Ten Years of MZ Online!

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Extraordinary Ideas

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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

December 31, 2003

Another Year Bites The Dust!

Well, after another mini-sabbatical over the Christmas holiday, I'm back and at it all again. And have been for a few days, actually.

Christmas went well, lots of driving it always seems, but it was a good time nonetheless.

There's a lot of stuff that's happened over the course of the last year, and I'm making it a point to myself to go through all of my old news postings for the last year. It'll be a lot of reading, but it should be a good time. Perhaps I'll even make a 'best of 2003' news post sometime.

MZ Online Moves Forward!

As planned, the unleashing of the new MZ Online Services web design will take place soon. I'd originally planned on going live with it during the first week of January (e.g. before January 5); as of tonight, there are only about 5 pages remaining in the conversion, most of which is minor stuff or verbiage changes. The design is complete, functioning, and is as cross-browser capable as it will be for a while. Hopefully, if all goes as planned currently, I'll have the new site ready to go by tomorrow afternoon, and completely live by Friday sometime.

I have but one phrase: "God Bless TWiki!"

TWiki has made this endeavor not only feasible, but considerably simpler than without it. Granted, there's not a lot I needed TWiki for (e.g. dynamic stuff), but the templates and INCLUDES make it much simpler to maintain even a small site. Combined with CSS, the job is really quite simple. Coming up with the actual design is the toughest part.

Anyway, with this change I'm planning on 'shifting' the current TWiki installation to a new location (actually new directory). This is why it might not get done until Friday. The URL as you see it in your window above is mzonline.com/twiki/bin/view/. The plan I have for it now, will be to change that to mzonline.com/bin/view. This is a slightly easier way (and less-lengthy URL) to read, and just appeals to me.

The problem with a change like this: I'm doing it with the addition of one new web (the MZ Online new web). There are already five custom webs available, and two stock installation webs. This means that, even though the move should be simple (as far as the behind-the-scenes voodoo goes), there's a lot to possibly go wrong...very wrong.

Much of the voodoo involves Apache redirects, and changing some of the existing ones as appropriate. These are minor changes...and actually moving the entire installation up one directory level is quite trivial. The problem lies now in ensuring that those who bookmarked any of the five active webs' pages get to the new location. I haven't yet had a chance to test out what I plan to do for this, but I'm relatively sure it'll work.

Needless to say, I have to do this other testing before I make this change. But, I will get it working somehow, and when I figure that out, everything will get moved over easily.

So, look forward to the new MZ Online Services website to open -- it's shockingly different than the old one, and much better looking overall. It's a work that I've really become proud of.

And Happy New Year!

As I write this it's actually past midnight on 01 January 2004, but as I've not gone to bed yet and since I'm writing about 31 December events, it's going under December, but happy new year to everyone!

Until we meet again...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Monday, December 22, 2003

December 22, 2003

Major changes coming!

In a sort of mini-epiphany I had earlier today regarding the forthcoming upgrade of the old MZ Online site, I did some research and have designed the master 'skin' for the site.

You will notice a significant change...and hopefully an impressive one at that.

I looked around the web for what I'll call 'pseudo-popular' designs for page layout. I've had ideas in my head for some time as to what I'd like to attempt, but it was nothing coherent until this afternoon. The goals were as follows:

  1. Design still had to be no larger than 800 pixels wide, yet larger than the old 640x480 (which doesn't allow for any decent presentation of content anymore).
  2. I wanted to keep the 'centered' page look of the existing site (if you notice, it's simply a table in the middle of a page -- without any borders).
  3. I wanted some contrast between background and content. For instance, almost make it more of a 'presentation' than just reading a page of text.
  4. Add some snazz to it. Add curves.
  5. Keep it simple to navigate and easy to understand.
  6. Make it not as stagnant. Add dynamic properties.

With all those things in mind, it was obvious that TWiki had to be involved (to solve the dynamic and also layout issues). Most of the raw content itself won't change a lot, but the presentation will change significantly. At this time I fired up the old HTML editor (for testing purposes), a few terminal clients (for connectivity to the server), and Photoshop (for the obvious). I'd copied all the old site content over to TWiki last night, so I just had to begin changing the layout and presentation.

Well, I'm pleased to report that now (five hours later) I've got the master 'viewing' skin complete. It's essentially a combination of CSS (for managing all the colors, text styles, etc.) and a master page template which all content is filtered through (or which is used to generate all pages...more correctly speaking). And besides all that stuff, it looks absolutely awesome!

The design (without actually showing it) is only 750 pixels wide, about 720 of which are dedicated to content. There's a standard header for each page, generated 'dynamically' so to speak. This also now becomes the navigation bar (akin to the sidebar here). The footer of the page includes the drop-down list of destinations (as was present in the old site) as well as copyright information.

What I really like the most about the design in total is the contrast between parts of the page. There's a dark(er) background as the general page background, then a 'frame' of a different color which is slightly brighter. This allows for relatively good contrast between the page itself and the 'content holding unit' (e.g. the actual page). This 'frame' is also the background for the header and navigation bar. Inside this frame is the actual content window, where the textual content of each page is displayed. This window is the 'black on white' standard page contrast.

I think this positively frames and distinguishes parts of the page and just provides a good look overall. I actually like this look significantly more than this site itself, although I don't think it's appropriate to have a layout of such here.

At this time, I'm looking at making the final adjustments and 'going live' with the new design tomorrow afternoon, unless I have to work early(ier) than scheduled. If the latter is true, the site won't go live until after Christmas.

So there's lots of exciting stuff forthcoming!

A Mixup?

Since I generally use the same layout of my main CSS file between sites (just changing and/or adding/removing information as necessary), I usually copy that file to a new location and edit as appropriate.

Due to the revamping of the MZ Online site, I (this time) copied the MHotW CSS file.

Everything went as planned through the process...until I came here to make this news posting.

I discovered (quickly) that the CSS file wasn't working here. Upon doing some investigation, I realized that I must've either typed something funny, or something hit the bit bucket and won't be back.

Now, some additional background information is necessary here. When I first started using the TWiki software for stuff like the picture archive (which is really the first use I had for TWiki here before migrating everything)...I had to use two different CSS pages, one for the TWiki stuff and the other for regular HTML files.

Once I moved everything over, I wanted to make sure (during transition) that I didn't do anything weird or miss something, so I removed the old TWiki CSS page and linked it to the new page layout CSS.

What does this mean? It essentially means that (without copying the file) there are two files in the directory which are the same file...and are always the same file. If you change one, the other is automatically changed as well.

I'm not sure exactly what happened, but when I copied the CSS file over earlier, it did something very odd with the linking. It also removed the file, although the link wasn't completely broken. Usually if there's no file, the link is completely broken (meaning it'll return a 404 on the webserver) or something of similar nature. The link was still in good order, but there was an empty CSS file in its place.

The short of the story: After several hours, I had to manually restore an older version of the CSS page...and I believe everything's back in order now. Things seemed to look pretty close to what they should've...

So, if you happened to be here during that five-hour period or so and noticed the pages weren't looking anything like they normally do (if you don't know what I'm talking about, this doesn't apply to you)...please accept my apologies. smile

Until next time...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Sunday, December 21, 2003

December 21, 2003

Progress, in many ways!

Well, as anticipated/expected, I've pretty much finished version two of my invoicing system. Most of the changes I had left to make were copies; stuff easily done once it'd been accomplished the first time.

I printed the first actual invoice (instead of just print previewing) this evening -- and it looks far better and more professional than any I'd previously put together in the past. Of course, the automation helps that look a lot more consistently better, which is a Good Thing.

MZ Online Moves to the TWiki!

After some contemplation, I've decided that I will indeed move the main MZ Online Services website (the root of mzonline.com) over to the TWiki. That site is now the only one I maintain (actively -- meaning that the old road cone site is just an archive) which isn't on a TWiki somewhere.

I decided to do this just today, as it just seems right since it's badly been in need of an overhaul and redesign...and it seemed an appropriate thing to do. Besides, one of the reasons it's been so stagnant is the lack of updates (which are far easier in TWiki). So, that's my next little side project that's computer-related.

Coming up to Christmas!

I imagine that I'll probably have another news post before Christmas day, but one never knows for sure. With that said, we wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday time this year! Now go and indulge yourselves. smile

Until next time...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Friday, December 19, 2003

December 19, 2003

Been a long week?

Although it can't seem like it's already Friday, it is. Much has transpired over the course of the week, as I'll outline below. With now only five and a half days before Christmas, 'crunch time' is on...although I'm done with mine. smile

Will there ever be One-Act Rehearsal?

