Archive for July, 2007

Brave New Jon – phase two

Monday, July 16th, 2007

So, three months on, project Brave New Jon enters phase two. What started as a means to pine over an ex-girlfriend changed into a self re-invention exercise, and now that I feel I’m well and truly over her, it’s time for this project to change again. Now, it’s all about making myself a better person, and not about anyone else.

I’ve decided to keep my modified diet going. I really quite like the veggie thing, and although I’m not likely to become a vegan (read: I like my non-soy lattes), I don’t really feel any pressing need to start eating carb. heavy foods, seafood, and all that stuff. I’m not opposed to having an occasional sushi dinner, or a visit to Legal Sea Foods, but there’s no desperate urge to do that either. I haven’t eaten any bread, cheese, fish, or even potatoes in over three months – my diet is largely a Californian fruit and nut diet, complete with protein-rich smoothies. I am not opposed to carbohydrates in general, but they’ll get re-introduced gradually, and really only when I’m out at dinner with friends, and so on. I have much more energy than I ever did before.

My daily regimen now includes a visit to the gym, a lot of walking, running, or other physical activity. I am trying to go down to the gym when it opens in the mornings, or in the evenings, and I might even get to the two-a-day ideal at some point in the future. I’ve decided I’m sticking around the 30/30 jean size now and I’m not desperate to change that. It’s a nice round number. There’s a strong need for further toning…and that’s simply got to happen this summer. I am spending at least 20 minutes a day on weight machines, and I will try to increase that, and my other upper body building activities. I want to try being much more physically fit and healthy than before.

I can probably stop buying so many new clothes all the time now. I went down to the Banana Republic outlet in Wrentham, MA, bought a couple of new pairs of jeans and other random crap, with the goal of rebuilding my wardrobe properly. I definitely enjoyed being able to go down there and not have to buy that stuff on Newbury St. or in the Galleria – Banana Republic get enough out of me as it is, and the price difference between retail and outlet is almost obscene ;-) Of course, the new Jon also admits to frequenting a bathroom outlet store and buying a toilet lid cover for asthetics too. I’m trying to turn this apartment into something more than a “geek” pad…something more respectible. I still need to affix additional picture hooks…and hang these giant photos…it just needs some planning, in order to avoid damaging the walls.

Buying a car was a really useful thing to do. I have driven several thousand miles in the last couple of weeks, in two different countries, and many different States and Provinces. I will try to do a lot more hiking, climbing, and other activies that were previously much harder to get involved with. I can also now more reliably be in the office during the week, which is useful.


Random driving excursions – Nantasket beach and a drive in movie

Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Photo: A quiet afternoon stroll along Nantasket beach.

So one of the cool things about owning a car is that you can do utterly random driving on an afternoon, when you feel like getting away for a few hours. I drove to Nantasket beach for the first time yesterday, then went to see my first ever (like, evar, dudz) drive in movie.

The drive from here to Nantasket beach isn’t much more than an hour (though it’s one of the routes TomTom has fun with, given its European maps…I’m learning that they need to improve their Boston one-way street/road data sources, as well as other mapping data – why can’t they just provide a UI for reporting inaccuracies? I’m going to try to find one of the open source facing developers and ask them for that feature…it can already connect to the Internet via your cellphone…so it’s trivial). I wasn’t in a hurry, and I got there in time to enjoy a quiet afternoon stroll.

Made a change from the hour I spent in (the all new!) AT&T yesterday. Yes, it took one hour to move my “Go Phone” over to a contract, and enabling roaming on my “new” account was fun. I had to call customer service, from within the AT&T store (they couldn’t actually do it), then confirm my details and listen as they asked me about items on my credit report to confirm my identity. It’s amazing how much these people know about you once they have your social – and don’t go saying it’s just in the US, because that’s hardly true at all. After discussing my car loan with my cellphone provider…always very fun…I got roaming. With their utterly pointless security hysteria done, I am now free to pay ludicrous rates to use my cellphone when I’m next in Canada, but it’s still cheaper than roaming in the UK ever was :-)

After I had been to Nantasket, I drove over to Mendon (the one in MA, not the one in NH – but where’s that, Jon? right. Yeah. Nobody knows where that is, but I assure you that it does actually exist), for my first ever drive in movie experience. I got there between the first and second movies (I had gone for the second…I was actually early arriving) and so they let me sit and watch half of Harry Potter before I drove over to the other screen for my movie. Of course, there would be some jerk delaying a few of us getting over to screen 2, and thus missing the opening scene. But that’s par for the course. I certainly enjoyed having the top down, stereo cranked up on the movie FM, and living yet another great American experience. Seriously, drive in movies are fun.

