Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Joyous Distraction

I just got back last night from a week of taking my family to see my family. My wife Sandy, and my son Adam just went to Indiana for a week to show Adam off to his brother, sister, paternal grandmother and three aunts. He charmed everyone, including a lot of people in airports and on airlines in the process of getting their and back. I think the reason why babies are so cute is to make their heads bigger when everyone tells them how adorable they are. Adam is nearly always not only happy, but enthusiastically happy. He is also affectionate. It makes one want to spend a lot of time with him, and he always wants the attention. The price for all this happiness and affection is that he is wearing Mommy and Daddy out. He wants to be held but he twists and squirms to see things and just hanging on to him is very tiring, as is holding him as he jumps up and down on my lap. As a result, I am not getting things done as I would like, including keeping up with my classes and investments, as evidenced by the fact that I was interrupted three times while writing this post. Not being able to invest the money in my IRA may not have been a bad thing, though. The stock market is at its lowest point of the year and apparently headed lower.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Bringing Technology to Silicon Valley

The week of being trained last week did not get off to a good start. Getting to the meeting was a hassle because the 8:19 a.m. Acela Express train to Washington was cancelled. I got my tickets changed to the 8:45 a.m. regional train to Washington, but it did not arrive in New Haven until about 10:00 a.m. and didn't leave until about 11:00 a.m. because a switch was frozen. Each stop took longer than usual because several doors were frozen. My arrival in Washington, which was supposed to be at 12:47 p.m., did not happen until about 6:00 p.m. I think Amtrak needs to devote more resources to equipment maintenance. Before the training got started the next morning, we trainees were herded into a small room to fill out forms to have security badges issued to use. The only information on the forms was names and Social Security numbers, and did not have to be signed. Since the information on the forms was already available, I think the forms and the cattle treatment was unnecessary. The badges should have been made ahead of time and waiting for us.

The object of the training, the electronic folder, is quite an amazing process. To put it briefly, hearing offices are going to have to learn a lot of technical knowledge in a short period of time. Right now, I am in the second week of training, where I help give the training to a hearing office. The trip to San Jose was long, and the other trainer and I were taken to the wrong Hyatt Hotel because the brochure for courtesy shuttles only listed the one nearest the airport, and we didn't know that there was more than one Hyatt here. San Jose, California is a beautiful city with a beautiful climate. I tend to favor places were palm trees grow. Teaching technology to people working in the heart of Silicon Valley - wouldn't that be something to put on a resume?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

A Memorable Week

Sandy and I flew to Guatemala City on Saturday, January 15. Sandy, Adam, and I flew back on Friday, January 21. The fact that more of us flew back than flew there was obviously the most memorable part of the week. The first major event was the fact that our luggage was not on the airplane when it arrived in Guatemala City. I promised myself that I would mention in this post that DELTA AIRLINES LOST OUR LUGGAGE. It arrived the next day. Sandy and I toured Lake Atitlan and Chichicastelnango on Sunday, and toured Guatemala City and Antigua on Monday. We took possession of our new son on Tuesday, after waiting in the lobby for two hours past the time when we expected him. We spent that night without a crib because there were so many babies in the Marriott. When the crib arrived the next night, one of the wheels was held on by rubber bands and it kept falling out if the crib was moved much. The rest of the week was just great, however. Adam was well behaved even during the wait at the U.S. Embassy for his resident visa and for the flight back. However, he had diarrhea, and refused to take any formula until we called his pediatrician in Guatemala on Thursday morning. He suggested a different brand of formula, and Adam started getting nutrition again. Until I saw him drinking the first bottle of the new formula, I was afraid he was going to come to the United States only to starve here. After a week in sunny, warm Guatemala, we arrived at Bradley International Airport, north of Hartford, and the pilot announced that the temperature was 5 degrees Farenheit. I said to Sandy that Adam is going to think that he was kidnapped by Eskimoes. The next morning Blizzard Charles hit. If we had delayed the arrival in Connecticut for one more day, it would have meant being unable to come home until today (Sunday) because Bradley International Airport closed at 6 p.m. Saturday because of the blizzard.

Adam is a beautiful, happy baby and everyone who met him is thoroughly charmed. His foster mother and her daughters cried when they said goodby to him. I can imagine that saying goodbye after living with such a little charmer for 7 months has to be extremely difficult. Having to say goodbye to him for just a few days when I leave for Washington tomorrow morning is also going to be difficult.

