Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Operation Valkyrie - my opinion

I went to see the movie, Valkyrie. Being a MOT (member of the tribe), I was, of course, curious to see how Hollywood would portray these would-be assassins of the Monster of the 20th century.

I was disturbed.

The prevailing line through the movie was "not all Germans were bad." Well, of course not. Not all people are evil, in general. But, the movie did not convince me much that the protagonists of the movies were good people, either. It seemed to try to desperately push the notion that resistance to Hitler, just the act of trying to assassinate him, made these men and women heroes. And yes, if the July 20 plot did succeed, the war would have ended sooner as the Germans staging the coup were ready to negotiate with the Allies for an end to the war. But, the movie left me feeling that their motivation had nothing to do with saving humanity or stopping atrocities. It was a way to lose the warm in a more graceful (and honorable? is war ever honorable) fashion.

Tom Cruise's performance was wooden and unemotional. I never really liked the character he played (Claus von Stauffenberg), there is little or no discussion regarding why he becomes so determined to be a leading force in the conspiracy. There's some mumbling about how he is disturbed by the atrocities being committed and such. But, it never seems to be a strong motivating factor. In fact, the movie doesn't dwell on motivations, just the actions of the plot.

The movie ends with a quotation from a memorial to the German Resistance. OK, that a German Resistance movement existed was new to me. And while it's important to know that people DID resist and were not just hypnotized by what Hitler offered, still, the movie did not give me any warm and fuzzy feelings about this group of people. Perhaps if the movie had explored how and why the German Resistance started, I might have felt a bit more generous to them.

And the movie left me thinking that these people were bumbling fools. They kept trying and trying to kill Hitler and something always went wrong. In the movie, the conspirators do get a bomb to explode, but they ASSUME that they are successful instead of ensuring that the result was as expected. Reading some of the actual facts does change the perspective a bit. They really weren't akin to the Keystone Cops.

To be fair, knowing that members of my family were destroyed in the camps during the war, does color my point if view. I found it very hard to warm up to movie's vision of the German Resistance. On the other hand, it has raised my curiosity about this subject and I'll be doing a bit more research in the future to gain some understanding of this flawed resistance movement.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The uplifting effect of freshly fallen snow

It snowed all weekend. Wonderful, fluffy, snow. Close to 2 feet of the white stuff.


I don't know what it is about freshly fallen snow, but I find it uplifting. After staying in all Friday afternoon, I went out to clear off my car -- I typically do this a few times during a snow storm because I don't like having to clear all the snow at once, and it was just glorious. I walked around taking pictures -- so much fun! Saturday and Sunday were more of the same.

I spent a lot of time indoors because it just didn't stop snowing...hard. I discovered that staying in all day left me feeling "blah". I read, caught up on some work that was demanding some attention, watched TV, spent way too much time checking Facebook. All in all, I ended up feeling sluggish, sleepy, and a little sad. The minute I went outside, I perked right up. Suddenly, I felt upbeat, energetic, and much, much happier.

Tonight, when the snow finally ended, I went out and was struck by the beauty of the stark contrast between the glistening white of the snow and the dark of the night sky. The frigid air felt fantastic. I wish I had been up earlier in the morning and gone outside instead of sleeping in and then spending the afternoon working. I missed valuable snow time!

Note to self: I need to be outside when it snows. Staying in, even if it's cold or windy, leaves me in a rather miserable state of mind. Being surrounded by nature's magic is so much better than hanging around in the house, cleaning out cabinets. I need to push myself more to get out and be active. Sitting on the couch for too long is NOT good for me!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ravens at the Tower

Ravens at the Tower
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
For some reason, this photo has become the most popular one on my Flickr site. Now, my Flickr site doesn't get a lot of traffic. I like taking pictures, but I'm hardly a great photographer. But still, I find it curious that people search on ravens so often.

These ravens lived at the Tower of London. They may still be living there, but I was in London several years ago and I have no idea how long ravens live or how old they were when I saw them.

I recall being with my friend B who was fascinated by the ravens. She was chasing them all over the yard, trying to get pictures of them. They, of course, regarded us with disdain and just kept moving.

I did get lucky with this shot. I like that I was able to get two of them facing in opposite directions. Sort of a yin and yang kind of thing.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


This week has been a nice one for self-improvement. I signed up for a short glass beadmaking glass at my favorite glass studio. The month of December is an "in between" month at the studio. The last session ended in November and the new session will start in January. During December, the studio has a series of short classes.

I did a full session of beadmaking at the end of last year. Since then, I've been working with fused glass. Going back to beadmaking turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable. I'm really looking forward to the next couple of weeks of class. Unfortunately, both beadmaking and fused glass classes run on the same night, so I'll never be able to take both at the same time. But, it's nice to have a choice.

Another self-improvement milestone is finding a local yoga studio that I like. I went with my friend B to a yoga class this week that I really enjoyed. Alright, it could have been a bit more challenging, but overall, I enjoyed it. The instructor has a very nice style -- calm, soothing, and very funny at times. One of my goals for the year was to find a regular yoga class. I think I've found it...finally.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Clutter...too much clutter

I started this year with the noble thought that I would get organized. I would get rid of all the clutter and have a nice, NEAT, home that was easy to clean.

Well, here we are, the very last month of the year. And my home is more cluttered than ever. I HAVE TOO MUCH STUFF! Books are everywhere...although I think I may have convinced a handy-type friend to build me some floor-to-ceiling bookcases to deal with that issue.

How did I accumulate so many shoes??? I never used to have a shoe habit...but I have many, many shoes now. Most of which I don't seem to wear anymore (they're still good...if I wait long enough, they'll be back in style. That's what I keep telling myself).

And PAPERS! I keep trying to eliminate papers. I have signed up for electronic bills as much as possible. And yet, the papers pile up. I swear they procreate while I'm asleep.

Clothes...I've run out of drawer space and closet space. I don't really have an extensive wardrobe, it's just disorganized. And I need to GET RID of things I don't wear anymore, even if I still like them (again, the issue of "maybe they'll come back in style" or "maybe I'll gain that weight back, so I should keep the bigger clothes."

Hmm. Maybe I DO have too many clothes, too.

And then, there are the craft supplies. I work with glass as a hobby. I have no good place to store all my supplies. Right now, they're tucked into a large box and a large canvas tote. In the main room of the condo. I have no place to store this stuff.

Kitchen cabinets...I have flour tucked into the back of the cabinet that I swear, must be at least 7 years old.

I'm not sure why I avoid cleaning up and clearing out. The longer I wait, the more unsurmountable the work seems. And yet, I know... a little work every day will pay big dividends. But still, I just DON'T WANT TO DO IT.

It's silly. I love a clean house. I'd be willing to hire a cleaning service...but it's just too messy right now to bring in a third party. Quite the dilemma.

What a mess. I'm sick of if it. I have a week off at the end of the month and I'm determined to CLEAN UP. Because there's a ton of house maintenance that I need to do as well but FIRST I have to get rid of all the obstacles. We're told we should live within our means. I need to learn to live within my existing SPACE! Sure, I could move, but chances are a new, larger place would just become cluttered with more stuff. (If I was a comedian, I could come up with a routine about that...wait...George Carlin already did that. He was speaking directly to me, you know).

An unemployed friend of mine has toyed with the idea of becoming a personal organizer. I've considered having her come in and help with my mess. But, it's really too embarrassing to reveal that I live like a barbarian.

OK, starting today, Operation Cleanup begins. I'll post my progress over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lost...and found

Lately, I lose things. Or, I should say, I misplace things. All the time. One moment, an item is there, the next, gone.

In most cases, however, they come back to me. It's weird.

It used to be that I would misplace something, get horribly upset, tear my place apart, and just obsess about the "lost" object. Until they started to reappear. Sometimes a few minutes later, sometimes weeks later.

I thought I had lost a very expensive and must loved necklace. I looked everywhere, under the bed, in drawers, in the trash. Everywhere. Couldn't find it. I had gone as far as contacting the jeweler and commissioning her to make a new necklace for me. And, suddenly, I found the necklace. Under the bed, where I had looked a million times before.

I was thrilled. And, this moment is when I started the current cycle of "lost and found." I've misplaced my main set of keys many times. It's a good thing I always carry a second set of keys; they come in handy while the main set is vacationing in some favorite key resort. The last time I thought I lost my keys, I discovered I had left them at a hotel pool area when visiting my friend B. Called the hotel the next day and yes...got them back.

Then I lost my glasses...both pairs. The main pair that I use to read with and the older, backup pair. The first pair were discovered in my friend's car after we went hiking (took her a day to find them, tucked away beneath the seat). Last night, I just found the backup pair. Somehow, they had ended up in a carry-on bag that I need for an upcoming trip.

And gloves...I keep misplacing them or dropping them, but they eventually turn up. There are af ew pairs of earrings that have recently gone AWOL. I'm waiting for them to reappear any day now...as these things seem to do lately.

These are just a few examples of my adventures in lost and found. I no longer fret or have anxiety attacks when something disappears. More than likely, it will show up again when it's good and ready to do so. It's very odd.

Except socks...I still lose them, one at a time. They don't ever seem to return.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A trip up Mt. Monadnock, NH.

