Archives: December 2005

Fri 30 Dec 2005

Rapping Amy


Oh, perhaps that would be "wrapping". Same thing though, no?

So, a couple days before XMas, I take Amy to the mall to get a few things for Brandy. After we are mostly done shopping, Amy sees the charity gift wrapping booth. She gets a couple things wrapped, but then asks me "Can I ask them if I can help?" I am dubious and say I think you have to sign up for that in advance. But she is persistant. Eventually I say she can of course ask, just be prepared for them to say no. A few seconds later she comes running up top me "They want to know how long I can stay!" I say we could probably manage at least an hour. She runs back and tells them, then she is back to where I am jumping up and down saying "THEY SAID YES!!!".

Amy then proceeded to spend the NEXT FOUR HOURS wrapping gifts at the mall charity gift wrap counter. Until the mall closed. I stayed for the first half of that or so, then switched off with Brandy who watched her for the rest of the time.

The whole time she was increadibly serious and professional and very intent on doing a good job and being helpful to the customers... not a bit of squirming or playing or getting off task. Just four hours of wrapping.

And then she was BEGGING to come back the next day to do more.

Yup, that's Amy for ya.

Abulsme - Fri, 30 Dec 2005, 15:02:33 PST
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It was just pointed out to me a little bit ago (I did not remember on my own) that today was an anniversary day. I tried to check the exact one year date and time, what with the whole year is 365.242198781 days, not what the calendar actually says thing, but there was the little problem that neither Brandy nor I remember the exact time of the event. But just guessing, it still puts the anniversary today. Most likely sometime in the next hour or so. So I shall post...

It has been exactly one year since we closed on the house here in Palm Bay.

The picture above is from the golf course out back. Note the screen is finally on the house. Woo!

Anyway we still love the house, but it has not been trouble free. With the unmet expectations at work finances were always tighter than what we expected. The screen destroyed by the hurricanes in 2004 was finally fully replaced just last month (and the contractors did not do a perfect job). We have fought with roofers over a persistant leak on the flat roof over the lanai. And because the screen wasn't up we didn't use the pool as much as we thought. Oh, and just today after struggling with various people to get the pool heater up and running for Cynthia's visit we were informed that the propane tanks and lines and maybe the heater itself needs to be replaced. (Serves us right for not even looking at the heater until a couple weeks ago.) Anyway, all that fun sort of house owner stuff. So, we're ready to move on and find something nice, albeit a bit smaller and with no pool no doubt, in Seattle.

Which brings us to... what was the one significant thing I did today, on this one year anniversary? I talked to the relocation coordinator that has been assigned to me to help get this place sold. Just the preliminaries. We'll have a real meeting with him Monday.

Perfect timing, eh? :-)

Abulsme - Fri, 30 Dec 2005, 14:12:46 PST
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Wed 28 Dec 2005

Book: The Gentle Giants of Ganymede

imageAuthor: James P. Hogan
Started: 14 Dec 2005
Finished: 26 Dec 2005
246p / 13d
19 p/d

So from pop Physics to an old school 1978 era hard scifi paperback. This kind of story really excited me as a teenager. There is practically no plot. Here, let me give it a shot:

  • Scientists investigate old alien wreck
  • The aliens show up unexpectidly
  • People make friends with the aliens
  • The aliens visit Earth and like it
  • The aliens decide to leave again
Yup, that's it. The whole plot. Now, that is not all there is to the book, it just isn't a plot driven book. It is pretty much all about exploring an idea and some scientific "what ifs". Over the course of the book the author goes into more detail and reveals more of the puzzle as his characters go through the investigative process. But mostly we have exposition. I kept seeing the big flashing "exposition" sign as I went through the book. Whole discussions that you would read but think, these characters would not actually discuss this in this way, they are reviewing facts both would know. This conversation is for the reader's benefit only.

But that's OK. This is a sequel to Inherit the Stars. And then there are three more in the series after these two, the most recent of which was published just this year. I'd read the first three as a teenager. Haven't ever read the last two. Together they tell the story of scientists uncovering the past history of the solar system. The biggest surprise being the true origins of humanity and how they interacted with a race called the Minervans in pre-historic times. Then it explores some of the impacts of what happens when the two species meet again. At least that's where it is as of the first two books.

It didn't capture me quite so much as when I was young, but the whole construction of the scenerios and the slow unwrapping of what happened still facinates. As I said, it isn't about the plot, it certainly isn't about the characters, both of those are just the bare minimum needed to support a construction that will allow the exploration of a few scientific ideas. "What would an intelligent species act like if it evolved a non-predator species". "What would the process be to unravel information about a past society if we found just a few remnants". Etc. You don't really need the story part, but it makes it a little more "fun" than if it had just been written as an academic paper. But yet, it is that academic speculation that is the core and what makes it fun and worth reading.

Abulsme - Wed, 28 Dec 2005, 12:50:42 PST
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Mon 26 Dec 2005

Treos Actually STILL Swim... Sorta

I've been meaning to write an update on this almost since my post back a little over a month ago. As you all may remember, I dropped my Treo in a bucket of dirty mop water. It stayed there for a good half hour before it was rescued. I was convinced it was dead.

