Dad’s day.

Well, huh, today was father’s day.
I had actually completely forgotten about it until Zach came charging in with the perennial fathers day gift (a mug with his picture on it, we have one from every year so far). That was sweet.
Had a lovely brunch with Cat’s mom, Ben, and Zach, then Zach and I headed outside to do some machine-stuff.
Had to get the mower running, so ran down to the store to pick up fuel, explaining to Zach why it wasn’t okay for him to play with the gasoline. I came up witha mighty long list of reasons not to. Anyway, while I was mowing, I was watchign Zach play on the new bicycle that his uncle Brian gave him. This bike is a ‘serious’ bike. 6 gears with derailler, hand brakes, even has a computer on it. Brian found it for $80 on craigs list, so can’t complain too much.
Anyway, he’s zipping all over the place, and making trails around the house and up over the hill across the driveway. It’s great fun to watch.
After mowing, he and I decided to go ride the ARRT bike trail. The weather today was magnificent. Low 70s and breezy and dry. Mmmm. We rode the paved section end to end and then some, probably a total of 5-6 miles, then just noodled around in the cul-de-sac at the end of the feeder road. This was great fun, just riding around in circles just like kids do on their bikes. Me chasing him, him chasing me – what a flashback.
Anyway, after that off to the Mosaic meeting, which unfortunately had a couple bad moments in it (Zach didn’t get enough to eat really, and totally lost it at one point in the meeting), we got past that okay, but it left cat and I pretty worn, and now we’re home again home again. 🙂
I can’t say enough about how impressed I am at the whole ARRT rail trail. The next section is building right before our eyes, which should result in 6 miles or so end to end riding, which makes a nice day-ride for me and zach (12 miles can at least be loosely called exercise). The next sections won’t be done for a long time, alas, but this’ll be great. Should be done by September.

Brain… hurts!

Last night Rosa and I sat down to finally watch Memento. Now I had not seen this particular gem yet, but Rosa had, so she kept quiet on the details.
To me this came out in the same series of ‘movies with a secret’ mystery / thriller films, like “Sixth Sense” and “Fight Club” the like. I knew the basic premise (fellow has lost the ability to make new memories), but not much else.
For those who -have- seen this movie, you know the feeling it gives you.
This movie seriously messes with your mind. And not in a ‘lets show lots of abstract imagery and disassociated bizarreness like Blue Velvet or what haveyou, but this was told with finesse and skill, and still leaves you at the end going, as I said, “BRAIN! HURTS!”
If you haven’t seen it, go see it. Its not scary or jumpy or anything, it’s just a beautifully done movie. If you have seen it, I now know why you walk around with a lost look on your face going “wait… but if he… but wasn’t she… ”

Mmm, first real bike ride

Today after I dropped Zach off at school, I hied over to Bedford to hop on the Minuteman Bikeway This is one of the longer bike trails in the Boston area, and stretches 11 miles from Bedford into Alewife. From there, there’s an extension that wiggles its way across Somerville, ending up in Davis Square.
In Davis I locked up the bike and settled in for a couple hours of work at the Diesel Cafe, a lovely wireless-enabled space on a busy street. I’m sitting in the open front doorway (it opens like a garage door), watching traffic go by, people walking by, and listening to Dave Matthews, and typing up a quote for services for a client.
This afternoon I’ll be riding back to Bedford, so if anyone is around and wants to come along, drop me some mail or just come by the Diesel.

Hanging out up in Maine.

Having a nice relaxing weekend up in Maine, which is always good for the soul. Course, would’nt be escape time unless I had some toys to play with. This weekend it’s games on the laptop.
Course, I’m running Linux, so that really cuts daown what’s available. One of the things I’ve been noodling with for a while is getting all the components together to build a MAME cabinet. (MAME is Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator – a way of playing virtually every video game every made on a single machine – what games do _YOU_ miss playing? :.) Course trying to do this on a non-existent budget has meant it’s taking a while. But I’m to the point of having the monitor, a motherboard, the games, and some real motivation, so things are starting to come together. Next step is the trickiest, and that’s designing / building a controller panel that has all the controls necessary for all the games I play.
Course, while working / thinking about this, I really get into playing games. I’ve been playing Robotron 2084 on the laptop a LOT, which is tricky with just keyboard controls, but it’s really making me jones for the cabinet.
Along these lines, Ben the fiend that he is, has turned me on to Kobo Deluxe, a thoroughly addicting space blast-em-up for Linux. The bum.

Rant about Popcap Games

Remember Popcap Games? They wrote these
really wicky cool games like Bejeweled and Rocket Mania and Alchemy and all
those other nifty things.

One bit I liked was that all their games were in web-enabled form, so I could
try things online before buying or downloading. The downloadable versions were
just Java VM apps, which could run anywhere, so I could play it on my Linux
machines anytime.

