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October 30, 2004

HP Calculator

I remember in high school somebody had an HP calculator and I thought it was the craziest thing that there was a calculator without an = button. As I was entering engineering school I was told that there was some calculator we would eventually need to buy that was $500. At Christmas Mom and Dad bought me my first HP, a model 10C (which was *not* $500). This series of calculators became such an icon that they still sell the financial version, the 12C.

I lost it the next year while I was a Georgia State so when I went back to Vanderbilt I bought a recently discontinued HP-41C. This was the weaker younger brother of the HP-41CV and HP-41CX which must have been the $500 calculator I had heard of before. The 41 was completely programmable and could store 100 numbers. It could even deal with text. In fact instead of storing numbers you could store 6-letter strings of letters if you wanted. So I wrote a program that would store a 6-letter string and then, 20 storage registers later, would store a 10-digit number. You could browse through the strings and if you picked one it would show you the corresponding 10-digit number which was in fact a telephone number. No one knew it, but I had a PIM.

I wrote a lot of engineering programs for the calculator and used it through the Peace Corps and my first few years of Bridge Design. I heard that NASA had a backup navigation system for the space shuttle stored on a 41 (probably the CX which had more memory) in case their on-board computers failed. Everyone in Bridge Design had HP-41's (mostly CV's; I never met anyone else who had a C). They had even bought a card reader that you could attach to one of the four ports on the back of the calculator. They had these little magnetic strips that could store 50 lines of programming or so and a book to store the strips. I augmented the 41C's woefully inadequate memory with a memory module called the "Quad mem pack" because it had 4 times the memory of a regular memory module. I also had an equation library module. My calculator was more powerful than ENIAC, the first computer, had been.

Eventually the buttons stopped working and it was time for a new calculator. By this time HP had introduced the HP-48. It had a 4-line display, built-in clock (and therefore a random number generator), graphics, infra-red communications port to transfer programs to other 48's, a more advanced programming language, all kinds of commands, and 32 kb of memory. It had a cable that allowed it to communicate with a computer. It was the new gold standard of calculators so I bought a discontinued HP-48SX for about $120. I wrote all of my programs over again. Some people wrote programs in a machine language that was very fast and efficient and it wasn't long before there were programs that would keep track of appointments as well as phone numbers and addresses. The random number generator and clock allowed for all kinds of games to be written. That new thing, the internet, provided fertile ground for sharing programs and tips.

Eventually Bridge Design bought an HP-48GX for me. It had 128k of memory which I needed because I was running out of space. I used the 48GX for the next eight years. To store a number on previous calculators you pressed STO 4 on the 10C (STO 04 on the 41C) to store a number in register 4. For the 48 you had to first create a variable name so you would type apostrophe, alpha, A, STO. Though once A was stored it was easy to write over it by choosing left-shift A. The calculator had menus and dialog boxes for everything. It was so complicated that it was almost cumbersome. But it was so much more powerful that it was worth it. When Bridge Design took a plunge into the metric system, the 48's unit conversion functions were invaluable (we've since stopped doing metric projects) and some people gave up their old 41's just for that.

Last week my 48GX died. Once again the keys stopped working. I figured I would just buy another one. I hadn't kept up with the HP-48's in a long time since I don't do a lot of hardcore design calculations anymore, though I had started getting back into it as I am checking a lot of plans. I found out that the 48's had been discontinued. A new replacement, the 49G, had taken its place. The calculator community howled about this. The calculator had rubber buttons that didn't click when you pushed them (all previous HP's had plastic clicky buttons that gave you "tactile feedback" indicating the button had been pushed, and only once). There were huge quality problems and lots of calculators dead on arrival. They had taken the infra-red communications away because students could potentially cheat on exams by sending information between their 48's (unfounded because the 48's infra-red only worked within a few inches). Worst of all, it had an = button for people who couldn't figure out Reverse Polish Notation, one of the initiation rites of engineers, scientists, and financial wonks. The geek community mourned the loss of HP as the undisputed world leader in calculators. Some even switched to Texas Instruments calculators. E-bay was able to sell used 48's for their full retail price.

