Archive for 2011

And on top of it all

I don’t think there is any more frustrating experience in the world than being a technical type person, and having to call a tech support call center that is attempting to help you, that knows ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE less than you do about your problem.

So yesterday, rewind to approximately 11:30am. I was doing some browsing to find the address of the place where we have to send our insurance check to get it co-signed. Might as well put in a quick aside about that. It turns out that if you have some kind of problem that theoretically might de-value your home, any money the insurance company provides you needs to be endorsed by the mortgage holder as well. SO yeah, off it went in the mail today. But thats neither here nor there. So, 11:40, just as I’m getting the right phone numbers to call and account numbers, my Internet goes away. Damn you, Al Gore, I thought we had an agreement about this sort of thing.

So I poke around, do the usual resetting of modems, etc, no dice. Now I crack my knuckles and break out my network juju, and get to work. It took me roughly 5 minutes to find what I thought might be the source of the problem, along with 1 other extraneous piece of data that turned out to be nothing. My modem (this is DSL) is syncing up with the CO just fine, and PPP authenticates just fine. My router is getting its static IP address without trouble. I can ping both the internal interface on the router I attach to (private, facing me), as well as its public ip that faces the ‘net. After that? Its a big black hole of traffic. So at this point, all data is suggesting that my static ip address’ route is no longer routing back to me.

So, call up their tech support, and sure… I’m in the land of first tier support, trying desperately to get out. I try every tactic I know to get escalated, but the person I am on with just isn’t having it. Time spent in that first go at it? 3.5 hours. They had me try every possible method of resetting the modem possible, including hard resets and restoring factory defaults. Which of course means that all my custom routing stuff is now gone, and I’ll have to redo from scratch. Despite all my pleadings, they are very insistent on eliminating every possible local element from the equation. So no, I can’t have the DSL modem connected to my machine through a switch. I have to establish a direct connection to it, despite those things being in different rooms in the (now very much torn apart) basement. I humor them. I have to. I figure the only way to get through this tier is to allow them to walk me through all the “are you sure its plugged” in steps before getting me on the phone with the actual network engineer who will understand the language I’m using to describe the problem.

But no, 3.5 hours, and now I have to get to my dinner date with friends. I get the ticket number, the assurance that the person is going to put complete notes in the ticket, and pray I don’t have to go down the same road when I get back home and talk to the next tech support office servicing them, which will invariably be in India or China.

Fast forward a bit, midnight, back home and get back on the phone. I still had to do a little dancing for this next tech, but was able to convince her (probably along with whatever notes were in the ticket) that we had tried every available first tier method for solving this. Her answer? You have a defective modem. Now, please note… this is the modem THEY sold me, and it is now roughly 3 months past its warranty. So in effect, any further troubleshooting is on hold until I pony up for the new modem and continue on from there. But as I mentioned earlier… I *know* it isn’t my modem. I can see the entire connection process. I can see their router, it is a routing issue on THEIR side causing this. That does… hit the escalate button. Another 20 minutes of re-explaining things to the shift supervisor, who appears to listen to reason, and indicates he has to escalate it to their routing team. No problem, I’ll hold. No sir, sorry, they only come in at 8am. But I will send an email as soon as we get off the phone and let them know that you’ll call them in the morning. Here is a new ticket number with the escalation… blah blah blah. Phone hangs up, I go to bed, now 5.5 hours into this issue, and no resolution in sight, despite having properly diagnosed the problem FIFTEEN MINUTES into it, on my own, without their assistance. I go to bed thinking I’m going to have another long day of phone wrangling.

Get up, liesurely breakfast, get downstairs …

*gasp*… routing problem fixed, all restored (well, except my modem settings). All hail the gods of whatever person saw fit to take a look at the ticket in their incoming queue and do some investigation on their own before I called in and repoint my goddamn static ip back to the router that faces me. You deserve a quick bow of appreciation and a clink of glasses wishing you a happy new year. Cheers, random network dude. You saved me a frustrating day.


