Archive for the ‘general’ Category

New Hotness

So I need to prime the pump of this post with a bit of foreword. It should be noted that I am decidedly NOT a mac fanboi. I’ve used a fair portion of their kit over the years for a variety of purposes, both liesure and work related. From the technical perspective, I have evaluated their products on those basis, and am willing to state the following things about their products and mentality:

  • They have, on a regular basis, been able to innovate decidedly outside of the box
  • Their ecosystem is proprietary and exclusionary, and has allowed them to make gobs of money at the expense of a healthy market (they are definitely NOT the only company guilty of such practices. That doesn’t make the fact any better)
  • iTunes software and store sucks. Sorry, it just does. And it is getting worse as time goes on
  • Their products are incredibly sexy. They take aesthetic design to a level that most companies don’t even know exist, many more simply emulate, and almost noone can rival. Off the charts
  • They have excellent support, in my experience. I’ve not had to make that much use of it over the years, but when I’ve had to, it has not let me down
  • They have managed to create a brand and consumer loyalty index that is also rarely rivaled. Those who have bought in are damn near rabid. In markets where there are so many other options, and in the few cases where an otherwise healthy competitive market exists for the particular product set… that is pretty invaluable, and might have been one of the most important reasons they’ve stayed in business during some of the tougher times
  • They support educational markets. I dig that. Even if it isn’t for purely altruistic reasons, they at least recognize that it pays off in the long run, and have (and continue to) leverage this fact. Well played, sirs … well played
  • I’m not fond of their pricing model. I speculate that part of their strategy is (or at least, was), to play to people’s vanity and price their products as the “premium” model in the markets they participate in. Yes, sure… I can chalk some of that up to needing to recover the costs associated with their high quality of engineering and design, but not that much. Also, it just isn’t true anymore. Yet they still participate in their markets with prices 20% or higher than the nearest equivalent product, and I’m sorry, but those differences in product that were once arguably differential are, quite simply, no longer true

Ok, so now you know my stance on them. I own several of their products, and where I can rationalize the price, I may very well purchase them in the future as well. But at the moment, my general “one liner” about their current product set is “I’m kind of over them”.

Well, that was yesterday. This is today. And holy shit. If I really take a damn hard look at this, and try to noodle out what the real differences are between this product (that I’m about to link) and its competitors … the list is probably reasonably short, but not insignificant. However, maybe its just I’ve got that glossy sexy shiny thing making my eyes all blurry and all, but HOLY SHIT. Apple, I gotta hand it to you… you make some sexy stuff. Without further ado… please feast your eyes:

http://www.apple.com/mac-pro/

You’re welcome.

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Media Library

So once I got the XBMC server setup, I started ripping all my DVDs onto the NAS drive and making them available to that server. I also found a neat too (xbmchtml) that lets you rip the Library out into a nice HTML formatted view. So I added a link to that up in the top header (Media) so you can go there and check out all the movies and tv shows we have ripped down. Very neat. Oh, and the link back to the blog is up at the top left of that page when you’re ready to navigate back.

Enjoy!

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liverock bonus plan

So there has been quite a bit of progress on the fishtank front. Where to begin…
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Quicken Tech Support Fail

Here is a redacted cut/paste of a conversation I just had with Quicken Tech Support. I’ve redacted the name of the support person because I have no interest in throwing anyone under the bus. My initial question was to find out if there was any special/upgrade pricing as a long time user, and what the new features were. I will leave you to make your own conclusions…

XXXXX: Hi, my name is XXXXX. Thank you for contacting Quicken, please allow me a moment to read your question.
XXXXX: Hi Mark, how are you doing today?

me: very well, thanks. Happy New Years.

XXXXX: Thank you and happy new year to you to.
XXXXX: I would like to inform you that there is no update price available while upgrading from 2010 to 2013, however as you are a valuable customer, I am providing you with a link to get $20 discount.

me: that would be great, thank you.

