Watching Iron Chef, how else?

We’ve been too busy for the past few days to flip the page — last year (1999) when we bought our DVD player, we got a book of free rentals at Blockbuster, which expired today. So we’ve spent the last few days watching a lot of movies — and wishing Blockbuster had a better selection.

Tonight, we have some friends over, and we’ve been watching Iron Chef on Food Network. They’ll be showing it until midnight Eastern time tomorrow, non-stop. But as a change of pace, let me recommend Lego Chef.

More next millennium….have a good one!

There's an old joke…

…in which a student is asked how to find out the height of a building with a barometer. The teacher, of course, expects the student to measure the air pressure at the top and bottom and do some calculations to come up with the height, but the student takes a more direct route and offers the barometer to the superintendent if he’ll tell him how tall the building is.

I was trying to find out the frequency of Jeffrey’s watch radio, and I was just about to send a note to the ARRL Technical Information Service to ask for advice on how to do it, when I decided to try a more direct approach. I called the manufacturer’s toll free Customer Service line; someone picked up the phone on the second ring and answered my question immediately: the radios are on 49MHz (which is the same band as baby monitors and old cordless phones use). This explains why there’s so much interference and why we weren’t able to interoperate with FRS radios — I guess the reference to “FRS Technology” means that they use FM. Kudos to
DSI Toys for being responsive, but I wouldn’t recommend the radios for use farther than you can shout — but they certainly look cool. I’m considering wearing one of them to work and seeing if Security says anything about my having an antenna on my wrist.

Memory revisited

I had to print another sheet of pictures tonight, so I made the measurements that Jeremy and I had been discussing last week.

Memory Usage: Note the huge swing in memory when the image gets loaded or unloaded.  Paint Shop Pro shows the image size as 95MB, and the size on disk is 115MB -- not bad for a 5.6MB scanned JPEG.The big jumps in “unused physical memory” correspond to images being loaded and unloaded, and the brief heavy CPU usage is an image being loaded. Interestingly, the swapfile-in-use doesn’t change much, though the swapfile size gets increased substantially when the image is loaded.

It sure looks as though Thumbs Plus Pro expands the image from the 5.6 MB JPEG on disk (as scanned originally at 600×600) to something on the order of 96MB in memory — and that, plus the usual Windows overhead, forces significant swapping, even with 192MB in the box.

The next machine will have at least 256MB — but I’m still in no hurry; today’s Merc suggested that prices may drop further early next year. And if it takes me ten minutes to print a sheet of pictures twice a year, well, I can probably cope.

Besides, I visited the local Ham Radio Outlet today and some of the ham gear looks awfully interesting, if I could just figure out what to do about an antenna.

Movies, Movies, Movies….

Then after we got home, Jeffrey dug out an MST3K classic, Space Mutiny. Miss it if you can.

And finally, we watched the end of The Towering Inferno after dinner. I want to find the Second City parody and watch it — I think the acting was better!

FRS Technology, eh?

The wrist radios I got Jeffrey for Hanukkah claim to use “FRS Technology”. Our friends had bought their daughters two FRS handy-talkies for Christmas, so when we got together last night, we tried to make the wrist radio talk to the handy-talkies — no dice. I tried all 14 FRS channels, and the two units couldn’t hear one another (that’s not strictly true — the wrist radio detected but couldn’t make any sense of the FRS radio; the FRS radio couldn’t tell that the wrist radio was in the room). I’m going to have to find some way of telling what frequency the wrist radio actually uses. I did find some Web ads for the radio, claiming a 100-foot range — as I said yesterday, about as far as we could yell!

Dick Tracy, your heart is safe…

The weather is beautiful today (partly cloudy, mid-60s), so we took a little walk before lunch. Jeffrey put on his Rollerblades and zipped ahead of us (as usual), and we used his wrist radios to stay in touch. Or at least we tried — I think we could actually yell over more distance than the radios would cover. But it was fun to play with the radios anyway, and we got some interesting comments from neighbors as we passed.

Time to go watch The Towering Inferno before visiting friends for dinner.

Dick Tracy, eat your heart out!

While I was in Cambridge last month, I happened to find a store called “All Wound Up” which mostly sells moving toys (battery-powered for the most part, despite the name). But they also had something I couldn’t resist getting for Jeffrey — a pair of wristwatches which are also wrist radios (operating in the Family Radio Service). As you can tell from the picture, the watch is a bit larger than the one Dick Tracy wore in the comics, but I think it’s an amazing combination anyhow.