Well, after my postponing of our first One-Act meeting post-auditions, I thought Wednesday after school would be fine. That actually wasn't such a terrible thing, but after remaining in St. Cloud a little longer than expected (to nobody's fault, really -- see the St. Cloud story), I had to again push back the time of the meeting until 5pm.

Although it got a little crazy that day, I did make it there around 4:30 and was able to get everyone together at 5pm to go over their break homework and all the gory details of what I'd be expecting of them upon their return on January 5. The meeting lasted a little longer than expected, but much was accomplished and hopefully will turn out in the end.

I just hope that our first-day effort (and reschedule) isn't an omen of things to come for the remainder of the production...

Much St. Cloud Happiness!

We finally made our holiday shopping trip to St. Cloud on Tuesday of this week. Fortunately, while we did have snow and wind on Monday and early Tuesday morning, the drive was actually quite pleasant and really not too bad. Also fortunately, we were able to skip the freezing drizzle and sleet which was encountered further south of our driving range which made the roads icy. That's also a Very Good Thing.

Anyway, we made our way to see Brian and Michelle for the first time since their departure to California (over six months ago now). I hadn't seen Brian since they'd left, but had seen Michelle (as she and Minda came down a few days this fall). The plan was to spend the night at their abode in St. Joseph and have Good Times just chillin' and drinking. smile Always a fun time.

We actually had to run first to Minda's house so Beth could get some assistance on a final paper she was writing...and since I had to work until 2pm on Tuesday, that put us in St. Cloud ultimately around 6:15 or so. We met up with Michelle at Applebees and proceeded to have a nice meal and discussion.

Anyway, after this time of food, we made a quick trip to a liquor store for 'refreshments' later and then split up (so Beth and I could do each others' respective last-minute shopping). Of course, by the time we actually started this endeavor, it was nearly 8:30...and getting later. Since Brian had to work until 10, we decided to meet at the mall at his place of employment (a salon) around 9:30 and then hang around there until 10-ish... So, I made my way to Best Buy to pick up my pre-paid and waiting main present for Beth (a ViewSonic 17" flat-panel montior (the exact same model I've got for my computer)) and to also look around at other monitors and goodies. Most interestingly I found were digital camcorders (something I really don't have much use for, but probably could find for). I also saw a nice 19" ViewSonic CRT monitor for a very reasonable price (given the brand, size, and quality) which caught my eye. But that's for another project which I won't mention at this time.

So, after leaving Best Buy, I made my way across the street to the mall where I basically just window shopped and killed time. I talked briefly with Brian around 9:15 and told him I'd be back...and kept perusing. During the next 15 minutes or so I received a call from Beth saying that they were at the salon and waiting, so I made my way back there, only to see them heading in a different direction. I then found out that they were picking up something for me and I couldn't follow them, so I went to the salon to chill out.

Beth and Michelle returned shortly thereafter and we stood around until about 10, then left. We all tag-teamed back to Brian and Michelle's place, where Paul (B. -- who had been at the salon this entire time) was to meet us as well. Some pizza was ordered and a drinking game soon commenced. Needless to say, by the time it was all over, everyone was feeling quite good, and it goes to be said that Good Times were had.

The next morning I'd intended upon leaving a little earlier than we ultimately did, but it worked out just fine this way too. Beth got a haircut from Brian back at the salon, and we left to do the last of our shopping after that. Since by this time I'd bought about an hour and a half more time (rescheduling the One-Act meeting), we got to hit a store or two that we wouldn't have been able to otherwise, and left the St. Cloud area just after 1pm.

We got back home to Morris around 2:45 or so, unloaded, and I then got in the pickup to drive to the One-Act meeting. By the time I got out of town, it was about 3:10, which comfortably puts me in Renville around 4:35 or so. At that time I held the meeting and drove back to Morris, arriving home around 8:30 that evening.

While they got to be a little long (those two days), it was ultimately a fun time and was very good to hang around with the Vato's.

Christmas Time!

Beth and I decided (for simplicity's sake) that it was best to do our 'family' Christmas opening on Wednesday (the night I got home from One-Act stuff)...since it was the only night until we depart for our Christmas travels when neither of us had to work. At that time, we exchanged gifts and had George check out the stuff he got too.

Beth was thrilled with the monitor. Admittedly, it frees up about 25% of her desk space, so it's an all-around good purchase. I was the lucky recipient of a DVD 4-pack of [Jim Henson's] Muppet Movies -- which I've wanted for a long time. I also managed to get the "Drill Doctor" (a drill bit sharpener). Anything that plugs into the wall is good for me. smile And it's actually a very useful tool for taking care of the commonly used bits...without always having to buy new.

George was given his little pack of mice (which he loves), a new 'fishing pole' toy (interaction with Mom and Dad), and a new food/water bowl set. Hopefully the latter will help to some degree with the 'Food Hockey' issue we sometimes have with him. Of course, that cat food just doesn't taste as good unless it's rolled around on the floor a little bit first. wink

Work & Stuff

The remainder of the week has been filled with employment issues and getting the apartment straightened out before we're gone. We're not gone for any length of time (because we've got to take care of George during the week), but it's always nicer to come home to a clean place (at least I think so).

I've managed to add some cool new stuff to my invoicing system on my database, and hope to have the remainder of those changes implemented by early next week. It allows me to do some things and present some more material in a structured and coherent way.

The SPAM problem...

...continues. While it's been drastically reduced (for instance, during our about 24-hour period of being gone earlier this week, I only received about 165 emails, about 130 of which were unwanted), it's still not gone, and so when at Best Buy I decided to pick up Norton AntiSpam 2004 (of which I'd heard favorable reviews). I finally installed it yesterday and have had poor (at best) results with it.

The reason (I believe): I'm using Netscape 7.1 mail as my client. While the program claims to work with any standard POP-enabled mail client, it's 'fully-integrated' into Outlook (and Express) as well as Eudora. Both programs I've despised for a long time. I never have liked Outlook for several reasons, and Eudora's UI (amongst other technical reasons) has always lacked something to me... With that said, 'fully integrated' only means that there are buttons to help train the engine to determine what you think is SPAM, etc.

I don't need that. I need something to flag potential messages so I can set my filters to deal with it as appropriate. This is what NAS is supposed to do. It hasn't. Yet.

I left it go overnight and didn't see any flagged messages (it changes the subject line slightly). I fidgeted with some personal SPAM rules this morning, still no luck. I check the Knowledge Base and support, no mention of any problem like this. I finally check the NAS statistics page.

I FOUND THE PROBLEM!

As it turns out, the program isn't scanning all of my incoming mail. In fact, it's only scanning perhaps (e.g. up to) 1 in 5 incoming messages. Of those it scans, it marks every one clean, regardless of my personal rules or the built-in rules. This is truly bizarre behavior, so I uninstalled/reinstalled the program this afternoon and have still encountered the same behavior.

In the meantime, I've sent a message to the technical support people. I don't have the slightest clue what the problem may be, but I know that if it's not figured out, it's going back. I didn't pay $40 for something that I can just as easily accomplish with some trivial filters (to get the effect I've gotten so far -- which is nothing). So we'll see what happens from here.

Until next time...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Monday, December 15, 2003

December 15, 2003

Snow and Ice?

Well, as it turns out, I cancelled my day activities to head for Renville for our first One-Act meeting post-auditionus (note the latin influence - [word]- us )

Snow and (earlier) a little icy-ness implied a less-than-stellar commute...and with that in mind (since I was only going to be there for a short time), I moved it back to Wednesday.

Access!

In the meantime today, I've been messing with databases! Sounds exciting...or not, depending upon how you look at it. I've been tweaking my personal database for MZ Online-ish stuff...and have made a few nice improvements in the billing/payment system. It's taken some time, but it's more tinkering with how it looks in form-style more than actual tinkering to get it functioning. Hopefully by the end of tonight, I'll have it mostly complete -- which would make me a happy person.

The SPAM goes on...

Sadly, I have to report that I'm still the recipient of SPAM; however, on the much brighter side, I've only received 147 emails today, about 75% of which were unwanted (SPAM). That means that in the course of the last 24 hours, I've only received a little over 100 SPAM messages (as opposed to the 200+ of average days prior to this). The true test will now be over the course of a week...to see what the actual numbers look like.

But, I have to report that it's been much nicer to only get one or two messages every hour...instead of 30-40 during peak times.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Sunday, December 14, 2003

December 14, 2003

Auditions Are Good!