XXXXX: http://quicken.intuit.com/blahblahblah

me: that is for the rental property manager
me: is there one for home and business?

XXXXX: You can scroll down, you will see it at the bottom of that page…

me: ah, nevermind, I just switched products, and the discount is still there.
me: Excellent.
me: so. final question… are the new features worth the upgrade? Last year, I was told there wasn’t anything significant changed
me: (by support)

XXXXX: Yes, there are many new feature plus the Mobile app.
XXXXX: Are you satisfied with the support I provided today and my efforts to help? If not, how else can I help you?

me: ok, thank you, I’ll look into it. Actually, I do have one final support type question
me: I’m trying hard to reduce the size of the file I work with.
me: its currently 40Meg + and the performance of quicken is suffering as a result
me: I’m trying to do a year-end copy to get rid of pre-2006 data
me: and after I do that, the file size is STILL over 40M (no reduction in size)
me: what am I doing wrong?

XXXXX: I would like to inform you that Year end feature is not working currently you can try the copy option to archive your file
XXXXX: Are you satisfied with the support I provided today and my efforts to help? If not, how else can I help you?

me: does it work better in 2013?
me: or work at all?

XXXXX: It is not working in 2013 as well.

me: thank you. Yes, I’m satisfied with your support.
me: have a great day

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Christmas Trains

So once upon a time there was a guy. And over the course of his childhood and adolescence, he was in the habit of acquiring model trains for he and his brothers to play with. Nowadays, these would be referred to as “old school” trains, with the fancy switches, electricity to power them, little reservoirs that you can fill with dry ice or something so that the little smokestacks really spit out smoke, everything mounted to big swaths of plywood with fake grass, dirt, mountains, matchbox cars, and 1 inch high people strewn about. This guy, as he got older, thought to himself… you know, wouldn’t it be cool if I could have a couple boys (or, I suppose, girls) and when they’re old enough, they can play with this stuff too. We’ll be able to make it a father/son (or, I suppose, daughter) project and they can learn all about electricity, being responsible with potentially dangerous stuff, and so on. I should also note that this guy would have been thinking and saying these things in German, since he was my Dad, and was in Austria at the time those thoughts would have been percolating.

I should maybe take a moment here, and note that some of this story I’m telling second hand, I was either not there yet or too young to remember when some of these details were happening. I’m also not quite sure of the sequence of events, but it isn’t that important. I suspect there was some embellishment on the part of story-teller, but it still makes for a good yarn, so just bear with me.

Anyway, so let us fast forward a few years now, and now that guy is married, and has two kids, aged 4 and 2. Still in Vienna at this point, but already planning to move over the good ol’ US of A, where the lovely lady has most of her family, and of course, misses them terribly. At some point here, this guy’s stepmother decides that she is going to take that whole train set and all of its associated trimmings and trappings, and send them off to one of her nephews. Dad was apparently not consulted on this, nor was anyone else that might have had some relevant input to the decision. If I’m conveying a bit of bitterness, it is because there was some. I’ll leave it at that, since, again… this predates me, and it is hard for me to feel a lot of emotion about something that couldn’t possibly have mattered to me at that point in my life.

Ok, so there was some animosity, regret, sadness, opportunity missed for some quality Dad/son time there, and life went on.

Another fast forward, and here I am, now a Dad myself. Two kids, 4 and almost 2. And lo, check it out. Opa David (my Dad-in-Law) decides to send us his trains. Once again, these are the old school variety. I haven’t done a complete inventory yet. I do know that there are at least there are two locomotives, at least 3 cars, and a whole mess of track. There are two of the “transformer” boxes that let you regulate the speed and direction of the train. There will need to be some cleaning, probably a few parts that need to be replaced, but even with the very limited stuff we set up today, we were able to get a functioning oval of track around the Christmas tree with one of the locomotives and two cars hanging off behind. It throws off a few sparks here and there, lights flicker on some particular rusty bits of track, but it runs!

