July 2013

Counting Down.

I am feeling footloose and fancy free for a Monday. I’m celebrating by enjoying my lunch hour barefooted today. This is only significant because I am working at the office today and this is one office where I can’t be barefooted.


Even though it is Monday I am in a celebratory mood because it is a short work week for us as we are taking some needed time off at the end of the week. We are in the process of getting the house ready for our vacation (security lights, check, security system, check, house sitter, check, etc) and I have been gazing at maps and the like for the past couple of weeks planning out our spontaneous route.

There are a couple of givens along this trip: we will be stopping in OshKosh, Wis. and also in northwest Arkansas along the way. I’ve insisted to Earl that we drive in Iowa because I love Iowa (he doesn’t even look at me like I’m crazy anymore because that’s just another given). I’ll be sharing photos and details in future blog entries as we go along.

At this moment I am curious as to whether there is some sort of status quarrel going on amongst the seagulls in the parking lot I’m camped out in for the lunch hour. The lightest colored of the seagulls seems quite smug.


It can be bothered to partake in the activity the other gulls are partaking in, namely screaming about abandoned french fries and jumping on one another. They bring the phrase “flying leap” to a whole new level.

Perhaps they are upset that I didn’t share a Chili Lime PopChip with them. I’m mean that way.


Photo on 7-27-13 at 3.32 PM

I’m having a hard time finding my zone today. I’m trying to write some code for some personal projects I have going on and I am seriously lacking the ability construct code that is going to make any sense.

I know, I should be outside enjoying the gorgeous weather. I’m sitting on the back patio enjoying the decent amount of breeze we have going on. I’m kind of in the mood for a bike ride but I’m going to wait until the sun isn’t at its peak in the sky before attempting that.

I’m not missing motivation today. I’m kind of missing focus but that’s because I’m mostly missing comprehension. I try to learn something new but it just doesn’t make sense to me and because I’m not comprehending what I’m reading I’m losing focus.

Does that make sense?

I’ve gone for a walk. I took a short nap. I had a few M&Ms.

Maybe I’ll find my zone after I write about not finding my zone. Things occasionally happen that way.


Last night, after deliberation and forethought, we made the spontaneous decision to go to Saranac Thursday, an event held every week during the summer at the local brewery. Proceeds from this weekly event go to the United Way.

I love to people watch at Saranac Thursday, because folks range from NeimanMarcus to People Of Wal*Mart and all points in between. Last night we met up with some of my former co-workers and their partners, as well a couple of people that we have met via mutual friends and/or the Internet. All in all, a good time.

While we were visiting, the conversation made its way through a myriad of topics, as conversations fueled by alcohol often do, and the subject of TED talks came up. Earl was unfamiliar with TED Talks but I had discovered them a couple of years ago when I came across the first explanation in a talk that actually kind of changed my life in a way, The Power of Introverts. Since discovering these talks, I have installed the TED Talk app on my iPhone and when I’m feeling out of sorts I’ll dial one up in search of some sort of inspiration. A favorite of mine is Steve Jobs’ Stanford University commencement speech, “How To Live Before You Die”. In fact, I enjoyed Steve’s speech again this morning. My day has been quite productive and enjoyable because of it.

I was delighted to hear that our friend Ann does a similar thing with the TED app; she dials up the “Inspire Me!” category when she’s feeling the need to feel inspired. I find this interesting in a way, because she’s has a really good vibe about her but I guess all of us can use some inspiration to keep our vibe adjusted accordingly.

Helping each other out, it’s rather awesome.

This led to the conversation about an upcoming TEDx Event here in Utica, as two of the other folks that were part of our little social circle last night as coordinating the event. John (and his better half Christine) and I all worked together at my previous employer. (Christine, John’s better half, impresses the hell out of me with what she has done with On Location Vacations or OLV.) Ryan, the organizer of the local event, and I met on Twitter a few years ago and then met IRL (In Real Life) at John’s photo gallery showing earlier this spring. Ann (the aforementioned inspired by TED person) knows everyone that was in the little circle we had formed last night.

