July 31, 2005

Now I have Lyme disease - the price of living in the country!
Posted by Jess in Day to Day

Friggin' ticks. That's all I have to say. Those freakin' #$#@$%#% ticks.

Last year my sweet Reboot became infected while we were on vacation. My parents saw her go from appearing to not feel well, to being so lame, she could not even be able to drag herself off the couch and walk. After a month of antibiotics, she made a full recovery.

Apparently it's my turn now. The day before yesterday, I started popping the Aleve for a headache that wouldn't go away. Very rare for me. I never even get sick. (We won't talk about Lotusphere. Those responsible, you know who you are! Been there, blogged that!)

Last night I knew I felt terrible. By terrible, I mean having a neck so stiff and painful, that I'm at a loss for an appropriate simile or metaphor. Now THAT'S rare. I can come up with a simile or metaphor for anything. It's a skill.

This morning, a lovely fever brought the whole package together nicely, along with a red circle on my shoulder. Not to mention the feeling that a 300-pound midget was permanently sitting on my chest, it felt so heavy. (ahhh... now she's getting her imagery back!)

I was given a month's supply of doxycycline, along with a warning to stay out of the sun. Noooo problem. I hope the symptoms go away in a few days, I'm really not sure how long the initial symptoms are supposed to last. At least I have a light week coming up. Not that I could do any of it, at this point. In the meantime, I'm on the couch (pretty much unable to move) with my lappy and wireless, and my darling hubby doing an awesome job taking care of me. If you see me on IM, say hi... I'll be bored stiff (the jokes never stop, folks).

The only thing good that ever came out of ticks as far as I'm concerned is Patrick Warburton's persona as the "big blue bug of justice", aka, The Tick.

I guess it's a little worth it for that.

Make it a Cheapass night!
Posted by Jess in Gaming

I've said on many occasions how much Matt, myself, and our friends love to play board games.

A very small company called Cheapass Games noticed two observations about board games, as noted on their website: They a lot of money, and are the same in most ways, except for the board.

In their words, a board game usually consists of a board, instructions, and then the remaining parts such as dice, timers, counters, markers, and pencils can account for about 75% of the remaining cost of production which gets passed on to us, the consumers.

Cheapass Games has a solution to the problem. Their games consist of a board, instructions, and anything else unique to that game only. They tell you what extra pieces you need to "borrow" from another game, such as timers, dice, etc. As they put it, they'd rather invest in one good set of "gaming paraphernalia" rather than have twenty sets of crappy ones.

Because of this, the games are relatively inexpensive to buy, and take up a very small amount of space. In addition, the primary game creator over at Cheapass Games, James Ernest, is proving to be a brilliant mind in game design. His games are easy to learn, mind-bogglingly unique, and incredibly fun to play.

Our favorites:

Give Me The Brain!
This is a card game in which all players are Zombies, working at a restaurant called "Friedeys". The bad news? There's a lot of work to be done, and only one Brain to pass around. Be the first to aquire the Brain (dice) to get your tasks done and thus get rid of all your cards.

Each card is a "job" with other helper cards. Some jobs are one-handed, meaning you can do two in one turn. Other jobs require both hands, and you can only play one of them. However, you're a zombie, so that "extra" hand you find lying around in a helper card can become handy to play another job.

This is probably the most entertaining (and quick) of all Cheapass games we've played. Not only is it fun to play, but the cards themselves are hysterical in both text and pictures. "Give me the Brain! I have to make a Cheezabunga!"

Kill Dr. Lucky
Kill Dr. Lucky is a board game that will probably take about an hour, but is incredibly fun. The board, cards and rulebook are provided, you need the people markers.

The board is set up with lots of numbered rooms. Dr. Lucky is a playerless character who moves from room to room also. Your job, as players, is to aquire a weapon card, manage to move to the same room Dr. Lucky is in, and kill him without any other player "seeing" you do it. By seeing, I mean being in any other room that has a line of sight in conjunction with the room you are in.

Strategy City, folks!

For the more optimistic people, there's also Save Dr. Lucky.
This game reverses the strategy, except you now have to save Dr. Lucky, while making sure someone else is in your line of sight to watch you do it.

This game is especially fun because if you play this immediately after playing "Kill Dr. Lucky", there's a fun set of penalty rules for saying the wrong thing, ie. "I'm going to kill him with..." Gotcha! Wrong game, dude!