Sunshine on the mountain
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
My dear friends, A&M are avid hikers. They decided to organize a "beginner's hike" -- my friend B and I decided to go along.

Now, I am not much of an athlete. Sure, I go out for walks on the trails at work during lunch time, but it's not what I'd call hiking. My friend B has been hiking up Mt. Wachusett on a regular basis for about a month so she had some conditioning built up. I was a little apprehensive that I wouldn't be able to keep up, but A&M were very supportive, so I set aside my fears and looked forward to the day.

The night before it rained quite hard, but the weather for the next day was supposed to be quite nice. And for a change, the weather report was totally correct. The morning was sunny and seasonal. Everyone arrived at my place on time. We packed up and headed out.

Even at the base of the mountain, the weather was already cooler than when we left home. And the parking lot was crowded. Mt. Monadnock is one of the most popular places for a day hike in the area. It's close to Boston and it's tall enough (and rocky enough!) to be a challenge.

After parking, we gathered our gear, stopped off at the pit toilets (not horribly unpleasant but not pleasant either. Unfortunately, the regular toilets were closed for the season), hoisted our packs and headed up the mountain. After a short walk, we came to the first boulder field...typical New England boulders. The hiking poles came in handy here. Once we hit the boulder fields, the "hike" consisted mostly of climbing, leaping, crawling, and clambering over rocks. An endless field of them. M kept assuring us that there were flat spots where the walking would be easier...I dunno...I don't think we came across many of those.

Our intrepid Hiking Leaders were willing to go slow, so, in general, I (the mountain snail, not mountain goat) was able to keep up. The very steep parts were a bit hard for me, but with several rest stops, I made it up without lagging behind badly.

Because of the rain, there was a bit of water on the trail. Miniature water falls and some "brooklets" trickling down. The sound of water running was enchanting. Rocks and leaves were slippery at times, but nothing that caused much of a problem. As we headed up, the views became more and more amazing. The sun was streaming down through the clouds, making the view look like something out of those Hollywood biblical period movies.

Because of the number of people on the trail, I didn't expect to see any wildlife. But, we did catch a glimpse of a red fox, as it scampered through the trees. Just a quick flash of orange-red fur and the distinct white tip of the tail. And then a lovely golden-brown chipmunk made its presence known briefly before disappearing into the brush.

As we moved above the tree line, we stopped to don warmer clothes -- hats, gloves, and windproof shells. We made it a little past the false summit and paused to eat. We debated whether we would have time to make it to the summit. A&M were eyeing it eagerly...I know they could have made it up in no time. B and I looked at each other and decided we had gone far enough. We still had to get down and the sun would be setting early. And I suspected that going down, while easier, would not be a fast trip.

After some discussion, we decided to head down and not summit. After all, the mountain isn't going anywhere and we could always come back when the days were longer.

The first stretch of rocks was quite steep and sort of terrified me. I had visions of just rolling all the way down the hill. I discovered that sliding down steep, slippery rocks on your butt wasn't as bad as I thought. In some places, it was the only way to go.

Down, down we went. It seemed like the boulder fields would never end...but still, the views were wonderful, and I was hiking with very dear friends, so what could be more wonderful? By the end, though, this little mountain snail was tired. I tried to be careful, but I was starting to slip and trip. But, the sun was setting and we had to push on.

Finally, as darkness was starting to settle in, we reached the trail head. I made it!!! I went up a mountain and back down. A good 5 miles round trip. I felt like I had used every muscle in my body and it felt good!

By the time I arrived home, I was absolutely exhausted...the kind of exhausted one feels after spending all day outside. I took a hot bath in the hope that it would reduce the soreness I was sure to develop and treated myself to a big bowl of pasta and cheese. Yum!

All in all, a fine day on the mountain. I'm hoping that by the end of the week, I'll be able to walk down the stairs without feeling the agony of sore muscles :-)

But, it was worth it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Switch Plates!

SoWa switchplates!
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
I'm about 3/4 of the way towards replacing all my mundane switch plates with decorative ones. Every time I go to a crafts show, open studio, or arts show, I keep my eyes open for interesting switch plates.

Last month, I went to the South End Open Market in Boston and discovered Theresita Eltz (www.theresitadesign.etsy.com). Theresita paints all types of ceramics -- bowls, plates, and my favorite, switch plates!

She didn't have switch plates at the market, but I selected colors and a pattern from her portfolio and placed my order. I just received these in the mail and I'm thrilled. The picture doesn't really do them justice. The colors are vibrant and the application of the paint gives them a very nice texture.

I will definitely be ordering more products from Theresita. Her work is fantastic!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

What a day. Here in the Northeast, the weather is perfect. Sunny, warm with just a hint of autumn chill. You couldn't ask for a better day for an election.

I arrived at the polling place shortly before they opened. I had to park on the lawn as the parking lot at the Municipal Center was completely full. I find the line for my precinct ...holey moley...it's a very, very long line. As I head off to the end of the line, I see one of my neighbors, who assures me that I'm following the correct line for Precinct 3.

As I'm waiting on line, more and more people are arriving. Yes, people *are* turning out in droves and this is a good thing. Americans who are born here often take the right to vote for granted. But not this year. And it feels good. For once, people really, really care about the election. It's amazing and just fantastic.

Once the polls open, the lines move surprisingly fast. In about 10 minutes, I'm checking in and receiving my ballot. The room is full of small voting booths (we use paper ballots...the "color-in-the-circle" type). I head towards the closest open booth and grab the pen. Some idiot forgot to put the cap back on but no harm done. The pen hadn't dried up yet.

I quickly go through the items. Someone told me that the Presidential candidates are listed alphabetically so I'm careful to check for my candidate. There he is! OK...I fly through the rest of the ballot. A lot of the positions list a single candidate for my county...easy. The ballot questions are easy as well. I did hesitate over the question regarding banning dog racing. I'm not 100% sure that the animals are really abused and I feel bad about people having to lose their jobs if this question passes. I think over the discussions I had with co-workers the other day, weigh the pros and cons and finally come to a decision.

I hand in my ballot and head out into the sun. The traffic to get out is a mess, but I don't mind. It feels good to feel election energy! There's a young boy in a school bus yelling out the window, "Obama, Obama, you have to vote for Obama!" I love that someone who isn't able to vote yet is so enthusiastic.

I luck out with the traffic. There's a sudden gap and I'm able to turn around and get onto the road. Off to work now, feeling good that I've done my civic duty. I am a good American citizen today! Tonight, I'll be gathering with my good friends to watch the results. I am hopeful that my candidate will win, but, I'm not willing to be overconfident yet.

And for once, America doesn't look like a country full of apathetic, lazy slobs. Today, we are a nation of engerized, involved people. If only we would stay that way.

Monday, November 3, 2008

iPhone gets free WiFi

AT&T has finally declared free WiFi hotspots for iPhone users. For some odd reason, AT&T went back and forth on this. Announcing it, then pulling the announcement and then back again. But now it's real. I received a text message the other day explaining how to access the free service. So, while I was in Starbucks the other day, I gave it a whirl. Yup, it works. A bit of an awkward process though. You have to connect to the service, start Safari, and when prompted to do so, enter your 10-digit phone number. After submitting your number, you wait for a text message that gives you a link that's good for 24 hours. Does seem a bit round-about. But it works.

I was with a friend of mine from the UK and the requirement to enter a 10-digit number stopped him in his tracks. He doesn't HAVE a 10-digit number. Seems unfair to have that requirement. Shouldn't service allow anyone with any type of number to get on?

Free WiFi hotspots are found in Starbucks, McDonalds, Airports, Barnes & Noble. And other places.

Oddly enough, it seems like I was just able to connect to the free WiFi service from my office. I didn't think it would be possible...unless I just happened to find a different Free Public WiFi connection? I'm curious to see exactly where I can use this...WiFi is soooo much faster than the old EDGE network.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Balance? I don't think so.

I was perusing the CNN website and saw these two headlines juxtaposed:

Exxon Mobil Breaks Profit Record
American Express Cutting 7,000 Jobs.

Boggles the mind, doesn't it? On the one hand, people and companies are struggling economically and fuel costs are a big part of that. Then, there's the biggest oil company making the biggest profit ever. I know, I know. Capitalism works that way. But it's insane.

By reducing their profit margins and keeping fuel a bit lower in cost, the oil companies can *help* the general economy. Maybe we'd see fewer job cuts. Certainly costs of food and goods would be lower. But greed...greed is the name of the game. It was one of the driving forces behind our mortgage/lending debacle, our stock market fallout, and so much more. And the oil companies have no shame. Sure, *their* employees are comfy...especially those executives with their huge bonus and such. But at what cost? No, I don't expect a lot of altruism in the business world. But some decency wouldn't hurt, would it?

I love my country, but stuff like this just drives me nuts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Success and less than success

Balance....we all know that balance is necessary in our lives, personal and work.

I have an odd sort of balance going on today. The web portal that I built using Joomla (which almost drove me to poking a stick in my own eye because the documentation for open source products is seriously lacking) is having moderate success. People are asking to post their content there and, little by little, it's becoming known. I chatted with the President of our organization this morning and he is quite pleased with our little grassroots effort. The blog is chugging along.
So, yay, something successful.

