Year in Review

I would love to say it has been a busy year, but I would be stretching things a bit. Rather than lots of big steps towards anything it feels more like a year of firming up the status quo. More like lots of little steps in a smaller area. I like to think of it as firming up the ground around the foundation. I must be getting older because I can find some peace in that realization. As always I am itching for something new but I am happy with where I am now. And there is a lot to be said for being in such a place in ones life!

I finished the Masters degree in Information Science in May, which I do not get too enthusiastic about but I do not want to make sound insignificant. Most of the effort on that achievement was in earlier years, so it is difficult to get excited about it. Mostly just happy it is done. One of the biggest things I learned was that I really enjoy taking classes. Enough that I took an Intro to Computing Class this past Fall. It was using robots to teach the basics and it was a lot of fun. I am not sure if I am going to take another class this coming semester. It might be time to work on some of the certifications and work related training.

While my running has been on hiatus for all of December in order to recover from shin splints, I did get very close to the goal of five miles in 50 minutes. Close enough that I my new goal for the coming year is 45 minutes for five miles. There is a five mile run in Valley Forge in late April I am thinking about as a milestone along the way to next years Turkey Trot. Getting down to a nine minute mile is a reasonable next step it seems. The bigger problem seems to be finding a training schedule that does not effect time with the family. It seems like I have to choose between losing the time in the morning or after work in the early evening, at least until the days are longer. Not enough time in the day it seems. At least not with that pesky job taking up the bulk of the day. Such is life.

The garden experiment with the Three Sisters while not productive was educational. Key lessons learned: soak the bean seeds overnight before planting and only use one type of corn. We just got a seed catalog in the mail and I am looking forward to planning out this coming years garden. Less experimenting and more of the things that have worked well these past few years. Corn, tomatoes, squash, and beans I think will be this years focus.

Last year the something new I focused on was learning to play the concertina. I bought one and managed to hammer out a few tunes. Nothing that would let me earn a living playing or anything like that but enough to satisfy the itch. Finding time to practise has been the problem since then. It was a great distraction for a few minutes from working on projects for my last class but not a lot has been done since I am planning on trying to make some time for it this year as well. My goal is one hour a week. While not a lot, it is ambitious as the little free time I have is when our little one is sleeping. Practising when he is asleep seems like a bad idea. I will check with the boss before I experiment with that idea.

This years something new is electronics. I put a 300-in-1 Electronic Lab on my wish list and was lucky enough to get it as a gift. Beyond simple curiosity, which is a big motivator in much of my life, I wanted to understand more about some of these DIY hacks I see on some of my favorite web sites. Frequently there is a simple circuit board with only a few components on it featured as the center point of the hack. I would love to be able to understand why they work. Even better would be having the understanding that would let me be that creative with only a few dollars worth of resistors etc, but lets start with the basics. Another motivator is I would like to be able to answer, and demonstrate, the questions about how something works asked by our little one. This kit demonstrates everything from turning on a light to building a radio to a different types of simple logic gates, the building blocks for what makes up the processors in the computers used throughout our lives.

Speaking of our little one, we had a startling moment yesterday when we realized he had grown two inches in the last month or two. We have a wall chart that we first marked with his height when he turned two this past summer. We went to update it a few months later but his height had not changed. Then this past week I noticed that the top of his head was just above the counters in the kitchen. This is important because I clearly remembered that it had been just below the counter top. So out comes the wall chart to see if my memory was accurate. There was some excitement in trying to get him to stand with his heels down long enough to get a reasonable marking of his height. He rarely stands still, let alone lets his heels touch the floor, so this was quite the undertaking. Eventually he caught on and let us mark his height. Then each of us had to stand there for our height to be marked. He even went and got Grandpa from the living room to make sure we marked his height as well. A long story for two inches, but it was fun and I thought to share it with you.

I hope the new year brings you what you need and may it include happiness for you and yours.


D&D meme, might be broken

Taokodr is to thank for this one as well.

I generally only play wizards when the party is short. Rogues and Monks are more what I enjoy. Gnome Tinker would be another choice. *grin* (The only thing is I am not allowed to play them any more. Not since the incident with the ballista. I honestly did not think the paladin was within range. Mistakes were made.)
I guess it is the difference between what we are and what we play.

I Am A: Lawful Good Human Wizard (5th Level)

Ability Scores:







Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment because it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)


Curse of the Meme

Your Score: Fennel

You scored 50% intoxication, 25% hotness, 75% complexity, and 50% craziness!

You are Fennel! You're a cool cat. Crisp, clean, fresh, and extremely complicated. You're like quantum physics or modern jazz. Think Niels Bohr meets Ornette Coleman. You may look normal now, but once you sprout, you look kind of, uh, funny.

Link: The Which Spice Are You Test written by jodiesattva on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


Which 80's Movie Scientist am I?

Thanks to taokodr and the Lensman for this one!

Your Score:Ray Stantz

156 Heart, 158 Genius, 133 Cool, 166 Excitability

Dr. Raymond Stantz - (Dan Aykroyd)
Ghostbusters (1984)

You are Ray Stantz! The heart of the Ghostbusters. You're well-meaning, smart, and you have a childlike sense of wonder about the world. You might get taken advantage of, every once in a while, but it's okay... You're doing your part to help save the world.

"Gozer the Gozerian... good evening. As a duly designated representative of the City, County and State of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin or to the nearest convenient parallel dimension."