Sodden Life, Part 1

So we’ve had a bit of a mess here.

Last Monday night, I went to the bathroom, flushed the toilet and went to bed. Figure this was about 10:20pm or so. At this point, you’re probably thinking “oh great, this is another of those blog posts where over-share occurs and now I know intimate details about their bathroom habits that I could otherwise have spared myself”. No, actually, it isn’t. I only mention that to give you a timing of events. Fast forward 8.5 hours to my wife walking downstairs to get my daughter a set of clothes from the freshly done laundry. She makes it to the bottom step, and is suddenly ankle deep in very cold water. After a bit of frantic running around, shutting off of all the power in the house (for fear of there being a live circuit and standing in water carrying a current), we find that that same toilet mentioned above is behaving more like a fountain than a toilet, and most likely has been for all of the afore-mentioned 8.5 hours.

I’m going to skip some details of the next several days. Suffice to say that there was alot of work involved, and we’re about to have the insurance assessor come out (Tuesday morning) and tell us what they’re willing to help us recover/pay for/replace/etc. That should be interesting.

But what struck me most about the past days of going through stuff, trying to inventory what has been damaged or not, is some of the stuff we’ve found… historical parts of our lives, that had been living in the crawlspace and are being “unearthed” (dug up? what is the word for recovering from the depths of water?) for the first time in many years.

We got to the back of the crawlspace under the stairs tonight, and pulled out the only box that was still there. The rest had been pulled out the day of the initial discovery and cleanup. I don’t know why that one was left there. Maybe it was too heavy. I don’t know. Anyway…

It was a box labelled “Desk Stuff”, and it was unopened in AT LEAST 12 years, and more likely 15. It contained a whole mess of stuff that really should have just been thrown out years ago. Bills and filing cabinet records from, literally, 1986-1992 or so. Phone bills, paystubs, bank statements, etc. All well past the “7 years” that could theoretically be called on in the case of an IRS audit. In addition, though, were some real gems. The first stock grant I’ve ever had. 3000 shares of Pre-IPO shares from Citrix Systems, and $0.185 per share. Phew. Of course, most of the written parts of it, like signatures and stuff were hopeless smudges of blue ink, but the printed out stuff was completely legible. It disintegrated in my hands as I was looking at it and turning pages.

In there as well was a notebook of … well, I’ll call it a journal. Not like a diary, per se, but more like notes I took about my life at the time. From 1989 and ’90. A love letter to “Cindy”, who I … well, it took me literally minutes to dig into my memory to pull up all the memories of. That may sound kind of bad, but it just wasn’t in “easy reach” of my brain’s search engine anymore. once I thought a bit, a few triggers of memories, and it all came flooding back. Nothing terribly notable or formative, but … there it was. And so now I look at the first 50 pages of that book, all the words hopelessly lost to the ink smudge’d mess that they’ve turned into… and I wonder…

What part of my historical record have I now lost and will maybe never recall again?

More than a bit disturbing. I think perhaps once all that stuff dries out that I’m going to go through it a bit more thoroughly, and maybe commit some of that to the blog. It isn’t more “permanent” by any stretch. Any media, no matter how far abstracted from a physical object… is still tenuous. But maybe a bit better protected than the waterlogged box in my crawlspace.


the intarwebzorz are awesome

So I had a great InternetExperience(tm) a week or so ago.

A few weeks back, someone on… I think G+, linked me to an artist I had never heard about on youtube. I think the “deer park” video if I’m not mistaken. Alright, so I dig it. I make myself a youtube playlist out of it. A youtube feature I had never before played with. Congrats on making that completely simple to do.

