Stef Gets A License… Again

“It’s really not that hard,” she asked as she approached the examiner. She was expecting him to minimize her angst. Instead he told her a lot of people flunk!

DMV_thumb.jpgStef is getting settled in California. She called yesterday to relay word she’d gotten her California driver’s license. She had to take a written test! In California that’s the law.

  • It’s ALWAYS good to hear from your child
  • The test was hard

“It’s unfair,” she said.

Her point was she needed to take the test while her grandfather, who until yesterday couldn’t see to the end of his outstretched arm, gets automatic renewals by mail. Oh Stefanie. What you don’t know about Florida politics, seniors and driving&#185!

This was her second trip to the DMV. The first time through she waited 45 minutes to be told her Connecticut license not only isn’t good enough to get a bye on the written test, it isn’t good enough for identification either! She needed something like a passport… which she had… just not with her.

Back yesterday and fully documented Stef made her way to the station where the written test was administered. She sat and watched as the two people in front of her took the test… and failed. Oh crap!

“It’s really not that hard,” she said (though she said it as a question) as she approached the examiner. She was expecting him to minimize her angst. Instead he told her a lot of people flunk!

“I checked it over more than any test in college,” she said on the phone yesterday. This didn’t give me the warm and fuzzies over her college career, but I understand.

  • A driver’s license is very important
  • No one wants to make three trips to the DMV

Administered on paper the test runs 35 questions. She was asked about the age and height necessary to graduate from a car seat and where to sit for maximum airbag efficacy.

Would you pass?

Luckily Stef had visited the DMV website and looked at some sample tests. She got 32 of 35 right. In return they punched a hole in her Connecticut card and gave her a piece of paper to hold her the month or two until the real license comes.

Life seems good for Stef in Cali. Even from this distance I’m watching her adapt and grow.

For the remainder of her life she will avoid the DMV like the plague!

&#185 – The point is now moot because at this moment my father can read without glasses–something his son cannot do! I can’t mention that enough. It’s an amazing event and I am thrilled for my folks.

Car Chases

Is it news? That’s a tougher question.

“I don’t do crack, but I think this is probably what it’s like.”

The quote is from Helaine. She said it as I was scrambling to leave the house and drive to work. She was referring to today’s Dallas, TX police chase.

“There should be a channel with only this,” she added.

They are addictive even though they’re entirely predictable. Attention miscreants: If you hear a copter overhead, pull over. You’re done.

I knew what Helaine was talking about because the chase was on the TV in the bedroom as I got dressed. MSNBC’s anchors were quizzing a Texas police dispatcher. They seemed more interested than he was.

dallas-chase-crash.jpgIt was a “routine traffic stop,” the dispatcher said. In some quarters those words are considered cover for police as they hassle minorities. In any event the driver took off and led police across the Dallas area for a few hours before running through an intersection and getting slammed by a pickup truck.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a follow-up. When the perp was caught the story ended.

Why is this stuff covered? People watch–that’s the easy answer.

Is it news? That’s a tougher question. MSNBC and others were following it without knowing any off the underlying factors. They were not following a crime or criminal as much as they were following a chase.

In the past I’ve referred to this as soft core porn for newsrooms. My opinion hasn’t changed.

I Forgot A Plug

I’m at Gate 4 at Bradley International. Across the hall is Gate 3 where our lone transatlantic flight used to park–sad.

The trip up was uneventful… well except for that moment when I realized I’d forgotten my cellphone charger! Luckily the BlackBerry uses a standard mini-USB. I can find one of those!

Things are quiet. I was the only one in the van from the parking lot. The driver overheard my conversation with Helaine and commented how it sounded like we had a good relationship. Yup.

This is a low stress flight for me. In fact my biggest worry has been whether to sit at the window or aisle. I’m thinking aisle for the convenience. I suspect if you look out the window too much you’re perceived as a gomer.

Mothers Day

It’s Mothers Day. I thought everyone was supposed to be on-the-road visiting mom?

Doesn’t anyone love mom anymore? It’s Mothers Day. We drove to Long Island to see Stef and so we could begin taking stuff back from her soon-to-be abandoned dorm room.

In the car, we left Connecticut around 10:00 AM and with the exception of a slowdown where I-91 empties into I-95 rolled smoothly all the way to campus. We must have made exceptional time because Stef wasn’t ready.

Even our late breakfast at a normally busy diner started with immediate seating (and then lackluster service).