Dick Tracy's Wristwatch: Just remember, the nation that controls magnetism controls the Universe!I suspect Dick Tracy’s watchradio worked better than this one, but Jeffrey’s having fun playing with it anyway (and will probably have more fun tomorrow when we visit friends his age). As for me, I think I’ll stick with Amateur Radio.

We saw Miss Congeniality today. We were using up some Customer Service Passes from AMC Theatres which were going to expire in a week; I don’t think we’d’ve necessarily gone out of our way for this movie otherwise (I wanted to see Charlie’s Angels but was outvoted), but we all enjoyed it, and I’d recommend it if you don’t have to pay too much.


Jeffrey and I worked on the Droid Discovery Kit this evening; we’re part-way through building L-3GO (their basic droid). Even though it was my present, he’s doing most of the building (though I’m helping when required).

Other than that, it’s been a quiet day; we avoided going anywhere near a shopping center (though Diane did brave the grocery store, and apparently it was quite an ordeal). Jeffrey wants to go out tomorrow and spend some of his Hanukkah gelt on some Game Boy games, but I have a feeling it’ll be better to wait another few days. Online prices are no bargain, at least not yet.

And I get to brave the returns line at Home Depot sometime; the fluorescent light requires grounding to work, and there doesn’t appear to be a ground wire in the box (the perils of owning a 40-year-old house).

Well, it *is* the Festival of Lights…

So I celebrated it by taking advantage of Home Depot’s 10% off sale and
buying a pile of halogen bulbs, two nightlights, and a replacement
fluorescent fixture for the hallway. Oh, yeah, and a small ratchet-drive
screwdriver, though I guess that doesn’t fit the theme.

Later this evening, we go to Shir
for the monthly family service; we’re on the Oneg committee
and will help set up munchies for after services. The Hanukkah service
is always popular (and there are two Banot Mitzvah tomorrow, to boot), so
we’ll be busy, but at least we’ll be getting there early enough to be
able to get a parking place!

Sweatin’ it off

Every year, the YMCA runs a special December promotion to encourage
people to come in and exercise — if you come in twelve times during the
month, you get a little tchotke and are entered into a drawing for a
more substantial prize. Today was my 12th visit for the month and I got
a combined keychain/tape measure; maybe next year will be more exciting.

I also reached the 15,000 point plateau for
FitLinxx points, which is the “White Award” level. I wonder what a White Award might be; I have the sneaking
suspicion that there’s another T-shirt in my future.

More memory?

Jeremy suggested that I might be able to solve my photo editing problems by putting more memory in my old machine. I’ve already got 192MB in it, which should be enough for almost any application, but he certainly diagnosed one of the symptoms — the disk-in-use light was on solidly while I was waiting for the programs, and that usually does indicate a memory shortage.

I made a mistake when I originally configured the machine; I bought a motherboard (ASUS PL97-S) with an integrated SCSI controller. It’s been a good motherboard, but I can’t put a 2x or 4x AGP video card into it (and I’d like to upgrade my video), and it only supports PC66 memory, so I can’t do much in the way of upgrading without replacing the motherboard. And that would require either trashing the SCSI disk, CD-ROM, and CD-RW, or buying another SCSI controller, neither of which appeals to me. And I have idle dreams of being able to use my computer to edit video so that I could liberate the few good minutes on my camcorder tapes, and that really would need a faster machine.

I still haven’t decided what to do — fortunately, I don’t have to do anything at all for a while. Maybe I’ll play with it some more this weekend and do some semi-controlled experiments to see where the problems really lie.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

The "e" in "e-commerce" does NOT mean "easy"!

As usual, we’d left some of our gift shopping to the last minute, but I
wasn’t worried — I thought gift certificates would be the
Very Thing, and I knew they were easy to buy on the Web. There wasn’t
enough time to order paper certificates, but Amazon’s site showed
this very attractive
e-mailed gift certificate
which would be ideal — I’d have it e-mailed to me, then print it and
enclose it in a card. Easy…so I ordered one (the site says “Delivered immediately; will arrive within hours”)
waited for it to be delivered.

And I waited — apparently Amazon’s definition of “immediate” didn’t
match mine (though they did confirm the order in less than a minute).
But an hour or so later, I got the gift certificate in my inbox…and it
was plain ASCII text, not at all what I’d expected, and not really
suitable for printing. So I redeposited the certificate in my account
and went to bed, planning to visit CompUSA the next day and buy a gift
card there.