This will be a long project, spanning a bunch of years, especially since the kids are pretty young still. This kind of thing, I believe, is a labor of love, with long hours spent with sandpaper, modelling glue, and linear miles of wire so that the little streetlights will all turn on when the room gets dark. Perhaps I’m letting my imagination get away from me a bit here, but … well, what good is that darn thing for anyway, if not to close your eyes and let it run a bit wild the possibilities.

So thank you Opa David. Someday, Madeline and Nicholas will come to appreciate what I already know… just how special a gift this is.

Happy Holidays to all!

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Promise to my children

Preamble:

I apologize up front. This is going to be intensely personal, probably very long, and only really relevant to parents. That having been said, I need to get it out. This is, to some extent, a conversation I’ve been having, both internally in my head, and externally with with friends, parents and my spouse for near around 20 years. My children are currently four and one and a half. This will be a conversation I have with each of them, most likely separately, not likely very soon. But it will happen, because I know the circumstances already that will lead to it being a necessity.

I think it is possible that I delayed having kids for a time because I didn’t feel like this dialogue was yet fully flushed out in my head. At some point, I realized that it never will be. This also came along with the realization that some people, for better or worse, never have this conversation. Some have it, realize they can’t live up to this promise, and then have kids anyway. Life is like that. I don’t expect anyone else to live up to this standard. I expect MYSELF to live up to this standard. I’m not telling anyone else what to do. I’m not judging anyone else. Each of us, once we commit to the new life in our midst, has to decide how to approach this on their own, and make their own call about what it means. As mentioned above, I think this is intensely personal, and unique for every parent, with every child. Perhaps this is my disclaimer about what you’re going to read.

And from here on, you need to imagine me (or yourself) sitting across the table from your child, and I’m going to switch that perspective so that someday, if they read this, they will know it is to them…


I’ll start with an analogy. It is one I thought up a long time ago, and maybe now, tonight, I understand it more completely than ever before.

I imagine life is sort of like walking across a stream. We’re walking across together. The water is moving fast. It isn’t very deep, but the rocks we walk on are slippery. Not all of them are stable, sometimes we have to step in the water, on a rock that wobbles a lot, just to get across. But we’ll keep moving forward, together… for now. I want you to know that I’ve walked across this stream, or one very much like it, before. I was walking with my parents. Someday, fates willing, you’ll do the same with kids of your own.

The first part of this analogy is that no matter what, we’re going to keep going. We may stop to rest sometimes, but we will always keep moving forward. For the moment, I’m going to point across the stream, and tell you that is the right direction. At the moment, you don’t know, or can’t know, what that means… for now you have to trust me that I know. Someday, at some point in the future, you’re going to find your own direction, let go of my hand, and strike out on your own. Remember this point, I’ll get back to it later.

Next, there are going to be times when I’m going to see a spot in the stream that looks familiar to me, I’m going to see a rock I stepped on before, and when I took that step, I slipped, fell, and landed on my butt in the water, and got hurt. Maybe it was some physical pain, maybe it was shame, maybe it was just an awkward moment… whatever. I’ll point that out to you. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t take that same step I did. Maybe I’ll point out a different path, another rock. Or maybe I’ll just ask you to wait a moment until the current isn’t quite so fast, but the choice is still yours. Sometimes, you’re going to take my advice, avoid the fall, and we’ll move on from there. Sometimes, you’re going to take my miss-step anyway, and fall on your butt, just like I did. I won’t tell you “I told you so” (ok, maybe I will) … but maybe it will show you that sometimes, I do have good advice. That maybe I can help steer you in tough times. My first promise is this… whenever you fall, I will *always* do my best to be there to help you back up. I’ll kiss your cheek, give you a band-aid, give you a hug, or talk to you about what happened. Whatever you need right then, I will *always* try to be there for that.

