I didn’t even know I was gimped!

May 30, 2008

I’ve recently been engaged in upgrading my voice/data infrastructure here at the old compound.

In this part of New Hampshire, Comcast cable internet has a virtual monopoly. DSL has never been available here, not even in the nearby cities. Verizon has now sold northern New England telco operations to FairPoint. Considering how aged and irrelevant that infrastructure is, I think Verizon is playing it smart. 

Anyway, I’d been using an old Linksys WRT54G (with DD-WRT firmware) as my internet router since I moved back to NH. Last week I replaced this with a Netgate m1n1wall 2C3 (running pfSense). The Linksys is now acting as a wireless bridge only; routing and firewall functions are disabled.

Soon after installing the m1n1wall, while downloading software updates for my Mac, I noticed I was getting really great download rates. Today I got around to running a speed test:

Download Speed: 21863 kbps (2732.9 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 2566 kbps (320.8 KB/sec transfer rate)

This is at least 3x the best performance I’ve seen in the past. Now unless Comcast just did a stealth upgrade, it looks like I was bottlenecked on my firewall/router without ever suspecting it.

BTW, I do highly recommend the m1n1wall. This box draws very little power and performs well for the price. The out of box experience is more like an appliance and less like an embedded system. I didn’t have to do any disassembly or use the serial port to get things configured. That said, since I’m hooking up my new UPS right after I post this log entry, I’ll probably take a look inside the m1n1wall case while I’m at it.

Silicon Valley Gastronomic Adventures

March 23, 2008

I got a couple of requests to document which restaurants I considered “must visit” on my recent Silicon Valley trip.I’m partial to Asian cuisine, and it’s a good area for that, so things are going to be weighted in that direction. I mostly didn’t want to duplicate anything I could get in NH.

  1. In-N-Out Burger on the first night. Got in kinda late, called Dave W and picked up burgers on the way over to his place. I’m an animal-style junkie.
  2. Krungthai MV for lunch with Dave W. Still lagged and adjusting at this point.
  3. New Krungthai SJ for dinner with some of the recurring Friday crowd. I just noticed that the original SJ and the MV Krungthai have a different website from New Krungthai. I made no objection at all to Thai two meals in a row.
  4. Thai Garden in Palo Alto for recurring Thursday event. The Thai trifecta!
  5. Gojo (Ethiopian) in SJ. This is probably my favorite Ethiopian place. Better food than the old Red Sea and better value than Zeni.
  6. Su’s Mongolian BBQ lunch with some of the current and former Azul gang. The have shrimp now, but there was no lamb this time. Pity.
  7. HBFD (recurring Friday dinner) at Yat Sing 3 aka Millie’s. Potstickers!
  8. Saturday potluck at Debbie’s place. I cooked Chinese broccoli with belachan and Chinese sausage at Dave W’s place in the morning. Mmm… stinky. Thanks Dave! Potluck was just perfect.
  9. Sunday dim sum at Hong Kong Saigon Seafood Harbor Restaurant with Dave W. This place is so much better than Hong Sing Teahouse that used to be in this location.
  10. Sunday dinner at Julia’s. I got to do some cooking (and minding the roast) while Julia did laundry.
  11. Monday lunch with Jim W at Amber Cafe in MV. I can get Indian food in NH, but never seem to, mostly due to lack of people to join me.
  12. Dinner at Vive Sol in MV. This place specializes in Puebla Mexican cuisine. I like it better than Fiesta Del Mar and La Fiesta. After dinner drinks and Wii at Yan’s new place.
  13. Lunch at Kirk’s Steakburger in Cupertino with Greg B. Greg seems to be having an awesome time working at Apple again.
  14. Pizza and drinks at Dave W’s place. Not bad, but NY style pizza in California still isn’t quite up to par. I can get pretty good pizza in NH.
  15. Late lunch on Wednesday from La Bamba in MV. Super burrito, al pastor w/ jalepenos. I really miss the “San Francisco burrito” (look it up on Wikipedia). Can’t get anything quite like it in NH. Dos Amigos Burritos claims to provide a California style burrito, but I find it to be just okay, not great.
  16. Dinner and snacks with Chris and Kim in Boulder Creek. Pigged out on appetizers at the local pub.
  17. Round two at Thai Garden for Thursday lunch. I really miss the recurring meal/social events.
  18. I’m kinda blanking on Thursday dinner and Friday lunch. I think I was trying to cut back a bit by this point.
  19. HBFD Friday dinner at Classic Sichuan in Millbrae near train station. The Great Sichuan Schism caused some of the staff from Little Sichuan in San Mateo to open up / move to Classic Sichuan. Both restaurants are good, but I give the slight nod to Classic Sichuan. It’s worth the occasional trip from further south on the peninsula.
  20. Saturday was solo guilty pleasure day. I’m not going to get into it.
  21. Sunday dim sum again at HK Saigon Seafood Harbor. More people means more variety! I’m really pining for actual dim sum in NH.
  22. Monday lunch with Dave W. Was well past time for some Vietnamese fare. Pho and iced coffee. This is Bay Area comfort food for me.
  23. Dinner at Chez Sovan (Cambodian) in Campbell with current and former Azul crowd. Glad to have fit this in, this place was definitely on my list.
  24. Tuesday lunch at Myung Dong Tofu Cabin (Korean) in Santa Clara. I like their stone bowl seafood bi-bim-bab and all the various pickles. No Korean food in NH whatsoever.