It’s Mothers Day. I thought everyone was supposed to be on-the-road visiting mom? Decades ago this was the day long distance phone service use to break down under immense strain! Restaurants would turn away patrons. Everyone would see mom. Where were they?

This was the day to roll out a new GPS–a Garmin nĂ¼vi 260W. I bought it ‘factory refurbished’ on Amazon. If it is less than new, it is so in a way I can’t see.

I suctioned it to the wndshield and let it lead the way even though we could do this trip in our sleep.

I know GPS units are ubiquitous, but can we step back for a second and marvel?

  • It knows where we are.
  • It knows virtually all the streets in America and has a reasonable expectation of how fast or slow travel on each of them will be.
  • It can figure out a route in a few seconds, though there are essentially an infinite number of routes to choose from.
  • It presents a map which is constantly updated while it’s doing its other jobs.
  • It does all this while tracking a constellation of satellites whose signals are so weak it only knows they are there because the noise in its receiver is no longer truly random.

Yes, its guesses at pronunciation sometimes leaves something to be desired, The Meadowbrook Parkway is called “Muh-DO-brook.” Others names are equally bollixed, but not enough to make them undecipherable. And it calls out the streets in a myriad of voices and accents. It is cleverly useful.

Look around as you drive and see how many cars have one stuck where the driver can watch it. It is no longer the exception.


Ding Goes The Car

“Can you take bad news before you go on-the-air,” Jose asked? I wanted to go look but he yelled “sixty seconds” and I turned back to the set.

I was just thinking a few days ago about how lucky I’ve been to have my car remain unscathed for over ten years… until today. Someone backing out of a space at work backed into my driver’s side door.

It looks minor, though who knows in this day-and-age?

The newscast was on-the-air when it happened. Word was passed to our assignment desk and then to Jose, who was running ‘the floor.’

“Can you take bad news before you go on-the-air,” Jose asked? I wanted to go look but he yelled “sixty seconds” and I turned back to the set.

Terry, who hit my car was more shaken up than I was. Amazingly, for me, I was pretty calm. She didn’t aim for me. It’s just a car. It can/will be repaired. Life will go on.

Boy–that is calm for me.

We Nearly Got Killed On The Way To Our Vacation

By the time we’d seen the car it was too late. Had I been in my normal spot we’d be dead.

The title is serious. We almost got killed on I-91 just north of Hartford! I didn’t tell the story during our vacation because it was a little too spooky.

It was just before 5:00 AM last Saturday and we were northbound to Bradley. The road was dark. There was light traffic. I was doing around 70 mph. I’m usually a left lane driver, but was in the center as we passed the highway jumble that is Hartford.

“Look out,” Helaine yelled.

I turned my head left and for less than a second watched a car approach and then pass me. He was in the northbound left lane but he was heading soutbound at a high rate of speed! We probably passed each other at 150 mph.

For a moment neither Helaine nor I could get the image out of our minds. By the time we’d seen the car it was too late. Had I been in my normal spot we’d be dead.

I grabbed her hand and we proceeded silently for a moment. Then I picked up my cell and dialed 911.

“He’s probably in Downtown Hartford by now,” I told the State Police dispatcher. I dialed our TV station’s newsroom next.

Jason, a producer, answered. “Call the State Police in a few minutes,” I said. “Check and see if anything happens.”

All we could do was hope the driver figured out what was going on and exited the highway. There was no reported accident.

When it’s your time, it’s your time. It wasn’t ours yet.

Replacing Stef’s Lost License

I haven’t been in the DMV building in years. Its interior is still etched in my mind for the same reason I can still recall details of my tonsillectomy… from 1952. We remember pain.

“Are you OK?” Those were my first words after hello as I spoke to Helaine a few minutes ago. It was obvious something was up.

“We’ve been in line for an hour and twenty minutes,” she said. She sounded dejected. There was more waiting to come.

Somewhere, somehow, Stef lost her driver’s license. Though AAA is our secret shortcut to renewals, their website made it sound like they wouldn’t issue a replacement. There was no choice but to head to the drab, low slung, obviously government built and maintained office on State Street. A case can be made it’s functionally dysfunctional!

I haven’t been in the DMV building in years. Its interior is still etched in my mind for the same reason I still recall details of my tonsillectomy… from 1952. We remember terror and pain.

By any metric this has got to be the DMV’s worst week With Christmas and New Year’s only a week apart and the end of the month, and the year, one business day away people are crazed. There is no place left to put off the inevitable.

