Archives: January 2006

Tue 31 Jan 2006

Breathing Money

Today I got paid for the first time by my new employer. They pay monthly (like my employer two employers ago) rather than every two weeks (like my previous employer). Given the transition time, that meant more than a month since the last full paycheck. Plus Brandy was not ever able to go back to work after New Year's because her back just would not allow it. So she was not getting paid either.

(Had I not mentioned that? We had tentitively planned on her quitting in February to concentrate on getting the house ready for sale anyway, but when it got to the point where she had missed three weeks of work and there was no end in sight as she still couldn't be up for more than an hour or two at a shot, she went ahead and told them she was not coming back... at this point, more than a month after her back got aggrivated, she is once again mostly functional, but still not to the point where she could do 8 hours a day at a desk job.)

Anyway, this last month was pretty tight because of the paycheck gap. But more so, the last two years were almost always tight because first in 2004 there was the one month gap between jobs that time around, then there were extensive moving expenses that were paid out of pocket and only later reimbursed, then there was savings for the down payment on the house, then there were moving in expenses at the new house (and many other things needed at the new house like washing machines and furniture and such) and then that is about when (cough) issues started happening with the inflows of cash being significantly less than had been planned on, and then there was a huge tax payment (because I had underwithheld in 2004) and then there were (cough) even more issues with getting even less cash inflow (significantly less once again) than expected... etc. So really, things have been in one way or another, to one degree or another, "tight" since about February 2004. I of course blame this 95% or more on what I was coughing about above. We were budgeted (primarily meaning our choice of which house to buy) in a way that was fine for what was promised, but which was barely sustainable with what was actually delivered, which was very significantly less.

As of this morning for the first time in essentially two years, I feel like I can breathe some... We can't go crazy. We'll be paying both rent and utilities for me in Washington, and mortgage and utilities for Brandy and Amy in Florida for the next five to six months. So expenses for the short term will be much higher than what will eventually be "normal". But there is enough to deal with that and with a few things (like a new computer) that have been delayed for years now.

We'll still have to plan and be careful (not TOO many large discretionary purchases... me ordering the new computer to replace my five year old G4 Powerbook will probably the only one short term) but for the first time in it seems like ages, we won't be worrying about the small purchases, and if we can even afford to order a pizza without putting us at risk of not making the mortgage. Or having to go to the coin star to make sure there was enough to pay for food for the week. Or having to get loans from family or friends to pay for needed household maintenance that could not be put off. It hasn't been exactly THAT tight the entire time, but it definately was more than a few times.

It is good... VERY good... to be able to breathe a bit again.

Abulsme - Tue, 31 Jan 2006, 10:29:40 PST
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Mon 30 Jan 2006

Depressing Weekend

Saturday I went out and looked at a few apartments. None really grabbed my interest and I started getting upset about the housing situation again. Bleh. Main decision out of Saturday was to not think AT ALL about possibilites of where all three of us will stay once Brandy and Amy join me in the summer, but JUST about a place for me for the next few months. Cause my standards are a lot lower for that. I don't need something that great for just a few months. And we can worry about the other later. Oh well. Sending out a whole bunch more availability inquiries off today. I need to make a decision in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday was worse though. I'm do not believe I have mentioned this on the blog before, but we found out in November that Princely, the dog Brandy got before she got Amy, has terminal bone cancer. Most likely with just a few months left. There really were no viable treatment options especially given that Princely was already 11 years old (which for a 100+ pound dog of his breed is a good life). All we could do was give him pain killers and such and keep him as happy and comfortable as possible for as long as possible. He has still been in good spirits and happy. With a limp, not able to walk as far without getting tired, but dealing with it and generally still seeming like he was enjoying life. Gradually getting worse, but still getting along and seeming happy. This weekend though he took a serious turn for the worse. Time is running out. The "few months" back in November are now almost up. Looks like I will be flying home this weekend to be with Brandy and Amy... and Princely... to cut things short before he is really suffering. If it looks necessary, I will fly home before the weekend.

Like I said, depressing weekend.

Abulsme - Mon, 30 Jan 2006, 09:10:35 PST
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Wed 25 Jan 2006

Amy's Field Trip and Stuff

This field trip was almost a year ago, but Amy just got around to posting some pictures and her captions a few weeks ago. Then she threw in some random pictures from more recently as well. It's posted at my .Mac site since that was easiest for her to do quickly. In any case, here it is.



Abulsme - Wed, 25 Jan 2006, 21:23:31 PST
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Riding Cross Country


On January 10th my car left Palm Bay. Yesterday I got a call that it had arrived here (a few days later than originally scheduled.) Tomorrow they will deliver it. I'm sure it had a fun time riding across the country. It would have been fun to go with it, but that was not in the cards this time.

It will be good to see the Saturn again. Of course my GPS and XM Radio are still back in Florida.

