Friday, June 1, 2012

Napa wine train

The most anticipated itinerary of our perfect day at Napa valley was the dinner Napa wine train ride. After taking a couple of quick stops at two wineries, we headed to the train station near downtown Napa, right across the street from the Westin. We arrived at 5.15pm and shortly after at 5.30 the is an introduction given by a company staff about our journey. There is a gift and wine shop at the station which stock many of Napa's selections. The prices are reasonable. At least for a few wine we had seen at wineries earlier in the day, they were sold cheaper here then at the winery.

We have purchased ticket for the vista dome car, which is the more expensive of the the two available in the evening. The boarding started shortly after 5.50pm. Even though the vista dome car was fully booked, we find there is no rush to board since all seating were preassigned.

We felt like we were in a high end restaurant when we got up the vista dome section which is on the second floor of the particular car. We were very excited. Shortly after we were seated, a gentlemen came and introduced us the menu and special for the night. The soup and seafood en-tree were not printed on the menu. our waitress Chrystal came and introduce herself. A photographer followed and offered to take our picture.

Shortly after that, crystal came and took our dinner order. The dinner menu look attractive. For our dov there were a choice of sear scallop and scrimp or fois guar. For starter, there were the choice of apple salad or asparagus soup. For dinner entree,there was pork loin, lamp chop, seared ahi tuna, beef and a vegetarian dish. Unfortunately since my mom doesn't eat beef, lamb nor raw items, the only choose for her was pork tenderloain which is the least attractive of the vegetarian menu.

The train left the station on time at 6.30pm. I had wished for a seat on the west side of the train but I forgot to mention it while making the reservation. We we seated on the east to my disappointment. The train traveled at a mere 18miles/hr speed. However perhaps because we were at a higher central of gravity, we feel the heavy swinging very often. That prove to be a problem because after about 30 minutes into the journey my mom started having motion sickness and basically they took away her appetite.

We have driven on sy.Helena why (rt 29) a few times in the last two days and sitting on east side turned out to be less then desired. We were basically on the west side of the road and we have seen most of the scenery while driving by. Whereas o. The west side, we were able go see many areas which we couldnt see from the road. We also miss the chance to see the sunset.

After finishing our entry, we have aout 45 mins to roam around the train before dessert was served. We walked from one end to the other. We realized even though we may have paid for me, we may have received a lesser experience. We found many of the louce cars empty and sine the windows are not tinted, the view was brighter and the seats were much more confortable. Because of our dinner arrNgemeng we were advice to not leave our seat before the entree was served. S we ended up only having the short amount of time to stay in the lounge or at the ends of the train. And when we were back to eur seats ,we found we found we couldn,t see much because of the tinted window even thought it was still quite bright out there.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Computer Illeterate

I have a dear elderly who is in his 70's. We used to lived about 30 minutes drive away from each other in the suburb of Chiacgo and I have helped him a lot in buying computer laptop, netbook, printers, and set up his broadband network. He like to call himself (in front of me) a computer illiterate and thanks me every time we have chance to talk. He is one of those who, despite have no formal training in any recently technologies, like to explore and learn new things.

He is one a the very few friends of mine who have internet phone service. I told him about Vonage several years ago after I signed up, and he immediately took interests and went ahead and cancel his land line from the local phone company. He was so glad he never have to deal with all those hidden charges from the local phone companies, and enjoyed free unlimited calls to overseas.

Because of this Vonage service, his home network is a little different from many normal household. Throughout the years, when he called his broadband company or Vonage, he has received different advice, and gradually his network has become very different from how I helped him set it up.

A couple of weeks ago, he called me and asked me for help. This time, I am no longer 30 minutes, but 4 hours flight away. He has also purchased another winter house in a different (warmer) state, where he carries with him some of his equipment whenever he travels to between the two states. Last month my wife and I visited him and his wife at this winter home, and gave him an iPad 2 which we got during a sale. We tried out best to show him and convince him he could eventually stop using his PC, and just work on the iPad. As a result, his home network now should look different, since his wifi access point has been taken out of the picture, directed by one of those tech support people at some point in the pass.

I drew a nice and easy to understand network diagram with real photos of all piece of equipment he has, and have him reconnect everything accordingly. After a couple of hours of struggles, back and forth of what I asked him to do, and what he saw on his screen, we finally get everything going. iPad, phone dial tone, and his Window 7 netbook all working happily together.

It wasn't even a week before I hear from him again. I received an email he sent from his iPad (hooray!) that he could go "online" from his netbook anymore. Before I have time to call him and spend sometime trying to understand the problem, I notice the next morning his online status on MSN. When sent him another email in the evening the same day, I was told one of his friend came over to his house, and helped him solve the problem.

I was happy because it was quite difficult trying to help him on a Windows machine, when I don't have one to look at. Well, things are never that easy. Two or maybe three days later, again I receive email from him saying things have stopped working on his netbook.

I decided to call him after waiting for a couple of days sending him emails with some instruction of what to check. After trying everything I could, and even having him running network commands on DOS window, I can't get his IE to talk to any website. I decided to take a dinner break and call him back. Our second half of the session started with a good news. He told him while I was taking my dinner, he pulled out the network diagram I had sent him, and compare to actually connections of all equipmnent, and found that his friend has made some changes. Instead of connecting the router/wifi access point to the cable modem, he decided to connect the Vonage voip box to the modem, and have the router connected to the voip box. I was silence furious but kept my cool and have him make things right according to the diagram. Within a few minutes, everything works again as they should.

I name this blog post this way not to look down my friend, because I think he is one I admire. Despite his age, he is still willing to learn, always willing to explore new and foreign things. Though I was furious at his friend who rearranged the network and wasted my time,  I don't blame him for network is indeed pretty complicated. I think the more you know, the more you would understand what I mean.

This past week, a scientist with Phd degree and many years of experience at where I worked, open a trouble ticket complaining he could no longer log on to a workstation. After some investigation, it appeared that he has made some changes on his own such as his sessions immediately terminate upon logging on to a workstation. I pointed out the mistake and offer him to make the change the correct way for him if he would like to. Several days later, I received an update with such a request, but also with a note indicating what he did was how it all used to be 20 years ago when he was playing with Linux. Having been in this line of work for that long a time, I understand that anyone telling you that is simply implying he has experience in Linux since day 1 and he knows what he was doing. Well, I don't want to question his experience, and after calming myself down, decided not to "educate" him with what have chance in the past 20 years, and also what needs to be done differently in an office multiuser environment, versus on a private isolated computer that he has 20 years ago. On the same day, he has also voiced through a trouble ticket, indicating I have broken something important on some computers he was using, because I did some software updates, Well, the ticket wasn't really to ask for help, but to point out that he wasn't informed of the updates and he has not given permission to do so. Being very certain that the software updates would not have broken anything he was trying to use, I kept quite and wait. Within minutes, replies to the tickets came in from someone else who admitted he made changes to the application, and offered to fix.

My friends, if you read this and you think you are never any good at computer technologies, engineering, don't be. The only computer illiterate are those who thinks they are too smart and know it all. Knowing something for 20 years is not a good thing to be brag about, if you are not already on the board of Google or Facebook. That means you are outdated and left behind.