50 Random Thoughts On or About Turning Fifty

50

I turned 50 on January 28th. It was a pretty exciting birthday for me. For a person who didn’t think they would make it to eighteen, 50 years old feels like an achievement. 18 seemed like one too, but more like one that was achieved by luck. 50 took a lot more work.

In honor and remembrance of my 50th year on this planet, I would like to list 50 random thoughts that have been jumbling around in my head…

  1. 50 is the age that I consider to be “officially old™”. I am okay with that. Being 50 is a privilege and rite of passage.
  2. When I was younger, I was very unhappy, but also very lucky. I have a family who loves me and has always  taken care of me the best that they could. It is thanks to them and other kind souls that have befriended me over the years that I am still here to write this post.
  3. As I have got older, I’ve managed to make a few very close friends and to become closer to my family.
  4. Being with Karen has been an adventure in love and life that provides joy and hope even at the hardest times.
  5. Life has been extra challenging since we moved to Baltimore 6 years ago and I do not see an end to that any time soon.
  6. My day to day life is kind of lonely and I have not made many close friends here.
  7. I am not good at having friends, and not completely sure how I have managed to make such good ones over the years.
  8. It is hard for me to be with people and in crowds, and hard to concentrate well enough to keep up with conversations. It drains me until my brain completely shuts down.
  9. Running my business is a challenge and I work way too many hours for way too little pay.
  10. I am good at my job and I am bad at running a business. Still, I keep trying year after year and make enough money that it would be badly missed if I didn’t have it, but is barely above the poverty level and much less than it would be if I was working with or for somebody who knew how to manage a business.
  11. I am still hoping to find my “magic business partner”  or employer someday.
  12. Even with all the challenges, life has been good to me in so many ways and I am very thankful for that.
  13. I am glad we are here to help K’s parents.
  14. I love Baltimore and many of the people I have met here.
  15. I love being with Karen and Nikkyo and Buster (cats) and living in our awesome apartment (Thanks Lisa!).
  16. I love my karate school, and sometimes wish I could just do karate all the time.
  17. I wish Karen and I had enough time and money to get out of town once in a while.
  18. I wish we had enough money to not stress about it so much. Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but it can relieve stress and less stress can cause happiness.
  19. I miss Lake Merritt in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay.
  20. I wish I could work for AWN (Autism Women’s Network) full time.
  21. I wish I had more time to code for fun and not just for work. I have some ideas for projects that would teach me new skills, possibly lead to income, and/or would provide a helpful service to some people, but no time to work on them.
  22. I miss my family terribly. It is easier to see them now that we live on the same coast again, but still hard for me to travel, especially on airplanes. I wish we lived in driving distance of each other.
  23. I miss the Russian River and Armstrong Woods.
  24. I wish the world made sense and that people didn’t lie.
  25. I wish that people really cared about each other and helped each other.
  26. The only thing about turning fifty that has made it seem very old is writing this list and realizing how many items 50 actually is.
  27. I am pretty sure I spend more time than the average person thinking about dinosaurs.
  28. I like to spar.
  29. I wish my brain worked “right”, but am not completely sure I would want to be a RegularPerson™.
  30. I have been a vegetarian for 30 years and think that if I started eating meat again I would have more energy. Was going to try it when I was 50, but as of yet, have not.
  31. I think I would excel at being a cat.
  32. “Cutting the Cord” is much cheaper than cable TV, but I miss the ease of use and channel availability of Comcast.
  33. I wish the haters would always lose. I am not sure what that means for me if I hate the haters.
  34. I used to build and fix “WinTel” computers, and was amazed at the awesome quality, reliability, and ease of use when I switched to macs 13 years ago.
  35. I first learned to program on an Apple IIe that my dad had, and a Commodore 64 and VIC-20 that were at my high school.
  36. I rarely took part in extra-curricular activities when I was in school, but over the years spent some time as a member of the computer club, Mathletes, and the Spanish club.
  37. When I was younger, I understood Hebrew pretty well. I can still read it, but have a very limited vocabulary now.
  38. I love WordPress.
  39. I love Laravel more than I love WordPress, but see many advantages to using WordPress for the types of websites I most often build for my clients.
  40. I love Drupal, but have no reason to use it. Sometimes I go out of my way to look for a reason.
  41. If I had time, I would learn Python.
  42. Lisa baked me the best cake in the whole world for my 50th birthday. Thanks Lisa!
  43. I like cold weather when I have the appropriate outerwear.
  44. Hexagons make me feel peaceful.
  45. I am a cat person and a dog person, but prefer cats because they are easier to take care of.
  46. I occasionally contemplate what life would be like if I was a panda.
  47. I am a lot like my dad.
  48. I wish I was also a lot like my mom. She is a social and organizational genius.
  49. I like to play video games and currently play WoW. The Fallout series is probably my favorite of all time.
  50. I would like to learn how to play D&D or something similar with real people.