Deadwood is a fun board game about trying to make as much money as you can by being a movie extra. This is probably our favorite board game among all of them.

The game comes with rulebook, board, and cards, and you need to provide 6-sided dice to use as people markers, several more 6-sided dice to use as currency, and coins as markers.

Players use 6-sided dice to represent themselves, and the current good-role level. Upon making more money, you can go to the Audition house to pay money to "up" your dice, say from a 2 to a 3 and get better paying roles that way. At the end of the game, he who has the most moolah, wins!

July 30, 2005

Life's Little Instruction Book - My Favorite Entries
Posted by Jess in Day to Day

I was looking over my careworn copy of "Life's Little Instruction Book" that had been dredged out of the basement. Several entries in my copy stand out from all the others in the book, having been marked by a thick, yellow highlighter marker.

The book, by H. Jackson Brown, contains 511 little snippets and advice on how to live a happy and rewarding life.

I have *no* idea when I highlighted these early in high school. I only even vaguely remember doing it. In fact, I definately didn't even remember at ALL until Matt showed me the book and said that he had enjoyed flipping through and seeing the ones I had marked. "Gimmee that!" I had said...

Aside from picking new ones as favorites (now that the house, car, job, and "real world" snippets pertain to me), it was interesting to see which ones I had particularly liked even then. Reading the entire book now, they are all wonderful ideas. Lots of them pertain to day to day activities. The funny thing is, a lot of them didn't mean anything to me being a kid. In fact, all the ones I'd highlighted are pretty idealistic, when you look at them.

But I'd probably pick the same ones today anyway!

So without further ado, here's the ones I highlighted when I was a kid:

1. Compliment three people every day.

16. Be the first to say hello.

37. Make new friends, but cherish the old ones.

39. Take lots of snapshots.

94. Make it a habit to do nice things for people who'll never find out.

107. Smile a lot. It costs nothing and is beyond price.

157. Take time to smell the roses.

188. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.

197. Don't forget, a person's greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.

252. Take good care of those you love.

327. When you arrive at your job in the morning, let the first thing you say brighten everyone's day.

456. Send your loved one flowers. Think of a reason later.

488. Make someone's day by paying the toll for the person in the car behind you.

July 28, 2005

"Puss and Reboot?"
Posted by Jess in Day to Day

Puss in Boots

Puss in Reboots. Nah...

Puss in Reboot? No...

Why, Puss IS Reboot!

Puss and Reboot.jpg

And yes, I'm sure it goes without saying those red eyes were digitally altered. It's just all too fun to go crazy with the camera while the doggie's playing. Sock wars, her favorite game.

And when we looked at the results, we noticed a striking similarity!

July 25, 2005

The Andrea Doria - the greatest marine rescue ever
Posted by Jess in Day to Day

I love watching movies, and then going to Internet Movie Database and reading the Trivia section of the movie to see if there's anything interesting there.

After watching the movie Ghost Ship, I had to check out trivia for it.

As it turns out, one ship's backstory was modeled after a real incident with a ship called the Andrea Doria. In fact, in the movie, there is a photo of a ship listing on one side in the ocean. That was a real photo of the Andrea Doria.

My curiousity was piqued.

A quick Google search yielded AndreaDoria.org, a site created by one of the survivors himself, who was on the ship when he was three years old. But it's not just a little site about this ship, which sank off the coast of Nantucket in 1956 after colliding with another ship.

I clicked on a link titled, "The Events", and still really only expected to read a quick story about what happened that night. Boy, was I wrong.

The author of the site had put together a timeline and narrative based on the recollections of survivors, crew members, and watchers. He has included real photographs, and passenger lists, and diagrams placed in the story where it happened.

I have never been as enthralled reading anything before.

Please, visit the Events page to start reading. But be warned, leave a few hours so that you can read it from start to finish. You won't want to stop reading. The pictures, the events, you'll feel like you went through it just like the survivors did. You'll even go through it from the eyes of both captains on opposing ships... you'll know the two ships were doomed even before their captains did.

You'll read the actual messages the two ships sent to each other, and subsequent messages sent to other ships as the Andrea Doria realized it was listing so much, that lifeboats on the other side of the ship could not be used.

You'll read about the passengers that switched rooms at the last minute, or went upstairs to play a late game of cards or made some other decision of fate that involved the rooms that got destroyed.

