This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Posts here are rare these days. For current stuff, follow me on Mastodon



August 2005

Can’t Look Away

Aside for a few hours when Brandy (wisely) made me turn it off so I could get some work done for work that I needed to get done this weekend, I’ve pretty much been watching Hurricane Katrina coverage non stop for the last 19 hours. I can’t turn away. It is looking like this will be very bad. How bad all depends on if the surges are really high enough (as everyone seems to expect) that the levees in New Orleans fail. Although as the night progresses, they are speaking more and more about the effects in the whole region in addition to whatever happens to NO. And they are saying the way it is veering in these last couple of hours may be better for New Orleans, and worse for Mississippi and Alabama. And it has shown some slight weakening (but is still very very strong). We shall see I guess. In just a few hours.

I just finished what I needed to do for work. Well, I wanted to get even more done for work this weekend, but I made the mistake of actually relaxing for a few hours on Saturday. But I got the stuff done that I needed to. It is now just about 5 hours until the alarm starts going off for me to get up and go to work. Amy has the day off from school, so neither her or Brandy actually have to get up. I have to get up and do the work thing.

I am torn. I want to stay up all night watching more coverage, and then stay glued to the TV for however long it takes before the situation stabilizes. But on the other hand, I need to get at least a couple hours sleep before going to work.

And of course, it will kill me to leave the TV to go to work. But one does what one has to do.

In any case, best of luck to those about to be hit. I know what we went through last year here in Florida sucked, and this looks to be much worse unless it fizzles at literally the last hour. So… good luck. Especially to those who were stuck and could NOT evacuate for whatever reason…

One more note. If when you read this events are still ongoing, check out Brendan Loy’s Blog. I’ve been checking it a few times an hour for most of the evening, and he’s got some pretty good info and commentary on what is going on.

Cinema: March of the Penguins

imageLast Saturday afternoon, I printed out the showtimes for March of the Penguins and took them over to Brandy with a begging pouting face. I’d been talking about wanting to see it since I first saw the poster. It just sounded cute. And different. Brandy said OK. Amy was amd though, cause she wanted to go over to a friend’s house. A little later, clsoer to time to go, Brandy and I had a little brushup about the tadpoles. Then Amy got more mad about having to go and slammed doors and such. And I started saying I didn’t want to go if nobody else wanted to go. Then Brandy insisted that we were all going to go, and we would have fun damn it!

So, we all packed into the car, grumbling all the way. But by the time we got into the theater we mostly felt better (all of us) and then the penguins started being cute. And then that was that.

So yes, the penguins were cute. And there was drama and death and life and all that. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but then again, I didn’t know exactly what to expect other than a documentary about penguins. And it was that. And it was a good one. Lots of cute penguins. It didn’t blow me away. I wasn’t quite in the mood for that. But I did like it. Definately worth a viewing.

And in the end, depsite her protests… Amy liked it and thanked me for having us go. So good.

First Week

imageAs any of you who read the comments thread on my School Daze post know, in the end we did indeed decide that it would be best if Amy changed schools. Brandy spent a few hours online researching the West Melbourne School for Science and comparing it to where we were, Riviera Elementary School. No offense to Riviera intended at all, but once we did the research, there was no comparison. Amy started on Tuesday, and has now completed her first week. (Well, not full week, but first calendar week.) The picture shows her proudly showing off her school uniform the night before her first day. She LOVES the uniform and is very proud to be at West Melbourne. When she siad good bye to the kids at Riviera there were impressed sounding murmers through the room “Amy is going to West Melbourne!!!”. Apperantly West Melbourne has a reputation, and it is a good one.

As it turns out, is it not JUST a lottery to get into WWSS, it is a lottery amoung those applicants that qualify. So right there, you are already getting a situation where the average performance is higher (and according to the test scores and such we could find on line, MUCH higher…), so teachers and staff can concentrate on stimulating and enhancing the kids who “get it” rather than on discipline and catch up for the kids who do not. This isn’t to say that those kids don’t need that and should get that, but the kids in the other half need to be pushed forward rather than have to wait for the others…

Anyway… not only is there a bit more concentration on science… tehy have science labs and a biodome and more extensive science fairsa and compete in science competitions with other schools… but everything else is an upgrade too. The music program has an orchestra program that will allow Amy to play the instruments she already plays and takes lessons in, rather than forcing her to play “this grade’s instrument”. There is a chorus that takes itself seriously. Then there are clubs and such for a variety of interests that meet before and after school. The the after care program that goes until 6 PM for when Brandy and I are both working and can’t get her earlier… isn’t just an after care where they give them stuff to play with and keep them safe, but is actually an “educare” where they have structured activities that actually are still useful. (And of course they can work on homework.)

