Archive for the ‘Myself’ Category

For Sale—2005 Scion xA   Leave a comment

2005 Scion xA 2005 Scion xA 2005 Scion xA 2005 Scion xA 2005 Scion xA

I have sold my car.

see the photos

I intend to blog about this experience, which was good overall, since I discovered some things that I wish I had known before starting out.

We are going back to being a one-car family, partly to reduce expenses. The Scion xA is a great little car—fun to drive, sips gas, and has a Customer Satisfaction Rating of 4.8 out of 5.

I will miss it.

Very Low mileage: 24,500

4 Door, hatchback, seats 5
4-cylinder, 1.5 liter engine. 5-speed manual transmission. Front wheel drive

Other options:

  • Air Conditioning
  • Power Windows
  • Power Door Locks
  • Power Steering
  • Power Mirrors
  • Factory Theft Alarm with remote
  • Tilt Wheel
  • AM/FM Stereo
  • CD (Single Disc)
  • Dual Air Bags
  • 4-Wheel ABS

One owner, well maintained, no accidents. Free CarFax included.

Asking: $9,800, firm

(this is below Kelley Blue Book‘s appraisal and well below the average $12,000 retail for the same year and mileage)

Technical Details
Powertrain

Engine: 4-Cyl, 1.5 Liter
Horsepower: 108 @ 6000 RPM
Torque: 105 @ 4200 RPM
Gas Mileage: City 27/Hwy 34
Bore x Stroke: 2.95 x 3.33
Compression Ratio: 10.5
Fuel Type: Gas
Fuel Induction: Multi Fuel Induction
Valve Train: Dual Overhead Cam
Valves Per Cylinder: 4
Total Number Valves: 16
Transmission: Manual, 5-Spd
Drivetrain: FWD

Dimensions

Fuel Capacity: 11.9 gallons
Wheel Base: 93.3 inches
Overall Length: 154.1 inches
Width with Mirrors: 66.7 inches
Height: 60.2 inches
Curb Weight: 2,335 lbs.
Tires / Wheel Size: P185/60R15
Turning Radius: 34.8 feet
Standard Axle Ratio: 4.31
Maximum Ground Clearance: 5.7 inches
Head Room: Front 39.6 inches
  Rear 38.8 inches
Leg Room: Front 41.3 inches
  Rear 37.6 inches
Shoulder Room: Front 50.9 inches
  Rear 50.4 inches
EPA Passenger: 86.0 cu.ft.
EPA Trunk or Cargo: 11.7 cu.ft.
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Posted Saturday, June 4, 2011 by Grant in Myself, news

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Moved old Y!360° Blog to Here   Leave a comment

Yahoo! 360° is closing. Frankly, that’s not a terribly big deal to me, since I left that service quite some time ago. However, I do still have content there, especially my earlier blog.

Fortunately, Yahoo! has a method to move your blog posts from Y!360° to another location. And even more fortunately for me, one of those locations is WordPress.

So, if you’d like to relive the story of how I met my wife or our trip to Paris, you can now do it all from here.

Unfortunately, the cross links to other posts within the blog do not work. They still point to the Yahoo! 360° blog posts… I guess I still have some work to do.

Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 by Grant in Myself

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On Value   Leave a comment

I began following Joel Spolsky’s blog a while back. I like the way he thinks. I like the “just be the best, dammit” attitude (my words) that comes across in his blog. It’s a sentiment that resonates with me, a self-admitted perfectionist.

Joel’s company, Fog Creek Software, recently moved into new digs and he wrote about them.

I’m drooling. Read the specs:

  • Desks designed for programming include a motorized height-adjustable work surface so you can stand up for part of the day if you want.
  • A floor to ceiling marble… shower. Yes, shower. Why? So you can bike to work or work out during the day.
  • There’s an espresso machine, a big fridge full of beverages, a bottomless supply of snacks, and delicious catered lunch brought in every day.
  • A library with two reclining leather chairs, perfect for an after-lunch nap. (Though it seems like they might need more than two napping chairs.)

However, it’s not the amenities—as sweet as they are—that have got my mouth juices flowing. It is the thinking behind them. It is the enlightened thoroughly sensible thinking that lead to the luscious layout. Joel explains:

Building great office space for software developers serves two purposes: increased productivity, and increased recruiting pull. Private offices with doors that close prevent programmers from interruptions allowing them to concentrate on code without being forced to stop and listen to every interesting conversation in the room.