On the other hand, the other web site that I keep an eye on (and it's a customer-facing site) is broken and I'm totally baffled as to what's going on. Something was deleted from the database...a totally innocent accident from someone else who was trying to do the right thing. Yesterday, I spent half a day getting things back into shape, only to discover that I hadn't looked closely enough and the site is still very broken (links going to the wrong place, etc.). I'm totally baffled and will have to step through individual documents to change mappings and so forth. Not something I really have time for today, but, since it's a public site, it has to take top priority.

So, for today, one plus and one minus. Is that balance? I'm not sure. All I know is that I have a busy and perhaps frustrating day ahead of me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FIOS, yes!

I hate my cable TV company. They keep moving channels around, keep raising prices, and in general, just annoyed me.

But, changes are a-coming! For months, we've been hearing that Verizon was negotiating with the town to bring FIOS in. Over the summer, all of the condos in my complex were wired with the basics for bringing FIOS to our little homes. I just saw an announcement that the town and Verizon have come to an agreement and FIOS is now being offered as a service.

I am assuming that since we have the basic connections in place, my address will be one of the ones that can get the service installed sooner, rather than later. Hooray! I'm going to go all the way...Internet, TV, and phone. It will be a lot less expensive (at least in the beginning...you know how these bundled prices tend to increase after the first year or so...a bit of bait and switch, but what can you do?).

I've been dragging my heels about getting Digital TV...first because of the price and then later because I really hated the idea of having a set top box ...my TVs were always cable ready so I never had to have the extra box. But, I guess I might as well get over it and go for the new system. Think I'll trot over to the Verizon site and see if I can sign up now for installation.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Iceland...my heart grieves for you...

Last year, I took some vacation time and went to Iceland. I love Iceland...it's an amazing place, very friendly to English speakers, with scenery that is about as spectacular as it gets.

So, it's with a heavy heart that I read about how the current economic mess has brought this country of hard-working, community-minded people to its knees. The UK actually invoked anti-terrorist laws against an Icelandic bank, seizing all of the UK assets. And this help cause the bank to dissolve.

Yes, the UK wanted to protect their money that was in the Iceland bank, but really...if any country could be counted on to meet their obligations, it's Iceland.

Not like my own, dear country. Our banks and investment firms were full of liars who sold bad debt to foreign banks, singing sweet promises of financial gain. How humiliating. Those foreign banks TRUSTED that the US investment folks were being honest about the risk involved with purchasing these assets. And they weren't. And the effect has been global...I don't know why I didn't expect that. I figured that our housing/mortage problems were ours alone. But I suppose no one country can work in a vacuum. A financial mistake (or blunder, or just idiocy) made in one country is bound to affect someone else.

Now, don't get me wrong, I choose to live in America, I still believe that there is the potential of greatness here, but when we go wrong, we go very, very wrong. The American Dream of owning your own home is wonderful, but encouraging people to live beyond their means is more of an American Nightmare, than a dream. What were people thinking? Both the people who lent money without restriction and those who actually took those loans.

What a mess. I've been hiding from looking at my 401K statements...I just don't want to see how much money I've lost. Or to think about the fact that I may NEVER be able to retire.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Judge and the General - Pinochet and Judge Guzman

Last night, I watched the PBS Point of View documentary, "The Judge and the General." This show aired back in August but, since my cousin was one of the Producers, I have my own personal copy of the show.

This show is a fantastic glimpse into the investigation of Augusto Pinochet for crimes against humanity. The other story line that is just as fascinating, is how this investigation changes Judge Juan Guzman, the judge assigned to the investigation. As he says in the film, the work he took on, "...opened the eyes of his soul."

To be honest, I knew very little of the tragedy and turmoil that occurred in Chile during Pinochet's regime. In a way, I was like Judge Guzman, who had lived in his own world, oblivious to the horrors taking place around him. But, unlike those who, even when the facts are so obvious it's like being hit on the head with a 2x4 , continue to deny reality, Judge Guzman saw, really saw, the evil around him and did something about it. He was a true judge, a seeker of justice. And, for me, watching this film, I was reminded, once again, of how heinous people can be when they are focused on their own desires for power and personal validation. It happens again and again; still, as a society, we allow, ignore, or participate in these horrible crimes against our own. Chile, with the legacy of the "disappeared" (estan donde?), the unlawful torture, the murders, and the horror, is not a topic I often hear people discuss.

We should not forget. We must, must, take the time to remind ourselves that these horrible crimes have occurred and that we must always be vigilant to try to stop them from happening again. Even today, after all that we've seen in the past, the Armenian massacres, the Holocaust, Darfur, Somalia, and so many other events, our society continues to find reasons to justify genocide and power grabs that lead to nothing but pain, suffering, and an endless cycle of violence.

If you haven't seen the Judge and the General, take the time to find it and watch. It is very well done, very informative, and a reminder that in the midst of evil, there are those who have the courage to stand up and seek justice. I am glad that I'm a little bit better informed about such a dark time.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Schmap accepted my photo!

OK...it's really not a big deal.

But, I think it's kind of fun.

In a previous post, I mentioned that one of my photos on Flickr was short listed for publication in an online travel guide site called Schmap. I received email the other day that my photo of the Cutty Sark was indeed included in the guide.

So, I'm a published photographer now :-)

Of course, my photo isn't the only one. They are using a number of photos from other people. And, I still think I have better pictures of London than the one I took of the Cutty Sark.

Here's a link to what my picture would look like in the Schmap Guide on an iPhone:

Schmap London Guide

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I hate Joomla less these days

After struggling and just being plain miserable with trying to build a website with Joomla, I finally managed to achieve some level of success. I was able to get some basic components functioning and although the site is obviously lacking in content, at least the mechanisms are in place to build out.

We announced the site yesterday and a few people have looked at it. In general, the reaction was positive. Even got a few volunteers who want to be part of the blog effort. Still waiting for someone in the developer world to step in and offer help. I do not know PHP and I have no interest in knowing PHP. But, to really make the website feature rich, I'll need a real web developer to make it happen.

So, although the struggle to get to this point was painful and I spent a lot of time way out of my comfort zone, there is a vague sense of satisfaction that I did something of some value at work.

It's been awhile since I felt that. It's nice.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

When the primrose blooms again

Originally uploaded by greendragon50
Several years ago (and I'm not sure how long it was anymore), I bought this primrose plant from the local supermarket. Over the years, this plant has endured months of inconsistent watering, neglect, and indifference from me. Sometimes I forget to water it until it's wilted and losing leaves. I never give it new soil, fertilizer, or a new pot to live in.

And yet, no matter the abuse, no matter the damage, when I finally do pay attention to it, it blooms. For weeks on end. As if, no matter what difficulties it has to face, it can still defy the hard times and show the world that it can revel in its own beauty and strength.

I've had a number of personal issues to deal with during the past year. Sometimes, I think I'll never see my way out. That I'll never be free.

And then, the primrose blooms again.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When software goes bad...

I continue to run into misbehaving software. The blog thing seems to be in good shape these days, but now my co-workers are having difficulties building online help.

We use FrameMaker and a product called WebWorks to generate online help. One of the other writers has an issue where she builds the help without errors, but is unable to see any of her topics. When I try the same thing on my system, everything works fine. I'm guessing that there's a browser issue somewhere that's causing the blank topics. It's weird. I've checked her Web browser settings and I don't see differences from my configuration.

Of course, since we haven't had the money/ability to upgrade our software, we're several versions behind and we probably don't have a maintenance/support contract any more. So, it will be up to me to solve this problem, even though I have no idea what's causing the problem.

This set of tools has been very, very stable for us until recently. I wish it could talk to me and tell me where "it hurts.".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hi, your photo has been short-listed...

The glory of the Intertube...

I received Flickr mail indicating that Schmap has shortlisted one of my photos for the upcoming revision of the Schmap guide to London. Cool. Apparently, they want trawling photo sites for pictures of London.

I was a bit surprised at the picture they selected since it's not one of my prettier ones (it's a distant shot of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich). And, there's no guarantee that it will be selected. But, I gave them permission to use it. Cuz, I think it would be fun to have someone use my photo since I'm about as amateur as one can get in that area.

I wonder if they'll let me know if the photo is selected. I hope so. I can then brag that I'm a "published photographer." hee, hee.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thank you, technical difficulties have been resolved.

Today is a good day :-)

Did a WebEx session with a support person in Malaysia who removed a huge obstacle in one of my projects. Technology can be a good thing!

So, I'm using this open source product called Joomla to create an internal, company web portal. And I'm absolutely clueless with web development (I'm a Tech Writer, not a web developer, Jim!). But, I was told that this product is simple to use, doesn't require PHP coding, blah, blah, blah. There's a big push to get a blog put together and I was stuck, stuck, stuck. The blog part worked but the commenting feature was busted. I was trying to get the IT folks to give the vendor access to our server, but the suggestion was to use WebEx instead (honestly, I don't know why I have to bargain over everything here...for once, I'd like to put in a request for something and have it done, no questions asked, no compromises, no arguments!).

Not having run a WebEx session in ages, I was a nervous wreck. And, to top it off, I had to use Skype to communicate with the support person (apparently phones are not in the budget) -- another thing I hadn't used very much. But it all turned out well. One of our support folks gave me a good walk through on how to run the session and the Support guy in Malaysia turned out to be quite clever and had no problems using WebEx. And he fixed the problem!

