Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Link of the day

Skype blocked in United Arab Emirates

The assumption is that the UAE is blocking Skype because the national phone company, Etisalat, wants it that way. My assumption is that the UAE wants to keep monitoring the phone calls of its citizens.

This reminds me of a story from 1995, when I was working as a phone jockey for the (then giant) online service CompuServe. A guy called from Saudi Arabia, who was clearly a native English speaker, and was looking for local access numbers for the UK. I looked them up for him, and then asked why he didn't want numbers more local.

"Go ahead and look it up," he said.

The contact number listed was for the "Ministry of Telecommunications", and didn't list any network interconnect info like direct-CIS, Equaint, France Telecom, etc.

I explained all this to him and he said "Yeh, I called them already, and the next day the secret police knocked on my door and asked why I wanted to be on the Internet."

Monday, April 25, 2005

Good daddy week

I'll be honest, sometimes I'm not motivated to be the uber-dad. You will always burn yourself out if you focus your enthusiasm and energy for too long. "Above average" will always outlast "best". I did, in fact, burn myself out on volunteering. I was turned down for my regular gig this year of teaching a computer class to a local school's fifth graders, and in a way that was a very good thing.

I was pushing myself very hard, and I don't always get a warm reception from staff or students at schools, which made my efforts seem futile. After I realized I was burning out, I quit my backup gig of doing miscellaneous work as a teacher's assistant in my daughter's school. I had worked one on one with students on special projects, or helped kids who were falling behind finish an assignment that they had trouble with, and I managed to squeeze in a quick computer class one day. But my heart wasn't in it, and if I had kept at it much longer, the kids would have seen indifference on my face, which to most kids is worse than anger. So I quit before it got too bad. I may return to volunteering when I feel a calling, but I'm not in a hurry.

So now I'm aiming for above average daddy-hood, trying to just be involved in some of Stacey's activities, and push her to do better in school, not trying to make every day the perfect ray of sunshine, and not feel that I should make anyone cry uncle who doesn't agree that Stacey is the world's most perfect child. Last week had me feeling happy to be an involved parent again. I bought Stacey a better fitting bike, signed her up for Girl Scouts summer camp, and arranged for her to audition for "Annie jr.", a version of Annie cast with only kids, put on by the New Albany Arts Council (more on that later). We also decided to be Captain and Tenille at next year's talent show, and I've started working on the piano side of "Shop Around" to accompany Stacey's vocals.

I had time for it all, and didn't have to push myself (or Stacey), which qualifies the last seven days as a good daddy week.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Fun with Google maps

I love google maps. Their terms of service forbid you from reverse engineering, decompiling, etc., but no effort is made to hide how their image indexing system works. It's a piece of cake.

My current "I'm bored so let's geek out" project is to create a street-level map of my home city and make it detailed enough to need a poster-sized print. Coming soon. No, seriously, the check's in the mail.

Until then, here are a couple places you can find me when I'm not geeking out:

$20 to the first person who can name both places and snail-mail it to me. I'll enclose a $20 bill and a congratulations note on a card I recently purchased in Washington D.C. When I'm rich and famous, it'll be a collectors item.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

One of these days...

...I'm going to make my millions, and then quit my job and open a daycare. I realize that sounds odd for a tech geek (and a man) to say, but I can't think of any career changes that would make me happier.

The master plan includes recruiting all the women I've worked with over the years who truly loved kids (not just keeping up the appearance of being nurturing and maternal, but who really thought kids were cool -- about 1 in 5), hated their jobs (most), and who would still dane to have a conversation with me (about half), and who have seen me shower my daughter with affection and praise (all of them).

With me and my geek-gone-caregiver posse, we would create a very mentally stimulating environment for young tots, with computers a-plenty, board games, RC cars, maybe an arcade cabinet or two for the school-agers who only stay during the summer. And naturally, I'd be the hero for organizing the whole thing, which, while not my primary motivation, is a large part of the appeal.

On my old site I talk about this a little bit in some of the earlier blog entries in the archive. What got me thinking about it again was this song I downloaded ("Bate, bate, chocolate", a kindergarten song in Spanish about mixing chocolate) when looking for iTunes songs for Stacey. It reminded me of this woman who was a caregiver to Stacey for a while when she was 3 and 4.

Her name was Elizabeth, and I don't think she's ever felt sad in her entire life. She loved the kids she took care of, and the kids all wanted to adopt her as their new mom. The day that always comes to mind when I think of her is one where I was a little later than normal dropping Stacey off. Elizabeth had the kids sitting in a circle of chairs, and when Stacey saw what was going on she booked over there to join in, foregoing the goodbye kiss and sad look she usually gave me.