Regarding recruitment, Joel wrote elsewhere:

All else being equal, developers are going to prefer an organization that treats them like stars. If your CEO is a grouchy ex-sales person who doesn’t understand why these prima donna developers keep demanding things like wrist pads and big monitors and comfortable chairs, who do they think they are?, your company probably needs an attitude adjustment.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not an egoist. I don’t need to be treated like a star. But, if we’re honest, do we not all want to feel like others rate our efforts highly? In other words, do we not all want to be valued? A company that makes software should show that it values the minds (and people) that create that software.

I have seen so much “penny wise, pound foolish” thinking and behavior in my career, that Joel’s attitude is as refreshing as a sweet spring breeze. I would have said that non-technical managers should take note, but I just don’t think they would be able to get it.

Now, if only I felt that I had the chops to put in my resume…

Posted Monday, December 29, 2008 by Grant in Myself

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Confession   4 comments

The album, Rio, by Duran Duran was my guilty pleasure in the mid 80’s.

(Embedding may not work. If not, then try this link.)

I had the cassette (remember walkmans?) and had to keep it secret from my friends. At least, I felt that I had to. We were also into classic and contemporary Rock (Zeppelin, Rush, The Police, Def Leopard, etc.)

My musical tastes are quite varied, now. Well, more varied, anyway.

Posted Thursday, August 28, 2008 by Grant in Myself

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Paris Vacation, Day 9   6 comments

Rue Cler, Basilique du Sacré Cœur, Montmartre, and Geocaching
Image of a woman getting a light from a stranger

This man patiently helps a woman light a cigarette that he has just given her.

Image of a street with people and Sacré Cœur in the distance

You can see Sacré Cœur peeking above the shop rooftops.

Image of two wome standing in a sun-lit park

A photographer and Lydia check out the Basilica.

Image of a man standing with a sketch pad

An artist examines the Basilica, which he is sketching.

Image of a scupture of male and female torsos

This sculpture adorns a grave in a cemetery that contains a geocache.

Image of some graffiti giving the impression of a painter and canvas

Even graffiti is artistic on Montmartre.

Grant’s Flickr page

Sunday, October 23

It was our last day to tour. Perhaps as a consolation, the weather was gorgeous. The air was cool and the sky was a perfect blue with a few white streaks. We slept in a little bit that morning and then headed over to Rue Cler for breakfast.

Before we got to our destination, however, the funniest thing happened. An old, haggard-looking woman stopped us. She asked if we spoke French, to which Lydia said, “a little.” She then asked us for a cigarette, which we could not supply, since neither of us smoke. With only the briefest visible disappointment, the woman went on to tell us how we could take the bus to a beautiful garden where, we learned, one could get a very nice hamburger.

In the middle of this tale of discovery (which Mr. Steves carelessly left out of his Paris travel guide,) an unsuspecting man passed. The woman interrupted herself to ask him for a smoke. He was far more likely to have one, since he had a lit cigarette between his lips. After a moment’s hesitation he began to dig into his coat pockets for the requested item. In the meantime, we were further enlightened on the beauty of this garden and the superior nature of the hamburger there to be had.

The man handed the cigarette to the woman and turned to leave, only to be halted again by her, this time with the request for a light. The expression on his face was priceless. Nonetheless, he did as bid. After the woman had her lit cigarette, the man asked, “Bon?” meaning, “Are you okay, now? Can I get you anything else?” Just one word, one syllable in fact, delivered a massive payload of Parisian sarcasm. Fantastic.

As far as I could see, though, it was all lost on the woman. She turned back to us as if her donor never had existed and urged us not to miss the unearthly wonder of flora and the life-changing miracle of seared ground beef that awaited us at the terminus of the specified bus route. We thanked her and continued on to breakfast. I tell you, the characters one meets in a city.

I guess it had been too early for much activity on Rue Cler last Sunday, because this morning, having arrived a little later, we found the joint a-jumpin’. We even had on-street entertainment. A gentleman was playing his 19th century mp3 player (actually, it was a crank organ that reads music from punch-cards.) The expected monkey was notably absent, however.

Breakfast was a croissant for each of us. I had mine with a café au lait. As we sat and ate and sipped, we watched the throng of people pass along this busy street. Before leaving for the day’s touring, we strolled the street ourselves, took pictures, and bought chocolate. Being thus encumbered suggested a pit stop back at the hotel to unload our booty.

