Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christmas

We had a gift certificate for $1000 worth of travel that I had won while working at EarthLink. We had to use or it would expire by the next break that we would be able to use it. We decided to surprise L.'s Mom and take her to New York to visit L.'s cousin, one of my best friends. The travel agency charged exorbitant prices for the tickets so all we could get was the 3 for the gift certificate. (I really don't know how EarthLink saves money using them.) We had everything arranged and L.'s Mom chickened out. She had a hundred excuses when the real reason was that she was scared to fly. Then a couple of days before arriving- My friend gets in a motorcycle accident and breaks his arm and gets bruised up pretty bad. His wife needs to have her wisdom teeth pulled while we are there and to top it off the transit workers decide to strike so no subway or buses. (hmm to bad there is no longer a working motorcycle). Non-refundable tickets so we decide to go anyway, and the last time that I planned to go to New York I had to cancel because of a crunch at work. There was no way I was letting another pair of tickets go to waste. As it turns out it was it was one of the best trips that we had. The transit strike ended the day after we got there so all the things we wanted to see in town we got to see, and the whole reason that we went, to visit, was easier since that is all we really could do. I ended up cooking a lot of dishes that were nice and soft for my friends wife but it was fun. My friend had given me the impression that his wife had grown up with in the French side of Switzerland so I had written on her present that it was from Pere Noel but we found out that her childhood was in Germany so we got to learn about the Christmas Spirit so that was cool.
The only real problem that was had was getting delayed in San Fransisco airport on the way there and back. If there is any way to avoid it we will never take a connecting flight through there again- to much bad weather.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

School is out.

Now that school is out L. and I have some time to explore some of our surroundings. We have went up to Portland to see that Saturday Market before it was over. We went with the intent to buy some hats that were a little warmer then what we have. It was pretty big. I am used to swap meets with all the vendors selling mainly Chinese made in-expensive stuff. Here it was mainly craftspeople and artists selling their work from their booth. It was pretty interesting. We also got to see the Christmas lights at Pittock Mansion complete with the sunset over Mt. Hood.
In some Oregon magazine it said that December was the best time to see the waves at the beach. Growing up near the beach my whole life I could not for the life of me figure out why someone would go to the beach to look at the waves, but one weekend L. and I decided to head out to Florence to see what there was to see. The stark contrast between the the forests of trees that stop suddenly at the sand dunes was really interesting. L. and I walked out on one of the rock jetties and I realized why people came to see the waves. They were between 30-40 feet tall and just came in one after another, usually 3-4 at a time.
We have also finished packing away the last of the boxes. Since we basically just arrived here and starting going to school the next week we didn't have time to fully unpack. So we have spent some of the time hanging pictures and trying to get a little more organized for next term, especially since we will not get this long of a break again for a while.
I also installed a new showerhead since the old one was about the height of my armpit. I turned one extension upsidedown so that it went straight up instead then added another extension on top of that to add about 18 inches of height.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving

We had a whirlwind of a Thanksgiving. L.'s brother decided to get married the day after Thanksgiving so that more people could make it to their wedding. L.'s cousin drove down from Portland and the three of us made the 15 hour drive to California. We left Wednesday at 5PM and drove through the night. L.'s brother asked me to be the photographer for their wedding so I spent Thursday morning taking pictures of the rehearsal and scoping out the right places for their pictures.
We had Thanksgiving at her family's house, which was interesting since it was 80 people we didn't know and us 6 people. The next morning we found out all the things that still needed to be done and I spent the morning with the mother of the bride going shopping for the odds and ends. When we got back L. and I finished up the bouquets and I took pictures of everyone getting prepared. I was taking pictures of everyone as they all walked down the aisle and my camera started saying error just as the bride was walking down the aisle. The external flash had slipped and shorted something out at the worst possible time. I ran back up to the hotel room and grabbed my backup camera and got back just in time for the important kiss. I used all eight rolls of film that I just happened to have luckily, but it was film so I couldn't see how any of the shots turned out. Everything else went off without a hitch except for L.'s youngest brother getting to drunk and being an idiot with his friend. He is either going to clean up his act or someone will die, him or whoever he crashes into. It is pretty bad to have to say that about someone that is only 17.
Saturday morning we packed everything back up. In the afternoon we "decorated" their cars since they didn't drive to the hotel then headed home. We were in such a hurry that we forgot the stuff we were going to take back with us.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Getting a Job

