01 Aug 2013, 14:49

Collisions and Vibrations

Microsoft, in just the kind of bad luck fit that tends to happen when more important stuff is going wrong as well, has had its second major branding debacle in recent memory: first Metro, now SkyDrive has to change its name for trademark infringement reasons. Well, Metro didn’t so much change its name as relinquish its name. But anyway.

Amazon decided to phone in a Prime order and dumped it into FedEx’s deplorable Smart Post system. The fact that the delay only cost a day off of their guaranteed two day shipping, while a third party seller can’t seem to find their packaging tape in that amount of time, is stunning to me and to complain would make me feel small and whiny indeed. But it’s the temperature sensor for the pool, which for some reason has felt extremely important for me to fix, despite it not being at all important to fix. I think the poor advice we got from our “pool school” session made me eager to square the thing away myself as soon as possible. There’s some deep but unimportant psychology going on there, and I’ll be happy to stick a bow on the whole situation and be done.

We got the TV and the non-in-wall components of the accompanying sound system set up in the media room over the weekend. We’d piddled with the TV some already, but last night I cranked up the volume (extensive testing shows we can get away with this after 7pm bedtime!) on the Top Gun final scene. The surround was very effective, “transparent” being the word that came to mind. The TV is glorious and awaits full HD cinematic content versus old DVDs.

But the thought that was stuck in my head, amazingly, was “that’s a darn good sub-woofer.” The sub was the only item for which I overran my guideline expected budget by just a bit, and I couldn’t figure out why I was doing it at the time, but I’m glad I did. It doesn’t bark at you, announcing its position in the room, but it really puts out the vibration. I’m not a bass head, but for a theater room it’s amazingly effective at establishing the “movie feel,” much more than I expected it to be.

I’m also finding that having a true center channel speaker makes the otherwise wretched-seeming audio mixing in modern movies actually make sense. It’s like the dialogue is actually coming out of the television and, with a good speaker, really does stand out over background music and ambient stuff.

Work stuff is really calming down, which I expect to be a trend heading toward the end of the year. This is giving me a chance to think about things more than usual and do some project work. My big programming project has been well-received, which is a load off. MS Access is decreasingly stable with higher version numbers and needs to be eliminated from the majority of my architecture, aside from management tasks. All good stuff to work on in the months to come.

And now it looks like I get to charter my second IT project of the year! Oh joy!

06 Jun 2013, 19:51


I just realized that Neal Stephenson and William Gibson have always been the same author in my head. I have now read or am reading books by both, and never realized I was reading from two different authors. Ha. I’m 35% through Cryptonomicon (Stephenson), which is no easier to read after several hundred pages but is finding its way toward being a bit of a page turner, in a slow-bleed marathon kind of way.

I am realizing that one of the least fancy but most deeply important professional attributes is actually reliability. I think that, in times where I feel my localized reputation has exceeded the value of my work to date, I can often attribute this to being reliable. Even in fairly deterministic analytic work, enough relies on trust that reliability really factors in.

27 Aug 2012, 04:16

The Longer I Run, The Less That I Find

For a while I almost felt a sense of sick urgency to find a different place to live. Then, when I found a place or two I kind of liked, I started feeling more at peace with where we are, at least for a little while longer.

Then I have this song on that I just bought a while back, and it’s kind of funny how the lyrics go:

If I wander ‘til I die
May I know whose hand I’m in
If my home I’ll never find
And let me live again.

I think the absence of what I perceived as good choices was bothering me more than our present arrangements.

09 Jul 2012, 19:15

Standing on One's Own

Effecting a vision is hard in meatspace. Think about October Sky. A crew of plucky kids with a dream. A dream that could not be a reality without some serious resource commitment and craftsmanship. I recall a machinist character who snuck around to steal tool time from a company to fabricate a metal part of the rocket’s body.

The human and material capital required to produce something quite simple, let alone some reasonably complex system like a battleship, is profoundly humbling. Just the tooling required to build a small table can bear a retail cost multiples higher than the cost of a mass-produced equivalent, including materials.