From breakfast to the hotel, from there to the Metro, and off we were to Montmartre, the only real hill in Paris and site of the Basilique du Sacré Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart). Though it looks it, the church is not old. It was completed in 1919, which is young by Paris standards. Being situated on the only hill in Paris, it has a spectacular view of the city spread out before it.

That meant lots of people and lots of pictures. For me, it included a monstrous hike up 300 and more steps to the dome of the basilica. Why? For more pictures, silly. Before my climb, however, we ventured behind the church to a quaint park, remarkably void of tourists considering the masses out front. Here we tracked down and found the first geocache of the day.

Following the find, I made my way to the bottom of the stairs that lead me up to the dome. I mounted the cramped, stone, spiral stairs, which turned endlessly upwards. I could hear the voices of other climbers both below and ahead of me, but saw no one until the top. There, I came to a door that opened to a catwalk out onto the roof, but I was not there, yet. More stairs, both up and down along the rooflines brought me to another door.

I headed through and into gloom again for a further ascent. Once to the top, I was in a narrow, curving walkway no more than a couple feet wide. On the right there was a stone wall and, to the left, a short ledge that separated me from open air. My thighs and lungs were screaming. The view was fantastic.

The walkway circled all the way around the base of the dome to a second staircase that lead down. As I poked along among the other tourists, I heard English from a few folks, obviously traveling together. It was British English, which, to my ear, sounds more pleasant than my bland North American variety.

As I stood to frame a shot, one of the ladies in the British contingent, standing beside me, asked a question (which I have forgotten) to someone in her party. Her companion didn’t know the answer, so I offered one. At first, I think they were surprised to discover that someone had understood them, finding out that their secret code had been broken. Then, I imagined them wondering to themselves what else I may have overheard.

What surprised me, however, was that the lady’s male companion, after hearing maybe two or three sentences from me, nailed me as Canadian. When I told him he was correct but that I now lived in Pittsburgh, he said, “Ah, a Steelers fan, then.” I was quite surprised, first at his perception and then at his awareness of facts from other places. After all, I couldn’t have told him squat about the sports teams of his hometown, let alone nail his birthplace from his accent. Experiencing this kind of encounter is among the reasons I love to travel.

While I was torturing myself with the “spiraling stairs of death,” both up and down, Lydia had hunted down the second cache. After our rejoining, we were off on a Rick Steves-guided walk of the hill-top community. Back in the day, when Montmartre was actually outside the city, artists and free thinkers called this area home. Or, at least, they visited often. (Picasso is one who comes to mind, but there were others.) Along the way, we had lunch (with wine, naturally) and found our third cache, this one in a cemetery. Here, we released a travel bug, (which, at last recollection, has made its way to Germany somewhere.)

The hilly terrain put me in mind of Pittsburgh, but just a little. Our meandering stroll took us back down the hill to the Moulin Rouge (Red Mill.) The famous cabaret is located at one end of a stretch called Pigalle (pronounced incorrectly by WW II service men as “Pig Alley”.) This is the red light district. We didn’t venture in.

Instead, we hopped on the Metro (you didn’t see that coming, did you?) and headed into the heart of Paris, Ile de la Cite, once again. We had hoped to locate the cache that we had started earlier in the week, but we couldn’t find it. Lydia, who bristles at having to log a “did not find,” expended a sizable effort on the hunt. In the end, we came to the conclusion that the cache had been either vandalized or moved.

On that somewhat disappointing note, we headed back to our hotel. Tomorrow we were to head back home.

Sometimes when one visits a place, by the end of the trip, one is glad to leave. Like the familiar expression, “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

Paris didn’t give me that feeling.

If I had the opportunity (and a better command of French,) I would have stayed. I would have just told the folks back home, “Sell everything and send a check.” Seriously, I could see myself living in Paris, at least for a while. I believe that Lydia feels this way, too.

Read more about day 9 on Lydia’s blog.

< Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 >

Posted Saturday, February 4, 2006 by Grant in Myself, Travel

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Paris Vacation, Day 8   12 comments

Cité des Science & de L’industrie, La Tour Montparnasse, Geocaching, and Dinner
Picture of Anakin's pod racer from Star Wars, Episode I

Anakin’s pod racer from Star Wars, Episode I.

Picture of kids playing at the Science Center

Kids have boundless energy… moms don’t.

