Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

This morning, I checked my email and I received a very exciting email. Here is the first paragraph:


Welcome! You are now a New England Patriots Season Ticket Holder! We are excited to have you as the newest member of our team.

The rest of the email just explains when I’ll get my seat assignments, when they want money, if I’ll be eligible for playoff tickets this year (yes), etc… The rest of the email is pretty boring, but that first paragraph got me out of my seat and caused me to dance around house. :-)

For those of you that are curious, I put my name on the season ticket waiting list back in 1998 or 1999 (don’t remember which, been a LOONNNG time). Over 10 years. At that point I was single. I was living in Dorchester with friends. I was driving a Saturn. I was working from home (I guess that’s still the same).

Quite an exciting day. I guess the saying “Good things come to those that wait” applies to this. :-)

Really Rude People

October 24th, 2009 3 Comments

We had an “interesting” experience at dinner tonight. We (myself, my wife, and 2 kids) went out to dinner at John Harvard’s in Framingham. We’ve been there as a family many times before and always enjoy it. While it is a Brew House which you wouldn’t think is the most “family friendly” environment, we almost always are seated near other families with small kids and plenty of kids are always there. Today wasn’t an exception as we were seated next to a couple with a 17 month old girl with them (just a month older than our youngest).

Within few minutes of sitting down, the couple on the other side of us asked to get their food “To Go” because they had to “get away from all the kids” (last part said pretty loudly). That in itself was pretty rude. I can understand asking to be reseated or quietly asking to change to “To Go”, but to emphasize the why was a bit uncomfortable.

The worse part about it was our kids were REALLY on their best behavior tonight. Nathan was busy rolling a crayon back and forth with me and Ryan was coloring the ship on the kids menu and chatting with mommy. Neither was causing and scene. They were both quiet. Both sitting nicely. Etc…

Anyway, we just kind of let that slide, but when their food came and they paid their bill, things got even worse. On the way out, the man flipped us the bird. We were really shocked by that. Neither of us could believe he did that. Believe it or not, it gets even worse. The woman, who had already made it all the way to the door must have looked back and saw the look of shock in our face. She then walks all the way back to the table. I was expecting her to apologize for her husband, but instead, she said “Next time, you should take your kids to Friendy’s”. I wish I would have had a snappy comeback, but I was in complete shock. Couldn’t believe anyone was that rude. The couple next to us (with the child) couldn’t believe it either.

To their credit, the staff at John Harvard’s was excellent. Apparently, the manager was on the way in right as this all happened and saw it all. He came straight over to our table to apologize (not his fault) and the other wait staff also came by specifically to say our kids were behaving quite well and to not take it personally.

Anyway, just had to vent. What a bizarre experience. I still like John Harvard’s a lot and highly recommend it as a place to eat (and drink very good beer :-) . I just hope those people stay away.

Last week, we went on a vacation to Aruba. In general, the vacation was definitely a nice getaway from all the work and stuff that’s been keeping me busy for the last several months. Generally pleasant and relaxing.

However, there was one little “issue” that was kind of a negative on the vacation: a trip the Aruba Emergency Room. ER trips are definitely not something you like to deal with on vacations. In this case, my youngest son Nathan (10 months old) did not drink a bottle or really eat anything for over a day and a half. That’s very unusual for him and with the heat in Aruba, we were very concerned and decided an ER trip was warranted. Turns out that was a good call as he had “Acute Tonsillitis” (basically, a throat infection) and required some antibiotics and pain meds. Within a couple days, he was somewhat back to normal so the meds were definitely the right solution.

This was the second vacation in a row that ended up with an ER visit for Nathan. Our Christmas trip to Florida to visit my parents ended up with an ER visit (on Christmas day even) due to an ear infection. Generally, Nathan is very healthy (much healthier than Ryan was at that age). He just times his sickness to coincide with trips. Gotta love him.

This was my first experience with a Non-US emergency room. Actually, first Non-US medical care experience. Definitely different than what I’m used to. The first difference was very immediate: to even drive onto the hospital campus, you had to pass through a security checkpoint that took your name and “reason” for being there. From there, the security guard directed you to a secondary gate depending on your destination. (ER parking has a gate, outpatient has a gate, etc….) I’ve never seen that at a hospital. I’ve always just drove in, parked, walked in.

The next set of “strange happenings” was the check in procedure. There was an “outside” window for “registration” (kind of like a ticket booth) where you had to go to register. Again, this is outside in the Aruba heat. We’re not into the waiting room yet. After that, we had to go to a cashier window (again, like another outside ticket booth) to pay a $90US “down payment”. Once that was done, we could then sit in the air conditioned waiting room. I’m just so used to having all of that being IN the waiting room area. Kind of strange. A little while later, the triage nurse called our name to then take temperature and get additional history information and all that. Then back to the waiting room.

