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Monday, July 3rd, 2006

Personal Update

There’s been a few blog-worthy events in my personal life the last week or two, but I haven’t had much of a chance to post, and I’ve squandered what little time I’ve had on privacy/technology/political/medical issues. So I may as well try to blurt out as much of it as I can in one post.

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After finishing up a reread in May of one of my favorite books ever, Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson, I decided to retackle his intimidating three volume set, The Baroque Cycle. I had started the first volume after Stephenson signed the copy that I had waited outside the bookstore for on the first day of release, at (purchase and signing) that great independent bookstore in San Diego, Mysterious Galaxy. However, I wasn’t able to complete it because of a Significant Event in my life around Thanksgiving 2003; and the book went up on the shelf, to be later joined by signed first editions of The Confusion and The System of the World. Normally I’m a fast reader, and up to that point in my life I routinely read a novel a week, and found additional time to keep up with Newsweek, Discover, and the odd nonfiction book. But Stephenson’s works are something to be savored, lest you miss some clue to the Great Secrets that are hinted at. I just finished the last tome, and looking back, I was amazed to see that it had taken me two months. All this time it has been a real chore when writing to avoid Capitalizing Important Words to convey Emphasis, in the seventeenth century style that he mimicked, but for the occasion I’ll let a few slip through. The story was engrossing, and although it didn’t reveal as much as I had hoped it would, it has really piqued my interest in that period of history. I can only hope for many more from Neal, but the obviously intense amount of preparation and effort that must have gone in to his last efforts leads me to believe that I will have to be patient. Meanwhile, while going through my usual stocking of pertinent and helpful links for this post, I stumbled across the postcyberpunk article at Wikipedia, and see there a treasure trove of similar books that I can seek out. (As usual, I think the literary analysis is overreaching, but then, English majors have to have something to do.)

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Last weekend, I took Chelsea and Boo up to my brother’s place in LA to catch my mother in town, visiting from Massachusetts, and because June is the big birthday month at their house. On Saturday we caught the tail end of my nephew’s second birthday party, and on Sunday we all went out the Travel Town Museum in Griffith Park. Boo was in heaven. Not only was he playing with other little boys (our neighbors only seem to have produced little girls), but he got to see an impressive model railroad set, climbed up on real steam locomotives, and rode the miniature train. My brother and sister-in-law are just experts at getting out of the house and finding someplace to go that is genuinely enjoyable, more often than not educational, and never a crass, touristy commercial venture. I don’t know how they do it, but kudos to them.

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I got a letter in the mail this week from Chelsea’s school. She was hoping it was her semester grades (should I be suspicious about how anxiously she’s waiting for those to show up?), but it was a report on how she did on her first attempt at taking the CAHSEE, the California High School Exit Examination. There’s been a lot of controversy here in California of late: after many legal battles since this graduation requirement became law in 1999, the Class of 2006 finally became the first to have the requirement enforced. Some 47,000 seniors did not get their high school diplomas last month because they didn’t pass the test.

Chelsea, as a sophomore, on her first try, passed both portions of the test – English and Mathematics. I am so proud of her. Did you get that? I Am So Proud Of Her. Are you sure? I AM SO PROUD OF HER.

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After what has seemed like years of waiting, I got a new computer at work. True, I gave up my slot six months ago with a strategic decision that I was getting by on available resources, and by deferring my gratification I would probably get a better machine. But in the beginning of June I received a Dell Latitude D610 laptop with docking station. It’s certainly not cutting edge, and I could have gotten far greater performance by opting for a desktop, but portability is a significant factor – I’m tired of not having my normal tools while I’m traveling. It sports a 1.73 GHz Pentium M, 40 GB hard drive, DVD/CDRW, and, of course integrated stuff that people take for granted nowadays, like a stronger wireless link than any plug in card that I’ve ever tried; and Windows XP Pro. The only performance bump that I asked my old friends at IT for, and received, was a full gig of 795 MHz RAM instead of the standard 512K. I joyously unpacked it, plugged it all in, took a look at it, took another look at it, took a real good look at it, and left it to sit on my desk for a couple of weeks.

I don’t think I’ve been the recipient of a new computer since my TRS-80 Model 100 back in 1983. Since then, at home and at work, I’ve received hand-me-downs, or built my own out of whatever parts were laying around. Later, at home, I was able to spurn used components, and assembled machines after calculated performance vs. cost appraisals of each piece and patiently waiting for the right sale. So it was a bit of a shock to see what comes pre-installed in a new computer nowadays, plus the applications deemed essential by the IT Department. I started off, when I got the time, by assiduously documenting the details that I considered important (because I was going to change them) – the processes and their starting states, and a list of all the start-at-boot applications. I also set up tables to document the changes I was going to be making in the environment variables, registry edits, and applications I was going to install. But the rest of this story belongs in a separate, technical post. For now, it is sufficient to note that after an hour or four of tweaking, I took the (to me) plodding little minivan and turned it into a somewhat respectable sports car.

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Thanks to Google Adsense, I’ve started making money from my blog! In May, I earned 14 cents, less than the amount Google transferred into my checking account just to test the direct deposit. In June, I earned a whopping $3.12! Thanks to whoever clicked on the Get Firefox link! Hmmm – I don’t know that I’m ready to give up my day job yet.

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Yesterday was my twelfth wedding anniversary.

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Today is my 41st birthday. I don’t feel older than I did at turning 40. I took the day off (most other people at work also used their floating holiday to turn this into a four day weekend), and got a surprise breakfast in bed from Chelsea (semantics, but I don’t sleep in a bed), but otherwise limited my celebration to not really doing much, and not feeling guilty about it.

Well, that’s going to have to do it for this post. I feel better for getting a few things off my chest, and I’m sure I will remember later some more absolutely essential things that I should have written about, but that’s what you get when you put things off.

Posted by Greg in Family & Friends, Posts About Me

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 3rd, 2006 at 23:18 PST and is filed under Family & Friends, Posts About Me. You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

One Response to “Personal Update”

  1. Ramblings » Blog Archive » My New Computer - Chock Full with Big-Brotherware says:

    […] My New Computer – Chock Full with Big-Brotherware I’ve been trying to be real good with my new work computer – I got it on 07 June, and there’s all kinds of things that I haven’t installed on it that I used to consider basic necessities. Hell, I haven’t even installed Mozilla yet; but this restraint has given me the chance to try out Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2, which I don’t loath nearly as much as I expected to. […]