Popcap has TOTALLY sold out. Not only are they selling out, they’re
completely misleading their userbase.

G’head. Try one of their ‘online games’. You can play from the Web! Click
through and check them out.

Oh, btw. Make sure you’re running windows. Because their so called ‘web
games’ won’t work on anything but a windows browser environment. Why? Because
they’re all ActiveX games.

NOWHERE do they mention this. Their slick marketing-speak pages go on and on
about wonderful web-games and ‘play now!’ and everything, but at no point do
they mention that they only support Microsoft. Ashamed? Perhaps. Why don’t
they mention that? You know, maybe it’d be bad for business if they proclaimed
that their webgames only work on one monopolies’ platform.

This is part of a disturbing trend. Had a look at lately? Lots of interesting
games and toys over there. Oh, very few of them are actually Shockwave / Flash
games. They’re mostly downloadable executables for… wait… I’ll let you

Something’s shifting back into the Microsoft camp, and it’s really beginning
to make me twitch.

Remember that Chernobyl motorcycle trip?

Apparently huge chunks of it were fabrications. A posting in Neil Gaiman’s blog from a reader in Kiev points out that there were some serious problems with the original photo essay. The writer, Elena, has since massively revised the photo essay to take out some of the more blatant falsehoods. (actually, at the moment I can’t find the original site – it seems to have been taken down)
Jeez, what was the point? Wasn’t Chernobyl horrific enough? Why -make up- stuff about it?

Ah, Maine.

This weekend Cat, Zach and I are up in Maine with Cat’s father Don, and her brother Brian opening up the lake house for the season. Zach and I had come up a couple weeks ago to make sure the building was still standing and everything, and this weekend was the ‘official’ opening.
This is a fun time. The house has been standing empty and untouched since early November last year, so there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be done. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also the signal that summer is here, and there’s some lovely times ahead. Of course, the weather today and tomorrow is the -worst- it’s been for the last 2 weeks (it barely got into the 50’s here, and has been raining off and on all day).
Anyway, most of this is preparation for next weekend (Memorial day), when we’ll have a good crowd up here. But this weekend we have to: Open the house, clean up, stock with basic foodstuffs, open up all the outbuildings, do whatever repairs are necessary [this winter saw part of the gear sheds roof ripped off by the winds], pick up the whaler, put the docks back in, unload all the summery-stuff in the yard (grill, hammock, chairs, etc), move the camper trailer back up to Maine from its winter storage down at Homeport and set it up, hook up the plumbing, put the hand-operated well-pump back in place, clean up all the winter debris from the yard, reconnect the gasline feeds and get the furnace and hotwater heaters working, etc etc etc.
It’s work, but it’s worth it. Summer is here. Now where’s my sweater?

An evening out at the movies.

This evening Cat, Zach and I went off to the movies for the first time, all together. This was Zach’s first time in a full sized movie theatre specifically there to see a Real Movie [tm].
The theatre was busy, and we made it in for a matinee, so the costs were only obscene, not pornographic :-/ . At any rate, we saw Shrek 2. What a blast that was. I had my worries about going to a matinee for what could arguably be called a ‘kids movie’, but we all know this is one of those movies that’s targeted at kids -and- adults, probably even more at adults. I was worried about the audience full of small children and the chaos that could have happened, and I was not in the mood to sit through 2 hours of “Mom, Brian’s touching me!!!”. Fortunately, this didn’t happen, and I was able to really settle in and enjoy.
We had a great time, Zach loved it! Lots of good jokes, silliness, out and out laughing. I cracked up a few times at jokes obviously no one else got (this movie is -hip deep- in obscure references. Twuz great :). I’m not sure if I’d rank it above the first Shrek movie, which seemed to have better ‘flow’ to it, but all in all, this was a lot of fun.

A pleasant discovery.

Part of the drive to and from Zach’s school takes us over some construction going on on Rt 290 near 495. For a while I thought it was some sort of municipal project… the strip of land they were working on looked like a pipeline, and not for the first time I wondered why someone didn’t come along, pave the top of it, and make it a bike trail.
On the way to a Mosaic meeting, I passed over that spot again, but this time headed off on a sideroad. Buzzing along, I passed some other new road construction and… *GASP* a bike trail! Okay, I -know- that wasn’t there before. Gotta check this out.
Sure enough, the new trail I saw, and the construction on the 290 extension are in fact work on the Assabet River Rail Trail project. This is part of the big effort to turn old railroad beds and right of ways into bike trails.
The construction on the rt 290 extension is a tunnel they’re putting under the roadway to let the trail pass by. There’s pictures on the ARRT project home page.
This whole trail is only about 5 miles from the house, which is outstanding. I think I’ll pull the bike out and head over there soon and check it out with Zach!

I am… Lawn man!!!

