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Archive of October, 2007

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[Permalink 2007-10-29] Me and Ikea

October 29, 2007:

I've been helping some friends with minor home improvements and assembling Ikea-stuff. (Hey, some of it looks kinda nice even when you ignore the fact that it's made of particle board).

As frustrating as the pictograph instructions can be, I actually kind of like doing stuff like putting furniture together, or hanging curtain rods, or replacing doorknobs. For starters they're all things I'm (mostly) capable of doing, so it feels nice to be able to accomplish something.

And they're also about the only time I can create or fix something that actually exists. Everything else I do is far more ephemeral -- all the web sites, programs and so on are nothing more than variations in the strength of a magnetic field on a metal plate. They're not even the plate itself. Sure, they can be transmitted and duplicated at speeds determined only by bandwidth -- it's kind of neat that a person in China can read what I write, assuming the government lets them.

But when I build something, it's actually there. I can point at it and say, "I made that." In a sense, I can't actually show anyone the web sites I make: I'd have to pull a hard drive out of a server, and take it apart, and even if I knew which platter it was on I couldn't tell you where it was.

A new web site may travel across the world at the speed of DNS propagation, but Ikea furniture can't be destroyed by an inconveniently-timed power outage.

[Permalink 2007-10-23] Happy Birthday To Me

October 23, 2007:

I have now been drinking legally for a decade. And drinking in general for... somewhat longer than that.

In general I don't make a big deal out of my birthday -- 21 was the last meaningful one I had (ten years ago!) and it's on a Tuesday this year. But I did get a birthday card from the people who sold me my car. Sure, it's merely business, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Then I realized the birthday card looked familiar. One of the clients at work offers mailing services to car dealerships (and, I presume, other businesses) to send out various cards: Happy birthday, Merry Christmas, one year from sale, etc. They work in the next building over from us and I added the new cards, of which I'm pretty sure this is one, to their site last winter. If they really knew everything about me, like the paranoids say they do, they could have saved Brown's Manassas a few cents and walked the card over to me.

[Permalink 2007-10-22] Cheating a Little on the Update Schedule To Say...

October 22, 2007:

The Indians are a bunch of chokers. And go Rockies.

[Permalink 2007-10-18] Batting Around and Around

October 18, 2007:

I don't talk about baseball too much -- I think I've talked about insect overrun of baseball games as much as I've talked about the games themselves lately. But this one's actually about baseball.

For the last half-hour I've been watching the bottom of the fifth inning of the Red Sox-Indians game. Not because there have been a bunch of timeouts, or bad weather, or a bench-clearing brawl (though the Sox would probably appreciate any/all of the above right now). No, I've been watching for half an hour because the Indians are bringing their 12th batter to the plate this inning.

Now, batting around happens fairly often, but the ninth guy up usually makes the third out. I think I've seen ten batters a few times. Twelve is definitely the most I've ever seen. Hopefully the Tribe starter (Byrd) and 'pen can hang on to a 7-0 (oops, leadoff back-to-back-to-back jack for the Sox; 7-3 now... um, guys?) lead.

Update, Wednesday morning: From the tail-end of the write-up of Boston's collapse in the fifth:

"You can't really make mistakes right now, especially to these good hitters," Delcarmen said. "I tip my hat to him. I left it up and he took advantage. They won. It kind of [stinks]."

"It kind of [stinks]? You can't say "sucks" in a news article if you're quoting a guy?

[Permalink 2007-10-17] From a Certain Point of View

October 17, 2007:

[Bumped up to Wednesday to try to make up for missing last Friday. Let's see how that works out.]

On my way to visit a couple friends of mine recently, I realized that their impending child (mid-November) will eventually look at the music I listen to with the same disdain I have for the old crap the older generation grooves on.

The oldest song on my MP3 CD that I was alive for is "Highway to Hell" by AC/DC, released in 1979. (The oldest song on the disc is probably "Misirlou", the Pulp Fiction opening track, but I figured that would be cheating.) "Highway to Hell" was released 28 years ago.

So to this kid, listening to "Highway to Hell" would be like me listening to something from 1948. Which, incidentally, is the year my stepfather was born. I just don't see myself cranking up the stereo for "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover" or some Nat King Cole.