This becomes, just through the pleasure of listening to it, my default thing to listen to while doing anything on my computer at home for the next several weeks. I am reminded that Christmas is coming up when I mention it, and so I go searching for the CDs. Amazon gives me no love. Oh, and its worth mentioning right here that I am searching for the physical media, not just an iTunes download. @set me=grognard. *shrug*

So I poke around some more, get some more info about the artist, etc, and spend about the next two hours finding out more about this guy, and ultimately, not finding anyplace that sells his stuff. Blah. The best I get is this page. It seems he signed up with them a few years ago. No CDs there, but it was late, I was tired, and the “contact” link was just too inviting. I did not have really high hopes, but what the hell. My expectation at this point is a polite form letter in response telling me that stuff is out of print, yadda yadda, have a nice day.

To my very pleasant surprise, I get an email less than 24 hours later FROM THE ARTIST HIMSELF. Now that is what the internet is all about, goddamnit. I love that. He was kind enough to hook me up this website, which he indicated (by the quick examination of the box at his feet) had about 15 copies of the album I wanted, still in stock. A short transaction later, and my order is in! Now that is just awesome.

We exchanged a few emails after that, chatted about artist’s rights, physical vs. digital media, and BigMusicCorp and such, and so I’m happy to push more business his way if my little corner of the Internet should happen to enjoy his music as much as I have. Thanks Nick! A pleasure doing business with you. Don’t stop making cool music for me to listen to!


EC2 keypair nonsense

Getting the EC2 instance keypairs to work with the various types of SSH clients out there seems to be somewhat of an issue. I had trouble with it when I first started out, and I’ve had a few friends request help on that. I just got home, started fresh, and documented my steps with all three clients below (linux command line ssh, putty and SecureCRT). Hopefully, this will save a few of you trouble where I had some initially…

Before I get into specific instructions, I should note that there *are* certainly other ways to get the specifics of this to work. This is one method. You may find others, your mileage may vary, all rights wronged, all wrongs reversed, world peace in our lifetimes, etc etc ad nauseum.


  • Using the AWS web administration, select the EC2 tab. Select “Key Pairs” on the left menu
  • “Create Key Pair” on Top Bar
  • Name the pair, in my example, I named it “TestKeyPair”
  • This will download a PEM file. Save it somewhere you will remember.
  • Now on the “Instances” panel (from the left menu), select “Launch Instance” from the top bar
  • I selected the “Basic 64-bit Amazon Linux AMI 2011.09 (AMI Id: ami-1b814f72)” AMI
  • I chose a micro instance in my zone (us-east-1b)
  • Advanced Instance Options – stayed with all default values
  • Instance Details – named the server TestServer
  • Create Key Pair – I selected “Use Existing KeyPair” and selected the key pair created above
  • Configure Firewall – used the quick-start Security Group
  • Review – Launch.

Wait until the new instance is running… find the “Public DNS” field in its properties page, you will be using that to connect.
In my case, it was

Now, for each client, again, same caveat as above… there may, in fact, be other ways to get this working. I just tried to get to a working configuration as quickly as possible.

SecureCRT Instructions :
I’m using build 6.7.2 (x64 build 229). I believe these instructions will only apply to recent builds, since the ability to use
the PEM file directly was only added recently. Older versions will probably still work, but will likely require extra steps to
convert the PEM file to the native SecureCRT format (or another format that it can use)

  1. Create New Session
    • Connect : Name – I used “test server”
    • : Protocol : SSH2
    • : SSH2 : Hostname (use the DNS name above) :
    • : Port : 22 (default)
    • : Username : ec2-user
    • : Authentication : PublicKey
    • Select the method, click on Properties
    • Select “Use session public key setting”
    • Select “Use identity or certificate file”
    • Click on “…” to browse for the downloaded PEM file
    • Click “OK”
    • All other values should be at defaults
  2. Connect
    • You will be prompted to accept the key exchange details. I clicked “Accept & Save”.
    • I was, at that point, logged in to the ec2-user
    • “sudo -i” got me to the root account

PuTTY instructions : (version 0.6.1)

There are other ways to do this (for example, using Pageant), but this is just to get the connection. Presumably, if you can get this working, you can get the other methods as well…