But it will still be good to be in the Saturn again. :-)

Abulsme - Wed, 25 Jan 2006, 19:39:41 PST
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Treo Number Seven... Or Two

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six....

Treo number six (the first 650 rather than 600) jumped in the pool then recovered then jumped in a bucket of mop water, then mostly recovered.

But it was indeed a "mostly recovered" it would periodically reset itself randomly. And that seemed to be getting more and more frequent, and sometimes it would just lock up completely and need to have the battery taken out and put back in to go again. With all the resetting every few minutes it was draining battery very quickly and I was missing calls. This is all probably because when I let it dry after the mop, I only let it dry a few days, rather than a couple weeks like after the pool incident. All the instructions about drying phones that get wet say you really do have to allow a couple of weeks to get everything completely dry (especially when you can't completely disassemble it). When I turned it back on there was still visible water in the screen. Oops.

Anyway, I lived with that for almost two months, but this is why I now have the cheap insurance that Sprint offers with their phones for a few bucks a month on your monthly bill. Eventually (about a week and a half ago) I decided that enough was enough, and it was time. A single phone call and a $50 deductible later and a new (refurbished) Treo 650 was on the way. Over the weekend when I was back in Florida I switched over. So I am now on Treo Number Seven.

By the time this one is, um, done, maybe the Treo 700p will be out. (I have no interest in the Treo 700w). We shall see. I shall try to avoid pools and buckets of mop water for the moment.

Abulsme - Wed, 25 Jan 2006, 08:56:35 PST
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Tue 24 Jan 2006

Cinema: Hoodwinked

imageWhen I was back in Florida this weekend one of the items on the agenda was a movie. Frankly, all three of us were too tired for much else. I had not slept on the red eye on the way to Florida. Amy had been bad and stayed awake too. And Brandy had only managed a few hours of sleep herself. We didn't know what was on, just headed to the theater and saw what was on. Two other prospects were not starting for more than 90 minutes. Hoodwinked was starting in about 40 minutes. So Hoodwinked it was.

When it started my first frustration was that there was a spot in the middle of ths screen that was a little out of focus. Not so bad that it was impossible to watch, but enough so that you (or at least I) constantly noticed and was distracted by it. I yelled (well, muttered under my breath) "FOCUS!" a few times, but it stayed messed up.

Then the movie started. After about the first 20 minutes I was thinking "ARGH! This is horrible! I wish I could drive a spike through my head!". It seemed like every joke was falling completely flat. The animation was not impressive. The plot seemed to not be going anywhere. Etc.

But then, luckily, it started picking up. Basically the transition came after Red stopped telling her tale and it moved on to the wolf. Then it started getting better. I started laughing at some of the jokes. I started being more interested in what was happening. By the end of the movie I had switched my opionion to it having been a strange little movie, but amusing and fun. So I'm glad I went. But oh my did it start slow!

Abulsme - Tue, 24 Jan 2006, 07:06:11 PST
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Fri 20 Jan 2006

Goodbye Nacho

One more post for today though. Yesterday (Friday) just as I was getting up, Brandy called me to let me know that Nacho had died overnight. Narcho was a very old budgie. When I first got her she was already a number of years old and had a big fatty tumor. She refused to eat when I first got her she spent two of her first three weeks with me at the vet. But then she got better, and she did well. I'm not even 100% sure when it was that I got her, but I suspect that the year started with a 1 instead of a 2. OK, I just looked it up...

It was June 1998. I still had Moira and it was right after Kiwi died. Nacho had been a breeder bird and was already a grandmother and several years old, but after three clutches had decided she didn't like boy birds any more and would peck them when they came in her cage, so the breeder didn't want her any more, so I took her. When Nacho was so unhealthy her first month or so with me, I honestly did not expect her to live very long. Instead, she got better, lost a huge amount of weight (she was a really fat bird when I first got her) and not only continued to live for another seven and a half years, but outlived Moira and Pinky and Brain who at one point or another all shared a cage with her. (And she outlived Kiwi too, but Nacho never met Kiwi.)

She was a grumpy little bird and didn't like human attention. But she and her cage mates got along well. As she got older, her current cage mates (Cheese and Skittles) would sometimes help feed her or preen her. They took good care of her in her old age.

She was a good bird. Goodbye Nacho. :-(

Abulsme - Fri, 20 Jan 2006, 17:43:08 PST
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I was going to post a quick picture of my office from my cellphone, but then I saw this and had to post it instead:

The ahhhhhh page

This page plots the number of results obtained from google for words of the form a{n}h{m}. For example aaahh would be represented by 3,2 and is found on the grid below at 3 down and 2 across. Hover over the square to see the number of google results, you can also click to see the results in google for yourself. The actual numbers that you will see will vary from what I found over time.

