Monthly Archives: January 2004

Good Plans and Bad Plans

Good Plan:

Our web hosting provider, Site5|http://www.site5.com/, just upped disk capacity and bandwidth across all of their plans. We now have 1.5 gigabytes of storage space instead of 550 megabytes. Woo-hoo! It’s a good thing, too, because our photo albums were taking up just about 500 megabytes of that space. This should keep us happy for quite a while. And they were able to offer this upgrade without any price increases! Yay Site5!

Bad Plan:

Our recently-new HMO, Tufts Health Plan|http://www.tuftshealthplan.com/, on the other hand, has changed their prescription drug plans. One of the allergy medicines I take, Rhinocort Aqua|http://www.rhinocortaqua.com/c/index_nf.asp, was just moved from Tier 1 (least expensive) to Tier 2 (second most expensive). This means it now costs $25 instead of $15. Unfortunately, there are no Tier 1 options that are equivalent to Rhinocort Aqua, so I am kind of stuck in that respect. Add to this the fact that Allegra-D|http://www.allegra.com/, which I used to take, was raised to a Tier 3, which means $40. When that happened, I switched to Alavert-D|http://www.alavert.com/, a generic brand of Claritin|http://www.claritin.com/, which works just as well as Allegra and only costs $15 for 24 tablets. (Both Claritin and Alavert are available without a prescription, as well, so I never have to worry about getting the prescription renewed, at least for that half of my drugs.)

Boo to Tufts Health Plan! And, I suppose, boo to allergies for making me have to take this stuff!

Belated Birthday Wish

I can’t believe I passed this day by without marking it, nor can I believe that it was Mom who reminded me of it… but I want to wish a Happy 20th Birthday to the Macintosh computer!

On January 24, 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh computer in an advertisement during the SuperBowl. You can see the original ad here|http://www.apple.com/hardware/ads/1984/ if you didn’t catch it back then. Well, it’s more or less the original – you’ll notice the star of the commercial wearing a nifty piece of electronics that definitely did not exist back in 1984, though it may have been a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye.

In 1984, our family did not own a Macintosh, or any computer for that matter. I was just over five years old and hadn’t even started Kindergarten when the Mac was announced.

I don’t believe that I even used a Mac until perhaps 1988 or 1989. It may have been an SE|http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_classic/stats/mac_se.html or an SE/30|http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_classic/stats/mac_se30.html.

Our family bought its first Mac, an LC|http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/mac_lc/stats/mac_lc.html, in the summer of 1991, seven years after the first Mac was introduced, just before I started seventh grade.

Six years later, in 1997, my parents got me a SuperMac J700/180|http://www.everymac.com/systems/umax/j700/supermac_j700_180.html Mac clone, as a high school graduation gift. Though this wasn’t an Apple Macintosh per se, it was licensed by Apple to run the Mac OS…. for a very short time.

Four years later, in 2001, in my last semester at college, I bought a Apple PowerBook FW/400 (Pismo)|http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/powerbook_g3/stats/powerbook_g3_400_fw.html, just after Apple had introduced its brand new PowerBook G4|http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/powerbook_g4/stats/powerbook_g4_400.html product line.

Two years later, in 2003, I purchased a used PowerMac G4 (AGP)|http://www.everymac.com/systems/apple/powermac_g4/stats/powermac_g4_450.html to replace the aged and ailing J700 (which had actually been upgraded to a S900 with a G3 processor by that time).

I can’t remember the exact date, but somewhere along the way my parents replaced their aged Mac LC with one of the older iMac series… but that LC lasted QUITE a long time – it was their primary computer for around 10 years.

Through all the years, I’ve done my best to convince the people around me that purchasing a Macintosh computer is the best way to go. It is always a difficult task; most people are quite willing to go with a Windows-based computer, which is admittedly an inexpensive solution and may indeed be “good enough” for most people. But I firmly believe that like many excellent things, it is worth your time and effort to save the money needed to take that step up to a truly remarkable personal computer – something that is more than just “good enough.”

An operating system and computer hardware platform that work hand-in-hand – a winning combination. Here’s to you, Macintosh.

Passed!

Mass Inspection Sticker

Thanks to mechanic Samir Al-ghazi of the Peabody Sunoco, and a timely tip from Bob Golding|http://bobgolding.blogspot.com/, my car has passed the Massachusetts Enhanced Emissions and Safety Test|http://vehicletest.state.ma.us/! I’m safe and clean for at least another year! 🙂

Since I have an even numbered year car, and this year is an even number year, I had to have an emissions test in addition to the safety test. If you’re interested in my car’s emissions levels:

Hydrocarbons GPM: 00.17 (Limit 01.20) Carbon Monoxide GPM: 006.25 (Limit 020.00) Oxides of Nitrogen GPM: 00.50 (Limit 02.50) Carbon Dioxide GPM: 252.15 (No limit specified)

I’m not sure what GPM means – grams per meter? In any case, I guess it’s acceptable to the state of Massachusetts.

