memory gone. Having committed to making the virtualization switch I started up the process of syncing the missing data up to the new server. Thankfully with the bulk of the data already there the deltas didn't take long. The rest of Saturday was spent getting MySQL and Apache running again and configured correctly to handle the fact that the root filesystem is ephemeral. For a user machine like this I could technically use an EBS backed root filesystem, but that then means I can't quickly boot a new instance that has a fresh and clean OS on it. Nor does it really speak the real goal of virtualization which is to be able to spin up new cloned instances to handle increased traffic, but I don't expect that to happen anytime soon with my server.

Needless to say 5 days later with a few late nights thrown in and having spent the previous weekend at No Fluff Just Stuff conference, I'm ready for next weekend already.

Tags: life neophi

February 13, 2011


I'm sure anyone who is reading this blog has probably gotten sick of the recent stream of book review reposts. In looking back at previous years I see a spike during the first part of each year. Being able to say that with confidence gives me joy. Like many quantified self activities I've gotten into recently, I don't always have an agenda when starting to track. I have however often found such data to be beneficial in retrospect. That and how else could I get my geek on by being able to whip out my phone and showing my trending candlepin bowling average...

This blog entry title harks back over a dozen years and like so many things, I've got the "data to prove it!" Not that I quite know why I'm saying that. It fits with the topic so I'll go with it. Drat, lost my train of thought. Oh right, in the vein of my friend David's attempt last year, my joy tonight isn't just from noticing trends but also in recalling and recording what has been a pretty cool weekend. The short summary includes Friday night drinks and watching Incendiary (3 out of 5). Saturday included my weekly inbox zero, playing with Flash Builder, cooking a roast with an onion and mushroom bourbon sauce and mashed yams, watching Big Fish (4 out of 5), and seeing Terminus (delightfully dark and curse the guy who started snoring!). Lastly Sunday brought a brunch party (preceded by making a lovely loaf of Amaretto banana bread), finishing Outliers (3 out of 5), watching Sunset Limited (4 out of 5), searching out and finding Harney & Sons' Winter White Earl Grey, and getting around to what you are reading now. Most importantly none of it felt rushed. Now perhaps a little repose.

Tags: life qs

February 13, 2011


OutliersOutliers by Malcolm Gladwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When reading this book the classic nature versus nurture discussion kept playing in my head. Throughout the book for those that become hugely successful (the outliers) there are clearly elements of nature at play (you need to be good enough) but overall nurture clearly plays a bigger role in the authors view. I'm lumping being in the right place at the right time (aka luck) under nurture since that seems to be a common theme especially when it comes to when you were born. The other clear theme I found was that outliers don't just happen, there is a clear lineage of accumulative advantage at work. That for me was particularly telling in the chapter that touched on the Baltimore students and the California Achievement Test. Less advantaged students showed similar gains those more more advantaged during the school year but lost that gain during the summer. Overall I found the pacing and presentation of the book to be uneven but still demonstrating the key theory well, if not offering any counter examples.

View all my reviews

Some notes I took while reading:

10: ... thinking about health in terms of community.
25: ... skewed age distributions exist whenever three things happen: selection, streaming, and differentiated experience.
30: Success is the result of what sociologists like to call "accumulative advantage."
38: Achievement is talent plus preparation.
65: ... old enough to be a part of the coming revolution but not so old that you missed it. Ideally, you want to be twenty or twenty-one, ...
80: ... only has to be [good] enough ...
101: ... practical intelligence includes things like "knowing what to say to whom, knowing when to say it, and knowing how to say it for maximum effect."
104: ... "concerted cultivation." It's an attempt to actively "foster and assess a child's talents, opinion and skills." ... "accomplishment of natural growth." They see as their responsibility to care for their children but to let them grow and develop on their own.
149: ... autonomy, complexity, and a connection between effort and reward - are, most people agree, the three qualities that work has to have if it is to be satisfying.
166-167: ... "culture of honor." ... he has to make it clear, through his words and deeds, that he is not weak.
194: We mitigate when we're being polite, or when we're ashamed or embarrassed, or when we're being deferential to authority.
204: ... "Power Distance Index" (PDI).
246: Success is a function of persistence and doggedness and the willingness to work hard ...

Tags: books life success

November 17, 2010

How to Launch a Small Software Project (RIA Unleashed: Boston 2010)

How to Launch a Small Software Product by Jesse Warden

Why do it?

  • You might want to change the world, do good, and make money.

  • Think about it as the next stage of your software career.

For the Money. Think Zynga. There is more money in products than consulting.

Fame. Think Digg or Pownce.

Lifestyle. Get to work when you want.

People that have made the switch:
Nick Bradbury: HomeSite, TopStyle and FeedDemon.
Dan Florio:
Randy Troppmann:

Skill Validation vs. Unapplied Academia

  • Consumers (more fickle) vs. Clients

  • Vision you need to show the world

Service vs. Product

  • Service work = working for another business

    • low risk lots of opportunity/jobs

    • low return: company takes a cut of your pay

  • Product work = building a product consumers buy

    • high risk, no guarantee it'll sell

    • high return you own all profits: scale is higher

What doesn't work

  • not releasing a working build

  • coding first, designing second

  • non-standard architecture

  • no clearly defined goals

  • misaligned goals

  • unsustainable cost structure

  • scalability: ignore it

  • no competency

  • not getting along with partners (someone that undoes your changes in SVN)

  • not releasing early

  • not releasing often

  • no commitment

  • mythical man month

  • waterfall

What works

  • designing to 70% finished

  • clear goal(s)

  • clear finish line

  • competency: should you build, or learn

  • something simple, done really well

  • "Red ocean versus blue ocean"

  • why people buy (Sandler Sales System): fear, pleasurable experiences, get out of trouble

  • improving an existing technology

  • first to market

  • small agile teams: UIKit of iOS = 1 person vs. XCode = 16 people

  • market research

  • iterative development

  • motivation is sacred

2 methodologies that work

Plan A: Product process

1) Research and documentation

  • who my market is, most viable product, tipping point

  • list your goals (list features)

  • research market or define personna

2) Design and iterate

  • sketch interface on paper, if fail, refine #1

  • wireframe through, not fidelity

  • build design only 70%

3) Develop

  • commit to 1 feature per build

  • release bi-weekly or monthly basis

4) Launch

  • alpha: on right track or wrong users

  • beta: need a website (download, screen shot, feedback, easy to access you)

  • get beta out the door

Plan B: Reasoning

Kind of like throwing soldiers into a position where there is no escape.
Only one rule: release a build on 1st and 15th of ever month.

Marketing ideas

  • gather quotes from forums for text

  • use website email as primary email

  • get friends to RT on Twitter

  • use all social networks

  • invest in metrics

  • discounts

  • contests

Motivation and focus

  • no motivation, no products

  • no focus == slow velocity

  • set aside time

  • oasis/tortoise environment

  • iterator and user feedback

  • feedback versus validation

  • blocks of your time

  • consulting or freelance allows you to build time to devote

Created Powerz as an example

  • People 26 years old don't read book

  • D&D isn't like wow

  • make a digital solution

  • 1) launch

  • 2) super simple thing

  • 3) get bought or get shutdown (get attention)

Lessons learned

  • do something simple, get it work, provides validation

  • motivation is sacred, focus is essential

Tags: life riaunleashedboston2010 software

September 21, 2010

Being Geek

Being GeekBeing Geek by Michael Lopp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book contains many astute observations about the life of a software developer combined with practical advice about how to approach your career. The book touches on aspects like interviewing for a job, office politics, transitioning to new responsibilities like becoming a manager, how to manage your time, dealing with crises, and thinking about when it's time to find a new job. I found the book did a great job of helping me think about the three questions it lays out at the beginning: What am I doing?, What do I do?, and What matters to me?.

View all my reviews

Some notes I took while reading:

  • What am I doing? What do I do? What matters to me? What do I care about? [6]
  • Technical direction. Growth. Delivery. [9]
  • It's OK to quit a job with people you like because there are a lot of people to like out there. [8]
  • ... do I know what I want to do? [23]
  • We must not ship crap. [60]
  • 1:1 agenda: What are you worried about? Here's what I'm worried about. And discuss.... [109]
  • staff meeting agenda: Operations (Where are we?), Tactics (What are we going to do about that?), Strategy (No, really, what are we going to do about it?). [110]
  • All of Chapter 23 (a.k.a. Nerd 101) [165-172]
  • Where do I want to go? What do I want to build? And how do I want to build it? [262]
  • Have you failed recently? Is there someone within throwing distance who challenges you daily? Can you tell me the story of something significant you learned in the last week? [298]

Tags: books life

August 24, 2010

20x2x20 Week 1

A week ago I laid out my plan to try and spend a hour a day working on personal projects. Now that I've been at this a week I thought I'd assess if it was working. Turns out the "work method" I'm using already had a name called Pomodoro Technique as one of the commenters pointed out. While I'm using 20 minutes instead of 25, it is nice to know that others have found such a pattern helpful. The other part I wanted was some visual reenforcement of my progress and status. For that I chose a simple offline method.

Each day I'm marking the calendar that hangs next to my desk with an R if I spent my 20 minutes reading or with a W if I spent my 20 minutes writing. Thinking more about the goal to get back into the habit of working on personal projects I'm finding myself more interested in doing a little work every day instead of marathon sessions that I'm prone to. I know some of those writing sessions on the weekend were much longer than 20 minutes, but the fact that I've not been procrastinating about doing them to me is the bigger goal than the total hour count.

Along those same lines, thinking about the 20 days number, if I instead think of that as 20 days over 4 weeks or 20 days out of 28 days, that means I'm skipping each task twice a week. That feels about the right kind of flow and adjustment for doing other fun stuff. Net result: week 1 was a success and now onto week 2.

Tags: 20x2x20 life

August 24, 2010


Over the last year since graduating I've succumbed to a hedonistic lifestyle. That really isn't me. At this point though I'm really out of practice of about focusing on something. As such I'm going to try a little strategy that revolves around setting aside an hour a day for "me time".

Why then, you may ask, is this entry not entitled an hour a day? In being realistic about my growing inability to work on anything, I'm hoping to within that hour focus 20 minutes on 2 different tasks for at least 20 days each month. Why 2 tasks? Well one thing that I know I've not been doing recently is reading technical books. 20 minutes, with a 10 minute buffer to clear my head, jot down thoughts unrelated to what I'm reading, is about what it takes I've found to get through a chapter of most technical books. I'm not a speed reader so that feels like a good pace and amount.

Now with a little reading out of the way, the goal would be to use the other half of that hour to work on a side project. I've read that it usually takes 10 - 15 minute of uninterrupted time to "get into the flow". Which means that if I think optimistically that it takes 10 minutes, that gives me 20 minutes of good flow time and the other half of the hour.

To me the balance between learning and do always has to be there, part of the reason that I loved Northeastern's cooperative education program so much. The last part about 20 days a month is to help me keep in mind that not every day do I necessarily have that hour. In fact I'd say spending that hour socializing and having fun with friends on board game night is probably a better spent hour in the long run. As such 20 days a month still means that the majority of the month I'm still making progress on the mountain of books and some itch that I like to scratch. The quantified self in me says that I'll also want to track that I'm doing just that.

Update: Had the thought this morning that I should have called this post my "20-20 vision". Ha, I pun me.

Tags: life plan

May 23, 2010


Choices, I have too many. It seems every day I run across something else that I want to learn and play with. Attending BarCamp didn't help. Reading blogs and newsgroups isn't helping. Buying more books definitely isn't helping. I've only got so much free time and right now a good portion of that is being used up training for my upcoming bicycle trip. I'm beginning to wonder if there is some other underlying reason for all of the intellectual angst. Too bad I'm not disciplined enough right now to actually list out and rank everything and just focus on something.

