Monday, September 26, 2005

Into the Grand Stream, too much crypto, and holding a hummingbird in my hand....

Ok, so when I left my last post, it was Tuesday night of the 20th, Rita was gaining momentum in the Gulf of Mexico, and I was posting updates...let me pick up where I left off (after the fact).

Rita Watch--Day 3

(Wed. the 21st) Lavie is off work and Alvis is out of school. They are going to do some prep-work. I go into work in Houston. Firefox has a new version out 1.0.7 send a quick email to Dwight Silverman, Techblog at Houston Chronicle and [H]ard|OCP gang about this development. Continue Rita watch at work. By 9:00 am local government is calling for some evacuations. Advise boss (who is out buying plywood) and get permission to take off home. Get home and help Lavie and Alvis with packing essential items. Take last look around home (is this going to be the last time I see it and much of our life?). Lock door. It is about 11:50am. Spend next 1 1/2 hours in slow crawl to Lavie's parents house outside Cleveland, Texas were we think we will be safe. Unload vehicles. Lavie's parents are at golf retreat vacation in South Fork, Colorado. Sweep floor of dead "love-bugs" the bane of Gulf-Coast motorists. Put Win98 critical update patches on father-in-law's pc, update virus DATs, finally fix pesky DSL connectivity problem he has had. Once booted, DSL is active, but cannot seem to reach websites, he has to unload firewall (ZoneAlarm), hit the internet, then enable firewall to get both working. I had reinstalled ZA several times to no avail. Finally uninstalled it and put on Sygate's free version. No more problems. Suspect that ZA was preventing local pc from connecting to SBC's DSL DNA server(s). Anyway, feel good that is fixed once and for all. See that the [H]ard|OCP crew posted a news note credit to me and another reader by name for the Firefox 1.0.7 heads-up--that's cool! I'm happy I can contribue--even if indirectly--to a website I get a lot of useful information from. By 7pm Lavie's co-worker's family arrives from the Clear Lake area. Took them almost 6 hours--traffic is horrible--all over Houston with people flooding out of the evacuation areas. This is going to be bad. Horrible. I'm getting nervous. I can't find my carkeys. Full serch of house is fruitless. Go outside in back-yard where Lavie's car is parked. It's pitch-dark but maybe I left them in the seat. Find them on ground right by driver's side door (good sign #1?). Lavie's parents call by cellphone from Colorado. Just found out Rita is going to be a problem. They are freaked out, but nothing they can do. Promise to help them take care of the house. By 10:00 we are all in bed. Day over.

Rita Watch--Day 4

(Thurs. the 22nd) After a light sleep (find out that the a/c is out), woken by arrival of Lavie's brother and sister-in-law from Pasadena, Texas. Took them over 8 hours to make the trip. Traffic is now at a halt across Houston in evacuation gridlock. Rita is now rated a Cat-5 and track has moved from Matagorda Bay track to Galveston Bay track. Yikes. Choice of Liberty County as evacuation area now in doubt. At 9am Lavie decides to fill in some of the food supply with a trip into the city. This is a difficult choice. The 5-mile trip might take over two hours due to the parking lot on the main state highway we are just off-of. Lavie calls the store to confirm they are open. Ok. we are going to do it. Lavie lives up to her navigator status and leads me shooting down back country roads so we can avoid the main gridlocked highway. We make it in 20 min. Just as we are checking out they decide to close the store. We walk out with a full cart of groceries. Thank you for staying open! (good sign #2). Check of news still shows track on Galveston Bay. This will be total destruction. Thousands of people are trapped in traffic on the highways. Traffic moving nowhere. By 11am we have taken all the pictures and things off the walls, picked up the porches and yard, done an idiot's survey of the structual integrity of the house and identified parts most likely to fail (add-on garage, fancy double porch). Check trees and decide to park cars (5) in front of house as safest location. Take last showers for a while. Cook additional food items from freezer and fridge since we still have power for the moment. Discover Lavie's friend is an awesome "scratch-together" cook. Watch too much news and analysis for our own mental health. Track now looking like it is going right over Liberty County were we are at. Traffic to bad now to move again. Alvis and the friend's toddler are watching Nemo. Since a/c off, open all windows to summer air. Trying to think of it as pre-power failure physical conditioning. Not helping. News is now freaking me out. Switch to Emeril Live and Emeril helps me to feel a little better. Early to bed...