  1. Run the “puttygen” key generation program
    • Conversions menu -> Import key
    • Browse to the saved PEM file
    • You should see all the key details on the screen, including fingerprint, comment, type of key and number of bits
    • Click on “Save private key”
    • Save the file with the PPK file type, I named mine TestKeyPair.ppk
  2. Create new session. I named it “testserver”
    • Host Name (or ip IP address) : use the DNS name above, including the username :
    • Port : 22
    • Connection : Logical Name : I used the DNS name :
    • : Data : Auto-login username : ec2-user
    • : SSH : Auth : Private key file for authentication ->
    • Browse to the file saved in Step 1 above
    • Save your session
  3. Open the connection
    • You will be prompted that the key pair is not yet saved in putty’s cache. Click “Yes” to save the key exchange and continue
    • At this point, I was connected to the server, logged in as “ec2-user”
    • “sudo -i” got me to root login

linux ssh instructions
Linux version (uname -a) :

Linux pebkac #1 SMP Sat Feb 27 17:55:36 MST 2010 i686 AMD Athlon(tm) 64 Processor 3800+ AuthenticAMD GNU/Linux)

OpenSSH and OpenSSL versions :

OpenSSH_5.2p1, OpenSSL 0.9.8k 25 Mar 2009

This is perhaps easiest. You can use the PEM file directly to connect without additional modification. I transfered the PEM file to my linux server (using SCP) and then executed instructions as you can see below:

jio::/home/jio>>> ssh -i TestKeyPair.pem
	The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
	RSA key fingerprint is c2:b2:5c:1e:12:4d:55:73:a2:f3:3d:c6:09:d3:9c:cc.
	Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
	Warning: Permanently added ',' (RSA) to the list of known hosts.
	Permissions 0644 for 'TestKeyPair.pem' are too open.
	It is recommended that your private key files are NOT accessible by others.
	This private key will be ignored.
	bad permissions: ignore key: TestKeyPair.pem
	Permission denied (publickey).
jio::/home/jio>>> chmod 400 TestKeyPair.pem 
jio::/home/jio>>> ssh -i TestKeyPair.pem
	Last login: Tue Nov 29 04:30:03 2011 from
			   __|  __|_  )
			   _|  (     /   Amazon Linux AMI

	See /usr/share/doc/system-release/ for latest release notes.
	There are 14 security update(s) out of 18 total update(s) available
	[ec2-user@ip-10-194-110-99 ~]$ sudo -i
	[root@ip-10-194-110-99 ~]# ls -al
		total 36
		dr-xr-x---  3 root root 4096 Nov 29 04:19 .
		dr-xr-xr-x 24 root root 4096 Nov 29 04:08 ..
		-rw-------  1 root root   24 Nov 29 04:31 .bash_history
		-rw-r--r--  1 root root   18 Jan 15  2011 .bash_logout
		-rw-r--r--  1 root root  176 Jan 15  2011 .bash_profile
		-rw-r--r--  1 root root  176 Jan 15  2011 .bashrc
		-rw-r--r--  1 root root  100 Jan 15  2011 .cshrc
		drwx------  2 root root 4096 Nov 29 04:08 .ssh
		-rw-r--r--  1 root root  129 Jan 15  2011 .tcshrc
	[root@ip-10-194-110-99 ~]# exit
	[ec2-user@ip-10-194-110-99 ~]$ exit
	Connection to closed.




Ok, so this is awesome. Yeah, sure, we all get spam email all the time. This one, however, caught my eye for no good reason I can think of. Once I read it all the way through, I saved it for posterity’s sake. Also, this is probably only going to be funny to those who know of TrippyMUSH. Here is the email, with bits knocked out to protect … well, me, probably.


My name is xxxxxx xxxxxxx, and I would like to present you with a business opportunity that offers the potential for considerable earnings.

I work for a privately held manufacturing company, which currently purchases a specific product vital to its processing operations at a price significantly above the manufacturing cost. In my proposed business venture, you would act as a stand-in supplier, providing this key material while retaining the same profit margins. My role would be to introduce you to my company as the supplier and to obtain a contract between you and my employer.

