Christmas Lights

The first batch of Christmas lights went up on December 7. In keeping with an old family tradition, it was bitter cold when I put them up. I could have waited until the following Wednesday to put them up when the weather forecast was calling for temperatures in the mid-50s, but that would have involved following another family tradition and putting up Christmas lights in the rain.
The streetlight in front of the house gives the scene a kind of orangeish glow. It’s not intentional, but I’ve come to think of it as Christmas meets Halloween. One person I showed the photo to said the lighting combined with the candles in the windows gives the impression that the house has eyes.
The first batch of Christmas lights.
The remaining lights went up the following weekend. That was followed by a week of rain and then a cold with the result that I didn’t manage to take any more photos until this past Monday. The details in the large version are a lot sharper because I learned from my previous mistake and used the tripod this time. (That made a huge difference.)
The full set of Christmas lights.
The additional light makes the “eyes” a bit less pronounced, but I’m not sure the multi-color lights are a good combination when paired with the blue icicles. Throw in the orange highlights from that street light and the Halloween effect is even more pronounced. So…
Happy Hallowmas!!!!!
(Or should that be Merry Chrisween?)


Writing an email for work this afternoon, I discovered that Firefox’s built in spellcheck1 doesn’t recognize the name of Microsoft’s Visio product.
One of the suggested “corrections” is Visigoth. Given my experiences with Viso so far, I don’t find this correction to be entirely incorrect.
1Firefox also fails to recognize the word “spellcheck”, yet it suggests “spellchecker” as a correction. (I can agree that spellcheck shouldn’t be a word, but if that’s the case, then certainly spellchecker — one who spellchecks — is also ineligible.)


The cupboards (and also the freezer and fridge) were quite bare – lacking anything more substantial, dinner on Tuesday was a peanut butter sandwich and a bunch of veggies. (There was plenty of dogfood however, so Wylie and Riley can’t use this as an excuse for why they ate the wall.) So on my way home from work, I stopped off at the supermarket.
Since I was there anyhow, I decided to restock the caffeine supply as well.
I didn’t realize the mistake until I got home. I bought the caffeine-free version instead.
Crap. So much for my super-powers.

Destructomatic Times Two

Riley is visiting for a few days while his humans are out of town.
After taking Wylie and Riley out for their evening walk (in the rain), I was too tired to go upstairs and ended up taking a nap on the couch. When I woke up an hour or so later, I discovered that the two dogs had chewed a hole through the back of the couch. Not only the back of the couch though, they’d gone all the way through the drywall and I could see the aluminum siding and feel cold air blowing through. So now, in addition to still being completely exhausted, I was utterly disgusted as well. It was enough of a shock that my only possible reaction was to fall asleep again.
When I woke up the second time, I discovered that the damage had been a dream. In fact, the destroyed couch was a completely different style than the one I’d been napping on and I never would have painted the walls that shade of green. Wylie had been napping next to me the whole time and Riley was curled up on the other side of the room.

Books for Trade

Back in August, I found about PaperBackSwap from a post on Marauder’s blog. So far, I’ve only managed to send out 17 books, so it’s not done a great deal to help in my efforts to disenclutter, but at the same time, I’ve also received 8 books I’d never read before. So in that regard, it’s at least helping me save a little money as part of my personal economic stimulus plan.
A couple days ago, The Washington Post ran an article about PaperbackSwap. My only fear is that as Spider Robinson pointed out some years ago, being “discovered” is the worst thing that can happen to local bars and restaurants. What I’m hoping though is that more publicity perhaps means more people requesting books and thereby helping with my efforts to disenclutter.
Can I interest you in a book? 🙂