But last year they came out with 49G+. The clicky buttons were back as was the infra-red port (HP realized that students taking tests weren't their core market, plus they were starting to ban any calculator with alphanumeric memory). The calculator includes a port for an SD card allowing many megabytes of memory potentially. The processor is one that was on my first laptop, the Motorola 68000. Rather than use a custom calculator chip, they chose to use a computer chip running an HP-48 emulator that makes it act like a calculator. A USB cable connects it to your computer. Despite continued reports of keystrokes being missed (which subsequent releases of the flash ROM seem to have largely fixed) I went ahead and bought one for $130.

One of the neat things about this calculator is that it was essentially an advanced version of the 48, not a complete re-write. Supposedly all the programs (not the machine language ones) written for the 48 would work on this one. So as soon as I got it I wanted to beam a program to it from the 48. Apparently this couldn't be done. You could only beam things from other 49's. So I installed the software on my computer and hooked up the USB cable. Nothing. I looked in Help, went back to the old HP-48 newsgroup, tried a bunch of things and . . . nothing. I called HP. They spent nearly an hour trying a bunch of things, doing resets, re-installing drivers and . . . nothing. Meanwhile, in an effort to install a fresh ROM we succeeded only in wiping out the old ROM with no way to install the new one. So it now has the calculating capacity of a brick (with clicky buttons).

While it was working I found that they had reduced the number of buttons and increased the size of the screen to a 7-line display. But they shrunk down the numbers so it is harder to read the screen. And they've put all kinds of fancy higher math functions on there that I don't use like matrices, graphing, equation solving, etc. So it is certainly arguable that quality and usefulness are still way down. In the meantime I scrounged another 48 from Bridge Design that had been used by someone who quit.

With computers and palmtops everywhere, the calculator is struggling to find its niche. If I need to transpose matrices, then I will be using a spreadsheet instead of spending a bunch of time inputting numbers on a calculator keyboard that probably are coming from a computer program anyway. What I want is something that will do all kinds of simple calculations with a few programs that take a few numbers for input (for instance, one program I have converts feet inches and sixteenths into decimal feet. So if a dimension was 1'-7 1/2" then I could input 1.0708 (the last eight is the sixteenths) and it turns it into 1.625. Another converts back and two others take input in feet-inches-sixteenths and add them or subtract them). I don't need much higher math but I do need trig functions, exponents, etc. And I need to be able to re-map the keys so that I can make the keys do what I want rather than what they originally did (so shift-7 might convert a number to feet-inches-sixteenths). A lot of energy has gone into making "graphing calculators". Who cares?

October 24, 2004

eMusic (cont.)

I'm a little over halfway through my 100 free songs from Dockers and eMusic (see first post). It's been a challenge to find things I want and also a lot of work researching groups that I might like. Because they have so few artists you've heard of you pretty much have to stumble across them by finding a few bands and then seeing the recommendations based on what other people have downloaded who downloaded songs from that band. Then I go to AllMusic.com and see what they say about them and which albums they like and which are the best tracks from those albums. Then back to eMusic to see if they have that album. Sometimes they will only have early or later albums when the band wasn't as marketable and was on a smaller label. For instance they have some very new Rickie Lee Jones but not her famous stuff from the 70's and 80's. Still, I downloaded a nice cover she does of The Beatles' "For No One," which I'd never heard of but sounds better than the original.

They have a lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival, so I downloaded "Bad Moon Rising" and "Fortunate Son". In my opinion these are the only two CCR songs anyone needs and "Bad Moon Rising" is iffy. It's not that they're bad, but you hear them enough on the radio.

