Morning Soundtrack

A few years ago, while still working at the hospital, the subject of classic rock came up in discussion with a dear friend.  I was telling her how shocked my mother was when I brought home my first Bob Dylan record.

“That’s nothing,” she said. “You should have seen how shocked my mother was when I brought home Bob Dylan.”

True story.

Oh To Hell With It…

While it is true that I’ve been wanting to refresh this blog for several months, it’s not entirely true that it was done just because we’re moving to Colorado.  It’s because I did something very stupid (proving I am not immune).  I sent off emails to a couple headhunters I’d been working with in Denver that had a link to this blog embedded in the signature line.

Oh shit.

While I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve posted here over the years, much of it was definitely NSFW and considering the amount of ranting I’ve done about work lately it probably wouldn’t make the best impression on someone trying to present me as a potential employee to one of their clients.

That led to the knee-jerk reaction of blasting away all my previous posts.

But as we all know, anything posted on the internet lives forever.  And anyone with the slightest bit of curiosity and know-how can find it. Some rather snarky comments I left on a discussion board nearly a decade ago about people stealing images for use in their eBay postings from a long-gone hi-fi website I used to run are still available just by Googling my name. Scary.

This made me realize that—for better or worse—Voenix Rising has become my brand and merely deleting a few years worth of blog posts is not going erase my presence from cyberspace. Not even close to it.

And you know, that’s okay.

If someone doesn’t want to represent me to a prospective employer because of my sexual orientation, political views, or the fact that I (like every other working person on the planet) occasionally bitch about my job, it’s better to know it up front.  Because for every headhunter out there who takes issue with these things, there will be another who will not.

I am reminded of an interview I had about a dozen years ago with a placement firm in Palo Alto for a position the company had been having trouble filling.  The headhunter really liked me and thought with my experience I’d be a great fit, but she had an issue with my pierced ear.  She said that the company she wanted to send me to was extremely conservative and I would be advised to remove the stud before the interview.  I looked at her and said, “Seriously? This is 1997, the Bay Area and you’re asking me to take out an earring? If they’re that uptight, why would I want to work there?”

Honesty—something decidedly lacking in public discourse these days—is always best.

And the blog really did need to be cleaned out…


I’ve thought about growing mine back out, but I fear it would be more ironic than iconic…

The Phoenix Apple Stores

One of the things I wanted to do before leaving Phoenix was visit and get a photo of each of the local Apple Stores.

Yes, I am an Über Geek.

SanTan Village

Arrowhead Town Center

Biltmore Fashion Park

Scottsdale Quarter

Chandler Fashion Center—where photography is not permitted!


Starting Fresh

In honor of our impending move to Denver, I thought it might be a good time to wipe everything away and start fresh.

I may also be taking the blog in a different…direction.  Stay tuned.

The Half-Term Governor Of Alaska

When I read about Sarah Palin’s response to the Tucson shootings this morning, I was at first infuriated.  Then I realized that Sarah Palin was simply being Sarah Palin, doing what right wing media whores always do: twisting logic into a pretzel and playing the victim. Quelle suprise. The sun rises in the east. Dogs bark. The sky is blue.

I almost had to stifle a yawn after that.

And then while I was showering, an aspect of a nearly-forgotten personal philosophy came to me: Sarah Palin (and Beck and Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing noise machine) is nothing more than a jar of paprika in the kitchen.  I’m busy making a sweet tasty pie (my life) and paprika is just something that’s not called for in this recipe.  So while it may be physically present in the kitchen (the universe), there’s no need for it in my pie, and therefore no reason to focus on it, much less get angry at it.

When I realized that, I suddenly felt even better.

Out of Shape

The other day Ben suggested we go on a hike. Nothing too crazy, just as far up North Mountain as we could.

As I tweeted at the time, “Hiking North Mountain with @tallbubba. I think he’s trying to kill me, but the joke’s on him cuz he’s not on my insurance yet.”