Tags: ideas life

May 23, 2010

Training Cycle Complete

For most of the past two months my weekends have been spent out on the rode getting in bicycle miles to ensure that I'm in shape for my upcoming trip in June. It's mostly been fun being back out the bicycle and this weekend I hit my training milestone right on schedule: a 100 mile weekend, done as two 50 mile days. Alas aging has started to rear its ugly head. This year, much more so than previous years, my longer rides left me unable to take deep breathes at the end. I thought it was just being out of shape. However, the symptoms persisted even as my training progressed.

I decided to narrow down the cause and started with getting my VO2 max tested. My results (70 ml/kg/min) were well above normal. Clearly not the issue. In discussing the issue with my physician he surmised that I have a mild case of exercise-induced asthma. Mild because it is only with extended exercise (90 minutes plus) or very high intensity (175 BPM plus for > 15 min) that it gets to the point that it bothers me. As a result of this for the past couple of weekends I've been using an albuterol prior to exercise and no longer return from my rides unable to take deep breathes. Given my general avoidance of medicine over the years I'm a little torn by this turn of events. Ideally I'd like to avoid the use of it as much as possible but really need to do more research into what alternatives may exist. I wonder, in what little reading I have done, that maybe my year round bicycle commuting and the high pollen counts right now might be added triggers.

In any event I'm where I wanted to be training wise. My short bicycle commute should help maintain me until my trip starts with maybe a little inline blading thrown in to keep the heart rate up.

Tags: bicycle life training trips

May 23, 2010

Off my game

The weather this weekend has been great for riding. Well I could do without the winds from the west but those just make the return trip easier. Yesterday I had a lovely ride out through Concord to Groton and back. Today I did a shorter higher intensity ride along the Minute Man Trail and was off my game on the return trip :( Coming up the hill after 95 there was a long string of riders that I was passing. I could have sworn I was announcing "on the left" but this one women broke the line and almost took me out. I ended up only a couple of inches from the left side. Thankfully no one was hurt but she did have some choice words for me. I stupidly responded over my shoulder that I'd announced but that only antagonized her more. I ended up just riding on trying not to agonize about the situation too much as I'm want to do.

Alas the ride got worse at the end of the trail. At the end I merge back into traffic to make the left hand turn onto Mass Ave. It requires getting across two other lanes of traffic, one turning right, and the other turning going straight. I won't claim it is fully legal, with that said I've made the merge about a hundred times without any issues. Today however after already having one unfortunate situation I got a driver who didn't think I should be there. I was merging as the light was going from green to yellow, so I unfortunately surprised the driver as he was pulling up to be second in line. He honked like mad and for awhile after as I was waiting at the light with him behind me. "Next time I'll hit you" I hear shortly before the light turned green. When it did finally turn green I make a wide turn to make sure I was out of the way. He pulled over and did a hard stop 10 feet after the turn, trying to get me to crash into him. I braked with room to spare and just waited for him to drive off.

Clearly I'm culpable in both situations but hope that there is some understanding that no harm or foul was intended, only what could be construed as a fleeting lack of judgement and etiquette.

Tags: life

March 30, 2010

100% Duct Tape Lunch Bag

I'll start off with a little history. In June of 1996 I started my first cooperative education experience working as a system administrator for the Systems Group of the College of Computer Science at Northeastern University. Being a college student I was trying to save money so I frequently brought my lunch to work and I kept reusing the same paper bag to carry my lunch. This worked great until one lunch leaked a little bit. For whatever reason (maybe early eco-friendly behavior) instead of throwing the paper bag out I put a little piece of duct tape on the bag. Time passes, another lunch leaks, another piece of duct tape. After a few more cycles of this, one of my co-workers joked I was going to end up with the enter paper bag covered in duct tape. This prompted the idea of skipping the paper bag entirely and going straight to nothing but duct tape.

One weekend I sat on my studio floor and painfully created a lunch bag made entirely out of duct tape. I say painful because I had trouble getting the duct tape to do what I wanted without it sticking to me and everything else. The exact details are a little lost to time but I persevered and ended up with a functioning lunch bag that lasted me from sometime in the fall of 1996 until last Friday. While at a friends' house an overly curious dog smelled some leftover food in my lunch bag and played with it a little too much. To be fair for the last few months my lunch bag had been looking a little ragged. This unfortunate event served as the catalyst to make a new lunch bag. Below are pictures of my process.

My old lunch bag:

In particular you can see the layers peeling apart from each other:

This time I decided to use a crude guide to make working with the duct tape easier. I straightened out 4 coat hangers and bent pairs at 27 and 29 inches. This works out to a 5 x 7 x 11 inch lunch bag:

I taped the coat hanger together to form a crude square. I used clear packaging tape so I wouldn't get confused later on:

I marked the edges so I would know where to start and stop laying duct tape:

Using a light touch, so it wouldn't stick to the table, I laid down strips, slightly overlapping, for the long side and then covered those with strips for the short side to create a cross:

With the help of my make shift guide it was easy to flip the entire layer over:

I then laid the long side. You want to hold the strip tight that is going sticky side to sticky side, otherwise you get messed up lines:

I repeated the same process for the short side:

Flipping it over you can see I didn't get everything quite right, but this helps give it some character. The sticky sides visible after flipping will be hidden later:

After cutting the cross out of the guide, I used a sturdy book to help join the edges. I put half a piece of duct tape on one edge, aligned the connecting edge, and joined them:

I repeated the process the for the second edge:

And finally the remaining edges. The excess at the top I just cut off:

Next to reenforce the inside edges I placed a piece of duct tape folded over a ruler sticky side out:

And using the bottom of the ruler as a guide I jammed it into the bottom inside corner and folded the two sides over it. The excess at the top I cut and folded over the top:

I cut strips of duct tape to length and folded them over each top edge of the bag to clean it up a bit. Lastly using a small square of duct tape attached to each bottom corner, I cut the excess in half and folded the two pieces on top of each other:

The final result folded and ready for lunch tomorrow. Not bad for a couple hours of work:

Let's hope this bag lasts me another decade.

Tags: ducttape life lunch

February 20, 2010

US: Americans Talk About Love

Us: Americans Talk About Love Us: Americans Talk About Love by John Bowe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book isn't about fairytale love. This book is about love being complex, crazy, heart-rending, and at the same time comforting, profound, and heartwarming. The stories reflect the melting pot that is America touching on generational, cultural, and ethical differences of what people consider and call love.

View all my reviews >>

Tags: books life love

February 20, 2010

One Thing At A Time

Anonymous asked: How do you maintain focus (on work, dreams, goals, life)?

You do one thing at a time.

-- Frank Chimero

I've been casting my net wide these past fews months and so far haven't found that one thing yet, but I know when I do it will ring true like is has in the past.

Tags: life quotes

February 20, 2010


Yesterday I bought a computer game. For those that know me well this may came as a big surprise since this isn't something I normally do. Lately I've found myself searching for something to sink my teeth into. I've not quite found it yet so I've been doing my best to not just sit in front of the television and watch movies. To that end a discussion at work recently brought up the game Braid. I have to say so far it is an awesome puzzle game, my favorite genre. The playing with time dynamic the game has isn't something I've seen in the few games I've played or heard about and it's done very well. Definitely worth the few bucks it cost me.

Tags: games life

January 31, 2010

2009 Spam

Since I switched to Google for handling my email I don't have as fine grained tracking of spam as I did in years past. My first line of spam defense is Postini which caught 43,683 spam messages for 2009. I get very few false positives from Postini so that number is about spot on. My GMail spam folder currently holds 406 spams messages received in the last 30 days. If I do a rough calculation, I'd say GMail caught another 3,263 spam messages. Postini drops certain spam messages into the bit bucket before I see any trace of it which contributed to only 45% of my email for 2009 being spam. The number of spam messages a day though is marching upwards. Minus a few drops when a spam botnet is shutdown the trend for the year isn't pretty as the graph below shows.

Tags: google life spam

January 31, 2010

AIR 2.0 and Presentation Nightmares

Tonight I spoke at the Boston Flex User Group about AIR 2.0 with a focus on the new Native Process API and Networking APIs. Alas the talk didn't go as planned since I forgot my bag of video output adapters at home and didn't notice until I was setting up. The meeting was only a few blocks away from the Allurent offices so I ran (more like a sprint) back to find suitable replacements. Alas in my rush to borrow an adapter (only being able to find a mini display port to HDMI) I ran afoul of the old Mac VGA/HDMI mechanical virus issue. However, it wasn't until after sprinting back to the meeting and futzing with projectors for 15 minutes that I realized this issue. Thankfully a fellow attendee loaned me his computer and using the USB drive I did have on me, I managed to gave a modified version of the talk sans running demo code. I'd like to thank those in attendance for their patience, apologize for my forgetfulness, and hope that at least a little information was conveyed. A copy of the presentation is available in PDF format. The most import code snippets are below:

Define a Native Process Startup Information instance:

// _mxmlc, _cssFile, _brandFile, and _kitDir are of type File
var nativeProcessStartupInfo:NativeProcessStartupInfo = new NativeProcessStartupInfo();
nativeProcessStartupInfo.executable = _mxmlc;
var mxmlcArguments:Vector.<String> = new Vector.<String>();
nativeProcessStartupInfo.arguments = mxmlcArguments;
nativeProcessStartupInfo.workingDirectory = _kitDir;

Create and attach listeners to a Native Process:

// _nativeProcess is of type NativeProcess
_nativeProcess = new NativeProcess();

_nativeProcess.addEventListener(Event.STANDARD_ERROR_CLOSE, handleStandardErrorClose);
_nativeProcess.addEventListener(Event.STANDARD_INPUT_CLOSE, handleStandardInputClose);
_nativeProcess.addEventListener(Event.STANDARD_OUTPUT_CLOSE, handleStandardOutputClose);

_nativeProcess.addEventListener(IOErrorEvent.STANDARD_ERROR_IO_ERROR, handleStandardErrorError);
_nativeProcess.addEventListener(IOErrorEvent.STANDARD_INPUT_IO_ERROR, handleStandardInputError);
_nativeProcess.addEventListener(IOErrorEvent.STANDARD_OUTPUT_IO_ERROR, handleStandardOutputError);

_nativeProcess.addEventListener(ProgressEvent.STANDARD_ERROR_DATA, handleStandardErrorData);
_nativeProcess.addEventListener(ProgressEvent.STANDARD_INPUT_PROGRESS, handleStandardInputProgress);
_nativeProcess.addEventListener(ProgressEvent.STANDARD_OUTPUT_DATA, handleStandardOutputData);

_nativeProcess.addEventListener(NativeProcessExitEvent.EXIT, handleNativeProcessExit);

Typical event handling code:

private function handleStandardOutputData(progressEvent:ProgressEvent):void {

private function handleNativeProcessExit(nativeProcessExitEvent:NativeProcessExitEvent):void {

Create a new server socket that listens on an OS selected available port:

// _serverSocket is of type ServerSocket
_serverSocket = new ServerSocket();
_serverSocket.addEventListener(Event.CLOSE, handleServerClose);
_serverSocket.addEventListener(Event.CONNECT, handleServerConnect);

Handle a new incoming connection:

private function handleServerConnect(serverSocketConnectEvent:ServerSocketConnectEvent):void {
    var socket:Socket = serverSocketConnectEvent.socket;
    socket.addEventListener(ProgressEvent.SOCKET_DATA, handleSocketData);
    socket.addEventListener(Event.CLOSE, handleSocketClose);
    socket.addEventListener(IOErrorEvent.IO_ERROR, handleSocketIOError);

Handling socket data:

private function handleSocketData(progressEvent:ProgressEvent):void {
    var socket:Socket = Socket(;
    var byteArray:ByteArray = new ByteArray();
    socket.readBytes(byteArray, 0, socket.bytesAvailable);

    socket.writeUTFBytes("HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found" + CRLF);
    socket.writeUTFBytes("Connection: close" + CRLF);

Tags: air flex

December 26, 2009

The Mind at Night

The Mind at Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream The Mind at Night: The New Science of How and Why We Dream by Andrea Rock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book provides an excellent history and discussion of current research around dreaming. It is by the far the most approachable book on the topic I've read. Each chapter explores a different aspect of the mind at mind and calls out specific researchers leading the exploration of that area. The books builds upon itself such that the later topics, while dealing with more current and technical material, are digestible as previous chapters laid the groundwork for understanding them.