Because they have all of The Pixies and they are one of my favorite bands (Grant introduced them to me; thanks G!) I went through their offerings early on. They have released a couple of greatest hits albums where they added a couple of songs that weren't on any of their regular albums, so I got those. They also had an album of B sides so I got some of those. For the most part, I wasn't missing anything, but there are a couple of good songs and, although the Pixies are touring now, I don't think they're making any new music so the only way to get new Pixies is to find old stuff I haven't heard before.

It is hit or miss. I ventured for some Bad Religion but both songs (recommended by AllMusic) are annoying. I downloaded a NOFX song and it's kind of good. Reminds me of Green Day crossed with the Pixies (found NOFX from The Pixies' page). The band Pavement holds a lot of promise, sounding similar to The Replacements, and I do remember hearing their song "Cut Your Hair" on 99-X when it came out. Another 99-X band available is Bush whose songs "Glycerin" and "Little Things" are familiar though not great.

I think there is a lot of older blues and jazz but I haven't gone there too much. I did find a compilation from the classic label Stax Volt that had some nice songs including a new artist (for me) named Jean Knight who sounds like a female version of Bob Marley. They also had a different version of Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" which is a great song.

Found an album that is kind of a prequel to Rusted Root's official debut album When I Woke. It has some of the same songs as the debut but they are different versions (including their biggie, "Send Me on My Way" with a piccolo instead of a penny whistle). I downloaded the whole album which used up 11 downloads. They also had When I Woke (which I already have on plastic) but none of their later stuff.

Then I ran across some other stuff that I was kind of familiar with when a Peace Corps friend, Marci, made me a mix tape right after we got back from Thailand in 1990. Peter Murphy, Ian McCulloch, Gene Loves Jezebel, and Bauhaus. I like Peter Murphy, but his albums have a lot of filler, so I got some decent songs that way.

The songs seem to be good quality. They are variable bit rate MP3's recorded between 160 and 280 bits per second (better than what I usually use when I make my own from CD's). Not only is there no copy protection but they don't even have the Copyright tag checked or include anything in the Comment field. I added "eMusic download" to the Comment field so I would remember these are legal downloads.

I still don't know how they make money. As a subscription service I guess they take their profit each month and dole it out to the artists proportionately to the downloads. I would think the artists would inevitably make less money than getting some amount per song like on iTunes, but who knows? Some of these people need exposure any way they can get it, so maybe they aren't worried about getting money. (See conclusion)

Anyway, except for the Rusted Root album, here's what I've downloaded so far:

Bad Religion - Generator
Bad Religion - Suffer
Bauhaus - Double Dare
Bush - Everything Zen
Bush - Glycerine
Bush - Little Things
Dramatics - What You See Is What You Get -
Gene Loves Jezebel - Desire (Come and Get It)
Gene Loves Jezebel - Jealous
Ian McCulloch - Love In Veins
Jean Knight - Mr. Big Stuff
NOFX - Linoleum
Otis Redding - Try A Little Tenderness
Pavement - Cut Your Hair
Pavement - Elevate Me Later
Pavement - Here
Pavement - In The Mouth A Desert
Pavement - Summer Babe (Winter Version)
Pavement - Trgger Cut Wounded-Kite at 17
Peter Murphy - Cuts You Up
Peter Murphy - Low Room
Peter Murphy - Sweetest Drop
Pixies - In Heaven (Lady In The Radiator Song) (Live)
Pixies - Into the White
Pixies - Manta Ray
Pixies - Velvety Instrumental Version
Pixies - Wave Of Mutilation (U.K Surf Mix)
Pixies - Weird At My School
Pixies - Winterlong
Rickie Lee Jones - For No One
Rickie Lee Jones - The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys
The Staple Singers - Respect Yourself
Johnnie Taylor - Who's Making Love

As I've been searching for stuff it has gotten me off on tangents so I started looking into Ben Folds Five (not available on eMusic). This got me going on my fourth iTunes download session. I found some stuff there that wasn't available previously but you still can't get "American Pie" on iTunes. I kind of wish I'd just bitten the bullet and bought a couple of Ben Folds Five CD's, but he is pretty uneven: one song he has is a message that his father left on his answering machine set to music. But I respect him as an artist so I feel like I should listen to his whole album instead of cherry-picking it.