Yeah, I’m out of shape, regardless of my health history of the past seven years. In another lifetime I was more than a little bit of a mountain goat, bounding half-naked (or more than half) over boulders at Reddington Pass or hiking up and down the oceanside trails at Black Sand and Golden Gate Bridge beaches. But it was obvious from our little outing earlier this week those days are long gone.

Between my out of shape 50 year old body and Ben’s mangled 27 year old knees, we didn’t make it all that far. But this was the view we got…

(click to embiggen)


Do you believe in extraterrestrial life?

Absolutely.  And not only do I believe it exists, but I believe the universe is teeming with it.  I would even go so far as to say that life is not only a by-product of the universe, but even moreso a requirement of it.  Do I believe we’ve been visited by extraterrestrials?  As much as I’d like to say yes, now I have to say probably not.

I love a good UFO/alien abduction tale as much as the next guy, but while it’s not impossible, considering the distances involved and the technology required for interstellar flight it’s all very, very unlikely. And on top of that, after spending the last 50 or so years observing humanity on this planet, I have come to the conclusion that if extraterrestrials are anything like us, as soon as they start taking their first tentative steps out of the nest, 99.9% of them either self-destruct over cultural differences and god-myths, or are wiped out by natural forces beyond their control.  The threat posed by rogue asteroids, comets, gamma ray bursts, catastrophic climatic change, super volcanoes and tectonic shifts certainly are not unique to the Earth, but ultimately I believe the risk of them wreaking planet-wide destruction is miniscule compared to the amount of havoc that can be unleashed by a civilization upon itself, either intentionally or through blind stupidity.

And what of the 0.1% of technological civilizations that do survive and achieve interstellar spaceflight?  I think they would be so different from us as to be virtually unrecognizable, and totally uninterested in Homo sapiens in any capacity, having seen the path we’re heading down play itself out thousands of times before.

Quote of the Day

I don’t care who anybody sleeps with. If a couple has been together all that time—and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones—I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.” ~ Bette White, in an interview with Parade Magazine.

So, Um…Yeah

I have a little—and let me stress a little—new Mac envy right now.  Like many other people, the new MacBook Air has captured my imagination.

I went over to the local Apple Store today and played with the 13-inch model (the 11-inch is just too friggin’ small as far as I’m concerned).  My initial list of the two things that need to change before I would buy one remain: more storage and a backlit keyboard, but damn…it is still one sexy beast.  And despite its older processor, it’s fast! Applications opened almost instantaneously—or at least notably faster than on my MBP.

I’ve only had my MBP for a year and still love it to death, so I’m obviously not in the market for a new laptop right now, but when it comes time to retire The Precious (and assuming the two items on my Airbook wish list have been put into production) I’ll definitely be looking at the Air line when the time comes.

While I was there, I had the opportunity to check out Office 2011 as well.  I was not impressed; at least not impressed enough to want to upgrade.  One of the biggest hurdles I had to get over when switching from Windows to Mac was the loss of Outlook, and while I was glad to hear that Microsoft was bringing it back in this release, I don’t even need it any more, having happily moved on to Postbox.

Look What I Got Today

I know you might find it odd that a rabid atheist like me would go out of his way to procure an LP of music from the most of biblical film spectaculars of the 50s, but that’s exactly what I did and there’s a story behind it.

This record had been in my family for years, but I don’t consciously remember hearing it until I was about 13 years old—about the same time I discovered a love of science fiction. Even then I didn’t care much for the themes behind the music, but I played that record to death.

One of my favorite stories of that period was Rescue Party by Arthur C. Clarke, and the first time I read it, this record was playing in the background.  To this day I can’t hear this music without thinking of Alvernon, the Galactic Survey Ship S9000, and their valiant attempt to locate the population of Earth just six hours before the sun was to go nova.

I replaced the well worn record with a new copy when I was in college, but sold it—along with the rest of my vinyl—in a fit of madness shortly after I moved to San Francsco.  Over the years, I’ve managed to replace most of my collection, but King of Kings has been elusive.

Thank you, eBay.

Douchebags International

Watching spoiled, clueless people on television selecting and buying property after supposedly being given only three arbitrary choices is one of my guilty pleasures.  Fortunately, on Saturday and Sunday, HomoGayTeeVee Home & Garden Television is more than happy to oblige me.