The results are coloured based on the log of the value. Cells that are bright red have more than 8000 google results.

There are a vast number of different variations of this word on the net. Even though I have examined so far up to ah(50,50), I have not reached the region where zero hits are common. In fact in the whole 50x50 grid there are only 16 zeros. Update: I've extended it to 60x60 now and at last there are places where there are several zeros together. Still there's seven results at ah(60,60).
(via Digg)

That is just awesome. It reminded me someone of one of the old Abulsme charts I used to have up on my wall in college which is now in a box in many pieces after it got wet, dried, and started to crumble. I really do have to get some of those charts from back then online sometime. Or new versions thereof that are even better. Yeah, that's it.

In any case, this post will make 10 days in a row of posts. Which is better than I have done in a long time. I figure I should savor that, as I will probably miss tomorrow (Sunday) as I will be back in Florida for a quick visit and will be spending as much time as possible with Brandy and Amy, and as little as possible online. But we shall see.

Abulsme - Fri, 20 Jan 2006, 17:30:23 PST
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Thu 19 Jan 2006

Stacking Pots


The last Friday before I left Florida I spent all day at Amy's school volunteering. My main accomplishments were picking up all the broken sharts of pots in their BioDome which had fallen when the shelves fell over. (The kids had put nothing on the bottom shelves and all the heavy pots on the top shelves, and the shelves were barely strong enough to hold the pots anyway.) After picking up the broken ones, I attached five of the shelf units together for added strengh (although in my opinion still not enough) and reorganized all the non broken pots onto the shelves with the weight in a better distribution.

After that I weeded their experimental marshland. Well, I cut a bunch of plants down with a kitchen knife. I'm sure they have grown back by now.

And then I went to the library and hung snowflakes and shelved books.

It was an exciting day.

But I liked the result of the reinforcing the shelves and restacking the pots.

Abulsme - Thu, 19 Jan 2006, 18:11:30 PST
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Wed 18 Jan 2006

Book: The Fabulous Riverboat

imageAuthor: Phillip Jose Farmer
Started: 11 Jan 2006
Finished: 16 Jan 2006
234p / 6d
39 p/d

I averaged 39 pages a day over 6 days, but the reality is that almost all of that was the first day while I was on the plane from Seattle to Florida. Then I read just a little a day until I finished it up.

This is the second of PJF's Riverworld series. I am not home and can't look up and find my records for when I last read the first one, but judging from when I bought this one, it was in 2002. So a few years ago. And of course I had read it before then many years earlier. The first one had Sir Richard Francis Burton as the main character. This one has Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) as the main character. The premise of this whole story is that everyone who ever lived on Earth from Pre history to about 2050 (minus children who died before age 5) are resurrected on this "Riverworld" which was obviously artificially set up and planned by SOMEBODY. The books are mainly the story of how society reevolves in this Riverworld, and the quest of a small group of people (many of them well known people from history) to find out who created this world and why.

It is a fun series of books. In 2003 the Sci-Fi channel did a made for TV movie very loosely based on the series. I think I watched it. But I have absolutely no memory of it what so ever. It must have really sucked and I wiped it from my memory. Ah yes, in the reviews on Netflix there are some gem comments like " This was perhaps the saddest excuse for entertainment I have ever seen. I was embarassed watching it, and even more embarassed that I finished it. I want to apologize to the human race for having disgraced it by watching this movie." Oh well, I put it on my Netflix list anyway.

But back to the book. It is fun to watch the various historical characters interact. There is a bit less of that and the clash between people from different places and times as there were in the first one, although there is still a lot. Mainly Sam Clemens and King John in this book. But there are a few other real historical figures. Just a fun what if. Nothing deep. The entirety of the plot of this book is about Sam trying to build a big riverboat to travel to the headwaters of the river where he thinks the mystery of the planet and the resurrection will be solved.

Pretty lightweight read. Good for the plane. In another few year's maybe I"ll read the 3rd book in the series. :-)

Abulsme - Wed, 18 Jan 2006, 21:45:38 PST
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Week One

Almost to the minute it is one week since I first walked in the door as an employee here. I won't do the day by day thing again like I did over the weekend, cause I'm at work and have things to do damn it! But did just want to say it has been a good week. I am still 99% in learning mode rather than doing mode, but I am starting (starting I say) to get a grasp of all the various things going ont hat I need to know about. And it is fun. I look forward to many of the meetings because in them we get to start talking about algorithms and how things work and fit together. Some of it is still beyond what I am absorbing yet, but other parts I get right away and start having opinions on. Still other things lead me to want to do more research to make sure I understand exactly what is going on. So, for instance, I just ordered a Textbook on Machine Learning. This is going to be fun.

Speaking of which, today they have a series of speakers in all day long on various technology topics. I'm going to try to attend several of them, and the first one starts in about 10 minutes, so I think I'll grab some coffee and head there.