Well, in fact, about a week of drying later, I put the battery in, and while a little wet, it worked!!! I was shocked, but yes, it was a fully functioning Treo!

Uh, well, mostly. Every once in awhile it just resets randomly. At first it wasn't that often, but now it seems to be happening pretty frequently. I may have to use the insurance I have on the thing, pay the deductable, and just get a new one. But I'm not giving up on it quite yet!

I just got a bluetooth headset for it for XMas, and a few days earlier I'd finally gotten MobiTV up and running and working on it. And after having not had it set up for a bit, I put SnapperMail back on it and am getting my personal email on it again. So it deserves a shot darn it! I can live with the occational random reset! :-)

Seriously though, I imagine I'll have to do the replacement thing sooner rather than later and be on to yet another Treo. This one has managed to live through a lot though, what with me dropping it in the pool once and in mop water a second time. It is remarkable it works as well as it does!

Abulsme - Mon, 26 Dec 2005, 20:28:37 PST
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DVD: Fantastic Four

imageSo one of Amy's presents from Santa was the Fantastic Four DVD. She watched it during the day, then insisted that we all watch it in the evening. I was slightly curious about it when it was in the theater. Superhero movies are often fun. Usually mindless, but fun. But I was nowhere near curious enough to actually go to the movies. And I probably would not have gone out of my way for the DVD either. But if Amy puts it on and asks me to watch, OK.

And yup, it was a cute little movie. No plausibility whatsoever of course, and big plot holes, but if you ignored all that... Oh, and the fact that Sue Storm was not convincing in the slightest as an actual smart person... well, then it was just fine. And I never followed the comic, so was not worried about the changes from the original story. So I just had fun. You got the origin. You got some "oh my, how do we deal with these new powers". You got Ben being all sad. And then you got the big battle thing at the end. Pretty much all that was advertised. If you don't expect any more than that, then tis a good thing.

Abulsme - Mon, 26 Dec 2005, 08:49:21 PST
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Sun 25 Dec 2005

Pile O Presents


Abulsme - Sun, 25 Dec 2005, 15:03:45 PST
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Fri 23 Dec 2005

Belated Wilma Pic


A couple of people asked about this picture, so even though it has been more than awhile since Hurricane Wilma passed us by, I figured I'd post it. Here is me making a lap of our pool in near tropical storm force winds while various tree branches were flying around. Just minutes after this picture was taken a big branch snapped off one of our trees and flung itself into the pool. If I'd been standing there when it did, it definately would have hurt quite a bit. While I was doing this, Brandy was yelling at me to come back in side. I wonder why? The winds were barely even tropical storm force at the time! Geeze!

Abulsme - Fri, 23 Dec 2005, 21:36:50 PST
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Wed 21 Dec 2005

A Little Bragging


I've been meaning to do this for a long time, but other things came up and I didn't get to it. Just want to do a little of the "our girl is so great" thing for a moment.

First lets start with the stuff at the school. Way back a month or so after Amy started at the new school Amy was having a few adjustment issues to the new place, and we were having problems with one of the teachers in particular. In the end we got most of the things worked out, but one of the results is that they wanted to do some tests on Amy cause she wasn't doing as good in school as expected. We were trying to explain the reasons why, but they were not listening.

Anyway, in November the test results came back. They did not find any of the learning disabilities or problems they were looking for and thinking might be the issue. Instead, they found what we knew... a Mensa level IQ and indications that the problem was simply that she was bored and not being challenged enough. So, a couple more follow up tests later, she got admitted into what they call "GSP" which is the special class for gifted kids. She started the next week.

And she has of course been absoutely thriving. It is only one day a week, but the change was immediately noticible. She is excited about it and engaged, and it carries over to all her other schoolwork too. She does her homework on her own in aftercare before she even gets home rather than it being a fight in the evenings to get it done. Etc. In addition to what actually happens in the class there is also just the effect of knowing she is in that group. It makes a big difference.

Although we did not get to do so literally, we at least figuratively got to shove the GSP thing in the face of the teacher who said "You think she is smart? We can't see that. She needs to PROVE IT." OK. Here ya go. Take her out of your class once a week and put her into a class that actually knows how to deal with smart kids and challenge them and interest them, and see what happens...

Anyway, we were proud of Amy for doing the battery of tests and coming out on top, and even prouder at how she has been doing since she started the new classes.

And in addition, the music continues to go well. She's been preforming with the Brevard Children's Chorus. And continuing taking lessons on her double bass, as well as piano lessions and guitar lessons. She's all about the music. She got to solo on the bass in her school orchestra's performance a couple weeks ago. All in all, doing very well with all three.

Anyway, she has been doing great.

Now, if we can just get her to clean her room...

Abulsme - Wed, 21 Dec 2005, 08:37:36 PST
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The Success of the Butter

I have been negligent in not posting this earlier, but I had a backlog of my own stuff I wanted to get to to post. (I still have a few things in that list I haven't gotten to...) But now that I am enjoying my break between jobs I have a little time here and there.