Stef will be much more protective of her license in the future.

Tuning My System

“It is expected the system will hang or crash during the tuning process.”

Nice. Major confidence builder.

OK–nvidia, here’s the deal. I have entrusted you with my main PC. Screw this up and it’s hell to pay.

This all started last night. I was testing the new Photoshop CS4 when I got an error message. There was some sort of incompatibility with my GPU–the ‘brain’ of my graphics card. I checked and sure enough the driver I had was old. Download, reload, reboot. Problem free.

Of course the next time I opened Photoshop I got the same message.

Interestingly, there’s a check box to tell Photoshop to stop bugging you. I have software equipped with a “self denial box!”

Anyway, my card isn’t the newest or fastest, but it seems to have the listed specs to handle Photoshop. I dove into the software suite that comes with the video drivers. My card was built by PNY, but the guts were designed by nVidia. I don’t understand the significance of that last sentence, but I’m throwing it out… just in case.

Within the nVidia software is a tab for “nTune.” Allegedly, in three hours it will tune my system, making tweaks to soup it up while maintaining stability. I’m not sure how it does that. The on-screen explanations say the least, to say the least!

There is one stern admonition.

“It is expected the system will hang or crash during the tuning process.”

Nice. Major confidence builder.

I started it before I went to bed. There aren’t many indications of what’s going on except every once in a while what looks like a scene from a game will pop up in its own window. Four characters arranged in a circle will jump and move. Then the window closes.

By this morning nTune had shut itself down. It didn’t automatically restart as implied (nothing is specific about this). I hit a few keys and now it’s cruising again. Last night it has boosted some internal clock speeds by nearly 20%. Today they’re back to the original settings. I don’t have a clue what’s going on. I’m much too trusting.

Like I said, nVidia you’re on notice. Don’t screw with my system.

The Opposite of Anonymous

“What’s the matter with you car,” he asked? How the hell did he know?

After 24 years in the market and nearly 20 years in our home, I’m pretty recognizable locally. I would be the wrong guy to send for porn or a package of Zig-Zags.

“Hey, aren’t you the weatherman,” the clerk would ask while pushing my copy of “Butts Galore” across the counter.

This afternoon on my way to work I started hearing wind noise from my driver’s side window. Maybe I hadn’t closed the car door correctly. I slowed down, but while still in motion opened and closed the door. The noise was still there.

I pulled to the side of the highway and stopped to assess the situation. The window had stopped working. It wasn’t moving and it wasn’t properly positioned. The noise was going to stay.

I came to work and called Helaine to tell her what had transpired. We weren’t on the phone more than a few minutes when call waiting chirped. It was Steve, my friend who has taken care of my car for all the time we’ve lived in Hamden.

“What’s the matter with you car,” he asked? How the hell did he know?

As it turns out, his wife was riding down the same highway and saw me off on the side. She called Steve. Then he called me as Helaine and I were talking about him!

I suppose being an anonymous face-in-the-crowd has its advantages. Just not today and not for me.

The Ex-Pat Life, or Farrell Meisel – Man Of Mystery

He called me to offer me a job. It was August 1980. It was the same day I met Helaine. We’re still friends. Helaine and me too.

My first contact with Farrell Meisel was on the phone. He called me to offer me a job, in Buffalo, hosting PM Magazine. It was August 1980. It was the same day I met Helaine.

We’re still friends. Helaine and me too.

Farrell’s no longer in US TV. Nowadays he brings his TV expertise to foreign station owners.

He launched the first commercial channel in Russia, for Ted Turner, following the fall of the USSR in 1992, has done consulting in Turkey, ran a huge cluster of radio and TV networks in Singapore, inaugurated Alhurra, the US government funded Arab language TV station for the Mideast, and ran a TV station in Warsaw, Poland. I’m sure I’ve left something out.

At the moment, his consulting hat is on again. He’s in Bucharest, Romania.

Farrell is an ex-pat, the slang term for a foreign national abroad. He seems most comfortable in that role.

To me, the ex-pat life is a throwback to the 50s, with more structure and formality than modern day America. It is a life where there is still customer service and where men are addressed as “sir.”

Obviously, this is all a guess. I don’t even have a valid passport.

Yesterday, Farrell sent me some observations from Romania. I asked him if I could share?

Every city I’ve visited or worked in is unique, special and odd in its own way. It’s not a criticism, but a simple observation. You’d think, with all the traveling, I would have seen it all.

Bucharest has surprised me, too.