House Hunters International is especially amusing (or infuriating, depending on your viewpoint). Obviously there are exceptions, but overall the common thread running through the shows seem to be some pampered, obviously monied douchebags are looking for “vacation property” in locations the rest of us would gladly give up our left testicles for the opportunity of living in full time.  And as if to prove that in addition to being douchebags they’re also (whether or not they actually hail from the U.S.) stereotypically ugly Americans, none of them seem willing to fully adapt or embrace living in a foreign country.  It’s almost as if they’re blinded by the romantic idea of living abroad, but insist on bringing their mediocre suburban attitudes and expectations with them.  In a nutshell, most of them simply want to find homes equal to their current South Florida McMansions in the locale of their choice and are put off when faced with the reality of not having sixteen bedrooms, brand new fully-equipped kitchens with stainless steel appliances, and a host of other amenities immediately available to them in a 200 year old farmhouse in the south of France.

I have to hand it to the real estate agents on these shows; they should be nominated for sainthood by the simple virtue of not murdering their clients, much less being able to find them property…

Saturdays Aren’t Supposed To Suck

And yet today has pegged the suck-o-meter.

We went to Russ’s memorial service this morning.  What stood out the most was that while his partner of the last seven years was in attendance, his name (or relationship to Russ) was not even mentioned during the eulogy.  Other things that were said made it obvious that Russ’s family knew he was gay (and apparently had no issue with it), so I’m at a loss to explain why Ken was so conspicuously left out.

Initially I was the only person there from work and didn’t recognize anyone other than Ken, but about fifteen minutes into the proceedings five other folks from the I.S. department showed up.

I’m kind of surprised that Russ’s passing has affected me as profoundly as it has, especially considering how (a) we weren’t really all that close and how (b) friends much closer to me were dropping left and right during the late 80s and early 90s and I didn’t feel nearly the sense of loss I’m feeling with this passing.  Maybe it’s because it came on so suddenly. (I saw him about a month ago and while he was thinner than I’ve ever seen him in the five years we’ve known each other and he admitted to a lot of problems with his health, he was happy and upbeat, fully believing that he was going to persevere.)

I’m also on call this week. I fully expected the fucking pager go off at some point this morning; it didn’t disappoint.

Thankfully it happened before we even left for the service, and I was able to convince the user that the issue could wait until Monday.  While driving home after the service however, the pager went off again.  I ignored it until I got home.  Three more tickets had come in, although only one had been specifically assigned to me: one at a clinic I didn’t even know was open on Saturday, and two out at the northwest hospital, the facility I am least familiar with.

The clinic call was one of those where a doctor was being inconvenienced by a wireless tablet not working, so of course it was a Priority One, Hair-On-Fire, End-Of-The-World issue.  This particular clinic has had ongoing issues with their wireless tablets almost from the day they were first deployed, and there has been no definitive solution to the problems forthcoming.  These tablets are one of several pieces of hardware that have been rolled out to the hospitals since I was transferred to our non-clinical business unit, so I have absolutely no experience with them.  Again—fortunately—I was finally able to convince the user that the issue could wait until Monday morning, when the usual support-tech could address it.

The other two calls also involved new equipment. I have limited experience (a half day of training) with the rolling computer carts, but absolutely none with the hand-held barcode reader units. Neither ticket was directly assigned to me, so they’re both getting ignored until they show up in my queue.  At this point I don’t care.  If the shit hits the fan on Monday, so be it.  It may be the trigger I need to get off my ass and actually find a different job.

Speaking to that, I got another lead from one of the recruiters I’m registered with.  It’s geographically less-than-desirable, turning my fifteen minute commute into about a forty-five minute one, but I wrote her back and told her I’d be interested in talking with them.  At this point the extra commute time is worth it.  I’m done with the place I’m at now.

So I doubt much of anything can be done to salvage this day.  As soon as Ben wakes from his nap, I’m going to suggest going out for Mexican food—or Chicken and Waffles—tonight.