Still some issues with communication between the server and remote systems. It takes a long time for comments to show up. But, that's an issue for those elusive IT folks.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Please stand by, we are having technical difficulties...

Sometimes, I really hate the technological world in which I exist and work. Oh, the gadgets, the new software are all fun...when they work.

When they don't work and I don't understand *why* they don't work, I just want to walk away and, oh, I don't know, churn butter manually. At least, I'd get something accomplished.

Last week, my beloved iPhone went weird on me. All of a sudden, my happy applications were crashing right after I opened them. Possibly something went wrong when I started to sync the phone to my computer at work and then thought better of it. Whatever. I ended up restoring the factory settings and then using the backup to get everything back. Did that a couple of times, no joy in Mudville. Then I decided to sync just the applications (why didn't that happen during the restore?) and during the installation of one of them, the install ended with an error. Simple solution, delete the "bad" application and poof! everything started working. So, I wasted a hour of time, doing restores and such, only to discover that one bad "apple" really did spoil the bunch. And I reinstalled the application and everything is as happy as can be. Go figure.

I was greatly relieved to see that all my contacts, calendar items, and photos did come back during the restore.

The other misery for me now is trying to build a web portal and blog with Joomla, MyBlog, and JomComment (all open source software) at work. It just isn't working the way it's supposed to work. I've been spending hours trying anything and everything to get the beast to behave. The support folks are in a different time zone so, it takes a day to get anything out of them. And worse, my friend's husband has been helping out (bless his technological soul)...and *everything* works on his system, but not mine. It looks like some weird IE browser issue (boo, hiss, spit on browsers!) cuz I could get everything to work with Firefox. I feel like I'm trying to swim in mud.

Bleah. Last week, out of sheer frustration, I started throwing my Joomla books against my office wall. Felt good for about 5 seconds. Then I took pity on the books and picked them off the floor.

So, right now, technology is frustrating the h*ll out of me. Learning to be an herbalist sounds a lot more appealing. I mean, using a simple mortar and pestle is something I could handle without feeling like I need to throw something against the wall.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Green Dragon goes a kayaking - Chapter 9

Leaving a trail behind
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
It's a warm, sunny afternoon when we reach the Nashua River. The Powers That Be at work had unexpectedly told us to take the afternoon before Labor Day off. What could be better than to grab a boat and head out ot the river?

Once we get to the launch site, my friend M is a gentleman and picks up my boat and carries it to the dock. We launch and head out. This is my first time on this river and from the first, I am enchanted. It's a calm, wide river, with a wide variety of trees surrounding us. This will be a fantastic place in the autumn!

There's a lot of deadfall in the water, but none of it prevents us from moving down the river. We haven't gone too far before we see some movement off to the side. As we pause, we realize that we are seeing the absolute, most adorable baby beavers that you can imagine!They're out among the fallen trees in the water, doing what beavers do best...chewing and gnawing.

After hanging around for awhile in gleeful astonishment, we continue down the river. Next on our checklist of wildlife is an abundance of turtles. Lots and lots of turtles. We're able to get reasonably close to them. My friend M snags one which doesn't please the little creature. It waves it's little feet frantically. I'm sure he was thrilled to be back in the water once M lets it go.

The further along the river we get, the more the plant life increases. M tells me the green, pea soup stuff on the surface of the river is duck week. It's mucky, but doesn't impede our progress.

We catch site of an enormous Great Blue Heron. We try to get close enough for pictures, but he's a cautious bird and keeps his distance. At times like this, I wish I had a high-end camera with a decent telephoto lens.

We continue on until we run out of river. Back we return, past the turtles and ducks (did I mention the ducks? They're out on the river with us as well). We finish off the day with a yummy dinner of fresh lobster and steak tips. It really doesn't get much better than this.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 8

Swift River
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
The Swift River is hardly swift, but it is wide and beautiful.

The day started out early and misty. I was on the road my 7:45. I was halfway to the Mass Pike when I discovered that I had left my cell phone at home. So, back I want to get it.

It's odd...I spent years driving everywhere without a cell phone. Now, I get anxious if I'm a mile from home without it. It's as if I'm tempting the traveling gods to take revenge if I'm not prepared for an emergency. Silly.

The trip to Belchertown (really, what kind of a name is that!?) at the agreed upon time and, with a fellow paddler's help, get the boat off the car and in the water in a few minutes.

The fog burns away and the sun shines gently on us. It's perfect weather...not too hot, not windy, and the river is kind to us. We head downstream for awhile, as one member of our group has to leave early and has never been on the downstream end of the river.

We go as far as we can, until we hit the waterfall. We decide not to venture too close...as the end of the river there looks like you're approaching the end of the world, when the world was flat.

The amazing thing about this river is that the water is so remarkabl clear. As one person puts it, it's like paddling on top of an aquarium. You can see EVERYTHING below you...fish, water plants, sand, you name it. I manage to miss *every* siting of the big trout (rainbow, I think) but I do see the little fry swimming about. The turtles, mergansers, and ducks are a bit too quick for me to capture on the camera.

In the end, a fine day of paddling. Very much worth the hour trip to get there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A moment of silence for Colin the whale

I've been following a story from Australia about a baby humpback whale that has been trying to suckle from yachts and other ships. Poor thing was abandoned and latched on (literally) to anything that vaguely resembled Mama Whale.

But, of course, trying to suckle a yacht is not going to help a baby whale (the Australians have named it Colin). Marine experts were monitoring its health and they have determined that it is in very poor condition, and injured -- possibly from a shark attack.

And so, the decision was made to euthenize Colin. I am surprised that there was no way to bring the whale into captivity and feed it. The original article that I read said that because the whale had not been weaned, there was no way that humans could feed it properly. Was there not an aquarium that could have taken him in? Or is that just not possible with humpbacks?

On the other hand, Nature is not benevolent...Nature is. If the whale had not wandered into human territory, it would have died, as all such creatures do. So perhaps human interference isn't what is called for in this case. Let Nature do as it always does....keep the balance of those who are strong enough to survive and let go of the others. It's not pretty or clean. It just is.

I suppose the only positive note here is that Colin will not die alone. He will be surrounded by other mammals who will comfort him as best they can and send him on to wherever innocent, dead whales go when life on earth ends for them.

Peace be with you, Colin.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Square fruit?!

I dunno....square fruit just seems, well, wrong. So very, very wrong.


I didn't realize that square watermelons already exist (developed by someone in Japan). Now, someone in South Korea has developed square apples. I mean really, can you imagine the Apple logo as a square instead of the lovely apple shape it has now?

No, I say...NO to square fruit. It's not nice. It's not right. It's not what I want from my fruit!

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 7

Sunset on the water
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
The summer season is nearing its end. There's a hint of coolness in the early evening air and the sun makes its daily trip below the horizon earlier and earlier.

I ease out into the lake, into a slight chop, as there is a small breeze this evening. There are a few motor boats out and about, but in general, the non-motorized boats rule the water tonight.

As the sun starts to drop below the treeline, the birds are starting to come home to roost. I pass two cormorants, standing sentinel on some half-submerged logs. They stand so still, they almost seem to be part of the branches. But, as I get closer, there's no mistaking their distinct forms.

As the sky darkens, I head back to the boat ramp but pause for awhile, to just take in the scenery and the gentle but persistent sounds as the insects start their night-time songs.

Finally, reluctantly, I pull the boat out of the water and start the loading process. The end of kayaking season is coming --- there's about another month before the water gets too cold for me to feel safe on the water.

For the first time, kayaking has become a regular activity for me. There's no where else I really want to be other than on the water. It has become my summer haven.

I'll miss this when the seasons change.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Greendragon goes a kayaking - Chapter 6 - a Full Moon Paddle

It's late, around 10 pm. The sky has cleared and the stars are are shining above. The moon is a large, white, orb, shining down on us with that silvery light that only appears on special nights. I attach the light to the back deck of my Green Merlin and we ease our boats into the dark, quiet, water.


We head out to the far edge of Whitehall Reservoir. I've paddled this lake many times in the daytime, but at night, I'm finding it hard to recognize any landmarks. The trip organizers know the lake like the back of their hands, so we just follow their lead.

The air is cool, but no wind. The threatening storm clouds from earlier in the day are gone. And it's quiet...other than the gentle sound of paddles gliding into the water and the quiet conversations of my fellow kayakers, it is so very quiet. We pause and float, listening to the summer serenade of the night-time insects. As we drift, I catch a quick movement of a dark shadow ...bats! Yes, bats are out..they zip over us, speeding by without pause...if you don't look fast, they disappear almost before you're aware they are there. They own the night, we are just visitors.

As we move around the lake, we see something of substance at the edge of one of the islands. Someone shines their light in that direction and we see four Canada Geese standing at the edge of the water. They must wonder who are these creatures invading their special space at this time. We move on. I feel a little guilty that we've disturbed them, but we are respectful and don't linger long.

We continue to paddle among the various islands. The moon rises higher in the sky. It's amazing how much light it provides. But still, it's hard to seem anyone other than the slowly moving lights attached to the kayaks or the kayakers. One of the leaders is wearing a "headset" if red lights. Each time he turns his head, I think of the Red Eye of Sauron shining out from Mordor. But, these kayakers are kind, and friendly. No Dark Lord is here tonight.