But it turns out that CompUSA only sells gift cards in particular
denominations, none of which matched what we wanted to give. What to
do? Then inspiration struck: I’d make my own gift certificates —
after all, I had the artwork on the Amazon site to work from!

Of course, it wasn’t as easy as all that — the sample gift certificate
isn’t one GIF, it’s two GIFs and a bunch of text. And I don’t have very
good image editing tools.
But this seemed like the
best idea I was going to have, so I went back to the Amazon site,
ordered the gift certificates, and waited.

This time, the order got stuck in “being authorized by the bank” status
for over an hour — I was ready to call Amazon and find out what was
wrong, but they had cleverly removed their phone number from all of
their “Help” and
“Contact Us” pages in anticipation of the holiday rush. Eventually, I
thought of checking the online
tollfree directory
and found their number (800-201-7575), but just
before I picked up the phone, the gift certificates started arriving in
my e-mail. Two were plain text and two were graphical (which made no
sense), but none of them looked like the sample, so I set to work.

First, I tried using Windows Paint — it seemed like a simple tool for a
simple task. But its text capabilities are very limited — in fact, I
couldn’t put part of a paragraph in bold. So I moved on. Microsoft
Word disappointed me — I couldn’t figure out how to make the whole gift
certificate have a colored background (setting a background seemed to
work, but when I did a Print Preview, the text all showed up on a white
background). So I finally used PowerPoint, and after a few false starts
where parts of the page printed behind the background (in other words,
they were invisible), I had my four nicely printed and personalized gift
certificates. Whew!

Maybe I do need a faster computer after all

I’ve been looking at getting a new computer to replace my three-year-old
266MHz box, but yesterday morning, I had a heretical thought:
“Would I get any benefit out of a faster computer?” After all, I
mostly use it for e-mail and web surfing, and both of those are mostly
gated by my connectivity, not the processor speed. I don’t play games
on the computer much, so that’s not a reason. So why bother?

Then as we sat down to do our cards last night, I found a reason. As
usual, we wanted to send a copy of Jeffrey’s school picture along with
the cards, so we’d ordered plenty of copies back in October. And as
usual, we hadn’t worried about it since. But this year, the
photographers had screwed up, and we were short several sheets of
wallet-sized photos. We were all set to send out many of the cards
without photos, when I had an inspiration: use the scanner and printer
to make copies.

A quick trip to Office Depot later, I had a package of Kodak Premium
Photo Paper (I didn’t think plain white bond would do a good job) and
was all set to scan in a picture.

I thought the easiest thing to do would be to scan in a 5×7 and save it,
then write a Web page to put two copies of it together and print that.
Nope — what got printed was two very small sections of the picture; I
didn’t realize that, although I’d scanned
the photo at 600 dpi, the browser would treat it as 72 dpi and would
therefore assume that the picture was four feet wide!

Plan B: Use Thumbs Plus to duplicate the scanned image. That didn’t
work; Thumbs Plus is a fine program, but it’s designed to cut pieces out
of images, not add to them.

Plan C: Open some of the envelopes that already had pictures in them
and put several photos on the scanner at once, thereby getting me out of
the editing game. This worked, but then I discovered that Thumbs Plus
couldn’t print the pictures — all I got was empty pages! Now I was
starting to worry.

But then I took a close look at the software on my machine and found an
old evaluation copy of Paint Shop Pro 5 which I’d launched once and
never used again. Fortunately, Jasc
is very generous, and even though I was two years into my
30-day evaluation period, the program was willing to run and I was able
to print photos. I have no idea what else the program was capable of —
there were lots of menus and options, none of which I had time to figure
out (that’s why I’d only used the program once in the first place) —
but I didn’t care; it printed and I was happy.

So if you wonder why you got an inkjet photo instead of a “real” photo
from us this year, now you know. And next year, I’ll check the package
earlier — I did call customer service to complain and ask for a refund
on the sheets we didn’t get (they offered to send us more photos, but
it’d take six weeks, which didn’t seem too useful at this point).

Oh, and about the need for the faster computer? Well, during some of my
attempts to duplicate the photo, I had to wait several minutes while the
computer was busy copying the multi-megabyte image to the clipboard, or
rotate it, or whatever else I was trying to do. Clearly, that’s
unacceptable, even if it does only happen once every few years. And I’m
sure I’d find some other good use for a faster machine….