The actual ER rooms and the ER experience with the doctor was pretty much the same as in the states. No major issues there at all. Relatively pleasant.

However, the NEXT interesting thing happened when the doctor wrote the prescription for the meds and was preparing to discharge us. She didn’t hand them to me. Instead, they went into the file. To get them, I had to go back to the cashier and pay the remaining balance (another $19US). When the account was settled, they gave us the prescriptions. Definitely didn’t expect that.

In general, it wasn’t bad, just different. On a positive note, the whole ER visit just cost $109US. I don’t think an ER visit anywhere in the states would be that low. I need to figure out how to submit that to my insurance and stuff, but in general, pretty cheap.

I bought my wife a Kindle 2 as an early birthday/mothers day present. I gave it to her a bit early so that she could use it for our vacation to Aruba. It’s definitely a nice little gadget. I’m quite impressed. Excellent battery life. Very easy to read, even one handed. That’s perfect when trying to snuggle an sick infant to sleep.

Julie generally reads about 2 or 3 books a week. More on vacation. Thus, the Kindle helped save a bit of space/weight in the luggage. (important now that they charge $50/bag if you go over their weight limit) Most of what she reads she checks out of the library. However, she does purchase quite a bit as well, especially for just released additions to the series she reads. Those tend to be the expensive hard back versions. Thus, long term, it may save some money, though I doubt it.

I guess the real loser in this will be the Framingham Public Library. They always ended up with the books she purchased when she was done with them. Sorry!

For the last couple of days, Ryan, my oldest son, hasn’t been calling me Daddy. He’s just referring to me as “Dad”. I’m not exactly sure where he picked that up. Probably day care. (always blame everything on day care. Somehow, it’s always their fault) I knew this day would come, I just didn’t expect it so soon. He’s not even 3 yet!

I must admit, it’s quite “strange” to hear him say it. Caught me COMPLETELY off guard the first time he did it. Almost laughed.

Sigh….. they grow up SOOO quick.

:-(

….but sometimes I have to wonder.

I really do live in a pretty tightly packed residential area. Lot sizes around a 1/4 acre or so. But once in a while, I really do have to wonder. We’ve lived in the house for close to 9 years now. In that time, we’ve encountered:

1) 3 separate instances where my dogs (2 cocker spaniels) have cornered skunks in the back yard. Yea, not fun. You think the dogs would learn, but NOOOOoo….. “Black and white cats in my yard. Must Attack!!!!”

2) A pack of wolves (yes a pack of wolves) killed a dog up the street. An emergency alert went out so we had to keep the dogs inside for while.

3) One night, one of my dogs brought a possum into the house. (they have a dog door so they can come and go. Brought him right in through the door) Luckily it was just a possum that just played dead on the living room floor until I got a shovel to move it outside.

4) Yesterday, when we left to head out to see “grandma” in the morning, a racoon apparently snuck into the garage and got trapped there when we closed the door to leave. Got into the dog food, trash, and probably the supply of ant/mouse traps. When we came home and opened the door, trash was all over the floor and the coon was dead in the middle of a pile of dog food. Not sure if he ate himself to death or did get into the mouse/ant traps or what.

Kind of scary actually. We opened the garage door when Julie took Ryan out to the car to get him buckled in and get his dvd playing. She left the car door open and stepped back into the house to get Nathan. The coon could have jumped right in.

Having a two year old, I’ve discovered that the DVR quickly gets filled with things like Backyardigans episodes and Diego episodes and such and that doesn’t leave room for the important things like football. At one point, the solution was to get all the episodes on DVD, which we did. However, DVD’s in the US suck. When Ryan asks for “Dinosaur puppy” (Backyardigans “Cave Man’s Best Friend”), he doesn’t want to wait 5 minutes to find the DVD, put it in, forward through the 5 or 6 “previews”, wait for the FBI warning, then select the right episode (4 per disk). We ended up just leaving the episodes on the DVR as it’s much faster to get those started.

Thus, I decided it was time to setup a streaming media system to put all the kids movies, tv shows, etc… on. I finally got it all setup and working this past weekend. What does it include:

  • Playstation 3 – this is the device that will decode the streams. The Playstation 3 has a built in “DLNA/UPnP” client so it’s really just “plug it in, it will find the server and start streaming off of it”.
  • Marantz SR6003 receiver – my old receiver (Marantz SR7000 from 2001) didn’t do HDMI at all. Thus, I upgraded to a new receiver that can do HDMI switching so sound and video from both the Comcast DVR and the Playstation 3 can use HDMI. I still only have the 5 speakers (Cambridge Soundworks) so I’m stuck at 5.1 right now. Will upgrade to 7.1 some other time.
  • BuffaloTech TeraStation Live 4TB – this is the media server that I’ve stuck in the basement. It’s 4TB of space (RAID5 makes it 3TB usable). It has a built in DLNA certified media server. Thus, just put music or videos or pictures in the configured directory on the TeraStation and the PS3 just sees it.
  • PS3IR-PRO – the PS3 is only controllable via bluetooth. That doesn’t work well with my Harmony 880 remote. The PS3IR-PRO converts IR signals to bluetooth to allow the Harmony to control it.

