Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Ready for Christmas

Well, we're ready for Christmas. Cathy decorated the inside of the RV last night, and I finished hanging lights on the outside. Ta-dah!
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Friday, December 12, 2008

How to Modify Your Pet’s Behavior

Living on the Edge


This is our life... except with five cats and a dog (who does not get to sleep on the bed.

So, finally, a long-overdue update on the Joneses. We are now living in our RV. If I hadn't posted stuff on the blog, I doubt even I would believe what this last year (or so) has held for us.

So we're full-timers now. Monthly RV lot rentals are reasonable, except for the summer when prices double(!) for three months. We plan on limiting our expenditures and living nine months out of the year in one location and spending the summer months bouncing around more affordable locations.

Cathy used to drive down to Tustin to shop at Whole Foods, and now we're so much closer. So, my extra commute will be offset by the closer shopping. Excellent!

About Cathy's mom
Many friends are asking what Rhonda is going to do now that we are living in the RV.

First things first; Rhonda is not living with us in the RV. Way back in the first months of our RV ownership, Rhonda spent some time in the RV helping Cathy and discovered that she is allergic to something in the RV. Rhonda had a skin reaction to the RV, so she decided she couldn't really visit. There is not enough space for three adults and two more cats, anyway, but the point is moot with Rhonda's allergies.

Rhonda was looking for a job and hoped to move out on her own. Several months back, Rhonda's Aunt Barb tracked us down and came by to visit, and she offered Rhonda a temporary residence with her in Mission Viejo if necessary. Aunt Barb picked up Rhonda last night. Aunt Barb won't allow Rhonda's cats indoors, though, so Cathy's mom will have to figure out something else for her kitties.

More about the RV
Back when we listed the apartment for a short sale, we knew our credit would be completely shot and finding a rental would be difficult. We heard that people would really bad credit (foreclosure?) may be required to put a three-month down payment on a place! And not a lot of places rent to 5 cats and 1 dog, either.

So, we became inspired by our friends Steve & Yvonne and purchased a RV to live in. Cathy found a really good deal on a second-hand RV. We took our first RV trip in April and decided this was actually viable. Now, we are full-timers! :-D

More about the Apartment
One of the three original potential buyers stuck it out and bought the apartment on the short sale. There was a lot of back-and-forth with the mortgage companies, appraisals, the 1st mortgage agreeing to pay something to the 2nd mortgage (but a fraction of the total). A full nine months after we began the process, the apartment building finally has a new owner as of 12/09. Woot! It is a lot better than a foreclosure.

In other words...
In other words, Cathy and I have moved into our RV, we're living alone as a married couple (wow!), and things are settling down at the end of a long year. I really hope things stay settled for a while. :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

We've moved!

So, back in September I thought we would be moving in October, but as it turns out we didn't move until 12/10. Quite thankfully, God saw us through this last year and we're finally living in our R.V., which Cathy lovingly decorated to be our home-on-wheels.

The furkids are settling in real fast. Cathy and I guessed 2 days and 5 days (respectively) for how long it would be before the cats and dog acclimate, and it looks like we're both wrong as they are behaving like the own the place already.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Auditorium

Saw this over on Penny Arcade, who got the link from Dubious Quality, who got it from somewhere else.

Anyway, you have to check out Auditorium. Go play it.

Monday, December 01, 2008

1905 LOL Cat

This captioned cat picture postcard was found by Tracy Angulo in a Seattle antique store. Tracy tells us that the photograph is from 1905, which would make this officially the oldest cat picture with a caption, AKA lolcat, that we’ve seen.

The differences are clear. Proper grammar and a more formal tone was in vogue back then. But the similarities to modern-day kitten struggles and lolcats are amazing. ALL CAPS is still cool, but most importantly, she also no can has cheezburger. More than a hundred years later, all that’s changed is the spelling.

1905: "What's Delaying My Dinner?"
2008: "I Can Has Cheezburger?"
via ICHC via My Cat Wears Clothes

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Google Contact Sync for BlackBerry available

I was updating my BlackBerry apps and noticed that Google Sync for BlackBerry now includes Google Contact synchronization. You can upgrade from Google Mobile Apps on your BlackBerry (select the "More" option, highlight the Sync icon, and choose upgrade), or you can visit m.google.com/sync from your phone and install or upgrade.

I am using a BlackBerry Curve 8320 and OS 4.5. Google Sync does two-way contact and calendar sync and it is working for me. I am very happy to finally have contact synchronization.

I had just signed up for Soocial, but their BlackBerry sync is still missing.

This move from Google is welcome; I was beginning to think they only love the iPhone and forgot us BlackBerry users. :-D

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Prop 8 and Prop 22

This is a telling comparison between Prop 8 and Prop 22. Prop 8 passed by a very narrow margin, while Prop 22 passed by a large margin.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Prop 8 Passed?

I am surprised, but it seems Prop 8 is going to pass. I honestly thought, in spite of all the signs and propaganda I had heard, that Prop 8 would be defeated.

Cathy and I met a married lesbian couple while waiting in line at Ben & Jerry's last night. At the time, No on 8 was leading by about 3%, if I recall correctly. We discussed Prop 8 and wondered what its passage might mean for their family. I doubt that the California courts would retroactively dissolve marriages joined this year. According to Joan Hollinger, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, "Constitutional scholars agree that the amendment cannot be effective retroactively."

I was also assuming that many others would be rushing to get married before Prop 8 goes into effect; I probably would. But, yesterday may have been the last day for gay marriages:
“A proposed [legislative] amendment or revision shall be submitted to the electors and if approved by a majority of votes thereon takes effect the day after the election unless the measure provides otherwise. If provisions of 2 or more measures approved at the same election conflict, those of the measure receiving the highest affirmative vote shall prevail.” See Cal. Const., Art. XVIII, Sec. 4
However, marriage license will likely be issued for the coming month until the state health department directions California county clerks to stop.[1][2]

Not only did California voters ban gay marriages, but bans also passed in Florida and Arizona.

I would say that would be the end of gay marriage in California, but Prop 22 (from 2000) was struck down in May. Prop 8 used the identical wording, but this is an amendment to the state constitution, so I don't know if it can be challenged and struck down like Prop 22.

All in all, these are interesting days. I thought for sure, with a huge Democratic turnout, that Prop 8 would pass. I was wrong.

One final note: I really hope and pray that conservatives and Christians won't be jerks about the results. Peoples' lives were changed today; compassion and love should rule the day. Jesus Christ would have it no differently.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Historic Election Results

Wow, a historic night. Barack Obama has the President Elect and the first non-White President of the United States of America. I hear many people are celebrating the election of our first mostly African-American president.

I've been getting my election results online, of course.

Google has a 2008 Elections Gallery that is pretty cool. For general numbers, like electoral votes and House and Senate results, I've simply referred to the Google News Elections landing page.

For California propositions, I've been following the election applet at the LA Time. I like this applet for the "margin of victory" tab. The search for the propositions link goes directly to Proposition 8, so that must be what the LA Times site visitors deem to be most important issue?

For Prop 8, with only 48% reporting, it is 52.5% YES and 47.5% NO. That's pretty close... so we'll have to see how Californians vote on 8.

I am glad to see Prop 2 (Farm Animals) is winning by a large margin. :-) That makes me very happy. I guess I'll wake up tomorrow to see all the final results.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I'll Fly Away

Something reminded me of this song. The last time I sang it was at Promise Land with Cathy's dad.

I'll Fly Away
Words & Music: Alfred E. Brumley

Some glad morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away;
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

When the shadows of this life have grown,
I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away;
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

Just a few more weary days and then,
I'll fly away;
To a land where joys shall never end,
I'll fly away.

I'll fly away, O glory, I'll fly away;
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cathy's dad died

Cathy's dad died at about 4:00 PM Pacific time.

The men from the church came to pray outside his window. Sandra opened the window so that dad could hear them.

They were singing 'Amazing Grace' when dad breathed his last. Sandra says he was breathing comfortably, and just stopped during the song. That's very beautiful.

There is rejoicing in heaven. We will miss him, but the parting is temporary.