And there you have it!

Travel Plans

February 8, 2008

I will be arriving in the S.F. Bay Area on Tuesday night, March 4 and leaving on Tuesday night, March 11.

During my stay, I will be available for both public and private functions at reasonable rates. Reserve now!

Well…

January 30, 2008

A number of you have commented that I need to update my blog more frequently. To these people I say: I am not your messiah. Yet I am moved by the plight of those who suffer in silence, those who thirst but do not importune, awaiting the pearly drops of whatever it is I occasionally disseminate here. Let this blog posting be as a wellspring in the wasteland revealed unto my silent supplicants.

So I’ve had a couple of ideas for disaster movies lately. This is going to be a big time for disaster movies.

  • Live action Katamari Damacy movie. Stuff rolling is a truly frightening disaster scenario that has never been brought to the big screen. Pretty much everyone I know who has played the game is an adult, so aim for an R rating to really capture the confusion and terror.
  • Sprawling epic providing a realistic portrayal of global economic collapse. Can we call the movie Crash if there are already at least two other films of that name? Since there’s a precedent for name confusion already, I say go for it. I’m envisioning a big Planet of the Apes “You blew it up!” sort of finale.

On another note, I did some shopping at Wal-Mart today. I think more people work there than shop there, at least here in NH. For the sake of efficiency, I began exchanging pleasantries with the cashier while the woman in front of me was still removing her purchases from the bag-go-round.

Now I can’t quite bring myself to say “I’m well” when the person I’ve just queried has told me “I’m good”. Sometimes I’ll say “I’m doing well”, but usually I’ll just say “I’m good” and be done with it. I’m truly a man of the people that way. I can’t help but feel it’s somewhat rude to correct the savages, and I don’t have the patience for multiple daily performances of Pygmalion. My predilection for correctness has become blunted over the years.

So I tell the Wal-Mart cashier that I’m “good”. The woman in front of me suddenly stops triple-checking the bag-go-round for occult treasure, turns towards me, and distinctly mouths the word well before quickly turning back and wheeling her cart away. This is the first time I’ve found myself corrected by a third party on this issue.

I’ve known a few other women who would emphasize the well to (not so) subtly let the other party know that they were definitely not good. (Karen at Azul did this.) It’s always women. Girl power? Sub rosa dominatrices?

The Boonies… Not!

December 1, 2007

It’s become apparent during conversations over the past few months that I have inadequately described the area where I now reside. My “compound” is in Madbury, New Hampshire.

  • About 1 hour 20 minutes north of Boston.
  • About 50 minutes ENE of Manchester, NH.
  • About 1 hour 15 minutes SW of Portland, ME.

The above cities comprise the reasonable airport options. OK, but clearly not great. I keep hoping the Portsmouth International Airport (PSM, 26 minutes SE) will begin offering more flights.

The town of Madbury, NH (the only Madbury on Earth)  is something of an oddity in the area. It was originally a farming and lumbering community, and has transitioned into a bedroom community with no real consumer commercial activity or town center. There are no grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc. But Madbury is a thin wedge sandwiched between Dover (reasonable city, about 30,000 people) and Durham (University of NH). So history and geography allow Madbury to be the bedroom community that it is.

Grocery store, bank, gas station, and a few restaurants are all less than 10 minutes away. Uptown Dover/Somersworth (about 15 minutes) has reasonable, but firmly middlebrow, restaurants and shopping. Portsmouth/Newington (20-30 minutes)  offers higher end shopping and restaurants, with Portsmouth satisfying the liberal, yuppie, artsy city requirements for the region.