Rita Watch--Day 5

(Fri. the 23rd) Ok. Wake up and see two deer grazing in the front yard (good sign #3?). It is clear to me now that Rita is coming ashore somewhere between Galveston Bay and Beaumont. This is not good. It has downgraded to a Category 4. This is still not good. We fill the tubs, fill some 5-gallon pails. Lavie and I decide to sleep our family downstairs near the center of the house between the "parlor and sitting" rooms. Lavie's grandmother comes up from her place to weather the night with us. Lavie's friends from work take over the room we had been sleeping in (her parent's) and her brother and his wife remain in the top front bedroom. Grandma gets a mattress on the parlor room floor. I can see the dark clouds sweeping overhead. We try to laugh about Lavie's friends deaf-cat falling into the whirlpool tub water in the night and coming out howling and soaked. Winds slowly pick up around 3pm and by supper are pretty strong. I want to post to the Grand Stream Dreams blog but can't. Yes I have DSL web access for a few more hours, but my password is some kind of 40+ totally random generated password string. There is no way for me to remember it and it is locked in a password file on my pc's hard-drive, which has been carefully wrapped/sealed in plastic and now sitting on the floor beside me, disconnected. (I'm going to have to rethink that strategy--maybe use a password/pronouncing combination...) Sometimes being involved in security sucks. Forecasters believe Rita may come ashore near Port Arthur, maybe as a Cat-3. Still not good. Some dry air is visible breaking into the core. (good sign #4?) We sit on the back porch in the dark and enjoy the momentary relief of the rising breeze and light drizzle. Lavie's father's labrador is locked in the garage, her mom's outside-cat is inside tonight and not happy about that. Grandma took a nerve pill. Lavie's parent's try to help us from their golf-retreat by calling the local a/c guy and arrange for repairs to the a/c unit. He calls us and says will come out and fix it once things settle down. Isn't that neat. I bet his weekend rate is pretty high, but his hurricane rate must be astronomical! Appreciate Lavie's parent's trying to look out for us. Going to be a long night. Did I mention I haven't heard a bird the whole time we have been here? It's unnerving.

Rita Watch--Day 6

(Sat. the 24th) Rita rolls in with a fury. Winds are howling and smashing into the trees. It's pitch black outside so only the imagination works as cracks, bangs and loud smashes fill the air. The house doesn't make any noise itself. It's in a Southern-plantation style, but is fairly new and has never faced a hurricane before. Don't know how it will hold. Hoping for the best. At 1am the power goes out for good. Since the home is on well-water supply, I have to dash out into the rain and howling winds, shut off the water supply valve on the house, then flip open the breaker on the water pump so we can get it started again. It is crazy being out in that. I have no idea what could come flying down/into me. Make it back ok. The winds must be at least 90+ mph. Try to sleep and comfort Alvis and Lavie. I imagine Belldandy (Goddess, First Class) in her full- Angel form standing guard over the house shielding it from the winds. Grandma sleeping like a rock. Great. By 7am we are all up and the winds haven't let up. We stuggle to find a ballance between opening the right windows for relief on the house and keep rain off the wood floors. The cars are all safe. Almost no tree-litter around them at all. The back is another story. Mutiple large limbs have come off the humongous oaks in the back yard. Two have crashed down on-top of the water-well house. By 3pm the winds have died down to a light toss. Remarkably little rain has fallen. The pond rose maybe a foot. We go out to survey the damage. One small sapling down across the driveway. Pulled out of the way easily. Two trees in the back taken out by lighting, split in two and fallen charred. Yikes. And those branches from the oaks. Luckily, the damage to the well-house seems light. A broken drip-board and a cracked rafter-beam or two. No shingles gone, no siding loose. It is a miracle. Grandma is bummed. No electricty means no drip-coffee and the family watching her house while she stayed with us drank up the reserve-store in the thermos. By the late afternoon we are cleaning up the front yard and starting to lighten up and relax. We made it. Thank God. Lavie's parents are on their way home (driving), promise to be home by Sunday. Tell them to pick up some ice and instant coffee for Grandma.

