Oregon Wine and News

When we went college shopping in Oregon last May, we did some last minute wine shopping at the Made in Oregon store in the Portland Airport.

One of the bottles we picked up was King Estate 2006 Oregon Pinot Gris, which we had with dinner recently. We liked it a lot; it was crisp, with lots of fruit (I’ve gotta get better at writing down descriptions of wines while drinking them instead of waiting a couple of days!).

Sadly, we only bought one bottle. But we should have the opportunity to buy more; we already have planned a trip to take a closer look at Willamette, and now Jeff’s been accepted at the University of Oregon. We’d bought the Willamette tickets before hearing from U of Oregon, so it’d be expensive to change them; I think we just might have to make another trip instead.

Leaving the fold

I remember when my brother first told me that he’d bought a TiVo. It seemed like a silly idea; why would you want to spend hundreds of dollars to record no more than 14 hours of TV when you already had a VCR?

Then I visited my friend Sam, who had one, and who let me play with it a little bit. And then I realized that TiVo, like some other joys of life, needs to be experienced, not just talked about.

Soon, we, too, owned a TiVo. A 30-hour TiVo. With Lifetime Service. And life was good.

For a while. Then we decided to leave the cable company and go to DirecTV. That, of course, meant buying a new TiVo, one which worked with the satellite signal – all digital, from start to finish. I was able to sell my old TiVo for a good price (Lifetime Service was no longer available except via buying an old unit), so life was again good.

But it didn’t take long to fill up the TiVo’s disk. Fortunately, it was easy to add a second disk, courtesy of Weaknees. And life was good.

In 2003, we moved up to HDTV. But we didn’t have TiVo on HD, so we mostly watched standard definition TV except for the few things worth watching in real time (mostly the Superbowl).

Eventually, however, TiVo caught up with our needs, and we bought the wonderful HR10-250 DirecTiVo – HD and TiVo in one terrific box. Sure, I had to replace the disk once, and sure, the HDMI card went out, but it did its job for us.

Until DirecTV and TiVo parted ways. And then DirecTV announced that they were going to move to MPEG-4 for their HD offerings, including a couple of channels that I thought it would be nice to be able to watch in HD (notably SciFi, for the final season of Battlestar Galactica).

I thought about going back to the cable company, but they didn’t offer SciFi in HD. In fact, it wasn’t clear just what they offered in our area — every time I called, I got a different story about the coming “rebuild”. And the phone company doesn’t offer TV here.

So, after much agonizing, I called DirecTV and told them to bring me a new, non-TiVo HD DVR. I originally was going to hold out for the unit which was capable of receiving over-the-air HD and continue to use the antenna on our roof — but then came the New Year’s storms. We no longer have an antenna on our roof.

I decided to take that as a sign and agreed to take the HR-21 – without over-the-air capability. It was installed today.

I haven’t actually used it to watch anything yet — it’s taken me a couple of hours to move it where I should have had it installed in the first place, as well as to convince the Harmony (Logitech) 688 to talk to it. But we’ve successfully recorded a Simpsons (which Jeff has already watched and deleted), so I guess we’re committed.


This just in!

I was wandering through TiVo Community just after compiling this post, and discovered that the AM21 will soon be available, providing over-the-air capability to users of the HR-21. Hmmm….

Charlie Wilson’s War – the book

Back on December 24, I wrote about going to see Charlie Wilson’s War, a movie I enjoyed and highly recommend. Turbo Todd suggested I read the book.

He was right.

The book (unlike the movie) claims to be true — and it makes the movie look tame. Like the movie, it starts out in a hot tub in Las Vegas, and it has Gust Avrakotos telling his division chief to do something anatomically impossible (I try to keep this a family blog, but the precise phrase ends with “You”) — twice. And there’s plenty of sex and drugs (not much rock ‘n’ roll, though), not to mention guns and roses.

It’s hard to believe that the US Government works the way this book claims. Or maybe it’s easy to believe and hard to swallow. Read it and judge for yourself.

The book does have some weaknesses, especially when it’s being repetitious. But I found it hard to put down, and I strongly recommend it.

Fluid Twittering

On Monday, I read a posting on 43 Folders about using Fluid to create site-specific browsers. The author created a browser for I Want Sandy (a tool I plan to check out one of these days), but I thought it would be perfect for Twitter.

But since I was at work and mostly busy when I read the posting, I contented myself with posting it to del.icio.us for “later”.

That evening, though, I was on Twitter and noticed that Firefox was suffering from Spinning Beachball Syndrome — it didn’t die on me, but it spent a lot of time gazing at its own navel. Restarting it helped, but only for a short while. Then someone mentioned Flock, which I’d tried early in its life but hadn’t looked at since (I even managed to pass by their booth at Macworld, though it wasn’t intentional on my part). I didn’t really want to install Yet Another Browser, but the conversation made me think of Fluid.