View all my reviews >>

Tags: books dream life sleep

July 19, 2009

Billions & Billions

Carl Sagan's "Billions & Billions" is a collection of essays covering a wide variety of topics. The essays are grouped into three parts: "The Power and Beauty of Quantification", "What Are Conservatives Conserving?", and "Where Hearts and Minds Collide." I started reading the book some time ago and interspersed it with others so my recollection of the book as a whole is a little fuzzy. Some of the essays did feel dated as the facts and conditions presented have clearly changed, mostly for the better, since originally written.

I had originally picked up the book after reading an excerpt from the essay entitled "Abortion: Is It Possible to Be Both 'Pro-Life' and 'Pro-Choice'?" This along with most of the other essays in part three is a reason to read the book. The reasoned approach and insight brought to many of the subjects touched upon gives ample evidence to the impact he had on so many lives.

Tags: books life

June 23, 2009


At the end of May I took a two week trip with my Mother to China. As I've been trying to do with most of my recent trips, I took a few pictures. My initial reaction to the trip was that it was good. The cultural sites in China are amazing. What disturbed me though was the visible environmental impact of China's growth. In particular visiting the Turtle-Head Peninsula it was hard to make out the islands only a few hundred yards away due to the smog in the area. I never got a good view of Shanghai's sky-line and the only nice day we had around Beijing was due to 30 MPH winds blowing all day.

The tour company we went with is state owned but privately controlled. I felt like most of the material presented to us was overly sanitized and scripted, as evidenced by two guides telling us the same material independently. Needless to say while I went with an open mind the reenforcement of "stereotypical western demonization" was hard to escape at times. I'm glad I visited and I suspect that I'd want to return for a much more rural an unstructured exploration.

Tags: china life pictures travel

May 12, 2009


Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher is an exploration of attention. It drifts between reasoned discussion about what is going on in your brain backed by various sciences to anecdotal evidence presented in self-help new age manner. Thankfully the book sticks more to the former than the latter. Overall the text is very approachable and offers insight into how we experience the world.

  • Your life consists of what you focus on [4]
  • The idle mind is the devil's workshop [13]
  • Change blindness [19]
  • Rashomon [22]
  • Magic is what happens when you are paying attention to something else [23]
  • To enjoy the kind of experience you want [...] take charge of your attention [28]
  • Negativity bias theory [32]
  • Positivity offset [35]
  • Weapons effect [36]
  • reactive, behavioral, and reflective brain parts [37-38]
  • W. H. Auden "Choice of attention - to pay attention to this and ignore that - is to the inner life what choice of action is to the outer. In both cases, a man is responsible for his choices and must accept the consequences, whatever they may be" [43]
  • William James "the art of knowing what to overlook" [50]
  • Multidimensional Personality Questionnaire (MPQ) [58]
  • Pearls Before Breakfast [67]
  • Mindfulness meditation [69]
  • Concentration on lower or upper status and its effect on you [85]
  • Noon on Sunday, most unhappy hour [109]
  • Thinking about your life versus your life experiences [118]
  • Attentional myopia [123]
  • The Paradox of Choice [127]
  • Energy flows where attention goes [161]
  • Work 90 minutes on a task then switch [172]
  • Plan how you'll act in advance [183]
  • The truth is what works [191]
  • Wisdom, courage, temperance, justice, humanity (love), and transcendence [210]
  • Make yourself necessary to someone [212]

Tags: attention books life

April 20, 2009

Last Class & Last Course

After many a late night and busy weekend I'm elated to have finished tonight the last class in the last course of my Master of Science in Computer Science from Northeastern. I'll be graduating the 1st of May! It hasn't completely sunk in yet that I'm done. I started this journey 4 years ago in the cold winter of January of 2005 while I was at Towers Perrin and they had a sweet reimbursement deal. I had originally planned to complete the end of last year but ended taking a semester off when I learned I was being laid off from Ruckus and didn't want to be looking for a new job in the middle of my next course.

In looking back I feel I was a better student as an undergraduate. I've lost track of the number of times I thought I wasn't going to make it through or just couldn't pull myself to get the work done on time. I don't remember those thoughts being as frequent as an undergraduate. Then again, at that time being a student was my full time job. Since I've been working full-time while pursuing my degree, and always put that first, I know I should have done better in a couple of my courses. On the flip side, it feels like I learned a lot more in my graduate work. That probably is mostly due to the fact that the majority of my courses were filling in gaps or delving deeper into topics that I studied as an undergraduate.

Now to figure out what to do with my new-found free time :) I should be able to get back to working on some projects I've put to the back burner while I helped build out Allurent's latest offering and finished this last course.

Tags: graduation life northeastern

March 24, 2009

Brain Crack

Recently on a couple of unrelated blogs there were links to Ze Frank's Brain Crack video. It is succinct and hit home. I'm trying to think about how best to act on it without that thought turning into yet more brain crack. I'm not to the point that I'm going to make it a public contract on myself, but given my recent ramblings, I clearly have some crack to remove.

Tags: brain crack life projects

February 8, 2009

This Not That

I've gotten myself into a funk at home where I'm not interested in doing anything personally productive. I've got some projects I should be working on (read as a new Antennae release), some ideas that should be explored (read as playing with ANTLR), some loose ends to clean up (read as finishing the comments on my Nepal pictures), and we'll completely skip over how botched up I've been with personal communication lately. Instead of doing any of that, I find myself sitting in front of the television or mindlessly playing on the computer.

A new age book I have kicking around talks about Personal Velocity and the issues with being above (stress, burnout, anxiety) or below (boredom, apathy, depression) your optimal velocity zone. I did say it was new age :) Taken with a grain of salt it makes some sense. I personally think given my tendency this just happens from time to time.

The fact that I've been skimming 43 Folders has only made me more self aware of how out of the zone I might be. I wonder if part of that is that it has been awhile since I've felt passion for anything outside of work. While it doesn't look like I've written about it on this blog, I've ruminated on passion in the past, mostly around that fact that I wonder if I've ever had it (versus temporary infatuation) or that it has been a long time since I've felt it.

Tags: life work

November 17, 2008

Nude Riding a Bicycle and In Bed with Google

It feels like ages ago that I made a post even though its only been a few weeks. I've been a little busy and writing a blog entry was fairly low on the list. After last night's activities I feel compelled to fill the gap.

Awhile ago Allurent moved and in the process I acquired a mannequin. At the time I solicited suggestions but nothing inspired me. Earlier this week Annalisa sent me information about a Halloween Bike Ride that was taking place around Boston. Given that I hadn't come up with any other Halloween plans it sounded like a grand idea. It also served as the inspiration for decorating my bike, with what else but, a mannequin. Given the reactions I got while bringing it home on my back I figured a more elaborate setup (and one that I could ride with for the night was in order).

TR gave me the idea of mounting it to my bike rack which would better support the weight than strapping it to my bike like I did in order to get it home. The tricky part was figuring out how to get it on the bike so that it made some sense and could still be ridable. Thankfully with some help from Clara, 3M Packaging Tape, and a little ingenuity it came together. Hence was born "Nude Riding a Bicycle". The ride itself was a blast with over 240 riders starting it off. Some dropped off as the route meandered around Boston but there was a strong presence to the end. My hats off to the organizers for a great night and to New England weather for making the night tolerable.

In other news I've gotten in bed with Google more than I thought I ever would. For a long time I've been running this little neck of the Internet known as NeoPhi including my own web server, mail server, etc. It's given me the freedom to do just about whatever I want. This month I changed some of that. In particular I changed my mobile phone. While for some this maybe a common occurrence, it isn't for me. This is only my third mobile phone, ever. My previous two were each with me about 5 years. It's not that I haven't thought about getting a new phone I just didn't find anything worth switching to.

I seriously considered the iPhone but couldn't justify the price and frankly wasn't that interested in switching from T-Mobile. I looked into some other 3G phones that debuted in European markets but T-Mobile's 3G service either wasn't compatible (since it used a different spectrum) or didn't exist were I would have been using it. Flash forward to a couple of months ago when the G1 was announced. A form factor that was close to my old phones, a platform I could easily develop for if I wanted to, it worked with my provider of choice, and had some cool apps. Without ever seeing one in person I pre-ordered it and picked it up the night of Oct 21.

My impressions so far have been very favorable! My biggest complaint is that with only some of the features turned on the battery drains pretty quickly. My last phone would last at least 3 days between charges while with the G1 I'm having to charge it every night. The touch screen is great and having access to a full physical QWERTY keyboard has made working with it a breeze. The web browser has handled various sites I've thrown at it and I've already downloaded and used some other applications from the Android Market.

In order to start using the phone though you must tie it to a Google account. While I do have a GMail account, it isn't my primary email address. I mostly created it to get access to Google features before they let you sign up with any email address. Given the tight integration between the phone and Google I thought it worth considering what life with Google would be like. I previously used a Palm to track my calendar and contacts (those details that my phone couldn't handle like addresses). With my new smart phone it felt like overkill to carry around both devices. The biggest hurdle though was email.

I figured my insistence on using procmail, SpamAssassin, and Pine to read me email while serving me well for the past 13 years may have been due for an update. To enact the change I signed up for a Google Apps Premier account. Which means that Google and Postini now handle email for my domain. The premier account also lets you import old mail via IMAP which made migrating 13 years and a couple gigs of email a breeze. Well not an entire breeze. My local cataloging system didn't directly translate into Google's label system so after all of my email was in my GMail account I did have to spend a few hours massaging labels to make it work. Now that it's all done though I must say GMail is a reasonable replacement for my old system. More importantly I have complete and easy access to all of it from my new phone.

My contacts and calendar on the other hand are an on going effort to migrate them to Google. In particular getting the data out of Palm Desktop into a format that could be imported into Google was not straight forward. While there are some applications that can synchronize between the two, I didn't want to shell out the cash for them since I wasn't planning on continuing to use my Palm once the transition was done.

I ended up using Apple's Address Book and Calendar to read in vCal and vCard exports from Palm Desktop. I then used a 3rd party utility to export my address book into a Google friendly format and iCal's native export format. Like my email the translation process isn't perfect and I suspect there will be a couple hours of cleanup for each data set before it's Google friendly. In retrospect though it's also prompting me to do some house cleaning of the data which is sometime I've been trying to do in general.

In the process of moving my digital life to Google I also moved my computing life to a new Mac Book Pro. While trying to do the development on PPE the speed of Java on my old G5 PPC was really starting to annoy me. Conveniently the rumor mill said that Apple was about ready to release new some Mac laptops. Turns out the rumors were true and on Oct 14th that happened. I'm very pleased with the new solid case design. While at first I lamented about the lack of a matte finish for the screen, given when I most often use my laptop it hasn't been something that has bothered me as much as I thought it would.

Needless to say between the new laptop, phone, visiting Elissa, having the house de-leaded, and migrating my digital life to Google, my free time has been minimal. For me busy is happiness which has made these past few weeks fly by nicely. I'm hoping to get back to PPE as I really want to move that along so it doesn't become an abandoned project of mine. My closing hint is that when copying files from a Mac with rsync be sure to add the -E flag. Thankfully I had backups and you should to. Time capsule is overpriced but the convenience of wireless piece of mind backups is great.