One of the chores Sandy will be faced with while I am gone is to try to make sure that Adam's Certificate of Citizenship, which is supposed to arrive within 45 days has his name as Adam Jefferson Enders, rather than Carlos Andres Enders, which is the name on his passport and his visa.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Second Call

We got the second call yesterday. Sandy and I are leaving for Guatemala very early Saturday morning to pick up our adopted son, Adam. We had some concern about whether the trip was going to be possible, because the airport in Guatemala City had closed because the air traffic controllers went on strike. The word on the chat lines today, however, is that the President of Guatemala followed Ronald Reagan's example and fired them and hired new air traffic controllers from neighboring countries. We don't have an appointment at the U.S. Embassy, but we should be there Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. We are going to tour for a couple of days before we get Adam. We have to pay for the trip, so we might as well take advantage. The week after we get back, I have to go to Falls Church, Virginia to be trained in electronic folders and the week after that I go to San Jose, California to pass on the training that I receive in Falls Church. I am very interested to see if the whole process will follow the law of intented consequences. A version of it says that the government has the Midas touch - everything it touches turns into a muffler.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Multitasking and (Lack of) Productivity

I thought I was going to make good use of my time when Winter Storm Allen caused me to take the day off from work last Thursday, but the time was not productive because I allowed my attention to be split between two tasks, each of which needed nearly all of my attention to do properly. One task was studying for my final exam in Computer Organization. The other task was installing MacroMedia Dreamweaver on Sandy's computer. The installation of Dreamweaver was not going well. It did not automatically add anything to the Start Menu and did not put an icon on the desktop. So, I copied the Dreamweaver icon to the desktop. However, everytime I clicked the desktop icon, the program would not start and one of those notoriously unhelpful dialog boxes popped up that just had a button that said OK to click on, which immediately shut down the program. Rather than focus my attention on solving the problem, I tried to study for my exam. Meanwhile, Sandy made several phone calls to JourneyEd, where she bought the software, and MacroMedia, trying to get someone to give her a refund for software that either didn't work or was misrepresented. I got very little studying done because of the emotion and the phone calls. I solved the problem with just a few minutes of my complete attention the next morning shortly after I woke up. I had uninstalled and reinstalled Dreamweaver several times, but the problem turned out to be that the desktop shortcut was what was faulty. The program itself is just fine and Sandy is happy with it.

The lesson from this experience hit home yesterday evening after I took my final exam and Sandy and I were shopping at Wal-Mart. I was browsing the magazine rack and saw on the cover of Scientific American "Mind" a blurb about an article about why multitasking is usually not productive. From this experience, I can say that it is worse than unproductive; it is stressful and unproductive.

By the way, I think I did well on the final exam, so despite the day being wasted, both of the things I tried to do Thursday eventually got done and turned out well.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

A Disclaimer

Now that I have finally figured out how to use Ad-Sense to post ads on my blog, I noticed that the ads that Google has elected to post onto it all have a Social Security theme to them. Since the Social Security Administration is my employer and it has strict conflict of interest rules and I want to retire when I choose and not when they want to make an example of me, I feel compelled to state that I did not choose the ads that appear on this page, and their appearance there should not be interpreted as my personal endorsement of the products and services they represent. Since the ads are probably chosen according to the contents of my post and this post has already used the words "Social Security" several times, it should be easy to predict what the content of the ads are going to be until I start posting on another topic. I love technology, but the Ad-Sense technology could cost me my job if I don't make that point clear. I allowed Google to place ads there in return for getting paid if people click on those ads frequently enough.

While I am on the topics of advertising and Social Security, I should state that there are a lot of business out there that sell to people what they could get from the Social Security Administration without cost. Want an estimate of your Social Security benefits or a record of the earnings on which you have paid the Social Security taxes? You can blow your money by hiring some intermediary to get the information, after signing a release so that the Social Security Administration can send the information to the intermediary, or you can contact the Social Security Administration directly. One way is to get on their website, at Why pay for the same service twice? If you have had earnings covered by Social Security, you already paid for the service when you paid your taxes. By the way, thank you very much for paying those taxes, because my salary for the last 34 1/2 years has come from those revenues.