Things end.

This week, I received a notification that AOL Instant Messenger is ending.    On December 15th of this year, the service that was the biggest part of my social life from the mid-1990s until just a year or two ago will go offline for the last time.

Up until fairly recently, I was always logged into AIM-  if my computer was on, my screen name was active.  At one point, I had collected nearly a dozen screen names-  some were used for work, but most were personal.  AIM was the way that we spoke between departments during my early years at my previous Mr. Company, because nobody had invented Slack yet and “team chats” were a fairly nascent idea.

Lately, the AIM buddy list is a ghost town-  there are only a handful of people who still connect, and most of those have their screen names configured to mobile devices.  I would venture a guess that at least half of them don’t even realize they’re still signed in- it’s that slow there now.

AOL Instant Messenger is just one more thing in the ever-growing bucket of things from my past that are gone now, things that I miss quite a lot.   AIM and Yahoo Messenger, both removed from heavy usage by their parent companies were one giant part of my life for most of the last twenty years.

So too was LiveJournal, at least from 2002 until around 2011.  The communities there were wonderful, and I made fast friends through those interactions.   I’ve been commenting in recent posts about the process of going through my old LiveJournal to move worthwhile content over here to WordPress while simultaneously preparing to close out the original LJ.  This is for two reasons:  The first is that LiveJournal was purchased by a Russian company a few years back and they have since moved their data from US-based servers to hardware that is actually located in Russia.  The second, and far more personal reason to close out LiveJournal is that it’s a ghost town-  most of my closest LJ friends have since deleted their accounts, and there’s only a handful of people from my list who still frequent the platform.  Posting there in 2005 was like being in a well attended warm and friendly party.  Posting there now is like shouting into an empty factory.

Things change, time passes, and many of the things that I love have faded away.

When I moved to Orlando, there were two restaurants downtown that I really enjoyed:  Frank & Steins, which was a delicious hot-dogs and beer joint, and the Red Mug diner, which was a 24 hour diner at first.

First they cut the Red Mug in half-  they said that the right side would be a new Poke concept restaurant.  Then they cut the 24 hour aspect on weekdays, saying that it was summer hours and you could still go there in the middle of the night on Friday and Saturday nights.   Finally, they said never mind all that other stuff we said, and we’re just closing the place up.

Frank & Steins was closed up to renovate and reopen as a “food hall” concept, but all the super delicious food on the original menu is gone, and my tongue weeps in gustatory grief.

I was going to include Smash Burger in this list, because the one in Oakland Park closed, but I was delighted to find this chain is alive and well in Central Florida.  Smash is one of my top-five favorite burgers, although my brother doesn’t like it so much.

So many of my memories are about food, now that I think about it.  My mental map of my adopted German hometown Regensburg is marked almost entirely by where the food is.    And then there’s the Navajo.

The Navajo sandwich was a Cheesecake Factory staple for years-  chicken, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a dash of mayonnaise served on this delicious thick sourdough bread, and I would order it more than any other thing in the restaurant.  When I came back from Germany, the Navajo was nowhere to be found.  Gone from the menu, without a trace.    A Google search shows that I am not the only person who laments its absence from the menu.  Someone even set up a Twitter account as the sandwich looking for work, but even that faded out after 2013.

Damn, now I’m hungry.

What thing do you miss that is gone from your past?

A silly post about my t-shirts.

I’m pretty sure that nobody else is going to be even remotely interested in this post, but I’m trying this new thing where I actually put stuff in my blog more than once every two months, so I’m talking about whatever random weird thing is on my mind.  Right now, that thing is t-shirts.

I wear a lot of t-shirts. I always have. While going through my old LiveJournal, I found a post from ten years ago in which I was thinking about my t-shirt collection.

This was my shirts in January of 2007

This made me curious.  I know that the predominant color in my wardrobe was black for a long time, but it’s been ten years since that last count.  I’ve mellowed a bit, and I’m less interested in wearing all black all the time.  Naturally, I was curious to see how the colors had shifted in the last ten years.  To sate my curiosity, I waited for laundry day.  Once everything was clean and hung up, I took a new census.