Tags: android g1 google life mac neophi

November 17, 2008

Randy Pausch Quotes

Many months ago I watched Randy Pausch's last lecture. Below are some of the quotes from the talk that I took away and just found under a pile of other stuff on my desk. Some of these he credits to other people, see the transcript for details.

Fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.
When you’re screwing up and nobody’s saying anything to you anymore, that means they gave up.
Have something to bring to the table, right, because that will make you more welcome.
Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
Brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.
I think that that’s one of the best things you can give somebody – the chance to show them what it feels like to make other people get excited and happy.
Get a feedback loop and listen to it.

Tags: life quotes

July 30, 2008

I Was Told There'd Be Cake

Sloane Crosley's "I Was Told There'd Be Cake" is a collection of essays on a wide range of topics from family matters to friendly surprises in the bathroom. What intrigued me most about the collection was that it's from a voice of my generation. Many of the comments in the book are very similar to what I grew up with, what I experienced, and most often relate to. The rift on Oregon Trail found a special place in my heart. It almost makes me want to buy Busted Tees "You Have Died of Dysentery" shirt :) The book is a quick read as the writing style is light. While funny, the humor feels forced at times and sometimes strays too much off-topic. I'll be curious to see what her next project is as I can only think her writing will be more polished in her next effort.

Tags: books life

July 30, 2008

Busy Weekend

Its been a busy weekend.

The Tour de France wrapped up this weekend with an everything on the line time trial on Saturday and another fabulous sprint finish on the Champs Elysee on Sunday. Congratulations to Carlos Sastre, this year's winner. My DVR can rest for awhile now that I don't have 4-5 hours of live coverage to zoom through each night. Versus' prime time coverage just can't compare to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.

Saturday also included an outing to Midwest Grill followed by games in celebration of Craig's birthday. Way too much yummy food and gaming but a great way to spend the rest of the day.

Sunday consisted of helping Erin and Pete move into an apartment down the street, but was mostly taken up by painting my entryway. Stephanie has been helping me pick out colors and look for deals on paint. A couple of months ago she came across this great peach color which fit with the overall scheme. Problem is, now that I've got one room done, I'm itching to do the rest.

Tags: gilmanmanor life photos

June 10, 2008

Off to Nepal

Tomorrow I leave for an extended vacation trekking around Nepal. I don't expect to have any connectivity while I'm there so be advised any email or comments will be delayed even worse than usual. See you in July!

Tags: life nepal trek

June 10, 2008


MovableType tells me this is my 500th post. I think only a couple posts never made it out the door so you have that much drivel of mine for your reading pleasure. Should you want to, you can start at the beginning. Many of my early posts were links until I discovered and started using that to capture all my links. Along the way to 500 posts I switched jobs and started writing more technical articles (hint if you only want RSS notifications for technically related stuff try the Flex Feed). Lately I've been more on the personal side, too lazy to setup a separate blog for that, unlike some more motivated bloggers.

The fact that this is post number 500 is perfect timing since I just cashed in my Mountain Dew coin bottle and came up just shy of $500 in coins ($499.03 to be exact). I've been saving coins in that bottle since about the time I came to Boston in late 1995. Having needed quarters for laundry and parking meters over the years the bottle was almost 100% pennies, nickels, and dimes. It weighed in at 90 pounds. The final tally from Coinstar was 1 dollar coin, 2 half-dollar coins, 5 quarters, 2995 dimes, 2330 nickels, and 7978 pennies. Which based on some calculations Brian and I did in the past using coins weights is about right. The only odd thing is I had more nickels than I should have, assuming standard change amounts, 17.5% versus 12.5%. Pennis were 60% versus 62.5% and dimes 22.5% versus 25%. The difference maybe due to many convenience stores giving out a nickel instead of 4 pennies.

I went with an Amazon gift certificate since I want to buy a new camera (suggestions welcome as I need to order real soon now) before my next trip and getting a gift certificate avoids the 9% counting fee normally charged. With the help of John I captured the redemption efforts.

In other random updates, over the long weekend all of Gilman Manor, both past and present, went out to California for Shaun and Meg's wedding. It was a wonderful custom ceremony in a beautiful bay area setting. Minus some very stiff winds the weather was perfect. I captured a few pictures during the festivities.

While out there for the long weekend we also explored San Francisco and visited a few places I'd not been on my previous excursions around the city. In particular we walked around and explored Golden Gate Park. My camera doesn't do macro very well (hence part of my desire to replace it) so only a couple of shots from the Conservatory of Flowers were worth posting. I didn't take any at the Japanese Tea Garden, but exploring the area reaffirmed by desire to visit that part of the world.

Lastly, in between fighting colds, food poising, and bad weather my hiking has been suffering. One weekend just to do something I took a trip up to Breakheart Reservation. No difficult climbs but a nice woodland stroll with many nice views of Boston. The top of Castle Rock had the best views (if you ignore the nearby power lines).

Tags: blog coins life

May 28, 2008


I'm finally feeling like I'm returning to the real world after a multiple day buildup and long weekend spent watching prodigious amounts of television while battling the worst cold I've had in a long time. I frequently suspect that when I over extend myself too much my body fights back and lets a cold in since it knows that will slow me down. Well it worked. I'm completely off my training schedule as even biking to work brings out coughing fits, but thankfully I've still got over a month to get back into the swing of things. Besides generally being lackadaisical when responding to email my hermit nature over the past week only exacerbated the problem. Very tempting to just hit delete all and try an inbox zero.

Tags: email life

March 31, 2008


Lately I've been trying to figure out what my priorities are. This has been prompted by a number of factors one of which is that it is just the phase I'm in. It started off with borrowing the book "Getting Things Done" by David Allen. I started reading it but then "other things" came up and it has been sitting on my desk unopened for some time now.

It isn't that I don't want to read the book or think that it won't help. Almost anything I read I expect to generate some tangential ideas or realizations. My hangup is that reading it would be conforming too much to a pragmatic life, which I already associate myself with. Rash is not a word people typically use to describe me.

I find myself writing this blog entry instead of reading that book or possibly working on a project of interest. The latter causing no end of "why didn't I" moments when I see others producing what I was thinking about. I say thinking about not planning or working on since very rarely does an idea go beyond thinking for me. The act of writing that prompts me to add that some projects do get done as most of my previous blog entries for this year attest to.

This maybe just a feeling that I could be doing more? That brings to mind the concept of "personal velocity" as introduced to me in "The Acorn Principle" by Jim Cathcart, another book I started to read, put down and haven't picked up again. While I know some of my own limitations and am mostly comfortable with them, I'm positive in other areas I'm my own harshest critic and think that I could be doing more when in fact I may already be operating at 110%.

While this entry hasn't done much beyond ramble somewhat coherently over a few short paragraphs, the behind the scenes process has been much more cathartic. It has helped me remember some great articles from writers more eloquent then me that address similar material. In particular "Good and Bad Procrastination" by Paul Graham and tangentially related "Set Your Priorities" by Joel Spolsky.

Tags: life priorities

February 25, 2008

Slow Motion Moment

I had one of those made for the movies slow motion moments coming home tonight. The snow flurries had just started to fall making the roads a little wet but nothing too serious. I was biking home using my secondary route. My primary route is the one I commute on between Union Square and Harvard Square. My secondary route is the one that I take when I've crossed over the river into Boston. While I don't ride it as much it's a route that I'm very familiar with.

Overall the route is good minus a couple of bad sections of road. One section has cobble stones on a turn which in inclement weather can be nasty. Another turn has some enormous pot holes. It was at this turn that I had my slow motion moment. As I'm starting to make the turn I'm thinking to myself, "I need to get over to avoid the pot ..." BAM! Skidding across the ground I realized I had my thought a moment to late. Thankfully I was dressed in enough layers to protect myself from the winter weather that I only ended up with some minor road rash on my right arm which took the brunt of the fall. Besides that I'm fine.

I did manage to rip to shreds the handle bar grip and scratch up the brake on the right since that was also skidding along the ground. Overall the most annoying part was the puncture flat I got from the pot hole since that meant having to dry off and change the tube under a wet, dirty, and greasy tire. Thankfully that's all done. Tomorrow's ride into work should be fun as I'm sure I'll found out what part of my body I've not yet realized I banged up.

Tags: accident bike life

December 31, 2007

2007 Magazines

This post has been over a year in the making. I first got the idea back in November 2006 when I commented on the number of magazines I found myself accumulating. That observation was a continuation of a May 2005 post in which I documented my unread magazine stack. With the short history lesson out of the way I present this post. For all of 2007 I kept the two piles I talked about in 2006. The result, I read about half of the magazines I got by height.

The pile on the right is the magazines that I read in 2007 while the pile on the left is unread magazines. Both are just shy of the 10 inch mark with the read pile a little shorter. The one thing that surprised me is that unlike in previous years almost all of the magazines that I received I paid for either directly or indirectly. One magazine that I didn't pay for made up about one third of the unread stack even though it was a thin weekly one and they finally stopped sending it about half way through the year. In the fall I didn't renew one subscription for a magazine that predominately ended up in the unread pile and will let my subscription on another magazine that is mostly in the unread pile lapse when it next comes due.

Out of curiosity I also weighed all of the magazines. They came in right around 55 pounds. I'm sure if I did the same thing with physical junk mail and catalogs it would be just as bad. One of the reasons that I'm a big fan of GreenDimes and have been for awhile now. With that said this week's recycling bin is going to HEAVY!

Tags: life magazine

August 31, 2007

Bowling Alone

"Bowling Alone" by Robert D. Putnam is a dense and sobering look at the state of social capital in America. The book is meticulously researched, the last 100 pages are devoted to discussing the sources of the books' data and the copious cited material. The picture painted is one of a nation under change, but it is presented in straightforward manner allowing the reader the chance to draw conclusions about what it means for America. It isn't until the last 50 pages that the author switches to a more call to arms prose.

Some of the trends mentioned and thoughts in the book that stood out to me:

  • "Today's under-thirties pay less attention to the news and know less about current events than their elders do today or than people their age did two or three decades ago." [36]
  • "... activities that brought citizens together, those activities that most clearly embody social capital-that have declined most rapidly." [45]
  • After Greenpeace stopped direct mail solicitations, on account of environmental impact, they lost almost 85 percent of their membership. [53]
  • "Americans who identify themselves as having 'no religion' has risen steadily and sharply from 2 percent in 1967 to 11 percent by the 1990s." [70]
  • "The ratio of families who customarily dine together to those who customarily dine apart has dropped from more than three to one to 1977-78 to half that in 1998-99." [100]
  • Trend is that more people observe and less do. "Between 1986 and 1998 ... while club meeting attendance was down by a third, pop/rock concert attendance was up by a third." [114]
  • "In other words, social capital may turn out to be a prerequisite for, rather than a consequence of, effective computer-mediated communication." [177]
  • "Education, in short, is an extremely powerful predicator of civic engagement." [186]
  • "... it is not low income pr se, but the financial worry that it engenders, that inhibits social engagement." [193]
  • "American adults average seventy-two minutes every day behind the wheel, ..." [212]
  • "The fraction of us who travel to work in a private vehicle rose from 61 percent in 1960 to 91 percent in 1995, ..." [212]
  • "... TV dependence is as disruptive to one's constitution as financial anxiety and class deprivation." [241]
  • "Both marriage and parenthood became choices, not obligations." [258]
  • "The younger you are, the worse things have gotten over the last decades of the twentieth century in terms of headaches, indigestion, sleeplessness, as well as general satisfaction with life and even likelihood of taking your own life." [263]
  • "... getting married is the 'happiness equivalent' of quadrupling your annual income." [333]
  • "Citizenship is not a spectator sport." [341]
  • "Anonymity is fundamentally anathema to deliberation." [342]

The trends outlined in the book are the natural ebb and web of a nation undergoing change. As the author examines, some of this is generational. There were events that galvanised this nation in the past and that was one cause for change. As quoted above, citizenship is not a spectator sport which maybe why the nations' political state is where it is today. In that regard the falling social capital is harming us greatly.