At Riviera we were a litte worried. She wasn’t liking the strict old fashioned behavioural model her teacher was enforcing. I figured she would get used to it, and a little extra discipline was not bad. But perhaps there was a bit TOO much emphasis on that at the expense of other things. She was making friends, but hadn’t really yet latched on to any group. And she said actually told us she was frustrated by one person at her table and how they, and I quote, “didn’t care much for their education”.

The contrast is evident. Now Amy has been coming home absolutely thrilled. She is very excited about school. She is being challenged by the homework, and LIKES IT. She likes her teachers. And she is horribly proud of her uniform. She says the uniforms “make everyone the same on the outside” and she likes that too. She is excited about several of the clubs and such. She joined the orchestra and chorus immediately, and on the first day the orchestra leader said she didn’t have to come to the extra practices they are having this month to get everybody up to speed to start, because she was already up to speed… but if she could come anyway to tutor and help out the two boys who are also playing the bass, that would be wonderful. So she is tutoring two boys on the bass, and again, she is thrilled.

We saw in the paper that some of this reshuffling is due to the fact that many of the county schools ended up with fewer children than they had expected. Many were dozens of kids short. Just fewer new people coming to the county than they thought. West Melbourne was THREE children short. Amy was one of those children they brought in because of that shortfall.

I can’t say at this point just how glad I am that they were three kids short, and our lottery number was such that we got in, and that we made the decision to switch. It has only been a week, but so far everything is looking really good, and there just seems to be so much more opportunity for growth here. This looks like it will be really good for Amy.

We have a parents open house on Monday evening. Brandy has gotten to go there and meet the teachers and such already. I haven’t yet because of work. I am very much looking forward to it…

The View Out the Back

This is the golf course in our back yard:

Neighbors scramble to save Palm Bay golf course
(Victor Thompson, Florida Today)

Retiree Charles Madge is on a mission to save Port Malabar Country Club’s 38-year-old golf course by any legal means possible. Just one problem: The course’s current owner, Palm Bay Greens, may want to build houses on it. Neighbors have spoken out against tentative plans to turn the private course into a residential development since Palm Bay Greens bought it for $3.8 million in June 2004.

They don’t do a very good job communicating when all these meetings are and such. I might have considered going. But I had no idea until I saw this article. Once the golf is gone, I probably would prefer a park to houses, but I’m not sure I’m going to go be an activist about it.

We of course were told that this was in the works before we bought the place, so it isn’t a surprise, but since moving in, this is probably only the second time I’ve seen something really talking about it. So I probably would have gone somewhere to find out more about what was going on. If only they’d left us a pamphlet or something.

Things I Haven’t Had Time to Talk About

Over the last week or so (maybe a bit more) I’ve kept a list on a piece of paper of things I wanted to blog about. Of course, I haven’t really had the time. Especially with me doing the blocking the web at work thing. And then when I get home there are almost aways other things going on. Either that, or I am sleepy and crash.

Anyway, rather than full posts on any of these, here are some quick notes on several topics:

  • In early July we went cash flow positive for the first time since buying the house and moving. (With the exception of a spike when I liquidated some stuff to pay taxes in April.) Now, the total net worth trend has been up since the taxes were paid. But a lot of that is in forms that aren’t easily usable (like retirement funds), and some of it will eventually go away (like withheld taxes). Here I’m talking JUST checking accounts (mine and Brandy’s). The month over month delta numbers on our combined checking balances finally moved into the green around the first week of July. I was very happy about that. Of course, for a variety of reasons, I expect we will dip slightly back into the red shortly, but hopefully that won’t be for long and we’ll soon be green for good… {If this had been a full post, I would have added graphs and stuff…}
  • At one point last week there were NINE baby frogs sitting on the egde of the tadpole tanks waiting to hop away. And we’ve seen bunches of new medium size frogs hopping around that probably came from our tanks. Yea! Bunch more tadpoles still in the tanks.
  • DirecTV slowly but surely pulling away from Tivo pisses me off. I’ll reserve full judgement until they release their HDTivo replacement thing later this year. If it blows the socks off the HD Tivo, well then… OK. I’ll reluctantly say goodbye to Tivo and go on to the new best thing. But… I love my Tivo damn it!
  • In the new Battlestar Galactica, a spaceship named the “Gideon” was the site of a massacre a couple of episodes ago. I congradulate this Gideon on his obviously mounting influence.
  • Speaking of BSG, I was shocked to see there were a bunch of online discussions a few weeks back on who was right, Adama or the President, when Adama jailed the President after they had a dispute, Adama would not do what the President wanted, and the President went around him to get it done anyway. Obviously this was a military coup and the President was in the right. Or at least I thought it was obvious. Lots of people seem to disagree though.
  • The people who are going to put the screen back on our pool will be here “any day now”. It was supposed to be mid week last week. Now it is maybe tomorrow, maybe early next week. We (well, mostly Brandy) spent a bunch of time and effort trimming back the bushes and plants around where they need to work, so they can do what they need to do. Time for them to show up.
  • I’d been delaying taking my car in to service for awhile (other things to spend cash on). A couple weeks ago it started making noises that made me think the wheel was about to come off. Actually, it didn’t start suddenly, but slowly built up, but only recently did it get so bad I was afraid for my life. So I took it in. Needed a new bearing and hub on one wheel, and new front breaks. About $600. Bleh. Done now. Car is much better.
  • I’ve been playing more games on ICC lately. I play maybe once a week. I was really excited a few days ago when I won my fourth game in a row. (I always play people within 10% on either side of my own rating.) But then I lost the fifth game. Oh well. Maybe I should post my games here? I am also in the middle of a game with Amy. She has improved a lot. She is holding her own with me in this game at the moment. (I think I’m like a pawn up, but I’m not crushing her.) I am very impressed.
  • In the last few weeks, I have gotten emails from people who live in both Lac Megantic, Canada and Orotukan, Russia. They both found my webpages about those locations and wanted to comment. The person from Lac Megantic said that I hadn’t visited long enough, and I should come back for a longer visit and I should be sure to visit a specific restaurant he recommended. The person from Orotukan mentioned that in my list of links about the place, I neglected the site that he manages… Which is of course in Russian, and I can’t read a single word.
  • Brandy’s dad has been in the hospital and has had a couple of surgerys to address some serious problems in his leg. He is doing much better now, and is in better spirits than he has been. But he is still in the hospital right now, and once released he will be in a rehabilitation program for quite a while probably. Here’s hoping for as quick a recovery as possible, and no more complications…
  • A few months ago they opened a Whataburger near where I work. I had never of heard of them before, or eaten there. To be honest, I was kind of scared. Earlier this week I went there at lunch and got take out. It wasn’t bad. I went again yesterday. I may add it to my rotation of Wendy’s and Burger King that I go through when I forget to bring lunch from home.
  • Kelly emailed me a little bit ago to let me know that my former employer in New Jersey now blocks this website as inappropriate for work viewing. “Clubs and Discussion Groups” category. Woo! I have been banned by a major financial institution! (Or, more likely, whatever blacklist provider they use.)

    OK, all that is more than enough for now. I have held back a couple of things which I still intend to make full posts on. Perhaps I will post about those things this weekend. Maybe.

  • Number 35 Baby!

    We’re in Palm Bay, Florida. One of the 53 housing markets in the country that are “extremely overvalued and vulnerable to price correction” according to this analysis. To be specific, we’re #35.

    High-priced housing faces risks
    (USA Today)

    Fifty-three metropolitan areas representing 31% of the total U.S. housing market are considered extremely overvalued and confront a high risk of future price corrections, a study conducted by National City Corp. says. The study determines a market extremely overvalued if prices are 30% above where the study estimates they should be based on historic price data, area income, mortgage rates and population density.

