Archives: November 2006

Wed 29 Nov 2006

Firetrucks Ahoy

Tuesday around 02:00 UTC as I was leaving work to slog through a drive home three times longer than it usually was because of snow I saw firetrucks. A lot of firetrucks. I was crossing the bridge right after I left work (it took 15 minutes just to get across the bridge) and firetruck after firetruck after firetruck went zooming by with sirens on. I wondered where they were going and what the big fire was that needed so many firetrucks. When I got home I checked on the local news and couldn't find anything at all. Nothing on the 11 PM news either. Just lots about how all kinds of people were stuck in the snow and such.

Today at lunch I found out... the fire was in the building where I work. The alarms went off minutes after I left the building. And it was not a false alarm as happens occationally. The lobby was apperantly actually full of real smoke from some sort of real fire.

But it seems it was small and taken care of quickly by the dozens of fire trucks. Today there is no sign whatsoever that there was any problem at all. I have no idea where exactly the fire was. There is no obvious damage anywhere.

Anyway, that is what the firetrucks were for.

Abulsme - Wed, 29 Nov 2006, 12:48:05 PST
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Tue 28 Nov 2006

Christian Eber Smith

I have once again gone too long without posting an ancestor. So now it is time. No picture again, they are sporadic in this generation. In any case, this time it is the turn of my Father's Father's Mother's Father, Christian Eber Smith.

He was born in 1839, died in 1905. Lived basically his whole life in Glenn Springs, South Carolina. Married Henrietta Anderson in 1870 and had 8 kids of which my great-grandmother was the second. He started college, but left to fight in the Civil War (on the Confederate side). After the war he became a farmer as his family's fortunes had been wiped out in the war. He also became an elder in his local church.

And that is about all I know. What additional details I know are at the Abulwiki page linked above.

Abulsme - Tue, 28 Nov 2006, 20:19:47 PST
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Mon 27 Nov 2006


This morning in the second game of the latest big "Human Champion vs Computer" match current World Chess Champion Vladimir Kramnik did not only lose but was actually checkmated by Fritz. It was a one move blunder. Kramnick made a mistake, then wham, checkmate. That is just plain not supposed to happen to a world champion. Games at this level almost always end with someone resigning, or with an agreed draw. An actual end of the game due to a mate or a by the rules draw is very very rare. So it was kind of cool to see happen. Well... I missed the exact moment because I was on a conference call with Europe, but I saw right before and right after...

Anyway, two games into this match it is dissapointing to me even though the computer is ahead 1.5 to 0.5 at the moment. Cause the first game was a draw, and apperantly some people think Kramnik should have been able to pull out a win. And this second game was again definately a draw, with some people thinking Kramnik should be able to pull out a win... before he made his stupid move.

It has been years now since Deep Blue first scored a point against Kasparov. Now, DB was a custom built computer, whereas the program now competing with world champions can be purchased by anybody and runs on commodity windows machinces. So I guess there has been improvement and all, but I am looking for the point where the world's best machine can wipe the floor with the world champion the same way that the world champion human could wipe the floor with a five year old who just learned the rules. So far that just isn't happening.

It is looking more and more like the humans will remain good enough to be able to at least manage a draw if they don't make big mistakes. That is kind of disappointing. Well, we'll see how it goes given a few more years.

And there are a few more games left in this match. I have been getting up early to watch them online. Maybe there will be more excitement in the coming games. The actual checkmate and all is cool, but it would have been nicer if the computer had outplayed the human all game long instead of there just being a stupid mistake at the end.

Also... just to repeat a tirade I make every time I watch one of these human/computer matches... traditions and respect for your opponant and all that nonsense aside... a computer in a human computer match should NEVER resign and should NEVER accept a draw. And this game shows exactly why. The human can make a stupid mistake. The computers should accept the human resigning, but otherwise should force the game to go to the bitter end no matter what... either a checkmate or a draw by the rules (Stalemate, Insufficent Material, Threefold Repitition, Fifty Move Rule). Because up until that very last moment, the human could always screw up and let the computer back in the game, even if the computer was losing previously. Computers should NEVER resign and NEVER accept a draw offer. Period.

