Nichelle Has Been Scheming

My wife has been scheming for the past few weeks. I knew something was up, because she would do things like call me on my cell phone, and have the kids chorus, “Neener, neener, neener.” I also ought to have been extremely suspicious, because she volunteered to drop the kids off at day camp, which involved the extra task of getting Naomi ready to leave the house early. All of the usual items were off the list. It wasn’t my birthday, and it wasn’t our anniversary, and Father’s Day has already passed. I have a history of puzzling things out from the smallest of clues, so she wasn’t going to provide even a hint as to what she was up to.

Today was no exception. I knew she wasn’t home because she’d said she would be out of the house all day, and she hadn’t logged on to the computer. This time, however, she assured me that I would find out this evening what was going on.

To my complete surprise (I don’t think I would have figured this out even with a small hint), Nichelle presented me with an extremely well-made dress that she made for Naomi. With the help of our friend Trish Dunn, Nichelle has been learning to sew, something that she has wanted to do for years.

Typical of my wife, her first project was amazingly well done, as the photo above shows. It seems that anything she wants to tackle comes easily to her, from sewing to cutting hair.

Of course, she’s really looking forward to sewing all John’s school clothes for next year. 😉

I’ve already quoted part of Proverbs 31 when talking about Nichelle, but here are a few more appropriate verses from the same chapter:

19She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. 20She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. 21She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

Naomi and John’s Return

John returned from Jamaica at around 11:15 p.m. on Saturday. It was a great trip, and he, Nichelle, and I spent the next few hours talking about it. (We’ll post more on that later.)

Sunday morning, I went to wake up Naomi in her crib. She was fussing because she didn’t really want to get up. (She’s a Wilcox.)

“John is back,” I said, “Do you want to say hello to him?”

She stopped crying instantly, and a big smile appeared on her face. She jumped up, and was off and running to find John almost before I put her down.

E-Mail from the Edge of Emily (Jamaica Missions Trip Update)

We’ve started to get e-mail from John with information about how the missions trip is going. He agreed it was fine to post the e-mails on the BLOG. I’ve included my own comments [in brackets and italicized]. I will add e-mail as it comes in. Below, with some minor edits (mostly for spelling), is what we have received:

Saturday, July 16, 2005:

Dear Slackers,

I landed in Jamaica around 5 in the afternoon on Wednesday. Our flight to Jamaica was delayed an hour and 45 minutes. (Good thing I brought those books, huh? :))

[For the first time, John took my advice about bringing a couple of books with him to read, because you never know when you’re going to be stuck somewhere waiting, with nothing to do.]

When we had landed we all waited for our luggage. To our dissatisfaction, only 3 of us had gotten our luggage back. Lori, me, and Rachel, but I had to wait for my big black suitcase for 20-25 minutes. And so I was like, “Well, I don’t think I’m going to live much longer when I return home.”

[We threatened John with death if anything happened to our huge, virtually indestructible, Samsonite suitcase.]

Then came the immigration forms we had to fill out when we landed. It was pretty wierd filling those out because I felt important. When we had to load the luggage I saw Mrs. Hinxman get into what I had thought all my life was the driver’s side of the vehicle. But to my surprise, the steering wheel was on the right side and I thought that was really cool. Well when, we had started to drive I felt like I was in the passengers side of a vehicle that was being driven by the Terminator. Right then I prayed to God and thanked him for seatbelts. To my surprise, our driver was driving 60-65 mph the whole time (1 hour), but we did make frequent stops. And I thought Massachusetts driving was bad!

I was dead tired; I had only had 2 hrs sleep the whole trip because of the girls and their non-stop talking (no offense, Mom). When we arrived at the Reese’s house, I was like, “Wow this is a beautiful house.” We were told to make ourselves at home, and, well, I did. To me it’s like a mansion. I thanked God for His taking care for us and where we were to stay.

Currently, myself, along with Ken, Mr. Small, and Tim, are staying at another missionary’s house that the Reeses work with (the Harmons). You may have heard of the name, but they are not the same missionaries. His brother [Jerry Harmon] is a missionary that our church supports.

I’ve been doing devotions every day, and it is a beautiful country, but the people that we see every day as we drive on the streets. I mean, I feel like giving them money and helping them out. And I know that I wouldn’t feel this way if I didn’t pray to God about the Jamaican family situation.

