Alan Porter's minimal net presence

January 2003

In January, Audrey started to use some recognizable words. When we get into the car, she says “buckle”. She plays with her “doh-eys” (toys). She recognizes her little “boh-ey” (boy) and “gull” (girl) dolls. She likes to play with my jar of coins, which she called “mummy” (money). And she likes to eat “nanny” (candy).

Audrey has also stepped up her efforts to re-arrange our house. She constantly picks up any item within reach, carries it to the next room and quietly drops it on the floor.

Sydney has also made some significant steps. She follows you with her eyes, and she sometimes gives you a smile. She cries a little bit less, and she eats and sleeps a little more regularly.

We finally got some real snow (not ice) in January. Twice, we got enough snow to paint the yard white, but not enough to be inconvenient.

I started an interesting project at home. Over the Christmas holiday, we ran across my parents’ 8mm film collection. So I am transferring the home movies to video tape (and possibly to DVD). It’s pretty simple… just aim the projector and a video camera at the same screen, then press PLAY and RECORD. The hardest part is sorting through all of the reels to see what order to film them in. They range from 1962 to 1974.

At work, we delivered our phone to Verizon for “customer acceptance”. It felt good to reach this milestone. We’re all anxious for them to accept the product and start selling it.

February 2003

February was a short month, but there was plenty to keep us busy. We started off with a Chinese New Year celebration with our “Sing-Ma” (Singapore-Malaysia) friends. As can be expected, most of the celebration centered around food. Audrey’s favorite part of the night was seeing the goldfish pond in the Chinese restaurant.

At work, we delivered our new phone to Sprint (remember Verizon got it last month). With that project wrapping up, we are starting to transition to the next project. I was one of the first to switch, and I am now buried underneath 1000 pages of specifications and a large prototype circuit board.

We had a couple of episodes of snow and ice during February, but fortunately we did not lose electric power. We had a few days where work opened late. I spun my car around 180 degrees, fortunately on a deserted road.

This month, I started on an electronics project. I’m not giving out details yet, but when I am done, I will post pictures on my web page.

Audrey has learned many words in the last month. I have lost count. She calls any letter “ah-baba” (alphabet), and oranges are called “apple”. When she sees her own picture, she says “Ah-dee” (Audrey).

Not to be outdone, Sydney learned how to laugh in February. She giggles, and sometimes lets out a hearty cackle. She like to laugh for Daddy (AT Daddy?).

On the last day of February, Audrey got a hair cut. Our friend Lupe trimmed it just a little. It was getting into her eyes.

March 2003

They say that March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb. I think this year, we got it backwards.

The beginning of March was quiet. Our biggest excitement was discovering the magic of garage sales. Our neighborhood coordinated a 40-family garage sale weekend, and we took the opportunity to stock up on toys and child supplies that we had falled behind on during our move and after having Sydney. We found several good bargains.

The end of March was quite the opposite. At work, we were in the middle of our transition to our new phone project when the rumors of a layoff began to circulate. Then, on a rainy Thursday, our normal morning routine was broken by the sight of our coworkers being escorted out of the building, clumsily carrying boxes of personal belongings and trying to manage umbrellas. We watched and we morbidly wrote down the names. Were they going alphabetically? By department? How many would go? It was all so surreal.

I was on my way to lunch when my phone rang. I immediately knew what that meant. In that instant, I had become a “former employee”. So I said goodbye to my friends and went to my manager’s office to face the music. Within an hour, I was carrying my stuff out like the 100 others that were let go that day.

I was busy during my first week of freedom. I created a home office, and I did some more work on my (still secret) electronics project. And I took some classes at the career center. And best of all, I spent some time with my girls at home. So far, unemployed life seems pretty good!

April 2003

April was a big month for travel.

Foong and I flew down to Florida for Michael and Rebekah’s wedding, while my parents stayed at our house and kept the girls. The wedding was at Cypress Gardens, in a beautiful gazebo garden. We learned while we were there that the park would be shutting down two days later! We just made it!