In Memoriam

Russ Alvarez
20 August 1960-25 August 2010

Russ and I both emigrated from Arizona to arrive in—and subsequently depart from—San Francisco at approximately the same time, yet didn’t actually meet until we both ended up working for the same company in the same department after our respective returns to Phoenix. Witty, intelligent and possessing a wicked sense of humor, Russ was one of the few people I trusted enough to call up and vent with, knowing full well that anything I told him would not go any further.  The sharing of our similar, yet amazingly different histories in San Francisco was always a source of wonderful stories and—despite those differences—continual amazement that our paths had never crossed [in some alley or sex club]. He shall be sorely missed.

When I Was In High School…

…I wanted one of these in the worst way. The Advent “Video Beam” projection television:

I had all but forgotten about this piece of engineering until I ran across this image on another website a few days ago and the memories came flooding back.  It was another one of the wonders I saw at Jerry’s Audio all those many years ago.

Funny thing is, now I own a flat screen that’s bigger and hangs on the wall.  Amazing.  How quickly we lose sight of the incredible technological advances of the last 30 years.

Things I’d Say If I Could

Dear Employee:

First of all, I have no idea how you got hired for the technology-intensive position you occupy. I can understand not being familiar with some of the specialized applications we use here, but with it being 2010 and not 1980, I would have thought that demonstrating at least a basic understanding of how Windows and Microsoft Office operate would be a requirement for employment at this organization. Obviously I was mistaken.

Secondly, many of your issues (at least the ones concerning your computer equipment) can be solved by simply rebooting.  Oh wait, “rebooting” is one of those complicated “techie” words.  Let me rephrase: “Turn your computer off and turn it back on.”  No, not the display; I’m talking about the tower that’s on the floor.

Thirdly, your CD drive will not play a DVD, and whining about it won’t change that fact.  I don’t care if it is work related and you have to see it NOW.  Am I supposed to pull a DVD drive out of my ass? Your director needs to request a quote and if he approves the purchase it normally takes about a week to receive it.

Fourth, all requests for assistance MUST go through the Help Desk, regardless of how incompetent they really are over there. (Something I think we can both agree on.) This is drummed into you folks from your very first new hire orientation, yet you still think that by calling me directly, emailing, or stopping me in the hall your problem will get looked at quicker.  It won’t.  And don’t send me an email at 10pm because your mouse isn’t working and then get all snarky the next morning because I didn’t respond. I do not check email after I leave work.  If you followed procedure and called the frigging Help Desk like you should have, your problem might have been solved then and there, as unlikely a scenario as that is. At the very least they would’ve had the on-call tech get in touch with you.

And lastly, the volume of whining you do has a direct inverse effect on the priority I place on your problem.  Despite what you may believe, yours is not the most important job in this organization and business will not come to a grinding halt because you can’t VPN from home.  If what you need to do is that important, get off your ass and come into the office like the rest of us.

Thank you, and you have yourself a great day!

A New View Of The World

This past weekend I bought a new lens for my camera.  The 18-70mm zoom that came with the Sony was fine for the first year or so, but last November it just stopped producing the kind of results I wanted.  I remember one particular road trip where I became so frustrated with it not staying in focus I simply put it away and stopped making pictures that day.

I even started questioning if it was the camera itself, and was about ready to eBay the whole kit and then after it sold, start fresh with an entirely different brand.

Fortunately cooler heads (Ben) intervened and suggested I start doing some research to see what the problem actually was.  In very short order I learned that the lenses that come as part of a camera kit (from any manufacturer) are generally pieces of crap.  The Sony 18-70 in particular received some extremely unflattering comments.  At the same time, I read one review after another praising the long-discontinued Minolta 50mm f1.7 prime; a lens that could be found on eBay for about $75.

Before throwing the baby out with the bath water, I decided to pick up one of the Minoltas and give it a try.  I figured that if it too was a piece of garbage I could sell it along with the rest of the camera.

Well, it turned out to be anything but.  It was exactly what everyone had been saying: crystal sharp with incredible sensitivity and a beautiful bokeh.  The Sony Alpha body was fine; it was the Sony lens that was at issue.