I got a job! Normally this would be something to celebrate about, however considering the timing it really added to my current headache.
Being a grad student they recommend only taking 2 classes and filling up the rest of the credits with lecture classes. Well I was used to handling a heavy load by working and going to school full time and since I hadn't heard back from the few resumes that I had put out I expected to go this term without a job so I could handle 3 classes right? Well even with no job I spent every hour I had working on projects for the classes. My teacher for my GUI class gave us about 40 hours of work (not over-estimating either) a week. Then right at week 7 of 10 out of the term when things get crazy with trying to finish up final projects I get a job offer working for the school. I accepted it since it seemed so interesting.
A Psychology professor wants to study how the brain leans how to use a new prosthetic for an amputee. To create an artificial prosthetic he got a glove with a lot of sensors in it and a robot arm. I wrote the program that takes in the sensor info and allows that information to be assigned to any of the motors. I also ended up building the robot from a kit. Luckily there was a shipping problem that stalled the arm from getting in right when I got the job so I didn't have as much to do until school was out. Here is a picture of them
Now I would think that working for the school would entitle me to some perks, any perks. Nope, no tuition reduction, crappy pay, and no benefits. The good things are since we live close to campus, being close to work. They understand when I needed time off for finals, and there is no way I could handle a full time job right now.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Living in a school town

I have never lived in a college town before. All the places that I have lived if there was school there there was a big enough town that it was just another thing there. Here on game day everyone wears green and yellow. I mean everyone. There is a green or yellow "O" on everyone's car. We just had the "civil war" - the football game between University of Oregon and Oregon State University. The line for students to get their free tickets wrapped across the campus, and the town was deserted the day of the game. The problem was that it was right during when all the final projects were due so neither L. or I could go.
There is a dollar theater at one of the malls. Actually a $1.50 but I'm not complaining. The movies they show are a few months old but it allowed for us to watch all the movies that were playing while we were in Europe.
When I got the phone book one of the other things that I got to help me find my way around town was the "student survival guide". The entire thing was coupons for pizza. In a town of 100,000 there are at least 13 pizza restaurants that I know of.
There are 10 Thrift stores in town. Since there are so many I can only think that they trade with the other stores for the same name. Certain Thrift stores specialize in certain things. There is a store for: Electronics, Furniture, Books,pots pans and dishes, and shoes, or at least that what it seems like to me. It has made it nice to buy a laser printer for L. to print out so much stuff.

Laptop mistake

The entire time getting my bachelors degree I used a mac laptop. It seemed like every teacher I had was only interested in the Microsoft tools. It made it a lot harder to for those classes using .NET using virtual PC or constantly looking for an equivalent tool to use instead of the windows tool that the teacher knew about. I didn't want to go through that again so in an effort to think ahead I bought a windows laptop. The thing is here is that all the teachers seem to be acting much closer to the computer science thinking. They concentrate on the problem instead of just teaching the tools. They make sure that all the tools are usable on any platform. I think that this is also because the majority of the teachers here use mac laptops for their computers. (It is the exact opposite of my old school- there, there was only one of the computer science teachers with a mac laptop, here there is one with a windows laptop.) This means that I am still in the minority. Only now I am stuck with a laptop that I have to devote time to updates, anti-spyware, and anti-viruses every week. I have installed Linux on a partition but don't have time to configure it correctly so only about half the stuff is working... ugh, I just can't win.
oh well this laptop was just a temporary until Apple releases an Intel Powerbook that I can dual boot into Mac OS or Windows.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

finding our way around

When we moved here, neither of us had ever been here before so we had no idea where anything was. Since we signed up for phone service through VOIP, we didn't get a phone book in the mail. When I moved for the first time when I was 18 there were still the remnants of Ma bell stores that you could get phone books at but now they are all cell phone stores in the mall. Every other move I've had we either got one from the phone company a few days after getting service or there was always a stack at the local Target, not here. I looked up what the local phone company is and went to their booth at the mall if for no reason to just have someone to ask where another idea is for getting a phone book. They referred me to the chamber of commerce. So that is what that place is for. Every city has one I guess and I guess they need to do something, so I visited a city chamber of commerce for the first time in my life. Sure enough they were like a little store that carried all the advertising for the local stores, including a phone book. I also got "the students guide" to Eugene which is really a guide to the pizza places of Eugene.
When my wife got here she treated it like any other city we visited in Europe. She went to AAA and got a map.
To learn more of what the local stores are I have just gone for trips just riding my bike around town. The problem is there are a lot of bike paths that cars can't go on and vice vera so there are some problems getting those maps in my head to go together.
My wife and I have not done that much exploring together. This has led to us each having our own paths to get different places. We both know where we got to go but the person driving will head off the way that they know how to get there with the other person asking where they are going, they should have turned back there.
The main problem is that for such a small town there are a lot of one way roads here. I think it was done to make room for all the bike paths. So a lot of roads are 2-way for bikes with a one way road down the middle. The river and hill in the middle of town also mess up what seems like a half attempt at a grid pattern.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

