Archive for the ‘Activities’ Category

I’m back!

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Marion and I just returned from a European trip. Well, we actually returned last Saturday evening, but my internet was out. It remained out until last night.

I couldn’t get a tech over the holiday weekend; the first available slot was Wednesday morning, which I couldn’t do. Wednesday afternoon I was available, though, and when the tech came, it didn’t take him long to determine that it was a cable problem. The cable crew couldn’t come out until sometime yesterday, but they got my internet up and running again.

We were on a tour called “The Best of Eastern Europe.” The tour group leader (CEO, or Chief Experience Officer in the parlance of the company) didn’t agree that it was a tour of Eastern Europe; her opinion is that it was a tour of Central Europe. The company actually has a tour that goes to most of the same cities that they call “Explore Central Europe.”

The differences are that the “Eastern” Europe tour includes Poland, and the “Central” Europe tour is part of their National Geographic tour series. Joking around on the tour, we decided that that the tours were named as they were because the general public considers anything east of Germany to be “Eastern Europe,” while “National Geographic” readers are likely to know more geography.

We had a great time. I drank a lot more beer than I normally do on the trip – I’d have one or two half-liter glasses with most dinners. It was usually quite good beer, too. The only beer I wasn’t that fond of was the “smoked beer” that I tried in Cesky Krumlov. It’s a local specialty that was first brewed when part of a brewery caught fire, and they decided to use the barley that had come through the fire. It wasn’t bad, but I preferred the more usual beers, such as Staropramen. One of the other guys on the tour asked for “a good German beer” at a biergarten in Berlin, and was told that the really good beers came from the Czech Republic.

I was rather surprised at how hard it was to find restaurants serving traditional food in Berlin; the best meal we had there was actually at an Italian trattoria. Italian and kebab places seemed to be the most common.

Warsaw and Krakow were nice (I prefer Krakow). We got traditional food in each of those cities, and Marion acquired a taste for pierogi.

In the Czech Republic, we also got traditional food in both Prague and Český Krumlov.

By the time we got to Vienna, I was starting to tire of traditional foods. We attended a concert of Mozart and Strauss music in the venue that saw The Magic Flute’s first performance. The Instagram reviews the people sitting in front of us were reading described it as “cheesy but fun,” but we thought it was both good and fun, with no “cheesy” involved.

We’d been in Budapest before, so we hadn’t planned to stay there after the trip officially ended. We ducked out on the walking tour part-way through, because we’d already seen Heroes Square, and took a tour of the State Opera House instead. Much more interesting, and we took the tour that provided a mini-concert of two arias at the end. Beautiful building, with great acoustics.

We saw several castles, and took tours through most of them. We had a couple of extra days in Berlin prior to the start of the tour, so we took a day trip to Potsdam. We toured Schloss Cecilienhof, where the Potsdam Conference took place, then saw the gardens at Sanssouci. We couldn’t get onto the grounds of the third palace in the area (the New Palace, I think) because it was closed for a classical music festival.

In Krakow, we saw Wawel Castle, but didn’t take an “inside” tour.

We did tour Prague Castle, and attended a concert in the Basilica of St. George. If you’re there, definitely pay for one of the inside tours – St. Vitus’ Cathedral is not to be missed.

Český Krumlov Castle is nice, but not as impressive. The gardens are pretty nice, though.

In Vienna, we toured Schönbrunn Palace, which was impressive. We also had a very good meal at the palace cafe. The palace offered nightly Mozart/Strauss concerts, but we attended one downtown. The palace was on the far side of downtown from our hotel, and its concert ran later. Given that we were leaving Vienna the next morning, I wanted to get back to the hotel earlier, so we went with the concert at Palffy Palace.

I’ll probably post a few photos over the next few days, but it’s getting too late to do so tonight.

It’s been a busy week

Friday, June 9th, 2017

Among other historic events, this past week has contained:

  • The 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests,
  • The 49th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination by Sirhan Sirhan,
  • The 50th Anniversary of the Six-Day War, and
  • The 73rd Anniversary of D-Day.

I intended to write about some of these on their anniversaries, but we’ve been busy at work, and I’ve started looking for another job. The boss has decided to retire, and the company has been kind of limping along for the couple of years. We have also experienced some problems that have had major effects. Among the biggest, we had a dispute with Intuit that messed up our accounting for almost a year, so we never quite knew just how much money we owed or had available to us. Also, customers and suppliers have caused us cash-flow problems that have had significant follow-on effects (hey, we know the economy has been pretty bad for just about everyone, but we’re a small manufacturer, not a bank!), and everything has just added up into a perfect storm.

So far, the job search has been better than the last time I was looking: back then, my applications and resumes were sent out and almost all disappeared into a void … I only got four interviews and no offers over the course of almost an entire year. This time, I haven’t had any interviews yet (one phone interview that was scheduled never happened), but I’ve at least been notified that some of my applications have been received, and received two responses that said I wasn’t a match. One of them, I’m not certain if it was snarky or merely attempting to be “hip.” It was a response, though, so I know I didn’t disappear into limbo.