The next weekend was Easter, and we packed the girls in the van and drove to Georgia to visit both of my grandmothers. That was only the second time we took both girls away from home (the first was Christmas at my parents’), and we were concerned about the long trip. They did better than we expected, but Foong and I were exhausted.

Finally, I decided that we should do some “fun” family things while I am not working. So we took the girls to the zoo in Asheboro. Audrey had a great time watching the animals, and she called them all by name. She insisted on walked the entire time. Sydney was just happy to be outside, where she could ride and watch.

It has been nice to spend good time with Audrey and Sydney. They are both developing so fast, each in their own way. Audrey is starting to put words together into primitive sentences (“Mommy home” or “rice hot”), and she can count to ten. Meanwhile, Sydney learned how to roll over onto her stomach, and she started eating rice cereal.

May 2003

We started May with a trip to the beach. My friend David Robinson and his family joined us, and we stayed at Atlantic Beach. On Saturday, we went to the Cherry Point Air Show, where we saw everything from antique biplanes to the Stealth bomber. Ever since then, Audrey has been excited about “hair-planes” and “Heh-coppers”.

The next weekend was Mother’s Day, so we invited my mom and Dad to spend the weekend with us. They enjoyed spending time with the girls. Then on Sunday, we surprised her with tickets to see the Phantom of the Opera.

I entered job-hunting mode in full force. I had my first real job interview, but I later found out that it was for “volunteer” work at a start-up. Oh well, job hunting (and so-called “networking”) can be fun, even if it does not lead to a job right away. I met a lot of good people this month – most of them are unemployed, just like me.

When I was not looking for work, I spent a lot of time working on “Presto”, my real time operating system. I re-wrote the core kernel, and then I added timers and semaphores (and then support for priority inheritance, to avoid priority inversions). The last work for May was to add dynamic memory pools and a serial port driver. Coming next, I will re-work the message passing (“mail”) facility.

And finally, since we are into summer now, we had a couple of cookouts. The first one was a picnic with the Multi-Cultural Club (mixed Asian/Western couples). Then for Memorial Day, we went to a cookout at my friend Robert’s house. Mmmm, burgers.

June 2003

On the first day of June, we took the girls to the New Hope Valley Railway, just outside of Apex, NC (see This is a curious bunch of railroad fans who buy old locomotives and train cars and then restore them to working order. On the first Sunday of every month (May through October), they open to the public. They offer train rides, souvenirs, hot dogs and bluegrass music – a good time for everyone!

Later that week, we dumped the girls off at a friend’s house and we went to the Raleigh Little Theater to see “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. It was nice to have an adults-only night out, for a change.

I am taking full advantage of being out of work. I went to an all-day seminar that chip-maker Atmel hosted. We got to see the latest line-up of chips, and they even gave away demo boards… this time, they were computer-conrolled LCD name tags. Every geek should have an LCD name tag!

Our friends Heath and Linda had their annual pig-pickin’ in June. It was a good turn out, and we all had a good time. But Heath said it was a lot like his wedding… he got to spend 30 seconds with each guest.

Sony Ericsson finally pulled the plug on the CDMA department. They laid off the remaining 200 people from the group, leaving only 400 survivors in the GSM development group. I hate to see so many of my friends hit the streets (especially since that’s more competition!).

I spent most of June consumed in the job search. I had some up’s and some down’s. We’ll keep pressing on, and see how it turns out.

We wrapped up the month with a birthday party for Audrey. Most of her friends will be out of town on July 4th, so we had it a week early. This was our first time arranging a children’s birthday party, and I think it turned out pretty good. We learned a few lessons, though. Fortunately, we have five months to prepare for the next one (Sydney’s will be in late November).

July 2003

July was a month of “firsts” for Sydney. She went swimming for the first time in our neighborhood pool. And later in the month, she got her first tooth! Now her big wide smile has a little bit of white.

Even though we had an early birthday party for Audrey in June, we celebrated her special day with a trip to the beach with Mimi and Pops. That night, we sat in the sand and watched fireworks.

