Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Roaming Porch Chairs

Well, the rocking chairs on the porch finally succumbed. The wind has picked them up too many times and skidded them across the driveway -- A few times in the high winds they rocked their way across the porch and then flung themselves willy-nilly into the concrete. Usually we'd hear the racket and make it outside just in time to keep them from going walkabout in the field behind the house. They kept trying to migrate, or something. We even wedged them up against the house, but they'd manage to sneak their way to the edge of the porch and away they went.

I'm surprised, actually. They're pretty heavy. Apparently, they are quite aerodynamic, too.

Sitting in them had become a delicate balancing game and they were creaking alarmingly.And the Amazing Fix-It Husband was unable to actually get them solid again. So, we went off to look for New Chairs. This is very stressful for us. We did, however, after five different trips, find really nice, solid metal-framed wicker chairs and two small tables. Success!

Worst Technology Ever

Well, we all knew it. AOL is horrible. Insultingly patronizing, and then -- when you learn there are better things out there -- impossible to leave.

PCWorld has published a list of the top 20 Bad Technologies...or would that be the bottom 20. At any rate, it's an amusing trip down memory lane for us techno-geeks. Yup, we remember these things, and usually we cringe.

Here's the top just knew that MS Bob was going to show up, right? What I want to know is, where is Clippy?
  1. America Online (1989-2006)
  2. RealNetworks RealPlayer (1999)
  3. Syncronys SoftRAM (1995)
  4. Microsoft Windows Millennium (2000)
  5. Sony BMG Music CDs (2005)
  6. Disney The Lion King CD-ROM (1994)
  7. Microsoft Bob (1995)
More at their site -- with pictures.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci Code

We actually saw Da Vinci Code last weekend –despite the wildly varying reviews, and we really did like it. It’s a bit slow in places, and sometimes there is a “lecture” quality to the dialog but all in all, it was a fun movie, beautifully filmed, and defintely a fun movie. It’s not moviemaking genius, but any means, but who cares? The music is great (I really like Hans Zimmer) and the scenery in Paris and London is great.

I liked the book. It was fast-paced, interesting, and if it was a bit predictable, I still read it in a single sitting. I belong to a number of writers’ forums and the sheer venom directed towards Dan Brown as “a hack”, “the worst writer ever”, “complete trash” is startling. At some level, it starts to sound as if some people don’t like the book simply because it’s so popular. If so many people who normally read Harlequin romances and People magazine liked the book, it obviously can’t have any literary value. Just a wee bit of literary snobbery, in my opinion. Is it good literature? No. In some cases, Brown writes incredibly clunky, amateurish prose. His dialog can be laughable. But the plot is tight and moves quickly and you want to know what happens. He’s a good storyteller, even if he is not an artist with words. I don’t understand the very vocal condemnation of the book based on “historical fact”…c’mon, people. It’s FICTION. Fic-tion. While based on some history, and some rather specious religious conspiracy, there is enough of a plausible story there to make a good novel. Many of the facts are right on and verifiable, and the representation of the history of the christian church is pretty close. But some of the other stuff in the book? A bit harder to support. Brown gets a lot of criticism for gettig some facts wrong (geography, albinos, etc) but on the core stuff he’s pretty close – changing what he needed to make the story work. Because….

Once again, repeat after me…FICTION. The giant hoo-hah from the religious right over banning this movie, or protesting it, and spending so much time trying to “prove” that it was wrong – what a waste of time. All it does is convince people who might not be terribly interested to go see the movie, to see what the hoopla is about.

If your faith is so weak and flimsy as to be threatened by being exposed to alternate views, then perhaps you really do have reason to worry about the impact of the Da Vinci Code. Intelligent people question their beliefs, and consider opposing ideas before just blindly accepting one view. Perhaps that is the problem. If you have to think about something, and there are plausible ideas you need to consider, then you can’t just retreat into the safety of what you’ve been told. I suppose I have to like any book that at least prompts people to start talking about things.

Perhaps, from work

Just testing if I can actually post to the blog from work, when I can’t actually access the webpage. Theoretically, this should world.