I understand that your experience with TrippyMUSH Inc doesn’t directly relate to my field. However, this venture is more in line with your personal capabilities rather than your professional experience.

I would like to confirm your current phone number xxx-xxx-xxxx. Please send a return email to verify your contact number and to schedule the most convenient time to discuss these possibilities in detail. I look forward to speaking with you soon.

Kindest Regards,

Awesomesauce. Pure … awesomesauce. Ok, maybe its only funny to me. Who knows.


Step back sometimes

I had a conversation last weekend reminding me that we all too often spend our mental energy on all the wrong sorts of anxieties. I don’t mean our passions or interests… I mean the things we choose to stress or worry about.

So, due to circumstances that are often out of our own control, we sometimes find ourselves separated from our loved ones, sometimes for extended periods of time. Imagine for a moment that loved one is your son (or daughter), and that you haven’t seen them in 15 years. And when you did, they were 14 years old. Yes, you might argue… that is perhaps an extreme case, and you’d be right. But uncommon? Unheard of? No… I think probably all too common, in fact. Anyway…

Now imagine that you head back to your hometown for a family gathering of some sort. You hear that your son is in town, but really have no way of knowing how to reach them or meet up. Imagine that you decide to hit the old haunts on a particular evening, and then, without any warning, you see your now 29 year old son sitting at the end of the bar, throwing back a beer. You approach, and the following conversation ensues…

him : Do I know you?
you : Yes, you do.
him : How long have I known you?
you : 29 years
him : Are you saying what I think you’re saying?

And then for the next several hours, you find yourselves picking up the pieces and learning about each other again, discovering and sharing.

Makes all of the other crap infesting my brain all seem rather trite by comparison. It also started another thread internally that I haven’t quite flushed out yet, but will post about soon.

Thanks for sharing, Tom. I won’t soon forget this.



Its been a fairly busy weekend, all told. Saturday we went down to Larkspur to get the FishTankFromHell(tm). Thanks to Geoff and Tom for their heroic assistance in that move. We got everything moved, including about 40 gallons of the existing water. I think there were a total of … 15 fish? Something like that. We lost one already, I think just due to the “shock” of the move. We will probably lose one more if my guess is on. But I think, given what they went through to get to my house, that is about as well a result as can be expected. The rest look great, their color has returned, swimming around well, etc etc.

We had our friend Simon come over this morning to try to get some pictures of us and the kids. They were well behaved, but didn’t sit still very well. We’ll see how they turn out. We will post pics once we have them, and of course provide Simon with some advertising for his trouble! Thanks Simon!

I left from DIA at 3:44 bound for Seattle and arrived relatively unscathed. Somewhere in the mix of security scanning and getting to my seat on the plane, I dropped my cash. I didn’t realize it. When we deplaned in Seattle, the lady sitting behind me passed me on the jetway, and handed me something, asking if it looked familiar. It was my billfold, all $150 or so it, plus receipts. I do believe at least some of my faith in honesty is restored. So thank you, nice lady sitting behind me. I do appreciate it.

Taxi to hotel, checked in. Dinner at Buckley’s. I also managed to get in touch with Johnny Rockstar, who I will be dining with on Wednesday evening. He is going to try and coerce Gamber to come along as well, who I haven’t seen in ages, so that would be great, of course. And I should be meeting Susan Ramsey and her beau for a drink or dinner or both tomorrow evening as well. Its good to be the king, is all I’ve gotta say.

Ah Seattle. I do like it here. I like the climate, could do with fewer hills. Could do with not being on a major fault line. But otherwise, I dig it. Now time to finish off my book and head for bed.


Fishtank, next installment

So this is mostly going to be about adding the inline filter in. I might even try to draw some little picture to describe whats going on, since this was such a pain in the ass. Really, I should have taken pictures, but I’m lazy. Meh.