The next weekend, my friend Greg came to town with his wife Aline and their friend Ingrid. As always, we had a good time talking endlessly. Still, it seemed like a short visit.

The next Saturday, we had a double header. In the morning, I went to the Cary hamfest. It’s amazing how I seem to find fewer and fewer goodies each year, but I still enjoy going. Later that night, we went to the Robotics Club annual summer social at Rodney Radford’s house. It was fun to hang around with the geeks and their spouses. Some of us stayed until after dark, when Rodney treated us to more fireworks.

On the last weekend, we went to the IEEE summer picnic, which was held at the New Hope Valley Railway near Apex. If you’ll recall, we just took the girls there last month. This time, the train ride was followed by some good Danny’s Bar-B-Que.

Lastly, Foong and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary. The theme of the night was “Is our life together getting any better, or are we going down the toilet?”

August 2003

Sydney has started to echo sounds a little bit. If I say “uh oh” to her, then she will reply back with a two tone humm. She’s still trying to stand whenever she can, and she can take some steps if someone is holding her. It won’t be long before she’s running all over the house!

Audrey is definitely turning two, no doubt about it. She gets very moody and starts crying over any little thing. But in between tantrums, she talks more than any two-year-old I know. This month, she started using some pretty big words, like “caterpillar” and “binoculars”.

The routine of unemployed life rolls on, into its fifth month. The highlight of August was my first out-of-town interview. Yes, out-of-town interviews lead to out-of-town jobs. We are starting to consider the very real possibility that we’ll have to move.

We did take some time to enjoy ourselves during August.

August was a month of picnics. We had three picnics, all organized by our Asian friends: a church-sponsored picnic for local Chinese people, the “multi-cultural club” of mixed Asian / Western couples, and the “SingMa” group of Singaporeans and Malaysians.

My buddy Dave invited me over to his house one day to meet his friend Daryl, who is a pilot for UPS. Daryl had flown in from Tennessee in his private two-seater airplane, and he wanted to take us up for an afternoon in the sky. So we drove out to the small airport in Franklin County, and we took turns in the passenger seat while Daryl showed us what his little plane could do. Wow, what a ride! As Daryl says, it’s your own personal roller coaster.

We ended up the month with a trip to Dave’s place at Lake Royale. It rained, and we never got out on the boat, but we had a good time anyway, talking, fishing, and just letting the kids be kids.

September 2003

Sydney started crawling in September. At first, we thought she might skip the crawling stage entirely and go straight into walking. But she likes the mobility of crawling. For a while, she’ll stand next to a wall and hold on, and then she’ll drop and crawl to another spot where she can stand up again. Accordingly, we have put up the child gate near the stairs.

She has recently developed the strangest habit. She refuses to go to sleep unless she can hold onto someone’s hair. If we lay down next to her, she will reach out and grab a handful of hair and then fall alseep. But if we move just out of reach, she’ll wake up and cry.

Audrey has her own unique style as well. She’ll throw a crying fit for several minutes, and then she’ll suddenly stop and say “I’m finished crying”.

September was not a very exciting month, but it had its highlights.

My parents visited us for a weekend to celebrate mine and my dad’d birthdays, which are a week apart. We had a surprise for him – he got to drive a train at the New Hope Valley Railway in Apex. He had no idea what we were going to do until we pulled up in the parking lot and we told him. He drove for an hour, controlling the speed and even better, the whistle. I should have brought ear plugs!

Now that summer is gone, I finally got around to “converting” my air conditioner to use R134 instead of R12. I had no idea that “conversion” simply means filling it up with the new refrigerant and screwing on an adaptor valve. It works great, and it was so simple! Now I am upset with myself for not doing this sooner. Instead, I sweated it out all summer, riding with the windows down. Live and learn.

October 2003

Now that Sydney is approaching her first birthday, she is changing very rapidly. She is crawling quickly now, and she can stand on her own for a few seconds. She has developed a language of her own, consisting mostly of words like “nnn-GAK”. Her short syllables are usually very loud, and sometimes she lets loose a wild squeal that will make your ears bleed. Once in a while, she makes a sound that almost echoes what we say (we keep trying “Daddy”, “Mommy” and “Maggie”).