Happy Chanukah!

A timely joke, courtesy of my Mom:

It was Chanukah and the Tiny Village was in fear of not having any
latkes because they had run out of flour. Rudi, the Rabbi, was called
upon to help solve the problem.

He said, “Don’t worry. You can substitute matzo meal for the flour and
the latkes will be just as delicious!”

Sheila looks to her husband and says, “Morty… you think it’ll work?”

“Of course! As everybody knows…

Rudolph, the Reb, knows grain, dear!”

Back to normality

Ah, it feels better to be able to edit directly again! When I use a plain text editor to update my page, I feel in control and know what’s going to happen (even though I do have to type tags by hand in some cases). When using Radio Userland, I felt very frustrated because what I wanted to do wasn’t what what the system made easy — and once I had started yesterday’s page with Radio Userland, there was no way out. Even after convincing Radio Userland to hand me my page as HTML, I couldn’t get Manila to accept it — it demanded OPML.

I got a very nice Hanukkah gift last night (yes, I know Hanukkah hasn’t started yet, but the giver specifically asked me to open it) — a Lego Droid Construction Set. It should be fun to play with, and I know Jeffrey is looking forward to helping me — his eyes really lit up when he saw it!

The weather is boring here, thanks

John is talking about the blizzard conditions in Iowa and says “We’re always talking about the weather. You might think this is boring if you live in San Jose. But in this case, the weather could kill you.”

By coincidence, today’s Merky Nooz had Jan Null’s weekly column on meteorology, in which he explains his Camelot Climate Index, on which San Jose scores very high (but slightly below San Diego). Iowa doesn’t even come close.

Need a CPLD?

When we went to see 102 Dalmations on Sunday, we got there early enough to see the slide-show ads before the movie. There were the usual Coke ads that appear everywhere, but some of the ads were, I suspect, uniquely Silly Valley in nature. Lots of companies were hiring, of course, but the ad which really got my attention was from Xilinx, touting their CPLDs. If I had had any clue what a CPLD was, I might’ve even been interested. I guessed that the “PLD” part was
“Programmable Logic Device”, but I still don’t know what the
“C” is. CMOS? Complex? Chocolate?

An entertaining weekend

We had an entertainment-packed weekend — so packed, in fact, that I never got around to editing my page. Herewith, a brief review.

Enter the Guardsman (San Jose Rep) 

Every year, San Jose Rep has a “fun” play for the holidays. They’ve done The 1940’s Radio Hour three times; last year’s play was The Matchmaker. They try to entertain but not challenge the audience, and I think they usually succeed.

This year’s holiday play is Enter the Guardsman. It’s not deep (though it is recursive); I didn’t come out singing the songs, but I enjoyed the play anyway.

Quest of the Delta Knights (MST3K) 

Jeffrey really enjoys watching Mystery Science Theatre 3000’s combination of bad movies with funny commentary, and usually, I do too. But this movie was so bad that I had to leave the room about ten minutes along, and I never returned. Miss it if you can.

102 Dalmations 

At our last Havurah event, we decided we’d go see a movie, and this seemed to be the best bet at the time, considering how many young children we have. And it probably was the best movie playing at the AMC Saratoga 14, which says something about the state of movies this year.

I actually enjoyed the movie more than I’d expected to; the first half-hour was very slow, but then things picked up a bit. The dogs were clearly more intelligent than the people. And the kids all liked it, so I guess it was a good choice after all.

The Blob 

Despite being a long-time science fiction fan, I’d never seen The Blob until last night. Now I have.

Caution: New tools being tested!

Playing Radio 

I’m editing today’s entry with Radio Userland and I’m having “a learning experience”. I’m finding it far from a natural process; I don’t find the structure forced on me by using an outliner helps me, at least not for something as simple as my weblog. Unfortunately, I can’t go back to manual editing for today’s entry, because the Edit this Page button gives me the OPML for the page, which is not very well-suited to manual editing. Tomorrow, it’ll be back to the standard tools.

Three up, one to go

We had more success with getting our TV repaired by Sound Techniques of Los Gatos; the culprit was a $1.50 capacitor in the power supply, and the total bill wasn’t unreasonable. So now we have two working TVs in the house, which seems almost excessive after so many years of only having one. Jeffrey has volunteered to take the second set, but it’s not going to happen — and there’s no cable outlet in his room anyway, so it wouldn’t do him any good!

