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Monday, April 10, 2006

April 10, 2006

Two posts in as many days!?!

Yeah, I made it around to another post tonight, just as promised. smile

I'm not feeling completely verbose tonight, so it'll likely not be as elaborate as it might have been. I don't imagine I'll hear any complaints, though.

A Trip To Canada

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Canada on a work-related issue. It's a very long story, and the timing wasn't the greatest, but after 6.75 years, I made it back to the land to our North. Oddly enough, pretty much to the same general vicinity as the original trip in 1999.

Basically, I needed to make a 'day trip' to a client of ours in a city West of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Trusty Mapquest referred to the drive as about 6.5 hours one way. It was likely to be a very long day.

So, after finally getting to bed around 12:30-1am the night before, I arose at 5:30 and got ready to leave for Canada. I packed a lunch and got some other things ready (including an overnight bag, just in case), and left the house at exactly 7am. It had lightly snowed (about a half inch or so) the night before, but I was driving out of the snow area, so the first half-hour of the trip was kinda slow. But, I've certainly driven in worse, and the ice wasn't too bad.

Anyway, my first stop was in Grand Forks, ND, after about 200 miles or so of driving. I stopped to fill up with gas (just because I wanted to avoid buying gas in Canada due to the increased price) and stretched. I continued North and reached the border crossing at Pembina, ND at 11:06. After a brief stint at the border, they finally thought I had enough information to let me into Canada. Before I left the border, I stopped to eat a sandwich and whatnot...and then continued towards Winnipeg.

Once I reached Winnipeg, I headed West and reached my destination about 1:15pm -- not too bad time.

The guys I dealt with there were quite nice and the whole thing went well (which was good, due to the problem I had to fix). Without going to great detail about the day's activities, I left their office around 9:30pm and was determined to get as far as I could before I stopped for the night or took a nap. I reached the border crossing (again at Pembina) at 11:26pm. I ate another sandwich, then proceeded to a gas station to get enough gas to make it to Grand Forks (which is where I found the cheapest gas on the entire trip).

By the time I got to Grand Forks, it was about 12:30am, and the fresh (cold) air really helped to keep me awake. By this time, I'd started to crank up the CD's and kept the vehicle temperature pretty cool (I drove without my jacket on and had it somewhat cool). I stopped again outside of Moorhead, MN around 1:45am or so to do another 'Chinese Fire Drill.' It's amazing how well that works when the outside temperature is only like 19F. smile

My last drill was just outside of Fergus Falls, MN, around 2:45 or so. I was doing surprisingly well for as little sleep as I'd had the night before. I was expecting that I'd need to stop and take a short nap just to keep going, but I was doing well, so I kept on going.

Once I got south of Elbow Lake, I was followed by a cop for a stretch of road about 15 miles in length. I can't say that I blame the officer -- I mean, who else (aside from shady people and truck drivers) is out at 3am on a Thursday night/Friday morning? I couldn't have been driving that poorly, though, since after a while he turned around and headed back.

So anyway, I arrived back home at about 3:35am, Friday morning. I had at this point in time been up for over 22 hours on about 4.5 hours of sleep -- definitely outside my normal pattern.

By the time I got things unloaded and settled, it was about 4am by the time I got to bed. I slept in for a while, but I was still up by 10am and made it back to work by about 11:30 that (Friday) morning.

Why would I do this? Because I had an impending deadline to meet and the trip to Canada kinda bit into that. Not exactly my idea of a great time, but since the destination in Canada was to fix a problem for some really good guys, it made it worthwhile. smile

So, here again, I was only in Canada for about 12 hours (just like the last time). One of these days I'm planning on staying and maybe actually doing something in Canada, rather than just driving to and fro.

Some neat things I saw on this trip:

  • A BEER Vending Machine -- just like a Pepsi/Coke Machine, except for beer (in Canada)
  • A huge area (on the order of 80 acres) filled with nothing but rows of large square bales of straw (in Canada)
  • An interesting billboard suggesting to 'Visit Wonderful Flin Flon' on the road south of Winnipeg (Flin Flon is on the other side of Manitoba) -- reminds me of all those 'Wall Drug' billboards you see.
  • The de-construction of the 19th Avenue North bridge in Fargo, ND, at 1:30am. It was quite cool to see them cutting the beams out in the middle of the night -- you could see the sparks for over a mile.

Springtime!

I spent part of this last weekend doing some outside stuff. Namely cleaning up the yard a bit. Beth and I raked up parts of the yard and also did various other outdoor activities (I broke out the lawnmower so I could pull around the trailer and haul some things around).

It was nice to be able to take some time and get things straightened up outside. It won't be long before we'll have to be outside a lot for lawnmowing and all the other fun stuff. smile

Music Collection

I also took some time (while I was upgrading the TWiki installations I mentioned in yesterday's post) to look into my long-ignored CD collection.

