zen.org Communal Weblog

March 29, 2007

Freeze the moment, please

Filed under: — brendan @ 20:12 GMT

Gush, gush. Sometimes it’s hard to describe the emotions you feel as a parent; they change with time, as do the kids who bring them about. But the feelings from this picture will hopefully always be in there, somewhere.

Kids together

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March 28, 2007

MythTV users of Ireland, unite!

Filed under: — brendan @ 12:15 GMT

Justin Mason has just launched a new mailing list for folks using MythTV in Ireland. Everyone can come out of the dark corners of the bogs and start putting together our collective experience to make really good alternatives to Sky+ or the other commercial products that’re out there.

Watch what you want, when you want.

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March 27, 2007

Vicious Reality

Filed under: — brendan @ 21:00 GMT

A month ago I received a call from a good friend, someone my own age of 36, who in a very weak scratchy voice told me he’s got terminal pancreatic cancer and has less than six months to live.

I went in to visit him today for the first time. He was able to get admitted to the Blackrock Hospice, an amazing place with really nice and talented people. He describes it as the best place in the country for care if you’re not going to be coming back out. They offer what for me is a new term: Palliative care, where they know they can’t stop what’s happening so they try to make it at least cause less suffering.

He’s previously divorced with joint custody of two kids: a boy and a girl both under the age of 10. They go to the same school as our five year-old son Patrick, who is there because of the friend’s suggestion. Our friend is also newly married—and his wife is about 7 months pregnant. (When he called, they were still engaged.) His ex-wife will presumably take care of the first two kids, and has the task ahead of telling them he’s not just sick. I can’t imagine what his fianceé-now-wife is feeling. We’re going to try to give her as much help as we can with the baby expected in May.

This is my first exposure to the imminent loss of a great person close to me and in my own age group. My heart and mind have to figure out how to deal with this, other than the current reaction of recoiling in horror. Well, that’s not entirely true—they already know part of it: visit him as much as I find bearable over his last four months. He’s now unable to focus well enough to read or draw or do puzzles, though he can take part in conversation. He’s often stuck just lying there, his morphine supply buffering him from the physical pain, and maybe from even part of the vicious reality that he’s dying inside. Having someone there talking about random things of current life is actually really pleasant, he tells me.

I know the visits ahead are only going to be harder, but I’m convinced it’s worth the effort. It’s a little more time to share with him. Time that’s shrinking fast and in a blink will vanish completely.

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American items on Irish TV

Filed under: — brendan @ 20:26 GMT

We have our MythTV box set up to record a bunch of things, but I just realized there’s a distinct set in there of things that are all within a day of their original airing in the US:

  • NBC Nightly News on CNBC each night at 11:30pm (live feed for what’s on in the US on the East Coast)
  • ABC World News Tonight on BBC News 24 at 1:30am
  • CBS News on Sky News each night at 1:30am and 3:30am (we record the latter)
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart at a variety of times on More4
  • The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on CNBC at 10:00pm
  • Late Night with Conan O’Brien on CNBC at 10:45pm

If we’re in need for a US-centric news fix, we’re all set. 🙂

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And the golden Audit door is finally closed

Filed under: — brendan @ 20:01 GMT

Our accountant called this morning to let me know they received an official letter from the Revenue Commissioners. Our 2004 audit was complete and we passed with flying colors.

All hail to the grand old system of tucking away every sheet of paper you ever touch.

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March 24, 2007

Are modern applicances not old-fashioned enough?

Filed under: — brendan @ 13:51 GMT

In the last few weeks, we’ve had a startling number of things fail in our house:

  • our 8 year-old Sony television rapidly developed a bad case of dry joint (the solder at connections on the boards were flaking away), with pin-cushion indentation happening on both sides increasingly worse til it was finally unusable;
  • our 8 year-old Whirlpool washing machine’s pump failed;
  • the 2 year-old Baxi back boiler failed over the holiday weekend;
  • our 6 year-old hand blender fell apart;
  • my 5 year-old desktop PC is seizing up on me, only a few weeks after I already had to replace its motherboard once because its USB on-board ports were faulty;
  • our 4 month-old NTL Pace digital cable box is failing, again, with what we now call the White Screen of Death(tm) and periodic claims that we don’t subscribe to any of the channels at all;
  • and now our 8 year-old Whirlpool dryer made nasty thumping sounds and is finally not spinning at all.  Back to call the Whirlpool repairman.

