Friday, June 30, 2006

Fatherly Lesson #1: Sleeping with boys is dangerous

We agreed to let SKGP and EJP sleep together tonight. They like to do that sometimes, especially when I'm not getting back until late. On those nights, it helps RKCP since she doesn't have to be in two places at once.

I read a chapter of Stuart Little and the book Caps For Sale to them, cuddled them for a bit, warned them that if they monkey around they would be separated, and left.

A few minutes later, SKGP came down with a bloody nose. Apparantly, her finger was "near" her nose, and EJP (accidentally?) hit her arm.

Die Spammer, Die

Here is a very entertaining story of giving the spammers a taste of their own medicine. You've all seen the Nigerian scam, where they need your help transferring money out of Nigeria and they'll give you 10%. This guy gets one of them to do all kinds of fun stuff.

My Idea to Fix Highway 152

It's the 4th of July weekend. That means everyone in the entire Bay Area is fleeing. Many pass through Gilroy on their way to LA and the Sierras and wherever else they are going; most take Highway 152, which connects 101 to I-5.

As I've mentioned before, traffic in Gilroy on a good weekend isn't fun. Today is horrible. 101 South stops a little after Masten Ave and doesn't really go again until after the 152 / 156 Y intersection. The problem is twofold (at least): 152 is a two lane county road from Gilroy to Casa de Fruta, and the intersection of 152 and 156 is at grade. The latter means that people going to Hollister have to cross the people fleeing. Even though the fleers have no stop sign, they try to be nice and let the Hollister-bound people go. This stops traffic.

Can this be fixed? Of course. Add more lanes to 152, which may or may not mean re-routing it. Put a real interchange at the intersection so no one has to stop. These solutions are obvious, but they haven't been done because no one has stepped up to get CalTrans to do something.

So, here's my big idea. Put large signs every mile along 152 from Casa de Fruta to Gilroy on the big holiday weekends. Each sign would say something like "10 miles of traffic ahead. Call [insert polititcian who should be doing something] at (XXX) XXX-XXXX and tell him how you feel right now."

I think a couple thousand people who have been stuck in traffic for two hours to go 10 miles calling the right politicians might have some impact.

Comment Spam

Wow, I must be famous. People I don't know are commenting on my blog. I rock. Oh wait, that's comment spam -- random comments with a link back to a spammer's site.

To combat this menace, I've enabled comment moderation. So, if you comment, the system sends me an email, and I have to approve your stuff. You won't get the immediate gratification of seeing your pithy commentary on my life, but I'll get it posted the next time I check my mail.

Let me know if you have problems.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Creating the Last Mile

I create communities for a living. We do our best to make them cool and well designed and places people will want to live for a long time. We don't create subdivisions, we create communities.

To make these homes more appealing and sustainable, we've been negotiating with AT&T to put fibre optic cables to each home. This would give the people a big honking internet connection, so telecommunting would be a viable choice in the more remote areas.

AT&T's lawyers seem to have put the kibosh on that particular deal. Unsurprisingly, they are not the most flexible corporation in the world. There are other, smaller companies that have similar deals, and now we have to go find them.

Interestingly, this week's I, Cringely topic is about the people taking back the network infrastructure and having the communities control the last mile of internet connectivity. That sounds a lot like what we might be doing if the telcos and cable companies don't step up.

Under Attack

I used to be a computer geek. Really, it's true. I always wanted to be a unix kernel hacker like my friend Special K. But alas, it was not to be.

I keep some remnants of my previous life. I try to stay hip to what the kids are doing nowadays. I've got accounts on pretty much every Web 2.0 site in the world. I've got my own FreeBSD server dishing out pictures.

But my powers are waning. I use Windows as my primary operating system; heck, I even use Outlook to read my work email. I'm using Flickr more and gallery less.

Which brings me to tigger. tigger, my network server, has been under attack for months. Every morning I get a security report, and typically I have several hundred failed logins to my SSH server (which would get them real access to the box). They come from different addresses each day, so I can't just block one net.

I've spent a little time trying to stop it. I read the man page for sshd_config many times, and tweaked some options. I messed with hosts.allow to keep out foreigners. I've spend hours working on my ipfw firewall rules (which I totally have lost control of). All to no avail. I'm considering just disabling sshd altogether. This would keep the bad guys out, but would also prevent me from being able to remotely get to my system when I need to.