This was my first kayak trip at night. It was extraordinary. My boat received many compliments (she always does, she's a very pretty boat) and everyone wanted a deck light like mine (thank you REI for having one last light that I snagged the night before). I had all the right clothes on, for a change. The only regret I have is that I left my camera in the car.

A very magical evening.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 5

Evening on Lake Quinsigamond...

It was a perfect day. Not a cloud in the sky (for once!), not particularly hot, and a gentle breeze whispered through the trees. Too bad I had to work indoors all day.

I had loaded the boat on the way to work, hoping that the good weather would hold. And it did. I had planned to leave a bit early, but meetings and conversations with co-workers swept away my sense of time. Before I realized it, leaving early was no longer an option.

I dashed down to G's house. G leaves on the banks of the Lake Quinsigamond. I had been promising for weeks that I would bring the boat to her house so we could kayak on the lake. Finally, my schedule and hers coincided!

We get the boats down into the water and push off. It's a bit late for starting out, close to 6:30 and we only have about an hour and a half before it's dark. I don't have any lights with me so staying out on the water in the dark is not going to happen.

The water is calm, with the occasional motor boat causing a wake that we easily ride through. Poor G has some kind of white water kayak that is not suited for paddling in a straight line, but she gets her beast under control and we leisurely paddle down to the other side of the lake. The shoreline is filled with a wide variety of houses. Some that are run down and others that are huge and obviously very expensive. Everyone has a dock, of course. We pass one where a woman is feeding the ducks and swans something. There must have been about a hundred ducks surrounding that dock, all squawking and quacking and just have a good old time. Quite the party for the birds.

As the sun starts going down, we turn around and head back to G's dock. We pass a number of small cottages that are the archetype of lake community homes from the '50s. Small cottages, all in a row. It's an image from a very different time.

The amazing thing about this area is that despite it being very densely populated, it's amazingly quiet. We get back to the dock and just float for awhile. As the sky darkens, the lights come on around the lake. It's an incredibly beautiful view.

But, we're hungry, so we don't linger long. We get the boats out of the water and I decide I might as well get my boat loaded on the car before it gets completely dark. After loading my boat, we forget completely about G's boat, which she left on the little beachlet near the dock. We grab the food and start the grill. We're chatting away when G says, "Is that your boat?" pointing out towards the middle of the lake. Of course not...my boat is on my car. We suddenly realize that G's kayak has decided to take a trip all by itself and it is now drifting away from home. Brave, little kayak! G borrows a kayak from one of her housemates and goes out to rescue the little creature!

After that excitement, we settle down to cooking and eating. A fine evening was had by all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I am the Green Dragon

I am the Green Dragon
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
I just finished a class in sandblasting on glass. Glass work has become a hobby of mine and I've spent the last 6 months taking a variety of classes.

My very favorite element of sandblasting is using photoresist to create images that you can sandblast onto the glass. I am quite pleased to now have a true green dragon in my possession.

Whitehall State Park

Whitehall State Park
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
My traditional kayak picture...see the Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 4 post

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 4

I returned to Whitehall State Park on a brilliant Sunday afternoon. This time, I managed to get myself out early, so I could be sure to avoid the late afternoon thunderstorm.

(Crikey...I feel like I live in Florida --- it seems like we have a storm of some sort almost every afternoon. I'm learning to plan my play time around this event.)

The day is warm, but not hot. The sky is full of those cumulonimbus clouds that presage celestial pyrotechnics. The parking lot is packed so I decide to park on the side of the road, near the put-in for the lake. I get the boat down off the car in record time (I'm really getting good at this!) and grab the rest of my gear.

I remembered to bring my camera this time, carefully stashed in a plastic zip-lock bag. I carry my boat over to the boat ramp and carefully pose it for its first portrait photo. Click! Got it.

I launch the boat and start heading out to the North side of the lake, the opposite direction of my usual path here. Seems to be a lot more folks fishing on this side of the lake, both in boats and on the shoreline. There's a dam here which looks like a perfect place for the fishermen and women. Only one solitary person there, casting, casting, casting.

I carefully pull out the camera and take a few shots of the view. The cloud formations are perfect for picture taking; they're fairly low -- I almost feel like I can reach out and pull one down. I take the traditional "kayak" picture...you know, the one where you see the bow of the boat and the shoreline and the horizon? It turns out to be a fantastic picture and I'm very proud of it.

As I paddle around, I suddenly catch a glimpse of a small but elegant heron. I don't think it's a Great Blue, seems a bit too small. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good shot of the bird --- I was afraid to get too close. But, I spent quite some time watching. I also try to get some shots of the cormorants but, they fly off before I can get within range. I love how these birds sit so low in the water...they look a little like miniature sea monsters, with just their necks and heads floating above the water.

I float, paddle, float, and just relax for awhile. Sundays are becoming my special "me" days, where I don't make plans with anyone so I can spend some time on my own. Spending this time on the water is incredibly soothing and theraputic. I'm not sure what I'll do with this time in the winter, but for now, I love my time on the water.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 3

A couple of friends of mine are new to the kayaking scene. Until recently, they shied away from the personal-powered boats. But, after a company outing, they realized that kayaks were not the wild beasts they thought.

So, I took them out to the Charles River for an after-work kayak session. The weather has been a royal pain in the butt, with thunderstorms showing up at the worst of times. The weather had been iffy all week, but on the day of our planned outing, I made the executive decision that we would risk the thunderstorm threat and hope to get some kayaking in before the celestial pyrotechnics rolled in.

I dashed out at lunch time and loaded the boat (I'm pleased to report that my boat loading/unloading skills are getting better and better. I can get the boat up and tied down in 10-15 minutes now). The plan was to leave around 4:30 or so. My friend B called at 3:00 and tried to convince me to leave at that very moment. Coming from a person who tends to work all hours of the night and weekend, I had to laugh. We ended up heading out to the river by 4:00.

By the time we got out to the river, the clouds were building up, but the sun was still shining so we got onto the water in fairly quick order. I like the Charles River, but for those of us who bring our own boats, the put-in is awful. People like to feed the ducks and geese, so there's always a large flock of birds loitering around the put-in. You literally have to walk among the birds, hoping that they'll move out of the way rather than peck you to death. So far, they've been cooperative. But walking out into the fowl-infested water to launch the boat is just icky and stinky. Bleah. People who feed these birds should have their bread crumbs confiscated.

So, now we're out on the water, me and the two newbies. And they're doing fine. We paddle, we talk, we watch the local swan families. And then, there's the rumble of thunder. We ignore it for awhile, paddle, paddle, paddle. Then, a flash of lightening. My two friends start to panic...I'm thinking that if we keep paddling, we'll avoid the storm. But, I come to my senses and we head back to the dock. And we managed to get back before the storm hit.

After loading my boat on my car, I remember to slap the cockpit cover on the boat. I know a thunderstorm will erupt at anymoment. The thought of having a boat full of water on top of my car makes me nervous. We head out for dinner to a fantastic Asian restaurant. While we dine in comfort, the storm finally hits and it looks like a monsoon outside. I quietly hope that my boat cover will hold up.

By the time we're stuffed to the gills and are ready to leave the restaurant, the monsoon has subsided to a gentle mist. The boat cover is still on the boat, so all is wel. I pull out of my parking spot and look in the rear view mirror...there's a torrent of water streaming off the back of my boat. The boat cover has a ton of water built up and through the wonders of physics, I have a waterfall on the back of my car. I feel bad for anyone driving behind me as the water continues to drain off the boat. Eventually, there's no more water left and I can drive home without worrying about splashing anyone else.

And, so ended

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Too many social networks!

I just discovered that any pictures I load onto my blog end up in a Picasa web site. I had no idea.

Yet another social networking/sharing site.

I have no idea what to do with the ones I'm signed up for now. Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Flickr, and now Picasa?

And of course, the blog. Which very few people read, so somehow that feels a little bit safe.

I'm beginning to feel quite exposed to the public. I'm not sure if I like that.


Greendragon goes a-kayaking, Chapter 2

A friend of mine and I had talked about going kayaking together for what seemed like months. Finally, our schedules converged and we decided to get out of work early and head over to the Charles River, since he needed to rent a boat and it's the only place where it's convenient to do so after work hours.

Odd thing this year...most of the kayak rental places close way too early for after work activities. It wasn't this way in the past, because I used to go with friends after work and we never had to leave work especially early.

The solution is everyone should just buy a boat!

OK, so we get out on the river and the weather is glorious, for a change. No thunderstorms, no rain, just puffy clouds and sun. My friend is new to kayaking and he's all elbows and splashing. I try to give him some gentle tips, but decide that he's having fun, why get all teacher-like.

We get all the way down to Waltham before turning back. My friend discovers he has a spider in the boat with him. This is a freaky thing because he's just recovered from an alleged brown recluse bite which landed him in the hospital (I say alleged, because no one knows for sure if it *was* a recluse bite, but it was something spider-ish and very toxic). Once we get the spider scare out of the way, we can relax and just enjoy the scenery. We indulged ourselves with some gentle chasing of the resident swans.