I drove back to Boston at 2am, with the top down, listening to silly music, and loving every single minute of it.


Willfully violating the second law of thermodynamics…again.

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Photo: AC unit in the lounge.

So as it turns out, one AC unit isn’t enough. Sure, it’s enough to cool the bedroom, but that just means I want to stay in there all day long, unless I leave the apt. And this isn’t a good thing. So, I’ve bought another unit for the lounge…not a huge energy wasting one, but enough to take the humidity away.

Now I’ve got two rooms covered, there’s just the spare room to go (I don’t care about air conditioning the bathroom, kitchen, or my closets). I’m tempted to buy another unit at some point for those times when I’m working in there (it’s my study in winter…seems to be a room ‘o’ crapjunk in the summer so far) or when I have people staying over. Thing is, that doesn’t really happen often enough to justify buying yet another AC unit, at least this week, at any rate.


Willfully violating the second law of thermodynamics

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

Photo: AC unit in the bedroom.

So I gave in and bought an AC (UK: aircon, UK: air conditioning) system for my bedroom. I had a couple of nights of 80F+ (that’s 27C in sensible units) with high humidity that served to convince me I valued good sleep over an occasional indulgence in additional energy consumption.

I fitted a unit to my bedroom window, sufficiently rated for the bedroom, and actually also able to take the humidity/temperature edge off the rest of the apartment…while not being so excessive that I feel tremendous guilt at the energy consumption – let’s not forget that much of the US lives in the stone age and gleefully digs up non-replaceable coal for power. I am fortunate that a large amount of the North East’s power comes from nuclear (not “nucear”, but actually nuclear) and hydroelectricity – courtesy of the Quebecois Canadians.

Phase change-based heat pump technology hasn’t really changed a lot since it was first invented for refrigeration, although the overall efficiency of air conditioning systems has increased somewhat in the interim. My entry level system cost under 150USD (UK: 75GBP) and comes with a remote control and all of that jazz. It’s not as quiet as the documentation might have you believe, but it is able to extend my AC coverage from the office, car, and into my home also.

All those years growing up, we’d criticize the “Americans” for having “their” AC systems, in our naive British sense of the world – one in which a hot day or a “torrential storm”, or even a “lot of snow” has some meaning many of those in the outside world quietly (or not so quietly sometimes) laugh at. Well, if that makes me one of “them”, so be it. I am now actually able to sleep without lying for hours in a sauna.


Dude. Where’s your iPhone?

Monday, July 9th, 2007

So, people keep asking me where my iPhone is, or when I’m getting one. The truth is, right now, I’m not certain I will get one. I finally tried one out for the first time today…and I’m unimpressed. Apple have crippled it, and they’ve missed out obvious hardware, like the de facto GPS chipset everyone else and his dog has in their cellphone these days.

The iPhone is smaller than people like to rant about. Truth be told, it would fit nicely in my pocket (though I’m sure it would also be scratched *all* over in no time at all…definitely would require dedicated storage), and it’s not much bigger than my current cellphone…while distinctly thinner. But really, Apple, you’ve cripped it – it’s useless as a mobile device unless one can add software to it. I can’t see my terminal, my VPN client, all of these things – I’m sure some of these are present, but I sure as heck can’t add whatever I think is missing to it after the fact.

So, I will wait until it’s a bit cheaper, then get one to take apart and break beyond all repair in the name of undoing the crazy restrictions. It’s a frigging phone…just a phone…it’s not as if people can’t “restore” it, like they already can with the iPod (and, I’m sure you can with the iPhone anyway…Apple would be silly not to have a factory restore option) so I’d have taken the gamble and let people add apps to it. The real problem is, of course, that Apple don’t want you to screw around with it.