The result?  I’ve got less than half the white shirts that I had ten years ago, and less than half the black shirts as well.  Almost every other color has a bigger part in my wardrobe than what 34 year old Steven would have worn.  Except that one purple shirt.  I haven’t seen that thing in at least a decade.  Truth be told, I’m pretty astonished even now that I had eighteen white t-shirts back then.

I am very fond of blue shirts, apparently.

January 2007 October 2017
White or off-white: 18 8
Green: 4 4
Brown: 3 4
Yellow, Orange, Gold: 1 2
Blue: 3 15
Red or Maroon: 1 3
Purple: 1 0
Grey: 2 6
Black: 36 15
Long Sleeved Black: 7 4
Note: The 2017 column doesn’t include the seven shirts that I designated as “just for the gym.” I keep those separate.

Another thing which is interesting to me, but probably not to anyone else:  In 2007, I had 69 short sleeved shirts and seven long sleeved.  Now I have 57 short sleeved, and four long sleeved.  I feel like I have way more shirts than I did before, even though it’s actually a smaller number.  I wonder why that is.

I’ve also changed my shirt-keeping system over the years-  I kept the shirts folded in a drawer (or, more accurately, a couple of drawers) for years, but Amelie has converted me to the ways of fuzzy hangers.  It’s a lot easier to see ’em all now.

This leads to a fun little aside-  in order to better randomize my shirt-wearing,  I play a little game with Amelie. I count off the shirts from front to center and back to center, and then decide which side will be “heads” and which will be “tails.  Next, I  ask Amelie to choose heads or tails and a number which varies depending on how many shirts are in the laundry hamper already.  It’s usually around 20-23, though.

Much like the shuffle player on iTunes, this “random selection” tends to bring up certain things more frequently than others.    I suspect that probability is warped where funny t-shirts are concerned.

My shirts, resting in their natural habitat.

What color is your favorite t-shirt?


[Ancient Repost] The most dangerous item in the drug store.

I’ve been clearing out an ancient LiveJournal in preparation for deleting the account. While most of the stuff there is utter fluff, a tiny portion of the posts are worth preserving. What follows is one such post. The original was written in April of 2011.

Some time in the past, on an otherwise nondescript day, I was standing in the family planning section of the local Walgreens. I was looking to purchase condoms, because while I’m sterile, I’m not stupid.

The condom section, however, makes me feel stupid. Very, very stupid.

There is far too much variety, you see- there’s latex and lambskin and polyurethane and polyisoprene. There’s regular, large, and magnum. There’s lubricated, non-lubricated, with spermicidal lubricant, with or without a receptacle tip, ribbed for her pleasure, and spiraled for his. There are, and I’m not making this up, currently eighty-three (83) separate varieties of condoms on sale at Walgreens. As if that’s not complicated enough, you also have to figure out which boxes don’t contain condoms at all, but rather contain vibrators of various sizes and shapes.

The reason I bring this up is that there are so many varieties in so many brightly colored boxes that I was standing in front of the row reading boxes and trying to make sense of it for quite some time. After a while, just after I’d picked up a large box of Lifestyles, a small voice said, “Are you ok?”

The source of the voice was a small girl, about five or six years old. Parents nowhere in sight, although we were about twenty feet from the waiting area for the pharmacy, so I’m sure they were over there. I said something in the general vicinity of “yes, I’m ok,” and then she started to ask other questions.

Anyone who’s ever seen me with a very, very small child knows that I can only parse and understand about fourteen percent of what they say. I never developed the little C3PO kid-translation circuit that most grown-ups seem to have, so I have absolutely no idea what she was asking next.

