Category Archives: Life

Thank you Riley

Well, it looks like Riley does a bit more than shed, chew on cords, and season the furniture … I found this on the web (via slashdot):

The finding, from a 10-year study of more than 4,300 Americans, suggests that the stress relief pets provide humans is heart-healthy.

– US News & World Report : Cats Help Shield Owners From Heart Attack
‘course I knew he made me feel calmer… and I think I found a site that referenced a study that showed cats helped lower blood pressure.

Space, the final frontier has a very poignant article about the three major space disasters that happened to occur around the month of January.

The event that sticks in my mind was the Challenger accident … I remember I was at work, at Triad Software, and we had been ribbing a co-worker because her husband had bought her a portable TV for Christmas … we all thought it was silly, but when the event happened … we were all glued to Gwen’s TV with it’s little 2″ screen.

For someone who’s interest in science and technology germinated with the Apollo program, took root with the Skylab program, and started to blossom with the space shuttle program, the Challenger and Columbia events were quite devastating.

I remember my dad letting me stay up late to watch the Apollo 11 moon landing. It made quite an impression on me.

Later, on a family vacation to California, my dad was able to finagle a tour of Rockwell International, which was one of the prime contractors for the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs (my dad worked for a company that provided welding equipment to Rockwell). I saw the tail section the Enterprise as it was being built … but the biggest thrill of that trip was being able to stick my head INSIDE the command module of Apollo 8.

I’m really glad that the US is continuing it’s space program … I just hope there’s enough dedication, curiosity, inspiration, and of course, funding, to keep it going long term. I long for us to put another group of people on the moon.

My Geeky Good Deed

The Grey Ghost was slightly overdue for it’s 40K mile scheduled maintenance. So I took advantage of the downtime at work (yes, it’s Saturday … but I’m on a high profile, under-resourced, project with a tight deadline.   I’ll be in tomorrow) to take my car in to the Food dealership and get the work done.

All that had to be done was an oil & filter change and tire rotation… so I had an hour to kill.

Obviously I took my laptop so I could kill the time (mostly playing solitaire, but checking some email using my phone’s network access).

There was another guy with a very similar Dell Latitude laptop … I casually asked him if there was any WiFi access. He indicated that he didn’t know … but he couldn’t use it anyways, because his wireless card wasn’t working.

I indicated that I was pretty handy with computers (especially the Dell Latitudes, since it was a similar model to mine) and offered to take a look. Turns out someone had disabled the wireless card in the device manager. I enabled the device and verified it was working by plugging in my portable access point just to see if the card could find a signal. I also showed him how to use the ‘WiFi Catcher‘ switch (when you push the switch, the a light will indicate if there is a Wireless signal in the area, without even having to turn on the computer).

Sadly, there was no WiFi access in the waiting area. I’m going to send an email to the Ford dealership to suggest they provide it. Sure would make waiting for your car a lot less boring.

Hospital Visit

medical_icon.gifI went to the hospital yesterday.

In retrospect, it was probably a silly thing to do … but at the time, it seemed to be the right thing to do.

The day before yesterday, while I was at work, my foot started hurting … a lot. And I mean it REALLY hurt. So much so that I had a hard time walking.

I thought that I had twisted something … but it was really just my right big toe that hurt. I couldn’t remember banging my foot against anything.   I also thought it might have had something to do with the shoes I was wearing.   The shoes are a little big for me, so I usually wear thick socks with them.   But that day the only socks I had were kind of worn in the toe area.

When I got home on Tuesday, I took a couple of Aleve (which is the best pain killer I know) … this dulled the pain a bit, but it didn’t go away. The pain was there all night … and kept me up a fair bit.

Around 5 am I woke up with my foot throbbing. I was starting to get really worried. I took another couple of Aleve, which helped the pain, and decided that I should get my foot checked out. Obviously I wasn’t going into work that day.

So around 10:30 I got in the car to go to Northwest Community Hospital … which a pretty big challenge … because the first time I had to apply the brakes I got a sharp pain in my foot. If there had been anyone in front of me, I probably would have rear-ended them.