Abulsme - Mon, 27 Nov 2006, 10:03:04 PST
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Fri 24 Nov 2006

DVD: She's The Man

Last weekend we watched one of Amy's movies. This was supposedly loosely based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night". But I had never seen or read that play, so I can't evaluate that. But basically it is all about a girl who decides to pretend to be a boy (taking the place of her brother in order to prove she can play soccer as well as the boys) and all the hi-jinx and romantic triangles and rectangles and such that ensue.

There were a few funny moments. But this most definitely was aimed at the 10-13 year old girl demographic, not at 36 year old men. It was cute and all, especially if you managed to completely and totally forget about the fact that she was not a convincing male and all the huge plot holes. But forgetting that, it was cute and there were a few moments to laugh at.

And if you happen to have a 10 to 13 year old girl around, they will enjoy it I am sure. :-)

Abulsme - Fri, 24 Nov 2006, 22:04:48 PST
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Wed 22 Nov 2006


Abulsme - Wed, 22 Nov 2006, 22:32:58 PST
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Thanksgiving Traditions

I don't remember for sure what we did last year, but now two out of last three years we have spent Thanksgiving Eve in the Emergency Room.

Two years ago Brandy's back was in so much pain her routine RXs were not enough and she was basically completely immobile. So we ended up in the ER for hours until she got the appropriate shots and such. When we left she was telling all the hospital staff how nice they were and was promising to bake pies for all of them. (Oh, and by the time we left the ER that time I was almost at the point where *I* needed the ER because a kidney stone chose that evening to make itself known as well, but I managed to get home and take my own pain RX and make it through.)

This time....

About 24 hours ago as we were leaving Amy's first bass lesson with her new teacher Brandy fell on a wet step. She thought she had twisted her ankle. When it was no better this morning she made a Doctor appointment.

Turns out she fractured her leg just above the ankle. The primary care Dr was not allowed by VA rules to do much of anything. At least not and have VA pay for it. Brandy paid for a temporary splint anyway even though it would not be covered. But they told her she had to go to the actual VA hospital to get a longer term cast or walking boot and crutches and such.

So here we are, in the waiting room at the hospital ER (since the rest of the place is closed). We'll probably be here a decent number of hours before we are done.

Two out of three years isn't enough. We need to make this an annual Thanksgiving family tradition. Perhaps we can take turns on who is in need of urgent medical attention each year though. No need for Brandy to do it every year. We can set up a rotation!

Abulsme - Wed, 22 Nov 2006, 19:53:30 PST
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Tue 21 Nov 2006

Here and Gone

This morning it was sunny. For the first time in weeks it seemed. And for a few hours my mood was also lifted. It was sunny! It was a good day! I was actually feeling somewhat upbeat for the first time in a long time.

Then it started raining again. If the weather guy on TV this morning is correct, after today this November will officially be the rainest month ever recorded in Seattle since they started keeping records of such things. It is grey. It is gloomy.

Weather aside, I haven't been in a very positive mood these last few weeks anyway. The sun this morning was a nice change. Too bad it only lasted about 5 hours.

When I first got here in January we had a record streak of some 40 days in a row with rain or some such. Now we have the most rain in a single month (with plenty of time left in the month for more). Yay!

Ya know, what they say about Seattle winters does appear to be true. Six months of darkness and gloom. Hibernation really would be a good option.

Wake me up in March.

Abulsme - Tue, 21 Nov 2006, 14:37:51 PST
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Sun 19 Nov 2006

Kitty and the Wrench

Abulsme - Sun, 19 Nov 2006, 10:11:15 PST
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Fri 17 Nov 2006

Once Again, Not Me

Teens Arrested
(Steven Elbow, The Capital Times)

Madison police arrested two teens for allegedly making bomb threats at West High School.

Sam Minter, 17, and a 16-year-old girl allegedly made the threats at about 10:30 a.m. on Monday. School district spokesman Ken Syke said the threats did not disrupt classes.

Abulsme - Fri, 17 Nov 2006, 12:31:39 PST
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Thu 16 Nov 2006

Dead Sea

Amy explains her group's display on the Dead Sea Scrolls to a passerby. Right now the ENTIRE school (6th to 10th grades) is here at Seattle's Pacific Science Center showing their trimester projects... all on various aspects of the Dead Sea scrolls. The museum is closed, it is just the kids, teachers and parents. After the time for everybody to see the school projects is over we'll all go in and see the museum's actual exhibit of some of the scrolls and related artifacts.