Lovely weekend – very busy. We went to see ‘Into the Woods’ at the Longmont Theater on Friday night. I love musicals, the Adorable Husband humors me. It’s a small local theater, and the show was very good. We also saw X-Men 3 in the afternoon – lots of fun.

Saturday we had our friends over for fondue again…and we were all lounging around the table, drinking wine, and realized it was 2am. I’m getting way too old for that sort of nonsense. At least it was a holiday weekend, so we could sleep in (and sleep in we did – ‘til nearly eleven!). Great food, a few spirited arguments about religion and politics. We always enjoy having them over.

Yesterday we wandered the Boulder Creek Arts Festival and post-BolderBoulder party and saw the a capella group <a href=””>Face</a> (which was founded by a family friend). Absolutely phenomenal concert – seven men, no instruments. I’m still trying to figure out how the “rhythm section” guy was able to make all those sounds only with his voice.

So here goes – emailing the blog entry….

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dungeon Update!

Finally! More pictures and noticeable progress. I haven't posted pictures in a while, since the difference between 'wallboard up', 'wallboard taped', and 'textured' is not terribly noticeable . And, of course, things sped up dramatically once I was back at home a few days a week.

But we finally have DOORS and WINDOWS and the trim is going up. Yeeha! I assume they have another two days of trim work (we have complicated door and window headers) and then painting. We had hoped to have things done before my Dad is here, but the schedule looks like we're about two weeks out from having things finished completely. The painting might be done by the time he's here, but no carpet yet.

So -- pictures: The theater is the most interesting -- the crown molding will hide rope lights in the ceiling, and the round holes in the walls are for single-light sconces like those we have upstairs. The rest of the holes are speakers. The french doors do have glass in them, it's just papered over during construction.

The bathroom is relatively small, and the big solid door is to the wine cellar. We were laughing that it could be used as a scream-therapy room -- 8" of insulation and a solid-core one's going ot hear a thing!

They haven't closed in the pop machine. Every time we look at it, Ethan (the contractor) sort of looks at it, puts his hand to his chin, and murmurs, "ahhh. Yes." He says he has a plan. The exercise room is pretty small and with all the hvac and plumbing, the ceiling is low in places. We have so many soffits, etc, because the ceiling is low and much of the vents hang down below the ceiling level. The Adorable Husband swears that the next house will have 12' ceilings in the basement. Or more

Friday, May 26, 2006

Big Brother Really IS Listening

Not worried about the NSA listening in on your phone conversations or emails? Think they aren't in your neck of the woods compiling lists of everything that goes through the wires?

Not likely. Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago...and hundreds of other cities, are part of the AT&T network that can be (or may already be) monitored...with the help of AT&T.

The web that is AT&T .

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Tacky Tacky

Ken Lay needs to pay his legal fees. So, he's trying to get the University of Missouri to return a 1.1 million dollar endowment that he gave them in 1999 for an Economics Chair. He initially wanted it back to donate it to charity after Hurrican Katrina (good intentions, at least, if a bit questionable given his previous somewhat shady donations), but when when that didn't materialize, he wants it back to pay legal fees. Um, no. That's not the way it works.
"[The trustee] came expecting to get a check and made clear it was to clear legal fees," says Scott Charton, director of university communications. The meeting was fairly tempestuous, involving threats of litigation. In any case, according to a statement Missouri released on Monday, the university’s general counsel concluded, after talking to the state attorney general, that there were "legal questions" concerning the propriety of returning the funds. The Missouri constitution doesn't allow public funds to be given to private concerns — either to Lay or his charities.
Tacky, eh? I suppose it would have been helpful, now that he's been found guilty on all counts.