Okay, not really. But it’s sort of fun playing one.
We have a rough lawn here at Homeport. It’s been getting slowly more scraggly over the years, and that evil enemy of lawns, moss, has started taking over in spots.
Talking with our landscaper roomie, she pointed out that this pattern is common in very acidic soil, have we tried to lay down lime?
By golly, no, we haven’t. It hadn’t occurred that since we have a de-acidifier already for our house water (we have well water, and the water was so acidic it was eating up our pipes), that maybe that also meant the surrounding soil was acidic, which would make it hard for grass to grow.
Hmm! We need a test! We don’t have a pH tester, but it sure sounds like this is worth figuring out. We chose a strip of lawn next to the driveway (those that know the property – it’s rigt across the driveway from the house at the top of the hill, in front of the brick wall) – that’s always had scraggly grass on it, and it’s been getting worse.
First I worked it over with a rake and a pitchfork to aerate the soil a bit, this’ll let the lime soak down into the dirt. Then I laid down a layer of lime (the granulated kind, not the white powder – apparently the powder kind takes -forever- to soak into the ground). This granulated stuff was sort of gray-brown. On top of that I put an inch or so of compost (we had a few cubic yards delivered to fill out the garden). Over that came the grass seed (MAN is grass seed expensive. I covered perhaps 300 square feet of lawn, and the seed was about $17. That’s gonna get expensive if we reseed large sections of the lawn.
All of the experts say the next step is to roll the area with a roller, or use a tamping tool. I have neither, but I have a nice garden tractor with very wide tires. I rolled over the area a couple times to get the compost firm (so it won’t just mud-up and slide away), and put the tractor away.
The last step is water. Water water water. The grass seed needs to basically be kept damp until the seeds germinate, that’ll be about 2 weeks. The next week of weather look good (highs in the low 70’s), so this means we won’t have any brutally hot days to bake the bejeezus out of that strip. If that happens, I’ll put out a sprinkler, but if I water it every morning and evening, I think I can keep ahead of the dryness.
Now we wait! If all goes well, we’ll have a nice carpet of good grass there. If not, we’ll have a mudpuddle. Woohoo!

Compact Flourescent Recommendation

I’ve had this long-standing project of changing all the lights at Homeport to Compact Flourescent, or CF bulbs. These are very small flourescent lights in the shape of a normal lightbulb. Typically they put out about as much light as a 75 watt bulb, but only use 15 watts of power.
The problem has been finding bulbs that have a decent “temperature”. It’s easy to get very bright white CF bulbs, they tend to be sold in bulk piles, but it’s hard to get ones that have a nice ‘soft’ feel to them.
We picked up a packge of ‘GE Soft White 75’ bulbs – this is a 4 pack in a nice cardboard box. The bulbs are -small-, and have fit into every lamp I’ve tried, have a perhaps 1/2 second power-up cycle, and have a BEYOOOTIFUL color. I keep having to check to make sure they’re CF bulbs, but I’ve installed all 4 now, and will most likely be getting more.
The specs on the package say ‘GE Softwhite 75 long life” “Light output 1150 lumens” “Energy used 20 watts” “Life 6000 hours”
Highly recommended! If I find a way to identify different kinds of bulbs, I’ll try and post it, but that’s all the information I’m finding on this packaging.
We’re up to about 25 bulbs in the house now, perhaps half the total lighting in the house. I have yet to need to replace any of the CF bulbs I’m using, and I’ve been at this about 4 years. I know I’ve replaced some of the incandescent bulbs 2-3 times in that period. (mostly because I didn’t have CF bulbs handy 🙂

I wanna juggle.

I’ve had a screaming urge lately to get out and juggle. Maybe it’s the nice weather, maybe it’s the “I’m not working in someone elses office 10 hours a day”, or maybe I’m just weird. I used to go to a weekly juggling club meeting down in Philadelphia many many years ago, and it was really the highlight of my week, and I’ve been to a couple conventions, but its’ been ages.
So does anyone know of juggling clubs in the boston area that meet regularly? I know about the MIT Juggling club, but know no details. Anyone been there, know if it’s active, how big it is, etc? My old Todd Smith clubs are really beat to hell, but I have 4-5 I can get spinning. My real need is to find folks I can pass clubs with for a few hours, so I can get back up to speed and start learning again (I haven’t learned a new pass or trick in probably 15 years. Yikes!)
Anyone? 🙂

Too Cool – Grow new teeth!

Folks who read Slashdot have probably already seen this, but apparently some researchers in the UK have used stem cells to grow new teeth in lab animals.. From the article:
“Stem cells, the so-called master cells, would be programmed to develop into teeth and then transplanted into the patient’s jaw where the gap is.”
“It is thought it would then take two months for the tooth to fully develop. ”
For those of us with less than perfect teeth (HI!), this sounds awfully cool.