Of course, the difference is that those songs suck royally while AC/DC, Deep Purple, et al kick ass. It's a shame that music back then was so bad, but at least this kid will learn what real rock sounds like, instead of the crap they play on the radio nowadays.

Hm. Maybe I should've added "and get off my lawn" to that last bit.

[Permalink 2007-10-16] Learning to Keep My Mouth Shut

October 16, 2007:

I'd been wondering if I'd end up with any more things to write about here, since I've been going for a month and a half now. Well, I got something.

I woke up at about 2:30 early Monday morning to what sounded like a leaking faucet. I almost decided it could wait until morning. But then I woke up a little more and realized that, while it still sounded like dripping water, it wasn't just a leaky faucet.

Turns out my water heater had sprung a leak and was in the process of covering my laundry room and bathroom floors with water. I called the emergency maintenance number (renting has its advantages) and started mopping.

Then I woke up a little more and realized I was going to be fighting an uphill battle until I shut the water off. Cut me some slack; 2:30 AM ain't my best time of day. Anyway, I got everything mopped up a few minutes before the guy showed up with a shop-vac to remove the water I'd already removed.

I've called the maintenance people's normal number to make sure they know about the leak (I'm not sure the answering service passes everything along, seeing as how they failed to give shop-vac guy my contact info) and am waiting to see what's going on with that.

And of all the things on my List of Stuff To Do at 3 AM, I'd say that cleaning up after an incontinent water heater is one of the least-fun of them.

[Permalink 2007-10-15] Coincidences and Forgetfulness

October 15, 2007:

I wanted to write this one a couple days ago and keep the streak alive, but then I saw something shiny. Anyway, this was funny in its own right and made better by the fact that not too long after that a computer randomly started making a few hundred attempts at SQL injection against one of our clients.

[XKCD comic from 10 Oct 2007]
From XKCD. Used with permission via Creative Commons license.

Of course, stopping those attacks is trivial, and I'd deserve to be fired if I wasn't sanitizing the data before running the queries. And I got to do my first-ever IP lockout against the nitwit doing it.

Quick edit, the manga again: Sorry to keep harping, but this is just really frickin' annoying for me. See if you can figure out what's wrong with this picture:

Label/Receipt Number: [redacted]
Detailed Results:

· Processed, October 16, 2007, 2:55 am, ANAHEIM, CA 92899
· Processed, October 12, 2007, 3:26 pm, BELL, CA 90201
· Processed, October 06, 2007, 2:01 pm, CAPITOL HEIGHTS, MD 20790
· Processed, October 03, 2007, 6:51 pm, CAPITOL HEIGHTS, MD 20790
· Processed, September 27, 2007, 9:19 am, BELL, CA 90201
· Electronic Shipping Info Received, September 25, 2007

[Permalink 2007-10-11] A Small Acheivement, But Still An Acheivement

October 11, 2007:

Finally got on the high side of 200 again while bowling last night:


The lane tried (and succeded) to ice me before the 12th frame; the pinsetter refused to give me a full rack. But it only would have brought me up to 208, so that's no big deal.

My other games were a 134 and a 165, which averaged out to 168. I'm pretty sure that's the best I've ever done over three games (505). The friend I went bowling with was kind of ticked; usually the 170 he got would have been enough for a win. Just not that game.

I'm pretty sure that's my third game ever over 200, and they're all under 210. (Tonight's 206 tied my best). I'm also reasonably sure that's the first time I ever rolled a pair of turkeys in a game. I've gotten four in a row before, but never a pair of threes.

Random Update: From last Friday's entry: Still no manga, and the Centreville post office hasn't seen it yet. No online updates since 10/6. The postal clerk I talked to on the phone says it was sent Media Mail, which takes a long time. He said he'd keep an eye out for it.

[Permalink 2007-10-09] Time To Test My Powers of Prognostication

October 09, 2007:

I have to wake up for work tomorrow, so I only know what's happening in the baseball game as of the bottom of the sixth inning (the Yankees just got within 6-2 and the Indians are going to the bullpen). But I'll go ahead and say it now: With the second-most obnoxious fans in baseball out of the way, it's time to shut up the most obnoxious ones. Of course that would conceivably lead to a Cubs-Indians series, which I'm pretty sure is a sign of the End Times.