Government Secrets

Once again, this administrations is hiding the things it does, all in the name of the "war on terra". I, for one, am getting heartily sick of hearing about Bush avoiding the law, flouting the rules, and redefining the role of presidential power to allow him to be king. The latest sure looks to me like he's covering his ass over the illegal wiretapping and phone logging -- simply don't allow anyone to talk about it:

President Bush has granted his intelligence czar the authority to exempt publicly traded companies from reporting requirements — in the name of national security. [from APR]
DAWN KOPECKI: The President just delegated authority to John Negroponte that allows him to exempt any publicly traded corporation that is working on national defense issues or national security issues from the reporting and accounting requirements under the 1934 Securities and Exchange Act. It's basically the rules and regulations that require companies to keep accurate records, acurate books, accurate accounting . . . and then disclose those projects and that information to investors.

RYSSDAL: The memo that the President signed was dated May 5. Talk to me about the timing of this for a second.

KOPECKI: Well, May 5 is the day that Porter Goss stepped down from the CIA. It's also six days before USA Today published its story that three major telephone companies had turned over massive amounts of customer calling records to the federal government, that the NSA was using to data-mine and look for patterns and, basically, spy on.

RYSSDAL: Now, if you play this out, conceivably what this rule now means is that AT&T and Bell South and Verizon, who have these government contracts — it's been reported in the papers — have these government contracts to sell customer data to the government, they may never have to report that income or how the finances of that program worked.
Yeah. I feel safer. Lots safer. What about you?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Benefits of a Handy Husband

Once again, my absolute faith that the Adorable Husband can Fix Anything has been rewarded. The sprinkler system has been on the fritz for a while (the drop zone doesn't work automatically and had to be turned on at the valve each time) and finally gave up the ghost and began leaking.

We've been ignorning the problem, really. It's not a huge deal to turn it on and off. But, the leaking was definitely an issue. So, he replaced the valve -- no joy. Tested all the wiring -- no joy. But he did eventually figure it out, and replaced all the wire connectors and (with the help of a multimeter and other tools that he has out in the garage)...voila! Working valve. Yeah!

An no one had to dig up the yard, no wire had to be pulled, and we only had to make THREE trips to Lowe's for parts.

I assume that he can fix everything. So far, I've been right.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Much better hotels

I got to spend the night at home last night, and drove back up to Cheyenne this morning. It's really not a bad drive, not much traffic. I wsa up and out of the house by 6am, which is pretty much the buttcrack of dawn for me. I hate mornings.

The poor Adorable Husband had to roust me out of bed at six, which is always a bit risky for him. I'm not the most pleasant person before I actually wake up (which is somewhere between one and three hours after I get out of bed) and he is just as likely to startle me into leaping out of bed with a snarl as he is to manage to wake me up and get me steered into the bathroom without incident. Then I stand in the shower for twenty minutes or so. He, of course, is perky in the morning. It's a tradeoff -- perky and alert in the morning equals somnolent by eight pm. Me? I hit my stride about midnight. I really got used to being nocturnal when I was off work.

Well, the hotel tonight is lovely -- internet access (free!), big tv, new bed. Not gold and roccoco with gilt mirrors. Much better. Of course, it's near train tracks, so I can hear the train whistles as if they are in the next room, but couple that with the sound of jets overhead from the nearby airforce base and it's barely noticeable.

People eating alone (probably more so women eating along than men) seem to make waitstaff nervous. I usually take along a book to read, or a book of crossword puzzles to do while I eat, and I don't mind being alone...unless the waiter (waitperson? what's the right term now?) decides that I need to be "amused" and that it must be the worst thing on earth to have to eat in a restaurant by myself. They hover, they make weird small talk, they keep interrupting, as if I couldn't possibly be interested in reading a book over dinner and have to be saved from a fate worse than death. The good ones realize that I'm fine, I just need regular refills of diet coke and a box for leftovers...the rest? Well, here's a tip: you aren't going to get much of a tip if you actually sit down at the table with me and make like we're long-lost pals. Unless you look like Colin Farrell, this is not going to impress me much.

Unfortunately, no hockey for me tonight unless I head off into the smoke-filled bar down the road. I'd forgotten that not ever state bans smoking in restaurants. It's startling to be asked 'smoking or non?' when I walk in, and I'm seriouslly apalled at the concept of smoking int he same place people are eating. Bars here are cloudy with smoke, and that's about the only place that gets enough satellite channels to show the Stanley Cup games.

