So I Tied an Onion to my Belt – 2009 Edition

2009 is fading fast, and a whole new year stretches out before us. Before things slip away, I need to take time for my annual jonandnic.com re-cap…
For starters, this has been easily the most normal year of our lives — where by normal, I mean relatively sedate. We haven’t announced plans to move to another country, we haven’t worked 3 jobs between the two of us, and we’ve managed to fight off the yearly itch to find another place to live. We haven’t even made any major purchases this year. 2009 has, for us, been about shedding our youth, and finally embracing adulthood and parenthood.
Not that these things are without adventure or challenge — just that the adventures are of a different variety and the challenges are a little smaller in scale. It turns out that we won’t actually fall over dead if we’re not constantly changing things up — we just have to learn about some different roles, and focus on some different goals.
With that in mind, we set out to do things like improving our home and gardens, finally dealing with my persistent back issues, and sending out some great young people on adventures of their own… not to mention marrying off Nic’s sister and going on our first ever family vacation!
In fact, we were feeling so good about this new normal life of keeping our kids alive and legal, that we hardly noticed when a good old-fashioned adventure snuck up on us out of the blue. Suddenly the life we were much more accustomed to was back with a vengeance — and it came to us, right here in our comfy little home, without us having to go anywhere to find it.
So comfortable were we that we almost turned it down — our own voices from our not-to-distant past, as well as the encouraging voices of family and new friends, made sure we didn’t. Which is good, because we don’t plan to ever!
And with the decision out of the way, I was off for 3 months of travel and trial, while Nicole’s mettle was tested on the home front — not alone, thanks to the afore-mentioned friends and family, but certainly more independant. Proving once again that when God sets a task before us, He sees it through for us.
Of course we continue to see all of these things — both the lessons in stability and those in adventure — as preparation and equipping. In the past year it’s become increasingly obvious that our own plans are meaningless… but as He did for a cop from Canada (and a teacher and a nurse that I know pretty well), we are confident that God is putting together a plan for us greater than we can imagine. As of 2009, we’re done trying to guess what that is, and done trying to put our own plan into place. We’re following God where ever He leads us, and obeying whatever He asks of us — even if we don’t understand it at the time.

Here comes 2010, and we can’t wait to see what He has in store — for us, and for you. A belated Merry Christmas, and an on-time Happy New Year to all of our readers. Thanks for hanging in there with us during a fairly blog-sparse year… hopefully next year will be better!

AppleTV for Mac

This remains the most popular thing I’ve ever posted — despite the fact that its really nothing special. The meat of it is a little start-up script that contains no undiscoverable tricks. I don’t even use it any more!
Nonetheless, it’s in-demand, and I can’t find a hosting method that can keep up. So, here’s my solution:

  • The start-up movie is no longer available here — it probably shouldn’t have been posted here to begin with. If you find someone with a Patchsticked AppleTV, it’s trivial to SCP in and grab the start-up movie (discussed here.)
    You can also use any other movie you want, which you specify when you edit the script.
     
  • The screen saver never worked right on a normal Mac, but Scott Q has engineered a replacement. His link appears to be down, but get in touch with him and send him your thanks.
     
  • The script itself is still available here.
    Copy and Paste the script into the AppleScript editor, updating it to provide the path to where ever you want your start-up video, and save it as a run-only script. Add it as a Login item in your account, and you’re set.
     
  • The background image I made is awful (it was just a screen shot) and I’m sure someone’s made better, but I’ll keep that here if you want it. If you do this right, you should only see the wallpaper for a few seconds anyway, so if you make yourself an all black image, or find a nice Apple logo, you’ll be all set.

And honestly, that’s all that was released. Like I said, nothing magical. My Mac Mini worked fine as a Home Theater PC, but eventually I just went with an actual hacked AppleTV (which smoothly handles anything but MKV) because I wanted my Mac for other things. If you find any other great ideas, feel free to share them here!