Since I had no clue what the questions were about, I just did a lot of smiling and nodding and hoping that she would go away. After a moment, she said something which seemed like she was about to get her parents to help me- I’m still not sure why, and she toddled off toward the pharmacy to get their attention. I did not at all feel like explaining to another grown human being why I was conversing with a very small female child in the condom aisle of all places. It was at this moment that I did what any other sane human being would do.

I ran.

I ran to the opposite end of the aisle and stood with my back to the “As Seen On TV” end-cap, so that the little kid wouldn’t be able to spot me. I peered around the corner, just to make sure I wasn’t within line of sight of the kid, and then I briskly walked to the front registers, paid for my purchase, and got the hell out of there. I did manage to buy a box of condoms, but I didn’t know until I got home which type I picked up. That sort of thing happened to me the last time I bought condoms, too.

I have this horrible notion that one day, I’m going to have some sort of a heart attack or stroke during one of these rubber-purchasing events, and when they cart off my body, they’ll have to pry the box of rubbers out of my cold dead hands and explain to my family that I appear to have died over the most stressful and dangerous of all of Walgreens’ inventory, the birth control.

So stressful!

Big Mac Attack

I was having a conversation today with my buddy Marc about the new laptop I’m getting, and I mentioned that I’ve always migrated my data from computer to computer before, but that leads to a build-up of old and unused applications, library data, and other stuff.  I decided that with this new laptop, I’m going to do a clean slate, and only install what I’m actually using.  All my old data from the previous system would be stored on a separate disk, just in case I need it.

During the conversation, it occurred to me that I wasn’t shore just how many Apple computers I’ve owned, so I decided to figure that out, in blog form.  What follows is a lengthy retelling of my personal computers over the years.   If this sort of stuff bores you, you should probably skip this post.

I purchased my first Apple computer in 2004.  Up until that time, I had been a Windows guy.

I am oversimplifying.   At first, I was a TRS-80 guy, then a TI-99/4a guy, then a Commodore 128 guy.  Next, I was an MS-DOS guy, then a Windows 3.1 guy.  From there, I used Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME (Millennium Edition), and Windows XP.

In September of 2003, my Windows XP installation crashed and burned.  It was bad.  I lost something like sixty gig of personal data.  This was my turning point.  I was fed up with Windows, and didn’t want to deal with it at home any more. I installed Red Hat Linux 9 on a new hard drive, and that became my desktop for a while. I kept using Windows at work, naturally, because that’s what Mr. Company dictated for our workstations.   I still have a screen capture from the time of the Great Crash.  It was a message on September 3rd of 2003, in which my former roommate John said, “iiiiit awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaits youuuuuuuuu…..” with a link to the Apple product page for the Powerbook.   I wasn’t ready, yet, but he was right-  it was waiting.

In August of 2004, I bought my first ever Apple product- the third generation of iPod, the last one before the ClickWheel was adopted.  It was around this time that I realized that I needed to run iTunes, Dreamweaver, and some Adobe software, and I couldn’t get them to run properly on Linux.  I built a new tiny Windows box just to run those programs, and the Windows creep began.

The timing of these next bits are not absolutely certain- I know the sequence of events, but don’t have any record of exactly when things happened.  So I’m taking a few liberties and guessing at some of this timeline:

By late 2004, I was frustrated with having multiple PCs, and I bought my second Apple product, a 17 inch aluminum Powerbook G4.  I joked at the time that I bought this laptop computer as an accessory for my iPod, but it was actually a pretty true statement.  This was my first ever laptop computer.  It was gorgeous and I enjoyed it, but a 17 inch aluminum monster wasn’t really all that portable.  I was also frustrated-  the laptop was not as powerful as similarly priced desktop computers, and I felt like something was lacking.

Still, it was a good machine and transitioned my computing world into the Powerbook.  The Windows and Red Hat desktop computers went away, and I no longer had two monitors, two keyboards, two mice at my desk.  (Yes, yes, I know that a KVM switch could have solved that, but I liked to keep them separated.)

