Thursday, February 27, 2014

My WiFi Hardware

We have a Zoom 5350 Cable Modem/Router in the attic which provides enough internet for email
and web surfing provided we are either in the bedroom or not too far from the attic.

Here's what I have to take it to the next level:

  •  NETGEAR FVS318 ProSafe VPN Firewall 8 with 8-Port 10/100 Switch
  •  Hawking HWREN1 Hi-Gain Wireless-300N Range Extender
  •  NETGEAR Powerline 200Mbps Nano Adapter - Starter Kit (XAVB2101)
  •  NETGEAR XWNB5201 Powerline 500Mbps to N300 Wi-Fi Access Point
  • Apple Airport Express

 I've been working on various configurations to try and extend the range and the strength of our broadband connection. The report in the lower left was run from my iPad connected to the various WiFi Networks  I have running.  My Zoom Modem produces the weakest signal which sort of makes sense since its traveling from the attic two floors down.  The Hawking HWREN1extender in the Kitchen does well to repeat this signal and if I am to believe the speed test, my download speed is double than what it is straight off the Zoom.

In theory I can plug one of the Nano Adapters into a wall outlet and run a LAN cable from it to the HWREN1 for a stronger signal.  Unfortunately, this doesn't work.  all it does it jam our network so we cannot connect, I suspect the problem being an IP conflict.

I ran out of time to fully troubleshoot and since I'm likely to move a few components around I didn't make the effort to physically connect to each device and reconfigure it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Health Trifecta and Social Maintenance

Doesn't even ride shotgun:  Some days all I do is give my gym bag a round trip to Oak Brook Terrace.  This week I have more specific motivation to get to the gym.  On Saturday I'm running the inaugural Pulaski Day 10K and my goal is to run 5 miles on Tues/Wed/Thurs of this week in conjunction with eating right and not consuming any alcohol.  So far, I hit the gym tonight and I haven't had any liquor since Sunday and that was only a beer or two.

That's right: the Health Trifecta.  The scale has been osculating between 208 and 213 pounds for me lately and I know that my best chance for getting that weight down during this Polar Vortex when I am not running as much as I generally do in nicer weather is to balance the reduced mileage by eating less unhealthy food and eliminate the calories from wine and bourbon.  Of course that is easier said than done given some of the stressors in my life of late.

Social Maintenance Protocols:  few weekends ago, one of the things we were supposed to do but had to skip was a 50th birthday celebration for a friend.  We had every intention of going but as the day went on, NG got a little fatigued.  We also underestimated how long it would take for lunch to arrive and we ended up giving someone a ride home in the snow storm, which causes already bad Chicagoan Drivers to devolve even further down the evolutionary chain.

One the one hand, I do feel bad that we didn't suck it up and go out to the close suburb and put in an appearance.  On the other hand, I feel good that over the years I've put in enough face-time at prior parties and events that I really should have earned a get out of jail card or three.  The birthday boy in question cannot say the same thing.  In the nearly decade and a half that we've known each other, he has not made a single party or event that I've hosted.  Most of the time it was because of schedule conflicts.  However there were other times when he may have been able to suck it up and put in that appearance but opted not to.

And of course there was the delivery mechanism of the no RSVP.  Guys try to tease one another to cushion the news and sometimes it was just over the top.  Oh I'd love to be there but you only gave me three weeks notice and something better came up. 

It should be a big deal and it sounds a lot worse that it is.  The problem, for me, is that when you have mutual friends and they do make the effort to drop by the other friend's events even if it's just for a few minutes but don't for you, you ask yourself: why is my situation different?  The answer of course is that they are better friends with the others, which is fine except when the person insists you are good friends especially when the time comes around to go to another one of their parties.

Monday, February 24, 2014

This makes me a Little Sad

I came across this the other day. This balcony overlooks the parking lot of an IHOP on Cicero avenue.    I'm going to tell myself that whomever lives here, they enjoy a nice quiet morning cup of coffee before the place opens and a lovely glass of port in the late evening after the IHOP closes.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Some things I think about on my Morning Drive to work

Coulda, shoulda have been me:  Once in a while I'll see some news tidbit of my former colleagues from the No-Name Software Company on LinkedIn or Facebook.  Someone I worked with in the trenches is now a manager or someone who joined after me is higher up on the food chain.

