Downhill trajectory

We just finished watching the second episode of Enterprise; it was still pretty good, but I didn’t think it was up to the level of the first episode. I hope next week’s episode is at least as good as this week’s; I’d hate to see the slide in quality continue for very long.

I’ve never watched an entire episode of The West Wing — only the end of one show, while in a hotel gym — but I decided I’d like to see tonight’s. So I’ve got the TiVo capturing it now and I’ll watch it some other time; setting that up caused some confusion at the end of Enterprise, since the TiVo popped up a screen telling us it wanted to switch channels. If I’d started watching Enterprise from the “Now Playing” screen instead of from “Live TV”, I don’t think TiVo would have hassled me about the change. Probably.

The TiVo has been busy for the last couple of days, with TNN’s Star Trek: Next Generation marathon; I didn’t even know there was one, but TiVo noticed that we watched other Star Trek shows and took the initiative to record some episodes. I don’t know what basis it uses to pick particular episodes, but it found at least two that Jeffrey wants to see. Not a bad gadget!

I do wish I’d spent more time researching the box, though; I bought it at a local Good Guys for what I thought was a pretty good price (well, the standard price). But yesterday, I discovered that goodguys.com (same people, different corporate structure) sells the box for quite a bit less. I’m trying to decide if the hassle of ordering a TiVo online, setting it up, then cancelling the subscription for this one and taking it back to the store is worthwhile or not — I almost wish I hadn’t found out in time to contemplate the exchange. Sadly, Good Guys doesn’t match their own online prices, or I’d have an easy way out of the dilemma.

But if that’s my biggest problem of the night, I can’t really complain.

Y2K bugs live on

I took our car in for regular service today, and was amused to note the date on the repair order: “Tuesday, October 1, 1901”. Hey, if it doesn’t bother the repair shop, it doesn’t bother me!

Now that I have a TiVo, I’m amazed how much good stuff there is on TV — it’s just that most of it is on at 3am or similar hours. I’m confident I’ll never be able to keep up with what it captures for me, but at least I have a chance to see some good programs.

Enterprise definitely qualified as a good program — we all watched it raptly, and I’m looking forward to the next episode. I love the way the characters portray a sense of wonder about what’s happening — it’s not just another day at the office for them. This is a far cry from my reaction to Voyager — I watched the first episode, then taped the second one but never actually got around to watching it because the first one had left me so flat. Voyager eventually improved, of course, but I don’t feel compelled to track down the episodes I missed.

Post-atonement

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.

Amen.

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.