No, they're not twins

It certainly has its challenges, but having our two kids so close together is pretty great. Abi has never known what it was like to not have Ben around, and Ben doesn’t remember what it was like to not have Abi around. If we split them up, they cry for each other. When Abi wakes up from her nap before Ben does, she’s excited to wake him up too.
Similarily,  putting them in the same room has had its challenges, but its been worth it. When they wake up in the morning, instead of wailing for one of us to come get them, they often play together quietly in Ben’s bed until Nic is ready to get them up. Of course, sometimes they play together when they should be napping together — you’d be amazed at how much of Ben’s bunk bed two toddlers can pull apart in 30 minutes!
Ben and Abi
The other day, our banker swung by with some paperwork for us to sign, and she said “It must be so nice to have twins!” She’s not the first person to make that mistake. Up close, its apparent that they’re different heights, but from a distance — or when they’re crammed into their double stroller — it’d be easy to be unsure. Abi’s vocabulary is advanced, and Ben’s remains a little behind. He can certainly put together more complicated sentences than her two-worders, but he rarely does it in front of strangers (and never on-demand) so they may seem to be about the same maturity that way.
Unfortunately, despite how much Ben loves her, Abi doesn’t count as his best friend. That title? Well, that’s reserved for his pretzels…

Print to PDF in Windows 7

doPDF is simple, lightweight, installs in seconds and 100% compatible with Windows 7. It may not be feature-heavy, but it meets the need, and I like it.
If converting a document to PDF for archival or sharing is something you need to do, check out doPDF 7.0.

The Wises Hit Seattle

Yesterday I was terrified that I’d finally caught this Swine Flu that I’ve been (probably narrowly) avoiding for the past two months of travel. My throat was sore, my nose was running, and I was feeling achy. I prayed a lot and had a giant vitamin C smoothy and chicken noodle soup for lunch. By the end of the day I felt a lot better — only a runny nose remains.
This is important because I’m in Seattle, and Nicole is flying out to join me. The kids are with her parent’s and she was up at 2am this morning, giving herself plenty of time at the border, so as to make it to Buffalo in time for her 7am flight… which got cancelled! Fortunately, the border had gone smoothly and she’d arrived so early that they were able to get her onto an earlier flight so she wouldn’t miss her connection in Chicago.
I haven’t been this excited to see her since… like our wedding day or something. All these places I’ve been and things I’ve seen over the past 2 months, and she hasn’t seen any of them. I can’t wait to show her around the campus, and explore Seattle with her. We have a fancy Christmas dinner tonite, at a super posh private club in downtown Seattle. Tomorrow we’re meeting our friends from New York, Jon and Virginia, who moved out here a few years ago. And most importantly, my hotel room won’t feel so alone… of course, knowing Nicole, it won’t be as neat and tidy either, but I’ll put up with that, because she puts up with me — and I sure like having her around!
Pictures to follow.