Wakeup Call To Action

Call to Action

The results of yesterday’s election truly saddened me. I am horrified that Donald Trump will be our next president. The amount of people that voted for him both frightens and angers me. He is the personification of so many things that are wrong with this country, this society, and humanity in general. I do not understand how any person who is decent and good could vote for him. He is a racist, misogynist, homophobic, petty, evil man, and I can see no good that will come from having voted for him.

I am afraid that my marriage will no longer be legal. I am afraid for the future of my health insurance. When I think about what today must be like for Muslim Americans, Mexican Americans, immigrants, all non-white Americans, non-Christian Americans, Disabled Americans, non-heterosexuals, non-gender-conforming individuals, and all women and girls, my heart breaks and I want to set the world on fire.

A Wakeup Call to Action

I understand why people want change. I think Hillary Clinton is an amazing woman in many ways, and I wish she was going to be our next president, but she really does represent the status quo. The status quo does not benefit everyone, and fighting to keep it intact is harmful to large groups of people. Progressive ideas and talk do not mean anything if there is no action to back them up. They make no improvements to the lives of people who are suffering.

The need for change is no excuse to elect a man like Donald Trump. It is also not an excuse to ignore glaring problems that exist within our own platforms and beliefs. We need to to examine the fact that much of what we accept as liberal and progressive ideas and values are not enough, and are sometimes built on the same racist, classist system that we are supposedly trying to change. If we ignore these things, we are lying to ourselves when we say that we want true equality and opportunity in this country.

I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know what is needed. My faith in people has dropped considerably since yesterday. The only good that I can see coming from this is that it could be the wakeup call we have long needed. A call to action to the people who want to make this country a better place. An event that will force us to take a step back and think about what “a better place” means for everyone, and not just ourselves,  and organize around that. I don’t know if that is possible, but I have to hope that it is.

#laracon

Laracon 2015
Part 9 of 15 in the series distracted by haiku

socializing is

not always impossible

when in the right crowd

 

thank you laracon

for making this hardest thing

seem like a good time

Placeholder Text Generators

HodorIpsum---Hodor-hodor-hodor

I generate a lot of Lorem Ipsum text when I am laying out websites. Usually I use a keyboard shortcut or the old standby, lipsum.com. I also like Fillerati. Those are nice because they include the option to add different HTML tags, such as  <p> ,  <li> , and headings.

Today while I was being very distracted from work, I did a little googling to find some new placeholder text generators. Below are the ones I bookmarked for future use.

  • Whedon Ipsum – Quotes from Joss Whedon movies and TV shows. This one has a “hidden” link back to the website of the company that (I assume) runs it. The link is not hidden at all in the code but is inside a div styled with  display: none;. There are options to choose the number of paragraphs to generate and to add  <p> tags.
  • TV Ipsum – Generates text from TV theme songs mostly from shows that aired in the 70’s. Option to choose the number of paragraphs.
  • Picksum – Generates lines from the movies of these actors: Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp, Michael Caine, Jim Carrey, and Clint Eastwood. Options for number of paragraphs and  <p> tags.
  • HodorIpsum – Generates Hodor text. I would probably only use this one for personal projects, but it is my favorite by far. Options for number of paragraphs and  <p> tags.

Favorite One-Trick Utility of the Year

Before I found this tool, I would open images in Photoshop to get proportional values for widths and heights. There are definitely easier ways to go about that, but Photoshop was always the first to come to mind. My new favorite tool for generating proportional image sizes is the Aspect Ratio Calculator.

