2005-01-31

Sunset picture from work last week


Sunset picture from work last week

Slashdot - Could TNG Stunt Casting Save 'Enterprise'?

Slashdot | Could TNG Stunt Casting Save 'Enterprise'?

Slashdot - NASA Prepares for Space Rescues

A second shuttle will be ready to fly - at least during the next couple of shuttle missions.

Slashdot | NASA Prepares for Space Rescues

Columbia broke up 2 years ago this Tuesday.

Discovery planned to return to flight in May.

Six A.M.

No, that isn't the time I have to get up. I've been getting up at 6:10 or so for the last month and bit.

No, 6 A.M. is the time I have to be at work by for the month of February.

So that means tomorrow morning I have to be at work at least 10 minutes before I used to get up.

I'm not going to try to do as much in the morning as I did when I got up at 6. But I figure I have to get up by 5 A.M. Maybe earlier if that doesn't give me enough time. Which means I should try to go to sleep soon.

I just hope I don't have the same amount of trouble going to sleep that I've been having for the last few weeks.

The good news is that I may not feel as stressed about the workload. Right now I wind up trying to clean up everything that is left over towards the end of the day due to my work-partner not doing as much work. He means well, I think. He just isn't very fast at things. But now instead of it being me who has to beg for help towards the end of the day, it will be him.

Of course, I may wind up having more to clean up left over in the morning. Oh well. We talked about making sure he only has the easier stuff to work on. At some point I'm supposed to have half the day free to do development work.

2005-01-30

Climbing Wall

There is a climbing wall at our local mall. I've seen it a number of times. But it was always closed.

But Saturday evening was different. It was open. I watched as a few people tried going up the wall. I must admit I was a bit intrigued. But was it childish to want to try? Was I scared I'd like it too much? Was I just scared? I am good at talking myself out of things.

But last night I got talked into trying it. I was interested enough that I didn't say no. So I signed the forms, put my jacket in a locker and let them help me put on a harness.

The rock wall at the mall has two sides, and two different heights. There is the side opposite the offices next to the escalator, that is vertical. The side towards the office varies from a little shorter and easier looking on the left to really hard with an overhang on the right-most course. There are about 7 courses on each side.

I tried one of the easier ones on the left to start with. One of the two on this side that is about 5 feet shorter. I found myself scampering up pretty quickly. I got a little nervous and felt my heart rate go up. But I finished going up to the bar that the belay rope wraps around.

I've done rock scrambles without ropes before. Not quite the same as doing a climb up this rock wall, but similar in a number of ways.

After getting to the top, the idea is to repel down. Well, I was okay in theory with this. But the practice made me very nervous. I had to lean back into the harness. I had to trust the harness, the rope and the person belaying me. It took me a bit to get my nerve up to letting go and leaning back. Probably at least 30 seconds or so. At first I walked down a little. Then I bounced a bit, but mostly kinda walked down.

I took a little time to appreciate what I had done. I also took a little time for my heart rate to settle down a bit.

Then I tried the next harder wall. This one went all the way up. Again I went up pretty quickly. At one point I realized a young boy of about 5 was watching me through the glass from the foot court. I turned a little of the way around and said hi. Then I turned back and went the rest of the way to the top.

This time I had less hesitation about repelling down. I walked the first few steps, then bounced a bit going down. The people there were very encouraging.

I had one more climb I could take. I decided I was ready to try the next wall. I waited a little bit to try to catch my breath, but I didn't wait too long.
This wall looked like it had even more handholds than the previous.

But the looks were deceiving. While there were more handholds, they were not the same as the two previous walls. The first two walls had handholds that were good for feet and hands all the way up. But this next wall had a large variety of handholds. And not that many were good for holding with your hands. A lot didn't have insets to hold and so were small and curved so they were not good to hold, and not even very good for foot placements.

But I managed to work my way up a bit at a time. Going was much slower, because I kept looking for solid handholds for both hands. One point I wound up pulling myself up by my hands, without having a foothold for either foot. This got some praise from the people below.

But I felt my heart rate really going up. And my hands and arms were getting really sore. I went up a tiny bit more. The people below said I could take my time. They had me with the rope. They suggested that I could just shake off the cramping.

But I decided I'd had enough. I might be able to push myself a little further, but I thought I'd just wind up slipping off. And I didn't want that. So I asked to be let down, and repelled down. I felt a little bad that I didn't make it up the 3rd time.

But as I was rubbing off the soreness for the next few minutes, I realized something. Not only were my arm muscles still a bit sore from all that work building the cage less than a week ago, I was also fighting a cold. That explains why my heart-rate was higher than it should have been. My heart-rate always goes up a bit when I'm sick. It was pretty obvious that I was pushing myself a bit trying the third wall.

