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Saturday, May 5, 2007

Quite The Weather Here...

It never really ceases to amaze me how the weather in Minnesota can be. For that matter, the weather anywhere, but I happen to live in Minnesota so I choose to pick on it.

We've had a really dreary day again today. It's rained off-and-on throughout the day, but been overcast and very windy throughout the day. So that pretty much killed off any thought of doing outside stuff (or even wanting to be outside). Which is fine by me, but there's still stuff to do (like mow the lawn and whatnot) that is only going to get worse. It was so windy tonight that it just recently (around 10:45PM) actually blew over the grill outside. I've never seen wind do that to the grill.

It's supposed to rain heavier tomorrow, at least for us through the midday. I just hope that whatever rain we get comes in moderation and isn't a complete flood like the last time. This stuff always has to come just as the basement is finally drying out. I will be glad when I get the sump basin business installed, because at least that should relieve the hydraulic pressure underneath the floor (the entire reason we have water come up through the basement floor). I can deal with periodic seepage through the walls in a few select spots when we get a good rain -- but the business through the floor I have no control over...hopefully until this sump project is done.

Anyway, since it was raining out today, I decided to try helping my basement issue a bit by diverting as much rainwater as possible. I did this by temporarily rigging up some stuff to extend the downspouts of the gutters. I intend to do this in a better-looking and more permanent way in the future, but it seemed to work quite well today. I didn't see much evidence of water seeping in (the basement walls) on a few normal spots where it generally would when we get a rain like this.

So I spent part of my day today backing up and removing some of the old captured video I had on my video hard drive. I created two data DVD's of material, and removed at least two DVD's worth (size wise) of material that I no longer needed. I did this so that I could work on transferring some camcorder video to the computer and edit it to be burned on DVD for archival. I still need to make a data DVD backup of some of my other items on the computer (but that's a different day project), but I did actually get all of the camcorder video I wanted transferred to my computer. So now I'll have to edit it and get it on DVD for use later. Should be neat. And I get to play around with making video DVD's again.

In other somewhat random news, I received an email from my German family today (well, it was actually from my German mother). I'd not heard from [her] in some time -- probably several months (it's been within the last year, though)...or sometime around Christmas if I recall. Anyway, she'd finally looked through all of Kirstin's pictures and decided that she was indeed my daughter. Now, she's never met Beth personally, but she obviously thinks that based upon the pictures Kirstin bears more resemblance to me. Fair enough.

I noticed that she had a new email address in this last email. So, being the curious one I am, I checked out the website of the email domain. She has apparently started her own Japanese-style massage practice out of her home. I'm not as off-hand fluent in German as I once was (as far as reading goes), so as I've not yet taken the time to fully translate everything, this info is based upon what I quickly gleaned from the website.

One thing that was very obvious, though -- what used to be their living room has changed significantly (that's where the table and workspace is set up). She has two pictures available, and it has most definitely changed from the time when I was there (more or less eight years ago right now). So that's cool to see, and based upon their home's layout I can understand why she would have transformed the living room space into her practice office.

So anyway, it's now midnight and I'm heading for bed. Until next time...

--MZ

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dreary Friday...

You know, today just seemed to be one of those pseudo-worthless days. It really was. The weather sucked (it was generally overcast and/or light rain), it was Friday (so the ambition to work wasn't high), and I was just tired all day. That kinda followed through when I got home, too. I made some supper and decided to just sit down for the evening. We watched 'A Prairie Home Companion' because it'd been a while, and all was good.

I saw a really funny thing (to me) at work today, and it made my morning at least. In one of my daily work-related e-newsletters I receive, there was a quote to the effect of:

SELECT * FROM user WHERE clue > 0
(0 rows returned)

Basically, this is an SQL statement that queries the users table for records where the clue value is > 0. In layman's terms, it's looking for non-clueless users (and obviously not finding any). Since I use SQL statements and queries every day at work, this sort of humor is not lost on me.

Since I don't really have anything exciting to write about and since I'm thinking of it...I'm sharing a follow-up to a story that I don't recall posting about (and in a quick search doesn't appear I posted about). You see, now several months ago when I purchased an item, I was offered a $10 rebate by signing up for a trial service (one of those deals where you sign up, submit for your $10 rebate, then call the number and cancel the service before you're charged for it). So, being the somewhat thrifty one I am, I went for it.

That was mistake #1. Now, the process actually went pretty well (I did just what I'd mentioned, submitted request then canceled service) and I thought I was all done with that company. Thought being the operative word. Shortly after Kirstin was born, we started receiving calls from this company (presumably trying to sell me something of great value which I couldn't go without). I never really did find out, because every time someone actually answered the phone, nobody would pick up on the other end and some sort of automated thing would ramble off some numbers to call back (and apologize for nobody being available).

