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Saturday, July 21, 2007

An Interesting Saturday


God, Is That You?
She was actually looking at Beth when I took this
picture, but you can't see Beth in this picture. :)
Blame dedication, I guess. Dedication is code for 'stubbornness' though. At least for me. At least for today. I decided last night as I was heading to bed that I would finish the hole digging and get as much done in the basement today as possible. Namely because it'll then be done, but also because it's supposed to get pretty hot this next week, and the idea of doing a lot of manual labor during that time isn't really appealing.

So I went into the basement this morning after reading the paper to finish digging the hole. To my surprise, there was water in the hole. Only in the deepest part, though -- the 30" deep pseudo-hole. Standing water. Crazy. I knew I'd be getting close to the water table, but I didn't know how close I was until this morning. It was obvious that it wasn't down too far, though, because all of the clay dug out was pretty moist. But it was good to see water, because that gives me hope for what I intend to accomplish with the sump basin (without running tile).

I finished digging the hole which took probably an hour or two (I wasn't keeping track) by the time I squared it out and got it roughly as even as possible. It ended up about 31.5" deep (from the top of the concrete floor). After cleaning everything up well (the dust and clay immediately around the hole), I hauled in the gravel and started dumping away. When I got the base depth I wanted, I tamped it down a bit and set the basin in place. There will be a (planned) 1 inch drop from the existing floor height (to make it like a floor drain). I was way short on estimating the amount of gravel needed, though. I really should've measured the hole and done the calculation before, but I guessed instead. Long story short, I ended up with about 1/3 of what I need to complete the job. But that's alright. I'll just have to make another trip to get some more. In the meantime, I've got enough to have the basin set in the hole at the desired height and somewhat surrounded by an inch or so of gravel.

I cleaned up the floor of the cistern and also the basement floor and steps today as well. All of the major dirty stuff is done, so they're dry swept and vacuumed. It all needs to be mopped yet, but I need to start at the top (cleaning) and work my way down before it gets to that point.

And as a random note to end this post, I ran out of LP gas for the grill today. Fortunately, there was enough to get the potatoes done, but by the time I went out to put brats on, it was all out. So I need to get that cylinder filled Monday. It actually lasted quite some time (a little over a year), although we've grilled about 4 times as much this year than we did last year, so usage wise it's mostly been this spring/summer.

So tomorrow will likely be an indoor day. It's supposed to start heating up again now, so I'll either tinker in the basement with cleaning projects or hang around upstairs doing random things. We'll see what happens. I know I'll end up taking a nap at some point, though. It's inevitable. And that's alright.

Until next time...
"A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually."
- Abba Eban (1915-2002)

--MZ

Friday, July 20, 2007

Commenceth The Weekend


I Love You!
We were having a good time playing on the floor
this evening which I think is very evident by
this picture.
It was an excruciatingly long day at work today, even though it was technically a short day for me. I was the only one there and so while that makes for productive times, it makes for an incredibly long day.

I came home this afternoon with Mark's car, since he's borrowing my pickup to move some things out of his house for the evening. I'll have it back tomorrow. I don't mind his car, but I prefer my pickup. It's interesting how you get used to your own vehicle, how it drives, and so forth.

Shortly after I got home, I fixed the email problem I referenced in yesterday's post. It was a necessary thing, because I really don't enjoy coming home from work to about 3,100 emails. It's unpleasant to say the least. Granted, a spam filter I've got in place on the computer caught and managed about 1,800 of those, but they were still downloaded. Unnecessary waste of bandwidth. And time, for that matter.

So I took the steps necessary to resolve the problem. It didn't take very long to accomplish, but it takes a little analysis to make sure I implemented it correctly (because I need to remember the good aliases, since I set the default (non-specified user) mail to be redirected to the spam account, whose mail file is automatically deleted once per day thanks to cron (and crontab).