Other scientific possibilities:
Gary Wallace
Wyatt Donnelly
Peter Venkman
Jordan Cochran
Egon Spengler
Doc Brown
Newton Crosby
Paul Stephens
Ben Crandall
Wayne Szalinkski
Winston Zeddemore
Ben Jabituya
Lazlo Hollyfeld
Ray Stantz
Buckaroo Banzai
Chris Knight

Link: The Which 80s Movie Scientist Test written by xxyl on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


2007 Columbus Turkey Trot

It was a good day for the run. Not the best but not too bad. Cloudy with a hint of rain. Temperatures right around 40. It was the first year to also have a 2 mile walk. This caused a bit of confusion at the start and a slow start for everyone. Even with that I finished at 0:51:40, almost six minutes faster than last year. But still not fast enough for a pie. Four of us ran but only my cousin got a pie with a finish around 0:43:00.
be well, enjoy the rest of the holiday!


random dream and other news

So, in this dream I had last night, I was handed a round basketball sized object. There were arcane numbers and diagrams on the pieces of cloth making its surface. They seemed to indicate that one should push here or pull there. Following these guides I was able to make changes allowing the thing to progress through a series of forms. I remember the first form was a cross between a samurai and the honda robot as all of the pieces of cloth flared out to become sections of armor and the legs and arms rolled into place. And there was a way to keep your hand in or on it such that it could be controlled like a puppet. Next it was changed to what I can only describe as "Vampirella meets Kubuki". Finally it ended up as a Man-Bat type of monster that was particularly amazing as a puppet, before flying off. I know there were other people around but when I woke up I could not tell you anything about them. Even in my dreams I spend all my time with tech toys, go figure.

Other news is that we are in our second week of all day daycare for our son. If his mom can survive the process she plans to go back to work, at least for a little while. In large part this will let us get the money to send her and our son over to Poland to spend the summer with her family. Hopefully this will lock in the second language. He is almost two and a half now. While his verbal skills are about what you expect for a bilingual house, his ability to use baby signs to communicate is amazing. He is creating signs every day it seems and using them to communicate in ways we never would have imagined. He signs for turning on the lights, books, filling something up, birds, monkeys, cats, bananas, ... the list just goes on. There are signs he is using that we are not understanding. We suspect he is trying to tell us about his day or something along those lines. While frustrating when we don't get it, it is worlds better than when he wanted to communicate and could not.

The "Intro to CompSci" class is going well. We finished up the projects using the robot just before the midterm. It was fun programming the scribbler bot to do the various tasks. A wooden pyramid was built as a tool for many of our tasks. The first was to send the robot in, have it take pictures of the inside and then get it out of the pyramid. The outside of the pyramid was painted a vivid orange. A later task involved have the robot find the orange object in its camera, then travel to up to it, hopefully stopping before you ran into it. Simple compared to the things involved in the Darpa Urban Challenge but fun nevertheless. The last project has us shifting to building our own games. I am hoping to do a simplified version of Rogue, aka Nethack. We shall see how it goes.


halloween cuteness

IMG_0530, originally uploaded by ca5m1th.

Here is a shot of our little one is his Railroad Engineer costume. This was his first year going out for trick or treat. He does not really get it yet but he enjoyed walking around at night, playing with the flashlight, eating candy, running around with the other children and visiting lots of different houses. And his mother and I enjoyed eating his candy.

IMG_0536, originally uploaded by ca5m1th.

A group shot of the other cute kids from our street that we went trick or treating with. A Princess, a pumpkin (slightly overhead), our engineer, SpiderMan/Venom and the Littler Mermaid. There was some last minute changes on the part of the Little Mermaid, who had been planning on being Wonder Woman up until the day of the event. All of them did very well with the staying together. Only the pumpkin got tired and went home early. Although I think it was more a case of the transport system for the pumpkin (mom by that point of the evening) got tired and went home early. *grin*

IMG_0535, originally uploaded by ca5m1th.

His mother handled all of the sugar transactions on his behalf. Here she is pictured with our engineer, bag in hand. We missed the shot later in the evening when the Tootsie roll residue was smeared over his face. At least I hope that is what it was...


potty training and why there will be no pictures

Our little one has started showing an interest in going to the bathroom. Which is a great relief to us as diapers are not cheap and we were starting to worry about what our strategy was going to be if he decided it was not his thing. We had conversations wondering if we should home school him as a means to keep folk from realizing we had not managed to teach our child how to use the bathroom. (I never claimed we were always rational in our concerns about our child.) We have had various potty training implements scattered around the house almost since he could walk. The only interest he has shown in them is an occasional tendency to want to wear them on his head. Which makes sense to me but is a little disconcerting to my wife. A few weeks ago he made a break for it during a standing diaper change in the living room. He promptly scampered over to the nearest potty and sat down. It took a few more times before he got the idea that he could urinate into the potty. Now this is his preferred method. The ritual has become that every twenty minutes or so, as the spirit moves him, he will stop what he is doing to go and sit on the potty. Afterwards he will triumphantly get up and proceed to bring us the potty for our inspection and applause. The masterpiece in swirling yellow is disposed of, the potty rinced and returned to its place by the fire, ready to be used again. He has even been known to carry the full potty up a flight of stairs in order to present us with his latest offering. To support this budding habit he is left sans diaper for much of the time he is in the house. In fact he is sans anything but shoes from the waist down. The shirts he wears tend to be long and often his shirt is actually a onesy left unbuttoned. Think of it as a stealthy kind of nudity. Very "Risky Business: the early years". It is still startling to come home and pick your child up only to find he is without clothes on his bottom half. So far I have been lucky and he has been dry whenever I have picked him up. Eventually my luck will run out. As I am only home and able to spend time with this child during those times in the morning and evening when he is most likely to be without pants, I am sorry to say there may be a slowing down of posting his latest pictures. We don't mind it so much but tend to think the Internet is not a good place for pictures of children without pants.