Sometimes, you’re going to take that step, and NOT fall. In those moments, you’re going to see something in me you won’t recognize until later in life. Pride. I’m going to be proud of you. Proud of you for succeeding where I did not. Pride in standing up for yourself and what you believed in, even when I told you there might be a negative outcome. I hope you will see from this that I’m not perfect. I hope you will see I’m ok admitting that. I hope you will see that though I’m not always right, I was still trying to look out for you. My second promise is that I will do my best not to be angry that you didn’t listen to me, and try to see that you’re learning to make decisions for yourself, knowing full well they might not be good ones. That your independence is just as important to me as your success.

I will tell you right now that there are going to be times when I will see the slippery rock, and I’m going to be very insistent that you don’t take that step, that you pick a different path instead, no matter how much you complain. I may use words like “forbid” or “you’re grounded” or “don’t take that tone with me young (lady|man)”. You’re going to wonder why it isn’t like the earlier case where I let you make your own mistake. I need you to just trust me on this one. I may or may not have an explanation that makes sense to you at the time. My next promise is that I will make my best effort to use this “veto power” that parents have as sparingly as possible. I won’t take it lightly, and I won’t use it carelessly or casually. It will only be when I think that the possible outcome is so bad that it would be MUCH worse than the lesson you would learn by making the mistake yourself. It is my hope that someday you will see the logic and understand, even though that “someday” might be much later in your life. Sometimes, the 38+ years I’ve lived more than you have will have more weight than the force of your will and nature.

Now getting back to that earlier point. Someday, we will find ourselves at a spot in our journey where you are going to want to let go of my hand and take off in a different direction. That is also ok. We may not agree on when that time should be. I did the same thing with my parents. I would ask that you recognize how difficult a time that is for parents. Letting go is hard. Maybe *the* hardest thing we’ll ever do. To some extent, we sign an unwritten agreement when we had you that was a long term deal. We knew full well that we were signing up for the long haul. That brings me to the last promise. What we were signing up for was to make sure that when you did decide to let go, and make your own journey, that we had done our very best to prepare you for what was ahead. It won’t be perfect. You won’t always agree. From the moment you let go, you will see and do things we probably would never have imagined. All we can hope for is that we steered you right, gave you the right guidance, and left you with the smarts to make the decisions on your own, the common sense to be intuitive about your path, the independence to be able to stand up straight on your own, the compassion to help those you’ll meet in the future, and the emotional maturity to handle your successes and your failures with grace, humility and honesty.

I guess there is one more thing too, worth mentioning. You may find that the first time you let go doesn’t work out quite as planned. Sometimes there are false starts, and for that part, you will always have a home with us. No matter what the circumstances are, you can always count on the hugs, band-aids and the support you need to try again. Don’t ever feel shame in that. The only failure from falling down is if you don’t learn (or don’t want to learn) the lesson from it. Why you fell… how to not fall again for the same reason. We will do our best to be here for that part too.

I love you. Now go back to your room. You’re still grounded until further notice.

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Leg

The final leg of the journey went fine, and sleep-less-ness aside, all is well. I sat out on he porch (pictures forthcoming) by myself for about 30-45 minutes once we got settled in. It was about 11am local time, and maybe 70 degrees out. There was a slight wind constantly going (as is normal here), and the bliss feeling was nearly instantaneous. My earlier complaining about the process of travel, while not invalid, was quickly outweighed by the benefits of being here in particular. I do really like it. The view is awesome off the porch. There is nothing going on here except us relaxing. No pressure to do anything or see anyone. This is, by far, the way I prefer to travel. I think we have two actual agenda items to hit while we’re here, and no particular day those things need to happen.

One is to get the kids to the beach here. There will likely be some minor stress associated with that, but no more than normal kid-wrangling for any outing, anywhere. And the second is to go fishing. No idea what is in season right now, and honestly, it is more for Madeline than me. But I’d like her to see the whole process anyway. I have no idea what she’ll think of it. She might not like it at all. Sometimes she is utterly fascinated by things that squick other kids (Zombies), and other times, the smallest things frighten her (vacuums). Its hard to predict. Right now, it seems like she is hesitating, so we’ll try to come up with a way to sell it. She’s also never been on a boat before, so that might be a challenge in and of itself.

