Thursday, June 30, 2011

Drivers in the rain

Another note about our vacation. We drove home in the rain and my wife and I were amazed at how many drivers didn't turn their lights on when the visibility was so bad. Not that you couldn't see without your lights on. The problem was that it was harder to see the cars without their lights on. I wish I had a picture to show. I thought about grabbing a picture of cars in the rain from the Internet but it wouldn't mean anything. Besides, all the pictures I could find showed all the cars with their headlights on.

I don't know if the light-less drivers were just lazy or were responding to some misguided idea of saving energy - "turn the lights off when they are not needed." Well, the lights were needed! Surely they saw how hard it was to see cars with no lights because they were in the situation themselves. It seems that the worst drivers were the ones without their lights on, too. Isn't that always the way? It's the double whammy of the bad drivers speeding and getting to you faster than they should and being without their lights making it harder to see them coming. It almost doubles the chance of an accident.

I think a lot of people drive with the idea that everyone else will look out for them. This is similar to the people who talk on their cell phones while driving (don't get me started!). It's all just another case of not really caring about other people. One way of loving your neighbor is helping them when they've gotten in trouble (as in the original story of the Good Samaritan) but another way of loving your neighbor is to help them keep out of trouble in the first place. Surely it's better to not have an accident than to have to stop and help after an accident. At least, that's the way I see it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Back from our vacation

We were at Santa's Village from June 21 through June 23. We were going to stay one more day but it started to rain the afternoon of the 23rd and it looked like it was going to continue into the next day. So, we left after lunch on Thursday, June 23. We thought we'd get home about 6 PM but we didn't count on getting stuck in an 11 mile traffic jam going through Boston. We spent about an hour getting through the city and got home around 7 PM. At least it was still light and the rain had let up as we got home. No matter where I've been, it is always good to get home. And there is nothing like sleeping in your own bed.

We enjoy going to Santa's Village at this time of the year because it's not crowded. In many ways, it seems like they opened the park just for us. Because there are so few customers and we go multiple days, the ride operators and the people who run the concessions got to know us. It's such a friendly place. But the thing I like the most is how relaxed it is. No one is rushing to get in front of you and everyone (customers included) is helpful and pleasant. It's good to be home but it's also nice to have a relaxing place to go when we're not home.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taking a closer look at a picture

The picture to the right is a photo from about seven years ago when our son Evan was seven years old and our daughter Emma was only one. There is no record of how old my wife Cindy was at this time! I've looked at this picture scores of times but there is something about it I didn't notice until a few days ago.

We'd only had our daughter about a year when this picture was taken. She took a longer time than normal to learn to crawl and walk because the girls in the orphanage didn't get much chance to exercise and were often bundled up in clothing to keep them warm which made it difficult for them to move. So, we had to work with her a lot to get her muscles in tone so she could get around on her own. She was nine months old when we first got her and when she first started to sit up, we always had to prop pillows around her or she wouldn't fall over.

In this picture, we'd gone to the beach to feed the birds. Besides being fun and getting us all out in the fresh air, it was a good reason for Emma to get some more exercise to help with her walking. Cindy was trying to reach some of the birds that didn't seem to be getting anything and she was putting some extra effort to throw the food farther leading to her acrobatic position. And after all these years, I noticed Emma's position in the picture. It's a mirror image of my wife's position within the limits of what Emma was capable at that time. My wife worked with Emma so much and Emma was so used to following my wife's movements that even when we didn't notice, Emma tried to emulate her movements. The poor little thing was doing her best to do what her mommy did. Or is she trying to perform some Tai Chi? Click on the picture and you'll see a larger version so you can see Emma's position more clearly

It's so easy to take pictures with digital cameras that we take hundreds of pictures just because there is no cost for film and it's easy to store them. But it's not easy to go through all your pictures to truly appreciate what you've got. I hope this will be a lesson to me to spend a little more time looking at the content of the pictures I've taken.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A year with my scooter

It's been a year since I made my first post about my motor scooter. I've ridden about 3,800 miles on it in that time and I have to say that it's been one of the best things I've ever bought. It's cheaper to own and operate than a car and it doesn't take up room in our driveway. It fits nicely in our shed. But I won't be riding it much this week because we're on vacation. There are still some things you need a car (or a van) for!

Saving money using the scooter is great, of course, but another aspect to it is the fun I have riding it to and from work. I ride it around town doing small chores, too. It's nice to think I don't have to waste a gallon of gas every time I run to the store to pick up one small item. I actually look forward to running to the post office or the hardware store for little things, now. I hope to be getting helmets for the rest of my family so that, maybe, one of them can come with me on these little jaunts.

I look forward to many more years of using my scooter. It's been very reliable and easy to maintain so far. Of course, now that the warranty period is over, I may find that things will start to go wrong. I'll be sure to write about them (and their solutions) as I run into them. But, for now, everything is great.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A good Father's Day

I had a very good Father's Day yesterday. And it was more like Father's Weekend because we went out to dinner, at our favorite restaurant The Olive Garden, on Saturday. Their prices have certainly gone up over the years but there is so much food that we end up getting two meals out of a visit.