Cathy's dad may be dying

Jerry called Cathy with news that dad (Al) was very, very sick. He was told to say his last goodbye's to his dad over the phone. We called Georgia for more information.

Dad's medication was causing a breathing problem, so they took him off the medication. Last night, he started having problems again and hallucinated. The nurse providing hospice care for dad (her name is Pam) spoke with the doctor. It seems that the cancer had returned in the last two months and spread to his liver. Dad's liver is releasing chemicals that is causing the rest of his body to shut down.

The hospital thinks he has between 24 to 48 hours left to live. If this is the end, we will know soon.

Up until yesterday, dad was ambulatory and in full possession of his mental faculties. The nurse says he is not in any pain (morphine and something else), but he is no longer responsive, either. We do not know if he is conscious or not. Jerry, Cathy, and I were given a chance to tell dad that we love him over the phone.

I was not expecting this. Two days ago, when we got in touch with Sandra, we prayed and just expected dad to recover and eventually get his voice back. I was waiting to talk to him when he could answer instead of just listen.

We are still praying for his recovery, selfishly. Certainly, Al would be received into heaven with joy and celebration, but I would rather he live here for a few more decades.

Sandra was upset at us as she never received our voicemails and answering machine messages. Whatever misunderstanding there may be between us and Sandra (dad's wife), God has seen to it that we have a tender heart toward Sandra. Last night, Cathy kept waking up with feelings of anxiety and panic, with the thought that I was dying. She would see me snoring and go back to sleep, and it would happen again. During these attacks, Cathy thought, "What am I going to do? My other half is dying!" This happened through the night. Cathy thinks this is God's way of helping her relate and sympathize with Sandra.

Please pray for:
  • God's will, whether he restores Al again or takes him home
  • Comfort and grace for Al's family
  • Protection and stability for Al's church (where he pastors) as the new pastor take over his responsibilities

Monday, October 06, 2008

Cathy's dad still sick, Georgia uncertain

We've been calling Georgia to check on Cathy's dad. The last time got to speak with either Al or Sandra was Sunday, August 9th! I've left messages on the answering machine at church and their home, and Cathy left messages on Sandra's cell phone, but we just couldn't get in touch.

However, Cathy's sister-in-law, Tracy, called the nurse, who then gave the phone to Sandra, and got this bit of news: Cathy's dad is having some difficulty with the treatment, which caused him to lose his voice again as his throat is swollen, so he can't speak. *sigh* Cathy was then able to call Sandra.

Somewhere along the way, someone told Cathy that they hospital thinks he has very little time left, maybe a month or so. Dad's church, and Sandra, is taking it on faith that God will continue to have mercy upon him. We are hoping and praying for his healing. We still remember his miraculous recovery in August and January.

Prior to dad's stroke, though, he sat down with Sandra and discussed having someone take over the church in his stead should he no longer be available. So, the church will go on, and it has adjusted to dad's absence, waiting for his return.

This affects our Georgia plans in some ways. A year ago in November, Al had asked me to go to Georgia and work by his side so he could train me as his replacement. It seems he may have had to turn the church over to someone who is available now. So it seems we may not be serving at Cathy's dad's church after all.

I'm OK with that; the well being of the church is far more important than my desire to serve in any one particular location. If dad has appointed someone else to head the church, then I think it would be best if I were not around, for even a perceived challenge for authority could be bad for the church.

Unfortunately, I cannot speak with him right now, and do not wish to burden him while he is ill. I've all but decided to let the entire matter go quietly. I plan to tell both Al & Sandra that I understand and respect their decision and will continue to pray for his complete recovery.

We have spent the last year planning to move to Georgia, so if the transfer comes through we may still go. Unless I have misunderstood Cathy's dad's wishes, we'll stay away from the church to avoid causing problems.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Rant: some people shouldn't be sysadmins

Argh. I just got off a client's system where their 'sysadmin' had messed things up so badly it took me 30 minutes to realized he had misconfigured up his DNS server, that his computers were part of a domain but all logging on locally, and the server and workstations were using two different sets of DNS servers even though he is running DHCP. None of it makes sense! And the users just want to do their jobs and go home.

It is soooo frustrating to fix other people's messes. And I know the guy is paid more than I am because he's the sysadmin for a large national vanline agent. *sigh* Where can I get a gig like that, where people overpay you and don't know you are out of your depth?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fanny on the RV dashboard

 
Here's a photo of Fanny on the dashboard of the RV. She sure is comfy...
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Losing weight

Cathy restarted the Atkins diet and got me on-board 09/14/08. I started out weighing 268.5(!), then 261, and now 257.5. So far I've lost 11 pounds. Given that my goal is to be within 10 pounds of my high-school-weight (back when I was actually working out), I've got to lose another 65 pounds.

Some of that 65 pounds needs to be replaced with muscles, so I'll be losing more than 65 pounds in fat. Ugh. I hate saying it out loud, but man I am fat!

I don't plan on looking like Arnold, but I do want to be much more attractive to my wife. She loves me dearly, but I would like to make myself more pleasant to look at. :-)

Some people give up cigarettes, I'm giving up snacks and rice. *sigh*

Cathy's last day at work

Today marks Cathy's last day of employment for the time being. She enjoys her work environment, her co-workers, and her boss likes her. It seems to me that her competence was recognized, so Cathy is sad to leave.

At the same time, she will be enjoy keeping the house organized for a while as we prepare for our move into the R.V. and (God willing) our soon-coming trip to Georgia.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ther is no free Microsoft Publisher Reader, but there are options

Microsoft Publisher does not have a free viewing program like Adobe Acrobat Reader. My church uses Publisher, but not everybody has it installed, thus creating a problem for people who have to view Publisher files.

So, if you need to read Publisher files, or if you need to send Publisher files to others, here are a few options, including a "free Publisher reader" of sorts.

For CREATORS of publications:

You can convert your publication to PDF first, and email the PDF file.
  • If you have Publisher 2003, you should download a PDF printer. I would recommend that you install CutePDF (you'll also need to install GhostScript). This will give you a CutePDF "printer"; You can create PDF files from anything you print, so just print your Publisher file to CutePDF. You will be prompted to save the PDF file; just email the PDF instead of the Publisher file.
  • If you have Publisher 2007, download the "Save as PDF or XPS" plug-in from Microsoft. From your publication, choose the File menu to save the publication as a PDF file, then email it.
  • You can also embed the Publication in the body of an email; use the File menu in Publisher to send the publication as an email.

For RECEIVERS of publications:

If you receive a PUB file as an attachment and do no have Publisher, you can convert it or get a "free reader."
  • You can convert the PUB file to a PDF online, for free, at PDF Online and have the converted document emailed to you.
  • You can also get a "free reader" of sorts by running the Publisher trial version until it expires. Download the TRIAL of Publisher 2007. For 60 days, you will have full functionality. After 60 days, it will still open PUB files; you can print but you cannot edit them.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Check your tires!

Saw this on Consumerist; six-year-old and older tires could be really dangerous.

Essentially, the rubber of tires dry out after approximately six years, then they can blow while looking completely new. See the video below and check out the post at Consumerist.

YouTube: Ninja Cat

This is cute; a cat keep approaching the camera during peek-a-boo. The last shot is precious. :-)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ubiquity, Firefox, and Google Chrome

Firefox is brought to you (ultimately) by the Mozilla Foundation, which brings you Mozilla Labs, which brings you stuff like Weave for Firefox and (eventually) Ubiquity.

Ubiquity promises to be awesome (video link); it is an attempt at
"connecting the Web with language in an attempt to find new user interfaces that could make it possible for everyone to do common Web tasks more quickly and easily."
And I'll bet it'll be integrated tightly with Firefox.

Google Chrome is very promising, but I've switched back to Firefox for day-to-day browsing, and it only gets better with time. Get Firefox and add some extensions.

Monday, September 08, 2008

BBC thinks I'm a girl


The website has a scary name, but BBC's Sex I.D. test attempts to tell you if you are more male or female in terms of you thinking. They think I'm a girl (primarily because, I think, I did well on the "where are the keys" test).

