Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Our trip to Finland

Deb is a much better travel blogger than I.   I encourage you to check out her site.

Best Flickr Plugin for WordPress

Mark and umbrella madness

I just installed Flickr Photo Album for WordPress.  This is the one to have.  It does the usual sidebar dealie…  but where it really shines is when you are composing new posts.  It makes your most recent photos available to insert when composing a new post.   It’s as simple as clicking the photo you want.

The above photo is the next in series of an obscure running joke among some work friends, posing with umbrellas.

If you can read this

The switch from Textdrive to Dreamhost worked.

So far the transition has been nearly painless.  Hopefully that will be the last of the 500 Server Errors thanks to Textdrive constantly killing my lighttpd processes.  Good riddens.

Well… there was ham

I think I’m getting burned out on travel. Spent last week in Madrid, and honestly the best part was the ham. Don’t get me wrong, they have fucking great ham.

Market from above The FEET!  The FEET!

Honestly, I’m trying to think of something particularly memorable about Madrid. Let’s see: Rain, good kebap, BO on the Metro, a nice linen shirt, ummm… Fortunately, Deb took some great pictures.

It was my first trip flying EasyJet. Imagine flying without all the style, pampering, and sense of occasion you are used to. Boarding the plane is like trying to get that $10 DVD player at a WalMart Black Friday sale. EasyJet doesn’t do assigned seating. They don’t do crowd control either, so it’s a mad dash to claim a seat… in dreaded 3×3 seating. It got better when the flight from Madrid was delayed. I got home at 2am, only to leave 3 hours to catch a train to France.

More on the road

My life has remained very busy… and sadly the last thing I seem to find time to do is to post about it. However, Deb’s been doing a good job of detailing our adventures, so for more timely updates, I’ll encourage you again to check out Deb’s Blog

We returned from our trip to the US, laden with new clothes and goodies. We flew with 3 nearly empty bags and came back with 4 bags all filled to their 50lb limits. A highlight was tracking down a Nintendo Wii. Neither of us are “gamers” but we really enjoy this console. It has been a hit with whoever has played it at our house, and we’ve probably sold a few more for Nintendo.

Matt getting into the game Eric playing tennis

We only had a week at home, and it was a busy one… a week of delivering developer training on a product I had hardly used before. Luckily, I had some co-workers from the US along to share the burden. In return we showed them around our newly adopted corner of the world, and made sure to keep them well fed. I think they took to their new surroundings well.


The training went better than expected, considering the circumstances, but I didn’t have long to enjoy it. Late on Saturday, we found ourselves in Madrid.

Another week of training and traveling… another post to follow.


Oh, how I wish I were bored.

Spent the first 2 weeks of April showing my Grandmother and Mom around England. It was their first trip abroad, and I was especially happy to show them around. We visited London, drove through the Cotswolds, toured castles, ate/drank well, and enjoyed 10 days of fabulous weather.

We flew back with them to the US, as I needed to attend some training at our HQ in Pittsburgh. To some degree I think we should leave the country more often… it’s been so easy to fill up our social agenda. People need much better excuses to avoid us now. We’ve been doing something (other than laying around in our PJs, soaking in TV and WiFi, occasionally rising for food) every night. Yesterday, I learned I’m here for another week. I also learned I’ve got another week of training scheduled for May, and probably a week in June in Greece. So after this week of training, I’ve got 3 more straight weeks.

I want a sensory deprivation tank.

Convenience triumphs over justice

I suppose it’s the American way. Lawsuit as negotiation tool.

Wilkinsburg Borough for several years had the wrong address for my house (further evidence our house should be part of Churchill with it’s lower much lower property taxes.) They would mail out the municipal services bill (garbage collection) and it would never be delivered. The way we’d find out about it was when the a collection agency would threaten first the previous owner, and now us. I thought I had finally straighted out the problem after the 2003 bill. It took so long to fix, that the 2004 bill had already gone out the door, never to be delivered. The 2005 bill showed up shortly thereafter, and I mistakenly thought all was well.

A year later Portnoff Law Associates a great bunch of douche bags, after months of allegedly getting no response decided to have me served with court papers (over a $120 bill)… somehow the Sheriff was able to figure out where I lived. By now that bill was over $600. I immediately contacted Wilikinsburg, they said it was out of their hands, but provided me with a print out of activity on my account. It clearly showed that they had mailed out the invoice with the wrong address. I’ve tried to negotiate with Portnoff over the last year, to no avail (the bill ballooning to >$850) I’m not a lawyer, but I gamely put up a fight, filling an Affidavit of Defense. I figured that if I made it painful enough for them, they might just settle for a smaller amount of easy money. But now that I’m in England, I just don’t have the desire to keep up that fight, and after being served with another summons, I’ve caved. It’s cheaper to pay than to bother with a lawyer.

I took my lumps.
I paid my bill.
And if I may paraphrase Snoop Dogg, “[Portnoff Law Associates] can eat a fat dick”

Benchmark of Desire

The topic of babies came up again… more friends hatching more babies (3 close friends in the span of a month or so.)