I don't want to give up, but I don't have time and I'm out of ideas.

Do any of the remaining geeks out there have any suggestions?

Bonus points to anyone who can improve my wifi range -- I have a terrible connection in my bedroom, which is where all the wireless client devices hang out. Are there secret ifconfig ath0 options I can tweak?

Candle Power

Here is EJP blowing out the candles on his Dinosaurus Rex cake.

Thanks to Google Video for the new toy!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sad Dog

Gilroy has some good restaurants that we have enjoyed exploring. We've had very nice experiences at La Hacienda, Victoria's, Ninja Sushi, and Black Bear. It's nice to patronize the small businesses, I think. We also spend our share at the chain restaurants -- we really enjoy Famous Dave's.

Old town Gilroy is quaint, but struggling. There are big renovation plans in the works, but in the meantime there are several antique shops and not much else. Of the restaurants in that area, we have some amazingly bad choices. The gaudy Chips N Salsa will be skipped, in the hopes that it will go out of business, and something less horrible will appear.

Tonight, we went to Happy Dog Pizza Company. This is a refurbished fire station in downtown with a lot of charm and great potential. Unfortunately, we have tried it 3 or 4 times, and we just can't find anything on the menu that is worth eating.

Tonight, RKCP and I shared a margarita pizza and a beet and goat cheese salad. The pizza was bland with a couple basil leaves on it; and the salad was a bunch of lettuce with a couple clumps of cheese and cut up canned beets, with a tasteless dressing.

I think we will skip the Dog next time.

Update: A friend tells me that the Even Cowgirls Get the Blues salad and the Sun Dried Tomato and Pesto pizza are good, but I'm not sure I can eat a salad with a name that stupid.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Transfats are bad

I recently came across this study.

It shows that monkeys on a subsitance diet -- this is, they were given only enough calories to live -- that included foods with transfats in them, got fat. Monkeys with the same caloric intake but no transfats did not get fat.

That's pretty frightening.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Moving Day

I remeber, from when I used to play D&D, that Baba Yaga's Hut was an artifact that had more room on the inside than the outside, and walked around on chicken legs. It settled down in Los Gatos, and Baba lives in a bungalow in front. DMP rented the shack and filled it with his stuff.

DMP is now the proud owner of a place in Gilroy, so we got to move him over the past two weekends.

We filled my minivan three times last weekend, and got the majority moved, including the large bookcases. We left the 4000 lb television, the mattress, and the large framed artwork, plus the cats and their apparatus.

This weekend, he rented a U-Haul, and we finished it off in one load, with the help of one of his old high school friends and his sweetie. Luckily, John isn't a wuss like us, and we were able to get the monstrous TV out and in.

Dead Bat

I was doing some cleaning in the garage this afternoon. All of the sudden, in the middle of the big empty part of the garage, I noticed a dried up bat. Where did that come from?

I picked it up with a paper towel and threw it across the street. That way, if I come down with some strange illness, they'll be able to find the bat and devise a cure. If I threw it in the trash, no one would be able to find it.

Seemed (sort of) logical to me.

Net Neutrality

An effective vlog on why the Net should remain neutral.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dinosaurus Rex Party

EJP is three.

Last weekend, we had a dinosaur party for him. RKCP make a dinosaur shaped cake, with authentic dinosaur colored frosting.

EJP invited some of his friends. This is the first time he's ever had friends over. Emily and Jake, from his school, came. So did Brendan and Claire. Plus he had lots of family -- all the grandparents, and Uncle DMP.

The kids ran around for a while. We opened presents. We ate cake. We teetered - tottered (the present from Nana and Granddad). We sent people home. It was nice.

The family stuck around for a barbequeued turkey dinner, which was yummy. Posted by Picasa

The story of Suck Chin

Once upon a time, RKCP was pregnant. To prepare for the coming child, a baby naming book was bought; to prepare for the coming child, it was the cheapest baby naming book we could find.

There are lots of stupid names.

I didn't want to participate in the naming: the name was given to me in a vision. She wanted me to participate; she didn't want the name I had.

I looked through the cheap book. I highlighted, among other names, Ulf and Suck Chin.

The child's name is Sloane.

Suck Chin, which is a Korean name, seemed appropriate for my Korean car.