We use to joke that it would be cool if Microsoft bought us out.  Well a big name company did eventually buy it up, though it was after a lot of other mergers and take overs in the meantime.  And I had to leave because I was never going to advance party because of my own shortcomings and party because I wasn't part of Director Palpatine, clique.

You always hear about those lifers at IBM who retired with boatloads of stock and are set for life. That should have been me and some of my colleagues, had we not been forced out of there.  Essentially as the company got bigger and the workload increased faster than we could keep up with it.  That's what happens when only half the call takers take calls.  Those who were not part of Director Palpatine's hand-picked band of merry ass-kissers had to go.

Like Art Therapy, without the Art:  A long time ago, there was this Twilight Zone or TZ-like remake show that featured Ed Asner as an author who retired.  He started seeing these strange creatures in the background that no one else could see.  He eventually confronts them and asks what he has to do to make them go away.

"Write about us," one says.  He takes out his type writer and the show ends.  So it goes that I need to start writing about something that has been forcing it's way into my active brain feed, especially whe I drive to work in the morning.  I've alluded to it before but it has to do with my first job out of college as a paralegal assistant.

So I'm going to start writing posts about those days on this blog.   It's good to get it in writing and out of my system and perhaps I can parlay it into some fodder for the other site.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Catch up Post and Polish Lessons

I realize it has been two weeks since my last post.  I actually have a few draft posts that I have been working on but one thing or another kept me from finishing them up and hitting post.  So then this is an attempt to catch up on what's been going on.

For one thing, it's been extremely cold in the Midwest in general and in Chicago in particular.  This means I have been WFH whenever feasible.  At first  I was reluctant to do so but then I realized 1) it is very sucky out there, 2) I have a very generous WFH policy and 3) it is very sucky out there.  One particular morning it was so bad, local radio stations were emphatically saying, if you don't need to be out and about, avoid it at all costs. 

So for me that means monitoring email in between shoveling the mass amounts of snow that have landed on our property.  During our last big snow, one of my neighbors was kind enough to run his gas snow plow along the sidewalk and even did the walkway to many of the houses.  I used the opportunity of being home during the winter daylight to remove a good amount of snow from the balcony above our front porch.  While I'm sure it would have been fine to leave it alone, I feel that removing the snow will help prolong the lifespan of the front porch roof.  Nightingale made me promise not to attempt to do the back roof above the kitchen.

Because it is very unsafe to run outside, and I'm not training for anything, I have given myself a free pass to not workout if I don't feel like it.  I won't be able to do this too much longer if I want to maintain/lose some weight and also get in any type of shape for my March races. 

What I lack in exercise and running, I've made up in practicing my Rosetta Stone.  While I'm not by any stretch of the imagination becoming fluent in Polish, I have noticed that I am doing better than the first time I attempted this exercise in 2009.  I attribute it to 1) more consistency in doing the lessons once a week EVERY week and 2) blocking out an entire hour of uninterrupted time to go through the exercises.

Rosetta Stone's shtick is that you learn by association so you never actually explicitly see anything that says red is Czerwony Koszula is shirt, or ChÅ‚opiec is boy.  Instead you see pictures and hear the word and the spellings.  This works fine for nouns and perhaps even the verbs but I am still struggling with possessive pronouns and word tense.  Obviously I struggle the most with pronunciation.   

So if I want to take this to the next level, I'm going to have to increase from once a week to several times a day, most likely a couple times a week and ideally an hour a day until I get through the three lessons several times.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Ground Hog Day

Yesterday was a big day.  It was Super Bowl Sunday, Ground Hog Day and the day my grandmother would have been 88 years old.

So we went to Ikea on Saturday afternoon and this is our stop gap solution for the hallway coat room.  At first we weren't sure we made the right decision but once we assembled all four bookcases,
we think it looks good, especially with the two types of baskets we bought.  I still need to buy some hooks so we can hang coats but it definitely helps hide the clutter.

We gave away our Armoire a few weeks ago and it has really opened up the living room.  I'm toying with the idea of bringing up the chair-and-a-half from the basement and potentially the sofa as well.  The problem is it's hard to visualize it without doing it and then if you don't like it, you have to move everything back.

