My 6 month adventure with (shudder) unemployment

Remember those days when people kept saying “Cobol is dead?” We just laughed, and kept on coding. Well, laugh no more. Cobol is not dead–there are still thousands of programmers out there. It’s just finding a new mainframe position after losing a job that’s dead. I’ve been a contractor for over 30 years, and I’ve never lost any sleep over getting the next contract. Until I finished my contract with Geico, 6 months ago.

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Reading by cheating–Book TV

Every weekend, CSPAN2 turns into Book TV–a channel dedicated to books. Most of the programs are presentations by the author of a book they’ve recently written. It’s a wonderful way to get a quick synopsis of a book without having to read the whole thing. That talks are usually recorded from a book signing event, a university speech, etc.

Here’s an example, from Oct. 11, 2009. It was “Financial Fiasco: How America’s Infatuation with Home Ownership and Easy Money Created the Economic Crisis,” by Johan Norberg, of the Cato Institute.

The author basically showed how the monetary meltdown of 2008-2009 occurred. There were many contributors–the government, home owners, banks, and regulators. And, much as I hate to admit it, the Bush administration was just as guilty as Barney Frank. And the thing that stuck in my mind the most was this–added regulations are not going to help, because there were many watchdogs on guard that completely missed the event while it was happening. How can we trust the same regulators who screwed up the first time to do it right this time?

Anyway, you can see the upcoming schedule at booktv.org. Set an Outlook reminder to check it out on Friday evening or Saturday morning, so you can set your DVR to record an interesting title.

Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

This is a delicious book–it has it all: intrigue, deception, treachery, violence, wars, and oh yes, a little sex. It takes place in England in the 1600’s, but covers several generations of characters. It’s totally unlike Ken’s usual spy novels, but don’t worry, this is not a failed experiment that he took in trying to cover a different genre. He excels at it, and I got my wish after I finished it–he wrote a sequel. Worlds Without End is just as good, so I recommend both of them.

NASA Tweetup

I found out about this event through Twitter–I saw a tweet that announced the STS-127 crew was going to meet with the first 190 people that registered at a link they showed. I did, and I was accepted.

So, Cindy Bowers and I headed to downtown DC this last Thursday to NASA headquarters for the tweetup. It turns out that the previous mission had been the debut of an astronaut tweeting from space. Astro-Mike is actually Mike Massimino, and has helped pioneer NASA’s efforts to connect with more of the public through social media like Twitter.

pulansky_20090924This particular mission was also interesting to me, because we saw the ISS go over in July at the Woodlake Skywatch, when this shuttle crew was aboard. We had about 150 people that night, and the pass put on a really good show. It was also the largest crew that had ever been aboard the ISS–13 people.

The crew described their mission, with accompanying video, while live on the NASA TV channel, and then had a Q/A session. I was also able to get a picture with the MD on the crew, Tom Marshburn.

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The audience was definitely full of geeks–most of them were texting and some had PC’s going while the show took place. But then again, I was only there because I’m quite a geek myself.

But, several people asked good questions, like the future of the space program, and the apathy of the public towards space exploration. I also made sure I told the crew I had seen them fly over at a star party.

We got a pretty nice goody bag–a stereoscopic viewer, moon puzzle, X-15 poster, picture of the crew, etc. We got to go up and talk with the crew afterward. And I got a couple of autographs.

This was a very nice program, and I was fascinated, as usual, by being in the presence of real astronauts. One of them, David Wolf, has been up 4 times.

Nags Head 2009

Tanya’s surprise

We were lucky enough to get the same house we had last year–it’s right across the street from the beach, so it’s a perfect location. Deanne and Bill, and Jeanne and Eddie also joined us. And a big surprise guest–Carmen, also came with them.

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This was a total surprise to Tanya, as we kept it a secret until the day we arrived. And Tanya was truly shocked–mission accomplished.

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Crab hunting

Of course, we had to hunt sand crabs at night–it’s the highlight of the day for the kids. You just go out with a flashlight and you’ll see them running all over the place. We collected them in a pail to take back to the house for further “research.”

Other nightly activities

Just about everybody got into arm wrestling–even Tanya and Brenden. And later on, we’d climb up to the crow’s next and yak, dance, and shine the laser. I have a green laser that I use for astronomy demos. It’s amazing how far it will go. There’s a water tower about a half mile away, and we can actually see it on reflect off the surface (with a telescope).

Sweet 16

Megan turned 16 on Aug. 31, so we had an early birthday celebration one evening, with shrimp and steak. El Jefe and Future Cop did an outstanding job of grilling these goodies up, and we feasted and partied long into the night.

Fishing report

I took Mason down to the pier a couple of times–it’s a great place to fish, but I can’t say we caught any monsters. Except for the one shown here.
El Jefe and I got a kick out of this lady one morning, though. She appeared on the pier with her son, I’d say he was about 14. She gave him his lunch sack, and said “i’ll see you about 4 this afternoon–gotta go now, I’m late.” El Jefe and I looked at each other in amazement, but off she went.

Ocracoke

We took a drive to this scenic town, south of Nags Head one day. You have to take a ferry to¬† get across a body of water to get there, so that was kind of neat. I’ve never driven my vehicle onto a ferry before.

The town itself was small, and pretty touristy, but you can tell they made an effort to keep original buildings, to preserve the original feel of an old fishing village. It’s a pretty good hike, about a 3 hour drive, so it’s definitely and all day activity. We ate at a restaurant on the water, but I can’t say it was great food. The view was nice, though.

Back to Richmond

Carmen had to go back on Wednesday, so we dropped her off at the airport in Norfolk, and headed back home.

We did eat at Chick’s Oyster Bar in Virginia Beach though, before we left town. This is my favorite place to eat in Tidewater. It’s right on the water and the fried oysters are delicious.

Just to spite me, I’m sure, the contingent of trailer trash (except for El Jefe), all ordered hamburgers. Oh, the embarrassment.

City of Henricus

Ond day, we visited a reconstructed village, circa 1611. The county has done an outstanding job, with several buildings rebuilt, and some good re-enactors, to tell us about the history of the original settlement.

It lasted about 70 years, and was almost completely wiped out before then by an Indian uprising. And we were also reminded that the first Thanksgiving took place in Richmond at Berkely Plantation, not Plymouth Rock, MA, as taught incorrectly in so many school textbooks.

US Open 2009

We stayed at a La Quinta in Queens, which was only about 3 blocks from the subway. Then, after a 10 minute ride, we had about a quarter mile walk to the grounds.

You can see Terry here with the Arthur Ashe Stadium in the background. Continue reading