For the Math inclined, it uses this formula:

original height / original width x new width = new height

Mother’s Day Wish

Wish I could take your pain away
Wish I could take you out in the sunny day

Wish I could make you stronger
So you could come home for longer

Wish I could hurt instead of you
I’d give anything to make that true

Wish I could hold you and make things right
Wish I was there with you tonight

Hope you are having a happy day
I’m there with you, in spirit anyway

You are the best mom, I know it’s true
Can’t wait ’til the next time that I see you

2013

Craziest year ever. Not even sure what to write about it. 2014 looks to be more of the same.

So many things. K’s dad. I hope he has a better 2014 than 2013. Same with K and her mom and her sister, L. And me.

Too many things have been going on for so long, I can barely remember what is like to be able to think clearly. Tired of being so confused and tired all the time.

It is not all bad. There are breaks. Every now and again, K and I get a day, or part of a day, off. I get more breaks than K, but when she is not here, I tend to spend all my time working. This year, our definition of “a break” has changed. We were noting that having some time to scrape the ice off the car and shovel it out of the snow now feels like a break.

Work has been crazy for both of us. Pretty sure that my business will make more money than last year. Happens every year, but I still end up working very many hours for very little money. So little that it seems like madness to keep going year after year, but I am short on other options. It is very hard for me to work a “real job”.

I know my job is a real job. I know that I am good at what I do. I work very hard. My web development skills get better all the time. Having a screencast addiction helps.

But my business and organizational skills are almost non-existent. When you run a business, those skills are at least as important as being able to do your job. Maybe that is the difference between a hacker and an entrepreneur.

My gross income this year is about $5K over the 2013 poverty level. This is due to a combination of undercharging, not charging at all, and a near complete lack of project management skills.

At this point, after reading approximately a million articles about project management, business organization, and every other possible subject that may be of interest to freelancers and small business people, I am pretty sure that these are skills that I can not acquire. I need my ever elusive “Magic Business Partner” more than ever.

Some Highlights:

  • On 2/4/13, Karen and I got legally married, 13 years to the day after our first date!
  • In May, we had a great party with our families and friends at the Ottobar to celebrate our marriage. Special thanks to Chuck for making everything so awesome, to Colleen for making the best cake ever, and to everyone who came to join in the celebration, especially my parents who came all the way from Florida for the occasion.
  • Every time that Karen and I have gotten to spend time together relaxing and/or having fun. They are few and far between, but nothing is better.
  • Snow.
  • Another year with Nikkyo and Buster.
  • In July, I got a black belt after doing martial arts for 16.5 years.
  • K’s cousins came for a visit from Canada. Very nice to see them 🙂
  • Several social occasions with new and old friends. Special thanks to Kim, Tarun, Lisa, and Dave.
  • Co-working at Betamore for many months. Met some great people and got to go to the harbor almost every day when the weather was good.
  • Lease on my computer ended and started a new lease on a maxed 15″ Macbook Pro retina. It is awesome!
  • Learned Laravel. I have been learning Laravel for over a year. I will continue learning it, but I actually know what I am doing now.

Favorite Apps of the Year:

  • Once again, Komodo IDE tops the list.
  • iTerm2 – Terminal replacement for mac
  • QuizUp – Very fun mobile trivia app.
  • Bejeweled – Still an awesome distraction and mind-numbing tool.

Happy New Year everyone!

2012: The Highlights

If I had to pick one word to describe 2012, it would be ‘busy’. If I had to pick 2 words, they would be ‘too busy’. Living in Baltimore is very busy. I don’t think I will ever get used to it. Work was way too busy for a while. It is great to have so much work, but also nice not to have to work every single second. Things have slowed down for the holidays and I have been enjoying the break.

So much has gone on this year, I don’t even think I can remember it all, so here are the highlights…

Karen got a very well-deserved promotion at work 🙂 It makes me very happy when she is appreciated for her awesomeness. I think she will like her new job a lot better and be able to put her many clinical and organizational skills to good use. Go K!

I finally got my Maryland driver’s license! On my 4th visit to the MVA, I finally got the license that had been held up by red tape, paperwork, and ridiculousness for about a year. Luckily my California license was valid until my birthday this year.

I got called for jury duty. I have always dreaded jury duty, but even my worst imagined scenario was better than how it actually turned out. My fears were about being locked in a room all day with no escape, being surrounded by people and noise, and not being able to speak when I needed to, but those ended up being the least of my problems except for the not talking part.