And my friend was kind enough to take over the whole loading/unloading of my boat for me. He just picked up my boat over his head and plunked it on the rack. I was awestruck. Granted, the boat doesn't weigh a lot...still, for all the times people have helped load my boat, no one has ever done it so well. :-)

Greendragon goes a-kayaking: Chapter 1

One thing that I wanted to make sure to do this year is to my kayak out on the water a lot more than last year.

The sad story from last year is that I had a new car, which required me to buy a new rack system. I bought a side-loading thingamajig cuz the new wheels has a fancy spoiler on the back and I didn't think I could load the boat up the back of the car anymore. It sounded good in theory. But, I was clueless and didn't have a good method of loading the boat. One day, I dropped the boat on the new car. I was horrified. There was a long black scrape down the front quarter panel. Luckily, I was able to polish out everything except a few, very faint scratches. I was spooked, though.

This year, though, I figured out the mechanics of moving the boat on and off the rack and I'm doing what I can to get out on the water as often as possible. Thanks to the steady stream of thunderstorms, it's been a bit tough.

Last week, I went to the local state part for a late afternoon paddle. Just as I get the boat off the car, next to the boat ramp, I start hearing the rumble of thunder. The sky was a mixed bag of dark clouds and sunny spots. I waited. Thunder continued and I didn't see anyone else getting into the water. So, back up goes the boat but I decided to wait a bit in the parking lot.

Wait, wait, wait. After about a half hour, the sky is still partly cloudy, but it looks like they might be heading somewhere else. So, back down comes the boat. And still, I hesitated. I KNOW it's stupid to be on the water during a thunderstorm, but I REALLY, REALLY, want to get out on the water.

Wait, wait, wait.

Finally, I see other folks putting in at the boat ramp. I decide to risk it and in I go. Within 5 minutes, the rain starts to pour down (but, no lightening, so far!). I head for some sheltering shrubs at the shoreline and hunker down with another group of intrepid paddlers.

Wait, wait wait.

The rain stops and I head out to the other side of the lake where the sky is clear and the sun is shining. I got a couple of good hours in...spent some time looking for a co-working who often goes fishing at the same lake (I found out later that he WAS there at exactly the same time as me, but he was at the one part of the lake that I didn't go towards; how ironic).

When I head over to the boat ramp to get out, the sky is once again dark and threatening. I get the boat out and loaded in good time...lots of thunder and the wind was picking up. As I turn out of the parking lot, the sky clears and no more rain for the rest of the day.

Nutty weather.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Startup Predictor Tool - YouNoodle

Saw this on a recent edition of the New England Tech Wire publication:

YouNoodle, the developer of an online platform for the entrepreneurial community, said on Thursday that it has launched its new "Startup Predictor" tool, which the company said analyzes data on early-stage startups and generates a scientific prediction of their future outcomes. The first version of the tool is now available as a free, web-based service. It allows users to enter information -- such as details about key employees or advisors, relationships between team members, products, patentable technology and capital invested by the founders -- through an online test. The tool then generates an estimate of the company's valuation in three years, as well as a "YouNoodle Score" -- a number similar to a credit rating, based on a 1,000-point scale, that gauges the "feasibility and promise" of the company's future. YouNoodle then matches users with other members that could be of value, such as potential employees, advisors and business partners.http://m1e.net/c?46169354-yRQ6LuEgLiZxM%403528979-zqLv5lJPUjxak_

Interesting tool. I thought I'd try it on a startup where a friend of mine works. Several steps in, I realized I was floundering. The level of questions was curious. For example, I had to know how long the founders had known each other, professionally and socially (I guessed). I had to know how many years of experience the founders had in the business. And I also had to know a lot about funding...how much, when, what the intial goals were and so forth. I started guessing, just to see if I could get through the questionnaire.

I came to a grinding halt when the application asked me for email addresses. Heck, I don't even know the founders and here's this application asking me for their email address?? It was totally unclear how this information would be used. The note on the page said that the address would not be used without my permission...but how did I know that was the truth? So, I stopped at that point. Too bad, I would have liked to have seen the prediction for this company (which I personally think has great potential).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

iPhone auto performance app!

Just stumbled across this app for the iPhone:

Dynolicious, an automotive performance meter (http://www.dynolicious.com/).

Apparently, this iPhone application uses the accelerometer to provide performance metrics while you drive. According to the web site, you get metrics for:

0-60 Acceleration
1/4 Mile Elapsed Time
Lateral G's (huh? G-force stuff? cool!).

Not that I'm any kind of a performance driver, but my little Civic SI Coupe has a little bit of power to it and it would be fun to see what the iPhone says about it.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mommy, where do servers come from?

I was cleaning out my email Inbox and came across this link from Gizmodo:


It's still a good link and it's still making me laugh hysterically. The ultimate book for the children of geeks and nerds :-)

Tax-free weekend in Massachusetts, August 16-17

For the fifth year in a row, Massachusetts will have a tax-free weekend (August 16-17, 2008). The Boston Business Journal reports on this event here: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/stories/2008/07/28/daily52.html

I go back and forth on my enthusiasm for tax-free weekends. Sometimes it just seems ridiculous...the state loses income and the stores are mobbed with people spending money that they might not have spent at all. And, unless you're buying a really big ticket item, you're really not saving a whole lot of money.

On the other hand, with the current cost of gas and food being on a sharp rise lately, saving a few dollars here and there is nothing to sneeze at these days.

I'm sorely tempted to join the mad rush this year for a couple of big items...new refrigerator and dishwasher. The fridge is about 20 years old and needs new gaskets. Half my food freezes and half doesn't. It's annoying...you go to make a nice egg cream and discover the seltzer is frozen into a solid block of ice. And it just doesn't make sense to get it fixed, since it's so old.

The dishwasher is also old, about 15 years old. It doesn't clean as well as it used to and and the flimsy soap dispenser thingy is broken ...the little door that supposed to open automatically doesn't. The soap just gets stuck in there. Again, annoying. I've tried to figure out who to adjust the spring mechanism that controls the little door, to no avail.

I'm sulking about the refrigerator because I don't think I can get the one I want -- not enough space under my cabinets and I'm NOT moving the cabinets. I need them. Why do we have to have refrigerators that are SOOO tall? I wanted a fridge with a bottom freezer and french doors. But, they're all about 2 inches too tall. I'm bummed. I may have to back down and get one without the lovely french doors. It's just not fair.

The dishwasher should be an easy decision. I'll just ask my Dad which one they have and get the same. I've found that relying on Dad to do the research and actual testing works well for me and saves me gobs of time :-)

Spirit and Opportunity -- still alive and kicking on Mars

It's been over 4 years since the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), known as Spirit and Opportunity touched down ...er, bounced?...onto the Red Planet. The rovers were expected to be able to survive for 90 days. Four years later, they're still plugging along, albeit with some technical difficulties. Wish the battery on my iPhone would last that long!

I clearly remember the days when these marvels of engineering touched down. Back in those days, my stupid cable company did one thing right...they gave me the NASA channel. I remember watching the team at Mission Control when they realized that the first rover had landed safely. At that moment, I would have given a lot to be able to work for NASA or JPL! I can't recall the last time *I* felt such joy and a sense of satisfaction at my job!

(My stupid cable company took my NASA channel away a long time ago. I miss it. Watching it on computer is just not the same.)

You can get current reports of our dear rovers at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/index.html

Friday, July 25, 2008

Solar Trees -- art and science come together

I'm a big proponent of Solar Energy. If I could get solar panels on my roof that would be cost effective, I would do it.

From CNN, comes the story of designer Ross Lovegrove's street lamps (Solar Trees) that not only use solar energy, but are beautiful pieces of sculpture. They seem to be sprouting in Europe...why not here in the US? Apparently, even after 4 days without sun, the lamps still work.


Why is the US so behind the times with energy-efficient innovations?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When we allow people to deceive us...

I saw this quote on a blog that I read and it caught my attention:

Clarissa Pinkola Estes: “In hindsight, almost all of us have, at least once, experienced a compelling idea or semi-dazzling person crawling through our windows at night, catching us off guard. Even though they’re wearing a ski mask, have a knife between their teeth, and a sack of money slung over their shoulder, we believe them when they tell us they’re in the banking business.”

It's happened to you, hasn't it? It certainly has happened to me.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes is the author of the book, Women Who Run with the Wolves. I'm adding this book to my reading list.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I learn to load/unload my kayak successfully

At last, a breakthrough in the issue I've had with loading and unloading my kayak on my car!

Last year, after purchasing a new car with a nice, fancy spoiler on the back, I realized that my old method of loading my kayak from the back of the car wasn't going to work anymore. I purchased a new rack system (Yakima BoatLoader http://www.yakima.com/racks/kayak-rack/product/8004018/boatloader.aspx) that allows me to load the boat from the side.

It sounded so simple...extend the rod from the front crossbar, put the bow of the boat on the extended rod, lift the back of the boat onto the saddles and then move the front of the boat onto the saddles.

While the boat is very light (42 lbs), I'm short, the boat is close to 3x my size and I just didn't get how to maneuver the boat correctly. One day, after an annoyingly nasty paddle --it was hot, the river was full of nasty vegetation, and there were too many bugs, I dropped the boat onto the new car while trying to load it. I was lucky that it was a glancing blow and I was able to polish out the scuff marks and the surface scratches. And the boat suffered no damage. But I was traumatized by the experience!