Several months passed, and with extreme patience I managed to squeeze a few more decent shots out of the zoom, but it was more trouble than it was worth.  The 50mm prime produced beautiful shots consistently, but being a fixed focal length really limited its versatility as a walk-around lens.

I wanted a new zoom with about the same range as came with the camera, but the more reviews I read, the more confused I became. Tamron lenses were great. Tamrom lenses were crap. Sigma lenses were great. Sigma lenses were crap. Everyone had an opinion and at the end of the day they all canceled each other out.  Sony of course offered a wide range of lenses for the Alpha, but after my experience with the 18-70 I was understandably reluctant to shell out any more money on another piece of Sony glass.

I needed the kind of help that only a knowledgeable sales force at a brick and mortar store could provide.  Fortunately, Phoenix still has a few good local camera shops.

I ended up coming home with a heavily-discounted Tamron 18-250 (last year’s model).

Unlike the all-plastic Sony lens, the Tamron is a serious piece of glass (with a much wider zoom range than I had been hoping for at the price point I had settled on) so that’s an unexpected and much appreciated bonus.  After only a few days’ use I’m very pleased with the purchase, but we’ll see how well it ages.  Check back with me in about a year.

Happy New Year!

And welcome to my first post of twenty-ten, not two-thousand and ten. Goddamn language Nazi…

While it’s not officially the beginning of a new decade, (much like 2000 was not the beginning of the new millennium) people are still feeling relief that the “aughts” (or is that naughts?) are finally over. There is no other way to describe it: the past ten years have been horrific. Yesterday on Twitter, someone hash-tagged the phrase “ten years ago,” and that got me thinking about what was going on in my life back in 1999:

I was still living in San Francisco. I was working for PG&E Energy Services, a long-defunct subsidiary of Pacific Gas and Electric that was created in response to the energy trading frenzy whose unbridled greed eventually brought down Enron and the rest of the industry. I still had a perfectly functioning voice. There was no one special in my life, but I was surrounded by good friends. The beginning of the George Bush nightmare was still a year away. Looking back now, while I can’t say in all honesty I was happy, I was at least contented.

Then along came the decade from hell: Bush/Cheney, war, scandal, unemployment, leaving San Francisco, cancer, religious nutjobs, a rapidly receding hairline, and a general rise of teh st00pid in public discourse. Not exactly what I had envisioned the first 10 years of the 21st century looking like. It’s no wonder “good riddance” was on my lips as often as “Happy New Year” last night…

But without all those horrific things having happened, I wouldn’t be where I am now and would never have made the long-overdue re-examination and refocusing of my life me that ultimately brought me here; a place where I am now truly at peace with myself and yes, even honestly, happy.

◆ ◆ ◆

While 2009 in particular was one annoyingly big steaming pile of crap for the U.S. and most of the rest of the world, for me personally it wasn’t really all that bad.

Yeah, I lost my mom last April, but in so many ways her passing was a blessing. None of us wanted to see Alzheimer’s rob her of her memories of us, and thankfully she was gone before it had a chance to. Ben and I marked our one year anniversary together in September. Last February I bought new living room furniture (a very big deal for me) and Ben and I had the opportunity to see the Chihuly glass exhibition at the Desert Botanical Garden. In March I finally joined the 21st century by purchasing a flat screen television. Throughout the year Ben and I took several road trips: Flagstaff, Sedona, the Rim Country (no jokes, that’s what it’s called), Tucson, and White Sands New Mexico. In July I drove cross-country to inter Mom’s ashes in Wisconsin. In September I was transferred from the hospital where I’d worked since 2004 to our insurance company—a move I’d initially dreaded but one that has turned out to be the best thing that’s happened to me since I’ve been with this company. After being a dyed-in-the-wool Windows user for over twenty years, last October I made the switch and instead of upgrading to Windows 7, went out and bought a Mac. It the best thing I ever did.

I’m hoping that (except for the people dying part) when I sit down here to write here a year from now 2010 will have provided me just as rich a year to document.