Audrey has suddenly developed a very active imagination. It’s not uncommon to see her carrying an invisible item, only to find out that she is walking Clifford the Big Red Dog. She also likes to open imaginary doors. These days, she likes to “direct”. She’ll start with “let’s dance”, but once you follow along, she’ll quickly change her tune to “NO, like THIS!”.

The first two weeks of October was a flurry of interviews. It all started with a trip to Lexington Kentucky to see Lexmark. Suddenly, five more interviews materialized over the next few days. That’s pretty remarkable, considering how few interviews I had from March until September.

We had a few visitors in October. Foong’s brother came over for a week to attend the High Point Furniture Market. And my friend Greg visited when he was in town for a job interview at Sicel Technologies (he will start working there in November).

And October also had plenty of fun as well. We went to the State Fair, where we saw farm animals in the petting zoo, Clifford the Big Red Dog at the PBS TV station booth, and Mike Cross at the concert arena. On one unusually warm October day, I took the girls to the Asheboro zoo with David Robinson and his family. And we wrapped up the month with Halloween, where Audrey (a giraffe) and Sydney (a pumpkin) rode around the neighborhood in the wagon and collected a heavy bag of candy.

November 2003

Sydney took her first steps in the first week of November. She started off with a few cautious steps, but quickly gained enough confidence to walk all over the house before the month was over. She has also learned to crawl up stairs. Needless to say, we have to keep a much closer eye on her now!

Our friend Greg accepted a job here in Raleigh, and moved in with us for a while. He plans to rotate among three friends’ houses, to make sure that he does not overstay his welcome. It’s really nice having him in the same city as the rest of us… since we have been separated since college graduation in 1991.

The job hunt continues, with more interviews and “networking” meetings. Things have picked up since October.

We had a birthday party for Sydney. My grandmother (“Nanny”) happened to be visiting Mom and Dad in Winston-Salem at the time, so we had a special guest at the party.

We had Thanksgiving at home this year. While the rest of the extended family travelled to Florida to spend the holiday with my uncle, we decided that 750 miles was a bit of a stretch, with a 1 year old and a 2 year old in the car.

December 2003

December was an action-packed month.

Foong went on her first “business trip”. She visited her her brother’s factory in Malaysia. She left the girls at home with Daddy. We survived… but we had help.

Greg and Aline stayed at our house while Foong was away, and what a difference that made! Audrey and Sydney played with Auntie Aline during the day. And every evening, Aline would cook a delicious supper (everything from Belgian food to African dishes). Foong returned home after a week and a half, and Greg and Aline moved on to their next host family, Michael and Rebekah.

Our neighborhood had a sleigh ride in early December. It was cold, so they served hot apple cider and hot chocolate while we waited. Santa Claus showed up, but Audrey was a bit cautious about sitting in his lap.

December was a month of getherings as well. Michael and Rebekah had a Christmas party (with a nifty rotating Christmas tree… or did I have too much wine?). Robert and Beth had a Christmas party, and Santa Claus showed up! This time, Audrey was not shy, but Sydney would have no part of it. Foong’s Asian ladies had a party where we ate and played games (which is typical at Asian parties).

Sydney is walking with confidence now. And Audrey is talking with confidence, using large words and complete sentences.

I had several interviews in December. Some in town, and others as far away as Hawaii (darn, phone interview only). The market seems to be picking up noticably. Two more of my friends ended up getting my leftover jobs (referrals after I interviewed for the positions). I should get a finder’s fee!

Last, but not least, we had Christmas. We started our shopping just a few days before Christmas, but managed to get it all done in time. I was still out at 6pm on Christmas Eve. We spent Christmas day with Mimi and Pops in Winston-Salem. The girls had a good time opening presents (but as always, were just as fascinated with the boxes as with the gifts). After a few days of feasting on turkey and ham, we packed up the van and headed back home.

Now we set our sights on 2004. This last year has been a hard one, and we’re hoping that things settle down a bit in the new year.

Hosted at Linode