The “tooling” required for a lot of intellectual and technical development is often free, or at least quite cheap. I was thinking last night about Efendi, my own creation that runs my blog, and Clarity, which does the job of Picasa or Flickr, but just the way I want it to work, and on my own (rented) iron and on my terms. Cluster 2 runs on Python and was my creation. Cluster 1 limped its way through on PHP and was the work of one slow afternoon.

I wandered away for a moment’s nostalgia, but my point is directed toward the idea of feeling a sense of delight and pride at watching one’s creations doing good work. Standing on the shoulders of giants, of course, I effectively breathed life into these things, installed them on a platform of my provision, and they now provide a service to me and people I know. It’s a good feeling, even though they are trivial things.

I get a similar pleasure when I install a light fixture, or hang a bookshelf, or wire a network, or hook up a ceiling fan, but it’s just so darn expensive to do anything like that, let alone to build something up nearly from scratch. It’s a fascinating turn of events that innovation in computer science is so comparatively cheap.

It was an interesting feeling last night to hold Claire up by the armpits just above my lap. She pumped her legs outward as is her wont, but this time - for the first time - she straightened them out and pushed against my legs. The force borne by my hands reduced as she lifted herself up a little bit taller. She did that on legs that, not three months ago, were somewhat alarmingly thin and relatively underdeveloped at the time of her birth.

That action was the product of cumulative days of seemingly random experimental muscle movements. She did it burning high-density calories off of food created by her mother’s own body. And there we were again, seeing one’s own creation do a little something on its own.

20 Jun 2012, 19:57


I haven’t written in a long time for obvious reasons. Perhaps the gravity of new fatherhood makes yammering on about whatever might be on my mind seem a little odd. Not that I don’t waste time anymore; I still manage to waste plenty of time – probably more than I should in the scheme of things – but I suppose what I do with my wasted time and noggin cycles often seems less noteworthy somehow.

However, I think it’s good to keep the dialogue up. I would say that over the years this blog has largely avoided the practical issues, the documentary element, of a diary… to its benefit. Therefore, it is a somewhat amusing but intentionally incomplete record of what actually is going on in my head. I have no intent to change this.

I am launching maybe 75%-heartedly into a little photoblog app that will record the more consequential and adorable aspects of my new life. This blog, on the other hand, will generally represent a sort of porous interface between the wheat and the chaff. Efendi, ever the gentleman, will relay to you when something appears in this photoblog, assuming the project comes off successfully at some point.

Cluster will be updated at some juncture as well.

Brightlamp languishes with a few bugs and actually is not currently installed on my recently un-hosed server.

I may not get e-mails when comments are posted here, now that I think of it. For reasons related technically to the current absence of Brightlamp.

I don’t like this new blog design, which might actually be a blocker for writing. That will have to change.

So, in general, there are things to do. That’s a good thing!

29 Sep 2011, 14:22

Can I Get an Upgrade?

I almost purchased a new thermostat with programmability and all those other bells and whistles. Cursor hovering over the Check Out button, I decided that “looks awesome” should not be the number-one purchasing decision factor when buying HVAC accessories. The War on Builder Grade found a de-escalation point.

I’m quite tempted to drop the new “Netflix” service, meaning the streaming part only, and pick up the Amazon Prime unlimited video thing, which appears to at least stumble through working with Windows Media Center. With impending “regular purchases of specialized disposable Velcro-supported products,” that free two-day shipping could start to pay dividends as well.

29 Sep 2011, 14:12

Completed Set

As of sometime next week, all my yard equipment will say “na na na na na” rather than “waaaaa.” Nice gas blower on sale today from Woot/Amazon plus a $30 rebate. Thanks, Slickdeals!

I’m going to attempt to construct a high impedence diffuser fitted to the guts of the current electric blower to make a high-powered garage fan, but that falls pretty low on the ol’ priority list in these hectic times.

But man, I could really use a garage fan in these unseasonably warm times.

22 Sep 2011, 19:18

I Vant to Centrifuge Your Blood

We had a blood drive today at work, and as I had hoped they had some pretty rockin’ t-shirts for the citizen soldiers who showed up for the fun.