Anyway, I just wanted to officially congradulate my friend Rebecca on her continued rise to stardom in the poetry world. The latest is the news below, now several weeks old:

My News
(Reb Livingston, Cackling Jackal)

I found out that my poem "That's Not Butter" originally published in MiPO's Gabe Gudding issue was selected by Billy Collins to appear in Best American Poetry 2006.
This in addition to what seems like other good news of poeting success every few weeks from that quarter. Congratulations Rebecca! And Happy Rebeccamas!

Abulsme - Wed, 21 Dec 2005, 07:10:13 PST
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Mon 19 Dec 2005

The New Thing


So... what is this new thing to which I am going? Many of you who I speak to regularly by email or by phone already know at least some of it, but I'll post some more here.

I don't yet have a good sense of just how sensitive the new place is to employees mentioning them or talking about them or anything else on blogs and such. I know some companies are relaitively open to such things, others absolutely forbid it, and most are in between. Untill I hear any otherwise though, I'll stick to the policy I have generally had since this website existed, which is to not mention my employers by name and not to ever discuss any specifics of what goes on at work. Generally, not to talk much about work at all, and when I do do so to be very high level and vague.

So anyway, where am I going? Well, without mentioning their name, think ecommerce, think books (and other things), think Seattle. Oh, and I tend to link to them every time I read a book. There, just about anybody should be able to figure that out.

So, what will I be doing? Well, I don't know all the details and specifics myself yet, so no danger of saying things I should not. But I'll be working managing projects related to data mining, and extracting useful (and profitable) information from the huge amounts of data collected by the company every day. In addition to managing existing projects, I'll be expected to help come up with ideas for new projects and new ways of collecting data and extracting useful information from it. That will be the really fun part.

In the all day interview with a variety of people I will be working with I just got a sense of excitement over the kinds of things I would be working on. It will take some of the product and project management I've done over the last few years, merge it with some of the web stuff I did before that, and then throw in a healthy dose of logic, mathematics, algorithms and analysis that I love, and have dabbled with occationally for fun, but haven't gotten to do for "real" since college. I am hoping that this will be a real blast. Fun projects to work on, surrounded by smart people, the right resources and support to get things done, real ownership of projects, etc.

And yes, the job is in Seattle. This will be yet another big huge change. And yet another move.

A couple years ago I figured just how often I've moved in my live. This only counting the "full" moves where I take all my stuff and move it somewhere new, not the many back and forths between parents and such when they lived close enough that I did things like alternate weeks as a child and such.

Lets see:

Madison, WI => Durham, NC => Tanzania => Mozambique => Durham, NC => Indianapolis, IN => Washington, DC => Durham, NC => Frederick, MD => Pittsburgh, PA => Washington, DC => Alexandria, VA => Plainsboro, NJ => Yardley, PA => Melbourne, FL => Palm Bay, FL => Seattle, WA (or nearby suburb)

By the time we actually get fully to the Seattle area I'll be only a few months from 35, so lets just call it 35. 16 moves in 35 years. That is moving about every 26 months. If you only count moves since I graduated college it becomes 7 moves in 13 years. Which is moving every 22 months or so. That is a lot of moves! Sigh! I had really hoped that I'd be in Palm Bay for many years. But given the situation at my previous employer that just was not feasible. And this opportunity would most likely have been worth a move even if the current position had been going well and I had been happy.

So, how are we doing this?

We could have opted for a "quick move" getting out of here instantly (or close thereto), then trying to sell the house remotely. Two problems with that.

First, there is some fixing up we want to do on the house as we put it on the market. Just a little additional work, things which we had intended to do all along but will now accellerate, will most likely raise the selling price by considerably more than they cost to do.

But second and more importantly, having myself changed schools in the middle of a school year, I know that is not fun. Plus if we moved right NOW, chances are we would not start out in the same school district we will end up in, and that would be yet another school change for Amy. She's already been in one school for 3rd grade, another for 4th, and two different schools for 5th. Hopefully for 6th we'll be able to put her somewhere that will let her stay with the same group of kids for longer than a year.

So in order to accomidate both of the above items...

Looks like we're going to become a long distance family for a little while. I'll be heading to Seattle on the weekend of Janusary 7th and 8th. I will start on the 9th. Brandy and Amy will stay home. Amy will finish 5th grade. Brandy will get all the things that need to be taken care of on the hose taken care of. There will be some sort of temporary housing for me from the company for a few weeks, but after that I'll probably get a studio apartment or some such on a 6 month lease if I can find such a thing. The goal will to be to move into something perminant (or at least semi-perminant... good for a couple years at least) once Amy's school year is over and the whole family moves.

In the mean time, I'll get back on weekends when I can. It probably will not be every weekend. The first month I might not get back at all. This will really be difficult. The whole long distance thing is not fun. These few months will probably seem to be much longer. Tons of phone calls, emails, IMs and those visits as often as possible to be sure, but it is not the same as coming home and being together every evening.