Nearly finishing with Game of Thrones (first book). Not sure how I feel about it. It probably would have been better to read it BEFORE watching the show, to be completely fair. I am struck by how well the show has stuck to the book. Normally, there is so much license taken with making something “screen-worthy” that you either lose a lot of content, or you end up adding in things that were just flat out never the author’s intent. But so far, omissions have been small. I did bring the second book with me as well. I may take a break from that series to read one of the others I’ve brought though. We’ll see, I suppose.

And this brings up the one rationale I can possibly come up with to own a tablet reader device. Travel. I probably will read half of what I brought with me, and books just add significant weight to everything. I’d certainly much rather tote around a 20 oz. tablet with all my books on it than all the books themselves. And certainly, technical references are the same example. I can lug around a bookshelf worth of O’Reilly stuff, or a tablet with all the PDFs. Duh. Easy sell. Now that I’m focusing on management instead of pure technical stuff though, maybe that day has passed for me. In most work scenarios, I’m also going to have internet access from either a laptop or main machine, so the reasons break down there to some extent as well.

It just occurred to me that these long stream-of-consciousness posts are decidedly anti-blogorific. Blogs that are well read (at least, by me) tend to be focused on single topics and explore them thoroughly, as opposed to traipsing all over the current day’s thoughts. Maybe I’m forging a new path. Or maybe I’m just limiting who is likely to read this. Ah well. IyamwhatIyam.

More later.

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Recent updates, intro

So I’m sitting in the observation deck of the Halifax airport. It is 4am local time. Madeline and Nicholas are sleeping somewhat fitfully, but asleep nonetheless. Ella is trying, but mostly failing at same. But we knew this was the likely outcome. But really, did getting a hotel here really make sense? Arrive on flight at roughly 1:45am (local time), pay some exhorbitant fee to get to the hotel by 2:30 or so. Take 30-45 minutes to get the kids sleeping. And then reverse the whole process at 6am to be back here in time for the next flight out. No, it really doesn’t. So here we are.

The flights have been decent. Air Canada has always been on my “they don’t suck much” list as far as airlines go. Air travel (and actually, most travel, for that matter) sucks. I mean, the mechanics of getting from Point A to Point B. Once you’re there, rested, and doing stuff, its all good. But the act of picking up and moving one’s self across uncountable miles is just draining. I used to be ok with parts of it, and I could rationalize the rest as a reasonable compromise. Now, add in two kids into that mix, one an infant, and it just gets unreasonably ugly. Madeline was great today, no whining or fussing. Fascination with the flights, taking off, landing and generally being agreeable. More than anything, I think she is also just anxious to reach the destination and see Oma. She has LISTS of things to do. LISTS I tell you. Nicholas was *mostly* good. He is in a weird slightly disagreeable phase right now, and it manifests in ways that have the potential to make for a LongTravelDay. A few small incidents aside, he’s been ok.

Again, once the destination is reached tomorrow morning, there will be naps. OH YES. Perhaps by dinnertime and a shower later, and we might be close to reasonably human again. I expect there will be many posts this week. Vacation has a habit of bringing that out in me, I suppose. Or it could be that whole “free time” thing. Amazing, wot? As I am in the habit of doing when I look at my blog, I re-read the last post, and realized that a whole mess of stuff has transpired since that last post. So there is a lot to talk about, and I expect some brain dumping to occur.

For the moment, though, I will constrain myself to opine on the nature of this airport and this fine observation deck am I currently stationed in. I’m sitting on the windowsill, staring down three floors to the concourse. At this early hour, it is devoid of any activity. No refueling activity, luggage cars sitting in semi-organized groups in seemingly random areas strewn about. Planes all parked and dark. Thankfully, the Tim Horton’s downstairs doesn’t sleep, and that yielded up some caffeine goodness to keep your humble blogster (is that a word?) properly fueled himself.

