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Archived Entries from March 2009


Moving Forward

I had a lot of thoughts a few minutes ago when I was downstairs and now they seem to have faded.

Such is my life, lately.

I'm frustrated. I'm having a hard time with grad school. A database class--seriously? The material that we have been presented does not explain adequately how to complete our assignments (and I'm assuming I'm not just "too dumb" or something). The instructor is, well, sort of not very nice. And not a native speaker of English. I'm glad that the ink on his Ph.D. dried a month or so ago, but most of the people in this program aren't 19-year old kids. Don't talk to me like I'm some punk.

I'm about ready to be done with grad school. I don't know.

I'm trying to be motivated at work, where my amount of work and funding sources are increasing week by week.

I have a lot of work to do. And a good work future ahead of me. Exactly what is it I'm trying to prove with grad school again?

Again, I don't know.

Posted: Wednesday, April 01, 2009, 2:35 am
Mood: Confused | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


Accident

Okay, I must come clean to my blog, but then this is the absolute last time I'm talking about this again.

I never made it to Portland.

I ended up leaving the house late. I hate to hurry to work to pick up that projector. I sped way too fast down First street.

I'm not getting into further explanations. But I slammed on the brakes on a gravel road to make a turn, left the road, hit a ditch, and flipped my car. Very, very violently.

I had my seat belt on. The airbags deployed. That car saved my life. But was destroyed in the process.

Yes, I got a ticket for going too fast, or failure to slow down, or some such thing. It's the first ticket I've had in 20+ years. I got the thing in the mail to go to traffic school, which I'll do, and it won't ever go on my "record."

Not that "records" matter in terms of life and death.

I'm not posting photos of the car, which I took at the towing company the next day.

I'm embarrassed. I'm mortified. I missed my flight.

But I'm alive.

And all we can do now is go forward.

And it sucks, because I was really looking forward to Portland. Oh well.

...

It's not irony, but last week I was going to write my wife a letter, telling her what the life insurance situation was, and what accounts and passwords there are--not that any of this is a secret to her, but just to have it all written down, just in case. Because I was going to be flying.

And then I almost killed myself a quarter mile from the airport.

I'm still (obviously) very upset. But it is time to put this behind and look forward. I'm mostly irritated by losing the car, but it was pretty much on its last leg anyway.

I saved $78 by not having to renew the plates this month.

We're going to be a one-car family for a while. And that's fine with me.

Okay, enough yammering.

Please, no comments. This post is the last I'm talking about this. Time to move forward.

Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009, 2:28 am
Mood: Tired | 1 comment| Article URL | Post a comment
 


Facebook

You know, I'm starting to get mildly upset that I've been neglecting my blog because of Facebook. It's weird. I don't know. I've become "friends" with lots of people that I never thought I'd interact with again in my life.

There might be a silver lining, if that's possible, for what it's worth, to use a few clichés. Maybe growing up wasn't so awful. Maybe grade school wasn't as bad as I remembered.

Maybe I just remember the bad, and forget the good. If you know me, does that surprise you?

Anyway.

More bad for today. I'm off to Portland. Yeah, I'm in Illinois and Portland is way over there. Two hours and change to Dallas, another four hours from there.

I hope Portland is a better experience than New Orleans was. Yuck.

This is going to be a weird trip. My boss' father is having health issues so she called today and isn't going to be making the trip, so I have to take some of her gear for her. And we're on the agenda in a meeting on Monday, and without her that means *I* am on the agenda, and I'm not even sure why *we* are on the agenda. Like Jack Ryan in HFRO, I guess I'll just follow the slides and hope I can keep up. "He's not Russian--he's Lithuanian by birth..."

I have fourteen episodes of "24" loaded on the laptop along with two full batteries. I brought several DVDs as well.

It's 36 degrees out, so I'm sure they will de-ice the plane. That scares me. Sorry.

The weather in Portland today is going to be 55 degrees and rainy. The weather in Portland tomorrow is going to be 55 degrees and rainy. The weather in Portland on Tuesday is going to be 55 degrees and rainy. And if you can't stand the suspense, and want to know what the weather will be in Portland on Wednesday, check weather.com. (Hint: It won't be a surprise).

So the Big U doesn't have it's own travel agency, which is sort of a surprise, since I'm going to a conference that is being run by a group of people on campus who do nothing but run conferences (yet we don't have our own people to do travel...). Well, when I made my flight arrangements last month I noticed that the travel agent spelled my last name wrong. It's not the first time that's happened in my life...

I sent her a friendly e-mail, and she responded that it was fixed.

So I "checked in" today using American's web site. No reservation with my last name. Grrr...

I found the reservation. "IE" instead of "EI." (Oooh, what a funny quirk in the Matrix it is that "IE" in my last name is my nemesis...)

I hope I don't get detained for a misspelling. (And the only reason I spelled "misspelling" correctly is because Safari didn't squiggly it. Wait, not entirely accurate--I spelled it correctly on the first try--it's just that I know that it is spelled correctly because there isn't a fun little red squiggle--anyway).

More underwear than I need. More socks than I need. I have my boarding passes. I'm only bringing one pair of shoes. I have an umbrella (see weather: above). I have money. Pants. Shirts. Sweatshirts. Gas in the car. New oil.

Flight at 7:25. Board at 6:55. Have to get projector at work. Half-hour drive.

I need to leave in 45 minutes. Or so.

I hate traveling. And I had a bad experience in New Orleans. But I'm going to have a good, positive attitude about this trip. Everything will work fine. Even the big metal things that use air pressure to fight gravity.

Oh, and so that letter I sent to my old Rhetoric 143 Professor (who was department head at the time) about turning in that paper well over-due? She sent me a handwritten note the other day. I've been forgiven.

But yeah, she had no idea who I am or what I was talking about.

Oh well.

On to Portland...

Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009, 10:17 am
Mood: Anxious | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Installing Windoze

How to install Mac OS X on a Mac:

Insert optical media (CD/DVD).
Install.

How to install Windows XP on a PC:

Get an install CD for Windows.
Download any hard drive drivers you need.
Use nLite to make a new install CD.
Boot the computer with the new install CD.
Install Windows. La la la.
Reboot.
Get griped at for having no virus software.
Download ethernet drivers (heh, on your Mac).
Burn a CD.
Install ethernet drivers.
Yay! Now we have the Internet.
Oh, sorry, reboot first.
Download video drivers.
Set 19" wide-screen monitor to something a bit more appealing than 640 x 480.
Download Firefox.
Reboot.
I won't even belabor this any more, but freaking LINUX is easier to install and configure than Windows these days. Seriously.

Oh, yellow shield, what do you want now? Oh, we're just downloading more updates.

Yawn. At some point in the next few weeks I should have a working Windows machine again.

Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009, 1:31 am
Mood: Mildly Perturbed | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Making Amends

March 16, 2009

Dear Dr. Thompson,

Hopefully you will not remember who I am, and in case you do not, I was an undergraduate in one of your creative writing classes many years ago.

Somewhere near the middle of the semester of that writing class I managed to contract mononucleosis. Rather than withdrawing from my classes I was instead advised to ask for extensions from each of my instructors, though I am not sure I remember the exact terminology that was used. You agreed to offer me an extension for my final writing assignment.

As I was wont to do in those days, I procrastinated all summer long and made little progress on my final assignment. Then, on the last day of the extension, I appeared in the doorway of your office, paper in hand. Needless to say, you were not pleased (to put it mildly).

I do not even know if you read my final assignment, but you turned in a grade for me at the very least. And while it should have been an “F,” it was not.

Without going into too many boring details, I dropped out of college a semester or two later, managed a campustown bar, met a wonderful young woman, got married, and then talked one of the LAS deans into giving me a final crack at finishing up my degree. I eventually graduated in the Spring of 1995.

I have been absolutely mortified about the situation surrounding that final writing assignment in your class. When I was hired by the University seven years ago one of the first things I did was march over to the English building to apologize in person. Unfortunately for me, you had already retired.

However, I happened to read an article in the News-Gazette today that had a photo with a familiar face, and realized that I had one more chance to get this off my chest and put it to rest once and for all.

I am sorry. I am mortified. And I am still surprised to this day that you did not give me a failing grade in that class. You probably should have, but I am thankful that you did not. Again, I am truly sorry.

I hope that all is well with you (well, other than this business with Casey’s--hopefully the City of Urbana will do the right thing).

Take care.

Sincerely,

Mike

Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009, 8:31 pm
Mood: Relieved | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Sore Muscles

I know that my counter over there on the left claims that there are a few more days until Spring, but I disagree. This past weekend was full-on Spring weather. It was fantastic.

Saturday I grilled burgers for lunch for me and Alex while the female half of our family was up in Champaign shopping and getting new contact lenses, etc. We threw the football around for a while afterwards, which was fun.

We grilled out for dinner (barbecue chicken parts and a couple of pork steak things). Saturday night the redhead and I went down to the clubhouse and had a few cocktails, which was fun.

Sunday I did a bunch of yard work. If I had known just how many leaves I was going to have to rake this Spring, I don't know that I would have done such a thorough job last Fall. Sheesh. Pete was out and about as well, so we sort of teamed up on the leaves and had multiple fires going at the same time. I sure am sore, though.

The redhead is under the weather today (she felt awful yesterday) so I'm sort of on my own. Hopefully she'll start feeling better today.

Well it looks like Illinois will be playing in Portland next week. Fantastic. Three days before I have to go to Portland, the basketball team will be playing in the NCAA tournament. Couldn't they have waited just a couple of days? Oh well. While I hate to agree with Jay Bilas, I do think that depending on which Illini team shows up on Thursday, that we may have a chance at an upset. Yikes.

Posted: Monday, March 16, 2009, 4:10 pm
Mood: Happy | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Geek Cred

I lost some today.

The kids got a nasty, nasty virus on the Windows PC a month or more ago (look up "virtumonde" or "vundo" on Google). I took the main drive and plugged it into a Mac, copied off "Documents and Settings" and zeroed the drive.

Took the PC apart, took the chassis outside and blew all of the dust and stuff out of it with the air compressor, and put it all back together.

Then I couldn't get Windows to reinstall. It wouldn't see the SATA drive. Seriously?

So I downloaded the driver for it at work, but none of the handful of floppies I had were viable. Grrr. Seriously? Floppies? 1992 called...

I was then going to download the driver to my mother-in-law's computer, but I needed a floppy, so I grabbed one from home and noted it had "SATA driver" scrawled on it. That's what I needed!

Loaded it during the installation, still no luck. "No Disk in Drive." Is Windows XP that old? Yeesh. I realize that it is SATA, but that has been around longer than, oh, last week.

The next step I took was to download the Promise driver, install nLite on the Windows part of my MacBook Pro, and re-burn a Windows XP CD with service pack 3 and include the Promise driver.

And it still didn't work.

The Asus A8V Deluxe board that I have has two sets of SATA/RAID connectors.

For grins I plugged into the other set of connectors.

Yep. Everything went fine.

I lose geek cred. I had the SATA drives plugged into the wrong connectors on the motherboard.

IDIOT.

Windows is installing as I write. Not sure if that's a good thing or not.

The troubleshooting of the Linux box is next. Yeesh.

Posted: Thursday, March 12, 2009, 1:18 am
Mood: Frustrated | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


I Hate Windows

So it was a good day today. Eric didn't burn anybody's houses down, or their fences, etc., and he didn't cut down perfectly good landscaping whether or not it was actually on his property. I just wish they'd move somewhere else.

Anyway.

It really was a good day. It was windy as all get-out but the weather was fantastic otherwise.

Yesterday I changed the oil in both of our cars, and I determined what "that noise" was in the Aurora. Turns out the pulley wheel thing on the tensioner for the water pump blew up. Neat. So I drove all the way to AutoZone in Urbana to get a new one and I got exactly what was on their web site but was actually the pulley for the main serpentine belt (alternator, power steering, etc.). It doesn't fit on the water belt tensioner on the other side of the engine block. Oh well.

And I have a feeling I'm going to have to go to the dealer for this one.

I still am having trouble reinstalling Windoze on our machine downstairs in the Nerdrium. I have the drive disk but it still fails to see the SATA drive.

So I'm going to attempt this weird thing where you can take a Windows install CD, use something called nLite, and add drivers to the ISO and make a new boot CD. I'll believe it when I see it.

The only reason I'm blogging is that I've booted into Windoze on my MacBook Pro and there are a zillion updates and I'm waiting on all of them. Yeesh. People use Windows why, exactly?

So we'll see if this whole ISO thing works.

Or I'll just put Linux on it. Alex has an XBox and Em has found that she likes Mac OS better (surprise!) so why do we need a Windows box again? Really?

In FUN news, I planted forty styrofoam cups today with tomato and pepper plants. What fun! Why pay a buck a plant when I can pay two bucks for a packet of 50 seeds? And Spring is really almost here. I'm excited!

Okay, let's see if this dumb Windows thing works or not. Sheesh.

Posted: Monday, March 09, 2009, 2:56 am
Mood: Half-Irritated | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Scorched Earth

My knuckleheaded no-common-sense neighbor was up to it again yesterday, with almost disastrous consequences.

He wanted to have himself another fire, and before lighting it this time he even added a nice bag of garbage to the top of his pile. Let me back up and note that we're out in the boonies enough that it is legal to burn leaves in town, but we're not that far out in the boonies that it is at all legal to be burning garbage.

And there was about a 25-30 mile per hour wind yesterday. Anyone with any common sense... Oh, wait.

So he lights this fire, and rather than tend to it (which is also required by law) he goes and shuffles around in the front yard with his kid while his fire burns and blows around in the back yard.

And the redhead and I are *so* mad that we missed it, but apparently some of the burning garbage blew up and over into another neighbors' yard and lit her dead grass on fire.

She comes screaming out of her house so he lumbers back into the back yard and starts trying to tamp it out with a shovel.

At this point our neighbor across the street, Josh, hears the commotion, sees the knucklehead trying to tamp out a fire that covers probably a 2500 square foot area, and runs into his house grabs a fire extinguisher, and runs over and puts the fire out while the homeowner went and got a hose to water down her fence before it went up in flames.

And Karen (the homeowner whose grass caught fire) was absolutely beside herself. It's a good thing she was paying attention, because it very easily could have caught her fence on fire (she's in the white house behind the black fence--note also that our fabulous neighbor spends all his time cutting down perfectly good trees but has no gumption for ever putting his section of the fence back together from when the whole thing was blown apart in a storm years ago--the naked fence posts are a nice touch).

So of course TK (the knucklehead) takes his hose and puts his fire out. Sort of.

The redhead and I were watching the aftermath when his fire came back to life and started blowing all over the place again. Finally he lumbered back there and threw a metal tin over the top of it. Yeesh.

We hoped briefly that all the yelling and screaming would embarrass him enough to put a "for sale" sign in his yard and get the hell out of our otherwise very nice neighborhood, but we're not holding our breaths. Oh well.

In other news, we went over to Tony and Jodi's house last night for some home-made egg rolls and hot and sour soup (or something like that). It was very good. We also made Mai Tais which were awesome as well.

Tony and I actually got out to the golf course on Friday afternoon after playing hooky from work. The weather was fantastic, but we are terrible golfers. Beats being in the office, I guess.

Okay, it's too nice outside and I have too much yard work to do to be sitting in here typing away...

Posted: Sunday, March 08, 2009, 4:53 pm
Mood: Amused | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


Wanted

We got the movie "Wanted" from NetFlix the other day, and we've finally started to get to movies in the queue that are somewhat more of my speed.

I thought it was awesome. My mind has done a lot less (uh, none?) focusing on Variable Star and has focused a lot on "Wanted." Why am I italicizing one and not the other? Who knows?

Being the nerd I am, I must admit to a part where my disbelief wasn't suspended.

So there's this loom. Wait, stop reading if you want to watch this movie and haven't yet. And I'm not giving away the ending. Just a part.

So they get a binary code from this 1,000-year old loom and when there are mistakes in the threads--e.g., one misses and ends up below when it should be above in the weave--they mark those as 1s and mark the normal ones as 0s. "Ooh, it's binary." Right.

So the reader writes the binary numbers down in chunks of eight numbers and then translates those chunks of eight binary digits to letters of the alphabet.

Ooops. You just lost me.

I paid attention for a certain letter, just to see if they were doing what I thought they were going to do. They did.

01000001 --> A.

Okay, stop there.

The alphabet only has 26 letters. You don't need 8-bit binary to express the alphabet. Especially a thousand years ago. You could do it with 5-digit binary. I know, that's not a binary amount itself, so you'd still do it with 8-bit, but it'd be 00000001.

01000001 turning into an "A" is part of ASCII, something that wasn't around a thousand years ago.

I can't tell you much about the first 64 characters, and why "A" doesn't come until the 65th, other than I think the space bar is 32 or the escape key is 23 (or the other way around? It's been a while since Apple //e days...). Symbols. Control characters.

Things that a 1,000-year old loom wouldn't understand.

A, in my opinion, would be 1. 00000001. And if it's going to do ASCII characters from the binary, why write in all CAPS. It'd make more sense if it went even further into modern ASCII and used lower-case letters.

That way, the assassins would know whether or not they were meant to kill Michael Imar or Mich Aelimar. Right?

I like binary. And ASCII. I have my wife's initials tattooed on my arm in 8-bit binary that if translated to ASCII becomes her initials. But seriously.

I'll give you shooting bullets around corners. 1,000-year old weavers using 8-bit binary that translates to modern ASCII? Not so much.

I'm happy to be focusing on this like books and movies and worrying less about stuff I can't control and shouldn't worry about. It's quite refreshing.

And I have a theory about my recent Facebook goings-on as well. It's all good.

Posted: Tuesday, March 03, 2009, 3:40 am
Mood: Great! | No comments | Article URL | Post a comment
 


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