July 30, 2006
Finance for Non-Financial Managers
The McGraw-Hill 36-Hour Course In Finance for Non-Financial Managers was an interesting book, surprisingly. I have a phobia about financial planning and budgeting, so I'm thankful that my wife is so good at it. But Cooke is an entertaining writer, and in twelve chapters (plus appendices) he introduces many of the concepts of finance, financial reports and budgets. I don't think any of this will stick, but I felt the urge to read it after seeing an article on my company's financial reporting practices (which are mostly well within GAAP boundaries, I'm told).
Jean's parents are having a spate of bad luck. After the reunion, they were going to do a car tour of Washington and Oregon, staying at B&B's and hotels along the way. They planned to end their tour this Monday at our house, spend a few days, then head back to Michigan.
Well, early last week they showed up at our doorstep. The hotel they were staying at had lost their reservation. So they spent the night with us, then went on to continue their tour. Then, yesterday, Jean began to worry about the fires in eastern Oregon, as that is where her parents were headed next. And guess what? They had to cut their tour short due to fire! They are here a day early, with pretty cool pictures of fire crawling up hills right next to their car. I'll try to see if Jean's dad can't upload one or two of them to my computer so I can post them here.
Here's hoping that nothing else happens to mess up their itinerary on the way home!
July 27, 2006
One side effect of the family reunion is that every evening after retiring, I watched at least one episode of Sh15uya. Sunday I finished the series. At the end of the last episode, I feared that they were going to go for the stark, bleak ending. Small spoiler: it ended 'happy'. All told, I liked this series quite a lot. Twelve episodes was just about perfect. Some repetition, but mostly in the service of the story.
I really enjoyed the role of Piece (yes, that's the correct name), the 'supernatural' executioner who reaps the 'broken' 15-year olds in Shibuya 15. He was played by Mark Fulenwider (stage name Mark Musashi), who made no effort to erase his Western pronunciation of the random Japanese proverbs they had him spouting during battle. It was a chuckle every time he appeared. (Just search YouTube for 'Mark Musashi' for some interesting demo tapes).
July 25, 2006
Butterflies Are Free
When we got home, we discovered that the butterflies had emerged. I'm glad I insisted that we leave some orange wedges in the canopy. We waited until it cooled off a little in the evening, then Renee and I took the canopy out to the back balcony. One of the butterflies fled immediately when we opened the canopy. A couple more escaped as I was adding a fresh wedge of orange. There was one straggler climbing around, looking a bit weak. I checked again this evening and it's gone. So that's it. Renee is a naturalist!
Jean's family reunion is behind us now. The banner photo is of the gang, in Pike Place Market. This image looks good on my LCD screen, but is too dark on my wife's CRT. Apologies if this is true for you too...
We had a petit deja vu when Jean's parents showed up this evening after their hotel reservations nearby got screwed up. They were planning on showing up next Monday for a few days, after touring Washington and Oregon, and this is still the plan. But for now they have a somewhat less fancy hotel than they may have planned on.
Highlights of the trip:
Pike Place Market, of course. Renee spent forty or fifty dollars on rings and bangles she found among the artisans here. I walked around with her, but bought nothing of my own. I just enjoy people watching. Mind you, if I'd had a place to do kitchen prep, I"d have dropped a bundle on fresh fruit and veggies, yum!
We dined at Elephant and Castle the first night (Friday). Jean's sister Ann tried to coerce Renee into ordering a salad with lettuce, seemingly aghast that my child might not want to eat it. After Ann moved on to other machinations, I assured Renee that I was in her camp. "Lettuce is a waste of space!" Long live spinach!
Saturday included trips to the Experience Music Project (didn't know Jimi Hendrix was a Seattle native, shame on me; also didn't know Quincy Jones was from there, perhaps not so shameful) and the Science Fiction Museum. At EMP, Renee used the interactive exhibits to discover that she likes drums. They are in fact more intricate than simply banging on a noisemaker, and I think she twigged to the notion that this was a real-life DDR rig. Jean was amused when I jumped in right on cue to sing along to "How Many More Times" by Led Zeppelin.
I have to say that I've read a lot of science fiction in my life, so the SF Museum was a lot of fun for me. Moving from exhibit to exhibit, saying "read that, read that, not familiar with that one, read that..." probably got pretty tiring for Renee, but I was tickled.
Saturday night dining was at Pike Pub and Brewery, which is pretty much as you'd expect it. Lottsa concrete, raised ceilings, linoleum and concrete flooring. The food was good, but the acoustics were trying most of the time.
Sunday was a 'free day', and I used my time to hook up with Adam, my "anime pal that's fun to be with!" I've known him for years, after Tom introduced us at Anime Expo. We went to lunch at Gordon Biersch in the Pacific Place mall. The Teriyaki Chicken Stir-Fry was excellent, as was the Hefeweizen. I forgot how huge those wheat beer glasses get, though!
