Tales and thoughts from the founder of NormSoft (maker of Pocket Tunes), working and living in St. Croix, USVI

Friday, October 31, 2008

Gus is home!

Gus is finally home from the animal hospital. He seems to be very happy to be home. He made a pass of the house, sniffing everything to re-acquaint himself, and then he placed a claim to Gerald's coat laying on the floor near the bed. He's been there since last night, only making forays to eat, drink, and request ear scratching or a warm lap for a few minutes.

We've got about 6 different kinds of liquid medicine to give him 2-3 times a day. He doesn't like that, but he tolerates it.

Phoebe is very upset that he's home. She had been happy as a clam while he was gone, but now she is hissing and growling whenever she sees him.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Apologies in advance for this somewhat emo post...

It's easy to get distracted with all the problems you are facing. Our kitty Gus is in the hospital for surgery this morning, and his long-term prognosis is not good. He probably has kidney failure and will need fluid therapy for the rest of his life, which will likely be shortened (he's 7 years old).

As a mental health exercise, and to publicly thank everyone around us keeping us sane, I wanted to put together this quick list of what we're fortunate for.

  • We lucked out and were not in St. Croix for the hurricane.
  • Our home in St. Croix came through Hurricane Omar relatively unscathed.
  • Our good friends Larry and Blaine have gone to extraordinary lengths in managing repairs and cleanup of our house after the hurricane.
  • Our move to Las Vegas has gone pretty much without any major problems.
  • The veterinarians in Las Vegas have more modern equipment than in St. Croix and are more equipped and experienced at handling Gus's illness. (not to say anything bad about St. Croix vets; they are great! It is only due to the size of the population.)
  • My sister Heather is an emergency veterinary technician and has been enormously generous with her time and consultation about Gus's condition.
  • All of our friends, families, and coworkers have been understanding and supportive.

Anyway, thanks to everyone. I'll keep you posted on how Gus does today.

Friday, October 24, 2008

DISH Network vs. Cox Cable

In case anyone is wondering, DISH Network's DVR interface is far and away better than Cox Cable's. When we signed up for Cox, I tried to find some information on the web about which DVR was better, and I couldn't find any.

I've only been using the Cox DVR for a few days, but here are the deficiencies compared to Dish Networks's DVR:

1. Recorded episodes are displayed in a small confusing list, all jumbled together. Dish's DVR uses the full screen and sorts them nicely by show name.

2. Cox's remote doesn't have a skip forward/back button like Dish has. So to skip commercials, you have to use the fast forward button and hope to time it just right. It's a pain in the ass and takes longer.

3. I haven't found a good way to get episode information about a particular episode on Cox. With DISH, you can get the episode ID, brief description, and many movies have star ratings. Lots more info to figure out what you want to watch.

4. DISH has a special type of recording (I think it's called a season pass or something like that) where you just enter the name of the show/movie, and it records anything matching that name on any channel. I can't find anything like this on Cox.

5. The quality of the high definition channels doesn't seem to be as good. I think Cox has the compression turned way up.

It looks like we have a couple of options. We can either switch to DISH Networks or we can give Tivo a try. It looks like the latest TiVo boxes support SD and HD recording on two channels at once if you use a CableCard decoder from your cable company. I'll have to check with Cox to see if they offer that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My new favorite airline

I've blogged about airlines before, so I'll let you know about my new favorite airline. Too bad they don't fly to St. Croix.

Virgin America is awesome. I flew them from Las Vegas to San Francisco (direct flight) on Sunday.

They announced an air traffic controller delay due to fog in San Fran. Rather than just let us sit and stew in our own grumpiness, they then immediately announced a bowling game! If you beat your bowling partner, you got a free drink coupon. So they set up a plastic bowling game on the carpet and invited everyone to join in the fun. It was noisy and fun and there was much merriment.

Once that was over, they then kept us entertained with other games, like finding things on Google or seeing who had the oldest penny in their pocket.

While this may seem silly, it's really ingenious from a psychological perspective. It instantly converts the grumpiness of a hundred passengers into bemusement. And if you're in line for the bowling game, you secretly hope that the delay will be extended just a few minutes so you can have a chance to bowl.

But they don't stop there. Once on board, rather than the usual boring announcement from the pilots about who they are and where we're headed, they pulled two kids (age 5-ish) from the passengers and gave them the mic. So you hear this 5-year-old over the PA "My name is Captain Mike... and we will be flying to San Francisco... where the weather is overcast. We will be flying at 30,000 feet." It was hilarious and everyone gave the kids a big round of applause.

Even the safety announcement is fun. They've got a really silly animated cartoon to go along with the safety speech, and they even poke fun at what they're required to say. "For the 0.001% of you who have never used a seatbelt before, here's what to do." And they continue on in an exasperated tone.

The inside of the airplane is lit with colorful red and purple lights, making you feel like you're in a nightclub. And the seats are a very comfortable leather material with modern white plastic backs.

But the best part of all is the in-flight entertainment system that they call Red. It's a Linux-based touchscreen device that has access to TV, movies, etc. Food and drink orders are hooked up to this system so that when I ordered my gin and tonic, a prompt popped up on my screen asking me to swipe my credit card. The system has several free X Windows games (xmahjongg, etc.), an inter-seat chat program, etc. You can watch about 10 channels of satellite TV from their onboard DISH Networks receiver for free. Or you can pay to watch a movie (I think it was $5 to $10). Even better, you can pay somewhere from $0.99 to $2.99 to watch the latest episodes of your favorite sitcoms. I watched two Simpsons episodes for $1.98.

I'm actually looking forward to my flight back to Las Vegas this afternoon. It takes a lot to make me feel like I want to be on a plane, so they've done a great job.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Say It in Crucian

I stopped by Savant last night for dinner to say good-bye to a good friend of mine who works there. (I'm leaving for 3 months.)

Along with the usual great food, drink, and energy, I met an extraordinary couple. Mitch is a bass player who works at the Good Hope school teaching music. We had a great discussion about digital music. And Robin works at UVI teaching English.

I was really impressed by Robin's latest project - a book called "Say it in Crucian". She asked her kids to contribute to help define the Crucian language and explain how it's used. She is working on an accompanying website Crucian Dictiontionary, which doesn't yet have any content.

I find her book fascinating because St. Croix is one of the only places I've seen in the US today where you can watch as a local culture gets assimilated into the culture of its parent country. And no one seems to be documenting it! I find it a bit sad that this local culture is changing so quickly, losing many of its customs and flavor. But it is being replaced by its own unique mixture of US and Caribbean culture.

St. Croix is unique in that its culture has remained distinct due to the distance from the US, difficulty getting here, and delayed access to TV and Internet. That has changed dramatically in the past 20 years with the building of a new airport, increased interest in Caribbean tourism by Americans, better Internet and TV infrastructure, etc. You would think that anthropologists would be all over St. Croix, but I have seen few of them. If you're an anthropologist working on St. Croix, I'd love to hear from you!

Look for "Say it in Crucian" on Amazon in the next few months. Even better, support our local St. Croix businesses and buy a copy here!