Hills are hard

This is an update on how running is going these days. I finished the 12 week schedule of slow increments in distance while maintaining a faster speed. It worked wonders. I started with a mile average around 11 minutes and am now below 9 minutes for the mile average. Or I was when running on the track at our local high school. The very odd track that is .20 miles on the inside lane and .23 miles on the outer lane. More importantly, the really flat track with nary an incline or slope of any sort. I did not realize how good this was until I went out on the nature trail at work for the first time in at least three months. This trail is not in the mountains or anything dramatic like that. It does however have a lot more ups and downs than the track. Long gentle inclines that just suck the speed right out of your legs. Enough that my mile average is back up to about 9:40 minutes. I have until the Turkey Trot to work on getting this closer to the pie times, which I am putting at being below nine minutes per mile for the full five miles. Plenty of time. My distance endurance has also improved. I can now run three miles without stopping at the paces mentioned above. Its not prettty but I can actually do it. So, in addition to working on my speed (better said as "try actually getting some speed") on hills, I also have to extend my distance to a full five miles. Enough to keep my morning runs interesting. Today I ran the path for the local 5k and was almost four minutes faster than when I did it back in May. I still had the problem with the hills just taking it right out of me but I am enjoying seeing that improved time.


on upgrades, robots and new software

Three quick things for this post.

I finally upgraded the RAM on the home computer. Not that big a deal for most but last time I touched RAM on this thing was to remove some as it was corrupting something and requiring me to reinstall the OS every week or two. Could be lots of reasons for what happened, but I never really looked into exactly why. That was three and a half years ago. Since then the computer has been, as they tend to do, getting slower. It has been really bad recently. It dawned on me that since we had been paying off the credit cards completely these last few months, now was a great time to do something about the slowness. So I went to Crucial and used their tools to identify what type of RAM I needed and how much would max out my motherboard. It was all very straightforward, even for my level of paranoia. I use Crucial at work a lot so I was in a good position to trust them, and the price was also nice. I ended up going from 256M to 2G. It was amazing. I think I actually got whiplash from the speed the first time I turned on the computer. It has been a long time since a simple upgrade reminded me just how much fun these things can be when working as intended.

I am taking a class this semester. Not for graduate school, which I already finished. But instead an "Intro to Computing" class being offered at the sister school to where I work. Some may wonder why I am taking an Intro class, after having just finished a Master degree in the same subject. A very good question. The answer is "'cause it has Robots!" The class is part of a grant from M$ exploring the use of robots in intro cs classes. Each student gets their own robot for the duration of the class, and all of the programming assignments etc are focused on getting this little wonder to do what you want it to. It is very introductory but lots of fun. More on that another day.

Finally, I moved off of Yahoo photos and onto Flickr, and I love it. Especially the ease with which I can upload pictures to flickr using their upload tool. I generally do not like the various tools from web sites but this one has had a huge (positive) impact on how I use the service. It is much simpler for me to go thru the pictures and right click on them and select "send to flickr" than try to remember the directory they were in when using explorer and then go to that same directory using the web based tools. This is as much my fault as anythings, as I never changed the camera settings so there is a folder for each day pictures where taken. Frequently there is a single picture or video in each, which makes finding things a bit tedious. Yet, with the uploader installer, in one evening I was able to get almost entirely caught up on posting pictures of our little one. You can follow the link at the top of the left column to my flickr page and poke around for the latest pictures. Yes, he really is that cute. Except when he is trying to play us. Actually even then he is cute, since he knows that helps. The "not cute" starts when we do not respond according to his plans and he protests such injustice.

Ok, that is enough for now. I hope you and yours are well!


Full on video cuteness

It has been a while and I am betting everyone is just jonesing for the embodiment of cuteness that is our son! These are in no particular order and there are no special occasions, just the same level of cuteness we see every day. Ok, not quite true as we are generally not filming every second of his waking life. For example, remembering to work the camera goes right out when he is cranky, upset, injured, screaming, throwing himself on the ground, spinning his head around, shooting lightning bolts from his eyes or dismembering household pets. Not that he does these things regularly or anything. Nothing like that at all, it is just we have not managed to catch it film, trying as we are deal with the particular situation at hand. (I am in fact kidding about the dismembering pets thing. The cat may walk funny for a while but it is just fine, thank you very much.)

This first one is a typical day in the back yard. First we help water..everything, including ourselves. This is followed by a rousing course of "what are you doing and can I stick my nose into the camera?" Ending finally in a demonstration ofboth jumping and making noise.

This second one reflects the process of eating as demonstrated by a toddler. Notice the fine display of dexterity, creative use of fingers and exploration of body art as personal expression.

Table forts, or blanket caves, are simply the coolest thing when you are a toddler. Right up there with empty boxes and dirt for demonstrating that the best toys and memories are more about approaching a moment with a sense of glee and less about the amount of money spent. Now if only he were doing something more interesting than crawling in and out of the "cave".

And finally, nature provides the greatest thing of all, puddles! Puddles exist for splishing, splashing and running through, in case you were curious.


early morning adventures on Friday

My darling bride and son have been slightly unwell this past week with what seems to be summer colds. Lots of blowing of noses and similar trumpeting. My bride was having trouble sleeping this past Thursday night (ok, it was Friday morning by this time) due to all of the coughing and nose blowing on her part, so she went down stairs. She claims this was to let me get my sleep butI think she has gotten hooked on late night tv. Once she got down stairs she found she was not the only one up. Ok, not so much that someone else was up but better said that we had a visitor. A visitor that was startled almost as much as my bride. There was much flapping about as my bride tried to convince the visitor that 5 o'clock in the morning was not a good time for a social call. After that did not work she begrudgingly decided to wake me in the hopes I would have better success in convincing the visitor to view the wild egress. Bleary eyed, groggy and not sure I had heard my wife correctly I came down stairs to confront this persistent visitor. Not believing my eyes I thought I should record the moment. It helped that I was standing next to the camera when I had this thought. Here is our visitor:

