Archive for July, 2007

20070726

Annnd, we have internet!

And JR put up a wiki page for all that stuff that needs to be done at the place in the near term. People can make their own additions if they sign up an account (it looks like it will work even without giving up a valid email address, but you can trust her not to sell it to spammers ;)

Ok…I’ve done pretty much nothing but work this week (10-4 week), but (between GJM’s surprise coming and going) tomorrow I anticipate have a contiguous block of freetime long enough to get something done in. First order of business, steam out the upstairs hallway carpet (not visibly filthy, but shag carpet with serious dust-accumulation issues). It’ll eventually be ripped out, but that’s a bit ambitious for now while all our crap’s still standing in the kitchen waiting to go somewhere. Maybe once we’ve settled in somewhat… BTW, our carpet man was a miracle worker. All these stains and year-old cruft-accumulating pop spills scattered like magic under the glare of the steam** vac system. Next step will be to rip out the ugly old carpet in the two large bedrooms, and refinish the hardwood underneath.

JR brought over plants, and planted them in the garden patch HAL and I weeded out the other day – some squash, tomatoes, peppers and beans. We quickly ran out of garden, so there are still some sitting around waiting for a new spot to be dug. LE and crew were over and we BBQ’ed…my first attempt ever at gas grilling (I still prefer charcoal).

Serendipitously, I was asked to come over for a few minutes to test the range of a coworker’s wireless doorbell, and while trying to find his house scored a Mac FruitGumdrop* keyboard and optical USB mouse on the curb. I like the keyboard (it’s smaller than the standard 104-key PC variety, without eliminating *too* many of the important buttons), but soon realized there is no way to type Ctrl-Alt-Delete on one (as fundamental to using Windoze as breathing oxygen).

* I don’t remember the formal Mac-name for this system, but I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about. The computer itself was also on the curb looking like it would be fun to play with for a day and snatch the drive out of, but I didn’t want to get stuck with the $25 recycling fee to (re-)dump computers/CRTs in Medford.

**”steam” cleaners don’t actually use steam, the more correct (but less common) term is “hot water extraction”.

Do not look into laser with remaining eye

Hehe…From a Navy SBIR solicitation for an automatic sniper-warning system:

This topic seeks technology that will provide a capability to detect a potential sniper at a distance. The technology needs to work autonomously, without having the user actively participate in the scan of the area. […] The most likely technology would be a laser or other directed energy scanner that could detect a return signal from optic systems to include human eyes. The system could also automatically direct a dazzling laser toward the detected potential sniper to dissuade them from continuing to target the Marines.

20070723 update

We don’t have internet at the house yet, so brief from-the-office-jeff-aint-over-my-shoulder mini-update.

I met Kr* (from that dating site) for the first time last weekend for coffee & then dinner… despite all my worst fears, she turned out to be cool and normal and not give off any creepy vibes. So this weekend we met up again, this time at the aquarium. They have some very cuuute penguins :) I haven’t managed to do something stupid yet; she still likes me ;) Part of me is still waiting for the dream to end… we’ll probably see each other again next weekend at the earliest; crazy lab hours.

HAL showed up Wed. nite; he and I are (sort of) moved in. A carpet steamer guy is scheduled to come in this evening just came in this evening, so for now all our stuff is stacked up in the basement and kitchen (off the carpets). The intarwebs are in theory coming on Wednesday to fill that throbbing void in our lives right now. We decided it is probably not worth the effort to set up a machine and internet connection sharing/forwarding in the corner where we can pick up the neigbor’s unsecured wireless for only a couple days’ surfing. We’re still stuck with Crapcast right now as FIOS is not available on our street yet. (But it’s offered in select places in Medford already! Come on, FIOS….)