As I stare into this currently lifeless hub, I can’t help but think of things much bigger. In a few hours (maybe not even), the drones will begin their droning. Luggage will move from place to place, fuel will make its way into the veins of these wing’ed beasts. Passengers will begin their frantic loading and unloading. And this little corner of the global lifeblood will again be participating in the global dance. It strikes me as all maddeningly complex. Just this one small microcosm of activity, repeated in thousands of similar venues all over the world, that drives (or, ok… at least keeps greased the gears of) this immense engine of civilization. It seems to me that all the pundits of every scree and order who proclaim to understand some small inkling of a piece of all of it are just whistling into the wind. The reality of their verbal pissing is just so much refuse. just that… piss. Not worth much more than to fertilize the mind of the next pedant to navigate those same waters.

Took a short break there to hold my sleeping son. There are fewer moments like that as time goes on, and you have to enjoy them when you get them.

Fast forward until shortly after 5am, and now activity has picked up a bit. When we got here, there were probably a half dozen people sleeping in here. They’ve all left at this point, presumably for earlier flights than ours. And now this mom/dad/son combo has intruded on our otherwise isolated space with a MONSTROUS NOISE. Yelling and looking out at planes and what was surely going to be a beating narrowly averted. Yes. 5am. They have definitely seen that we have two kids sleeping here, and we are otherwise quiet and trying hard to keep it that way. Is that a Canadian trait that I was heretofore unaware of? Apparently. Actually, they sounds like Minnesotans, if my ability to place accents is at all up to snuff. Anyway, my Muse is interrupted, and not likely to return.

Cheers for now.

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Basement update

As you might expect, work has been proceeding apace on the basement. I have been documenting that every day they do more work with pictures posted up to Google+. If you are not currently using Google+ or aren’t in my circles there, you won’t see them. If you are, here is a quick link to the albums page:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/photos/118195920712839083844/albums

I created a new album (Day1, Day2, etc) for each day’s worth of pictures. Obviously, the days didn’t all happen in a row. Some days nothing except delivery of new materials, or an inspection of current work to meet code, or what have you.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the quality of work and the speed things are getting done. Communication from the contractor has been good, and responses to questions and concerns are generally handled the same day or at worst, the next day. All the subcontractors have been very professional, courteous to us if we’re home, and even ok with the dogs being upstairs and occasionally barking. Again, I’m hesitating to give any final recommendations until we see the final product, but my current sense is that I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending these guys to anyone, or calling on them again in the future to help us with additional work.

I will express one thing in particular, since it was so notable in all this progress. As I mentioned in a previous post, the owners of this property before us really did a number on the house when they “finished” the basement. As noted before, the electrical system in particular was really just not handled in a safe way. All of the downstairs circuits were simply tied back up into existing junction boxes upstairs. The net effect of this was two-fold. First, we would very commonly overload a circuit with it having load both downstairs and upstairs. Fuses popped all the time. Further, when they did the tie-ins to the junction boxes upstairs, they just didn’t do it right. Very often, we’d be left with an upstairs wall plate that was loose or just flat out not working. So the end result is that when we “fixed” the basement, we also wanted them to go to all the upstairs boxes that had been tied into, and fix them as well. In the end, we asked them to just do a full “audit” of all the electrical in the house. They expanded the panel in the garage. If we ever want to put more capacity in the house we can. This was done so that we could “properly” run a sub-panel downstairs. Every wall socket and switch on the house is now replaced with new plates. All junction boxes have been checked for safety.

Here’s the scary part… and it only confirms the fears I had about how it was improperly done the first time around… when they went through and checked them, three of the junction boxes had to be pulled out and replaced because they were charred on the inside. Right. Burn marks from sparks or who knows what. We really are fortunate the whole place didn’t just burn right down to the ground along the way.