Well, having a very new born child in the house when this happens doesn't exactly a stress-free environment create. This went on for nearly a month; the calls would usually be 2-3 per day, about 3-4 days per week. And here again, nobody ever available to answer. At least not when I was home. So one time I called the number back (on my dime, no less) and went through the automated process to remove my number from their calling lists. Of course I got the standard disclaimer that it may take up to thirty (30) days to fully remove me from the list! THIRTY DAYS! Ah well, if it ended eventually, I'd be happy.

Well, the calls kept coming, and about a week and a half later, I was finally able to talk to someone. Long story short, I asked the gal about the do not call registry and requested to be put on their no call list (or removed from it completely). Each time I asked about this, I was told that she would do it. Note, each time I asked. There would be periods of silence, then I'd ask to be taken off the list. She would say 'I can do that for you...' then silence, and I'd ask again. Never a confirmation. This leads me to believe that she was not to actually be taking people off their list. So, after that brief encounter and based upon a question I had about the 'nobody is available' answering machine message when they called (I asked her why that was -- I knew she wouldn't have an answer for me), I asked to speak with a supervisor and then waited about 8 minutes for that to come through. Of course, while I was waiting (I wasn't on hold), I asked the gal another two times to please remove me from the list...to which I got the same response as before, 'I can do that...'

Anyway, I got through to the supervisor. I asked my question about their system, to which I was informed that it should not be doing that (which of course I rebutted again), and then informed her that if it's not to be doing that she should have someone look into it, because that's what's happening. And after that encounter, I once again demanded to be taken off their lists. I was once again informed of the thirty day problem and some BS excuse they have for taking so long. Working in a data-oriented technical occupation (such as a software engineer), I know exactly that the reasons she gave me were completely bogus. But that's neither here nor there.

After some more exchange about this, I explained my frustration and then when she started getting defensive I put it all out on the table (in a mild-mannered yet forceful way):

Listen, I have a one-month old that wakes up every time you bastards call, and when I don't get to even talk to anyone, it gets really fucking old, really fast.
She apologized for my inconvenience, then assured me I would be removed from the list (and if I received any further calls in the next thirty days to please just ignore then).

I was thinking about that on my way to work this morning, and realized that we have not received a single call from that organization since my exchange that night. I'm guessing that speaking with the supervisor and explaining the situation (going so far as to include the quote above) got some action to take place.

The moral of the story -- don't be afraid to stand up and demand that 'your will be done' as it were, especially when you've been reasonable in the past. This sort of thing has worked for me in the past, and I only really break out the big guns when I'm feeling particularly unheard. And if your voice still seems to go unheard (especially for the telemarketer angle), claim you have a one month old child that wakes up every time. Nearly guaranteed to probably get some action. :)

So anyway, that's my story for the night. Seeing as how it's now past 11:30, I'm heading for bed.

Until next time...

--MZ

Thursday, May 3, 2007

An Unusual Day, Really...

So I never would have expected the day to turn out quite the way it did today. For starters, I arrived at work to discover that the power to our building (and a good portion of the West side of the block) was out. And had been for about an hour and a half (at the time when I arrived).

When you work as a software engineer, power at the office is kind of important. Although, I was able to return a call or two and help some people blindly with a few small issues. So it wasn't a complete failure. And I also verified that we really do have a hell of an UPS for our server and network equipment -- it was running quite well after 90 minutes of no supply power. The network was still up (although nothing connecting to it aside from our primary server was still on).

I was at work for about 45 minutes when the power was restored to our office. Only half of our office building had power, though. Long story short, the other half of our building is connected to a different phase which ended up being out for most of the day.

I stuck around for a while, until around 11:30. I was able to get a few things taken care of, but I knew they'd be shutting down the power to the building again while they repaired and/or replaced the three-phase feed to the building. So rather than get into the middle of a project and have the power suddenly go away, I decided instead to bring down everything at the office (including the network and server) for the day and went home. That also will give the UPS some time to recover before I start everything up again tomorrow.

The only major downside to that is that I had to manually bring work home with me. On a flash drive. Generally, I can connect directly to the server from home and check out code, but when that's shut down (on purpose no less), the option for that doesn't exist. Ah well. I had good intentions of getting some things done from home, but that didn't really materialize into much. A few things were done, but it was after 1pm before I even got to thinking about working on anything. Funny how the power going out causes the day to be wasted like that.

I was going to note this topic the other day, but it came up again today -- large farming operations. While these aren't inherently bad, I noticed something on my drive to work Tuesday morning. I saw a particular grower out in the field planting. With a very large planter. The odd thing about this picture was that this particular operator was not using the planter markers which are used to basically keep each round aligned. Instead, it was quite obvious that this grower was instead using the auto-steer functionality (GPS technology), letting a few satellites and some computers actually keep the rows perfectly aligned.