We're moving due to foreclosure

So, after trying to sell our place for 10 months and having two buyers waiting in the wings for three months, it looks like we're not going to make it into escrow before foreclosure.

We got our foreclosure notice back in June. We have been trying to do a short sale since March (?) and in June we got two buyers! Unfortunately, entering escrow requires the mortgage holder to approve the buyer, so they have sent out three appraisers, but so far we're still waiting on the paperwork.

As most normal escrows take 30 days, short sale escrows tend to take 45 days or more. As the foreclosure auction will occur before the sale completes, we are not going to get done.

Oh, we're still waiting on the third appraiser's final report, and that was almost a month ago. *sigh* It is almost like the bank wants to foreclose instead of selling the property.

Cathy talked to several financial counseling places. The first one, a non-Christian one, suggested that we go into bankruptcy. I called a Christian one that told me to stop paying all my bills and call back in four weeks. Cathy called a couple more Christian ones and they both suggested that they couldn't help us and that we seriously consider bankruptcy. *sigh*

I spoke with a real estate attorney and he says our second mortgage holder gets very little from a short sale, so they would likely block the sale. I didn't know they could do that, but CitiMortgage did call me up and, when I told them about the short sale, said they would block it as a matter of course. The attorney said that the second mortgage holder would get a judgment against us for the full amount and we'd be in debt for a long time to come. He also suggested bankruptcy.

So, despite our efforts, we're going into foreclosure. There's still a change our primary mortgage holder will put it off and try to work with us but, since we're still not in escrow, I doubt it.

It is a rather unfortunate set of circumstances. I'm not sure where Rhonda (my M.I.L.) will live, but we'll be moving into the R.V., and it looks like that will be October.

Recycling and Groceries

Cathy and I recycle; we don't do it to the best of our abilities, but we do the obvious, like bottles, cans, and bags.

We bought shopping bags which are left in the trunk for our shopping trips, including two insulated bags for our refrigerated items. It is a lifestyle choice we've made, and it's something Cathy and I do together.

Just a point about grocery bags. A vast majority of plastic bags are recyclable, but there seems to be a popular idea that plastic bags are evil, environment-destroying menaces. For example, the September 7th, 2008 issue of Rose is Rose says plastic bags are bad.

Plastic bags don't have to end up in the landfill. You have probably noticed the "Recycle your bags here" bins at the grocery store. That's because plastic bags are readily recyclable (see this eHow article).

And, by the way, most paper bags I've seen at grocery stores are from recycled sources, too, so you're probably not asking for trees to give up their lives for you.

Cathy and I use our own shopping bags because we don't want more bags to be produced. However, don't feel guilty using the bags, so long as you recycle them.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Facebook

I'm on Facebook now, much in the same way other people might be on drugs. You can find my Facebook profile here.

There are several things I like about Facebook. For one thing, I have found friends I have not seen in almost 20 years. While I backed out of MySpace right away, Facebook's privacy controls kept me around.

Besides, it lets me contact people without compromising my privacy. :-)

I like the Twitter integration and ability to post RSS feeds. I'll still Twitter, but it goes to FB as well. I'll still blog, but my FB friends can follow the summary if they want. It is a win-win for me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hey, an update on US!

OK, the blog title says you can keep up with the Joneses but I haven't said much about us recently. Well, not much at all since my dad died in January. Here's a nutshell catch-up post. It's probably gonna be a bit rambly.

Cathy and I are both in decent health, and the kitties are doing good. Oliver is his usual self, and Cathy's mom, Rhonda, still lives with us.

We're rather settled in our church now and I really love our neighbors who also go to church with us; their son is great and I love watching their family grow. We have seen our own family rather more this year and I have appreciated that a great deal. I think they will be OK on housing, so I'm not worried about them.

My mother is still somewhat depressed, which is understandable. She still lives in Taiwan as we cannot afford to bring her here due to the medical and living expenses. *sigh* But, at least calling her is pretty cheap. I am still working on getting some survivor benefits for her, but an Army Colonel that attends our church tells me I will never hear from the military retirement and benefits people because they tend to get very backlogged in wartime. He's going to try to get me some face time with someone local, though.

Having to kick out one of the tenants sucked. I learned a lot, mostly about how I really am a sucker at heart; that is good, I suppose, for a pastor-wannabe, but not good thing for a guy who wants to work with people who are coming off substance addictions (or is it?....).

Cathy is working as a temp and currently assigned to Yamaha, but we're reasonably certain that job will end September 30th. In fact, we're certain of it.

The short sale of the apartments is so uncertain! We're still not in escrow, and our 2nd (CitiMortgage) promised to block the sale as they won't get much of the settlement. *sigh* Oh well. The other uncertain part of the short sale is whether the forgiven amount will show up as "income" for tax purposes. If that is the case, we might as well just sit through foreclosure!

I'll be looking for a way to get transferred to Georgia so Cathy can be near her dad. It's been over a week since that big scare and Al is still in physical therapy. Thank God for that. But, I want Cathy to be near him (she wants this, of course) so I'm going to move to Georgia, one way or another, but hopefully with my employer.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cathy's dad, Al, is recovering

OK, here's the latest (and probably last mass email) on Cathy's dad. The short version is that he is recovering very well and will not have any surgeries done. He does have problems with his leg that will take some physical therapy, though.

The longer version is that they did managed to get a CT scan and determined a few things: dad's bleeding was healing and he would be OK, the bleeding was caused by blood pressure rather than a blow to the head, and dad's left leg is numb because of the bleeding instead of his head.

Dad's much more himself now. He's still quite frustrated with being in the hospital and just speaking takes effort, but Cathy and I got to speak with him on Sunday.

It turns out that it was his left leg (somehow I got the impression of right leg). Al has difficulty moving it but feeling has returned fully. The physical therapy started today.

I've had time to think and wonder, and I asked many times my medically-inclined friends if we overreacted when dad was whisked to the hospital. The answer has consistently been, "no." Given what we know now about his condition, dad's recovery is remarkably unlikely. And, given the expectation of the hospital staff (that he would die any second) it is not only amazing he is alive but that he is able to converse with those who love him. They are now quite certain of his full recovery; quite a reversal. Like I said, I would like medical charts as proof for future reference.

I would appreciate your prayers for Al in the coming days. Also, please pray for us as we decide what to do next and when to do it. We have set tentative firm dates for going out to Georgia... the dates are flexible to a degree, but we'll be there before Winter if I have my way. Please pray for guidance and provision. Thank you.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

My Cousin Pey's short visit

So, my cousin Pey was only here overnight. I picked her up at the airport at 2PM on Wednesday and she was gone on Thursday. But, we had a nice night, considering that we hadn't seen each other in about 20 years and Cathy's Chinese is non-existent.

After picking her up, I had to go back to the office and finish the work day. Pey got on the Internet and Skyped her friends and IM'ed her sister. At 5PM, we headed out.

Pey had a difficult time understanding English, unless I was the one speaking to her. Perhaps it is a matter of accent? I am not sure, but I thought that was interesting. So, for the most part, I translated for Cathy and Pey as we went about town.

It was strange being reminded of what California looks like to new eyes. "The pace of live is so slow here," she said at one point. Cathy and I thought she would find South Carolina absolutely glacial if California was slow for her!

We had dinner together at Outback. Pey wanted to experience something new, so she had a 8-oz prime rib, medium rare, and she loved it. Out waitress was great, and when I complimented her to the owner of Outback Steakhouse (his name is Joe) he gave us a giant dessert as a "thank you!" That was awesome.

We dropped off the cake and ice cream at home and got Pey a pre-paid mobile phone. Just about everybody has by-the-minute and $1-per-day phones, so we got her a new SIM card and she went happily on her way with a new U.S. phone number.

The flight was really early so we went to bed early, just after dessert. :-)

We got up at 4:40 AM and got there one hour before the flight. There was no traffic to speak of and we found parking right away. It seems every elevator and escalator save one was broken at terminal 6, so we had to carry Pey's bags down to ground level (I wasn't climbing with it!) and tried three elevators and escalators before finding a functional one to go to ticketing.