If you at all interested in community and social capital in America, this is the book to read.

Tags: books life

August 31, 2007

Camp Vacation

I recently got back from a week of vacation in Maine at my families' camp. It was great to be off the grid and relax with nature as a backdrop. The only real technology I took along was my camera, which I used to capture the beauty. It had been many years since I was last at the camp for a vacation. My last couple of trips were to replace the roof. It was as I remembered it from my youth. Simplicity is good.

Tags: camp life pictures

July 17, 2007

Cirque du Soleil

Since 1999 I've been a devote fan of Cirque du Soleil. However, last night maybe one of the last shows of theirs I see ([Update: I lied, I just needed a break :)]). I took a trip down memory lane and since that first show in 1999 I've seen many others and have watched them in multiple countries. For my own posterity (and I still think I'm missing one) I believe these are the shows I've seen:

Oct 15, 1999La NoubaOrlando
Sep 4, 2001DralionBoston
May 25, 2002VarekaiMontreal
Aug 4, 2002QuidamBoston
Oct 30, 2003SaltimbancoZurich
Jul 24, 2004AlegriaPhiladelphia
Aug 7, 2004VarekaiBoston
Dec 4, 2004MystereLas Vegas
Dec 5, 2004OLas Vegas
May 8, 2005CorteoMontreal
Oct 7, 2006CorteoBoston
Jul 1, 2007DeliriumBoston
Sep 19, 2008KoozaBoston
Aug 30, 2009AlegriaBoston
Jun 27, 2012TOTEMBoston
Jul 1, 2012TOTEMBoston
Jun 27, 2014AmalunaBoston

Why after so many years and so many shows am I having a change of heart? Maybe its a passing thing but the price to value ratio has gone out of whack. For what it is, Delirium tickets felt like they cost twice as much as they should have. I did go the VIP route for a couple of shows and with the free swag, program, and food/drinks it felt more like I was getting good value for my money. I didn't have that feeling last night while watching Delirium.

The show itself is visually stunning, makes fabulous use of video technology, and continues in CdS fashion with memorable music. Like the book I'm reading now, CdS has scarcity going for it. I don't know of another brand (although I'm sure one exists) that produces similar shows. As such they can drive the price up and still manage to sell tickets, although there were quite a few empty seats last night.

Tags: cds life

July 17, 2007

Dying Sport?

I think inline skating is all but dead in Boston. During a recent night of heavy blading I managed to lose a couple of bolts holding my wheels on while out blading. Thankfully I didn't notice this until a couple of days later when I was rotating my wheels. I have no chance of retracing my route to find the missing bolts. My long time use of a hop-up kit saved me from having the wheel fall completely off.

Being without blades makes short little mid-day excursions a little more tedious so I went out in search of replacement parts. I've been blading around Boston since I got here. Things have changed since then. Eric Flaim's Motion Sports on Newbury used to be the place to go. Long since gone and replaced by a Blades Board and Skate. They even had a couple of locations around the city including Harvard Square. Alas they are also gone. A place I never went to but looked promising was Beacon Hill Skate Shop. A phone call to them and they seemed to have moved way south of the city.
True East Skate Shop in downtown Boston is for skateboarders only. Orchard Skateshop looks to be the same. Those are the specialty shops, either gone or not for inline.

There is always City Sports, but they are more about the simple gear not cross pull hop-up kits or a dozen plus wheel variations with different hardnesses, composites, and diameters. Even some of the online specialty shops I used to buy in bulk from when I was going through a set of wheels a month, seemed to have moved on. And forget the fact that I contemplated getting news blades. Maybe I'm old fashioned but Rollerblade's ABT system is still tops in my book for being able to break hard while in traffic, keep all your wheels on the ground, and not rip your wheels to shreds. Very few if any models out there offer anything like that. Maybe I could learn new techniques but too many years of certain habits are hard to break :)

Tags: life

June 28, 2007


I just got back from visiting Erin in Aberdeen Scotland. It was a blast. I've not had time to collect my thoughts and do a proper summary but I have done a first pass at putting up pictures.

Tags: life scotland

February 26, 2007


The March issue of Details had a couple of tidbits I thought were worth mentioning:

4 percent of the world's population carry the gene for red hair. 2100 is the year natural redheads may become extinct, according to the Oxford Hair Foundation.

I knew redheads weren't that common but I didn't know is was that uncommon. While the extinction piece is an odd prediction, the fact that a group of people is tracking and speculating on it is the more intriguing part to me.

Tags: life

December 31, 2006

Best Laid Plans

The frequency with which Friday ends with plans that I hope to accomplish over the weekend and the realization Sunday night that few if any of those plans has been completed seems to increase with each week. It isn't that my weekend is filled with activities that prevent me from working on my list, I just seem to default to an almost couch potato state. In some cases other items take up the time I had planned to spend, but in general I think I default to procrastination. I've talked about that in the past, but in this case I think it is all bad procrastination.

Part of my view on it, is that nothing really bad has ever happened to me as a result of procrastination. Or maybe more importantly I've never directly linked procrastination to anything really bad happening to me. It is possible I recharacterized it as apathy, which while related to procrastination in my mind, is different. In either case I continue to procrastinate.

Tags: life

November 30, 2006

Midas Touch

I met up with people I used to work with at Ruckus for a few drinks tonight. I'm killing a little time before going to bed and figured I'd do one of these silly memes. So here it is...

Tags: life links

November 30, 2006

Early Year End Thoughts

Where has this year gone? I know I could look back on posts that I have made to this blog, particularly during the first half of the year when I was making a post every day, but that wouldn't completely fill the gaps. It is the compression of time that bothers me the most. Every day almost goes by at the same pace, but the weeks and months are getting lost in a blur. Maybe it's my thirtieth birthday that is coming up soon that causes me to ponder this moment more than others.

My pessimism says that as much that has happened in this last year, much more has not happened. While some of what didn't happen was a direct result of what I chose not to have happen, much more was laziness. Am I wasting away the best years of my life or am I enjoying them. Best can have so many different connotations. Are these my best productive years when I could be creating something that changes the world or are these years the ones that I can have the best fun? I'm not sure how I would define best.

What I do know is that I feel best when I've accomplished something. At times it is a simple thing like racking the back yard. Other times it is sorting through old files and throwing out the junk. Funny that the examples that come to mind first revolve around controlling my environment and entropy reduction. I do get that same sense of accomplishment when I've created something, but that comes much less often since inspiration doesn't hit often, while there is almost always cleaning to do in one form or another.

This discussion seems to have focused on work instead of enjoyment. This year has included many hours spent in enjoyment. While those were relaxing and often times very needed, that sense of accomplishment does not accompany them. Maybe it is time to find and dust off an old book that I have lying around called, if I remember correctly, The Acorn Principle. It was a self-help book I picked up based on a review back when I was nearing graduation from college and trying to find my way into the "adult" world.

Tags: life

November 30, 2006


Looking back on what I spend my time and money on, I see a pattern. That pattern is that I am phase driven. I go through phases where I'm fascinated by something or really into something and then some time later that interest wanes and it is replaced by something else. These phases run the gamut of almost anything under the sun.

What I've not quite been able to do is figure out exactly what triggers a new phase to start or one to end. These phases also overlap sometime with the same genre happening at the same time. A few phases that I've gone through include:

For awhile I was collecting PEZ like crazy. I think I amassed close to half a thousand. They are all sitting packaged up in my basement. I can't remember the last time I actually bought a PEZ.
Mouse Pads
During the start of PEZ collecting I also started to amass mouse pads. This was particularly funny since I didn't even use a mouse on my computer at the time. Here again while I have my collection hidden away in a closet, I've not added to it in a few years.
Maybe I should just combine these all into a Collection phase as my collecting of coaster also overlapped the other two listed above. In this case the coasters get used on a regular basis and I occasionally rotate which ones are in use to provide some variety, but unless someone has given one to me as a present I've not actively sought them out in some time.
Bread Bag Tags
This was rather obscure. It didn't last as long as the others in the list but did happen. I'll admit I still keep a few around since we buy some bread that comes with twist ties and I hate those, but I throw most of them away.
For a couple of years I was obsessed with sake. I was buying and trying as many different varieties and kinds as possible. While I still buy and drink sake on a irregular basis, I'm not consuming it at the rate I did during the height of my sake phase.
This really shouldn't count as a phase, it's more like an addiction. I have this habit of subscribing to more magazines than I care to read. Granted some of the ones I get are a side effect of the professional organizations I'm apart of, like getting Communications by being an ACM member. The majority are magazines that I've actually paid money for. I'm currently sitting next to a stack that is a foot high. Yes my stack of magazines that I've gotten and not read for 2006 is a foot high. The problem is mostly that I have trouble skimming a magazine. I'm too interested in learning about stuff, I end up reading them cover to cover. I think for 2007 I might keep two piles, one for the magazines I didn't read and one for the ones I did and see which pile ends up bigger at the end of the year.

I'm sure the list could go on, but you get the idea. I'm not really sure this is a bad thing. Yes most of these phases do involve some monetary expenditure but if I didn't spend it on one thing I'd probably end up spending it on something else. Maybe this is the down side of having some disposable income, you end up with disposable hobbies.

Tags: life

November 30, 2006

I Am Not Stephen Colbert

In looking at my web logs today I noticed something very odd. I was getting referrer entries for I did some digging and for reasons that I can not explain. That domain points at my server's IP address. The bigger mystery is the fact that it has been pointing at my server since the middle of August. I guess whoever registered the domain isn't using it. As a result I present to you View it while you can, I suspect someone may catch on.

Update: My friend who registered the domain finally found the page. The above link now points to a cached copy of the page I put up.

Tags: iamnotstephencolbert life

November 30, 2006

Two Months

It has been a little over two months since I returned my 350Z to the dealership at the end of my three year lease. I really loved that car. Its teardrop profile, smooth handling, fully featured interior, and get-up-and-go made it a joy to drive. Alas, winter in New England did not mix with a rear wheel drive car outfitted with high performance summer tires. Yes, I could have switched tires for the winter months, but the thought of dropping another thousand just to pretend I could drive in winter never really appealed to me.

I debated quite some time about what I would do after I returned my Z. I researched plenty of cars, went to a few dealerships, but never made it past just looking. The nail in the coffin of getting the Z in the first place was the first time I drove it. Part of the reason I didn't want to go any further in the process was a conscious realization that I was "becoming" a yuppie. Some that known me content that is already the case. I still delude myself and say that it is more a case of selective affluence.

While I could have bought and afforded many of the cars I was looking at, it felt wrong. Not wrong at the level of being evil, more wrong at the level of I should know better. I grew up modestly and while I lament that I can't remember as much of my childhood as I would like, what I do remember is not cause for alarm. The most recent issue of Details has a series of articles about yuppies and one of the comments mentioned in Jeff Gordinier's "The Return of the Yuppie" piece reminded me of my car debate:

Douglas Coupland told People "When you've 27 or 28, your body starts emmiting the Sheraton enzyme. You can no longer sleep on people's floors." By 37, the Sheraton enzyme mutates into the Four Season endorphin.