There aren’t enough parking spaces and lots in the city, so drivers create their own parking places!

For example: they just park in the middle of the street. That’s right, why park on the side when they can just park their car in the middle of the street or in front of another car, blocking a car?

They also park on side walks. Not just one or two cars, but several. Last night, there were three rows of cars parking on a side street, horizontally around the corner from my apart-hotel. Not in an assigned spot, but on the street.

I found it amazing that my driver, Nelu, could squeeze the company’s VW Passat through the narrow space between cars.

It is simply brilliant. Now I know why Romania is in the EU!

I laughed in amazement and had to explain to to Nelu why I was laughing. He said, “but, sir, this is Bucharest. Since the revolution we have no rules”.

Bucharest has a tram system like many classic European cities. Many of the routes are over unruly green grounds (the grass not cut due to underfunding by the government), but several parts of the routes are on pavement. Since traffic is so bad, and there are only 2 lanes on each side of the main streets, what do drivers do? Simple: They drive on the rails in front of or behind the trams!

This morning was the best. There must have been at least a dozen cars naturally driving on the center medium on one of the main lines in the center in the city . And the trams could not go anywhere.

I must have my camera ready later today or in tomorrow’s rush hour. Simply perfect.

Bucharest, Romania traffic

Bucharest, Romania traffic

Bucharest, Romania traffic

Maxtor Licensing – You’re Kidding, Right?

I don’t know what font that is, but it’s certainly nothing I’ve seen before or anything I’ve defaulted to. No, I’m afraid this is a little gift from the folks who wrote the software. It looks like they’ve tried their best to make this license unreadable.

A few weeks ago I bought a Maxtor One Touch III external hard drive to back up our myriad computers. Tonight, I decided to install it, so I inserted the enclosed driver/software CD and watched it begiMaxtor Drive EULAn to load.

The attached photo is a true picture of the licensing agreement for Retrospect Express! It’s unreadable like this, so click on the photo for the large, though still unreadable, version.

I don’t know what font that is, but it’s certainly nothing I’ve seen before or anything I’ve defaulted to. No, I’m afraid this is a little gift from the folks who wrote the software. It looks like they’ve tried their best to make this license unreadable.

I was able to highlight and then copy it, and it’s included after the jump. There’s nothing that seems any more evil that any other EULA.

So why is it obscured?

Continue reading “Maxtor Licensing – You’re Kidding, Right?”

It’s That Uh Oh Email

There are 29 of them on a bus. Shoot me now!

My parents are on the road. They’ve joined a group from their condo complex on a trip to Branson, Missouri.

There are 29 of them on a bus. Shoot me now!

My mom called yesterday to tell us how nice the driver was and how good the trip was so far (five hours into a nine day trip). It’s a long way from Boynton Beach to Branson, with lots of stops to make.

This morning, my dad sent me an email:

Having a good time so far. I do not recommend bus travel. speak with you soon love Mom Dad

All this to see Yakov Smirnoff.

Putting A Webcam Online

One of my co-workers asked a favor tonight. Her brother is in Iraq and she just found out they could have video chats using Yahoo! Messenger (there are other ways, but he was already on Yahoo!).

She asked me what camera to get? I’m a bargain kinda guy, but she had that ‘tonight’ look. I sent her to Circuit City.

She came back with a little Creative camera that slipped over the display on her laptop. It set her back $60, which she viewed as a good value.

I took out the disk and installed the drivers. I can’t remember an install taking this long and installing this many inidividual pieces of software. You do what you can to hold back driver creep, but there’s stuff there we’ll never identify.

The camera itself is sweet. The video is sharp and though all webcam video is jerky, this was no more jerky than any other.

I think this is a good thing, a loved one talking with their soldier halfway around the world. There’s also a potential downside. This technology can bringing unwanted stress or create conflict that snail mail can not.

When my dad was in the Navy, back in WWII, he and my mom traded letters back and forth. The conversation was disjointed, with questions and answers passing each other as he crossed the ocean. Now the conversation is realtime.

How does the military looks at this? Good for morale… or bad? Good for discipline or bad?

As I hooked up the camera, I wondered why this was technology I wasn’t using? I’ve got cameras and have hooked them up. Long term use never seems convenient or necessary.

Having The Shit Scared Out Of Me

It’s 11:45 PM and I was in my car, driving home. Like the good son I am, I was on the phone (hands free) talking with my mom.

I have made the same trip nearly every night for the last 17 years. Up State Street and onto I-91. Off at Exit 10 and onto the Route 40 Connector to Hamden.