Then tomorrow I have my first meeting with people where I'm expected to actually be doing something rather than soaking up information. Gulp! Here we go...

Abulsme - Wed, 18 Jan 2006, 09:16:21 PST
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Mon 16 Jan 2006

Book: Hope is Not a Strategy

imageAuthor: Rick Page
Started: 26 Dec 2005
Finished: 11 Jan 2006
178p / 17d
10 p/d

Soon after my ex-employer (who I will not name) first told me that they wanted me to start playing an increasingly sales oriented role, my boss gave me this to read. I put it on the pile to read, but did not rush to it. They kept saying how important this book was in terms of the approaches it advocated and such. I just kept thinking that if they were so hot on a book called "Hope is Not a Strategy" why did they run the company in a way that seemed like hope was the ONLY strategy. Everything seemed predicated on making wild promises to get business and then crossing your fingers and hoping that somehow all the pieces would come together in time if everyone just pushed hard enough.

But anyway, a little after I had given my notice and I was done with them, I actually got to the book. And it really does have a lot to say that do make sense when doing sales into a complex sales process. Now, I tend to be uncomfortable with sales in general. I'm much more comfortable with a retail model than a model that actually requires sales people. But if you are in a mold that requires that, and where the people doing the buying have a complex process and things are decided in the ways that often go with that, OK, this has some strategies. Do I have any idea if they are optimal or not? No idea. And thank goodness I'm not being asked to think about that sort of thing any more, so I really just don't have to care.

Not much else to say about this book except this:

After reading it I note that my ex-employers while taking lessons from many chapters of the book, have apperantly been practicing selective reading. There are a few important passages in the book that they seem to have neglected:

Page 14: "The ethical premise of competitive selling is first, your solution is genuinely good for the client's organization, and second, your tactics remain morally, legally, and ethically sound. If the former is not true, you should get out of the account. If the latter is not true, you should get out of the business."

Page 15: "A short-term oriented, predatory sales force can actually be a long-term sales prevention force. Unless you exceed expectations of most clients and delight a few, you will not build a foundation of customer loyalty."

Page 154: "Every satisfied client is a neutron that can bang into another marketing molecule releasing enormous energy and enthusiasm for you and your company. Of course, if your clients are unhappy with the results of what they bought, then the nuclear metaphor becomes one of toxic pollution and fallout as one bad reference cancels out half a dozen good ones."

Page 167: "Failure to exceed expectations will mean that in the long run, you are actually performing a sales prevention activity and inoculating the account from further business with you."

But then again, I really didn't need a book to tell me any of that.

Abulsme - Mon, 16 Jan 2006, 21:54:33 PST
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Sun 15 Jan 2006

The How's It Goin' Post

I've been trying to catch up with some old posts in order, but I figured it would be a good time for a "how is it going so far" type post. So here goes.

Lets see... Lets do this as a "day by day" since the day I left. (All UTC days of course... so the boundary between the days I describe here is at 7 PM Eastern / 4 PM Pacific.)

Tuesday: Had the final evening in Florida, then got everything together just in time for Brandy to get me to the airport. Had a layover in Atlanta, then was on the way to Seattle. The day ended while I was in the air.

Wednesday: I got into Seattle uneventfully, then went to get my rental car. The only car they had left was a (to me) HUGE Ford F-150 pick up truck. I was extremely uncomfortable driving it. But I did manage to get to the temporary housing. Only to discover that I had neglected to read the part where it said that the place I needed to pick up the keys was somewhere completely different. So I got Brandy on the phone, who looked up directions, and helped guide me to the right place. But there were narrow streets and really steep streets and I was not happy driving the big truck. When we did find the place, there was no parking in front. I had to lap the place several times before I could park. I finally parked, then got out of the truck... well, fell out of the truck is a better description... it is much higher than the vehicles I am used to... and I picked a bad time to fall. I fell out of the truck, got myself upright, then a fraction of a second later saw a bus pass 3 inches from my face at 30+ miles an hour.... only luck kept me from stumbling a few inches further into the street... that would not have been good. At this point I was pretty unhappy with the whole Seattle thing. But I went in, got my keys, then got back to the place I'd been staying... only to find out that the remote they had given me for the garage did not work. I spent some time trying in different ways, and checking other enterances just to make sure I had the right garage entrance. I called the night number for the place and the answering service called the on call people, and they promised they would fix the remote the next day, but there wasn't anything they could do right then. So I ended up parking in a parking garage a block or so away. I went in, I went to sleep, I got up in the morning and headed to work. It took me a little to find the right place to park once I was at the building, so I was a couple minutes late, but nothing anybody cared about. I got my ID. I got my laptop. I was shown to my new office. My actual boss was at MacWorld, so I didn't see him. And he was the one with my initial passwords. So while I had computers, I couldn't actually get onto anything. It took about half the day to clear that up (while I read some things that were printed out for me) but eventually it got fixed. And then Wednesday was over.