But we know it is needed, and know that in the long run it is for the best.

Anyway, there is definate apprehension about the transition period... that will be hard... and the fact that when we do move, we will definately be moving into something smaller.

However, the new position is very exciting and seems like a great opportunity. It certainly beats any option that existed here in Florida... by quite a large margin. I am very excited about it and while those two thing may be difficult in the short run, in the long run almost everything should be better at the new position and the new location.

So... Seattle here I come!

Abulsme - Mon, 19 Dec 2005, 16:48:02 PST
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Book: The Theory of Almost Everything

imageAuthor: Robert Oerter
Started: 4 Dec 2005
Finished: 14 Dec 2005
327p / 11d
30 p/d

When I left the Jefferson Davis book in a hotel and hadn't yet replaced it, Brandy bought me this so I would have a book on my next plane flight. It was a very kind gesture. Of course, being all the way I am and stuff, I refused to start the book, because I had started the other book, and I had to finish that one before I could start another one, and then of course there would have to be a fiction book in between because I alternate fiction and non-fiction and such. I was of course being a little bit of a nut. But in the end I did indeed get a new copy of the Davis book, read that, then Harry Potter. But I promised Brandy that this book would be next rather than waiting for all the other books in line.

Anyway... When Brandy first handed it to me I figured it would be your standard sort of pop-physics book where you had an overview of 20th century physics, and the bulk of the book would talk about some of the hot new cutting edge theories currently grabbing people's imaginations. But that wasn't what this book was about. It turned the normal form of these books upside down. Rather than the review of the old stuff and concentration on the new stuff, this was the reverse. Just a little of the new stuff at the end, but most of the book was a detailed review of the "Standard Model", which is basically the unified theory of all of physics... except gravity... and except a few things it can't explain yet which are where the newer theories come from.

This was an interesting take on things. Although of course it meant that almost all of what was there was stuff I had seen before, either in other similar books, or when I was actually studying physics in college. Of course, most of that has faded completely out of memory, so it was a good refresher. It reminded me just how ugly the standard model is though. It may well be the best explaination we have of all sorts of things, but it is ugly. Too many pieces, too many arbitrary factors. (18 I believe it is.) It just isn't pretty. Which is of course one of the reasons the search for "more fundamental" theories continues.

Also, given that I was a physics major, there is one similar frustration I almost always feel with these sorts of pop-physics books. There is a pattern they seem to all share:

* In the beginning of the book, when they are speaking about the oldest physics, the physics that has been around the longest and is closest to what someone who hasn't read about this kind of stuff before it does pretty good. Explains everything in lay terms and I feel OK with that, and it works for me.

* In the middle of the book, as they get into more advanced stuff, I start getting frustrated by the lack of math. I know, I know, it is a book for the general public, not for ex-physics majors, but I start getting really frustrated by the lack of the details. In many places where the author is jumping through hoops trying to explain things without being matehmatical or technical I start screaming out for the math, wanting to see THAT because to fully get it you need both the "engligh" stuff as analogy, but then you need the math to see and understand what is really happening. The english gets the general point across, but I always find myself wanting more...

* Then in the ends of these kinds of books, they move from going over things in all sorts of detail (although in English, not in Math) to suddenly soaring higher and higher and higher. Concepts which could be entire books go by in mere pages. Once again the lack of math hurts. But it is also just that there is a suden shift into higher and higher gears. Lots of times on the basics, then less and less time on the more advanced concepts. Shouldn't it be the reverse?

But again, I think all three points are necessary common elements of pop-physics books for non-experts. You wrtie differently if you are giving a general overview for the non physics public than you do if you are writing a textbook... and lets say it was a textbook. They have that whole issue of needing to already know the prerequisites. One can't just pick up a textbook on modern particle physics theories without having made sure you are completely familiar with quite a lot of subjects... that would take a few years of physics undergrad (at least) to get fully up to speed with.

So, I understand why it is the way it is. But being an ex-physics guy it still frustrates. I miss the physics, I miss the math. This kind of thing gives me a taste of what I've been missing and makes me want more. Of course, I know if I *did* go out and get an advanced level textbook I'd be lost right away. I had four years of physics undergrad, but at this point it was many years ago. I'd practically have to start at the beginnning to refresh my memory. I'm sure it would come back quickly, but I certainly couldn't start with Lagrangians and Hamiltonians and General Relativity... I'd have a LOT of review to do!

Oh well! For now it will have the be the occational pop-physics book. :-) And this one did just fine.

Abulsme - Mon, 19 Dec 2005, 05:28:09 PST
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Sat 17 Dec 2005

And Then It Was Done

So, I gave my notice Thursday. Three weeks worth, although the last few days of it were scheduled to be vacation anyway. Friday they let me know that they would prefer I be done and just leave.

And so I did.

So I am done. I have to still submit my last expense report from my last trip, return my company laptop, that sort of thing. That will be taken care of very soon. But I am done with the work thing, and now I have essentially three weeks of vacation prior to starting the next job.