But it was exciting. And a bit fun. Will I try it again? Probably. But not likely too soon. Will this make me want to try it on real rock walls? I must admit there is part of me that is tempted. But there is part of me that is pretty conservative that way too.

I've always liked climbing. I've been known to climb up structures and building a bit more than I should. But climbing rocks sounds like taking a bit risk. But it can be a fun risk. I guess I am undecided.

Hmm - I bet I could get some really fantastic pictures if I took my camera rock climbing!

2005-01-24

Hot Stone Massage

When I first heard about Hot Stone Massage, I thought it sounded kind of odd. It sounded like it would be some sort of decorating hot rocks on acupuncture points.

And it seems like that might be part of it in some cases. But I received a version of hot stone massage last night that made me think it wasn't bad. Having warm, wet rocks placed on my back, hand and feet didn't do much for me. It seemed a bit silly.

But when these warm, river-smooth stones were used to rub my muscles, it was very nice. It allow some nice pressure with some nice warmth. When the warm stones were placed under my back, covered with a towel, this was nice too. This provided firm, warm pressure to spots on my back. Spots that were sore from the weekend's activities: roller skating, biking with 2 of my boys in the trailer, and crouching for hours building a new cage.

So, while the standard hot stone massage is just some sort of rock placement, a good therapist can use the rocks as a stimulating deep heat massage.

2005-01-23

New Sugar Glider Cage

It was decided we needed a new sugar glider cage. We could pay $150 or more to the people we got the first one from. Or we could figure out how to make once for ourselves.

We tried to find the same type of coated chicken wire as the current cage. But the only thing home depot had was smaller grid an thinner wire. But it seemed like it might just be think enough. So we go two 5' rolls and a 3' roll. We also got a roll of bailing wire to help put it together. And a new needle-nosed plier to deal with the wire.

We spent a few hours on it last night. We got the basic forms and layout down, and had started attaching some of the floors to one of the two wall-sets. We learned the best way to flatten the wire. Pounding it flat or a little past with the mallet, then turning it over and pounding it flat.

Building a new Sugar-Glider Cage



Today I formed a couple of ramps, and managed to get all of the pieces attached. The only thing left to do is to put in the door. We even formed a latch out of coat hanger.

Saturday Fun

My youngest son had been invited to a birthday on Saturday. It was a friend from school. One I don't remember having heard about, but he wanted to go. The birthday was at a local skating rink. SO we all went. After we got my youngest son settled, we went back out and paid admission so we could skate. I remember being to this skating rink once or twice before - but it had been probably at least a couple of years.

The boys were a little reluctant to skate. The two little guys were very hesitant to go out on the rink on their skates, even with help from a parent or two. My big guy got out there a few times. He was slow, and spent most of his time along the wall, but at least he tried. When I wasn't helping one child or another, I was able to get out and skate a bit.

I don't remember doing much roller skating as a kid. I did ice skating some, but it usually hurt my feet. And I could never stop without hitting a wall - which was usually okay. Well, with rollerskating, I was about the same bit with stopping. A wall was the best idea.

I didn't fall much - twice I think. Once when I tried to stop with a wall, and another time I was taken down. But I found I really enjoyed it. It was more of a workout than I expected it. And I was enjoying the work out. I worked up a bit of sweat, especially when helping the kids. But I enjoyed the cooler breeze when I was able to get some speed up myself. I didn't want to stop when everyone else was ready to go. But by that time I was actually doing a little better at stopping without hitting a wall. I knew in theory, you could use the 5th wheel/toe pad as a drag break. Every time I'd tried in the past, it just through me off balance.

But by the end of the time on Saturday, I was starting to get the hang of the toe break. I figured out I needed to put the toe break closer to inline behind the rolling foot. That way I wasn't balanced too far to the side.

2005-01-19

Getting Better at Work

It was another intense day at work. I sit down and plug into my job. I manage to tear away for the bathroom and tea a few times during the day - and nibble my way through lunch at my desk - but mostly the day just rushes by.

There are two halves to my job - failed jobs and emails. I mostly have the hang of the failed jobs, that came pretty quickly. I'm rather good at problem determination - especially with failed mainframe jobs. But it takes a little while to understand the nuances of a new shop. But I've felt pretty confident with handling the jobs for a few weeks now.

But the emails seemed way too much for me. So many of the emails require a good knowledge of the system. So almost every email requires research and most times asking for help to get the right answer. All the time the emails back up further and further. And we are supposed to give a 2 hour service to emails. I've felt very stressed about the emails. It doesn't help that the other person who is supposed to share this support is much slower and methodical. But I get the feeling that the others in the group see that I'm really trying to handle the load, and part of the difficulty is this other new person.