No more TV

So as part of our trying to save space, and to be better grad students, and to save money, we got rid of the TV. Sold it on craigs list, sold the Tivo on eBay, and gave away the entertainment center for free. (got a response 3 min. after listing it- isn't the Internet great)
To make sure that we don't stay out of the loop e can still watch DVD's on one of our computers, I set up iTunes to download the news podcast from NPR every morning, and we download the clips for the daily show from the comedy central website.
There has been some repercussions, I didn't even know that the world series was happening. I usually just don't know who is playing. The only real time that I get a craving to watch TV is when I get home from school and want to veg while I eat lunch. So far this has been taken care of a bunch of $1 DVD's that we bought of old cartoons. (On a side note it is rather interesting to watch superman and daffy duck beating up German and Japanese people.)

rain

Well I think that the rain season is upon us. So far this means rain pretty much every day for the last couple of weeks. This is not what I am used to as compared to California storms. There if it was going to rain, you knew it. The clouds would build up all day then let loose in a deluge with drops as big as marbles. In Washington the rain will last for days but it stays more of a heavy mist with the clouds never really going away. Here it is deceptively sunny in the morning. (Tricking me a few times to not wear a jacket to school- to get the pleasure of riding my bike home in the rain with no protection.) The clouds form and it rains from about 12-3 then it clears up and is scattered clouds for the rest of the day.
The clouds really define where the rain hits too. Just the other day it was sunny of one side of the building while on the other there was rain, a distance of about 50 feet.
I guess there has to be some reason for everything to be so green around here. I was worried that the rain would be miserable to ride my bike in. As it turns out as long as I have my jacket on I really don't get wet. I put fenders on both of our bikes and they work well.

down sizing

For the last 6 years we were renting houses. So our junk level has grown over the years. When we moved we tried to down size as much as possible but still ended up with 14 linear feet of stuff. With this type of thinking I own roughly half, so 504 cubic feet of crap. When we got to our new apartment we have had "fun" trying to get everything to fit in this small apartment. We have gone through two reducing cycles where everything either was donated to thrift stores or thrown out, but the apartment still seems rather crowded. After the schooling that we both had we now have 4 book shelves of just book between us, L. has all her teaching and toys for kids and I have a lot of electronics projects. I guess this is how eBay stays in business as I just got done selling off anything of worth that we wouldn't use anymore.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Getting a phone number

L. calls her family a lot. Before they offered unlimited long distance it was normal to get $60-$100 phone bill. So when moving here having VOIP was a no-brainer. The problem was that I tried to get the cheapest VOIP service. The first problem that I ran into was that not all the companies offered VOIP here in Eugene. We had been with Vonage and would have kept them but that was not an option. I found a company called BBtelsys that offered service for $199 a year. I thought great, and signed up. They never sent the box to get online. They kept stalling until I threatened to cancel then suddenly it was in the mail. I then called back to find out what my number would be. They didn't really have any Eugene numbers and it took at least 20 days to get one provisioned but he would start the paperwork right that day if I wanted. All the red flags went off, I canceled the service, called the credit card company to fight the charges. Sure enough even though they say that they credited back to my card, it is showing up as a canceled billing. So just a warning to anyone looking for VOIP Broadband telephone systems is acting like a fly by night company and I really don't see them being in business to much longer since I have the feeling that it is a Ponzi scheme that they are running in the hopes they will get enough subscribers to survive. So we did end up getting VOIP from another company (Lingo) so it only took us 3 weeks to get our phone number that we could answer, which is kind of important when looking for a job.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Frisbees

I guess like most college campuses there are a lot of people throwing Frisbees around here. There being more hippies probably adds to it. I usually see at least 6 people doing it every day.
As I was walking home from school there was a guy walking toward me he got my attention by saying "hey, do you have a light?" then thew the Frisbee to me. I said no and threw the Frisbee back. We walked past each other and I chuckled about the encounter that could only happen here in Eugene.