When I got to the courthouse, I found out that there was a “Quiet Room” to wait in. It was great and for the most part was actually quiet. At some point, there was an announcement telling us to report to a judge at the courthouse across the street. Unfortunately, they didn’t actually mention that the courthouse was across the street, but just gave the address and the room number. Somehow I thought the room number was the street address and walked 8 or 9 blocks to find it. When I couldn’t find it, I returned to the original building and asked a guard to help me. He sent me to the right building, but the wrong room. I returned again and was sent to the right room by another guard.

The judge stopped everything when I walked in and gave me a lecture about being selfish and disrespectful because I was so late. Sometime in the middle of the session, she started calling juror numbers, and I stood up when mine was called, prompting her to scold me even louder and longer than the first time. After more than an hour, the jurors were chosen and I was called up to the bench. My brain was too uncooperative to talk at that point, but somehow I managed to get a pen and paper to write on. I wrote that I couldn’t talk and that I thought that the room number was the building number and got lost. At some point, she stopped talking to me like I was a criminal and started talking to me like I could not understand English. Eventually, she sent me back to the first building to sign out. I never want to do jury duty again.

Snow. It has snowed a few times and even stuck to the ground and cars for short periods. I missed snow. It is so nice to see it and to be outside in the cool crisp late autumn/early winter air!

Karate. I still love my karate school. It is a great space and the instructors are all excellent. Since last summer, I have been especially lucky to have Mr. Joe Palanzo for a teacher. He is a great martial artist and a really amazing teacher. I have not liked a school or a teacher this much since my first dojo. It is 16 years later and I still feel lucky to have been a part of that school. I will always miss it.

WordCamp. I volunteered at WordCamp Baltimore in September and WordCamp Philly in October, and had an awesome time at both. I got to meet some really great people, and even pick up a few new jobs. Looking forward to next year when I also hope to make it to WordCamp NYC.

Laravel. I have been learning to use the Laravel PHP framework for the past few months and am really enjoying working with it. I am especially excited for the release of Laravel 4 and will be attending Laracon in February to learn more and to meet some folks in the Laravel Community, including my favorite web dev tutorial guy, Jeffrey Way.

Those are the highlights; at least the ones that I can remember at the moment. Thanks to all the great people here who continue to be very welcoming and warm. Thanks also to K’s parents who have treated me like part of the family and been so good to me.

Happy 2013 everyone!

Second Annual ASAN Gala

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Last night Karen and I went to the 2nd annual ASAN Gala at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It was even nicer than last year’s event, which was also very nice. There was a reception with excellent food and drink, followed by the opening speakers.

First to speak was the evening’s host and MC, James Weisman, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the United Spinal Association. I like him. He is a great speaker and tells funny jokes. Mr. Weisman has been doing amazing things for disability rights for many years.

Next, Ari Ne’eman spoke. Simply put, Ari is awesome. He is easily one of the best speakers I have ever seen. His passion for disability advocacy is infectious (in a good way) and I could see it spreading across the room as he spoke about how all autistics must be included in conversations about the autistic community, and not just those who are verbal and/or seen as “high functioning”. He is an inspiration to many people, including myself, and an example of how much can be done by self advocates. Ari was appointed by President Obama in 2009 to sit on the National Council on Disability and is the President and co-founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Kathy Greenlee, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Aging and Administrator of the Administration on Community Living spoke next, followed by Kathleen Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of Disability Employment Policy. Both women spoke about how important it is for disability rights activists to work together and not just for their own particular disability. They made the point that when organizations work together, they have more power to create change.

We had a very good dinner of stuffed acorn squash for the vegetarians and chicken and green beans for the non-vegetarians, followed by dessert, which resembled a triangular brownie.

Madeleine Will was presented with the Ally of the Year Award, which is an award given to individuals who go above and beyond in serving as allies of the Disability community. Next, Steve Kapp was presented with the Award for Services to the Self Advocacy Movement, an award given to those who have helped to build the Autistic community through exceptional advocacy, ingenuity, or service.

The Loud Hands Project video was shown. It was so great that I embedded it into this post. The Loud Hands project is organized by Julia Bascom.

The night was a great success all around and we left feeling excited after hearing about all the accomplishments by ASAN and other advocacy groups and individual advocates this year. So many people working so hard and so continuously to make the world a better place, not only for people with their own particular disability of interest, but for all disabled people.

It was also wonderful to get to meet so many of the people that I have worked with or known only online and to get to see friends who I do not get to see very often.