If anyone has any experience with the Go-Video DVR5000 (sorry, Flash 5 is required), please drop me a line or mention it in the discussion group. The combination of a VCR and a DVD player in one box seems like a good idea for the second set, but I’m always eager to learn from other peoples’ experience.

Shabbat Shalom!

Cattle prods, anyone?

Now comes the hard part, trying to figure out what combinations will work. There are all sorts of things to worry about: similar Hebrew levels, similar levels of confidence in public speaking, big family versus small, whether you want to do a creative service or not, and so forth. I’m sure that no matter who we get paired with, both families will have to make some compromises, but in most cases, it shouldn’t be a big problem.

There were two families who might be hard to match up with, though. In one case, the father is a professional DJ and musician, and he plans to have a very elaborate party, and that doesn’t match up well with what we want. On the other hand, sharing a party with that family would certainly make for easy planning! Another parent might be even harder to work with — one of the questions was “if the kids are sharing a service, how can I keep the other family out of my pictures?” I thought about suggesting that cattle prods would be a good tool, but then I decided to keep my mouth shut.

The next few years are going to be interesting. And at the end of the time, not only will we have an official Jewish adult, but we’ll also have a teenager. Oy!

That business model is so last millenium!

We’ve been having near-shortages of electricity here in California for the past few days, and the utilities have had to buy power on the spot market to keep the lights on for us all. According to a story on KCBS radio, P G and E‘s John Nelson says the utility has been forced to pay 25 cents for a kilowatt but only allowed to charge customers 5 cents. The result has been a loss of almost $5 billion to the utility.

And here I thought it was only dot-com’s which thought that losing money on every transaction was a good idea.

Wine of the Day

1999 Buena Vista Sauvignon Blanc, $5.99 at Trader Joe’s. So good, we finished the bottle before the wine oxidized!

Seeking a new identity

Speaking of the Federal Communications Commission, I was very pleasantly surprised to see how quickly they processed my upgrade; I took the test on Monday night, and the upgrade was in their database this morning, and if I read things correctly, the paper license is already in the mail. That is a far cry from the way Things Used To Be — these computers do make some tasks easier and faster, I guess.

I spent most of today reinstalling my Linux system at work; I wanted to boot up the Windows 2000 partition to check out a couple of things, but somehow, while I was playing with LILO, I managed to corrupt the partition, and then I followed up by making the Linux partition unbootable, too. So I decided to blow away everything on the machine and make it a pure Linux environment; now that I know what I’m doing, it went pretty smoothly, and I even figured out how to use linuxconf to get xdm to start up automatically (for some reason, the install sees the wrong video card — one which is disabled in the BIOS — and so it installs the non-graphic login handler). I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the system, but since IBM is serious about Linux, I should learn more about it.

Holiday Shopping Ideas

If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, may I suggest a visit to Archie McPhee for something tasteful or tasty. Or you might want to consider one of the fine items chosen for this year’s edition of Dave Barry’s Gift Guide, an annual holiday staple around these parts.

Our long national civics lesson may be over

It will feel very strange to turn on a newscast and hear a different story being discussed. I’ve heard that the rest of the world has had the temerity to continue to function while the US was busy worrying about the election; of course, I won’t know that it’s true until CNN tells me so.

Red Hat is up

This afternoon, I finally got my old weird PC Server 330 running under Red Hat 7.0. I’ve been fighting it for about a month; trying to install over the LAN was a total failure. Copying the CD images to the local hard drive and installing there almost worked — the install went OK, but then the system wouldn’t boot (I may just have been suffering from having the Linux partition above the 4GB line, but it was too painful to try to figure it out). So I burned CDs, and then the install went smoothly — except that I couldn’t get X to start. Eventually, I brought down XFree86 4.0.1, and now I can get by; I still don’t get a graphical login screen (just the plain old text login), but I can tolerate that.

I wish I knew what I was going to do with the machine, but I couldn’t leave it just sitting idle.

Oh — the reason the system is weird is that it has a RAID disk controller (but I think only one disk), and two video cards but only one display. This machine has, shall we say, somewhat unsavory parentage.

DVDs may be taking over

Jeffrey is doing a book report on a biography of Henry VIII (in the Famous Dead People series), and Diane happened to mention that the BBC series on the Six Wives of Henry VIII was good. So I went to Amazon to look for it; the VHS version was $70 and out-of-stock, while the DVD version was $68 and “usually ships in 24 hours”. Well, I can hope. But I don’t think I ever saw a Laser Disc more available than the corresponding VHS tape, so maybe this is a Good Sign.