It was a crowded terminal. Some United flights got canceled and were re-routed to Continental, overflowing the queue to the ticket counter for Pey's flight. By the time we were halfway through the line a Continental agent told us we'd have to be re-routed, too.

Pey had to fly standby from LAX, but her Houston flight was confirmed. She would have four chances to get on the plane to make her connection. The ticketing agent (Chris, I believe) was very nice; she gave me a security pass to accompany Pey to the gate so I could help translate. It turns out that was an excellent thing.

After 20 minutes getting to the front of the security checkpoint (where they took my Leatherman Micra -- darn), Pey was randomly selected for a pat-down and carry-on check. Hm... large Asian male with folding knife or little Asian girl with a cell phone... let's screen the girl!

Anyway, we were at security for about another 20 minutes as they patted Pey down, swabbed her sandals, her purse, computer bag, and checked every little thing she had on her. The guy took Pey's water bottle (?) and wouldn't let her drink from it (?!?), saying it was TSA property once it entered the checkpoint. There's a guy that takes the "power" his job gives him way too seriously. I told him, "Your job must suck," and he asked why. "Because," I said, "I know you don't make the policies, but everybody you check must think you're an idiot for insist on taking people's water and not letting them drink from it." Oddly, he refused to speak to me after that.

Pey had a chance at four flights and she was #12 on standby according to the ticketing agent. She could take the 8:00, 09:00, 11:40, or 12:40 and still make her connection. We got in line as I did not see Pey's name on the standby list, and we stood there for about 40 minutes. The terminal was swarming with people, and apparently every flight was overbooked and there was a need to accommodate re-routed passengers.

The agent at the counter was named Doug. For 40 minutes, Pey and I chatted and I watched Doug slog through the wave of humanity pressing up to his gate counter. I watched as he turned away standby passengers, including a woman was kept cutting the line and complaining to Doug (and whomever would listen) that she had been on standby for five hours already. My hope dwindled, but I maintained a cheery attitude for Pey.

We got to the front of the line about 10 minutes after boarding had begun -- I knew Pey would be trying for the 09:00 flight next, and she suggested that we get in line now, but I figured I would confirm her standby status, and maybe even get her name bumped up a little with some diplomatic pleading. Doug asked us to hold on as he hustled peopled onto the awaiting plane, so we did so, patiently.

Surprisingly, four or five (I'm not sure) people did not show up even though they were checked in, and the first three standbys were whisked onto the plane in a hurry. Doug asked what I needed and I explained I am Pey's translator and need to confirm her name on the list. He told me to hang on and shoved someone else through the gate.

Pey was confused, so I explained that each standby who got on the plane increased her chances, and the more people that missed this flight, the better it was for her chances to get on the next flight. Finally, Doug got an old Indian couple on the plane and came back to the desk. He looked around, then said to use, "Follow me." I grabbed Pey and we headed to the gate, and just like that, she was suddenly on the flight! Doug grabbed one more person and dragged him through the gate, shouting over his shoulder, "Stay here in case she doesn't make it onto the plane!" and I hurriedly responded in the affirmative.

As I waited, I watched the plane detach and taxi down the runway and Doug confirmed Pey got on the flight. I thanked him heartily; both ticketing agents had the patience of saints. I made my merry way back to the car, not even caring about my Leatherman. I had to climb some stairs back to the car and got to help an old lady with her bag down the stairs. It turns out it didn't just seem like the elevators were broken -- everybody I passed complained about it. I was just glad to be leaving.

Pey called me about noon and told me she was in Houston, and she called again tonight to tell me she was in SC safely. Thank God. :-)

In October, when she comes back this way, we're going to take a few days to hit Disneyland and other attractions. That will be fun!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Update on Cathy's dad - stable and needs MRI

So here's the latest news: not much has changed since 36 hours ago.

The docs say that the bleeding was due to a blow to the head, so perhaps a fall? We're not sure, and he doesn't remember.

Dad was blind, unable to speak, and unable to move on Sunday. When they revived him he was rather combative, but that's normal when you wake up and are restrained and have tubes and needles in you.

Dad needs a second MRI to see if the bleeding is stopped, slowing, or getting worse. They can't sedate him as that could mask neurological damage, and the pain and pressure on his brain is making dad drift in and out of consciousness. He can see, move, and converse, but the pain and drugs are making him rather confused.

The nurses tell us that, given his initial 12 hours, this is nothing short of miraculous.

The next step is to get a second MRI, but as dad is drifting in and out of consciousness, they can't get him to lay still for 45 minutes. They may sedate him after all... that's what I heard as of yesterday.

Dad's right leg is still numb; while he can feel it, he can't move it. They think this is an aggravation of an old back injury, so there's not much worry about this (OK...).

So far, is no news good news? My sis-in-law, Tracy, teaches nursing and suggested that dad just needs rest and his wife at his side so they can finally do a MRI; everybody might as well rest at home.

We're still praying regularly and expectantly. God has been merciful again. Please keep praying. :-)

Got my cousin in town for the night

My cousin, Py Yen (or 'Pey' for short) is in town from Taiwan (!). I picked her up at 14:30 (or there abouts) from LAX, but she leaves tomorrow at 6:30 AM! So we'll be back at LAX at 4:30 AM (argh)!

We'll get dinner, maybe a pre-paid phone, and grab some shut-eye.

But, in October, we'll have a week or so to hang out. She'll want to go to Disneyland, I'm sure. We're looking forward to that!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Some random thoughts

They said Al had lost vision in one eye and couldn't speak and could only hear, that's why they thought he would die soon. They didn't think he would make it through the flight, let alone through the night.

Now he is recovering in the hospital. I've got to get some documentation on his condition at both hospitals. Wow.

Going to bed...

Update - Al's stable?!?

I was writing an email to friends, family and fellow believers. I had said this:
Al is a godly man that has served as a pastor for some 18 years. He asked me to come be his successor. I was working on the idea of getting a transfer to Georgia. It seems we ran out of time. Cathy and I just spoke with him on Thursday for, I don't know, one hour? Al was quit convinced that he was recovering from his lung problem from before and then this...
Then WOAH! It is 12:55 AM and I was writing this when I got a call from Sandra, Al's wife. Al's in intensive care observation, but he woke up and started arguing with the orderlies! and responded to their tests and commands (lift your left hand, etc). He was fighting too much so they sedated him again.

They had turned down the sedatives to bring his blood pressure up to prepare for surgery, but he woke up instead and started fighting. The medical staff says he is strong, and, well, nobody expected this. Surgery looked like the only way to save his life, yet suddenly he is stablizing!

Sandra is on her way home as the doctor told her he was (amazingly) out of danger and no surgery was planned, though they would watch for 24 hours before moving him into a regular room. He still has bleeding but they don't think surgery will be necessary. It doesn't make sense, people are amazed, and we are thankful!

Please give thanks to God, and keep praying for his recovery. We still need to make plans on making our way to Georgia as this is the second time that Cathy thought her dad was going to die and God has spared him. We want Cathy to have time with her dad, so she's going to take a leave of absence and go East. I'll go with her initially and fly back.

Thank God! And please keep praying!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Cathy's dad is in the hospital

At about 6:30 we heard from Cathy's sister that her dad, Al, is in the hospital. He has two hemorrhages applying pressure on his brain. At first they were just holding him there while waiting for a surgeon to relieve the pressure. From the first call we were told that it does not look good.

Cathy's dad is on a ventilator and they are trying to control his blood pressure.

Each passing minute makes his recovery less likely. He might lose some sight, movement, or worse, although it is possible that most if not all complications would be mitigated by relieving pressure on his brain.

About 8:30 PM we heard he was being airlifted as a surgeon became available. There will be an examination and possibly surgery.

About 10:45 PM our time they were at the destination, but I don't know how long they were there before we heard. I haven't heard anything since. We've been praying and praying, and I hope no news is a good thing at this point, since it probably means they are treating dad right now.

Please pray. I'll be twittering updates as we go and blogging / emailing after a major update.