Thanks so much to ASAN for another great gala!

One day I woke up and I was 45…

I remember when I was younger, thinking that 45 was very old. The past few days, I have been thinking about what it means to ‘get old’. Is 45 old? 40? 65? 85? Does it matter? I don’t think it is a bad thing, and considering the alternative, it is an awesome thing!

I am not one of those people that wishes that I could be young again. It was hard enough the first time. There is definitely something to be said for ‘older and wiser’. There is no way to be younger and wiser because much wisdom comes from experience, and experience is something that is accumulated over time. I think age does matter, but somehow the reasons why have been strangely twisted.

It makes me sad that being old has to be such a bad thing in our society. Our culture is one that values youth over experience. There is a multi-billion dollar industry built on the idea that being old makes someone less valuable as a person. There are creams and treatments and washes and spas and even surgeries that can help people appear younger. The fact that it does not actually make them younger does not seem to matter. This is something I have never understood and something that really drives me insane if I think about it too much. Other cultures honor their elders and value the contributions they have made and the experiences they have to share. Why don’t we do that?

Going to stop thinking about that now. I had a great 45th birthday yesterday! Karen and I walked around at the harbor and saw lots of boats and big Navy ships. After that, we had birthday cake and played Skyrim for a while. Later, dinner of wine and pizza at Joe Squared. Awesome day, awesome night 🙂 I think I am the luckiest person in the whole world.

2011

In a word, 2011 has been CRAZY! I’ve had some crazy years in my time, and while this year is not nearly as crazy as some have been, it definitely holds a place on the “Craziest Years Ever” list.

A Brief Summary of 2011:

Moving

Karen and I gave up hopes of selling our house after waiting 3 years for the economy to improve so we could move to Baltimore to be closer to K’s parents and help them out. Lorena and Tess offered to live in our house, pay mortgage, etc. so that we could move. Thanks Lorena and Tess! Karen quit her long time job that she really loved (and found a new one in Baltimore), and in April we drove approximately 3007 miles away from Oakland, CA to Baltimore, MD to live in an awesome apartment that K’s friend Lisa found for us. Thanks Lisa!

Baltimore Life

Living in Baltimore has been a challenge to say the least. When we got here, we went to the local SSI office to officially switch from California to Maryland. While filling out the paperwork in the office, we found out that I am no longer eligible to receive SSI because we no longer live in our house. It is only okay to own a house if you live in it. Surprise! That was a pretty huge blow which has been hard to recover from. So hard, that we have not recovered from it yet. Karen had to take a large pay cut as well because jobs generally pay less here than in CA.

I still do not have a Maryland driver’s license, even after going to the Maryland MVA 3 times and waiting 12 weeks for New York State to clear my record in the National Driver Registry for something that was taken care of in 1984. One more trip to the MVA should do it.

Next was The Dentist. In August, I had an appointment for a “simple root canal” that would take 1/2 hour. Maybe I should have taken it as a sign that the day started with an earthquake, but I went anyway. It did not take 1/2 hour. It is 4 months, 9 dentist/endodontist appointments, and one emergency room visit later, and I am still dealing with the aftermath. I have 2 more appointments in January to (hopefully) finish the job. Some damage may be permanent.

Work has been pretty good. Luckily, my business is portable, and I can still work for my clients/colleagues in the bay area. Even more luckily, before moving here, I met an awesome woman on LinkedIn who has hooked me up with some jobs, introduced me to some people, and let me share her office. Thank you M!

It is not all hard. I love living here. I love the city. I even like the people. K’s friends are awesome and it is good to live near her parents so we can visit them and help them out. In general, I find that people are much more down to earth here than in the bay area. I like that. Our apartment is a block away from EVERYTHING, and I found a great place to do karate. I missed the east coast. It took me 20 years to miss it, but I am glad to be back. I love the changing seasons and the chill in the air. I am comfortable here. It is also nice to be so much closer to my family!