I drove to Fremont (about 30 miles from my office) this afternoon to take the tests to upgrade my ham license. I am so glad I don’t have to make that commute on a regular basis — it took well over an hour, most of it on Highway 880 (the “Nasty Nimitz”, as they call it on the radio), most of it at very slow speeds. But I got there in plenty of time to have dinner and review the General Class exam book again before going to the test session.

I got to the session a few minutes late, but still in plenty of time to be tested — there were about 7 other examinees, several of whom were going for their first license, Technician Class (the old Novice class is no longer being issued. You don’t have to learn Morse Code for the Technician, but if you do pass the 5 words-per-minute exam, you get the old Novice privileges; 5 words-per-minute is all that’s required for any class now, which made it reasonable for me to consider upgrading).

I filled out the form (of course there’s a form!) and they gave me the exam for Element 3 (General Class). I was pretty sure I’d do well on it, since I’d read the whole manual over the weekend (not to mention reading through the entire question pool at dinner), but I took my time and double-checked everything before turning it in. The examiner took a quick look, decided I’d probably passed, and asked me if I wanted to take the Element 4 (Extra Class) test; even though I hadn’t studied for it other than trying a couple of sample tests, I had nothing to lose and said yes.

The Extra Class test covers many areas — I was ready for some (the simpler electronics and most of the FCC questions); for the others, it was time to dust off strategies from Test Taking 101. The mandatory Smith Chart question wasn’t too bad — they wanted to know what kinds of calculations you could do with a Smith Chart, and that was one I could answer (it’s impedance and SWR, in case you’re curious). In the end, I missed 11 questions, but that was few enough to pass the test, so now I have a Certificate of Successful Completion of an Examination for Elements 3 and 4 in my hot little hands, and very soon, my new Extra Class license will arrive in the mail. And who knows, I might even use it some day!

How it ends

December 30, 2004

WASHINGTON — After four years of legal wrangling, George W. Bush was finally
declared the winner of the 2000 presidential election yesterday.

Bush, a Republican, will take the oath of office at noon today and serve
until Jan. 20, 2005, a term of about three weeks. Then he gives way to the
winner of the 2004 presidential election, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham

Facing a drastically shortened presidency, Bush attempted to strike an
optimistic tone last night. “We have a lot to accomplish in the next three
weeks,” Bush said. “Reforming Social Security alone is probably going to eat
up four to five hours. Let’s get to work!” Aides yesterday were calling
temporary employment agencies in a frantic effort to fill Cabinet posts.

Bush’s victory ends a four-year court battle between him and Democratic
candidate Al Gore over the results of the 2000 election.

While the dispute raged on, the nation installed an interim president: New
York Yankees Manager Joe Torre. Torre admitted that running a country and a
baseball team simultaneously has been a strain. “At times, it’s been
difficult to keep the two things straight. Although, in retrospect, trading
Jesse Helms to the Red Sox turned out OK.”

Torre’s four years in office were marked by continued prosperity at home and
relative calm abroad. His most controversial move was appointing Yankees
bench coach Don Zimmer to the Supreme Court. Critics charged that Zimmer
lacked experience. He also spit tobacco juice on Antonin Scalia’s shoes,
angering conservatives.

Torre’s boldest foreign policy initiative was making Cuba the 51st state in
an effort to improve U.S. pitching.

Torre was planning to vacate the White House by midnight tonight, with Bush
moving in immediately. Eager to give an aura of permanency to his three-week
administration, Bush rebuffed suggestions that he sleep on a bare mattress on
the floor and live out of suitcases.

Gore, meanwhile, has yet to concede defeat. The former vice president issued
a statement today saying, “It would be improper and disrespectful to the
democratic process to act hastily before all the facts are known.”

The legal tangle over the 2000 election began with a Gore lawsuit over the
confusing design of ballots in Florida. When the courts sided with Gore, Bush
filed suit, arguing that the Oregon results were invalid because some ballots
were yellow and others pink. Gore countersued, charging that the West
Virginia results should be thrown out because some people failed to receive
“I Voted Today” stickers.

Through the years, various officials proposed compromises to resolve the
impasse. All were rejected, including:

* Establishing a co-presidency, with the two men sharing duties and splitting
the White House. Although never implemented, the idea gave rise to a hit TV
show, East Wing, West Wing.