[John was in an really bad foster home (long since disbanded) which was run by a family of Jamaican descent. He had to overcome the all-too-human tendency to transfer blame to all citizens of a country based on the actions of one or more of its citizens. We’re very proud he was able to do this.]

You may have heard that there was a hurricane that was headed for us. I had gotten scared and I prayed, and when I had woken up I saw the news and God answered my prayer. It had totally missed us. But the day before that, we (the men) had done some work to prepare for the hurricane.

Right now I’m just having fun and enjoying the kids. Tomorrow comes the real work: Vacation Bible School. There will be a little bit more than 300 kids, and the environment around the church is rough. Yesterday their was a gun shot across the street from the church, and so I ran into the church. I pray to God every day for the safety of our trip. So please continue to pray for our trip and I love you all and hope to see you guys on the 25th.

Monday, July 18, 2005:

[We informed John that we’d commandeered his X-Box while he was away, and borrowed Star Wars: Battlegrounds from the Dunn family.]

Oh, so you borrowed my most loved thing in my room. lol. Well, ok, just make sure when they get mad they don’t throw my controller. lol. Yeah, you can write that on the BLOG if you’d like.

The kids get their luggage back today, so they are all happy.

[The luggage also contained many items they needed for the VBS, but I can imagine that not having to wear the same clothes every day was quite appealing.]

Tuesday, July 18, 2005:

Well, I thank you for your prayers for my safety in the hurricane. And I thanked God for His safety yesterday, because there was man that was chased down the street that the church was on and was stabbed to death. I thanked God that He protected me. But I can see what you are saying with the questions. It is a very good conversation to have.

[I’ll be posting an entry about God’s sovereignty and luggage; I had outlined it for John, trying to frame my thoughts a bit. That’s the conversation to which he was referring.]

Yes, I do think that this would be a life changing trip, because I am already starting to pray to God and asking him to forgive me for my hatred in the past towards my biological parents and the Jamaican foster home. Even though they did something terrible and wicked to me doesn’t mean I should not love them and not care for them. But you know I am doing devotions much longer and having more prayer time and praying for people who I would never have even think to pray about.

I gotta go now, and I hope to see you soon. Oh, by the way, how’s the weather up there? lol. Well, catch ya later, and thanks for being my Dad, and I love you a lot; and tell Mom that I love her, and thank her for being my the best Mom that any teenager could ever have. But I gotta go, and I love you guys.

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John Is Off–On A Missions Trip to Jamaica

Early Wednesday morning—at 2:30, actually—John will be leaving with a group of teens from Tabernacle Baptist Church for a ten-day missions trip to work with missionaries Quentin and Sally Reese in Jamaica. During their trip, they will be running a week-long Vacation Bible School, working with the Manna Care Ministry (which brings food and medicine to poor and homeless children), and taking part in two different Sunday services at God’s Way Baptist Church. They will also be passing out gospel tracts, and doing other work to help the missionaries in whatever way they can.

This will be John’s first missions trip. In fact, it will be his first trip out of the country. He is, admittedly, a little nervous. Tonight after dinner we read a short devotional by Corrie Ten Boom about worry. A few days ago I encouraged him not to be afraid, as the worst that could happen is he’d get to go to Heaven soon, and I’d get his X-Box.

This is a great opportunity for John. I know from my own experience that such trips can be profoundly life-changing. Seeing how much of the world lives–or struggles to live–is eye opening. Meeting and spending time in fellowshipping with those who share the common bond of brotherhood in Jesus Christ is enriching.

I’ll update this post throughout the week, as news comes in. Most likely most of the details will need to wait until John returns.

Update–Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Well, the group made it safely to Jamaica, albeit after some delays and sans about half of their luggage. I hope the latter arrives soon for them. On one trip to the Dominican Republic, Nichelle and I were warned to bring at least three days’ worth of clothing and essentials as carry-on. It took exactly that long for us to get our bags.

Update–Saturday, July 16, 2005: Luggage and Hurricanes

We heard that the group’s luggage had been flown to an airport near Kingston, Jamaica, and was supposed to be delivered to them by yesterday or today, if I have the details right.