I started the project sometime in December, but didn't do anything further until last weekend. I've got quite a collection of music, and many things on CD that I've not listened to for a long time (namely due to the fact that it's not in a very functional format for me). So, I started ripping the CD's into my digital collection. I was amazed to listen to some of the stuff again, because I had in some cases completely forgotten about some of the stuff I've got. It was cool, and I've been working on a few CD's per night since. At this rate, within a few weeks I should have the remainder of the stuff done, and then I can just have it shuffle a playlist and never really forget about any of the music that I've had in my collection for many, many years.

Brief disclaimer, though -- none of this music is illegal. I have just only listened to most of it in the car (when/if I remember to bring any of it along) for the last eight years or so. smile

Books!

Yes, I do read on occasion. It's not very often that I read a book proper that's not reference-related, but I bought a new (picture/coffee table) book in February that caught my eye. It's called Strange Days, Dangerous Nights and is basically a collection of several hundred photographs which were taken in and around St. Paul, MN, between about 1945 and 1968, during the 'Speed Graphic' camera era.

The book has many quite graphic images of death, destruction, and other oddities that may make some people shudder. In particular, the brief section about the strange deaths of children is probably the hardest to look at. But, the book isn't focused on that kind of shock content...

After going through it, I've come to the conclusion that it's really almost an anthropologic collection of what made news 'back in the day' when news photographers had incredible access to crime scenes (in particular). These are the type of pictures which would make the front page of a paper, but you'd never see released today until all investigations were complete.

The core of the book is really geared toward the amazing quality images of the particular camera. There are many sections about normal happenings, too (it's not all gruesome). Overall, I was really pleased with the purchase. It's not the kind of thing you look at very often, but it's really neat to be able to look at some of the actual images that were literally front-page news of 40-60 years ago. In an odd way, you can almost link some of the more gruesome stuff of the 1950's to what you'd see on some (non-news-related) cable TV channels of today. Not much has really changed in regards to the images depicted (if you take out the news factor -- you don't generally see that graphic stuff on the news anymore -- and replace it with general TV series, etc.), merely the medium on which they're depicted.

Anyway...

...it's been another long day, and I'm getting tired now. I won't proofread this post much, so I don't guarantee the quality for tonight. smile

With the forthcoming Easter holiday weekend, I'm not sure when my next post will be. But until next time...

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

Sunday, April 9, 2006

April 9, 2006

Another Month Down

It's been a while since the last post, and much has happened. I'm at this point in time intending to post more about that stuff tomorrow (April 10), because I'm pretty much using this post for some other testing purposes.

Upgrades, Upgrades...

A new TWiki release had been made not long ago, and a serious patch was released within the last week or so. As I'd not yet upgraded to the latest version (I did an interim upgrade last fall, sometime in late October if I recall), I thought this weekend would be a good time to take two semi-public TWiki installations and bring them up to date.

One went fairly smoothly, aside from the fact that I had to do two updates...which just takes time. It's better than it used to be, but the first (easier) still took a few hours to complete and test out.

Having gotten the first one done without much trouble, I decided to tackle the much larger mzonline.com installation (this one). There are several things I've manually configured and added, along with other items (such as plugins) which make this a more intense upgrade. Fortunately, I only had to do one upgrade, though, since I'd done the other one last fall.

So, I started in and things went pretty well...until I made it go "live" (thus replacing the old installation). Software error. So, after disabling some things, I managed to get that working without any problems -- at least it was serving content properly (even if in a crippled sort of way). Well, long story short, the plugins I'd previously installed didn't come over to the new version very well. This was mostly (in fact, almost completely) related to the fact I had to install special CPAN Perl modules to make these things work (specifically for the calendar thing).

I had fought with these installations in the past, but I got it hacked together and it had been working. Unfortunately, the way search paths and stuff are configured in the latest version of TWiki, my previous installation/hack was no longer working properly, and that's what was causing the plugins to malfunction.

Several hours later, I was still not much closer to a solution.

So, I gave up on it last night and left the plugins in question disabled. This caused no strange behavior except that the expansion code (the special stuff I put in a page which renders a calendar, for instance) was displayed to the user instead of a calendar.

I decided to tackle the problem again today, and I'm happy to report that after a few more hours of tinkering and whatnot, I've completed the entire upgrade process. I ended up reinstalling the CPAN modules into a newer (and easier to use) library path which the TWiki installation uses by default. This took care of part of the problem. I then downloaded and installed new copies of the plugins in question, then made small modifications as necessary to reflect previous changes I'd made for my own use.

Things were working well, so I made the final template changes and removed all of the old (archive) data once I was sufficiently convinced that the upgrade itself would work and I'd not have to revert to the old installation. I also removed the old Perl libraries I'd previously installed, because these were now duplicates and no longer in use.

As of right now, I had to make a few additional changes (it's good to come back and try stuff again after a few hours and cleaned cache), but things seem to still be working properly. So, hopefully as I get some time, I'll be able to play around with some new features and see what else I can do with this thing. smile

Anyway, it's nearly midnight, so I'm heading for bed. I will hopefully get another post out tomorrow about things which have transpired in the last month!

Until then...

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

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