So I set up the redirector business and created the crontab entry; things so far are working well. I received about 3,000 emails in seven hours without it. In nearly seven hours since implementing it, the spam account is currently at 8MB in size. So that's 8 MB of email I didn't download or have to deal with. Considering that it's mostly text (and a few small PDF attachments in the 8MB, that's a lot of junk text.

So I'm glad I got that working again. I've only had to deal with about 40 emails in the last seven hours. I can handle that, as can Thunderbird. It doesn't take on 3,100 emails in seven hours very well.

I spent part of my early evening digging in the basement. The lowest point in the hole when I started was about 20 inches. The average depth of the hole when I started was about 14 inches. I took out about 18 five-gallon buckets of material (heavy, moist clay), and the hole's lowest point is now about 30 inches (right where I want it to be). The hole's average depth currently is about 27 inches.

So I've got a little work to do yet, which I'll likely tackle tomorrow in the earlier part of the day (while it's still on the cooler order). Most of what's left in the digging department is in cleaning up the hole -- squaring it up and leveling out the bottom a bit more. So ideally I will be able to put some rock down in the bottom of the hole (2-3" of it), then set the sump basin and start backfilling until I run out of rock. Now that I've got the hole to about the correct size, I'm guessing that what rock I've got on hand will fill about 1/2 to 2/3 of the space. It's completely a guess, though.

So that will be nice to have set in place. Even if I can't get the concrete patching done (because I'll need more rock), having the hole dug will be incredibly nice to have complete. Then I can start focusing on other projects (like cleaning the basement).

One downside to my digging activity today was that I ended up breaking my good shovel. Well, I broke the handle. I'm working in a fairly confined space (under the stairs), so I didn't exactly have good ways to keep working on expanding the hole. Invariably, I relied too much on the leverage of the handle. I heard it start snapping about ten minutes before it split visibly, so I backed off. But it wasn't enough.

The handle didn't completely split, and the shovel still works quite well, actually. But it was shortly after that I decided to simply jump in the hole and dig from there (the hole is about 30" square), so I wouldn't have to leverage the handle so much to get the material out.

Ah well. That's why I have a spare shovel, just in case. I shouldn't need it at this point in time (especially since I'm almost done), but it's there just in case.

So that's about all I've got for tonight. I was thinking about something (and I didn't write it down, of course) earlier, but that'll have to wait until later, I guess. Until next time...
"In America, anybody can be president. That's one of the risks you take."
- Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965)

--MZ

Thursday, July 19, 2007

In Random Travels, Some Gems Stick Out


As If Reading The Words Aren't Enough...
...to satisfy this little girl's massive hunger for
literature! For the record, this is her favorite
book to eat.
I took the day off today (more about that later in the post), but in my random quest around the Internet in some 'spare' time, I have really found some real gems.

I've not laughed so hard for a long time. It all started with this blog post. This sort of thing is the stuff I love to do when I'm in the right mood. It's usually not in person, though (although it has been before), but rather with telemarketers or the like. Although oddly enough we had some Jehovah's Witnesses come to the house this afternoon and I briefly entertained the notion of answering the door naked. I'm pretty sure we'd be blacklisted for that. :) Alas, I wasn't quite in the right mood for that, so I behaved. For now.

The JW's don't usually come around when I'm at home (which bothers me none), so I was surprised by that. Not only that, but they'd not been by for some time (Beth was still pregnant the last time).

I love sarcasm. I also love to mess with people's minds at times. not generally in that sort of 'asshole' like way, but rather in the way that makes one ask questions. Almost like planting the seed of doubt and watching it grow. Or just having plain old good clean fun not directed at anyone in particular but rather a situation. Take for example a doctor I ran into today who played a certain style of music while performing a procedure. He didn't do it because he really likes that style, but rather because he knew someone else in the room very much didn't like that style. That's awesome. :) But he's a very cool and professional fellow at the same time. But knows how to have some fun at the same time.

It's been a pretty long day today. I took the day off because it was somewhat necessary. Beth had a pretty straightforward and (for lack of better term) trivial procedure done today (it was on an outpatient basis to give an idea of the non-critical nature) that meant it was going to be difficult for her to deal with Kirstin much today. So it meant I needed to be primary caregiver today and not just playmate.

