Friday, May 29, 2009

Geek Squad

Stefan and I (mostly "I") have been working on some "special projects" on my - I mean Stefan's - new Linux box. We've got the photo galleries working, I've learned about the exciting world of virtual domains with Apache, and I recently approved Stefan's shopping list of items that he's going to purchase for his other computers. I like how this relationship works: Stefan tells me what geeky tools he wants, I approve, he buys it. I tell Stefan what I geeky tools I want, I approve, and Stefan buys it. Last night, I approved his purchases of several new massive hard drives for several computers, enough to run a small company with. On my part, I plan on putting this equipment to use. Some special projects, most of which are for research and learning reasons only, that I have on my Todoist to-do-list:
  • Lock down the Linux box
  • Configure remote access to his Ubuntu GUI for my special project use.
  • Configure a secure email server with encrypted logons and attempt to setup Horde IMP email on it.
  • Configure a MUX (is that the right term? "Backup") e-mail server.
  • Create a PHP and MySQL-powered DVD/Movie library web application for Stefano
  • Setup remote backup/rsyncs between about four computers in three locations.
That should keep me busy while Erika is gone. By the way, Erika is going to Peru for three weeks to attend to Ryan and Lili's reception dinner and wedding (!!!) and attend to her mom after her surgery. I will be going down for a week and a half to attend the aforementioned wedding parties as well getting major dental work done (one crown and one inlay) in a third-world country by a "renowned" (I hope) dentist for 1/4 of the price that it would cost me in the States. My boss is great because he's going to let me "telecommute from home" on my non-medical, non-party days, which is a pretty sweet deal if you ask me.

In other news, I spent an hour and a half over the past 24 hours listening to a conversation on Oprah ("Harpo" backwards) with a guy named Eckhart Tolle about his book (actually, the first chapter of his book; it's a 9-part series). I also spent at least one hour at work discussing his ideas with a co-worker at work today. I haven't been much of a spirtual thinker the last few years, and I continuously rejected my co-worker's suggestion to listen to these podcasts for several months because usually this kind of stuff makes me fall asleep - FAST. Those of you who know me know that I think these New Age type people are total wack-jobs, but this Tolle guy is bring up some damn interesting things to think about. If anybody is interested, download the report on his first chapter and spend an hour and a half listening to it and thinking about it. It's a lot easier than I thought. The other chapters (which I haven't got to yet, but I'm fascinated with) can be found at the bottom of this page.

J. Riley, The fingers in my hand have been tingling a lot today. I should probably be concerned about this, considering my myotonic dystrophy :o/

Thursday, May 21, 2009

White T(ech)rash

I'm starting to feel like an urban white trash nerd. Parked on my lawn (carpet), I have an old, dilapidated car (desktop computer) that doesn't run, a rusty lawn-mower (digital camera) that won't function, and a bunch of spare parts (keyboards, power cords, PC cover screws, hard drives) laying around.

J. Riley, all I need now is a cold 40 ounce Mickeys (liter of fine, imported beer) to be set.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Pumas On Order

I really need new shoes. I really need these new shoes:

J. Riley, so I ordered them!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pondering Relocations...

Last weekend, Erika and I embarked on a trip out to California for Faryn's graduation! The whole family was gathering, so I knew it would be a great time to hang out with everyone again and get to introduce Erika to Southern California and its peaks and pits. I feared the worst: that she would opt to stay in San Diego and let me go back to New York alone!

In an optimization strategy, we decided to stay for five days and try to get as much done as possible in such a short amount of time. As well as the graduation festivities, the clan planned outings to the Getty Center in LA and a chance to nurse the graduation hangover with a day at Disneyland, followed by a lovely tour of LA (barf), and a few days down in San Diego.

And the trip was grand. The Getty Center was more than I imagined that Los Angeles could muster in terms of culture (note: I openly discriminate and am prejudiced against the megatropolis of LA). Open-air, wonderful views of the city, world-class art, fresh creeks, florist sculptures, and architectual exhibits abounded at the Getty Center - it was everything that I imagined LA wasn't. My only regret was that we didn't have enough time to spend there as Graham, Erika, and I drove up from San Diego in the morning and there was traffic and Faryn's big event to attend/experience in the afternoon.

I remember my college graduation day. I wanted to see everyone before I left town and on graduation day, but there just wasn't enough time. Like myself, everyone had visitors in town and each person had there own events to attend. I remember my roommate Ryan and I having a low-key barbeque or pot-luck of some sorts at our apartment. But it was just a crazy day with the ceremonies, seeing people for the last time, and hanging out with all of our visitors.