It had decided to take a break on the curtains in the sun room. The unfortunate thing is that this room has no windows that open and is the farthest any room can be from either door to the outside. So I, armed with a broom and a drowsy determination to get back to sleep, went forth that convince it to remove itself. I figured the ceiling fans were not going to do its echo location thing much good, so they got turned off. Then I nudged it with the broom to get it started flying again. After that it was a matter of getting the front and back doors open and trying to convince it that certain doors were in fact walls. What I learned was that even though this bat could fit in the palm of my hand when curled up, it had a wingspan of at least a foot. I also learned that up close it does not fly like a bird does and can be very disconcerting when it is flying very fast at you. The swooping and circling does not help much either. Despite these challenges, I stood my ground and slowly, with several restarts, managed to get it outside. The we realized that one of the cats had decided to take advantage of the open doors and went exploring. Our cats are indoor cats so this was a bit of a tense moment as it was coaxed back inside. I left this to the expert and took my chance to go back to bed.

I can only hope your Friday morning was less interesting.



Spirit Animal Meme

I can live with this score. *grin*

Your Score: The Otter

Here's your results! Your spirit animal has a Nobility ranking of 11 out of 18.

Your spirit animal is the otter. Playful, curious and fun animals, they are truly the start of what can be considered a noble creature. Otters are good at figuring things out, and make great friends. You are lucky to have one as a spirit animal. Otters are fairly rare as spirit animals.

***Wondering how this animal was chosen for you? These questions were carefully thought out to see how important you hold certain virtues such as: humanism, self-knowledge, rationalism, the love of freedom and other somewhat Hellenic ideals. Some of the questions were very subtle. Your score was then matched with an animal of corresponding nobility. However, you shouldn't think this was a right/wrong sort of test, but more of an idealistic values test. It's ok to not hold these values, you'll just get an animal spirit of lower stature if you do!***

Link: The What is Your Spirit Animal Test written by FindingEros on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test


new toy

I admit it, I am a technology junkie. So when my folks and a few other family members asked me what I would like for a graduation gift, I had a list of things with little blinky lights. At the top of the list is a strange little gadget that is not a laptop, a tablet or a pda, but in my mind a combination of all of the features I like about each of them. I like laptops for their size, relative to desktop computers. I use them regularly at work. In fact in the winter I am often accused of heating my office with the three older models I use for testing. They have come a long way from the "portable, but only with a luggage cart" models I remember my dad bringing home once in a while. The problem is they still have a long way to go. I was really excited about the tablets when they were announced. I can communicate more with a quick picture drawn on my steno pad than I can in a long email, so the idea of being able to combine drawing and a computer in a portable device was really appealling to me. The only problem was most of the models available are laptops with a tablet screen that could flip around in an effort to get folk used to the idea. In the end I think those models that try to combine tablets and laptops are just adding a layer of hardware to an outdated platform. PDAs are neat but unless you have a phone contract and an internet connection they are not terribly useful. So what is a poor boy to do?

The new toy at the top of my list is the latest version of Samsungs Q1. This is an example of a UMPC, Ultra Mobile Personal Computer. It is smaller than a tablet or a laptop but bigger than a PDA. It runs Windows Vista and any of the basic software I need in that world. I can connect it to the network via wireless 802.11b/g or via wired ethernet port. It even has bluetooth but since I have nothing else using bluetooth, I keep it disabled. I can use a pen or fingers or a usb keyboard/mouse as input devices. It is the pen I really enjoy. I can finally draw on a computer!

That said, I am still looking for a good sketch program. Something that lets me draw as if I was holding a pencil or pen or charcoal would be great. So far the application that makes it work is Microsofts Onenote. I think they got a good idea with this program. Execution of the idea is in traditional MS manner, take that as you will. What I like about it is it lets me write on the computer like it is paper, and then I can press a button and it attempts to convert it into text. If I am somewhat careful, it works. I can also just leave it as my handwriting. The software can do a lot more but that is what I like about it. I find its "notebook" analogy is a powerful concept. Allowing you to cut and paste from the different pieces of the office suite into this application, as well as pictures, links to web pages and your own handwritten notes and diagrams is pretty useful. But this is not meant to be an advertisement for ms, so on with other thoughs about the Q1.

I do not currently use a keyboard with it, as I am trying to really see what my limits are with just the pen and onscreen keyboard. As one would expect, entering data into it is fairly tedious. I am not writing this on it but only my rickety old desktop up in my office. I do however sit downstairs and surf the web on the Q1. It is perfect for that task. I have taken notes on it during a conference call at work. I even used it when playing DnD with my cousins. I was the DM and I created character sheets on it it and ran the entire adventure from the pdf file as viewed on its fairly small screen. It has nice speakers and built in microphones, so I also set it up to use Skype but I have not had a chance to test it yet. I have streamed internet radio through it over a wireless connection quite nicely.

The Q1, and UMPCs in general, are at the top of my list because I think they are the direction computing is going. This is going to ramble for a bit, even more than I tend to. Computing is in my mind not just a matter of making things smaller but of making them useful. It takes more time and money to have to code and test and everything else for lots of different computing environments. The folk that make their living at this sort of thing have known this for a while. Sorting out how to have the same operating system, or run time environment or whatever, on something that fits in your pocket as what you use at home or work is just a technical hurdle at this point. We already have computer motherboards the size of business cards that can run the same operating systems used on desktops. The larger hurdle is getting folk to use new or different means of interacting with these computers. Voice or pens or fingers or waving of your arms or your gps coordinates are just some of the ways being considered and experimented with. Likely they will all be used in various ways we can not even imagine now. We are already seeing a lot of them in use. The controller for the Wii is a great example. (ok, the Wii was also fairly high on my list as well but go figure.) Even our camera knows which way it is being held and adjusts the picture on its screen so it is always "up" relative to you. This Q1 is one of the steps being taken away from the desktop world that has defined computer use for the last thirty years and towards something new and interesting, at least for me. It is going towards where my imagination took me when I was a kids, seeing my very first computer and reading way too much science fiction.

