Yesterday was Yom Kippur, so, as usual, I fasted and spent most of the day at services. And, as a side effect, I wound up spending 36 hours without looking at the TV, listening to the radio, or hooking up to the Internet.

It was refreshing.

I’m reconnected now, though, and ready to finally watch the first episode of Enterprise — with any luck, I captured it on videotape and on TiVo. Jeffrey is very ready to watch the show, too.

Thanks to Hal and Andrea for the birthday wishes (I hope I didn’t miss anyone else).

Shabbat Shalom!

A birthday surprise

Keeping the economy going

I bought a TiVo over the weekend. It’s an interesting toy — I used it to watch the local TV news last night in 10 minutes (skipping the two-hundredth story about possible changes to airline security, among other things); this was the first time I’d watched the local TV news in years. I guess that’s an improvement. We also taped…err, time-shifted…an episode of Home Improvement which we hadn’t yet seen, and it’s already building up a backlog of possibly-interesting shows for us to watch in our copious free time.

But that’s not really why I bought it — I bought it to have a backup plan for recording the first episode of Enterprise, the new Star Trek series, which premieres tomorrow evening, during Kol Nidre services. I don’t entirely trust my VCR right now — if I try to record in S-VHS, I get horrible noise bars in the picture, and cleaning the heads with a cleaning tape doesn’t help. So having a TiVo gives me a second chance to get a clean copy of the show. Any other use is entirely coincidental. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Weather Report

We had quite a thunderstorm last night — the radio and TV claimed that the rain would be north of San Francisco, even as drops were starting to fall at my house, 50 miles south of the city. And then the heavens opened, and the lightning started, and the thunder boomed — it was almost like being in Florida on a typical afternoon. I guess summer’s over.

Mystery no more

I found how who sent me the chocolate — a friend from work. Thanks, John!

Thank you, mystery admirer!

I came home this afternoon after trying, and failing, to buy a flag. The flag shop was a madhouse — they’d sold out of their last flags for the day just before I got there. Somehow, I never had a strong need to fly the flag before — but, like so many other things, that changed on September 11th.

At any rate, when I got home, there was a package waiting for me; it was from Godiva Chocolates, and had been sent FedEx Overnight with Dry Ice. I opened it eagerly, and there was a 25 ounce 75th anniversary tin of Godiva chocolate inside (the dry ice had done its job and vanished). There was also a message: “Happy Birthday David! I couldn’t find an interesting gift but I think you will enjoy these interesting chocolates.” But there wasn’t a signature, nor was there a sender’s name anywhere in the package.

My birthday isn’t until Tuesday, but I don’t think I’ll wait that long to start in on the chocolate. I just wish I knew who sent it!

Shabbat Shalom!

Life outside the firewall

For as long as I’ve had access to the Internet, it’s been courtesy of my employer. About ten years ago, I got a leased line from work to my home (56KB…what terrific speed that was then!), but it was inside the firewall, so my home computer appeared to be on the building network. Over the years, my connection has changed, going to ISDN, then 128KB SDSL, and finally 384KB SDSL, but it’s always been inside the firewall, and I’ve never had to explicitly login to the network — my home network has just been part of the corporate network.

But these days, having a straight connection inside the firewall is not a good thing — Jeffrey really doesn’t need access to the corporate network…and neither does the maid service! So I asked my neighbors for recommendations, and decided to go with
LinkLine Communications, which resells Verizon DSL. From everything I’ve read, dealing directly with Verizon is a recipe for headaches — but, given the state of the alternative DSL providers, I didn’t want my connectivity to be dependent on Covad or Rhythms, so a Verizon reseller seemed to be the right choice for me.

I decided to have the DSL superimposed on my second phone line, — I figured that would be easier than trying to deal with the main line, with its many phones. The second line comes into a dedicated jack in the office; I use a two-line phone, with a wire plugged into each jack.

The DSL service was active when we came home from services yesterday; it seemed to work fine, but there was interference whenever I tried to use the phone on the second line. I’d installed the filter, just as the instructions said, but it didn’t seem to help — the phone knocked off the DSL.

So today, I decided to do some serious troubleshooting. First, I made sure the filter was set up correctly; it was. Then I checked all the other connections; they were fine. So I decided to try changing the phone; I disconnected the second line from the two-line phone, and, much to my amazement, never lost dialtone on that line. I made sure that there were no wires plugged into the jack at all — not the DSL modem, not the phone, nothing…and I still had dialtone.

Apparently Verizon had not only wired the second line to the dedicated jack, but they’d also wired it to the outer pair on the jack for my regular line, and so I had two connections from Line 2 of my phone to the second phone line — only one of which was filtered. After figuring this out, the solution was easy — I happened to have a cable which only carried the inner pair of wires, so I used that to my normal jack so it’d only bring in Line 1; Line 2 was connected, via a filter, to the secondary jack. Voila! No interference.