Rita Watch--Day 7

(Sun. the 25th) Power is out for good. Now try to decide when to head back. Monday is general consensus. It is hot. Temps in the high 90's (F). All the wind we had yesterday has abondoned us. It is hot, humid and still. I feel like a sailor caught in the doldrums. Too tired to care about anything. Do some light chores. Listen to news on the radio. We really had good luck. Other parts of Texas and Louisiana fared very badly. Spend most of the day reading an old Time-Life Western series on Trailblazers. Figure reading about historic figures such as Lewis and Clark might help me feel less spoiled about missing a/c and running water. The labrador end's up getting bit by a yellow-jacket. Reports from the field seem to indicate our homes have made it through ok. While feeding the dog in the garage, a bird shoots out from under the stairs. Ends up being a green-backed humming-bird. I check later and it is still buzzing up in the rafters, exhausted. It can't seem to find it's way down and out. Eventually I find it caught in the remnants of a thick spider's web. I find a 12ft board and manage to snag the cob-web, and bird on the end. Gently I am able to extact the hummingbird. It is hardly moving. I can see it's eyelid flicker and the chest is moving slightly. I cradle the delicate miracle in my hands and everyone looks in wonder at it. I've never held a hummingbird in my hands. It is so tiny and beautiful. Lavie runs to fetch some sugarwater for it. We go out into the back among the fallen oak-braches and dip it's beak into the water. The third time it comes back to life and zips out of my hand and into the woods. I feel better. Maybe its our small way of giving back to the wind for sparing us. Lavie's parents make it in around 10:30pm. We have rearrange sleeping stations again so they have their room back. Much visiting and Lavie takes her dad on a tour of the grounds by lantern. We go to sleep again, exhausted. No breeze. No air. Just sweat.

Rita Watch--Day 8

(Mon. the 26th) Lavie's friends leave by 6am for home. We visit some more afterwards then pack up and head home ourselves by 9:30am. Were planning on leaving around lunch but the oppressive heat so early has driven us home. We fear traffic jams but it is very light. We get home quickly and find all is well. A section of fence in the back yard is the only casualty. No gas-stations seem to have gas restocked yet. Alvis is out of school until Wed. Lavie is off as well. At first I am off, but the boss calls later and asks we report in Tues. if possible (I can). We put up all the things and clean up house. Lavie's parents drop down to grocery shop for ice and some essentials (enjoy our a/c, take showers, do some laundry) before returning home to the oven we had been sheltering in (gratefully!). Lavie runs out for some limited groceries as well (since we emptied our fridge out in advance fearing power loss here). At the end of the day, 80% is put back in order, we watch some Azumanga Dioah on DVD then crash. Tomorrow is another day--thank goodness!

Things to do tomorrow--go to work and catch up on all my favorite websites. I haven't read MegaTokyo for a while and must be at least 3 of Piro's panel's behind!

Finally out of our Grand Steam adventure!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Rita Watch...Tuesday Night Post.

Woke up last night with a mild panic attack. There is something about the silence of the night that messes with your head. This audio account (Life with Lou Gehrig's Disease-- on NPR I heard yesterday captures much of it. Hopelessness at night. Finally got to sleep and woke up ok with no (major) worries.

Alvis's school district (as of this post time) still hasn't closed the schools. Expect low attendence to lead to closure mid-day or Friday for sure. Lavie's workplace has her home tomorrow and Friday. She still has to check in, but is otherwise planning on being off and taking care of last minute items.

I'm still facing normal operations as of right now at work. We closed our offices in Galveston, Alvin, Texas City. Rest are pending status right now. Don't know yet if I will be let off on Thursday/Friday yet. I hope so....

Lavie has a co-worker's family she "adopted." They moved down here from the Northern state area and have no family. They were in the manditory evacutation areas (us not yet) so she is letting them bunk-in at her parent's home futher north in Liberty county. Lavie and Alvis will be heading up there sometime Thurdsay. I will follow ASAP. We will then take in Lavie's mom's mother and aunt. Lavie's parents are out of the state in Colorado. So we all will be taking over their home during the storm. Body count is at least 8 people right now, may be more...Need to check in with my brother.