I got to the hospital and hobbled into the emergency room. Explained the situation and they got me setup to see a doctor.

After waiting a bit of time the doctor looked at my foot … and decided x-rays were probably needed. I got the x-rays done, and waited a bit more time. The doctor came back and informed me that there was nothing structurally wrong with my foot (nothing broken) and no signs of gout or a sprain. I had probably just bruised the foot.

Anyways, the doctor sent me home with instructions to keep taking the Aleve for the pain … and if it didn’t clear within 5 days up I should contact my primary physician.

So I go home, take another Aleve, and settle down to just sit with my foot elevated.

Well the pain started to taper down close to dinner … and by this morning, it was fairly tolerable … although I was still hobbling.

By the end of the work day the pain was almost completely gone.

Yesterday I was convinced that I had broken something … now, it’s almost completely fine.

Weird, huh?

Interesting Weekend

We had a very interesting weekend … did some fun stuff … saw some thing interesting, and encountered a new situation.

First, the fun stuff … we went to the Darwin exhibit at the Field Museum with my parents. It was quite interesting and informative. It covered both his Theory of Evolution, his personal life, and some discussion of Evolution in general. Did you know that he almost didn’t go on the Beagle voyage? He had asked his father for permission, but it was denied. After some huranging, he got is father to agree that … if Charles could get a reasonable person (in his father’s opinion, of course) to present good reasons for him to go on the voyage, he would allow it. Charles worked with his uncle, who his father apparently thought was reasonable, to put together a point by point rebuttal for all Mr. Darwin’s arguments against going.

After the museum, we decided to go for dinner … we didn’t want to go for Greek food, as that’s what we have a habit of doing. We also didn’t want Chinese, because Ginny and I just had Chinese food.

We decided on Italian … and found a place about two miles west of the loop for dinner. As we were driving there, I spotted a yellow cab that was a Ford Escape Hybrid. Considering how taxis drive, a hybrid vehicle makes a lot of sense. It was a 2008 model, which I’m not a big fan of … but it’s better than anything else. That was the interesting bit.

On to the weird … we got to the restaurant, had to wait a bit of time for a friend to join us, ordered and ate. The food was good. We were ready to leave, asked for the check, and I tried to give the waitress my AMEX card. She waved me off saying that they didn’t take that. So I asked her if Discover was OK. She clarified by saying that they didn’t take ANY credit cards. I only had $20 cash in my wallet. Luckily dad had some cash.

I was kind of shocked … I had never encountered a main-stream restaurant that didn’t take credit cards. I wonder what they do if someone shows up, orders, eats, but doesn’t have enough cash?

Illinois Got it Right

I gotta hand it to the Illinois Department of Revenue … they got the online tax filing system right.

The system to file your taxes online is simple, straight forward, and fast. Although I did use TurboTax to calculate the taxes, I entered the information directly into the states web site and was done in about 10 minutes. At the end I was able to download and/or print a PDF of my completed tax form with the confirmation number noted at the bottom.

There were no convenience fees (which I think are bogus anyways, why should I pay to save YOU money), and the refund (all $182 of it) will be deposited into our checking account.

The ONLY thing I would say they could do to improve it would be to make the form jump to the correct position when you ask it to do a calculation. Perhaps some AJAX technology would help in that respect.

Working Out

workout1.jpgThe biggest impediment to me starting a workout program is the fact that, after my first workout, I am in a lot of pain.

Oh, the pain goes away after a few days … but it’s kind of hard to get into the habit of working out initially.

I had a good workout on Monday … and was going to workout again on Wednesday … but I was in such pain I had to skip.

I was going to workout again today … but I couldn’t find my padlock. Yeah, I know it sounds like an excuse … but I really couldn’t find it. I bought a new duffel bag and didn’t move my lock from the old bag to the new one. Darn annoying.

I am absolutely, positively, going to workout tomorrow … even if I have to buy a new lock.