Hurricane Emily (I still think all hurricanes should be named after women) didn’t hit Jamaica directly, but judging from the satellite photos today, they’re getting some serious wind and rain. That should keep the teens’ lives interesting. Here’s the word from The Weather Channel:

Emily: the Atlantic Basin’s strongest July hurricane
2:55 p.m. ET Sat., Jul.16, 2005

M. Ressler, Meteorologist, The Weather Channel

With winds of 155 mph, Emily has beaten out Dennis for the honor of strongest July hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin. Emily remains a small but very strong and very dangerous major Category 4 hurricane. If the sustained wind were to increase 1 more mph, Emily would become a Category 5 hurricane. Emily continues to zip to the west-northwest at 18 mph heading into the western Caribbean. The torrential outer rain bands may dump from 6 to locally 10 inches of rain over the mountains of Jamaica and 4 to 7 inches over the Cayman Islands. Flooding and mud slides are possible. The rain bands may possibly produce a few wind gusts to near hurricane strength in the mountains and along the south coast of Jamaica today and then over Grand Cayman Island later tonight into Sunday. A tropical storm warning has been dropped for the southwestern peninsula of Haiti. A hurricane warning is in effect for Jamaica and for the Cayman Islands. A hurricane watch is in effect for the Caribbean side of the Yucatan. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the northern half of coastal Belize.

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Terrorists Hit London Public Transport

Earlier today terrorists detonated four bombs, three on the London Subway system (at 8:51 a.m., 8:56 a.m., and 9:17 a.m., BST) and one on a double-decker bus (at 9:47 a.m., BST). Thirty-three people were killed in the subway system, and more on the bus. Hundreds were injured.

The BBC has posted some accounts from survivors here.

I heard about this on WBUR, which was still running the BBC broadcast, while on my way to work. I was stunned. I don’t know how to react. I wondered if the past decade of quiet from the IRA had lulled Londoners into a more complacent state. I tried to imagine what it was like for the people who went through it. I wondered if these bombs were left in knapsacks like the ones used in the Madrid train bombings. If so, how would I react if I noticed a knapsack or bag left behind while on the subway? Would I even notice, or would I be oblivious, paying attention to my reading and nothing else, until the blast hit?

Terrorism is the new Cold War. I miss the old one. At least then we knew who the black hats were.

Growing up in the Cold War, I don’t think we were instilled with the idea that the Russian people were our enemies, it was just the government of the USSR and its leaders that were bent on global domination under Communism. As a late-comer to the nuclear age, I also didn’t fear nuclear holocaust. The rational insanity of MAD (mutually assured destruction) made perfect sense, and kept the peace for decades.

I’ll have to talk to my children about this. I wonder if they are fearful about what is going on in the world. David, our six-year-old hero, would probably not be afraid. He would imagine himself defusing a subway bomb before it could detonate, and single-handedly wiping out the terrorists who left it. At some point, we grow out of being afraid of things like lightning, and take on fears that are larger in scope. Isaac probably wouldn’t think about it at all, and John would probably be nervous about riding on public transport.

I don’t live in fear, but I know many people do. I do wonder what is next. There are many nasty things that we haven’t seen used by terrorist organizations. Some of them, like a bioterror attack using Spanish Influenza, are so easy that I can’t believe they haven’t been used yet. Read Richard Preston’s Demon in the Freezer, for starters.

And, since I’m on the topic, let’s stop calling the Iraqui terrorists insurgents. In our own War for Independence in 1776, we were insurgents. With the only exception being the destruction of the tea in the Boston Tea Party, our targets were strictly military. When innocent civilians are intentionally targeted (and not merely suffering in collateral damage), that’s terrorism. Why are we afraid to use the word?

And what do the terrorists want you to believe?

Splitting the Mac’s Personality

Remember the line about doing seven impossible things by breakfast?

I am becoming the Apple/Mac/Safari Guy at Kronos. (Safari, for those of you wondering, is Apple’s partly-home-grown Web browser, and it’s the default browser for Mac users.)

One of our problems in development is the rapidity with which Apple releases new versions of its operating system. Unlike Windows, which tends to be fairly stable, we might see Apple users upgrading their operating systems every six months or so. But, our applications need to work on Safari, and it’s considered a good idea to make sure they actually work. The immediate question is which Safari? A user with Safari 1.3 on OS X 10.3.9 is going to get a very different experience from a user with Safari 1.2.4 on OS X 10.3.8 or 10.3.9, and that will vary still from a user with OS X 10.4.1 and Safari 2.0. Nevertheless, these environments are all likely to be encountered by our customers, so we have to test them.