All very cool. Eastside Prep is definately working out very well and is a good match for Amy. She loves school and is showing lots of enthusiasm every day and a strong desire to work and do as well as she possibly can. And they do fun things like this!

Abulsme - Thu, 16 Nov 2006, 19:00:36 PST
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Wed 15 Nov 2006

The Big Fish

Amy's new bass arrived Wednesday. Her old one broke just as she was outgrowing it last year, then we had a rental for the rest of the time in Florida. But she has been without one (and hasn't been taking lessons) since arriving in Washington in July.

The new bass is here now though, and she resumes professional lessons next week. It will be a good thing. She has been without a bit too long and is probably a bit rusty. but I'm sure she'll snap back into place quickly. This also means we need to get the designated "music room" in shape to be used. Right now there are a bunch of random things in that room.

This is a big purchase, but Amy has been seriously studying the bass for years now with private lessons and all, not just school orchestra or whatnot. It is also a physically BIG purchase. I haven't seen it in person yet, but it is HUGE. You can see the crate it came in on the picture, but it is certainly much bigger than Amy is and big enough so that it is difficult to transport. It should last a few years though. At the end of that time Amy will need the next size up... and we'll need an SUV just to have any hope of being able to transport it back and forth to her lessons. :-)

Some have asked us why we would get a new bass rather than renting or buying a used one. I frankly don't remember all the details, but Brandy spent MONTHS researching the tradeoffs between cost, availability, quality, etc before picking this particular bass from this particular vendor, etc. If I remember though, and Brandy can say more in the comments if she wants, but some of the reasons were.... Basses in this particular size are not all that common, as the bass isn't a that commonly chosen an instrument anyway (compared to say, violins), and it is even less common amoung children Amy's size. So it is hard to find used ones anyway. And unless they get mistreated (in which case there is a quality issue anyway) basses of any decent initial quality actually tend to appreciate in value over the years rather than depreciating... so good used ones actually tend to cost more than new ones. And rentals tend to only be economically optimal if you end up renting only a short time... say a school year or part there of. If you are going to keep and use the instrument for years, buying rapidly becomes the better deal... more cash up front, but less over the total life of the instrument. This one should be good for maybe four years... above that threshold. And it is fully insured in case something "bad" happens to it before that time. If in that time Amy decides to give up the instrument, we sell it used. It'll still probably be the best option economically. (Other than having her switch to a smaller cheaper instrument. :-)

In any case, Brandy and Amy have been giddy with excitement ever since FedEx called Tuesday to say they would be delivering Wednesday. The crate was too big to come into the house (even into the garage). So Brandy had to unpack it outside. I presume by the time I get home Amy will have given the new bass a spin.

I look forward to many evenings of hearing bass (and piano and electric guitar) practice happening downstairs while I hide in my office upstairs. :-)

She's in a chorus that gives outlet to public performances on the vocal side. One she has resumed practice on the instruments for awhile, we'll probably start looking for some performance outlets on the instrument size. (Her school is too small for an orchestra at the moment, although they are working on expanding their musical offerings.)

Anyway... new bass. Amy (and Brandy) are happy. :-)

Abulsme - Wed, 15 Nov 2006, 16:34:19 PST
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Behind the Wheel

I got an email from my dad yesterday that started with this sentence:

News - today Cynthia passed her road test for drivers' license, so she can drive alone or with an adult.
This is quite scary. I remember when you could fit her in a picnic basket! And now she is driving!

Abulsme - Wed, 15 Nov 2006, 10:35:31 PST
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Tue 14 Nov 2006


Abulsme - Tue, 14 Nov 2006, 15:08:07 PST
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Thu 09 Nov 2006

Super Productivity!

Last night some sort of error occured here at work and the Windows passwords for a variety of people we reset to unknown random strings. I was lucky enough to be one of those people who had this happen to them. The result, I can't log into my laptop at all, I can't get to my work email, etc. Logging into my Linux box (which was not effected) I am able to get to the Internet and the Intranet. But most of my work, with exceptions of meetings (of which I have one today) requires email. The handful of things that don't require email, for the most part still require access to things I have on my laptop. I think there are a couple things I could do involving editing some things on some internal Wiki pages, but even that would be aided by access to everything else.