But I feel pretty good today. Up until today, I've needed someone - and usually it is my boss - to help out with most of the emails. I've felt bad that he had to take on so much of the work - especially with the emails. Today I managed to handle - and even catch up - on almost all of the emails when it was my time to work them. That included a bunch left over from the other half of my team. My boss helped me finish up a small handful of failed jobs before we left.

So while I'm getting better at work - which make me feel more confident - I still wouldn't say the work is rewarding. But I guess I'm too busy to really dwell on what it isn't. If I put in my time and do go work I have the potential to move from support to development. It is only mainframe development, but that is better than just support.

I've been working on a set of shortcuts that can help everyone. Most are based on shortcuts I'd developed in past mainframe positions. But the main one I've been working on - an update to an quick editing tool - I'm trying to get a new version done before I put out my shortcuts. I am working on some improvements I'd come up with 5 years ago, but never got around to putting in before. This seems like the perfect time - other than the support is getting in the way of getting it done quickly.

I've made some good progress, and I think I'll be ready for putting out a beta version soon. I hope the boss and the others in the group appreciate the shortcuts I have.

Kill Bill

I just finished watching Kill Bill Vol. 2.

I stayed up late last night watching Volume 1.

My first reaction to the movies is just how violent they are.

If you can get past the violence, the action and plot are kind of fun.

I had this vision of the movie being about some sort of conspiracy to kill Bill - some sort of leader of a group. But I realized that the core plot was very similar to another 2-movie set that I had just seen lately. It has a similar core plot to the Borne series. Both are about revenge from the view of a single rouge agent.

But the Borne movies were 2 movies. The Kill Bill series was really one long movie broken into two releases. There is a difference in the 2 movies flavors. KB1 is a lot more on action and not too much on plot. Just enough plot to make you really want to find out why and what happens. And the cliffhanger at the end of KB1 is intense. I am really glad I wated for video, and got to watch them one after another.

I had started watching KB1 when the kids were still awake. I had it on the TV in the bedroom. I decided after only 13 minutes into the movie, that it was too intense for them - even just the soundtrack - much less the paused scenes they could walk in on. So I decided to watch it on my laptop instead - with headphones.

So two late nights in a row. It goes well with my suddenly not feeling like sleeping about 10 o'clock evenings after work. I was just barely staying awake earlier in KB2 tonight. But now I am up writing in my blog.

2005-01-17

Bowling

Day off from work and school today. We went bowling. It was pretty fun. It didn't suck that I had best score all three times ;-)
Had friends along - that was nice.
And in a non-smoking bowling alley!

Sunday Actions

Yesterday my middle boy had a birthday party to go to. I didn't have exact directions, so I would up driving the wrong way a few times, eating up a minutes between being a little early to being a little late.

He was to be at the party activity for an hour and a half. I had the other two boys with me. We hadn't had lunch yet. It seemed like a good idea just to treat the to lunch out instead of rushing home, rushing through lunch and rushing back. So we went to the nearby Carl's Junior Hamburger fast food place.

Afterwards I drove around a little, until we found a playground. Nobody was there. The small round-a-bout was very hard to turn, so that got boring quickly. I got an interesting black-and-white picture of the empty playground (below).

There was a bridge for an openspace trail over a stream right next to the playground. We crossed the bridge. Then we went down to the stream and played a while. We through rocks in. We watched little ice flows drift downstream.

Then it was time to go pick up my middle son. We left. I noticed the way the old middle line was showing through the street where we crossed. So I went back and took a picture (below).

Picture: Shopping Cart in Stream


Picture Shopping Cart in Stream

Picture: Playground in B&W


Picture - Playground in B&W

Picture - Road


Picture - Road - You can see the old center yellow line peaking through the cracked roadway on the sidewalk. The way the lines are faded make me feel motion when I look at the picture. This is a case of looking at the picture afterwards giving an unexpected feel.

2005-01-05

New Puddle in the Basement

The other night, I noticed a new puddle in the basement. It was in the back storeroom with the unfinished floor. So nothing was really hurt by this puddle. But the puddle was just a little different that previous puddles.

Previous puddles had always started against the window and worked towards the entry door. This puddle was in the corner at made it just to the edge of the window area. I vacuumed up the water, except for where there was a shelf in the way.

I looked at the window well - it was dry. Then I got a flashlight and went out in the dark to check the area outside the basement. No sign of water. It was very strange.