Picture of a sign in a stairwell noting a height of 207 meters

And we were not all the way up, yet… Probably finished up around 210 or 212 meters on the helipad. (About 690 feet.)

Picture of a global positioning system (GPS) receiver

Our global postioning system (GPS) receiver notes the location of the old Prime Meridian, which ran through Paris before the world adopted the one in Greenwich, England.

Image

It’s interesting to note what was playing at the time we were on our trip.

Grant’s Flickr page

Saturday, October 22

We broke our fast at the same place we had done yesterday. I had a petit-déjeuner Français (French breakfast,) which is a hot beverage (I had café au lait,) a croissant, a tartine (slice of baguette with butter,) and jam.

After morning fuel, it was onto the Metro for the Cité des Science & de L’industrie (Science Center) because they were having a Star Wars expo. In an effort to manage crowd congestion, admission to the Star Wars portion was staggered with tickets that stated at what time you could enter. Even so, the exhibition was crowded, since the ticket didn’t say when one had to leave.

On display were many props, costumes, and models from all six Star Wars movies. In the large central area six movie screens ran looping clips from the films along with multilingual “facts” about the imaginary planets that make up the Star Wars universe. The descriptions for the other articles on display made an effort at educating by speculating on the science behind some of the gadgets and events in the movies like, “How would a light saber work?” or “How much energy would the Death Star need to harness to be capable of destroying an entire planet?”

The Star Wars exhibit was fun and we poked around the other displays at the Science Center before heading off to La Tour Montparnasse. This building is a modern one (built in the 1970s, I believe,) which helped the French to realize that they should keep the ugly sky-scrappers out of the old city (hence the creation of La Défense.)

The realization came too late, however, to save the city from La Tour Montparnasse. It was already built. Still, it is not all bad. From the 56th floor there is a fabulous view of Paris that has the one from the Eiffel Tower beat in several respects. Firstly, Montparnasse is (somewhat) closer to the city’s center, providing a better panorama. Secondly, instead of a view of Montparnasse, which one would have from the Eiffel Tower, here one has a view of the Eiffel Tower, by far a better deal in my book.

This thought put me in mind of the gentleman who had hated the Eiffel Tower so much that, after it was built, he had lunch there every day just so that he would not have to look at it. If he lived today, I’m sure he would have his lunch at Montparnasse, instead. Another advantage of the Montparnasse view is that the wait for the elevator (lift) is shorter.

Tall windows enclose the 56th floor, providing unobstructed views in all directions. There are also the obligatory snack bar and gift shop. If the comforts of indoor observation are not thrilling enough, then, for the cost of climbing a few flights of stairs, one can venture out onto the helipad for a wind-swept, 360° view of Paris. Too bad that the day we were there it was overcast and threatening of rain. Nonetheless, we took a few shots and some were even passable.

Lydia’s pre-trip research had identified two geocaches within walking distance of the Tower. So, we went off a-hunting. The first cache was in a cemetery and the second was at the Paris Observatory. Once our quarries were found, the only things left to do were to hop on the Metro, head back to the hotel, and get ready for dinner.

For dinner, we took a Rick Steves suggestion (who, I am certain, never pays for a meal in Europe) about 7 – 10 minutes away from the hotel. The place was small and friendly with only 5 or 6 tables. The meal was very good. But, what else would we expect? We had read in Rick Steves’s description that the Chef/Owner had lived in Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, for three years. I was glad that he spoke to us in English.

As we ate and enjoyed our relaxing meal, we overheard two other couples chatting (in English.) They were both “doing” Rick Steves, too. As a fact, running into other “Rick Stevies” is not uncommon when one visits one of his recommendations. Two other families in the restaurant spoke English, so the waitress, who had mentioned to us that she wanted to practice her English, got a linguistic workout. (And we hit her up for the occasional French word, as one ought to do when faced with such an opportunity.)

Read more about day 8 on Lydia’s blog.

< Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 >

Posted Saturday, January 7, 2006 by Grant in Myself, Travel

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Paris Vacation, Day 7   17 comments

Laundry, Marais Walking Tour, and Dinner
Photo of a street sign for Rue Cler

Rue Cler street sign.

Photo of Lydia with a fountain in the background

A fountain makes for a background behind Lydia.

Photo of detail on a fountain in Place des Vosges

Detail on a fountain in Place des Vosges.

Photo of children playing in a park

Children playing in a park.