So now I have higher-speed service, outside the firewall. Needless to say, I have a hardware firewall of my own, as well as software firewalls on all the computers. When I need to talk to work, I can, using a VPN tunnel; it’s almost as easy as it was when I was always connected directly to the company network.

Even better, this service is significantly faster than the service I used to have — especially when going to sites outside the company, since I don’t have to go through the corporate gateways. And I don’t have to wonder who might be checking logs, either.

Shana Tova 5762

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, starts at sundown tonight. This marks the beginning of the year 5762. Traditionally, God inscribes one’s fate on Rosh Hashana and it is sealed on Yom Kippur, ten days later; the period is known as the Ten Days of Awe, where you have a chance to repent, to turn away from evil.

After the events of the past week, I am looking forward to the new year — with hope, but also with trepidation. Three years ago, Rabbi Avi M. Schulman of
Congregation Beth El in
Missouri City, Texas, wrote this in his sermon for Rosh Hashana:

This is the eternal lesson of these ten Days of Awe: life is fragile. Life
is precious. Do not take life for granted. You can make a difference in how
you live your life through teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah — repentance,
prayer, and righteous deeds.


I am not a Hebrew scholar

“Shabbat Shalom” means “Sabbath Peace”, not “Sabbath of Peace”. I think I was close enough.

Because it’s been Shabbat, I haven’t had the TV or radio on. The silence has been refreshing, and, now that I’ve taken a look at the Web, it doesn’t appear that I’ve missed much. That’s a problem with TV news — they have to fill every second with something, and all too often, it’s speculation. There is no substitute for TV news when it comes to real-time live information and images, but it is not a medium which lends itself to reflection.

Moving forward

Shabbat Shalom

For those of you who don’t know Hebrew, “Shabbat Shalom” is used as a greeting before the Sabbath, and it basically means “Sabbath of Peace”. It’s a good thought every week, but especially this week.

And one more thought: “There is a blessing to say when bad things happen, just as there is when good things happen” – Mishnah, Berachot 9:5

Shabbat Shalom!

It's the little things

As I was driving to work this morning, I was listening to KCBS, the local all-news station. As usual, they had traffic reports every ten minutes. But suddenly, I realized that there was something different — all of the information was coming from the ground. Traffic helicopters, like everything else, are grounded.

My father-in-law lives very near Kennedy Airport; usually, there are planes passing by every few minutes, and when the weather is right, they fly right overhead. He said it’s been eerily quiet for the last few days.

No shame, part II

Since I use my Hotmail account for this blog, it draws more than its share of spam. Yesterday, I happened to look in the “Bulk Mail” folder and saw a piece of spam whose (forged) from-address included the phrase, “Anti-spammers support Bin Laden”.

I’ve now reconfigured Hotmail to throw away apparent spam immediately instead of keeping it for 14 days.

What’s that up in the air?

Diane and I were out for a post-dinner walk when we heard a vaguely-familiar sound — a low rumble in the distance. And then we looked north towards San Jose Airport and saw airplanes on climb out, one of which circled overhead on its way East. I don’t know the flights were freight, repositioning, or passenger, but it was good to see planes moving again.

The day after

When we visited Diane’s father in July, we spent a day in Manhattan.
Jeffrey wanted to see the view from the World Trade Center, so we made
that our first stop. It was a cloudy day, so the view wasn’t terribly
good, but we enjoyed ourselves anyway. And of course I took pictures —
but I didn’t think any of them were worth posting.

Until yesterday.

1025 from wtc: The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island from the World Trade Center.  July 17, 2001.May we not lose sight of our values and ideals in the months to come.

Have they no shame?

Last night, I got spam with a subject of “New York City Disaster”.

There are no words I can write

But these come to mind:

Yit-ga-dal v’yit-ka-dash sh’mei ra-ba b’al-m di-v’ra chi-r’u’tei, v’yam-lich mal-chu-tei b’cha-yei-con u-v’yo-mei-chon u-v’cha-yei d’chol beit Yis-ra-eil, ba-a-ga-la u-vi-z’man ka-riv, v’i-m’ru: Amen.

Y’hei sh’mei ra-ba m’va-rach l’a-lam u-l’al-mei al-ma-ya.

Yit-ba-rach v’yish-ta-bach, v’yit-pa-ar v’it-ro-mam v’yit-na-sei, v’yit-ha-dar v’yhit-a-leh v’yit-al-lal sh’mei d’kud-sha, b’rich hu,

l’ei-la min kol bir-cha-ta v’shi-ra-ta, tush-b’cha-ta v’neh-chem-ma-ta d-a-mi-ran b’al-ma, v’i-m’ru: Amen.

Y’hei sh’la-ma ra-bab min sh’ma-ya v’cha-yim, a-lei-ny v’al Kol Yis-ra-el, v’im-ru: Amen.

