Saturday, December 29, 2007

NJ Gas Pumping Safey

The transition to the new job was bittersweet - I'm going to miss the folks I worked with even as I look forward to the new challenges.  To celebrate the past/future job situation, Rebecca surprised me on my last day with a trip to New York to see Cyrano de Bergerac.  I'll try to write about that trip later, but the New Jersey gas pumping situation was so ironic that I felt compelled to write about it first.  

Now, we've driven to New York across the turnpike a few times and I've always found it strange that I couldn't pump my own gas.  So, this trip was no exception, we needed to fuel up on one of those service exits on the turnpike.  While I was waiting in line - and Becca retrieved the Starbucks - I notice this fine fellow helping out.  

Now, I'd seen him before walking around the line of cars, directing traffic etc.  By his actions and the clipboard in his hand I assume he must be some sort of supervisor - presumably responsible for the smooth operation and safety of the gas pumps.   Wait a minute, he's actually going to pump the gas too?  

What a good supervisor - helping out when things get really busy.

Now, I should pause a minute to give my understanding of the insanity that disallows people from pumping their own petrol.  I have assumed all along that it is for our own safety.  To protect us from ourselves.  I supposed perhaps it could be just to employ more people so I figured I'd look it up.  It turns out Yahoo Ask, agrees with me:
The ban on self-service gas stations is a highly combustible issue and makes for some heated debates. New Jersey passed the law making it illegal to pump your own gas in 1949. At the time, legislators felt it was too dangerous to have untrained people dispensing such a flammable liquid.
Having said all this, let's take a closer look at the photo:

Ok, not the best photograph, but you can probably tell  - it's a cigar.  To be fair to the gentleman, I never actually saw him smoke it.  Now each trip I live by the rules and let the clowns pump gas for me; making me feel about the same as I would in asking another man for directions.  I understand that I may not be the safest person at the gas pump - heck, I don't touch metal prior to grabbing the pump to remove the static electricity - but I can do much better than this apparent supervisor.  I'd really love to make a bold statement banning New Jersey from my future travel plans on principle but, unfortunately, it's the only reasonable way to get from D.C. to N.Y. 

Monday, December 24, 2007

Taste tester extraordinaire

So I frequently get asked about "kid stories" and never come up with anything.  It's not that they aren't doing funny/cute/adorable stuff all the time; it's that I'm not sharp enough to remember any of it.  Occasionally, I'll even think about writing it down but then think - hey, there's no way I'm going to forget that.   So, some small tid-bits of the day:
  • I was baking a carrot cake for dessert tomorrow and Grace was my little helper.  She stirred the dry ingredients for me as I creamed and mixed the wet.  Every ingredient we'd add (cinnamon, flour, freshly ground nutmeg, etc.) she'd stop me and say, "taste."  I now know to just offer a taste of all ingredients prior to adding them.  When it came time to do the cream cheese frosting I was tweaking it a little because I wanted the cream cheese to be more apparent than the sweet.  So each time I'd stop the mixer while I was making it she'd yell "Taste test" (I'm fairly confident where she got that from).  Then after a while, as if sensing it was about to end - she would say "one more taste test". 
  • After working hard at the carrot cake, Grace and I sat down on the sofa - each with a little bag of Dorittos (her with Cool Ranch and me with Nacho).  I was tired and not paying much attention apparently.  She was eating out of my bag - "tasting" them I suppose.  It's been a while since I've had a Cool Ranch dorrito so after mine were gone I reach over and grabbed one of hers.  It tasted funny, bland really.  I tried another.  Same thing.  Then I sat back and watched her "eat" her doritto.  Her process involved sticking the doritto in her mouth, sucking off all the flavor and sticking it back in the bag.  I love Grace, but I doubt we'll be sharing a bag of chips any time soon.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


One of the annoying bits of leaving a job is leaving behind a laptop that has accumulated mass amounts of data. I've spent a good amount of time this weekend sifting through what's mine/what's not and transferring to the new machine.

The good news is that the new machine is a beautiful new 24" iMac. I've wanted one for years but could never really justify the purchase for myself and Becca didn't want one as her computer. I purchased it through Amazon which allowed me to skip out on some hefty sales tax and overnight it for $3.99 (I love Amazon Prime).

The only semi-challenging part so far is getting a proper development environment set up. I've long used TortoiseSVN for version control with Forrest and I'm going to miss it for sure. I immediately began the hunt for a mac replacement for it. It didn't take long to turn up SCPlugin which hooks right into Finder. I had only one last hurdle to clear in using it. I attempted to check out the Apache Forrest trunk and immediately got a PROPFIND error:
PROPFIND of '/repos/asf/forrest/trunk': Server certificate verification failed: issuer is not trusted (

After poking around a while, it seems you need to use the command line svn client (included in Leopard) to make an initial connection to the Subversion server to let it know that you trust the certificate (e.g. "svn ls https://somelocation/path" then, when prompted, type "p" to permanently accept it). Why SCPlugin couldn't simply do that for me? I haven't a clue but whatever. It's a small nit.

Ok, as I write this I realize there were some other challenges as well:
  • Quicken.  I was a Quicken user on Windows and it's not exactly easy to convert the data to Quicken for Mac.  It's odd that Quicken's internal data format is different for different operating systems.  It's even more odd that they seem unable to create a loss-less conversion from one format to the other.  Fortunately, they have at least documented the quirkiness.    
  • Picasa.  This, I will miss.  I've been a huge fan of all things Google but Picasa has to be one of my favorite.  Folks seem to think iPhoto will fill the void but so far I have found it unsatisfying.  No more simple enhancements.  No more geo-tagging.  Oh well.  
Fortunately, the intuitiveness, responsiveness, etc. of the Mac easily make me forget these trouble spots.  

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Heading toward unemployment

It's true, beginning December 22d, I'll be officially unemployed. Assuming all goes according to plan, I'll remain in this state for four whole days. I've resigned from my current employer effective 21 December and will start the new one 26 December. I've had a good time over the past 6 years, worked with some great people and learned a lot. Now the time has come to move on and have a new experience. I'm heading to a small (~12 folks) company and suspect I'm going to like it.

Housing update

Well... it's been a while and most know the status of things but just in case...

We were excited about the house and agreed upon price. Then we let our trusty home inspector loose on the place and, well, he inspected really well. While he spoke really well of the double masonry construction of the place, he found the dreaded termites. I think we would likely have been able to overcome the termites with some treatment but it turns out there were also issues with the drainage, basement dampness, and roof fungus.

Given the issues and the seller's unwillingness to adequately compensate us for them, we decide the best thing to do was sign a release based on our inspection contingency.

We also briefly toyed with the idea of just moving into something safe in South Riding but quickly abandoned that idea and will eventually continue pursuing something in Arlington or Alexandria.

For now, we're going to decorate the rental townhouse properly and relax and enjoy the holiday season. We'll begin the search again next year with a keen eye on the poor state of this economy - assuming we're not in an all-out recession by then, in which case, we'll hold off indefinitely:)