Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Working over Spring Break

My kids just finished up their two spring breaks.  Why two? One week, the kids had no school and this week that just finished, they had had no swim practice.  During the first week, their mornings were free and in the second, afternoons were free.  I tried an experiment to put them to work during the break.  You'll just have to read the rest to see how it all turned out.

As I've completed my MBA, I've been trying to catch up on the things I've pushed to the side.  Like filing the paid bills and other important papers.  I have a box underneath my desk that I've just been dropping the things to be filed into.  In a functional sense, its an inbox.  But not in a classical sense.  Its much too big, an overflowing moving box for books.

One afternoon, I asked Kid 3 if he could sort the pile which had overflowed to the front of the box (to differentiate what had overflowed to the side of the box).  He gladly took it on and did a bang up job.  He was able to learn the difference between American Express Corporate and American Express Costco.   He noticed the size difference between our mortgage bill and the credit card bill from the same bank.  He sorted them, culled out the envelopes and miscellaneous inserts and filed them in manila folders.

I realized that I had stumbled upon something great!  He was out of school for the next 5 days and his time opportunity costs were much lower than mine (see I learned something from my MBA), so I asked him how much money he'd require to sort the rest of the box.  Learning Number 1 - dollars aren't the correct currency for 8 year olds, Nintendo games are.  So, I offered him one Nintendo Wii game of his choice.  He accepted the offer and said that he'd start on it the next day.

The next day, I had some shopping to do and went to Target.  While I was there, I passed through the toy section and saw the Nerf N-Strike Bandolier Kit set which I thought was really cool would go well to support the Nerf wars which run through our house.

When I mentioned the cool Nerf stuff I saw to Kid 3, he got all excited about it and wanted Nerf stuff instead.  So, I changed our deal to $50 of Nerf stuff.  And asked him when he was going to start.

He said he'd start the next day.  Warning alarms went off in my head, this wasn't going to get anywhere.

We were talking about it at dinner that night and he decided that he wasn't going to do it. It was too much work, but Kids 1 and 2 liked the idea.

I had Kid 3 explain what to do to them and he did, without any biases.  I explained that they would have to split the money, as it was bid as a job and that if all 3 of them worked, they would have to split the money 3 ways.  They all liked the idea and said they would start the next day (do you see a pattern emerging here)?

Well, spring break is done.  The box is still full (in fact I took the picture when I wrote the post, so its much improved over what it looked like at the beginning).  They couldn't go back to school saying "We sorted and filed papers for our spring break. And got paid."

I've sorted some of them, building upon what Kid 3 did.  I owe him 5 bucks for the work that he did, too.  I've even filed the newly received bills in the files that Kid 3 started.  But the box is still there, full to the gills.  I'll work on it and get it knocked out, kid labor or no kid labor.  But, boy would I rather pay my kids a few bucks to get this box out of my home office.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hiking Mt Si

Last week, I took some days off and tried to find someone to go hiking with me.  The Meetup groups I belong to let me down, so I planned a solo hike up Mount Si.  I knew that it wasn't going to be a really solo hike because Mount Si is one of the most popular hikes in the Cascades near Seattle.  Even on a weekday, I came across at least 10 other hiking parties, one of which I knew through my kids swim team!

Mt Si Route

The trail is well maintained and though its steep, gaining 3200' in 4 miles, is a nice hike.  The Thursday I went it rained and snowed and there was a little sun (yes, that covers a few of the 10 Essentials).  The temperature ranged from 40 - 32 degrees and with the effort climbing the trail, I kept plenty warm.

After the first mile, I was really feeling the burn in my legs.  I've had trekking poles, but had never really liked them.  However, having been asked, "Beau, are you just going to carry those poles strapped to your backpack," I decided that I'd give them a try.  The trekking poles made such a difference.  Just using my arms helped take some load off my legs.

But the real difference was on the way down.  I don't have the greatest knees, but the shock absorbers made such a difference.  I know that if I didn't have the trekking poles and my upper body helping on the way down, I would have had to take it much slower and probably wouldn't have been walking very much the next day.

Snow covered branches

At about 2600', there was snow on the ground, but the trail was still clear (its that popular that just the hikers boots kept the trail clear).  At about 2900', the trail was snow covered, not that much, but enough that at times some yak trax would have been helpful.  Even though it was a lot of hard work, it was very relaxing to walk through the woods in the snow.  It was great to clear my head and decompress from work.


When I got to the top of Mount Si, it was socked in. No view, in fact, no view of the peak and its scramble route.  I moved out of the wind and found a place to warm up my rice and curry lunch.  I changed into a dry shirt and put on my vest and hardshell to stay warm.   I was mostly out of the wind, but it snowed about 1/4" while I was eating, enough to fill in my foot prints.

On the way back down, about 3.5 miles from the trail head I found some car keys.  They were attached to a small swiss army knife so I stuck them in a tree at face level so somebody on the way back down might see them.  I thought about it for a while (and called my Dad for some trail etiquette advice) and the carried them to the trailhead.  So, if you lost a set of keys for a Ford and Subaru, they're stuck in the board at the trailhead.

