Monthly Archives: December 2000

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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….

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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!

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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

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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!).

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