I'm very pleased to report that One-Act Auditions went over quite well. Not the best turnout I've seen, but there were new faces in the crowd, and that's always a Good Thing as far as I'm concerned. It at least shows some interest amongst those not previously involved.

I was also pleased to learn that at least a few of the auditioners for One-Act were inspired by either first-hand involvement or attendance at the Three-Act this fall, which really supports my philosophy that the more people see, the more they'll enjoy participating, perhaps.

This weekend was a time to do some research and thought as to how I should cast the production, and it's always a tough decision when you'll have to turn people away. One of my primary goals as the director is to involve as many people as possible while maintaining control and making it all good. In some instances, it means that some students may only get one chance in their high school careers to be involved with a production like this (touring/competition), but at least there was that chance... It also allows the cast/crew to not always be populated by the same faces and therefore become somewhat stagnant.

I'm all about the experience, even if it's only a one-time thing. That, to me, is more important than repeated experience when it comes to involving the most people over a period of time.

And What About SPAM?

Well, this isn't the Monty Python Repository, but SPAM is definitely in the air. For the last six-nine months, I've been plagued with ungodly amounts of the stuff in my inbox. Quite frankly, it's become such a problem that I literally have to check my email once a day for fear of being completely enveloped in the stuff. On a "Bad Day," my inbox could receive as many as 500 of these messages. On an average, usually 200-300. On a good day, 100. Over the course of 24 hours. You do the math...

Part of the problem which compounds it are the aliases I use @ mzonline.com. This I've done for years as a preliminary filter. Certain things go to certain addresses. They all come to the same inbox, but it's an easy way I can filter my email with my client (by simple pattern-matching of 'to' addresses). But, as the case was for me, I put way too many of these out in the public for too long (over the last seven years), and email-harvesting robots have overtaken them.

I decided to combat the problem. For several months, I've been working on it. Early in the year, I decided to try something I'd read about. Take as many references to email addresses off of webpages as possible. Since I've pretty much moved most of my website material to the TWiki, this task was trivial. For the email addresses remaining, I've added the SPAM padding (which adds STOPSPAM in the address...and requires it to be removed for legitimate mail sending)...which tells those harvestors bad information and therefore saves me time.

The downside: this could take a long time to go into effect. But I let it go anyway...just for grins.

In the meantime I've also moved to (and relied heavily upon) more form-based email sending. It offers me much more control over the delivery address (an 'unknown' alias), layout of email, and other 'standardized' stuff which allows me to filter it more productively and therefore get to it quicker than by scrolling through the other SPAM (e.g. my mail program automatically highlights these messages as HIGH priority and such). It's also relatively easy to implement and still allows me to be contacted initially by anyone without truly revealing an address. These are all things I like.

So, bringing us up to speed, over the last year or so, I've removed most references to stock email addresses on my websites, and instead provided forms to allow people to contact me. All this in the hopes it'll slow down my SPAM received. I'd also looked into (and am still planning on purchasing, probably after the Christmas season) Norton AntiSpam 2004 or some other sort of product.

WRONG!

While I will agree that this tactic works in preventing future harvests, it does very little for those existing. Sadly, since August I've not had a lot of time to really study the mail I got and how it's related to my personal SPAM problem. Until now.

Now, up until about a year ago or so (I want to say it was perhaps even around our wedding time a year and a half ago), I had server-side measures in place for some SPAM. To not go into gory detail but be precise, I was blocking certain domains, aliases, and so forth. That helped to some degree...but then again at the time I wasn't receiving nearly as much junk. My guess is that in the last two years, my incoming junk mail has increased by 1000%. No kidding. Anyway, something with the mailserver was broken (or one of my files was corrupted), and I was losing legitimate email from domains I'd not blocked, etc. It was ugly. So, I'd removed those measures...

Now it was time to re-think the process. Some server-side software had changed in the meantime since this happened, so while doing some research, I decided to re-try the alias blocking. Only thing was...I needed to know which aliases to block, which was going to take some research (but not much since I did get 400 junk messages in a two-day period). It didn't take me long to realize that over 75% of my junk mail was coming to address aliases that I'd not used for over two years!

There were actually a series of five aliases that I'd used when I'd had a more 'traditional' Python website (what's now the Repository), when I had PythonMUX, and when I'd registered at eBay (a legitimate, currently-used (although I use eBay very little any more)) years ago. I was somewhat surprised, but really more shocked that not even my primary alias (which I've used for now seven and a half years) gets as much SPAM as these random aliases.

So, after changing my eBay address to a new alias, it was time to do some /dev/bounce-ing. After taking about 10 minutes to really set up the alias file with the new information with which I was armed, I decided to test it out. My test emails arrived (or didn't) as I'd expected. Good. Now for the real test...overnight.

This morning I awoke and checked my email prior to leaving for work. ONLY 36 messages overnight!!!

It would seem as though the experiment worked! Typically in an overnight period, I'd receive about 150 junk messages, and this morning only received 36, 30 of which were actually unwanted. This is absolutely phenomenal to me. So I went to work, expecting the same result later.

Upon my arrival home from work, I only had 30 messages awaiting, about 27 of which were unwanted. Here again, my daily total thus far is 66. Over the past month, my average Sunday SPAM by this time would be on the order of 260. This is a reduction of approximately 75%! And I never have to see it (or download it)! I am quite tickled by this result and finally can see light at the end of my SPAM-related tunnel.

The real test will be a weekday run. But, if my weekend trial is any sort of indicator, I'm expecting positive results.

In the meantime (since Saturday evening when I worked on all of this stuff), I've removed my personal mail client SPAM filters (ones I'd manually set up to catch some of it) in hopes that I will re-write newer, possibly more efficient filters later. Part of my real complaint about all the SPAM was that my mail client had about 25 individual filters, each with about 10 different rules, to check each message while downloading. That's about 250 pattern-matching checks per message, and the time that takes adds up...

So, sometime tomorrow I'm going to sit down with paper and pen...and make notes of the SPAM that I'm still receiving...and write up some generic filters for what SPAM remains. That should take care of about 90% of what SPAM I used to directly receive...and we'll see about AntiSpam after the first of the year. smile

Score one for Matt, No More for the SPAM.

And if you read all of this, I'll give you my moral of the story:

  1. Be cautious of where you put your email address(es) (and how many times they're out) on webpages.
  2. Use SPAM padding (e.g. user @ companySTOPSPAM.com) where appropriate.
  3. Use form-based initial inquiries for legitimate initial email (assuming you've taken the proper steps to 'secure' your form processing script as best you can).
  4. Never underestimate the power of your mind!
  5. NEVER GIVE UP!
This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Monday, December 8, 2003

December 8, 2003

And it's on to...

...One-Act! After some looking around at various scripts, I've chosen a One-Act play to do this year. It's entitled 'The Diary of Adam and Eve', an adaptation of the work originally written by Mark Twain.

It's got some very interesting possibilities as a production, and I'm looking forward very much to holding Auditions this week (Thursday/Friday) for the show!

Aside From That...

...it's more of the same. Finally some time to relax after the festivities of Thanksgiving and Three-Act. I've had some time to do some freelance web work and also do the maintenance of the One-Act web (e.g. move last year's stuff into its own place). It's also been a suitable time to do some of that Christmas shopping stuff...or at least begin thinking about it.

Now if I could just get rid of 75% of that spam mail which plagues my inbox daily...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Monday, December 1, 2003

December 1, 2003

Another Matt Sabbatical?

Yeah, it's been another long time since I updated this Web News thing -- my apologies for anyone who reads this with regularity.

Main reason I've been unavailable -- Three-Act. On the bright side, it went very well and I will definitely consider the effort a success. Several reasons for this:

  • Ticket sales: Our final ticket sale tally easily doubled any previous show for the last few years. A couple of things we had going for us included a third performance night, mild radio coverage, and the 'community' participation aspect.
  • Friends of the Arts Sales: The FOTA folks have informed me that their net profit on their pizza/pop sales was double this year what it was last. This supports my 'double' numbers for ticket sales and admission (see below).
  • Paid admission numbers: While I don't have exact numbers for this (due to the three levels of tickets sold (adult, student, senior) and two ticket types (student, adult)), my guess is approximate: ~156 students/seniors (over three nights) and ~125 adults (again over three nights). Going by the 'known' number of tickets sold each night, this seems about right for totals.
  • General audience response: The general audience response I was able to hear was positive in nature, and that's obviously a good thing.

