Thoughts on motorcycling, life in general
For my thirtieth birthday, I decided that I really wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I've really wanted to do this since I was sixteen, but it's languished on my list of things I've never gotten to until a few months ago.
After I got back from Russia, (more on that later.) I signed up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundations beginning rider course. If you have any interest in riding, take this class. It came to less than $200, and it really gives good insight into what it's like to ride a motorcycle. They also teach proper control techniques, with an emphasis on street survival skills. (Remember, everyone is out to kill you.)
After (barely) passing the riding test, I decided that it would be fun to explore this new activity more, so I started shopping. I settled on a Honda 599, and never looked back. I've been riding at least 100 miles a week since the end of October. I got my motorcycle license right before my 30th, and got the bike about two weeks later. This thing is so much fun. It's amazing how different it is to ride a motorcycle than it is to drive a car. When I'm in my car now, I feel like I'm riding around in my living room. On the bike, I'm out in the wind, having to respond to every bump, and with a bike that responds to every twitch of my body. It's much more physical, and places more demands on your alertness than driving. Of course, this is why it's so dangerous for someone who's been riding for less than six months. You still have to make a conscious effort to operate the machine, while at the same time, keeping track of every car around you, scanning ahead for stuff in the road, and negotiating curves.
A brief summary of what's happened since last spring: This summer, I went to Russia to work with children in orphanages and foster homes. This was organized through my Church, a NGO that operates in Russia, and a whole lot of other people along the way. The trip was, in a word, fantastic. I met so many amazing people, and saw so much I'll never forget. I'm planning on going back next year.
Since then, things have been pretty good. Work is...something I'll write about later. My friends and family are well, and life is good. I'm feeling a bit restless though. It may be time to move again. I'm shopping around for cities to live in right now, so if you're in one you like, tell me something nice about it.
Okay, I'm frustrated. Last night, I took a lady out to dinner. (this was our third time out.) We had a good time, enjoyed the meal together, and then went for dessert and coffee at a different restaraunt.
After that, I drove her back to her place, talked for a while, discussed where to go out to next week, said good night, and then drove home. When I got home, there was an email waiting for me saying she wanted to break things off because she didn't feel ready to get into a new relationship.
I'm not as upset about the fact that she broke up with me, so much as the manner in which she did it. First, email is far to impersonal a medium for that kind of thing. Second, I WAS SITTING IN HER APPARTMENT FIVE MINUTES BEFORE SHE SENT THE EMAIL. I've known this girl for almost four years. We go to Church together, and we've been running into each other socially since around '01 when I met her at a Christmas party. I feel mad at myself for overestimating her. I felt like she was a better (or at least braver) person than that. The fact that she couldn't tell me face to face irks me to no end.
I went to Halcyon,a little coffee shop in Downtown Austin, last week; and it looked like I'd walked into an Apple commercial. I counted three iBooks and four PowerBooks (including my own.) There was one guy there with a Dell, and it was the only PC in the room.
A friend of mine just got a new work laptop. He works at 3M, and they just took away his ThinkPad and issued him a PowerBook. This should be interesting, since he's one of the ones who looked at me a little bit funny when I abandoned Windows for the Mac.
Voted yesterday. Wake me on the 3rd to tell me who won
Went in for early voting here in Austin yesterday after work. As of now, I'm turning off the TV, and will not be turning it on again until after the election.
My name is Raider_red, and I approved this journal entry.
The Joint Press Conference by Pres. Bush and Sen. Kerry
I had a decidedly 21st century experience watching last night's debate. I spent the entire debate with a notebook computer in my lap, IMing over Yahoo Instant Messenger with a friend in Fort Worth. We had a running commentary going for the entire thing.
As to the debate itself, I felt it was a draw. Nothing particularly new was said. Kerry led a little bit on style, but he also seemed a bit stiff. The President did fairly well. He spent the entire time leaning against the podium, but was animated, and articulated fairly well. I felt he did an adequate job defending his policies in Iraq, but he fumbled a bit on North Korea. It was obvious that they didn't cover that enough during the debate prep.
Senator Kerry made good points on the Non Proliferation issue, but I felt that there was no substance to what he was saying. He had good ideas, but I don't think he really has a plan to put them into action.
Overall, I don't think either will get a substantive boost from this.