You'll read about the other cruise ship that heard the S.O.S and had to make a split-second decision about the ramifications of bringing his 1500 passengers off-course to rescue the passengers of the Andrea Doria.

You'll read about families that were split up and placed in seperate lifeboats and subsequent rescue ships, only to have to find each other at a crazy port of call in New York.

I had discovered this site last summer after watching Ghost Ship, and wanted to blog about it then. I also had wanted to email the site owner and let him know how much I had enjoyed reading about it, and how moved I was. I just visited the site now to link to it, and noticed a scrolling ticker at the top that announced that Anthony, the webmaster and Andrea Doria passenger, had died just this past October. That's what I get for waiting. I'm really, really sad I never emailed him when I had the chance.

I read the 'About Us' page, and in the 'Thanks' section on the page, he wrote, 'My mother, Angela Grillo, who had the courage to drop me off the side of the ship to save me.' He also dedicated the site to the people that died during the collision.

And yes, the story is about a sinking ship, but remember - it's also about the greatest marine rescue ever.


July 20, 2005

The Denver Pit Bull Ban. When you don't understand something, kill them all!
Posted by Jess in Day to Day

Denver Pit Bull Ban Leads To 'Dogs in Hiding'

Yes, it's true. Pit Bull owners who live in the city of Denver wake up one morning to a knock on their door. A policeman tells them they have 30 days to remove their dog from the city, or it will be taken from them and euthenized.

Oh, by the way: Here's the ordinance, which states, "A pit bull is defined as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, an American Staffordshire Terrier, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of these breeds."

Any dog displaying the majority of physical traits? So if my dog looks like a terrier it can get ripped from me and destroyed?

Sounds like an old fashioned witch hunt to me.

Some people are selling their houses to keep their dogs, others are bringing their dogs underground, and over 300 owners have given their dogs up, who have been placed on "death row" and destroyed.

Apparently, because Pit Bulls are bred for agressive behavior, they are unpredictable and can't be controlled.

Let's look at some issues. And please understand, most of this is just plain venting. I'm quite furious right now. You probably can't tell from reading this. I don't get that upset very often.

From someone who's worked so hard to with Matt to raise an upstanding pup, I've learned so much about pack mentality, behavior, and methodologies, and how training relies heavily on a dog's instinctive behavior anyway.

- Breed specific laws? That's just dumb, and there's really no other way to put it. Outlaw one breed, and people will just move on to the next breed to shape and mold the same way. That's why it's called 'breeding', and not just 'birth'.

- Dogs that are bred a certain way can (and in fact, must) be trained in any possible situation. In fact, it's a lifelong process. Every situation is a new situation, and therefore the dog must be trained during it. Huskies are bred to pull sleds. Owners that have huskies have to work twice as hard to get their dogs to walk on a leash, because the dog wants to pull. The dog can learn to walk on a leash, of course, but the training methods are going to be a little different for a dog that is bred to pull.

- Reboot's trained well, sure, but is she trained in all possible situations? Of course not, and it's wrong for me to say that she is. We approach all new situations with extreme caution, and make a point to teach her the right way to behave in that situation.

Sometimes we look like idiots when we are out and praise the hell out of her for sitting next to us. That doesn't look like much. But, what people don't realize is that this is probably a new situation, and we've just taught her the right way to behave in that situation. Maybe there was a squirrel in front of her and she just let it go without even wanting to chase it. Maybe she sat down when there was a piece of food in front of her. Who knows.

The point is, if she behaved correctly, she needs to know that she did it right for next time. If she didn't behave correctly, she absolutely must be corrected, or it will happen every time.

- Why is it not required that dog owners take their dogs to training? Why has there never been an ordinance for this?

- A license to breed. Sure, it's a phrase that gets used in jest of people, I know, I know. But some dogs are poorly bred so the owners can make a quick buck. They are bred with no prior knowledge of the dog's history and temperment, and are not properly socialized nor taken care of after birth. Yet these puppies are sold for $500-$2000 to families (I do understand that it's also up to the family to check out the reputability of the breeder).

- The media sensationalizes dog attacks based on breeds. Obviously any dog attack is a tragic situation, and I'm not trying to trivialize it in any way. However, dogs are profiled by breeds, and therefore create public fear and inaccurate perception about these dogs. The only thing that ever gets mentioned in any news article is the breed of the dog. Yet, there are about three major factors that can influence how a dog may respond to a situation:

1. The basic function of the dog (guard, show, pet, friend, etc.)
2. Training, socialization, and living situation of the dog
3. The reproductive status of the dog (spayed, neutered, in heat, just had puppies, etc.)