Thursday: After a bit longer, I headed back home. On the drive home I kept thinking that one comment Chris had made before I came out definately resonated. Seattle reminds me of Pittsburgh. At least the down town part does. Anyway... The apartment people had said they would leave me a fixed remote. Instead was a note saying that changin the batteries had not worked and they would have to order me a new one, which would take several days. So I parked in the parking garage again. I fell asleep pretty quickly after getting home, even though it was pretty early. I got to work in the morning a bit earlier, and had some breakfast at the cafeteria. I had a bunch of stuff to read and get familiar with, and an actual meeting in the afternoon, although it was a training sort of meeting, not a "real" meeting. And then the day was over.

Friday: I left work a little bit early to go drive and look at a couple of apartments I had looked up online during the day. I'm in temporary housing right now, but the goal is to get into something as quickly as possible that is "medium term"... something to last me the 5 to six months until Brandy and Amy join me. One had actually sent me an email in response to an online inquiry. I'd left a voice mail in return, but hadn't heard back. I drove to look at it. It was an apartment tower type. The outside looked nice enough, but the leasing office had a sign that they were not available. So after taking a couple laps to give them a chance to come back (they did not) I then drove to try to find a second one. I kinda got lost, but after a stop at a convieniance store and a grocery store to get a few staples for the apartment I am temporarily in, I found the second place. It did not impress me. I started to realize that since the list of apartments I was looking at were all in order of how close they were to my employer they all had one thing in common... they were city apartments. I decided I would need to check out suburban apartments too before too long. Then I headed to the temporary apartment. First thing, check the remote. It worked!!!! So I got back into the truck, went around, got into the garage... only to find out that that the continuing problems I'd been having with the truck were magnified a dozen fold in this small cramped garage with thin parking spaces and narrow lanes... I found my assigned spot and quickly determined that my odds of managing to get the truck into the spot without damaging anything were very slim, and if I did manage to get the truck in the spot, the only way I would ever get it back out again would be if every other car in the garage left first... so I managed to get myself back out of that garage, and parked once again in the pay garage I'd parked in for the previous two nights. (That garage was also a bit tight as far as I was concerned, but a lot better than the one for my apartment!) OK, so maybe someone who owned one of these huge pick up trucks would be fine with all this, but I've driven a Saturn for more than 10 years, and intend my next car to be SMALLER, not LARGER, so... anyway, I headed back to the apartment, went to sleep, and headed to work again in the morning. This day my boss was actually there, and I'd also lined up a couple meetings for myself by then, and was generating questions from what I had been reading. So the day was much busier than the first two. Three good meetings. The second of which actually involved EQUATIONS. You can't imagine how thrilled I was! All in all, I am very thrilled by work. It started out a little slow, just a lot of reading and such, but with every meeting I have and every new document I read, I find myself increasingly interested and eager to get fully into things. I see that there is a LOT to learn and a lot to get up to speed in, and much of it will exersize parts of my brain that haven't seen much action since I left college. Some of the things I will need to understand and be able to work on intelligantly will actually be challenges that I will have to wrap my brain around, not just trivial stuff I can figure out in my sleep. The jobs I've been at for the last many years have had lots of politics and people interactions to figure out, and that has of course been challenging in its own way, but this job will have INTELLECTUAL challenges... and that is a whole different animal. I am thrilled and very happy. I have a stong suspicion though that things will speed up rapidly though, and in a few weeks I may have to call uncle for a little bit! Things start as a trickle, but soon it will be a firehose. I'm looking forward to the ride.