No year is complete without a few bulleted lists:

Favorite Apps 2011:

  • Komodo IDE 7 – I have been using Komodo as my main code editor/IDE since 2009. Both the free editor and commercial IDE get better with every version. Komodo 7 is in RC1 right now and should be released soon. Some bugs that were in the alpha and beta are fixed in this version and performance is improved. This version also includes my chalkboard color scheme as a system default called Dark_Chalkboard 🙂
  • Dropbox – There are not enough good things I can say about Dropbox. Now that I am working with 3 computers and an iPhone, it is hard to imagine getting along without it.
  • Moom – A relatively new window management app for mac. I have used several of these apps over the years, but Moom is my favorite one yet. Customizable keyboard shortcuts like the others, as well as a nice visual popup when hovering over the ‘maximize’ button on any window. Definitely worth $5.

Favorite Websites 2011:

  • WPCandy – Early last year, Ryan Imel relaunched WPCandy and it has quickly become my favorite place to keep up with the crazily fast moving world of WordPress news. Thanks Ryan!
  • Facebook – There are many things to hate about Facebook, but no matter what annoying things they do, it has still allowed me to have more human interaction than ever before in a way that does not overwhelm me (or if it does, closing a browser window fixes it).
  • Pinterest – I have recently discovered Pinterest and have been using it as an alternative to Tumblr. I like that it is limited to visual things.

Favorite Places in Baltimore:

  • Baltimore Harbor – I miss the San Francisco Bay more than anything else since we moved. It is really great that Baltimore has such an awesome harbor. Great place to walk around aimlessly and lots of fun things to do.
  • Charles Village Pub – One thing that always seemed to be missing from various places I lived in the bay area was a local pub. Now, we have one down the block. A great place to stop in and have a beer or to meet people at.
  • ETC – AWESOME place for the local tech and business startup communities. This is the place where the local WordPress and PHP meetups are held, as well as the place where I share office space. It is also the home of Beehive Baltimore, “… a coworking community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and other creative professionals sharing a common workspace in Baltimore, Maryland”.

I am hoping that 2012 will be an easier year for us. I am happy to be here and glad we made this decision and finally got to make it happen. For the most part, we are very lucky! We have jobs, an awesome apartment to live in, a great city to live in, close proximity to our families, and are surrounded by great people.

Happy New Year everyone!

RIP Steve Jobs, Derrick Bell, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

Derrick Bell, Steve Jobs and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
Derrick Bell, Steve Jobs, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
Derrick Bell, Steve Jobs, and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.
(Photo: David Shankbone/Wikicommons, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images, REUTERS/Tami Chappell)

I am sad that Steve Jobs is gone. I didn’t know him, but like many other people, he changed my life. There have been many tributes to Mr. Jobs in the past week and it is easy to see how widespread his influence was. There is also some negative sentiment in which people are furious that so much attention and honor is given to the death of a corporate billionaire while the deaths of race scholar Derrick Bell and civil rights leader Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, who died on the same day, were much less prominently noted. I definitely agree that the deaths of Derrick Bell and Rev. Shuttlesworth deserve at least as much attention as the death of Steve Jobs, but it is Steve Jobs’ influence on my life that I will write about here.

Apple IIe
Apple IIe

Like many computer geeks, Steve Jobs was a hero and an inspiration to me. He changed ‘thinking different’ from a reason to get beat up to a reason to be respected (at least as far as nerdy computer geeks go). I have been in continuous awe of the things he has created since the day my dad brought home an Apple IIe in 1983. That, along with a Commodore 64 and a VIC-20 that we used in the high school Computer Club, were the first places I learned about programming. BASIC. Loved it!

To a person who thinks of things in a very literal way and finds it hard to get along in a world where logic does not always dictate reality, programming provides a comfort, a world where actions and consequences are dictated by logic alone.

Aside from learning some PASCAL in college, I was out of the computer/media loop until 1995, when my dad told me about Windows 95. I got my first PC, a Compaq Presario 100MHz mini-tower with 8KB RAM, and read “Windows 95 For Dummies” from cover to cover. Over the next 10 years, I learned to build and fix PCs. I learned to build websites using FrontPage Express, a program that was included with Internet Explorer 4. It had a split view where you could look at the visual web site on one side and the code on the other, making it very easy to see how changing one would affect the other. I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about the Windows operating system.

By 2004, I was sick of the constant problems with Windows and had decided to switch to Linux. 2004 was also the year that the San Francisco Apple Store first opened. Lured by the promise of shiny electronic things, I wandered into the store and was completely blown away by what I saw. The operating system of the time was OS X 10.3, aka Panther. It was simple and beautiful, yet had the power, stability, and security of a UNIX based operating system behind it. That was it. The bar was raised forever. My first mac was a 12″ PowerBook 1.33GHZ PowerPC with 256MB of RAM. Somehow, that little thing ran circles around my 3GHz Pentium 4 PC with 1GB RAM.

