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.