    Metro areas that are extremely overvalued and vulnerable to price correction:

    Rank Metro area Q1 valuation
    1 Santa Barbara, Calif. 69%
    2 Salinas, Calif. 67%
    3 Naples, Fla. 62%
    4 Riverside, Calif. 60%
    5 Merced, Calif. 59%
    35 Palm Bay, Fla. 38%

    (via Yahoo! News)

    Go us! Uh, well… how about go up a little bit more before the housing bubble bursts, so that when it goes down, it still stays more than what we bought it for. K? That’s all I ask…

    Peeking through the Blindfold

    I am easily distractable. I like to procrastinate. I save things to the last minute to do them, sometimes later. My efficency in a task is directly related to the time pressure to get it done, and the number of people I am doing it with. Put me in a room full of people with a whiteboard figuring out a problem or discussing something or whatnot and I’m in great shape. Put me in my office alone to write a document that is due in a week (as opposed to in a couple of hours) and I am in trouble.

    Even when I get started and into a groove, a few seconds of someone coming by and asking me something resets my internal clock. Before I start again I may walk around the office, get a coke, use the bathroom, walk around the office again, print out what I’m working on, walk to the printer to get it, walk back to my office, have to organize my desk, and well… umm… perhaps check a few websites. There is a list of them on the left of the front page of my site. Gotta check those. And there are a handful more I’ve started to look at which aren’t on that list yet. And then I do a little work, and then I have to check my email, both work and personla, and maybe answer one or two, and maybe listen to a podcast or two (in the background of course). And I’d mentioned that I want one of those Sling things so I can watch TV too… but mostly it is back to the websites to see if there is anything new.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, when I gotta get something done, I get something done. It’s not like I’m spending whole days doing nothing. Uh, well not usually. But I have been getting very frustrating knowing how much MORE I could get done if I could just not be quite as distracted. I’ve been looking into other things too, but early last week I decided on Step #1….

    I told all my web browsers to use a proxy to get to the internet except for certain sites. And I pointed them at a non-existant proxy. So except for the specific domain names I allowed, there would be no web surfing. I only put in a handful of domains directly relevant to work. No web surfing, no access to personal email, no blog posting… no nuttin.

    There was an immediate drastic effect. The first few hours were painful, as by reflex I kept trying to look at things which were now blocked. But then it had the desired effect, I filled that time by actually doing stuff. Useful stuff. The amount of time per workday “wasted” dropped percipitously. I was getting some things done that I’d meant to for awhile but had never gotten to. And other things I was just getting done faster. This was awesome!

    Then the cracks started coming… first, with all the proxies on, a couple of konfabulator widgets I have set up to show the local radar and stuff (lots of thunderstorms and shuch here in florida) didn’t work right, cause they used the proxy too. And I couldn’t get at the podcasts, and surely it was OK to listen to something with headphones while doing other things, right?

    So, while leaving the Firefox settings the same, I changed the IE settings (which the other things were queing off of) to not use the proxy trick, but rather to use parental controls set for the most restrictive setting, and excpetions put in for the sites I needed. OK. Now I could have my widgets and my podcasts, but everything else was still blocked.

    Uh, sorta. This went a couple more days. But then one day at lunch I felt temptation. In IE with parental controls, if you try to get to a site you aren’t supposed to, you are given the opportunity to override the parental control with a password. And it was lunchtime, so hey, I did… I refrained from using the “this site is OK forever” option, but rather the “just this time”. I had to put the password in every single time I clicked on anything else. It was a major pain. But I did it. And I kept doing it after the appropriate amount of time for lunch had finished. I tried to refrain, but now the temptation was there again.

    Then the parental controls started interfering with some tests and demos of the product my company makes (even when I told the parental controls the URLs in question were OK), and to keep the stupid password thing from coming up all the time, I had to turn off the parental controls too. Firefox was still all locked down, but now IE was wide open again. I normally use Firefox except when I have to use IE, but…

    That was yesterday that I turned off the IE protections. Today I once again feel like I have had the distraction jar wide open and calling me. I’ve resisted, I’ve done the time critical things I needed to do so far today, but… once again at the longer term things with softer deadlines the distractions have been killing me.