I knew almost nothing about my new mac, which was a little disturbing considering that I could troubleshoot Windows in my sleep. Luckily, Karen knew how to use a mac and showed me the way. Before long, I realized that I was so confused at first because everything was so easy to do! I expected everything to be more complicated and unstable like Windows, but it was not. There was no need to troubleshoot in my sleep anymore. Like programming, macs made sense to me.

I currently use a 24″ iMac, a 15″ MacBook Pro, and an iPhone to do my work, learn new things, play games, and communicate with the world in a way that was not possible for me in the past. I am thankful to Steve Jobs for thinking differently and for the amazing contributions that he has made to the technical world. I am thankful to him for his inspiration and vision. I will miss him and the contributions he surely would have made in the future had his life not been cut so short.

Steve Wozniak remembers Steve Jobs

Five Ways A Root Canal Can Ruin Your Day

Root Canal
  1. It is preceded by an earthquake
  2. It takes 2.5 hours
  3. It involves numerous shots of novocaine and other random things that burn
  4. It can not be completed and you need to go back again.
  5. Your face swells to the size of a grapefruit and you spend the next morning in the emergency room.
Root Canal
Monkeyface

Numerous thanks to Karen for picking me up at the dentist last night and accompanying me to the emergency room this morning even though she has about 10 schmillion other things going on right now!

Busy Bee in Baltimore

Baltimore Row Houses
Baltimore Row Houses - Photo by mariozama

Things got off to a rough start, but I think I am starting to get used to living here. I thought I was busy in Oakland, but somehow seem to have gotten way busier here. It is wearing me out.

Business has been great since I got here. Working on 2 projects now, one from a new local business woman I met here and one from San Francisco. I still have not found the geek/webdev community here. It makes me kind of sad, but hopefully I will find it eventually. There is a WordPress meetup that I would really love to go to, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is organizing any meetings.

Besides from my todo list being about a mile too long, I think I like living here. It is a beautiful city with lots of things to do. I love all the bricks. I found a karate school that I really like. The pizza is much better than in California. My friend Kim lives here. Karen’s friends are great and the people here seem to be very friendly in general. K likes her job. It is also nice to live so close to Washington DC.

I am glad we can be near K’s folks and help them out. Also nice to live much closer to my family. I think I will adapt to living here someday. Right now, still feels kind of surreal. There is not much time to explore. Walking around aimlessly is how I usually adapt to new places, but even though there is hardly any time for that, things are starting to become more familiar and I am feeling less lost in general.

Have to get back to work. One of these days I will post some links, videos, and code snippets that are hanging around in my ‘things to post on lorib.me’ list.

Rejected, Dejected, but Relatively Unaffected

Maryland State Flag
Maryland State Flag
Welcome to Maryland?

Things started off so well. We made good time to Baltimore, got here to find an awesome apartment, a great landlord, and a neighborhood that has everything you would ever want within a few block radius. What could go wrong? Glad you asked. Please, let me whine for 3 paragraphs…

If I were more paranoid, I would think that the Maryland government hates me. That actually did cross my mind for a moment, but in reality, the events of the past 2 days have nothing at all to do with the fine state of Maryland. On Tuesday, Karen and I went to the DMV (aka MVA). On the first try, we didn’t realize that we needed 2 proofs of residency, so had to go back home and get them, then go back to the MVA. We registered our car, got our new plates, and Karen got her Maryland driver’s license. I was not so lucky.

24 years ago, I had my license revoked in New York due to getting 3 speeding tickets. Very shortly before it was revoked, I got a driver’s license in Florida.  I paid my giant fine in NY and assumed everything was taken care of. 4 years later, I moved to California, got a driver’s license and renewed it 4 times with no problem. I have had that license for 20 years, and it is still valid today. Still, Maryland would not give me a driver’s license because the record from New York and Florida was never cleared from the system. In order to clear it, I must mail a $25 check and a letter requesting that they clear my record to NY. There is a 10-12 week wait time for processing it. When that is done, they or I must fax the clearance to Florida, and Florida must fax it to Maryland. Not exactly sure what the point of having the whole country hooked up online when you still have use snail mail and fax to get anything done. Thank goodness my California license is good until 2013!

