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Blog Archives for February 2010

Snow Day!!!!

Friday, February 26th, 2010 - Comments (0) in Life, Work

The planets must have aligned last night because we actually got a snow day today! It has been years since the last time we had a day off for bad weather; we were way overdue.

Harley is in a bit of a unique situation because we have kids coming from so many different districts. I found out yesterday that the general rules is if 2 of our neighboring districts (Brighton, Penfield, City of Rochester) close, we also close because the kids ride buses from those districts to us. This morning every school in the area closed, so we did too!

Unfortunately, Claire is pretty sick right now which is killing the snow day buzz. She has a nasty head cold. I feel so bad because she sounds terrible coughing and gagging on snot, but there really isn't much we can do about it. We have a little snot-sucker thing that we use on her nose, but it doesn't seem to do much, and she really hates it.

The first time I used the snow blower on the driveway I had some technical difficulties. It seems the previous owner of my snow blower broke the right side of the auger and fixed it by putting a bolt through the drive shaft to lock it and the auger together. The snow was so heavy today that it actually snapped the bolt disconnecting the drive shaft from the auger causing the auger to stop spinning and the snow blower to stop blowing snow. At that point I had a coronary because I thought I was going to have to shovel 2 feet of heavy snow by hand! I took a deep breath, channeled my inner MacGyver and did a temporary fix. I had to use a punch to get the broken bolt out of the shaft, and I bent an S-hook from a bungee cord so it would go through the shaft and bent the end so it would stay there. It was a dirty hack, but it did work. Once I get a chance I need to fix this for real with another stronger bolt, but for now it seems to be holding.

Snowday!

Snow blower

I feel bad for my neighbor, he doesn't own a snow blower (I still can't figure out why not) and by 5:30pm the mountain of snow at the end of his driveway probably weighed a TON. He's got two teenagers though, so they should be out there breaking their asses with him, but I didn't see them. I would have helped him, but with my blower in its delicate state, I'm not risking it on his driveway.

E-Rate

Sunday, February 21st, 2010 - Comments (0) in Computers, Life, Work

If you're not familiar with E-Rate, it's a federal program to provide funding to schools and libraries for telecommunications and internet access. As far as I understand, companies that provide interstate and international telecommunication services are charged a universal service fee by the government. This money is then distributed to eligible schools and libraries that apply for it based on their poverty level.

I'm still not sure how Harley can qualify for this, but apparently we do. This is the first year I've been in charge of filing for it, but we've gotten money in previous years. The process is simple on paper but annoying in reality.

Basically you have to fill out form 470 which says you're going to be applying. Then you have to wait at least 28 days in an open bidding process. During this time providers for the services you said you wanted on form 470 contact you trying to sell themselves. Once you pick the providers then you fill out form 471 which is officially asking for money. These forms can take quite a long time to fill out. They ask for all sorts of information that you won't know off the top of your head and it takes you so long to find the information your session on the website will have expired and you have to login again and start over (or from a save point).

If we get approved we could get 40% off our bills, which is a huge amount. Friday was the extended deadline for the 471 form so hopefully we'll find out if we get the funding soon. I'm pretty sure there will be more forms to fill out if we do get some...

Eye Exams

Monday, February 15th, 2010 - Comments (5) in Life, Peeves

Today I decided I don't really like eye exams. They shine bright lights in your eyes, put drops in to dilate you, and flip your eyelids inside out; it's terrible.

I knew I had an eye appointment today, I've known for days. However that didn't stop me from forgetting about it until 15 minutes before. It takes about 25 minutes to drive to Rochester Eye Associates, so that was a bit of a problem. When I finally got there I was taken right in (surprisingly). They got right down to business having me read smaller and smaller letters off the wall. Then they put yellow drops in my eyes to dilate them.

dilated eye

I really hate having my eyes dilated because you can't focus up close. At the worst point, my arms weren't long enough and I couldn't read anything. The other part I can't stand is when they flip your lids inside out to see the underside of them. That doesn't sound that bad in theory, but it's terrible.

The one good thing is they finally changed the Glaucoma test. They used to blow a puff of air in your eye as they look at it. I have no idea what that puff of air is supposed to do, but that's what they did. It was absolute torture sitting there trying to keep your eye open while waiting for them to shoot your eye with the air gun. Now they look at your eye with some blue light, much better.