I guess I maybe come from a little bit of an old-school thought on this, but it seems that with all the hype of planting and pride that goes into most farming operations, a grower you would think would want to keep in complete control of how that crop is planted. In particular, how straight those rows are. Almost as a badge of honor, to say that 'I did that'... This clearly wasn't the case in this picture. Is it right? Is it wrong? I don't know. It just seems a bit sad that what's arguably the most important (and certainly the most exciting) time for most growers is in a way being relegated to a mindless task. I can understand auto-steer for the boring jobs (fall or spring tillage, etc.), but come on -- planting?

Anyway, on another topic. This morning when I read the news headlines, I noticed a story about a possible Hepatitis A outbreak in a town I'm familiar with -- Slayton. In particular, at a restaurant that I've been at several times. Well, this afternoon I put in a call to grandma (who lives in Slayton) to inquire about her schedule. We're planning on stopping down there so she can meet Kirstin, but before we got too far into that I needed to make sure she would be around. After confirming those details, she then asked if I'd 'heard the news' to which I responded in the affirmative. She then informed me that she'd been to that restaurant twice during the period of time in question. I of course then encouraged her to go get tested at one of the forthcoming clinics that they were setting up for patrons and community members.

So, we'll see how that goes. I would guess that it's probably more hype than anything (as a precaution), but at least this is getting attention and being taken seriously. One of those cases where the hype is worthwhile.

Anyway, we spent part of the late afternoon and early evening in Alexandria tonight, doing a bit of shopping. Kirstin slept most of the time -- funny how being in a shopping cart will really just keep them sleeping -- so we went to three stores and ate a quick meal at Arby's. Good times. Picked up a few essentials, some clothes for Kirstin, and just got out of town for a while. Not a bad time at all.

I need to make a solo trip to Alex sometime with my pickup. Namely to get a few things that I couldn't get with the car. I'm intending to put up some shelves in the kitchen so we can actually store some of the small appliances in the kitchen rather than on a shelf in the basement. I also need to get the various bits for the sump pump project (like a sump basin being the largest item). I don't have any idea when I'll do that. We'll see. It'd be ideal to do it this weekend, but it's supposed to rain off and on, so I don't really want to go do that in the rain (because I'll have to have portions exposed to the elements, so avoiding water is a preference). Who knows. Maybe I'll end up just taking a day off to get some of this stuff done. I also have to take some metal in for recycling...so that's another trip out of town.

Beth goes back to work on Monday, and Jill will be here with Henry watching Kirstin on the days when [Jill] doesn't work elsewhere. On those days (seems to be Tuesday all day and Wednesday mornings), I will be in charge...so I'll have some time away from the office.

Anyway, it's just past 11:30 now, so I'm heading for bed. Should be Good Times. I like sleep. :)

So, until next time...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Whatever, Dad...


Whatever, Dad...
It's kinda cute how she's got this 'whatever' sort
of look going on. It looks like she's rolling her
eyes (and head) in response to something I said.
Probably was in response to 'just one more
picture...'
Well, once again I am a bit devoid of items about which I feel rambly...so this will be a short post I'm sure. Today was a fairly typical Wednesday, where I stayed late at work so as not to waste too much time (or gas) in driving around to come back for choir.

I took a few minutes off in the mid-afternoon to go get my pickup washed and filled with gas, which I did at two different ends of town. I'm happy to report that my pickup now smells like a French whore once again (the wax stuff at Jerry's car wash is fantastic -- it has a really neat smell). But the pickup is now once again clean on the outside. The next washing or two will most likely be by hand with some help from the power washer since it's now warm enough to do that.

Aside from that, not much is new today. A pretty normal and relatively uneventful day.

I have two quotes to share which I received from Beth at some point in time today:

A well-placed swear word is a marvellous bit of grammar

And
As one with Norwegian grandparents, I am planning on celebrating the upcoming St. Patrick's day the same way my ancestors did. Would some one please direct me to a small Irish village to pillage and plunder?


So, with all of that said (seeing as how there was so much), I sign off. Until next time...

--MZ

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Look At That Grin!


Look At That Grin!
You never know what you'll catch with the
camera and Kirstin sometimes. This time it
happened to probably be the best grin yet.
I just think this picture is adorable. But
then again, I guess I'm a little biased...
It's stuff like this that makes me wish I worked at home all day (especially on those stressful days, of which today was NOT one, fortunately). Kirstin gets the cutest expressions sometimes.

Anyway, today was a fairly uneventful change from most other days. Work was more or less normal, although I'm ready for the slow time to come again so I can get a few random things done... :)

I came home this evening and went out to do the first picking of ditch asparagus. I came in with quite a haul, too. Half a [plastic] grocery bag full. Not bad, and there's more to come. I noticed that not quite half of the actual ditch asparagus had even come up yet, so we should be in good shape harvest wise.