Decided last night on the essentials to take up with us. Will put stuff up off the floor before we leave. Don't really expect flooding where we are at and where Rita is coming ashore (as of right now). Biggest concern is water from roof damage--oh, and that tree in the neighbor's front yard.

See you in clear skies soon.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Watching the Grand Stream dip down....Meeting Hurricane Rita

Yesterday's post doesn't seem too important today.

Last night, forcasts were placing Hurricane Rita on track for landfall down near Brownsville, Texas. This morning the center of the "forecast cone" is tracking just west of Galveston Island, Texas.

Hmmm. All the while at work, we are still working on IT issues for extending technology support at our local Katrina relief consolidated headquarters for the displaced Louisiana folks. Ironic. I'm very proud of the incredible job we are doing at work--unpublicized. Hope we aren't doing it for ourselves next week.

Tonight, Lavie and I will be discussing evacutation plans. We have a place to go up in Liberty County. So wind damage aside, we should be ok. Lavie's Grandmothers down here are paired with extended family members so they will be cared for. Now, how do you decide what to take with you? I guess it is limited to what we can safely fit into two cars. If we have time, will let you know what we settle on.

Hurricane links we are watching...just in case you need them also.

Will keep you posted--daily if possible.

Bonus info

--Dad's father-in-law had been using MS Works. He had some "databases" he created for mail-merge like mailing labels. Only problem was on his new system no more MS Works. Only MS Office. What to do? How does one open .wks and .wdb files without using MS Works? I quickly found a link for a macro that opens up those pesky files and converts them into Excel tables. Neat. 5 min. later, all databases were recovered and Dad gets to be a hero. Sweet.

Got to go. FullMetal Alchemist "season 2" (well, not exactly but close enough) is cueing up on the VCR.

See you soon in clear skies (we pray),

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Shopping Score....

From yesterday's To-Do list, there were quite a few shopping items I needed to beat. Here is the score.
  1. Hair cut -- Done (although something seems to be afoot behind the scenes at the barber shop....)
  2. Cargo-pants/Levi's -- complete waste of time--rant to follow.
  3. Boots -- score! 1-pair black Sketchers lug boots. 1-pair brown leather GBX.
  4. Lavie's eye-exam - new Rx needed but eyes pretty as ever!
  5. Birthday gifts -- found plush Carebear w/DVD and Little-People princess set.
  6. Birthday party - hung out and watched kids swim.
So, about those jeans. I ran out to the local mall knowing I could score a pair or two. Two hours later I had no jeans and was getting very frustrated. Lavie didn't go with me so I have a harder time convincing myself of the fit. I have some Lee jeans that fit nice but they are just a little tight on my upper thighs. So after 2 hours of frustration, I left the mall and hit Target to get the birthday presents. Target had an awesome sale on all it's jeans. Wranglers, Levi's, Lee's. I knew the size to get 36x32/33 so I grabbed some pairs (normal & relaxed) to try on. Ummm. Excuse me...where is your fitting room?

So, our Target store just did a major remodel in the Spring. Apparently they have only one changing area in the whole store. It is right in the middle of the Ladies Apparel section. I was assured it was "uni-sex"--ok, I think I am cool with that. So I head over there. There is a mass (throng?) of women and small kids all spilling in and out of the changing rooms. A scrum waiting to head in. Nope. No way. Nada. Ain't going to happen. Too outnumbered. So I pack up 8 or 9 pairs of jeans that look promising and (with other items in tow) check out. My plan is to try them on at home, get Lavie's opinion, and then take back the ones we don't like.

Later that night I try them on. The waist sizes are ok. But I suspect I know why they are on sale. Even though they all are 32 length. they seem to run in actual range from 30 to 36. Wow. The fit on the back of my legs is even worse. I could probably fit 2 legs in one. Not cool. Ok. So out of the 8 or 9 pairs I bring home, two pairs are close. 1 pair of Wranglers normal fit and 1 pair of Levi's normal fit. Only problem with the Levi's ends up being that the outside side-seam does this twisting number and ends up on the front of my shin. I had a pair like that once before and it drove me crazy. I was always trying to twist them back but they were "made" that way. So I'm just taking them all back and going to make the longer trek down to Eddie Bauer and get maybe two or thee pairs for the price of 10 at Target. Now I know why they were so cheap. I really hate buying clothing for myself.....I was in a dark mood for the rest of the night.

