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The Shorts Conversation.

So when we woke up this morning, I noted that it was -10ºF at home. That's pretty dang cold. By the time it was time to leave for work (an hour later), it had warmed up to -8ºF. There was hope of getting above zero during the commute in; I actually saw a reading on the Jeep thermometer showing 2ºF, but then when I got to the office it was back down to -7. During the morning walk with my co-workers, it was still -1ºF and I feared I had managed to get frost bite on my face. I slapped myself a few times to make sure. Everything is still intact and not a gross color.

One of my goals of 2013 is to come out of my shell a little bit. I'm always going to be a bit introverted, that's just the way I'm wired, but there's no reason I can't reach out and be sociable once in a while. So I have a goal of talking to at least one stranger a day. I wouldn't have made this a goal if I didn't feel it was sustainable, but it is a little bit of a challenge for me, because I'm not in a job where I can accomplish this by asking “would you like fries with that?!?” in an excited voice.

Standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts this afternoon I noticed that the customer ahead of me was dressed for warmer weather. Well, this manner of dress was noticed on his bottom half.

I didn't say anything about it and went about getting my unsweetened iced tea with lemon, accompanied by the usual confusion that occurs when I pay with my Dunkin' Donuts iPhone app. (They always scan, forget to press a button on the register, and then scan again).

My drink was delivered to the pick up area, where the man in shorts was still assembling his straw and such for his drink. I decided to be friendly and ask a simple question, “Dude, are you cold wearing shorts?”

Ok, I don't know why I said “Dude”. I sometimes say “Dude” and it makes people nervous because it doesn't sound natural coming out of my mouth. I think “Dude” is less annoying that “wicked”, which I say a lot more than “Dude”, but “wicked” didn't really apply to this situation. Now that I think about it, I could have fit a “wicked” in there with “Dude, aren't you wicked cold wearing shorts?”, which would have scored a tally of “2” in the weird vocabulary column, but I left off the “wicked”.

In one second he looked at me, looked me up and down and said, “No, not at all.” He sounded strident. Perhaps he didn't like the “Dude”. Maybe he thought it was wicked cold. There's a chance that someone else had asked him the same question but without the same flair for language.

A little put off by the fact that I had asked him this, what was now very apparent to me, very personal question, I was a little embarrassed and simply said, “Well have fun with that.” I could have said, “well you have very nice legs” or even “you have wicked nice legs” but I didn't want to make him blush. That would have been a little too much.

At the very least, I can say that I spoke to a stranger today. Maybe I'll try a different approach tomorrow.

 

Pulaski, Va.

I’m finding myself reading more and more blogs these days. I’m not too interested in the technical blogs that basically track the development of software or anything like that. No, I like reading the juicy stuff.

There are thousands of blogs out there. It’s refreshing to read about someone else’s life, especially when you feel like you’re so wrapped up in your own life that you forget there’s a whole world out there. Like when I was a little kid, I lived in Pulaski, N.Y. I wondered if there was another kid in Pulaski, Va., that was experiencing the same types of trials and tribulations that I was. I mean, this fictitious kid lived in a different town with the same name. Heck, it was even off of Interstate 81. Did he know he was different than most of the kids around him? Did he enjoy playing the tuba? Did he have a dog named Sunshine? Did he have to load hay in the barn in June? Was he looking at a map and wondering about me in Pulaski, N.Y.?

When I was in elementary school, one of the teachers encouraged us to find a pen pal and write letters back and forth. It was kind of dorky but it was cool at the same time. You got to chat with someone else that didn’t know about the latest scandal at grade school. They were peering in from the outside in a way. Now it’s easy, you can read blogs and whatnot on the internet and see that you’re not going at it alone. Heck, you can read the blog of someone at literally the end of the earth and see what they’re up to at the North Pole. Let’s see you get a pen pal letter to the North Pole for 37 cents!

So I guess reading these blogs is comforting in a way. I hope that someone is enjoying what I have to say as much I enjoy writing it. I wonder if that little kid in Pulaski, Va. grew up to have a blog like I do.

Congratulations Carrie!

Carrie Underwood is the latest American Idol! Congratulations Carrie! Your performance tonight with Rascal Flatts was absolutely outstanding. I look forward to downloading your new album on iTunes very soon!

Embracing New Technology.

Being the gadget freak that I am, I am always eager to embrace new technology. There’s no “keeping up with the Joneses” with me, actually, the Joneses are working their butt off to keep with me when it comes to have the latest, flashiest new gadgets on the block.