It took me 3 hours to go up and 2 hours to come back down again, with about 45 minutes for lunch (I got really cold or I would have stayed longer).  Mount Si is one of those hikes people use to train for Mount Rainier and I was quite satisfied that I could hike it in a reasonable time, though I was passed by people in both directions.  But it was a great way to spend a day off!  I'll leave you with this picture of me having fun on my day off.

Stopped for lunch

You can see the rest of the slideshow on Flickr.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Busing in some life skills

My kids swim competitively, which translates to someone in our family is at a pool 7 days a week.  And since my wife and I are the only drivers in our family, this really means that my wife (mostly) or me are driving to a pool 7 days a week.  Our kids have moved up swimming groups and the practice schedule has changed to earlier in the day and further away from home.  Kids 1 and 2's practices are at the same place, Seattle University, but Kid 1's is before Kid 2 gets out of school.

To avoid my wife making multiple 30 minute trips to Seattle University and to teach some life skills, we've decided that Kid 1 (age 13) will take the bus.  Its about an hour bus ride on the the express, with one transfer in downtown Seattle.  Yesterday, we did a trial run of the trip with the whole family.

The ride actually went pretty well, and even with a slight delay in the schedule, we still made it in the right amount of time.  It was a bit of a stretch to get Kid 1 to ask the driver where the stop was, since we're not all that familiar with the transfer spots.  We've got a little work to do there, he asked, "Where do I get of for Fourth and Cherry?"  You can laugh, the driver laughed too.

We made it to the pool without event and then did a bit of a walking tour of Seattle, but we needed lunch first.  We walked past a few Ethiopian restaurants and a Haitian restaurant and found a great Vietnamese restaurant, The Lemongrass.  The food was great and the servers were quite friendly.  We were stuffed and needed to walk it off.

In the distance, Scout saw a church steeple and suggested that we walk there.  It was really fun to just wander around, with no particular place to go and take in the sites.  The weather was great, the sky was blue and the spring flowers were blooming.  It was the kind of day which makes for taking great photographs.

Today, he did a solo run and we met him in Seattle.  It was met with a little opposition, but his swimming coach thought that it will teach him to take care of himself.  

Tuesday will be the live run, so we'll see how it goes.  He'll learn how to get around a city and he'll learn some independence and responsibility from it.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

First thoughts on Ubuntu 10.4 beta 1LTS

The beta release of Ubuntu 10.04 came out about two weeks ago, and I've had a chance to play with it off and on.  You can run it from a USB drive and make no changes to your computer, which is quite nice from a testing standpoint.  My thoughts are a little late, since beta 2 is on its way and the final release is due before the end of the month.

As a starting point, I think Ubuntu is great because out of the box, its a full featured operating system.  It comes with an office suite, photo editing software, a music player, software to make backups and more.  More importantly it runs great on older hardware, extending your investment and it runs great on new hardware.  And its free.  Support is as easy as searching a forum.  Free, great and runs on the computer you have right now.

Gwibber - I'm excited about the updated Social Media application, because the latest versions won't run on what I have installed now.It has  nice UI and can update and view updates from many different social networks.  It even shows responses to your friends' statuses on Facebook!

Latest Firefox and OpenOffice - the latest versions are included in this release.  I was able to keep them up to date via standalone installs, but the standalone installs lacked the polish and integration that the Ubuntu team puts on the.  This gives OpenOffice support for the Microsoft Office 2007 formats (docx, pptx, etc).

The UI is pretty slick, too.  The new purple color scheme isn't quite my cup of tea, but it does look nice.  I also noticed some transparency in the in the terminal window which was a nice touch.

The new software center has a nice look for managing what software you have installed.  No need to find a program, download it and install it, using software repositories its a one stop shop!

There are a few disappointments, but not major things.

GIMP, the Gnu Image Manipulation Program, is not included by default, but that is easily remedied by installing from the software center.

I'm a little saddened by the fact that Pidgin is not the default IM client.  Its replacement, Empathy has some cool features, like integrated video chat and more desktop integration, so I'll give it the old college try.  It currently doesn't support Office Communicator, as plugins for Pidgin do, but its open source, someone will build one.

Probably the biggest issue, as many others have noted is the close buttons on left and side of the window. WTF?  I think its a ridiculous move, but its open source and all configurable by the end user.  How To Geek has a simple post on how to fix it, which will probably be the first thing many users do.

A friend of mine says that Cisco VPN not currently working in this release and has had issues with his Verizon card.  These are important things, but this is just a beta release, so I'm sure that in a few months these will all get cleared out.

All in all, Ubuntu 10.04 will be a nice upgrade and is a Long Term Support release.  There are a few more releases before the final version comes out and I think the Ubuntu Community has done a great job with the Lucid Lynx version.