Thursday, May 22, 2008

Whistle While You Work

It's not exactly Tiny Tim cavorting through a verdant field of lush, vibrant colors and flora, but it's better'n nuffin', as they say in Ye Olde Western films.

First and foremost, of course, there's the piling-on syndrome inherent with work; some offices are quiet with inactivity and a lack of need. This one, however, is not; we've got plenty to do on any given day and the hits just keep on coming. Sure, I could complain that I've got 12 hours of work to address each day and after I've put in six or so hours in the office and another two downtown (if not more than two) and than an additional hour or so at home reviewing my work and subsequently falling asleep at the keyboard, I'm still not quite all caught up. It's a Catch-22. But I'd much prefer having the problem of having too much to do than the problem of having too little. Then again, check back in a few weeks during my next filing deadline and I might espouse a slightly different opinion.

But I digress.

At the heart of the issue is the PC. I've been using the same Dell XPS desktop for a few years now -- October of 2004, actually -- and my machine is almost "fully crapped out." For those of you unfamiliar with PC lingo, that's the technical term for "dying a slow death." Others include DOA, shitting the bed, doing the silicon nap, the semi-conductor cheese-squeeze -- the list goes on and on but the bottom line is I've milked as much out of the work PC as I'm going to. I don't mind the fact my home PC is faster, more efficient or better at doing everything I do during my waking hours; the problem is that the work PC needs a variety of key upgrades that would wind up costing more than the machine is worth, so we're relegating it to "server" duty. What that means is that, for the second time in about three months, I'm going to have to prep from scratch a new machine (we ordered a Lenovo ThinkPad as its replacement) and demote my current desktop to scan/print duty. Like a racehorse past its prime, it's no longer fit for rigorous daily use but still can sire a scan job or print job every now'n then...

What's interesting is that I configured the new machine Monday night with Windows XP Pro and then Tuesday morning, when we went to buy the machine, we were told that Windows XP Pro is no longer for sale. Apparently, Microsoft decided to stop selling Windows XP as of June 1st (which we knew when it was announced a few months ago) but apparently May 20th is synonymous with June 1st. I'm not sure why this problem cropped up or why Microsoft is going with a shitty operating system (Vista) over a solid, mature, reliable one that is compatible with everything I've thrown at it, including third-party and proprietary 'ware, but the short and long is it's going to take a shitload of effort (not to mention the worry factor) to get the situation resolved. It turns out everything will be fine -- there's, much like a strip club, a back-door solution, but it's still a serious pain in the ass. Thanks, Microsoft.

On top of that, we've got a new load of annual data coming in sometime next week. Since Monday is Memorial Day, that means the new machine -- which is being built as we speak -- will be delayed a day. And, thereafter, that means the new machine will probably arrive after the new data load is set and scheduled to be uploaded to our server. Which means -- if you're still following -- our consultant will have visited our office, uploaded the data and left for greener pastures well before Mr. UPS makes me sign for the box from Lenovo.

Yet another pain in the ass.

Now, granted, that's not the end of the world. It's just that since we're a small office, we make every effort to minimize the external distractions and delays inherent in the daily workday. So having our consultant swing by for the data delivery -- which is crucial, of course -- would have been ideally timed to coordinate with the arrival of the new machine. But since Lenovo isn't a quick mover, the new machine -- in theory -- won't ship until June 10th. By my calculations, June 10th is about three weeks away. The new data -- about one week away. You don't need one o' them-thar fancy abacus devices to know that means two visits.

Oh well.

Meanwhile, as the workload flows onto and off of my desk, things are otherwise fairly peachy. I've got a few major happenings this summer and I'm trying to plan around them; for the most part, everything is going according to plan. But the silver lining/dark cloud thing can rear its ugly head at any given moment, so even though we ordered the new PC, it's going to be a few weeks until it arrives; as with any other plans, Murphy's Law definitely applies. So all the busy-ness coming at us like a bullet train in a Tokyo suicide-infested suburb might very well derail some of my plans for the summer. Alas, things out of my control are just that: out of my control.

Of course, Kaia's impending move to NYC is rolling along, and she'll be here in a week or ten days to continue scoping out the rapidly inflated housing market. I'm not sure what she'll end up choosing -- location-wise or configuration-wise -- but I'm guessing it will be something near my place and something akin to a one-bedroom. Questions remain about what we'll do with her car and when the move date will actually be, but for the most part, we're rolling with it in good faith and the excitement builds.

And if nothing else, it's a journey, not a destination; hopefully this rest stop along life's highway is just the first in our new chapter.

And if I can squeeze in a few more overbearing cliches, I'll be sure and let you know.

Meanwhile, hope everyone has a happy Memorial Day without work, aggravation or bullshit. At the very least, one out of three ain't bad.


Monday, May 12, 2008

So Much To Say...

Well, despite the fact that it's been nearly a week since my last visit, I can honestly admit that I don't feel bad in not getting back here sooner. So much has been happening -- even more than usual -- that I haven't had time to feel guilty for being an absentee landlord of sorts.