* Establishing temporarily separate nations, with each candidate ruling the
states he won in the 2000 election. Gore, who failed to carry his native
Tennessee, balked at the idea because it would mean showing a passport every
time he went home.

* Letting Jimmy Carter sort it all out.

Observers said the biggest challenge for the Bush administration will be
working with Congress, which adjourns tomorrow and isn’t expected back until
after Bush’s term ends. “One day may not be quite enough time to overhaul the
tax system,” a Bush aide admitted. “But maybe we can get started and then
finish it later with a big conference call or something.”

Meanwhile, Bush also must work on his legacy and prepare to transfer power to
President-elect Clinton. Clinton yesterday wished Bush well and asked if she
could start moving some boxes into the White House basement.

My mom sent this item to me; I don’t know where she got it, and so I apologize to whoever I stole it from, but I like it anyway.

As for me, if I had Photoshop, I’d be working on a Bush/Lieberman image, because I wouldn’t be surprised to find that’s how this mess really ends.

I got mine, Jack!

Well, actually, I should have said, “I got mine,
Al”, since I was referring to my flu shot. There were vaccination campaigns at my office and at Diane’s, but I managed to be out of town for both of them, so today, I visited the nearby Albertson’s and got my shot — and, at no extra charge, they gave me a sample pack of Advil.

I also heard from the TV repair guy — the culprit was a capacitor in the power supply which had lost all of its smoke, and it’ll cost $75 to fix. That’s a lot cheaper than a new 27-inch TV, much less what I’d really want to buy, so I told him to go ahead, and I hope to get the TV back on Monday (and maybe by then, the muscle ache from the flu shot will have gone away and I’ll be able to lift the TV).

I’m studying and taking sample tests so I can take the exam for a license upgrade on Monday, traffic permitting. I feel pretty confident about the General Class exam (the electronics is pretty straightforward stuff that I’ve mostly known for years; the hard part is memorizing the answers to the FCC rules questions, since they follow no useful pattern); passing Extra Class will be harder, since, as you’d expect, the electronics knowledge required is significantly greater (and the FCC rules are just as arbitrary), and I don’t have the Extra Class study guide! I wonder what a Smith Chart is….

How can I be so far behind?

I’m glad that we’re getting to the end-of-the-year holidays and general slowdown; perhaps that’ll let me catch up on my mail a little bit. And maybe today was the last gasp of people trying to create work before they go on vacation, because I sure was busy doing stuff — nothing worth writing about, but stuff nonetheless.

My flight home on Midway was as pleasant as the flight on Tuesday; I’d happily fly them again, at least in First Class. My seatmate said that she’d flown to Raleigh in Coach and it was one of the worst flights she’d ever taken, but she was also very happy about the service in the front of the plane.

Shabbat Shalom!


But this time, I had two things going for me: first, the only flight on Midway left at 3pm, giving me not enough time to be useful at IBM and plenty of time for a visit; second, I’d been specifically invited to visit — thanks to my second-line manager’s homepage. John, besides being one of IBM’s best Internet ambassadors, is a long-time ham (I don’t know how active he is), and got a query from Jim Haynie, W5JBP, the president of ARRL, asking whether IBM had any ham radio clubs. John passed the question on to me, since he knew I’d been involved fairly recently (sometime, I might tell the story of the Loma Prieta earthquake), and I was happy to be able to tell Jim that yes, we did have active clubs. We kept corresponding, and he invited me to let him know if I was ever going to be in the area because he’d ensure I got a good tour. So last week, when this trip came up, I dropped him a note, and he made good on his promise.

I got to ARRL Headquarters a little after the 10am tour time, but that wasn’t a problem; they were expecting me, and the League’s Executive Vice-President, Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, came out to meet me and chat for a couple of minutes before going back into his meeting; he turned me over to Brennan Price, N4QX, who gave me an individual tour of HQ and then took me over to W1AW so I could go on the air.

I could have gone on the air on VHF or UHF, but there would have been nothing interesting in doing that — that’s where I’ve done all my operating. I wanted to operate HF, where there was a chance of contacting someone far away. I’m currently a Technician-Plus, so I’m only authorized to operate voice in a narrow sliver of the 10 meter band (28.3-28.5 MHz) — there was no point in trying to operate Morse Code, because I haven’t used it since passing my original exam, 12 years ago.