A few days ago, I’d upgraded our G5 Mac to OS X 10.4.1 with the latest patches, and intended to leave OS X 10.3.9 installed on a much-slower iMac that also belongs to our team. But I realized we still needed an environment on which to test the latest builds of Safari and the operating system as we get them from our Apple Developer Connection subscription, which works much like the MSDN subscription does.

The best solution, given that we use the Mac relatively little, would be to put all three builds on the same machine. I’d never set up multiple partitions on a Mac before, and was curious about dual-booting two flavors of OS X. It turned out to be surprisingly easy.

I knew that repartitioning the drive would wipe out all the data. The only items of importance to us on the machine were a few bash scripts Doug “JavaDoug” Ross had written for a massive properties namespace protection/conversion project we’d done. I moved those off to my own machine via FTP.

I popped in the OS X 10.4 DVD (yes, DVD), and chose Restart from the Apple Menu. Holding down “C” allowed me to boot from the DVD, which automatically launched the installer. From the installer menu, I could choose to run the Disk Utility, which is pretty much like fdisk combined with chkdsk, but with a prettier interface.

I realized I should actually create three partitions. The first would be our “main” test setup, which is currently OS X 10.4.1 (and climbing). The second partition would hold the last release of OS X 10.3.9, which is the last version of OS X we support with the release of Kronos Workforce Central 5.1 product suite. The third partitions would be an OS X 10.4.x sandbox, where we can install the latest released-to-developers code without risk to our test machine.

I got OS X 10.4.0 installed, and ran two levels of restart-required patches to bring it up to 10.4.1 with the latest security updates. I verified that everything, including VNC, was running correctly at startup. (Do you think I want to spend my days running back and forth to our hardware lab? Yes, there is a certain Geeky thrill to being in a room with raised flooring and immersed in the overpowering sound of the blowers, but I happen to like my cube–which some have described as a “playpen.”) The first part of the project took less than half an hour. I was only stumped once.

Next came the OS X 10.3.9 installation. The latest disk I had readily available was OS X 10.3.5, but it’s a simple process to patch it to the later version. This time I had to hold Option down at startup, to give me the choice of booting from the install CD or from the OS X 10.4.1 partition.

Picking the installation volume (partition) and getting OS X 10.3.9 running was easy. This version ships on CD instead of DVD, and it took surprisingly longer to set up–over an hour, I would estimate. It’s in the final stage of installing now; I’ve just installed the first 11 items that require a restart, and then the Software Update applet found 7 more items. One interesting bit of trivia: Apple was pitching an Earthlink Internet connection subscription as part of the OS X 10.3.5.


That reminds me. Why is it that Apple can do no wrong? It’s guilty of doing things that would land Microsoft in court, but no one seems to care. For example:

  • Apple installs only QuickTime for media playing, and it’s not an optional install, even when choosing the custom installation option. I guess the ability to install a different media player is good enough for Apple in the EU, but not for Microsoft.
  • What’s with the hard sell for Earthlink (then later a pitch for a .Mac account at $100/year)?
  • On a Windows system, why does iTunes install and run (without asking me) both the iPod service and the QuickTime system tray lurker? They are both needless consumers of my computer’s resources, and iTunes ought to even ask if I even own an iPod. Every time I update iTunes, and hence QuickTime, QuickTime can’t remember my preferences about this from the last install!
  • What’s up with the only CD/DVD eject button being on the keyboard? What if I don’t use a Mac keyboard? What if I want to install a second CD/DVD drive internally? There’s no place to put it without taking a hack saw to the beautifully-finished front panel.
  • I know I have a choice since the devices are USB-based, but a one-button mouse is just about as useless as possible. Not even a mousewheel is standard. Remember when Apple had sensible designs? Tell me why control-clicking, which requires two hands, is more intuitive than right-clicking, which requires only one. And, of course, playing Find the Scrollbar is such fun, I can’t imagine why anyone would ever miss their mousewheel!
  • Microsoft wrote a Remote Desktop client for the Mac, which allows Remote Desktop to be used on a Mac to connect to a PC. Guess what platform Apple never bothered to write a remote desktop client for? And guess which company charges a small fortune to even get it’s Remote Desktop application? It’s a good thing there’s OSXVNC and Chicken of the VNC on SourceForge!