In 2005, the Mac Mini was announced.  I was still a little resistant to a laptop being my primary machine, so when they announced a tiny adorable computer the size of a stack of CD jewel-boxes, I was hooked and I grabbed one of those.  Away went the Powerbook.  I loved this machine- it was the least crashy computer I have ever used, before or since.  My only issue was that the hard drive was topped out at 80 Gig, and there was no upgrade possible other than external plug-in hard drives.  Also, I was using an older Apple external monitor and I was annoyed with how many cables I had allowed to gather.

Naturally, when Apple announced their new Intel iMacs in January of 2006, I was all kinds of excited.  It had a larger hard drive, a faster processor, and it was just pretty to look at.   On March 1st of 2006, I bought the 20 inch version of one of these chunky white beauties, and I was super excited to have everything back under one plug with my third Apple computer.

Ah, but the gadget lust is a cruel mistress, and when Apple introduced their new 13 inch jet black MacBook, I was enthralled.  That little black beauty became my secondary machine, but it was still too small in strength and hard drive space to be my everything-computer.  I still used a desktop for my main stuff.  By this point in time, the desktop was constantly on, and I left it running so that I could connect to it remotely from work.

The 20 inch iMac held me for three years, but in 2009 the design changed yet again, and the new aluminum body iMacs were just amazing.   In March of 2009, I bought a 24 inch iMac, with 4 gig of ram and a whopping 1 Terabyte hard drive.   Surely, this was the height of luxury!  I was sure I would stick with the iMac forever.  At work, I was connecting an ssh tunnel to my iMac so that I could listen to my music collection.  This was bliss.

Fast forward to the middle of 2011-  I had sold my condo, and I was staying in my brother’s house while I figured out my next moves.  My three years in Germany was on the horizon for me, but I didn’t know it yet.  What I did know was that I simply didn’t have enough space in my brother’s spare bedroom for a 24 inch iMac, so I made the switch back to a laptop late that summer.

It was August of 2011, six years ago, that I purchased a 15 inch MacBook Pro with 8 gigs of ram and a 750 GB hard drive.  I named it Yori.

I missed having an always-on machine that I could shell into, but I got over it pretty quickly.  For the first time ever, a laptop computer was my primary machine.  It was my only machine.  I moved everything onto that one laptop, and used it with delight.  The technology had finally reached the point I wanted, where a laptop computer didn’t seem under-powered or slow compared to desktop alternatives.

When the move to Germany came up, I was doubly glad that I had a laptop.  I lived in a hotel for the first three weeks, and I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to schlep a 24 inch iMac to Germany and set it up in a hotel.

During my time in Germany, I purchased a new Mac Mini, but this one was set up to be my entertainment center.   It was connected to my television, and I used it for video and music only.  I sold it to a friend before I left Germany in 2014.

The laptop I’m using now was purchased on November 12, 2013.   I grabbed this during one of my visits back to the US from Germany, because the MacBooks had gone to solid state drives, and everything was So! Fast! that I couldn’t resist.  This laptop has 16 GB of RAM and a 1 Terabyte SSD.  This machine carried me through the rest of my time in Germany.  It traveled the world with me, and it’s actually still a pretty great laptop.

Apple did it again, though, and they updated their laptop to be thinner, faster, and 87% more nifty.   I have decided after months of deliberation to pick up a new MacBook Pro in the new “Space Grey” color with a newfangled Touch Bar.

For those of you keeping count, this new laptop will be my ninth Apple computer in the last thirteen years.  That doesn’t include a multitude of iPods, iPads, and iPhones.  It also doesn’t include my Airport routers and Time Capsule, or the various Apple mice or keyboards I’ve owned.  It didn’t seem like that many to me until I wrote it all down here.

So… does anyone want to buy a late 2013 model MacBook Pro?

What’s your computer preference?  Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS, or something else?

Happy Birthday, Orlando!

July 31st, 2017 is Orlando’s 142nd  birthday.  To celebrate the birthday, there was a celebration today at City Hall.   With a big birthday cake.   Also, today was the raising of the brand new city flag.