So, all in all, it’s not a bad situation for me. I get to have my 90+ acre backyard with open fields, wooded trails, and river, while also being within reasonable driving distance from just about anything I’d need. Mail order shopping makes up for the rest. Well, except good exotic restaurants. New Hampshire’s 97% white population has yet to truly embrace good international cuisine. I can get Mexican, Japanese, Thai, Indian, and Indonesian food here now, but none of it is really up to the standards of the better SF Bay Area places. And I’m not sure anything resembling actual Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, or Ethiopian food is available at all. The so-called Chinese restaurants here are their own food group, but they’re nothing like any of the good regional (Sichuan, Hunan, Cantonese, etc.) Chinese restaurants that I really miss from the Bay Area.

‘Tis the Season

December 1, 2007

I’ll count today as the first genuinely cold day of the season. It’s 17 degrees now at 5pm, and the Weather Channel says “feels like” 1 degree. Anyway, it’s been clear and cold with significant wind all day long. I’ll excuse this poor excuse for weather if it actually snows a decent amount tomorrow night and Monday. They’re predicting at least some snow during that time.

Of course I can’t wait to get out there on my new snowmobile! Dad and I went snowmobile shopping a while back and picked up our new machines and trailer today. Both of us ended up settling on the same thing and same options somewhat independently. Thus we now have a matched pair of 2008 Polaris 600 IQ LX sleds. I’ll post pictures at some point.

The last couple of years have apparently been rather grim (depending on your point of view) with lack of snow. I’ve got a good feeling about this year. And if there isn’t much snow right here, there’s always my cousin’s place up in Maine.

I’ve also been having significant tractor fun with the old 1951 Ford 8N (with aftermarket hydraulic front loader). This antique has gotten a lot of actual use over the years and is still amazingly capable. My mantra these days is “the right tool makes all the difference”. Now that I’m trying to become (somewhat) handy, I’m really seeing that the right tool can mean a huge reduction in time and increase in quality.

Now if I only knew what tools I had access to around here! I’m really hesitant to buy anything new before doing serious checking around (basement, garage, barn, uncle’s place) to avoid duplicating purchases. Part of the problem is that there’s no one person who knows the entire farm inventory. The planned autumn cleaning has been postponed until spring. My agenda is probably somewhat different from my father’s, uncle’s, etc.

I’d really like to get the right bay of the garage cleaned out to be able to pour a concrete floor, insulate, and generally fix it up as a workshop. I’d also like to do some serious electrical rewiring work with the eventual aim of adding a transfer switch and generator. There’s a partial solution in place now, but I’ve got bigger dreams. I really want multiple breaker panels and automatic transfer switch rather than the single stuffed-to-the-gills panel and manual switch (for the furnace only) that’s there now.

As a final note today, I’ve decided to postpone any job search activity until this spring at the earliest. I’ve had a couple of opportunities come my way and decided to turn them down for now. For indoor fun this winter, I’ve decided to focus on some geeky networking/comms projects. I’ll probably write up some of my plans in my next blog posting, so get prepared for more boredom!

Simulated Boom?

October 22, 2007

I’ve been wanting to write about the economy for some time now, both because it’s interesting to me, and because I think we’re living in interesting economic times. If this sort of thing bores you, stop reading now (you’re already doomed anyway).

For the past couple years I’ve been watching the markets closely, trying to make sense of things and forming some models in my head. I made a large bet against the US dollar in 01/2006 (MERKX) and haven’t been disappointed so far. Last week I made another big move, changing my 401(k) asset allocation to 100% cash equivalents (FDAXX). My gambling money is out of stocks excepting of a single fund with holdings in the energy and natural resources sector. Even that may be a mistake.

I’m not really concerned about missing out on any market surge due to future interest rate cuts. If the market gains 1% and the dollar declines 1%, have you really gained anything? Think of what a foreign investor would see. The US market gains of the past few years look pretty sad when measured in euros. Now factor in inflation in the foreign currency of our choice. Has the “boom” market even been a reasonable store of value, let alone gains?

This all leads me to my latest market conjecture. Some pundits are now starting to talk about recession. It’s certainly hard to ignore the housing market and mortgage lender woes. Here’s the thing: When has a recession ever started with foreclosures and bank failures? These are trailing indicators. We’re now starting to see some leading indicators in consumer sentiment, reduced spending, and narrowing profit margins in consumer staples.