I don't have any problem with that; it was kinda fun in a way. We got to spend some time together and just hang around. But it also does make for a bit of a long day -- not just because of Kirstin, but the fact that I needed to do some things for Beth as well when we were all back home. Tomorrow should be back to normal (more or less), so I'll be back at the mill and that will be okay. There are a few things I'd like to get done before the end of the week.

I have been tinkering with the website bit here and there for the last 36 hours or so. Most of the tinkering thus far has been working on a new logo/symbol (it's currently in black and white), and the other has been in working on a color scheme for the primary site. And also brushing up on my CSS. I'm planning to do this without the use of HTML tables, which will be a first for me. It's going to take a lot of tinkering to get the desired effect, but it should work out well I think. The only part related to this that I've not done before (at length) is related to the positioning of items, so that's where the tinkering will come in to play. I'm hoping to start working on this sometime during the weekend as time allows.

Speaking of the weekend, I'm keeping my project list on the small order. I want and need to get the cistern cleaned up (there's still a lot of old dirt and whatnot), which is one item. I also need to finish digging the hole for the sump basin. And ideally get the sump basin set and backfilled as much as possible with what rock I have on hand. I've currently got four cubic feet of rock, which probably won't be quite enough, but I'm not sure yet. I didn't want to buy too much rock (besides, I was running out of room when I bought what I got before) anyway. So we'll start at this and see where we end up. I'm guessing right now that it'll get me about 2/3 of the way.

I also want to do some more cleaning in the basement at some point in time (possibly this weekend). We'll see.

I've been kinda annoyed this evening with my [primary] email. This afternoon I noticed that I was having some server trouble with the provider. About three hours later, service was restored, but I've noticed that my home-grown anti-spam functionality was broken. In that I'm receiving about 10x what has become the normal volume. So that's annoying. I'm getting about 1000 messages, when I should be getting on the order of 75 in the same time period. Eesh.

So when I logged into the server this evening, I noticed that my redirecting business was out of order. I also checked up on my spam junk account (which I'd set up through crontab to automatically delete itself daily) and noticed that it'd not been removed for some time. It was up to 1.95GB of junk mail. I have no idea how long that took to accumulate, but that's a lot of damn mail. So I manually removed the mailfile for now.

So one of my tomorrow projects will likely be to rebuild my redirections and also re-create the crontab entry to keep my spam file from getting that large again. So that kinda sucks, but it could be worse. I can deal with the extra email for a day or two.

And in a perfect world, I'll be able to start some templates and stuff locally on my intranet here so I can get this redesign business on its way to becoming history. :)

So, I'm heading for bed now. Until next time...
Memory is like an orgasm. It's a lot better if you don't have to fake it. (Seymour Cray)

--MZ

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Lethargic Little Girl

That pretty much sums up Kirstin's day. She's been pretty mellow (read: sleeping) or fussy throughout the day. Tis the side effect of vaccinations. :) She's getting progressively more active as the day goes on, so she's feeling better. That's a good thing.

The picture today is from the 2007 One-Act; probably one of my more favorite moments in the show where #2 is breeching. Good material. I've not yet uploaded pictures as I write this, so I needed to pick a random picture from the collection.

Speaking of random, I received word today that a guy I once knew died as a result of injuries sustained in a plane crash. Crazy. For the ultimately curious, this is the information I have about the incident.

I continued working today on some pretty major refactoring of a particular portion of application code that's used pretty much anywhere we do image I/O with the database. It was a shared library of sorts (although it wasn't a separate library from the application), and over time there was some significant duplication going on. Long story short, just today I was able to go through it all and remove over 600 lines of duplicate code. The official line count was 616 lines, but it's closer to 660 lines because I added several carriage returns (blank lines) in the refactored code between sections (to make them easier to find in the future). Now, 650 lines isn't that much when you're talking a few hundred thousand, but this particular unit only started with about 2350. It's now in the 1600 line range.

