another misAdventure

"We are all of us living in the shadow of Manhattan."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

Actually ... no.

AKA - a peek into my job.

Those commercials where the guy is walking around asking "Can you hear me now?" have a huge ring of truth for me. I work with those guys.

Sort of.

They don't usually walk around like that. They drive. Unless checking a public pedestrian place, like a stadium or convention center.

They're not usually talking on the phone like that. They have special phones that make and measure the calls automatically.

But sometimes they are just talking and saying the equivalent of "Do you hear me now". I've been working with one of those cases since noon today. In several scattered spots around the country.

Oh yeah, what do I do? I get to try to figure out what's wrong when they can't "hear me now". At least from the switch side of things. There are lots of places the problem could be. So I get on conference calls and instant message with people who are covering other aspects of the network. And login all over creation checking log files to see what's happening. And, if I find a bug in our system, follow up with our developers to fix the code.

Oh, and my main customer isn't the "Can you hear me now" folks. It's the "Fewest call drops" folks. So, I spend a lot of time making sure their advertising stays true. But today wasn't drops, it was "can you hear me?". I'm still on a conference call, listening and waiting for a command to finish while I type.

Oh, and today was day 3714. Tomorrow is Day 1.

Day 3714, and final, of Lucent. Day 1 of Alcatel-Lucent.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Still not Good, but Better ...

The weather was warm today, if rainy early. Tomorrow is still supposed to be OK during the day, but drop later and turn cold and possibly snowy by the weekend.

With that backdrop I decided to leave work a bit early (about 2:30) to throw a second (and final for now) coat of paint up around the door.

It's better than it was. Still not good, because it was still separating as it sat and leaving some white spots where the paint had pulled back from its surface tension. So, it's still not good, but there are fewer bits showing through. It'll do for the winter, but I'll strip it down and repaint in the spring.

As always, there's more...

Just as I came in from painting, I got an IM on my work computer and got pulled into some stuff that I didn't have any real experience in. Fortunately, another guy from our group also got pulled in, and he did know what to suggest to the people having problems, so I only got stuck on the phone for about 45 minutes.

I threw together a sort of Turkey Divan casserole for dinner, since I wanted to get the remaining turkey put into something. Turkey and broccoli with mushroom soup, the remaining turkey broth, onion, some cheese, and a bit of fried onion salad topper. Pretty good, though I got it a bit too soupy as I added too much broth. I still had some turkey left, so I got it chopped up and mixed up some turkey salad for sandwiches tomorrow. Thus all the Thanksgiving leftovers got spoken for, except maybe one remaining slice of pecan pie and about a third of the can of cranberry sauce.

Ellen and I got the Christmas decorations out of the attic, though no decoration has been done yet. I refuse to light up the house until Sunday, the first day of Advent. It's not like my own take on Christianity is orthodox in many (or any) ways, but I don't want to push Christmas any earlier than the official start of Advent. So the lights will probably go up Saturday or Sunday, depending on the projection of the better weather. A lot of our neighbors have their lights going already, a couple even just before Thanksgiving.

Finally, I also put together the hotline schedule for the first half of next year. Since I'm my supervisor's delegate I took the reigns to get that done (which might otherwise not get done until Christmas week itself), and by doing it I could arrange things to fit weeks that I don't otherwise have plans -- like scheduling weeks when the Cubs are on a road trip so I know I won't have game I want to go to. I also scheduled around the kids' spring breaks and my niece's high school graduation. I gave myself the week of the fourth of July, mainly to avoid any dire argument and because we usually don't do much then (and the Cubs are on a road trip :-) ). The schedule should be pretty fair and I gave everyone a chance to tell me weeks they weren't available or didn't want to be available. So, I'll probably still hear arguments, but I'll feel free to discount them.

Anyway, that's it for now. More tomorrow, most likely.

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Monday, November 27, 2006


It was a long weekend at StuffedCOWS, and I added a bit to my sleep deficit. But, a fun time seemed to be had by all.

More? ...

StuffedCOWS is a D&D convention held at College of DuPage, so about 15 minutes away from home. There were probably a good 100 - 120 players there all weekend, and I'd signed up to judge all weekend.

I managed to play one game on Friday morning. The module that I was supposed to judge only had 2 people sign up for pre-registration, and they either didn't show up for the first slot or got into a different game figuring that there wouldn't be enough to play the gmod I was judging. That was fine, as I could play one game I didn't get to zero. Kalen judged for my table, and Ryan also played there, so we had all three of us at one table -- the only time that happened over the weekend.

The rest of Friday I judged two modules ("The Ties that Bind" and "Minions of Shadow and Fire"), both of which ran pretty short. Kalen, Ryan, and I got out to IHOP for lunch (I was craving pancakes for some reason), and even had time to run home for leftover turkey, etc., for dinner. Oh, and as a judge reward they had a number of things to pick from, and I picked up a straight cone template set from SteelSqwire.

Saturday the games Kalen and I ran all went a bit longer. I ran "Fools Gold", "The Ties that Bind" again, and finally "Sign of the Black Orchid". I wasn't supposed to run that last mod, I was slotted for something different, but there was a big influx of players into that mod for some reason, and since I'd run it before I could shift over. Not as much time between slots this day, but Kalen and I did get out at lunch to copy the mod that we needed for Sunday and still grab stuff at Panera, while at dinner Kalen had no time and I had only a bit, so I ran out to get us both stuff at Taco Bell.

Saturday then also had the drawing for a dragon raffle. A local gamer (who I don't think I ever met) had passed away earlier this fall, leaving his wife and three young children. So the raffle was to benefit a college fund for the kids. I believe that they announced, by the end of everything, that the con had raised over $1500 for the fund, which was far more than I'd expected so that was terrific. Anyway, they raffled off about 10 or 12 dragon miniatures, including the new colossal and gargantuan ones (major pieces of plastic, those). Alas, none of my tickets were winners, nor were Kalen's or Ryan's, but ah well, all for a good cause.

Sunday, I ran a LONG game of "Crewel Intentions". The module is supposed to be two rounds, but should only run about 1.5 rounds or less (I played in last winter -- we started at 8pm and finished about 1:30am). Anyway, on Sunday I'd grabbed a group of guys that I knew I enjoyed playing with and said I'd judge for them. What I didn't know is that they were playing a bit above the level actually supported by the module (they were APL 10, but the module only got up to APL 8). So, most of the combats were easy, but since they were a higher level table they had a number of options available to them that weren't really written up in the module, so I had to vamp, make up stuff, and finally say "OK, you've gone as far as you can with that because it's just getting us way away from the mod, so we'll get back on track this way ...". At the end, one of the characters decided to swim through a long tunnel (with some magical assist from one of the other party members), got through the tunnel just at the end of his breath, and then realized that he'd cut himself off from the rest of his party with no way back (since the magic had worn off). He was in a village, though, so he had to try to find someone to give him an assist to get back. Meanwhile his party realized he wasn't returning right away and so they had to use other magic to get through the tunnel to find him. Finally, reunited but not at all where they needed to be, they scrounged up yet more magic so they could get back through the tunnel and finish there quest. They then found that their quest couldn't be completed, and they wonnd up swimming through that tunnel again(!) to get home more easily. None of which was really necessary or planned for in the module, but they did it basically because they could!

We wound up finishing just before 5 pm, having started about 8:30am. Kalen ran the same module, but got done MUCH earlier and even had time to run one other module (not on her schedule) and finish it before I got done.

I came home, made a bit of dinner, and crashed hard early.

Nothing too exciting at work today. Just catching up on things after the long weekend, and trying to herd a few cats there as I'm the delegate for my boss this week (since she took three weeks vacation).

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I give thanks tonight for Mark Evanier. His blog is always entertaining, but tonight I specifically thank him for linking to the funniest bit of television in history. He posted this back in October and I figured I'd link to it tonight, but I'd have forgotten about it had he not mentioned it again today.

Here's Mark's description, and here's the clip:

And of course, there's more after the break:

We had a nice dinner here, all the usual trimmings, and things actually cam together very well. I made a nice tasty gravy, got the cheese sauce for the cauliflower timed right, and remembered to actually get the rolls in the oven in time. Ellen had to remember to get out the cranberry sauce, but remembered it just as she was sitting down rather than our usual "Oh, dinner's over and we never got out the cranberry sauce".

I'm just tired now, because I was up late and work early to help get in the turkey. I still need to do some prep for StuffedCOWS tomorrow (D&D convention). I'm judging all weekend, as is Kalen. Ryan's playing at least tomorrow, maybe Saturday. Kathy and Matt decided to skip it this year.

And Ellen's already announced her intention to get up and go shopping early tomorrow, but that's to Jo-anne's Fabrics and that'll probably be it.

The weekend may be sparse on posting, or non-existant, depending on how I feel when I get back from StuffedCOWS each night. If I do blog, it'll probably be on D&D topics.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006


With some apologies to Stephen Colbert, mostly for only having only three items in the Threatdown! rather than five.

Today's number three threat: Apparently it's Michael Richards. I understand that you were pissed off at a heckler, but you're going to be dealing for a long time with where that anger took you. Yeah, anger kills self control. The overreaction is going to be overblown, and the apologies will only go so far. This is going to be hurting his career for a long time, mainly because he doesn't travel in the same circles as Trent Lott.

The number two threat: Thanksgiving shoppers. Or rather, any grocery shoppers when it is busy. People who believe they occupy the world all to themselves, and so can park in the middle of the aisle studying the shelf. Or wander slowly, meandering around the corner while I wait right in front of them, knowing that sometime in the next five minutes they'll actually manage to complete a 90° left turn. There's a time and a place to study your shopping list, and that's in front of the bottled water. No one is buying bottled water today, and if they are you there's 10 linear feet of shelf devoted to the exact same brand, so you probably aren't blocking them.

Oh, and to the person who left their shopping list in the cart that I then took -- you probably don't need to be quite so specific. The last time I checked, you can't actually buy just one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.

And the number one threat: Behr!

Since the weather was predicted to be warmer this week, on Sunday Ellen went out and got paint for around the front door. Paint that matches the cranberry color of the new storm door. She asked if I had a brand preference, and I said no.

Now I think I do: Not Behr paint! I put up the first coat of paint around the door early this afternoon. I started painting the wood above the door, thought I got it pretty even, but as I was moving to the next section I noticed something odd about the area I'd just painted. I gave it another brush stroke to smooth it out, and then moved on. A minute later, that same area caught my eye again. Soon, I could see patches of white showing through the paint. Apparently, the adhesion was terrible, and so the surface tension of them paint was pulling it away in from certain patches to pool in other areas. In a short while it looked like cheap watercolor marker on coated posterboard.

I decided that the best thing to do was finsh the coat I was putting on as best I could. It looks bad, but I figure that with a second coat the paint will probably adhere better to itself (i.e., the first coat). Whether it takes two or three coats to actually cover well, we'll see. We'll see if I even have decent enough weather to put up three coats. Tomorrow I should be able to put up a second coat, but then Stuffed COWS is going to cut into my time, and who knows how long the weather will allow painting. It look OK from a distance, like: in the next block.

The other odd thing about the paint is that as it goes up, the color is basically Barney-the-Dinosaur-Purple. Fortunately, as it dries it darkens to the proper color, and should match the storm door after another coat covers the white peeking through.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Delayed Relief

Both yesterday and today I went into work. I'd planned to take all of this week as vacation, but I went in yesterday to follow-up on one issue that I'd gotten called on on Sunday. When I got in I also found that another issue from Sunday had blown up into a bigger deal, and that I was expected to provide some information on both. At the same time.

That obviously doesn't work so well, so I corralled the only other person from our group that was working this week. He wasn't really so hard to corral, since he was expecting me to hand off the hotline phone to him anyway. I chose the easier one to explain to hand off to him, and then settled in to a succession of conference calls to identify the root of the more complex issue.

I'm not going to get into details, but suffice it to say that it took all day to find anyone who knew anything about the area where the problem was, we still couldn't get definitive answers as to what was really going on, and so I wrote up everything and opened a problem ticket for development to answer. Then I left the office, but I forwarded my office phone to my home number in case someone tried to contact me for either issue.

I had only a tiny amount of time to devote to the other problem, the one I'd handed off, but that customer group didn't seem much satisfied so I logged in in the evening to try to find some more information for them (well, after gathering some King Wok food for Ryan, Matt, and I). By the time I finished that, I knew they were to be doing some restoration work in the other market, so I called the conference bridge line to see how that was going. Not so well, so I wound up on the line with them until close to 3am, watching the system I have some responsibility for -- watching it fail but knowing the problem was external to it so just waiting to watch to make sure it recovered properly when the fixed the far end.

By 3am I knew that we still had some answers to come up with for this problem, that the earlier explanation wasn't complete, so I forwarded a batch of e-mails to one of the UK team members and asked him to poke around for more info, and got to bed by 3:30.

I dragged myself out of bed four hours later, showered, and headed into work. Just after I left, Ellen called my cell phone. She got a call at home (via the call forwarding) from "a woman with an English accent". She didn't quite get the name, but I got enough phonemes from her to match it to another person on the UK team.

When I got into the office I checked my e-mail and found a minor flood. I IM'ed my UK teammate who had called, and she dumped some more info on me. I then followed that chain for much of the morning to make sure whether they needed any more from me. Eventually, it seemed that they had a handle on things, and didn't need anything further from me, so I'm going to let that one go now until Monday.

Meanwhile, I was getting bugged by folks on the other issue. When I let the first issue go (about noon), I turned my attention back to this issue. It took about another three hours to get the info they needed, but I think I should have satisfied them, so I left. I'm not planning on checking back on this until Monday either. If they need anything more, I know they have my cell phone number.

So, I'll look forward now to a long weekend and forget work.

The rest of the day, I've basically been hanging out with family here. Ryan, Matt, and I watched "The Class" last night. I know I'd previously written that off, but its proving that the episodes are very much hit and miss. Last night was pretty much a hit, with all three of us laughing out loud (you know, the offline equivalent of "LOL"). It was basically one joke, but they played it well. The scenes that were away from that one big joke, not so much. I'm staying with the show, but I'm not really committed to it.

Then Ryan and I watched "Heroes" and "Studio 60" (this while I was logged in to work). Neither was quite as sharp as last week. Hey, for "Heroes" the phrase is "Save the cheerleader ...", not "save a cheerleader". I think I see some of the turns this is likely to take (one from tonight was pretty predictable two weeks ago). Let's see what the big reveal is next week on who Sylar is.

Tonight: "House", "Jeopardy", "Futurama". I don't know how many times I've seen these "Futurama" episodes (the third and fourth of the first season), but I'm still noticing little things that got by me in previous viewings.

Oh yeah, and when I got home Ryan was watching the DVD of "Arrested Development" season three. Another show I can watch over and over, and do. I think we watched eight or ten episondes together.

Shifting gears: This comment is important. I suggest everyone read it, and pass it on.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Three hotline calls today!

I got to bed last night, finally, at about 3am. But I brought my work laptop upstairs with me, because I still had one guy in Baltimore doing a test, and he was going to call me when he was done so I could change some data back. Except he decided to do one other test, so he called to have a change made, and then I'd change it to the default when he was really finished in another 20-30 minutes. Which I did. So, I really got to sleep at 4am, maybe a little later.

The first call of the day came at 10am. This would have been before my shift, but I'd told my UK partner (who was covering the other 12 hours of the day usually) that I would cover the last four hours of his shift because he had a prior commitment. So, the call came my way rather than his.

After a couple hours, I was off that call, and I started sorting some comics. Then I got called to join a discussion about that first call to figure out how we should really leave things. I still had some stuff to try to figure out, and I called in a couple other guys. But in the midst of that, another hotline call came in.

I was on that for a while, when yet another call came in! One on top of another. Fortunately, the previous one wasn't something I needed to deal with, so I could get off that call and take the new one. That one turned out to be the most involved for me, and I wound up on that call for, oh, about five hours.

And, to finish up some stuff from that call, I need to do some stuff tomorrow that will take a while. So, so much for taking tomorrow off. Oh well.

In other news, Matt is now home. And, I guess that's about it for now. After tomorrow I ought to be clear for the rest of the week. So, maybe tomorrow night I can talk about something more pleasant.

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There's More on the Door

Late update -- I haven't gone to bed yet, so it's still Saturday, right?

Ryan and I got the storm door up today, and it looks pretty good. It left both Ryan and I kind of body achey though, between the physical work and the chill in the air.

Ellen checked the weather and it's supposed to be pretty good this week -- highs in the 50's up to above 60. So, she went out and got some paint to match the storm door (it's a dark cranberry color). So, I should be able to paint the trim around the door and highlights that were the brick-red color by the door, rather than just leave it primed for the winter. That'll make things look a bit better. In the spring I'll probably re-paint the whole porch anyway, but this'll leave things so they look good until whenever I decide to paint.

Ellen also got finish for the inside of the door. The inner side of the door is oak, the outside is steel (white steel for now, I'll paint it the cream color of the rest of the porch in the fall. Anyway, when we ordered the door I thought the oak side was going to come finished. No. So, a couple coats of polyurethane are due.

I was working on the door, and about 2pm I realized, "Oh, I don't have the hotline phone where I can hear it. I better grab it". It was upstairs on my dresser, and I check and Oh Oh!, there's one missed call. Crap! But I checked the message and it was another one of my group members, in St. Louis, checking if I happened to know a bit of info he needed. Unfortunately I didn't. Fortunately, the call wasn't an outage call that I was late to answer!

I'm baby sitting some additional data changes right now (hopefully the last I'll be doing of that for a while). The script is running slowly, so it may be 2:30 before it's actually finished. Oh well.

Narf - yes, there's an extra house key.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Well, not that much to say

Still keeping up the daily blog posting, though maybe the material is wearing thin. Still, I'm going to keep this up for a bit.

I have a topic I was thinking about writing tonight, but it's going to take more time than I want to spend.

Kalen, Kathy, and Ryan are home now. Several (?) Model UN folks are also staying with us tonight -- I'm not sure who or how many yet, and I don't know whether Kalen does either. Hey, they're college kids, I guess I shouldn't expect organization. Anyway, they're all going to the Model UN conference in Chicago for the next few days, so it'll just be Ryan home until Matt gets here (eventually). Soooooo... Ryan wins the "help Dad with the screen door" tomorrow. Maybe we'll even get the new garage access door up as well -- we'll see.

No late-night data changes tonight. No hotline calls, though I did help one person who was doing an update on the Isle of Man. And by help I mean "find the person who can really help and but them in contact".

And, I think I'll crash before too long, because I'm beat tonight.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Not So Hot

No hot line calls again today!

Got a bit of a chance to relax this evening. Sorted comics, watched some "Survivor", some "30 Rock", some "NUMB3RS" from a couple weeks ago, and the usual late night (Daily Show & Letterman, with Colbert Report Tivo'd for later).

Comments on TV shows, football, and work after the break.

On Survivor, Ellen and I took several guesses on what was in the bottle, and figured it out just before it was revealed, mainly because at the time it was revealed it was about the only thing I could figure it would be. We had other guesses, but the reveal would have happened just a bit earlier. (intentionally vague because Kalen and Kathy would kill me if I spoiled anything).

30 Rock is pretty damn funny.

NUMB3RS was, OK, but it was funny at the end because you had Judd Hirsch and Rob Morrow sitting down to watch TV, and from the TV we hear the theme from "Taxi".

I forgot to talk about the Bears and my fantasy team. On Sunday I watched Simpsons-Family Guy-American Dad, and then remembered that the Bears were playing that night. I turned over to see it pouring down rain in New York (well, New Jersey) and the Bears had been sucking. I think the second play I watched, though, was Thomas Jones running on 3rd and 22, and gaining 26 yards. From that point on it was nearly a dream for Bears fans ... and for my fantasy team. I've got Rex Grossman on my team, and I'd started him this week over my other quarterback, Eli Manning. (OK, if you don't know NFL football you don't know what I'm talking about). As it turned out my team was still a few points behind after Sunday (even with plenty of points for Grossman), but Monday night the Tampa Bay defense pulled out the win for me (even in their loss). Woo -- I'm in 6th place, 6-4, but I've clinched a playoff spot. Of course, the playoffs are eight teams out of the ten in the league.

No hot line calls again today! I'm afraid I'm going to jinx it, though. I did do a data change once again tonight, but it was simple and could be done at bit earlier in the evening. No goofy really late night -- last night I did get to bed a bit before 2am, but I've also been sleeping in a bit and getting in later, so I don't feel I'm burning the candle at both end.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Yet Another Late Night

I'm not getting hotline calls, but I am getting asked to make late-night data changes again tonight. So, I've got something to do starting at midnight, maybe going 'til 2am.

Then I hand everything to someone in Germany. But by then, it'll be 9am his time. And what we're working on is happening in Baltimore. So, I'm juggling at least three time zones to coordinate what's happening when.

I caught up on "Studio 60" tonight. I liked these two episodes, as they were probably 80% clever and only 20% preachy. A better ratio than the previous. Still annoying, but tolerable.

But the funniest thing tonight was the pee-wee hockey game on South Park. Where the two age-5 teams were facing each other, not ... well anyway. It was just so true to live, because I've seen little kid games like that.

I did get keys made for all four kids for the new front door lock, so collect your keys when you get home, kids.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Only Somewhat

Today/Tonight has been somewhat less frustrating so far. But only somewhat.

I was up until 4:30am yesterday. Between slow scripts, one false start (because a drifted off asleep for about 5 minutes, and in that time my laptop went into hibernation and I lost connection), and getting called to do one further thing just as I was about to go to sleep, everything just took way too long. At least I was back home by then -- I left the office at midnight and came back home to finish stuff because I couldn't restart the script until someone else finished stuff at 12:30.

ANYWAY -- I slept in until 10:30 this morning, then went into work by about noon. Work was fairly ordinary. I'm doing some of the same stuff tonight that I did last night, but not the long script. I should be done with everything shortly around 11pm tonight, and I should be able to get to bed by midnight. I may not stay up that long, though I may just in case the hotline phone goes off.

So, nothing else exciting today. I watched last night's "Heroes", and the pace is really picking up. Probably to do a mini-climax and cliffhanger though November sweeps, then reruns through December until picking up again sometime in January. Like most series that are popular. Anyway, it picked up as expected last night, and will continue into next week.

And that's it. I've got about an hour before the next bit of stuff to do. An hour to relax, a little work, then Letterman and bed.

See you tomorrow.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Frustration Time

Hi. I'm at work. It's almost midnight, and I'm throwing up this post to keep my daily string going.

I was at home, but I'm stupid ... I left my SecureID on my desk here at work, and without it I can't login to work from home.

So, just as I was settling in to do a couple simple things from home that I promised to do, I realized I didn't have the SecureID so I had to come in to work to do the stuff. I couldn't just grab the ID and go back home because then I wouldn't be able to do the stuff in the time I needed to do it.

Well, that's screwed up anyway, because the stuff took longer than expected (not my fault -- stupid script that I was given is slow).

And, I had just started doing what I was supposed to do when ... the hotline phone rang! AAARRRGGH!

Anyway, the hotline wasn't a problem I needed to deal with, though I helped for a bit. The script was still running. It's STILL running now, but it looks like it will be done soon.

I hope no one is expecting me in first thing in the morning.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006


For much of the day, I was checking the reading on our outdoor thermometer. For the most part, the temperature hovered between 48° and 51°.

The importance of that is that the primer I was using said to apply at 50° or more.

To which I say, meh, 48° or 49° are fine too. The odds aren't good for the temperature to be predicatably above 50° anytime soon. And the wood of the new door needed a coat of primer before the real winter weather hits. So, today was the day!

And ... it's taken care of. Friday night Ellen and I went out to Menards and decided on the way we were trimming around the door. She and I had different ideas of what we should do there, but it worked out well because our ideas complemented each other and work well together. So I got the trim up around the door, got everything caulked/sealed, and got up two coats of primer.

I didn't get the storm door up, but then I don't really have a temperature restriction on that, so I can work on that sometime during the week or next weekend. I'm sure I could use a extra hand on doing that anyway -- better not to try the wrestle the stormdoor frame alone. So I'll either get some help from Ellen or from Matt or Ryan next weekend.

This week on hotline 12/7 (hmm, doesn't have the same ring as 24/7). Next week is Thanksgiving week and I'm taking the week off (three days vacation, two days holiday).

By the way, the forecast predicts that the high temperatures will slowly decrease each day this week, and will be around 40° next weekend.

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It's Elemental

This post is a little late because I just got home. So this is the Saturday post, though it's dated Sunday.

Nothing turns around a combat that's going badly quite like ... summoning a large air elemental.

Today I played D&D all day. In the first slot I ran "Minions of Shadow and Fire". No brains were extracted, though I was close. Very, very close. And then the bad guys were blown away. Literally.

In the second slot I played "The Ties that Bind". It's a year-6 Verbobonc module, and I was going to play it with the character that was built for this year's Verby mods (Aelorin). But then I heard the blurb, and it said the mod was set in the town that my original Living Greyhawk character (Joe) lives in, and working for the lord that Joe works for, and so it was "OK, switch gears, I'm playing this with Joe". I played it at APL 4, which is really too low for Joe (he's level 9), so I took half of the rewards for the module.

In the third slot we played the meta-regional "Autumn", which was still set in our home region of Verbobonc. I played Aelorin in this one, again at APL 4 (which was a good match, since Aelorin is 4th level), though we still had one character playing out higher than that range. For that mod ... well, the story didn't hold together as well as I'd like, though it could have been the judge rather than the mod, it's hard to tell until I've actually read the story.

Anyway, that's really it for today. Tomorrow the plan in to get as much done with the door as I can.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Foam Expanding

Well, I did take today off. I left messages to see if they wanted me to follow up on anything in Salt Lake City today, but the last message I saw indicated that the issue will wait until Monday. It was opened as a priority 1 problem, but whatever ...

So, I had the day to take care of some things here ...

The first priority was to fill the gaps around the new front door. The past couple days it's been so nice out, so the door wasn't a big deal. Today it turned cooler, and tonight it's just cold, with a chance of snow tonight. So, I got the gaps filled with the expanding foam aerosol insulation. Then it's an issue of cleaning up the foam as it expands OUT of the gap. But that's all done now, and there doesn't seem to be any drafts around the door now.

I also did a quick sweep up (with the broom rake) of most of the leaves in the front lawn. Its pretty pointless to try to get them all, and I didn't have that much time, particularly since it started to drizzle when I started with the leaves, and the drizzle slowly got stronger all afternoon. I got it done well enough, though, and filled two lawn waste bags with the leaves.

Got the door strikes up on the door, for both the regular knob and the deadbolt. Got the tarp over the patio table (though I still need to tie it down properly, it's held down by two leftover bags of mulch). Ellen got the last of the flower beds mulched for winter, and got the hoses put away and pulled into the garage. So, the normal winterizing is essentially done.

What I still need to do is get up the new picks of casing/framing around the outside of the front door, to cover the gaps that I just filled with the insulating foam. We got that this evening, and it won't take long to get up. I also got some caulk and primer, and will get all of that finished on Sunday afternoon -- it looks like the weather will allow that. Once the primer is dry I can put up the storm door, and that should complete anything I really HAVE to finish out front.

Tomorrow, I'm playing D&D. I'm judging the first slot (Minions of Shadow and Fire), and playing the next two (a new regional and a relatively new meta-regional).

Next week I'll have the hotline phone, 7 days but only 12 hours a day (UK person covers the other 12 hours. So, I'm on-call noon to midnight. That's not so bad.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

This is the Post Without a Title

A bit of a late night at work tonight. I was trying to finish up one thing, that I know isn't really finished but it has to wait until a drive team can run a test for us in Salt Lake City. We'll see what the morning brings, but I should try to take at least a half-day off tomorrow and get a few things done around here, with what may be the last remnants of decent weather for the season. That's if it's not already drizzling by late morning tomorrow.

After the break, a couple bits of randomness.

In his effort to reach across the aisle and promote bipartisanship, Bush takes the step today to ... re-nominate John Bolton as UN ambassador? Proving once again that he has no clue, or that he's just to smug to care. Fortunately, it appears that this idea got smacked down right away by lame-duck Republican senator Lincoln Chaffey, who once again said that there's no way Bolton gets his support.

After I got home tonight I fired up the Tivo to watch Celebrity Jeopardy and then tonight's Smallville. There's one scene in Smallville that I could predict a mile away, but when it actually appeared I cringed. It's way too schlocky and cliché. I'll too invested in certain plots to give up on the series entirely, but I'm tempted to fast-forward past any scene with one particular character. If you saw tonight's episode, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

All Those Chickens are Hatched Now

While I was out at lunchtime, to get my weekly comic fix and renew the license sticker for Kathy's car, I got to hear the president's press conference.

Let's see, while I was listening, I heard him admit that he'd lied and also botch a joke. If he were a Democrat, they'd be calling for his head.

Sorry, too much opportunity for schadenfreude today. I enjoyed listening to Bush tap dance, though as the time went by he did get a bit more candid and, surprisingly, a bit gracious. I don't hold a great deal of hope for him, but it's clear he knows that circumstances have changed.

At the beginning of his time he did twice commit one of the Republicans' favorite lexical tweaks that really annoys me, referring to the "Democrat Party". Could someone tell them that they just sound like they don't know an adjectival form if it bit them in the ass.The thing is that they know the difference and it's a deliberate quirk.

As for the botched joke: I thought the Republicans had already purged all the interior decorators from their ranks.

Anyway, so much has changed in just the past 12 hours. No more Rumsfeld, and both Montana and Virginia senate races get calls for the Democrat. I expect there will be a lot more repercussions coming in the next month.

Anyway, as for me, nothing else much going on. Work. I need to login again on the work PC to see if a big file got transferred properly, and see if I can figure out a problem in Salt Lake City. Oh, yeah, I'm also supposed to be looking for something for Matt. Better go do that....

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I don't really have that much to say tonight. The perils of attempting the daily blog. I do have a couple things that I've got sitting in reserve to blog about, but I don't feel into them today.

But there is still more to this post anyway.

OK, so the day was vote, work, come home, phone my mom, e-mail, phone Matt (who'd phoned while I was talking to my mom), blog.

I'd resolved to avoid election coverage, mainly because early positive results from 2000 and 2004 turned so sour. I couldn't stay away from it entirely, though, and so far things are going OK. I think by morning we'll know the results are good, but probably not as overwhelmingly positive as some might have hoped. But at least it looks like the Democrats have the House, which is pretty huge.

None of the races I voted in are likely to be at all close - for good or ill.

I am happy to see some of the results. No love lost for Rick Santorum. Don't let the door hit you on the way out ... because we don't want your ass-prints on the door.

Other than that, I think it's time for bed.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Monday Miscellaney

Hmmm ... Will Ferrell is on Letterman now. I guess I can turn that off.

The paper cups are now out of the door. I got the deadblock installed, as well as a new doorknob so that the deadbolt and the main knob would have the same key (so, yes, kids, I need to get you new keys). I still need to work ono the door strikes, but it's enough for now.

And now, for a little new-season Tivo blogging ...

I think I'm done with "The Class". I'd added it to my season pass list because the pilot was somewhat promising, and I thought the third episode was really funny. The network must agree, because that's the one episode they re-ran to build audience a bit. But it's only been that one episode. There's one character that I like, one character that's bearable, and a dozen others somewhere below that "bearable" line, downward to awful.

Heroes: Everyone's favorite, apparently. I'm not totally blown away by it, but it's certainly good enough to follow through the season. I like Hiro (everyone does). I like the cop who reads minds. The cheerleader is OK. Some of the other stories drag a bit though (sorry, I'm already tired of Niki's story). I'm looking forward to the story ramping up a bit again for November sweeps, as tonight's episode seemed to.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: This one everyone views as a disappointment. To me, it's OK, but just OK. Entertaining, and I'll keep watching, but it's not something that I feel I must watch. I like Matthew Perry in this, and D.L. Hughly. I haven't watched this week's episode yet, but I probably will watch tomorrow night. It'll probably be cancelled before I get much more of a chance to decide about it, though.

30 Rock: The other "SNL behind the scenes" show. I've thought it was pretty funny frequently. It's the type of humor that may be a rough sell to the general audience at times, so we'll see how long it lasts, but apparently it's done fine and better than "Studio 60". I like Tina Fey, but both Alec Baldwin and Tracey Morgan have been a hoot, and Jane Krakowski has been pretty funny when called upon. The biggest problem I have with this is that there haven't been that many episodes shown yet, and if it's not on regularly I'd expect that to kill it.

1 vs. 100: The best thing about this, so far, is that I wound up finding Ken Jenning's blog because of it. Jennings wrote a bit about his short stint as a "mob" member on the show. And he's an entertaining writer, so I visit his blog regularly now. Anyway, I'm a sucker for quiz shows, and I can watch this the way I used to watch "Who Want to be a Millionaire?" -- fast forward to get to the questions and skip over the fake tension building. I do like the first few rounds though, where it's like "ooh, if the contestant misses this question the mob can each take home, oh, a bit more than $7 each!".

Legion of Super Heroes: I've been a Legion fan since 1967: Adventure #359. Yes, Legion fans can quote their first issue -- and the real fans know the story from the issue number. Anyway, this animated show (on the Saturday morning "Kid's WB", right before "The Batman") has not disappointed. Somewhat surprisingly. A lot of people don't like the character designs, and there are some bits of the style that I don't care for (particularly the necessity of calling Superboy "Superman"). But the stories so far have all been very good. Not quite "Justice League Unlimited" good, but better than most "Teen Titans" and much better than "The Batman". I'm happy with the series so far.

I think that's all the new shows that have been added to the Tivo this year.

And now it's late, later than I'd planned, so I think it's time for bed.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

I'll take Door Number 1, Monty!

My day was concentrated around the front door. And listening to the Bears suck.

Today: Church. Mailed Legends. Arby's for lunch. I like Arby's reuben's for the most part, but I like my reuben grilled (like is supposed to be). So the benefit of getting food there and then bringing it home is that I can slap the non-grilled Arby's reuben on the Forman grill. 100% better.

Anyway, we got home and had lunch and I watched the first part of the Bears sucking. Then Ellen said there was a Menards truck in the driveway. This was a little before 1pm I believe, so plenty early in the day. So, I changed my clothes and spent the rest of the afternoon getting the front door ready. Well, I also had my favorite power tool with me -- the radio -- so I could listen to the remainder of the Bears suckitude.

Most of that time was getting the old door off. No problem with the old storm door, but the entrance door casing had been painted 3 or 4 times in the past 22 years, so I couldn't find all the nails holding it for a while. So, it took a while to chip away and explore where the nail were. I was trying to do so without just totally mangleing the door frame. Not totally successful at that, but ...

Anyway, the new door is up, though not totally fixed up. I need to redo some of the trim around the front of the house now to mesh better with the door. I need to get some insulation foam to fill around the door. And I need to get another lockset, since we got this door with a hole drilled for a deadbolt, which the old door didn't have.

So, for now, at least it's not bitter cold tonight, because it'll still be drafty around the door. The deadbolt hole is just filled with a couple paper cups for now (they fit well). And I still need to get the new storm door up as well, but that'll wait until I fix up the trim.

And tonight I'm beat. It'll be time to crash shortly, though I'm dusty enough still that I'll grab a quick shower first. This story continues ... mañana!

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Please Hold

So I got two calls today where I picked up the phone and heard the automated voice: "Please hold for an operator ...".

Excuse me? You called me. But by making the call this way they can save a bit of the operator's time. Check that, they can make the minimum wage caller be on a call with a person that much longer in their shift, and thus save the company a few more pennies rather than hire one more minimum-wage worker to do the work they want done.

SO, I stupidly stay on the line. Then the automated message changed a bit: "We're sorry, operators are all busy at this time. We will call again ...".

And then the message cut out and a real person was on the line -- the cal didn't quite have enough time to timeout. Unfortunately for the operator, who I lit into for their company having the nerve to call me and then make me wait, and then just about to try it for another cycle. I told him he could make a note on any records they have and tell his supervisor that I refuse to deal with this system any longer. Not that they care.

It just reinforced some rules that I should have been adhering to, but had slipped back a bit, allowing for a minor benefit of the doubt. Or, having rushed to the phone, felt I needed to pick it up anyway.

1. If the caller ID doesn't give a name or a number I recognize, the call is going to the answering machine. If they won't talk to the machine, then whatever they want isn't worth my time either.

2. If I pick up the phone and they ask me to hold, forget it. It's an immediate hangup. If they want to talk to me but it's not worth it to them to have a real person ready on the other end when I pick up, again it's not worth my time.

OK, enough of that rant. I've been reasonably productive today. Got Legends together finally, got the dishes done (mostly, at this point), the laundry done (again, mostly, at this point). A bit of other cleaning. Got the Halloween decorations boxed up to go into the attic tomorrow, including getting one of the glass pumpkin stakes fixed (the glass dome came loose from the stake).

Tomorrow, Menards is supposed to deliver the new doors we ordered for the front entrance and the door to the garage from the house. The delivery is supposed to be between noon and 6pm. Depending on when the actual delivery is done, I may get the doors installed as well.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Pop Quiz - Marketing

Obviously, the purpose of these little contests is to get you to buy more pop. Mission accomplished, because I will sometimes choose to buy the pop with the contest top rather than one without, though my pop of choice is almost 100% Pepsi product anyway. If I'm getting a Diet Mountain Dew, I'll try to buy one with the special cap rather than the mundane "no contest" variety -- when I can choose my bottle like in the cafeteria or in the vending machines we have at work (glass front to display the product).

Some other observations on the caps in a moment.

Each bottle cap has one of three types of things on it: a team name, a "Buy one, get one free" (1:6 chance), or a "15% of $50 purchase at" (1:12) chance. So the team names must be on 75% of the caps (9 of 12). I didn't figure that into the expected value, though I could now. It should be 1/3rd more than the previously calculated expected value, so 25.7 caps. Not all of which you'd pay for.

I decided to assume that the "Buy one, get one free" had no effect on the probability. I buy the pop anyway, so that cap is effectively "I get this pop free". Or, I can figure it has the value of a bit less than a dollar. I can get the bottles in the vending machine for $1, but I obviously can't redeem the buy-one-get-one that way. So to redeem it I have to get the pop in the cafeteria, where the pop costs about $1.16 ($1.09 plus tax). So, that makes the value more like 84 cents.

The "15% off NFL" has a value of exactly ... nothing. And not just because I'm not planning on buying anything there. In the official rules on the back of the bottle label if gives the method of redemption for each prize. For the 15% off it tells us, "To redeem, enter code NFL_PEPSI at checkout". So you don't even need the cap, you just need to read the rules to get a discount on overpriced stuff.

OK, I guess that's enough babbling on about the delivery system for my drug of choice.

I'm tired/sleepy tonight, and it's still early. So maybe I'll get to bed early, not rush to wake up in the morning, and have the energy to get a bunch done tomorrow. Check in tomorrow to see if that actually happened!

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Pop Quiz - Answer!

After I thought about it a bit more, the probability calculations would be tedious, but can be expressed in a spreadsheet without two much problem.

The answer, after the break ...

Ultimately, the answer, the expected number of caps needed to get a hat, is 19.28 (rounded to the nearest hundredth). With the 19th cap you have a bit less than a 50% chance of a set of three matching cap, with the 20th somewhat more than 50%.

There are 1188 different states (number of caps and number of pairs within that set) to deal with, the probability of each expressed as a spreadsheet cell. Fortunately, each state only needs to deal with 1 or 2 other states as input to the probability calculation. The dependencies are all at the same relative position to the cell being calculated. The exception is the transition to the final state (collected three matching caps), but the calculation of that can be expressed as a sum of a set of products, so the products go into a temporary set of cells to be summed. Altogether, there are 6 or 7 different cell formulae, that then get copied into all the other cells (depending on their position in the sheet). Once I got those formulae correct, the tedious work is just pasting the formulae into the right position, which isn't hard. I added a few more cells as a check, to make sure that the probabilities that should sum to 1 all did indeed sum to 1.

OK, so that was one interesting intellectual activity, and I have my answer now: 19.28. Tomorrow, a couple last observations about this cap game.

And, yes, I am trying to blog daily for a bit. We'll see how long that lasts.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Pop Quiz - Math

So, you know how bottled pop (soda, coke, insert your favorite regionalism) so often now has little contests with things printed on the cap liner? Pepsi products seem to have these things running more than half the time, if only of the "1 in 6 wins a free bottle" type.

The most recent such has had the names of the NFL football teams printed under the cap. Collect three caps with the same team and you win ... a cap!

Well, a hat. With your choice of NFL logos.

Anyway, I get myself a bottle of Diet Mountain Dew (a Pepsi product) pretty much every day. That is, on the days that I don't have two bottles. :-)

This led me to ponder a math problem: What's the expected number of caps you would need to have before collecting three of a kind. There are 32 NFL teams, so 65 caps is a guaranteed win. Ignore the caps that are not team names.

I work through this after the break ..., but I haven't got it yet. Warning! This is a math geek post.

OK, let P(n) be the probability of getting at least one group of three in n bottle caps.

P(0) = 0. P(1) = 0. P(2) = 0. P(65) = 1.

P(3) = (1/32)². To be clear, the probability of getting three of team A is (1/32)³, and then there are 32 teams so (32×(1/32)³).

OK, for n caps there are 32n possibilities if ordering is important, which it's not but I think we can factor that out by the way we do other counting (i.e. pretend order is always important). If at least three caps match then we remove those three caps from the group and there are 32(n-3) possibilities for the remaining caps. There are (n Choose 3) ways of the three matching caps appearing in the group of n. (n Choose 3) is n!÷((n-3)!×3!), or ((n)(n-1)(n-2)÷6). There are 32 different team possibilities for the matching caps, and 32n-3 possibilities for the other caps (note that this allows the other caps to also match, remember P(n) is the probability of at least 3 matching caps). All together then, P(n) = ((32(n-3)×((n×(n-1)×(n-2))÷6)×32) ÷ (32n)).

P(3) = ((32(3-3)×((3×(3-1)×(3-2))÷6)×32) ÷ (323))
     = ((320×((3×2×1)÷6)×32) ÷ (323))
     = ((1×(6÷6)×32) ÷ (323))
     = ((1×1×32) ÷ (323))
     = 32 ÷ (323)
     = 1 ÷ 322

That checks.

... and for n=65 -- um, ooops.

P(65) = ((32(65-3)×((65×(65-1)×(65-2))÷6)×32) ÷ (3265))
      = ((3262×((65×64×63)÷6)×32) ÷ (3265))
      = ((3263×((65×64×63)÷6)) ÷ (3265))
      = (((65×64×63)÷6) ÷ (322))
      = (65×64×63)÷(6 × 322)
      = (65×2×63)÷(6 × 32)
      = (65×63)÷(3 × 32)
      = not 1 . Damn!

OK, still not right. I'm sure I'm screwing up the counting due to the ordering, but I'm not sure how yet. So, this post is still a work in progress.

Anyway, I haven't figured out the expected number of caps yet, but I got a set of three with my 13th cap. Actually, my 12th and 13th caps were identical and matched one I had before.

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