Does anyone remember playing house as a kid? You know, where you’d have this pretend household with (possibly) pretend children, and pretend issues, etc., and you’d pretend to be grown-ups and everything like that. My babysitter loved this. Well, the last few days felt kind of like that. HAL and I planning out how to hack the cable tv what furniture and where, MythTV…saturday we pulled weeds and hoe’d in preparation of planting a garden; yesterday HAL cooked a nice dinner of stir-fried noodles, while I sponged the cruft out of the kitchen cabinets and added pots and pans. It feels just like playing house, playing at being grown-ups, until the reality slowly trickles in that this is all for-real in my actual house. It’s kind of a weird feeling, squicking me out from time to time.

Crap, once we unstack all the stuff from the kitchen I have to go back to the apartment, clean it up and fetch the rest of my stuff.

BTW, who (ahem, besides GJM) saves an entire huge box of dead incandescent light bulbs?

…and coming back

So, I get into work Monday morning, dive immediately for the coffee machine to get a pot started, and get allllmost fully seated at my desk when one of the Mechies calls up with “Tim, you’re here! Um…can I come over?”. These are some of those words you just love to hear, like when a girlfriend says “we need to talk…”. Normally people just prariedog their heads around the corner, visually poll for a human and start gabbering; they don’t ask formal permission to enter. Something is up.

Sure enough, in pops Mechie with a dire emergency. I guess Friday or so, one of the lab’s two production routers (again, the mechanical, jigsaw cutting kind, not the computer kind) blew a controller box, and they sprang into action, disemboweling an almost-working spare in a misguided effort to fix it by replacing parts at random. By the time I showed up Monday morning, someone had removed the Y axis motor (stripping out one of the screws in the process) and took the Y axis ballscrew assembly apart, liberating some several dozen ball bearings all over the floor. Really, a ball screw is kind of like one of those novelty peanut cans full of spring-loaded snakes, except instead of snakes, it’s loaded with dozens to hundreds of little ball bearings instead. So yeah, dozens of these bouncing all over the floor, probably not to be seen again.

I get downstairs and Ozo Support Guy is down in the lab waiting for us. I guess someone called him up in desperation Friday and said to book a ticket for Wed. (presumably after an EE could look at it), but he grabbed the first red-eye to be here early Monday morning instead, so here he is. I thought that was a bit cheesy, but on the other hand, it took him all of about 3 minutes to diagnose the problem and have the machine functional again (about long enough for me to come back with a scope expecting possibly hours of debugging), pulling the control box from the spare. $1200 consulting bill later, we have a (mostly) working machine again, just needing to be sort of trial-and-error realigned as Mechie pulled the leadscrew/Y stepper/index wheel off this one too, completely screwing up the factory calibration. (The index wheel is a part that helps the machine determine its home position. After being removed, fiddled around and reattached in an arbitrary position, “home” may be up to a full leadscrew rotation off of where it’s supposed to be…) Something tells me it’s going to take a lifetime of chasing to get Mechie to corral the ball bearings and put my Almost Working spare back together. In fact, something tells me it’s not going to happen within my lifetime (I either end up fixing it again myself, else relegating the whole project to the Fuckit Bucket.)

4th of July week

Big photo album of last week with entirely too many frog pictures :P

Got into Chicago at about 8-something at night, leaving just enough time to grab some pizza and then go out with my brother Dave and his gf to see the new (Live Free Or) DIE HARD movie. This one was all about a bunch of eevil hackers causing mayhem, and true to form, this aspect of the movie was pure comedic (fools) gold, but other than that it was surprisingly good. (Dave grabbed the rest of the movies from a friend and we had an incremental* Die Hard marathon throughout the week.) After the movie we went driving around (yeah, we do that a lot); Dave showed us around the scariest, most ghetto trailer park he’d seen. I don’t think I saw a patch of grass/green in it anywhere, just solid blacktop. Another night we went driving out to various forgotten/deserted places, like old service roads leading to never-constructed construction sites and underneath interstate overpasses, as well as “offroading” in his ole 2WD Buick. Ok, so this was not technically off-road, but down an old and disused service road following along the I&M Canal, full of huge rocks, potholes and mud puddles that came up to about the bottom of the doors in some places. This was a little scary (in a ghett-o-mobile), but fun.