Saturday: The day started with a staff meeting. They are normally on Monday's, but this was at this time because the boss had been out. After the staff meeting, I made a very important phone call. And then I followed it up by a trip to the airport. I had told the rental car company to get me the hell out of this huge truck and get me into the smallest car they had. I got some kind of Hyundai. I was thrilled. When I left the airport I actually felt like I could drive normally and not worry about the fact that I was in some huge tank that filled five lanes and that I had no idea where the corners of were. It had been a wonder that no major disasters happened while I was in that truck. (The close call with the bus was not the only near accident!) I was very happy. I got back to the apartment, opened the garage door, and swooped into my spot. Well, not quite swooped... the spaces were still a little tight even in a small car, but it wasn't a big deal to get in. So I watched some TV and went to sleep. And I slept late. It was a good long sleep. Well... none of the sleeps have actually been that good. This is a two bedroom apartment with two queen sized beds, but I haven't tried either of them, cause there is no TV in either bedroom. The TV is in the living room, so I've been sleeping on the couch (and sometimes the floor). Brandy suggested that perhaps I could sleep without a TV on in the room, but that there is crazy talk. Once I was up in the morning, I drove out to find another apartment. Another city one, and once again it did not impress me. But I did not stay long, I headed home, because I was supposed to meet a real estate agent who was going to show me a few neighborhoods and talk a little about what we might be looking at. I met her, she drove me around for a few hours. All in all it was a bit depressing. First of all it seems all the areas with good schools (a very important criterea at this point) are a decent length commute (pushing an hour). Second, those are of course the more expensive areas. Although there are some places in our guessed price range that are around, they are not in the areas with the good schools. Although we have not yet made a final determination of our price range yet, it does look like even the small townhouses may be out of our range in the areas that have the good schools. We shall see. There will be a lot more investigation yet to do. I still really want to buy, but if the only places we can buy would put Amy in crappy schools, I'd give that up to rent in one of the better areas. Brandy's a big fan of renting for awhile anyway. The ft^2/$ is better, and although you don't get the equity and tax benefits and such, the actual $ outlay would be less, and it would let us pocket more cash month to month for savings and cars and computers and toys. Not to mention the profit from the sale of the Florida house, which if we were buying would immediately go 100% into a down payment on a new place. If we didn't buy right away, there are a variety of other things that could be done with that cash in the short term. Brandy and I had a couple fights over all this sort of thing on the phone in terms of what options to look at and which to prefer and all that sort of thing. For the moment the conclusion is all options are still open and there is research yet to be done, but it really is looking like what we thought it would look like when I took this job, which is that we basically have one of these choices: #1) Don't buy again, and instead rent for awhile, #2) Make ourselves house poor again trying to get a place we really like in a neighboorhood we really want (if we could swing it at all), or #3) Compromize very heavily on what we want in a house and/or the area it is in to get something we can afford to buy right now, even if it isn't somewhere we really want. Dunno. Kind of depressing. Although I was much happier driving around the suburbs than I had been in the city. Goal number 1, even before Brandy and Amy arrive will be to get out of the city and into the suburbs. We've got a number of months yet before we have to make any final decisions on what to do with the the longer term housing situation. So we're not going to rush that. And maybe (depending on prices) a nice rented townhouse in a nice neighborhood with good schools would be prefereable to buying in a less nice area (not saying a BAD area, just less nice). At least for the short term. (A year or two.) The situation should be a lot more flexible financially in a couple years if everything goes well. But we shall see. Anyway, this is the kind of thing people were on me about a month or so ago when I was being "too negative" about the housing situation. Then later other people were on me about "only looking at the positive" and ignoring the fact that the housing situation would be a big negative. Maybe now I'm closer to the center. But basically, it is as we have expected since the first time I even considered interviewing out here. Everything else about the situation is much much better. The job. The money. Everything. Except the housing situation. Ah well. Like I said, we knew what we were getting into on that. We'd been doing reasearch since September on it. But actually driving around and seeing it drives it home more. Well, except the weather too maybe. What they say about the rain here is true. :-)

Sunday: After getting home from the tour of neighborhoods, I headed back home. I had succeded the previous day in finally getting online from the apartment. Dial up only, but at least it was something. Sunday right after I got back with Brandy on the phone I was able to get things set up and working so I could remote control back into my Mac at home, which would let me do some things I could not do just with the laptop I was assigned for work. At dial up speeds it is painful though, so I am keeping that to a minimum of course, and am setting myself up so I can do as much as possible of what I need to do directly from this laptop. I once again went to sleep pretty early and slept late. Once I was up, I looked outside and noticed that basically for the first time since I arrived Wednesday it was not raining. So I grabbed the book I was reading and took a walk to explore the neighborhood. It was much nicer walking around than it had been driving around in the huge truck in the pouring rain. There are a bunch of restaurants and shops in the area. You can look up and see the Space Needle. After walking around a bit I picked a Mexican restaurant and had a late lunch while reading my book. Then I headed home again. Sat there watching TV and playing on the computer for the rest of the day.

And now it is Monday. Monday isn't over yet though, so I won't say anything about that. Although I'll probably go to sleep before too much longer. Today will be my official "orientation" at the new job. You know, where they tell me all about benefits and such. Fun! I'll have to be at work about an hour earlier than I have been getting in for that though. So gotta get a good rest! :-)

And there is my update for now.

Abulsme - Sun, 15 Jan 2006, 20:33:26 PST
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Sat 14 Jan 2006

DVD: Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space

imageAfter Cynthia left and headed home, the next day we decided to finally do another Doctor Who. Old Doctor Who that is. We'd watched the new Christmas special right after it aired. That one was the first full new episode for the 10th doctor. This one by contrast was from 1970 and was the first episode for the 3rd doctor. Full info here.