Call For Backup

For years I’ve been urging my friends and family members to back up their computers. In the past 10 years, I’ve probably succeeded in getting fewer than five people to back up their computers even once. (The fact that Dad backs up his important files once a year is one of my greatest success stories.) In that same time span, I’ve probably told at least one person a year – including all three of my brothers – that there really wasn’t anything I could do to help them after something got wiped out.
Probably the one biggest thing that gets in the way of my own backups is that it takes a tremendous amount of time to copy everything to a CD or DVD. (I haven’t done a tape backup in 10 years and it’s probably been closer to 12 or 15 since the last one involving a stack of floppies.) What’s been saving my bacon in recent years has been automation.
Hard drives are cheap these days. You can buy a gigabyte of storage (equivalent to about 714 floppies) for about 60 cents. For the past three or four years, I’ve had an external hard drive hooked up to my computer and set up a program to automatically back up my files every night about the time I’d be going to bed. (I started using Norton Ghost for this, but when I switched to Vista back in February, my copy of Ghost was no longer compatible and I’ve been using the built-in backup program.)
Backing up files to an external drive is a huge step in the right direction and it’s helped me out more than once when I discovered I’d permanently deleted the wrong thing. And if I ever have a computer flat out die, copying everything from the backup beats the heck out of paying a data recovery company a few thousand dollars to try getting everything back. But it doesn’t cover all the bases.
A (hopefully) rhetorical question people sometimes talk about is what would be the one thing they’d want to save if their house was on fire. Aside from the obvious (family members and pets) one common answer is the family photo album. But with the ubiquity of digital cameras, most people’s family photo albums are stored on the computer. And in the event of a fire (or flood, earthquake, etc) the computer’s not an easy thing to grab. (Similarly, in the case of a theft, the computer and secondary drive are likely targets for theft.)
This is why businesses keep a copy of their backups at another location. Individuals can do that too, keeping a back up copy of important files at a trusted friend’s house, but even with the best of intentions, that doesn’t happen very often because it involves actively remembering to do it.
For the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with a free online service called Mozy Home. The free service allows you to store up to 2 GB of files on their servers. It’s not enough space for my photo or music collections, but its sufficient for some of the other things I work with quite frequently such as the various web sites I work on as well as both my email and snail-mail address books. For $5 a month, I could get enough space for everything on my computer, including the aforementioned photo and music collections. (Caveat: One thing I won’t share with them is the login information for my online bank account, but I don’t keep that information on the computer anyhow.)
Best of all, the backup program runs automatically every night. It doesn’t take any special effort on my part.
I’m sure this sounds like an ad for the service, but I really do encourage you to check it out. I’d really love to have a year where I don’t have to tell anyone their important file is gone for good.

Taking My Own Advice

One of the problems the Jaycees run into is that few people have heard of the organization. This problem is somewhat self-inflicted because when there is news, they don’t tell anyone. Back in February of this year, my chapter received a number of awards, presented one long-time member with a Maryland Jaycees’ Militia (highest award in the state), presented another one with a US Jaycees Ambassadorship (highest award in the nation), and didn’t send out any sort of press releases because nobody wanted to be seen as “blowing my own horn.”
Some months ago, the Board of Directors asked me to help publicize the chapter. Since then I’ve been working with various project chairpeople to make certain that something gets out to the media about various events, even if it’s just an entry in the community calendar. In order to make the press releases easily available to the next person to do this job (and one of my goals for the next few months is to get someone into this job), I also started a separate Jaycee Blog with the press releases and an occasional event write-up.
I’ve managed to get the Jaycees mentioned in the local newspaper a time or two since then, but last month, I “hit a pothole” when the chapter gave me a Jaycees Militia membership. Suddenly, I was the guy who didn’t want to go around tooting my own horn.
If I’d been the only one to receive an award that weekend, I probably would have taken the easy way out and not done anything. Problem is, I wasn’t the only award winner. Two Jaycees members won state awards, and another one was presented with her own Jaycees Militia membership. (I’d long assumed Nicole was far more likely to receive that award than I was.)
It took me a while, but last night I wrote and sent out a press release to make sure people can find out what the Jaycees have been up to.

But Do You Have the T-Shirt?

Been there, done that, and I blame Dave K. for this. (He in turn apparently stole it from Dave B.)
The usual style — make a copy and mark the ones you’ve done in bold and the ones you’d like to do in italics (or at least do something to make them noticeable).
1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (Disneyworld anyhow — whichever is the one in Florida)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch (Note: I’m not claiming to be good at it….)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables — Yearly
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill (Uh… Depends on who’s asking.)
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (Sometimes two of each without sleep in between)
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (Do C, C++, C#, JavaScript, SQL, Perl or PHP count?)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke (Again, I never said I was good at it…)
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (Even drove it a few times. Just never been in one as a patient.)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookie
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (Totally unrelated to #23!!!)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (Been to Hoover Dam at the Southern end of the canyon, but I don’t think that counts.)
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House (Walked past it on Pennsylvania Avenue, but I don’t count that as “visiting.”)
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had Chicken Pox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby (This is kinda like how everytime I give blood, I get asked if I’ve ever been pregnant.)
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day.