I avoided kayaking for the rest of the season :-(

This year, I gathered up my courage and decided to get over this phobia I had for loading the boat. And, I'm glad to say, I have achieved success. I realized that instead of trying to handle the boat from the handles on the top of the bow or aft ends of the boat, I needed to move the boat from underneath and from the MIDDLE of the boat, not the ends.

Here's how think I'm doing in (I'll need to observe more carefully next time to see if this is how it's working):

  1. Grab the boat by the bow handle and balance it on the extended rod at the front of the rack system.
  2. Hold onto the boat by the coming of the cockpit with one hand and and underneath the hull with the other hand (this is a little tricky as the boat tends to want to slide downwards at this point -- I have to move quickly). Then I lift the boat up so I can get the back of the boat on the rear saddles. At this point, the back of the boat is on the saddles and the front is balanced on the extended rod.
  3. At the bow side of the boat, I push up from under the hull and position the bow on the front saddles.
Getting it off is similar.

  1. I hold the boat from under the hull to get the bow end on the extended rod.
  2. Then, again, working from the cockpit area, I grab the coming of the cockpit, keeping one hand underneath the hull, and lift the back of the boat off the rear saddles.
  3. Finally, I put the back of the boat down on the ground, and holding onto the coming of the cockpit to keep the boat from sliding, move forward so I can move the bow of the boat off the extended rod.

I've done this a couple of times and it's getting easier. I'm feeling a lot more motivated now to get out on the water. One small, but important personal accomplishment. :-)

Friday, July 18, 2008


Never heard of this site until a co-worker sent the following link:


I think this site might rate right up there with despair.com ...another of my favorite website.

And I quote (directly from the website)

"Something Awful has been mocking itself and the internet since 1999, bringing you reviews of the worst movies, video games, and websites to ever exist. If it's something and it's awful, it's probably on Something Awful, where the internet makes you stupid."

tee hee ;-)

Sheep and phones...

A friend of mine forward the following link to me:


If you like sheep and great ways of recycling old phones, take a look. :-)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

iPhone mania

Despite all the reports of servers being down and so forth, I was able to update my iPhone to the new software without any problems. Of course, I did the update at 2:00 in the morning :-). I did hear that the lines were crazy, though. My friend said that up in New Hampshire, the line at mid-day had over 500 people in it (and the store opened at 8 am). At 3:00, there were about 200 people on line. You'd think that the iPhone was only going to be available on the one day.

To be honest, I don't see a whole lot of difference between the old and the new OS. The push mail thing might be interesting. There are some extra settings and so forth. And the App Store is fun. I downloaded a number of applications (mostly the free ones) that looked interesting. So far, I have: Pandora radio, TruPhone (for international calls via Wi-Fi, Yellow Pages (YPMobile), yelp, and Starmap. Of course, I haven't actually *used* any of them. I'll have to report back in a couple of weeks on whether I find a use for any of these apps.

I have noticed a bit of flaky behavior. Entering passwords is flaky...the software first displays each letter I type before changing it to the dot symbol. And sometimes, I get weird screen repainting as I type each letter. And then, there is a bit of slowness in some of my standard apps. But, nothing that isn't tolerable, at this point.

I'm a bit surprised at the interest in getting the 1st generation iPhone instead of the 3G phone. Maybe it's because the 3G plan is pricey. My friend sold his 1st gen phone while on line to get his 3G phone for $400! (and it's a used phone --- it's in good condition, but still...). I know someone else who is planning to get a 1st gen phone instead of the 3G, again because of the phone/data plan costs. He's planning to get his from craigslist (and there are quite a few phones available).

We do love our iPhones...not because they're better than a BlackBerry...but because of the coolness factor. That's the main reason that I love my iPhone!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Food pairings

Interesting article from Real Simple (http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/06/27/rs.food.pairings/index.html) about food pairings.

For example:

Pair grilled steak with brussel sprouts. The mini-cabbage like creatures counteract the potential carcinogens found in grilled foods.

Pair tomatoes and avocados. The avocados help you to absorb more of the lycopene in tomatoes.

Pair oranges and spinach. The vitamin C in the oranges helps you to absorb the iron in the spinach.

Do not pair alcohol with energy drinks or diet drinks. Pairing alcohol with energy drinks can cause nervous system stress (breathing problems, heart palpitations). And you're likely to get drunk faster if using diet drinks mixed with alcohol.

Do not pair coffee (or tea, or hot cocoa) and breakfast cereal. The antioxidants in coffee prevent the absorption of the iron that are in most fortified cereals. Instead, drink your hot beverage an hour before or after the breakfast cereal.

Monday, June 23, 2008

iPhone and iRetroPhone

Next month, the iPhone software update is coming. Along with that, is the new App Store with new iPhone applications. What fun. I'm looking forward to the new "toys" that I can put on my phone.

One such application turns the iPhone display into a rotary phone display, complete with realisting rotary dial sounds. How delightfully ironic. Here's the link:

I thought about upgrading my iPhone to the new 3G version, but it would cost another $15 per month and another $199 for the phone. I think my current iPhone serves me well enough. For now, I think I can live without 3G speed (although, I do want it...the EDGE network can be sooooo slow); just can't justify the cost.

Wired...for FIOS

Somehow, our condo association made some deal with Verizon to have our buildings wired for FIOS. Today, the electricians came in for Phase 1 -- adding the conduit to hold the fiber optic cables. Our utilitie cables/wires are underground, so the Ditch Witches are out, digging the trenches for the cables.

I'm looking forward to the fast speeds of fiber optics to the home. I plan to sign up for the full FIOS package, once it's available. And that's the tough part. It's unclear when we'll actually be able to get FIOS installed. There are agreements with the town, I think, that have to happen. And I'm sure our current cable company will fight to prevent the change in the monopolistic hold on the town.

But...I'm guessing that it's all too late for the resident cable company. FIOS is coming!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Facebook? and social networking

OK, I just joined Facebook. For business reasons.

No, really...I'm not kidding. I'm on a committee for the new corporate intranet. The consultants sent us a Facebook link to an intranet group that's on Facebook.

I feel sad...my account says I have 0 friends. And I don't have a good picture. And, there are other people from work on Facebook! How weird...I guess Facebook isn't just for kids anymore.

I belong to LinkedIn and Plaxo. I still have no clue what to do with these social networks. There's something curious about putting all sorts of personal information on line that people can see. My 85 year-old father is baffled about this. "Why," he says, "Why would anyone put all that personal information out there for strangers to see?"

I dunno. But it does seem to be intriguing.

Task for this week...find a good picture for online! The social networking world may be a but perplexing to me, but I think I want to be a part of it!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

changing the wallpaper (electronic, that is)

Recently, a couple of people have commented that my PC wallpaper was...well, ugly. That it didn't suit me.

I've used the same wallpaper for years...more years than I can recall. It's a sort of neutral colored stone-like texture. I rather liked it.

On the other hand, considering all the options these days, having the same wallpaper, day in and day out, year after year, is a bit boring.

This morning, I changed the wall paper. Grabbed an image from www.nasa.gov of an exploding star. It's bright, it's bold, and has lots of pretty colors. Maybe I'll try changing the wallpaper on a regular basis...just to shake things up a bit.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Changing what I do at work

A couple of weeks ago (6/1- 6/4), I attended the STC conference in Philadelpha. STC = Society for Technical Commuication. In other words, a tech writer/tech editor and related professions conference.

It was surprisingly good. I had low expectations. When I originally looked at the sessions, I didn't see a lot that interested me. But, there was an open slot and I knew I would be attending the conference with some of the really cool people in my group. So, I went :-)

And came back. With ideas about how to change my role at work. About time. I've spent the last year or so, trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing. I was promoted to a Consultant level position, but giving up the day-to-day writing projects that I was doing previously was proving very hard for me. (letting go of anything is a problem for me...more about that in an upcoming post).

But something "clicked" for me while out in Philly. I realized that I had to change my work focus in order to feel satisfaction that I was working up to my real capabilities. So, I had a talk with my manager and she was all for it...yes, I could start going into research mode and focusing more on content management, structured writing, and all the other stuff related to bringing our group into a more modern way of working.

Ironically, right after we made this decision, I ended up with another writing project on my plate. No one else was available and I felt it was only right to volunteer. Oh well.

But, I am feeling good that I finally have reached the point where I can let go of being "just a writer" and am happy to move into being a content managmenet/information engineer. I'm just hope I don't lose all this motivation too quickly!

The death of a robin...and the empty nest

Last night I came home to discover a young, dead robin at the base of the shrub where a local family had taken up residence. So sad.

I had been away for several days on a business trip, so I haven't been checking on my resident avians. After descovering the corpse, literally on my doorstep, I peeked in and took a look at the nest. Vacant. No one left.

I have no idea if the dead robin fell out of the nest, was attacked, or pushed out by siblings? I am hopful that the other baby robins have fledged and are off, doing happy, robin things.

If Mother Nature, in all her wisdom, has not urged some other animal to do the cleanup/scavenger thing, I will remove the poor, soggy body (it's been raining and raining!) and dispose of it. With a little bit of dignity. We all deserve that much.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Baby robins!