Here’s to a great new year!

The Godless U.S. Constitution

Found at Proud Atheists:

Many Americans today claim that the United States is a Christian nation. “In God We Trust” is on our money and the phrase “under God” was inserted into our Pledge of Allegiance. Even the the Declaration of Independence refers to “nature’s God” and “Creator” in a very deistic sense and only in the first two paragraphs.

However, the U.S. Constitution does not mention God, Jesus, the Bible and Christianity within its texts. Many of the “founding fathers” may have had Christian backgrounds, but they dared not insert their personal faiths or even their choice of deity…into our nation’s legal foundation. This document was created with the intention of secular governance.

The authors of the Constitution had the forethought that others of different faiths will sooner or later enter this nation, and should be allowed to do so without the fear of legal discrimination and bigotry. This is the foundation of our great country, not God.

Nor is there any requirement in the Constitution to adhere to, be a member of any specified religion or even be a believer in any god. Freedom from religion is just as important to some individuals as the freedom of religion.

The First Amendment reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Second Amendment affords us the “right to bear arms”, but in no way does it require any type of firearms ownership…nor is gun ownership a requirement to run for public office.

Our Constitution was written and tailored to afford us personal freedoms, not requirements to submit under peer pressure to conform to religious views and laws.

Several of You Have Asked…

…how I’m getting on with the new Mac, having left the Wonderful World o’ Windows behind last Friday night.

In a word, fabulously!

One of my favorite features!

In all honesty, it was a little touchy “the morning after.” I had a brief, “My God what have I done?” moment Saturday afternoon while attempting to do something that was rote, second nature to me on my Windows box and it was causing me no end of frustration. Ben, sensing my mounting aggravation, suggested we go to Borders and see what kind of books might be available to help ease me through the transition.

I picked up Switching to the Mac, and it has been incredibly helpful in navigating the familiar, yet strangely back-assward-to-what-I’m-used-to way of life on the new machine.  I know I have to be patient with myself; I’ve been on Windows for the last 20 years; I’ve been on the Mac only 4 days.

But I have to say, now that I’ve calmed down and have a decent reference book at my fingertips (so I’m not constantly bothering Ben with “How do I…” questions) I’m back to totally loving it. I’m using Entourage for email, and while it was a bit of a pain to bring all my data over from Outlook and its feature set is nowhere near as rich, last night I was doing something on it and caught myself thinking, “Why doesn’t Outlook do this? (Microsoft is supposedly returning Outlook to the Mac platform in their 2010 Office for Mac release.  Go figger.)

It was also a very rude awakening on Monday when i went back to work and had to deal with Dell again. For the first time in my life their construction (which had always impressed me, especially in relation to other manufacturers and the slew of home-brew clones I’d lived with over the last two decades) now really seemed flimsy and hacked together.

Last night I found a free VNC server application for Mac, and while I haven’t had a chance to test it from the office, I have used it successfully on my local home network, so if I can verify that it will allow me to connect to home from work, my old Dell Inspiron can be retired and given a much needed rest. (I’m not going to get rid of it; I bought it from Ben about a year ago and it does have a certain amount of sentimental value.)

The only thing I had been outright missing from my Windows box until this evening was ThumbsPlus, an incredibly full-featured graphics cataloging/editing program that I’ve been using for at least the dozen or so years.  But Adobe’s Bridge comes close, and since I just learned how to change the default image viewer from Photoshop to the built-in Mac Previewer in Bridge, this may not even be an issue any more.

Turning To The Dark Side

No, I’m not becoming a Republican.

Last night, after nearly twenty years of supporting Windows on the PC platform, I finally had a come-to-Jesus moment and bought a Mac: a sleek, sexy MacBook Pro to be exact.