So when I got home that day after all this work was done, I walked around the whole house, checking outlets, flipping switches, etc. I really didn’t understand fully just how much all that had been weighing on me over time. To have everything finally be safe? Worth every single penny. I’m fact, I’m not sure I can even place a value on that. I truly felt (and still do) like a burden had been lifted, and relieved.

What’s next? Well, as the pictures show, they are up to the point now where mud/tape on the drywall is done and drying. They will come in I believe on Saturday to texture. Trim package and tile arrives on Monday. I’m not sure if they will start in with the trim and tile work on Monday or wait until Tuesday. I think they are also going to try and get the fish tank moved downstairs then as well, since some of the trim work depends on it being in place already. I also think we slightly over-estimated on the weight of the tank. Troy had originally told me it was about 700 lbs. empty. Based on some online calculators for it (not like I can just weight it)… it is probably more like 500, or slightly less even. In any case, they will get a few of their guys to come in one of those days and lug that thing downstairs. I’m grateful I don’t have to do that myself for certain.

What remains? Trim and tile. Cabinets, doors, shelving installation. Full cleanup, sweep and vacuum to prepare for painting. Paint. Door and bathroom hardware install. Final HVAC, electrical and plumbing. Carpet install. Final inspections. Final walk through and punch list. Done. I do believe we’re still on target for a completion date in the first week of March. It has definitely been exciting to come home from work every day, walk downstairs and see the incremental progress. Quite an adventure, to be sure. I’m anxious for this all to be done. We have this vision of the completed product. We will have a lot of work after that in turning it back into a living space. There may be a bit of lag in replacing some of the furniture, of course. We got rid of a few things that insurance isn’t covering (for example, the hated futon), which we will need to replace once money permits.

Though we do have notions of where things like desks and office stuff is going to go, I suspect that once we actually get stuff downstairs and have the ability to move things around in the space, we’re going to end up with a different configuration. Its very difficult, even with the walls up now, to imagine how things will work out once the space is occupied again with furnishings, bookshelves, paintings and such. But that part, I think, will be fun. I do expect that there will also be some additional stuff we decided to throw out at that point. When we were lugging everything out of the basement to get it out of the way, we didn’t really pay that much attention to whether or not we really wanted to save all of that still. Stuff that has been sitting in boxes for 15 years under the stairs? Maybe its time to look at it more closely and see if it really should remain. Having to carry it all back downstairs again shouldn’t happen until that evaluation has taken place. As I said, though, I think we’re both looking forward to that part.

And of course, the kids will have a lot more space to play again. I think that has been the hardest adjustment to this period of time … where everything is essentially cramped into “half a house”. We’re climbing over each other constantly. There is NO space that isn’t also occupied with the kid’s toys and books, etc. You can clean that up every day, and in 2 hours they will return it to the state they prefer the next day. Its almost not worth even trying to clean up after them. I’m looking forward to having proverbial elbow room again.

Finally, somewhere along the process of the aforementioned work, I will also be getting the remainder of the wiring closet work completed. Both the wall plates and the termination point in the wiring closet need to be punched down and finished off. Though I can already feel the cramping in my hands just thinking about doing that, I do like getting all that done and everything linked in properly. I’m quite certain I will be photo-documenting that effort once I get to it as well, to satisfy the geekiness of all that.

More to come as this progresses…

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Basement Joyride

Finally, some quick picks of Maddie taking a bit of a joyride in the basement on her Christmas tricycle. She can’t really ride it upstairs on the rugs, so downstairs on the nice smooth floor seems like a perfect opportunity. It looks dark and wet because it was just mopped.

Pics from here on should be once the work has begun…

Basement Joyride

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Basement Cleanup, Final

Link to the final cleanup photos…

Final Cleanup Photos

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Basement Demolition

Link to the Demolition photos…

Basement Demolition

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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.

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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.

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Spamalicious!

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.

Greetings,

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.

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