So, first, let me describe the problem. I think I hinted at it in one of my previous posts, but I’ll get into detail here. The players are:

The only real detail you need to know here is this… the inline heater is intended to set in the OUTBOUND line of the filter. This stands to reason. You don’t want the particulate matter coming in from the tank to potentially get all clogged up in there and cause a mess or worse. So having it go through the filter first, and (presumably) get rid of all the crap first, THEN go through the heater just makes good sense.

Ok, Eheim’s tubing is in metric measurements. The INBOUND line on the filter is 16mm/22mm (ID/OD). This roughly corresponds to 5/8″ ID.  in US outdated backwards keep a brother down measuring. I’m not bitter. Really. The OUTBOUND line is 12mm/16mm (ID/OD), roughly corresponding to 1/2″ ID. Ok. The Hydor has 5/8″ compression fittings on both sides.

Now you can see the issue. Outbound line where it needs to go? 1/2″. So that needs to get adjust up to 5/8″, insert the hydor, Fittingthen back down to 1/2″ again. Big ol’ pain in the butt. Ok, so I hit the hardware store after work, and picked up a couple 1/2″ to 3/4″ (OD) barb fittings. They look roughly like the image to the right. I also got some of the screwdown clamps to make sure nothing would leak. Since we are dealing with metric/US conversions, there is always the minute differences that could be enough room for leaks.

Ok, so now let me see if I can get a decent image of how all this played out…Installation
There we go. Ok, so although the image is kind of tiny, you can see the different size hoses, and where the fittings had to be put in. It should be noted that this picture doesn’t include the shutoff valves eheim provides in order to make disconnecting the filter easier. That is, unfortunately, one downside to this, and something I may end up fixing later. Ideally, I’d want to have those quick-disconnects on both side of BOTH the filter and the heater. That way if I needed to take the heater OR filter out temporarily, I could. As it stands right now, if I want to take the filter out, the heater comes with it. Ah well, down the road.

Lets see, what else. Well… one thing I’m struggling with is that there is really limited space under the tank. Meaning, the stand is pretty space-constricted inside. Getting all of this stuff connected without bending hoses in ways they weren’t meant to be was quite a trick. Also, I think I fixed the leak I mentioned in a previous post! I think what happened is that the quick-connect thinger was not creating a good seal because of the way I was attaching it. Essentially, if you have both of the ball valves CLOSED when you attempt to connect it, you’re creating a compressed pocket of air in there that is inherently resisting your attempts to push the two sides together. Opening one of the ball valves fixes this problem. It isn’t leaking anymore after watching for awhile. HOWEVER, I am getting a leak right below there at the place where the 5/8″ tubing joins to the fitting. This is easily remedied with another screw clamp to fit over the 5/8″ side. So far, I had only used them on the 1/2″ side since that was the side that felt a bit loose. That is a problem that $1.20 can fix. So all in all, I’m pleased. We’ll see how this heater behaves.

Hmm. Ok, so I ordered a few things today. 2 replacement bulbs for the lighting (the actinics are burned out). A power strip that has clock controls to alternate lighting stuff, a submersible thermometer, some water conditioner, and some replacement clips for the filter. Not too bad. I spent some part of the morning looking for an online supplier that was Better Business Bureau Accredited. After four sites failed that test, was not only accredited, but answered the phone for support with a PERSON when I called, and had everything I wanted in stock. I will know next week how they are with shipping and such. Given that part of the order is light bulbs that are quite fragile, this should be a decent test.

Oh, the two pieces of wood I bought the other day are in the tank, and leeching tannins like crazy. I’ll try to get some pictures tomorrow before I do a water change to help that process along. The water just looks really yellow at the moment.

Can’t think of anything else.


I have disabled comments on the blog here. I don’t really see the point of leaving them on. I do imagine that there are a couple of you who pull in my posts here via RSS, and maybe it would be easier to “reply” via whatever reader you’re using. Fair enough. I do, however, crosspost the link to the post from both Facebook and G+. I guess it is my expectation that the “social” aspect, or discussion of a post, if that is going to happen, would happen there. Ideally, I would be able to get rid of Facebook entirely, but I think its probably not something that is likely to happen anytime in the near future. So be it. I can handle two places where discussion can theoretically be generated. For reference, it is not my intent to turn off RSS here. I assume it is working. I don’t subscribe to myself, so I guess I don’t really know. Heh.

