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Sunday Slacking

Finally, another Sunday has arrived, that coveted day of the week on which I (usually) do no work. I put in some time at the office yesterday, managing to wrap up another two Flash videos, leaving 10 more to go. Some additional components of an ongoing sidework project arrived, but I’ll save them for tomorrow; the deadline is still two and a half weeks away. Today, I’m going to relax.

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

Apple hasn’t been feeling well the last couple of days — I think she got a cold, probably from her nephew Achi, who has been sick a lot lately — so neither one of us has been sleeping all that well. But putting a positive spin on it, I was able to get up this morning at an earlier time that I usually do, even during the work week. Our housekeeper is here today, doing the big Sunday housecleaning. While she’s busy, I’m hanging out on the back patio with the laptop, as you can see from the picture.

The weather is fantastic. There’s a strong breeze blowing near-constantly, keeping temperatures mild. The reports say it’s about 82°F out here, but it feels more like a pleasant 76 here in the shade. Given that everybody I know back home — family, friends, and colleagues — is dealing with historic snowfall, ice and winter storms, which in at least one case has brought with it a cracked house foundation and a leaking basement, I think I should be exceedingly thankful that I’m here right now. (Although I’m sure the weather at my own home in Florida is fairly pleasant right now, too.)

I should also be thankful, I do believe, for the work I have. With new reports of layoffs at my dad’s company, and the increasingly bleak employment and economic statistics coming out of the United States, it’s a good time to be gainfully employed. It’s an even better time to work for a company that seems to be in a fairly good business position, as my company seems to be. January, a historically dead month at my workplace, has instead been full of new business, new releases and custom contract work this year. We’ll be putting out four new product versions next week, releasing a major update to a fifth shortly thereafter, just landed a couple of new contracts for our most expensive service as well as several hundred hours of new contract work. I don’t know what’s going on, but I am the absolute last person who will be complaining.

It’s also good to know that my colleagues and acquaintances outside the office are doing well. A guy who I’ve done sidework for in the past, for example, just had his flagship product bought out by a large medical diagnostic firm, and I’ve been subcontracted to make some changes to his website (which I previously designed and deployed) at the buyer’s behest. It’s a good time for him, I’m sure, financially at least. Ironically, this is the same way this guy has made his fortune (he’s retired and in his mid-forties) — by creating innovative software startups and either selling them or getting bought out. He managed to sell one of his solutions to the government of almost every state in the U.S. before cashing in his stake. Not a bad way to get rich. And yeah, these are good contacts to have!

On a more personal front, I finally got around to posting a bunch of pictures to my Flickr account. The photo gallery integration with Oddball Update still hasn’t been completed, but you can see them all on the Flickr site just as easily. I’ve created a new set just for photos from this trip, so I’ll be filling it up with any pictures I might take on an ongoing basis. You can keep checking this same link to see new stuff as it’s added. And eventually I’ll get the Flickr integration up and running…I just have to fix about three dozen HTML files first. :rolleyes:

In TV news, some of our favorite shows are starting up again after long haituses (haitii?). The seventh season of 24 premieres this Sunday night (U.S. time), and let’s just say that I hope it’s better than the “24: Redemption” TV movie that aired in November. That didn’t really hold my interest. More exciting to me personally is the return of Battlestar Galactica for its final season, or half-season or whatever you want to call it, this coming Friday (January 16th). I feel a little out of the BSG loop, so I’m thinking of grabbing last year’s half-season over the Internet and getting caught up. I also hear that there are new Battlestar “webisodes” out there — a little mini story arc that takes place between last year and this year — so I’m going in search of those, too.

Although our TiVo HD will be dutifully recording all of the above, and we’ll be able to stream it over our Slingbox, the quality is not very good due to all the latency. And because nobody gets in trouble for torrents of TV shows in Thailand (nice alliteration there, chief), I’m thinking that the Intarwebz might be a better way to go. Apple and I are both video quality zealots, as it happens, so it’s hard to settle for anything other than a perfect, clear, HD rip.

Speaking of video, I’m very excited that my parents bought us a year’s subscription to Netflix, which we can start up as soon as we get back to the U.S. I checked Netflix’s website, and our account is still there and ready to pick up where we left off. Now this is cool. We canceled our service almost two years ago, but Netflix saved our queue and our rental history exactly as it was. I like that, not so much because I want to resume my queue where I left off, but because I want to be able to see a list of what we rented before — mostly so we don’t rent the same obscure Asian horror flick again by mistake!

I’m also excited to try Netflix’s new “instant queue” features, which they didn’t yet have the last time we were members. Not only can you stream a vast number of movies and TV shows over the Internet to your computer, but now you can also stream HD movies to your Xbox 360 or TiVo HD device, for no extra cost. Since I have both devices, I plan to test each and see which one does a better job. I hear the Xbox’s interface is nicer, but the TiVo is always-on and more well-integrated with the whole “TV watching” experience. Either way, it’ll be a nice feature to have. But I’m really gonna have to keep tabs on the bandwidth usage logs in the router if we start streaming compressed HD over our Comcast connection — because Comcast is watching, too, to make sure we don’t go over that 250GB monthly cap. Fortunately, 250GB is extremely generous, IMO. For reference, we currently average 40-50GB per month, and that’s for all our devices in the house combined.

Something occurred to me this morning. Despite the fact that life is going pretty well here, with a new set of routines that have become both pleasant and familiar, there are some things about home that Apple and I both miss. I’d probably distill it all down by saying in America, the need and ability to rely on yourself is life’s single greatest asset as well as it’s greatest bane. It gives you the power to arrange your life as you see fit, the freedom to go where you want and do as you please, and live the way you desire. It also makes life hard, requiring that you get your hands in every last petty issue and worry about everything that could go wrong, because no one is looking out for you, and you can count on one hand the number of people you can trust to help you if things go wrong.

But being apart from this benefit and this curse reminds me that it is something worth celebrating. So this morning I told myself that when we get home, I will not take for granted the ability to just get up and go. In particular, I will try not to let the crummy roads, awful traffic and stupid drivers of Florida get to me. Being able to drive, to flit about from place to place, pick up the food you like and see the sights you want, is worth the aggravation.

Anyway, for the rest of today I’ll probably play some video games, continue reading my eBooks, maybe even do some writing (although it feels like too lazy a day for writing, by and large). I might even take a look at some Wolfenstein levels — I think some of that nostalgic influence from earlier in the week was compelling me to do that, although I resisted in light of more important pursuits.

Till next time…enjoy your Sunday.