So that was a good productive bit today.

I'm relatively sure I've taken care of Beth's computer problem that popped up earlier this week. Her computer would randomly (and by itself) gracefully shut down. After about 8 minutes of being up. It was quite strange, and I ended up tracking it down to be the UPS service that was incorrectly receiving a signal from the UPS unit indicating the computer was on battery power. So after five minutes of that state, it would shut down.

Well, disconnecting the UPS serial cable and disabling the UPS service seems to have resolved the problem. At first I thought it was a power supply problem...and it even occurred to me that it may be some sort of virus or malware...but thanks to the system logs I quickly discovered the real problem.

I've been toying with the idea for some time, but I finally decided last night that I'm going to be doing some pretty serious website work at some point in time during the future. I've had the mzonline.com domain now for just about 10 years. In fact, it will be officially 10 years on August 6, 2007. Seeing as how the last major change in design and scope for the domain and a few of its sub-sites was in 2003, it's time to freshen things up a bit. Okay, a lot.

Right now I'm just focusing on the conceptual work, and I'm tossing a lot of random ideas around in my head. I'm hoping to work on this some in the next few weeks. If I do it right, it shouldn't take terribly long to implement. But I want to move most of it to PHP for speed and modify the layout templates a bit. Ideally, I'd move into some neat CSS business, but we'll see about that.

I'm doing a little random scouring for design and color scheme ideas, but my real focus is on organization and layout. I'm not sure yet if I'll tackle the transition of the Python Repository, but that will be a fairly intense project, because any changes I make there will be database-driven in regards to content, so there's more work involved.

And that's about all there is tonight. So until next time...
"Copy from one, it's plagiarism; copy from two, it's research."
- Wilson Mizner (1876-1933)

--MZ

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Taste The Air


Nothing Like A Good Book
She has different tastes (literally) than I, but it
must be good to her...
So we made the 'mistake' last night of opening up the windows upstairs and putting in the window fan (as per the usual). The humidity never really left the air last night (or throughout the day today), so we had a relatively cool and un-humid downstairs this morning (because it stayed pretty nice overnight since I'd shut off the air conditioner before we went to bed)...but a nightmarishly humid and sticky upstairs by the time I left for work this morning.

It was worse outside, though. I walked outside and could literally 'taste' the air. It was crazy humid. So tonight the windows are staying shut and the air conditioner is staying on its normal nightly program. That should make it at least tolerable throughout the night.

I forgot to mention last night, but I saw the first 'SPAMALOT' commercial for the Ordway Center's run which starts next week (a week from tonight). I was a bit surprised to finally see a commercial this late before the run, but I'm sure their marketing people are smarter than I. So that's cool. Acts as a reminder that it's coming up soon (in just over three weeks).

Speaking of SPAMALOT, Farmfest is going to be happening this year (with extended hours I heard on a radio ad this morning) August 7-9. We'll see, but since we're going to be in that neighborhood to drop off Kirstin while we go see SPAMALOT, it may be worthwhile to go down there a little earlier and at least be able to check out the venue. If nothing else, it's good walking time...and I can usually find a way to get free admission. It pays to know people. :)

Anyway, to today's happenings. I started out my day on a unique note -- as I entered the garage to leave, I saw a striped gopher. Crazy damn things. We've got some around the house and yard that have taken up residence. They're in areas that are off-limits to the Rodenator, which is unfortunate because it'd be nice to blow them up...but I'll have to see about resolving that problem sometime. At least they're not pocket gophers...so they only dig holes and burrow...as opposed to creating unsightly mounds of dirt in the yard.

My day at work consisted of pretty normal activities. I got back into the business of refactoring, so that's good. I'm only a short way into the current refactoring project, but that's alright. It will take a while to go through and make things nicer.