One shining positive of it all was that I got an early birthday present out of it from Lavie.

I have a REALLY nice Seiko chronograph watch. It has a shimmering dark green face and a gold/stainless bracelet band. It weighs about a pound. It has been my daily-wear watch. I've had it for many years and it was a birthday present from Lavie. About two years ago "something" happened and the date indicator stopped working. I took it for repair but discovered it would cost more to fix the watch than it would be to buy a new one. So I have been wearing it daily but just (when I remember) manually advancing the date. So Friday at work I was writing out service tickets in the field for work I was doing on the computers and I couldn't remember what day it was and my watch was no real help, so I called Lavie and told her for my birthday a new watch with a working date counter was a good idea.

While pounding the mall yesterday in my fruitless search for jeans, I stopped by our favorite jewler and checked out the watches. I found one that looked perfect. Later that night Lavie went by with me (ugh! return trip to mall--will the pain stop?) and agreed. She got it for me! Now I have a low-key watch with both weekday/date counter that work. Sweet.

While I'm on watches, one of my first was a Casio LED. I got it as a Christmas present while on vacation down in Florida. There is a UK store that sells retro versions of it. I think on mine, you had to press a button to display the time because it would run the battery down fast if it were always on. Early LED's were not very power efficient. Thinking about that landed me on Retro thing: Casio Retro Watches page. Memories...had one like that. Of course I had the Swatch. But my most meaningful watch as a teen was one I saw in a SharperImage catalog, saved up the money for and ordered. We were staying with the neighbors as Mom and Dad had taken a trip somewhere, so I was checking the doorstop each day for it's delivery. When it came, I cut my hand in excitement as I opened the box. It looked just like this one except it had a fine blue line around the words on the face and it had the outline of a Marlin or Sailfish on the side in matching blue. Now that was an awesome watch. I was so proud of it. These Casios bring back memories as well. One of the kids in high-school had one of those calculator wrist watches. Man--that was the ultimate in cool. (GEEK!)

Opera celebrated it's 10th year a couple of weeks ago. Before FireFox I really used the Opera browser a lot. They were giving away free registration codes (check out all the posts) for a day so I snagged one. I just got done loading Opera8 on my pc this morning. Too bad, it didn't impress me much. I used to like it alot, but the style is kinda clunky to me. I couldn't easily customize the bars and it seemed slower than FireFox loading pages as well (that's not good as I am still on dial-up). I guess I will keep it on a little bit longer. But I am really not impressed. At all. Used to be a nice alternative browser. I think I would rather use IE than Opera at this point. That's sad.

See you in the skies.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Bagwell Comes to Bat....

I have a confession to make. I'm a closet Astro's fan. I almost never watch them play during the period leading up to the All-Star game. Yeah, I might drop in on them every once in a while to get some of the new-guys' names down. I might peruse a sports column so I can casually talk baseball with some of the rabid sports fans at work. But I really don't follow them constantly. I love the beautiful Minute Maid ballpark at Union Station (by the way, the train they moved out front from Hermann Park looks awesome at it's new location!). I enjoy hanging out for a slow game at the park--once in a while. Maybe listen to a game on the radio when I have to work really late and NPR isn't on the local radio anymore. But I just don't follow them like I should.

So, last night it's around 22:00 and I'm putting Lavie and Al to bed. Al is on the phone talking to her Lavie's dad. Lavie is sulking because it's too late to read a chapter of HP-HBP. I'm flipping channels and come across the Astros/Brewers game. Ok. Tied. Ok. Bottom of the 9th. Ok. Runners on first and second. Ok. No Outs-Astros at Bat. Ok. Astros hold a slim lead on the wild-card slot. Ok--I'll bite. First batter--out. 2nd batter-pop-fly out. This is going into extra innings, I think. Up comes Bagwell? Wait. Bagwell? Isn't he still out on the disabled list? WTF?!!! The Brewers conference at the mound. Al perks up, Lavie stirs....No more flipping channels between baseball and "What not to Wear." They are definitely going to walk him. Yep. Only call to make. What? A pitch to him? Man! Look at him swing! He's gunning for the fence? Can he do it? A feeling starts to burst to life in the bottom of my heart.....another pitch....hard crank foul....I'm screaming now...drop it in the back field corner!!!...drop it in the back field corner!!!...the ball soars deep into the back field....the outfield are stretched....they run trying to cut it off....the ball drops....the runner comes home...BAGWELL WINS THE GAME! BAGWELL WINS THE GAME!!! BAGWELL WINS THE GAME!!!!!!