So, now that I am seeing things that were only imagined thirty years ago, and I have worked in the industry for the last ten, I am curious where they will be when my son is old enough to need a computer of his own. Will it be more like the UMPC model or something else? What will he need to use it for? I fully expect to get him some sort of entertainment device that is built on top of a computer, but that is more so I can play with it. I wonder what he will do his homework on and how his schools will use computers to teach him and how I can make sure they do it right so he has a chance of understanding how the things are actually working. I guess that is what it comes down to, I want him to understand it and be able to work with the technology like the tool it is and not to be afraid or in awe of it. At least not more than anyone should be of any powerful tool. A healthy respect of its capabilities and a working knowledge of it limits can take one far I feel. Or something like that.



lunch time update

Have I mentioned that summer is the busiest time of the year at work? No students on campus lets us work on the various services/servers we maintain. Then throw in to the mix the fact our vacation count resets on July 1st so there is an annual scramble to use up the last of the vacation days as there is no rollover or similar options. Lots to do and random staff members are unavailable for weeks at a time. Definitely keeps things interesting.

The garden at home is moving along. The 3 sisters experiment is only at 66% as the beans have not been working out for me. The corn and squash are going just fine. The beans planted when the squash were planted never came up. Waited for two weeks, saw nothing, went back, read the packages, soaked the seeds overnight and tried again. I think a grand total of three sprouted (of at least 20 planted). Now I am concerned the three will not survive as they are shaded by the squash leaves. In other parts of the garden, the tomatoes are doing well. The five store bought plants are coming along, as well as the two volunteers transplanted from the mulch pile. Two of the store bought plants lost their main trunk and are no longer growing up. Otherwise they are healthy. The spinach and lettuce are starting to look like they intend to actually grow but, as with the pole beans, not nearly the number seeded are coming up. I think I need to purge the bag of seeds I have accumulated over the last two years. The various bush beans are growing. Last years sage plant became a bush, bloomed and had to be dramatically cut back before it took over.

And everything I do in my little vegetable garden pales in comparison to the flower garden my wife has done this year. Four trees have been planted. Two different dogwoods, a japanese maple and a weeping corkscrew thing whose name I am blanking on. Add to the list the tree Chinese red wood we got last year and I think have finally broken even with the number of trees we have removed or lost since we moved in 5 years ago. There are flowers and shrubs in three different beds in the front yard, and in the back there are two starter beds and the 3/4ths of the perimeter getting filled in with various plants and shrubs. Planting books have overtaken cook books in her bookshelf. I really need to get some pictures of it all. Hopefully I will also remember to post some. *grin*


Memorial Day 5k

My time for the 5k was 33:27! This is by far the best time time I have run in months.
With a mile average of 10:46.
56th overall, out of 122.
11th in my age group, out of 15.

Overall, a great day for a race. The weather was cooperative. A bit cloudy and humid but nothing oppressive and the temp was in the 70s.
Very good community support. People along the course came out and encouraged the runners.
The best was one block where at least four houses all got together and were banging on pots and otherwise making a great noise to keep our spirits up, which it did.
The 2 mile mark happened to be in front of our house. Some of our neighbors even had hoses and sprinklers out to help folk cool off if they needed it. One pair of neighbors stopped and got their Great Dane when they passed their house and she finished the race with them.
A lot of fun and I am already looking forward to next year!

ok, now I have to go shopping for grilling later this afternoon.

And while I might not think highly of the current administration, I am taking a moment to remember those that had served in the Armed Forces today.


Graduation itself, plus plans for Memorial Day

Here is a link to the graduation ceremony:
If you jump to 01:04:25 you can see yours truly with a grin that goes twice around my head.

In other news, our little borough is having a 5k run/walk as part of its Memorial Day festivities this year. I signed up for it and am planning on running. Well, shuffling to be more accurate, as my time for a mile is still stuck at 12 minutes on average. I found a workout plan/schedule designed to improve, decrease, this time but did not want to start it with only two weeks before the race as it spans months. The short version is to calculate the pace I want to achieve and then run at that pace for short distances. The distances are then gradually increased each week until the distances are race length. We have a nice track here at work so the plan is to start at half a lap increments and go from there. The goal is for a ten minute mile average for a five mile run. This is requires changing from ~90 seconds for a half lap to ~75 seconds. Sounds simple doesn't it? We shall see.


garden update, plus freezer

Note: I started this post a week ago, so that is what was written in part 1. More recent stuff in part 2:

I did not get as much done in the garden this past weekend. Only the spinach and two lettuces got their seeds planted. Not quite half of one raised bed. So two and a half to go. Should be nice this weekend. Hopefully there will be time.

The reason the garden did not get the attention it deserves was due to a sudden purchase of a freezer at a yard sale on Saturday. Suddenly it had to be gotten home, space made for it, space made for the shelves it was displacing, smaller shelves to fill in the gap moved from the attic, every thing removed from all of these shelves so they could be moved around the house. And it all had to be done when the little one was napping. Dropping a freezer on him would be bad and keeping him from wanting to be in the middle of the action is a trick we have not mastered. I still have to replace an outlet and get an extension cord for this freezer to actually get used.

Now my darling bride can stock up even more at the bulk super store. Which is good as it will let us cut down on the number of trips going to the bulk super store. We dream of only going once a month rather than our current weekly visit. Fully half of what we get is juice for the thirsty little one. I can only imagine what it would be like if we did not cut the apple juice with water.