I am expecting of course to still be paid for that time since I gave the notice and have not been told otherwise. But given history, I am arranging my plans in such a way that I am not counting on it. The time between now and my first paycheck in the new place will be potentially very tight. And I'm saying that in the context of the entire last year having been very tight. But I think we can swing it one way or another.

Having said that, the extra unexpected free time is very very welcome. There are a lot of things around home and around my computer that I am very very far behind on because of how schedules have been this last year. Maybe I'll be able to catch up on some of that.

Amy will be home from school too of course. So maybe we'll finish that game of chess we started several months ago or something.

Abulsme - Sat, 17 Dec 2005, 17:27:42 PST
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DVD: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 2nd Season: Disk 2

imageHaving finished off Disk 1 on a plane, I started Disk 2. It took a couple plane flights to finish off the whole disk. But it was worth it.

You see, for some reason I had in my head that I'd seen every Buffy episode, or at least almost every Buffy episode. But as I worked my way through this disk, I found that I apperantly had a significant hole in my Buffy watching. There were four episodes on this disk, and I could not remember having seen ANY of them!!!

Reptile Boy: Buffy goes to a frat party with a big snake. Not super exciting, but a few good lines, and I was just happy because I hadn't seen it before!

Halloween: Everybody turns into their costomes. This was a lot of fun. And finially I know where Xander gets the soldier stuff from! And a hint of Gile's dark side!

Lie to Me: They get better and better. Theres a whole cult of vampire wannabes. One of them a friend of Buffy's. And there are lies.

The Dark Age: Giles's past. The kind of stuff I love. Backstory kinds of things.

All in all, these four episodes got better and better as far as I was concerned, and I had never seen any of them! That was a very pleasant surprise!

Abulsme - Sat, 17 Dec 2005, 07:11:27 PST
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Thu 15 Dec 2005

Goodbye Haunted Hunted Happy Thing


This face has greeted me on the way to my desk for 21 months. It will only do so for a couple more weeks. Thursday I officially submitted my resignation from the place where I have been working since before I moved to Florida. The place for which I moved to Florida. The place which never lived up to expectations, but at which the first year was still OK. The place where most of the second year was a steady decent into a worse and worse place, punctuated by only occational moments of satisfaction.

I will resist the very strong temptation to go into extreme detail on all the reasons why this engagement has not worked out for me and the difficulties I have had with this company. Suffice it to say that, at least in my perception (I am sure they would describe it differently) there was never any serious attempt to use me in the way which matched the job description I signed on for (in fact the company was simply not in a position where it could effectively utilize such a role), and instead as time progressed I was given tasks further and further away from my core skills and interests, to the point that in the last few months it was made clear that my function was to be primarily SALES, that I would be "graded" only on new revenue generated for the firm and that part of my salary would be converted to being based on commission. Needless to say, I had absolutely no interest in any of this. Add this to a series of of other things I won't go into in public, and it was absolutely clear that a change was needed.

I started looking in a non-serious sort of way all the way back in April. Brandy thought I should have been serious about it way back then, and she was right. But I wanted to give it another shot, and a few changes going on at work gave me some false hope. But by September, it was no longer possible for even I to deny that the situation was hopeless. I began searching seriously. It quickly became apperant that local options were not viable. The most serious inquiry I had was an unsolicited inquiry from out of state. I hadn't been looking outside the Florida area, I wanted somewhere I could commute to from our current home, but they called me. After some discussion, I decided to not exclude the option and I went through the whole process with them. Once I interviewed in person with them, I decided I might as well look nationwide at other companies as well. I started sending out resumes to places I had not considered previously.

By the last couple of weeks I had two good offers from two major companies. I turned one down, I said yes to the other, and I resigned from my current position.

It is about time. Some of my coworkers are great. I truly will miss working with them. But for the most part I have been unhappy there for around 9 months, doing what I needed to do, but getting no joy out of it. I am very glad to be moving on. The new position has me very excited.

More about "what is next" in a later post. Not sure when I'll get to it, but soon.

Abulsme - Thu, 15 Dec 2005, 20:27:58 PST
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DVD: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 2nd Season: Disk 1

imageI started this DVD like 8 times. Then I'd forget where I was and start over. So I think I've seen "When She Was Bad" the first episode on this disk just way too many times. Actually, I think that is true of all four on this disk. That would be "When She Was Bad", "Some Assembly Required", "School Hard" and "Inca Mummy Girl".

The latest time through was when I was making some recent plane flights back and forth to Seattle a few weeks back. I started out watching another DVD I had with me... The Last Temptation of Christ... which was on my NetFlix list because many years ago somebody once mentioned that I should see it. So I started watching it. Just a few minutes in they are nailing some guy to a cross. (Not the main character, that comes later I guess.) And it is all bloody and violent and stuff. At that point I realized there were two under 10 types in the seats next to me looking over and wondering what I was watching. So I stopped and put in Buffy.

