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Archived Entries from December 2009


Move That Bus!

Okay, so maybe not that drastic, but my downstairs remodeling job is, except for a few minor details, finished.

Wow, and apparently this entire process has taken over a year. I'm happy that I took my time and did it right, though. I'm very pleased with the results. First, another "before" shot...

I wish I would have thought to take more pictures of what it looked like before. The ones in that other post of the closet work well, I guess. This is a good one of the stairs during the construction:

Well all the wainscoting is up, all the chair rail and trim, as well, all holes (not very well) patched, and everything is painted. The redhead loves the color (that I picked out in all of 0.68 seconds at Menards...). Here's the final results:


Where that infernal closet was...

The redhead isn't real thrilled with the red storage hook sticking out of the wall but I was sick of all the Guitar Hero and Rock Band and, well, real guitars laying all over the place.

I still need to get new door hardware for the two doors (which will finally match), and I have one last piece of tricky trim that I need to figure out how to cut for the side of the third step from the bottom. But other than that, I think I'm done.

After dropping the cash for a new golf cart and then our annual club dues, I think I'll save up and get a flat-panel LCD television to hang on the wall under the windows and get rid of that 7,000 pound 36-inch tube television. I don't know what I'll do for running surround sound speakers though, because I can't really go up into the ceiling and I can't go under the floor. I suppose I can run them behind the floorboard trim but I'd really rather not take any or all of that back up and have to re-paint. We'll see.

Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2009, 3:20 pm
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Christmas

Just sitting here on the couch having a beer and watching some NFL football and figured I'd make a quick post.

Christmas break has been great so far. The basement stairs are all but finished and I've gotten a good deal of the painting done as well. I'll post photos when it is all finished. I'm excited about the way it is turning out.

While I've done a lot of work downstairs, I've spent a lot of time relaxing as well.

Linus has been very lazy.

We had a good Christmas. The redhead and I agreed not to buy anything for each other, although I did get her a couple of inexpensive things. We got the kids just about everything they asked for, but it didn't seem like very much because they didn't ask for much. Alex got an XBox game that he wanted and a couple of PC games that I picked out for him, and Em got a bunch of art supplies that she asked for. We also got them some clothes and that sort of stuff. Oh, and I got them both a few cases of golf balls in preparation for playing a lot more golf this year.

Alex has taken to answering "meh" when I ask him how school was, so I thought this would be a fitting hooded sweatshirt for him.

We got a t-shirt for Em that said "Silence is golden. Duct tape is silver." It had a smiley face on it with the mouth covered by a piece of duct tape. Heh. Here's a picture of her taken at my in-laws' house.

We had Christmas Eve here, but then spent a lot of time over at Papa and Grandma's house the next few days. Today is actually the first day in several where we have nothing going on. I think I'm going to make steaks and chicken and twice-baked potatoes for dinner tonight.

We finally got snow--maybe three or four inches? My neighbor Pete just came over with his John Deere mower with his plow blade on it and cleared our driveway. Thanks Pete!

A Snuggie!

I think that was a present for Granny. What fun.

Well I don't know much else. I'll post home improvement photos in a day or two.

Posted: Sunday, December 27, 2009, 9:29 pm
Mood: Happy | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


Borrowed Time

My dad went to the hospital early this morning with chest pains.

They ran an angiogram (or whatever they do now). Sure enough, he's got some plugged up areas.

He had a quadruple bypass 23 years ago. The heart doctor told him today that almost nobody gets 23 years after that kind of surgery.

No surgery for him this time. They're going to mess with his medication somewhat. They can't do an angioplasty for fear that it might tear the joints from the bypass surgery.

It didn't help that he broke a few vertebra a couple of months ago and has until recently been in a neck brace thing and has been unable to do his morning calisthenics and 30-minute stationary bike ride. I wouldn't be surprised if the lack of exercise was part of the current problem.

I can't say that I'm not scared. But I think I'm prepared. I have been for a while.

Apparently a normal heart beats at 50-60% its "full throttle" beat at rest and dad's is in the 30-35% range.

So we're on borrowed time.

I can't say that I'm ready, but I think I'm prepared. After losing my mother at 15 years of age I hope to never be blind-sided again.

The doctors know what they're doing. He's recently started exercising again now that he has the neck brace off. And I know he's not going to go down without a fight.

Sigh.

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009, 3:22 am
Mood: Calm | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


Basement Remodeling

I wanted to take a picture of the crooked windowsill downstairs that my lovely wife doesn't think I need to fix, and while I had the camera out I took a few shots of my current remodeling project.

As I've probably mentioned, our house was built as part of the high school's "Building and Trades" program, and while there was an adult supervising the whole project, our house was essentially built by teenagers. It's rock solid--I'll give it that. I think it probably is held together with more nails and screws than a "normal" house.

Other than the fiasco with the "creative" plumbing that causes the kitchen sink to back up every now and then, the only other thing that really bothers me about the house is the windowsill in the basement.

Tell me this isn't grossly crooked:

The redhead thinks that she'll just hang curtains over the whole thing and nobody will ever see it. That may be the case, but I'll always know that behind the curtains is a crooked sill.

(The current sill is a 1 x 6, and I think I can correct the problem by using a 2 x 6 or even a 2 x 8--remove the current sill, cut the 2 x 4 studs underneath it with a sawzall to make them level, and then put in the thicker sill so that it ends up being level AND still covers up the bottom of the window...)

Anyway. Maybe we'll just cover it up with curtains.

I hope to paint over Christmas break, which starts in four short days!