Then next night I checked again. The puddle was back, nearly the same size. Once again I wet vacced the puddle up. Then I listened. I thought I heard a slight dripping noise from behind the shelf. I couldn't see anything with the shelf of boxes in the way.

I wasn't in a rush to move the shelf, but I wanted to know where the water was coming from. I though perhaps the ground water level had somehow come up enough to by dripping down the wall. I didn't think the water table could get that high, but I didn't know what else it could be.

So I moved most of the boxes off the shelf. Then I moved the shelf. The dripping noise was a little more obvious. Looking up to the ceiling, the mystery of where the water was coming from became clearer. The pipe leading out to the faucet in the back yard went along the ceiling along this spot.

I got a chair and flashlight. There was a small drip from the copper pipes where the smaller source pipe connected to the larger pipe going out through the wall. I traced back the pipe, hoping I could just shut off the offending pipe. No such luck. That meant I would have to fix it very soon, and I would have to turn off all the water in the house to be able to re-solder the pipe.

I started the project the next morning. First thing I did was fill up the tub in the basement. You see, I would be using fire in a wood framed building, with the water turned off. I wanted to make sure I had a bunch of water just in case. I also brought a bucket of water in my work area. I set up some extra lights. I got the step ladder.

Looking at the placement of the pipe, I realized it would be very difficult to do the work in the small space. The main thing making it so tight where the water was leaking was the fact that the vent from the stove zig-zagged up at this spot, and went out the wall to the side next to the pipe.

So more tools to pull apart the vent. I took out two 90 degree pieces. Then I took out a 7 foot straight. Finally it was open enough to work on the pipe. I was hoping I could get away with a simple fix. I was hoping I could just add some solder to close up the hole.

I wet down the area first, to reduce the risk of fire. I put very wet paper towels before and after the area I was working on, to limit the heating. I kept another paper towel partly wet for wiping down the solder area.

I turned off the house water. I drained the pipe I was working on by turning on the water in the downstairs tub - the lowest water faucet in the house. But to get the water to drain out of the pipe I was working on, I had to open the faucet outside. This was the faucet that I had taken off the knob, so the kids couldn't flood the basement again. So I had to dig the knob out of the junk cabinet. This project was getting more and more complex.

The water drained out of the pipe quickly. I lit the torch and heated up the joint. I added a bunch of solder. Then I cooled off the pipe. I turned the house water back on to fill up the pipe. No gushing water from the joint. I need to check it under pressure. I turn off the house water. I got up and outside and close the faucet. I went back down and turned on the house water. The pipe pressurized. No gushing.

But it is still dripping.

So I turn off the water again. I go back out and open the faucet to drain the pipe. I heat the pipe, and try to separate the pieces. It takes me a while, but I finally figure out a solution. I have to unscrew the faucet from the house. So back up, outside and unscrew the faucet. I go back down and relight the torch. I heat the joint, and this time I am able to separate the pipes easily.

I go back outside and take the faucet and pipe out of the wall. I take it down to where I am working. I spend a lot of time sanding both pipes as clean and smooth as possible. The outside and end of the smaller pipe. The inside and end of the bigger pipe from outside.

Then I coat both pieces well with the cleaning solder flux. It looks a little like school paste. I take the faucet back outside. I push it back through the wall. Then I go back downstairs. I solder the pipes together. I use a little black mark to try to keep the faucet lined up well, so it should point straight down outside.

I cool off the pipe. I try turning the water back on for obvious leaks. No gushing. Water off. Then back outside to close the faucet for a pressure test. I notice that I managed to not get the faucet straight. It is about 15 or 20 degrees offset. That means resoldering it to straighten it out. But if the solder held, I would live with the faucet being a little askew for now.

I go back down and turn on the water. No sign of leaking. I carefully dry the pipe, and leave a piece of tissue on the spot to see if there are any really slow leaks. I start cleaning up from the project. When I check the tissue later, it is completely dry. The last step was to screw the faucet back onto the house. I manage to just get the screws to hold in the existing holes.

Due to air in the water lines, every faucet hisses and pops as it is first used again. I go around trying to get the air out of most of the spots in the house. It is now early afternoon, and we have friends over. I hated to be asocial, but I knew I had to finish the project.

While I am not ready to be a full-time plumber, I'm pretty happy with being able to fix these things. I also felt a little wistful to my father. I know I am very handy because of what he showed me. I also feel more confident because of knowing what he was able to do. I remember that in the first apartment we lived in Manhattan, he did some plumbing. He ran pipes for both a washing machine and for a custom sink for his darkroom. He built a platform for the washer and dryer. This has probably been the most wistful I have been since he died a few weeks ago.