It was a hell of a lot of work, but I was ultimately very pleased with the response and outcome. It was also a very excellent learning experience and hopefully will become a more permanent community fixture in the years to come.

Thanksgiving comes...and goes...

Well, another holiday passes...somewhat uneventfully. The general small family get-togethers and good times came about with Thanksgiving as usual...

The Striking of the Three-Act Set

A bittersweet moment came the day we struck the set of the Three-Act. The stage looks quite bare after being filled with set and props for the last (nearly) two months. Striking the set is always a bit of a sentimental time, because it truly marks 'the end' of another production -- one which many people put so much time and effort into making come alive. Yet, it's also a good thing, because it marks the beginning of a new production (coming soon) and also marks the end of all the hard work that went into the last production.

So, as you can see...

...that's pretty much how my November was spent. smile

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Saturday, November 8, 2003

November 8, 2003

Matt Fell Off The Face Of The Planet...

Well, maybe not quite that bad, but I've definitely been busy. Sadly, too busy to take any time to write. frown

I am still alive and kickin', though...and I'll bring everyone up to speed here...

And There Will Be A Show!

The production process for Gaslight Girl has taken up most of my time in the last month and something. I've kept very busy between Morris and Renville (several days each week at each location) throughout the process...so my weekly commuting time is about 6 hours.

On the plus side, the show is set to go off beginning November 20, which is now less than two weeks away. Sadly, I'd have to say that I will probably not be adding many more news posts during this time, because I'm really busy with things now...as it's all coming together.

We've managed to take a concept and turn it into (at least a pseudo-) reality. Things have progressed nicely, and about at the rate I would expect. I've fortunately had a very great cast to work with...a lot of dedicated people involved...many of whom have also stuck around to help in other production aspects, which makes my job not only easier, but far less stressful...and just generally makes the whole thing come together that much faster.

At The Salt Mine...

Subway's still been on my agenda, although not nearly to the extent it normally is. I've been out of town many days, so my time there is quite limited, but it still manages to take up several hours per week of time...

The Database

The Enestvedt Seeds Database system has progressed through the ordering process, at least in beta (usable form). There are still many features and enhancements I'd like to make, but for the time being, the time I have to work on it forces me to work on the necessities and fixes. This I actually consider a Good Thing.

Wood Projects!

I've managed to get a slight start on my major wood projects (which I intended to start last summer).

So far, I've managed to plane about half of the wood (I believe) I'll need for my entertainment center/matching bookshelves project. This will be done in oak, and given the wood I've planed thus far should be quite a looker when it's done.

I've also managed to plane enough wood for my piano bench, which will be done in walnut. Walnut's the closest color match to our piano (which is without a bench, hence the project) without going for some really exotic stuff (like cherry) which I'd have to buy. Keep in mind that the wood I'm using for these projects is home-grown, and the availability of cherry and such just is non-existant. I avoid buying wood retail at all costs if possible.

Anyway, that's about all for now...it's more or less the same old stuff, except I spend a lot less time at the computer...and when I'm actually there, I check email and go back to other things. smile

Until next time...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Saturday, September 20, 2003

September 20, 2003

Not Quite As Long...

...since the last update. I'm getting better at it. smile

Not a whole lot new since the last post. Still occasionally working on the database bit for Enestvedt's. It's slow progress, mostly because I cannot dedicate much time to the project during this next week or so.

But, in other news that's pseudo-related, I have managed to get the Enestvedt Seeds domain up. It is live, but there's not yet any content there (see Enestvedt Seeds) aside from the stock page I'm given to start an account. The important thing about the domain name is mostly on the email front right now. I've set up a few redirects for email addresses @enestvedtseeds so it goes to the right people, but mostly so that they can start using various addresses at their own domain (and not through their office ISP).

I've 'hired' my friend Kim (hi, Kim! smile ) to do some of the graphic design work for the upcoming website...mostly in logo and 'image' (overall look) creation. This isn't just for the website, though...she'll also be helping me come up with document designs and such for their entire company...which is a definite positive thing (currently each document is pretty much different in some way -- this will tie things together much better).

More About Gaslight Girl...

Effective tonight, I've finished all the major design work for Gaslight Girl -- which was a major undertaking. I had previously drawn up some brief plans for scene design, but hadn't done anything with them. As auditions are coming up in 9 days, I need to get the design stuff done so I can focus on actually beginning construction (and also have some construction drawings available) on the set and its requirements. Currently...for 'crazy' stuff involved with the scene design...is included a bench-fountain piece (water), multiple working gaslights (electrical), and a complete 'house' structure with backlit windows. As far as actual set pieces go, there aren't all that many (fortunately there are three pieces which get reused multiple times), but there are a few large projects which will not be simple, either.

It should be a challenge, and I like that. It should also look very cool...and that will be very important as well.

I've also put together 'the bible' for the show. Previous One-Act students of mine know very well what the bible is -- my large (3") three-ring binder which is used to keep all pertinent information about the show on hand. As many have known from the past, it starts out small...but by the time of show completion, it's nearly full. smile But anyway, I started putting it together with what I've currently got...mostly because I've got a lot of design things which were getting tough to keep straight. So, it's a start...and it really means that the show will be starting soon.

I'm quite excited about it, but also quite apprehensively nervous about auditions. I haven't any sort of clue what sort of crowd to expect...if any crowd at all. I'm planning on doing some 'recruiting' this week sometime...mostly by sending out a few emails to key people I'd like to have involved. And we'll go from there.

But until then...or until more news comes along...


This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

September 16, 2003

My, My, How Time Flies!

Well, here we are again, another week and something since the last news post. It's my fault...but life has again been quite busy. I will try to be better about posting more here as it's necessary.

Seed Sales and Such

I've finally managed to deliver all of the hardware and basic software necessary for the Enestvedt Seeds operation to be computerized. This project took on the order of a month to complete, and so far has been relatively well-received. Keep in mind that they've been doing business in the office completely un-digital for the last 103 years (no kidding), so change is interesting. But things are going well, they have a very nice small network and print system, and will soon have a much less paper-oriented world.

While the hardware and such is now complete, it leaves the future releases of their database application to come. Currently I've been fighting (in my spare time) to develop an order entry/processing system to enhance the first release of their application which centers around customer contacts and product management. The goal of this next release is to have a basic order system in place. Future releases will include bugfixes and enhancements to exisiting features as well as payment processing and delivery adjustments (or inventory modification). It's a pretty large system and should promise to be cool in the end.

Work As Usual

As is normal, the old Salt Mine has been calling my name...which is good for the pocketbook but not necessarily for free time. smile Between work and the stuff above, I've been kept busy enough to not have much time for focusing on the production below.

Gaslight Girl

I have had a little time to work on the show, although not a whole lot (or as much as I'd like to say). I have managed to submit royalty applications and will hopefully tomorrow morning order the scripts (or at least the first batch) as necessary for production. One cool thing that I have done is taken the stock RCW Theatre Groundplan that I drew up (in a CAD-like piece of software) a few years ago and created a set design page (essentially a stock page on which I can draw pictures of scenery, etc.). Now, given my existing perspective grid drawing (which I used in a theatre set design class several years ago), this is pretty much (and more or less) completely to scale (not only in perspective, but also in size (from accurate measurements from the existing groundplan). I have a good idea in my head what the scenes will look like, but would like to have more 'professional' looking items available for production display.

Aside from this stuff, not much else has changed...and (like I've said many times before) I hope to have more time to post new happenings here...as they happen.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Sunday, September 7, 2003

September 7, 2003

Yikes, it's...SEPTEMBER?

Okay, okay...so a week into September I finally get around to writing another news post. Ah well, my apologies.

Business...or BUSY-ness...

Things have been quite busy (still)...amongst other things, I've managed to:
  • Deliver the big computer I just built for Enestvedt Seeds,
  • Complete a beta version of their database system (enough for them to enter customer, employee, and product data),
  • Get and study a copy of the piano score for Gaslight Girl,
  • Work many hours at the salt mine,
  • And many other things I've probably forgotten. smile

Anyway, I also managed to make some minor verbiage changes to the MZ Online root site...mostly in trimming some of the fat. There's much work left to be done, but it's a start.

Until next time, though...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/25/07

Saturday, August 30, 2003

August 30, 2003

More Play Stuff

As expected, the perusal score for the show arrived on Thursday...so I've been looking at that off and on throughout the last few days. I also managed to pretty much "finish" the basic site this afternoon now...getting all the basic informatin straightened out and ready to go.

The community ed brochure should be going out this next week sometime...and included is a large one-page ad for the show and auditions. Included is a prominent link to the show website for more information...so it was important to get complete by today. Now it's time to sit...and wait (and do more set designing aside from sketches).

Access!

More database chugging for me in other spare time. I've managed to create a small monster. It's definitely qualifying as 'beast' material. In fact, it's gotten so inter-mingled that I had to stop and draw things out on paper to keep myself oriented. But, it's been slow but steady progress...and that's a Good Thing. Especially if I need to have a basic (if somewhat crippled) version in operation by Wednesday.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

August 27, 2003

Yikes, almost a week...

...since my last news posting. Well, as I think I mentioned in every other news post this month, things have been busy...and this isn't stopping (at least for the next several days).

I will try harder to get more stuff up here in the form of news postings...if for nothing else but to let me ramble...

Three-Act Play!

The last week has been quite exciting in regards to the Three-Act Play this fall. I believe last week I'd mentioned that I did select a show to produce, but didn't have much in the way of definitive information. Anyway, to bring us up to speed, here's what's been settled since then:

  • Production Dates: Thursday-Saturday, November 20-22, 2003
  • Production Times: 7:30PM each night
  • Audition Dates: Monday, September 29 (3:30-5PM, 7-9PM), Thursday, October 2 (3:30-5PM), and Friday, October 3 (3:30-5PM, 7-9PM).
  • Audition Locations: Varied, 3:30-5 Auditions are held in the band room; 7-9 will be in the auditorium.
  • Admission: $5/adults, $4/students & seniors

I've also managed to (in the last week) get the better part of the Three-Act Website up and running (there will be more additions in the next week), sketch up some scene designs for the production, and write a synopsis/flyer/brochure to be mailed out to members of the communities in the area. So, needless to say...all that on top of my regular day job...and I've been busy... smile

I've got someone working on a Pianist for the show, so I don't have to directly worry about finding that...and I should have a perusal score for the show here by the end of the week.

Another Computer Build

I don't recall if I've mentioned this, but I'm now doing another computer build...this time for a business client. It will be used primarily as their data warehousing/server unit. Okay, well, data warehousing is a little bit exaggerated, but it is the server on which their customer/order/inventory database will be kept. So it's a serious build.

In addition to that, I purchased some parts for a satellite machine (to be placed elsewhere in the office) which will remotely query/modify the database. Mostly just peripherals at the time, since they've purchased an older machine from someone else to be the 'terminal'. I still have yet to see how much upgrading this machine will need in order to do what they need...but...

Oh, did I mention database? Yeah, guess I did. Well, I'm also designing and building their database system. The primary goal (to get done first) is to maintain accurate records of orders versus inventory of product. In the past, they've had issues (on paper) of keeping track of accurate inventory levels...and oversold product.

I have set up a basic inventory control system for them...so at least they know what they've got to start with. The second goal was to accurately track orders placed, customer information, and revenue receipts. So far out of that, I've set up the basic customer information infrastructure, but not the ordering and revenue parts. There are a lot of little bits to include...and sometimes I have to sleep over it to get my head around what I'm trying to do. But, so far it's been a good journey...

Until next time...

That's pretty much what I know for the time being. I've spent a lot of time on a few projects this last week...so I've been pretty focused on just a few items...and left the news updates for 'another time'...

We'll see what happens in the next few days. smile

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Thursday, August 21, 2003

August 21, 2003

Computer Parts!

I received the bulk of the internal parts (including case) of my latest computer build -- a big one. This is a beast of a machine going together, and it's kinda exciting to do another one. smile Too bad it's not mine!

More and More Work!

I've been working at my normal day job of course...and have been quite busy there the last few weeks...which doesn't seem to be changing much...at least for the next week or so.

In addition to that, I've been slowly but surely setting up the Three-Act Play website for public release around the 1st of September. This is the reference people wanting to be involved with the production will have to check out. It's also been time for me to work on getting some things figured out for the show. My latest quest has been to figure out the minor pyrotechnics necessary. It's just a little bit of smoke, but needs to be done properly and safely...so it's required some research and shopping.

New Address!

This morning, just as I was about to leave for work, I got the most random call, from the 'technical folk' at my telco/ISP's parent company (a larger telco about 12 miles from here).

This guy tells me that I need to change my IP address, subnet mask, and gateway. Of course, I take this opportunity to complain a bit (in hopes of finding out exactly what's going on and why) about the service in the last few days. I've noticed very weird routing problems (only temporary in nature) at random intervals. Sometimes it's only for 20-30 seconds, other times several minutes.

Last night was particularly bad. I found myself not able to really do anything for periods of time (several minutes in nature)...consistently. So, I investigated. I found that I was unable to obtain routes out (beyond my local network). In other words, it was my ISP's problem. DNS queries worked (if I'd had them cached locally)...but if my DNS server had to do a lookup, it was hit/miss (depending upon the routing issue).

So, I ruled out DNS problems and pinned it on bad routing somewhere. I figured I'd give it another night (e.g. tonight) and call them on Friday morning (tomorrow) if it continued.

Anyway, back to the story. He then informed me that they're installing new routers and upgrading/replacing the older ones. I was one of the lucky folk to have to move. Talking 'geek' with him some more, I found out that they've been experiencing CPU load averages of 80%+ (consistently) on a few of their routers, so they're making some changes.

What I took away from this was:

  1. They're doing some load balancing (in regards to their routing),
  2. In the last week or so, but namely the last few days, some of their routers have been overwhelmed and begin to drop packets (my hit/miss issues over the last few days), and
  3. My guess is this is (more or less) directly related to all the latest worms out there.

Anyway, this evening (after doing some upgrades/patching on my servers), I changed my IP address as appropriate and so far...everything has been back to normal. My big question now (one which I forgot to ask earlier) is whether or not I'll still have a static IP address. My inkling is not, because there's no obvious link between my internal (assigned by ISP) IP address, and the public address that it resolves to. So we shall see what happens...

Until next time...


This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Saturday, August 16, 2003

August 16, 2003

More...of the...same.

Not much has been happening around here, minus the perpetual business of life.

But, I have selected a finalist for production as RCW Three-Act this fall. A musical melodrama. Having read the script and perusing the lyrics (I haven't yet ordered a perusal copy of the piano score), it meets my basic requirements:

  1. Funny,
  2. Musical, but not music on each page (e.g. some roles don't require singing),
  3. Involves many people (19 individual roles, plus 'chorus' and such)

Unless the score doesn't work out for some reason, this will most likely be the production I choose to present.

The main task at hand right now is to come up with a generic rehearsal plan and choose show dates. This will give me a tentative 'start date' for rehearsals...as well as requirements for audition times/dates. The Community Education brochure will be going out around September 1, so my personal inkling is to start somewhere around October 1...giving us somewhere in the vicinity of six weekd rehearsals prior to a mid-late November (before Thanksgiving) production date.

In Other News...

Things are pretty quiet. It's been quite hot and dry over the last week...and that looks to remain the same. Last few days have been in the upper 90's. Yesterday topped the 100 degree mark. Of course, the humidity was low...so that helped. But, as it turned out, the day got worse as it cooled down...when the humidity levels rose.

Ah well...it could be worse, I guess.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

August 12, 2003

Long time, no see...

Yeah, I know I've been gone for some time away from here. But, things have been busy...

The Hills Are Alive...

...with The Sound of Music! We went to this production at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre on Sunday evening (the 10th). It was an excellent (and different than I'd expected) production of a well-known movie/story. All around I would have to give it high marks and would recommend seeing it done on stage at some point in time.

In addition to that, I've just been busy with the Subway scene...and awaiting preview scripts for productions. All that I've ordered have now arrived (the last of them arrived this afternoon). So, I'll be busy working on previewing scripts and hopefully selecting a show.

As a final note...

...I've noticed serious 'attacks' heading for port 135 (the Microsoft RPC port) lately. Of course, this activity is filtered out by the firewall, but there's on average one request every 5 minutes hitting my network, which is much more activity 'from the outside' than normal. Based upon a quick overlook at the Internet Storm Center (a very good resource for port security), this is not just happening to me.

What I particularly find disturbing about my particular log files is that over half of these requests are coming from the same class B network that I'm on...and when doing random reverse DNS lookups (name from IP address) on these IP addresses, I find that many of them are from the same upstream provider (e.g. my ISP's parent company -- a local telco) or from their upstream provider. This means that this has hit somewhat locally...and is not 'someone else's problem'...

Today's Lesson: Make sure to keep your systems at least relatively up to date. Not necessarily installing patches the minute they come out, but for sure within a week, especially for major issues like this.

It is times like this when I'm glad I'm not in charge of Windows servers. razz (stick out tongue)

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Thursday, August 7, 2003

August 7, 2003

Fair Days

We made a quick trip to the Stevens County Fair tonight after work. Always a good (and free, which makes it all the better) time. Managed to pick up a cool donut-like frisbee from our phone company...and saw lots of random stuff.

Making the sheep 'baa' is always a goal of mine as well...and here again, I was successful. smile

We also saw several very neat pictures in the 4-H exhibits. I don't care so much for the baking/sewing/plants stuff, but I always like looking through the photographs and furniture.

Selecting a show...

I placed another order for perusal scripts today...another five of them. This makes the number I need to go through now 10. That is, when they arrive. So, we'll see what happens with that. I also need to start seriously looking at performance dates and rehearsal schedules as well...and hopefully get a game plan in place by September 1.

Aside from that...

...it's more...of the same...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

August 5, 2003

And There Was...THREE-ACT!

Yes, it's official! Matt was appointed RCW Three-Act director officially today. This is cool news, and I was quite stoked to hear about the appointment.

I had been on the 'list' (meaning they were waiting to hire a new art teacher first) and had assumed that I would probably get the job, but wasn't sure. So, I'm pretty excited about it all...and have some neat and exciting things I'd like to do in this larger production. That's about all that's new today...and I should probably get back to working on narrowing down a production to do...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Monday, August 4, 2003

August 4, 2003

Wedding Bells Have Rung...

Well, we returned yesterday afternoon from our trip to the cities. Overall, it was a fun time. smile We left on Friday morning and picked up Minda on our way to Ian's house in North Minneapolis. Although Ian lives near "the ghetto" (as reported by him), his neighborhood seemed to be decent enough, although urban (and therefore not something I particularly care for). Anyway, it was a lot of driving over the weekend in total, but we married off Ian, and all was good. smile

In Other News...

Not much has changed, minus the fact that Big G will be on vacation for the next two weeks or so...which means that I get to be the #1. And that's about it...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Thursday, July 31, 2003

July 31, 2003

And Here We Are...

...the end of July... In a word, YiKeS! Much time has passed, and only a little bit of summer remains. frown I guess all good things must eventually come to an end, though...

Random Caller

I arrived home from work last night to discover a series of 'missed calls' (and ignored answering machine). This made me curious, because someone was really trying to get in contact, but wouldn't leave a message. Lo and behold, the caller did call back again...and I found out (quickly) that it was none other than the famous Bob Helwig!

Now, for those of you who don't know, Bob was my three-act director and English teacher in high school. I hadn't spoken with him for over a year and a half...and haven't seen him in person for more on the order of four years. Regardless, he had a few quick computer-related questions for me...and just wanted to shoot the breeze...and all was good. They've 'settled in' since their big series of moves (which was about to begin when I had last spoken with him) and are happily residing about an hour and a half West-Southwest of here.

Upcoming Wedding

If only my work schedule (and other stuff going on) weren't enough to keep me away from the keyboard a bit, we've got Ian's (see GeorgePictures) wedding coming up this weekend. This proves to be an exciting event, but will take us to the Twin Cities area for a while...so I don't know exactly when I might have another news post. Furthermore, I will be resuming the duties of Temporary General Manager at Subway for a while (beginning August 6th)...so my availability may be sporadic during this time.

But anyway, until next time...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Sunday, July 27, 2003

July 27, 2003

And We Were In Canada!

Yes, it's happened! The Trip To Canada pictures from Matt & Brian's 1999 adventure are back online! Also in a new format, the TWiki!

Some minor format changes have taken place (e.g. for those who might remember), mostly in the separation of the timeline from the main page. This was done to crop out some of the length (and put that content in a different place)...and also give me the opportunity to create two separate pages (one of the text, the other of the complete pictorial history) of similar content and link them together.

There may be some other minor changes (mostly in linking pages together), but the content in general is done. Woohoo!

Not Much Else...

Been kinda quiet (yet busy, it seems) over the last few days. I finished the computer build and sent that out Friday evening, so that's what took up most of my time (aside from work) Thursday/Friday.

But aside from that... smile Until next time...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

July 23, 2003

And George's Pictures Were...Thumbnailed?

Yes, it's correct -- I have finally made it through the many, many pictures of our little demon cat. smile Make sure to check out the new version of GeorgePictures now that the changes have been made. I've also 'removed' the previous revisions and 'started clean' for that page for clarity in the future.

Aside from that, I did some more apartment painting this afternoon...and that's about it. smile More to come tomorrow, perhaps.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

July 22, 2003

Picture Update...

Well, I've finally started working on converting GeorgePictures? to the new thumbnail preview mode (as the rest of the MattPictures are). It's a pseudo-slow process, but it's necessary. We're getting somewhere...

Sadly, there's not much more to say today. razz (stick out tongue)

Fixed The Time!

After getting 'bored' and remembering this particular project (mentioned in NewsJuly1503 if I recall), I decided to tinker with Perl and the Date::Handler -> LocalTimePlugin. As it came 'stock', it didn't format the time in a way that I liked...

Changing this was somewhat complex (only in locating the right places to fix) but yet strikingly simple. man date and man strftime came in very helpful for changing 'variables' (as they were). That made the backend stuff do what I wanted (e.g. print out Jul instead of July, Aug instead of August, Tue instead of Tuesday, etc.). Making the frontend (the Plugin) do what I wanted was even simpler -- just a matter of changing the order of appearance and removing some commas, etc.

But anyway, I've also set some preferences for the plugin, so it automatically reverts to US/Central, so %LOCALTIME% will produce this: Monday, 20 August 2007, 21:43:42 (US/Central) and %LOCALTIME{US/Pacific}% will produce this: Monday, 20 August 2007, 19:43:42 (US/Pacific)

Go Me!

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Monday, July 21, 2003

July 21, 2003

Reunion Time?

Well, the magical 5-year has come and gone...and was actually a pretty decent time. I was somewhat hesitant as to what was going on/what would happen/etc., but the whole event in general (and the Sacred Heart Street Dance that evening) was a really decent time. Got to see many people (and talk to many) that I haven't seen for, well...five years. It was decent.

Return to Tools!

After being on a hiatus for some time, most of my tools have again returned to their rightful location -- here at home. I'd taken them to my parents' to help with the building of the deck project, most of which is complete (minus railings and benches). My table saw is still out there...and the only other tools I'll need to bring on return trips can fit in my tool belt...so I figured it good to bring them back. This makes me happy, as I can now again do things here at home.

Apologies

This is a semi-rant type of thing, just to warn everyone. I've been putting off posting this via this medium for over a month, but I now pose the question:

What's so difficult about apologizing?

You know, sometimes people do weird and random things without thinking. And sometimes they do things in a pre-meditated kind of way. Irregardless, sometimes an apology is necessary. This is about a situation I won't get in to detail on this news system, but some who may read this know what it's in referral to. To make a long story short, I have (and others near me) been (directly, but in an indirect way) 'blamed' for a situation which has arisen. Unbeknownst to the 'blamer' (who I might add was not in the right place to make such accusations due to complete lack of tact, consideration, and information), these accusations have only made the original problem worse.

One of my biggest pet peeves is an improperly informed accusation. People, get your facts straight. Do your research. As my good friend Bob Helwig used to say (a phrase I've since adopted), 'if you can't do it right, don't do it at all.' My personal thought is along the lines of: "Then you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

People sometimes need to get off their stubborn asses and make the effort to correct their wrongs. In this case, a simple set of apologies would more than suffice. People also need to realize that sometimes they're going to be wrong, suck it up, deal with the repercussions, and move on.

Until that time, I have no intentions of initiating contact with said party. I will deal with contact as initiated by the other party day by day. Some may think less of me due to this, some may call me no better than the accusing party, and some may empathize; however, it is my decision...and that is how it shall be. I don't mean to hold any sort of grudge; I try my best to not do such things. I also don't consider this quite a 'grudge' situation. I can forgive and forget, but the latter is going to be much more difficult than the former...at least for sure until some sort of apology is obtained.

I truly hope you read this and it makes you think about your (indirect) actions -- not just for the situation above, but for any situation you (as an audience) may have gotten yourselves in to. Life is too short to dick around with grudges and false accusations -- take responsibility for your actions. That's all I ask.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

July 16, 2003

Pictures...and MORE Pictures...

I spent some time this evening going through a big paper grocery bag of pictures...several hundred in all. Needless to say, I need [another] photo album. :P

It was interesting to see some of the images that I don't have online in any form...and of course good to see many of the images that are already here. smile Perhaps I will get some time eventually to sort through them in more detail and perhaps even scan some... smile But we'll see about that.

Aside from this, not much new today...aside from the beginnings of the computer build I'm working on. All that's left to be delivered of that is the motherboard and CPU...at which point in time I can work on the install and such.

But in the meantime...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

July 15, 2003

Random Quotes!

After browsing through the TWiki:Plugins web a week ago or so, I decided to install and implement a few new ones of interest.

The first one was the RandomQuotePlugin which, as the name implies, gives out random quotes on page loads. This could be extremely interesting...and I thought it was cool...so installed it is. smile I expect to play with it some on my personal home network first and then implement it here. It's already installed at both locations, so I just need to hook it up in the right places where I want it displayed, like below:

%RANDOMQUOTE{web="Main"}%

Cool, huh? smile

(More) Local Time

One of the plugins available for TWiki is the LocalCityTimePlugin -- a cool feature that allows you to display the time in any given timezone in the world (as specified by a standard system (City/Country)). I have this plugin installed; however, it's not something I like to use. Mostly due to the fact that the plugin makes an online query (to a remote site) to get the time back. While it doesn't take forever, it does take some time...and is somewhat of a PITA (Pain In The Ass).

Again, I was browsing through the Plugins web a while back and found a new variant of this plugin called LocalTimePlugin. This uses the same syntax for queries, with the major difference in how it resolves time. It's done locally. This is a major improvement over the other form, and will allow me to view things in the correct timezone, at least. For instance, I live in CST. The mzonline.com machine is in PST (a two-hour difference). While this isn't a big deal, it's again a PITA for me (and others in the region who know me and view this site) For consistency purposes, I'd just like to leave every reference to time in Central/US format.

For instance, the SERVERTIME variable outputs this: 20 Aug 2007 - 19:40 (which is Pacific/US time)

I now am able to easily use LOCALTIME{US/Central} to get this: Monday, 20 August 2007, 21:40:31 (US/Central)

This was a bit trickier to install, as it requires another CPAN module to be installed (Perl modules for doing advanced things). I've had to install a few of them before, mostly to get the CalendarPlugin to work. But, it's done and (as you can see) it does work.

However, before I plan on using this at any decent length, I'm going to probably rewrite it a little bit to format in a way more like SERVERTIME, as I prefer that format to the (longer) format this outputs by default.

Extra Space & Backups...

After installing the CPAN module Date::Handler (required for the time thing above), I realized that I hadn't removed the other files from the previous CPAN modules I'd untarred. After installation, these files can be removed because the important stuff is resident in other locations. The only real benefit to leaving them around is in the event of corruption or reinstallation.

Anyway, after removing these no longer necessary files, I managed to clear up around 5.5MB of extra stuff. Not much, but enough to make me happy. smile

I also managed to get a decent backup system in place. After some looking around, I found a decent backup utility that does what I need it to do -- create backups that I can copy to CD.

While the backup program can automatically write files to CD-R[W], I'd (personally) rather have it create the files (set at the maximum size for my discs) and then allow me to put them on CD manually...mostly to prevent the backup from stalling in mid-backup to make me change discs. Since I'm running these automated backups in the middle of the night, I don't want to wake up to a half-complete backup.

So, this makes me feel better...especially since I can 'go back' to something reliable in the event all hell breaks loose. I've got (personal machine and server) backups set to go bimonthly. The server backups go bimonthly already (as set up with dump), and the /home directory goes weekly. But, these backups are now combined and written to CD as necessary in this system (so it's a backup of a backup...then written to CD). The personal machine files are done bimonthly as well, giving me at least a reasonable backup. I don't do enough (minus email) to justify weekly or daily, but figure more than once a month is probably necessary.

Ultimately, I'd like to get these backups written to tape (as it can hold a lot more than CD). However, even though I found the mounting rails for the old tape drive, I realized this afternoon that I need a bigger power supply in my personal machine in order to use it. So, it'll have to still be on CD until I order a new power supply (which isn't a big priority at the moment).


So, you win some...and you lose some... But that's alright. It keeps the news coming, I guess. smile

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Monday, July 14, 2003

July 14, 2003

Let PDFs Reign!

I ran across two very interesting links today, the first of which makes me very excited! It's a program called CutePDF, and (the basic version, which is free) creates PDF files from anything printable. It works wonderfully, and much better than my previous form of creating PDFs. I was using a free service which, although worked, created hugely bloated files (e.g. a 31K original file came back as a 116K PDF). This worked, but I didn't like it. However, not ever having a better (free) option, I just dealt with it.

That's no longer the case. CutePDF created a 30K file from the same 31K original mentioned above. So this is a Good Thing. smile And better yet, it's FREE! Get it Here!

A Movie...in ASCII?

I was a little curious myself when I ran across this link today, but I found it very interesting at the same time. It's a scene from one of The Matrix movies that some random guy did in ASCII...and animated it. It's really neat, and definitely took some time to get done right.

Two warnings, though. First off, it's got some annoying background music (in form of Shockwave). I don't like webpage music. I admit, I had it also once...but quickly grew out of that phase. That was several years ago. Secondly, it's a hefty download (about 4.5MB), but it's definitely something you should see. smile Check it out here!

Aside from that, not much has been going on today. Making some small progress towards getting the Trip to Canada site moved, but that's about it.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Saturday, July 12, 2003

July 12, 2003

Canada Revisited!

After much time contemplating this move, I've decided to again re-add the Canada trip pictures. They've been on a hiatus for at least three years...and it's time to bring them back. This won't happen in the immediate future; I'm planning on merging the existing 'Canada' website into my personal Web here. But, it should happen sometime in the not-too-distant future.

In Other News...

Not too much has been happening...been busy with work and such. Prairie Pioneer Days happens to be this weekend (the big Morris annual summer festival)...so there's stuff going on regarding that.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

July 9, 2003

Let Pictures Be Shown!

Okay, the project is nearly complete. After doing the Perl stuff as mentioned in the last news post, I found and implemented a relatively easy thumbnail program which took all the existing images and did what it needed to do.

With that said and done, it was now time to hook all the pieces together, which is almost complete. With the exception of GeorgePictures? (of which there are around 100), all of the existing pages have been updated with the new look (thumbnail previews). The GeorgePictures? page will be completed at some point in time, yet to be determined. The process is somewhat slow, but it's made substantially easier due to TWiki.

In addition to this, I've also changed the master template for Matt's Home on the Web. The master table (on which the page is displayed) has been changed from 800 pixels (forced width) to 100% (relative width). The header and footer portions of the pages were like this before, but not the content portion.

I decided to do this mainly after implementing the picture thumbnails. There was too much wasted real estate with the newer layout, and it made sense to make this change at the same time. What this essentially means is that this site will now be friendly for 800x600 resolutions, with some potentially strange text wrapping in places. 640x480 resolutions are still not recommended and will experience horizontal scroll (due to image sizes), but everything else should look at least a little better.

That's all for now. Until next time...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Monday, July 7, 2003

July 7, 2003

New Stuff!

Well, after a somewhat uneventful Sunday (after work, that is)...I've come back on Monday (today) to do some stuff. Of course it's website-related. smile

This evening I modified/wrote a Perl script to display the pictures from MattPictures within a TWiki-style page. It's not actually a TWiki page, but it does look like one and functions just like it.

For some time I've wanted to do this (not just have the image load in a blank page...which is really boring). Now I can!

Anyway, I found a 'suite' of picture utilities from a free site online. I give the guy credit for his work (in the script code itself and in general) -- it's pretty decent. However, it's like 200K (a lot) of code, 5K of which I actually need. Not only that, but I wanted it configured just a little differently than he had written.

So, I took the axe to the bulk of his code, only using the pieces absolutely necessary to get the job done. With my additions and such (even comments at the beginning of the file), it's only about 4.5K. Much better in the land of Matt. Also, I know it's 'more secure' and doesn't have any additional 'side effects' I don't know about...as in, say a set of 10 files adding up to over 150K. To be frank, there was a lot of crap I had no use for...and I prefer the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. Less things to go wrong then. smile

I don't plan on putting this into effect, but I do have the functionality of the referral checking (as I use for the picture script for the Python website) available in the file for easy access should I decide to do that for some reason. I give people the benefit of the doubt. cool!

I've configured the template HTML file and done the basic setup for the script, and plan to tackle the change on all the picture pages tomorrow. It'll take some configuring with a few new variables I'll have to add, etc...but it's on its way.

In addition to this, I'm planning on also adding 'thumbnails' to each picture page...to aid in the viewing. However, I have to find a decent thumbnail creator first...and that's a project I haven't really thought about much yet. smile

So, these changes might not go into effect until I have both of these things taken care of.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Saturday, July 5, 2003

July 5, 2003

New Pictures!

Well, as 'promised', I have added some storm pictures to the site. They're of not the greatest quality, but I took them through the windows of my pickup, which weren't the cleanest...and also had some glare. But, they're on the StormPictures? page if you're curious.

I also took some time to add a few new GeorgePictures? to the collection. This was mostly because I was adding other pictures to the set...so while I was at it... smile

New Organization For Pictures!

I also thought it now a good time to work on some restructuring of the image locations (for the picture pages). I was previously using the stock TWiki path for keeping images, and to be quite honest, it was just plain confusing. With my now-existant experience with variables in TWiki...and the customization part of that...it was much easier to make a better location (which made more sense to me) for these to call home.

That said, this change has taken place. So, if you're bored or something...give the MattPictures pages a test-drive and make sure I got them all right. If an image doesn't load, send me an email about it. They should all work, (as I copied/pasted the new variable in place) but you never know.

More Pictures Soon!

I've been on this photographic kick lately...in other words, I've been itching to get some pictures taken that I haven't yet gotten to. So, hopefully within the next few months I'll have done that...and also reindexed the existing images here...so that the MattPictures page can be more complete.

But as always, before I get to that, I have to finish some other things on my plate... Until then... smile

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

Friday, July 4, 2003

July 4, 2003

Happy Birthday!

A Happy 4th of July to you all, in the case you happen to be reading this. smile

Python Transition Complete

I just finished the move to the TWiki for my Monty Python Repository. Be sure to check it out NOW! I did a real dry run of it myself, and everything looks like it should be just fine. But of course, things are never that predictable. smile But at least it's a project knocked off the list.

I've placed the appropriate redirects in place on the site, which automatically brings people to the new location, even if they use old bookmarks. I've still got on the order of 10-15 skits to place on the site (of my own collection)...and then I'll look at adding more from other locations online.

The ultimate goal of the site is to become a 'repository' for sketch and movie transcripts/screenplays.

One HELL Of A Storm...

Well, two nights ago (Tuesday, the 1st) we had quite a storm come through after 10pm. Produced a significant rainfall for a short period of time...and also a pretty good lightning show. BUT, nothing would compare to what we experienced last night!

We watched a movie late last night, which was over around 11:30. Beth was asleep by that time ( smile ), so after I got things put away I made one last check of the weather situation (thanks to My-Cast) before hitting the sack, mostly as I'd heard earlier it could get stormy.

This check showed me that indeed, there was a storm heading directly for us, and based upon the radar loop movement, I figured that within an hour and a half, we'd be getting that. It also, I should add, had one large red center...also which was heading directly for us. While this concerned me some, I wasn't going to stay up until it arrived, so I went to bed.

Approximately 12:30 I was woken by a lightning strike/thunder clap. I proceeded to get up to check on everything, which wasn't a problem. Of course, then knowing this big ass storm was in the neighborhood, I stayed up. Needless to say, I'm glad I did...

About five minutes later, the front began to move through. This I knew from the tell-tale sign of a heavier breeze -- a much cooler one at that. I should again state that there was a buttload of lightning at this time. Lighning fascinates me, and I always like watching it (from as safe a distance possible, that is). Anyway, after a minute or two of the front business, the wind got much stronger. And it didn't stop there. This was the point in time I put some clothes on, just because I didn't want to be running around mostly naked (nor did anyone else in the neighborhood want me to be doing that). This is also the time when Beth began to panic a little bit (and rightfully so).

I decided it necessary to turn on the police scanner at this time, only to find out that it was not a good situation. Several 'cloud patterns' had been showing up as reported by officers, and these were (more or less) heading right for us.

I guess at this time I should explain something. Matt doesn't like wind. At all. With that said, I need to clarify some things. My definition of 'wind' is anything forceful (e.g. not breezes, winds less than, say 25-30mph). Wind freaks me out. Seriously.

So, I kept an eye to the sky (what little I could see) and kept a cautious ear out. I decided to take a peek out in the hallway, as I'd heard some noise out there. The folks from across the hall were looking out the doors and such. So I went back in to our apartment. This is when the power started to get, for lack of a better term, erratic. For some time it couldn't decide whether or not to be on or off. This went on for some time (a few minutes). Thank God for batteries! smile At least the network wouldn't be affected by this.

At this point in time, it was around 12:45...and the wind was still very strong. In fact, I heard a tree break in our backyard...which is when I knew this was going to be really serious. Beth and George were already located in the bathroom, but after I'd told her there were folks downstairs, she decided that it'd be a good idea to go there, too.

Anyway, it was at this time we grabbed the cat (who was placed in his cage) and went for a chat with the neighbors. We were all hanging out for a while, when the power finally went out. Of course, this meant that the neighbors' scanner was no longer working. But, after a minute, the power came back on...and we were in an okay situation. Then the power went out again, and I kinda figured this would be the state for some time. Especially when it hadn't come back on for a few minutes.

I made my way back to our apartment, mostly to bring down our workstations (those batteries last anywhere between 10-20 minutes under load). I have one giant UPS unit which powers the servers and our scanner (so I listened for a bit while I was up there)...so I left those machines up for the time. I unhooked Beth's UPS unit and brought it down with me...so we could power the neighbors' scanner...for which that UPS worked nicely.

The wind finally calmed down around 1-1:10am. It was still raining to beat hell, but at least the wind was gone. Of course we had no power, but we all kinda went our separate ways as the major part of the storm was gone.

Well, after that, we were all kinda bored, so we ended up hanging out outside our door for a while. Still no power. By this time, the neighbors had a handheld scanner available, and we could hear ours (as we had the door open and the volume turned way up). Dispatch announced that the power company stated the power would be out for several hours. I decided that I could just as well bring the servers down, as the UPS wasn't going to withstand a long outage (it'd handle two machines for an hour...which is more than most outages anyway). So I brought down the servers and left the scanner go.

This was also the time when we discovered exactly how much damage there was...via radio. City crews, fire, EMTs, cops, everyone was called out. There seemed to be a few small fires from the downed power lines which needed to be taken care of. This was also the time when we were informed that these personnel were out 'looking for injuries'. I guess that's when it hit how bad this storm probably was.

As crews were out and talking, we quickly discovered that the east side of town was in the worst shape (our side), particularly between 4th and 7th streets (we're on the edge of this band). No wonder it'd seemed bad. smile Well, we all again after a while (it was around 2am) disbanded and went to bed. This was a particularly good thing as both Beth and I had to work at 8 and 7:30am respectively. Of course, I was too pumped with adrenaline to go to bed...but the alarm for the UPS was pissing me off...and the scanner talk was really all the same...nothing new had been reported in a while.

So, I cut power to the last UPS on the network and we went to bed. This was around 3am.

I woke up again around 5 (when it got light out) and looked outside. Now, I knew there was some damage in our backyard to trees, but wasn't able to really see (aside from what the flashlight showed). It was pretty amazing. Needless to say, it's much brighter overall in our bedroom now, as that was the shade tree for the east side.

Still no power, but Beth and I got up around 7 for good...and got ready for the day. As I'm more or less the guy in charge at Subway (and since I was opening the store), I wasn't planning on being to work on time. Especially since the power was still out. Our power service at home is on the same line as that of the store, so if we don't have power, neither does the store. Willie's would be anyone's guess...but we went for a drive around 7:30 to figure out what was going on.

So, we drove over to Willie's...to find out that their power had been restored. So it was off to work for Beth... But before we went back home, we drove around just a little more. Needless to say, it's not a pretty situation. The east side of town (even though crews started on this side before the west side) was still pretty bad.

Well, to bring this to an end here shortly, we both went to work. There was no power and then intermittent power at Subway, but it all got worked out eventually.

After work, I drove around with the camera and took some pictures. I haven't uploaded them yet, but I imagine that they'll end up here on the website somewhere. Perhaps that'll be my Saturday afternoon project. smile

Before I sign off, though, I should add that there didn't seem to be any injuries (minus a disloacted shoulder and such) related to the storm...just a lot of clean-up going on in the next few days.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/20/07

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  • One Gorgeous Daughter (Kirstin)
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