Hadda be played on a jukebox

I learned a lot this weekend, about a subject that I’ve only been peripherally aware of, and interested in, for the past few years. Allow me, if you would, to regurgitate some of it here for education and admonition…
In the 70’s, during a war we probably had no business involving ourselves in in the first place, the US became determined to stop the supply lines of weapons coming into Vietnam. To that end, under Nixon and Kissinger, two separate bombing campaigns were carried out on Cambodia – a neutral and defenseless country, that had no recourse save that promised to them by communist propaganda. A faceless, unseen enemy – us – dropped over 200,000 tons of bombs on the confused and terrified people of Cambodia, despite the fact that they had done nothing to provoke the attacks. More bombs were dropped on that little country than all of Europe during World War 2. The nation was devastated.
cambodia
Opportunistic communist guerilla’s used the hatred and fear we inspired in the people to seize control, kicking off a civil war that ended in literal genocide. Between the lives shattered by American bombs, and those wiped out by the communists leaders that American activities had catalyzed, over 3 million were killed. 3 million non-combatant men, women and children, from a country who’s only offense was being located near a country that America was interested in controlling.
Make no mistake, the greater killing (or at least the more personal one) was performed by the communists. But they would have remained little more than thugs and terrorists had the American attack not taken place, forcing the desperate and decimated people to turn to the only organization promising hope and retribution in their country.
But the West wasn’t done raping this little country – literally. When UN aid was finally sent in, UN troops – including those from Canada – took advantage of the desperate people they found, buying little girls to abuse sexually during their off hours, teaching this nation – now devoid of any educator leaders, thanks to the genocide that had taken place – that the quickest way to put food on their table was to rent out their children, as early as 5 years of age, for sex with Western pedophiles. The UN troops brought not just abuse, but sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, sparking a nation-wide epidemic. Directly, and indirectly, my country and yours, dear reader, have on our hands the blood and innocence of an entire country.
We are so proud, in our first world nations, of our great civilization and our great accomplishments. We sit in our comfortable churches, and assuage our guilty consciences with the little tithe we might throw into the offering plate, or that one time that we helped out with a project in our church building or community… while the side-effects of this decadent culture we live in are simply statistics to us. We take no responsibility for the pain in the rest of the world – not even the pain we are responsible for.
Cambodia remains a broken, hurting country, where thousands of children will each be raped literally hundreds of times over this Christmas season – the average child prostitute has sex 8 times per week night, sometimes for as little as $2. Meanwhile, the Bible commands us to do something about it. If you’re accustomed to pausing at Christmas time and considering those less fortunate than you, perhaps you might want to do some reading on the situation in Cambodia in 2009. I know most of us we’re not taught about it in school – it was only in the past year that I’d ever heard the term “Khmer Rouge” – but the injustice continues anyway. And maybe we should spend some of our Christmas money this year, or our time in the coming year, doing something to help.
Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. – Isaiah 1:17

Go West, Young Man

Six trips in 8 weeks. Six journeys across the continent, 3 time zones, hotels, rental cars, taxi cabs, and California… so much California. I used to think it would be cool to live there, now I’m convinced that its a place you should only visit.

Last night I got up on a brightly lit stage and presented to about 200 people some of my employer’s upcoming products. Some really good ones. The lights were too bright to see my audience, but that was probably a good thing. I brought notes (in case I froze up) but I didn’t use them. I forgot they were even there the moment I started talking. I spoke a little too fast — something I often do when I’m nervous — and I glossed over a few of the finer points I meant to communicate, but over all the talk went well. I think I’ve subconsciously adopted some of Steve Jobs’ presentation style from all the keynotes of his that I’ve watched online over the years. If I can even learn to re-implement his Reality Distortion Field, I’ll have to move over to sales.

OnStageWeb

I still can’t believe I’m doing this job. By “doing” I really mean just hanging on for the ride — I haven’t actually entered any of my results into the system. Its all I can do to keep from getting more than 2 weeks behind on my expense reports — which is really the only process I’ve actually learned at the company. The rest will probably wait until Christmas break… then I’ll have some sort of metric to determine whether or not I’m succeeding at this gig.

I have one more week of travel left. Sunday I’ll leave for the Seattle area for the entire week. There’s a posh Executive Briefing I’ll be at, a number of team meetings, and a swanky Christmas dinner party for our group. Nicole will be using a free flight I got by accepting a bump on one of my trips to fly out and join me on the Wednesday for two days. We’ll be doing a lot of our Christmas shopping at the company store, so if anyone wants any software for Christmas, drop us a line!

I miss my family a lot when I travel. Ben misses his daddy a lot too. Every time I return home, he yells “Daddy! You came back!” — as if he’s surprised about it. Hopefully he’ll figure out that I’m always coming back. Fortunately the travel won’t always be like this. Things should slow down significantly next year. They’ll have to, because I’m pretty sure I used half my annual travel budget in the past 2 months!

San Francisco

When I travel somewhere I new, I make an effort to see at least one local site or attraction. Sometimes that means hoofing it for a mile or two. In San Francisco, it meant taking their sketchy, ornery, broke-down transit system. So, that was awesome. But I did make it to the Golden Gate bridge, and back (eventually) and it really was awesome…

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