More on the Mac, work issues
Okay, just a few things to add to the Mac diary. The system is working great, and I'm hooked on iTunes. I don't see any reason to buy CDs anymore. I also got an iPod to go with the computer so I can take my music to the office. We are absolutely forbidden from walking in with our own computers. This has led to some interesting issues, like how to get the PowerPoint slides I put together on the airplane a couple of weeks ago into the office to do my presentation. (I burned the file to CD and walked them in.)
Work is pretty good right now. I figured out how to do something in Vera that everyone said wasn't supported. It took about two-hundred lines of code to do it, and is ugly as you wouldn't believe, but it works.
We're also going through our employee evaluations, which I'm sort of participating in. I haven't been here long enough to have an official evaluation, but my manager and I are walking through the process just to make sure I get sufficient feedback. So far it's pretty positive, with some areas I need to improve in. I'm fine with that. I see criticism as a chance to improve myself and my work, so I won't take it badly. Also, I'm rated very highly overall, and my manager said he expects me to pass a couple of our senior guys on the employee rankings in a year or two. I may not be as optimistic as he is, since the other engineers are very good, and I definitely have a lot of respect for their work. On the other hand, I intend to be running the place in five years or so.;) Ambition can be a good thing as long as it's properly directed.
Joining the Cult, Part 3: Settling in, traveling
I'm starting to get used to using Mac OS X for day-to-day business. In the last two weeks, I've adapted iPhoto as my key tool for importing and organizing images from my camera. I've bought my first album on iTunes.
I also toted my PowerBook to Utah for my best friend's wedding. I'm using a Targus backpack to carry the notebook and all the accessories that go with it. The first think I discovered as I was carrying my computer and camera gear through security was that I should have picked up a bag that was set up for both a camera outfit and a notebook. Carrying two bags is a bit of a pain, especially when one is a sling-bag and the other a backpack. It'll be something to get before the next plane trip.
As for the intended purposes of bringing my notebook on the trip, it performed flawlessly. Each night, I was able to download my pictures, organize them, and keep up with my email. One annoyance is that the wireless access point at our hotel didn't give a consistent connection from my room. We checked it with two IBM laptops and found the same issues with those machines. The easy solution was to put everything together after we got in for the night, and then walk down to the lobby to access the internet.
Because I had the powerbook, I was able to burn all my photos through the end of the rehearsal dinner to CD for the groom's family, who had flown in from Puerto Rico for the wedding. Also, after the reception (finally) ended, I was able to get a couple of pictures emailed out to some friends who weren't able to make it. (Special thanks to Monica, who took pictures with my camera during the actual ceremony. I was standing in the wedding as best man, and so I couldn't be troubled to hold a camera the whole time.)
All in all, this computer is wonderful.
Joining the Cult, Part 2: Trouble on the way to Paradise
I got home from the Office about 6, after stopping at Comp USA to get a bag for the new PowerBook. I gently worked my way through the packaging, and unbundled the new machine. After plugging it in on my dining room table, I made a cursory inspection of the documentation. Nothing too complex.
I powered the machine up for the first time, and was greeted with a friendly startup screen, followed by a series of setup dialogs. After navigating through these, I was dumped into the Mac OS X desktop. (Nirvana!) It also immediately found my wireless access point, so I didn't have to run an Ethernet cable to the router.
But trouble was just around the corner. After this first startup, the Mac immediately launched system update. It downloaded about 120 MB of updates, including the gargantuan 80 MB 10.3.5 update. While all of these were installing, I decided to do something useful, and popped open Safari to get a fresh copy of Mozilla Firefox. When I attempted to install this at the same time the system updater thingy was optimizing my hard drive, I got an evil dialog which read "Your system needs to be restarted, please press and hold your power button." I did as it instructed, and when I tried to power back up, the system wouldn't boot. Realizing after about ten minutes that I was a little out of my depth, I called tech support, where I was placed on hold. Not being one to be put off from geekly pursuits, I put tech-support-hold on the speaker phone, and grabbed the one DVD which was packaged with my machine-- which had a brief instruction for running hardware diagnostics. After 15 minutes on hold, I had come to the conclusion that my boot drive was fucked. At this point, I went to get a Coke, and ruminate. As I came to the end of my rumination, I was finally forwarded to a tech-support guy. After a brief discussion, we agreed that yes, my boot drive was fucked. (As an aside, I found the guy at Apple, named Robert, to be quite good, unlike a lot of the first levels at SBC or Dell.) The next step was to reinstall the OS off that same DVD. Thirty or forty minutes later, I had a running system again, which in turn, wanted to run system update. This time it ran successfully, and I now have a beautiful functioning powerbook.