I was happy to find out that my prescription had not changed at all. Not that it really matters, but I like that my eyes are not getting worse like they were for so many years.

RIT Going to Semesters?

Monday, February 15th, 2010 - Comments (0) in Life

I get a lot of email from RIT, well more than I'd like, but I wanted an @alum.rit.edu email address so I just put up with their spam. Usually I'll read the first few words before deleting, but recently I got an email that actually had some interesting news: RIT is officially switching from quarters to semesters! In case you're unfamiliar, the quarter system breaks the school year into four 10 week blocks (summer included) instead of two 15 week semesters.

Around 10 years ago they seriously thought about changing this too. One of the biggest reasons for doing this was retention rate. At the time RIT had just over a 50% retention rate (if I remember correctly) which was pitiful. I could totally understand, 10 weeks makes for very fast paced classes. If you get sick and miss a couple classes, you were screwed; you just couldn't catch up. The way I saw it, RIT would accept anyone, but they would weed out people who couldn't keep up.

Most of the reasons they gave this time have to do with standardizing. There are fewer and fewer schools operating on the quarter system and they want to make it easier transferring credits to and from other schools. With quarters, Christmas lands right in the middle of winter quarter causing a big interruption. With semesters, Christmas falls in between semesters.

This change won't go into affect until the 2013-2014 school year, so they've got quite some time to plan it out. I guess taking that much time is really necessary since they'll probably need to rewrite every course in every program to fit the new length.

More Bandwidth from Road Runner

Saturday, February 6th, 2010 - Comments (0) in Computers, Email, Life

Finally! The Road Runner people decided to join the 21st century and increase the upload bandwidth to their Rochester customers.

They've been exclaiming for years how fast they are that they're the best at everything. They've raised their download speed a few times in recent years, which is great; the last time I looked it was around 10Mbps. But they seem to have totally forgotten about their upload bandwidth, which the last time I checked was around 384Kbps (just about 4% of their download speed). The cable modem technology (docsis) is asymmetric, but this was just a little too extreme. I've called and complained about this before and the answer I always received was "you shouldn't be running any servers, so the majority of your bandwidth should be incoming, not outgoing." That reason doesn't really float when you consider how people use the internet now. People are constantly uploading pictures and videos to sites like facebook and youtube to share with their friends and family. It was just painful to try to upload a high-def video.

On Friday I found out that our internet wasn't working at home. This was the first time in a very long time we had a service interruption. I did the usual things, checking the computers, power-cycling the cable modem and finally I did the same to my router (even though I knew it was working fine) and it started working again. Later I found out that they had changed my IP address. They use dynamic addresses for residential customers, but it had not changed in years. This was a little annoying since my (and Rachelle's) personal email is hosted on a server in my basement, so I had to make some changes that took a few hours before email started flowing normally again.

This morning while uploading a video to facebook I noticed that it was going out 3 times faster than normal. I did a little snooping and found that I can now upload at 1Mbps! Still pathetically slow (10% of download speed) but way better than it was.

speedtest results

Baby Surveillance

Monday, February 1st, 2010 - Comments (3) in Gadgets, Life

Friends of ours have a really cool baby monitor with a built-in video screen. You hit a button the receiver and you can see what the baby is up to. These things are rather expensive though and I know I've mentioned before how cheap I am. We decided to get a cheap audio-only monitor with a couple receivers (one for upstairs one for down) and then supplement that with a wireless webcam.

Linksys WVC54GCA Wireless camera

With this setup we can still see the kid whenever we want as 90% of the time there are 3 laptops within reach, and I can share the link with family so they can see her too! And best of all, when it's no longer necessary I get to do what I want with the camera. That seems much better than getting something that is more expensive and less useful after the fact.

Baby cam

The only caveat so far is light sensitivity. This camera has a "low light" mode that supposedly allows it to function in very low light, but nothing like night-vision. When all the lights are out you can't see anything. However if all the lights are out and it's dark outside, that'll probably mean we're both in bed too and not looking at the camera, so that might not bad such a bad thing.