It’s a small world after all.

Last night we had the opportunity to meet Ryan’s girlfriend, Sara and she was telling us about her experience trying out someone’s Google Glass. She found them to be amazing. That was just another confirmation for me that they are freakin’ awesome and are going to be on the “must have” list. Quite inspiring as well and that’s two IRL hits I’ve had with Google Glass. w00t!

Earl gave me the “think of the budget” look when he saw my smirk.

If I had to describe last night I would have to use two words: inspiring (surprise!) and dynamic. I don’t think it was the beer making me feel this way, I think it was just a groovy night and I needed the reminder that good things do happen close to home.

I hope to have the chance to be in the audience at TEDx Utica (but if not, I’m certain I’ll still enjoy the videos) and in the meanwhile, I’m going to continue to enjoy this feeling of inspiration.

It’s making me smile. And smiling is good.

On Call.

So last night I started my latest round of on-call. I shall carry this torch until Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m. This is something that comes around every seven weeks or so and honestly, it’s the one thing about my job that really bugs me.

It’s not the “on-call” that bugs me really. It’s the circumstances. You see, my job is basically comprised of two parts. One part of my job is developing, planning, building and maintaining a pretty robust “event management system” (troubles, outages, changes, stuff like that) software package. This is the part of my job that I love and this is what makes me thrive in my career. I get to build pretty web pages that do really nifty things and I get to see users be able to do their jobs effectively because of the application that I have built. I get to stretch my geekiness in ways to make people more efficient and that’s something I really enjoy doing. I could do this part of my job forever and not really complain about it. I’m on call for this 24 hours a day, seven days a week and because the application is of my design and basically under my control, if I do my job well, I don’t get called (barring any sort of hardware or network failure). When I’m called for this it’s because I’ve done something wrong, so I make sure I do everything right. That’s easy to handle. That’s in my geek blood.

The other part of my job is being part of a team that maintains the software platform that monitors the entire network of the communications company I work for. The Network Operations Centers use this software to make sure that grandma can let her fingers do the walking via telephone or via internet, whenever she wants to walk her fingers. The software that did this when I was hired onto the team was a brilliant piece of design, did its job very well and didn’t require a lot of coddling. It was sleek, fast and efficient. While routine maintenance was very important to its health, many elements were “set it and forget it” and it was all geeky with the way it worked so I loved it. On-call with this was pretty much 24/7 for me and in 18 months I was called twice. Piece of cake, right? Unfortunately, when it was time to upgrade in preparation for tripling the size of the company, the company that provided the software at the time didn’t do very well in the bidding department when it was time to evaluate options for looking to move to something bigger, so the company migrated to a new platform that seemed to be quite popular with similar companies.

Knowing that co-workers and the like may read this I will soft shoe my way through this and simply say that I’m not a fan of this convoluted cluster of stuff that we are maintaining now. It feels like a constant game of Jenga with only 3/4 of the blocks that is being played in a very stiff wind. To make it doubly interesting, much of the interface is written in Java and only likes to run on Internet Explorer. There’s a lack of intuitiveness. What makes sense to me often isn’t what the software wants to do. I feel dumb. Sigh. Double sigh. Triple sigh.

Because the stiff wind occasionally moves to a gale force, on-call has the potential to be quite busy. I try very, very hard not to be frustrated by calls I may receive in the middle of the night and to do so I count to 10. A lot (my odometer is getting ready to roll over to over one million burgers served). But the geek side of me is constantly asking myself why this new software platform has to be so complicated. I’m concerned that I might develop some sort of involuntary twitch whenever I’m asked to do some sort of task on this system. The biggest reason for my discomfort is because I feel like in this part of my job I might be letting users down because the software just isn’t doing what it’s suppose to do, and I can’t determine if it’s the software, the people the installed the software, the person maintaining the software or the sun, the moon or the stars. However, since my position with the company is comprised of both of these roles, I just do what I can to the best of my ability. That’s all that is expected of me, but this just runs contrary to my personal achievement standards.