Of course I'm one of the only people left in the country with dial-up internet so all of these downloads took forever this weekend. The iTunes purchases wouldn't go to my iPod without updating its software which was another 20 MB download. Susan was out of town and I downloaded a lot of stuff overnight, but I hope no one was trying to call me this weekend!

Anyway, I'm up to 63 songs purchased on iTunes so far:

Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
Ben Folds Five - Army
Ben Folds Five - Don't Change Your Plans
Ben Folds Five - Lullabye
Berlin - Sex (I'm A...)
Berlin - The Metro
Blind Melon - No Rain
Bob Marley - Kaya (old)
Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth
Cat Stevens - Moonshadow
Cat Stevens - Peace Train
Collective Soul - December
Collective Soul - Shine
Dexy's Midnight Runners - Come on Eileen
Dire Straits - Les Boys
Dire Straits - Romeo and Juliet
Dire Straits - Skateaway
Don McLean - Vincent
Donovan - Season of the Witch
Dusty Springfield - Son of a Preacher Man
Echo & The Bunnymen - Lips Like Sugar
Elton John - Tiny Dancer
Etta James - At Last
Everclear - Santa Monica
Fatboy Slim - Praise You
Foreigner - Cold As Ice
Foreigner - Feels Like the First Time
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Relax
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - Two Tribes
Frankie Goes to Hollywood - War
Gene Vincent - Be-Bop-A-Lula
Harry Nilsson - Everybody's Talkin'
Isley Brothers - It's Your Thing
Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit
Liz Phair - Polyester Bride
Modern English - I Melt with You
Neil Young - A Man Needs a Maid
Neil Young - Cinnamon Girl
Neil Young - Comes A Time
Neil Young - Heart of Gold
Neil Young - Helpless
Neil Young - Old Man
Neil Young - Southern Man
Neil Young - Sugar Mountain
Neil Young - Wonderin'
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky
O'Jays - For the Love of Money
O Brother - I'll Fly Away
O Brother - I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow
O Brother - I Am Weary (Let Me Rest)
Ray Charles - (Night Time Is) The Right Time
Righteous Brothers - You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'
Rush - The Spirit of Radio
Sinead O'Connor - No Man's Woman
Sonny and Cher - I Got You Babe
Split Enz - I Got You
Stevie Wonder - Superstition
Terence Trent D'Arby - Wishing Well
Trio - Da Da Da
Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
White Stripes - Seven Nation Army
Who - Eminence Front
ZZ Top - La Grange

October 23, 2004

Government Speed

With my birthday coming up next month, I mailed in my car registration on Thursday. Today (Saturday) I got my new Wildflower tag. That means the post office delivered the registration and plate in one day each and Dekalb County processed my tag order the same day they got it.

Buying this plate gives money to the DOT to plant decorative weeds in the median, looks better than the regular Georgia tag, and matches my black car.

October 21, 2004

AdSense Starts Making Cents

The battery on my cordless phone hasn't been lasting very long lately, so it is time for new one. I knew Best Buy had them but for some reason I looked around on the internet and found batteries.com. They sell the battery I need for $5 less than Best Buy ($9 vs $14) and there is free shipping. As I was registering with them and placing the order they asked where I had heard about them. Then I remembered that I think they were one of the AdSense advertisers on my iPod battery pack page. So I thought I should click through from there and get the battery. I'm glad I did because the advertisement had a code that gave me 10% off my purchase!