Dealing with email is taking more time, as well. I normally get between thirty and a hundred spam emails a day, mostly attempts at spam comments for this site. They’re running at the high end recently, and now I’ve got all the job notification emails coming in – around thirty to forty per day. Part of that’s my fault – signing up at one site got me signed up for about nine others, including two resume services. I get what is effectively the same message with the same job listings about three times a day each from around four different job sites. I’m tempted to look into writing some sort of app to filter my emails and only allow emails with job listings through if they contain any that I haven’t seen yet. The listings in the email are short enough and vague enough that I’ve clicked through to several that I’ve already rejected as inappropriate. And almost every one says, “Posted TODAY,” even though I saw it several days ago, and clicking the link produces a “This job is no longer available” message.

I’m also finding that targeting is not necessarily their strong point. While looking for embedded programming jobs in my area, I’m receiving job listing for jobs all over the country (and the world, there’s one job listing purportedly for Denver which actually lists the job as being in Hyderabad) and for things I’m not qualified to perform or have no relation to embedded software (sewage line inspector in Illinois, among others). Not to mention the repeated unsolicited offers to work as an Uber driver open my own State Farm office.

In any case, I’ll probably not be updating this website very often for a while (so, what else is new?), because I’ll be working, trying to get the company prepared for closing down, looking for a job and networking with my various social groups, getting the company’s GitHub page and my GitHub page updated with things I’ve done (I signed up for a page, but have done almost nothing with it yet), and doing anything else useful that comes to mind.

That took a while

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Marion and I hiked up Mt. Falcon Sunday. It took a little over 2 hours to reach the top, and a little less than 2 hours to get back down. Slower than we’ve hiked it before, but we’re both several years older since the last time, and we’ve suffered broken ankles (me) and broken feet (Marion) since then.

It was a beautiful day for a hike, and we both enjoyed it. I saw a fair number of birds, and got photos of a few. There were some Western Meadowlarks flying around near the parking lot, but they never settled down anywhere I could take a photo of them. There were several pairs of a brownish bird with a white band at the tip of their tales that were flying around the trail, or perhaps it was the same pair several times. They never perched anywhere in the open, and were more-or-less playing aerial tag like the meadowlarks. I presumed they were courting, and I don’t have enough information to identify them.

There were several pelicans flying high over the peak – at first, I thought they were balloons that someone had released at Red Rocks Amphitheater, which is just north of Mt. Falcon, but I noticed some slightly erratic motions and took a couple of photos. Out of focus, but fairly recognizable if you’ve seen American White Pelicans in flight before.

There were a few Rufous-Sided Towhees, one of which stayed in one location and sang, allowing me to get some good photos. I saw two hummingbirds, one of which stayed perched long enough for me to get a couple photos, a scrub jay, and a Scarlet Tanager that kept hopping around the interior of a couple trees, preventing me from getting any photos. I did get several photos of some Turkey Vultures that were flying around.

A good day, but I regretted the photos I missed. The title for the post references the fact that today is the first day my calves weren’t bothering me from overuse. The two hours of dance class I have tonight may bring a relapse, though. Gotta drive through the snow to get to class, though. It’s been snowing all day, and the forecast calls for snow though tomorrow. We had at least 4 inches of heavy, wet, snow at work, but it didn’t look like there was as much here at home.

So, I saw a photo online …

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

… and thought I recognized it.

This photo is number 39 in this post (note: there are photos of scantily-clad young women on the site and in this post, just in case that either bothers or appeals to you).

I went through my photos, and found this one:

It’s a view of Cathedral Cove, in the Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve on New Zealand’s North Island. The view is looking through a passage between Mare’s Leg Cove and Cathedral Cove. A beautiful location in a beautiful country. Here’s a couple more photos. Click on them if you want to see them bigger.

A new toy and a couple of horror stories

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

I recently was given an old Windows XP laptop. As XP is no longer maintained or secure, I’ve decided to play with a Linux-based OS, specifically, Elementary. It ought to be educational.

I’ve also run across a couple of horror-related items.

In the first, Warner Brothers is being sued for big money over the “Conjuring” movies, by an author who claims he has a prior, exclusive, contract with the people who provided the source information. The fun part is, apparently the only way WB can win is by proving the existence of ghosts and witches.

The other involves a family who got together to play a horror-themed desktop game, and ended up with more excitement than they expected. I have a friend who says he has a similar story about watching The Exorcist the first time while attending a conference at Walter Reed.

Catching up a bit

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. I’ve been busy at work, I’ve been dragged down by my seasonal allergies (when I’m congested, I can’t use my CPAP), and I’m just getting over a bout of food poisoning (my own fault, embarrassingly). They’re all just excuses, though. I haven’t felt motivated to post, and that’s the real reason.

I did want to mention this past Monday evening, though. I have a number of Jewish friends and acquaintances, and I was invited to a Passover Seder that was held at a local community college. It was a nice evening; I had fun, met some nice people, and ate some interesting food. Couldn’t sing along with anything, but I did get to do a reading.