What caused this paradigm shift in my computing universe? To be honest, it was a combination of things. Until about a month or so ago I was extremely excited about the new version of Windows that officially went on sale a few days ago. I’d been running various iterations of it on my Dell Inspiron laptop since the first public beta was available, and my initial reaction was that Microsoft had finally gotten it right. But one Sunday afternoon, all of a sudden it simply stopped displaying my chosen wallpaper. An admittedly small issue, but it was nonetheless profoundly annoying. After extensive troubleshooting and finding no answers through the Google, I wiped the drive, pulled out the RC-1 installation CD and began reinstalling. Immediately after typing in my license number (taken directly from my email from Microsoft) it refused to proceed. “Invalid Registration Key” or some crap. I double-checked the number and typed it in again. Same thing.

Fuck me.

This was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. I turned to Ben and said, “This is bullshit. I’ve had enough. I’m getting a Mac!”

“Yay,” he said! “My first convert!” (He’s had a Macbook since 2008.)

My first impulse was to get an iMac to replace my rapidly aging Dell GX270 desktop unit, and after playing with a one of them at the Mac Store, I fell in love. (In the interest of complete disclosure, we were actually in the Mac Store because Ben had to take his MacBook for service because of a power problem.) But as the days drew on, the more I realized how foolish buying a desktop unit would be. 90% of my computing time was now happening wirelessly in the living room, and if I got a Mac desktop unit I’d be glued to it (and away from my Bubba) way more than I think either of us would like. So deciding on a laptop was a no-brainer.

I’m still getting rid of the GX270. It’s way beyond its expiration date, and my laptop is a much better unit to keep around until I can figure out how to remote desktop from my work PC to the new Mac.

So what do I think of the new machine?

Love it. I know that Macs are not trouble-free, and when they crash they tend to crash spectacularly, but it’s worth living with that risk for the sheer joy that has returned to my online life. It’s sort of like how I viewed living in San Francisco near the major fault line in the United States for 16 years. The earth could shake at any moment, but until that time…damn what a ride.

Goodbye 2008!

I was going to try and write something profound, but for some reason words are eluding me this afternoon.  All I can say is that I am reminded of what I wrote a year ago, “Yes, 2008 is definitely looking up, and I can only hope it’s filled with as many pleasant surprises as 2007!” and think of the phrase, “Be careful of what you ask for, because you will get it.”

2008 began with a new apartment, and ended with a new relationship, neither of which were even on my radar screen a year ago, and now I look ahead with nervous anticipation at what 2009 may have waiting in the wings.  (All of it good, but no doubt a lot of it also completely unexpected.)

All I can say for certain on this last afternoon of 2008 is that one year from now I will be changed—and changed for the better—from whom I am today.  I look forward to the wonderful new chapter in my life that meeting Ben and beginning our journey together has brought, and eagerly anticipate to the changes that will be brought about in our country by a having new President in the White House.

(Unlike some of my fellow bloggers, I’m still willing to cut Obama some slack; he’s a newbie and is bound to make some horrific errors as he gets his footing as our elected leader.  If, however, two years from now he’s still making the sorts of mistakes that have some of my copatriots up in arms, I will have to reconsider.  But for now…I’m willing to just wait and see how it all plays out.)

So with that thought, I sincerely wish all of you a Happy New Year, and hope the next twelve months will be as good to you as the last twelve months have been to me!

Time to Reboot America

From Thomas L. Friedman:

It actually started well, on Kau Sai Chau, an island off Hong Kong, where I stood on a rocky hilltop overlooking the South China Sea and talked to my wife back in Maryland, static-free, using a friend’s Chinese cellphone. A few hours later, I took off from Hong Kong’s ultramodern airport after riding out there from downtown on a sleek high-speed train—with wireless connectivity that was so good I was able to surf the Web the whole way on my laptop.

Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?) As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before. Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It closed in 1998.

The next day I went to Penn Station, where the escalators down to the tracks are so narrow that they seem to have been designed before suitcases were invented. The disgusting track-side platforms apparently have not been cleaned since World War II. I took the Acela, America’s sorry excuse for a bullet train, from New York to Washington. Along the way, I tried to use my cellphone to conduct an interview and my conversation was interrupted by three dropped calls within one 15-minute span.

All I could think to myself was: If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us? What has become of our infrastructure, which is so crucial to productivity? Back home, I was greeted by the news that General Motors was being bailed out—that’s the G.M. that Fortune magazine just noted “lost more than $72 billion in the past four years, and yet you can count on one hand the number of executives who have been reassigned or lost their job.”