Monday, went to a graduation party for one of the “little Nandos” (not little anymore), which was mainly an excuse to eat brownies and drink, and get our pictures taken every 5 seconds by Matt’s gf, who is reportedly some flavor of professional photographer. (Other reported things I won’t get into here! ;-) Monday night we rounded up a small posse (or vice versa) to go out in the woods in a particular place and have a nice drunken** latenight bonfire. This started small, just whatever deadfall we could find nearby, until someone found a large plastic drum and decided to see how well it would burn. Opinions were somewhat divided on whether this was a good idea; Dave and someone else actually started walking the trail out back toward the car, not wanting any involvement. I figured as long as it was going to happen, might as well watch (and if nothing else, not leave the damn thing unattended). My guess on how high the flames would go was fairly accurate–about the equivalent of a 1-story building–which was apparently enough to arouse the attention of the local cops. As it was burning back down I get a call from Dave, who has by this time reached the end of the woods and the field leading to where we parked. “Dude, douse that fire and get your asses out here, the parking lot is swarming with cops!” When they came out, there were two squads circling the parking lot, almost leaving, then circling back again, and checking out the car. Dave and friend quickly hid in the bushes, warning us to keep hidden and not come out of the woods until the coast was clear. The cops followed the street back out, and as soon as they were out of line-of-sight we bolted for the car and got out of there.

Tuesday night, met up with Kristoff and his friend, and E* and a couple people she had with, downtown and caught the Chicago fireworks show by the lake. (Dave and his gf were also there somewhere, but we couldn’t get hold of them to meet up somewhere.) It was ridiculously packed. There were so many people in a small area that none of our phones worked, even the ones without dead batteries (a CDMA cell can only handle 64 simultaneous conversations per slice, which isn’t usually a problem since the slices are narrow). It was a hell of a show and set to music. The downpour expected that night waited until immediately after the show, at which point everyone scattered for drier places. Kristoff got separated in the crowd and we didn’t see him the rest of the night. Meanwhile, HAL was showing up at my folks’ house to crash for the night before hanging out tomorrow.

For the 4th, we all assembled at the cabin (Morris, IL) and had a nice BBQ and pool party. Just like last year, Kristoff brought a huge handle of Cap’n Morgan, we got nice and tipsy, and my cousins played homicide dunk with me in the deep end. Also in attendance were Dave’s gf, my (dad’s side) aunt and uncle too, Rubber Mel and his wife+kids, and my cousin Da*. We ended up staying pretty late…most of us left that night since HAL and Daves’s gf had to be headed home; Kristoff stayed ’til early the next morning to sleep it off. :P

Met up with J*, her bf and his live-in ex, and we grilled some meat. This guy was…interesting (you know…NASCAR type, hotdog neck), but if she’s happy with him, so am I.

Saturday, went back out to the cabin w/ the folks, prowled around in the woods a bit terrorizing the wildlife with my camera, munched on wild berries alongside the road, and went out fishing with me old man (haven’t done that in ages!). We caught a good sized handful of bluegill, cleaning them in the boathouse and dropping the heads/guts for the catfish that like to hang around down there. (We didn’t see any that day… otherwise there might be one of them in the freezer too :P)

Later that night, raced back to civilization just in time to head out and catch a midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show with Da* and a couple of her friends. This was crazy. I dressed for the occasion a little bit, but Da* completely gayed me up (unbuttoning my shirt and knotting the tails, also exposing some hawt belly fur). Got a tongue in the ear from some guy. “Oh, don’t worry about him, he hits on everybody.” -Da* Anyway, for those who have never attended such a showing, it traditionally involves some people acting out the scenes, shouting their own lines back at the screen, throwing various things, etc. If you’re interested in the actual plot of the movie, I’d recommend seeing it on video first so you know what’s going on.