The same thing was happening to me, but with cars. The Dodge Omni I had as my first car was a distant past to what I was considering now. I had to step back and really wonder just what was going on. It wasn't so much shying away from what limited success I've had in my career, but instead wondering more about how I wanted to express it? I'm still trying to figure that one out. Inspiration should come from groups like "Living Life Below Your Means" which is active on the The Motley Fool. Alas, I've not found myself perusing those forums.

Instead of jumping into something that I might regret, I instead chose to delay the choice. I'm now a member of Zipcar. Easy access to a car when I need it, but not close enough to be more tempting than I want it to be. Two months car less has helped me discover what I would really want a car for. Highest on that list is the mundane task of grocery shopping. This is just what Zipcar was designed for. Enter in that not quite as close as I would like factor and it is a trade-off.

Peapod has filled the grocery gap, but not always to my complete satisfaction. Last time we went shopping online which was a couple of weeks ago, Peapod did not offer Eggnog as an online option. There are also many other products that are easily found in the stores but not online. Some of them fall into the yuppie category, but in general I'm willing to put money there as the hippie-go-crunchy products I feel are better tasting and more sustainable.

This leaves me in the position that I still might want to get a car, since while grocery shopping is highest on the list, trips to visit friends and explore the area are also on the list and full day Zipcar rentals get to be as bad as a car payment. I will have to see what inspiration the new year brings.

Tags: 350z life

October 21, 2006

10 months

For a long time I listened to my collection of music on a random album basis. iTunes was one of the few programs that actually lets you randomize by album instead of track. While trying to find a sample in a song that borrowed from a movie I decided to start listening to my music collection in alphabetical order by album (I never did find the sample I was looking for). This is all based off of listening to music on my computer when I'm working at it. I also listen to a lot of music at work and on CDs. Yes I still listen to CDs since I have a decent enough stereo system that CDs still sound better and don't require me to have cords running all over the place.

While looking for a piece of music today I looked over the last played times of all my music. Turns out 10 months later I've started my second loop. Meaning it's taken me almost 10 months to listen to everything in my music collection. iTunes reports that I have 21.6 days of music. Roughly that means that I'm listening to music on average 1.75 hours per day. That also means that I'm sitting at my computer that much per day. Scary thought.

Tags: life music

October 21, 2006


Much has been said around the lose of privacy particularly in this growing world of identity theft. People have been thinking about trust and computers since the beginning. Scott McNealy once said "You have zero privacy now. Get over it" (the PC Week "Quote of the Week," Feb. 1, 1999). The ACLU is fighting against the lose of privacy as are many other groups. Now I learn of a site called Abika (part of the Intelius network) that will not only lookup background information for a fee but also will compile physiological profiles. If that site doesn't suit your needs try one of the many others available.

I've previously talked about what a liability this blog is. Yet at his point the concept of erasing something from the web is all but impossible. Server down? Just search for it on Google and click the little "Cached" link. Yes you can turn that off they are only guidelines. Maybe your site isn't big enough to make it on the Internet Archive or maybe NeoPhi does qualify. My point is even if I wanted to remove the potentially questionable pages on this blog, I've still left other digital trails. Hell look at the bottom of that page and you can even track my future Usenet postings.

Maybe McNealy was right. My digital trail is huge and I would never be able to erase it all. People can find me, but I'm going to adopt the Wikipedia mentality; assume good faith. I will continue to do what I can to protect my online privacy while still being connected. I think of it like the lock on my front door, it is there to stop the curious, not the determined.

Tags: life privacy

October 21, 2006


If ever there was a comic that captured much of what I feel this is it. That being the squirrel guy :)

Tags: life

October 21, 2006

Been Busy

Nothing of substance on here as of late since I've been busy. Or busy in my mind at least. Part of that being busy is procrastinating about what should really be keeping me busy but that I'm not doing. I'm not sure how well that parses. Let me try again. I'm not always doing what I should be doing so I feel like I'm always busy but not everything that is using up my time is productive.

I think I've mentioned in the past that I'm lucky to have large blocks of free time, in the sense that there isn't something that I should be doing at that point. Some have argued that having large chunks of free time like that is vital to working on big problems. I won't even begin to claim that I'm working on something more important. Call me selfish, and to some extend I am, but I like me time when it is my time.

I don't like me time when it is work time. I like having something to do at work. Having something to do when it is mine time varies from good to bad. The good is when it is something that I want to be spending time doing. Sometimes that's pure leisure like watching the entire 4400 marathon in a day. Other times it is something neat like playing with new software or odd jobs around the house.

Right now my procrastination centers around the class I'm taking. Yes, I'm back in class trying to complete that Masters I started a couple of years ago. I'm going through a serious love-hate relationship with it. I find the work interesting, when I understand it, and having the long-term goal is great, but when it is eating up that free time I sometimes don't love it as much. I'm finding it mostly centers around my mood. Some days I can wake up or come home from work and really want to work on my course work, while other days I really just want to watch TV.

The problem is course work has deadlines and my mood and those deadlines don't always match up. Couple that with some of that lack of understanding and the problem just gets worse. Keep in mind I'm not trying to make excuses and I really don't want to sound like I'm complaining, I chose this. If anything else I'm trying to reason aloud about how to make it work for myself.

During some of that procrastination time I've done some activities that had been sitting on the back burner for many years. In no particular order:

Played Racquetball, I won all the games.

Played an entire 7 game cribbage set, I lost while tied 6-6 by flubbing my pegging and landing in dead man's hole. That's what 5 and a half hours of play will do.

Tags: life

September 28, 2006

Urban Tribes

It isn't often that I read a book that I find truly speaks to me. Some books are engaging in that I find the material of interest while other books are written well and I find myself wanting to see what happens next. For a book to really speak to me it has to be something different. After reading an article in a magazine I went to buy Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters. At the same time I ended up picking up What should I do with my life? by Po Bronson, since it was mentioned on the back of Watter's book. I hoped Bronson's book would speak to me. It didn't.

Urban Tribes ended up sitting on my bookshelf for months with other books I had hoped to read or thought I was going to read. While packing for my drive to Virginia to attend Dave Fried's wedding I was trying to decide what I should bring along to read. I picked up Urban Tribes as it seemed about the right length and attending yet another wedding this year made it seem that much more relevant. Turns out it was and it really spoke to me.

The idea of the urban tribe, and let me say right now I'm badly paraphrasing most of the rest of this, is a group of never-married friends, having a high clustering coefficient, that are experiencing and sharing life together. My generation (and I use that term loosely since I don't have a better one) has chosen to delay marriage long past the point that our parents did. While politicians bemoan this breakdown of traditional family values, my generation has chosen to create their own values one of which is to question the traditional trajectory of marriage.

Courtship is all but dead. Parents may still try to set us up, but the role that they play in helping us find our marriage partner has all but gone away. My generation also looks at our parents and sees the coin-flip chances that a marriage will last and wonders is there a way to improve our chances. The book argues that the urban tribe has changed the middle years between leaving our parent's house and starting married life, for the better.

The urban tribe provides a support structure like a traditional family, friends to help you when you are feeling down, friends to help you celebrate the good times, friends to lend a hand with projects, and friends just to hang out with. The difference between a standard group of friends and an urban tribe is that high clustering coefficient, everyone in the tribe is friends with everyone else in the core cluster. Some of the friendships maybe deeper than other, but it is almost always a fully connected cluster.

Since the tribe is so close, it offers an arena of safety to help one grow and become a better person. You can do stupid stuff and the tribe will be there to help fix things. You can use them as a sounding board for ideas and the tribe will tell you when you are being silly, stupid, or dumb. The tribe knows what you are capable of and will help steer you towards that better self. Instead of experiencing that discovery within the contexts of traditional relationships, which carry much more emotional turmoil, the tribe helps you improve in a more relaxed setting.

Not all is golden with urban tribes though. Since the group is a central part of your life it is hard to break free. The urban tribe doesn't want its members to leave and as such the group can almost sabotage those that try to. What is important to keep in mind is that the nature of the relationship must change at some point. Just like moving our of your parent's house, you need to move out of your tribe to take the next step in your life which in this context is usually marriage.

I've feel I've done a poor job of summarizing what the book tried to express. Unlike many books I read, I didn't jot down notes while reading this one so I'm relying more on my memory than quotes from the book. In any case I highly recommend this book to my fellow never-marrieds that find themselves living life with the same core group of people. Yes there are other people like that out there and yes it is going to be okay.

What I haven't mentioned is why this book spoke to me. I feel for the past few years I've been living in such an urban tribe (primarily with the people that read this blog). Not one that fits all of the themes I mentioned above, but our own home brewed combination that like most social concepts has many variations. Coworkers would look at me funny when I talked about having regular sit down dinners with my roommates (the closest members of my urban tribe) or the fact that we had a regular schedule for grocery shopping together. I wondered what the difference was, why it worked for us, and if we were the only ones.

Going to my high school reunion last year really brought home the stark difference my life had taken from many friends I had during high school. Most were married, all but married, or already having kids. There I was the same age and general background, but not even close to tyeing the knot. Yes I'd been in a serious relationship and dated a bunch, but obviously didn't end up married. A recent question from a friend about what I wanted my wedding to be like left me stumped having never really thought about it. I was still experiencing life, finding myself, enjoying my friends company, and lost in random hobbies.

I'm not against getting married. It has just been a combination of not finding my soul mate and still trying to define myself that has defined my personal marriage time line. I'm sure that vibe of not completely knowing myself has showed through in many a situation that otherwise might have been the start of something serious. As such I agree with the author that "Single people tend to see themselves as a failure in the marriage game until they found themselves in a relationship headed for the alter. They perceived little gray area in their love lives - things were either going great or badly." I find hope in the fact that there are others out there like me and that our time for love will come.

Tags: books gilmanmanor life

September 28, 2006

One last trip

I recently returned from what will be the last great road trip in my 350Z. My lease is almost up and I've decided, despite how much I love the car, that it's best that I hand the keys back in. Part of that is the fact that having leased it new had I really wanted to keep it long term it would have been much more financially sound to just take out a loan from the start to purchase it. I instead went in thinking that around this time, late 2006, I was going to be in a different point in my life and that was about the time to give up the Z.

The original plan hatched back around the turn of the century was that I'd be buying a house now and switching to a more practical and inexpensive car would make life easier on the finances. Turns out I was a year ahead on the house purchase, but the fact remains that the 350Z is an expensive car. Not to mention that all of my traffic transgressions have also occurred in the Z. Now part of that is probably just the fact that I was lucky to not have gotten caught in my Maxima, but I think part of it also an unconscious bias that a sports car emits.

By transgressions I mean a little speeding, and a misunderstanding due to lack of road signage (which I'm still bitter about since, mostly because I don't think I defended myself in traffic court very well). Nothing too serious, but I know in my mind that continuing to have such a car just increases the chances that I'll want to use and test the full potential of the car. Yes I know I should just auto cross with it or something like that, but I've always been a little paranoid doing that with a leased vehicle.

The fact that gas prices have gone up since getting the car and that the Z requires premium gas increases the cost of owning such a car. Typically around the city I get really poor mileage per gallon, something in the ballpark of 12-16. Since this road trip involved a drive down to Virginia I was curious to see how it faired on longer drives. These finally tallies were all computed with the in dash multifunction display so I can only assume that they are accurate. I don't have a final tally of how much gas I bought to cross check.

These figures include both city and highway driving. I'm sure the numbers would be even higher if I had only tracked the highway miles. Total distance driven: 1,345.3 miles. Total driving time: 25 hours 26 minutes. Miles per gallon: 27.5. Average speed 52 MPH. Before leaving I filled all of my tires to 45 PSI cold which with the warmer weather heading south and the running temperature increase had me rolling most of the time on 48-49 PSI. Almost doubling my city MPG is pretty nice. I will say that cruise control is a must for long highway drives.