Throwing Snow

Well, as you might have heard, it snowed a LOT yesterday … and we did not escape any of it.

I left for work at around 7am and it took me around 45 minutes to go 3 miles, so I decided to bag it and work from home (luckily that’s relatively easy for me).

Since the company holiday part was that day, I still had to leave later in the afternoon. So around 3pm I figured I would have to clear the driveway. Unfortunately, the village snow plows had come by a few times and piled a huge amount of snow on the apron of the drive way, so it was about 2 feet high.

Our little 3hp Toro snow blower was not up to the task … I had to pull out the shovel and move a bunch of it by hand. It took me an hour to clear the driveway enough to get the car out.

At that moment, I decided we need a new snow removal device. I figure a two stage snow thrower would be good. Preferably with an electric start and powered wheels.

I went over to Lowes, which had zero snow throwers or blowers, and Home Depot, which only had a single blower model left. So I drove down the street a bit to Sears. They had a few, but not many. I asked about a particular model and was told they should be getting more in this afternoon. I figured better get one now, rather than wait for another snow.

I got a Craftsman 5.5hp, 4 stroke (no gas / oil mix), two stage (grinder + thrower), electric start (no throwing my back out), snow thrower. A lot bigger than the one we have, but not too big I think. The major issue we’re going to have is where we’re going to put it. I don’t think it will fit in the garage, with both cars. We’ll probably have to store it on the front porch, chained to the post. Next spring we’ll have a shed installed.

There were a bunch of people looking at the snow removal equipment … and they were taking a lot of orders. I sure hope they go in order of purchase when allocating the merchandise they receive today … because I have the first order. The guy right behind me ordered the same one. I suspect they won’t last long.

And, since we made this purchase, we’ve just about guaranteed that there will be no more snow this year and next year will be almost snowless.

Update Sunday @ 4pm — picked up the snow thrower … turns out Sears didn’t get their truck in until 10pm Saturday evening, so I wouldn’t have been able to pick it up until today anyways. Got it home and assembled (pretty easy). It started super easily … which I like. Didn’t even need to use the electric starter. I need to make a few adjustments to it, but nothing major. Storage is still going to be a problem, but we can keep it in the garage. Might have to move the cars a bit to get it out though.

I cleared the sidewalk to make sure everything works the way it’s supposed to. No problems.

As a bonus, my sister in law Debbie has a friend who is looking for a snow blower … so we can get rid of the old one.
[tags]snow, sears, snow thrower, craftsman, weather[/tags]

Size 8

t_65890_1.jpgAll I want is to get a new pair of walking shoes.

I went to Dicks Sporting Goods yesterday to see what they had … not a great selection, but I found something that I thought would work. Unfortunately, when it comes to outdoors shoes they only carry size 8 and up. I wear size 7½.

Ok, I figured that REI would have more sizes … but they too only carry size 8 and higher. The guy at REI said that some of the shoes run a bit small, so I tried a pair that was size 8, but I could feel the fit wasn’t right.

Although I don’t like to buy shoes online, but I may have to buy some shoes from Sierra Trading Post (which was recommended to me by my co-worker Jerome).

[tags]rei, shoes, hiking[/tags]

Convenience Checks

I had the oddest thing happen just now … I called a credit card company and asked to be removed from their promotional mailing of “Convenience Checks” … and was.

Convenience Checks are the checks they mail you that let’s you get cash from your credit card … and have a service fee attached in addition to the normal finance charge (which kicks in immediately, not after the normal 25 day grace period).

I’ve been getting a huge number of them from Bank of America for my Linux Fund Mastercard. Well, I finally got tired of it and called the issuing bank.

I talked to William, who was quite helpful … I explained that I would never use the check and I just end up shredding them.

William put me on hold for a bit then came back and told me that he had removed me from the mailing lists and added me to the “Paper Suppression” list, which should totally eliminate the junk mail I get from them.

All in all, a very satisfactory outcome. I was pleasantly surprised.
[tags]Credit Card, mbna, Bank of America, Linux Fund, Junk Mail[/tags]