When they see my O-neg type come up on the screen, the blood nurses tend to get a vampiric glint in their eyes. I was encouraged to leverage my extra time on a quiet Thursday to give red blood cells, which involves taking what I assume is up to four times as much blood, separating the red blood cells out into two units rather than the normal one pint sack of standard blood, then re-injecting the plasma or whatever back into the vein so I don’t keel over.

Everything was going alright until the little light on the machine flipped over to “Replace” or whatever, at which point I got a burn in my arm around 2-3 on the owwie scale, and I noticed I had a bump developing around the needle that started to look a lot like a white-collar episode of Intervention.

The nurse observed high pressure on the machine’s display and asked me if it burned. I tough-guyed it, but I wasn’t going to lie. Pretty quickly the machine was turned off and the needle removed. I was informed that the bevel of the needle had rotated inside my arm, apparently injecting the plasma goop somewhat outside the vein, hence the crowning bump. I wanted to re-insert and continue, but they said I was done, at least consoling me that they got a pint of red blood cells out of the deal before we had to shut down.

I am still in the range of time I’m supposed to keep the bandage on. I’m kind of scared to take it off. I said, “That’s going to be a bruise.” She laughed and said, “I’m glad I caught it when I did, because it would have been pretty ugly if you had gone the next round.” Maybe I’ll get at least one domestic violence joke out of the deal.

They assured me that nothing in my physiology prevents me from doing this successfully next time. It was just operator error. I knew I was in for it when the tech couldn’t find my obviously bulging vein easily.

The nurse who caught the error was clearly disgusted with the needle job, but at least I got to refer her to our fertility clinic while she got me bandaged up.

28 Jul 2011, 14:57

The Aprons of Silence

My favorite poem, “Aprons of Silence” by Carl Sandburg, starts with: “Many things I might have said today / And I kept my mouth shut.”

I have a few silly stories to tell that I’d rather not tell online despite their harmlessness. Ask me about them in person sometime.

Silly stories might be my only trade right now. Things are running pretty slowly. My current job is good, but I’m struggling to envision my future at this moment. It doesn’t mean it’s not there, but I can’t completely see it right now.

Aside from it being a significant emotional stress on me, elements of Turkey turned out to be my true calling as far as I can tell. It’s hard to find out if the good stuff could ever exist in relative isolation from the uncomfortable stuff I experienced in Turkey. I think it might, but I don’t know how or where.

I’m trying to see how a line management track, which is my path now in all probability, would get me somewhere similar to this vision. Again, it might be able to happen. Especially in a big shop, there are lots of corners that can have a weird nexus of opportunity.

It just turned out that my IT bent, which I always knew to be my love in life, might be a bit more commercializable than I originally thought. I got a taste of a kind of IT divorced from both the disgusting corporate bureaucracy and the pure technical (which I love but don’t know if I could do for a living, a reservation I’ve had since high school).

Kind of like being a COBOL programmer, the Grand Canyon will probably touch magma before this type of trade dies out.

My education path never implied that I would find a stable career path, effectively nurturing a Jekyll and Hyde yin-yang between technical and finance (which is also technical in my eyes). But my preference is to be stable. The fact that I can’t get this off my mind says it should probably stay there.

08 Jun 2011, 04:46

Project, Phases 1-2

My network music player briefcase project rolls along. While I await my speakers, amplifier, and cabling, I went ahead and did the power switch modifications to the laptop board (allowing for an external switch, shown in the upper-left of the picture hooked up with green and yellow alligator clips). That switch will be panel-mounted on the top of the case, near the handle.

The white USB cable has been chopped at the device end, pulling out the 5V DC supply coming from the USB port and using it to power an LED indicator (bottom-right), which illuminates when the laptop power is on. The breadboard in the bottom-left just handles the hookups for that and currently houses the resistor for the LED.

I picked up some tiny pre-etched circuit boards at Radio Shack today that will ultimately contain all the electronics to drive the switching and LEDs. I also have the panel mounts to attach all the lights and switches. The 18” stereo jack is ready to go, which will take an auxiliary input and pass it through to my speakers.

Later this week I can drill out all the panel mounts and go ahead and mount the switches, lights, and audio jack onto the metal plate.