Since then, I've installed my wireless mouse, MS Office, and Firefox. I'm enjoying this. I'll write more later.
Joining the Cult, part 1a: DHL Rocks
Okay, I placed my order with Mac Connection last night after dinner. I opted for overnight figuring I'd receive it Monday. I got an email this morning with package tracking number this morning around 8. On checking, I discovered that they already had it on a truck in Austin. Apparently, their state to state transport is being handled by either Superman or Mr. Scott.
A quick call to DHL, and they were willing to call me when they got to my door. The new machine hit my door step at 12:45 this afternoon. I ran home to toss it in the front door, and then headed back to the office.
Joining the Cult of Mac, Part 1: Ordering
Okay, I've been bitten by the Mac bug. It happened the second time I tried out an OS X machine. I'd always avoided Macs like the plague, but there was something about Mac OS 10.2 that grabbed me. Part of it was the cool graphics. Part of it was the sleek design of the machines. (I think this one was a G3 TiBook) Another thing that grabbed me was when I found the terminal program. I've used Unix workstations for my entire career, and here was one that my mother could use. Add to that a big fight with my computer over service pack installs and driver issues, and I decided it was time to Think Different about computers.
Today, I found out that MacConnection was running a special on 1.25 GHz powerbooks with Superdrive and Airport express. Basically, the rev of the 15" Powerbook before the current model. Other than a blip in processor speed, the same computer. I put in an order this evening before going to see a movie with a friend. I put it on my Visa because it has the best loss protection for dealing with online merchants. I've been saving for this for a couple of months, so the money is sitting in the bank, and I can pay off the balance on Tuesday. (After I take delivery.)
Got home from the movie, and found a 15 minute old email telling me my credit card was declined. (This has never happened to me before. I was pissed. I was angry. I was cleaning my guns. I called Bank One to yell at them for a few minutes. It turns out I tripped their fraud protection mechanism by doing something wildly out of profile. (I haven't made a purchase with their card in 9 months, and I've just gone and spent 2 grand.) After assuring them that I was actually using my card, and not someone else, they cleared the transaction. A quick call to Michael at Mac Connection (They're open at 12 EST?) got the problem resolved at their end. Now I just have to wait for the DHL guy.
Democracy (?) in America, 2004
I've noticed some interesting things the last couple of days. For several months, I've had as my message signature the line "Associate Member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy." This is of course a joking paeon to a comment made by Hillary Clinton during her husband's perjury investigation.
A few days ago, I made a joking reference in which I might have called Hillary Clinton the Antichrist. Some Anon. Coward took offense at this and called me a right wing nut-job. Oh, and he also suggested that I be mod-bombed, which is just impolite.
In response, and partly as an experiment. I changed my signature to the line "Honers Graduate of the George W. Bush school for speling and gramer." All misspellings are in the original, and of course constitute part of the joke. Now I'm being refered to as a liberal pansy who's apparently sleeping with Michael Moore. (Okay, the response isn't that bad.)
Sadly, this seems to represent what passes for political discourse in America today. You're either part of my party, or you're stupid/ignorant/inhumane/racist/gay/homophobic. Take your pick depending on which party you belong to.
For the record, I don't care much for either party right now. I've voted Republican in the past because I'm in favor of less government intrusion in my life. Sadly, the Republican Party is becoming the party of social conservatives, at the expense of increasing the power of the federal government. So, people with my mindset now have a problem. We have a Democratic party which wants to enslave people through over regulation and government handouts, and we have a Republican party which wants to enslave us to a particular lifestyle and value set. Either way, we all lose, but because we're so set on one party over the other, we can't get past what they're both doing to us.
As to the election, I don't care much for either candidate. I think Bush has some issues, but no one has given me a compelling reason why Kerry is any better. And no, I'm not going to subscribe to the "anybody but Bush line". With that kind of logic, we might as well install Joe Stalin to run the country. So I'm probably going to vote Libertarian, or leave the line for President blank on this years ballot.