Today was also Kirstin's four-month doctor appointment. She's still doing well, growing and whatnot like I'm continually told small children do. By the way, that's starting to get a bit old... But I'll not rant about that tonight. She had another set of vaccinations, so that was fun. Well, not for her. But she handles it pretty well. And she slept a lot. It's good that they've got an experienced shot nurse that administers them -- she doesn't waste any time, so it makes the process easier for the little peanut.

Anyway, that's about all I've got to share today...so until next time...
"It is better to be quotable than to be honest."
- Tom Stoppard

--MZ

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Return To Normalcy?


I'm Outta Here
Felix leaves the neighborhood while Kirstin works
on rolling around.
I'm not really sure I would adhere to that title, but it was a return to a routine if nothing else. In many ways it was nice to be back at the office, but I felt especially unproductive as I spent most of the day working on catching up (or rather, filtering out communication (read: spam)) on everything. Tomorrow will be better, but it will still likely be a bit on the overwhelming order.

I don't really have anything unique about my day to write about, but I do have a rant or two that I will write about, seeing as how I can. :)

The first I'll start with relates to a previous post in which I wrote about the situation with damage to the car. Accidental, of course. Well, after sitting on the $266 and change estimate I received to fix this damage, I called the girl responsible for said incident today to discuss the estimate and determine an appropriate course of action.

What I discovered almost immediately once I got in contact with her is that she seemingly intended to find whatever way possible to bypass responsibility for the issue at hand. She first stated that I was parked in a no-parking area (which is technically true, but the lot was full at the time and without any overflow parking available, we were well out of the traffic area and some distance on to the grass). Now, I'm not trying to claim the 'everyone else was doing it' defense, but this situation (people parking in the technical no-parking area) was going on all day. And I'm guessing that it wasn't/isn't just on the particular day we were there, either.

To make her point, she stated that 'If the cops had been called, you probably would have gotten a ticket for parking there anyway...' In hindsight, I really wish we had called the cops, because it probably would've helped to have some sort of police report, ticket or no ticket for me. But I'll get back to that later.

Then, on top of it all, she referenced things that her brother (whom she noted was a cop) and uncle (whom she also noted is her insurance agent) told her about the incident. Long story short, she was trying every route available to bypass the fact that (regardless of parking situation) she ran into an object which in turn made $266 damage to my car. She even went so far as to imply that she was less at fault because the boat trailer in question wasn't locked down, which was the middle link in the chain reaction.

Anyway, she said she'd get back to me later in the day (after consulting her parents about the damage amount) and we'd proceed from there. At the time I figured she was looking for more advice, which I can respect.

It turned out (at least it's pretty obvious that this is the case) that it appears her parents intend to bail her out of this situation, because she/they offered to pay for $100 of the damage since I was parked in the wrong place and would've gotten a ticket anyway.

Now, I'm pretty sure that if I'd received a ticket for illegal parking, it sure as hell wouldn't have been for $166.

You know, the part that really pisses me off about the entire situation is not that it was an accident. That sort of thing happens. What really gets me going is the fact that something happened, accidental as it may be, and the person ultimately responsible for the incident itself is looking for any sort of way to appear to have no responsibility for the issue.

I can deal with the fact (and admit) that the car was in the wrong place. Fair enough. But I fail to see how the fact that an item I don't own or have responsibility for that was rammed into my car by another driver who had plenty of room to maneuver and was clearly not paying attention means that she's only responsible for approximately 1/3 of the repair cost.

The repair itself is purely cosmetic; it's mostly labor intensive. I'd consider fixing it if I only had a minimal personal expense (loss of car for a while and perhaps up to $100 out of pocket due to the situation). But I'll be damned if I fix it when I'm going to be 'responsible' for the bulk of the expense. I keep thinking to myself that it's awfully fortunate that there wasn't a small child or the like in that position of the boat trailer, because I'm pretty sure $100 wouldn't do a thing for the family of an injured (or worse) child, regardless of where said hypothetical child were 'parked'...

You know, there used to be a time when people could take responsibility for things, even accidents. And again, I'm not claiming to not be at least a little bit at fault for the situation. But it's pretty clear to me that there's a misalignment of the burden of responsibility in this case.