Monday, October 10, 2005

politics

Well this is defiantly a liberal town. I would put it second to San Francisco. I think there are a lot of things contributing to it: It's a college town, liberal state, whatever. Its funny, I would consider my views a little more on the liberal side but there have been a few things that caught me off guard here. I guess I just don't like knee jerk reactions expecting everyone else to think like you do. I went to a teacher training session in the hopes of getting a school job and one of the warnings they have was to not just expect everyone to have a liberal view.
The anti-bush bumper stickers are plentiful and funny to read.
So as a liberal town there is a lot of recycling going on. At out apartment, or at school we have along with the dumpster we have cardboard, paper, newspapers, metal ,aluminum , plastic.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

getting a job

So since I decided to go back to school I still need to get a job of some sort. I have been trying to get a job at the school to pay for tuition. The problem is that it seems like you have to be a PhD to get one of the jobs that covers tuition. All the masters students have to get what is left over. So I am trying to just get one of the jobs with the computing department. They want to hire full time so no grad students. So I tried to get a job with one of the other departments on campus fixing their computers but so far I have been getting the idea that I am over-qualified for the job. I am well aware of this but it does not change my desire for getting a job on campus.
I guess everyone needs the poor student experience at some time in their life. This way I will finally have stories to tell my kids to keep them in line- well in my day....

Friday, September 30, 2005

bikes

This place is a biking town, and they really support bikers around here. Its funny I am seeing things that I have only saw in the Netherlands. They have real overpasses just for bikes. At the stoplights there are diamond sensor pads that pick up if a bike is waiting at the light just like for the cars. (I wonder how sensitive they really are with aluminum and now carbon fiber bikes? Is there really enough of a magnetic presence?) There are tandem bikes with the trailer hooked up to the back for the "two parents and a kid" bikes. A lot of the faculty at the school ride bikes (They charge faculty for parking passes just like the students to encourage them to ride bikes). It was weird having the dean of the CIS college show up in shorts because he rode his bike to school.
The most amusing thing that we have seen so far for bikes was a sign that read "Valet parking for bikes" at a recent city celebration.
Along with everyone riding bikes there is a problem with theft. L. and I had to buy new locks (not susceptible to the bic pen trick) along with cables to make sure both the tires are there when we get out of class. We both know a few people that have already had their bikes or some portion of them not there when they got out of class so hopefully we should be able to avoid that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Going to School

So if I'm stuck here in Eugene with a wife that has to get her Masters degree I might as well go to school too. That is my thinking anyway as of right now... I just can't believe that right after finally getting done with school that the first thing that I would do is sign up for more.
The University of Oregon seems visually like an "ivy league school" more-so then the more modern buildings I'm used to in California. (Something that they are very proud of here is that Animal house was filmed here. So if you have seen that then you know what I am talking about.)
There is a old cemetery that the school campus wraps around. I finally have the experience of cutting through the graveyard to get to school on time.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Eugene

It is weird flying into a city knowing that you will live there but this is the first time that you have seen it.
The two things that people warned me about Eugene were always that it is full of Hippies and Anarchists and it will rain all the time. With really only that info I landed at the airport. With around 100,000 people it is the second biggest city in Oregon, defiantly different from what I am used to. So the airport is pretty small. It was the first time that I ever walked out on the tarmac to get into the airplane at LAX. It was nice to no longer have to live out of a suitcase.
L. has gotten excited with the changing seasons. She really like living somewhere all the leaves change color and fall to the ground. I think that frustrated her in California when the seasons consisted of hot=fires, rainy=floods.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Moving

I look at moving as a necessary evil. L. was all to happy to get out of Glendora, and California for that matter. I got stuck packing up the truck since L. wanted to get on the road to miss traffic and put enough miles behind her to time it correctly to get to the apartment office at the right time. After everything was moved I spent the next week and a half basically living out of a suitcase. L. drove up to our apartment and was basically doing the same. With all our stuff in transit in a truck we could both only wait. We went with a company called ABF and I swear I will never go with Uhaul again. The way that it works is that you fill up the back of the truck. You are charged by the number of linear feet that you use. A large bulkhead is put in place to separate your stuff. They then pick up the trailer and fill it the rest of the way up with commercial stuff they are shipping and put the trailer on the back of a train. With hurricane Katrina just hitting and gas prices hitting above $3 a gallon if we had rented a moving truck we could have easily paid as much for gas as we did for the moving fee. The thing that we did learn is that a truck trailer has no shocks so all the stuff gets bounced around a lot. Some of our stuff had worn parts on it just from rubbing against whatever was next to it. (next time we will need to tape blankets around everything like the pro's) But all our stuff made it to Oregon. L. got some people to help her from church to unload the boxes and moving from a house to an apartment means that there are boxes everywhere and we are trying to sift through our stuff and get rid of any non-essentials.