My Happy Life

Postings on personal matters.

Tips for using a Sun Pass on a Rental Car in Florida

I just returned from a 10-day trip through Florida. We used Thrifty Car Rental, and their counter people put the really hard screws down on their toll service. The cost of the service is outrageous ($10.49/day) and they threaten you with even crazier charges ($25.00 plus charges for each toll both) if you choose not to take their program.

There is a much more sensible choice that they won't tell you about.

You can get a Florida Sun Pass portable transponder at numerous locations. I got mine at a Walgreens in Destin, FL. It was $20 plus tax.

Once you purchase the transponder, you can register it online, place an initial balance in your account, and attach a credit card so your account replenishes automatically, as needed, as you drive.

At the end of my trip, I was able to deactivate the transponder, close my account, and request a refund to be applied back to my card.

The Story of Soft Whorehouse

A Facebook friend posted a comment about his local Tiger Direct store becoming CompUSA. That prompted me to post the following reminiscence as a comment.

So, around 1986, I'm working at this semiconductor company in far North Dallas. The area was really just one big industrial park. In the same area was this hole-in-the-wall computer place called "Soft Warehouse".

This was in the day of beige-box PCs, where you typically either bought from IBM or built from parts. The Belt Line Road area of Dallas was full of cheap storefront computer places. They'd build and sell their own lines of computers, along with parts for do-it-yourselfers. Soft Warehouse was a store in our neighborhood/industrial park, walking distance from the plant, that primarily sold software and components -- at the cheapest prices around.

Purchasing departments loved them, because they were corp account friendly, and you could buy your Hayes modem there and it would be $3 cheaper than any other place in town. The service was so horrible, however, that we'd have to spend 45 minutes at the will call window to get our parts. Somehow purchasing departments thought that was a good trade-off. But we hated them. We'd call them "Soft Whorehouse."

The formula of crappy service with a huge inventory at a great price was a win for them. Their business boomed, along with the entire PC business. Eventually they moved out of the industrial park to a big box storefront, and rebranded themselves CompUSA.

But they'll still always be "Soft Whorehouse" to me.

Best Breakfast...All Made in Austin

I had the most phenomenal breakfast this morning. It occurred to me afterwards that it was completely made of foods from local Austin sellers.

First, there was the migas quiche by The Soup Peddler. I've had a few things from them, and everything has been extremely flavorful and delicious. Past favorites include chicken corn chowder and chicken pot pie. I'll add the migas quiche to the list. The crust was very tasty and flaky, a little worse for the microwave reheating but still quite good. The filling was light and tasty, and not the "you've got 20 eggs in your mouth" feel I've had with some other quiches.

The quiche was topped with mild salsa from Hill Country Homestyle Canning. I was already a fan of their pickles. Their plain dill pickles are a favorite. The salsa is remarkably fresh and tasty.


The bad news is that my lungs felt like they were ripped out and replaced with sandpaper. The good news is that I've now got gigabit Ethernet wiring in the house.

The installation kicked up so much insulation dust that I ended up getting sick. Even still, I think it will be worth it.

The house used to be wireless. I wanted to go wired for several reasons.

Wired is more reliable. That's important because I want to move critical functions onto my file server, such as backups. And, of course, the digital music collection.

Wired is also more secure. I now literally have an air gap between my trusted and untrusted resources.

Finally, wired is higher performance. That's important for backups and streaming media, two functions I want to support.

I'm in the process of consolidating all the media files onto the server and setup the satellite systems to run off of that.

What I Learned from Holidailies

Holidailies 2007 badgeThis is my penultimate entry for Holidailies 2007. The goal was a month of daily blogging and I'm on track to achieve that (for the first time in my many years of Holidailies participation).

I've learned a couple things from this exercise.

The first thing I learned is that I'm not as interesting as I thought I was. But, then again, who is?

Although I've had a handful of posts over the past month where I think I've had something pretty valuable to say (such as the Socialized Football and Time Warner Rate Increase posts), the blather ratio was higher than I'd have hoped.

Part of the problem is that I'd intended to write on things that came out of interesting December projects, but I didn't have many of those. I didn't take much time off from work, and I spent that little free time on family stuff not projects.

Growing up in No Reading

No Reading street sign(Today is the Day of Giving for the Holidailies Charity Project. Please consider showing your support for Holidailies or my site by making a small donation ($12 suggested) to First Book, an organization that provides books to children in low-income families.)

I'm a big advocate of literacy, which is odd considering how little reading I do these days.

Well, that's not really correct. I actually do a lot of reading. It's just that my reading tends to be either online or technical books. I don't seem to do much recreational or non-technical book reading.

As a child I was much more of an avid reader. I remember the old public library in the town square. The entire bottom floor was children's books. My mother used to take me regularly. During the summer, I would always join the reading club, and I'd fill my reading card without fail.

Merry Whatever-It-Is

I don't celebrate Christmas. My relationship to Christmas is somewhat akin to my relationship with Canadian Independence Day. They are perfectly fine holidays and I totally support their celebration. But they aren't my holidays. Please don't ask me to participate. I'll just observe respectfully from a distance.

In years past, I quietly spent the holiday season working on personal projects. While the rest of the world was busy with its holiday rituals, I had a rare opportunity to carve out a week or two for work on some new software or house project or something.

Things changed a couple years back when started dating my now-wife. She does observe Christmas and it's important to her. In years past, she's traveled back to be with her family, sometimes taking me along, other times leaving me in Austin to work on my projects. Even when I traveled with her I didn't really have to observe the holiday. I just tagged along and acted the gracious guest while others celebrated.

This year it's different. For the first time, we decided to spend our holiday season together alone. I couldn't do nothing, for that would be denying my wife her holiday, which was important to her.

Trail of Grief

Trail of Lights, Zilker Park, AustinI've been in Austin for eighteen years. I've passed up the annual Trail of Lights festival seventeen times. Last night I broke that record, and I'm kind of sorry I did.

It certainly is as big and as beautiful as everybody says—maybe more so. The problem is that it's also just as crowded as everybody says—maybe more so. So, rather than being a relaxed stroll in the park, taking in all the wonderful sights, it feels to me more like a mile long death march—one where you are constantly being rolled over by baby carriages and people too busy texting to watch where they are going.

I give a lot of credit to Cap Metro and PARD for managing the huge crowds as well as they do.

Thanksgiving on the Beach

photo of Jette and I at Nubble Lighthouse, York Beach, MaineAs we approach the December holiday season, it seemed like a good time to post a photo from the holiday last month. Jette and I did a four state tour of New England over the Thanksgiving holiday.

This photograph was taken at the Nubble Lighthouse in York Beach, Maine. The beach is a tourist town. It has an oceanside boardwalk. Its condos and cottages are filled during the summer by visitors from nearby New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

At this time of the year, the town is mostly deserted. When we went to the blues bar or Chinese restaurant, the only places open on the boardwalk at that time, it seemed like the sparse crowd was all locals.

We were in York Beach for a couple of quiet days. No phone, no cable, no Internet. We did have a couple of DVDs we could watch at night, but it was mostly a time of enforced quiet, which was nice.


I liked this photo enough to put it on the front page of my new web site.

My wife took this photo this past summer, during our honeymoon—which occurred three months after our first anniversary (don't ask). It was taken outside an apartment complex in the Chinatown area of Vancouver.

The giant abacus somehow felt right for this site.

I actually own an abacus. It sits on the shelf, right next to my old slide rule and my HP-11C scientific calculator (which still works, amazingly enough).

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