The Thermos

Just had a birthday yesterday (30-something) and my parents sent me as a gift an aluminum Nissan Thermos. It holds 33 cl. of liquid, which, I think, is about 11 oz. It’s funny, because this sort of thing is so common in the United States, where the long drive to work drinking a large quantity of drip coffee is such a typical aspect of the average American’s day. But here in Europe, your rarely see such things, as people tend to prefer quickly downing a tiny espresso at the roadside cafe. Most of my friends here, when seeing this thermos sitting in the kitchen will say, “What is that?”

Anyway, since I don’t tend to drink 33 cl of espresso at a go (I don’t have a drip coffee maker), I decided to dedicate my shiny new thermos to the after lunch tea. So today, after lunch, I boiled some water, threw in a mint tea bag, and closed up the thermos to let it steep.

About an hour and half later, I noticed the thing sitting on my desk, and thought, “Dang! I forgot about my tea. It’s going to be cold! Oh well.”

Wrong. Very wrong.

As I write this blog entry, some four hours later, my tongue still feels like I decided to lick a hot griddle. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to taste anything again! My neighbors must surely think there’s a screaming lunatic living in this house.

Reading the instruction manual of the thermos after the fact (as usual) I find the big warning that this baby can keep liquids at nearly the same scalding temperature for almost FOUR HOURS! This thing is an absolute marvel of thermal engineering, comparable to, oh, say, the heat shields on the front of the freakin’ space shuttle! If I ever go to Mount Everest, I’ll be the guy having hot chicken noodle soup on the summit.

Anyway, just wish I’d considered all that earlier. Ouch. πŸ™

Old Time Rock and Roll

As a teenager, I used to wonder how dad could love those oldies from the 50s and 60s so much, when today’s music is obviously far better. As a 30-something, I now know why. Instantly transporting us to the feelings and emotions of the past, music is about as close as we come to a medium of time travel.

The Apple Music Store now provides access to the Billboard Top 100 list, going back to (I think) the early 60s. Last night I downloaded some old favs from the late 80s and early 90s, and enjoyed reminiscing the days of cruising the strip in Daytona Beach with my buddies listening to Def Leppard’s Photograph, and that first girlfriend breakup listening to Dan Fogelberg’s Same Old Lang Syne. πŸ™‚

Reality

I think it was in a Steven Covey book where I read the statement that reality, for us as human beings, is usually distorted through personal biases with which we view the world.

My 12″ Powerbook G4 running OS X has been humming along for 18 days, without so much as a hiccup. I’ve changed locations several times, switched back and forth from Airport to Ethernet networking, changed network settings, carried it to several jiu-jitsu training sessions for DVD referencing, open it and closed it more times than I can remember — and through it all, it has been rock solid.

Staring at that 18 day uptime figure, I am reminded of the days of Mac OS 9. At the time, I thought it was the best operating system in the world, and argued that to anyone who would listen. And I bought Mac OS 9-based laptops for our newly employed software engineers.

I distinctly recall coming to work one morning, and seeing my former colleague Alfred sitting there with a closed Powerbook in front of him. “Matt, I’m ready to throw this thing through the window. I can’t bear to spend another 10 minutes watching those startup icons march across the screen. How can you call any operating system that crashes daily, requires continuous ‘rebuilding of the desktop’, trashing prefs, reinstalling the system, stops processing completely when you click a menu, requires restarting at the slightest change, and hangs when the network goes down a great operating system?”

Alfred was used to the world of Linux and Solaris — where stability was measured in months or years, not hours. But in spite of that, I just couldn’t understand how he didn’t see the light. (And, hadn’t he tried Conflict Catcher yet?)

Well, now that I’m immersed in the world of Mac OS X — i.e. the world of Unix-based operating systems — I totally understand him, and am amazed how I could have ever been such a champion of OS 9. I think it was that I loved the theory of OS 9 so much that I overlooked the day to day realities of it. “Sure, I’m constantly rebuilding the desktop, but it’s such a great concept! It’ll get better. Just wait for 9.8!”

That whole experience reminds me of an old country song, “Rose Colored Glasses.”

In a similar vein, I’ve recently been arguing with my system admin buddy Niall about routers. Niall is a “hate Microsoft and the Establishment, Go Open Source!” kinda guy that would love for Linux to run his entire life (He wants a car radio running Linux.) Anyway, he plans to setup a Linux box running the Linux-based Smoothwall firewall as our company’s DSL router. I’m no expert on such matters, but I as I stare at my tiny little 3com home DSL box that I was able to setup and configure in about five minutes, and has never required a bit of maintenance, I just have to wonder whether a Linux-based router — even if it’s technically possible — is a better long-term solution than an off-the-shelf 200 Euro router appliance?

Is my friend’s view of Linux-based… everything… distorted in a way similar to my pre-OSX view of operating systems? Is he wearing Penguin shaped glasses?