Hooray!

Double Dose of Good News

Two pieces of good news today!

One: NAC|http://www.nac.net/ and Site5|http://www.site5.com/ have been removed from the SPEWS|http://www.spews.org/ blacklist. Hooray! Many thanks go to the excellent Broadbandreports.com|http://www.broadbandreports.com/ user community for bringing about this change. BBR is also a customer of NAC, and all of the BBR IP addresses were added to the list. BBR used their considerable clout to encourage NAC to terminate the known spammers. As it turns out, the NAC CEO was very much in the dark as to the spammer situation, and he has vowed to be much more involved and vigilant in detecting and banning the spammers from his network. So it looks like our email is back to normal! Thanks also to everyone who responded to my requests for help with email testing.

Two: The brake light situation on my car has been solved! Thanks to a timely suggestion from Bob Golding|http://bobgolding.blogspot.com/, I made a simple check of the brake fluid level in my car. It turns out that the level was very low. So I picked up a bottle of brake fluid for $1.69 at AutoZone|http://www.autozone.com/, poured it in, and tested out the car. Surprise surprise, the brake light turned off after I released the emergency brake! And it stayed off as I drove back to work, too! I’m quite happy that I’ve been able to make this simple fix, and I’d like express my thanks to Bob for the advice. I’ve given Bob and honorary spot on our Friends blog list. Thanks again, Bob!

Now I just have to take the car back to get re-inspected, and I should be home free! I also replaced the wiper blades with some nice new winter blades, so there should not be any more barriers to passing the inspection. Phew!

Ahoy Matey!

As I mentioned a few days ago I have been reading “Ahab’s Wife” by Sena Jeter Naslund. It’s a monster of a book and I have finished it, much to my despair. I love long books. I get into the story and when they finally end I am so dissapointed. I digress.

It was a great story. There are tales of whaling and sailing interspersed with the Kentucky frontier. The life of one woman is followed as she moves from stage to stage in her life. Woven throughout her stories are the themes of love, faith, freedom, sin and forgiveness.

Naslund also does an incredible job of mixing American literature genres. On one hand she has written an enthralling companion to Melville’s “Moby Dick” full of exciting sailing stories and tales of life on Nantucket in the early 1800’s. The reader’s mind is full of images of huge cresting waves and billowing sails. It is a classic sea story.

Almost seamlessly we are taken inland to Kentucky and we see the author’s devotion to her motherland and to the stories of the land. The strong influence of Harriet Beecher Stow echo through the stories of Kentucky farming, abolition and the lives of runaway slaves. We follow bounty hunters and are treated to the southern slave dialects found crossing the Ohio River. One almost wonders if we will stumble upon Uncle Tom’s Cabin along the way.

Have you read the book yet? If you have, let me know what you thought of it. Haven’t read it yet? (or just heard of it?) go here|http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0688177859/qid=1075071589/sr=2-1/ref=sr_2_1/102-6832497-9165707 or to your local library and check it out!

Hyannis and SPEWS

On Saturday, Becky and I drove down to Hyannis to visit our friends Jeremy and Angela. They are getting married on March 6, so we helped them out with some wedding preparations while we were down there. We also had a very good dinner of pepperoni pasta and caesar salad. As usual, I had the camera with me, so there were some photos|http://gallery.prwdot.org/hyannis taken as well, including a couple nice photos of Jeremy’s cat Georgia, and some really cool shots of sunset|http://gallery.prwdot.org/hyannis_sunset over the Cape (Jeremy and I went on a little photography expedition while the girls were working on some crafty things).

As for the Wood family, life continues mostly as normal with one notable glitch in recent days. Because of a problem with NAC|http://www.nac.net/, which is Site5|http://www.site5.com/‘s network provider, Site5’s mail servers were among a list of other servers added to the SPEWS|http://www.spews.org/ database. This database is used by some (but not many) ISP’s to determine if incoming mail is from a known spammer. Apparently, some of NAC’s customers were marked as spammers, and as a result, SPEWS added most, if not all, of NAC’s customers to its blacklist — whether or not they actually sent spam.

Because of this, we may have trouble sending email to some of our friends, family, colleagues, and others… some of you may have already received a test message, and we appreciate your replies as we try to determine the extent of the effects of this blacklisting. If you have received a test message from us, and have not yet replied, please do so.