They were singing "Little cabin in the woods", where each kid has to chime in with what is chasing them to make them go running by, scared as they could be. The round ends with the kid being rescued by the kid who came before, and runs up to Elizabeth and gives her a giant hug when she says "Come little Stacey, come with me, happy you will always be."

I had never seen anything like that before. Stacey was so happy, as were the other kids, and the song leader was enjoying herself as much as Tricia Sebastian is in the "Chocolate" song above. For the two minutes I was there observing before I left, I was in love with her. She really was going to rescue Stacey from all the mean things. It was beautiful.

At the same time, it was a simple child's game, singing in rounds, making up the thing that is chasing you (bears, lions, motorcycles -- none of the girls chimed in "boys", which I was a little bummed about), and Elizabeth and the kids probably forgot about it soon thereafter and went about their normal lives. It was part of the day, and it was normal, and it didn't change anything. But to me, it was special.

Nothing I did at the time was that special. I waited for my phone to ring and painstakingly waited for a chance to speak so I could explain how the caller had failed to follow instructions, or how our programmers had failed to write a quiality product. No saving people from the bears chasing them, no mixing chocolate. Maybe I was making more money than a daycare teacher, but It was I who had the short end of the stick.

So one day, after I make my millions... One of these days.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Link of the day: Math fun.

This is an old one from my roommate that I re-discovered. A page on calculating the intersection area of two circles given their center coordinates and radii. Check it out here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Link of the day

Fabien Cousteau and his Shark-shaped submarine.
Read more about it here.

Monday, April 04, 2005

I posted some articles from work today, which is the first time in nearly two years I’ve updated one of my sites from outside of the house. My current job blocks outbound SSH traffic from user workstations, and after a couple attempts at workarounds (trying different ports, for example) I decided to leave it alone lest I get fired for trying to hack the network. Considering that my current position involves transmission of the company’s financial records, the appearance of hacking is a very bad thing, and in the wake of Sarbanes-Oxley, possibly leading to jail time.

So I couldn’t SSH home and update a page. Using Blogger is easier than my old method of SSH-ing home and running a perl script that calls emacs and updates the blog file system when you exit. I liked the idea of having total system control, but in reality all I wanted to accomplish was to just add a diary entry to a web page, which I can do from any public free blog service.

Tonight is the big UNC/Illinois game. I haven’t watched a UNC basketball game since the roster contained names like Jordan, Worthy, and Perkins, so I’m not sure what to expect. Basketball isn’t the game it was when I was a boy, in fact, sports in general has changed. On one side, sports medicine has improved; keeping players that would have been crippled in the game. Cheap technology makes analyzing everything easier – more statistics until they become too confusing to be useful (Joe shoots worse on Tuesdays, unless it’s raining), more film to watch and more specialists to extract meaning from it. On the other hand, players are bigger asses than they’ve ever been, and sports commentating has become an overly animated talk show hosted by taunting and jeering buffoons.

Anyway, I’m watching the game at my amigo’s house across the street. Prediction: UNC by 8. I’ll say about 65 to 57.

Today (as my calendar indicates) was parent observation day in Stacey’s tap dancing class. The girls went over some basic steps and a 3-minute routine they are practicing for the upcoming recital. Stacey was performing about the same as she did in ballet a few years ago: She was excitable at first and couldn’t follow the instructor’s lead with much precision (only slightly worse off than the other girls) until about half-way through the recital routine, where her superior memory helped her stay on target where some of the other girls began to falter. If I could only get her to calm down beforehand… well, she wouldn’t be Stacey, and that would suck.

So I ‘m looking forward to her recital in May. She’s done performances before and always does great. Her ballet recital went well way back when, her Americheer cheerleading group was the intermission act at a competition downtown and also at Otterbein college, she showed remarkable poise under pressure at this year’s talent show when her music was inaudible and she was forced to sing a cappella (what a champion, I was so proud of her then), and she’s been in about 4 or 5 local parades under various groups. She’s got the crowd thing down. I worry when I see her struggling with her bounciness and not quite having all the moves down, but I trust her to settle herself down and hit all her moves come game day.

I’m also fairly certain I worry about this stuff a lot more than she does.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Day 1

I am.

There, that should satisfy the basic requirement of blogging, self-declaration.

The present:
I am a father to my kid. I am a coder. I am a burned out volunteer. I am self indulgent and self deprecating.

The future:
I am going to put my kid through medical school. I am going to pay for her wedding and send her on an overpriced honeymoon. I am going to retire at 60 with $1,500,000 in the bank. I am going to stop working for the man sometime before then and code and write from my home. I am going to visit Europe. I am going to make $10,000 playing blackjack in Las Vegas without counting cards. I am going to finish my two novels and get them both published.

That pretty much covers it: love for my child, greed, and goals that are difficult but attainable. I'll write more about these declarations later.