At this point, we're thinking we'll pack the RV and head out to Georgia, either to help during Al's recovery or to attend his funeral. The doctors are very pessimistic, but this is the same guy that God healed last year. God is good; we'll see how things turn out.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Song: Open Up the Sky

I have no idea if this is a well-known song or an obscure tune, but I just became acquainted with "Open Up the Sky" by Jonathan Stockstill of the band Deluge, coming out of the Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I love the chorus...
Open up the sky, fall down like rain,
we don't want blessings, we want You
Open up the sky, fall down like fire,
we don't want anything but You
and
We won't be satisfied with anything ordinary,
we won't be satisfied at all
It is a beautiful idea that resonated within me. I told Cathy I wanted to preach on the impermanence of this world and the realness of the life to come (cf. The Great Divorce). I would want this song in the music leading up to the sermon.

Integrity has made the song and chord chart available. It is well worth listening.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Is your Internet safe? Check your DNS servers.

There's a major security hole in DNS -- and it is time to patch if you haven't yet.

Check if your ISP has patched their own DNS server by visiting Doxpara Research (the site of Dan Kaminsky, who found the problem a while back) and click on the DNS Checker on the right.

If you are running your own servers, be sure to check Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-037 on patching them.

If you find that your DNS does NOT check out OK, try OpenDNS (you can see my original post on OpenDNS here). I use OpenDNS at home and at church, thus avoiding the entire problem in the first place.

In any case, run Windows Update to get the latest patches. It is a good policy.

For the geek-minded, here's an article about how the exploit was discovered.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Free Audiobook: 'The Practice of the Presence of God' (July Only)

Christian Audio is offering The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Laurence for free during July as their Free Audiobook Download of the Month. The shopping cart coupon code is JULY2008. (Hm... wonder what last month's code was?)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Map of all Starbucks closing locations

Saw this list at Consumerist. Starbucks released a list of the locations that are closing as a PDF.

I'm going to see if I can make a Google Map out of it... Yes.

Update:
Here's a map of all closing Starbucks locations in Google Maps.

The Google Earth KML is here.

Here's the same map from BatchGeocode...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Free "Into the Wild" audiobook

Saw this on FatWallert -- "Into the Wild" is free as an audiobook from Borders through July 19th. Here's the link: http://audiobooks.borders.com/3AF63441-B5FA-4F80-A998-541A1F10A69A/10/129/en/IntoTheWild?cmpid=SL_20080715_REW

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of INTO THE WILD.

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless's short life. Admitting an interst that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the dries and desires that propelled McCandless. Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

When McCandless's innocent mistakes turn out to be irreversible and fatal, he becomes the stuff of tabloid headlines and is dismissed for his naiveté, pretensions, and hubris. He is said to have had a death wish but wanting to die is a very different thing from being compelled to look over the edge. Krakauer brings McCandless's uncompromising pilgrimage out of the shadows, and the peril, adversity, and renunciation sought by this enigmatic young man are illuminated with a rare understanding?and not an ounce of sentimentality. Mesmerizing, heartbreaking, INTO THE WILD is a tour de force. The power and luminosity of Jon Krakauer's stoytelling blaze through every page.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I am genuinely depressed tonight. I miss my father and I worry about providing for my mother. Her birthday is coming up this month and it will be her first without my dad in 38 years. It sucks that I cannot remember their anniversary -- I think I can find it in the paperwork I filed after he died.

I just realized that I don't have a completed SF-1174 to get my mother the last month's worth of my dad's pension.

Gah! My eye is twitching again.

I hope to write a letter to accompany the form and send it in, explaining what the correct answers are and hoping that whichever government employee who receives it will process it anyway. *sigh*

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Fireworks at the Del Mar Fair

 

We had a good time at the Del Mar Fair. Here's a picture of the fireworks display!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Uptime of 38 Years, 4 Months, 3 Weeks


There's no way this is accurate, since I installed this system myself, but I came across a UNIX system that claimed an uptime of 38 years, 4 months and 21 days. If that were true, this would literally be one of the first UNIX systems ever. Must be a math error...

Friday, June 27, 2008

Colbert Report Heaven

From my good friend's blog, the joining of two great joys in my life, serious theology and political satire.

N.T. Wright was on the Colbert Report!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Download Firefox 3 today, help set a world record

Go get your copy of Firefox 3. Only complete downloads counts, not upgrades or updates. Help set the world record as high as possible! Go to http://www.getfirefox.com/

Friday, June 13, 2008

Google Browser Sync to go bye-bye

Argh. After lunch I read that Google Browser Sync is being discontinued, according to a comment at Lifehacker. Since it is just a comment, I'm hoping it is wrong, but given this post at Grant Midwinter, Google may truly be abandoning sync for Firefox 3.

It is probably due to the need to re-write the add-on because FF3 is a new product. Oh well.

But, hey, here's a solution: It looks like Mozilla Labs Weave 0.2 will perform the same functions.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cathy's dad is sick (again?)

Here's a prayer request for Cathy's dad. We found out last week that one lobe of his lungs (there are five lobes) has collapsed and he has something wrong. Cathy's dad thinks it is an infection, while the doctors are concerned that, somehow, the cancer has reappeared.

This caused quite a stir for us; Cathy wants very much to spend time with her father, and I would like to work along side him at the church. After his healing in January we were not expecting this.

Please pray that God's will be done in all our lives, especially Cathy's dad. Please pray for his health and healing. Finally, please pray that God will provide a means for us to spend more time with him, especially Cathy. Thank you.

Keeping Up - the catch-up post

Wow, so much has happened since my laptop died. My last post was Memorial Day weekend, when my laptop died and we had another slab leak.

Here's a few things to catch my friends up to date...

Yeah, my work laptop died. I don't have a home laptop, so I've been using Cathy's when I needed one. At work, I have been working on old equipment on an incidental or occasional basis; I may use a different laptop or desktop each day. Ah, well, that's what is good about portable applications like Firefox.

My father's birthday came and went, and I spoke a lot on the phone with my mom. I found out that it takes up to four weeks for a check to clear. So when I sent a check home, it could be five or six weeks before my mom gets the money. And there is a $25 fee on this side and about a $15 fee on the other end. *sigh* Father's Day will probably be hard.

The slab leak was a liability; patching it means nobody will buy it, but re-piping is ridiculously expensive in comparison. Since we'd be on the hook for any repairs if there were another within 18 months, I opted for a 1/2 price re-pipe. That's over $7000 we're in the hole again, so that just about wipes out Cathy's income, which we were using to pay down debt. *sigh* The re-pipe is done but the walls cannot be patched until the city inspects it; who knows when that will be...

Still no buyer for the apartment. We had a lawyer look into the way the loan was originated and he agreed that "shady" and illegal practices were used, but did not know how we could get any relief. We could try to go after the license of the loan officer and broker, but that doesn't help us at all financially.

I have a tenant who just refused to pay rent and told me he was moving. Reluctantly, I started the eviction process. By the time I get the unit rented out again, I'll have missed another month (at least) of payment, so that puts us further behind. We can get a judgment for the rent he owes plus the cost of having him evicted, but I'll have to wait for that to come. Since the relationship has broken down this far, I would rather not have him living here anymore anyway. I hate the idea of evicting someone, but it is unfortunately necessary.

I'm going to post a separate prayer request for Cathy's dad. We found out last week that one lobe (there are five) has collapsed and he has something wrong.

Aside from feeling under a lot of pressure and a little depressed at times, Cathy and I are doing OK. We went to California Adventures this past Friday evening; I wasn't impressed.

If you would, please pray for Cathy's dad, my mom, and for us to trust God's will as we go through this unpleasant period. Thank you.

My first eviction

I just got a call from my lawyer that the tenant who refused to pay me got his eviction notice. He has almost two weeks to respond. That seems long to the landlord, but I'm sure it seems short to the guy getting evicted. *sigh* I hate this.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Coincidence?

My laptop died the day after this comic came out... what a coincidence...?

$52 for a tank of gas


Our 2003 Civic has a 13-gallon tank. It cast me $52.04 to fill up at Costco. That's insane.

At least Cathy drives a hybrid and gets 44 to 47 miles per gallon. I get about 35. Sheesh.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Another slab leak

Great. Another slab leak. Seriously. Argh.