Edit, 8:58 AM: Heh, I forgot I'd written about this until I checked the MLB site. The Tribe held on to win, 6-4. Closer that I would have liked, but a win's a win.

[Permalink 2007-10-08] Japanese And Nerdy

October 08, 2007:

Japan worker chided for wikipedia habit

A Japanese bureaucrat has been reprimanded for shirking his duties to make hundreds of Wikipedia contributions about toy robots, officials said Friday....

"The agriculture ministry is not in charge of Gundam," ministry official Tsutomu Shimomura said.

Oh, sure it's not. Just wait till you see what's in charge of security at the next farmer's market...

[Permalink 2007-10-05] My Tastes Are Either Too Mainstream or Too Obscure

October 05, 2007:

Starting at Katsucon in February, I've been buying one volume a month of some mangas I like. Well, that's the theory anyway: The store I go to for my manga fix tends to not have some of the comics I'm looking for.

This used to mean I'd just buy two volumes of some of the comics that were there, which is why I'm on volume 3 of PhD: Phantasy Degree but have finished Chrono Crusade and am several volumes "ahead" on Rurouni Kenshin, Negima and Cromartie High School.

Last month I realized that I was just rewarding them for not having what I wanted. Especially after I added Full Metal Alchemist and Bleach to the list at Otakon, only to never find FMA and only one copy of Bleach since.

Frustrated, I went online to get the comics I'd missed that month: FMA and PhD. I also threw in a volume of Negima to catch it up to Kenshin and Cromartie. I placed that order on September 9th. None of these are rare -- and the site (Anime Wild) said each of the three was "in stock".

On September 25th (16 days later) the status of my order changed to "shipped". On the 27th the tracking number they provided me (US Mail) became active and told me the package was in Bell, CA. As of the 1st of October (22 days after the order was placed) it's still "in transit". Which could mean it gets delivered tomorrow, or that it fell behind a machine out in California.

Given that the USPS only provides updates "if available ... every evening" I doubt I'll learn anything until it shows up at my door. Which might actually happen before I make my next manga run. So much for the power of Teh Internets to pick up the slack when the brick-and-mortar outfits lay down on the job...

Update, 4 Oct 6:58 AM: Randomly checked when I woke up this morning, and it took five days (3 Oct) to get to Capitol Heights, MD. Taking a look at their site I see that the comics were shipped "USPS Standard", which only ought to take 5 days anyway. They also say that "[a]ll items that are in stock are shipped within 1-3 business days after an order is made." Unless they're shipped 18 days after.

Update, 6 Oct 11:25 AM: The mailman just delivered today's mail, and still no manga. Not even a "we tried to deliver but it wouldn't fit the mailbox" note. Someone could have walked here from Capitol Heights faster -- ZIP code to ZIP code is about 46 miles. Even the Pony Express was faster than this. In contrast, my electric bill made it here from Richmond in less than 48 hours.

Update, 7 Oct 1:14 PM: Well, that's interesting. Now it says it left Capitol Heights on the 6th. I wonder if that means they "tried" to deliver by leaving it at the 20121 post office and giving me the card, not even bothering to knock on my door, then neglecting to leave the card. It wouldn't surprise me since my dipshit mailman is in the habit of returning mail to the sender if my apartment number is missing, even though I'm pretty sure my spelling of my last name is unique in the county, never mind this building. But that's another rant and also involves people who don't add your apartment into their database even when you provide it for them.

[Permalink 2007-10-04] Two Mini-Updates

October 04, 2007:

· I know I said I wouldn't comment on every week of football, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Browns beating the Ratbirds 27-13 and the Steelers losing to the lowly Cardinals. Life is good, at least for now, in the football part of my brain.

· As an update to my plan to see what happens when my oil-change counter ticks down, I just crossed 5,000 miles over the weekend. Now it beeps at me and flashes the wrench when I start the car. Now I just need to wait and see what happens when it hits 5,100.

Edit, 9:36 PM: Nothing changed at 5,100 miles. I guess they figured telling me how overdue I am would have been rubbing it in.