I will also say that most drivers have no situational awareness on the highway. There is no reason to be hugging the far left lane when there are almost no other cars on the road. Riding in the middle lane is just as bad since people will end up passing on the right, which while legal in most places just adds to the mess. And forget about drivers having any concept of a safe following distance. Many times I had to shift into slower lanes and drop my speed to loose drivers that couldn't set their own pace and instead would ride less than half a second behind my bumper.

I sometimes think that it would be nice to rig up an LED on the back of my car in order to flash messages to the other drivers around me. Your left blinker is on and you are in the far left lane. Please don't follow so close, it isn't safe if I need to stop quickly and I can stop very quickly. Traveling in the blind spot behind a tractor trailer is just asking for problems.

Tags: 350z life

August 31, 2006

News Diet

It has turned out for the past few months I've been on a news diet. The intensity of this diet has varied over that time but I in the past couple of weeks it has been full on. One of the primary triggers of this was switching to a new job. While in the past that has not triggered such a change, the fact that I now ride my bike to work was the primary catalyst. The reason being that I read most if not all of my news while waiting and riding on public transportation. Now that I'm no longer taking public transportation, those guaranteed chunks of time are not there.

As a result I've just not been following the news. I'm not sure why my interest in the world has waned, particularly with everything that other people tell me is going on. I think what I find most interesting is that I can't really place my finger on what has taken the place of that time I used to spend reading the news.

Tags: life news

July 30, 2006

I was dumb today

I swear my IQ drops in half most of the times that I'm on inline skates. Thankfully this hasn't led to any permanent damage. Oh sure, I've got quite a few nicks and scars from various accidents over the years but they were only temporary with a little bit of humility thrown in. Today was another of those days but with a twist. I thought it would be nice to take a morning blade along the Minute Man Trail starting out in Arlington. After having breakfast and watching a movie I packed things up in my car and drove out to Arlington Center.

There is a great parking lot right next to the trail and at this early morning hour it was mostly empty. I found a spot and proceeded to get ready. I had placed my skates on the passenger side and figured it would be best to put them on from that side. I hit the door lock/unlock button, got out, closed the driver side door and walked around to the passenger side. Huh, the door is locked. Oh I thought, this must be like the remote door unlock where you need to hit it twice to unlock the passenger side door. Back around to the driver's side. Huh, that door is locked too.

I'm sure given the detail thus far you can guess the outcome. The important piece in this story is that after turning off the car I put my car keys into my camel back so I wouldn't have them in my pocket as I was blading. Net result, they weren't with me when I stepped out of the car. A side note is that I can probably count the number of times I've actually used the lock/unlock button on my car using just my fingers. I even remember explicitly looking at the lock on the door after hitting the button and thinking, oh that's in the right position. I thought wrong.

All was not lost, I still had my wallet on me. There is a pecking order with things I really hate to be without. My wallet is at the top. Next would be my mobile phone. The house keys and lastly car keys. I'm sure I could ramble on a lot about why that order exists, but I'm going to pass on that digression for the time being. Needless to say, having my wallet I had options. I chose the walk home one. My intent was to enjoy the weather and get some exercise, I figured the walk home would be as nice as the blade I had been planning. It's at least a good 4 miles from Arlington Center back to my house. That's a long way to speed walk in sandals.

Granted I have ran a couple miles in my sandals, today's walk didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. I made it back fine, but ended up with a couple of blisters on my feet. A quick ride back from a housemate with my spare set of keys and everything was back to "normal". No permanent damage and a little bit of humility thrown in.

Tags: life

July 30, 2006


It's hot today. Last I looked it was about 90. It's also very humid. Currently running around 46% humidity. This past week I've also really gotten back into inline skating. I still have my very old blades. Going on about 10 years now. They show many signs of being that old. Scraps and nicks each with their own little story of how it came to pass. Unfortunately my blades are almost getting too old. The tongue on the inner shell has cracked in half on one and is all but cracked on the other. This doesn't affect the usage of the skates, just another sign that maybe they are past their prime. They don't really owe me anything. I spend most of college in then using them constantly. And I mean constantly. There were many days that a pair of blades was the only footwear I wore. I can safely say I feel very comfortable on a pair of inline skates. Hell, I was stupid enough to transport 21" monitors across campus a few times on a pair of blades.

With that digression aside I come back to today. Today's 90 degree day. Today's crazy idea that blading along the Esplanade would be a neat idea. I used to blade along the Esplanade a lot. I'd first head over to the Christian Science Center to warm up and practice my footwork. Crossovers, skating backwards, and stuff like that. I'd then head down Boylston street and catch one of the footbridges that brings you across Storrow Drive. Once on the Esplanade I'd cruise east or west depending on which way the wind was blowing that day. Always blade into the wind first. The one bad thing about the Esplanade is the wooden section that goes under the BU bridge. That is only two steps removed from cobblestone for horrible surfaces to blade on.

In general blading along the Esplanade is great. Nice paved surface. Plenty of nice views and people to look at. What wasn't wise was trying to blade in 90 degree weather. I was smart and packed my camel back full of water. I drank lots of water. I don't think I drank enough water. I parked at the Boston Common and started my blade at the Fiedler Footbridge. I stayed on the Boston side and went all the way out to the JFK Bridge. I then came back, crossed back over the footbridge and then bladed up Newbury street. Newbury street is fun to blade on. Because of all of the stop lights you can usually keep pace with the cars. The secret though is treat it like a slalom course where each street is a post. The reason to do this is that each street going up Newbury is an alternating one way street. You always want to be on the side away from any cars that are turning. So if the one way street is pointing left you want to be on the right side of the street.

After reaching the top of Newbury street I crossed over Mass Ave and had lunch at The Other Side Cafe. They serve brunch until about 2pm on both Saturday and Sunday which was just what I wanted. A small CAPS and some yogurt, granola, and fruit later I was done with brunch and heading back to my car. This was a straight shot down Boylston back to Boston Common. I then drove home, which is when this blade started to feel like a bad idea. A pounding headache and what seemed like an inability to drink enough cold liquids to feel like I was cooling off. Part of the problem is that while I have an A/C unit, my house has casement windows. Standard A/C units and casement windows don't mix.

While my housemate rigged up a way to mount his A/C unit, I've not done anything similar, so it's very warm in the house. I'm also lame in that I don't have a fan running. We have fans that I could use down in the basement, but I don't. I'm not 100% sure why, but well that's the state of affairs. The headache got worse. Then the feeling of having an upset stomach set in. I took some fast acting Tylenol and laid down for another nap. It was a very fitful nap. I think it lasted about 30 minutes. By that time my laundry was done. I grabbed that folded it, but even doing this simple activity didn't help take my mind of the fact that I felt horrible. I blame the heat.

Then a lame idea hit me. I needed to cool off. My car has A/C! My car has very good A/C. My car doesn't have much room in it so the good A/C makes it cool very fast. I didn't even bother changing out of my moccasins, I just hopped in my car. Now my first that was to just sit outside in my car, but that just felt odd to me. I like driving anyway so I decided to meander. Possibly not the brightest idea since my head was still hurting and my stomach was still upset but I started to drive anyway. I'm not really sure I could retrace the route I took. I'm not really sure where I went. I passed over some streets I recognized the names of but didn't really know the road I was on. After about 30 minutes I somehow managed to end back up somewhere that I knew. After some more less random driving around I finally came back home.

I should state that after driving around in the car for about an hour I was feeling much better. I'm sure some of that was the drugs, but I can only think that lame as it was, sitting in my car helped a lot. Of course now I'm back in the warm house but it is starting to cool off and will be about 10 degrees cooler tomorrow. I'm ignoring the fact that it might reach 100 this coming Wed.

Tags: life

June 30, 2006

Kimball Farms

Today I went out to Kimball Farms in Westford to play some miniature golf. While there I also went for a spin on the bumper boats and had lots of yummy ice cream. The mini-golf course was well put together with some challenging holes but nothing too easy or troublesome. There was an informal competition between the twenty or so people that were there. I managed to win coming in just two over par. I skimmed in under the next competitor who was at three under par. Overall a great course to play on and the other activities at the site make for easy distractions if mini-golf isn't your thing.

Tags: life

June 30, 2006


This week has been blurry. Nothing has felt quite right. Maybe sitting through the entire 4400 marathon on Sunday wasn't as good an idea as it seemed. It was great to see all of the episodes again and it got me even more excited about the new season, but 11 hours is a lot of time to spend in front of a TV all at once. Thankfully having them all on DVR let me skip the commercials, but even so that was many more hours than I should have spent in front of the tube. Now I'm paranoid that I've gotten the arrival date/time of my mom's flight messed up. Blah. As a friend recently said, there are too many good things going on in our lives to dwell on the negative.

Tags: 4400 life tv

June 30, 2006


This blog seems to have distinct moods to it. Sometimes it is much more of a helpful blog, but other times it is much more of a random crap that it coming out of my head blog (dare one might say something more like an online diary). Well sorry to disappoint anyone that might be looking for a helpful blog entry, I've just not had the time to put those together. A good helpful blog entry I find usually takes about an hour to write. From putting together examples, doing some proofreading, and in general trying to make it a little more polished than an more drivel oriented post like this one.

Why am I ranting today? I woke up with that back of the throat scratchy feeling. Unlike the symptoms from a few months ago which never really amounted to anything, this time I think its for real. I've already used up a third of a new box of tissues an on my second cold relief shot and have been going through cough drops like there is no tomorrow. I've drank half of the Nile today in fluids and have had pretty much nothing but mushy food (heavily soaked grape nuts for breakfast and soup for lunch and supper). Why do I mention all of this? Please refer to the earlier comment about drivel.

Since I've have a habit of writing about this every time it happens, since it annoys the hell out of me, I also get a record of its frequency. Maybe someday I'll look back on this and figure out what the root cause of these mostly mild cold like symptoms are. Also I also get mild hypochondria when I get sick like this and think I've got some bigger issue, because why should I be getting sick?

Tags: life sick

June 30, 2006

BBQ Wedding

Went to a BBQ themed wedding today. It was wonderful. A short and loving ceremony followed by BBQ and lots of playing in the sun. Thank you New England for not raining today. You may now resume your normal wet ways. I should have pictures later this week. Too tired to say much else now.

Tags: gilmanmanor life

June 30, 2006

This is the end

Well not really. I've been doing daily updates to this blog since the beginning of this year. I don't really have enough to write about to really keep that up, so this blog will now return to its regular infrequent cycle.

Tags: blog life

June 30, 2006

Return of the Rain

It rained again today. Enough rain to get more water in our basement. This is getting, no this is already old. Time to figure out what can be done to prevent this from being an issue in the future...

Tags: gilmanmanor life rain

June 30, 2006

No Entry Today

Tags: life tv

June 30, 2006

One of those days

Today is one of those days where about half way to work a tremendous sense of relief flows through your body when you realize that yes in fact you did remember to put clothes on before leaving the house that morning.

Tags: life

June 30, 2006

Looks like June might be here

I saw the sun today. I saw the sun a lot today. I had almost forgotten what it looked like. It's been so rainy and dreary for most of June I thought it was still April. It even looks like it will be clear and in the 70s all week. I'm not sure I'll know what to do with that much sunshine in a row!

Tags: life sun

May 31, 2006

Scavenger Hunt

I sent most of today out on a scavenger hunt. The hunt started in Harvard Square and ended up down in Quincy Market, with stops around Park Street. It was a combination of finding particular items (like green yarn), taking photos of various things (like different ice cream shops), and also having some group photos taken (like on the ducks at the Boston Common). The team that I was on placed second! Not bad for a heat of ten teams. The worst part was about two-thirds of the way through the battery in my camera died. This was right when I was trying to take a picture of a cop who had hand-cuffed my two teammates together. It wasn't until five minutes afterwards that we realized my other teammate had a camera phone we could have used.