It turned out the HARDEST part of the whole process is getting the video into a format that the PS3 will actually play. I’ve used ffmpeg and such in the past to rip DVD’s to my computer, but the PS3 is apparently very picky about the settings for the video, formats, etc…. I had one mp4 playing fine, changed one little encoding setting, it no longer played. Very annoying. I finally settled on using the h264enc script. It has presets for the PS3 that get the setting all correct and such. With the “ps3hq” preset, it’s not exactly fast (15fps or so on my older computer), but the results are very good.

The issues I have remaining:

  1. Programming the Harmony – this still needs some work. Swapping out the receiver which is used by ALL activities pretty much required redoing everything from scratch. Just need to spend some time to get all the buttons back to working the way we had it before.
  2. 100BT -> Gigabit – it turns out, I only have cat5 wiring in my house from the basement to the living room, not cat5e. It’s not connecting at gigabit speeds. Haven’t decided if it’s worth the hassle to replace it. It’s not needed for the streaming so it’s not really a big deal.

Anyway, it’s now all working. I have my old computer busy ripping DVD’s to mp4′s. That’s going to take a while, but in the end, it’s worth it. No more flipping DVD’s, no more waiting for FBI warnings and previews, etc….

The things we do for our kids….. (yea, for the kids. That’s the reason…. )

;-)

This past week, my wife and I took our kids (Ryan, 2.2 years old, and Nathan, 11 weeks old) on a 5 day vacation to North Conway, New Hampshire. This is the first vacation that we’ve been on that didn’t involve visiting family since Ryan was born.

Wow. Vacations are VERY different now. Forget about relaxing. With a two year old, that doesn’t happen. I’m exhausted. It’s quite nice to be able to sit down at my desk and type this. There also isn’t any way to “pack light” with an infant. The two little folks easily had 3x the amount of “required stuff” than Julie and I.

All in all, it was a good trip though. We took the kids to Storyland and Ryan had a great time. Storyland is geared toward the younger kids. There were only 3 rides in the entire park that Ryan was too small to go on (by an inch). He loved the train. We rode around the park on the train 3 times. We also did a scenic railroad tour so Ryan could ride a real train. We bought him a “Thomas the train” watch so he could have a watch like Daddy. (the fact that he cannot tell time is irrelevant) We took the tram to the top of Cannon and climbed some rocks and stuff up there. On the way home, we stopped at the Polar Caves and did some spelunking. Ryan wasn’t too impressed with that. After the first cave, he didn’t really want to go into the others. Making Daddy climb the 87 steps to the observation platform was fun though. (my legs hurt now) :-)

One thing I learned: before we leave for Thanksgiving/Christmas trips, we need to buy the entire series of Backyardigans on DVD. If I see “Samari Pie” or “Mission to Mars” one more time, I think I’m going to go nuts.

Kulp Technologies is proud to announce the immediate availability of Kulp Micro Edition 2.0. This release builds on the success of the previous version to provide enhancements to the popular features:

  • Ability to produce a wide variety of stinky, smelly fluids and excrement.
  • A high pitched wail, expected to occur for about 4-5 hours a day, every day.
  • Guaranteed to distrupt any thoughts of sleep for anyone around for the first couple months.
  • Inate ability to require the use of all spare resources for the next 18 years. If you’re lucky, it will then require even MORE resources for another 4 years.

In addition, version 2.0 is specifically designed to work closely with existing Kulp Micro Edition 1.0 installations to produce:

  • A very high level of general chaos and disorder.
  • And even higher level of resource usage.
  • Several new incessant noises that will sound very similar to “he did it”, “he’s touching me”, “that’s mine”, “he started it”, etc…

Weighing in at a healthy, 6 pounds, 14 ounces, 19 1/2 inches, Kulp Micro Edition 2.0 (code named Nathan Riley) is only slightly larger than than the 1.0 version.

Julie Kulp, lead developer, exhausted but in good shape, had this to say: “9 months of sleepless nights…. What were we thinking?!?!?!? Never again.” Ryan Kulp, Junior Developer Assistant, said “MY Baby.”

More information is now available at the product website:
http://www.nathankulp.com

It didn’t take long for my son to discover the nice shiny new computer sitting on daddy’s desk. So far, his favorite thing is the camera capturing into iMovie:

ryan_camera.jpeg

He doesn’t quite understand the “baby in there”. He touches the baby on the screen and declares “Baby in there”. What’s even more confusing is when he see’s daddy with another baby. So much for no fingerprints on the glossy screen. :-(

We also did a video chat with grandma tonight. I think that was more entertaining for grandma than anyone else. It was very easy to setup though.