We didn't make asparagus tonight, but rather I made wild rice soup. Namely so I have stuff to bring to work for a few days. I'm not sure when we'll have that asparagus just yet (most likely won't be until Thursday)...but by then there will be more to pick and consume. Fantastic!

Anyway, I finally sat down this evening and filed and sorted papers. I'd gotten a bit behind (not in paying bills or anything of that sort) on filing everything. So it was all in one big pile of sorts and just needed to be sorted out. Which it is now, and it is good. Cleaner looking desk space makes for a Happy Matt.

But realistically it has been a pretty quiet evening. I'm pretty sure that I'll be going to bed here shortly and most likely will crash hard. I know I used muscles in my lower back yesterday (with the septic tank cover business) that I've not used in a while. I didn't pull anything or the like, but I've got that dull muscle ache that says 'damn, dude -- I forgot this muscle existed...' :)

So, until next time...

--MZ

Monday, April 30, 2007

Hanging Out


Hanging Out
Here I was holding her up, while
Beth took a quick picture.
That's more or less what I tried to do tonight, after I got home and got a few things done around the house.

First and foremost was to work on getting those septic tank covers taken care of. I'd done all the prep work I could with the dogs in that part of the yard, but then when I moved them yesterday I decided to be lazy and not complete the job.

So, when I got home today I more or less immediately went to work on that project so it's out of the way. It didn't take all that long. I had to first remove the covers (which is an interesting task due to their weight and proximity about a foot underground), then I cleaned out the holes as best I could (so that the small sections of riser pipe could more cleanly rest on the existing riser) with a simple garden hoe. Then to set the new section of pipe and backfill by hand with a standard shovel. Vibrate a little bit (to try assisting the settling process), and the covers went back on. They're pretty close to ground level now (they're both just a hare under the current ground level). I cleaned off the covers as well (seeing as how they'd been buried before), and things look pretty good. Gave the backfill a little moisture (again to help settle it), and I'll work on filling in more dirt (to bring the remainder of the hole to ground level again) over the next week or two.

Needless to say, it's a good project to have done.

Aside from that, work was pretty normal today. I ended up (as normal) working on something I didn't really intend to, but had to. But overall the day was pretty good.

We had the first asparagus of the season tonight for supper (along with brats on the grill -- fantastic). The neighbor (Josh) came over while I was working on the septic tank covers and asked if I wanted any (and also told me I could pick more or less at will from their huge patch), and how could one turn that down?!? Long story short, he went and brought me some, and it was good.

So anyway, it's getting late and I really don't have much more to say at the moment. So I'll sign off in the normal way. Until next time...

--MZ

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Dirty Girls


Dirty Girls
It's kinda cute, though, they look like they're
trying to clean each other.
You know, I went out to move the girls today and they don't look (or smell) nearly as bad as they did when this picture was taken. I still like this picture, though. In the background you can see their holes (or landscaping work), and behind that (where the white pail is) is my landscaping work (with the septic tank covers).

Ah well. The girls like their summer (and hopefully permanent) pasture. It provides them more shade throughout the day and I also don't care how badly they dig up that part of the yard. I was not happy when they started digging on this side of the yard (because that's the good side).

Anyway, I'm actually heading for bed now, so until next time...

--MZ

Sleeping On Mom's Shoulder


Sleeping On Mom's Shoulder
I actually got this picture Saturday night before
bed (obviously). She was just out -- it's _so_
tough being a baby, you know.
Yeah, that's essentially how I felt my day went -- like sleeping on someone's shoulder. :)

I had a fairly relaxed day today. I did get the dogs moved and part of the yard cleaned up a bit (about what I'd expected to get accomplished on a Sunday), but that's about it. The rest of the day was spent just hanging around and somewhat relaxing.

I need to do some video capturing and DVD conversions here, hopefully this next week sometime (once I get the septic tank cover thing taken care of). Seeing as how the dogs have been moved, though, it shouldn't take that long to complete the job. I want to get a bunch of video put on DVD so that I can remove it from my video hard drive here. I'll likely burn backup data DVD's for that material as well (just for good measure), but then I can really start focusing on some of the random bits I've taken with the video camera.

So we shall see how that goes.

In other news, the basement is really starting to dry up now. The water is still infiltrating in parts of the basement, but the flow has dramatically slowed down. So that's a Good Thing. I expect that if it stays relatively dry the next week or so that the problem will solve itself. The two dehumidifiers and the box fan are really starting to keep up with the moisture down there, though. In walking down there today, it actually felt drier than in previous days, so that's also a Good Thing.

Anyway, that's about all that's new from here for now, so I'm heading to bed here shortly, after I post another short photo blog entry.

So until next time...

--MZ

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