I got the seeds planted for the bean bushes, chives and corn portion of the three sisters. Bernadetta got the tomato plants into the ground and started on the stakes. Our little vegetable garden is starting to come along. The spinach and lettuce plants are starting to show.

Graduation went well this past Friday. The only hitch was that our camera went MIA over the weekend and the pictures were never downloaded. I have a picture of me from a friend also graduating, but not much for the family shots. So my big plan is to recreate them. I just want pictures of me with my folks and my family while in the graduation rob. I can live with the minor detail of not having the pictures actually taken at the event. My neighbors might think we are a little odd when I running around the yard in the graduation robes etc, but there is nothing new there.



lunch time update on loads of stuff

So I passed my final class. I get to Graduate!

I am going to attend the graduation ceremony for this degree. I did not walk at my undergrad graduation, so this is a big deal. When I finished my undergrad I did not see the point of spending that many hours of suffering just so I and my three thousand or so closest friends could stand as a group to be told we were done. This one is a bit different. I was much more committed to this degree than I was to any other scholastic endeavor in my life. And it shows in my grades. Amazing how that works. And it has given me lots to think about for when our little one starts school.

In other news, our little one has started day care. It is for two hours two mornings each week. More a chance for him to socialize and Mom to get some errands run without having to deal with a toddler. Getting to the point of sending him to day care has been more stressful on Mom than on child. He has taken to it like a fish to water. The two ladies running the program never fail to mention how surprised they are that he adapted so quickly. The only time he fussed was when I was a little late in picking him up and that was only becuase he saw the other kids leaving without him. And in the short time he has been going we have seen a huge increase in his speaking. While he still only has a few words, he uses them and a growing number of signs much more often. It really seems as if he wants to talk, so we are really excited.

And I finally figured out what to call it when he mixes his two languages. "Ponglish" I thought I was being really creative and trendsetting when I came up with that one late at night. Then I found it is already a slang term in Polish, with a polish language wikipedia entry and everything.
http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponglish Granted, my wife did not know it, so at least I am figuring out new slang before she is, in her language, which is funny as my Polish is pretty minimal.

On the music front, I found the music for "Sto Lat" and took a stab at transcribing it so I can play it on the concertina. I have not actually started practising as yet but be assured I will be posting anything that does not sound like cats in a blender. "Sto Lat" is the traditional Polish song sung at all happy gatherings. It serves in place of "Happy Birthday", "Auld Lang Syne" and "100 Bottles of Bear on the Wall" as best as I can tell. Further info as well as music and words can be found here: http://www.polishamericancenter.org/StoLat.htm
Please note the English version is not a translation of the Polish, but something of the same spirit.

Garden update: I never got replacements started for my tomatoes that decided not to start but I have gotten started on prepping the garden beds. I weeded some, ran the garden weasel over them and added some nice dark stuff from the bottom of the compost pile. I only got a few buckets full of the good stuff, where you can no longer tell what it once was, so we also turned the pile a few times and have been adding everything since to a new pile. I have all my seeds and am planning on getting as much into the ground as I can this weekend. This is what I really hope to get done: plant the spinach, lettuces, bush beans, tomatoes, sun flowers and get the mounds made and corn planted for the Three Sisters experiment. That is all I can remember from my big plan, so I should also take a look at my diagram and see if I am leaving anything out. Things like cucumbers come to mind...

Ok, lunch hour is coming to a close and I need to get back to other things.

I hope all is well with you and yours!


down the home stretch...

Only three more classes to go and I am done the Masters program!

Granted, the group presentation for Monday is not done yet and I have not done more than select a general topic for the individual research paper due the following Monday, but they will get done.

And all four starter pots of tomatoes went and died on me last week. Still time to get another set started, which will probably be something I do to avoid working on papers etc. Weather getting nicer each day, so I might be able to do more to get the garden started.

After my school work is done, of course.



Just one more number

LogoThere are:
people with the name My Name in the U.S.A.
How many have your name?

Interesting concept. I wonder if anyone has included this in any calculations of being a victim of identity theft.



One of my resolutions for the year was to learn a musical instrument. The instrument I wanted to learn is the concertina. So early in January I stopped in and checked out our local music shop to see what they might have in stock. They did not have one, but usually do, can we call you when it comes in so you can see if it is what you want? They finally called a few weeks ago to say it had arrived. We tried to visit last weekend when we were out for a walk Saturday but they were already closed. I managed to stop by this afternoon about a half hour before they closed and I bought the concertina. A very simple Hohner D40 20 button concertina in the Anglo style. I also bought a book title, appropriately, "The Concertina And How To Play It" by Paul de Ville. I then proceeded to spend the rest of the evening futzing around with the thing. I started out with simple stuff like figuring out how I wanted the hand straps to rest and making sure I could reach all of the buttons. I moved up a notch and spent some time seeing what I could do with the scales that were listed in the book. Not the most graceful of things to witness but helpful. I decided I needed to take a shot at a tune I chose the first one in the book. It only uses three buttons on the left hand and is called "Augusta's Favorite" but in fact turned out to be "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". After working my way through it for a while I thought I would record it for posterity. And sheer amusement value. (Don't forget, I am not the most musically inclined person. I really like listening to it but that is in general about as far as it goes. In fact I have never studied any kind of musical instrument, so bear with me. Ok, there was like maybe two clases in drums when I was 12 but that hardly counts now does it?)

My last class for the graduate degree thing starts on Monday and continues through late April or early May. So there might not be any interesting updates once that kicks in. That means I will either not be posting at all or posting all of the time a vague effort to avoid doing my research etc. We shall see.



fixed my audio delay problem

Ok, perhaps better to say I have found a workaround that does not have the audio delay in what I post to youtube.