I didn't want to believe it... the guy who has the slab leak is also refusing to pay rent. Not only do I have to pay for the repair, I'm not getting income to cover it. *sigh*

I called a plumber but he couldn't get here fast enough, so I ended up going with my trusted choice of Adee-Do Plumbing. They'll be here first thing tomorrow.

I started the three-day notice over the weekend, but the lawyer says I should have handed the tenant a copy then mailed one, so I had to start over. At least I only lost one business day. It was awkward handing a guy a three-day notice and then arranging for a plumber to fix a problem. *sigh*

Apartment ownership sucks.

Laptop dead... argh

My laptop died on Sunday. I got done paying bills online, tried to access a server at church, then... blue screen of death. After a couple of reboots that were sucessively less encouraging, my laptop finally said there was no hard disk installed.

I went to work and plugged my laptop's hard disk into another laptop and was able to boot in Safe Mode and copy my files to a USB hard disk drive. But, my laptop is just not working.

Estimate is $560 to fix. We'll see what my boss says....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Natural Disasters

The Myanmar cyclone has claimed more than 30,000 lives, in part due to the (in)action of the Junta.
Today, an earthquake in China killed more than 10,000 and many more are missing.

The presence of personal evils in the world, the suffering inflicted upon persons by other persons, is understandable. But the natural disasters of the world, or natural evil, is difficult to stomach.

Just this past Sunday I taught a class as part of a series on the so-called "Problem of Evil." How can there be evil in this world if there is a loving, all-knowning, all-powerful God?

A defense is one thing; I think I can speak with someone who wants to argue that God does not exist based upon the argument that bad things happen. The mere existence of bad things does not mean God doesn't exist. But explaining why God would allow bad things, a theodicy, would be more satisfactory.

Perhaps I should post the work that my friend and I have done for this class (it's mostly his stuff). But what I want is to be able to explain why, or failing that to explain why I cannot give the reason but still be convincing to others when I say that God is good, loving, wise and powerful. *sigh* That will be a lot of work.

Windows Vista's firewall has outbound rules


Huh. Windows Vista's firewall has outbound rules. I didn't know that until today. I wonder if it does anything?

Anyway, this is accessible via Control Panel (classic view) > Admin Tools > Windows Firewall with Advance Security.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

And then, suddenly....

Things happen suddenly; usually it is bad things, but some things that happen suddenly are good. Actually, the worse of the bad things happen imperceptibly slowly. Anyway... Some sudden things happened to me today, two good, one bad.

First, I got a raise! After taxes, we're suddenly getting an extra $25 a week, but that's always nice.

Second, I was planning a new VOIP system at church for the eventual demise of our current phone and voice mail systems. Suddenly, today it died completely, but our phone tech had a mortgage company go belly-up and is re-selling us that system for 1/3 of what I was budgeting for. I hope we get new phones, too... I'll find out more tomorrow. So, that's maybe a good suddenly.

And finally, the owner of a company that I hear from often died last night of a hear attack; he was only 58. I can remember how his voice sounds over the phone. He was a nice man, and suddenly I'll never help him fix a computer problem again. OK, this didn't happen to me, but it was still so... sudden.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Windows XP SP3 (Service Pack 3)

Windows XP SP3 (Service Pack 3) is available now as an optional update on Windows Update and will become automatic (probably as a critical update) on June 10th.

If you are using Microsoft Dynamics, Microsoft's POS (point-of-sale, not the other thing you're thinking) retail solution, don't install SP3.

Microsoft requires you to have SP1 installed before SP3, and recommends you have SP2 installed (get SP2 from Windows Update) as well before SP3.

In a nutshell, if you have been running updates all along, this won't be a big deal. However, if you load Windows XP fresh on your PC for some reason, this will save you a great deal of time. It adds some Windows Server 2008 compatibility and other networking features, but the big deal is saving time after installing SP2.

So, don't expect any new features. Getting SP2 was essentially getting a new operating system. SP3 is just a time-saving roll-up of patches.

You can download Windows XP SP3 here (316mb) or (more official looking) here. Of course, you should find it as an optional update.

For more, Paul Thurrott's got a review.

Yeah, I know, lots of boring technical stuff lately, but it's what I do for a living.

Update: Microsoft has released a hotfix for Microsoft Dynamics.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reflections on teaching junior highers

I had the pleasure (and toil) of preparing a Sunday School lesson this pas week for our junior high students. My assigned passage was Genesis chapter 21, verses 1 to 21. This portion relates the birth of Isaac that God promised, and the sending away of Ishmael and Hagar.

I don't intend to give a lesson here, but I did note a few things worth mentioning.
  1. First, when you study the Bible only for yourself, you get something out of it that is very narrowly applicable for you. At least, as someone who went to a missionary school from K-12 and attended a Christian college and seminary, that's what happens to me.
    But, when you study for the purpose of teaching others, you have to take into account their concerns and needs, and suddently what God has to say becomes more broadly applicable. This may be because my perceived needs do not always coincide with any given text.
  2. Second, junior hight students are in the middle of a transition, the cusp of entering young adulthood, and they are a fascinating mix of youthful naivite and hard-bitten realism. The JH's were innocent about personal relationships and yet really struggled with the screwed up dynamics of mixed families.
  3. Third, God surprises you when you seek His message for your people. Something I never would have thought of on my own occurred to me the morning before the lesson, and it changed how the conclusion of the passage would be presented.
  4. Finally, I enjoy teaching the young; there is so much energy there! I just don't know if they learned anything!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ran into an interesting Windows Server 2003 problem today. There was very high CPU utilization by lsass.exe and svchosts.exe (NETWORK SERVICE), and an inability to create outbound network connections. The client has previously rebooted this server to resolve the issue in the past, but wanted an explanation.

This client runs our application from that server using Terminal Services. Our application would not run and was given a cryptic message with the error code 10055. That five-digit code looked like a Microsoft TCP error to me, and sure enough it was. A quick Google searched turned this up:
10055 WSAENOBUFS -- No buffer space available.
Since that is a TCP error, that would mean no network resources are available. I ran "netstat -n" but saw very few established sockets.

Task Manager showed high CPU usage by lsass.exe and one svchosts.exe running as NETWORK SERVICE. I tried to download Process Explorer but Internet Explorer could not get to any websites; the bottom of the page said there was a DNS error.

I opened a command prompt (CMD) and was able to ping www.yahoo.com, so DNS works. I figured I would just FTP the file, so I ran FTP from their server to our web site and got another error:
> ftp: connect :No buffer space is supported
So, another error that points to TCP resources being unavailable.

I tried asking the great Google for answers about TCP resources and error 10055 but mostly found people who rebooted to make the problem go away. There were some Microsoft Articles about increasing the maximum TCP/IP socket buffers, but this is not our server, so I do not want to make changes requiring a reboot without knowing if it would even solve the problem.

Naturally, I examined Event Viewer and saw some error messages that suggested more socket errors which Microsoft's KB indicates a group policy not being able to execute. Probably not the root problem.

I decided to figure out which service was killing the CPU and see if it was also tying up the network resources.

LSASS sustains a bunch of services, including HTTP SSL, IPSEC, Kerberos, NetLogon, NT LM, Protected Storage, Security Accounts Manager, and maybe a couple others. It seems to manage TCP sockets rather than use them, so though CPU is high I figured I could safely ignore LSASS.EXE

OK, svchosts.exe is starts up services, so I ran the Services.MMC (or go to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Services) to examine services. I went through all the listed services and looked at the details for each. Where the command line included svchosts.exe, I looked for the "-k NETWORK" to determine which svchosts.exe service was running as NETWORK SERVICE. I restarted each one and watched Task Manager to see if the high-CPU instance of svchosts.exe disappeared briefly. When I got to the "Server" service, both svchost.exe and lsass.exe freed up their resources. The Server service also restarted Net Logon, DFS, and Computer Browser.

Ta-dah! I was able to browse the web, FTP, and of course our application worked again. Since this was not our Windows Server 2003 machine, I passed the information along. But, that certainly beats rebooting completely.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Clyde Cook

Not many of those who read this blog will have had to privilege of meeting Dr. Clyde Cook. Nonetheless, his passing is both a sad and glorious thing. Biola has a tribute site for Dr. Cook.