Hooray For Me

I got a new car. It rules. It was cheap. It goes fast. It is plush. It gets cold fast. It plays MP3 CDs. It smells good. It looks black, but it secretly is blue. It has handles to hold on to. It feels solid when you close its doors.

Its name is Suck Chin. It is my car.

(Look, the old car is in the background. Poor Caddy.) Posted by Picasa

You're not from around here, are you?

As seen in the May 25, 2006 edition of The Progress, a newspaper for Holtville, CA:
Last week I watched a man step out of his red Hummer and put on a sports jacket before walking into a city planning commission meeting. Perhaps he should just carry a giant placard stating "I'm not from here".
The foreigner in question? None other than my brother, DMP.

Call Box 8 - 691

When you're driving westbound on I-8 from El Centro to San Diego, between Jacumba and Boulevard, keep your eyes peeled for Call Box 8-691. I recently spent some time here, and it's no garden spot.

I walked up into the boulders on the shoulder a bit, and was amazed at the amount of detritus strewn about. Clearly, people vacationing from Mexico have been known to camp there. Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 16, 2006

Want a Hertz Donut?

My day began in El Centro. It was hot; it was probably 90 degrees. The top on the rented Ford Mustang was down, and I was cruising through the desert. I scaled the mighty In-Ko-Pah Mountains.

I was approaching the summit, between Jacumba and Boulevard. The temperature gauge was rising fast. I turned the heater to max. The overheat light came up; I stopped at the next call box.

Hertz has a roadside assistance program. Luckily I had cell coverage, and I called. There were problems because she couldn't figure out where I was just based on the interstate mile marker. She kept asking me to locate myself; she didn't like the middle of nowhere reply.

Hertz would dispatch a car from San Diego, and it would be there in 2 to 3 hours. This did not please me. In 3 hours, it was going to 110 in the shade and I had no water.

I called AAA. They arrived within 30 minutes, and towed me to the Hertz place at the airport.

They gave me a significant discount, but I'm not too pleased with them. And this serves as yet another reminder (and I didn't need another) that Fords are not the car for me.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Generous Friends

SKGP raised the third most money in the entire school at the Rod's Trod. She got a certificate; Number 1 got a bike. Her class raised the most of any class, so they got a pizza and ice cream party today. She's very proud of her accomplishment.

Thanks to all of you that donated so generously. (If you haven't paid up, then get on it, you slacker!)

Nothing's Easy

The car we want may not exist.

While we were assured that they could get a car the next day, they can't seem to find an LX in Deepwater Blue. The Gilroy dealer said it will take 30 to 45 days to get one. It would have to come from Korea; of course, the car is made in Alabama.

We've called a couple other dealer in San Jose to see if they have better luck.

Otherwise, we've got to pick a new color.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


It looks like we're going Korean.

Our new car selection is the 2006 Hyundai Sonata XLE (with the sunroof and leather upgrades). It is about $8,000 less than the comparable Toyota Camry. It has a 10 year warranty.

We're going with Deepwater Blue with beige leather interior.

Details and review to come, I'm sure...

We drove the Camry Hybrid, and it was nice. But, it is only 4 cylinder, so it didn't have an abundance of power. Picking between the hybrid and the V6, it came down to a guts vs. glory decision. Either way, we were looking in the $30,000 range. We were not impressed with the Honda Accord.

I imagine our next sedan will be something cool like a hybrid; a lot will change in the next 10 years. It occurred to me that the car I buy now may very likely be the car SKGP gets when she turns 16. That's an amazing thought.

PS. If you are looking for a car, Costco has a nice way of financing. They send you a blank check, which you fill in at the dealership. It should save some time with the evil financing people who lurk in the dark on car lots. Another great thing is the Costco auto purchasing program. They have a flat rate, no haggle deal. For the Hyundai, simply add $100 to the Invoice price of the car. This makes me happy. (For the Toyota, add 5% to the invoice.)

Terrible Twos

If someday you hear me say that EJP was never much work, point me back to this entry.

The terrible twos are terrible. Since his birthday is next week, I worry that they may last longer than they are supposed to.

He willfully disobeys, he throws tantrums, he screams, he fusses about everything. He makes horrible noises, much like a pterodactyl must have.

His sister sure does a lot of fussing too. She's turning 6 next month.