Geeky stuff: I wound up upgrading to the NiMH battery instead of the standard NiCad battery after seeing that it offered 1500 milliamp-hours instead of 700 for the NiCad, has no memory effect, and is better for the environment. However it cost me $17 instead of $9. I found a website that said it wouldn't be a problem substituting NiMH and in fact it was recommended.

BTW: Last month my AdSense account racked up $3.42. My all-time revenue is $15.89. Not bad for nothing. See first entry.

October 17, 2004


I bought some Dockers this weekend and it included "100 free music downloads" which turns out just to be a trial month with eMusic, a subscription download service. Previously McDonald's had given away a free song on Sony's download service, but I investigated that and found out that they used some proprietary music format that only Sony players would recognize. So I never bothered. But 100 free songs sounded pretty good since on iTunes that would be worth $99!

So I looked into it to make sure it was worth it. Interesting. They let you download true MP3 formatted songs with no copyright restrictions and recorded at high variable bitrates for best quality. They don't have as many songs as iTunes, only 250,000. So what's the catch?

Of course there's a catch. Out of that 250,000 songs you probably haven't heard of more than 100 of them. They have a couple of big artists represented: Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Pixies, Bush, and maybe a few others though it gets obscure very, very quickly. They have one Rickie Lee Jones album that she did in 2000. They have some early Bob Marley. They have Tom Waits' Mule Variations. Essentially they have gotten a bunch of small independent labels together. For $20 a month you can download 90 songs or something like that. So you can get songs for 22 cents each if you use your full quota.

I worry about their business model, but they say the artists are getting money from their sales. The only way I can figure this works for them is by operating as a boutique music outlet. They get you in the door by offering music you've never heard of at an affordable price. They make money by exposing you to artists you wouldn't hear of anywhere else and I guess hope you'll buy their CD's? Of course with the automatically renewing monthly subscription they hope you'll turn it on and forget to turn it off, but not many people can be doing that.

Today I downloaded about 15 songs, only a handful of which are very good. It's hard to find good stuff. I looked through their "most popular" section, but they only list the top 20 songs and top 20 albums. I found myself going to All Music to look up some of these artists and seeing which albums are rated the best and which songs on those albums stand out. It's a lot of work, but if you find some new band that you wind up liking it would be well worth the trouble.

It would be worth the effort just to download all of The Pixies songs if I didn't own all their main albums already (though there are also some live albums and a collection of B-sides that I am picking over). And if you like CCR, it's all there.

One thing I don't like is they don't help you determine which songs you are apt to like. It gets almost deceptive. For instance, if you look up CCR it will give you a short list of "Popular Tracks". Remember, they have everything CCR has done. Here is that list:

Cross - Tie Walker
Tearin' Up The Country
Ramble Tamble
Need Someone To Hold
Don't Look Now
Wrote A Song For Everyone
My Baby Left Me
It's Just A Thought
Ooby Dooby
Before You Accuse Me (Take A Look At Yourself)

What? However, if you go to the Top 20 downloaded songs on the service you will find:

Proud Mary
Bad Moon Rising
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
Proud Mary (must be a different version)
Susie Q

So they're not helping. You have to use All Music to find out *anything*.

It's an interesting concept, sort of the anti-iTunes. Maybe I'll find some new stuff. I'll stick with it until I get my 100 songs or the first month and let you know how it turns out.

See follow-up and conclusion

October 9, 2004

The Pine Cone Game

Susan's dog, Beacon, invented a game they play when they go on walks. Beacon will find a pine cone, pick it up, walk with it for a little while, and then drop it. In a few steps Susan will catch up to it and kick it. By that time Beacon has stopped and, facing Susan, is set up like hockey goalie to try and stop the pine cone. Whether it gets past Beacon or not she gets the pine cone in her mouth again and walks with it. The game starts again as she carries it for a few seconds and then drops it on the street for Susan to kick again. Beacon only plays this game (or with pine cones) while they are on walks because really it only works on walks. And her other dog, Belle, never plays the game. If a pine cone isn't available sometimes Beacon will use a magnolia pod. After she does the game five times or so, she will stop playing and that's the end of the game. This didn't take any training, it's just something Beacon does. It's a great adpatation of fetch except that Beacon knows she doesn't have to bring the pine cone back, just drop it and Susan will catch up.