So a few minutes later, I was sitting in front of a brand new Yaseu Mark V FT-1000MP, connected up to a serious antenna farm, ready to go on the air with one of the best-known callsigns in Amateur Radio. I called CQ and waited. And waited. And waited. Then I changed frequencies and kept trying. And waited. Then I rotated the antenna in hopes of working a different part of the world — I could hear stations, but I couldn’t get anyone to respond. I even waited for contacts to end in hopes of getting in touch with one of the stations, but that didn’t work, either — at 11:45, Dave came to pick me up for lunch, and I still hadn’t worked anyone. Oh, well, I can try again another time, and I did get a nice certificate confirming that I have operated W1AW.

I operated W1AW: I also renewed my ARRL membership (to be more accurate, I rejoined, this time as a Life Member) and picked up the General Class study guide; now that I won’t need to pass another code test to upgrade, I shouldn’t have any problems doing so, and then I’ll have more chances to make contacts on my next trip.

It was still a good way to spend the morning. Now, on to my flight home!

73, David

Edsel Murphy's Day Off

I know I’m tempting fate by typing this before I’m safely home, but life is for the brave.

My trip out here yesterday was amazingly good. The flight from San Jose to Raleigh left only a few minutes late but arrived on time; the food was good; the flight attendants were friendly; the weather was decent. Midway doesn’t have power outlets on their planes, but that was OK — they gave all the first class passengers DVD players so I didn’t have to use my laptop to watch movies anyway (so I finally got around to watching The Matrix). The flight from Raleigh to Hartford was almost empty (two other people in first, counting my colleague who they let come up when I said I wanted to share the sandwich I’d brought from home with him (the flight was too short for them to provide anything more than a snack), and perhaps 15 people in coach), which, by definition, made it good.

And Midway still lets people use GPS receivers in flight, which was fun, too — especially after my friend showed me how to use the window shade to suspend the GPS so I didn’t have to hold it!

Murphy was back on the job today, though; the high-speed connectivity out of this hotel isn’t working (I spent 30 minutes on hold with tech support), and, of course, I spent the whole day in meetings (that is, of course, why I was here, but I still don’t have to like it!). meets reality

I also got lucky in the upgrade lottery on Midway — and since Midway uses Delta as their agent here, they had no way to tap my American account for stickers, so I got upgraded for free. This is definitely an encouraging way to begin a trip — and I didn’t even get awakened early!

Stealth Customer Service

I just checked my AAdvantage AAccount AAnd (oops, I’d better stop doubling my A’s!) discovered:

  • they hadn’t taken any upgrade stickers out of my account for my flight on Tuesday
  • they had given me first-class mileage credit for that flight
  • that my paper boarding pass was for class F, rather than the X that is usual for a sticker upgrade.

So I guess that one of the people I talked with on Tuesday decided that he or she could, indeed, give me a free upgrade and did so, but didn’t tell me, and so I can’t thank him or her. But the kindness is greatly appreciated (though I’d’ve rather had the extra couple of hours of sleep anyway).

Happy Birthday, EditThisPage.Com

As has been noted in many places, today is the first birthday of EditThisPage.Com. Thanks, Dave and UserLand, for providing me a place to practice my typing skills in public, as well as giving me a chance to read weblogs written by some terrific people.

Home is where the laundry gets done

My trip home Friday was uneventful, and I made it home before Jeffrey went to bed. I hope to be as lucky this week.

And when I arrived home, I found the house had been painted blue while I was gone (fortunately, this wasn’t a surprise!). The painters still have a little touching up to do, especially on the porch steps, but other than that, I think the house looks great (and if it weren’t dark outside, I’d take and post a picture).

This evening, I’ve been watching the live video from the Shuttle as they put the wings on the International Space Station; it seems very futuristic to be able to sit in my home office and watch live video from space on my computer screen. Oh, yeah…we’re almost in the 21st century, aren’t we? I guess the future is now! Unfortunately, it was cloudy when I went outside to try to watch the station with my own eyes, but there will be more passes in the days to come.

World AIDS Day

Until a few minutes ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to participate in Day Without Weblogs or not — it looked like I was going to omit today’s blog entry by reason of circumstance rather than intent. But I got to Logan Airport in time to connect up and to read Al‘s page, and I realized that even the tiny contribution that my joining the effort makes is worthwhile.

If you don’t think AIDS has affected you, read what Al has to say — and think about it next time you visit the doctor or dentist or find yourself too close to a sick stranger on a train or bus or airplane.