You might be tempted to think I don’t like OS X or Apple. You’d be wrong. I actually love the Apple, but its defenders seem to be unable to look at it objectively.

My one other gripe is that OS X can be extremely powerful, but that power (think one-button mouse here) is insulated from the users. Mac users fall into two categories: “I can only do e-mail,” and “I’m a ‘Nix propeller-head who thinks any GUI is for the weak.” Like it or not, Windows provides an easy learning path to becoming a power user, with the most advanced features lying under the surface, ready to be explored via right-clicking and choosing “Properties.” Just like Mac users, Windows users can ignore the power, but it’s there when you want it.

On the other hand, most Apple users don’t fear an operating system upgrade. Most applications work fine on the new O/S or patch, and even reinstalling the O/S (if one isn’t repartitioning a drive) can be done without losing existing user accounts or application data. There is much Microsoft could learn from Apple, including the possibility of ditching backward compatibility for something lean-and-mean while providing a good emulator.

Anyway, the third operating system install is in progress (OS X 10.4.1, ready for the latest developer code). It’s been 9 minutes, and the installer predictions about 7 minutes to go. I’ll have to finish configuring it in the morning, because I need to head home, but I can’t believe how easy and quick the installation is.

Some Dare Call It Patriotism

On Sunday, July 3, I witnessed a disturbing sight. At the intersection of Routes 111 and 102 in Hudson, N.H., on three of the corners were groups of men with big American flags and signs that read, “Deport Illegal Aliens Now.” Some of these guys looked like the classic skinhead Neo-Nazis, short hair, goatees, and chamoflage fatiques, but at least half of the group didn’t fit that stereotype.

Many people were voicing their support with waving and honking horns as they drove by.

I found the whole incident very disturbing; it made me sick to my stomach. There seemed to be a palpable sense of hate. Maybe next time I’ll stop and talk to these guys to see what their larger agenda is.

It wasn’t that I oppose enforcing immigration law. What bothered me was the fact that this was being done in the name of patriotism.

Clearly, our system of border patrols and immigration needs to be reworked. Many would argue that our own agricultural sector requires the availability of hundreds of thousands of exploited laborers, many of whom are illegals. Listen to Marketplace’s special report, “The Undocumented War,” to gain a better perspective than many Americans have.

Jaeden Has Escaped

Jaeden, Nichelle’s pet corn snake, who we have had for a year and a half, somehow escaped from her aquarium sometime in the past few days, despite our use of a locking lid.

As she wasn’t a very large snake, she may have taken off almost anywhere, and gotten into many places where we would never find her. If it were winter, we could concentrate our search on areas that are heated, but the summer temperatures make just about any environment habitable.

Anyone have any ideas on finding her?

What a terrific day!!!

Our 4th of July celebration started around 4-ish and went until 3 a.m.

We had a great time hanging out with the McGrath family and many friends. The food was delicious and the fellowship was wonderful. We had a very relaxing time.

Just like last year, we went to see the fireworks here in Nashua and I must say that they were the best I’ve ever seen. (Lolita, thank you so much for watching David and Naomi for us so I could go, too.) We had a great spot in the outfield at Holman Stadium, and what an amazing show it was!!! We bumped into several friends there.

[Added by Doug] Unlike last year, I actually got to see the entire fireworks display, instead of just what was visible four blocks away from my car, because Lolita McGrath offered to watch David and Naomi, thus allowing me to see the show along with Nichelle. (Nichelle had graciously offered to skip this year’s show so that I could attend.)

And the fireworks were indeed amazing! Sunday evening Isaac, John, and I attended the fireworks in Manchester, which were very, very good. The Nashua show was of much higher quality, although shorter in length, with every launch being a multiple burst. The fireworks were launched right overhead. It was stunning! Like Batman Begins, my only regret was that it had to end.

Once the fireworks show was over we headed back to our house for dessert. I made Bananas Foster, an incredible dessert that was kicked up a notch, thanks to Phil, who suggested we use a fried dough base he had at a restaurant instead of the sponge cake base.

As usual, we stayed up too late watching a movie which Phil “Movieman” Luchon brought over.