“What else could go wrong?”, you may ask.  Yesterday, I lost my SSI because I don’t live in my house any more, so now it is an asset. I have been trying very hard to get off of SSI for several years now, but was hoping to do it when I was making a more steady income and could afford health insurance (and rent). Luckily, Karen’s new workplace has benefits for domestic partners so I will still be able to get my medicine.

Yesterday, both me and K were in pretty bad spirits. Maybe it was all the red tape and rejection, or maybe it was because we went to both the DMV and Home Depot 2 times, but things were looking pretty bleak and we were completely exhausted. I think we are both in better spirits today. Our bed and furniture from IKEA is assembled and we can now start unpacking for real. Best of all, I can start to set up my office and hook up my big computer!

It will be good to start working again. Suddenly I feel the need to re-market my business to focus on things that bring in steady monthly income, like web hosting and website maintenance. I still have job requests coming in, so predictable income will have to wait. Hopefully I will hook up with the web development/geek communities here soon. Luckily, most of my business is done on the internet, so I will still be able to work with my current clients and colleagues. Karen will be starting work in a couple of weeks, and I am guessing that is when I will really find out what it is like to live and work in Baltimore day to day. Until then, I am hoping we can have some more fun times and adventures before we are both crazy busy again with work/life/etc!

Alternative Routes

Karen and Lori with our map.

Karen and Lori with our map.

Long day today. Exhausted. Got a bunch of maps at AAA and K planned us yet another alternative route in case the weather is bad, which it looks like it will be. K posted the exciting details on our site: http://karenandlori.com/2011/03/19/stormy-weather/

12 More Days in Oakland

I hella heart Oakland

I hella heart Oakland

We are moving in 12 days and I am starting to freak out. Our house is full of boxes. Everything is different. I will miss our house terribly. We have lived here for 8 years and I have loved every minute of it.

Karen is very busy seeing people before we leave. I have seen a few people. There are more I want to see, but probably won’t because there are so many things going on and I can barely even stand to think about adding more things.

Things keep breaking. As if there weren’t enough things to do, we have added waiting around for repair people to the list. Our washer broke one day before the warranty expired. It was a weekend, but Sears let us use it because we called before the expiration date. That was very lucky. We were not so lucky about our freezer. That one expired in December. It has been leaky and not freezing things as it should. Tomorrow is the day for that repair. Spent 3.5 hours at Costco yesterday waiting for tires. Considering we will be driving almost 3,000 miles, I think it was worth the wait. Hopefully we will get out of here before we spend all our money on repairs.

Mostly I am freaking out because I can not at all picture what it will be like to live in Baltimore day-to-day. I don’t interact with very many people here, but over the years, I have managed to not be completely isolated from the outside world.

There are 3 ways that I can interact comfortably with people I don’t know very well:

  1. Geek events – meetups, conferences, cons, camps, etc. It is easier to talk to people at these events because we share the same interest and excitement about whatever technology we are celebrating at the moment.
  2. Beer – I like to drink a beer with people sometimes. Maybe even a scotch or Jack and Coke. Still not terribly easy, but definitely takes the edge off.
  3. Martial arts – Even though I have such a hard time talking to people, for some reason, I usually have an easy time fighting with them. I think this is strange, but I don’t really care.

I am not worried too much about having a beer. I think that will happen on its own. I have been researching Baltimore geekery and found a few meetups, including WordPress. Hopefully I will meet new people to work with and talk shop with. I have met some really great people here through WordPress meetups and I will miss them a lot. I have also been looking for a new karate (or other random martial arts) school with weekday daytime classes. If it wasn’t for karate, it is very likely I would have no human contact for most of my waking hours.

I am lucky to know some people in Baltimore already, one of whom I am especially excited to be living near again (that is you Kim, if you are reading this). Over the years, I have met lots of Karen’s friends there and have always had a good time with them. They are very welcoming and down to earth and strangely easy to be around. Thanks K’s friends!

As each day passes, we are doing more and more “lasts”. It is possible we will do all those things again someday, but probably not for a very long time. Today might be the last time I go to San Francisco before we leave. Karen will go back next week to party with her friends. It is all very strange. I don’t like it. Still, I am looking forward to new adventures in Baltimore and am very curious what life will be like a few weeks from now.