Over the course of a couple of flights I finished off the disk. School Hard is one of those episodes that survives multiple reviewings. What with the Spike and all. When She Was Bad is OK too. Inca Mummy Girl starts wearing thin after being watched a few times. And I dreaded watching Some Assembly Required for the umpteenth time. But I did, because I had to watcht he whole disk in order, and remember I had done so for it to count!

And so I did.

Abulsme - Thu, 15 Dec 2005, 19:58:26 PST
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Three in One Shot!

Monday afternoon I suddenly started having worse and worse pain in my abdomen. I tried to convince myself it was probably something I ate, and that's what I said when I wrote the rushed note saying I had to go home sick from work, but I had a strong suspicion as to what it really was. Yup, for those of you who have been reading this blog for more than just a few months, you'll know. It had all the classic kidney stone features.

I drove home as fast as I could, with it getting worse by the second. About a mile from home there was a sudden very sharp pain, then it got a bit better, but still hurt a lot. As soon as I got home I took a pain pill and lay down. When that kicked in about an hour later, I felt much better.

Except for the massive cold/flu that had been threatening me for over a week but choose this moment to suddenly flare up to full intensity as well.

So, while doing bits of work from home both Tuesday and Wednesday, for the most part I was in pain, drugged up and on top of it a massive cold. It was fun and exciting.

But Wednesday morning my suspicions were confirmed and indeed... three kidney stones.

Since that moment the pain and such has gotten much better. (Usually takes a couple days to fully recover.)

Even the cold is on the upswing. I'd say I'm back up to about 80% capacity.

Oh, and there are no pictures this time because Brandy tends to complain when I post the pictures of these things, even though I think it is quite interesting. :-)

Abulsme - Thu, 15 Dec 2005, 12:57:55 PST
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Wed 14 Dec 2005

Book: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

imageAuthor: J. K. Rowling
Started: 22 Nov 2005
Finished: 4 Dec 2005
870p / 13d
67 p/d

I started reading Book 5 a couple of weeks before we got to see the movie of Book 4. By the time we got out of the movie I only had 150 pages left or some such. So, silly me, what did I do? I stayed up all night finishing it. Only had about an hours sleep before I had to get up to go to work. But you get to that sort of point in that kind of book, and you just can't stop, it would be wrong!

Anyway, I can't actually remember the last Harry Potter book before this (as mentioned when I talked about its movie) but I enjoyed this one. You can tell by my average rate of 67 pages a day. That is a lot for me! That is partially because it is the kind of book that makes you want to pick it up and read it rather than watching some TV or doing something else. And of course it is partially because it is relatively lareg print at probably a 5th grade reading level or so. Not all that many dense hard to understand sentences that you have to go back and read several times to get the point. Like the Jefferson Davis book. :-)

Anyway, if you like any of the HP books, you will of course like this one. They get a bit darker and more serious as they go on, and the transition as the kids get older seems to be done pretty well.

Well, I have to run to lunch. Meeting Brandy and joining Amy for lunch at the school. But not eating the school lunches ourselves. That would be crazy!

Abulsme - Wed, 14 Dec 2005, 06:44:58 PST
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Mon 12 Dec 2005

Ch Ch Ch Changes...

A big decision was reached today. It will be a few days probably before I can really say anything publicly here on this blog. But the decision has been made. And I am quite happy about it. If you want to know prior to me officially posting here, call or email me privately. I'll be happy to share.

Abulsme - Mon, 12 Dec 2005, 14:50:27 PST
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Sat 10 Dec 2005

Cinema: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

imageWe waited a couple weeks after it came out for various reasons, but last weekend we managed to get it in before I had to leave town again for work. This is of course the latest Harry Potter movie. Big hit. Everybody knows about it I would imagine. Checking my records I read the book from 25 Feb 2001 to 14 Mar 2001. So I remembered parts of it, but really not all that much. At least not coming in. Walking into the theater if someone had asked me about the plot, I probably could have remembered close to zero. I did remember bits as the movie progressed, but not enough that I was comparing it to the book in my head or anything.

Anyway, I definately walked out of this one thinking it was the best fo the four so far. A little less "kiddie". Had some humor, but a lot of stuff going on as well. And it was fun and kept my attention. It had the usual sort of Harry Potter thing where everything gets wrapped up right at the end and tied up in a bow, but that is just what these are. And that is OK.

Harry does look more and more like Frodo as he ages though.

Oh, and it kinda annoys me that his scar isn't a little more visible.

But other than that... excellent Harry Potter movie.

Abulsme - Sat, 10 Dec 2005, 16:27:45 PST
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Wed 07 Dec 2005

Darkflash: All Or Nothing At All

image I was reminded a bit ago about this incident from the days before I had a blog. And I thought it might be worthy of a darkflash. If any of you remember other amusing emails I sent out years ago, suggest them. Perhaps I will put them in a Darkflash too.

In any case, the following is an email I sent out to some of my friends on 2 Mar 2002 at 20:20:33 UTC. Enjoy. And keep in mind: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!! (I certainly never will again!)

OK, it took me a lot longer than I had planned because I took a couple detours.