I suppose Faryn's graduation was a similar experience for her! We unloaded and changed in the hotel and rushed to her apartment to find her in amongst her boxes doing her hair and her roommates still packing. We had rushed there thinking we were going to be late for her department's congregation at the school, only to find out later that the event didn't start for another hour and a half and was really just a place to go eat some fresh fruit and delicious sun-warmed cookies, all of which I ate way too much of. But we hung around there with Faryn as she said hi to her departmental friends.

After an early dinner of Greek food near the campus, we went back to the stadium to catch the graduation ceremonies and witness the honoring of EIGHT HUNDRED students graduating. Yes, all of their names were read outloud :o) ! We had giggled in sympathy for Erika when she said that her graduation from college was two hours long, but this event turned out to eclipse that by at least 30 minutes! But, there were some memorable moments such as the tossing of tortillas by the students (???) and some racial epithets (is that a word?) by one of the speakers (classy). But at least there were plenty of interesting costumes for the guests at this event: girls with skirts barely covering their undies, terrible bleach-blondes, and the now infamous curly-black-hair mulleted guy with elf-en pointy-toe shoes five sizes too big and a bad case of slacks that were too tight and non-existent underwear. Why I didn't capture this character in digital photos, I don't know!

After graduation, we drove around Pasadena looking for a place to celebrate and settled on a sushi joint were dad proceeded to lead us to a happy place with saki-bombs! We ate some pretty good sushi at the place too, props to Summer for her selections right up my alley! I gotta say, Pasadena is a pretty nice place with loads of clubs, bars, and restaurants. I don't think I had ever been there before, but I would definitely return if I was unlucky enough to find myself in LA in the near future.

We crashed hard that night, it was a long day after a six-hour flight the night before and about five hours of sleep. It helped that the Hampton Inn we stayed at was much, much nicer than the one I stayed at for a week in Columbus, Indiana back in the day!

Sunday was the triumphant return to Disneyland for the first time since about Junior High for me, and Erika's first time at a Disney location! We met Graham, Brie, and the kids there and about five pictures in, our camera broke. As Summer would say: FAIL! Lucky for me, I have a sister that, ahemmm, "offered" her camera to me to use for the day.

Disneyland was great. It was everything that it was the first time I went with my grandparents when I was eight years old. My dad attempted to support his veto of excessive purchases of gifts for my niece by asking us what we bought on that first trip. All I remembered at the time was a new wallet and $20 (!!!!) that my grandparents gave me and my brother. I think I lost some of the money (not for the first time), but I definitely remember buying a toy musket-style rifle from somewhere in Frontier Land! We did all the rides there, some with the kids, and some later on without, and they were still great. It's A Small World was interesting despite not changing in 50 years (they even have Peruvians!), they scored big points with Pirates of the Caribbean, and of course the roller coasters like Space Mountain, Matterhorn, and the Thunder Mountain train ride. Those rides don't need to change! The only one that was lame was the Haunted House. At least put something spooky in there!!

We did about 14 hours at Disneyland before we shut the place down. We could definitely have used a second day at the Disney properties to get the full experience, and that probably would have been a better idea than trying to show Erika LA on Monday morning after dining and saying goodbye to the North-bound part of the Haines train. LA was a disaster. Armed with my trusty AAA map provided by the hotel, we headed out to try to find film studios and Hollywood. And I was provided with the first sign of disaster quickly after departure from the hotel. I GOT LOST TRYING TO FIND THE HIGHWAY FROM DISNEYLAND! This is not an easy thing to do people, but I managed it. I was so stressed out driving through LA and didn't manage to find the exits I hoped to find to the studios. So, I got off the highway to turn around and found out that there was no entrance back onto it.

My head was turning red and I could feel the steam starting to whistle out of my ears. Eventually, two hours later, we found lovely Beverly Hills and I mellowed out (a little bit). Hey, we're on Sunset Blvd, this is the right way to Hollywood, right? Yea, right down to seedy-town, Hollywood. Luckily, I used the phone-a-friend lifeline and was rescued with some directions to the star-walk. It was under-impressive (as I expected), but Erika was trying her best to not slap me in the face with my wonderfully negative attitude the whole time. She was disappointed that we weren't doing a studio tour (my fault I guess), so I attempted to satiate the situation with tickets to the wax museum, Guiness Book of World Records, and Ripley's Believe It or Not. Some of the things at these places were interesting, but I was itching to get out of LA and head to San Diego.