October 3, 2004

New Chainsaw

No man is complete without a chainsaw. Dad had to wait until his 60's before he got one. Jeb was in his 40's when he got his. But this weekend I made the move. Given that Dad's Craftsman is horrible (I think maybe a new chain would do wonders for his, which mostly just polishes tree trunks) and Jeb has some problems with his Husqvarna, I opted for a Stihl MS 250. Stihl is always rated higly and I haven't had much trouble with my Stihl trimmer, so it made sense for me to get a Stihl chainsaw which uses the same 50:1 fuel mix. A guy at work also swears by his Stihl chainsaw and when it broke he went out and bought another one, a little bit larger. The funny thing about that is he then also went out and got his old chainsaw repaired and continues to use it because it is lighter. He has had the newer one for a couple of years and has yet to use it.

Anyway, I took the chainsaw to Susan's and went to town on one of several trees that blew down during Hurricane Ivan. I think maybe she had a microburst or tornado at her house because she had a cluster of pretty tall trees snapped off at their trunks and one large tree was knocked completely over and landed on her house (causing remarkably little damage, but crushing the eave completely in that spot).

The Stihl went through everything easily. What a perfect tool for that job! But just as hard was moving all the pieces out to the street. I'm pretty happy with the purchase and still have plenty of trees to work on at Susan's (but not the one on the house which will require a crane and $3,000 to remove).

The Last Hurrah (?)

Part 6

Today I took the last of the Estonians to the airport for his flight home. It has been an interesting summer watching them struggle and cope with their situation. I think it has been more of a struggle than any of them thought. I was talking to Arni about why he wasn't doing any work. He said that last year in Idaho he had a similar experience where he had a hard time staying motivated and wound up not doing anything most of the summer. It really bothered him that the job had gotten the better of him and he wanted to do it again to prove that he could be successful at it. He stayed confident and tried to keep himself motivated through the training, but on the first day of selling after he dropped the other two guys off he said he was just shaking from anxiety. Though he sold some books and enjoyed selling in the Avondale area, he started getting a more hostile reception in other neighborhoods around here. He quickly lost his motivation. At the same time he had invested a lot of money in the plane flight, the van, and rent. There's no way he broke even. He said that even though he couldn't make himself work he focused on keeping the other two guys motivated and enforcing the schedule. He said they never got going late and were always up at the same time. He had talked at one point about coming back again as a team leader because he likes managing people more than selling. I told him it was definitely easier to work with people than do work on your own, because people will always ask questions and need stuff so you stay pretty busy. But before he left he said he won't do the book selling again. Part of growing up is learning that you have limitations and Arni has had to accept that he has some.

Martti continued working at Kroger up until a couple of days before he left today (the last day of his visa). I think he really enjoyed working there and having co-workers. And they apparently liked him because they said if he stayed they would like to have him become a cashier which pays several dollars more per hour (however they also posted a large sign at the time clock saying "NO OVERTIME" after he worked too much, see Part 5). He bought a copy of The Little Prince for the Ethiopian cashier he worked with bagging groceries. On Friday after his last day I could tell he would miss going to work. In fact he said that he had had mixed feelings about the whole ordeal since the very beginning: when he was leaving he wasn't sure it was a good idea and that he would miss home, but he was also looking forward to leaving Estonia and seeing a different place. Estonia, he said, was very small and he knew there was a lot more out there. So today when he left he was still conflicted: he would miss America and the friends he made here and had misgivings about going back to school in the town even smaller than Tallinn where he lives. But of course he was looking forward to getting back home too.