When things finally settle down in our house and all the standing fans are still cheering at the ballpark, a sportscaster grabs Jeff and interviews him. He remains humble, seeming embarrassed at the fuss. He comments on how he is just glad he can continue to help the team out.

Bagwell is why our family still loves the or loose. It's the attitude of Jeff and Rodger Clements (who played his heart out on the same day his mother passed away--just for her) and Biggio. Respect. They have it for their fans--guys, we have it in spades for you! Do your best--we will love you either way. can I top that?

Mando has a dual monitor desktop of an Astros ball-cap (shown above). He also has some historical ballpark desktop photos of Wriggley Field and Ebbets Field.

Houston Chronicle sports columnist Richard Justice writes about Bagwell in his blog.

The game's boxscore and a guide on how to read them.

Miscellaneous Landings:
Today To Do List:
  1. Get hair cut - skin on back and sides, short flatop.
  2. Go shopping for some new Levi's and cargo-twill pants for work.
  3. Shop for comfortable black combat boots\black lug shoes for work.
  4. Lavie has eye exam.
  5. Get birthday gift for Alvis's cousin.
  6. Go to aforementioned cousin's birthday party.
See you in the skies.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tail-light Rants...EverNote...and other things...

So, I was driving home from work the other day and got behind a vehicle that had some darkened/smoked taillights. These were custom add-ons. To be more accurate, I suspect that the taillights had smoked covers over them. Now, I am all for everyone's right to customize their car so it reflects their personality or sense of individuality. But with one limitation. It must be street-legal and safe! So, I am behind this car, with a safe following distance and it breaks--but I couldn't tell 'cause the lights were smoked out too dark. This goes on for several miles, with me leaving increasing distance between our cars. Finally, at a light I was able to pull right up behind it and could--dimly-see the red brake-lights lit underneath the smoked out covers. If it was midnight, I might have been able to seem them a little bit brighter. Excessively-smoked out lights should be illegal. Actually, they probably are.

Then again, I'm so anal-retentive, when I gas up my car, I get the station's windshield wiper squeege and actually scub down my taillights to remove the dirt/dust just so they will be brighter to other drivers. Lavie just adores the newer Nissan Altima's with their crystal tail-lights. She was kinda crushed when the new 2002 Altimas came out with that look, and we couldn't afford a new one (she did get a new custom 2001 Altima--but never lets me forget that they don't have the same tail-lights). Just to make things worse, our neighbor recently bought a wicked-looking 2005 Nissan Altima SE-R. Great. Now I have to live with Lavie's parked next to that one. It really hurts.

Down here in Texas, many multi-lane roads have a center turning lane. It is commonly used by stupid drivers as a merging lane. You know, traffic is to heavy to make a 90 degree merge from a side entry so the driver pulls across the lane into that one and then drives in it until they can merge? Anyway, that's illegal too. So I was going down a 4 lane (2-in each direction) road in Houston--with no center turning lane. Then this pickup is trying to make a left turn but traffic that way is too heavy. So since there isn't any oncoming traffic in the other lane he makes a left turn into one of the oncoming lanes and drives about a 1/8 mile the wrong way until he can merge into the traffic. I couldn't believe that one. Geesh.

On to better things....