Ahhh...San Diego. I was immediately relaxed when we pulled into In 'N Out (after passing too many in LA) and chowed on the greatest burgers in the world. We hung out with Brie and Graham at night, relaxed some more, and slept in the next morning at our hotel by Moonlight Beach. Auntie Jude came by in the morning and we mosied on down to the beach at about noon and enjoyed the patches of sunshine and warmth there. I took a dip in the water for a while and just enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere. Auntie Jude said, "Justin, you guys have to move here".

After Auntie Jude departed, we went back to the hotel and showered and looked presentable for lunch at Encinitas's fantastic Peruvian restaurant Q'ero (the artists formerly known as Amici's) with my old friend Russell and his family. Russ spent two years of his youth in Ecuador, so it was fun to hear his old stories of Ecuador and compare it with Erika's Peru. Q'ero did a good job of reigniting Russ's sensory agents with their flavor and atmosphere, things he hadn't experienced since he left Ecuador nine years ago. At the end of the relaxing meal and the climactic tres leches cake (best Erika has ever had, I might add), Russ said, "J, you should move out here. No, you HAVE to move here."

We walked through Encinitas afterwards, doing some window shopping and Erika did some beauty products shopping before we arrived at Swamy's surf-spot, where we parked it on the benches and enjoyed the sunshine and the surfers on the cliffs before us. We planned on walking up to Graham and Brie's a little bit later but were saved when they called us to find out where we were. Graham was roasting up a carne asada tri-tip, so we met up with Brie and did some grocery shopping at the lovely gourmet Seaside Market before heading up the hill for dinner.

Dining on Graham's food is on my list along with Mexican food and In 'N Out when I'm in SD. Despite the late lunch, the food was great as always and we hung out, watched some reality TV and basketball, Erika and Brie shared wedding albums and stories while I was in heaven setting up Graham's new Mac with remote access (!!!) . It was just so relaxing, possibly aided by the fact that the kids were asleep already :o) . Brie said to us, "It would be so great if you guys moved out here!"

On our last day, we took Ellie to Sea World with us. It's tough being so far away from everyone, so we thought it would be a great idea to spend some time with the newest 3-year-old adult of the family. Surprisingly, Brie had no objections for us taking her off her hands for the day ;o). Not surprisingly, Ellie already had the map at Sea World memorized and the first thing she wanted to do was....? The pet show? No. Shamu? No. Penguins? No. SHARKS! I think that's pretty bad ass that my three-year-old niece wanted to go hang out with the sharks. Well, we did hang out with them after we rushed to see the Dolphin Show. She also wanted to touch the sting-rays. The idea sounded good to her, but she wasn't quite comfortable actually touching them. We also went on the newish Wild Arctic Ride, which Ellie barely passed in order to ride. I felt a little bit dizzy on the ride and was worried about her, since it was pretty scary and violent. Afterwards, she said "That was so fun!!!!" I was slightly naseus :o). We hit almost everything during the blissfully blistering hot day in Mission Bay and Ellie was destroyed by the time it was time for us to leave. She actually fell asleep in the stroller in the parking lot on the way back to the car, how's that for timing?

Finally, to cap the trip, we filled up Graham's fish water tanks with fresh ocean water and watched the surfers before hitting up a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place to check off the last box. We drove around downtown a little bit before heading to the airport to our red-eye flight. As expected, Erika loved San Diego as much as I did (like always). I woke up the next morning to rain in the sky and grey New York and Erika and I both thought, "We need to move to San Diego".

J. Riley, looking forward to the economic recovery, cuz I need a job in SD.

Monday, May 04, 2009

I Heart Gnu Computers

Ever since I've moved to New York, I haven't been able to spend as much time geeking with computers running Linux because I don't have the luxury of a spare closet or one cubic foot of floorspace to let a second computer humm away and serve up web pages.

One of the projects that Stefan and I have been working on for a few years now is finding decent a decent free photo album program to allow him to showcase his pictures from his Linux box. A few weeks ago, we found zenphoto, which seems to have all of the characteristics that we have been looking for, like slideshows, nifty themes, and ease-of-use for both the picture uploader and the visitor. We set about upgrading his Linux computer with the latest version of Ubuntu, Apache web server, MySQL, PHP, etc. and tried out the photo album software, but it was painfully slow and I was disappointed since Linux is supposed to run fast on the oldest computers. So, I blamed Stefan's internet connection and instructed him to upgrade to FiOS, already!

He wouldn't upgrade his internet connection, but he did do something better - he bought a new computer! Ahh....the life of bachelorhood ;o). The results are astonishing and the web pages are being served fast and furious! Check out some of our professional wedding pictures and add the RSS feed at the bottom of the page to your Google Reader to see when new pictures are posted as we travel the world.

J. Riley, thanks for my new computer Stefan.