So last night was the first night of on-call and it went by without incident. Yay! I have found that it’s often hardest for me to get through that first night of on-call and I am thankful to whichever on-call god deemed me worthy of an incident free night. Only six more nights to go. I am hoping to use this on-call weekend to be productive at some projects I’ve been cooking up in my head.

I’ll relax next weekend.

Digital Nomad.

We like to travel. I don’t think that’s a secret to anyone. I’ve written enough about our travel adventures to make it blatantly apparent that we enjoy seeing what the world has to offer and we really enjoy discovering both popular and out-of-the-way places as often as we can. This is something that we plan on doing until we are unable to do it anymore.

As we get along in our years we start to look ahead to our retirement years and the like and this is where our age difference figures into the equation. Now I know this sounds crazy, but when Earl retires he actually expects me to keep on working until I am eligible for retirement. While I joke about this sort of thing, the fact of the matter is that I really want to continue working but at the same time I don’t want to detract from Earl enjoying his retirement.

This is where the phrase “Digital Nomad” comes into play.

Because my career is totally dependent on technology, I’m 95% of the way to becoming a Digital Nomad already. Though I didn’t mention on my conference calls this morning, I was already playing Digital Nomad by working from the hotel room I stayed at last night. Using the hotel wifi, with the ability of my iPad to be a hotspot as a backup plan, I was able to be quite productive this morning from the third floor of the classic hotel. Aside from every vending machine being empty (people, I need geek fuel!), it was a pleasant experience and I think the change in scenery actually helped me be more focused than I would have been in my cubicle back at the office.

I’ve played Digital Nomad before during my stints with on-call duties; Earl and I have successfully traveled during on-call and no one ended up any worse off because of it. When you have servers in Fort Wayne, users in Texas and more servers in Upstate New York, it’s not like I need to drive anywhere to actually touch anything to get things going again.

I’ve been reading the adventures of Digital Nomads. Software developers, web designers, writers and the like successfully conduct their business from hotel rooms, coffee shops and other places that offer connectivity. It’s a wicked cool concept to me but there are two important elements that I need to improve on to make this plan a full success: discipline and focus, knowing when it’s play time and when it’s work time and then maintaining a healthy balance between the two.

I like to think that I’m pretty driven when it comes to getting work done. I have a few motivators when it comes to discipline. I’m goal oriented. Give me a timeline and I’ll work to make that timeline a reality.

Focus is another issue, but this is something that I have been working on as well. Though I can be distracted by outside noise and the like, I’ve been working this week with my Bose noise-canceling headphones and this has helped immensely. When I’m working at the office, the surrounding areas can be quite noisy, and while I can’t really wear the Bose headphones in that environment (in case someone comes in my cube, etc), I can wear my iPod earbuds and successfully tune out the noise of the office. I also know that when I’m writing serious code or trying to solve a more complex problem, listening to music with lyrics (or anything with words, like a podcast or something), is going to bring my concentration levels down. Outside of using Apple products, I share Jony Ive’s taste in music as so far that I enjoy ambient electronic music like stuff from DJ John Digweed and the like.

I think this Digital Nomad approach is something that I could pull off when Earl retires. Though this is still a few years away, I’m focused on improving myself to make this a reality. After all, my husband should be able to really enjoy himself when he retires. He deserves it.


Earl is out of town on business this evening. I believe he is in Wilmington, Delaware. He returns tomorrow. If my hunch is accurate, and it usually is, he’s probably in a casino this evening. That’s not a bad thing, we all have our ways of relaxing and I fully support this.

Jamie returned from his latest tour in the wee hours of the morning. He, along with the four members of the band he was touring with, slept until early afternoon. The layout of our house provides ample room for these indy bands to crash for the night. This sometimes makes me nervous, because even though I can be rather chatty in person, I am mostly a shy, private person that really enjoys my personal space. So when things gets disrupted I can feel a little uncomfortable.