I graduated from Talbot in 2000 and 2008. Biola found me in 1991 and I began attending in 1992. Dr. Clyde Cook was there for my entire Biola and Talbot experience. I was very pleased to hear he was retiring and it gave me joy to think that this wonder servant of God spending well-earned time with family and friends.

I heard about his passage into glory the day after; good friends and fellow Biolans told me. Strangely, while I felt sorrow for Anna Belle Cook, I smiled with the realization that Dr. Cook was received in celebrated in heaven.

"Well done, good and faithful servant." If I have known any man about whom I could confidently assert would hear these words upon meeting our Lord and Savior, it is Clyde Cook.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New MSN phishing problem

I use several instant messengers. There's a new phishing / trojan (?) program floating around on MSN Messenger. If you get the following message you should not click this:
Hey check this.. http://very.c00l-stuff.com ..brb !!
In fact, as a general rule, don't click on stuff unless you have a good reason.

The scary thing is that the message came from a family member on my contact list. That implies that my family member has an infected PC. So, watch out for unsolicited links to websites and downloads, even from trusted sources. Always double-check.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

First weekend in the RV

So we had our first weekend out in the RV. We got here really late on Friday night. The neighbors were all very understanding; a couple of them helped us back in to our spot and our next door neighbors John and Shannon Williams (full-timers) helped me do part of the hookups. John and Shannon's son is four and is also named Lee. He starts montessori school on Monday; he's a bright and very social. The neighbors and RV'ers we did meet all seemed friendly and social. I could get used to this.

The sewer hose that came with the RV was too short, so I've yet do do my first dump; that will come in a hour or so.

Oh, we slept fine. The RV wasn't quite level, so we slept with our heads sightly higher than our feet on Friday. I fixed that with a couple of tiles Saturday morning. I'll have to pick up some leveling blocks.

Our biggest worry had been the cats and dog. This weekend was a scorcher and we kept the air conditioners off to see what it would be like. We did have the windows open and the vent fan on. There were no problems; though it was very hot outside, it didn't get too hot for either one of us, and the cats and dog seemed rather content, even though it got to 93°F outside.

I like being connected with the outside; all the windows and openness of the RV makes me feel less disconnected from the environment and our neighbors. At night, I can see stars. It feels good and right to sense the rising and setting of the sun, to be part of the circadian rhythm.

The cats' favorite space is under the hideaway sofa; the enclosed space may make them feel more secure, and it is probably 5° cooler under there.

Today we ran the RV's air conditioning, and it is very comfortable. We haven't had air conditioning at home since October 2004, so even adjusted to 80°F it feels great in here.

Well, I need to batten down the hatches and get ready to move. We wants to be home about 16:00 and I still need to dump the RV...

Friday, April 11, 2008

First night in the RV

I'm writing this from our RV, on my laptop. I've got the accouterments (or accoutrements) of geekhood; laptop, PDA, cell phone, Internet access... the lot rental covers the utilities and we're not looking into someone else's RV.

OK, the RV isn't quite level; we'll get blocks in the morning to finish the last bit of leveling. Things are working, which is good. We can do this; we can go RVing.

Anyway, one of the first things I noticed; people are very helpful.
Second thing, very little light pollution; I can see stars!
The third thing, it's quiet! I like it very much.

I hope we sleep well tonight; it was my first time leveling the RV, so we'll have to see.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Before you download Windows Vista SP1

Thinking about installing Windows Vista SP1? I am. It doesn't offer new features or (necessarily) better performance, but it does fix stuff in a neater package. I'm going to back up my data and restore a disk image from my fresh Vista installation, then install SP1.

Anyway, Microsoft strongly recommends using Windows Update instead of the Microsoft Download Center to download and install Windows Vista SP1 on single PCs. You can get the standalone install from the Download Center, and if you are rolling out SP1 to 50 computers, it kinda makes sense.

However, for most of us, using Windows Update sounds like a good idea to me. Here's why:
  • The download size from Windows Update of Windows Vista SP1 for x86 is 65 MB (compared to 450 MB from the Microsoft Download Center).
  • The download size from Windows Update of Windows Vista SP1 for x64 is 125 MB (compared to 745 MB from the Microsoft Download Center).
  • Windows Update will recognize PCs with known problematic drivers and postpone downloading Windows Vista SP1 until the PC has updated drivers or other applicable updates.
Be sure to uninstall any prior versions of SP1 first.

If something quits working, try uninstalling and reinstalling the driver.

If you choose to install Windows Vista SP1 via the standalone installer, first visit Windows Update and install all optional drivers (see Knowledge Base 948187 and 948343).

And, as always, back things up (you should be doing so anyway).

My mom misses my dad

I spoke with my mom yesterday. Though I still miss my father some times, she misses him terribly every day. It is something that I had not considered before. *sigh*

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Translating Taiwan Postal Addresses into English

I found a wonderful tool for ensuring proper delivery of postal mail to Taiwan. The Taiwan post office has wisely provided an address transliteration/translation tool. If you have the address in Chinese, a properly formatted English address is provided for you.

Taiwan addresses are broken down by county, cities, roads, sections, alleys, lanes, number, floor, then rooms. So, an address (I made up) could look like:
8F., No.3, Alley 21, Lane 31, Chung Gang 2nd Rd. Sec. 2, Puli Township, Taoyuan County 333, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
See why this is useful? :-)

Free e-Sword Greek and Haitian modules

Back when I was taking Greek classes, we were too poor to afford anything as nice as BibleWorks (which is great for exegesis). For my daily Bible computing needs, I used e-Sword.

e-Sword is a excellent free Bible program. The modules are based on Microsoft Access so you can build your own modules if need be. Some modules with copyrighted materials can be purchased from third parties (Rick Meyers, who wrote the program, doesn't sell anything). It is donation based and I believed enough in it that I gave even during our poor seminary days; I would encourage you to donate as well if you use it.

That said, I built several e-Sword modules. For example, I owned both the NASB and NIV in other formats and converted them to e-Sword myself. Once they became available for purchase, however, I could not use them in good conscience. However, the following modules are redistributable.

Haitian
I put together the Haitian Créole Bible for a missionary brother in Haiti. The install will locate your e-Sword folder and extract directly to it; just restart e-Sword to see the Haitian modules.

Greek
When I was studying Greek, I could not find a usable, free version of the Nestle-Aland text offline. So, I found the CCAT text (about NA26 text) and Nestle-Aland 26th edition module (original ZIP package). Later, I discovered that I did not use final sigmas for the text, but I was willing to live with it. A user by the name of Bruno Neuckermans
figured out what password I used and fixed them.

So, if you want the NA26 module, download my original ZIP and extract the contents to your e-Sword directory. You may want to (maybe even should) download Bruno's corrections to overwrite my module. The NA26-.BBL file will give you hints to help in translation, but won't do all the work for you.

This BBL module contains the text with diacritcal marks and punctuation, but not the critical apparatus. You may want to use this in conjunction with the e-Sword module GNT-V for basic textual criticism, but I recommend you buy a hard copy of the UBS4, with the dictionary.

P.S. Even if you re-upload the file to another site,
please link back to this post in case
there are any updates, like Bruno's. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

God provides some things through us

I can't complain about my lot in life. We have much and plenty.

On Saturday, as we left a grocery store, a man and an old woman approached our car, begging for money. He said he was trying to feed his family and his mom. We didn't have much cash to give them, so he only got $3.00 from us. As he guided his mom to another car, I started to pull away but decided to stop. We went back to the man and his mom; we offered to buy him a meal or some groceries and he took us up on it.

His name is Robert. I went into the grocery store with Robert while Cathy stayed outside and chatted with his mom. His family moved here from Philadelphia. He does auto body work and thought he could find a job here easily, like back home. Unfortunately, he can't find work and lives day-to-day. We got a modest basket of food because he does not have refrigeration; I paid and we joined Robert's mom and Cathy.

Cathy had been chatting with Robert's mom and prayed with her. Robert's mom is a Christian, and was very glad for the company and prayer. She's blind (we don't know why) and Robert is the son trying to take care of the family. She thinks her other son, who comes by and follows them around harassing them, may be demonicly influenced. They have it pretty rough.

