This weekend, Jill and I are spending a little time away. We’re in a cabin at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. It’s a great room, cozy yet comfortable.

My family came here in ’85: Mom, Dad, me, and little brother John. We rented a canoe and paddled around the lake for a while, and eventually crashed (gently) into the center support structure of the nearby pedestrian bridge. Above is a photo that I took yesterday. Thankfully, the bridge is still standing.

Stuff I want to do

I want to use my X-Plane flight simulator to learn to fly.

I want to build a miniature replica of downtown Celebration out of Lego.

I want to write a great fiction novel.

I want to learn the new Swift programming language and write a iPhone program.

I want to learn Japanese.

I want to figure out the Traktor software and learn how to DJ.

I want to connect my Raspberry Pi to my Lego Mindstorms and program a robot.

I want to become a better puppeteer.

Disney World tips

I received an email from a fellow Princeton alumnus, asking for any tips on bringing the family to Walt Disney World.

My park visits aren’t typical of how other people do it. I treat the parks like my own local suburban mall; Jill and I drop by for a few hours to stroll, peoplewatch, and grab a bite to eat. So I suggested that one of the many books on how to make the most of a Disney World visit might be a better resource. Jill also recommends AllEarsNet ( as a web site with a lot of useful information on it for Disney trips.

But still, I came up with a few recommendations for him:

  • Use the Disney World web site to make FastPass+ selections so you don’t have to deal with lines when you get here.
  • Do things at nonstandard times – eat lunch outside of the typical 11am-1pm timeframe, go on rides when there’s a parade happening. That helps avoid the crowds.
  • AllEarsNet has a great list of “Overlooked Attractions” ( that has ideas for a lot of the out-of-the-way less-well-known experiences that are a lot of fun. For example, we like to go to the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds for the campfire singalong and the movie.

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Moments of Transition

All around us, it was as if the universe were holding its breath, waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.

I don’t want to count how many years it’s been since Babylon 5 went off the air, but quotes from it keep coming back to me. (Such a well-written piece of science fiction that was.) This has been a year of transition, and I’ve been so busy living it that I haven’t had the presence of mind to write about it.

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To Serve Man

It’s nice that Apple has bundled all the tools necessary to turn a Macintosh into a server (mail, web, file sharing, DHCP, DNS, &c.) into a $20 app store purchase. I think the Server version of Mac OS X used to cost $500, and the new low price really puts the power of a server into the hands of the masses.

Unfortunately, Apple has also dumbed down the whole server interface. I can see what they were trying for; they want to turn the experience of editing config files into the experience of clicking on something that looks like an on/off switch. Problem is, there’s still a need for server administrators and there’s still a need to know how to edit config files. It would be like buying a button for your car’s dashboard that says FIX IT and telling you, hey, congratulations, you’re a mechanic now! But if you press that button and nothing happens, then, well, you’re in trouble.

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How To Ditch Comcast

I’ve been fed up with Comcast, the cable TV company, for a long time now. They have a long history of (accidentally) charging me for services I don’t have, (accidentally) removing services I pay for, and (intentionally) deleting my favorite channels from the lineup so they can move them to other levels of service that I have to pay extra for. Meanwhile, I’ve long wanted to try this “over-the-air” HD thing I’ve heard so much about. Getting HDTV for free, and all I need is an antenna? But I kept thinking that it required the equivalent of a ham radio license or something, and that all I’d get would be one or two channels. So I kept pushing that thought to a back burner. Then I got this month’s Comcast bill and I decided enough is enough.

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Eating an Elephant

Last week at the Celebration library, the Celebration writers group hosted an author named Patricia Charpentier, writer of the book “Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time”. She was there to talk about how to write one’s life story. As I blog a lot about my own life — and have a not-so-secret interest in perhaps writing fiction, if only my demons would stop getting in the way — I figured this would be relevant to my interests.

And it was. “The only way to do this wrong is to not do it at all,” she said. “It’s about capturing moments, not broad panoramic views. People always go too big; broad brushstrokes are too general and aren’t interesting enough. Don’t try to tell too large of a story. It’s like pointalism artwork: don’t think about the painting; think about the dots.”

That was useful to me. I think the reason I freeze up when I try to write is that I immediately go big, think epic, and how do you write the first sentence of an epic?

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Being chosen

So I was taking the trash out on Monday evening when I was approached by a cat.

It was dark out, and it was a black cat. I didn’t realize what was happening until two people riding bicycles on the street called over to me: “He’s been following us around and we’re worried he’s going to follow us home. Would you distract him for a moment so we can get away?” And that’s when he trotted over to me. “Thanks!” said the bikers, and rode away.

It was a small black cat. A kitten, really. Regular-cat-shaped, but not yet full sized; couldn’t have been older than a year. Bright amber eyes, more orange than yellow. It twined around my feet and rubbed up against my ankles. It made a squeaky little meow. I petted it; it pushed its head eagerly into my hand and purred.

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Thousands of drafts

A few days ago I was helping someone with some computer problems when I discovered she has a thousand unsent messages in Outlook. I was astonished. “You’re in the middle of writing a thousand emails?” I asked her.

“No, that’s where I keep any scraps of information I want to save for later!” she replied. “Web links, notes, bits of text I want to copy and store away…”

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