It's been six weeks since I started my new job in Austin. It's been good so far. I've found a place on the team here. We're getting ready to run our IPO and take the next step toward splitting off from Motorola. Everyone here is fairly excited about that. I'm sure it's not as exciting as it is over at Google right now, but it's still a good feeling.
I'm enjoying my job. Yesterday, I looked at the clock and realized that it was already 7pm. I'd completely lost myself in what I was doing, and had no idea that I was here that late. It's a good sign when you can do that. Compared to working at the FAA, where I'd leave skid marks in the parking lot on my way out every night at 5:30, it's a great improvement.
I've gotten in touch with most of my friends back in Austin. It's good to see them all again. Everyone is much more optimistic than a year ago. Now, it seems that there are more jobs to be had, more money to be made, and more fun and useful things to do with it. I'm also enjoying the benefit of paying for only one house and not paying a state income tax.
Hey short timer...
I'm in my last week at the FAA. I'm trying to stay focused and get things wrapped up properly for whoever ends up inheriting my projects. I think I've got the server issues resolved for now, but I'm leaving recommendations that they bring in Sun to look at our tape-backup system. I'm also hoping they bring in a real sysadmin, instead of sticking the guy who knows how to spell Solaris (me) with the job.
I've started getting everything ready to move out of my appartment. I've given notice with the rental office, booked time on the loading dock, reserved the truck, and hit up friends in OKC and Austin for the load and unload respectively.
I'll have plenty of time to move. I'll be unemployed all of next week, and through memorial day weekend. I start at Freescale on the Tuesday, June 1st. I'm planning on loading out the appartment a week from today. A few friends from Church have offered to help. I've been sorting through and dumping papers and magazines all weekend, so now I just need to get everything boxed up for the trip. I'm off to find some more boxes...
Starting a new job soon, and moving again
I found a job back in Austin. It looks like I'll be kissing Oklahoma City goodbye, and getting back to my house in Texas. Good timing too, since my last tenant moved out two weeks ago.
It also means that I won't be stuck working as a contractor for the Federal Aviation Administration anymore. This is a serious relief, as working for the Federal Government doesn't seem to be a match for my temperament. (I like to actually accomplish things.) It'll be good to get back to a company that actually has to meet goals and make money.
I'm starting the new job the first week in June. I put in my notice at work yesterday. A few people seem upset to see me go, and I'm sure that at least one will be throwing a party after I leave. There are a lot of good people here, and I will miss them. I know thought that this is the best thing right now for both my career and personal lives.
Ergonomics redux: Little things count for a lot
I've been having a problem the last month or so with joint pain in my left shoulder, and to a lesser extent in my right. It's been especially bad in the last week and was getting to the point where I had to take ibuprofin every night just to get to sleep.
Yesterday, I took a hard look at my office setup, and made a small adjustment to my keyboard trays. I dropped them each about half an inch and adjusted the tilt so they slope a little bit downward from me. I also pulled the drivers seat in my car up one notch so I didn't have quite as far to reach for the steering wheel. Net result, no more sore shoulders. It's amazing sometimes how very small adjustments can have a profound effect on your work environment.
My God, someone wants to give me three million dollars!
Okay, I thought these things were out of style. I've received two of these in the last week. The second one is shown below, along with all attached names and contact info. I'm thinking of emailing back just to yank his chain.
Mr. Jonathan Daniels Johannesburg - South Africa.
Tel: 27 84 4499437
Fax: 27 84 3391045
Courtesy of Business opportunity, I take liberty anchored on strong
desire to solicit for your assistance on this mutual beneficial and risk
free transaction with you, which I hope you give urgent attention. To be
precise, I am Jonathan Daniels the Manager of Bills/Exchange at the
Foreign Exchange/Remittance Department of NEDBANK South Africa. In my
department, we discovered an abandoned sum of US$12,524,000.00 (Twelve
Million, Five Hundred and Twenty Four Thousand United States Dollars) in an
account that belongs to one of our customers who died along with his
entire family in 1988 Lockerbie Pan American Airline plane crash.
Since we got information about his death, we have been expecting his
next of Kin to come over and claim his money, because we can not release
it unless somebody applied for its next of Kin or Relation to the
deceased as indicated in our banking procedure, but unfortunately to no
avail, and nobody has come forward to claim the money (because the
mentioned next of kin which is Son died as well).