I’m usually in the right lane for the exit on I-91, but quickly move to the left to avoid slower traffic exiiting Route 40 at Exit 1. I’m in that position 99 nights out of 100.

99 nights out of 100, I would have hit the guy going the wrong way on Route 40 head on.

Who knows why tonight was my lucky night? I needed to pick something up at the market, but it wasn’t pressing. Up until the last moment I had been deciding which route to take.

I was in the right lane, getting off, when I heard the sound of metal, saw sparks and watched a car, probably a pickup truck, continue down the highway. Another car, possibly one he’d hit, swerved and went up on two wheels.

It was all a blur. I really don’t fully know what happened.

“Gotta go.” I said to my mom. “I’ll call you back.”

911 rang four times before a State Police dispatcher picked up. He already knew about the wrong-way driver. Troopers were on the way.

He was calm and nonchalant. He’d been through this before.

“Are you OK,” he asked? It was a nice gesture on his part.

I was thoroughly spooked, but I said OK and got off the phone. A few seconds later I was explaining what happened to my mom.

The person driving the pickup truck… the wrong-way driver… could not have been any more dangerous had he pulled out a loaded gun and fired in a random direction. My suspicion is, his punishment will not be commensurate with his crime.

Geoff The Spy

Like so many of us, as he upgraded his PC, my friend John&#185 didn’t know what to do with the old one. He had a relative, a grown man, with no computer, and John asked if I’d set him up with this old one.

This is something I’ve done dozens of times, and I almost always reinstall Windows. This time, I thought I’d try something a little different.

The end user wasn’t going to play games or work in multimedia. He was going to use the computer for web surfing and email. Instead of Windows, I installed Ubuntu Linux.

My thought is, this guy doesn’t know anything technical. Why saddle him with an operating system that’s got a bullseye on it, attractive to anyone writing spyware or viruses?

The install went flawlessly. I inserted the Ubuntu disk, answered a few questions (actually, John did all of this) and let the PC do its thing. The only bumps in the road had to do with installing Flash (I wish Ubuntu came with this already installed) and attempting to upgrade the video driver.

I rebooted after updating the driver and ended up with a blank screen! Damn you penguin. As has happened so often in the past, I had fixed the computer to the point of breaking it!

The bad video driver was quickly removed. John watched as I typed some cryptic commands into a text based terminal screen. One bad part of Ubuntu (and all Linux distributions) is, most people would be lost at this point with a dead PC! There are fewer ‘Geoff’s’ to call for technical assistance with this esoteric operating system.

John was pretty pleased (and hopefully his relative will be pleased too). The old computer is quite agile and more than beefy enough for its new assignment.

Refurbishing this computer was the purpose of his trip, but John brought more goodies with him. His wife’s company had thrown out some older laptops… which she then rescued from the trash. I could have one, but there was a problem. It was unusable!

The laptop, a very sweet Fujitsu Lifebook Series B subnotebook (a tiny laptop, perfect for traveling) had Windows 2000 installed and was password protected. The password kept me from getting to the programs and the lack of a CD drive kept me from installing a new operating system (like Linux) as a replacement.

In situations like this, I become obsessed.

The Fujitsu has only a USB external floppy drive. It was a comedy of errors as I realized none of my current home machines had floppies, plus I had no floppy disks. There was lots of ad libbing and part swapping to be done.

I scrounged the hardware, then headed to the net, trying to find a solution. Amazingly enough, there are simple single floppy programs which will read and then allow you to overwrite a password. I didn’t have to crack the code. I just inserted my password where the original had been.

I felt like a spy as the computer was now programmed to consider me the administrator.

This was great for me, but you have to worry about the level of protection built into today’s modern computers. In essence, Microsoft led the original owners to believe these laptops were under electronic lock and key. A guy in his pajamas sitting on the floor shouldn’t be able to crack open this laptop… but I did.

Before I went to bed, the laptop downloaded a few years worth of patches from the Microsoft site and was fitted with a wireless card.

This morning, I brought the machine downstairs and played with it a little while eating my breakfast. I was proud of my accomplishment.

“Why do you need another computer,” Helaine asked?

It’s an obsession I suppose. Some folks go nuts over shoes or jewelry or cars. For me, it’s wire and computers. Neither should ever be thrown out – ever.

&#185 – John’s friends call him “Big John.” He is a massive man, well over six feet tall. John’s heart is proportional to his height.