Here is a video of our son blowing out candles. He really likes doing this and it shows.

For the full list of videos check out http://www.youtube.com/ca5m1th



it has been a while, so here is a video dump of cuteness

My most sincere apologies on my lack of posting. No good excuse or anything, just not managing to post. (Ok, so there has been this cough I have had for a few weeks or so, and that craziness with the student loan and getting the taxes done, but none of it is very interesting so you won't hear about any of it here. Nope, not a peep.)

So here are a bunch of videos of our little one to make up for the missing few weeks. These videos are in no particular order. Just moments captured that we want to share with friends and family. Enjoy!

Jumping is a skill he is working very hard at mastering. This one captures his current state, and he rightfully happy with his progress!

A very strange noise. Not too sure what he was trying to do but we liked it.

This is a combination of two of his favorite activities: climbing onto the coffee table and playing with blocks.

Sometimes the only way to knock over the tower of blocks is with a truck.

Drinking a glass of water. What could be cuter.

Still not sure why there is a few seconds delay in the audio on everything that gets posted to youtube.


20 months

Our little one has reached 20 months this past weekend and decided to skip right to being a Terrible Two Year Old. We witnessed two completely separate meltdowns in a single afternoon. This is for him a very short period of time. It might have had something to do with the diaper rash or cabin fever or teething or any of a number of reasons. We just think it is becuase he can.

We also found that he gets very upset when he sees Mom and Dad hug. We think it is the jealous stage thing starting early. Is it bad that this amuses us to no end and if he really does it all of the time we are thinking of using it for a new party trick? Just taking him with us to different places, getting him comfortable and then hugging so everyone else can see the conniption? Maybe use it for some kind of awareness program for folk expecting children or young adults to educate them to the adventure of child raising? Maybe he is just protecting his turf and is making sure we don't get too friendly and start making any siblings that will play with his stuff? So many possibilies.


Dancing Wookies!!!

from the Muppet Show, as posted on YouTube. Enjoy!


Throw him in the pit...

...of tiny plastic balls.

Ok, not nearly as catchy as the "Pit of Despair" from "The Princess Bride" but much more cute in any case. Here, for your viewing pleasure, is our little one playing in the ball pit in our local swedish superstore.

Ok, since I managed to get that to work, here is another one. This time he is drawing and singing to himself. I use the term "drawing" in the more liberal definition of using pen and paper to do something that is not writing. This is a good depiction of two of his artistic techniques. These two are "large abstract shapes" and "tiny circles". Some other techniques in his repertoire include "small deep dashes, as though one is stabbing the paper" and "excellent imitation of seismograph during a major earthquake." Enjoy!

Which Science Fiction Writer AM I?

I am:
Philip José Farmer
This prolific author brings surprising depths to he-man adventure tales, and broke science fiction's prudery barrier.

Which science fiction writer are you?

This was my first go at it. The I found you can get Gibson if you say you are into exploring cybernetics. hehe

I am:
William Gibson
The chief instigator of the "cyberpunk" wave of the 1980s, his razzle-dazzle futuristic intrigues were, for a while, the most imitated work in science fiction.

Which science fiction writer are you?


reading update

Over the holiday season I rediscovered the joys of reading for fun. In large part this was due to realizing that I had a long break from reading for school, as my next, and final, class does not start until the middle of March. The only downside is that I had no books waiting to be read. I have been on a holding pattern, re-reading books I already own. This works well as most of the books on my shelves are like old friends, and it is always nice to visit with old friends. Yet, this time I needed to meet some new friends. Realizing this was kind of depressing as there is no budget that can support my reading habit, and keep us fed. Then I remembered there are these places called "libraries" which will let you read books without having to buy each and every one. Amazing concept. I sort of eased into it by borrowing the second book by Chris Paolini, "Eldest" which is a sequel to "Eragon". The first has been made into a movie that has very little similarity to the book, beyond names and vague plot outlines. When I finished this book I had to figure out what to read next, as Chris Paolini has not yet published the third book in his trilogy. So I turned, as I have often in the past, to my favorite authors. They are listed off to the left side. Many of them have been kind enough to write about who they like to read. This is in fact how I discovered several of them. This time around I had two of my favorites talk about the same author. As far as recommendations go, it does not get much better. And it is not like it was two author that work together were promoting a third member of their cliche or anything. One author, Max Barry, is from Australia, while the other, Chris Moore, is American. And they were both saying how much them enjoyed reading Mil Millington, a nifty fellow from the UK. Here is a taste of his work: http://www.milmillington.com/ Check out his "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Fought About" which is also the title of the book I am currently reading, except his postings are from his life and only reflect the background influences for the fictional work I am enjoying very much.
As I am almost finished reading "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Fought About" I have started to look for the next book. I am thinking of keeping track of how much it would have cost me to have bought these books so I can use that as a way to demonstrate how much money I have saved the family with my sacrifices. Somehow I do not think it will help me in any way whatsoever. So the next book came from a friend at work. "A Year in the Merde" by Stephen Clarke. http://www.amazon.com/Year-in-Merde-Stephen-Clarke/dp/1582345910 Looks like fun. I will let you know. While I do not speak french or consider myself a francophile, I have spent some time working in both France and the UK. I am hoping this will help me get some of the jokes.
Ok, three posts in one day is a bit much.