Feel free to let me know if you have another preference. I guess I just prefer to consolidate things to the smallest footprint, when possible.



So it turns out that website I found for the fishtank light bulbs has a BBB rating of F and their website doesn’t actually work. *sigh*

Need to find someplace else. Feh.


Fishy overhaul

So my little teensy fishy world might just have received a serious overhaul yesterday. It remains to be seen, but events may be swinging that way.

First, I got an inline heater. Hydor 300H. Problem with that … The Eheim 2217 has a 5/8″ intake tube, and a 1/2″ (well, 12mm/16mm ID/OD) tube outbound. So if I adhere the manufacturer recommendations (which, in thinking about it, make sense), the filter needs to be on the outbound line of the canister. It would stand to reason that you’d want as clean of particulate matter stream of water going through the heater as possible to avoid any kind of chance of it getting all clogged and stuff. I get it. But that means I need to do a 1/2″ to 5/8″ expand before the heater, and then 5/8″ to 1/2″ reduction on the other side. Doable, for sure, just extra parts I hadn’t counted on buying. Assuming Home Depot or Lowes are not completely understocked, I should be good to go.

Also got the black backing for the tank, which is now up, and looks great.

Found a website that carries bulbs for my light fixture as well, which is awesome, especially since it has long since gone off the market. It is a Current USA Compact Flourescent 4x65W 48″ light. Each bulb is 65W, and 24″ (well, ok, more like 22″ long). So I’ll probably order 2x6700K and 2xactinics for it. That’ll run me, … hmm, maybe $100 when I get around to it. Oh, that website is here, for reference. Very happy to have found that. Nice website. Well laid out, reasonable design and good contrast.

But none of that is what has turned my world upside-down. Yesterday, an ebay-coworker of mine let me know that he is leaving there, taking a new job that is going to take him out of town, and he is not reasonably going to be able to take his tank with him. Its an active tank, with Cichlids, primarily, right now, and its got to go. Dirt cheap. And its 250gal. *blink*blink*. Yup. 250gal. 8’x2’x2′. *drool*

So now we’re all in kind of a panic mode trying to figure out *holyshitwtfoverbatman* we’re going to do with this thing. In the short term, the fish are going to go in the tank that I’m cycling right now, the tank itself is going to go in the garage, and we’re going to see what the heck we’re going to have to do with our basement to rearrange to make room for it. There is no reasonable way to have it upstairs. Full of water, that will weigh roughly 2200 lbs. We would need to build a substructure underneath it just to support the floor, and .. no. Not gonna happen. So yeah, I need to figure this out.


Fishtank update 2

The remaining substrate arrived yesterday. I hit Home Depot on the way home, and predictably, they didn’t have exactly the kind of peat moss I wanted. They had one kind which was “enriched”, a Miracle-Gro product, which was supplemented with extra fertilizers or something. I’m fairly certain I didn’t want that kind of thing leeching its goo into my tank. I ended up with something that is probably slightly less than ideal, but whatever.

I drained the tank down, which invariably leaves about 1-2cm of water in the bottom of the tank. That complicated laying down the moss since it essentially just floated. Ah well, it just meant that my first layer (Amazonia + Laterite) had to sort of … hold down the moss. It took a bit of playing with, but I think I managed it. Then came the layers of Eco-complete, mixing the red and black bags in to get a decent layering and some attempt to tier it up in the back as well. I think it looks pretty decent. I took a few snaps of it, but haven’t pulled anything off the camera yet.

Since I also got the replacement filters, I also pulled apart the canister and put the fresh ones in. No real issue there, primed it again, got everything going. Unfortunately, in doing so, I spotted a leak down there. Not a major one. For the moment, a towel underneath is good enough, but there will be a part under there that is going to get a new seal pretty soon here.