Was it in the 1980s or 1990s that production quality was flushed down the toilet?

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Salome's ability to boggle the mind

Filed under: — brendan @ 13:06 GMT

Last night we went to The Gate Theatre in Dublin for a production of Salomé by Oscar Wilde. Doing a bit of searching, I see that others also liked it. The misty voice of Fiona O’Shaughnessy was enchanting in the role of Salomé, and Barbara Brennan’s more-like-us form of speech as Herodias was a great counterbalance to the very thus, thee, lest thine language of the rest of the cast. The acoustics in The Gate is also amazing (much better than the Dublin National Concert Hall); with the talent of the cast in projecting their voices, the sound was wonderfully complete. The music of Roger Doyle was so good, I want to go back to The Gate to buy the CD.

All that said, we have to be honest: that was the most fucked up play we’ve ever seen. People walking in slow motion; the prophet Iokanaan with his sudden exclamations—Wikipedia explains this is John the Baptist; and not understanding the plot for most of the show. (You are always looking at her. You look at her too much.) Maybe if we’ll have seen it a few more times we’d have a different opinion. Maybe if we actually read the original play we’ll find that good ol’ Oscar was enjoying some old-fashioned recreational drugs at the time. (It is dangerous to look at people in such fashion. Something terrible may happen.)

But, we don’t regret going to the show. I’d go see it again, actually. (You must not look at her. You look too much at her.) It was definitely a new experience.

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March 21, 2007

Invasive and Patriotic

Filed under: — Sven @ 18:52 GMT

I’ve been taking gardening a little more serious this year then I have in the past. Wondering what the Pennsylvania government had to say about gardening in this Commonwealth I discovered that the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission says The Penngift Crownvetch is the official beautification and conservation plant, as enacted by the General Assembly on June 17, 1982. Says so on their Pennsylvania: Past and Present Symbols page just above the state fossil. Then the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural resources puts the Crown vetch on their Invasive Exotic Plants In Pennsylvania List page. Wikipedia tells me that Crow Vetch indeed does have a Penngift variety.

Worth a letter to my state representatives? Perhaps I should assume they are reading my blog.

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March 16, 2007

Audit: Government 0, Brendan 1

Filed under: — brendan @ 19:36 GMT

My obsessive archiving of documents related to my contract software engineering work has paid off. Yesterday a representative of the Revenue Commissioners (Ireland’s IRS) arrived to perform the audit of our 2004 tax return. Also arriving was our accountant from Browne & Murphy, the firm in Dublin which we started using a long time ago. (I find the Irish tax system quite intimidating.)

Despite my ongoing worries, it was all pretty survivable. Since I’d made sure to keep all of my invoices, bank statements, etc, the agent of the Revenue Commissioners was able to do everything pretty quickly. She had a bunch of questions to run through, then our accountant, Elana, and myself sat in the livingroom enjoying idle chatter while the books were being reviewed. The accountant had put together an awesome color-tabbed booklet of all of our accounts, and even had a great spreadsheet of our various bank transactions throughout the year. We got to find out how much we spent at Mitchell & Son on wine that year. Mmmmmmm, Pinot… 😉

Fingers crossed we don’t enjoy this experience again for a while.

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March 13, 2007

Cricket World Cup

Filed under: — Sven @ 01:55 GMT

In the USA, to watch the Cricket World Cup in the comfort of your own home you need DirectTV and $200. So if you live near me, invite me to a party! I’ll root for Ireland, I’ll root for Canada! I’ll root for the West Indies! I’ll be the only person at your party not rooting for India, I do live near New Jersey. I have never seen a Cricket match in my life, do they call it a match? A test?

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