This was not the first time we had tried to watch this. A little over a month earlier we had started it. And well, the first of the four episodes is well, shall we say, um... slow. And Amy was getting bored and was doing other things rather than watching. And well, I was having one of my days, and so when she started doing other things besides watching, I threw a fit and took the DVD and we stopped.

This time though I was in a much better frame of mind and completely ignored Amy playing with some other things during this story, cause I had to admit it was, and not just the first episode, very slow... First of all, it was a new Doctor, and like they often do with new Doctors (including the 10th most recently) for at least the first half of the story the Doctor is basically incapacitated and recovering from regeneration. And just in general the pace of this four part story was much slower. Certainly slower than the 9th and 10th Doctor stories, but also I think slower than the pacing from the 1st and 2nd Doctor episodes.

Spearhead from Space was interesting because it was one of the episodes that introduced a new doctor. So it was interesting to see some of the mechanics of that and compare to The Christmas Invasion and to note that it used the same "enemy" as the first 9th Doctor Episode Rose. But aside from that, it wasn't really memorable.

Abulsme - Sat, 14 Jan 2006, 20:32:54 PST
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Fri 13 Jan 2006



Cynthia tried to hold Mike many times while she visited, but he would just hiss at her. But finally, a few hours before she left, Mike decided he liked her, he sat on her, and he licked her face.

Abulsme - Fri, 13 Jan 2006, 17:53:23 PST
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Cinema: Memoirs of a Geisha

imageWhile Cynthia was visiting she wanted to see a movie and one night we did. Of the available movies that we could see that evening that we hadn't already missed, this is what she picked. Amy got VERY upset that it was a school night and she had to go to bed but Cynthia and I were going out without her. It was not a pretty sight. But Cynthia and I went anyway.

I don't have any really strong opinions of it. It was fine. Some of it was very pretty. The story was OK. But it never really fully grabbed me. It sort of washed over me and was fine, but I never really got in so deep that I cared too much what was happening. It was good to go and spend the time with Cynthia, but the movie itself, eh... Like I implied, my rating would be neutral. Didn't like it. Didn't hate it. It just sort of existed for me.

Abulsme - Fri, 13 Jan 2006, 17:16:11 PST
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Just a Bedside Plug

imageJust a plug for Rebecca's book (The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel) which became available a couple weeks ago. Available at all your usual places. I haven't read it yet (or bought it for that matter), but I will eventually. I promise! :-) It's a bunch of poems by a bunch of people. Rebecca edited it along with Molly Arden. Should be the same sort of style seen at their online location, the No Tell Motel.

Belated congratulations to Rebecca on the launch of her book!

Abulsme - Fri, 13 Jan 2006, 09:54:31 PST
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Thu 12 Jan 2006

Doctor on TV

It is about time! Although I've seen all the ones they have committed so so far. If I'm going to stop *cough* watching in other ways, they need to catch up and start airing the new ones this spring within 24 to 48 hours or so of when they air in the UK.

SCI FI To Air New Doctor Who
(Sci Fi Wire)

SCI FI Channel announced Jan. 12 that it will air the first season of the BBC's hit SF series Doctor Who, starting in March. The 13 episodes, starring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose Tyler, will air as part of SCI FI Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
(via Slashdot)

Abulsme - Thu, 12 Jan 2006, 15:20:54 PST
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Tue 10 Jan 2006

Gimme Gimme Gimme

I may be in transit at the Atlanta airport, but that didn't stop me from checking out the new Apple stuff and posting about it all on my Treo. My old G4 original Titanium powerbook is barely still alive. Slow, overloaded, and now perminantly docked to a monitor because the screen is flaky. Once things have stablized at the new place, orders will be placed. But for now I still must wait. Sigh!

Abulsme - Tue, 10 Jan 2006, 12:44:49 PST
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On My Way

There were several posts I had wanted to make before leaving town, but time got away from me and I did not get to them. And that despite a slight delay. I was supposed to fly to Seattle Sunday and start Monday, but there was a hold up (on their side) with some paperwork, so my start date was delayed to Wednesday... tomorrow. In just a few minutes I leave for the airport and fly out to Seattle. At the moment I don't yet know when I'll get to fly back on a weekend to visit Brandy and Amy. As soon as possible, but it will likely be at least a few weeks. The longest I've been away from them since we were together. But that is how things go, and that is what phones, emails and IMs are for. :-)

Anyway, thus begins an exciting new chapter of my life. I don't know when and how often I'll be able to post updates on how things are going, for the moment I don't have a personal computer for the West Coast (although undoubidly I will have one for work.) So we shall see. But I will update when I can.

Wish me luck everyone! This should be fun!

Abulsme - Tue, 10 Jan 2006, 08:15:09 PST
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Sun 08 Jan 2006

Three in a Boat


Cynthia was in town visiting from the 2nd to the 5th. She was supposed to arrive on the 1st, but got held up. On the one hand, I was really dissapointed, because it meant a day less of the visit, but on the other hand it let us get a lot further in getting the house in order, and finishing putting tile in the room Cynthia slept in.