So basically, I have been out of commission in terms of doing anything useful most of the day today. Now, on the one hand, having a little extra time to relax and surf the web (since I *do* have Internet access) is nice and all. But on the other hand basically sitting in an office stareing at a screen knowing there is work to do but that you can't do it effectively gets really old after a couple of hours. Even though I had a pretty good night's sleep yesterday (after basically staying up all night watching election coverage the night before) I am still getting tired out of boredom. Luckily, in just over 15 minutes I need to catch a shuttle to a different building for a couple of meetings. That will basically occupy at least two hours and basically take me to the end of the work day.

Then hopefully by morning, all the issues will have been worked out and solved, and I'll once again be able to log in and work normally. The appropriate people are actively working on it as a high priorty. So I assume it will get fixed in that timeframe if not before. Quite annoying though.

I should get ready for my meeting now though.

PS: This is the post that will knock my Zuri obituatuary off the home page of On the one hand, I have been posting at least once a day in part specifically for that to happen sooner rather than later, cause it was a somewhat painful reminder. On the other hand, now more than a week later, as the emotions subside a bit, instead I am a bit sad to see it go. I really like that picture of me and her. It is a low res low quality webcam picture, so it won't necessecarily print that great, but maybe I'll still make the highest quality print I can from the original and hang it in my office at home or something. Maybe not quite yet, but maybe once a little more time goes by and I can see it and think happy things rather than sad.

Abulsme - Thu, 9 Nov 2006, 13:59:17 PST
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Wed 08 Nov 2006


OK, Montana and Virginia have not yet officially been called. But the Dem is leading by a decent margin in Montana. And the Dem is leading in Virginia too. It wil be close enough that Allen will be able to request a recount if he wants, but probably enough of a margin so a recount won't end up making a difference. So, there may be a surprise yet... but as of right now that looks like what will happen.

So, looks like the 49-49-2 split actually happens. Very nice. It would be far more interesting if the two independants were really and truly independant, and were able to force "interesting" arrangements. But even as it is... it will be a fun next two years I think.

I am on the couch sandwiched between a sleeping dog on one side and a sleeping daughter on the other. It isn't exactly comfortable... but it is nice to have them both here. I think I will have to adjust my position soon though.

I was trying to stay awak at least until they offically call Montana, but last I heard mentioned, it sounds like it could be a few more hours yet. So maybe that won't happen. Even though I'm on the west coast, it is still pretty late now. Sleep is sounding good.... If I can find a position here where I can get comfortable without disturbing the daughter or the dog...

Abulsme - Wed, 8 Nov 2006, 01:04:45 PST
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Tue 07 Nov 2006

CNN Simplifies for the Dummies

CNN pisses me off. (What's new?) For the first few hours of the evening they were doing it correctly and had 2 seats in the Senate in the "I" row. Sanders and Lieberman. About half an hour ago they moved the two of them to the "D" row.

Now, yes, both of them will caucus with the Democrats and will end up counting toward the Dems taking control of the Senate if that ends up happening... but it is just plain not accurate. The reason to do this is of course so you can tell which party will end up controling the senate just by looking at the "R" and "D" rows, without having to know what to do with the "I"'s.

In other words, to help stupid people figure out what is going on without having to explain it. Even if it means what you show is actually untrue.

Reminds me why I hardly ever watch CNN any more.


Maybe they will "correct" it later in the evening, but I am not holding my breath.

Abulsme - Tue, 7 Nov 2006, 19:12:49 PST
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Mon 06 Nov 2006

Election Projections

Everybody has been thinking that the Dems will pick up the House, but that they wouldn't quite do it in the Senate. I'd been waiting for the final projections from the Blogging Ceasar because in the 2004 elections his record was pretty good using his methodology. As I write this he's still updating his final update for 2006. His final house numbers are not up yet, but his final prediction for the Senate is up. It is that we will end up with:

49 Democrats
49 Republicans
2 Independants

To me this would be a really fun result. (It probably won't turn out this way, but...)

The two independants would of course be Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Now, Bernie is very liberal and will just go with the Dems without anything interesting. Lieberman has of course promised to "caucus with" the Democrats as well, so this is essentially a Democratic win. But...