Therefore, upon this discovery I and other two officials in my
department now decide to establish a cordial business relationship with you,
hence my contacting you. We want you to purportedly present your good
self as the next of Kin or relation of the deceased so that we can prepare
documentations and release the funds (US$12.524 Million) into your
account for safety and subsequent disbursement since nobody is coming for
it and again we do not want the funds to go into the Governments account
as "Unclaimed Bill".
The banking law and procedures herein stipulates that any account
abandoned or dormant for a period of some years is subjected to be closed
and all money contained therein will be forfeited to the Government
Treasury Account. Now it is being speculated that the above sum will be
transferred into Government Treasury Account as unclaimed funds on or
before April 2004. The reason for you to present your good self as the next
of kin in occasioned by the fact that the deceased customer was a
Mode of sharing after the successful completion of the transfer is as
follows, for the role you will be expected to play in the whole
exercise, we have agreed to give you twenty five (25%) of the total sum, and 5%
has been set aside for expenses we are going to encounter by both
parties in the process of this transaction and the remaining 70% shall be
for my colleagues and I. In support of the aforementioned, you are urged
to reply this letter indicating your readiness and interest to
participate in the business. After you reply, you will be advised on the next
I quite believe that you will protect our interest by keeping this
business Top Secret and Confidential, as your interest will be equally
protected in order to achieve and maintain maximum confidentiality. Trust
to hear from you on the above numbers as I count on your earliest
Weapons of Mass Distraction
They finally found a WMD! Unfortunately for the CIA, the military, and the President, it was found in Bill Frist's office. You'd think by now though, that if there really was an evil conspiracy by Bush/Rove/Cheney/whoever, that they'd have just planted some WMDs in Iraq.
It looks as though Kerry is going to tie up the Democratic Party nomination in the next few weeks. I'm expecting Lieberman to drop out after today's primaries, and Howard Dean to suffer a major nervous breakdown by the end of the month. This will leave us with the extremely difficult choice of electing the Yale alum. from the Skull and Bones Society, or re-electing the other Yale alum. from the Skull and Bones Society. If nothing else, it'll be a great year for the conspiracy nuts.
Proving that I'm out of my mind
I think I've just proven once and for all that I'm out of my mind. I got an offer for a job in the Phoenix area which pays about forty percent more than I make now, and I'm turning it down.
I've decided in this case that it's really not about the money. I'd rather be back in Texas, and I think it's best for me to keep looking for a position there. Even if it's not for as much as the guys in Phoenix offered.
Am I crazy? Am I doing something I shouldn't by turning this down? I know it will be good for my career, but there are other things that I feel I have to consider.
First entry, introduction
I guess its about time for me to use this journal facility. I've been keeping one on and off on k5, but that place is getting too hostile, and let's face it, too stupid for my tastes.
A little bit about myself: I am an electrical engineer with around five years of total experience. I'm on my third job since college. The first, with Motorola, I quit after 16 months because I hated it. The second, I enjoyed working at for three years, and four days, until my work group was eliminated, and I was ushered out the door. I guess three good years is about all we can ask in today's business climate. I've been at this job right at six months, and I'm actively looking for job number four. I don't dislike my current job, but I know it's not what I want to do for the long term.
It's been an interesting career so far. I've worked with satellite systems, ASIC design and verification, and RADAR systems. I've learned several programming languages, worked with both analog and digital hardware, designed websites, written software, built circuit boards, and written documentation. All but the last is great fun.
I am currently single. I broke up with my last girlfriend about two weeks ago. I think it's for the best. We just had views and outlooks that are too different.
I am currently living between two different towns. I have a house in Austin, Texas, and an apartment in Oklahoma City. I'm hoping to get a job back in Austin so I can stop driving back and forth so much. I might also consider permanently relocating back to Arizona, or to some other state. (Florida sounds nice.)
I grew up all over the world. My dad spent twenty-one years in the military, so we got to move about every three years. I've lived on both coasts of the U.S., Texas, in Germany (six years), Saudi Arabia (one year), and a few other places. My parents currently live in El Paso, and are still happily married after 30 years. I have no brothers and sisters, but I have several cousins scattered throughout the United States.
When I'm not working, I enjoy photography, writing, and travel. I also do a lot of reading, and I've done some work for various political and volunteer organizations. I have very eclectic interests, but try to avoid the television. (There's nothing good on!)
That's me in a few too many words. I'll try to write back here sometime in the next week.