I got an e-mail from Madis a week or so after he left saying he had made it back. He and the other salespeople had put in very long days and I guess they rented a car and drove up to New York. He said this was a very difficult drive after several days with only a couple of hours of sleep. I told him I was glad he made it back and wasn't still waiting for bus repairs in West Virginia.

Martti decided he would like to buy an iPod while he was here because they are much more expensive in Estonia. He looked around for a good deal, but Apple products are rarely discounted. On Amazon he found a couple of "new and used" ones that were cheaper than list price. One of them had a screen you couldn't read. The other was offered by a guy with one sale and one customer comment posted the day before saying he never got the item he was buying. We looked around for discounts (sometimes Target would have a 10% off store coupon that you could apply to the price of iPod). He wound up finding a 3rd Generation iPod like mine (only 15 GB instead of 20) for $240 including shipping through Amazon itself. I looked around for some other brands of MP3 players, but really that was about as good as he was going to do. He was very excited about it and I helped him get it set up when it arrived a few days later.

Towards the end of the Summer I was really ready for them to be gone. One day I tried to work from home and review bridges, but this was nearly impossible since Arni was also home all day and usually on the computer which I needed from time to time. One Saturday Arni was on the computer literally all day. He had some software where he could control his computer back home from here. With its high speed connection he could download songs and then play them from that computer, over the internet, to here. He also did some work on his web page and one that he was working on for his mother. He also downloaded Sim City 2000 from his computer at home and spent days playing that with Martti at his side watching and listening to why he was doing this or that. I didn't mind them using my computer but after a while I found myself really wanting to say "Why don't you boys go play outside?!!" How am I supposed to write blog entries about them if they are always on the computer? The good thing is that Susan used to say I was online too much and now she sees it could be worse.

Yesterday on Martti's last full day he had some things he wanted to do before he left. First he wanted to go to AAA and get an international driving permit. He said their office was in Augusta. "How far is that?" he asked. I said a couple of hours and I wouldn't be driving him there. He said "Is Tucker closer? They have an office there too." So we drove up to Northlake, then went to Target to look for DVD's. He had watched some of mine and wanted to buy some of those for himself to have his mom watch. Titles he picked out were Big, The Graduate, Citizen Kane, and Pleasantville. We found The Graduate for $10 so he got that one. He also wanted some kind of case for his iPod because I told him how easy it was to scratch them. So we went to Best Buy. They only had two kinds, but one of them didn't protect the screen so he paid a little more for the other one. We also looked for more DVD's. He found a $20 Tom Hanks 3-pack that had Big as well as Bachelor Party (which he said is one of his favorite movies) and Cast Away. Citizen Kane was $28. He said "I'll just download that one."

Another stop he wanted to make was to a Vietnamese guy he had met while he was selling books. When he first knocked on the guy's door he got a chilly reception. The man said "I'm a teacher, I don't need any books." But as Martti continued to work that area the guy stopped and talked to him. He advised Martti to get an hourly job. He also told him that if Martti came to see him on his last day he would give him $50. So Martti really wanted to stop by his house. I drove him over there and Martti said "I hope he's home." He rang the doorbell and went inside. A few minutes later he came back out and he had gotten the money. He said the guy was really bitter about everything but I guess he wanted to help Martti out. It sounded like something out of his favorite book, The Little Prince.

Last weekend I went to Tybee with Dad, Jeb, and Grant for the hurricane. When we got back on Tuesday, Arni had finished up his book deliveries and gone to Nashville the night before. So I never really got to say goodbye, but Arni had thanked me for putting up with him all summer before. While Madis had made sure he broke down all the boxes from the books and we took them to be recycled, Arni just left his boxes in the garage. Typical Arni. He sent an e-mail and apologized for the mess.

The saga continues: Just when I thought they were all gone and I was finishing up the previous paragraph, Martti calls me and says that due to mechanical problems his connecting flight from Greensboro to New York was cancelled and he is coming back. Now he will leave on the sixth.

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