On Sunday, I got cards, some nice short-sleeved shirts, wool socks (for my walks in the woods when my feet may get wet), a chocolate cake and a special Gumby t-shirt. We love Gumby and have a huge DVD collection of the early shows. We haven't watched them for a while and getting the Gumby shirt was a good excuse to watch some of them again.

The weather was beautiful all week-end so we were finally able to get our garden ready and plant our vegetables. We'll never be mistaken for farmers but it is a lot of fun to watch the plants grow. And nothing tastes as good as vegetables you raise yourself and eat fresh.

I'm the most fortunate man in the world. I had to wait until I was 42 to get married and until I was 44 to be a dad but it was worth the wait. I've got two wonderful children who are willing to overlook my faults and a terrific wife who makes it easy for me to be a dad.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Our company is 30 years old today

Today, our company celebrated its 30th anniversary with a nice, catered buffet, a few words from our two founders (they were married when they formed the company) and a few more words from the current company president. Both of our founders are retired from the company now (one still lives locally and the other one is living in Hawaii and had to join us via a video hook-up) and we rarely get to see them anymore. When the company first started it was just a husband and wife business. He designed and built the electronics and she answered the phones, did the books and dealt with all the government (local, state and federal) involved with running a company. They eventually hired someone to build the circuit boards who could do a better job of it and could build them faster. They worked in the barn behind their house and only needed a small portion of it for their "offices". The rest was for storage and where they kept their chickens.

Another of the jobs of our founder was to call up magazines and try to write reviews and informational articles about their products. He wanted to make the company sound like it was well established and capable of making a good, well-designed products. But he told us the story that one day, when he was on the phone, the chickens started to act up and got excited about something and were making a lot of noise. So, he kept trying to talk as much as he could so the editor on the other end of the phone wouldn't hear all the clucking and noise. He must have sounded rude not letting the editor say much. But it worked, they were able to get nice write-ups in the magazines about their products.

I didn't join until 1988 when the company had about ten people working for it. The chickens were gone when I started and the barn had been cleaned up (a little bit). Now we're a company of over 130 people and we're in our third building having outgrown the first two. I still learn something new every day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Magic windshield wipers

At one time, I had a car (a 1976 Mercury Capri II, the picture is from Wikipedia, mine was white) that not only had regular windshield wipers and intermittent wipers but also had a switch on the floor that you could push that would cause the wipers to make one pass over the windshield. I didn't think too much about it after a while. I just used it for those times when the regular wipers and intermittent wipers were just too fast for a light mist or rain that started and stopped often. I hate the sound wipers make when they rub over a not-quite-wet-enough windshield. This way I could keep my hands on the wheel (especially in the tricky conditions of a wet road) and wipe when I needed to improve the view.

One day I was giving a friend a ride and it was one of those days when the rain came in fits and starts. I was absent-mindedly hitting the wiper switch on the floor when I needed it. After a while, my friend said, "That's amazing. I've never seen a wiper that could do that." He thought something was sensing the degree of wetness of the windshield and triggering a pass of the wipers. Or maybe he thought something could sense that you couldn't see clearly through the windshield. Well, yes. That something was me.

I guess I could have played a joke on him and acted as if it was all automatic. But I couldn't make fun of him that way. I told him the truth that I was doing it. I'm just not a very fun person.

I was reminded of this story from a short post on Raymond Chen's The Old New Thing blog - Sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology. They had more fun with their situation.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Funny graffiti

Here is a bit of graffiti I saw once
The meek shall inherit the earth - if that's OK with the rest of you.
This is a reference to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7. Specifically, it is from Matthew 5:5 and is part of The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) - the first part of the Sermon on the Mount
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5, King James Version
There is also a version of this teaching in Psalms 37:11
But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.
Psalms 37:11, King James Version
Many a sermon has been preached on this subject. Not the graffiti with its, "if that's OK with the rest of you," part. The Bible verse. I won't try to add any new insights there. But one thing that I will mention is our society's mixed signals on being meek. Everyone else wants you to be meek so they can get what they want from you. But when it comes to being meek themselves, you won't find many takers. It's all fine and good if everyone is meek but once one person isn't, the feeling is that they will take advantage of everyone else. So, one after another, people slip out of ranks of the meek and join in the "get it while you can" club. In the graffiti, it shows up as the meek needing to ask permission to get their inheritance.