    And here I am, I finished a late lunch a little bit ago (Wendy’s this time), but before I go back to “work” I am posting something on my blog. Tisk Tisk Tisk. Bad Sam. Go sit in the corner!

    After I finish posting this, I am going to try again. Forget the weather widgets and podcasts. They are also just unneccessary distractions (although less so than actual websites). I’m going back to the fake proxy mode of blocking myself from surfing. All non-work related spots on the internet… blocked. And then I’ll start working on this information gathering project for work that I’ve been meaning to do for a little while but that isn’t explictly due any particular time, but would be very useful in a variety of things.

    And I’ll once again restrict any pleasure surfing, or personal email looking or answering, or podcast listening, or blog posting, to those few hours a week at home when I get a chance to actually sit at the computer and do that sort of thing.

    So, bye for the moment… the blindfold is going back on… NOW!

    (We’ll see how long this lasts before I realize I can go back into the preferences and hit one check box and…)

    School Daze

    Oh yes, Amy got home safe and sound Sunday night after a week at Grandma’s house. She had a great time and wanted to stay longer, but it was time for school to start on Monday. Apperatnly she did pretty well on the plane flights, but at least one person at baggage claim said he was glad the flight was only 2 hours, cause she didn’t stop talking the entire flight. Yup, that would be Amy. (He did say it with a smile though.)

    And yes, 5th Grade for Amy started on Monday. New school, since we moved from where we were last year. All new kids too, none of them went to the same summer camp. So between all new kids, and this being the first year where they change classes during the day, and of course the work being ramped up a notch as the grade level goes up… definately a week of adjustments. It seems Amy likes 5th grade, and is starting to make some friends. Isn’t too fond of the teacher though, but it has only been a week, so we’ll see how that evolves.

    Meanwhile, TODAY, one week after school starts, Brandy gets a call that says that Amy has gotten a spot at the county’s Science oriented school if we want it. WTF? Well, we put in the application at the end of the last school year. The three county schools that specialize in subjects (I think it was one science, one art and one languages or some such) are NOT the kind you get into by merit. It is a lottery amoung those who apply to be considered. (Past students get in automatically.) And it frankly isn’t entirely clear what they do different other than “concentrating” a bit more on the subject at hand. The lottery drawing was way back in May or something. We heard nothing, so assumed we didn’t win the lottery. There was a place you could mail a SASE to in order to find out what number you got, but we didn’t bother. Just made plans to go to the normal neighborhood school for our new neighborhood.

    Well, appearantly, after the first week of school, some people who did win the lottery just didn’t show up or something and so they started going down the next numbers, and we came up. And they want her to start Monday if we still want to go.

    Now, little problem here… OK, if we had gotten in at the beginning, or even if they had told us a few weeks ago, we could make an informed decision and then go one place or the other. As it is, we’ve never had a chance to check out the science school (excet driving by, and from the outside it doesn’t look as nice as where she is going, although there is the whole book and cover thing). Plus, we’re already putting Amy in a brand new school, that she is just starting to get acustomed to…

    Should we rip her out after only a week and put her yet another new place? I want us to be able to make an informed decision, and of course Amy’s own opinion would be a huge part of that, but I just don’t feel there is enough info. So I am frustrated. Brandy is less so, but still annoyed at the timing of this. Maybe if we’d been able to get a tour of the Science school last year (we missed the scheduled one) or if we had known earlier or have longer to decide… but… right now I think all three of us are leaning against. And the two of them are leaning even harder than I am, so the decision is probably already made. But just to talk it out…

    I know from personal experience having gone to 7 different schools between 5th and 9th grade that changing schools really sucks. And I’m not talking about the kind of changing schools where all of your friends are also changing schools because that they change buildings between one grade and another in your district, I’m talking about the changing schools and having all new people. 5th grade was one school in Durham, NC. 6th grade I went to two schools in Indianapolis, IN and one in Washington, DC. 7th grade was back in Durham, but a new school with new people. 8th grade was Frederick, MD. Then 9th grade was actually in the same building as 8th grade, but because of screwed up school zones, it was all new people. It sucked. I didn’t realize at the time how much it sucked, but in later years I realized that all that moving had indeed taken a toll.