Not that the Avs are going to win. I'm quite sure they're going to go out with a bang, though. Too bad, we'll have the basement done and set up with the theater in time for the actual Stanley Cup games. There isn't even a team I like remaining.

As for basement news -- I have pictures, which are unfortunately on my desktop machine at home -- of the walls up and taped and mudded. Lovely! They actually look like rooms now, and I assume they'll be in to sand and do the texturing. Personally, I hate textured walls, but hte rest of the house is this low knockdown finish, and we want to match. It's easier for the drywall guys, too -- they can be less precise. When we had the kitchen in the other house done, I wanted a "levvel 5" finish, which took them THREE tries to get right and it still wasn't actually smooth. This bumply stuff hides a multitude of sins.

I'll post the pictures when I get home tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tax Savings and 1972 hotels

I can't blog from work -- heck, I can't even access yahoo from the office at the moment. And, the hotel that I checked into last night in Cheyenne (at the recommendation of several people) was a shining monument to the decorating style of the early 1970s, which was the last time it was remodelled, I"m sure. Gold carpet, rococo lamps and mirrors, gilt wallpaper. It And had no internet access, despite loudly proclaiming that it did on the web site.

Anyway, drove home to spend the night in my own bed (it's about a 1 1/2 hour drive from Cheyenne) and will head back out tomorrow, spend the night there and drive back Friday. Not too bad.

But, I ran across this article -- touting the "tax plan" that was just agreed to by congressional republicans

House and Senate Republican negotiators reached a final agreement yesterday
on a five-year, nearly $70 billion tax package that would extend President
Bush's deep cuts to tax rates on dividends and capital gains, while sparing
about 15 million middle-income Americans from the alternative minimum

So, how much does this really help the "middle class"? It's surprising how many people think that the tax cuts are really helping the little guy. The truth is, it's aimed directly at those in the top 5% or so. Here's how much you might actually benefit from this:
Income, in 2005 dollars Average tax saving
$10,000-20,000 $2
$20,000-30,000 9
$30,000-40,000 16
$40,000-50,000 46
$50,000-75,000 110
$75,000-100,000 403
$100,000-200,000 1,388
$200,000-500,000 4,499
$500,000-1 million 5,562
More than $1 mil 41,977
SOURCE: Tax Policy Center

Monday, May 08, 2006

We have Walls!

Amid a tremendous mess, we have wallboard! Everywhere. Well, mostly everywhere. A few bits needs to be finished (inside the wine cellar) and a few bits need to be redone (wine cellar ceiling).
Actually, I probably won't make them redo the ceiling. We're not going to humidify much, so the ceiling should be fine (the walls are all greenboard already). I already made them move the vapor barrier to the right side of the cellar wall, it's probably not necessary to have them move the entire ceiling. But, there is a section of ceiling that has a pipe that protrudes down. Definitely going to have to fix that!

With all the soffits and beams and cutouts, I can only imagine that they are glad we're doing a knockdown finish (not smooth). It would be a pain in the butt to get this smooth! They've had to glue the wallboard to the bottom of the beams, and in at least one place, it bows quite a bit. I think that's a piece they'll have to replace, too. They really are going to hate me. I should bake more cookies.

At any rate, they should start mudding tomorrow, adn I think by the end of the week they'll have the texture done. Whoohoo!

I'm off to Cheyenne tomorrow morning -- whether to stay there overnight or not I don't know. Things are a bit in the air right now. Other than a 16-page security policy document that I have to sign and directions to the office, I have zippo about what I'm going to do. Should be fine.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

We're on a Mission from God.

Bush hasn't seen the new movie Flight 93 yet, but in an interview with CNBC he said that the people on board struck the first blow in WORLD WAR III. Considering that this administration has been specifically denying any "world war III" term since 2002, it's a disturbing comment.
But he said he agreed with the description of David Beamer, whose son Todd
died in the crash, who in a Wall Street Journal commentary last month called it
"our first successful counter-attack in our homeland in this new global war --
World War III".