While I was camped out in hotel, chillin with me 'bro, he was showing me his cool Sony Viao laptop. Pretty. Widescreen LCD. Slim. Light. Cool. Dude didn't have a cat-v cable in his bag though so he couldn't connect to the hotel internet. Luckly geeky bother that I am had one in the trunk of my car. Score! So he has just about every single Microsoft Office application there is (except a beta version of Longhorn/Vista). One of the applications he was playing with was OneNote. I was really impressed. When I got back home, being the cheap (free) IT guy I am, I decided to see if there was an opensource alternative. Nope. But I did find this free version called EverNote. It isn't as featured as OneNote, but it is pretty close. And it comes in a free version. (Have I mentioned I really like OpenOffice as a Microsoft Office suite alternative?)

Other organizational applications (free) of note:
  • Rainlendar A customizable calendar that resides on your desktop.
  • Contact A cool address book.
  • NeoMem Store and organize all kinds of information in a cross between a word processor and database.
  • Chaos Manager An appointment manager, a calendar, a contact list and a notebook.
  • EssentialPIM A scheduler, contact manager, and outliner.
  • PocketMod This is cool. It is a flash-based pocket organizer generator.
Other thing I have been playing with is Firefox 1.5 Beta (Deer Park). I finally got brave enough to try it. I downloaded and installed it in a seperate program directory just to avoid screwing up my current release version of Firefox. I really like it. Pros: rearrangable window tabs. Cons: almost none of the extensions work right now. I am using it full time at work and am very happy with it. I wouldn't reccommend most people try it out yet, unless you know what you are doing or are a die-hard Firefox user. The lack of current extension support is a real drawback--but on the otherhand, I have been using it heavily for a week and haven't locked it up or crashed it yet!

Piro and Seraphim have opened up some new products in their MegaGear Store. Neat. Christmas is coming up! I like this gear. I guess I'll find out if family members like this gear too! Lavie looks styling in her "Darkly Cute" t-shirt! Now if I just didn't have to explain what it means to all her family members....

While I'm thinking about holiday about that iPod Nano? Ars did a iPod Nano-Review & Destruction review. It is pretty cool. I'll take a black one please. Apple also released a nice version of iTunes (v5) get that update here. I really like the improved interface. It does sport a cleaner look.

Finally, here is a new desktop wallpaper site. I had been searching a long time for some Windows XP sky/grass desktop images I've seen on some Linux builds. It had them and then some more. I've had download issues with this site and FireFox. No problems with IE so I guess they just aren't Firefox friendly. Oh well. I'm using this one on both my desktop pc and laptop at work right now. I really like that blue background color with my floating/shadowed XP laptop settings. And my Rainlendar app looks cool on it as well.

See you in the skies.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Goodbye Grandma....

This last Wedensday my maternal Grandmother passed away. We had services for her on this past Tuesday. My brother had some very kind words to say. My cousin read a scripture passage from Proverbs on the virtuous woman. And my Aunt sang a beautiful song. I gave the eulogy. You can find it below. She was a wonderful woman. We will miss you Grandma.

A Tribute to Grandma—given by her Grandson—on behalf of a loved family.

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die” -- Thomas Campbell

Ruby-red lipstick, Rattle of five dice in a Yahtzee game cup, Gold helmets of the Notre Dame football team, Many multi-colored embroidered vests, White sands and clear waters of Sanibel Island, Buckets and bins, bags and jars of sea-shells, A tan, scratchy wool throw blanket, Picnic tables and the thin curl of smoke from mosquito coils, Brown sugar cinnamon Pop-Tarts, Maple oatmeal, Pecan Pancakes, and tiny cereal boxes—split open down the middle, Late local nightly newscasts and a heavy Sunday morning paper, Crosswords and word-search puzzles—all carefully written in. Atlases, maps, and Triple-A travel guides, roads outlined in yellow, Laughter and love; hugs and kisses.

Images and objects, smells and sounds—all touchstones that flash into my mind as I remember my Grandmother.

Grandma was so full of life and love for others, it seemed her body couldn’t contain her enthusiasm. It constantly was spilling out of her. She just couldn’t manage to contain it in her body. She was like a glass filled to a point just above the rim—the slightest bump, any excuse of an encounter—her warm personality would spill out generously, dousing all around with her enthusiasm and vivacity.

Growing up, I was able to spend frequent summer times with them at Airstream rallys. Grandma could always be found participating on some committee, planning out group meals, organizing an entertainment program. Or maybe she was putting on a display of her handiwork or a collection of sea-shells she and Grandpa had collected together. Often she managed to combine several of these activities at once!