First snow

I love waking up to the first snow of the season. Stand outside in the early morning, before the traffic really gets going. You get some quiet moments still where all you can hear is the snow falling. Dim light halos coming from every street light or car headlight or porchlight. You can *almost* forget everything else that is going on and believe there is some purity left.



State of the Union

I’m sitting here watching TV. Its some political punditry or another. It doesn’t matter which one, and it doesn’t matter which ideology. If you read deeply enough into my various postings that either dodge around the edge of my political views or state them overtly… you can get a good sense for how I feel about things. But that isn’t the point here.

Here is the point. I think we are in the process of reaching a node. A Pivot Point. A junction in the way that politics, commerce, finance, culture and people function in this country, and… I don’t think I’m stretching too far here, the world.

#ArabSpring, #OccupyWallStreet, the Euro-Troubles (Greece, Italy, Spain), and the last two decades of corruption, war, growth of government control, erosion of our civil right and personal freedoms… I feel like I’m caught in some kind of fucked up novel. I’ve never personally seen something like this. I was born during another one of these points (Vietnam War), but wasn’t old enough to know it was going on, let alone form an opinion about it. Since around the moment when I started becoming self-aware enough to look at the world around me (say, age 10 or so)… I was still too focused on playing baseball, riding my bike, and trading baseball cards with my friends. And then? At that point, in that year, was the beginning of the end that we are now facing. Ok, not “end”, per se… but like I just said… this … inflection point (I steal from the show I’m watching, shamelessly).

My problem with all of this? I really and truly fear what is to come next. I weep… yes, weep real tears, EVERY DAY right now, watching the events unfold in this country. I used to think, not even very long ago, that moving to would fix it. But it won’t. This goes beyond this country. It extends to all the sovereign countries participating in the global economy. All the countries participating in the ideologies of self-righteousness, fear and hatred. I love this country. I truly do. I marvel, in wide-eyed awe, at the institutions, documents, policies and foresight this country’s founders put in place so many years ago. Their durability, flexibility and belief in a dream that has persisted through some of the most trying experiences that nations have ever faced. But even these, so steadfast and resolute in their ability to adapt to changing times, could not stand up to the onslaught of greed, corruption and just flat-out ignorance that has led to where we are now.

Shame on us. Not all of us. That would be unfair. But alot of us. I count myself among those to blame. I was … lazy, unwilling to push my stake in the ground and stand up for the things that might have made a difference earlier. It is arguable that nothing I could have done in the past decade (or more) would have changed any outcomes. It could also reasonably be argued that I did, in fact, participate in the more local, philosophical ways that I did. But I don’t want to dwell on the past. What is more important is what is happening now.

We live in a broken system. Nearly every aspect of our lives is dictated by corruption and greed. Please. Now is the time. Stand up for what you believe in, talk to everyone around you. Get people motivated about making things right. Whatever the mechanism of change will be… participate in it.


ObjectDock, again

So after not really getting any better feedback about a way to organize desktop clutter from thar Interwebzorz, I went back and took another look at ObjectDock. I still own a license. I believe it had upgraded at least once since I last used it, but not to any significant degree.

For those that aren’t aware of it, imagine the Mac dock, expanded into a “tabbed” interface so that you can create categories of icons. I can make it do the funky glowing, expanding icon thing on it if I want when I mouseover, but honestly, I’d just prefer not. The icon does grow very slightly (maybe 5-10% again above normal size), but I ignore it.

Most icons can just be dragged up into the new bars/tabs, and everything just works. A few things, notably Steam games, don’t work “out of the box”, and you have to manually redo those. The URL wasn’t something it grokked, since they use a funky Steam:URL format, like “steam://rungameid/57900”, for example (that one is Duke Nukem Forever). So I had to redo those by hand, but otherwise it just works. My desktop is once again clutter free. Phew.

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