The Estonians

Well, they’ve been here now for two weeks. They’re all about 20 and are majoring in technical fields. Arnie did work last year in Idaho and is showing Madis and Martti the ropes. For instance Arni introduced them to peanut butter which they now both like.

I was telling a guy at work about the original story of them moving in and he said $600 a month seemed steep for one room. I was looking at it as being three roommates but he was looking at it as just the room and it shouldn’t matter so much how many people lived in it. So I figured I would lower the rent to $500. They pay by the week so I told them after the third week (figuring they were rotating the payment) I would start charging less. I still think they’re getting a good deal because they’re not setting up utilities and they get free phone and internet (their training says they are not supposed to watch TV or use the internet, but they do send e-mails).

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The New York Times had an article about the demise of Comdex which at one time was the biggest computer show and maybe the biggest of any trade show. Atlanta hosted one session of it for a number of years (the other yearly session was in Las Vegas) and it was easy enough getting free registration so I would go and spend part of a day there. Our office only had a handful of PC’s at the time and there was always a desire to see what wonderful things computers were going to bring us next (it was rarely that impressive though). It left Atlanta after it had the misfortune of occurring on the same weekend as Freaknik (thus Comdex became Geeknik) and I stopped going. After I stopped going Comdex went downhill.

Here’s the amazing part. The guy who started Comdex (short for Computer Dealers Exposition) sold the rights to having the show for $860 million to a Japanese company in 1995. They then merged it in with a publishing company they owned, Ziff Davis, spun it off with an IPO and it went bankrupt. Business failures can be every bit as spectacular as bridge failures. In less than 10 years just the idea for the convention went from being worth $860 million to nothing.

I’m attaching the article . . .

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Universal Remote

For Father’s Day I bought Dad a universal remote control. But it isn’t just any universal remote control, it is the All For One URC-8810w. While most universal remote controls can control some number of devices by entering codes from a book, this one takes it one step further by not just providing control over up to 8 devices, but also allowing the remote to “learn” functions from the original remote (by pointing the original remote at this one and recording its infrared signal). There are four learning keys so you can learn up to 4 functions that otherwise are not available by default from each remote. It also allows the use of macros which can perform different functions even on different devices with the touch of a single button. Lastly, you can re-map a button, so you could assign power and volume for the TV to unused keys for Satellite mode. Then you could leave the remote in Satellite mode all the time and not have to switch to TV mode when you want to change volume or turn the TV off. Likewise, for the DVD you might want the volume keys to control the surround sound stereo instead of the TV volume.

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New Washing Machine

A long time ago they had a commercial that showed the typical washing machine agitator and some industrial agitator that pumped up and down. It was pathetic how the rotary one would turn and how effective the turbo pumper (or whatever it was called) was. This was before I actually knew how to do laundry so it is surprising to me that probably 25 years later I had a washing machine that still had that silly agitator. And any time I opend the lid to see what was going on, there was the agitator spinning a half turn at a time and making no apparent impact on the clothes around it.

So I was looking forward to a better approach. Front-loaders at least tumble the clothes around so you know they are moving. I’ve washed things like pillows or comforters and had parts come through still dry with the old washer. No way that would happen with this one. I got the Whirlpool Duet from Lowe’s. Consumer Reports gave it very good marks for capacity (so I could wash Clio and Katie’s comforters they use for beds) as well as washing ability and noise.

I figured I would go ahead and get a new dryer, but not an expensive one to match the front-loader. The front-loader is supposed to wring out more water so the dryer doesn’t need to work as hard, but the dryer I had would run for nearly an hour and get the clothes down to damp. After running another 30 minutes they would be dry.

I bought a Kenmore dryer from the Sears outlet. It was both scratched and dented, but supposedly new and marked down $120 off the list price of $400.