It really isn't completely. It potentially puts Lieberman in a position where he could threaten to withold his vote to organize with the Democrats into a majority block unless he got concessions on certain issues he cared about or on who exactly would be in the leadership slots. Not that he would vote with the Republicans to put in Republican leadership, he has made clear that he would not do that. BUt what do house rules say on leadership votes? Is 50 to 49 with one abstaining good enough to organize? A 50/50 tie is broken by the vice president, but 50/49/1 is not a 50/50 tie.

Does someone out there know exactly what happens in this scenerio?

No, if only Bernie was also a moderate, you would have control of the house essentially determined by the will of that "third group" and they might be able to force some sort of interesting arrangements. But... that is not quite what we would have.

And Lieberman, if put into a position like this, might just try to "kiss and make up" with the dems by not demanding anything at all and just voting for Pelosi for leader and be done with it. But given the way the Dems have treated him, milking it a bit and demanding a few concessions would be quite reasonable I think. And holding the stick at the ready that at any point if they pissed him off, he would call for a new leadership vote and put the R's back in power... priceless.

And just to note, if any of that comes to pass, it is entirely the fault of the Kossites and the like who thought flexing their muscle and pushing out Lieberman was the smart thing to do. Ha!

Anyway, probably won't be so lucky as to actually get 49/49/2 as the split... that would just be too good. But this will be fun.

As of now we still don't have DirecTV up and functional at the new house. We'll be working on that tonight. Cause I fully intend to spend most of tomorrow evening glued to election coverage. Love this stuff.

PS: Own personal view... either the R's or the D's in charge of everying is bad. It is critical right now that the D's get back at least one house of congress if not both... However... if a Democrat wins the White House in 2008, I would very much hope that at least one house of the congress went Republican again. When *either* party controls all three, they just make a horrible mess. Just the tension between the legislature and executive given the seperate ways they are elected used to be enough to provide appropriate checks and balance regardless of party, but it seems these days for there to be any counterweight, the executive and legislature MUSt be controlled by different parties.

PPS: In the mean time though, regardless of the outcome, the process is fun to watch. We'll see just how far off the projections all are. Do the Dem's really take the House? The Senate? Or do they completely fall apart. Oh, can you just imagine the Dem reaction if they end up NOT taking at least the house? They would be apoplectic!

Abulsme - Mon, 6 Nov 2006, 17:45:50 PST
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Anger / Sadness / Forgiveness

I have spent most of the last week oscillating between sadness and anger. The anger has seethed inside me most of the time. I have retreated from members of the family who even though I rationally know I should not blame, emotionally a big part of me does. I have been cold. I have been mean. I am trying not to be, but it is very difficult. The anger is a poison. And I have not yet figured out the way to purge it. Distraction is part of it. Getting so caught up in something (be it work or something else) that I have no time to think of it. But then, when I get to the moment of stillness... either the sadness or the anger comes rushing back. One or the other. And that in turn makes me sad.

A week ago I had a big loss. I am still working through it. I know in the big scheme of things, it is a little thing, there is so much worse in the world at large, but in my world, it was huge. And it still hurts. And I am still wounded. I have been taking it out on myself, and I have been taking it out on those around me. That is wrong. I need to stop. I need to understand and forgive those around me, and I have to forgive myself and stop punishing myself as well.

But even when your head wants to, the heart sometimes takes awhile to forgive and accept and move on.

But it knows it needs to. Cause otherwise the damage just spirals, and everything gets worse and worse and never gets better. And that can't happen.

I have been told by many (not this week, thank you) that I am overly emotional and sensitive at times when it comes to certain things... like this... and I know that. But it doesn't change the fact that I am in fact that way. So things hit me hard, and it takes me longer than most to get over them.

I know where I need to be. I know I am not there yet. I know that I have to work to be there. And so I will.

It has been a hard week. And I apologize to those I have been hard on.

Another week begins. Forgiveness and acceptance will come.

Abulsme - Mon, 6 Nov 2006, 15:39:51 PST
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Sun 05 Nov 2006

DVD: The Butteryfly Effect (Director's Cut)

In the evening after the tragic events of last weekend, nobody could sleep, so we watched a movie. This was also the first movie I have watched on our projector since the bulb expired a very long time ago. It is now up and mounted on the ceiling with a new bulb. It is now a bit old and there are nicely better ones out there for reasonable prices. A replacement with full 1080p resolution is probably on the agenda for 2007... but for now this is very nice to have again.

Anyway, the movie... I knew absolutely nothing about it before starting it. It was from Brandy's Netflix list. When I saw Ashton Kutcher come on the screen I despaired, cause basically I've never liked him in anything... but I was pleasantly surprised. Later on in the movie I was thinking "Ashton Kutcher can act! Who knew?".

The general theme... being able to think hard enough about it and go back in time to critical moments to change things... but then watch out for the unpredictable consequences... was perhaps not the best theme given the circumstances under which we were watching the movie. Because of course I desperately wanted to go back just a few hours... but that aside, I am a sucker for time travel movies... I really got sucked in and liked this.

It was the Director's Cut we watched. Apparently there are quite a few minutes of explanatory material that help things make more sense. But more importantly, apparently the ending is completely different. Having only read about the version as it was theatrically released, I can't do a good side by side comparison. (Well, the original version was also on the DVD, but I don't care quite enough to go watch it too.) But just from reading about it on the Wikipedia page, it seems the Director's Cut ending is much more powerful.

Anyway... liked the movie. Glad I saw it. Worth a rental for sure.

Abulsme - Sun, 5 Nov 2006, 12:09:40 PST
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Sat 04 Nov 2006

No Register

With all the commotion the last couple of months I never took the needed steps to get registered to vote here in Washington. A shame as it appears our local house race is one of the competitive toss up ones. And I knew when the deadline was... I just missed it.

I probably could have absentee voted in Florida but I wouldn't have felt right about that. I don't live there.

Oh well. Tuesday will be interesting to watch even if I can't participate.

Abulsme - Sat, 4 Nov 2006, 15:22:21 PST
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Fri 03 Nov 2006

Temperature Drop Nausea

For many years now if I suddenly walk from a warm building to cold outdoor air for a few minutes I will get very queasy for a few minutes. It usually last maybe 5 minutes maximum, usually not even that long. I'll almost always at least feel it some. I good portion of the time I will hack and wretch for a minute or so. A very small but non-zero portion of the time I will actually yack a little bit. It seems to require at least a sudden 30 degree temperature drop to trigger it. So going from 70 degress to 60 won't do it. But 70 to 40 certainly will.

I've tried to google this to see if this effect has some sort of name, but I have found nothing.

Brandy thinks it is all in my head. I think it is a real physical effect.

Has anybody actually heard of this? Anybody else have this?

Anyone? Anyone?

Abulsme - Fri, 3 Nov 2006, 15:59:56 PST
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Wed 01 Nov 2006

Afraid of the Dark

OK, well, not really afraid. But this time of year sucks. Even more so this far North. What with the mass crazyness of everybody suddenly up and deciding to do everything one hour later for the winter (damn "fall back" nonsense) and the shorter days on top of that.... Not only is sunset moving earlier and earlier... in mid summer sunset can happen as late as 4:11 UTC. By early December it will happen as early as 0:18 UTC here. That is bad enough without the change in everybody's schedule.

Before this last week my "normal" target routine was to get into work between 16 and 17 UTC, and leave around 1 UTC the next day. Now, we do everything an hour later. Come in between 17 and 18 UTC, leave around 2 UTC the next day. I'd be leaving after dark anyway even without the schedule change I guess, but it is MORE after dark. It is darker damn it!

I guess the benefit is supposed to come in the mornings and not having to get up in the dark. But in late December sunrise gets as late here as 15:58 UTC, and Amy in the winter has to be at school by 16 UTC, so we'll have to be awake while it is still dark anyway.

At the shortest the "daylight time" here in Seattle is only 8 hours, 25 minutes and 14 seconds. I know that is nothing for folks living even further north, but it is still pretty short! I will miss the daylight this winter. Time to hunker down and hibernate I guess. :-)

Maybe I need one of those lights for seasonal affective disorder that try to fool your body into thinking it is still daylight when it is not.

Or, maybe I'll just find more things to do in the dark.

Abulsme - Wed, 1 Nov 2006, 17:45:20 PST
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Tue 31 Oct 2006

Apartment Be Gone

On a happier note, a few hours ago we packed up the last things in the apartment I was in from the end of February until October. Then we turned in the keys. We are completely gone from that place now, and completely in the new place.

Abulsme - Tue, 31 Oct 2006, 22:23:29 PST
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