I'm likely going to just let this go, because I have wasted enough time just getting to this point. All I was hoping to get out of this situation was not even money, but a lesson of responsibility for this girl (who is under the age of 20, I might add) to note that you always pay attention to everything when you're in a busy place with a car. I've clearly failed at that. I'm not pissed about the car (as noted, it's cosmetic and is actually hard to see at a glance), I'm not pissed that an accident like this happened. I'm pissed because the attitude is always 'it's some other asshole's fault, not mine...'

I guess one could easily read what I just wrote and point out my last sentence. For pretty much everyone who may personally know me, I'm pretty sure that the understanding of 'that's not how I operate' applies here.

Anyway, I'll keep rant #2 brief. I get a weekly newsletter, and this particular week's edition included an editorial on whether or not the presence of the Internet is leading to antisocial tendencies, etc.

The editorial writer essentially brags how nice it is to stay at home for days on end without needing to go anywhere. Then the claim is made that the writer is more social now than previously, thanks no less to the Internet and whatnot. While I can see this point, there's something to be said for daily personal contact outside of your 'circle'... Perhaps I'm too much a Gemini. Who knows, but I know I'd go nuts if I knew I had to do everything I can do (down to ordering pizza!) right from home and through the Internet.

Don't get me wrong, the Internet is a fantastic place, but when people use it to order pizza rather than calling to order...that is what I would easily qualify a complete waste of good bandwidth.

Anyway, it's getting late now, so I'm heading for bed. Until next time...
"Criticism is prejudice made plausible."
- Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

--MZ

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tomorrow, It's Back To The Salt Mine


I Can Kick!
She was happily kicking away while
I tried to get a few pictures of
her in her cute little outfit.
So it's been a really good and productive week off. I'm glad I took the opportunity to do it. Some pretty major things got done during the week...most of which had been put off because I didn't want to get to them during a weekend or always had something else that needed to be done first.

Today was pretty normal as far as things go. After a mid-day nap, I went outside and mowed the lawn for the first time in nearly three weeks. Some parts needed it badly, while others were a waste of gas. Regardless, the job is now done for a while again.

Once I finished that project, I decided to break out the cart (seeing as how I already had the lawnmower out) and haul out the remainder of the concrete block wall and other debris that resulted from Friday evening's activities. It was not as bad as I'd expected (hauling out the remaining concrete), but it wasn't really fun either. But it's out now, and I no longer have to deal with it.

I took down the plastic that I'd used to seal off that portion of the basement, and also picked up things a bit while I was down there. It looks much better than it used to, and it's just cleaner now. I still need to do a fair amount of cleaning down there, but that won't happen until the sump basin is installed, which cannot happen until the rest of the hole is dug. As of this evening, we're about half way there with the hole. I haven't dug any more since Friday night, but it shouldn't go too badly if I tackle it in small bits during the week (a bucket or two here or there). And if not, Erik might have to come out for a few more beers and some excavation fun. :)

At any rate, it was a good week as I noted above, but it'll be back to the salt mine for me come tomorrow morning. In a way it will be nice, but I have a feeling that catching up with various communications may be a bit of a nightmare. We'll see. At any rate, it'll be nice to return to more of a normal routine. I had a routine for the most part during this last week, but it rarely consisted of the same sort of project. :) It was just always a new project here, then one there, etc.

I don't know if it will be this summer yet (it might not be until after Labor day), but I have a few more things I want to work on that will require a day or two off. I need to do some work in the garage so I can get more storage space worked out before wintertime comes, and I also would like to do some stuff in the storage shed for the same reason. I'm pretty sure I know what I want to do in the garage, but the storage shed I've got to think about yet.

Anyway, I've rambled enough about that stuff, and it looks like we're going to see some rain and storm activity within the next two hours or so (I can now hear thunder periodically), so I'm going to wrap this up and call it a night. Until next time...
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."
- Alan Kay

--MZ

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