It's more than a house. It's an adventure.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

One step closer to cold Fusion?

Went away for the weekend and discovered that I'd forgotten my trusty Gillette Mach 3 Turbo at home. I had last shaved on Thursday, so by Saturday morning things were getting pretty ugly. So, I zipped out to the local supermarket to pick one up for the weekend.

They had both the Mach 3 Turbo and Gillette's new "Fusion" razor, for the same price. Actually, after the supermarket's "saver club" card, the Fusion was about $2 cheaper. I had sworn I'd never spend the kind of money on a razor that this device commanded, but figured with the discount, I was saving money, so why not give it a shot?

Unfortunately, I don't have a card for that chain, and they wouldn't cut me any slack at the register, so I paid full price - same price I would have paid for the Mach 3, so it's not like I wasted money on the deal.

The verdict? Well, the razor seemed to work better than the Mach 3, but I've had similar first impressions each time I've changed shaving devices. It's just a matter of "different", not necessarily immediately better. The razor cartridge is huge and I felt like it was flopping around a lot on my face. The 6th blade on the back side, for trimming, is a nice touch. We'll see how the razor performs through this head and the second cartridge it came with. I'll keep the handle around, but I really don't think I'll be buying replacement cartridges unless there's a price advantage to it.

Super weekend

Had an interesting automotive experience this weekend. Saw two "supercars" in 2 days, without going to any extreme lengths.

Saturday, I was out driving w/ my brother, and he exclaimed "look a couple cars ahead! Is that a..." It was hard to see, as the car was so low-slung and there were about 3 vehicles between us. A few good bends in the road, and we were able to confirm it. We were sharing the road with...a Ford GT. We managed to shuffle through traffic to get right behind the car, and followed for several miles (not stalking; we were actually going in the same direction). We eventually had to pull up alongside, and looking at the occupants, it appeared that this was a mid-life crisis car, and a mid-life crisis female companion in his passenger seat as well.

Then Sunday, we were driving home and taking the senic route unintentionally, and crossed paths with a late-model Dodge Viper.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Truth hurts

I went through some of our records over the last few days and updated loan payment data in Quicken. I have our loans set up in the software, but most of the payments had been recorded in a very simple fashion (my own mistake), applying the whole payment to the principal. Anyone who's dealt with a loan knows this is wrong - each payment is comprised of some money going to the principal, and some to the interest.

Why is this so important? First, it more accurately reflects the amount left to pay on the loan. And secondly, the outstanding loan balance detracts from one's total net worth. All this time, our net worth was showing as significantly higher, because all those payments had been going towards principal (as far as Quicken was concerned) and thus driving the balance down faster than in reality. And thirdly, tracking the interest spent can provide insight into how one can reduce money going straight out the window, and plan extra payments against principal accordingly.

The data isn't 100% cleaned up, but it's a lot more accurate than it was. The net worth is a lot lower now, but at least it's more correct.

Fun with MS Project

I arrived at work this morning to find an email from one of the other leads on my project saying that somehow, my MS Project plan had gotten corrupted and it was breaking the main plan when he tried to open it. So, he renamed my file to get around the issue and let's talk in the morning.

I checked my file and it was indeed corrupt. Really odd, since it worked fine yesterday when last I touched it. But now, hosed. And my only "backup" copy is on tape from last Friday. Glad I was keeping it on the network, but I do still lose a day of work.

Second time in 3 weeks that this has happened to me. I scoured Google (web and newsgroups) for most of the morning and came up empty as far as resolution and recovery. The best information I could find said that setting dependencies (at either "end") with tasks that have subtasks can cause corruption. Well, I'd been doing that. Maybe that caused it? I don't know. The only recovery tool I found only works with MS Project Server, which we're not using.

For now, that is. The other lead and I are talking about going in super-early a few days next week to try installing Project Server to see how much overhead there will be if we use it. Can we integrate with LDAP? Will it require extra system administration? If it's smooth, we may just switch to that to help alleviate these issues. We've been wanting to do it anyway, just haven't had the opportunity or availability for it. We just can't keep taking chances with the current setup - we need something reliable. I can't lose a day's work every 10 days.

Lawn Update

We created some more lawn last night. Finally caught our neighbor on the east side at home last night and checked in with him regarding what's his, what's ours, what he's OK with us doing, etc. Short version: Everything but the peonies over there, we can have our way with.

So, we set about ripping out the weeds, brush, etc. over there and got about 1/2 the length of the scrub area cleared completely. It works out to about 2/3 of the area, as it tapers as you go up the driveway. From the driveway all the way to his house. Seeded, limed, fertilized and watered the whole area. Let's hope it goes as well as the rest of the lawn so far.

I also mowed the lawn last night. I know I just did it on Saturday, but with the dull blades on the mower I have to keep on top of it. It went a lot easier than the first time because the grass was so much shorter - it was just a trim.