The previous flag was created in 1980, and had a decent 37 year run.  You can totally see the 1980s influence in this design:

The new flag is a much simpler design, partly because the contest to design the new flag consulted vexillologists – flag experts.  The specifics indicated that the final design should be easy to draw from memory, and so we have this new flag, designed by graphic designer Tim Eggert.  To explain the symbology, I’ll quote from

Orlando’s fountain at Lake Eola Park is the most distinctive and recognizable symbol in the city, one that is loved by our residents and enjoyed by our visitors. The water ascending from the fountain represents the continuous flow of energy and innovation that makes Orlando a city on the rise. The six equal segments on the base of the fountain embody the city’s six commission districts. The iconic fountain is surrounded by the letter “O”, which symbolizes Orlando’s unity, connectivity and timelessness. The color yellow represents the sunshine, hope and happiness that thrive in our great city. The reflection of the “O” in the water symbolizes our careful consideration of our past and our bold vision for the future. The flag is set on a two-toned background of blue and white representing patriotism, perseverance and peace.

I arrived at City Hall about fifteen minutes before the celebration was scheduled to start, so I could get the lay of the land.  I’d never actually been inside the building before, but it was easy to find the door because the giant inflatable 142 was visible from outside.

The party was held in the rotunda just inside the main doors, underneath all the flags-  the US flag, the Florida flag, and the Orland city flag are all visible.  The other nine flags represent the countries of Orlando’s sister cities, I think.

This party had all the fixins.   There was a photo booth for instant print pictures of you against the new flag.

There was one flag to be signed by people who were at the celebration. (I declined.  I feel like this is for important local officials, and I’m kind of a nobody.)

There were party hats, cowbells, fridge magnets, and tiny flags.  The tiny flag is on my desk now.

This was the city’s birthday cake.  It was delicious and I rather wish I’d gone back for a second slice.  There was also cookies and liquid refreshment, but I don’t have a picture of that table.

There was a table to order your own flag-  I considered this for a few minutes, but decided to wait- I’m confident this flag will be available later on.

There was live music courtesy of the Orlando Concert Band.  They were pretty great!

This gives you a better idea of how many people were in attendance.  The far end of this shot is the mayor of Orlando and some officials who were there to officially raise the new flag.

The flag raising was supposed to be outside, but Tropical Storm Emily spun up off the left coast of Florida this morning, and that forced a change.  They made the best of it, though, and put a fan behind the flag to make it flap in the “breeze” after it was raised.  Incidentally, the man in the beige suit is Mayor Buddy Dyer.  I’ve seen him speak a few times now, and he seems like a pretty good guy.

A bunch of city councilmen and other local officials posed with the flag, and that wrapped up the ceremony.

But wait, there’s more!   The rain was light enough that they decided to do a less formal raising of the flag outside as well.

Once Mayor Dyer got the flag up to this height, he tied it off, and joked, “Ok, now everybody blow.”  For a day with a tropical storm nearby, there was pretty much no wind at all.

I don’t know who any of the people in this next photograph are other than the mayor, but I think this is a good example of why I like the guy-  he’s approachable and friendly, and he seems to genuinely care about the people in his city.   Anyone who’s game for a ridiculously large selfie is pretty OK, I think.

When I lived in South Florida, I couldn’t have told you the last name of the mayor.  It’s refreshing to be in a city where the mayor is so much more visibly active in what goes on with his city.

The official Twitter account of the city posted this video about an hour after the event-  if you look very, very, very carefully, you can spot me in there.

There’s also an official Flickr gallery of this event, with all kinds of high resolution photos that are significantly better than mine.  I paged through the gallery, and I found myself in only one of the crowd shots.  I was trying to avoid all of the photographers, but I guess my Batman skills are a little lacking.  Here’s a zoom of the one picture that tagged me.

It occurs to me now that I need a proper Orlando t-shirt for stuff like this.

Do you like the new Orlando City flag?