The only solution for this problem is for NAC to terminate the accounts of its customers who are guilty of sending spam. That does seem to be working, so hopefully our email will be healthy again. In the meantime, if you receive email from either of us from an unusual address, don’t be alarmed. And if you’ve been expecting an email from us, but haven’t received it yet, it might be good to check with us to see whether it’s been sent.

Rejected.

I got a couple new tires for my car a couple days ago, hoping that would be enough to get me through the Mass State Inspections|http://vehicletest.state.ma.us/ and that I wouldn’t have to spend too much more money for a while.

Well, today I got a big fat “R” sticker on the car, because apparently there’s a problem with my brakes. They couldn’t actually find a problem with the brakes, and as far as I can tell, my emergency brake and my regular brakes are working fine. But the “brake” indicator light on my dashboard has been going on and off intermittently for the past couple of months… and they said because the brake light stayed on, there must be some problem with the brake system. I had hoped they would be able to overlook that light and just pass the car… but apparently not. Now I have 60 days to fix the problem and get the car re-inspected. Well, I suppose safe is better than sorry, and that’s the whole reason they do these tests every year.

This is one of the things I miss about having my car registered in Knox County, Ohio – no vehicle inspection required to register your car, and no yearly inspection. In Ohio, you’re only required to get an emissions test if you live in one of these three metropolitan areas|http://www.epa.state.oh.us/dapc/echeck/station_loc.html.

In Massachusetts, every car must receive a safety inspection every year, and an emissions test every other year (unless it’s older than a certain age). In addition, your car must pass an inspection before you can register it.

This is the third year that my car has been subject to the state inspection. The first year I had to buy two new tires before I could pass. The second year I passed with no problem. This year I had to get two more new tires and apparently also get some brake work done.

Bah.

How Aggregating!

Something I’ve been trying to get into lately is RSS Aggregators. Many sites, such as this very blog, include a link to what’s called an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) newsfeed. This link, when used in an application that can read it, allows users to read updated content from news and blog-like sites without going through the trouble of opening their web browsers, navigating to the sites, and looking to see if there is anything new. Instead, the program runs constantly on your computer, checking the sites for you, and alerting you if and when there is any new content.

If you’re using MovableType|http://www.movabletype.org/ as your blogging system, and you haven’t done much to change the template, then you probably already have an RSS feed set up! Just look for “syndicate this” somewhere on your page for the link.

This also works with some web-based forums, such as my personal favorite, Broadbandreports.com|http://www.broadbandreports.com/. Each forum at BBR has its own RSS feed, which is updated whenever a new topic is posted.

At home, the program I’ve found for Mac OS X is called NetNewsWire Lite|http://ranchero.com/netnewswire/. It displays an alert in its Dock icon when it finds updated news items. I can then open the application to quickly browse through the news, and if I see anything interesting, I can open it in Safari to read the full article.

At work, I’ve had a bit more difficulty finding a good program to run on my Windows XP machine. There are tons and tons of RSS Aggregators out there that work on Windows XP. Many of them are no longer actively maintained. I’ve tried FeedReader|http://www.feedreader.com/, Syndirella|http://www.google.com/url?sa=U&start=1&q=http://www.yole.ru/projects/syndirella/&e=42, NewsDesk|http://www.wildgrape.net/, and some others who I deleted so quickly after trying them that I’ve forgotten their names. What I’m looking for is an application that will go out every five minutes or so, check for news on the feeds I’ve selected, and then quietly display an alert in my System Tray that new items have been found. I would also like to be able to browse those news items simply by right-clicking in the system tray, rather than having to open the app to see what the news is.

So if anyone out there happens to be using Windows XP and has a good RSS Aggregator that does what I want… let me know? I want the aggregation aggravation to end!

Sunrise

This morning, Becky and I went out to do some sunrise photography. I should have listened to her when she suggested that we go to Singing Beach first… instead I drove to Manchester harbor. There were some nice photo opportunities there, but it wasn’t the best view of the sunrise itself. So we went to Singing Beach… by the time we go there, the sun was already well above the horizon, and it was much too bright to get any really good shots. But I took some just the same. If you’re interested in seeing what I shot, you can see the photos here|http://gallery.prwdot.org/sunrise.

Next time, we’ll go to the beach first!

Baby…

…it’s COLD outside.

As of 10:24 p.m., Thursday, January 15, the temperature in Beverly is -6 degrees Fahrenheit.

With wind chill…

Negative 30.

Almost all Boston-area schools have already closed for tomorrow. Frostbite can set in to exposed areas of skin within 10-15 minutes. It’s dangerous.