In the evening we rallied and joined Na for her husband's birthday gathering at J Patrick's Irish Pub near SIL old house.  Na and her husband came up from Memphis to see family and settle a few things.  Apparently her condo is under contract which is a huge deal because like us, she is hemorrhaging money on two properties.  Another friend has also put her Lincoln Park condo on the market today and seems to have priced it to sell.

Because of the weather turn out was low so we got more face time with Na than we might have otherwise.  Not saying she would have ignored us, but when you are the wife of the birthday boy you have to hold court.  She wanted the latest gossip on the running groups.

My new favorite beer
We made the decision midweek to have people over to watch the SuperBowl and invited the group that came last year along with a few additions.  If we had a bigger TV I would have tried to make this a bigger deal but given the weather potential, I figured it would be easier to invite a few people and if no one showed up, we'd have extra pizza.

So Sunday we had three couples over for the super bowl.  If I've learned one thing over the years, it's that my friends don't always cross pollinate well.  SHB and K are opposites when it comes to what they eat and drink  SHB drinks diet coke, K will only drink regular coke.  Since we bought both types and 7-Up to book, naturally they both drank only water as far as I can tell.  Overall I think everyone still had a decent time.  Now if the game were more exciting.  

When it comes to Super Bowls, heck any football game really, I enjoy a close contest and we have been spoiled in that most games for the last decade or so have been close. That there was no 4th quarter comeback this year is kinda like the fact that Chicago has had some relatively mild winters the last few years and now we are experiencing a normal winter and don't know what to do with ourselves. 

Now that we are into February, I would like to report on a couple of things.  First, according to Daily Mile I ran 46 miles in January.  Allowing for the 14 mile race a few Saturdays ago, that essentially means I've run a mile a day.  I usually run at least 50% more than that in January but I'm also okay with this number because it's been freaking cold and the outside conditions haven't been safe for running.  I should step up and run more inside especially since we have a treadmill that seems to be easier to use than the one at the Office Gym.

Next, while I haven't been truly consistent, I have been working though the Rosetta Stone Polish language lessons.  My plan is to get through the lesson set once on the XP box, then transfer the program to my new Win 8 machine and run through it again.  This is because it is easier to boot up one machine and the hard drive on the XP machine is spinning in such a way that I can just tell it won't live too much longer.

While I tried to avoid it, alas our attic has become our storage area.


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Upcoming Projects for the New Year and not so new house

We have a few  project for the house in 2014.  I don't recall if I posted last year's Pantry Pipe Shelf Project but it's worth a look at. 

First up we are finally addressing the hallway coat hanger issue.  It's my best guess that the half bath under the stairs use to be a hallway closet back in the day.  We like it as a half bath of course.  But that does beg the question: where do we put our coats and our guest coats in the winter?

I talked to a carpenter about creating some custom storage like this.  Unfortunately, he wants $2K to do it, mostly for labor.  I'm not saying that isn't a fair price nor have I really had the bandwidth to seek out other professionals to find out if they can do it for as much or less.  Instead we are going to use an Ikea hack as a stopgap solution. If we like it, it only costs about $300 and if we don't, we only spent $300 and can hopefully recover by using the bookcase in another room, selling at garage sale or gifting to some family member.  

Second, I want to buy a Smart TV once I finally pay off that flood.  And to do so means I need to figure out a way to get a stable internet connection to the first floor.  Our wireless is decent but I suspect it won't always be so strong especially with all the devices.  Right now I have it on a sort of zone system.   The attic with the cable modem is connected to the router in my office on the second floor.  I have a WiFi repeater in the kitchen which gives us a strong enough signal on the back deck, in the basement and throughout the first floor.  It actually seems to reach the front porch as well.  I also have a Powerline Adapter that connects the Roku to the router, essentially establishing a hard wired connection as far as the Roku is concerned.

The previous owner did drill some small holes in the corner rounds so that he could run speaker cable between the basement and the living room.  I can run an Ethernet cable through this.  However, this still creates the challenge of getting a hard wired CAT-5 cable from the router without drilling a hole in my ceiling.  I'm still investigating this but one solution might be to move the cable modem and router to either the basement or the first floor. 

And Third...well there isn't a 3rd yet but it's only a matter of time. Something will come up.