Yup, the eggs hatched into wonderfully, straggly looking baby birds. I peeked into the nest over the weekend and panicked for a moment when I didn't see the eggs.

But, then I saw a bit of movement and a teeny-tiny beak! I was surprised that the baby was so quiet...no cheeping, no sound at all. The next day I took a quick look and saw that there were at two birds there, maybe all three had hatched?

I've been very careful to not spend a lot of time around the nest...I don't want to scare off the parents. I was concerned that my comings and goings out the front door would keep the parents from tending to the eggs. But so far, all has worked out for my feathered neighbors!

Friday, May 23, 2008

NASA goes to Mars again, yay!

This Sunday, the Mars Phoenix Lander arrives on Mars (http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/space/05/23/mars.lander/index.html)

I've been overjoyed that the little rovers, Spirit and Opportunity are still happliy traipsing across the Martian Landscape. In those days, my cable company was kind enough to have a feed from NASA TV and I was able to watch mission control as the landings occurred. It was scary, thrilling, and just fantastic.

I haven't been paying much attention lately to NASA news, but now that I know about the landing on Sunday, I'm going to try to catch the broadcast on the Internet.

Everyone start thinking good thoughts about another successful Martian landing!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Teach your pet their name and address...

If at all possible, teach your pet its name and address. Well, this only works if your pet speaks your language. Like this parrot:


A parrot in Japan, Mr. Yosuke Nakamura, flew out of his cage and get lost. He spent some time at the police station but kept his personal details private. After he was moved to a vet, he must have decided he wanted to go home because he told them his name and address.

Clever parrot!

Monday, May 19, 2008

A robin family has moved in...

...right next to my front door. I have a tall evergreen (some run--of-the mill spruce or something like that) right next to the front door. I recently noticed that every time I walked in or out of my front door, a bird flew out of the bush. So I peeked in the other day and saw a wonderfully constructed nest with 3 bright blue eggs carefully arranged inside. Robin's Eggs!

Poor birds, though. They have a fit everytime someone comes in or out of the door, even at night when they should be asleep. I hope they settle down long enough to hatch the eggs. Maybe I should think about using the back door for awhile until the little ones fledge.

I also hope the don't end up flying inside my house by accident!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Where did my love for bleeding edge technology go?

My home computer is *old.* I was going to upgrade the memory and discovered that I could only squeeze 1 gig of memory into its old carcass. Gee whiz! I used to be buying new computers on a regular basis. In fact, when I came to my current job (close to *4* years ago!), I whined and complained that my office machine was underpowered and couldn't match my equipment at home.

And now, horrors! I discover I've got an old clunker at home. I need to upgrade, get back into the technology swing of things! I'm thinking of buying a laptop this time. I could get a docking station, nice monitor (my monitor is ancient! but just won't die), wireless and Bluetooth everything.

A friend of mine comforted me when I expressed my concern that I was less of a technology geek than I once was by reminding me that I have an iPhone, a robotic dinosaur, and a built-in GPS in my car. I'm not as behind the times as I might be. But still....am I slowly but surely becoming a bit of a Luddite {shiver}?

Friday, April 25, 2008

FIOS is coming to town

I live in a condo. The condo association recently sent out a letter stating that all of the units were going to be wired for Verison FIOS (fiber optic) during the next month. We don't have to sign up for the service, but for some reason, the association wants the development wired.

I wonder if this means that eventually, highspeed Internet and maybe cable TV will be part of our condo fee. Which would be very convenient!

I'm kind of psyched about the FIOS Internet thing. It's supposed to be very fast! And, having FIOS might mean that we will be able to choose cable TV from Charter or Verizon. I really DO wish I had a choice!

The one thing about FIOS that gives me pause is that I heard adding FIOS means the copper connections are cut and if you don't like FIOS, it would be prohibitively expensive to go back to copper as opposed to Fiber Optic. In our case, it looks like we won't have a choice...

American Orient Express

Once upon a time, trains were the main connections from one place to another. Even today, when we drive so much and don't think much about our rail system, having a train station in town is still an asset.

I often think about taking a luxury train journey. The idea of a trip where I can just be and observe the world as it goes by intrigues me. Maybe someday, I'll take a trip on the American Orient Express http://www.americanorientexpress.com/.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Click and Clack coming to TV!

Do you listen to Car Talk in NPR?

I love that show. I love listening to the Magliozzi brothers. And since I don't get NPR on the radio in my house (I live in a valley, without antennas, it's hard to get a lot of stuff!), I have to be driving around somewhere on the Weekend to catch the show. So I don't listen as often as I would like.

But now, they're coming to TV! Yup, they're going to have a PrimeTime animated show on PBS, starting in July. Here's the link: http://money.cnn.com/2008/04/11/magazines/fortune/taylor_cartalk.fortune/index.htm?postversion=2008041510

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hotel of Glass?

One of my hobbies is to play with glass. Lately, it's fused glass, but I have a soft spot in my heart for all types of art glass. There's a hotel in Tacoma, Washington that was made for art glass lovers...The Hotel Murano (http://http://www.hotelmuranotacoma.com/).

I love the state of Washington...I love glass. I think I need to go to the Hotel Murano.

Great balls of ...light?

Light...I like the light from a roaring fire in the fireplace, I like candles, I like the neat Candela lights from vessel (http://www.vessel.com).

And now, you can get "glowing orbs of light" from a German company (http://http://money.cnn.com/2008/03/27/smbusiness/great_balls_light.fsb/index.htm). These lights are polyethylene globes of lights that run on rechargeable batteries or can be hardwired. Apparently, they can even float in pools. You can buy them from a company called Moonlight, Inc. (http://http://www.moonlight-inc.com/).

My friend G lives by a lake...it would be really cool to get some of these lights, tether them to the dock there and enjoy pina coladas on a late summer evening...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've been iPhoned!

Yup, finally got around to getting my iPhone. I was originally psyched about the prospect of keeping my reasonably inexpensive pre-paid account AND having the iPhone (see previous post). Alas, the information from phonenews.com didn't work as advertised. After going around and around with Apple and ATT, I gave up. (Some support reps claimed I could add the iPhone to my current account, others said it was impossible. In the end, I ran out of patience.)

I converted my pre-paid account to a post-paid account. Bleah. It's more expensive and now I have that stupid 2-year contract. Getting a pre-paid account for the iPhone requires you to force the ATT system into thinking you have failed a credit check and I just couldn't make that happen (I did try).

I think ATT is fairly unethical in not allowing you to attach an iPhone to a pre-paid account unless you're a credit risk...how does THAT make any sense? I'm tempted to write to the Attorney General asking them to investigate ATT's unethical business practices.

On the other hand, I DO like my new phone-gadget. It's cute and it's fun. I was recently at a very, very boring meeting. I used my iPhone to take some personal notes, surf the Web, and in general, amuse myself until an interesting topic at the front of the room caught my attention :-)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dophin rescue story...true or urban myth?

I liked this story even if it's an urban myth: http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/03/12/nz.whales.ap/index.html

In this story, a dolphin rescues a whale and her calf after they repeatedly strand themselves. Human rescuers tried to move the whales into open sea, but they continued to get stuck. Along come a well-known dolphin who then leads them out to sea (the story takes place in New Zealand).

Kinda cool, eh?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Museums, NPR, and MIT scientists

Friday night, my friend B and I took a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. On the first Friday night of the month, they bring in food, a cash bar, music and a whole slew of people. OK, the Museum doesn't import the people, but hundreds do show up. Couples, singles, young people, older people; people of all sizes and shapes. I had never attended one of these events before and was surprised at the size of the crowd. One of the bar tenders mentioned that he thought there were close to 1,000 people there. Food was good, drinks were expensive and small, and I don't think I actually heard much of the music.

Not a whole lot of art viewing going on, but the people watching was fascinating :-). B and I are thinking of going back next month to enhance our people skills :-)

We did get to meet Chuck Goldstone, who has been on NPR's Marketplace show. Cool! A NPR Celeb. We had a lovely and very entertaining chat while waiting for the line to the parking lot kiosk to dwindle (it takes a long time for hundreds of people to filter out of one place at the same time :-). You can hear some of his humourous commentaries at: http://www,chuckgoldstone.com.

We also had the chance to chat with an MIT researcher who is working on fusion (or was that fission?) energy sources. Sort of like meeting a real "rocket scientist." I do like the scientific types.

All in all, a diverting night out.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Satellite Radio Rocks!

I love Satellite Radio. When I bought a new car last year, it came with a free trial for XM Radio. I never thought I would keep the subscription, but I discovered that I love having satellite radio. Now, wherever I go, NPR goes with me! As well as my favorite folk and acoustic music stations.

And, I can listen to XM Radio over the Internet. Came in handy last weekend when I had the previously mentioned Bed Warming party. Rather than using the old fashioned stereo system that only plays one CD at a time, I connected my speakers to a laptop and logged into my XM Radio account. Worked out quite well. That is, after "B" fixed the connector for the volume control for the speaker system. I managed to mangle the pins in the connnector while setting up the system with the laptop. "B" did a fantastic job of getting it back into working order. He's my hero :-)