[Permalink 2007-10-02] A New Record

October 02, 2007:

(No, I didn't forget to buy soap again.) The range between 7 Sep 1999 and 28 Feb 2002, the time I was employed by Brady Interactive MindChisel John Brady Design Consultants Brady Communications, covers 905 calendar days. Starting at 14 Mar 2005, the day I started at Lock Media, 905 days came and went on 5 Sep 2007. That means this is the longest I've ever worked in one place. I suppose I could sit down and figure out how many actual working days I covered, and go that way, but September 5th is close enough for me. Wow, I might actually work someplace for three years.

[Permalink 2007-10-01] Automotive Review: Toyota Prius

October 01, 2007:

Some friends and I went to dinner on a recent weekend. They volunteered their car, but didn't want to drive... well, one was willing to drive, but everyone else thought that me driving an unfamiliar vehicle was the smarter option. They said they expected me to blog about it, and I've got a solid month of entries under my belt and don't feel like stopping, so here goes.

First off, the vehicle itself. I've never been a fan of the Prius's shape -- it looks like a half-assed Star Trek shuttlepod to me. And then there are the batteries. Last I checked, nobody really knows how long the battery pack lasts, and the pack is fairly large and full of unfriendly chemicals. I get a special feeling in the cockles of my heart* when I think that the tree-huggers' favorite status symbol might be an environmental disaster if/when you need to yank out the power cells.

Also having to do with the vehicle's shape is the rear windshield -- it's actually split in two, with the spoiler being pretty much in the middle of the field of view. And it's not even particularly attractive; I think they just put it there to keep the car from looking too much like a station wagon. My friend says you eventually get used to it; I just got used to only checking my side mirrors. This could cause problems down the road for habitual speeders like me.

The dashboard feels like the engineers tried to do too much (one person in an online discussion said it felt "beta"). It was actually kind of disconcerting -- there are no gauges directly in front of me, so it felt like the interior lights weren't functioning. The gas gauge, speedometer and odometer are recessed into the dash all the way up where the forward-swung windshield ends, and I think it's actually under the dash and showing up like an HUD.

Everything else was in the monitor built into the center console that houses the GPS navigation system. Again, it has a very beta feel to it: Some things required explanation to be able to use, and some features I expected (like being able to touch-select a route instead of having to press its marker in the map legend) were missing.

One thing that annoyed me is that the system for the most part won't respond unless the car is stopped, theoretically for safety -- you have to pull off the road to dick with the GPS. Except that the airbag system can tell if there's a passenger, so the GPS should tie into that and let the passenger change things. Thankfully the Shut Up You Stuffy Wench Suspend Navigation function works while the car is moving. Like an Apple product, it probably just needs a couple revisions to be really solid. And like an Apple product it's probably best to wait for those couple of revisions before even considering a purchase.

Next on the list is the continuously-variable transmission (CVT). It carries the sluggishness of all automatic transmissions, especially when you start moving, and doesn't even provide the shifting feedback that I'd get in a regular automatic. Once the CVT gets up to speed the car continues to accelerate without any change in engine noise or any other indication outside of the speedometer. When combined with the useless rear windshield, this becomes a big problem for habitual speeders. (No, I didn't get ticketed. But it wasn't for lack of trying.)

Finally we get to the gear selector, another beta "feature". Instead of a normal selector like any other automatic in existence, this one has a tiny joystick in the dash that lets you choose between neutral, drive and reverse. There is no "park" option; it's a completely separate button. The only reason I can see for this is that they were changing everything else, and why should something as simple as the shifter be any different? I was kind of surprised the steering wheel didn't come with force feedback.

Things I liked? Well, the in-the-vicinity key and power button were cool. Unlike my Jetta it runs on normal gasoline instead of premium. And it has four wheels. That's always nice.

So, yeah. I was significantly less than impressed. I'm sure the mileage is nice -- it better be considering how much you have to pay for the vehicle -- but if that's the best the car companies have to offer as far as green technologies go I think I'll pass. Part of it is the automagic transmission -- I'm spoiled by my manual. If the computer were smart enough to cope with a human shifting gears, or at least an autostick, I might consider it if the rest of it looked like a real car instead of an engineer's acid trip.

If I felt the need to up my hippie cred, I'd be more likely to purchase a PZEV. They're just like real cars, and some of them get slightly better mileage than their standard-built cousins. And the price from what I hear isn't much more. I could potentially get behind something like that.

* (Maybe below the cockles, maybe in the sub-cockle area...)

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