The amusing (if offensive) portion of the evening was on the way into the venue, though … the local chapter of The Gideons was passing out New Testaments just outside the entrance. Legal, I know, and I’m not arguing that it shouldn’t be; I’m saying it was tasteless and offensive. I know it was important from their point of view, but I still think they shouldn’t have done it.

Serendipity, or, The Troubles That Come With Age

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Marion and I went cross-country skiing in Frisco last Sunday. It was a beautiful day, but the skiing was a hell of a workout. The temperature was in the upper 30s, and it had been snowing all day. Because of the snow and overcast, it was hard to see the tracks in the groomed trails. I had trouble seeing them at times, depending on the light, and Marion found them by following behind me. Because of the snowing and the relatively warm temperature, the snow was “slow.”

Even going down the steepest parts of the Frisco Bay loop, I had very little glide and no carry. On the steepest downslope near the end of the trail, I couldn’t even coast to the bottom, and Marion was able to shuffle down slowly with her skis pointing straight downhill.

It took us roughly two hours to go around the trail once, which is about twice what it normally takes. As I said, a hell of a workout.

The serendipity comes in because I decided Sunday morning that I was going to need a backpack, so that I would have somewhere to put any layers I removed while skiing. It wasn’t a problem Sunday, but I’ve ended up wearing just a t-shirt above the waist more than once while skiing. The backpack I grabbed is one I’ve used for exercising while walking, and had 20 pounds of weights in it. When I removed the weights, I noticed something else in it as well. It was the 18-55mm lens for my Canon camera, which I’ve been looking for for almost a year. That just goes to show how diligent I am about getting my exercise, I suppose.

In any case, I’ve been looking for it for a long time, because I backed a Kickstarter project over a year ago for the Pulse camera controller from Alpine Labs, and I received it last May or so. Since the only lens I could find was the 70-200mm zoom lens that was on the camera, I really didn’t do anything much with the Pulse until this week.

Today, I tried taking a time-lapse sequence of photos. It worked, but stopped early, and I need to determine why (I have a few ideas). However, I did get over 150 RAW photos of the foothills in Golden that I need to figure out how to stitch into a movie. It wasn’t the best weather for anything that looked impressive, but it was good enough for a first try. I’ll be trying more soon.

I don’t believe I will attend

Monday, November 28th, 2016

Last night, Marion and I went to a local dance studio that has open dancing on Sunday nights. Unfortunately, last night’s dance was cancelled – the studio was closed so that they could supervise rehearsals for an interpretive dance retelling of Star Wars. Yeah, not to my taste.

By the way, a web search for “Star Wars Interpretive Dance” brings up a number of possibly-interesting results.

Yesterday, all my troubles …

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

… were dealt with, but not always well.

I mentioned last week that I had a growth cut off my nose. They finished the biopsy and called me to say that it was a fibrous papule, and benign. More or less what I expected, but still good news.

However, I also dropped my car off at 8am yesterday for a recall service (ignition problems with Saturn Vue). They provided me with a loaner, because they said it would take most of the day. Around 4:30pm, I called to ask if it was ready. They said it was, and that they had left a message with me around 11:30am. Since I’d received no messages, I asked what number they called.

It wasn’t mine.

It was one digit off, which, because I went over my number three times to make certain they had it correctly, was disappointing. The dealership that had to do the service was more-or-less at one point of an equilateral triangle, the other points being my home and my work, and now I had to go through the evening rush to pick up my car.

Oh, well. At least I’ve got the car back now, and everything is working.

I think.

I’ve also been working on an SDCARD interface. It’s worked, at least mostly, a few times, but not reliably. I’d determined that the code was apparently ignoring whatever signals that something is deleted, and reformatting the card seemed to help. Now, it’s looking more like it’s the card itself that’s the problem, or at least contributing to the problems I’m seeing. I’ve been explaining things to the stuffed moa on my desk, but that hasn’t helped me come up with a solution yet.

Blood and books

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Yesterday, I had a growth cut off my nose. I had thought it was a wen, but I appear to have been wrong. I’d been referred to a dermatologist, because the techs in my doctor’s office felt that they couldn’t deal with it without causing a significant scar.

The appointment was in the middle of the afternoon, so I went back to work afterward. Unfortunately, it bled enough that the bandaid they put over it was useless. When I got home, I pulled it off, which wasn’t hard because the blood had undermined the adhesive. I cleaned my nose and put a new bandaid on.

Tonight, I had dance classes – samba and west coast swing. I perspired so much in class that the new bandaid came off. Not fun. I’ll put another one on before I go to bed, to reduce the chance of bleeding on my pillowcase, but I’m not sure how long I should expect it to last.

Prior to the samba class, the instructor was teasing one of the women about a book she was reading. During class, I asked her about it (we switch off every few minutes, so every man dances with every woman), and she mentioned that it was a story called “The Lottery.” Apparently not the Shirley Jackson story by that name, because she mentioned that one separately. I told her that my favorite Shirley Jackson story was “One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts.” She hadn’t heard of it. I guess she’ll have the fun of reading it for the first time.