After lunch we just wandered around downtown Seattle for an hour, then I hooked up with Jean to make sure she got her key (our room got moved on Sunday). Then Adam and I hopped the bus and ran over to Uwajimaya. After searching for some wasabi root and discovering that it was $67/lb. I gave up on that notion, and instead we went into Kinokuniya to look at books, videos and cds. I ended up buying two tankouban for Renee, and again, nothing for myself, although now I wish I'd bought Kamikaze Girls. I had not heard of it when I was in the store, but just today I read a review that made it sound fun. Strange.
Monday we got all packed up and drove ourselves home. The trip home was much faster than the trip up. After unpacking, I decided I needed to decompress, so I went to a movie: Clerks II. Not a family picture! But fun for me, nonethelesss.
July 18, 2006
End of an Era?
Around October of 2000, I used an unusually large bonus to buy myself a treat, the ReplayTV digital video recorder I've been using ever since. At the time, I paid for a 'lifetime subscription' to Replay's online programming guide, which is really what makes the thing so useful. By the way, 'lifetime' translates to 'lifetime of the unit' (or more ominously, 'lifetime of the original management of the company behind the programming guide'). Still, it's paid for itself in years of timely programming with little commercial interruption. I don't ever want to go back to traditional network-scheduled television.
When I first got the unit, it had a thirty hour disk, which means thirty hours at the lowest quality recording level ('Extended'). Around fifteen at 'Medium' (a level somewhat better than VHS), which is what I preferred, but I stuck with extended. After a few years, it started behaving flakey (freezing, failing to respond to button presses on the remote) and I found online that this was a symptom of a failing hard drive. According to one post from a repair site I found, the Replay manufacturers used a lower-grade hotter-running consumer disk that was prone to block errors over time.
So in 2003, I decided to do it myself and replace the hard drive, upgrading to the maximum size disk while I was at it. This worked beautifully, and gave me over sixty hours at Medium quality -- a capacity I've never filled up.
Now it's three years after that project, and the box is acting all sick again. This time, it's much flakier still. It's been hanging repeatedly on various shows for the last few weeks. Last night, I tried to watch an episode of The Venture Bros and had to perform 'magical workarounds' that effectively skipped over frozen sections of the program approximately every minute. That will not do.
So this evening, after clearing my queue of Venture Bros programming, I performed triage. I tried Refresh Partition, with no results. Then I did a Reset to Factory Settings, which erased everything, from recorded shows to recording times for upcoming shows to preference settings. Waiting for the unit to phone home, download updates and programming guides takes awhile, so I spent the time on my laptop computer IRC'ing with Adam up North and logged into work checking my email.
So I've done all the triage, and the ReplayTV is now happily recording a show. I plan to let it record about a week's worth of programming, after which I'll watch them and look for glitches. Cynically, I expect that this will be a failed attempt, in which case the next stage is to try putting in another hard drive. Online sources say that 95% of all video glitch problems are fixed by putting in a new drive (but then, 95% of statistics are made up).
Unfortunately, Burr sold his PC, and the RTVPatch software is Wintel specific. Rather than hunt down another friend who meets the very specific requirements:
- Windows or Linux PC with two available IDE bays
- Close enough that I can drive over with the ReplayTV
- Patient enough to let me open up their box and run alien software with foreign hard drives attached.
I decided this time to find one of those plentiful online merchants to do it for me. If I need to go there, I'm gonna pay a premium of $40 over doing it myself, but given the extra effort and impact on friends, I think this is an acceptable way to go.
If I go that route, and that does not fix it, do I go Tivo? They gouge the bejeebers out of you over the online programming guide (they don't even have a lifetime subscription option anymore), so I'm really hesitant, but I surely don't intend to go back to watching television live, so I've got my fingers crossed on resuscitating my little ReplayTV...
This evening I was in the downstairs family room trying to zip through an episode of one of my favorite shows, so I could move on to reformatting the ReplayTV (more on that later) when Jean came down to ask for my scientific opinion. Good luck with that, eh?
Renee got a Butterfly Canopy kit for her birthday. It's a mesh cylinder habitat. You send away for live caterpillars, which arrived in a box that the Post Office left on our porch in the hot sun a week or so ago. Fortunately the little buggers were still alive. They were in a small plastic jar, the bottom of which was filled with some packed food medium, looking a little like light caramel fudge. They ate like the dickens, grew triple or quadruple their original size, and then began their crysalis stage.