Speaking of the tiling, that was another down side to the visit. Brandy had been really looking forward to Cynthia's visit and had taken time off work to spend with the three of us. But it was not to be. Just as the whole tiling and grouting of the guest bedroom was almost completely done, she moved wrong and threw out her back. She was stuck in bed for the entire week. Even now she is not fully back to normal. This has been a longer and worse episode than she has had before. She's arranging with the VA (disabled veteran and all that) to go get a whole new workup done soon to make sure the current state of the damage in her back. Unfortunately, it is a degenerative condition, so it will only get worse. Sigh. We'll check into what the current options are based on the current state of things and any advancement in medical technology since she last had a full workup when they told her there really wasn't much that could be done other than just live with it.

In any case... Cynthia, Amy and I spent a lot of time together doing a wide variety of things. One of those was an airboat ride through some local wetlands. We saw a lot of wildlife. Lots of gators. A bunch of interesting birds too. (Cynthia had a field guide and was circling everything she could identify.) Etc. It was a blast. The last picture and this one were both from that trip. Lets see, what all did we do... A bunch of meals, some out, some cooked at home by AMy with Cynthia's help, we went bowling, we walked the dog a few times, we did the boat trip, there was a movie in there somewhere, and a short walk in a bird sanctuary... we tried to ride bikes but the tires were flat and I could not find the bike pump... and there was of course some just hanging out watching TV and such too. Good time.

Cynthia was very good with Amy too I must say. And Amy really likes and looks up to Cynthia. And Cynthia was very helpful with anything that needed help around the house. It was good to have her visit, and I hope it will not be as long before the next visit.

She's growing up fast that one. Turning 16 in a couple of weeks. Wow.

Abulsme - Sun, 8 Jan 2006, 12:57:10 PST
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Thu 05 Jan 2006

Four in a Tree


Abulsme - Thu, 5 Jan 2006, 20:55:01 PST
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Sat 31 Dec 2005

Ruining New Year's


Oh, and I ruined New Year's for the second year in a row. Last year, we had waited until just before the ball dropped in NYC to set up the DirecTV dish. We hadn't had a chance yet to perminantly mount it, which we eventually did, but rather we just made a quick hole in the ground and shoved the poole with the dish in the hole and aimed it at the sky by hand. Well, we didn't have the hole quite deep enough, and the slightest breeze was knocking the dish off. At the moment the ball dropped, Brandy was outside wrestling with the dish while I was inside yelling if we had a signal or not. Ooops.

This year everybody was there with our little flutes of champagne and/or sparkling grape juice, and the Tivo decided it wanted to change the channel. But our remote extender wasn't working, so I ran into the other room to tell it not to change. While I was there, I noticed the other TV was on. I yelled to Amy that she had forgotten to turn off the other TV. She started yellign at me not to turn it off and generally having a fit, I had 33 seconds to spare, so I ran to turn it off. I got back into the room just in time for 5... 4... 3... 2... but Amy was still upset and not paying attention, and we basically missed it again. Nobody was happy.

Of course, the whole thing is moot anyway, cause 2006 had really started 5 hours earlier, but for some reason people wait 5 hours to do anything about it, and I hear where I am moving they wait a whole EIGHT hours past the real new year's to do anything.

Anyway... after that I made Amy happy again by going out with her to set off a couple quick mini-fireworks. One of them is above. The streak going off to my left is me retreating with the flashlight and match quickly as to avoid losing my hand.

Brandy on the other hand now is undoubidly convinced that I ruin every New Year's eve. Although I think the New Year's eve that started 2004 wasn't all that bad.

Anyway. Oops. Sorry. Will do better next New Year's! Well, at least if we celebrate at the real time based on UTC, not some silly local time zone. I think it is waiting several hours after the real time to do anything that throws me off. :-)

Abulsme - Sat, 31 Dec 2005, 21:57:02 PST
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Dinner at Disney

imageYesterday Brandy, Amy and I drove over to Disney to meet Ron Adams and his family who were vacationing there for a few days. The drive over there was fine until the last few miles before Disney, which we crawled through at a few miles an hour.

But then we got to spend a couple hours sitting down to dinner with Ron. That was good. It had been several years since I had seen them in person although of course I'd talked on the phone and emailed many times. So I had some pasta and talked to Ron. Amy, Brandy, Ursula and Paisley entertained themselves for the most part. :-)

Of course on the way home it took over an hour just to get off Disney property again. We ended up not getting home until around 7 UTC. We were very tired.

But it was good to see Ron and family again. I'm glad we made the drive, even with the insane New Year's weekend traffic.

Abulsme - Sat, 31 Dec 2005, 20:45:03 PST
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