We left Robert and his mom at the grocery store, heading home with their daily bread.

While it was good to do something for Robert and his mom, it hurt that we have such limitations. But just as we trust God for our daily needs, I have to trust that God will watch over His other children, too. It is not for me to try to do it all, but we'll try to do all that He asks of us, when He asks it.

So, if you would, ask God to watch over Robert and his mom. Thanks.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Up and Down, Up and Down...

Looking back over the last year or so, our lives have been crazy, with lots of ups and downs. Through it all, God has been unchangingly good. Thank God!
  • Cathy had Hep-C, but she was healed!
  • Then Cathy lost her job, and we found out Cathy's dad had cancer.
  • We almost lost Boaz because he swallowed a glass bead. But he recovered nicely!
  • Then we got tricked on our refinance into a really high interest rate.
  • But, hey, I graduated from seminary (finally)!
  • Then we had a slab leak, but the plumber gave us six-month terms.
  • And the Cathy's dad was healed! And Cathy got a job!
  • Then my father got sick and died. But I went to Taiwan and was reconciled with my mom.
  • My dad didn't leave a will, so I've got a small hill of paperwork to fill out to try to get support for my mom. But some fellow Christians (who remain anonymous to me) covered the cost of the trip!
  • Now we have to sell our apartment for less than it is worth. We will have terrible credit because we have to do a short sale (where you settle with the mortgage company to pay less than you owe). These days, landlords check credit when you rent, so we'd have a hard time renting. But we were able to buy a RV to live in and plan to use the money savings to pay off debt.
So... an update is LONG overdue.

My Mom: My mom is doing OK. She finally received that 'bereavement package' from the DoD HR department. Dad's bank account has to go through a kind of probate, so mom's not getting that money any time soon.

I've got two forms for her to sign, but it takes so long to mail them back and forth that I was hoping to send them to her as PDF files and cut half the journy. However, nobody there seems to own a printer! Everybody has email and IM (Yahoo! is very popular there) but nobody can print the PDF files. In fact, I had to explain what a PDF file is to several people. Anyway, it is slow going, but it is going.

Cathy: Cathy's job is going quite well, and her boss likes her. That is a blessing. Her health is good.

I'm doing OK. The kitties are cute and the doggy is dogged. All is well, considering!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Selling the Apartment Building

So... we're trying to sell the apartment now. If I had only listened to my wife in 2006 and sold then... *sigh*. But, I wouldn't have met my nice neighbors and I may not have as involved at our wonderful church, and we may not have gotten Boaz and Bubba. Anyway...

So, why? Last year we started refinancing with Purpose Funding. The guy we were working with, Jason, did four refinances in a row with us. In September we started a refinance and he told us to hold off on paying the mortgage as the refinance would take care of it. However, he was slow getting the loan to us and it was almost late by the time he showed up with the paperwork. The rate was much higher than we arranged over the phone, but he promised to refinance it to a lower rate in November and we were stupid/desperate, so we signed. Jason disappeared after that, and when we called Purpose Funding we found out that Jason didn't work there any more and nobody could get in touch with him. So, our mortgage shot up by $2000 and we were in deep trouble. I guess he made a lot of commission or something, but I have a hard time not thinking bad thoughts about him.

We tried to refinance elsewhere, but very few people are able to refinance apartments. Besides, mortgage companies started getting scared about that time. I had called our mortgage company several times since November in order to restructure the loan. So far, no joy. (I didn't realize this, but I must have picked up the phrase from my father.)

The last few time I called, the mortgage company said they just could not restructure the loan. I told the loan company that we are having a hard time paying that much more and we won't be able to make the whole payment; we've used up our savings and even paid a couple mortgages on credit. If it weren't for the extra side jobs I get from time to time, we'd be in really serious trouble. Still, they say they cannot change the loan as it was originated by Fannie Mae and they won't allow a restructure.

So, we have the apartment up for sale with a note indicating it is a short sale. We post what we would like, but the "short sale" note tells potential buyers that we'll take much lower offers. Once the bank approves an offer, we sell and move. If the short sale does not happen, we'll be unable to keep up and we'd face foreclosure. *sigh*

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pronounced Hay-Soos

I don't know why, but this is very funny to me.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pet Pocket: I want one

Zechariah and Boaz would both love this Pet Pocket.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Oops, it is a Leap Year

I spoke with my mom this past Sunday and promised to send her some money. As it turns out, we were broke after paying bills, so the next time we would have money was my paycheck at the end of the month. Figuring it's February, I'd get paid Thursday.

It's a Leap Year. I got paid Friday, which is not in time to wire mom money for this week. Nothing seems to go according to my plans. *sigh*

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Mom: she's staying in Taiwa and we're getting along again

For the record, my mom is staying in Taiwan. She's got a coffee shop that gives her enough income for now. It's only subsistence-level, so she'll chew through her savings (such as it is) at a very fast clip. She only needs $600 a month but she makes about $450. She'll need to have it supplemented, but that's where I come in. I am hoping that my dad's retirement pay will be payable to her; she appears to be elligible for about $600, so that would be just enough. It will take months, though, to wade through the paperwork if these forms are any indication of what's ahead.

One reason to stay is that I cannot afford to support her fully. There's not just room and board, but also medical. Another reason is that she would have no social life here. She's only 57 and she is surrounded by what she knows and loves; now is not the time to move her. I have to prepare for that eventual day, though. Besides, we're only recently reconciled.

If the occasion was more cheery, I would have enjoyed my trip. As it were, my biggest fear was my time with mom. As you may already know, my mother and I have not been on speaking terms for 10 years now. It boils down to my failure to be the son she needed; the details are murky and (at this juncture) not important.

That weekend which we visited grandma was another turning point. I watched a painful exchange between my grandmother and my mom. Grandma berated mom for an event from her youth, humiliating her in front of me, her son. I recognized the pattern in our the dysfunctional exchanges my mom and I have had at times. It pained me, but I understand now why we have the problems we do. The sins of the father really are visited upon the children.

On the bus ride home from grandma's, my mother told me she is proud of me; I was there for her in her time of need. For the first time for a long time, I fulfilled a son's duties in her mind just by doing what I knew to be right. In taking care of my father's business, I was finally able to honor my father and my mother in a way we both understood. I take the command "honor your father and your mother" very seriously. It is good to finally be able to do so in a way my mother recognizes.

It is the beginning of something better. I have much to do in the weeks and months ahead, trying to get my father's benefits applied to mom. Ultimately, however, we will be a family again. And that's a blessing.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Did I mention I'm back?

In talking to my father-in-law, it became clear to me that I did not tell everybody that I am back in the USA. I came back on Wednesday, 02/05/2008.

I want to say for the record that the trip was under God's care. For example, just getting on to the plane was a feat.

I had found out my need for a plane ticket and passport on Friday night. My passport had expired, so I called for an emergency passport. There is an after-hours duty office in Washington, D.C., and she arranged the next available appointment for me, 7 A.M. Monday.

My father died Saturday morning my time. Still, I needed to get there A.S.A.P. for my mother's sake. Cathy helped me pack, I took time off from work and drove to L.A. to arrive before 7 A.M.

That's when I saw my first clear sign that God was watching over me. The L.A. passport office was closed! It wasn't a holiday; they were closed for training. However, the will-call window would process my passport since it had expired (they would not process new and lost passports for a couple of other people).

Then there was another difficulty. I only had a Chinese death certificate. The agent dissappeared with my dad's death certificate and came back less than 10 minutes later; it just happened that one of the employees (who they did not expect to be there) is Chinese and could read the certificate.

Next hurdle; they wanted a ticket to show proof of travel. I explained that I did not want to buy a non-refundable ticket that weekend (and, given that they were not actually open, they said they understood). The agent was so very kind; she gave me her cell phone number so I would not have to navigate the phone system. So, I was able to call China Airlines and got a ticket faxed to me, and I got my passport in time, before the passport agency closed at 11:30.

Getting the governent to renew an expired passort when they are not open for business? That's a acti of God. :-)