Funny how you never hear about the status of the other two factors... and we wonder why the public are scared of them?

Reboot was slated to be euthanized in a shelter in Ohio. When someone got wind, they drove to OH, picked up the entire litter, brought them back to RI, and placed them in foster homes all over the state, Reboot having been placed in the care of one of my colleagues. She's half German Shepherd-Norwegian Elkhound.

Sure, she looks mosly like an Elkhound. But she is also tan colored, and has a black dot on her cheeks. We obviously don't have a shepherd ban. But, by these rules, because she looks like a shepherd, Good Citizen Certificate or not, we'd get our 30 day notice.

I just hope it would give us enough time to sell our house.

July 17, 2005

"The Death Star is fully operational..."
Posted by Jess in Geek Humor

One of the neat things about both Matt and myself being computer geeks is that we can tell each other about the projects we're both working on, and we can actually understand and even help each other out.

But it's the coding dilemmas, bugs, or extra special development challenges that we really talk about, mainly because we both can understand and appreciate the feeling of accomplishment once it has been solved.

Over time, our emails helping each other out or just listening have yielded a language of their own, mostly from movie quotes.

For example, Matt and I both know when the other is working on a grueling programming/application project. Maybe it's not working, or maybe it's just taking a long time. However, all it takes is one simple voice mail message, text page, or email with one line for a progress report that itís working and time for celebration:

"The Death Star is fully operational!"

Here's some more and what they mean:

"Don't move until you see it... it's 10 moves away, but don't move until you see it!" - Searching for Bobby Fischer
This one is used when we're playing a game together that involves some sort of puzzle solving, and the other person has already figured it out. Both of us hate being given the answer, we like figuring it out on our own! But, if we need a little help, it's nice to know that at least one of us can solve it.

"Frosted Flakes!" - Tony the tiger
This one's used, surprisingly, if something's GREAT!

"Orange whip (pointing at someone)? Orange whip? (pointing at someone else) Three orange whips!" - The Blues Brothers
Pointing at people, whenever a count of who wants anything is involved!

Remember that old ad campaign of Magnavox? Smart. Really Smart. So if someone did or said something clever, that's the answer.

"Oh, I get it, stars above!" -Kung Pow, Enter the Fist
When something becomes clear and all of a sudden the pieces make sense. This is from a very funny scene in Kung Pow when the main character is begging a character for help, and is given a cryptic answer, "it's in the stars above". When he asks what the cryptic answer means, he's told "it's a riddle, doofus, it's not supposed to make sense now! So in the end, when you finally DO get it, you'll say, 'oh yeah, stars above, I get it!'

What are some of your phrases for certain things?

July 12, 2005

A mobile office: Think of the solution, not the problem.
Posted by Jess in Tech Talk

Me and Matt's favorite book series is the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind.

In it, the eccentric Zedd constantly admonishes his neighbor, Richard, to "think of the solution, not the problem" when solving issues.

I've been having a hard time keeping up with my business contacts and such during the day, mostly because I'm on the road so much and away from my computer. I have my Nextel, and I get my Lotus Notes email and calendar on it, but it's a bit kludgy.

So, I figured I needed a more streamlined way to get to my calendar so I can make appointments on the road. It's difficult to return calls, only to say "I'll call you when I'm back in the office to set something up". Then I still have to call home to leave a voice mail message to call my client back when I get home. Now THAT'S kludgy.

I looked into various smartphones, my favorite being the Treo 650, and seriously considered switching to Cingular or some service that supported it (the Treo 650 doesn't run on the IDEN network).

Finally one day, I must have had my V8 that morning, because it hit me: I was going about this all wrong.

How can I make appointments with a calendar that resides on the phone if I'm ON the phone?

I was too busy thinking about the problem, not the solution. The solution? I needed two seperate devices, and there's nothing I can do about it. That's really OK, I just need to be able to work the way I want and have to work.

I researched, and I went to ZDNet and CNet.com and all those great tech review sites. Their pick for one of the top handhelds was the Dell Axim X30.

Upon going to Dell's site, they had since come out with the Axim X50v, which is among the first handhelds to have a VGA display.

That and a fantastic sale from Dell led me to purchase my device, complete with a 1G secure digital card.

