Armen Chakmakjian

Archive for January, 2015|Monthly archive page

One day on the T…

In Random on January 31, 2015 at 3:17 pm

So I was reading an update from a new friend on Facebook about something that they witnessed on the London tube, and it reminded me of something that happened to me many years ago.

I was working at Teradyne in Boston, and at this point I would weave my way back out of town by picking up the T at the Orange line across the street at New England Medical, then switch to the Red Line at Downtown Crossing on my way to my car at which was parked at normally parked at Alewife. However, on this day, I was going to meet my wife at Porter Square to have dinner with her and the kids at the Uno’s there, and we were going to do some shopping.

Anyway, from a technical timeline, this was around the time of early Palm Pilots and the various web page syncing apps you could use to have something to read offline. Wifi add-ons were just starting to come out, but this was a Palm III without that from what I remember. I had it sync up the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, ABC news, CNN, and on the little 3.5 in. screen I’d occupy myself and ignore the rest of the folks on the train, whether sitting or standing.

So on this particular day, I got on at Downtown Crossing and there was nowhere to sit. I found one of the vertical poles at the center of the long row of seats, held on with my left hand on the cross-bar above. If you got close to one of those vertical bars, it was good because you had a choice of how to brace yourself while standing. I pulled out my Palm Pilot, and using my thumb I picked the AvantGo app and started reading the updates from the WSJ. I really didn’t notice who was sitting on the chair in front of me, and at park street a ton of people got on, and now my right upper arm was pressed against the vertical bar. And then I heard a voice.

“What are you doing?”

I came out of my zone and looked down at an older gentleman, in a ski cap and field coat, with a long gray and light brown beard and mustache.

“I’m reading Wall Street Journal articles.”

I turned the device around so he could see.

“You download those off a PC?”

“Yeah. It’s convenient. It’s a free service and it gives me something to read on the train.”

“I have a PC at home. It’s a 486. I use it to read the news and get stock quotes. But I don’t agree with all this technology.”

I tipped my head slightly. “Why’s that?”

“It is part of a conspiracy to gather data about us.”

Okay, this wasn’t going to go well. “I just use it to entertain myself. It’s convenient, but I can see your point.”

We reached MGH at this point. More people got on and it is even more crowded, so I can’t move away. He continues, “What we need is more subsistence farming. People are working for more and more technology and creating chaos.”

Now I am starting to get worried, but because I’m stuck and my hubris is that I think that I could charm anyone if I ask more questions than give my opinion. “Why subsistence farming?”

“The Dutch farms in New York and New Hampshire are the best places to live. They understand how to live and it is a simpler life.”

“I agree. But what would happen to the cities?”

He looks at me with a stern and shocked look. “Thomas Jefferson had it right. Cities are a denizen of all our problems and we should all return to subsistence farming. It’s a better life.” He prattled on a bit about how subsistence farming was the pinnacle of a safe and moral culture.

“So are you against large farms?”

Another shocked look. “No, farms are not a problem. But these people keep selling off their land and then developers come in and fill it with people.”

At this point I noticed that the other people in the row to his left are watching me and listening. One of them was a BC student, and just next to him was a middle-aged professional woman. At this point we had reached Harvard Station. The train emptied somewhat but there wasn’t a convenient place to go. So I as I asked my next question I scanned my eyes across my audience. “So you’re against cities and selling off farmland for homes.”

“Yes, absolutely. It’s just a better way of living.”

The logic train here just didn’t make sense. But I couldn’t help myself. I had to ask, but I did it in a really soft way, almost a whisper. “So…is it all development you are against or all money-making ventures?”

He got really mad at my question. “I believe that too much development creates a class of dependency and people who don’t know how to survive. Subsistence farming teaches you to avoid that.”

Still scanning the other people who were seated to his left (on my right), I just needed to figure out what he was getting at. So I blurted, “So how do you explain ski resorts in New Hampshire?”

He was again upset with my question, but he answered very quickly, as if it was really obvious, “Well, a guy’s gotta make money.” He stared back at me in challenge.

At this point the student was looking at his shoes and smiled, the professional woman snorted. I made eye contact with her for a second, and then I looked up and it was Porter Square, my destination.

“Nice to meet you, I’m at my stop. Good Luck with yourself!” And I ran off the train.

How to get a headache when something isn’t turnkey…

In Random on January 2, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Received a new router from Verizon today so I plugged it in per the instructions and no dice. The Internet connection light was orange. Poked around on the Internet to figure out what I had to do. Need to do a DHCP release. That meant logging into the old router. New router has the admin password right on the label the old router does not. Went back to the google and figured out that what the password for the admin account might be. Turns out the password for the router is the serial number on these older Fios routers.

Just then I noticed that one of the cat5 wires is plugged into the back of the router that just a few minutes ago was blinking green was no longer blinking. Inspected the connection tried plugging it into different sockets a few times then noticed that one of the wires has snapped leading into the connector. Remembered that I have a phone and cat 5 crimping tool set in the garage went out and got it cut the wire. Was a little ticked that this was getting more involved than it was supposed to.