Lost Mobile Phone (How it Ended)

I’d nearly forgotten to post how the story with the mobile phone ended. Actually, everything turned out just fine. I arrived at the agreed meeting place at 8:30 p.m., not really knowing what to expect. But then I saw the man with the metal detector, systematically sweeping the beach for lost goodies. As I approached, he looked up and with a friendly smile fished my phone out of his bag, and handed it back to me. Although we couldn’t really communicate (he didn’t speak English or Spanish), I got the idea he was a very friendly person. I gave him a small tip for taking care of the phone.

So, all ended well, and I’ve got my phone back.

Bad Morning

Got up this morning, looking forward to my bike ride, and discovered that our phone line was out… So, I figured I’d call Telefonica from my mobile, so they can fix it while I’m out enjoying myself on the bike… Then, I can’t find my mobile… I decide that the best way to locate my mobile, is to call it… But of course, the phone line is out. Wife’s mobile! Ah, ha! Pino (my wife) says, “I have no credit left on the card.” Matt, thinking “I’ve told you SO many times about keeping credit on your phone…”, says, “Well, you probably have enough to initiate the call.” Pino says, “And the battery is dead.” Matt thinks “I’ve told you SO many times about keeping your phone charged!” So, we plug in Pino’s phone, wait a few minutes, and then try calling my mobile…It rings, but nobody answeres. And I can’t hear it anywhere in the house. So Pino says, “Get down to the beach where we were last night.” (Where Pino used my mobile, since she didn’t have hers!) So, I rush down to the beach, and see new footprints next to where we were last night. I rush back home (stopping to wave to all my cyclist buddies as they go riding by :-(, and try ringing the mobile again. A man answeres! But said man doesn’t speak spanish, barely speaks english, and sounds like a bum. He wants to meet me tonight at 8:30 in front of a hotel on the beach. I say, “Can’t we meet now?” He say, “No. Very far away. Go working now. Meet tonight. 8:30. Front hotel.” I say, “Wait, how will I recognize you?” He say, “What recognize mean?” I say, “Uhhh, how will I SEE you???!!!” He say, “I’m man with metal detector. On beach every night.

“To be continued…

VersionTracker 6. Oh my goodness.

If you want to see what techies are capable of doing when they’ve got their hands on a lot of data and a relational database, and no idea whatsover of user-interface design, have a poke around the new and improved VersionTracker.com.

Consistent alignment? Nope. Consistent color use? Nope. Consistent anything? Nope. Sensible use of contrast? Nope. Related things visually grouped. Not hardly.

I think every techie (myself included!) should frequently have a read of [[[The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams]]].

Purchased Music

Gulp. My Purchased Music list in iTunes has grown to 109 songs. My wife’s gonna kill me! I’m not sure Apple making it so easy to purchase music was a good thing. πŸ˜‰

Anyway, stuff I’ve purchased includes U2, Bruce Springsteen, Choir of Mount Angel Abbey (Gregorian Chants), Atlanta Rhythm Section, Suzanne Vega, Best of Ben. E. King, Bon Jovi (She Don’t Know Me — haven’t heard that one in a long time!), Monsoon (on the recommendation of bbum’s blog), Vern Gosdin, Cutting Crew, Heart, Mike + The Mechanics and Little River Band (Boy, it’d been a long time since I’d heard the Little River Band!)

More Music Thoughts

Now that the Mac and the iPod support the AAC format, I’m re-encoding my CD library. The iTunes “auto-import-and-eject” feature makes this task much less daunting than it could be. Casually popping in CDs while I work, I should have the entire collection done in a few days. Since my original encodings were done at 192 bps (with variable rate enabled), the average filesize was about 7.5 megabytes. With AAC and 128 bps selected, it looks like that will be reduced to about 4.5.

Don’t know if the Music Service will be a big success, but it’ll likely be the bankruptcy of me. πŸ™‚ I’ll be watching Version Tracker for some shareware controls to help restrict impulse buying. πŸ™‚

As I talk to people about the Apple Music Service, the question of “Why pay $1 when I can have it for free?” keeps popping up. For me, it boils down to the following (apart from the question of ethics):

(1) It saves time. You can spend loads of time trying to find and successfully download a song encoded with sufficient quality. I consider 20 minutes of my time saved worth a bit more than $1.

(2) Identification of new music. Being able to browse the service, check out recommendations of others, and listen to 30-second clips of songs and artists I’d otherwise be unware of are definite advantagse of this mode of music shopping.

What I’m now looking for is a URL format to allow exchange of song/album recommendations. NSLog(); reports that work on this is underway.

By the way, the port to open in order to share your iTunes music is 3689 (use your firewall).

Pollo Andaluz!

Although the south coast of Spain is known for fresh fish, few things are tastier than a tender and juicy rotisserie chicken (or, Pollo Asado, in Spanish) with a plate of homemade french fries from Pollo Andaluz, a small chain of take-out rotisserie. Combine that with a chilled bottle of Rioja rosado, and you’ve got a meal to remember.

If you’re ever around the Marbella area, be sure to check it out!