kinder update

Our little one is rapidly approaching 20 months. Every time we look up and see one of these milestones go whooshing by we are amazed. Amazed on many levels. There is the standard amazement at his developmental progress. While he is not talking yet, he is saying a lot. Mostly how disappointed he is we are not letting him watch more television. He has a very high volume when expressing his feelings on this matter. I have come to accept this and generally do not cave. Usually he quickly moves on to other distractions. Like drawing. He really watched his cousin when she was visiting this past holiday season. One of her regular activities was drawing or painting. She really is quite good. Our little fellow has picked this up, or at least the basics. He really likes pens and crayons and he can fill up a page like nobody's business. He has gotten very good at circles, well, something like circles. When he is not trying to push the pen through the paper. His canines have been coming through in the last week or two, so there has been all of the usual problems. And last weekend he had some unpleasant bug that only lasted a day but will forever live on in our memory. No fever or any of the other things the doctors office asked us about. Just the inability to keep anything down. By the third time we had caught onto his warning signs and got most of it a bucket. My lovely wife was unfortunate enough to catch the rest on her person. Which was just karma, as I had cuaght the first two of the day on my person. Not that we kept score or anything along those lines. Other than those times he is unwell or really in need of a tv fix, he is an amazingly pleasant child to be around. I am sure this will change in many different ways, but for now we are really enjoying it. On another level, we are amazed that it has been twenty months. It is sort of a blur. We remember finding out we were going to be parents and then everything since sorts of blurs together. There have been several visits to and from Poland and about half of my classes for grad school, so I know we were busy and all. I had a garden. Yet, it tends to feel like the last two years is all a fuzzy blend of diapers, sippy cups and teletubbies. Not too far from the truth. At least it is a warm and fuzzy kind of blur, like being under the blankets and not wanting to get up and make that mad dash to the cold bashroom.

further work fun

We had two more unscheduled reboots of critical systems this past week. File corruption on a SAN mounted volume caused our system folk to have to retore to an earlier snapshot on one of them. For those not in the industry the situation briefly described above is fairly horrible and something one hopes they will never encounter. My part in this troublehsooting, as resident network weasel, has been to set up a continuous packet capture running on the SAN network. This means that as soon as an incident is confirmed, someone runs and pulls the plug on the packet capture so we will have a record of what was going on over the network at that moment. TCPDUMP is my new best friend. I had played with it before, mostly in various classroom settings, and I always thought it was an interesting tool. Anything with that many options has to be given some respect. It is the command line swiss army knife of packet analysis. (And yes, I know just how much of a techno geek saying so makes me, and I am okay with it.) In general I tend to use snoop to look at packets on an interface in a unix system so this was my first real use of tcpdump in production. We have a nice GUI product running on Win2K in a rack mount server in the network core that I use for day to day troubleshooting of problems, but there was not enough free memory on that server for this continuous looping buffer of packet capture we needed for this problem. The loop is over 2000 files, each 20 megabytes in size for a total of 40 gigabytes of network packets. And it is only the first 96 bytes of each packet so it does not include the actual data being passed, just the packet headers (information needed by network interfaces and network hardware to make sure the packet gets to its destination). Heady stuff, as it were.

Ok, enough about work. I hope to post something about the book I am currently reading. A new author for me at least and very fun.



Problems that are not problems

It is almost zen like. "There is no spoon." sort of thing. Read on if you are interested in details of a technical nature.

This has been a very busy week at work. We had some unintended and unexplained outages late last week and this week has been filled in trying to explain at least the network side of some of the outages/interruptions. The short version is that when we went looking for an explanation for the outages we saw network traffic that did not make sense. So I spent the week trying to make sense of what we found. What we saw was network switches not keeping the hardware address of the device directly connected to it. The switches should have that information, in case you are curious. The behavior did not change when we changed switches, IP address, or hardware addresses. My boss was started to get very concerned as the only things left to change were the server and the primary router on campus. Rebooting the router effects every network connection on the campus and as such is pretty much the very last thing you want to do. And the time we can reboot the router without it effecting students is quickly going away, as student return this weekend. So I have been working with the company that makes the switches, sending them configuration files, collecting samples of all the network traffic going in and out the ports in question and all of the other fun and games of troubleshooting. And after a week, and escalting within their service I managed to figure out what was happening. I wish it was one of those "ah ha" moments but it was more one explanation kept coming up and no matter what I did I could not disprove it. And last night I finally found a way to prove this possible explanation was in fact the correct explanation. Know what it was? That everything was working correctly on both the switches and the server, we were just seeing some very unusual, but not technically wrong, behavior based on how the server was configured.
No one believes me when I say its not the network.
More a reminder that I really need to get some traffic analysis going for our network. At least I got the syslog problem fixed and we are finally sending our switch logs to a syslog server. Small steps in the right direction after a week of running all over the place.
And half of our group have been sick all week. Mostly variations on the flu/cold type of thing. My boss let me know he had gone through 3/4ths of a box of tissues in one day. I have had a very sore throat that is not strep and not a cold or flu since last week. I live off of throat spray and cough drops. *blah* It is no fun to be in pain but otherwise functional.


In-Law withdrawl

So the In-laws have made it home ok. SiL and niece had a horrible trip. Not sure if it was the stress of travelling or if they had some bad food along the way. Everyone else is ok, and they are all home now.
There was also an unfun moment when my BiL realized he gave the wrong date to the person picking them up from the airport. By the time he got ahold of the friend, they had been at the airport for two hours, a day early. Since they got home ok, I guess the friend came back on the correct day.
My wife is handling the suddenly empty house. She is very sad they are gone but able to function. She gets particularly choked up if our son goes into the rooms everyone was using and starts looking around like he lost something. It does not help that one of his favorite sounds these days is "Ba ba ba" which can be taken to be the Polish word for "grandmother" > "babcha". (ok, so we have also been taking it to be "ball" but that does not make sense in this context. And it is all about context.) So it will be a while before she gets her feet planted again. She has been focused on this visit for so long I am curious, in a dreading/morbid kind of way, what she will start doing with her time. She did get out a book from the library last night, which I take as a good sign she might take some time for herself. I can only hope.