I downloaded it and fired it up; less than a minute later, I had a Twitter-specific browser on my system. Since it’s Webkit-based, it doesn’t have the extensions and add-ons that I’ve laden Firefox with — and it’s fast. And since it’s an independent browser, it survives when I forget myself and close Firefox (or when it closes itself).

I just wish I could figure out how to make F5 the refresh key; instead, I have to remember to use Cmd-R. Which doesn’t work in Firefox.

Highly recommended, and the price is right: free (as in beer). That’s http://fluidapp.com — check it out!


Today was an interesting day. I started with a torture session at the JCC (my trainer calls the worst part “Fun with Foam” and promises it will get better some day). I had a call soon enough afterwards that I didn’t have time to drive to work, so I went home instead, took the call, and only then went to the office.

The afternoon started with another call, then my annual review (I live to fight another year!).

And then I got to have some fun. One of the projects I’m working on needs to gather some data from Lotus Notes calendars, and there was a group who had someone working on a tool to get that data. But they were having problems of various sorts, and they were stuck. Fortunately, one of my hobby projects for the last few years has taught me a lot about accessing Lotus Notes calendars from Python code, so I contacted the developer and offered to see if I had anything in my archives which might be helpful.

I didn’t – somehow, I’d not copied the relevant directory to my new Windows system (and this particular technique, using the COM bindings to Notes, only works on Windows). But I did have other Python/Notes code in hand, enough to remember how to start, and her Java code showed me what she was trying to do.

The next time I looked up, two hours had passed. And I had a working program (at least it worked in my environment!) to send her.

It’s been a while since I really dropped into flow on a technical project — it’s fun!

The final word on Macworld

Trying to do all of Macworld Expo in one day was probably a mistake — I didn’t have a chance to go back to interesting booths (especially those in the West Hall), and I was rather tired by the time I left But I had a hard enough time clearing one day from my calendar; two would have been impossible.

After a night’s sleep and sorting through my bag-o-crap, here’s what still clings to my memory.

I am still amazed at how much of the floor was devoted to iPod and iPhone accessories, as well as wraps and briefcases for MacBooks. If I’d wanted to personalize my iPhone or my MacBookPro, the options were endless. Ditto speakers, chargers, and FM transmitters for my iPod — and I probably could use them, but with so many choices, I decided to wait. Replacement headphones were also a Big Deal; I spent time at the Shure, Creative, and Etymotics booths, but wasn’t ready to replace my Frankenbuds yet (I’ll wait till they break).

If I used a desktop Mac as my primary machine, the MacBook Air would be the ideal travelling companion. It’s light, sexy, and functional — the Remote Disk is a cute workaround for the lack of an optical drive (but I wind up installing almost all my software via web downloads, anyway), and I like the multitouch gestures on the trackpad (it would be nice to get those through a software update on the MBP — I would think it could handle the zoom gesture, since it can already tell the difference between one and two fingers). But my primary machine is already a MacBook Pro, so the Air would be superfluous; the extra few pounds aren’t significant given my normal travels.

Bento looked interesting and I’ll probably install the demo when I have some time to play with it (December?). I also walked away with demo disks that I may actually try for The Personal Brain, VMWare Fusion, Nisus Writer, as well as a few that were handed to me which will be as handy as the AOL CDs that used to arrive in the mail.

Intuit was pushing Quicken and their other products. They were showing a demo of their Quicken replacement, due this year, which looks to be a Web 2.0 version of Quicken (in much the same way as Quicken became Web 1.0-like a few years ago). They promised a migration path from Quicken/PC to the new product. We’ll see, but frankly, I’d be happy finding somewhere else to go entirely, as long as I can give my tax accountant the data he needs.

There were lots of people selling storage solutions. I didn’t look at them very closely. I am, however, ashamed to admit that I couldn’t crack the code at the Western Digital booth without giving it some serious thought. Maybe I should get on the air sometime.

I spent some time at the Fujitsu booth ogling the ScanSnap S510M (as mentioned on 43 Folders a few weeks ago). I would have been happy to win one in their drawing, but I didn’t. I did take home a discount coupon, but I’m not really sure that turning paper into PDFs is really a step in the right direction for me; what I need is to make stuff Go Away Entirely.

I also looked at the various printer and camera vendors, but not seriously. I would like a color laser all-in-one to reduce the clutter at home, but the prices are still too high. Even mono laser all-in-ones are expensive and big.

I did buy the Goldtouch for Mac keyboard. I haven’t unboxed it yet, though — it’s for home, to replace the Apple Keyboard I bought for the Mini a while ago. That’ll go to the XO laptop so I can play with it more easily.

I’m glad I went to the show; I’ll probably do it again, schedule willing, next year, but my expectations will be more realistic. And I’ll wear socks with more padding. And maybe even take advantage of the onsite nap service so I can make it through the entire day.