SKGP's walls have fairies on them. She and I were going to name each one, and have a little story about what they were doing. We were naming in alphabetical order.

Here's what we came up with:
  1. Alice, who is flying home to see her cat, Tiger.
  2. Barb
  3. Caty
Then we stopped. Perhaps this post will inspire us to resume.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Best and Brightest

... Do not become car salesmen.

It appears that no car salesman has been in his job for longer than 4 months. They have little interest in explaining what differentiates their cars from anyone else's. In fact, for the most part, they know very little about their cars. Monosyllabic responses are a common response to questions.

Do your own homework before car shopping.

Friday, June 9, 2006

A Simple Hotel Room

I'm at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

I'm on the 34th floor.

The room has two and a half bathrooms. It is about 900 square feet.

Nice digs, I tell you.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

He's Dead, Jim

The Cadillac is finished.

The past couple of weeks, things have felt a little flaky. On the way to the Selma council meeting that was so ill fated, on the way over the Pacheco Pass, I almost pulled over since I felt I had no power. On another recent trip, with DMP and GMP, there was some strange shaking and more feelings of power loss.

I scheduled an appointment with Smitty, our mechanic, for today.

Last night, I was driving home from another Selma council meeting. It was around 10 PM when I reached Santa Nella, things were feeling sketchy. When I got to the big uphills, things went wrong. Pushing the gas pedal revved the engine, but it didn't go to the wheels. I downshifted to see if that would catch, but it helped little if any. I continued moving forward, but speed was slow and slowing. I turned on my hazards, and kept going.

I reached the top of the mountain (safe back in Santa Clara County), and decided to keep going. I picked up a bunch of speed going down, but not enough to fix the problem. When the road leveled off again, I was back at 30 MPH. I reached Casa De Fruta, and decided to keep going.

At this point, the road drops to one lane in each direction. So, I cruised at 25 MPH for the 13 miles of one lane road. About 10 cars were stacked up behind me before I pulled to the shoulder.

I got home a few minutes after midnight and went to sleep.

This morning, I started the trip to Smitty's. 25 MPH to Morgan Hill, but I got there eventually.

$3000 to replace the transmission. The Blue Book value of the car is $2000. Math dictates that I get a new car.

An Invitation

SKGP invites her teacher to her birthday party.

The translation:

Dear Mr. S,

You are invited to my birthday. If you can go to my birthday, wear a Hawaiian shirt. You can have a piece of the boy's side [of the cake].

The map shows the gate, and Jake's house (up the street), and our house, with the new lawn.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, June 4, 2006

A New Car

I want a new car.

We went looking today. We went to the Toyota dealership in Gilroy.

I really like the Camry Hybrid. It costs more, but its got cool stuff. I should test drive one.

Another Trip To The Hospital

I think I've used that title before.

Nana took the kids down to Santa Barbara to see Aunt M. This is the first time Nana has gotten out in many weeks, due to her foot surgery. She picked the kids up on Friday after the Rod's Trod, and they are scheduled to return on Monday, since neither has school on Monday.

They arrived Friday night without problems.

The kids called us on Saturday afternoon to say hello. They went to the beach. EJP wanted to touch the water, but I couldn't tell if he did.

Later that evening, as RCP and I were relaxing on our new porch, my cell phone rings. It's Nana. EJP had gotten into her medicine. They couldn't tell if anything was missing. EJP said one of the medicines tasted bad.

We advise they call poison control. Poison control advises them to go to the hospital for observation.

At the hospital, they give EJP activated charcoal mixed with apple juice. He liked drinking black apple juice. He was worried that it would stain. They have him on a couple monitors to make sure he's okay.

At 3AM, Nana calls to tell us they are going home, after 6 hours of observation.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Seven Miles

Yesterday was the Rod's Trod. This is a walk-a-thon benfitting SKGP's school. For the past couple weeks, she's been drumming up sponsorships, and I've been impressed by how much she has gotten people to pony up.

Yesterday was the walk. It was hot and sticky.

She walked 7 miles; 21 laps around the field. We found out later that her shoes were too small, and a sock slid down and the shoe was rubbing her heel. What a trooper; we're very proud of her.

From now on, she should be able to walk to the clubhouse without whining. We hope.

Friday, June 2, 2006

It's Not My Fault

We had an update from the FAA this week. It appears that there was a mechanical problem with the plane.