First, everything over the past week or so culminated yesterday with Mother's Day. I managed to get everything together -- goodies, a nice arrangement of flowers for my mama, cards, a charged digicam -- and spread the love. It's always nice spending time with my family, but making sure I got all my ducks in a row this year -- and being able to do so -- was really great. We went to brunch in the mid-afternoon and got to spend time with my grandmother and my uncle, and we had a wonderful time. More importantly, both my mom and my grandmother had a wonderful time, which was/is the point. And since there was no baseball, no football, no basketball and no (Rangers) hockey to distract me, I had as much fun as (hopefully) did they.

Second, Verizon Wireless finally released a new Blackberry right as my plan was due for review and re-up. Since we're all locked into a big family/office plan, the dollars were due to increase since the Blackberry pricing got beefed up over the past month or two, so they basically told me "Get a new phone or you'll be paying another $50 per month." Thanks, Verizon. So I got my paws on the new
Blackberry Curve.

Those who know me know I'm a bit of a technophile (just a tad), so the fact that I waited more than two years -- you read that right -- to upgrade to the new 'Berry says a lot. What says more is that I was and continue to be seriously impressed by this new Curve. Despite the fact that, sure, the Curve was available to AT&T people a year ago; but the thing is, Verizon's wireless network here in NYC is so much better that I wasn't willing to consider having our lines switched over. The short version: since we have four lines, switching over would be a one-time, somewhat monumental task. It'd have to be the kind of thing where we were having serious problems with our phones, and the truth is that the price plan I managed to get us hooked into is fair, we rarely -- if ever -- have phone issues (unless, like with my dad, we forget to charge the phones), and everything works well. So switching just to get better, nicer, newer phones didn't seem to make much sense. Why go for something new and shiny if old reliable still works better than anything that follows it? So, I scored a Curve. And the nice thing is because of the timeframe, they dropped the price for me another $100, so I got the phone for next to nothing, a week before they were officially released, and the switch to the new device was painless.


What wasn't painless, of course, was my ISP decided to crap out for a day or two so my download speed was slower than most modems from the 80's. There was some sort of problem -- line problem, server problem, uplink problem -- that wound up with my connection losing data (official term: packet loss), but a techie showed up late Friday with some cool tools and solved the problem. On top of that, he saw some of the games I had on the shelf by my PC and we talked geek for a few, so he hooked me up with some bitchin' sites vis-a-vis anti-spyware and some great utilities as well. Given I just installed the new Berry and am syncing it nightly with my home PC to keep everything up to date, I was and am pretty jazzed.

Speaking of hom and work PC's, my work PC's starting to take its final walk to PC heaven. Things are slowing to a crawl and the machine creaks when I'm running Word and Excel along with a couple browser windows, which basically is constantly, so it's likely I'm going to be needing a replacement. I've gotten a variety of suggestions, but it's likely I'm going to get a notebook -- either a Lenovo or a high-end Dell -- and since I've had a notebook in the past, plus lots of experience using Kaia's -- I'm curious if having a notebook for work will be doable. I'll end up plugging in a keyboard, a mouse and my monitor at work so odds are it won't be a big deal, and it will definitely run faster than my machine does currently, but I'm not sure if a notebook is the right move, and if it is, I'm sort of overwhelmed by the variety of what's out there. I actually considered building my own machine for the office -- a desktop, natch -- but I'm not sure if having my entire office-based productivity hinging on something I assembled is really the right way to go. True, I'll be familiar with every single thing inside the box, but if anything goes wrong, I'll be crapping myself instead of calling Dell, Lenovo or the local/long-distance PC tech people with whom I consort on- and offline.

Finally...Kaia's hitting NYC in early June to continue her apartment search and to hang out for awhile. I'm guessing her swing here will be a couple weeks, and hopefully that will be enough time for her to find a place and leave some of her stuff behind to bring by cab rather than prep for the movers.

Nothing much else exciting to report; we're still on track to hit Mexico for a friend's wedding in August, July's going to be a hot n' busy month -- specially if Kaia's moving here therein -- and the road is open and the tank is filled with $3/gallon gas.

I'm outtie.


Tuesday, May 06, 2008

This Is Too Cool for School...and the USPS (And Other Stuff)

Tired of waiting on the USPS website to update itself to show shipping progress? Want to keep track of someone without their knowing?

This lets you slip a credit-card-sized tracker in, on or in close proximity to someone. Sure, it's designed to be dropped along with other items -- cash, papers, discs, whatever -- in an envelope. But drop this sucker in someone's glove box or on the floor of their back seat and you'll have instant location on 'em 24-7. So for you stalker types, and you know who you are, knock yourself out.

Incidentally, in honorable mention, this is a keeper. It's a one-shot news story about Amy Winehouse, but hot-damn is it worth a click.

And finally, this should be required reading for any and every guy out there without an older brother. Had I had the opportunity to peruse this site, I would have avoided three miserable years with the ex. Had I taken said missed opportunity prior to meeting her, I would have noted she was a member of seven of the listed categories and I would have been off faster than a Puerto Rican prom dress. C'est la vie.

By the way, the site to which that link leads is titled, simply, "Women To Avoid II" and will be perma-linked at the right to insure others glean the wisdom contained therein.

Good night, and good luck.