Here's a few more photos:

We're going to take the computer desk out of Alex's room and put it in this corner and use it for the PC. The Linux box goes out in the gardening shed. And who knows what I'll do with my poor old 733 MHz G4 Quicksilver that is starting to get really, really tired... I'll need to run an ethernet connection to here, but behind the south wall is the crawl space so it *should* be pretty easy...

I am going to paint all of the wainscoting, chair rail, and floor trim with an eggshell white paint so that it covers up all of the brad/nail holes and also makes it so that the shade of white is consistent across all of it, and then I think we're going to paint the upper parts of the walls with a light brown color.

I still have some work to do to the stairs. I need to put a rubber front edge on the front of the steps (and side of the bottom two steps) and I need to do some work with the walls next to the top two steps. A bead of caulk on the back and side of each step, and we should be in business. I need to figure out what to do with the front of the third step where it doesn't quite meet up with the wall. (Again, thanks kids).

And after I'm all finished I can proceed with the final dismantling of the Nerdrium...

Posted: Tuesday, December 15, 2009, 4:35 pm
Mood: Content | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Christmas Break

One more week of work until Christmas break. I'm taking off two weeks starting next Monday. I need to compile a list of things to do around the house to keep me busy. Obviously my main goal is to paint and finish up the basement, but that'll only take a day or two.

Alex has agreed that we can remove the computer desk from his room and bring it downstairs so that we have a place to put the Windows PC. I think we'll put it in the southwest corner of the new family room downstairs, which means I'll need to run an ethernet line as well.

I'll probably start the dismantling of the Nerdrium in the Spring. That way I can wait to move the fish tank until the fish are back outside and the tank has been emptied of water.

I still don't know that I'm ever going to get around to building a MAME cabinet, which sort of sucks.

At some point I also need to move the cable outlet downstairs (or more likely add a new one) in preparation for eventually replacing the monstrous 36" tube television with a flatscreen LCD TV. It'd be neat if the tax return was big enough for both a new golf cart and a new television. Keep dreaming, I guess.

Well I don't know much else. Still waiting my final grade for my Fall class.

Posted: Monday, December 14, 2009, 4:05 pm
Mood: Relaxed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Final Project

My class this semester was very interesting, to say the least. The subject matter was "E-Commerce," which sounds, well, relatively boring. I took the class partly because I've taken a good portion of the upper level classes at UIS so it's not like I have hundreds to choose from anyway, but mostly because I very much like the instructor, Dr. Braynov. He knows his stuff, he's strict on the surface but very, very fair, and I've enjoyed every class I've taken that he has taught.

A lot of the E-commerce stuff was expected, and we covered a lot of material that pretty much should just make sense for anybody, especially anyone who has done any sort of any purchasing or what have you using the Internet.

We also dealt with a number of core computer science concepts, including some game theory. What fun! We looked at Nash equilibria and analyzed how to score it in matrix form. Pretty cool.

For the end of the semester we were offered a choice of taking a multiple-choice, comprehensive final exam, or doing a final "project."

The project involved programming a "robot" that would participate in a series of games against other robots from the class. Your robot has two choices--to cooperate with the other robot, or not to cooperate. You do not know your opponent's choice and he/she does not know your choice until after the round is over. If both cooperate, both get $3. If you cooperate and the other robot does not, you get $2 and the other robot gets $4. If neither cooperate, you both get $0.

You play 1,000 rounds per game, and every robot plays one game against every other robot. At the end the robot with the most money wins.

Neat, huh?

There's a catch. Out of the entire class, the top 30% of finishers get an A grade for the class, regardless of their prior work. The other 70% get an A on the final exam (which is I think 30% of the grade), except for the person that finishes last, and they get a B on the final exam.

If your robot blows up or throws an exception (this is all in Java) you get a C for the final exam.

Well heck.

I can read between the lines. I went into the final project with a 93% average on homework and quizzes (well, more than that--I had extra credit in play somewhere). Grad school is essentially pass/fail. An A or B is good, and C or worse means that you need to rethink being in grad school. Or that's my understanding, at least.

So 70% of my grade is already an A and all I need to do is "pass" the class?

Easy. Write a robot that is guaranteed not to blow up and I should get an A if I finish in the top 99% of finishers. Even if I get a B on the final, I should still get an A for the class. And again, at the end of the day, what difference does it make if I get a B or an A?

So while I could have kept track of opponent's responses, and built huge arrays and algorithms to try to figure out what my various "opponents" were doing, why risk writing code that might crash?

Our Java class/method had to set a variable to either 1 (cooperate) or 0 (don't cooperate). Heck, I could have just returned "1" every round and while I might have finished last, I'd still at worst get a B for the final exam.

It seems to me that agreeing is better than not agreeing. If you cooperate you can get $3 if your opponent cooperates, and $2 if your opponent does not. However, if you don't cooperate, you might get $4, but you also risk getting $0 if your opponent also chooses to not cooperate.

So I just picked randomly.

We had a test run of our robots yesterday. I finished like 12 out of 16 (and not everyone participated in the test--I think 28 people are signed up for the project?).

My method involved picking a random number from 1 to 100 and if that random number is bigger than 33, to return a 1 (cooperate), otherwise return a 0 (don't cooperate). This way we cooperate 2/3rds of the time.

The only change I made to my robot today was that I bumped it up to 3/4s--if the random number is greater than 24 we cooperate.

So we'll see what happens. Not that it matters, grade-wise.

I even explained in my two-page strategy explanation that went along with the project that I took the class grading into mind when I decided on my code. I noted that I hoped that I didn't spoil the "spirit" of the contest by settling on "just working."

Computer science involves using algorithms to solve problems. I think given all of the variables in this problem, I came up with an acceptable solution.

Yay! Halfway through graduate school!

Posted: Wednesday, December 09, 2009, 3:53 am
Mood: Relaxed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


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