My iPhone will await a price reduction, then it’ll have an appointment with a screwdriver, and a BDI2000.


A weekend in Provincetown, MA

Sunday, July 8th, 2007

Photo: Commercial Street, in Provincetown, MA.

So I drove down to Provincetown, MA, on Friday night, with a friend of mine. We stayed in a lovely beachfront property right off the 6A highway, and I enjoyed seeing the Pilgrims’ first landing place, first hand.

We left Boston later than planned, as I had to get my car pre-insurance pre-inspection pre-pointless pre-photos taken at an auto shop (UK: garage) and decided I wanted to do that before going on another trip. But even leaving at 5pm wasn’t too bad as it turned out (the traffic on the two lane highway could have been much, much worse than it was) and we got into Provincetown, right on the tip of the Cape in time to enjoy the remainder of the provincial evening.

On Saturday, I headed downtown to visit Commercial Street, visit some galleries, have my protein juice smoothies, and some lunch. I saw some fantastic works of art, and enjoyed the highly colorful, highly tolerant atmosphere that P-town really represents. I was thinking about getting someone a birthday present, but decided the subject matter might be a bit too “liberated”. I did, however, pick up a very silly coffee sign for my office that my colleagues will likely whole-heartedly agree with me on.

Before we left Provincetown, we watched the sunset over the ocean – this is the only place on the East Coast where you can really experience a sunset, now all I need to do is find a good sunrise location on the West Coast that is similarly against the grain, and watch that too ;-) A visit to Plymouth Rock was obviously in order on the way home – sure, it was dark by then, but that didn’t matter – in order to complete the weekend Pilgrimage in some kind of style.


GPS purchasing choice – TomTom One

Friday, July 6th, 2007

So after much indecision, I finally decided that I should buy a TomTom over the Garmin offerings. Both companies have openly embraced Embedded Linux, but TomTom has an established history, whereas Garmin have no currently shipping units running a Linux kernel, as of this writing (apologies to the wonderful folks at Garmin, of whom I met more last week at the Linux Symposium). Note that this is the most logical way to choose any device, when your name is jcm. Anyone else would probably go on product reviews, functional benefits, or similar…but I’m far from “normal” :P

I decided that I like the idea of not having moving parts, having a standard flash based platform, with additional media slots, and a built-in backup battery (so it won’t reset the moment the ignition is turned off…unlike my friend’s Garmin unit). I also like the idea of playing with OpenTom, once I get to the point that I have a fundamental need to break a perfectly functional gadget and turn it into an expensive paperweight. I decided not to buy the more expensive model with the hard drive and global maps, because, really, I’m probably only going to use this unit in North America. And if I do take it traveling overseas…well, it’s an Embedded Linux device… :-)

The fact that they standardized on 5V USB is a nice addition. This gives me a free 5V power outlet adapter for the car – I still need to buy a 120W inverter (I’d go higher, but the outlet is only rated for 120W from the looks of the Mazda specifications). I’ll use this as a stop gap until the weather gets so shitty that I don’t feel like driving like a crazy, essentially suicidal, New England driver in the winter and start doing an Andrew on the car wiring (taking it all apart and eventually putting it back together again…in my case with a replacement audio system and various other very non-standard modifications). Finally, the unit features a very reliable GPS mutli-channel antenna, with WAAS too (the precision flight approach system-wide ground-station augmentation to GPS), that even works inside my apartment, away from the window, with the window blinds drawn. A far cry from my decade old Garmin 12XL then “state of the art” GPS :-)

Did I mention that I like the car just a little bit? And did I mention that the roads around here are so crappy that driving in winter is going to be a test of nerve? Because I can see that it will be. The roads between here and Westford are bad enough in summer as it is :-)


P.S. I decided to skip the GPS theory discussion, but you can just obviously see that I wanted to include a little rant about the Clinton-era GPS blackouts and the general flakiness of the whole system…saved for another time, perhaps on a day the whole network falls apart for lack of replacement birds and everyone wonders why their sat-nav, failed. Random fact: I once dated a girl who was born on the GPS epoch, which was a very convenient way to remember the date…no I didn’t tell her :P