Last night was our second attempt to join the whole internet-phone VoIP revolution. Disappointed by the quality of phone service that our traditional land line provides (and the large sum of money that it costs), I decided we would try these services such as Vonage or AT&T CallAdvantage. For those unfamiliar with the term VoIP, here’s a quick explanation. “VoIP” stands for “Voice over IP”, which is essentially making telephone calls over your high speed internet connection. For Earl and I, this means our cable modem. When you sign up for VoIP, you pick get a little call adapter that has a network plug and a phone plug on it. This provides the interface to which your phone can be attached to your network, or internet connection. Many of these interfaces have routers in them so you can basically pull out your router and install the VoIP interface in its place. The interface takes the analog signals of your telephone and converts them to digital data, to be sent out over the internet to a similar device connected to, most likely, a traditional telephone switch, which then routes the call to the proper party via traditional methods. The digital data sent over the internet is nothing but bits and bytes, not differing in any way from streaming audio or video or even browsing a webpage.

At least that’s how I understand it all to work.

Anyways, Earl and I tried out Vonage a couple of months ago, but didn’t like the quality of the service nor the quality of customer service. So we cancelled and stuck with Verizon on our land line. Our land line, by the way, has a lot of “ground hum” on it (it sounds like Janay from AI is humming out of tune on our phones all the time). Verizon claims that it can’t be fixed. So we decided to give VoIP another chance, this time with AT&T Callvantage.

Our little VoIP box arrived yesterday. I connected it to the network, ready for some cheap telephone capabilities, and WHAM! Nothing. I guess it wasn’t ready to let my fingers do the walking.

So I called customer service, which is traditionally a frightening experience.

I reached Tiffany (who sounded more like an Olga) who spent the next 85 minutes trying to troubleshoot the problem. She gave me the administrator username and password for the web interface, which I promptly wrote down and then we worked together to get it working. After 85 minutes, she opened up a trouble ticket and sent it to Tier II support, who would call me back.

After I hung up with Tiffany, I did a little of my own troubleshooting and then everything started talking and all was good. Tier II didn’t call back, because they probably saw that my network connection came up.

So now we’re happy AT&T Callvantage users. There’s a *ton* features on this line that are way cool, including a “Follow Me” type service that rings your home phone and any other phone number you want rung at that same time when there’s a call coming in. So we can route our home phones to our cell phones and not worry about three or four rings before forwarding or forgetting to turn it off and such. Plus, our voice mail messages get e-mailed to us! NICE.

It’s always fun to embrace new technology.

I Did My Deed.

I did what I vowed I wouldn’t do. I voted this evening in the final round of American Idol. And I voted for

Carrie.

I like them both. I really do. However, as an ex-radio professional, I feel that Carrie has a better shot at being the true American Idol in that she has more marketability and can easily pick up where Shania will leave off some day. Plus, Bo has already toured around. His band has already opened for national acts. Let Carrie do her thing and do it well.

I was also a sucker for her final performance tonight.

Best of luck to both of them.

Ride.

With the long weekend approaching,I’m already planning on taking a long road trip on Saturday. I have visions of driving across the country and back, but honestly I don’t that can be accomplished on one day during Memorial Day weekend, what with the traffic and everything.

God bless Earl. He happily jumps into the passenger seat, ready to tackle our next road adventure. Since driving across the country is out of the question, we’ll probably tour around the Hudson Valley a little bit. Or maybe wine country along Lake Erie on the other end of the state. Perhaps both. We’ll have to see.

I love going for rides. Aside from my road geek interests, i just find riding in the car very comforting. I especially like riding in the car after dark during a new moon. The world seems to have a sinister edge to it, as we go about our business under a blanket of darkness. I find a certain sense of adventure.

When I was a kid, we would go for rides from time to time. Dad would often want to check out the progress of someone building a house or the remodeling of a camp or some other project his business was working on, so the four of us would pile into the ’71 Heavy Chevy (yeah my Dad was cool having a new muscle car and all), and later the ’78 Impala and go see what was going on. We’d occasionally go for a long ride that would take us elsewhere in the state. He once drove us to Delhi to show us where he went to college. Or we’d ride through the Finger Lakes. And once or twice a month we’d drive the 40 minutes from Grandma and Grandpas in Syracuse to our home on a Sunday night. I have very happy memories of my family from the back seat of the car. We didn’t play “Count The Cow” or get all breathless over “License Plate Bingo”, but rather we’d chat a little bit about whatever state the world was in, all accompanied to the sounds of 62 WHEN in the background, or whatever local AM radio station we could find. When we were all in the car, we were all together, spending time with each other. Dad wasn’t in the basement working on the airplane. Mom wasn’t doing her thing with the Eastern Star. Jennifer wasn’t at baton twirling lessons and I wasn’t building paths through the woods. No, we were all in the car, enjoying each other’s company, talking and if we were lucky, stopping at A&W or Carrols for a bite to eat.

As an adult, I would often go for rides alone. Whomever I was dating at the time wasn’t really that interested in checking out some far off nook or cranny elsewhere in the state, so I’d feed my loner tendencies and enjoy the trip alone. Then Earl came along, and well, like the rest of my life, that all changed. He gladly jumped in the passenger seat, gladly listened to radio and gladly talked about whatever state the world was in. That’s one of just many ways I knew my life changed when I met Earl.

Yeah, I’m really looking forward to going for a ride on Saturday.