O-sheh sha-lom bi-m’ro-mav, hu ya-a-seh sha-lom a-lei-nu v’al kol Yis-ra-eil, v’im-ru: Amen.

Let the glory of God be extolled, and God’s great name be allowed in the world whose creation God willed. May God rule in our own day, in our own lives, and in the life of all Israel [and the world], and let us say: Amen.

Let God’s great name be extolled forever and ever.

Beyond all the praises, songs, and adorations that we can utter is the Holy One, the Blessed One, whom yet we glorify, honor, and exalt. And let us say: Amen.

For us and for all Israel [and the world], may the blessing of peace and the promise of life come true, and let us say: Amen.

May the one who causes peace to reign in the high heavens, cause peace to reign among us, all Israel, and all the world, and let us say: Amen.

The Mourner’s Kaddish — transliteration and translation from Gates of Prayer, the Reform movement’s current prayerbook, additions in brackets mine.

Entertainment report

The band was the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars; one of the band members is related to someone at Shir Hadash, and so we’re sometimes treated to a concert when they have a gig on the West Coast (they’re in LA tonight). Last night, they played for a bit over an hour to a fairly full room; there was dancing, of course. They play some traditional klezmer as well as some very non-traditional stuff (electric bass just was not very common a hundred years ago); I enjoyed it. Because it was Shabbat, they couldn’t sell their CDs…but they’re available from their website. Another good place to look for klezmer info is Ari Davidow’s Klezmer Shack.

And we may well get another dose of klezmer tomorrow at the “To Life” Festival in Palo Alto.

Today, we went to see San Jose Rep‘s production of
By the Bog of Cats, starring Holly Hunter. I prefer somewhat lighter, happier plays, but I thought this one was very well done. Holly Hunter (as Hester Swane, the protagonist) didn’t overshadow the rest of the principal players — in fact, I thought Jillian Lee Wheeler, who played Hester’s seven-year-old daughter, carried the play along as much as Ms. Hunter did. But at the end of the show, the curtain call was arranged so that Ms. Hunter came out by herself, and that’s when much of the audience decided to give a standing ovation. Star power at work!

Waiting for the weekend

We’ll also be going to San Jose Rep for By the Bog of Cats, their first production of the year.

And, if the cable comes for my remote control, or if the subwoofer arrives for the stereo, I’ll be playing with those toys.

I’m glad we don’t have a lawn.

Shabbat Shalom!

Robots for the Hardware Impaired

I need to take a remedial soldering course.

I spent yesterday evening trying to build the JP1 cable so I could program my new remote control. First, I tried to fix the cable Sam and I had made on Sunday (well, he did the soldering; I told him what to connect, and got that wrong), and after just a few minutes, had successfully destroyed the DB-25 connector. But the good news was that I’d unsoldered all of the connections, so I could try again.

This time, I tried a crimp connector — unlike a soldering iron, pliers don’t get hot. And I got everything wired up, and even managed to get the interface to pass the first test — but I couldn’t ever get it to talk to the computer.

I am now waiting for a professionally-constructed cable to arrive in the mail.

But even though I’m no good with hardware, I think I’ve found a way to build myself a robot. It’s not going to be a useful robot, but it should be fun anyway. I’m talking about
Robocode, another fine product from the Internet Technologies team at IBM. It lets you build robots in Java and let them kill each other, just like BattleBots on TV, only less expensively. The creator of Robocode, Mat Nelson, has his own site at, which is worth taking a look at, too.

And happy birthday, Al!

Starting the week on a flat note

Then yesterday, we had some friends over for a Labor Day BBQ (salmon and corn, yum!); they tried helping me make a
JP-1 interface to my new remote control. We had limited success, probably caused by my not planning ahead and labelling the wires, so that they wound up going to the wrong place on the connector and not working. But no permanent harm seems to have been done, either to the computer or the remote control, and I’ll try again another day.

This morning, it was time to face the music; Jeffrey went to school with his first project of the year (which we’ll get to see on Back To School night, I suspect), and then it was time for Diane and me to go to work. She left without incident; I didn’t. My car felt funny, as though it were tilted. So I parked and took a look, and sure enough, it was tilted. I had a flat tire. Foolishly, I drove it home (about a block) and then tried to change it. No dice — I couldn’t budge the lugnuts. But Saab Roadside Assistance came through for me and got the job done; the serviceman also showed me what had punctured the tire.

So I drove to my nearby tire dealer to get the tire fixed, but they said I’d ruined it by driving it while flat (not terribly to my surprise — the sidewall didn’t look at all good), so I had to have the tire replaced. Which meant that the car had to wait for the proper tire to show up from their warehouse, which meant I had to walk home (uphill both ways, of course) and work from home.

Oh, well; whatever paper was waiting for me at work will be there tomorrow, and e-mail is available everywhere, so I didn’t really lose anything but indigestion by not going into the office. And now I have a shiny new tire, too.