While I've ranted about my phone in the past the fact that it couldn't even keep a charge for less than a hundred pictures is just sucky. The fact that I was also recently playing with a digital SLR kind of made me think more seriously about a new camera. I don't think I'd really be able to use all of the features of a high end SLR, but the flexibility you get with a camera like that is just awesome. Although considering I probably ran about three miles today, I don't know if I would really have wanted the bulk of an SLR camera. I'll also not recommend running that kind of distance in sandals. I think I got about three blisters on each foot.

Tags: camera life

May 31, 2006

New England Smokehouses

I picked up vast quantities of meat from Blood Farm for a BBQ we had at Gilman Manor today. It was all very good. For other New England Smokehouses, check out Yankee's List.

Tags: bbq gilmanmanor life smokehouse

May 31, 2006


Most of Gilman Manor along with some of our family went for hike up Mount Monadnock today. Since I had recently been up I didn't take as many pictures. We took a much more varied set of trails this time which I enjoyed a lot more. The 300 feet of gain over just under 0.2 miles on the Spellman Trail is a blast. The Red Spot Trail also made for a good descent even if longer than the white trails.

It was almost a great trip except I somehow managed to get some nasty sunburn on the back of my neck. I'm really pissed off about this since I know I put sunblock on, both at the base of the mountain and right after lunch, before the descent. Granted I didn't have a hat on, but no other part of me got sun as bad, and I don't remember a burn like this from biking where the back of neck is just as exposed. I can only think that I must have gotten some sun on the way up in the car, but even that wouldn't completely account for the extent of the burn. It's one thing when I know I'm being stupid and not using any protection and I get a burn. But when I'm taking reasonable precautions and it still happens that just pisses me off. Fair warning, I'll probably be bitchy the next few days until this burn passes.

Tags: life monadnock pictures sunburn

May 31, 2006

It's Like a Drug

I can't get enough of 4400. It's like a drug. Well maybe it's like any TV show I've gotten on DVD. I want some more.

Tags: 4400 life tv

May 31, 2006

I so thought

I so thought yesterday was Friday. That was part of the reason that I just vegged out in front of the TV watching way too much 4400. Alas it wasn't Friday, because well today was. My time sense this entire week was just off. I think I was looking forward to this long weekend too much and just wishing it would get here quicker. I don't have anything major planned for this weekend, but given how busy I was all last week and weekend I don't mind the rest. If only I could find some happy medium of doldrums and crazy super busy.

Tags: 4400 life

May 31, 2006

Free Time

I'm very fortunate that I have the luxury of free time. There are many points during the week were I really don't have to be doing anything. I could sit as a lump in the middle of the room and nothing that bad would come of it. You could maybe argue something about long term health effects but you could also counter that sitting like a lump might be akin to meditation which could be good for you. The point is I'm not putting off something else to just sit like a lump. There are many shades of grey about what one really has to do, but that is getting to philosophical for me.

The point being is I have free time. One could maybe even argue free will but that gets back into philosophy. The end result is that it all comes down to choices. What has got me thinking is what am I doing with that free time? As of late it has been primarily falling into two buckets: leisure and learning. I've already mentioned my crack like addiction to TV series on DVD multiple times which has been the primary leisure outlet. The learning outlet has been that I've finally started reading again since being underemployed.

But to return to yesterday's post, I'm having trouble being happy with this relaxed state of affairs. Maybe it's my constant drive to do more with my life (as I waste a few minutes searching for an old post that I would swear touched on this theme of greatness). Alas, an unfinished thought and time for bed...

Tags: life tv

May 31, 2006


How optimistic my words from last night seem now. The rain did come back, with a vengeance I might add. I woke up this morning to a basement that had about three times as much water as there was yesterday. Since the sump pump we picked up yesterday wasn't doing the trick (we later learned it really needs to be in four inches of water to prevent overheating) we got a wet/dry vac. It helped but given that you can only suck so much water out before needing to drain it after a half dozen trips out to the street we started looking for better options. I tried to rig up something to the drain on the wet/dry vac drum, but we quickly realized it needed a sealed container to get the suction going. In retrospect it makes sense but I can't say I've been thinking clearly the entire time.

After the three of us contemplated various ideas, I suggested using a hole we already had in the ground. We have this hole in the basement that used to be the foundation for an old school style ceramic furnace. It had since been filled in by the time we bought the house. I took a shovel and started digging. There was enough room to create a flat surface a few inches below the rest of the basement floor. I threw in a flat slab on concrete that had come lose from another part of the floor. This was deep enough for the sump pump to operate. Once on we shoveled the remaining water towards the hole and quickly got the water out. Some hand cleanup using the wet/dry vac got things mostly back to normal. Been a "fun" weekend.

Tags: gilmanmanor life rain

May 31, 2006


Growing up in Maine with a mother that liked to garden and try new dishes I got to experience a wide variety of foods. Not all of these culinary experiences ended well. I developed a reflexive hate of eggplant and still don't care for raw tomatoes. I don't think these had anything to with my mother's cooking but more likely my own personal quirks :) In any case I've had scrumptious brussle sprouts, eatable lima beans, and many other vegetables that when done wrong more than earn their stereotype of nobody liking them.

One of the very seasonal items I remember growing up were fiddleheads. They are young coiled fern leaves (about an inch in diameter) of the ostrich fern. The season for them is usually just April and May. Luckily while in one of the local grocery stores over the past couple of weeks, they had a bin of them for sale. I snatched up a bunch and finally got around to cooking them tonight. I did a stir-fry with oil, garlic, chili sauce, and oyster sauce. Very yummy.

For other recipes and facts about fiddleheads swing by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension's page about them.

Tags: fiddleheads food life

May 31, 2006


Today the backyard of Gilman Manor was attacked by three motivated people. We managed to till the plot of land that has previously been used for a garden and replanted it as our own garden. Hopefully in a couple of months we'll have some corn, green beens, tomatoes, and other yummy stuff. A large portion of the backyard was also raked to make room for what hopefully will be a new lawn. I'm trying the old school lawn by seeding method. I'm not that hopeful given how rocky our backyard is and I don't know if I got the soil turned deep enough to really have the new grass take. In any case it was a great way to spend an afternoon in the sun. We also got the windows fixed on the front porch which meant bye-bye to the plastic wrap. This all makes me very happy.

Tags: garden gilmanmanor life

May 31, 2006


Today the rain reached critical mass. It rained long enough and hard enough that the basement of Gilman Manor started to seep water. It was kind of cool to watch the little air bubbles pop as they came through the water that had already seeped through. All in all it wasn't that bad of a situation versus a friend who has been completely flooded out of his apartment. All we had to do was mop up the water and the problem has mostly not returned. We'll have to see what happens if the rain get really bad again.

Tags: gilmanmanor life rain

May 31, 2006


I met up with some friends at Phoenix Landing to wish yet another friend off to LA. What is it with Boston people heading to LA?! Anyway got to hear some great tunes spun by Circuit Breaker. I was also reminded why I don't usually hit the clubs as I get a wicked case of tinnitus.

Tags: life music tinnitus

May 31, 2006

Still Grilling

The rain was kind enough to stop long enough for Gilman Manor to get another Friday night grill session in. This made us all happy since the rain that has been coming down all week is getting very old. A little grilling made it seem like it wasn't all bad. Yummy fresh swordfish steaks.

Tags: gilmanmanor life

May 31, 2006

TV reduction

The number of shows I watch on TV is about to be cut in half. This year marks the series finale for both the West Wing and That 70's Show. Hard to believe that I've been watching them for eight years. It's one of those moments when I could "do the right thing". Instead of finding a new show to take up some of that time, I could put it to good use. Netflix is convinced that I'll like The Sopranos and I think it also recently recommended The L Word (maybe since that show was mentioned on this week's episode of House). Given the ratings that House has been getting I'm sure that will be around for a couple more seasons and 24 is already setup for a few more days. Like M*A*S*H, while I'm sad that these shows are ending, I'd rather see these shows go out on a relatively high note instead of continuing the decline after jumping the shark (since they both have).

Tags: 24 life mash that70sshow tv westwing

May 31, 2006

Where Did The Time Go

This is the last day of May (Thanks Brian). Five months have already slid by this year. Where did the time go? (Well besides by the sink hole that is my crack like TV series addiction...)

Tags: life tv

April 30, 2006

Couch Potato

Man I've got to finish these Tour of Duty DVDs, they are turning me into a couch potato. I just burned through another DVD this evening. It's getting too nice out to be spending this much time in front of the tube, regardless of how good a show it is...

Tags: life tv

April 30, 2006

Wonderful Night

Tonight was Christmas for Gilman Manor. Well kind of. Matt gave us tickets to see Spamalot for Christmas and the tickets were for tonight's show.

Before the show we ate at Via Matta. While it was a little rushed since we had to get to the show, the meal was an at least an order of magnitude better than our last planned dinner experience. Very very yummy food. It would have been even better if we would have been able to stay for dessert, but I'm not sure if I could have eaten anything else at that point.

The show was wonderful. It started off fairly predictable but then branched out into new material and incorporated many other Monty Python elements. While I've not watched that much Python, even for the non die-hard fan, it is a funny show.

Tags: food gilmanmanor life

April 30, 2006


Now that I'm biking into work on a regular basis I'm becoming more intimate with the weather. My walk to the T, while about as long as my bike ride, never really felt like I was as exposed. That's probably since my walking pace is much slower than I bike. As a result on a morning like this with some snow flakes starting to fall during my ride in, the combination isn't that pleasing. This is aggravated by the fact that I don't have any fenders on my bike. Most of the snow that was falling this morning was melting almost immediately causing enough moisture to be on the ground to be annoying. Yesterday was worse with the constant rain, but in either case I'd be happy if the weather would just cooperate during my commute :)

Tags: bike life

April 30, 2006

Tour of Duty

I'm now about half way through the 3rd and final season of Tour of Duty on DVD. I was addicted to the show when it originally aired but only saw the first season. I remember it being on at a time such that I couldn't watch it on the big TV in the living room, but instead had to watch it on the small TV in the kitchen. I remember a couple of episodes leaving me breathless wondering what was going to happen. It was nominated multiple times and won one Emmy for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series. Its biggest claim to fame is being the first TV series to show American soldiers in Vietnam War combat. Overall it's a high quality show with characters that are slowly developed over the three seasons and from other reviews one of the more realistic portrayals of the daily grind in Vietnam.

Tags: life tv

April 30, 2006

Life is Good

Life is good right now. At work this week we managed to get enough plumbing put together to have a first front-to-back communication of the application. It's always nice to have something that is starting to hang together even if some pieces of it are stubbed out. After work today Gilman Manor had the third consecutive week of grilling. Yummy chicken this time. I also attempted some grilled potatoes, but my foil wasn't quite heavy duty enough so a few of the potatoes got a little burned. I also made a batch of corn bread that was good. Not 100%, but this was my first attempt at corn bread from scratch and it turned out much better than the potatoes (which was my second attempt). At least this time the potatoes were somewhat edible, unlike my first attempt. My grill is a little too hot sometimes. Gilman Manor residents also played a bunch of poker tonight which was cool. Lastly, I've got more Tour of Duty to watch :)

Tags: bbq food gilmanmanor life programming

April 30, 2006

Happy Easter

I had a very productive and relaxing day. I did my laundry this morning, went out for a bike ride, and then drove out to my brother's house. Had a wonderful Easter dinner with enough food to feed everyone three times over. After relaxing for a few more hours I drove back home just in time to catch this week's West Wing.

Tags: holiday life

April 30, 2006

Blah Day

Don't know what it was but today I've just had one long non-stop headache. Blah....

Tags: life