But a few seconds ago I hit the following reading on my scale:

3/2/2002 17:43 GMT -- Weight 170.0 (BMI 24.4) -- % Body Fat 22.2%

This means on BMI I am down 10.5 pounds (1.5 BMI points) , or 5.8% from my worst of the year.

(On %BF I am down 2.3 points, or a 9.2% improvement from my worst of the year.)

In any case, the specifics don’t matter. What matters is that I had promised that when I hit 170.0 I would eat an entire package of Oreo Double Stuffs and report on what happened. I bought the pack of Oreo Double Stuffs over a month ago and have kept it unopened. I have also been keeping stocked on milk (whole milk of course, I don’t like the watered down kind) waiting for this moment. I’ve had to throw away 2 gallons of milk as they went bad before they were needed, but I have a fresh gallon waiting. (Almost, I actually opened the gallon and made some hot cocoa a couple times, so I have a little less than a gallon.)

Anyway, here are the stats. The package of Double Stuffs has 15 ounces of cookies, or 425 g. That is 0.93 pounds of cookies. So just under a pound. I will also count how many cups of milk I drink. I will be using a measuring cup to determine how much milk I drink with the cookies.

I will give nutritional stats on what I eat (both milk and cookies) when I am done.

Anyway, here goes:

Before: 3/2/2002 17:43 GMT -- 170 lb (24.4 BMI) -- 22.2% BF

Time to eat the cookies...

OK... I have now eaten half the pack of Oreo Double Stuffs... (that’s 15 cookies) and have drunk 3 cups (0.7 liters) of whole milk.

I am definitely starting to feel a bit sick. And it is harder to eat these. But I must finish of course! So here I go for the second half...

I have now eaten 21 cookies... And drunk 4 cups of milk. Each cookie now is a major effort, and I’m having to wait several minutes between each cookie, and am definitely getting queasy. I only have 9 cookies left to go. I know I can do it. I just have to take my time. And use my willpower. This is rather crazy, but hey, a promise is a promise...

OK... 22 cookies... And another half cup of milk. I am missing my haircut appointment. I’m also feeling pretty sick now. That last cookie was really difficult. So I am going to lie down a few minutes before I regroup and attack the last 8 cookies...

OK, took about a 15-20 minute break, time to try again... Did 3 more cookies... Time for an other pause. 5 more cookies to go, but I need to wait a few minutes...

Did one, waited five more minutes... Four to go... I’m now on my 7th cup of milk... Lets see if I can crunch through these last 4...

I did 2... One more five minute break, then I’ll finish up... I’m feeling less sick going slowly.

OK... Here goes... The last push... OK, one more cookie down...

One to go... Ahh!!!

Done!!! 30 Oreo Double Stuff Cookies, and 8 cups of whole milk (that is 1.9 liters).

Here is the before reading again:

Before: 3/2/2002 17:43 GMT — 170.0 lb (24.4 BMI) -- 22.2% BF

OK, time for the after reading:

After: 3/2/2002 19:56 GMT — 175.0 lb (25.1 BMI) -- 25.2% BF

OK, this means that in one “meal” I ate 0.9 pounds of cookies, and drank 4.1 pounds of milk. My weight and BMI increased by 3.5% in one meal, and my %BF increased by 13.5%. Ouch! I also note that at 25.2% BF, this completely wipes out all gains I’ve made for the entire year, and for that matter sets a new “worst” for the year on Percent Body Fat. My previous worst %BF was 25.0% which I last hit on January 13th.

OK, adding up both the 30 cookies and the 1.9 liters of whole milk, here are my nutrition stats for this “meal”:

First of all, including time to write the intro on this email and my pauses, this “meal” took me 2 hours and 13 minutes. That is one cookie every 4 minutes and 26 seconds, and one cup of milk every 16 minutes and 38 seconds. I went much faster for the first half of the cookies, but then I had to slow down.

Calories: 3300
Calories from Fat: 1460
Total Fat: 169 grams (251% of recommended daily amount)
Saturated Fat: 62.5 grams (320% of recommended daily amount)
Cholesterol: 280 milligrams (96% of RDA)
Sodium: 3170 milligrams (130% RDA)
Total Carb.: 388 grams (137% RDA)
Fiber: 15 grams (45% RDA)
Sugar: 283 grams
Protein: 79 grams
Vitamin A: 48% RDA
Vitamin C: 48% RDA
Iron: 90% RDA
Vitamin D: 208% RDA

OK. That’s it for now. I missed my haircut, I will have to call and reschedule. But I think I will reschedule for next weekend rather than trying to go in later today or tomorrow. I don’t feel as sick any more, but I am now very tired and wiped out. I need to just relax, watch TV, and sleep.

I’ve eaten enough for a couple days. We’ll see how long it takes me to drop the five pounds from the cookies and milk. I may try to just fast until I get back to 170.0, but if I get really hungry I’ll probably snack. If I just fast it off I should be back to 170.0 by Monday. We’ll see.

OK, I am going to go lie down. I need to lie down.

Later all.