I have now run the first loads through both. The washer is kind of neat. It also doesn’t use much water. I was expecting the front window to become like a goldfish bowl with clothes floating around in a tank, but you never even see the water line. It tumbles the clothes a couple of turns, sprinkles on some water, tumbles the clothes the other way, adds some more water, etc. It just keeps turning, pausing, turning the other way. Eventually the clothes all get wet but it takes a little while. It rinses the same way. It has sensor that figure out when it is rinsed enough so you are supposed to use low-suds special detergent for front loaders. It seems to work fine either way. When it starts to spin it spins slowly one direction, then stops and spins the other direction. I don’t know if it is trying to figure out if the load is balanced or what, but eventually it starts really going like a jet. After a total of 40 minutes it is done.

The dryer? It’s just a dryer. It does actually dry the clothes the first go around and it has a light inside the drum which is nice. Seems to leave a few more wrinkles than the old one, but the first load I ran through was pretty big.

Carrying the Torch

A couple of months ago they were accepting nominations for people to carry the torch through Atlanta. A person in the Bridge Design office at work nominated John Tiernan, who supervises all the design groups. She had to write a short paragraph about why he should be picked. John is an avid runner, active in his church, has spent thirty years as an outstanding engineer design bridges for Georgia, and is generally a good guy. Guess what? He was picked.

Yesterday was the big day. The torch had been flying to every city that had ever hosted an Olympics, visiting Los Angeles and St. Louis earlier, and on its way to New York. John was selected to take the torch from in front of Publix on Ponce de Leon up North Highland to around where Surin is located. This was a huge thrill and honor for him and he was ecstatic. Coca Cola sponsored all the runners and allowed them to keep their torches.

A lot of current and former workers from Bridge Design and DOT went out yesterday to see him. There wasn’t a big crowd, but it was respectable. People came out beforehand passing out commemorative flags from sponsors Coke and Samsung. Then some Coke trucks came by giving out free C2 which is like Coke light (I got a can; it tasted a lot like regular Coke but some said it was a little weaker). A guy in a wheelchair zipped up the street with the torch anchored to his chair. Then he held it up and John lit his torch from that guy’s. And he was off.

It was pretty neat and I was glad to see a regular person from DOT, not one of the more political higher ups, have the honor of carrying the torch. Other people picked included the mayor, Billy Payne, Evander Holyfield, Nadia Comaneche, and others. What a great thing to get to do and all because someone thought to nominate him!

Guy from Estonia

This weekend this guy rings the doorbell. He is from Estonia and will be working here this summer selling “educational children’s books”. He named the company (Southwestern Company, I think) and the way they work is they take college students and send them off to the middle of nowhere to sell these books door-to-door six days a week. They work constantly and have no time for anything else (which is why they always send them away from home: no distractions).

Apparently now they are using Estonians (northern Europe). It sounds like indentured servitude. The guy seemed sharp, nice, and honest. He wasn’t selling books, just looking to see if I knew anyone with a room available to rent for the summer. I told him I had a room. He said two other guys would be living in the same room and they could give me $400 a month. I said maybe.

Anyway, later in the day he brings the other two guys around (equally honest looking). I said it would be at least $600 for the three of them (really I didn’t want any roommates, let alone 3) which they said was too much. I told them to call me back today and I’d tell them if I was interested. When they called I said I wasn’t interested even for $600 but they seemed pretty desperate and said they’d like to stay even if it was just for a week or a month. They said they won’t be around much, will be very quiet, and aren’t interested in parties or even TV. They just need a place to shower and sleep. I said I usually stay up late watching TV and they will be going to bed early to get up early. He said they are very good sleepers and wouldn’t mind the TV.

I felt bad for them so I agreed to let them stay. I figure for 3 months how bad can it be? Susan says I’m crazy to let someone off the street stay in my house but they seemed pretty legitimate.

Now I have to get that room ready and maybe clear out some space in my junk room for the third one. I can’t imagine all three actually living in the same room.

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I got back from Mexico very early Sunday morning. I’ve sorted through a lot of the pictures Susan and I took while we were down there and am starting a web page for the trip. Right now I only have one day, but I hope to add the rest of the days by the end of the week even if I have to call in sick every day this week (I did call in sick today but won’t go into details; let’s just say I went to Mexico and leave it at that).

Anyway, the link: