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Friday, March 4, 2005

March 4, 2005

A Sad Day At Work

That's my title for this little bit of news -- A Sad Day.

Today marked the end of my coworker Rod's employment for the company. The short of it is that I will now have to adjust to the load he was handling in addition to the load I already handled, but I'll make it through that. That's not what makes me sad.

I have had the pleasure of working with Rod for just over a year now. In that time, we've both tremendously expanded our abilities and it was a very positive experience (I'd like to believe) for both of us. It's just that this other opportunity came up (kinda out of nowhere) for him and he took it. I can't say I blame him (it's a hell of an opportunity), and I truly hope he can continue to excel in his work in the future.

Rod, if you ever happen to read this -- I wish you and your family all the best (as I already told you in person). Good luck with your major move and major change in life. It was a hell of a ride, and I hope your coaster doesn't end!

Anyway, his departure means that I will be running solo (with the exception of the boss), so there could be some long days...but as Julie Andrews spoke in The Sound of Music -- "Wherever God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window."

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/29/07

Thursday, March 3, 2005

March 3, 2005

Thought for the day

Today I had the fortune (although that doesn't sound quite right in the context) to witness a very unique community event.

Staff Sgt. David Day, a National Guardsman, had been killed in Iraq on February 21, 2005. He was one of three guardsmen who fell that day (from the same unit based here in West-Central Minnesota). This was truly a tragic and shocking event for most everyone in the area.

Anyway, all that aside, he had been a police officer in the Twin Cities area, so during his funeral procession (which went nearly right past my office) in Morris (he was originally from Morris) there were hundreds of police officers from across the state participating.

The procession was two miles long and, while I didn't count the number of police and other law enforcement vehicles, most of it was 'lit up.' I'd never seen anything like that before. Not that I cared to see it (given the circumstances) in the first place, but it was definitely something I'm glad I attended.

We can always just hope it doesn't happen again in the future, and thank those who went through similar processions like the one I was able to watch.

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/29/07

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

March 1, 2005

Welcome to...March?

Damn, it's been a long time (again) since I posted any news here. My bad. frown

Anyway, much has transpired in the last month and a half or so, briefly (as best I can) outlined below:

One-Act

The latter half of January (and the first week of February) pretty much consumes my life...when it comes to free time. That's generally the 'peak' One-Act busy time, during preparations and competitions. This year we fared well -- we took second place at the Sub-Section competition and tied for sixth at the Section competition. Overall, the kids did well and I was pleased; however, there was a level of 'confidence' in their abilities (to some degree) which can sometimes be a little detrimental to the overall performance. Most would call this phenomenon 'complacency,' I guess.

But as noted, I [we all, I hope] had a good time, and that's the most important thing of all. Of course, getting to move on is nice (which we were able to do)...but it's really not the most important part of the whole game. Besides, it makes the State Festival trip more exciting when you don't have to perform. smile

And of course, we went to the State Festival, which is always an excellent educational and cultural experience. Much fun was had by everyone participating.

Bathroom!

Well, as noted with One-Act, time for me was found in less than copious amounts. So, the bathroom project was in that pseudo-state of limbo.

After One-Act was complete, I was once again able to start working on the project as time allows. Granted, I'm still dealing with the loose ends of One-Act (shirts, scrapbooks, ensuring bills were paid), but for the most part my free time can be devoted to this project.

Most recently, I was able to tear out the wall at the head of the bathtub. This used to be where the faucet assembly was (and will be rebuilt to include a shower). I have to say that the room looks much larger without the wall in place, but it's only temporary. My goal either later this week or this weekend is to get the new wall built and (possibly) plumbed for the new fixture set. The drywall for about 7/8 of the bathroom project has been purchased, so once the walls and plumbing are complete, it will be time for the wallcoverings...or at least part one of them.

This past weekend I was able to get the vast majority of the electrical work completed. Most of the wiring had been done previously, but I hadn't done the panel work (installing new circuit breaker) or broke from the old circuit. Our office, the bathroom, and a portion of the living room were all on one 20-amp circuit previously. After the remodel, the office is on its own circuit (important since that's where all the computer and high-draw (laser printer) equipment happens to be), and the bathroom and portion of the living room are on their own (new) 20-amp circuit. It's made a significant difference already (I can tell) when one turns on things like the laser printer. There's not nearly the drop there used to be, which is clearly a Good Thing.

In addition to breaking the old circuit into two separate circuits, I installed the new overhead light/fan unit and got it wired up. The ductwork isn't complete yet (that will come a little later, but before the new ceiling is put up), but there's at least switched light. So as far as electrical work goes, it's just a matter of wrapping up things (in the wall) when the fourth wall is torn down (which won't be until many of the other parts of the bathroom are complete) and actually connecting up the vanity light once the medicine cabinet unit arrives (it's on order).

So now it's a matter of plumbing (both supply and drain lines), which will come up primarily after the head wall of the bathtub is reconstructed. While I'm doing supply plumbing (and since this house has 1/4" hot and 3/8" cold lines), I'm doing everything in one shot (converting it all to 1/2" supply to save time in the long run). So, my goal in that aspect is to tackle pieces at a time, gradually building up the entire system and then being able to do the major switchover in one shot (without taking forever to complete without any water in the house). Fortunately, all the water-using items are on the first floor, so there are no vertical runs to deal with.

Then it's just a matter of doing the drywall and finishing work...and finally tearing out the fourth wall (where the existing sink is) and doing all of my conduit runs and completing the ductwork portion.

So, there's again a plan in place, but it's not something I have time to complete overnight. Fortunately, in one project (the bathroom), I'm actually tackling several projects (vent fan, new sink, shower upstairs, voice/video/data to upstairs rooms and also living room, new supply plumbing to the entire house, and new electrical in the bathroom and part of the living room)...which should be really nice when it's all done.

The Salt Mine

I really shouldn't call it that, because it's really not...but work has been interesting lately. In a good way.

Amongst other things I've been doing at work, one of the more cool (and dorky) things is a program registration schema and implementation. It's essentially a semi-automated way for us to protect this specific application from piracy while maintaining fairly accurate records of how many copies are actually out in the wild and being used. There are a host of very neat statistical and managerially-significant applications for this system I've developed.

Essentially, the program (after installed) generates a 30-digit (alphanumeric) installation-specific serial number. This varies from machine to machine and user to user. The user can then (via a web interface or over the phone) obtain a 10-digit (alphanumeric) program key which is unique to the serial number through this interface. We can control the license count of users/organizations and therefore grant/deny appropriately via the interface. The user then enters this program key in the application and, pending verification -- which the program does internally -- will not have to re-register until a version change (which we can also control via the program code) deems it necessary. You can think of it in a similar way to how Microsoft handles its XP Activations.

It's a lot of one-way hashing and some good math which makes this cool. Even better is the fact that the whole thing is accomplished by using two languages! Cryptography is cool that way. smile All the pieces of the schema are obfuscated in such a way that, in the somewhat unlikely event someone figures out how to break the system (which could happen -- crypto and I don't claim to be and aren't perfect), it will take some work to break...and in the event it happens...they can have it. smile In fact, I'd really like to know if that ever happened. But it's especially neat for me to be able to apply stuff (theory and practice) from one of the coolest computer science courses I ever took in college (Cryptography) in a real-world application -- and have it work properly!

So work has stayed busy and interesting -- which is good. It's especially rewarding to see and talk to folks who are actually using the stuff I've been a part of developing.

That's all for now!

That pretty much hits all the major stuff I can think of off hand, but I'm sure there's stuff I've left out. Anyway, hopefully it won't be another month before my next news posting. But I've said that before...and only time will really tell. smile

Until next time...

This post was upgraded to the MZ Online Blog on 8/29/07

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