Isn’t it possible that we’re almost seven years into a stealth recession masquerading as a boom due to low interest rates and easy credit? Somewhere along the way people have confused debt with money. After all, they seem pretty similar until the repo man shows up. So here we are, with some indicators that we’re well into a recession and some indicators that we’re about to enter a recession. How long before we start hearing the “d” word? The next few weeks should be very interesting. I’ve placed my bets, have you?

What’s in a name?

October 14, 2007

Gentle readers,

By now I’m certain you’re aware that all names mentioned on this blog have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved. When I say “mom” I’m not actually referring to my mother, and so on. Thus it is that my privacy policy and scrupulous ethics prevent me from relating the following:

Years ago, my parents, like so many of those WASPy parents entirely too obsessed with their “baby to be”, devoted hour upon hour to the baby naming challenge.

My father, being a profoundly spiritual man, wanted to name me “Enos”. Now this may be somewhat apocryphal, as I don’t remember dad mentioning this tidbit until I was old enough to be embarrassed by the schoolyard teasability quotient of such a name.

My mother, being a freethinking woman, immediately proclaimed a ban on all biblical names. Thus it was that Enos, that grand and most solemn name, was removed from further consideration. Mom’s counter proposal was that they name me “Holland”. And it very nearly happened.

A few months ago, being the self-obsessed creature I clearly am, I was mulling over on the alternate history possibilities of the Holland-naming. Then I spoke it aloud, first-name last-name. Wham! Through this simple action I triggered the collapse of the Holland-world. Try it yourself if you’re privy to my family name.

My mother now claims she was ignorant of the obvious defect of the Holland-naming. I don’t know what to believe any more. Considering both this and the previously mentioned ham and cheese sandwich incident, I must now accept the possibility that my mother is embroiled in an emulsion-themed plot detrimental to my safety.

Will update further when I’m able.

Houseguests

October 12, 2007

I’ve been settling into the old homestead, continuing to unpack (not even close), decorate, make minor repairs, etc. Still feels like there’s a lot to do. If this was just an apartment, I think I’d feel about done already. But no, I’ve got the old house, garage, barn, and the surrounding grounds to manage. Home ownership is like a job where one pays rather than receives money. Kind of like University or (I’m guessing here) raising a child. It’s time to start seriously recruiting for my compound. I require additional laborors to achieve self sufficiency. Maybe I should offer a signing bonus?

The last couple of weeks I’ve been entertaining guests from California. Dave had some trouble getting here (thanks, NWA) and was without his checked bag for a while. Still, we had beautiful, very summerlike, weather during Dave’s entire stay. Sunny and in the 70s and 80s. Dave was able to swim in my parent’s pond twice and once in the ocean. The foliage was still a bit early and weak due to the dry and warm weather. Dave’s now threatening to come back in the winter to test how bad it really gets. Honestly, I’d rather go visit him in California at that time!

Now Debbie has arrived (no problems at all) and has come bearing frozen potstickers from Millie’s (Yat Sing in SF Bay Area)! I really miss good Chinesey food here. Now the weather’s taken a turn for wetter. I’m hoping we get some clear days to actually appreciate the fall scenery. Off to Phil’s diner, a friday morning tradition, for breakfast. More to follow later.

Hot and/or Bothered

September 7, 2007

Today was, as they say, a wicked scorcher. 90s and humid, so I had very little motivation and hardly left the house. Overall, we’ve had pleasant weather this summer, so I can’t really complain. (But sometimes I still do.) Soon enough I’ll be complaining about the winter weather. New England people are very in tune with the seasons.

I got bored enough last Saturday morning to head down to Best Buy and pick up a TiVo HD. I was expecting more people there, but this area keeps surprising me. Even when people here complain about someplace being crowded, it doesn’t seem crowded to me at all. California crowded and New Hampshire crowded are clearly very different things. Maybe I should visit Hong Kong or something to readjust my perceptions.

Anyway, I can bear watching TV again now that I have a TiVo. I’ve been several years without television, but it just doesn’t make sense getting cable internet (which I need) without cable television as well due to bundled pricing. What I found is that I require time shifting and commercial skipping for TV to be bearable for me. I am now fully prepared for the new fall lineup.

I was motivated (bored) enough tonight to thoroughly explore my basement. Day to day, it’s easy enough for me to forget that I’m living in an old (c. 1850) house. The basement reminds me that this place has some history. It’s really quite frightening.