This evening Jamie and the band started recording a music video in the back lawn. The video will apparently have two components to it: a daylight component and a night time component. Jamie let me know that they would be recording more of the music video after dark. Lamps were being moved from our living space out into the lawn to light the scene. If fireworks were legal in New York State I’d imagine that there would be fireworks involved with the production. This was making me uneasy and since my rock is out of town tonight I decided that I would get a good night’s sleep by staying at a local hotel for the night.

I am rather comfortable.

Now, folks might translate this as me being driven out of my own home but that is not the case at all. I merely made a decision that was in my own best interest. I would have been worried about noise and the neighbors and the like if I had try to sleep through the music video production, so I analyzed the situation and made the decision to let the guys do their thing tonight without interruption from me.

I’ll enjoy a good night’s sleep, work from the hotel room until lunch time tomorrow and then resume my day at home, anxiously awaiting the arrival of my husband, where the three of us will be able to sit down and have a little family dinner together (the band will be on their way to the next gig). I don’t know the name of the band but they’re really nice guys. I can’t understand a word of their music but that’s only because I’m getting old and/or set in my ways.

Either way, I’m quite content.


Short Ride.

So on Saturday Earl and I decided to go for a little ride to enjoy the afternoon and perhaps get a bite to eat. We ended up driving a little over 400 miles over the course of 16 hours. Our dinner in Burlington, Vermont was quite lovely.

Our very first date was spent driving in Vermont and as I sat next to my husband I had a hard time believing that it had been over 17 years since we had gone on that life-changing ride together. Where does the time go?

In our travels Earl was tolerant when a geek moment presented itself…

Old-school Kmart! I was very excited to see the red “K” and blue “mart”. Walking inside the store was like doing the time warp again. The woman behind the service desk had a bee-hive hairdo. I didn’t take her picture, though, she was a busy.

We spent much of our time on Church Street in the downtown area of Burlington.

This is the quiet end.

This is the busier end.

We had dinner at a Leunig’s Bistro, which was quite nice. We always enjoy eating on a patio-like area on the street and the weather was perfect for it. Admittedly, we enjoyed the eye candy too.

Afterwards we headed down to Lake Champlain where I took a photo of me with my best friend.

After the trip we drove up and around the northern end of the lake, coming into the northern most eastern corner of New York, where there were important decisions to make.

Though we had our passports and there was no line at several of the crossings we passed (basically one officer in each direction), we just grazed along the border …
… (the Jeep is in the US but the field is in Canada). No fence necessary.

The drive home was long but it passed quickly. Driving through the Adirondacks at midnight can be an interesting experience though. The deer like to play chicken with Jeeps. The Jeep won every time, though. Maybe the deer won, because they’d just run off into the field and laugh a lot.

I’m still basking in the afterglow of a most excellent weekend. Let’s hope the trend continues this week.


I don’t know a lot about birds. I know they fly. I know there are eggs involved. I know they make a chirp, cheep or pip like sound most of the time unless they’re overly musical. Other than that, I don’t know their habits or anything like that.

When I work from home I break up the morning and afternoon by taking a 15 or so minute walk up and down the road. It’s a good way to get a little bit of exercise and it gives me the opportunity to stretch my legs and my brain.

Up the road a few lots is a large meadow. I think it used to be a hay field but it hasn’t been farmed in quite a few years. There’s a lot of wild brush, leafy bushes and the like. When walking along this stretch of the road there are always three black birds with red and a splotch of yellow on their wings watching me very carefully. Over the past several weeks I have noticed that they like to form a perimeter. One goes up on the tallest electric pole near this area, another goes on a tree that’s close by and a third perches on the wires.

When I pass the pole, the third bird then starts to follow me a bit in a very rhythmic pattern. He or she flies out from the wire, circles rather low over my head and lands back on the wire a little farther up my path of travel. He or she does this three times until I pass a thicket of green leafy growth, then they stay on the wire. All the while the three of them are making chirping noises with the one on the wire being the most chatty.