A few days passed, with Renee postponing the transfer of the cocoons to the habitat. Turns out she feared damaging them and killing them. Once we explained that leaving them in the tiny jar was a guarantee of certain death, she got moving. So there I was, watching my show, and Jean wanted help deciding how the transfer was supposed to go. I read the directions, and shared how I thought they were to be interpreted.
Time passes, and Renee comes down with the habitat in hand. Stop the show again, march upstairs. All the survivors of the first stage are transferred to the habitat. Three are dangling from a paper disk which Jean pins to the side of the habitat. A fourth has fallen to the bottom of the jar, but the instructions assure us that if we place it gently on a clean napkin at the bottom of the habitat, it will survive. I am skeptical, but we try it anyway. Funny thing. Jean goes searching for a pair of tweezers (at my suggestion) that she can "sacrifice to science". I tell her she should just pour a little hydrogen peroxide on them after the transfer (thinking silently that all I'd do would be to run a little water over the tweezers, or even just rub 'em on my shirt). But she is apparently squeamish about the idea of "butterfly spit".
I thought we had finalized the project, and I returned to my show. However. It turns out that there was no perfect spot in the house from which to hang the habitat. It must be not-too-hot, not-too-cold, not-too-breezy. So I got enlisted to help find the perfect location. In the end, I suggested the den, where I keep my desktop computer. Said den has the window blocked to prevent glare, so it's perfect for snoozing butterflies. Now I have to be careful where I point the fan, but it's only for a few days. Chances are they'll hatch out while we're up in Seattle. Have to remember to shove some fruit into the habitat before we leave...
Then finally I went downstairs and finished off the show, leading to my next post...
July 11, 2006
First Pink Gone
Syd Barrett, one of the early creative brains of Pink Floyd, and one of my early musical favorites, is dead. Damn.
July 06, 2006
Sh15uya is the graphical title for 'Shibuya 15', a live-action 'anime' currently running (or recently finished) in Japan. I grabbed the first episode almost on a whim. It reminds me vaguely of Zeiram, and is, I guess, merely a trendy cousin of the Power Rangers. Still, the first episode amused, so I'll check out the second in due time...
Pickin' 'em up in dribs 'n' drabbles of late:
- Mission Impossible - Lalo Schifrin
- Rapper's Delight - The Sugar Hill Gang
- Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps - The Swingin' Swamis
- Beyond the Sea - Bobby Darin
The first is the original television theme, although a longer orchestration. I got it so Renee could hear what can be done with flute besides scales...
Got 'Perhaps' after watching the first three episodes of season one of Coupling, where it is the opening theme music. It just reminded me of how much I like this song.
July 03, 2006
It's the long weekend for me, and so, while Renee was at Willowbrook, an arts and crafts day camp, Jean and I did our own little field trip. We went to the Discovery Museum at the World Forestry Center. We'd been under the impression that this was a general forestry museum, suitable for all ages, but really, it's a kid's museum. In fact, Renee would probably find it a bit too young for her tastes. So the trip served a purpose, as Jean had been thinking of taking Renee there for a mother-daughter trip this summer, and now knows not tot bother.
Once we completed this trip, we went down to Wilsonville to dine at Hunan Kitchen, a restaurant I frequent with some of my work friends. I had my usual Kung Pao Chicken, and Jean had the tangy pork slivers. Good!
Jean got her shift cancelled again this Saturday, so I was able to attend another NOVA meeting. Of course it was the Fourth of July weekend, so there were only about six people total attending. I sat and talked for awhile, browsed the web on my laptop, and eventually hooked up with a friend to go out and see a movie. We went up to Beaverton to see A Prairie Home Companion, Robert Altman's adaptation of the Garrison Keillor radio show, based on a script written by Keillor.
This is an interesting cross-product of the typical Altman ensemble movie with Keillor's wry, sometimes wicked sense of humor. I still listen to A Prairie Home Companion, after all these years, though now it is more often in the car, 'on the way', than deliberately arranged. Decades ago I made a point of tuning in, while working at a bookstore in East Lansing, or later, doing my weekend cleaning chores in our apartment in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It's hard to believe that this show has been on the air for over thirty years, and knowing this makes the movie's plot more sensible. The angel of death walks the stage, and even by the end, it's not clear if she came only to claim a cast member or the very show itself.
Garrison is great, in his deadpan sort of way, and I finally got to see many of the regular musicians I've listened to over the years. Of course the cast is filled out with many actual actors, but they manage to fit into the Prairie Home mentality pretty easily. If you don't care for PHC, the movie won't change your mind, but if you like it at all, you should enjoy the movie as well.
July 02, 2006
"Big cities like New York, Paris, etc., have permit requirements for shooting on public streets. While it is another layer of hassle, I do not want to hear anyone moaning that they live in Paris/London/Tokyo/etc., and that this is a huge disadvantage."