While we were discussing the area we worked in last night, our neighbor told us that the previous owner had spent a lot of time pulling out all the grass that was in front of the house when she bought it, and now we'd gone and ripped all that out and replaced it with grass. I kind of got the feeling that he thought it was a waste of effort somewhere, but whatever. It's our house now.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Alaskans, I give you your Senator

Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has in the past made a lot of noise on the indecency front. But this week, he was voting on a net-neutrality amendment to a bill before Senate Commerce Committe, and voted against. His explanation of why is interesting to say the least. A few choice excerpts.

Ten of them streaming across that internet and what happens to your own personal internet?

I would kill to have my own personal internet.

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially.

I would expect that the Senator would have his staffers sending email to him within the Senate's own email-system, or even his own office's mail system. If that setup routes all internal email out onto the Internet, someone's woefully incompetent. And regardless of internal vs. external, I can't recall the last time a legitimate email I was expecting or sending took more than 10 minutes to arrive. Usually the email arrives before I've finished telling the recipient that the email is en route in the first place.

But we're also making an assumption here, that when he says "an internet" he means "an email." He might mean something else entirely. In which case maybe it really did take overnight for the entire internet to be packed up and physically moved into his office.

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

I'm actually at a loss on this one. I don't know what to say. Really all I can come up with is...TUBES!?

Well, that and George Costanza saying "It's all pipes! What's the difference?!"

Now we have a separate Department of Defense internet now, did you know that?

Do you know why?

Because they have to have theirs delivered immediately. They can't afford getting delayed by other people.

Oh, where to start? First off, if the DoD's "internet" is their own, then it's really not "an internet" - it's their own private network, built using internet technologies. A little history lesson - DARPANet, a DoD computer network, is what the Internet grew out of in the first place!

Second, I would expect the DoD to have their own network. Not for latency. For security. If they didn't have that, I'd be worried.

Maybe there is a place for a commercial net but it's not using what consumers use every day.

It's not using the messaging service that is essential to small businesses, to our operation of families.

Those small businesses are using that messaging guessed it! Commerce! And how many billions of dollars of commerce done on the Internet every year are driven by "consumers"?

And if Internet messaging is "essential" to the "operation of our families", then we're in serious trouble as a society.

I guess it's too much to ask that the people voting on stuff like this actually have some knowledge of the subject, or at least have some advisors to help them out. Maybe even have that advisor write up some key statements/phrases so that the Senator can appear informed.

OTOH, maybe this guy really does represent the people of Alaska. I'd like to think, however, that most people can understand a lot of this better than their Senator.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Maybe it'll pay off

We had our first big review/design discussion meeting yesterday, centered around my Word Doc From Hell™. Meeting went well, we didn't cover the whole doc but we were at it for almost 2 hours.

As I was packing up at my desk, prepping to leave for the weekend, bossman came over and gave me an attaboy on the document - he liked the format, liked the flow, overall liked what he saw as far as where the document was going. Maybe I can be an example for others. Maybe I have figured this whole thing out.

Maybe there's hope yet. Now if I can just get access to the right environment for the application I need to interface, I can wrap up a lot of this stuff.

Yet another case of lost data

Donor data stolen from Dallas Red Cross

A laptop containing personal information from thousands of blood donors — including Social Security numbers and medical histories — has been stolen from a local office of the American Red Cross.

But Red Cross officials note that the information was encrypted.

"We haven't viewed this as a security breach at this point," said Darren Irby, spokesman for the national American Red Cross office.

The laptop was one of three stolen from a locked closet in the Farmers Branch office of the American Red Cross in May, but the two others did not contain the personal information.

It could be worse. It's not as though someone took data out of a secured location and left it easily available - the Red Cross office's physical security was compromised. And the data was encrypted - but was it strongly encrypted? We can only hope.

I've long expected my credit card companies, my banks, my insurance companies to leave data out there blowing in the wind. No one really is safe, it seems.

Weekend routine, or routine weekend?

We worked about 2 1/2 hours this morning, before the heat & sun got to be too much to bear. My wife weeded out front and removed the plant that smells like cat urine, as the smell was filling the house. I pulled out the lawnmower and attempted to sharpen the blades. I'm not sure how much I really accomplished, as the blades were really, really dull.

But, the big news! We've mowed our front yard for the first time. It looks infinitely better now - even, the weeds are cut down, it looks a lot less ragged.

After mowing, I attacked some of our many bags of lawn debris. We had been just piling as much as we could into cheap black plastic bags for disposal later. Unfortunately, this meant that the bags were all torn to some degree, the plant material had started decomposing, the bags and garbage cans had started collecting's a mess. I dumped as much water as I could, then emptied one barrel right into our regular trash bin. That was one of the most vile smells I have ever encountered. The water alone was bad. The rotting plant material was just heinous. In all, I bagged up 9 34 gallon UltraFlex bags, and have easily 5 or 6 more to fill, just based on what old bags remain.

I'm planning on emptying the shed and reorganizing that this weekend, maybe even tonight. We'll see. There's a lot of stuff in there and it's just a mess.