During one such rally, she played the part of a pioneer teacher, showing a child how to write. She was up on a high stage in period dress and I a small child in buckskin with a slate chalk-board at her feet. The auditorium spotlight fell on us and in the darkness a narrator gave a lesson of this period of history. I was terrified and instantly forgot how to write, Grandma calmly smiled, waved at the watching crowd and spoke peacefully to me. She had poise and presence.

Later (when I remembered how to write again) came birthday presents and cards richly filled with a few crisp dollar bills. Mom and Dad always made sure I wrote thank-you letters back. Later when we were able to travel out to Florida for the summer to visit her and Grandpa in Fort Meyers, I would discover those letters and pictures taped proudly to the walls in her bedroom. I think Grandma always had a way of getting the better deal out of things.

Grandma seemed to always find a way to connect with people—no matter what walk of life and circumstance they came from. People and their stories always seemed to fascinate her. When she met someone she didn’t know by sight immediately, she would begin to quiz them about where they used to live, what they did, or maybe who they knew. She was almost always able to find a common link to join themselves together. On road-trips pulling their Airsteam trailer in their bright red Lincoln Towncar,--the one with the white seats and top that seemed bigger than the state of Texas—she would have a keen eye out for other Airstreams. When she spotted one we would call out the red numbers on its front. She would look it up in her members book and--more times that not--not only would Grandma know who the owners were, but frequently could tell intimate stories about them!

Grandma came from an American generation in transition. As a child she grew up in a time when letter writing was a rich and valuable means of family communication, when relationships were tended like gardens and community was strong. In her middle-years she could throw parties, make clothes, and support managing her household as her husband moved frequently in his job with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and making sacrifices during the war. In her retirement she was able to gaze upon the modern “world of tomorrow” with open highways, television programming, space exploration and incredible advances in medicine.

William Shakespeare once wrote “Now join your hands, and with your hands your hearts.”

Grandma’s hands loved her family and friends. Grandma’s heart loved Grandpa. Children pay very close attention to the relationships of adults around them. They seem to pick up the smallest things. I know Grandma’s heart joined with Grandpa’s because I saw how much he cared for her and she for him. She always had a meal planned or a cool drink for him. She fussed over him constantly. Her eagle eye could spot a smudge of grease or streak of paint on him. When Mom was cleaning out Grandpa’s work-shed, she found a pair of pants hidden that had paint on them—no doubt Grandpa wanted to spare Grandma any undue concern about them, and carefully put them away so she wouldn’t have to attend to them.

Her love and instruction planted in us as children helped shape us and give us the courage and confidence to take on this quickly changing modern-world. And even though as adults we all have different job-titles—I find it a mark of Grandma’s lasting legacy that we all are all--in some form--teachers and healers, caregivers and advice-givers; curious explorers of the people and world around us..

Many years ago while I was in high-school, I wrote a poem for a contest It brings special meaning to me now to share it one last time.

Postcard Memories

I received another postcard today.

This time it was from Maine.

It had a picture of a seaside cliff

With the surf crashing below and

Green lawn rolling out to the edge.

The odometer is moving again.

Grandma and Grandpa never seem to stop or rest.

They see it all.

I have so many postcards.

There is one of a church in Virginia,

And a virgin white beach in Florida.

Here’s one of a dark forest in Washington state.

I can hear the fire crackle in this one from Nevada.

Her hands are steady even though at night

They curl up stiff from arthritis.

His deep brown skin is as aged

As the tree in this postcard from Michigan.

Their white hair, as full a mane as any lion has,

Is the color of this old school building

On this postcard from Tennessee.

Some people say that they don’t care

That they are avoiding us

And can’t face their old age.

They want them to settle down

In a quiet town like this one in

A picture from Arizona; Grandpa said he

Hated that place.

I know one day their journey will end.

It won’t come with a fanfare of angels

But more like silent sighs,

Like the setting of a falling moon

Leaving only stars to shine

Behind its path.

I won’t be surprised when I get a postcard

Of the train station they will depart from

One dark summer midnight

Destination unknown

A glimmer of mischief in their eyes.