    Anyway, so far Amy had one school in PA through Grade 3. Then a second school in Melbourne, FL for Grade 4. Now a new school in Palm Bay, FL for Grade 5. Do we really want to make it a 4th school in 3 years? If the school Amy started in this week was really horrible and we knew the Science school was unquestionably awesome and an opportunity not to be missed, then maybe it would make sense. But I’m not sure that is the situation.

    They are supposed to call us back over the weekend, and probably want a decision, since if we don’t take this spot, they will give it to someone else. I want to ask to go see the school, or at least go get more info and that kind of stuff. But that may or may not be possible.

    I’m a little peeved at how this whole way of picking people for this school works. If we had gotten this choice before school actually started, it would have been a whole different decision process. The Science school is further away and would be a little less convienient dropping off and picking up, but I’m guessing we might well have gone for it. Cause Amy does like her math and science (although not quite as much as music, but the Arts school is a 45 minute drive away, so we didn’t apply). And at some level I’ve got to think that a school that specializes will be better than the “normal” school, even if they do not pick their students by merit. (By the way, Amy scored in mid 90’s percentile wise for both Math and Reading on last year’s standardized tests.) But as it is…

    Bleh. Thanks Brevard county for making this difficult…

    DVD: Sleepy Hollow

    imageLast weekend we took advantage of Amy being away to watch a movie that one of us had picked. Sleepy Hollow was actually from my Netflix list, although I have no memory of how it got there, or why. It doesn’t seem like a movie I would normally pick. Most likely somebody told me I would like it or something.

    Anyway, I did like the visual stype and everything. I like Tim Burton’s stuff on those lines. And this was not an exception. I can’t say I was overly impressed with the rest though. And I know it wasn’t supposed to track the old short story, but to me I think it lost one critical element. Namely that you never knew if what was happening was real, or just in Ichabod’s head, or perhaps was other people in the town playing tricks. That ambiguity was part of what made the story the story. In this, not only is Ichabod a detective rather than a schoolteacher (OK, whatever) but that uncertainty is completely tossed aside. It is clear by fairly early in the movie which of those is going on. They don’t even really encouage any doubt past a certain point. And it wasn’t the one of the three options I would have picked, or which I think would have been the most interesting. And that just bothered me.

    But I did like the visual style and stuff.

    Time to Fly

    imageSunday morning we took Amy to the airport. She was flying by herself for the first time. To go visit Brandy’s mom for a week or so… along with all her old Pennsylvania friends. Brandy (and to a lesser extent me) were all nervous about the flying “unaccompanied minor” thing and all that. And sending her off by herself. (Under airline supervision of course.) And Brandy was completely getting hit by the fact that she had never in Amy’s almost 10 years been away from her for a whole week.

    Of course, Amy was having none of this. As the time got closer and closer, she got more and more excited. We had to wait forever in line to get all our stuff in order. The online kiosks were not working properly. We couldn’t have used them anyway since Brandy had to fill out the unaccompanied minor form and get us our “parent passes” to get to the gate even though we were not flying anywhere. But because of whatever problems they were having it took us more than an hour to get set. Luckily security was a breeze this time.

    We got to the gate just as they were starting to board. The people said they had been looking for Amy and had called for her on the speakers. (They board unaccompanied minors at the beginning of course.) As Brandy was teling Amy to be good and to behave and to do what they told her and call as soon as she got off the plane in Philly… the croud around laughed somewhat… and Amy was like “of course mom, don’t be silly, of course…” and then they said “OK Miss Amy, time to board” and Amy was off like a dart, ready to run onto the plane. (The picture is just seconds before she dashed onto the plane…) She only just barely remembered to turn and wave goodbye to us. And then she was off. Bouncing into the walkway full of energy and excitement. I pity whoever ended up sitting next to her!

    Anyway, the flight was uneventful and Grandma picked her up on the other end. They are now a third of the way though the visit or so, and by all accounts having a great time.

    Brandy is working on fixing up Amy’s room with new paint and a new arrangement and everything while Amy was gone. This was planned for a long time, but recently it wasn’t clear if we’d be able to. We’ve scaled down the plans a bit, but the basics are still happening. Paint and all. And a few other things. So shh… don’t tell Amy!