Bush said: "I believe that. I believe that it was the first counter-attack
to World War III.

Scary. Reminds me of the following:
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will
be fought with sticks and stones. --Albert Einstein

We're on a Mission from God.

Bush hasn't seen the new movie Flight 93 yet, but in an interview with CNBC he said that the people on board struck the first blow in WORLD WAR III. Considering that this administration has been specifically denying any "world war III" term since 2002, it's a disturbing comment.
But he said he agreed with the description of David Beamer, whose son Todd
died in the crash, who in a Wall Street Journal commentary last month called it
"our first successful counter-attack in our homeland in this new global war --
World War III".

Bush said: "I believe that. I believe that it was the first counter-attack
to World War III.

Scary. Reminds me of the following:
I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will
be fought with sticks and stones. --Albert Einstein

Land of Windmills

Well, I'm not going back to Chicago, since we finished the tasks we needed to do by the time I left, and they don't have things set up for phase II yet. They figure they'll "call me back" when they are ready. It always amazes me how many clients seem to think that ourservices are "on-call" -- that we will work 2 hours here and a day there and a few hours next week on the same contract, so they don't have to pay for full days of work. I have had the strangest conversations with clients:

"So, we don't have a meeting until 10am tomorrow, so you won't be billing us until then, right?" Um. No.

"We aren't going to need you here next week, since the primary developer is on vacation, so you can come back the week after that instead." Um. No.

"We'll need about six hour of your time between now and Friday."

If that's what they work out in the contract beforehand, fine. But otherwise? Sorry. We're not an escort service, despite our joking about our company "pimping us out" to clients. Sigh. They were very happy with the work (happier than I would have been, considering the speed at which we did it!), but I'll be out in Cheyenne, WY, for a few weeks.

It's almost close enough to drive (if you're used to LA traffic, I imagine), which is what our salesperson initially suggested. But it's actually about 1 1/2 hours north. So, I'll probably be driving up and staying there for a few days, and working the rest of the time remotely. That should be nice.

Of course, the new gig is to do a migration from Informix to Oracle -- it's a bad sign when every Informix database book I can find (to try to get up to speed) is OUT OF PRINT!

Galileo Was (apparently) wrong?

Well, there is apparently no limit to the depth of intellectual dishonesty when it comes to people choosing the primacy of religious belief over science. Some are so desperate for their religious stories to be true that they ignore or wish away all facts to the contrary. Evidence doesn't support your crackpot idea, and in fact supports the science? Don't worry! Just claim that "something else must be happening" -- no need to actually say what that is, or prove your own point. I found this article on, which describes one man's attempt to revive the argument that the heavens revolve around the earth:

Sungenis is a geocentrist. He contends the sun orbits the Earth instead of vice versa. He says physics and the Bible show that the vastness of space revolves around us; that we're at the center of everything, on a planet that does not rotate.

He has just completed a 1,000-page tome, "Galileo Was Wrong," which he hopes will persuade readers to "give Scripture its due place, and show that science is not all it's cracked up to be."

[ . . . ]

If you see the Earth as just a humdrum planet among stars circling in a vast universe, then we're not significant, we're just part of a crowd," Sungenis said. "But if you believe everything revolves around Earth, it gives another picture -- of purpose, a meaning of life."

Let's see if I get this: believe the bible (a book of religious myths intended to help people learn how to live together) that the earth is the center of the universe...because it makes us feel special? If we believe that we're just like anyone else, then it somehow makes us less. How sad.

It's pretty simple: you can have your own opinions, but you don't get to have your own facts. If you have to ignore most of them, and ignore the observable behavior of the world around you...what you are doing is not viable science.

But what about Foucault's famous pendulum? Its plane of oscillation revolves every 24 hours, showing the rotation of the planet. If the Earth didn't rotate, it wouldn't oscillate. Nope, Sungenis said: There just may be some other force propelling it, such as the pull of stars.

"Some other force". Sure. That explains things. People actually believe this drivel?