When I come back down the road on my return trip, I am on the other side of the road opposite the meadow and directly under the wire. The birds resume their same position but the one on the wire doesn’t do the trinity circle thing. He or she just watches and dumps little poops on the lawn under the wire. The conversation between the three of them resumes until I am beyond the tree. Then the three of them fly back across the road and into the meadow, assumedly to whatever they’re protecting.

I find this fascinating.


So when I feel the need to lose myself in my non-technology-related, but still entirely geeky hobby of my collection of school clocks made by The Standard Electric Time Company, I look at old yearbooks on classmates.com. I mentioned this activity in a blog entry a couple of months ago and this trend is continuing on hot summer nights when my brain is a little too tired to write code.

My have a methodical way of finding old yearbooks to look at; I think of one of the longer roadways in New York State and then using Google Maps, I search each town along the selected roadway to see if there is a corresponding school district. I then see if there are yearbooks available and go to one of the early years, but with a minimum year of 1950. The yearbooks before 1950 are kind of hard to come by and are rather sparse in content; I blame this approach on World War II. Once I determine that the school in question was kind of art-decoish in its design, I look through the pages of these old yearbooks and look for clocks in the background of the hundreds of photos of smiling young (and well groomed) people. I’ll probably find one or two photos with a clock for every dozen yearbooks I look at. 99% of the time the clock just happens to be in the background, but once in a while a school will show a really good shot of a clock as a symbol of the passage of time or something, like this photo of the original master clock from the elementary school I attended, courtesy of the 1952 yearbook (from when it was a K-12 school).


That clock was found in the main office of the school up until the mid 1950s and I never knew what it looked like until I found that picture in the yearbook. Geek satisfaction.

It’s interesting to see that each school had its own character with the design of their yearbooks. Even though different students planned and coordinated the yearbook for each school year, there is often a strong similarity in the style and content of the photos from year to year. I think it’s because the school probably used the same photography studio or photographer year after year. I’ve also noticed that many schools of that era had grand staircases that were featured prominently in yearbooks, though only one or two that I’ve observed were as ornate as the staircase that was found in my elementary school.

Since I basically pick random schools in the Empire State to look at, once in a great while I might recognize someone as I’m scanning through the pages looking for a clock in the background. For example, one of my elementary school teachers graduated from Lockport High School in 1969 and I just happened to catch a glance of their name as I electronically flipping through the pages. That was kind of cool.

I still haven’t found another school that had the same style clocks that got me interested in collecting these things to begin with, but I’ve seen several close cousins. Maybe the clock from the elementary school in my collection is now officially a one-of-a-kind (since the others were all replaced).

That’d be kind of neat.


I always find it humorous that when you drive through Syracuse on the New York State Thruway, you see a snowplow parked in a maintenance yard that says: “Welcome to Central New York — 115-inches Annual Snowfall”, or something like that.

It’s almost 100º degrees today, but then again, it’s mid July.

When it’s January I’m looking forward to the heat. When it’s July I’m looking forward to the cold. If I had to choose one or the other, I’d like long days with cooler temperatures. It’s easier for me to warm up than it is to cool down.

I keep hearing mentions of Global Warming but I remember summer days like this way back in the 80s, so while I think this is a warm spell, I don’t think it’s overly unusual for this time of year. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think the climate is changing, because I really think it is, but I don’t think this part of the world is experiencing anything wildly abnormal at the moment. If it’s like this in September then I’ll start to wonder.

I get concerned when people leave their animals in the car in this weather. I haven’t seen anyone doing that today, but a few weeks ago I saw a dog in a car with the windows open only about 1/4 of the way down and I was concerned for the dog. He seemed like he was OK but I didn’t know how long he would be there. If I saw an animal in serious distress I don’t know if I would be able refrain from breaking the window and helping them out. The one bad thing about a pet has to be the reliance on the human. Sometimes the human isn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

A horse and buggy just walked by the parked Jeep.

The buggy was loaded up with boxes of tomatoes from the local market. The Amish man driving the buggy parallel parked the horse and buggy so he could go into the nearby Burger King. He didn’t get anything for the horse but the horse didn’t seem to mind.

I bet it’s hard to pull a buggy in this heat.