Photo of Lydia and Grant reflected in a mirror

Um, the mirror makes me look fat. Yeah, that’s it.

Grant’s Flickr page

Friday, October 21

We ended the previous day with a picnic supper on the bed, a simple yet yummy meal of baguette, cheese, pesto, and wine. We also bought some olive oil at the shop where we picked up the pesto. While we shopped for supper, we had a photo developer burn our two 512 MB (megabyte) memory cards to a couple CDs, since I had filled them with pictures. It took less than twenty minutes—Très rapidement.

As planned, we slept in before breakfast in another (that is, different from yesterday) café. It was on the way to a laundromat, where we were going to give our clothes a well-earned wash. At that moment, the only other thing we had planned was dinner that evening.

While we waited for our laundry, we wrote some postcards and I strolled around the block to take a few pictures. I thought it was interesting that the laundromat had a do-it-yourself dry cleaning machine. One, if they wished, could clean 6 kilograms (about 13 pounds) of clothes for €12… not bad, I thought, a little more than a buck a pound. We didn’t take advantage, however, since we didn’t pack any dry clean only articles. Also during our laundry, we decided that we would take another Rick Steves walking tour. This time we would head to the Marais neighborhood on the Rive Gauche (Right Bank,) across the Seine from Ile Saint Louis.

We took—get this—the Metro (I know, you’re shocked) from Ecole Militaire station all the way to Bastille station, a big, u-shaped trip. We could have transferred, instead, to another line and saved two stops, but we were interested in seeing the stations along the way. In fact, the trip as we took it may have been faster anyway, when you factor in the time it takes to transfer from one line to another at some of the stations.

Our walking tour started at the site of the Bastille. This is the Bastille Day bastille, the 1789 French Revolution bastille. This is the bastille that symbolizes the beginning of the end of the French aristocracy and nobility and the beginning of the modern nation of France.

It’s not here, though.

Rick Steves calls the Bastille Paris’s most famous non-site. Yes, the building has been long demolished, but the events of that day are etched into the French psyche.

Along our walk, we stopped in at the Victor Hugo museum in the apartment where he lived in Paris. It overlooks a beautiful park in the square, Place des Vosges (formerly called Place Royal when built by Henry IV in 1605.) All four fountains in the park, unlike those at Versailles, were a-squirt.

I love that children play here. It bestows the city with a vibrant, living personality. It is this single characteristic, over all others, that draws me to the city, that makes Paris a place in which I could live.

We then made a jaunt over to the Musée Carnavalet. This museum chronicles the history of Paris from royalty to revolution to modern times. Our visit there just about topped up my “museum meter.” From the museum, we ambled over to the Jewish Quarter for falafel sandwiches and an Israeli beer, called “Maccabees.” Interestingly, Jews and Muslims live together peacefully in this neighborhood. It was nice to see that it can be done.

After our snack, we finished the walking tour by the Pompidou Center, which is an exoskeleton building (as is Notre Dame Cathedral, actually.) By putting all of its structural, electrical, and mechanical bits around the outside of the building, designers have left a large, unbroken space for the modern art inside. The container compliments the content.

We didn’t want to pay the admission and our museum passes had expired, so we just pressed our noses to the windows and moved on. As such, we have an excuse to return to Paris, not that I needed one.

There was an Internet café nearby (€1.50 for ½ hour.) We took advantage to get caught up as best we could struggling with the French version of Windows and Internet Explorer as well as a maddening french keyboard (yes, the layout is different from a U.S. English one.) Being pooped (and having had no nap, if you can believe it,) we commuted back to our hotel to freshen up for dinner.

Dinner was at L’Affriolé, a place that Martine had recommended to us, and it was fabulous. I started with a Heineken beer as an aperitif and an appetizer of minced salmon with dill. My main course was whitefish on a mashed potato foundation paired with a superb white wine. Then came dessert, a murderous chocolate soufflé, followed by an herbal (peppermint) tea. The pace was slow and the food was dreamy. The bill came to €114, all tolled, for both of us. Certainly not an everyday meal, but one must have such a meal on one’s Paris vacation and I was not disappointed that this had been ours.

The experience had got me thinking that I might openly sob the next time I ate a meal back in the States. I didn’t, though.

A little Paris drizzle accompanied us back to the hotel, where we settled in to retire.

Read more about day 7 on Lydia’s blog.

< Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 >

Posted Monday, December 12, 2005 by Grant in Myself, Travel

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