Sunday… finally getting into that hardcore sleeping in habit, woke up after noon, loafed around, grabbed some food, and got to the airport for a 6:30pm flight. But there were some “technical difficulties” (broken plane) with the flight at the next gate that was leaving sooner, so they swapped (took ours) and sicced mechanics on the broken one. You can probably guess how this went. They announced we’d be delayed by “about 10 more minutes”, every 10 minutes, for the next several hours. Eventually they moved us to a different gate and put us on one of their “terminators” (no Aussie accents or liquid metal here; it’s just what they call the last plane in that ordinarily becomes next morning’s first plane out). By the time we landed in Boston, it was nearly 1am and the subway had stopped running, stranding a bunch of people including myself with no ride (my request for cab fare reimbursement is on its way).

* incremental mostly because us workin’ stiffs with normal hours have lost the capacity to stay up arbitrarily late, and were zonked out by not much after midnight :( I started regaining this ability just in time to go back to Boston.

** as drunk as people could get from the warm Bud Light someone brought, which is to say, not very.

Landmark navigation

Random thought of the day… for places like Boston, where street name signs are considered a luxury that should be cherished for their scarcity, Google Maps /etc. should perform an experiment wherein directions are given relative to landmarks instead of street names.

E.g.:

  • Turn right (90°) at the Shaw’s onto Walnut St. (0.4mi)
  • Turn hard left (140°) at the first street after the third traffic light, Elm St. (0.6mi)
  • Pass over 2 bridges, under 1 bridge, and a large graveyard on the right.
  • Turn right (45°) onto Undefined St., one street after the I-93 overpass and across from a Kappy’s liquor.

Then solicit feedback later on how many times the person got lost while following it, overall frustration level, etc. I think the results would be pretty interesting. (Or…predictable. I think addition of landmarks would blow the pants off the current system of street names and mile counts alone.) Not sure how much of an undertaking this would be (I don’t think the USGS/GIS has a database of sculptures and coordinates of big-box stores and local businesses), but counting streets and (possibly) stoplights ought to be fairly straightforward. (Calculating intersection angles should also be trivial using existing data.)

On a somewhat unrelated note, with thoughts of fun with Nintendo DS and a GPS receiver, today I came across this. Now everyone with a GPS capable of logging its position over time can upload this data after a drive to contribute to a free, publicly available and open-source street map database (i.e. Navteq without all the cost and licensing restrictions.) Currently you have to type in all the street names yourself, but I could see even the raw GPS results (hey, there is definitely a street here!) being useful for some applications.

yourtypicalbank

So, apparently my bank has noticed that I’ve just transferred a huge hunk of money over to my checking account. Not a week later, I get this.

Yeah, I think they know what’s happening. Looking up this “circle gold” business, among its main selling points are ‘preferred’ rates on loans, and various amenities concerning home equity credit lines (you know, those things that come along with mortgages sometimes). One thing this superduper account does NOT provide is escape from Citizens Bank’s minimum balance requirement. No matter what precious metal account you have, if you don’t have $20,000 or more in your bank account (which I soon won’t!), they charge a maintenance fee of $20.00/mo. That’s more than the cost of basic cable, and worse than simply keeping your money in a tube sock under your mattress. Meanwhile, ING Direct sounds too good to be true (4+% APY, compared to the one-point-forget-it I’m getting now, and no minimum balance requirement), but several friends swear by it.

Yay Boston


“right this way to Riverway”

On fishing and catching

So, I just had an awesome conversation with this girl I met on POF. Smart, cute, geeky, isn’t into tall and muscular guys, likes to cook, likes to fish, and…single, and seems actually interested in me :-P How is this possible? From Equation 1*, we know that someone such as this does not actually exist: at least, there has to be some serious catch. But what is it? My first guess (by mad statisticry) would be some kind of serious, weapons-grade emotional baggage, but there are many other possibilities, such as:

Terminal Medical Condition (only a couple years to live)
An uncurable Venerial Disease
Has a Weenie
Hears Voices
Closet Lesbian
Adult Diapers
Severe Allergy to Everything, Including Me
Prehensile Tail
Psycho Stalker Ex (hey, what’s rustling under my bed?)
Very Severe OCD
Psychopathic and Good with Power Tools
…and Knows a Good Place to Bury the Body
…that she Engineered Herself for this Very Purpose
…and it’s Nearing Capacity
Likes the Taste of Human Blood
Severe Genetic Anomaly resulting in the Growth of Extra Limbs from Various Places, Random Fingernails Everywhere, Scales, Feathers, Etc.
Asymptomatic Ebola Carrier

Not that some of these haven’t stopped me before, but I don’t want to go in with any sort of unrealistic expectations ;-)

What do YOU think it is? The betting pool is now open!

* Brains x Beauty x Availability = Constant

Last week or so

So, the last week or so as promised:

Last weekend, had HAL from Indianer out here for a job interview at GJM’s (as of last week) ex-company, nothing definitive just yet, but everything sounds positive. We decided that when/if everything gets definitive, it would be cool to live together at the new place. We’re already talking about what kinds of servers to set up, and the joy that apparently is MythTV. Sunday we went out to grab a bite, and then on finishing realized, “hey, we’re pretty close to Davis”, so we got on the T, prowled through the Harvard science center (drat, the vintage scientific gear room was closed again), around the vicinity of MIT, then from there, along the Charles toward Boston proper. Then realized, “hey, we’re pretty close to JR’s place”, so I called up and see what they were up to there, and next thing you know, we’re all going out to the harbor islands. This was cool. Unfortunately I didn’t think to bring my camera (we were just going for a bite, remember :P) so phone-cam will have to do. We climbed around a fort for a bit, then walked all along the beach, played around in tide pools, and had a seal pup come right up to us on the beach and bask in the sun for a while. This was soo cute. Kind of unusual though, so I’m not sure if it was sick or just accustomed to humans. I ended up with one heck of a sunburn that soon turned into a good ol’ farmer’s tan.

Through the week, helping GJM move out and taking care of some housing stuff. Ok, so it’s officially happening. Thursday night I was idly poking around on Craigslist for powertools for my soon-to-be basement, and came across this strange, space-saving 3-in-1 rotating tool table for sale. It’s kind of like a vertically-oriented Lazy Susan for miter saws, drill presses, bench grinders, etc. Turn a handle and one tool pops to the top, with the other two are stowed beneath. This thing’s far too big to fit in my car, so I borrow my boss’s truck, grab some directions from Google Maps (tip: do not try this in New England) and proceed to get bass-ackwardly lost in the vicinity of Dorchester (Roslindale) at night. Finally get done with that stuff after 11 or so, leaving just enough time to pack, sleep a few hours and then bust ass for the airport.

The only direct flight out that morning left at 6:something AM (can’t get there by T, which starts running at 5:something) and its pricing had, shall we say, a high coefficient of ridiculosity, so I decided what the hell, I’ll take a chance on this one with a connection in Atlanta. Ah yeah, now I remember why I don’t do that. Every flight was 45 minutes or more late except the connecting flight, per Murphy’s Law 101. So this turned into six hours sitting around the Atlanta airport, thumb firmly up ass. It turns out the alternative may not have been much better; as we boarded (delayed), the 6am flight was still standing at the next gate, previously surrounded by not less than four fire trucks. Apparently there was a “strong smell of smoke” in the cabin before landing, so the fire crews went out to investigate, and apparently, after much dawdling around, couldn’t find anything wrong. It sounded like whoever was in change of getting them a new plane didn’t wanna, and was telling them to just keep using this one, smoke of unknown origin and all. The last thing I saw was the pilots had gotten out, walked the plank back to the terminal, and were personally laying down the law in front of a terminal full of passengers. “we’re going to be delayed a bit longer while we find a new aircraft, and talk to whoever we need to talk to to get it done… (explains smoke and everything) … we are NOT flying this plane!”

Actual 4th of July week stuff will be written up later, probably when I get back :P