What brought this all up? Someone talking about their manager pressing them to finish a task that is complicated and not easily pushed through. It seems that being meek is not one of the job requirements for a manager. Part of being a manager seems to be not listening to excuses. So, it seems that part of being meek is accepting that your chances for advancement are limited. Being meek means being satisfied with doing the best you can in the position you have. I'm fine with that - as long as it's not shoved down my throat. I may write my own graffiti
The meek shall inherit the earth so be nice to us today.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

National Geographic - Photo of the Day

I've added another link on the right side of my blog. This link, temporarily at the top of the list, points to the National Geographic website Photo of the Day page. The picture at the right, a very reduced version of the Photo of the Day for June 11, 2011,
was taken by Jonathan Manshack during autumn in Hameln, Germany. If you follow the link, there is an option to download a 1600 x 1200 pixel image for use as wallpaper on your computer. You can do that for any of the Photo of the Day selections.

The National Geographic magazine has been famous for over a century for its beautiful photography but there is much more to it. The society funds research and exploration. Their maps are beautiful art in themselves and very informative. And they've changed with the times. They have a television channel and their website is well thought out, responsive and beautiful.

As my colleague who told me about the Photo of the Day site says, "Beware of the Previous link on the page. You can spend a long time clicking it as each picture draws you in." You won't be disappointed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

For those who diet

Well, I've been doing my stint in the technical support group this week (as mentioned in my Customers: who needs 'em? post in February) and it makes it hard to find time at lunch to write new blog posts. - or even at night as I put in extra time to try to keep up with my regular projects in addition to the time I've spent helping out with the technical support group.

So, just to get something out, I present this wonderful idea for those of us who enjoy eating but need to watch how much we eat. I'm thinking of producing an infomercial and begin selling the amazing No Weight Gain Spoon. I'll sell millions and can quit my job and never need to work in customer technical support again!

As you can see from the picture, you'll never have to worry about gaining weight again. You can eat as much as you like and still stay within your dietary guidelines. And, if you act now, we'll send you two of these revolutionary spoons so you can share one with your spouse (not that they need to diet). And, as a special bonus if you call within the next 30 minutes, we'll throw in (for just the cost of shipping and handling) our new, amazing Slow Down, You Move Too Fast Boots. With these lead-soled boots on, you may want to get to the refrigerator but it will take you so long and you'll be so tired by the time you get there, you won't have the strength to eat. The pounds will just melt away! Act now before we're sold out!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Inspiration from the Bible

Of course we can get inspiration from the Bible but I'm not talking about spiritual inspiration here. I'm talking about creative inspiration.

I started by seeing an article on a blog by a programmer I greatly admire, Larry O'Brien. He is much more than just a programmer. In addition to his programming abilities, he is an editor, a writer and has also run his own company. His short article, Bible-Study S/W Is…uh…Inspirational, led me to the full article at O'Reilly Media titled What ebook designers can learn from Bible-reading software. By the way, you MASH fans will get a kick out of the name of the blog at O'Reilly Media, Inc. - it's called O'Reilly Radar.

But it didn't end there. The O'Reilly article is just a republished version of the original article from the A New Kind of Book site titled Better eBook Ideas from…the Good Book. Finally, the end of the road. Now I could read it and enjoy it. It's a good lesson in how to be creative even though you are using material that your readers may already be familiar with. I love it when you find someone who doesn't have to have the latest material to make something new. Of course, the people making eBooks based on the Bible are using new techniques and a lot of creativity to help their readers learn more about the Bible and to help in the study of this amazing collection of books.

It's also a lesson in not stopping at the first link you find. Each of the sites added information to the original article but it always pays to find the original article. You don't know what the later authors may have changed or missed in the original. In this case, they didn't miss anything and just added new insight. But you never know. Keep digging and get to the truth. Just like when you're reading the Bible itself!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Just a silly Friday post

It occurred to me today that no one really knows where the expression "OK" comes from. Oh, there are plenty of ideas about where it comes from but I don't like any of the explanations. And anyway, I've figured it out. But first a little background.

The character "K" is used a lot in computing and it stands for Kilo but it doesn't mean exactly the same thing as it does in the metric system. There, it is supposed to be used in lower case form, "k", and means 1,000. In computing, it is almost always written in upper case as "K" and means 1,024 because computer arithmetic is done in binary and 1,024 is 2 raised to the 10th power. So, if you wanted to tell someone how much memory a certain piece of computer code took up, you might say, "This function only takes up 2K," and that would mean that the function is relatively small and only uses up 2,048 bytes of memory.

So, imagine that you're trying to tell someone that everything is alright and there is nothing to worry about. Well, the more memory you might have, the more things you would have to worry about, right? So, if you had NO worries, then you would have NO memory to worry about and that would be zero bytes or 0K. Now I can see where people who don't know much about computers would get confused and think that zero is an upper case letter 'O' but they'd be wrong wouldn't they? But since there are a lot more people around that don't know much about computers, using the upper case 'O' won out and that's how we write it today. And, of course, you hear stories about how the expression "OK" was used a long time ago. Well, a long time ago, they didn't have computers and, you've probably guessed this, they didn't have any computer memory either - they had "0K" and everything was "OK".

Anyway, that's where "OK" comes from - you have no worries, you have no memory to think about, everything is "0K". Yeah, that's got to be right.