Abulsme - Wed, 7 Dec 2005, 21:06:32 PST
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DVD: Robots

imageGoing back a bit again, over the Thanksgiving weekend Amy picked a second movie for us to watch. Robots. I'd thought it looked cute when it was in the theater, but we never got the chance. So we watched it. And I was right. It was cute. A few crude jokes I could do without, but for the most part it was a fun little movie. I am remembering not enough of it right now, but it was fun. See, I really have to get better at writing these up right after I see the movies rather than weeks later. My memory is really bad and fades quickly. Right now I am in an airport waiting for a flight and a few feet away from me is a guy asleep on one of the seats snoring loudly.

Oh, the movie? Lets see. Little robot goes to the city to make it big. Gets disillusioned. Then when all seems lost things get better. See, typical robot movie. :-) There was one part that when I saw it I thought to myself, "I must remember to mention that when I write this up!"

But of course I do not remember what that was.

Abulsme - Wed, 7 Dec 2005, 20:52:18 PST
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Lightning in a Bottle

A couple weeks ago Chad suddenly sent an email asking "Sam, what has your cousin Jake been up to lately- making WPT final tables by chance?" and enclosed a link with the picture here and some interesting quotes:

Would a Legend Win the Legends of Poker
(BJ Nemeth,

Day Four: The Final Table
The final six players who would play for more than a million dollars the next day in front of the WPT cameras were:
1. Todd Phillips $1,900,000 Seat 2
2. Alex Kahaner $1,855,000 Seat 6
3. Kenna James $1,540,000 Seat 1
4. Jake Minter $1,525,000 Seat 3
5. Tim Phan $1,085,000 Seat 5
6. Kevin O’Donnell $500,000 Seat 4


The blinds skyrocketed to $100,000-$200,000 ($20,000 ante) after the break, costing the players an average of $120,000 per hand. Here were the chip counts at the break:
1. Kenna James $3,680,000
2. Alex Kahaner $3,380,000
3. Jake Minter $1,320,000

Rather than going on tilt, James increased his chip lead after the break, coming back to again hold more than half of the chips in play ($5,200,000).

In hand No. 112, Kahaner raised to $500,000 from the button, Minter moved all in with A-5, and Kahaner immediately called with A-9. Minter was dominated, never improved, and was eliminated in third place, earning $333,600.
(via Chad Hunter)

Indeed, looking at the picture I did immediately know that the Jake Minter in the article was indeed my cousin, although I had not heard this news through the family grape vine. Yup, this was Jake Lightning Minter, the very same cousin who had given me my stuffed bear "Red Bear" when I was a newborn and he was six months old. Yup. That one.

Anyway, congrats to Jake and continued good luck on such endeavours!! Next time let me know when you'll be on TV and I'll be sure to Tivo it! :-)

Abulsme - Wed, 7 Dec 2005, 20:15:21 PST
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Fri 02 Dec 2005

DVD: Who Framed Roger Rabbit

imageOver thanksgiving break we watched an Amy chosen DVD for the first time in many months. Her Netflix movie at the time was Roger Rabbit. She had already watched it, but she really wanted us to watch with her. So we did. I missed a few seconds here and there, and we had an interruption during the final credits, so I almost considered not counting it, but in the end rationality prevaled. I did watch the movie. It does count.

I hadn't seen Roger Rabbit since I saw it in the theater I don't think. I'd seen parts of it, but never sat down and watched the whole thing. Given that the last DVD I watched before this was Fantasia, it was a lot of fun seeing "half the cast of Fantasia" near the beginning. And there were some other bits I didn't remember from the first time around.

I remember really liking it when it first came out. NOw I just sort of thought it was OK. I think Roger himself is annoying. The part that was the most fun for me was actually just all the cameos of the Disney and WB cartoons. That was fun.

Anyway, twas an OK movie choice and a good way to spend an evening.


Abulsme - Fri, 2 Dec 2005, 14:50:39 PST
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Wed 30 Nov 2005

Goodbye Nala

Sometime Sunday night, Nala died after several months of illness. He'd been getting progressively thinner, less active, and more dried out. We were able to slow things down and give him a little bit longer by changing the kind of light he had and doing a lot more misting and a lot of extra hydration. It helped some, but not enough. Poor guy. He was with us a decent length of time for an anole though, especially since we have no way of knowing how old he was when we got him. He was a present from Amy to me two Christmases ago. He's followed me through three houses! A lot of the symptoms looked like they may very well have just been old age.

He just got thinner and thinner and ate less and less and slowed down more and more. Over the last two months we came home at least three or four times and thought he was no longer with us, but then when we reached in to check he would look at us and blink, and decide that he wasn't quite gone yet. This time it was clear over the weekend that he was in his last hours. But he still managed to go from one side of the terrarium near the water dish over to the other side and up into his favorite fake plant.

He died in his favorite fake plastic plant that night and I buried him, along with the plant, in the back yard.

He was a cute little guy.

Goodbye Nala.

Abulsme - Wed, 30 Nov 2005, 17:17:49 PST
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