My fellow Americans, we can’t continue in this mode of “Dumb as we wanna be.” We’ve indulged ourselves for too long with tax cuts that we can’t afford, bailouts of auto companies that have become giant wealth-destruction machines, energy prices that do not encourage investment in 21st-century renewable power systems or efficient cars, public schools with no national standards to prevent illiterates from graduating and immigration policies that have our colleges educating the world’s best scientists and engineers and then, when these foreigners graduate, instead of stapling green cards to their diplomas, we order them to go home and start companies to compete against ours.

To top it off, we’ve fallen into a trend of diverting and rewarding the best of our collective I.Q. to people doing financial engineering rather than real engineering. These rocket scientists and engineers were designing complex financial instruments to make money out of money—rather than designing cars, phones, computers, teaching tools, Internet programs and medical equipment that could improve the lives and productivity of millions.

For all these reasons, our present crisis is not just a financial meltdown crying out for a cash injection. We are in much deeper trouble. In fact, we as a country have become General Motors—as a result of our national drift. Look in the mirror: G.M. is us.

That’s why we don’t just need a bailout. We need a reboot. We need a build out. We need a buildup. We need a national makeover. That is why the next few months are among the most important in U.S. history. Because of the financial crisis, Barack Obama has the bipartisan support to spend $1 trillion in stimulus. But we must make certain that every bailout dollar, which we’re borrowing from our kids’ future, is spent wisely.

It has to go into training teachers, educating scientists and engineers, paying for research and building the most productivity-enhancing infrastructure—without building white elephants. Generally, I’d like to see fewer government dollars shoveled out and more creative tax incentives to stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets. If we allow this money to be spent on pork, it will be the end of us.

America still has the right stuff to thrive. We still have the most creative, diverse, innovative culture and open society—in a world where the ability to imagine and generate new ideas with speed and to implement them through global collaboration is the most important competitive advantage. China may have great airports, but last week it went back to censoring The New York Times and other Western news sites. Censorship restricts your people’s imaginations. That’s really, really dumb. And that’s why for all our missteps, the 21st century is still up for grabs.

John Kennedy led us on a journey to discover the moon. Obama needs to lead us on a journey to rediscover, rebuild and reinvent our own backyard.

Goodbye 2007!

New Year’s Eve has never been a night of raucous partying for me. More than anything else, it’s that time when I look back and quietly take stock of the preceding year and give thanks for the blessings it’s conferred.

2007 has been an interesting year. Leaving the deteriorating state of our country out of the equation (because it’s such a mood killer), it really wasn’t a half bad year for me personally.

A year ago I knew Marc only through his blog; since meeting him in February he’s become one of my best friends in Arizona. Likewise I never would’ve expected to meet Adam, or that I would actually drive to Wyoming to meet Knottyboy. One year ago tonight if you’d told me that I’d be buying a new car—and a MINI at that—just three months later, I would’ve laughed uncontrollably.

On the other hand, I had been expecting the continual good reports on my throat that came through, if not the unexpected surgery in November to clear away some cobwebs. And while the satisfaction level with my job dropped almost to the point of forcing me to look for another position late last summer, even that returned to normalcy and this coming April I’ll be celebrating a four year anniversary with the company.

Speaking of anniversaries, at the same time I’m celebrating the four year employment anniversary, I’ll be celebrating that all important five-year mark of being cancer free.

Yes, 2008 is definitely looking up, and I can only hope it’s filled with as many pleasant surprises as 2007!

Something else that was expected was Mom going into assisted living. Both my sister and I said a year ago that because of her advancing Alzheimer’s, one year hence she would no longer be living on her own. We’re actually going a bit over one year on that prediction, but it’s come to fruition nonetheless. The coming year should also only be good for her, as she moves into an environment that can provide the increasing amount of care and attention that she will need as the disease progresses.

And just think…in only 385 more days, we’ll have a new president and our long national nightmare will finally be over!