It was then I came to the realization that I have presbyopia. Trying to get eight wires, one green and one blue, one orange, one brown and white versions with a strip of the solid colors was challenging enough until I looked at the old cable and saw the trading of the color pairs. Trying of each of those busted pairs into tiny little holes was almost impossible for me to see.

It didn’t help that the lighting in that room was terrible. I kept putting my glasses on taking them off, checking that I have the wires in the right order and then got the crimping tool and crimped the connection. When I plugged it into the router, it didn’t light up. when I tried to pull the connector out of the router the wires left the connector, meaning that I had not stuck the tiny little wires far enough into the connector to actually have them catch when I crimped. Sigh.

So I pulled another connector out of the bag and struggle once again to make sure that all the tiny little wires went into all the tiny little slots, pushed an extra time, took my glasses off and checked that the wires all reached the inside end of the slots and recrimped. Plugged it in and got the green light.

Now I had a headache.

Went back my iPad, Logged in to the admin account using the serial number, then I poked around all over the menus and screens and couldn’t find a button or a hyperlink or anything that would allow me to do the DHCP release.

What the heck?

So then I went back to the Internet and verizon instructions said, this class of routers didn’t have that function (who thought of this?) wait two hours after you’ve unplugged the old router and then plug in the new router. So that is what I will do tonight. Why didn’t the enclosed instruction just say that?

Now I will deal with my headache 😉

my blog: 2014 in review

In Random on January 1, 2015 at 9:16 pm

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,200 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 37 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

2014 -> 2015

In Random on January 1, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Okay, so just enough of my morning coffee has gotten to me to want to get to writing a blog post.

2014 was a great year and I hope that things work out for the best this year. A year ago today I scared the heck out of myself because I weighed more than I wanted to weigh. Over the early part of 2014 I worked my weight down significant amount.

I got elected to our church board of trustees and now I have an inkling of what it takes to operate a non-profit organization. I’m speaking of this separately from the spiritual mission, which happens in parallel to keeping the lights glowing, membership drives, contacting people, making sure the heat is on and whatnot. It’s been another learning experience for me.

About the same time as all this, we got into going to early morning regatta’s to watch my younger son compete as a part of the Brandeis crew. That was a lot of fun if not extremely cold most spring mornings.

Then we went on our bucket list trip to Italy. The weight came back on, but it was a great trip. Our elder son was the TA for the NU Italy program in May, and on Mother’s Day we met him at Piazza S. Pietro, just after we watched and heard the pope speak out of his apartment window. Daniel gave us an exclusive walking tour of his city, and the following day our tour group went into the Sistine chapel and St. Peter’s basilica. And yes I had google glass on the trip and the wink feature enabled. I put a video together documenting the trip. We also saw Venice, Florence, Verona, San Gimignano, et cetera. More than I can actually write here and not make this whole post about that.

And yes concurrently with this I changed jobs. I did this after much contemplation (yes I was irritating my wife in Italy thinking about what to do). Things work out in the end, and the over analysis was unnecessary. The new job is a very different than what I was doing, and from a career POV it was the right thing to do.

Just after this, I also updated my ride. Given the longer ride to work, the needs of the sons for a ride they could use for coop jobs and general freedom of movement it just worked out. The Q5 is a nice car, and the ride and comfort alone was worth it. However as a gadget geek and schooled user experience person, I somewhat perplexed at the “award winning electronics package”. It was obviously designed by engineers trying to expose features, rather than designing a coherent experience. With all the knobs and buttons to control the 5 inch screen, it feels more like a retro analog oscilloscope user experience. Hit a button, expose feature; twist knob, change parameter. It’s familiar, but I’m not sure it was suppose to feel familiar to me this way 😉

On July 27, I was at a fundraiser for Camp Haiastan at the Putnam club at Gillette stadium. That was fun. The next day I turned 50.

In August, we had the thrill of being able to send our younger son to Venice to take an intensive Armenian seminar. He came back all jazzed, and it was fun for the 4 of us to have all experienced Italy in one year for all different reasons.

School started again in September for the boys and so the house went quiet again. We went down to the cape for a couple of days and I got a pretty bad sunburn. Duh. But overall it was relaxing, and I needed to veg for a day or two.

When we got to Thanksgiving, we got the long table and hosted many family members at the table. With the addition of the ramp off our kitchen stoop we were able to get everyone in safely (as opposed to the crazy rocket launcher contraption I built last year to do the same).

In December, the boys came home, one from co-op and and the other from school, and we had a nice Christmas morning and then dinner at my wife’s brother’s home. My wife and I got a couple of gifts for ourselves and they seem to have all to do with hot and cold beverage preparation. About a day later we went down to CT to see my family and we had a wonderful time.

All in all, a good year. There were ups and downs of course and I’m mostly listing the positive (I did allude to the sunburn but not all the other challenges). On balance, I’d rather concentrate on those, and make sure I express my thanks for support and happy new year to all my acquaintances, my co-workers, my friends, my extended family…and to my sons who make me proud…and to my wife with whom the challenges we face made tolerable and without whom none of the good stuff would be possible.

2015 is going to be another year of transitions and celebrations for us, but because I’m superstitious, I’m not going to list them here. Suffice it to say I’m looking hopefully toward to another great year. I wish the same for everyone. Have a great 2015!