Deb and I have agreed to defer any possible baby we might have until after this England adventure is over. But that doesn’t mean we don’t still talk about the idea. The basic dialog is the same, but this time it ended with a new twist…

(Heavily condensed transcript follows)

Me: “So do you see us having kids?”
Deb: “Not anytime soon…”
Me: “But do you want to have a kid?”
Deb: “We’d make good parents”
Me: “But do you want to have a kid?”
Deb: “Well I can imagine having one, it would probably be fun…”
Me: “Do you desire a baby?”
Deb: “uh…”
Me: “Do you desire a kitten?”
Deb: “Absolutely!”

I’m guessing people that want babies must desire them at least as much as we’d like a kitten. For us, for now, it’s kittens by a landslide.

Hey, that would make a good blog post

The topic of concerts we’ve been to came up last night. It’s personal info that doesn’t actually reveal anything substantive… perfect for a blog.

Here’s my list in reverse chronological order:

Bon Jovi opening for RATT
Poison opening for RATT
Skid Row (watched it from the hillside overlooking Point Stadium in Johnstown)
Marylin Manson opening for Nine Inch Nails
Type O Negative, Pantera, Ozzy and Black Sabbath (Ozzfest ’97)
Page and Plant
Tori Amos
GWAR opening for Insane Clown Posse
Rob Zombie, Slayer, and Ozzy (Ozzfest 200?)

Zoom, zoom with the Garmin Zumo 550

I had a chance to take my new Zumo 550 mounted to my CBR1100XX out for a spin this weekend, and now can give a bit of a hands on report.

Installation: For once, something went easy. I don’t have old school tubular bars on my bike, and the clutch mount option would interfere with my windscreen. This eliminated the two provided ways to attach the Zumo to the bike. Fortunately I was able to put the u-clamp around the riser on my Heli-bars… this put the Zumo in a near perfect location. None of the gauges were obscured and no interference with moving parts or accessing the ignition.

The device: The screen is bright and clear, even in difficult lighting situations. The mount is very solid and secure feeling (which is good… I’d hate to see $1000 of electronics skipping down the road.) More importantly, it’s quick to dock and undock the unit, and small enough to not be a burden to carry (take it with you when you park!) I had no problems working most of the device with gloves on.

The UI: I’m still a bit unhappy with the UI, the main map display specifically. The TomTom UI was clearly better and yesterday’s ride just hammered that fact home. Specific shortcomings:

1) Just not as clear. TomTom used better colors, better fonts, and better layout.
2) Zumo lacks the next turn indicator. That little glyph in the corner was brilliant. It helped make sense of roundabouts which might be hard understand looking at the map. It was also something that could be quickly glanced at to know that a few miles up the road I might want to be in a particular lane.
3) Framerate. The map display doesn’t update as smoothly as the TomTom. It is just enough of a difference to make navigating in congested areas (“this left? or the next left?) a bit more difficult. You need to look, not just glance to piece things together and know what’s going on.
4) Slower to recalculate. I had one instance where it took 10-15 seconds to figure itself out, and during that time I had no map at all (just a little message saying “drawing…”) I never saw this happen on the TomTom.

Now that I’m more comfortable with the menu UI, I’d say that it’s on par with the TomTom… maybe a little better because it’s more tolerant of fat fingers. Having dedicated buttons to augment the touch screen is nice.

Routing: I’m still learning how to deal with routes and tracklogs, but my first attempt was a success. I think that’s a sign that the feature is reasonably well designed. I used Mapsource to plot out a route (an easy enough process, although with some room for improvement) and uploaded it to the GPS (a simple one click process.)

When we got ready to set off, it was just a matter of selecting the route and we were on our way. I made a few goofs when I made the route (mistakenly setting the waypoint a hundred feet up another street at an intersection, necessitating a u-turn, etc. I think the trick here is not to set the waypoints at the intersection but just before/after. I also made a few goofs navigating as I was having fun motoring along not realizing a turn was just ahead. I was happy to see I could very easily add waypoints en-route. This is key because a motorcycle just wouldn’t be as fun without the freedom to change your mind and visit something else that looks interesting (and nice to find the nearest petrol/toilet too.) We stopped, and visited a castle ruin, and when restarted I was again happy to see I could easily pickup the route where I left off.

Tracklog: This feature is really neat. I copied the GPXs over to my machine. Used Google Earth to suck them in, and there it was… our complete trip overlayed on the globe. The trackpoint resolution is very good, capturing all the little twists and turns on these tiny country roads.

You can see the route in Google Maps here:
Bourne End, Berkhamstead Loop in Google Maps

Or download this to see it in Google Earth:
Bourne End, Berkhamstead Loop KMZ file

Interesting note… must be some quirk in the tracklog. It seems to have captured some erroneous speed data at one point (you might have to look at the KMZ directly or the properties in GoogleEarth to notice.)

Return top