Furthermore, [...], "The Bible has no part in scientific discussion -- none whatsoever." Or, as Galileo famously quoted 16th century Cardinal Caesar Baronius, "The Bible was written to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."

If you are Christian, the bible is an important part of your life. Good. I hope it makes you a better person. But trying to use it as the one and only science textbook is beyond silly.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Dungeon Construction, redux

I've lost track of the days. Not a lot happened while I was in Chicago except insulation, which is pretty cool. Wallboard and various types of blue/green/concrete stuff are stacked downstairs, ready to install.

There is a poor peon from the contractor waiting outside for the post-insulation inspection. He's been here for about two hours now -- I went out and brought him coffee, he's looking pretty dang bored and has started driving his truck in circles around the culd-de-sac. Apparently there's been some miscommunication between the inspector and this guy. Ah, well.

Things look pretty good, except they put the vapor barrier on the wrong side of the wine cellar wall (it should be on the theater side, not inside the cellar itself). But that's easy to fix, I imagine. I assume they'll start with the wallboard next week. Yeeha!

Here's a set of before-and-after pictures of the theater (and cellar wall) and the sitting room pre insulation and post.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


No insulation yesterday. The adorable husband arrived home to find piles and piles of wallboard, but no insulation. I assume they were off schedule because of the huge rallies on Monday.
It will probably only take a few hours for a few to get the insulation up, so I'm assuming that they will do it today. And start wallboarding tomorrow.

I just found out they're considering me for a gig in Cheyenne WY -- and the stated assumption is that "it's only an hour or so north", which I take to mean that they want to DRIVE there everyday. No. I'm really not going to do that. Yuck.

It might be fine if I can go up there and stay in a local hotel for the week and then head back when I feel like it, but I did the whole 2 1/2 hours in the car thing for a year. I'm not going there again. Really. The sales person initially said 3 weeks, and now is saying 3 months and I, frankly, don't trust either estimate.

Bah. This work thing is not what it's cracked up to be! Well, except for the paycheck part....

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

On the Road

Finally back to work! Ha -- surprised, aren't you? I shipped off to Chicago on Sunday and I've been working like a one-armed paper-hanger. The manager/salesperson for the client apparently told them that they'd have ALL the forms they needed (including data design and loading existing data) in three days.

"Oh, M said that that form would take only two days."

Well, I thought, M is speaking out his ass. He had NO IDEA how complicated or uncompliated the form was, and what was necessary. There were no requirements, and still no SOW. But, it is gloriously wonderful that the end-user actually knows what they want. Unlike my previous client, who just made things up as they went along and changed from one day to the next, this user has put in a lot of effort to make sure that they have what they need, can articulate what they want, and is willing to work to make it happen. I'm pretty shocked, I tell you. Shocked, in a good way. The long days are a bit tiring, though. The primary manager (who is also the reports developer here) wants a lot of handholding, but hasn't taken the hint yet that I can't finish if he continues to interrupt me. He's such a nice guy, though. I keep trying to tell him that I'll walk through everything when the first draft is done and we'll talk about it, but that if he keeps asking me for help right now (on unrelated things, including installing Forms on his laptop), I'll never finish what he needs. But, it's going well.

I pulled/strained/broke something when I was hoofing it through the airport in Chicago (after a 1 1/2 hour delay sitting on the tarmac and the craziness of landing at O'Hare at midnight) that feels like a serious, horrible, world-class charley horse in my left calf. My first thought: DVT! Ack! Blood clots! But it appears that this is actually just a strain or something (at least I haven't dropped dead yet). Add this to the still-cranky achilles tendon problem in the other foot I've had since we were in Ireland, and I'm pretty gimpy.

Which adds to the back pain. I don't think I've felt this OLD in a long time. I am quite literally devolving into a knuckle-dragging whiner as we speak. Hotel bed, the worst office chair, and sitting at the computer all day....see? Whining. I take about two minutes to straighten up when I stand up, and even then, it's not really upright. I may have to sleep on the floor tonight.
They should be insulating the basement as I am writing this -- the Adorable Husband has promised to send on pictures so I can update things and show you what it look slike once it actually has walls!