Well, I've had it since Wednesday, and I can't believe it took me this long to get here. The display is beautiful. Truly gorgeous. The Axim X50v has built-in 802.11b wireless, so no cables needed to sync, and I can hop on any wireless network and surf and do anything online. It comes with Windows Mobile 2003. It also comes with Windows Media Player 10, so I can use it in the car as an MP3 player.

But, the really cool bit is that thanks to visiting our friend Rob at dominounplugged.com and hearing Susan's recommendation during her Admin2005 calendaring session, I got Commontime's mNotes to sync my Lotus Notes mail, calendar, contacts and tasks.

In fact, to my delight, not only does it sync mail, but when I replicate to my Axim, I get the lovely unread count next to the folder structure. It's true. Sometimes it's the little things that makes you really, really happy.

I've already been more productive in a few ways. I can return all voice mails and set appointments easily in between appointments. But I can also relax and breathe easier now that I'm streamlined.

Here's to taking my business to a whole new level.



July 05, 2005

When analytical people take voice lessions...
Posted by Jess in Day to Day

I love to sing Karaoke. The problem is, or was, that Karaoke is usually imitation. When I sing, I try to make it sound as close as I can to the original person that sung it. Why not?

Therein lay the problem. After all this time, I had absolutely NO idea what my "real" voice sounded like. I decided about two months ago to take voice lessons to fix this problem.

Not only am I learning alot about singing, but I'm also learning about myself, and the way I approach things. If you ever want to learn about yourself, take voice lessons. No lie.

The lessons themselves are a blast. I can sing soprano (who knew?) and get to watch myself improve on a weekly basis. I also have an excellent teacher who has been in lessons since she was young, has sung on stage, and still sings jazz locally. She knows what explanations and methods were the most effective for herself, and teaches me accordingly.

That said, we also tease each other because I'm causing her to have to change her teaching style just for me. One of the excersises is to exhale slowly while the instructor counts to 10. Well, I'm SO busy carefully planning the exhale around the boundaries of a 10-count that it ends up coming out not smooth and way too forced. Finally, she told me just to forget the counting, and do it anyway. Much better!

Something else I never thought would be so hard is to actually sing words. It's a truly humbling experience. You'd think singing a simple song would be easy. Much of the lessons starts out singing the vowels, "ahhh" "oooh" "eee" "ooooo" before getting to words.

Well, this is also a problem for me. I'm so busy listening to myself sing and trying to concentrate on how to form the words, that the actual song comes out timid and unconfident. (We've been singing standards so far because there is no predisposition to want to imitate.) Again, in a final act of desperation, my teacher sung alongside me one time saying "who cares how it sounds right now, concentrate on how it feels."

She's so right. It's SO hard for me not to analyze every step of the way, and wonder if I'm doing it correctly, and try to put together everything I've learned in between the tone and the words themselves.

The funniest thing you could ever see is watching two analytical people try and figure out how to put up a teddy-bear wall border for a new baby's bedroom. *cough cough* Cindy and I *cough* cough*.

"Now it says 'curl the edges backwards around the top of the water'".

"How can we curl it backwards when it doesn't specify which way is the front to begin with?"

"Do we have to submerge the whole thing in the water, or just the backside?"


That said, I can't wait until next week for more lessons. Now if I could not take my analytical work with me to the lesson, I'd be all set!

Author's Note. I would now like to point out that Cindy's son DOES indeed like the teddy bears regardless of how crooked they are.

New bloggers
Posted by Jess in Announcements

Blogs are great for keeping families in touch. For example, I'm so happy to have discovered that both my cousins are blogging from overseas! (For those that don't know, my mother is English, so half my family is overseas).

Yay to Carolyn (Beverlymum) and Neil (Shades of Grey)!

Also, my friend Susan Bulloch is also blogging! They don't come any nicer or more experienced than Susan, so when she posts her Admin tips, we will ALL learn from her experience. Like last year, Susan offered support for me while I was in Boston, which is always invaluable. She even got up early to come see my Friday 8AM presentation! Now THAT'S friendship.

AND, as an added bonus, Susan likes to cook as much as Matt does. I got the tip of the iceberg listening to them talk at Admin2005, (while I was busy drooling), so I know good things are to come.

From all this new stuff, here's to cooking, admin tips, and monkeys, serial joining, and moleskin suits.

Yes, it's a crazy world we live in, but I love it anyway.

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